“I wanted to give the other side of women. Not all women are meant to do artis in the temple or cook alu matar in the kitchen”.

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Please do not mistake this Bhaavna Arora for the young lady who threw ink on Kejriwal earlier this year at a public meeting. This is the young, bubbly, highly educated young writer, who is making waves with every novel of hers that hits the market. Her latest, Love Bi the Way, the “Bi” being a deliberately suggestive word that one would get to know while reading the novel, is already a big commercial hit, and is getting rave reviews in the press. Bhaavna goes into details about her latest creative venture in her writing career she opted for voluntarily when she could have easily got a cushy position with her two management degrees and a Ph.D. in leadership. Excerpts from her conversation with Shoma A. Chatterji .

You are qualified enough to become a full-time academic or a high ranking corporate executive. What made you choose fiction writing as a career?
Sometimes life chooses you and at other times you choose life. For the person I am and the personality I carry, I would fall in the latter category of people. I always wanted to write, and when I thought that the time was ripe, I just made a switch from a full time director of a B School to a writer, and I couldn’t have been happier.

How did the idea of this particular novel –Love Bi the Way – occur to you to begin with?
This novel is a tribute to a special person’s honesty towards me, and the challenges he is facing for being “gay”. I was introduced to him via a marriage proposal. Though I wasn’t too keen on marriage, I liked the person instantly. His honest confession and refusal to marry me is what triggered me to write about this subject.

I would define this book to be in a chick-lit genre. Do you agree?
Honestly, my books cannot be categorised in any genre and I do not prefer any categorising into genre/genres as this tends to restrict readership. The content of the book has greater and deeper meaning than what a chick-lit is assumed to have.

How do you define the term chick-lit with reference to contemporary fiction in English?
I do not think I am the right person to answer this question. I would rather reserve my comments, lest my co-authors take offence.

You have written three published novels till now. How have you evolved as a writer from the first novel to this recent one?
Reality is more bizarre than fiction. I do my research well on any topic that I write on or about. I often put myself in the shoes of the protagonist who is mostly a strong, classy, intelligent and an independent girl. In this novel, Rihana is strong. I questioned myself what I would have done had I been in that situation. My novels always conclude with something I strongly believe in. We all evolve as human beings everyday and if we do not, we are not in the right place. My first book, The Deliberate Sinner talks about infidelity and how it is perceived differently by society for a man and a woman. Mistress of Honour spins the yarns of a tale of love that includes two generations of the same family. My third book talks about honesty being more important than fidelity. I think I’ve evolved as a human being and as an author.

In your novel, Rihana seems to be a confirmed misandrist – hater of men and why she is so is revealed only at the end of the novel. Is this a fictional character or is she inspired by someone you may have encountered in real life?
It was inspired by someone I have met in real life from what we generally term “high society.”

There are two female protagonists in this novel and the two supporting characters are also female – Nandini and her daughter. Kanhaiya, as the girls say in the book, is the only male. Was this a conscious decision to make it woman-centric? Or did you just go with the flow as you wrote or was it a blend of these two?
There are many more supporting characters like Saif, Zubair and Shaurya. The idea wasn’t deliberate at all. It’s just that the characters you’ve mentioned fitted well in the script. Kanhaiya is bound by monetary gains. Even Zubair comes out clean in the book. There is no hatred towards men in the book, it is the experiences with different men that gets the girls closer. However it appears to be like that because of the demand of the script.

Zara is also alienated from her parents. This seems to be a sort of bonding they share – Rihana and Zara – their keeping away from parental ties which is very foreign to the Indian mindset. How do you explain this as a writer and as a woman yourself?
The idea may sound foreign as we still make movies and write books keeping the moralistic character of parents in mind. A mother is an epitome of love and sacrifice, while a father is someone you can worship. But humans have flaws. Even if they are parents, they sin. The idealistic image of parents that we’ve been carrying though the Bollywood characterisation, doesn’t allow us to accept them. Today’s individuals even as parents have some of their priorities sorted. So it’s just not a “foreign” concept anymore. I think desensitisation is important as many marriages are falling apart, and many kids are being raised by single parents.

Rihana seems to wear her sexual desires on her sleeve and is both brazen and somewhat brutally frank about it. Did you do this by design or is it an insight into her character, in reality hiding behind that false exterior?
It was by design. I wanted to give the other side of women. Not all women are meant to do artis in the temple or cook alu matar in the kitchen. We always long for forbidden things without having the courage to get them. In that sense, Rihana is brazen, yet brave.

Did you enjoy writing the novel and how do you look back on it now that it is a great commercial success?
I thoroughly enjoyed writing Love Bi the Way. Its freshness and uniqueness is something I love. It was a big risk I took in the commercial space, but its success only brought more happiness.

Which contemporary Indian and international fiction writers do you admire and why?
I love reading Paulo Coelho as his books have logic that I can relate to, and intensity.

If you are an avid reader, then what are your favourites?
I read anything that is interesting and keeps me glued to the story.

What are you working on right now?
I’m working on a biography now.

Is there an emotional draining after the novel is finished?
The feeling is not “emotional drain” but “emotional exhilaration”. I really can’t explain in words as I’ll fall short of them.


shoma

Shoma A. Chatterji is a freelance journalist, film scholar and author. She has authored 17 published titles and won the National Award for Best Writing on Cinema, twice. She won the UNFPA-Laadli Media Award, 2010 for ‘commitment to addressing and analysing gender issues’ among many awards. She is currently Senior Research Fellow, ICSSR, Delhi, researching the politics of presentation of working women in post-colonial Bengali cinema 1950 to 2003.

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