Palash Krishna Mehrotra has inked freshness into the non-fiction genre of writing. The young writer's quirky yet realistic style goes beyond the stereotypical academic, journalistic or sociological works that overpowered non-fiction in India for decades.
Part memoir, part travelogue, part commentary, his recent book The Butterfly Generation (Rupa Publication) is the writer's effort to find a contrast between the bygone socialist era and the sights and sounds of a contemporary Americanised India.
What sets it apart from other works is his treatment and openness with which he brings out the conflicts of our technicolour youth.
In Chandigarh, to talk about his book on the concluding day of Chandigarh Literature Festival organised by Adab Foundation, the 36-year-old Oxford graduate says that non-fiction should not be limited to "analytical" or "statistical" brackets only.
"In the western societies, writers of non-fiction have, interestingly, used experiences, arguments, memories, travel experiences to build their understanding of contemporary issues."
"My writing doesn't have magic realism, rather I love to pen down things the way they approach me. For instance, The Butterfly Generation is a product of my journey-an account of people whom I met, observed and argued with."
"This approach is more bare and helps me stay with the character, and, at the same time, not manipulate it. This also gives me freedom to make arguments, touch the subject at psychological level and also to add quotes from different sources. In this book, I have quoted VS Naipaul's work and also from magazines such as Cosmopolitan and Women's Era."
On what convinced him to write this book, he says that most of us who are born in the '80s have
seen the socialistic era, with no mobile phone, no internet, no McDonalds and only one TV channel. However, post-liberalisation period brought many changes. The Butterfly Generation is an effort to bring out those conflicts and confusions, which the post-liberalisation generation may not feel but a 30-year-old will definitely think about it.
Yes, the success of the book indicates that readers have related to it. He quips, "I have not tried to jump to a conclusion. This book is an impressionist account of the Indian middle class living in metropolis India."
Based in Delhi now, he has also spent time in Dehradun where he was a visiting faculty at The Doon School. His first book, Eunuch Park: Fifteen Stories of Love and Destruction, is again based on his experiences in small towns and delves into the lives of drifters and society dropouts.
On why he loves to explore the grey areas, he says that life is not colourful everywhere. He says that it's not just a big city that has an underbelly. Currently, he is working on another unusual subject, which, he says is an anthology of essays on 'drinking' in India. "I have made a sort of reputation for peculiar writing!" he smiles.