Launch Of Lata Gwalani’s Incognito that delves into mind training and life’s meaning

The major part of Lata Gwalani’s debut novel Incognito is divided among four women in love. Each of them recounts how the relationship with her dream man plummets to betrayal and, finally, murderous hatred. But their stories are not central to the novel. Enter a fifth woman, privy to the goings-on in the lives of the other four and has learnt the most horrifying truth about them — all four have murdered the men they once worshipped. Or, did they? The fifth one is as complicated a character as the rest. Is she 75 years old, as she claims to be?

Light and shadow alternate in quick succession in this work, whose author is given to exploring the labyrinths of the human mind. Together with her husband Sunil, Lata runs a mind-and-performance training academy in Thane and the novel has a touch of this trade. Releasing Incognito (Leadstart Publishing) at Landmark, Citi Center recently, Tamil writer Tirupur Krishnan disagreed with a description of the book — “A psychological thriller” — that is found on its cover. “It does the book big disservice,” he said and went on to point out how it grappled with existential questions and went beyond being a mere thriller.

The author is inextricably united with her work and much of her worldview is revealed. With permission from the Viktor Frankl Institut, she introduces the psychiatrist and his logotherapy — a form of existential analysis which stokes the will to find meaning, even under extremely unbearable conditions — to her readers.

In a chat after the book release, Lata spoke about how important it was to find something that one can live for, echoing Viktor E. Frankl. Her own search for meaning has taken her along a road with unexpected turns. From being a journalist serving mainstream publications — a career that ended in frustration for want of freedom to write about what she thought of as meaningful topics — she switched to the vocation of mind training, which she considers her true calling in life.

However, a long-standing desire to write novels finally forced her to take a break from work. “I finished Incognito in eight months. The entire plot was conceived even before I started writing the novel,” said Lata, who is working on her second book, a compilation of stories about battered women she has met. She hints at her third book — not fully crystallized yet — being primarily focused on women.

On why she consistently chooses women as protagonists, she said: It is not totally intended. But the choice has something to do with the need to feel what is written.