Meera Godbole Krishnamurthy’s Balancing Act is an emphatic take on the confusions of modern day women
Can being a mother be a work of a lifetime? Why does the society look down upon such choices? Does the society have the choice to judge people?
Meera Godbole Krishnamurthy’s debut novel Balancing Act (Penguin and Zubaan, Rs. 250) explores these issues and attempts to find answers. “What I am saying is, judge me, but with a certain amount of respect. Give me my benefit of doubt,” smiles the author.
“Society thinks ‘she’s just at home with children’ and not a part of it. Just because you are a mother, you are no longer considered a feminist. Where have we gone in feminism?” she asks.
The author says her book is a work of fiction but is also deeply personal. The story deals with subjects close to her heart — architecture, life and work of architect late Louis I. Kahn (who designed IIM, Ahmedabad), the Salk Institute in California designed by him, and feminism.
Her protagonist Tara Mistri is an architect who is many things to many people — a mother of two, wife, daughter and an architect. “She is a thoughtful, smart, educated woman who feels strongly about the need to give up her career to give her 100 per cent as a mother,” the author says. After a nine-year break, she wants to make a comeback. She gets a job offer, but is caught in a dilemma to say yes or no. “Tara is her harshest critic. And, there is yakshi, her apparition, chipping away her self-confidence, and, of course, the society,” says the affable author.
Tara gets to research about the Salk Institute. And, reading about the life and work of Louis. I. Kahn, the designer of the Institute, helps her understand herself, her life, and comes to peace with her own choices. “His buildings are timeless architecture, an embodiment of everything, and it fills you. And, no flimsy modernisation.”
Meera says many find the Salk Institute for Biological Research drab, uninteresting and boring. “It’s a weird looking space, no landscaping, details and ornamentation, you have large concrete walls. It serves the function for which it was built — lab. There is a sense of serenity to it,” she explains.
The book, steeped in architecture (each chapter begins with a quote by famous architects), is a result of fours years of consistent writing and re-writing. “In fiction, you create an entire world and inhabit it. I had some trouble with the plot, it was haphazard. New characters came in, yakhsi took form, and the Salk Institute anchored it for me.” The story also takes a sympathetic view of the father. “Feminism need not be anti-men. Tara’s husband is portrayed in a sympathetic light. Men too miss out on the family because of work.”
The author has lived in the Philippines, France, and the U.S.; has a Master’s degree in architecture (her thesis was on Louis Kahn) from the University of Virginia; and is also an artist. She has exhibited her paintings in California. “I got into architecture reading fiction. My first love is books, I am the kind of person who touches the papers and smells them,” she says. Her definition of feminism? “I think the key to feminism is not to ram something down your throat. I tell you my point of view, and leave it at that. Young women today are smarter, but they tend to look down upon housewives. They fail to understand that a lot of thought goes into it.”
Her next novel is on architecture, and one of the characters from the first book will recur. “I would like to do a series on architecture-related fiction,” she signs off.