Wearing a summery tee and skirt, sipping an iced tea in Café Coffee Day, Nirupama Subramanian presents an urban picture similar to the world inhabited by characters in Intermission (Harper Collins) her latest novel which tells a contemporary love story set in Gurgaon.
After Keep the Change, a chick-lit, Subramanian has written on a subject which Gustave Flaubert and Leo Tolstoy have mastered - adultery. But unlike their fiery leading ladies, Anna Karenina and Madame Bovary, she has weaved her story around Varun, a middle-aged man who falls head-over-heels in love with his young neighbor, Sweety.
Being a resident of Gurgaon, Subramanian knows first-hand what happens when people living in condominiums are thrown together in social gatherings. Quite expectedly, she has set her story in the millennium city to see "what happens when the community throws people from various backgrounds together."
From expats to the local people from Harayana, Gurgaon is the melting pot of people from across India and abroad. Since most of the residents have moved into the city recently, nobody has roots here. While Varun's wife, Gayatri, an independent working woman, hates Gurgaon for its chaos and lack of greenery, Sweety, the young housewife, loves it for the independence and freedom it offers her.
The author explains that it was important for her to focus on the setting as people reveal themselves by how they view their surroundings.
"For me, the city is the way it is seen through the eyes of different characters, it's not an anonymous entity", she explains.
While Intermission can be read as a fast-paced page-turner, with lots of masala, it is not just a regular Mills & Boons about a passionate extra-marital affair. In the midst of the tumultuous love story of Varun and Sweety, the author also rakes open a plethora of issues ranging from the relationship between masters and servants, societal pressures and troubles of the urban family.
Subramanian reveals that she tried to explore "the nebulous relationship between masters and servants", which is so different from the kaka-kaki relationship of the feudal times. Now, with the masters so engrossed in their work, it's hard to tell who calls the shot in the house."
The book showcases a world where everyone is making choices and compromising in life. Marriage has run its course, and bitterness has replaced love. Subramanian shows how a rational man falls for a woman who is a complete opposite. Both Varun and Sweety are very different people. While Varun doesn't care about societal strictures, Sweety values her roles as a mother and a dutiful wife.
"When these two people fall in love, it is interesting to see whose decision prevails. I have shown Sweety taking the decisions because for a change the man should be left to figure out what he wants to do with his life!", she says mischievously.
What they decide to do about their love is neither radical nor a regular Bollywood solution. The choices Varun, Gayatri and Sweety make might not be the best one, but that is what the author focuses on - how do human beings make decisions?
Subramanian reveals, "The love-affair leaves Varun shaken and turns Sweety's cozy little world upside down. The choices made by them are a combination of several factors which make a lot of sense to them, but seem illogical to others. It was important for me that the spouses don't come to know about their affair as I wanted to see what they would decide on their own without any external pressures."
The author has explored various aspects of love in the book - the love of a woman for her old parents, love between a married couple based on companionship and respect and romantic love.
After a tumultuous affair, Sweety realises that love isn't everything; everybody has to adjust and make compromises, sentiment echoed by the authors as she signs off philosophically, "There're multi-levels of love, it's not uni-dimensional."