Friday, 8 April 2016

Surpanakha by Hariharan Iyer

Educated, young, no-nonsense bearing, able administrator—these are the qualities that won Sesha the loyalties of the people after three years of rule as the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu. An allegation that he was the mastermind behind the murder of 73 Kannadigas threatens to bring him down but he is miraculously saved in the 11th hour.
Even before he can relish his victory, Sesha is slapped with the charge of sexually offending a young nurse. This time round, the case is strong and his supporters are uncertain. Worse, his teenage daughter calls him 'vile' and walks out of the house. While Mythili, his wife promises her full support, her secretive activities—undertaken with the help of a retired cop—is a cause of concern for Sesha.
Will Zarina, the human-rights activist, succeed in bringing him down? What about the insinuations of a celebrity lawyer that he is casteist and antiminorities? When the young nurse is found dead, the case becomes even more complex. Who is innocent? Who is guilty? And who is the mastermind?

An Interview:

When did you decide to become a writer?
I was blogging on current affairs and media ethics for over a year. But there is a limit to which one can analyze facts based on published material. It may not always be possible to connect the dots. For that one has to either get into investigative journalism and dig the facts or move into the realm of fiction. I chose the 2nd option. This was about two years ago when crime against women debate started dominating the media space.

What are your ambitions for your writing career?
Writing is a passion for me. “Career” is a heavy word and I do not want to associate it with my writing. I write because I feel I have something to share. So every time a reader connects with me, I feel my objective has been achieved.
Give us an insight into your main character. What does he/she do that is so special?
The lead character is an amazing woman called Mythili. A loving wife. Affectionate yet a disciplinarian mom. Wife of the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, Mythili is an amazing mix of childish enthusiasm and sober maturity. Sounds like a paradox? Hear this. When the High Court acquits her husband Sesha in a hate crime case, she pulls him out of a lecture in Anna University, gives the security guys the slip and takes him out on a late-night romantic drive. But when a charge of sexual harassment surfaces against Sesha, when her daughter calls Sesha vile and walks out of the house, what does she do? Does it shake her unassailable faith in her husband? It is her response to this challenge that sets her apart from the heroines of contemporary novels. 

Do you have a special time to write or how is your day structured?
I prefer to write early in the morning. But that is more out of compulsion than as choice. I head the finance function of a $150 mill business group, which is quite a demanding job. My days are earmarked for the job and evenings for family. I am left with early mornings to pursue writing, which is close to me. 

Where do the ideas come from?
I write on current affairs. So I get the ideas for my book from controversies, exceptions and anomalies.  

Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just see where an idea takes you?
For Surpanakha, I had an outline. In fact, I knew what the end would be. And that created problems for me. Since I knew the end, I was tempted many times to force the characters to behave artificially/ illogically so that they could facilitate in achieving the end I had in mind. Of course, I resisted the temptation, but it was not easy.

Any tips on how to get through the dreaded writer’s block?
Perhaps taking a break will help. At least that was what I did when I encountered problem in writing the denouement. Writing an action packed end would have been easier, but the story didn’t require one. A denouement should have drama and believable surprises. Arguments should be intelligent as to not just cover all the loose ends but also make the reader feel why he could not deduce what the main character was concluding.  The initial 3-4 drafts did not bring out the drama I wanted. I went blank for a week. 

What can we expect from you down the line?
I am currently working on my next book. It deals with an aspiring young girl who wants to pursue medicine, but the reservation laws of the country would not allow her to do so. What does she do—curse her fate and choose another discipline to pursue like her elder brother did a few years earlier or fight back?  

Read an Excerpt:
A dim yellow light in the background enabled the viewers to get a silhouette of the girl. Perhaps there was a fan beyond the camera frame that ruffled her curly hair mildly, and her hand moved involuntarily to put it back in order. The yellow line over the edges of her shoulder and arms implied a somewhat plump figure. She was wearing a sleeveless top or kurta.

“Sesha had never stared at me like that. In fact, I doubt whether he had noticed me properly at all. He would enter the room and I would walk out. There was never a chance. But then, that night was perhaps different. He had always seen me in churidar-kurta. That night since I had gone to sleep, I waswearing a nightgown…a sleeveless one.

“He asked if I could serve him dinner. The cook had left. She generally left for her home on Saturday evenings and returned the next night. I agreed. He returned to the dining table after changing. I had laid out the dinner. He then took out a bottle of red wine and poured two glasses. That was a surprise. I had never seen him taking alcohol. Perhaps his wife’s accident and her long illness had disturbed him emotionally. He offered me a glass. I hesitated. But he insisted. So as not to offend him, I took the glass and sipped the drink.” She seemed to move uncomfortably in her chair. 

Catherine volunteered, “You don’t need to describe it further if you don’t want to. I know how painful it would be.” 

The girl took a long breath and replied, “Hmm…I’ll talk. Painful indeed. But I’ve braved it over the last two years. Jesus has made me strong. After clearing the table, I was returning to my room. Intuitively, I felt he was following me. I was scared to look back. I paced faster towards the room. But a couple of feet before my room, I felt he was too close to me. I turned back to object. Since he was too close, he fell over me. He propped me against the wall and before I could realise what was happening, he kissed me on my lips…”

Her voice choked. Catherine extended a glass of water and the girl’s hand extended from the hazy dark background. The fingers that wrapped the glass, which was outside the darkened area, were white and the nails were well manicured. She sipped the water, cleared her throat and resumed.

“He walked me to the next room and sat me on the bed. He knelt down before me, held my face in his hands and said that I looked beautiful. I was benumbed by the suddenness of his advance. He ran his fingers over my forehead, my eyes and cheeks and then through the neck down to…the whole
thing was inappropriate. An affront. I realised he was exploiting mynumbness. Anger surged in me. I pushed him aside, jumped out of the bed and ran to my room. I closed the door behind me and slouched against it. My whole body shivered. Unable to sleep, scared that he might forcefully enter
the room again, I sat against the door and remained awake the whole night.”

Catherine handed the girl another glass of water.

Hariharan Iyer is a finance professional based in Dar es Salaam. Not content with just a rewarding corporate job, he took to writing a couple of years back. He blogged on media and current affairs for a year at before hitting on the idea for this novel. An idea so powerful that it convinced the accountant in him that he could put together not just a balance sheet but an intriguing political thriller as well. He has definite views on politics, NGOs and media ethics and has tried to package them in the form of an interesting novel. 

Hariharan lives with his wife in Dar es Salaam while his two sons are pursuing their ambitions in India. 

Facebook I Twitter I Blog 


- Amazon Gift Card worth $12 or 750INR
- Amazon Gift Card worth $10 or 500INR

a Rafflecopter giveaway

1 comment: