Delhi-based theatre personality Bubbles Sabharwal's debut novel
, a complex psychological canvas of a triangular relationship, is the outcome of a personal tragedy. She wrote the manuscript sitting in a Delhi hospital where her father was being treated.The novel narrates the story of Shirin Bhatia, a quiet and docile housewife, whose orderly existence turns topsy-turvy when her husband Kabir introduces her to his colleague Udayn Batra.
As Kabir becomes more successful and less accessible, Shirin finds herself torn between her duties as a wife and mother and her intense attraction for Udayn. But when her life takes a tragic turn - she is compelled to pick up the threads and move on. It is a tale of urban angst, of relationships and the courage that personal losses bequeath.
"The book was the result of a personal tragedy. I lost my father in 2005. I used to sit at the Gangaram Hospital in New Delhi, where my father was being treated; surrounded by sheets of paper; groping - not knowing what to do," Sabharwal told IANS in an interview at her residence in the capital.
"It was there I began the 400-page manuscript. The original copy had many divergent stories. The publishers culled out Shireen's life," Sabharwal said. She manages a children's theatre company Kidsworld and a book club at the India Habitat Centre.
Seated at the opulent terrace parlour of her double-storied apartment, the stunning actress cut a pragmatic figure as she held forth on the book, her vocation (theatre) and the conflicts and dilemmas faced by the contemporary Indian woman. The book, said Sabharwal, became more personal after her mother was diagnosed with cancer barely 10 days after her father's death. "I submitted the manuscript in 2007," she said.
The stage actress has written the successful volume Runaway and Other Plays and has juggled several careers as a flight attendant in the British Airways and as a boutique owner. She stormed the stage with her acclaimed play Women in Black in 2004.
The writer, when quizzed repeatedly, said her novel has "shades of similarities with her life".
"When you are a writer, you cannot say similarities are not there. Your life is open to public scrutiny. Truth rings around us, circumstances influence and the subconscious takes over. I try to be consciously different with characterisation - but the similarities creep in.
"Ours is an urban-centric life - and we are the modern-day Bodhisattvas. We have to carry life forward," she said, explaining the essence of the book.
Her book, the author said, had been drawn from real life stories as she dealt with "real lives on stage".
At the root of it lies a quest for identity - a deep need for every contemporary Indian woman who is just past her prime. "Very often society restricts you from accepting your own identity. Shireen is a quiet, self-effacing housewife with no real ambition.
"Her only desire in life is to meet someone who will make her feel special. Even while life was taking away everything from her, she was becoming a working woman, discovering herself. But my point is that this self-discovery is no huge fanfare or beating of the drum. It is internal," she said.
The spirit of sacrifice, said Sabharwal, is inherent in the Indian woman's psyche. "Once you are married, you have to sacrifice and every act of sacrifice breeds a great sense of loss. And to me that is strength. I am not an American woman, who spends quality time with children. Behind the timid lives of Indian women lie strong human beings," she said.
The author has two books on the cards - a psychological novel, Damage, about a mother, daughter and the man in their lives. It has been signed up by Penguin India.
And she is also working on a chick lit novel. "It is called Letters from Fiesty 50. The protagonist is 50 and it is her birthday. She goes out to buy black leather pants, calls all her 50 plus friends home and decides to write a series of letters to god, her husband and her son," she said.
Sabharwal, who is also promoting books for children, will organise a literary festival for high school and college students early next year and tour Dubai with her theatre project
Art and Paradox
(Madhusree Chatterjee can be contacted at email@example.com )