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A soldier's saga

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MULTI-LAYERED Malathi Ramachandran: ‘The book is not autobiographical though the soul and spirit is'
MULTI-LAYERED Malathi Ramachandran: ‘The book is not autobiographical though the soul and spirit is'

Malathi Ramachandran tells MINI ANTHIKAD-CHHIBBER she wanted to tell an old-fashioned tale of love and commitment in the time of war in her debut novel, The Wheel Turned

Malathi Ramachandranfirmly believes everyonehas a story within them.And "The Wheel Turned"(Pustak Mahal, Rs.175), whichwas released last week, is thenovel Malathi had within her.The wide, sweeping saga tellsthe story of a soldier's wife inthe Sixties.

Daughter of an infantry manwith "olive green in his veins"and married to a fighter pilot,Malathi says: "The book is notautobiographical though thesoul and spirit is." The copywriter-turned-author lists threereasons for writing the book.

"There are many people whoare true-blue soldiers, who wantto serve and defend their motherland.I wanted to tell their story.The second reason is the factthat when nations fight, it is theinnocents, the families of thesoldiers that suffer. And finally,I wanted to explore the feelingsof a woman who has to choosebetween her first love and a secondrelationship she gets intobecause of various situations."

The story

"The Wheel Turned" followsthe fortunes of young, vivaciousMeena from Coimbatore who ismarried to Anand, an honest,upright officer in the Army. Justas the young couple are startingoff their new life in the ArmyCantonment at Dharmashala,Anand's unit is called to battlethe Chinese in the North Eastwhere Anand goes missing.The book explores Meena'swait for Anand, her fresh chanceat happiness and Anand's horrificfate.

"I chose the Sixties as I amfamiliar with social milieu of thetime. I was a child in the Sixtiesin Dharmashala when overnightsoldiers were moved to theNorth-East. It was very emotionalto see families and soldiersmoving. The rest was allresearched. For the battle atNEFA (North East Frontier Alliance,now Arunachal Pradesh),I referred to Brigadier John Dalvi's"The Himalayan Blunder".The Battle of Tseng Jong is 100per cent factual. China however,was a closed book, so I had to usemy imagination. I researchedthe names however."

The wide canvas of the novelwas not part of Malathi's originalplan. "I had wanted to use afine brush to paint relationshipsbut the canvas inadvertentlygrew bigger till it geographicallytouched the four corners ofIndia."

The book took a year and ahalf to write and a year of research."I wrote it sometimeago. When I wrote it, China wasnot the flavour of the season."The book, with its themes oflove and honour and of a womanwaiting for her soldier husbandto return from war has an oldfashionedsolidity about it.

"I believe everything has beenwritten about. What mattersnow is the way you say it. I developeda multi-layered storylinewith a stream ofconsciousness style side by sidewith the main narrative."

Character study

The Bangalore-based authorsays one of the greatest excitementsof being a writer is "thecharacters take on a life of theirown. Where the book ends, isnot the end of the characters.When I sit at the computer, Ihave a rough plot in mind. But Idon't know what my characterswill do on a particular day. Thatis why I prefer the novel to theshort story as I develop a fondnessfor my characters and in anovel I can spend more timewith them. There is everychance of a sequel where we canfind out what happened toAnand, Meena, Pradeep andMing Lee."

As of now, however, Malathiis not planning a sequel. She isworking on her second book "setin the Nineties. There is a fighterpilot in the book. He is not themain character, but he is an important,sympatheticcharacter."

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