Maverick writer, wanderer and rainbow chaser, Tanushree Podder’s flirtation with words began quite early in life. Her latest murder mystery titled A Closetful of Skeletons is available online store. Let’s go and ask about her craft, voice, point of view and writing habits.
Why do you write?
Tanushree : Writing is my passion, and the process of turning an idea into a story gives me immense joy. Writing fulfils the need to release one’s emotions. It is a cathartic experience that offers an opportunity to release pent up emotional energy.
Have you always wanted to be a writer?
Tanushree : Even as a child, I enjoyed telling stories to my siblings. In that sense, I have always been a story teller. As I grew into a teenager, the story telling took another form as it progressed from oral to written. Even as I was pursuing a degree in science, followed by a degree in management, the practice of putting stories on paper continued. One day, I realised I was in the wrong profession and I quit my job to go into writing.
Some of our readers might not know much about Nurjahan’s Daughter, Escape from Harem and Solo in Singapore. Are you able to tell us a bit about those?
Tanushree : Nurjahan’s Daughter, set in Mughal era, is about Laadli, the little known daughter of Nurjahan. It traces the life of the meek girl of a powerful woman, through the turbulent history of those times.
Escape from Harem is a historical romance. It is the story of Zeenat, a young girl brought to the harem to satisfy the lust of an emperor. She dares to escape from the harem to find refuge in the camp of Jahangir’s mutinous son, Shahjahan. It paints a picture of the life of the inmates in Mughal harem.
Solo in Singapore is a totally different genre. It is about a quirky, overweight and emotionally insecure Munmun Menon, a kid born of a Bohemian Bengali mother and a number-crunching Malayali father. With an expired shelf life, a no-go job as a correspondent, and an unfaithful lover, she decides to make a clean break. She buys a one-way ticket to Singapore, carrying a heart full of hurt and a host of dreams. Solo in Singapore is a rip-roaring, side-splitting account of a young girl’s experience in an alien land and her efforts at keeping herself buoyed in choppy waters.
A Closetful of Skeletons. Can you tell us a bit about the book?
Tanushree : A Closetful of Skeletons is a murder mystery. It is about Ramola, a fading movie star, who withdrew from the public eye at the peak of her stardom to settle down in a beautiful Himalayan town. Once there, she decides to write her memoirs. On her birthday, she invites a few men from her past to announce the book. Her memoirs, documenting her rise to fame, puts each of her ex-lovers’ careers in jeopardy. This puts her life in danger and Ramola is murdered. Her neighbour, retired army officer and amateur sleuth, Colonel Arjun H. Acharya, joins hands with the local police to find the murderer.
Do you think your writing projects women voices on cruel and degrading remarks for centuries against them?
Tanushree : While I don’t consciously choose the subjects of my books, the thought of bringing out the exploitation of women is always at the back of my mind. It is a historical truth, which is bound to be reflected in some way or the other. Though we talk of progress, not much has changed as far as women are concerned. Women are still exploited and ill treated.
What do you say about the loss of reading habit among the youth population?
Tanushree : The youth has too many distractions to read. The attention spans are also shortening. Most of the young people I meet do not read enough. They are happy browsing on the internet or catching up on the social media. Emergence of micro fiction and micro poetry reflect the short attention span of youth.
And, do you think growing use of television and internet facilities have also resulted in the decline of the book reading habit.
Tanushree : It’s sad but true. Internet and television are a major distraction and have led to the decline of reading habits. If you look back, you will see that our parents read extensively on every subject. That led to a lot of wisdom and knowledge. Today, people spend much more time on the internet than on books. The shutting down of landmark brick and mortar book shops is an indicator of that fact.
Tell us about a normal working day…
Tanushree : I have no fixed routine. It varies from day to day. On some days, I could be very productive and key in more than a thousand words and on some I may not sit at my desk at all. In that sense, I am not a disciplined writer, who can sit at the desk for eight or ten hours. On a good day I spend no more than 2-3 hours at writing. I am a voracious reader, who spends more time reading than writing. But, I really admire disciplined writers.
Final question (promise!): do you think women are better writers than men?
Tanushree : It is not something that can be generalised. We never say that women are a better doctor, banker or economist than a man, so why should we say that women make better writers than men. It is a subjective matter. Having said that, I feel that there are subjects which are better dealt by women writers than their male counterparts. Some of the emotions are difficult to experience unless you are a woman writer. For a male writer, it may be difficult to peep into a woman’s mind. However, many male writers have done an excellent job.