All fiction is derived from personal experience: Author Anuja Chauhan
The first time I met author Anuja Chauhan (now 47) was in 2011, at a literature festival in the city. She was part of a session on cricket and its dying charm. Chauhan held her own in the company of cricketers such as Saurav Ganguly, Deep Dasgupta and cricket historian Boria Majumdar. A few years later, I interviewed her at Taj Lands’ End, Bandra, before her book, The House that BJ Built, released. One couldn’t miss her refreshing candour, which was almost infectious. Last week, when I spoke to Chauhan about her upcoming novel, Baaz, we picked up where we left off.
In 2015, Chauhan decided to move to the outskirts of Bengaluru and live amidst nature, surrounded by her family and lots of animals. It meant leaving behind the familiar bustle of metro cities — whether it’s Delhi where she grew up, or Mumbai where she spent a considerable amount of time for work. But it also helped her hone her craft. “I am a full-time writer now. Plus, I have taken up gardening,” she says.
Over the last decade, Chauhan has published five books, and gained a reputation as a modern-day chick-lit writer. But Chauhan couldn’t care less about labels, or the fuss about whether a novel is autobiographical. “All fiction, at some point, is derived from personal experience. I am hoping to write 20 books before I die, and all of them will be memoirs,” says the writer, whose earlier works have been partly autobiographical.
All about men
Men in uniform take centre stage in Chauhan’s upcoming novel, Baaz, unlike her previous women-oriented books — Those Pricey Thakur Girls (2013) and The House That BJ Built (2015) — which formed a two-part series. Chauhan is determined, though, to avoid sequels for Baaz. “Writing sequels is irritating. Imagine writing about the same characters for four years. Besides, with those two books, I realised that there are way too many girls in my life — daughters, aunts, grandmothers,” explains Chauhan.
Baaz offers glimpses of Chauhan’s childhood, which was spent across army cantonment areas. While her research led her to read a lot of non-fiction writing about the military and the Indian Air Force, she also found herself gathering intel in the living rooms of her relatives. “My oldest first cousin is a fighter pilot who has won a Vir Chakra. My maternal uncle was a larger-than-life, dashing army man. So are many of my cousins and other uncles. So the writing gets a certain sense of authority; it may be completely misplaced, but it is still there,” she says.
Far from the madding crowd
Chauhan was an executive creative director and worked for almost 17 years at the JWT advertising agency. Some of her unforgettable taglines include Pepsi’s Yeh Dil Maange More, Mountain Dew’s Darr Ke Aage Jeet Hai and Kurkure’s Tedha Hai Par Mera Hai. However, post the success of her debut novel, The Zoya Factor (2008), she shut shop on the advertising front to pursue her literary dreams.
Chauhan says she misses neither the work nor the money. But there are days when she feels “deprived” of the cubicle culture, and the thrill of being on the sets. “I worked during the golden years of advertising. Now, there are other industries coming up, which are taking a bite into what advertising does. But I miss the collaborative effort of advertising because writing is such a lonely job. There is no office gossip in my life,” she says.
But Chauhan is also content at her “Elysian cottage out in the countryside”. She wakes up early to enjoy the pleasant weather, and is proud of her homegrown garden. Her partying days are over, she says, and she prefers quiet brunches now.
But there’s no change in her food habits; Chauhan is not turning organic. “Going organic is rubbish. In fact, I even add a lot of fertilisers to the soil to protect my plants,” she says, bursting into a hearty laugh.
Anuja Chauhan’s latest book, Baaz, will release on May 1. Publisher: Harper Collins, Price: Pre-order the book for Rs 318 on flipkart.com