Of girls navigating cities
A trained engineer who went to IIM Calcutta, and after a decade long corporate career decided to pause and gift herself some “me time”, not to mention a Creative Writing course in the US later — author Manreet Sodhi Someshwar, whose latest “Girls and the City”, published by HarperCollins India recently hit the stands, has vivid memories of that break during which she wrote her first book.
“My husband and I were in Singapore that time, and I couldn’t help but think of my home in Ferozepur. Memories flooded back in. To make sense of them, I started asking questions. My research took me back in time and it was the national library, not any salon, that became my haunt. Seven years later, I had a book, my first: ‘The Long Walk Home’,” says the author who now has six books to her credit, including the Mehrunisa series and “The Radiance of a Thousand Suns”.
Talking about her latest, “Girls and the City”, set in Bengaluru, which is tale of female friendships centered on a murder mystery, a whodunit, that is more of a who-was-it-done-to, Someshwar reveals that she started writing it amid the #metoo movement, wanting to explore the dynamics between sex and power.
“We are somehow still reluctant to discuss sexual assault and harassment. I saw the book as a way to reignite that conversation. It explores how women navigate everyday misogyny using wit, grit and tenacity.”
Adding that women’s concerns are different from those of their male counterparts, she says, “Men write about themselves whilst women write the world.”
Recalling that when she switched gears, her writing experience was limited to powerpoint presentations, the writer says that she is a self-taught one and quite happy with the fact. “This gives me the freedom to tell the stories that I really want to. I went back to school to gift myself a like-minded community. Whilst I love my friends (class- and work-mates from my previous avatars) I do get tired of hearing: ‘So, when’s the next book coming out?’
“Now, books don’t come off factory floors… Sometimes it is such a relief to be with other folks who tussle with writing daily. That’s where being part of a Creative Writing program helps.”
For someone who started writing when she moved out of India, the distance from home gave her the perspective she needed to write. “Additionally, that provides me with a sharp prism through which to refract my experiences. Living outside of India, I have gained insights into the Indian diaspora and its varied challenges.
“I write books that I want to read which are not out there yet. It’s liberating to be in a mix of people where each one is trying to tell stories that are important to them. That has been enriching because I have learned that while every story is particular in its concerns and setting, every well-told one is also universal in its theme.”
Considering she writes across genres, it is important that she reads widely, indiscriminately and regularly. “I follow every big book with a more contemporary one. The latest one was born amidst the raging #metoo campaign of 2018 and I rode that tide because there was so much that was relevant and urgent. I begin only when the compulsion to write it is stronger than not writing it,” says the author who is presently working on a Partition trilogy.