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'My childhood has crept into my book'

Daman Singh, the novelist daughter of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, says her new book is about lost innocence and how childhood as an experience has changed over the years.

books Updated: Aug 16, 2010 12:05 IST

Daman Singh, the novelist daughter of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, says her new book is about lost innocence and how childhood as an experience has changed over the years. Hers certainly was different from that of today's GenY, she says.



Daman Singh, whose second novel

The Sacred Grove

(HarperCollins-India) is just out, says some of her "childhood impressions" have crept into her work.



"I think today's child lives in a world that is very different from the one I knew as a child," Daman Singh told IANS in an interview. "The explosion of information, the vast opportunities, the access to technology: these are things I did not experience when I was young.



Sacred Grove

"But still, some things remain the same...like relationships with family and friends, the confusion of teenage years, the desperate need for unconditional love and respect. So some of my own childhood impressions do find their way into

The Sacred Grove

," said Daman Singh, whose novel was released last week.

The Sacred Grove is about lost innocence in the overtly material and politically complex world of small-town bureaucrats as seen through the eyes of a smart and funny brat, Ashwin.

Daman Singh studied at the Institute of Rural Management, Anand, but is a full-time writer now. She lives here with her husband, son and a dog.

While her first book Nine by Nine was published by HarperCollins-India in 2008, next in line is "a biography" of her parents - Manmohan Singh and Gursharan Kaur.

"My father is definitely my favourite politician. Actually, I don't really know any others," said Daman, who is in her mid-40s and the second of Manmohan Singh's three daughters.

Going back to the theme of her latest book, the writer says it is absolutely true that innocence has a short shelf-life these days. "Even shorter than, say, 20 years ago. There are so many pulls and pressures on children that they often do not know which way to turn or whom to turn to for support," she said.

The novelist, who spent 20 years working for rural development, said: "Ideally, schools should help children cope with the pressure. But the responsibility lies with parents. Sadly, as parents, we either tend to overprotect our children so that they are smothered or push them so hard that they get overwhelmed," she pointed out.

Analysing the differences in lifestyle between the children of bureaucrats and children from non-bureaucratic families in the context of her novel, Daman Singh said the protagonist, Ashwin, "was the son of a district collector, the most important official in a small town".

"Naturally, everyone else in the official hierarchy is below him. And from personal experience, I find that government officials tend to see themselves as somewhat above everyone else in society.

"It is therefore not at all surprising that Ashwin's friends are 'different', but I would not call them 'dubious'. Perhaps in a larger city, Ashwin would have had more friends with a background similar to his," she added.

Recalling her childhood friends, Daman Singh said: "When I think of the friends I made in school, college, my profession and my adult social circle, I realise that these sets of people are very different. My fondness for early friends remains because it is cemented by a shared past. But today, I have more in common with friends I gathered later."

As an author, she feels that while readers are spoilt for choice with new genres, "good books in India sometimes have to struggle for markets".

"There are so many new authors, new titles, and new styles of writing across genres. As a reader, I have so much to choose from. But sometimes I feel that a deserving book has to struggle for space in the market. It is drowned by those that are written in a rush, edited in a rush, produced in a rush, read in a rush, and forgotten in a rush," she said.