Polly lives in Delhi. She loves Sid. Her boss gives her hell at work. Her best friend Ragini may not be her friend at all. Been there, read that? But Confessionally Yours by first-time author Jhoomur Bose [Penguin Metro Reads, Rs 150] stands apart from the current crop of chick lit. t2 got talking with the Melbourne-based Bengali author to find out more…
Confessionally Yours is not your average sugary love story. How did it come about?
I’ve been a blogger since 2006. And I have been a journalist in India. And in the course of being a journalist and a blogger, I’ve lived alone in Delhi for 20 years. A lot of the book comes from being a woman, living alone in Delhi, moving in the media circles and seeing what happens with girls in India.
Why did I write the book? Because, frankly, these are the stories that I kept hearing through my blog — women would write to me, friends would tell me…. It seems on the face of it that all of us are modern, educated, living our lives, going out to movies and pubs but if you remove the whole “Sex and the City” cover, then I don’t think much has changed for us.
Was Polly’s story based on any particular incident?
Do you remember this case about a girl called Asti Shekhar? June 2010. I was in Melbourne, reading news from India… this girl was a gold medallist in economics, married to a techie in Bangalore. After marriage, she discovers he’s in love with someone else and he married her because his mother wanted him to. Three months later Asti committed suicide. I had finished writing my book by then but her story was so shockingly similar to mine, except that Polly has the gumption to walk out. Asti never got that chance, because her parents were crying… ‘Oh God, what’ll happen to you..?’ All this came out because Asti’s personal diaries were seized by the police and released to the media.
Tell us a bit about yourself…
I’m a Bengali, probashi. My ancestors moved out to Madhya Pradesh generations back. From 1998 to 2008 I’ve lived in Delhi by myself. I changed 17 houses in 10 years… that’s another book by itself. Landlord trouble and the questions... why are you single, why do you want to live here, why do you come home late? It’s a joke really… in the 21st century you think it would be different but it’s not.
In 2006, I started writing a blog called Emancipation of Eve and that came about because I was in a very nasty relationship, where I was emotionally, mentally and physically abused. I couldn’t ask for help from anyone because, you know, people judge a girl like me. I used to smoke, drink, ride a motorbike, live alone… and help is not very forthcoming in such situations. I didn’t go to the police because I knew what would happen… you know, all sorts of questions... and the culmination of all that is the recent Delhi gang rape.
And then, well, I fell in love with an Australian boy and moved to Australia in 2008. Now I have two daughters with my partner, Mia Sujata and Olivia Gabrielle.
How would it have been different for Polly had she been living in Melbourne?
If Polly was in Melbourne, first she wouldn’t have felt as hopeless and she wouldn’t have waited that long to take the decision. She would have called the police the first thing. She would have had counsellors, a strong women’s support line, professionals who she could have asked for advice without any hesitation.... Whereas in India, you hardly have helplines and where you do, the image of a woman seeking help is of this dukhiyari nari.
The support in Australia is solid. There are shelters here that will take you in if you’ve walked out on an abusive partner, there are doctors… the works. If you have a baby and you’ve walked out, you can put your kid in childcare and the government will give you money. There are lots of options here and Polly wouldn’t have felt as lonely as she did.
What kind of books do you read?
Fantasy. Hardcore fantasy. I also read novels and all but my first love is science fiction and fantasy written in a tongue-in-cheek way — Terry Pratchett takes the cake! Then there’s Sara Douglass. Among Indian authors, I enjoy Samit Basu. Oh yes, and I love Harry Potter!