In conversation with Nandita Bose, author of Tread Softly on books, Indian Writing, and much more…
Your debut novel, Tread Softly, is being received well by audiences. Tell us a little about the book?
‘Tread Softly’ is what I call a nostalgic romance. It begins with an unlikely marriage between a docile and unprepared Paroma and the man who is actually her intended groom’s stepbrother. She finds herself totally at sea in her new life alongside the silent and distant Abhinn and their dysfunctional home crawling with cats and a disapproving aunt.
How are these enforced proximities negotiated? How do intimacies flourish and then disappoint? Can there really be a future for a marriage that is merely one of convenience and between two very disparate individuals?
These concerns along with unseasonal rains, interesting relatives, disruptions, good food, an accident, and a strange unfathomable husband, make up Paroma’s journey towards finding herself and her peace.
What was the reason behind you choosing to write a story that bears ‘romance’ as its theme?
I choose to write only about things that I find meaningful. And nothing feels more meaningful than love. There is something magical about human relationships. And I wanted to write a simple, entertaining book that also hints at that eternal magic and impasse between men and women, even those completely in love.
Most of all however, I long to return women to reading. You will notice that women are so frazzled with the burden of their daily lives that reading becomes less and less of a priority or option. And at the end of a day’s work, no one really wants to “work” at a book. Light escapist reading like romance is the ideal answer. Except that I didn’t find the kind of romance I wanted to read. So I began writing it myself.
Needless to say, a book you’ve authored would be no less than a baby to you. How do you deal with the responses you’re getting for the book- both good and bad?
Not really. I am not emotionally attached to my books. It is all in a day’s work! I am not my book. My book is not me.
‘Tread Softly’ is a very transparent sharing of an emotional journey and it never fails to move me when readers come back to me and identify portions which made them cry. And when anyone tells me they read the book, I always ask whether they enjoyed it. My aim is to entertain and delight. Luckily, most of the responses I have been getting are extremely heartening!
I can’t think of any.
There was one concern that continued to haunt me. It was about ‘relevance’. My books are all very culture specific. I choose to pick my characters from a culture I am most familiar with so that the simple nuances of my story are spot on and add a depth to the unfurling of the work. I wondered whether it would ‘travel’ to those of other cultures or would lose meaning and relevance in that travel. And also whether love stories have relevance at all in today’s garbled materialistic world.
Tell us your experience with getting your novel published with reference to you being a first time author.
I sometimes toy with the idea of writing a book on precisely this. In short, any attempt to answer that in brief would appear incoherent.
Once I signed on with Rupa Publishers, the journey was smooth and meaningful. And I’m still enjoying the ride.
With more and more publishing houses cropping up, there has been a sudden increase in the number of novels that are getting published. As a result, quality of language and story are being compromised on. What are your comments on the situation as an avid reader and writer?
I actually welcome this ferment in publishing. Not only are more categories or genres coming into the mainstream. The purpose of books is also widening from mere education to a wide range of other uses, including recreation.In turn, a widening circle of people are now reading. And that is a good thing!
Always remember, we get the government we deserve. Same applies for books.
What are the kinds of books you prefer reading and tell us about the most memorable book you’ve read in recent times?
Unfortunately I don’t read as much as I would like to. Three books I’ve read recently really stand out in my mind: The Sly Company of People Who Care by Rahul Bhattacharya, Killing a Snow Dragonfly by Sharad P Paul & The Yellow Emperor’s Cure by KunalBasu.
What are the things you look for in a book, to make it a gripping read and why?
I think more than any one aspect, it is the author’s vision and art at executing that vision that makes a book magnetic. Like any other reader I look for instruction and creativity from the books I read.
The one thing that turns you off in a book?
The one thing that turns me off in a book is when the author is jaw-dropping brilliant. I can’t bring myself to read further, burning with envy.
What are your plans for the future? Is there another book in the offing? If not, what else keeps you occupied?
Yes, my next book is in the publishing process. It is called Shadow and Soul and is also a beautiful nostalgic romance. I am hoping my readers love it as much as I loved writing it. I write frenetically and hope to see more of my books in print by and by.
Writer is a student at SIMC.