CHAT Raksha Bharadia's book talks of how one can feel all and nothing, together, sometimes

Removing the lies from apparently great relationships is what journalist-turned-writer Raksha Bharadia does in her recently released novel, “All and Nothing” (Rupa & Co., Rs. 95). Raksha looks sensitively at people's true, vulnerable selves. “When you'll go deeper, you'll see how complex relationships are,” says the Ahmedabad-based writer.

Comprising five women and three men characters, “All and Nothing”, set in Mumbai and Mahabaleshwar, is about the talented and beautiful Tina who marries the high-flying and ambitious Aditya. The marriage turns sour as Aditya finds it difficult to let go of his past and Tina tries hard to win him over. She gives up everything she loves to fit into Aditya's world.

“All and Nothing” also tells the story of Tina's friends: a housewife who puts up with domestic abuse; a designer who battles against mediocrity; a struggling copywriter smitten with his girlfriend and a woman who is torn between her upper and middle class sensibilities. Ultimately, everyone comes together, with Tina's help, to share their stories. Through the act of telling, each understands themselves better.

The stories may be fictional, but the characters are real. Tina was conceived in Raksha's mind following a meeting with an acquaintance at a party. “After we had downed a couple of drinks, this acquaintance told me she will make her husband love her. But her husband saw no problems in their marriage. He was fine with the way things were. It was intriguing that both of them reacted in different ways to the same situation. I found a story to base my novel on.”

Though Raksha is an optimist and sees “the glass half full”, she is also wary of anything that seems too good to be true. It's a small wonder then that most of the books she has written from “Roots and Wings” and “Me: A Handbook for Life” are about first accepting and then resolving a situation.

“In a relationship, everything is contextual.” Raksha asserts, “We continuously control expressing ourselves. On the other hand, if we dare to be ourselves, we would be unbearable to others. One needs to understand this and then act on it.”

The title, “All and Nothing” has a deep meaning to it. “At the same time and in different phases, one can feel all and nothing. This novel is about this inherent contrast we live in every minute of our lives.” Raksha's friends have nicknamed her Socrates, “because I ask questions all the time,” she explains, laughing. She considers her tendency to be lost in other people's stories the reason for her crafting interesting characters.

Raksha is content for now with writing and teaching English in a street school run by NGO Manv Sadhna-Raheem Ka Tekra. Her next book revolves around the game of poker, but the focus of the story is on people. “I love playing poker,” Raksha says pushing back her lustrous curls with a happy glint in her eyes.