A woman of substance

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BOOK Shashi Deshpande on her latest novel Shadow Play and writing about the people and the world she knows


“Ilike stories about people. They are the most interesting,”says veteran writer Shashi Deshpande.

At the launch of her latest novel Shadow Play , a book that explores relationships, societal norms, gender, identity and change, she says, “It all comes down to universal themes that lead back to people. Human beings are extremely complex. As an author, I need to show the complexity — that is the beginning of novel writing.”

This novel is a sequel of sorts to a previous one, A Matter of Time , first published in India in 1996. But Shashi admits that it wasn’t a planned development. “I didn’t really intend to write it. It happened by chance. The characters came back to me and I had to write them. It is almost like a new book except that some characters are the same.”

She refuses to let her novel be typecast as middle-class fiction with feminist leanings, “I think that someone once said it and they keep saying the same things. I do not have stereotypes in my novels. I don’t believe in the strong woman stereotype as much as I don’t believe in the victim stereotype. People are people — there are strong men there are weak men, there are strong women there are weak women, there are stupid men there are stupid women. I am not a feminist as far as the novel is concerned but I am a feminist. Which thinking woman is not?” she says adding, “I am always surprised by the use of the word middle-class in my novel. I wonder what class the other writers write about. One thing is certain — one doesn’t write of a class, one is not a sociologist. You write about people you know best. If I lived a very affluent life, maybe I would have written about that class of society or maybe had I been struggling at the low end of society, I would have written about that. I belong to this world and therefore I write about the world that I know.”

On her foray into writing, she says, “I didn’t plan or have ambitions at a very young age that I would become a writer. I just began writing and I went on writing and here I am today. That is all there is to it.”

She admits however that writing is an exercise in discipline and patience, “If you are waiting for rewards and recognition, don’t be writers. Success never comes fast and the biggest incentive is the writing itself. Today unfortunately the publishers take anything that seems trendy and push it into the market and readers don’t seem to care about poor writing and editing. I personally spend a lot of time editing and cleaning up after writing,” she says, “And I’ve never faced a problem getting a publisher.”





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