People transform after getting a ribbon around their neck and a mike, says author Anuja Chauhan
With bestsellers such as The Zoya Factor, Those Pricey Thakur Girls, The House That BJ Built and Baaz in her name, author Anuja Chauhan, was one of the most popular guests at the Khushwant Singh Literary Festival, held in Kasauli from October 12 to 14. She talked about literature fests, backlash and much more. Excerpts:
What do you feel about literature festivals and pseudo-intellectuals?
As a writer, I appreciate lit fests, not so much for the sessions but because of the lovely interactions you have with people on the offside, while standing in a queue for bathroom, or during parties at night when everyone is a little drunk, or while sharing a cab. Of course, these festivals are also rife with pseudo-intellectuals. People transform as soon as they are given a ribbon around their neck and a mike. They start talking differently.
You never mince-your words. How do you deal with the backlash that comes your way?
Of late, I’ve received a lot of backlash and it’s coming from the strangest place, my own community. The Rajputs. They seem to be upset about a lot of things I’ve said. People are nice on my face, and the nasty comments are limited to Twitter. You can’t please everybody so you might as well speak your mind.
Are you immune to backlash?
It does get to me. It’s irritating. These anonymous people know nothing about me. Sometimes, I think about engaging with these people, but then I realise they have much more time than me and therefore it’ll be a wasted effort. I’m not going to win this battle.
Any incident with your fans that sticks out?
Once a boy came up to me at IIT and requested me to sign a copy of my book for a girl he liked. He asked me to endorse it and write to the girl to ‘please date him’. I just signed it as “this guy has a nice taste in books.” Later, I met the girl and she told me that she only spoke to the creep because of what I wrote. She quoted from my book and said he was a ‘harami tom-cat’.
Do you believe art imitates life?
I always write my novels based on my experiences in life. Your individual voice is the individual experiences that shape you. I draw inspiration from life, from the people I talk to and when I eavesdrop.
Women are inspired by your writings as well as your persona. What’s your style mantra?
My dressing sense has always been aimed at being comfortable, colourful and adding my own touch. The older I get, the brighter my clothes are (laughs). I like high-end stores as well as the street vends. I also like raiding my mother’s, mother-in-law’s and son’s cupboard. I like to mix and match.