Yashodhara Lal’s second novel, Sorting Out Sid , is a humorous account of how corporate life affects an individual’s relationships

Imagine the original plot turned on its head. Yes, Sorting Out Sid , the novel by Yashodhara Lal written in 2012, was initially about the trials and tribulations of a single mother and divorcee. On second thoughts and with inputs from her editors, she rewrote it from the perspective of the main male protagonist – Siddharth Agarwal (Sid) – whose character she had etched out well and with a lot of humour thrown in.

Yashodhara, a graduate from Shri Ram College of Commerce and Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore, used to edit college magazine, contribute articles and stories, but stopped writing once she joined the corporate world. She restarted writing by blogging from 2006 but it was the pregnancy complications in 2007 that made her determined to pursue it with full vigour since she realised that “time was limited”. In 2010 came the first novel Just Married, Please Excuse , which she terms “fairly autobiographical”.

The characters of the second novel represent the upper middle class employed in the corporate world who, according to the author, “pursue success and equate it with happiness” and on achieving the same, realise it is not so. Based on her observations and personal experiences and also those of her friends and relatives, she identified with the characters. Sid, an easygoing person who is good at heart, presents different facets and shades of his personality in the narrative depending on the person and situation — workplace, colleagues, party, friends, in-laws etc. However, according to Yashodhara he is in a “survival and denial mode” — neither knowing what he wants nor accepting the truth and thereby allowing resentment to pile up.

Sid is a great favourite of his in-laws, as he plays the role of a “performer”, entertaining them to the hilt, though his father’s excessive criticism and mother’s overprotective nature make him reticent towards his filial responsibilities. Similarly he does not want to become a father — a tendency exhibiting “lack of commitment to long-term relationship and responsibility” according to the author.

On the aspect of extra-marital affair in the story, Yashodhara says although it has always been present in society, there is higher incidence “with more women entering the employment arena”. She ascribes it to the exertions of “corporate world” on one’s personal life. Divorce, which too plays a part in the novel, is rising due to “huge egos and lack of communication between the couples,” she says. Further, the “highly individualistic approach renders compromise impossible”, making things worse. She adds that each person hopes “of finding a right partner who will make him/her happy”.

Counting Bill Bryson, Gerald Durrell, James Herriot among her favourite authors, Yashodhara says she is impressed by “their ability to write about their life with lots of humour”. The drafts of her sequel to the first novel and another story about a person from corporate world with a lot of anger issues are ready.

S. RAVI

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