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Gypsy queen

PREETI ZACHARIAH
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Tanushree Podder writes about things that make her curious and throw up a challenge

Glimpse into the pastTanushree Podder
Glimpse into the pastTanushree Podder

Harem. The word evokes pictures of beautiful, silk clad women with long dark hair and troubled eyes idling their day away, waiting for the summons of their lord and master. Writer Tanushree Podder became fascinated by the dynamics of this female-dominated universe while researching for her first historical novel, Nurjahan’s Daughter , “I was compiling notes about the Mughal harem and was mystified by the life of the inmates, their dreams, joys and sorrows, I decided that the protagonist of the next book would be a woman who escapes the harem and lives to tell the tale. The exhaustive research I had done for the first book helped me flesh out the details,” she says over email, talking about her second book Escape From Harem- the story of Zeenat, a young girl brought to assuage Emperor Jehangir’s frustration over his rejection by Meherunnisa.

Both the books recreate the splendour and romance of the Mughal dynasty. Talking about her fascination for the Mughals, “We had a three-year tenure at Agra and while going around the Fort, Taj Mahal, Fatehpur Sikri and other Mughal structures, I developed an interest in the Mughals. I did some research into their lifestyle and culture and decided to write a book with Jahangir’s period as a background.”

Surprisingly, Tanushree has not formal trainings in History. “I am a science graduate with a management degree. Although I didn’t study history as a subject, I developed a keen interest in the subject later in my life.”

However, she admits that she loves travelling and attributes that to her burgeoning interest in history.

“I am sure I have some gypsy genes in me. My father had a transferable job so I travelled all through my childhood and loved living in the different cities and states of India. Having married an Army officer, it was natural that I travelled to the most distant parts of the country. We have been posted to places, which are not easily found on the maps of the country. Honestly, even my parents had not heard of places like Hathigor and Tangla till I travelled to them,” she says, adding, “Maybe it has something to do with the amount of travelling I have done. Each time I visited a palace or a fort I would find myself trying to visualise the life within the four walls of the structures. The curiosity kindled an interest in history.” It doesn’t just stop with history, Tanushree has written close to 20 books covering a variety of subjects. “I write about subjects that make me curious and throw up a challenge or one that makes me feel strongly about something.”

A self-confessed bibliomaniac, Tanushree says that she loves reading the work of authors like PG Wodehouse, Ayn Rand, Amitav Ghosh and Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni among others. “ Atlas Shrugged is an all-time favourite followed by Gone with the Wind and Dr. Zhivago ,” she says, adding that she is especially fascinated by the character of Scarlett O’Hara.

Though she loves historical fiction, Tanushree says “it takes more out of you than contemporary fiction. Books with historical background take much longer to write since one can’t afford to go wrong with the dates or sequences. Every aspect has to be carefully researched. “I haunted the libraries of the places I lived in while doing my research.”

On future plans she says, “There are two things I love best in life – travelling and writing - and I hope to continue with the two passions till I can don my boots and key in words on my computer.”

PREETI ZACHARIAH

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