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Mridula Koshy's debut novel has just bagged the Shakti Bhatt Memorial First Book Prize

Tall and extremely well-preserved for a 40-year-old mother of three — that's Mridula Koshy. The promising author's first book If It Was Sweet is the winner of this year's Shakti Bhatt Memorial First Book Prize. A clutch of 17 stories constitute If It Was Sweet, published this May by Tranquebar Press.

Marginal community — life that more often fails to break into a book leaf, particularly pre-Aravind Adiga — forms the spine of her yarns. Delhi is the canvas with a western city or two hanging in a bubble in some pages. Her actors are, among others, a koodawallah, a servant girl, a married woman finding love in a lesbian relationship, yet another picking a lover much younger to her by the Ganga...

Rooted to Delhi

Delhi being the city of her birth and early childhood, she is not surprised that it has found its way into her tales. “Though my siblings could get over the city, I somehow couldn't.” If the city is the base of some of her stories, class is the plinth of almost all.

Class has always concerned her, she underlines. “My mother loved to share a story about me from when I was three or four. We had a maid named Shanta, and, apparently, one day I asked my mother whether Shanta's children would grow up to be Shantas,” she recalls. As a mother, she says: “I now get to hear such searching questions from my children. All kids ask such questions to figure out the world.” However much we try to explain things to children “they still ask, but why?”

While living in the U.S. — for about two decades — she continued to get her ‘but why' moments. Because, racism laces almost every aspect of American life, she states. “When I wanted to take up science during my senior class, the counsellor told me I am not getting it because science in a developed country is different from that of a developing country.”

And, Mridula became a community organiser. She mobilised company employees, mostly of Asian origin, to seek better working conditions. She met her partner at a workers' union act, with whom she is settled in Delhi for the last five years.

SANGEETA BAROOAH PISHAROTY

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