Sreemoyee Piu Kundu’s latest novel is a haunting treatise to female physicality, strength and self-discovery

“Erotic as a genre is not new to us. We have always had a strong tradition of it in India-- Kalidasa’s Shakuntala and Jayadeva’s Gita Govinda are laced with erotic descriptions and is a celebration of a woman’s physicality, the temples of Khajuraho are known for their erotic carvings, we are after all the land of the Kamasutra,” says former journalist and writer Sreemoyee Piu Kundu, whose erotic novel Sita’s Curse (Hachette) is going to be launched in April this year.

Her book, a explosive sexual saga, describes the life, longing and sexual awakening of Meera Patel, a lower-middle class housewife living in a congested housing society in the suburbs of Mumbai and follows her metamorphosis from a small-town girl married off at 17 to a man she has never met to a woman who achieves freedom by giving in to desire. The book reaches its earth shattering climax (pun intended) on July 26, 2005—the day of the Mumbai floods that changed the history of the city and the lives of many of her people, forever.

“Can desire be drowned?,” says Sreemoyee, with an enigmatic smile, adding that the inspiration for her novel was a real person. A voluptuous Apsara-like beauty with long dark hair and a peaches and cream complexion who wore her saree Gujurati style and had the saddest, dark eyes she had ever seen.

“I used to be a journalist,” she says. “I lived in Mahim and would travel every day to work which was at VT (Victoria Terminus). I would pass by this chawl in Byculla at around 2.30 in the afternoon and the taxi always slowed down then. That was when I first saw her.

Some days she would be drying out her hair, others hanging out her clothes, talking on her mobile phone or feeding chillis to her pet parrot.

She would look up from whatever she was doing when I passed by and our glances would intercept—a strange unspoken dialogue that left a huge impression on me,” she says.

This continued for a year and then the floods hit Mumbai, “It was the first time I was part of a human tragedy. It took me two days to get home; I lost colleagues in that flood and fell very sick myself. It was three weeks before I went back to work and when I did she was gone. I never saw her again.”

Her face haunted Sreemoyee--that beautiful face a stark contrast to the squalor of her surroundings, “ I felt I had been chosen to tell her story, “ says Sreemoyee and so she did. The fictional Meera Patel resembles that woman, she adds.

But why erotica?

“Sex is an emotion that is gender neutral, it unites man and woman,” explains Sreemoyee. “But a woman’s sexual needs are still viewed as unacceptable. Why?,” she says.

“My book is not an Indian version of 50 shades of Grey. It is not intended to titillate. Feminist erotica is about strong women having dialogues with themselves, discovering who they truly are.”