Deepti Naval, the multi-faceted actor, writer, painter, and photographer, always wished to write about her childhood memories of a time when the country was in a state of transition. Having spent her first 19 years in Amritsar, A Country Called Childhood is not just an autobiography but also a reflection on how life was lived in the city of The Golden Temple, seventy years ago.
Talking about her memoir during a conversation with The Hindu Sunday Magazine editor Rosella Stephen at The Hindu Lit For Life, the versatile actor said she took 20 years to write the book, based on her diary, memories, and notes taken during her chats with her parents.
The book, from where she read out a few pages, is a walk through her innocent playful years of growing up, the charm of her home Chandravaali and several unforgettable moments of happiness, sorrow, mystery, adventures, and escapades that evocatively describe the sights and sounds of India of 1950s and 60s.
By revisiting her childhood, she brings to life the aura and enigma of yesteryears. Ms.Rosella mentioned how the book is also in screenplay format in parts and sprinkled with humor, a bit of drama, and an openness about relationships detailing the turning points in her journey to adulthood.
Sensitive and a thinking actor, she said, the book is like a tapestry of incidents and emotions written with honesty. Ms.Naval recollects her family’s journey during the Japanese invasion of Burma (from where her family had to return to India), followed by riots after partition. But in response to a question, she said “What in life was pleasant or not, never occurred to me while writing the book.”
She said after her mother, Meena Kumari was the second biggest inspiration for her. And how she kept a Sadhana fringe and got an autographed photograph from her by post. Ms.Naval spoke about several things about belonging, incidents, and people like the shoeshine boys and how cinema impacted her life. How she stopped speaking after watching Anupama. “My mother would call me and I would not answer, because I watched Sharmila Tagore not speaking a word in the movie!”
The Hindu Lit for Life 2023 is powered by Life Insurance Corporation of India in association with Ajay Toothbrushes. The Associate Partners are NITTE Education Trust, Hindustan Group of Institutions, State Bank of India, Sai University, and Vivek’s. Jewellery Partner: Joyalukkas. The Mobility Partner is Hyundai, Banking Partner is Indian Bank Realty, the Author Lounge Partner is VFS Global, the Realty Partner is Casagrand, the Knowledge Partner is SSVM Institutions, the Bookstore Partner is Higginbothams, the Gift Partner is Anand Prakash, and the Water Partner is Repute.