Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan has finally realised a long-cherished dream. The 26-year-old Mumbai-based journalist whose witty, bare-all blog The Compulsive Confessor has won her both praise and vitriol in the four years since she began blogging, is all set for the release of her first book, You are Here (Penguin India). In an exclusive interview with HT City, she talks about her book, blogging and future plans. <b1>
Dream come true
“It feels like I’m getting married, with less pressure and more fun!” says the young author of the impending launch. You are Here revolves around the life of Arshi, a 25-year old struggling with the complexities of love, career and family. There’s her over-zealous American step mother, a best friend who’s getting married, a guy whom she adores but who’s sending out mixed signals, and a flat mate concerned about her conservative family’s response to her relationship.
“I’ve always wanted to write a book ever since I knew I could write. Before that, I’d draw little pictures and tell
myself stories,” says Madhavan, who counts Zadie Smith, Vikram Seth and Sylvia Plath among her favourite
authors. “Blogging was just an exercise to see whether I could write regularly and develop a proper voice; a sort of verbal calisthenics.” So when she was offered the contract for the book, there was a sense of déjà vu and triumph. “I felt vastly vindicated. Hah! I felt like telling the world, see, I told you I’d be a writer!” she says.
With a book whose protagonist is about Madhavan’s own age and which talks of subjects frequented by her on the blog — love, sex, partying, drinking et al — how much of the book is a mirror of her life? “All fiction is semi-autobiographical, especially if like mine, it’s a coming of age, searching for self story. I wrote about what I knew— Delhi and relationships,” she says. <b2>
It took her barely two weeks and long days spent in front of the computer to write the first 40,000 words; the second half took much longer, about eight months. Madhavan is refreshingly honest about the shortcomings of her first draft, something that every author thinks is “the most perfect piece of writing ever”. As she discovered, it wasn’t quite the “piece of cake” her “stream of consciousness style” blog was. “To be told that not only is it not Paradise Lost but that it also needs a lot of work is rather brutal on the ego,” she says candidly.
Madhavan has received compliments on her blog from many women who’ve admitted to living vicariously through it (men form a substantial chunk of her fan base, too). To what does she attribute this? “As far as I can see it, if people are aspiring to anything at all it is the sense of freedom that they see that I have,” she says. Especially the urban Indian woman, “a conflicted creature” trying to free herself of centuries of tradition. “But I find that the older we get, the more we are confident of our place in the world,” she says.
At the end of the day, her book is about bringing out a side of young, urban India less-frequented in mainstream works. “I’d like readers to see an India that isn’t so much written about in literature, with young people that are home grown products and yet can take their place easily anywhere in the world. We exist too — even if we are a tiny, tiny minority!”
And while she already has plans for a second book, for now, it’s just wait-and-watch time for Madhavan.