A Tête-à-tête with Tuhin Sinha

Tuhin A. Sinha is the bestselling author of That Thing Called Love, Of Love And Politics, and The Captain. The versatile author, who is also a columnist and a scriptwriter, came to Delhi University recently, to interact with the students about his recently published political fiction, The Edge Of Desire. Here is the dynamic Hindu College alumnus on his latest book, and more…

Q-     Hindu college has a very political and intellectual culture. How much has your college life shaped you as a person?

Ans. – College makes you an aware person, politically and socially. It may sound strange, but when I was in Hindu, I never thought I would be a writer. Being a student of commerce, writing began for me much later. Had I begun early, you would have seen more books from me by now. But, my college life taught me to think beyond the usual. Writing was something I had not done before, but something I wanted to do. Very few institutions carry an aura as inspiring and motivating for the students like Hindu does. When you graduate from Hindu, you believe that you have to be the best. That’s where you remain a Hinduite forever, and that, in itself, is a big boost to dare to achieve your dreams.

Q-     Tell us about your latest novel, The Edge of Desire.

Ans. -The Edge of Desire is the story of a journalist, Shruti Ranjan, who is the newly-wed wife of the Deputy Commissioner of Kishanganj, in the lawless Bihar of the 1990s. Her life is shattered when she is brutally raped by apolitically sheltered local goon. As she loses hope to get justice, a leading member of the opposition party, Sharad Malviya, offers her a ticket to his party for the Lok Sabha elections. Seeing that it was her best option to get justice, she agrees, to step into what appears to be a man’s world, which requires sacrifices and compromises. Taunted for being a “Draupadi” (from the Indian epic Mahabharata), she resolutely fights her fate.

Q-     You are from an industrial city, Jamshedpur. Is the theme of your latest book shaped by your personal experiences in Jharkhand?

Ans. -Not really. Jamshedpur is an industrial city. It is very different from northern Bihar, where the plot of my book is based. It’s. Even though I don’t go there too often, I am aware of the culture and the political and social circumstances there.

Q-     The themes of your books are very political. Why is that?

Ans. -See, no story can be told without the backdrop of the history and culture. I try to connect the reader with the various issues that are plaguing the nation. While non-fiction books give an impersonal view, in fiction, the political issues become a personal journey through the eyes of a character and it’s easier for the reader to connect. While in politics, you need to be conscientious, but, politics need not run essentially on conscience. You have to consider the fate of a state while making decisions. The reader and the protagonist realise that during the course of the book. Not everyone is morally correct in politics and the boundaries of morality are highly blurred in politics.

Q-     This is the first time that the protagonist of your novel is a woman, something typical of a Sidney Sheldon novel where a woman picks herself up after being a victim of circumstances. What inspired you to have a female protagonist? Do you feel that you have done justice to the character?

Ans. -My inspiration is from the epic Indian war, Mahabharata, where, the humiliation of one woman, affects events as such, that it decided the fate of a nation. Only in my book, the narrator was the woman herself. It was definitely a challenge to narrate a political fiction from a woman’s point of view. In political fictions, the line between reality and fantasy may often appear blurred. But the book is based on issues that are very contemporary and relevant to today’s society. What happened to Shruti, the protagonist, can happen with any woman. A single, horrendous episode turned her life upside-down.The book is about her journey, her decision to capitalise on her harassment, realizing that it was the only way for her to get justice.I have tried to portray the different sides to a woman through this novel. When she plunges into politics, her personal life takes a back seat. It is to show that the same person can be powerful, at the same time, they have their pitfalls. As for the character, that is for the readers to decide if I have done justice or not. But the response from the readers has been overwhelming. Especially since I have got positive response from female readers, I am satisfied.

Q-     The protagonist in your book has often been swept over by events over which she has no control. It might appear that she is fortunate to have people in power to help her sail through the stormy tides. Do you think that women, specifically in India, can enter politics without a godfather?

Ans. -See, my story is about a woman who never thought or planned to enter politics but ended up there. True, she was a victim of circumstances, but she reached heights she had never imagined she could. Politics is beyond the “individual”. One has to think of the needs and demands of a much larger population. For that transition, from a novice into an accomplished player, you need a seasoned politician to help and guide you.For anyone to effectively bring change, you must know the game. One could draw parallels with the Mahabharata, where, in a man’s world,one woman’s humiliation incited a war. In my book, Shruti is like the modern day Draupadi, whose rape started a journey that changed the destiny of the nation. And Sharad’s character in my book is like a modern day Krishna, pivotal to the war.

Q-     So your protagonist is a rape victim. This is a very common crime these days. In the last two months only, we had two instances of women being publicly molested (one at a market in Guwahati and more recently, during the Delhi University elections campaign). Authorities are not taking actions on time. Such incidents are not prevented. What are your views on the situation of women in India today?

Ans. -The rate of gender crimes these days seem to rise higher than the economic growth! There is a chapter in my book about the molestation and rape of women, occurring across centuries. Majority of such incidents do not even get reported. Rather, more than 90 percent of the time the victims know their victimizers. The idea of my book was to bring out an inspirational journey for people, to speak up, and rise above their circumstances. As for the public incidents of harassment, yes, there needs to be better law and order. And as you pointed out, it needs to be effectively implemented as well. In fact, in my book, in a speech that my protagonist delivers in parliament, she speaks on the need for setting up fast-track courts, specifically with crime against women. That way, the centre can reach out to the victims to deliver justice.

Q-     Your book starts off in the Bihar of 1990s. Do you think that the situation has improved now?

Ans. -It has, but, there is still a long way to go. It cannot be done overnight, it is a matter of time. There needs to be stable and cohesive governance and strong leaders, who are also efficient administrators. Once that happens, there is still a tough and long journey.

Q-     You are a screenwriter as well. What are your views on adaptation of books into movies? Do you think the essence of a book can truly be captured in a movie?

Ans. -Of course, I am all for it. The audience definitely multiplies manifold. Moreover, movie adaptation implies that more people will read the book. It increases the readership, and more people are aware of it. See, that’s a different matter altogether. But, the message reaches out to more people, it inspires more lives. And that is what matters, in the end.

Abhiruchi Chatterjee

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