Madhuri Iyer’s new novel “Manhattan Mango” talks about the value of comradeship in the present trying times

Life is full of uncertainties and it is only friends and the camaraderie which makes it possible to cope with it. Madhuri Iyer’s first printed fiction, Manhattan Mango, is the story of three Indians — Neel, Shrikant and Shankar — and their bonding. Hailing from different parts of India, their friendship begins in Mumbai and continues in Manhattan, New York, where they add new friends to their circle.

As a child, the author was fond of narrating stories to her younger sister but admits that she used to reveal the end only when the ardent listener forked out chocolates. Later, she continued to write short stories though none were published. On completion of graduation in applied arts from Sophia Polytech, Mumbai, she started working as a visualiser in an advertisement agency and later became a copywriter. She has 25 years of experience in the field. “Honestly I could not have written this novel had I not got my basics right having trained as a copywriter,” she says during a telephonic conversation from Mumbai, adding, “It helped me to stick to the word limit.”

Having stayed in Manhattan for more than two years, she found the place fascinating as it was multicultural and multiracial and that inspired her to locate the novel in that city. Fond of Mumbai too, Iyer says she found similarities between the two places — both are hives of commercial and financial activities, cosmopolitan and imbibed with fast-paced life — though Manhattan attracts people from all the corners of the world. The protagonists in the novel share almost similar cultural and family background with the majority of them hailing from upper middleclass strata — all familiar to Madhuri — yet none of the characters resemble her friends or relatives.

According to Madhuri, Indians in New York have a mixed selection of friends and do not tend to restrict their circle to fellow countrymen. Can the place be termed a melting pot? “No, though the English-speaking Indians hailing from big metros tend to have friends transcending races, they still maintain their identity,” she says. “They are open-minded, accepting as well as contributing to the cultural space.” This, according to her, is the essence of the Manhattan experience which adds a whole new layer to their being.

The novel which was completed in less than a year — having started it in 2012 — underlies the value of friendship in a turbulent life. With more conflicts and problems, the characters tend to gravitate towards the known comfort zone — buddies. “Honestly, young people seek the opinion of their friends and peers more than parents,” reflects Madhuri. This is more so due to the absence of family.

Another pertinent point highlighted in the story is the desire of the youngsters to be intimate with their family circle but demanding a hands-off approach when it concerns their personal lives.

Fond of painting oil on canvas, Madhuri has already finished the draft of her new novel The Strongman's Daughter and is working on two Bollywood screenplays. She also plans to write a lifestyle cook book.