She spent decades teaching in Delhi University’s North Campus. Yet her name is more popular as an author. Manju Kapur might be remembered as a professor from Miranda House by many, but she says the field wasn’t her choice. “I grew up in a time when teaching was thought of as a good profession for women. A woman can manage her home alongside. So, it just happened. I drifted into it and found that I loved it,” says Kapur.
One of the most popular female Indian authors at present, she has recently come up with her sixth novel, Brothers, and says she could work on it full time only after she quit teaching. “I left it (teaching) with a great sorrow, because I like teaching. I wish there had been a system that allowed one to teach part-time. But after teaching became more demanding – they were admitting more students, internal assessments went up – there came a time when I could no longer do both – write and teach.”
She wanted to continue teaching because suppose the writing goes badly, which it often does, so there is nothing. You are left alone with that bad writing day.
“I wish there could have been a system where I could have been loosely associated with the University,” she says adding, “I wanted to because suppose the writing goes badly, which it often does, so there is nothing. You are left alone with that bad writing day. Then I took to gardening.” Her garden in her house on Mansingh Road became the backdrop of this candid conversation.
In the novel, Brothers, she has explored Rajasthan. The themes of caste, student politics, freedom struggle and the emergency, all find a place in it. “It took me six years to write Brothers. I had initially told it as a journalist investigating the story. But that changed over several drafts. I have a stack of manuscripts of this lying in my study. But having finished it, I haven’t gone back to it. I never go back to reading my book unless it’s for a public platform. Now, I’m on my next one. In fact, the book that I’m writing now, I have come back to Delhi,” she says, adding, “I thought, I have been away from Delhi for too long.”
I’m on my second draft for next novel and still looking for an ending. I won’t disclose because in the process of writing, it changes. And if it’s out there, then I’m somehow bound to stick to it.
And what is her next book about? “That I will not disclose,” she laughs. “The story had to be set in an urban space and Delhi is what I know. There’s a side-bit to Nepal, and I have been there already. Now I’m on my second draft for this novel and still looking for an ending. I won’t disclose because in the process of writing, it changes. And if it’s out there, then I’m somehow bound to stick to it. I don’t wish to be bound!”
How does she approach a novel? “I really believe that inspiration is 99% perspiration. Working at it, day in and day out is what makes it. Also craft. There has to be a consistency in authenticity. The line of cause and effect is at fault if a character’s way of behaving isn’t believable.”