Suchita Malik, launched her latest book
s. Here the author talks about the book, issues and more.
1. This is your second look at the world of civil servants and their wives (after your first novel Indian Memsahib). What makes you keep returning to the topic?
I introduced a new perspective on the lives of civil-servants in my debut novel, Indian Memsahib. Even though I did not have a specific clientele in mind at that time and the novel was meant for the common reader, there were many people who could strike an immediate chord and identified themselves with the characters and situations and they gave me a positive feedback. In fact, the Chief Guest, Sh. Tejendra Khanna, Hon'ble Lt. Governor, Delhi, had suggested at the launch itself that the novel called for a sequel as one wanted to continue reading even after the ending. The idea had taken shape in the mind at that time only and the immediate success of Indian Memsahib only reinforced the resolve to pen down its sequel. I thought the readers liked what they read and wanted to read more about it.
2. How difficult has it been to give an insight into the professional world of a civil servant?
It has been difficult to give an insight into the professional world of a civil servant and to write about the officialese and the procedures. It required a lot of patience, some research work and interaction with various people. I also had to deal with the usual stiff-lip approach and the reticent demeanour of the civil-servants when asked about their professional ventures. Generally, they would like to maintain a low profile and wouldn't be very forthcoming with the information they did not want to share. Getting them to talk about 'office' and understanding the nuances was a Herculean task.
3. Does it not worry you that real-life characters who inspire you, might recognise themselves in the book and turn hostile?
Well, one can never aspire to be an honest writer if one keeps such pressures on mind. And then, the facts were only gathered from various sources, situations and characters, and then fictionalised using 'dialogue' and the 'point of view' method. Controversy, hostility and resentment are a part of our daily life and the societal set-up, and the sooner a writer learns to take these into one's stride, the better it is. When has that been a detriment for a writer ever and why should it bother him/ her?
4. Have you ever personally felt the prejudices against the VIP wives as you have spoken about in the book?
Oh Yes! always. In fact, these come straight from the heart and many working memsahibs have shared these with me in our formal and informal chit-chats over two decades. In fact, these common prejudices against the 'VIP' wives are something that binds them together looking for a vent-route in discussing similar problems and looking for catharsis. Perhaps, this also served as an inspiration to demystify the myth about the glorious treatment meted out to the so-called 'VIP' wives always.
5. Even as you reiterate many common myths attributed to the lives of VIP wives, do you intend to break the same through Memsahib's Chronicles?
Oh, Yes! certainly. The title of the first book, Indian Memsahib, was subtly suggestive of that. The concept of the Memsahib has been a legacy of the Raj where they were perceived to lead a fairy-tale existence with many privileges and paraphernalia. Independence brought in its wake new independent ideas and a new work-culture where the Indian woman tried hard to come out of the shadow of the husband demanding equal rights and facing equal hardships. The concept of the Memsahib too acquired different connotations whereas public mind retained their same old aura and ambience in their imagination. Memsahib's Chronicles makes an attempt to break the myth and the common perceptions through a simple, objective and interesting narrative giving a rare peep into the fascinating lives of the civil-servants.
6. Will your forthcoming novels also deal with The Memsahib's?
I am not sure as yet. I would have to judge the public response as also the need to work on the same area again and again. I am sure, though, that the subject catches the public imagination like anything and if one goes by the view that one should write about what one knows best, then I am certainly game for it. One should never say 'never'.