‘I am the butterfly, unfiltered’

While watching Harvey Weinsteins story on television, who was convicted of multiple sex offenses, she began to imagine how the people of the subcontinent would react if such a news broke out centering around a person from this part of the world. Bill Clintons affair with Monica Lewinsky also came to her mind. And that is how Pakistani writer Moni Mohsins latest book “The Impeccable Integrity of Ruby R”, recently published by Penguin Random House was conceived.

“Suddenly, I began to think about the the alpha male sense of entitlement and how a lot of our current leaders have the same —there is this cult of celebrity, a kind of masculinity that exudes a lot of power. All these thoughts converged in my head, and I knew the central character of the book would not be a traditional politician. I began thinking about Trump, Pakistan’s politics, Imran Khan’s campaign against corruption, Indian cinema and the enraged young man who is a warrior for justice. The result was “The Impeccable Integrity of Ruby R”.

Adding that for a long time she had been thinking about gender relations, particularly at workplaces, Mohsin says that she wanted to highlight the fact that younger women were more aware about their rights and willing to fight for them.

The author who has written novels including “The End of Innocence” (2006) and Tender Hooks (2011), and two books her popular columns : “The Diary of a Social Butterfly” (2008) and “The Return of the Butterfly” (2014) smiles that a lot of those social butterflies are inspired by herself. “I think a lot of hidden shallows come out in the form of the butterflies. Being an insider who belongs to that class, I see it around me all the time. And I’m cognizant of all the hypocrisy and aware of all the contradictions. I’m always listening for the language and… it is me — unfiltered. With the ‘Butterfly’, I take the filter off and I put everything in there.”

Even as many critics dismiss the Butterfly series as “chick lit”, Mohsin says she believes Naipaul, who said that “all books are orphans, they make their way into the world and a writer has no control how people read a book”. She adds, “My latest one is not like the Butterfly, but it is informed by the same impulse that I have for social observation and social commentary. It’s social satire. However, if someone wants to read it as belonging to a particular category, who am I to stop them?Let’s not forget, everybody relates to work in their own capacity and bring their own perspective to it, so whatever way you enjoy it — but just keep buying them.”

Mohsin feels that her training as a journalist has always always come in handy while writing books. “Adherence to deadlines is something you cannot ignore as a journalist, and I am grateful for that discipline. Another thing it has given me is the idea of communication: One don’t write just for herself, you are trying to talk to people.”

Talk to her about the risk of writing satire considering how touche people in this continent are, and the author says that she has been lucky so far and people have been extremely tolerant. “They have always taken things in a good-humored way. I have mostly received positive feedback. Even if there has been criticism, it has been in a decent manner.”

Mohsin attributes her popularity in India to the fact that a lot of people here understand what she is saying because they speak like her, especially Punjabis. “Bigger cities like Delhi, Mumbai and Calcutta, they all have their butterflies right, those who live lives of immense privilege.”

While the author who spends her time between Lahore and London may be working on her next book centering around the Pakistani diaspora, she would not really mind a visit to India soon. “A whole lot of Indian and Pakistani journalists and writers used to cross the border for festivals, but all that dried up recently. I hope things will change for the better and there will be more conversations between us.”

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