A GurgaonMoms’ event is always very exciting and this one was no less. Not one, not two, but three authors under one roof, conversing with each other, trundling over one another to answer questions being thrown at them. Each answer was nuanced, and in-depth. For one reason or another, the discussion among the authors took off on parenting skills and what it is that kids both learn from us, and teach us. All three authors are parents, and we, the audience agreed, that children learn more from what we do, rather than from what we tell them to do. However, the conversation was quickly veered away from parenting, and light shone on the authors’ lives before their debut novels and after.
Some of the questions, and some commentaries that were shared by all three in their inimitable styles :
- when one writes with a certain familiarity of character that is known to the author, does it not affect those being written about? No, not necessarily.
- How important is discipline? Exceedingly.
- Tell us about the process – how technically well-endowed must the author be? Is there a method to the madness of writing one’s book?
It is imperative that one knows why one wants to write- not just have a goal like wanting to get famous..
- Head/heart – one’s first book- the cathartic process of writing it. The second novel- is it easier to pen or more difficult? – a little of both they reckoned.
- Reading good authors seems to be the one thing that all of them agreed upon, as being an imperative habit that hones one’s language skills, and the amount we absorb, is what ultimately shows up in our writing.
- Radhika and Sriram discovered to their surprise, that their protagonists were both architects, yet their styles were engagingly dissimilar.
- Rain versus In the Light of Darkness…both eminently readable, both layered, both debut novels. The rest is for the reader to discover.
- Kanchana’s book- A Forgotten Affair : a different genre- an out and out romance and a page-turner. Everyone agrees that it’s a book that’s easy on the mind, yet has complex characters.
All three debutant novelists had their own take on the processes and the length of time devoted to bringing their precious works to the publisher etc. It was rather interesting to note how varied the life of a writer is, and what propels them in diverse directions. Luck does play a role as well, and these three got lucky for sure.
It was an extremely enjoyable morning, spent in the company of three very good writers, and we all await their next work, as all of them clearly indicated that their second work is in the beyond-the-pipeline stage, and they are ready to roll them out.
Sriram Subramanian, on being interviewed tells me how he had no intention of being published in India, and this is in fact his second novel, his first one being a memoir, which remains in his laptop, unpublished. He decided to forego that one, and write RAIN, bettering his earlier work in a changed mood for writing a novel.
He mentions the fact that when Readomania picked up his work, he was terribly satisfied, especially now after the book has been published and loved.
He always wanted to call his book RAIN- as it is a metaphor for so many things; Rain is what brings life, as much as it can be the cause of devastation. He says, while Jai, the protagonist, outwardly is not like him at all, inwardly, Jai is very much him.
His wife Shilpa Gupta is also a writer, having written a book called Ananya, published by Rupa.
He is a trainer by profession and says he juggles his reading and writing with parenting.
My review of his book :
RAIN by Sriram Subramanian
Right as rain is what this debut novel feels like. A story that holds your attention through the trials and travails of its protagonist Jai’s life, and it is a story well crafted. Subramanian deftly weaves the life and times of a person who suffers inner turmoil, repeatedly, and attempts to make life happen on his own terms, with decency and a certain righteousness that isn’t quite the order of the day. He meets with failure in its ugliest form, and eventually rises from its ashes, reborn as it were. It could be anyone’s story- yours – mine. Who doesn’t fail, who doesn’t resonate with nonsuccess or a sense of inadequacy? I certainly do. Most of us would.
What makes Jai so special- it’s the characterization, the details, the little allusions to something deeper going on, which is unraveled beautifully in the telling. When all else fails, Jai delves into his past and takes us on a painful journey, which shines the flare on his present.
“He had no future to look to, so he turned to his past.” And we see what makes Jai who he is.
Subramanian’s debut novel deftly moves between diverse worlds- from Pune, showcasing Maharashtrian city culture, to the slums, to a village and back to a life in Pune, having us undertake the journey of trial and error, back to triumph, along with Jai. Each character is etched with dexterity- the parents-in-law, the corrupt brother-in-law, the beautiful research scientist wife Sarika, the neighbours. Raju, a young, wayward lad, who Jai meets on the path, in particular stands out. Raju’s mother Lakshmi, I am certain we would have met her at some point of time in life. Everyone is believable, everyone has a place in the story that add to its movement willy nilly.
This story is told with the empathy, that it begs, and it is told with the genteel pen of a person who not only understands decline followed by the collapse of a known structure, but of someone who knows that beyond all the negative that meets the eye, lies one’s salvation. One can choose one’s journey, at any point- no right, no wrong- just what one chooses and thereafter learns from it, or not.
The tipping point, arrives at the close of the story, when Jai listens to a Swami talk of the circles that we humans are bound by, “Your life is a set of circles, overlapping and spreading out, with you at the centre.” And the Swami continues to expound the patterns we are all pledged to, those which have us in their hold. Life, as one knows it, begins to make huge sense to Jai. At this juncture, Jai is done with unearthing and exorcising his inner demons.
The return of the prodigal, as it were, is received with relief and love, and it is here, where the entire story becomes worthy of the telling. That one can, at any point in time, reach for that within us, that is true and beyond earthly misery. The power to choose, and to chisel out of the block of one’s existence, the best there is, lies ultimately in one’s hands. It is Rain that cleanses, it is Rain that can drown and destroy.
?Picture Credits : Priyanka's Photography