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BW Businessworld

'Books Are A Part Of Our Inner World'

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Tell us a bit about yourself... your childhood, education and your career.
I grew up in Kolkata in the sprawling ancestral home of my maternal grand-parents late Sushanto and Karuna Das. My mother was a biology teacher in Loreto House, one of Kolkata's premier academic institutions where I studied myself. Thereafter I went on to do my graduation and masters in History (Hons) from Jadavpur University. My childhood was sacred. Still is. Filled with the large, looming spaces of our house in Jodhpurpark, the mystery and magic of Jamini Ray's canvasses that dotted our living room walls, a lake that overflowed in the rains just behind my study brimming with books, both old and new, my grand-mother's poetry notebooks, my great grandfather's religious childhood was filled with music.

After completing my post graduation, I moved to Delhi to work as a journalist with The Asian Age, a newspaper that I consider my school. My training ground, a place of worship, that set me into the dizzying world of journalism that had me in its grip for over a decade, after which I diversified into the challenging gamut of Public Relations. From being a vice president of one of India's largest agencies, I took the plunge...becoming a full time writer a year and a half ago. It's what I do now. It's who I am. And now, Delhi is my home.

Why this book? And why should a reader pick up this book?
Faraway Music is a stirring and soulful journey of a celebrated writer Piya Choudhury and while the novel is soaked in nostalgia, love and loss, it is also racy and thrilling and looks at myriad themes — childhood, leaving one's roots, the dark and desirous world of journalism, the cut throat world of PR, the ephemeral art circuit and finally the explosive world of literature. Essentially based on relationships and human engagements, Faraway Music is everyone's story in a sense. I firmly believe that someone reading it shall be able to see a glimpse of their own life, thereby relating to the plot and the characters and experiencing each emotion with them. As a collective journey.

How difficult was it to put the book together?
I think the story of FM just lived in me and honestly once I sat down to write, it just poured. There was no moment of doubt/ writer's block. Writing this book felt completely natural and easy. Cathartic too.

Your writing schedules: When and where do you write?
I write everyday when I am working on a novel. I believe you have to soak in the process and make it a discipline instead of an indulgent hobby that is left to whim. So, when I am doing a book, I am writing almost all day....all night actually. I usually like to finish one full chapter a day. And almost automatically I always find myself discovering the opening line of the next.

Can you share with us one of the most memorable moments you had while writing this book?
Writing Faraway Music changed my life. It really made me deal with a lot of personal memories and look back at the life I have led. People and places that I left behind. I have been asked is the book autobiographical? And honestly, if I were to chose from all the books I've penned since last year, this, my first is the closest to my own life. One incident that I particularly recall, is when I wrote the chapter Copycat which deals with Piya losing her grand-mother, called Mamma in the book. I was also very attached to mine and the night I wrote this, I think for the first time in fifteen years, since I lost her to cancer, I wept copiously for the loss that perhaps I had never come to terms with myself. And I remember it was really late at night.

My back was to the door. Suddenly, as I wiped my eyes and was about to shut my laptop, I felt an eerie silence. My heart raced. I  knew my Mamma was there. Slowly, I turned around. We smiled as she stood by the door. As lifelike as I remembered her last, in an off-white and red sari, damp hair, her eyes moist. Some said this was a visitation from a departed soul. I like to think, it was a blessing - Mamma's presence didn't scare me, all it did was confirm my own faith in my path. I knew, though I was then technically only at the beginning of the book, that this book was going to happen. Someday. One day. Mamma was blessing me. Standing at a distance, separated by time and a lifetime of memories.

What’s your energy drink?
I wish I had a good answer to this. Water maybe? It's always there at my desk.

What makes a book a really good read or a bestseller?
Emotions. A book according to me should speak to you, no matter whether it is set in the World War era or in Pakistan. Books are a part of our inner world - like hearing your own voice.

What's the hardest thing about being a writer?
For me, initially it was the money crunch. Getting used to no salary being debited into your account at the end of the month, especially since I was a working girl from the age of 20. But, having said that and now used to a different pattern, I think the most challenging thing about being a writer is when you open your laptop, at night, which is what I do. And a blank page looks you in the eye. And you know it's time. Finding that creative inspiration, looking inside, being naked in your writing and having the courage to tell a story you think should be heard is to me the hardest. Everything else is transient and temporary. And unimportant, after a point.

How did you find a publisher for your book? From manuscript to printed format...
Well, the process is fairly known by now. You write a concept note, attach a few chapters and send it to the publisher with a covering letter. And wait till they call back. Which in my case with Hachette, happened pretty smoothly and in a no-hiccups fashion. I signed the contract, was paid a good advance and then while waiting for the editing to start, as there is usually a long line before you, I went on writing.

What are you reading now?
Well, I have bought a lot of Bengali books from the Kolkata Book Fair since I was a part of the Kolkata Lit Meet that just concluded. It's been a while since I read my own mother tongue and I cannot wait for the pleasure. Just waiting for a window of time as I am consumed with book promotions of Faraway Music. I am also finishing Cut! My 4th novel.

E-books or paper format?
Books. I am turned on by the scent of paper. Like paint on a fresh canvas. Like a beautiful sunset.

So, what’s next?
Next out is Sita's Curse, my erotica. Followed by a racy lad lit You've Got The Wrong Girl. And I am presently writing Cut! A book that looks at the decline of the Marathi stage through the chequered life of stalwart Amitabh Kulashreshtra, the mistakes he made and I am writing this like a play.

(Compiled by Sanjitha Rao Chaini)

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