Author Prayaag Akbar’s Leila: A mother-daughter duo separated by political strife | books$author-interview | Hindustan Times
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Author Prayaag Akbar’s Leila: A mother-daughter duo separated by political strife

Author Prayaag Akbar’s latest book Leila revolves around a mother and a daughter. This relationship, he says, is a beautiful and complex one, something he has seen in his own family.

books Updated: Jun 14, 2017 10:52 IST
The book Leila, by Prayaag Akbar, is set in a future where religious and communal barriers are higher than they are now.
The book Leila, by Prayaag Akbar, is set in a future where religious and communal barriers are higher than they are now.

In a dark world with boundaries, rigid order and religious fanaticism, comes this powerful story of a mother and a daughter who have been separated and struggle to find each other amid chaos.

Author Prayaag Akbar’s book Leila is bound to make people think long and hard about the times we live in. The story is set in a future in which the present-day barriers between religious faiths and communities have risen even higher. In this future, there is a riot that separates the mother and the daughter.

What prompted his choice of protagonists? Akbar says, “I just started writing the story about the mother and the daughter, and then [other] elements of the story started creeping in. I wanted to show how political changes affect us at a personal level.”

He feels that the relationship between a mother and a daughter is beautiful, and very complex, something he has seen between his own mother and sister. “It’s not exactly a very friendly bond, yet it is one of the deepest bonds between human beings. This is what I wanted to portray in my book — how such a relationship can thrive in such circumstances.”

Author Prayaag Akbar wants to show ‘how political changes affect us at a personal level’.

Akbar’s worry at how society has grown accustomed to harmful political action, such as vigilante mob action, shows in his book. “Someone says something, people get offended, and there’s a raging mob on the loose after that. We accept these vigilante mobs now. Then there’s this religious fanaticism as well that has seeped into our society,” he says.

However, despite this harsh view, Akbar doesn’t want his book to be considered dystopian fiction. “Many people have labelled my book dystopian, and compared it to George Orwell’s 1984. I’m not fond of this label, as I feel it limits you. I think, as a writer, you should just write, and run in any direction with the story. Why do we have to label things?” he asks, adding that genres are meaningless.

For his books, the author draws inspiration from his surroundings and the books he reads. “I love reading JM Coetzee and Cormac McCarthy. McCarthy is like a perfect textbook for a writer. You’re reading to learn.”