Monday, 30th October 2017

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Shuma Raha on her debut novel 'The Swap', about swinging couples of Delhi

Refreshing to see someone choose a topic that would easily be branded as ‘bold'

  • Published 31.01.20, 7:31 PM
  • Updated 31.01.20, 7:31 PM
  • 2 mins read
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You could end up not saying what you want to say, or saying something very different, if you try to fit your writing to a certain “target audience”: Shuma Raha Sourced by The Telegraph

Shuma Raha was the winner of Juggernaut short story competition and The Swap by Harper Collins India is her first attempt at a novel. So it is refreshing to see someone choose a topic that would easily be branded as ‘bold’ — rampant exchanging of sexual partners by elite, married, urban couples in India.

I think every character that an author creates is an amalgamation of people he or she has come across in real life. It’s an unconscious process of picking and leaving and mixing it all up in one’s imagination. So a character that springs up on the pages of a book could have traces of someone the author might have known but, in fact, they are wholly different and new: Raha
I think every character that an author creates is an amalgamation of people he or she has come across in real life. It’s an unconscious process of picking and leaving and mixing it all up in one’s imagination. So a character that springs up on the pages of a book could have traces of someone the author might have known but, in fact, they are wholly different and new: Raha Book cover

Set in Delhi, The Swap is a tale of journalist Priya and her chartered accountant husband Akash who seemingly lead a normal life of a couple in love until they get emroiled in this partying, swapping way of love. Discussing the emotional toll of such actions, we spoke to the author about what put her on this adventurous topic. Excerpts...

What made you choose this eclectic topic for your book?

I had been thinking about writing a novel on modern relationships, especially married relationships, in urban India. At this point, someone happened to mention that spouse swapping was a thing amongst certain sections of the urban elite. That’s when I got the idea of writing a story about relationship dynamics, about arid, faltering marriages, around the pivot of the practice of swapping.

What kind of research went into this book?

Quite a bit of research, actually. I read up on the subject. That swapping was prevalent in India was evident from the scores of posts I found on the Internet — young professionals in Delhi, Gurgaon and elsewhere, inviting “close friendship” with “like-minded couples”, asking interested parties to email or call. Luckily, I was able to track down a few people in Delhi who had indulged in swapping and attended sex parties. I convinced them to talk to me off the record, and got some crucial details about how these things work. Most were pretty blase about their participation in such activities. However, in the book, Priya, who is the protagonist, is unable to treat this as a casual sexual diversion. Her moral conflict lies at the heart of The Swap.

Are the characters that you have portrayed inspired by your peers in real life?

I think every character that an author creates is an amalgamation of people he or she has come across in real life. It’s an unconscious process of picking and leaving and mixing it all up in one’s imagination. So a character that springs up on the pages of a book could have traces of someone the author might have known but, in fact, they are wholly different and new.

Did you have a target audience in mind when you wrote this book?

No, I didn’t. You could end up not saying what you want to say, or saying something very different, if you try to fit your writing to a certain “target audience”.

What has the reception so far been like?

So far, so good!

What can we expect next from your table?

Another novel, maybe.