In Conversation with Acclaimed Indian Novelist Anita Nair

In Conversation with Acclaimed Indian Novelist Anita Nair

Movenpick Hotel & Spa Bangalore recently hosted an evening of literature, food and conversations with acclaimed Indian novelist Anita Nair. The evening, organised by Limelite Events was a celebration of the author’s triumphs after having three book releases in 2016.

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Mr. Subroto Banerjee, GM Movenpick Hotel & Spa with renowned author Anita Nair and Ms. Meena

 

Virginia Woolf explicitly chided those who restricted education of women in her 1929 book, A Room of One’s Own. In the words of the author, “Lock up your libraries if you like; but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind.” I could feel the surge of energy that she may have created back then among the people when her bold work was published.

Working with a similar passion, Anita Nair has brought to us some of the most interesting stories woven beautifully in some very colourful and some very bleak settings. Urban Diaries brings to you three of her celebrated page-turners that will interest adults and children alike.

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Tanya Dhar with Anita Nair

 

For over two decades, Anita Nair has delighted her readers with remarkable works like the Ladies Coupé, The Better Man and Mistress. For a writer who has been part of the literary world for such a long time, Anita Nair’s flair for writing went through its most taxing phase in 2014 when she began working on the second book of the famous Inspector Borei Gowda series, Chain of Custody.

As the plot in the book grew intense, Anita realized that she had started internalising the story. While this may not be uncommon for writers, the depth of the story was taking an emotional toll on the author – one that was turning her angrier and more perturbed – the more she assimilated to it.

Cut like Wound was released in 2012 as the first book of the series. Anita has picked her hometown, Kerala as the setting for this series which is based on child trafficking. Inspector Gowda, the knight in shining armour, is investigating the disappearance of a thirteen year old girl named Nandita. The more he tries to unveil the mystery behind the disappearance, the deeper he finds himself embroiled in a child trafficking racket in Bengaluru. With an effort to get to the crux of it all, Gowda ends up dealing with contradictory laws, incorrigible officials and unsupportive witnesses who inconspicuously drag him into a debauched criminal ring – one that surpasses all depravities that he has ever seen.

There is an inevitable hint of anguish which could be noticed in Anita’s voice as she fervently spoke about the core sentiment of the novel which lies in child trafficking and its consequences that is widespread in the entire sub-continent. Anita was compelled into picking this subject for the series because of the level of indifference that she noticed among the people when it came to the actual statistics related to child-trafficking in India. When she came across a report that declared that nearly fifty five million children in the country succumbed to the torments of child-trafficking she knew she had to do something about it.

Chain of Custody took Anita through a journey of revelations where she acquired reports from police stations in Bengaluru and had in deepth conversations with social workers, rescue groups and victims. In her attempts to unambiguously pen down the emotions of the people, the prolific writer also spent a substantial period of time working alongside Bangalore Oniyavara Seva Coota (BOSCO), an NGO that puts relentless efforts in rescuing and reforming children who have faced the trauma of drug abuse, those who were trafficked for labour or for prostitution, and orphans living on the streets. As a result, the book is based on true incidents that she learned about during her research.

Anita tells me that the most disturbing part of it all was that unlike the cities of Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata where NGOs can look for a missing child in the designated red-light areas, Bengaluru has no such place. It only means that the crime could be committed in your very own neighbourhood.

It took two years for Anita to complete the book and when it made it to the stands, she knew that every bit of the stress she experienced while putting the book together was worth it. Her mission behind this book was to bring in a sense of vigilance among her readers and even though the book has a dark plot, if the reader is affected by it, her mission will stand accomplished.

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Tanya Dhar with Mr. Subroto Banerjee, GM Movenpick Hotel & Spa

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Tanya Dhar with Ms. Beena Mehta, owner Limelite Events

 

This brings us to her second release in 2016, Muezza and Baby Jaan: Stories from the Quran. Anita feels that Islam is often depicted as a terrifying religion. Since this misinterpretation of the religion begins at an early age she chose to write for the kids instead of adults when it came to understanding that Islam preaches positive values just like Hinduism, Buddhism or any other religion for that matter.

She went on to explain that while there are a number of Muslim writers in the country who would have wanted to do the same thing, their hesitation lies in the fact that they may be judged for their works. Her Hindu background gave her the ability to write about the stories from the Quran without her work being considered as propaganda.

This is not her first work related to the Quran; an earlier book titled Idris: Keeper of Light helped her uncover the beautiful stories in the Holy Book. She read the Quran to understand the true essence of the stories and the idealistic teachings which explain how we should live our lives and how we should choose right over wrong. The Kerala Sahitya Akademi awardee explains that the book has no mention of preaching violence. It is just the way that the book has been interpreted which has unwantedly manipulated the otherwise beautiful teachings of the book.

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Tanya Dhar with Rekha Jain

 

From the murky subject of child trafficking and the moral-based stories of the Quran, let us move to a theme that holds a place in everyone’s heart – food and love. Anita Nair’s third release in 2016 was a romantic drama titled, Alphabet Soup for Lovers. This book introduces her readers to Lena who leads a jaded life amidst the tea plantations in the majestic Anamalai Hills till she meets Shoola Pani, a south Indian superstar. The magical flames of love ignited between the two is related to the readers by Lena’s cook, Komathi who is learning the English alphabet through one thing that she knows best – the food ingredients.

Anita reminisces how the Chain of Custody was shattering her soul when her Italian publisher asked her to write a short story based on food. Alphabet Soup for Lovers came in as a welcome break from the gloomy subject that she was working on. Since she does not really feel the need to write to order, Anita decided to write a short novel on love and based it around food to spice things up.

The writer is passionate about food. Everything from cooking to writing about it delights her. So food and love came easy to Anita, but she needed to hinge it on to something to add substance to her story. Her search ended at the English alphabet where she found a structure for her story along with a much needed literary conceit that encouraged the plot.

 

End note: Anita Nair’s exemplary works also include an anthology of poems titled Malabar Mind and a collection of essays titled Goodnight and God Bless. Her ingenuity boldly reflects in her works which aims to tackle the vices of society and bring to light the brighter and better side of living. Catering to a huge fan following, Anita Nair never fails to amaze her readers with her works. If you are yet to discover the beauty of her words, then start with these three fantastic reads and you will soon find yourself hitched on to her fan club!

 

Photography: David

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* I love bringing together a bunch of conflicting items and weaving my own sense of one-ness to them. *

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