Reviewers claim that Chitralekha Paul’s writings are similar to Jhumpa Lahiri and Anita Desai’s treatment and writing style. The dilemmas, issues and small pleasures of the protagonist of Delayed Monsoon, Abhilasha, has given critics and reviewers enough reason to applaud this lawyer-cum-writer’s debut venture. The way in which Abhilasha and Arvind fall in love, the anticipation of meeting her beloved for the first time (she fell in love with Arvind online) and the nervousness she faces of him being a person different from the Arvind she has known is written beautifully.
From a lawyer to a writer – what inspired you to take up writing?
The lawyer in me is a professional person but there is also another me who is sensitive and creative. My thought process is never at rest. But being an introvert to the core, I could never share my feelings with anyone. So, I guess that is the reason I took up writing to express myself.
How was life with an Air-Force officer initially? Was there any kind of fear/apprehension about the professional hazards? Did that in anyway bring out the writer in you?
Initially there was lot of excitement. Getting married to an Air Force pilot was a big deal for a girl who was used to a calm and uneventful life far away from any kind of glamour or glory. I was overwhelmed by the charisma of my husband’s profession. No doubt the profession was risky but somehow I never got apprehensive, except when his flying time coincided with thunderstorm or when he went into hills. Many people have asked me this question “ Don’t you get scared when your husband flies.?” And my answer was “ How can I afford to be scared when I have married a person for whom flying is his life?”
There is quite a bit of loneliness reflected in Abhilasha’s character. How did you think of the entire ideation and plot? How much of Chitralekha reflects in ‘Abhilasha’?
The story deals with the loneliness of Abhilasha at various stages of her life. If we broadly divide the stages as before marriage and after marriage, then before marriage loneliness is something which is typical with Abhilasha but after marriage aloneness is quite a common feature. My interaction with many married ladies of my time, who could not pursue their career, compelled me to ponder how void they felt from inside when apparently they seemed to be happy. Competent and educated girls who could have easily carved a niche for themselves had not thought twice before sacrificing their ambition at the altar of the family. Because that appeared to be the most spontaneous and natural choice at that point of time. But there comes a stage when family responsibilities are fulfilled, everyone’s interest has been taken care of, but what happens to them? Alas! At the end of it all, a painful realisation dawns on them that perhaps they have messed up their lives, as all their sacrifices earned them nothing more than an inferior status of being termed as a housewife, the most underrated, difficult and taken for granted profession( if it can be called a profession). I have come into the legal profession at a much later stage, before which I was one among them. So I chose to write for me and for many more not so accomplished ladies who could have touched the sky only if they got a chance to realise their potential.
All the characters have a distinct feel and flavor. How easy or difficult was it etching them – the male protagonists as well as the female protagonists?
Human characters fascinate me a lot. We all are distinct persons with various shades. No one is outright good or bad. That’s why whenever I come into contact with any person I try to be non-judgmental so that all his traits, good or bad get painted in the canvas of my mind. And since I am the one who loves to observe rather than being observed and listen rather than being listened, I find it easy to feel the distinct flavour of each character.
Is there any incident that you’d like to share with the readers that has left an impression in your memory, during the writing process?
Initially when I started writing I was not very sure if people will be interested in the story of Abhilasha who was just an ordinary housewife. My daughter’s remarks that the story makes an interesting read, failed to convince me as I took it to be an attempt by a loving daughter to encourage her mother. Then one day my husband happened to peep on the Microsoft word file which I forgot to close. “It’s amazing!! I have been with you for so many years but I never knew that your grip over English is better than me. With an easy flowing language, you have an interesting story to tell and many ladies would love to read your book,” for the first time in my life I was praised by my worst critique. And I was on cloud nine.
Would you like to name some of your favorite books/authors?
I find this question a bit difficult to answer. There are quite a few authors whose writing I enjoy. But that doesn’t mean that I would like all their writings.. May be I have enjoyed a particular book of a certain writer but some other books written by the same author has disappointed me. But still if you want me to answer the question, first I will name two famous Bengali novelists and they are Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay and Sharat Chandra Chatterjee. Apart from them there are many others like R.K Narayan, Paul Coelho, Alex Haley, Jeffrey Archer, M M Kaye, Khaled Hosseini, Indu Sudaresan and so on. Among the books Pather Panchali, Malgudi Days, Roots, The Far Pavilions, Autobiography of a Yogi and AThousand Splendid Suns are my all time favourite.
What other genres of writing do you wish to explore further?
Umm…I have not thought about this as yet.
How has life changed after being known as a writer/author?
Well….. life is the same for me, there is absolutely no change.
What next do we see you writing?
May be another fiction which will have nothing to do with my personal experience.
Pearls of wisdom for budding writers…
Be honest with your feelings and don’t let the mind interfere with your heart in the initial stage of writing. Just go with the flow and let the story take a shape. Afterwards you will have enough opportunity to use your mind, be it changing the story line or working on the language.