Sunday, 14 September 2008

LIFE IN A CITY


LIFE IN A CITY

She had “always wanted to write”. In fact Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan does write a lot, but they are posts of the now-famous blog The Compulsive Confessor. “But, for me, blogging has been incidental. I won’t call it creative writing,” Meenakshi tells us from Delhi. Her creativity, so to speak, has just begun with the debut novel You Are Here that was recently published across India.

The novel revolves round the life of a 25-year-old woman Arshi who shares a flat with another 20-something woman Topsy. The story takes the reader through the daily life, aspirations, heartbreaks and happiness of Arshi. “It’s like a diary; the book has been divided into chapters with titles that give a brief idea about what a reader can expect in that part.”

She defines Arshi as “a young vivacious person who wants to live her life to full extent, but something ties her down.” We wonder whether Arshi is Meenakshi’s mirror image. “To some extent, yes. There’s a bit of me. But, the rest is imagination and perhaps combination of other characters I come across,” Meenakshi says. “I talk to people and get ideas about what they are thinking and note them down on a small pad that I carry all the time,” Meenakshi adds.

There are several references of Arshi’s physical intimacy with her boyfriend; similar situations also appear in several chapters. We ask Meenakshi about the need to make such repeated Sex and the City-type references. “Let’s be clear. I didn’t write about such intimacies with any conscious purpose. That’s how it is happening everywhere. That’s the true picture in India now.”

Admittedly “a city person”, Meenakshi has set the novel in Delhi. The story offers a glimpse of how fast city life can impact the thought process and behavioural patterns of people in a city. Would Arshi be different if she were to live in another city? “Frankly, I don’t know much about other Indian cities except Mumbai and one or two places in USA. This story might have been set in any city. I guess, in Mumbai Arshi’s life would have been more fast-paced. She would have been more independent.”

As the story moves ahead, we find Arshi moving away from her boyfriends; no longer ready to accept them as essential to her existence. Is there some kind of feministic message in it? Meenakshi laughs and says, “Oh no… I am not anti-men or anti-marriage kind of person. I have just written a novel and there’s no need to read meanings.”

The language of the novel is rather plain. A large part of the text comprises conversations in colloquial English with coined words like ‘Rules-y’, splattered here and there. “I haven’t done anything new. Even James Joyce did it in A Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man,” the young writer affirms. “I am not worried about those critics for whom simple stories don’t qualify as novels,” Meenakshi adds.
That leads us to literary influences on Meenakshi’s writings. “I work as a freelance journalist and write columns. As you’d agree, there’s not much creativity in journalistic assignments. So, that doesn’t have any bearing. I draw inspirations from other creative writings. For any writer, reading a lot does help,” she avers.

Being “more comfortable in English than any other language”, Meenakshi hopes there will be “more Indian writers in English language” who will explore new themes of modern India. “In the process, readers beyond India will get updated ideas of this land,” Meenakshi says. As a writer, Meenakshi looks at future with much hope. She plans to write more novels. “Right now, I am just mulling over the theme and characters. Haven’t decided as yet though.”