Devapriya Roy on her new book “The Weight Loss Club” and how she came to write it
Her maiden experiment with pen and paper, “The Vague Woman’s Handbook”, was hailed as a love letter to Delhi. “A vague woman writing to humour her bibliomania” in her own words, Devapriya Roy is back with her second, “The Weight Loss Club: The Curious Experiments of Nancy Housing Cooperative.”
Nancy is a potpourri of the quintessential Indian neighbourhood figures: an obsessive Bengali school gate mother; a housewife tortured under the bullying shadow of a Lalita Pawar of a mother-in-law; a depressed middle aged woman and a bunch of college-goers with a myriad equations evolving and ebbing. Roy reveals her belief in life affording that utopian opportunity of turning over a new leaf through the character of Oxford-returned Sandhya, a saadhvi as much as a hippie, whose entry into the lives of Nancyites does much more than tinkering with their monotones.
She writes with the knowledge and intuition of a teenager. Ask her what sets that ticking and young author attributes it to her cousins falling in the same age bracket as the residents of Nancy and having been there herself, not too long ago. “Besides, being a curious eavesdropper in a Calcutta neighbourhood never fails you,” she adds jauntily.
“The Weight Loss Club is something I never set out to write in the least,” confesses Roy. Shuttling between mugging Sanskrit noun forms for her PhD on sage Bharata’s Natya Shastra and her upcoming project, a travelogue, she believes she was ‘ambushed’ by the idea one fine morning.
The narrative, quite divorced from what the title suggests, is a slice of life served with a pinch of masala. What differentiates it, however, from the conventional pop-fiction, is that the stereotypes aren’t reinforced but acknowledged and rebelled against. The story touches upon themes of feminism on one level as the characters recreate One Billion Rising, also lending it a contemporary flavour. “Sandhya is a hippie feminist, a sliver of me,” says Roy.
So, what’s on the anvil? Roy’s next, spread over 16,000 km and 3 months, is “The Heat and Dust Project”. A journey embarked upon with husband Saurav Jha, it is an account of touring India in dilapidated local buses on an extremely tight daily budget.