Yasmeen Premji’s novel Days of Gold and Sepia is a panorama of the times, from 1857 till India achieved Independence

At a time when new-age authors publish books every year, Yasmeen Premji’s Days of Gold and Sepia was written over 20 years. In a discussion of her book at Easylib, Koramangala, Yasmeen spoke of what inspired her to write this novel. “I wanted to write the kind of book that I would like to read. I didn’t find that kind of book written against an Indian background. It gave me a broad canvas to cover a lot of the stories I’ve heard and grown up with. And I thought of bringing in the city that I love, Bombay.”

The tradition of sitting together as a family and sharing stories has now become a thing of the past, but it was the stories Yasmeen grew up listening to, from her mother, and later from her mother-in-law, that stayed with her. “Both my mother and mother-in-law told stories about the old times. These were stories about their families told over and over again, so they become a part of you.”

“It’s a rags-to-riches story,” says Yasmeen of her novel. “This is a story of young Lalljee Lakha,who comes out of Kutch. Incidentally, my family did come from Kutch, my grandfather came from Kutch,” says Yasmeen, wife of business tycoon Azim Premji.

Yasmeen read out excerpts from her book. Her rich descriptions, exquisite style of writing and interesting characters were revealed with every line she read. “Lalljee comes to Bombay, from Kutch, and makes a fortune as Bombay’s Cotton king. The novel is placed between 1857 and 1947, when the country got Independence. It shows the panorama of those times. The kind of characters one came across. So it gives, as a backdrop, some of the history of old Bombay, and by extension a little bit of India.”

Days of Gold and Sepia is peopled with a number of characters. “I tried to make it inclusive and bring in people stereotypical of that time. There is a Brahmin lawyer, there were the freedom fighters, the courtesans, the British we liked and the British we didn’t like.”

As Yasmeen wrote about the story of Lalljee, she became fond of the character. “The more I lived with Lalljee, the more I began to like him. Somebody asked me is it based on anybody, I said no but he’s become a character in my life.”