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I Had Two Dozen Notebooks Full Of Notes

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The book seems like an ethnographic research on fashion industry. What made you write this?
A curiosity to look at aspects of contemporary India through fashion and clothing. Powder Room is not a book on the fashion industry; instead it looks at the dilemmas and complexities around fashion through some people's experiences. I have essentially and deliberately sought out paradoxes that underline the warp and weft of the clothing experience in India. I wanted to write about people — their conflicts, thrills, modesty, morality, sexuality and ambitions instead about trends or products.

How difficult was it to put the book together?
The research and travel to different parts of India in search of a cross section of people was enjoyable, engaging, very gratifying. The tough part was the writing — I had two dozen notebooks full of notes but didn't know where to start, what to say, which stories to choose, what to leave out. A lot of people who gave me time, concern and their thoughts are not even mentioned in the book, which leaves me a bit wistful. For the eventual sifting, I paid heed to the stories that were making the most noise in my head. That sifting was the toughest part and then to tucking in accounts into each other leading out from the protagonist’s story to a relevant diversion to return to the core narrative.

Where all did this book take you?
As far as travel is concerned, I went to many cities — Ludhiana, Chandigarh, Hoshiarpur, Nagaland, Chennai, Bangalore, Kolkata, Patan, Ahmedabad. Mumbai. Emotionally, it took me into people's minds, their intimate realisations of themselves through their choices in clothes. That travel is never one way, I found myself reflecting on similar issues myself — why I hadn't attained conflict resolution in certain experiences of my own in the fashion industry; why did I cling to the sense of the old middle class instead of contemporary Indian middle class; why did I love fuschia so much? What did I really mean when I said I loved simplicity — the obvious is not so apparent — I hardly look like a simple person. Such nuances crept up on me all the time. I also began ruminating about some confessional accounts in the book especially the chapters on Nagaland (Boy, Interrupted), Patan Patola (In the Red), Luxury brands (Price on Request).
Tells us a bit about your journey from the manuscript to a bound book — how did you find the publisher?
The book was commissioned by Chiki Sarkar when she still headed Random House. That I should write a book like this on fashion was her idea after she would hear me rave and rant about the fashion industry and its ripples in the rest of India. But Chiki left before the book could be completed and I worked with Milee Ashwarya who edited XXPowder Room.

What’s your energy drink?
Nariyal paani

What makes a book a really good read or a bestseller?'
Honesty of purpose and tone;simple, fluid but reflective language; entertaining and insightful content.

What's the hardest thing about being a writer?
Discipline and focus and long hours of seclusion to reflect and research.

What are you reading now? E-book or Paper format?
I am reading two books: Granta's issue on Lost and Found and Tibetan Book of Living and Dying (for the fourth time!) Both printed books. I am not much of an e-reader.
   Read "Powder Room" book extract

So, what’s next?
Another book with Random House. We have just signed.

(Compiled by Sanjitha Rao Chaini)