(A shorter version of this appeared in Ink magazine.)
So, can we get started with this farce?
Weird, I thought you’d be some sort of projected animus. Isn’t that how self-interviews work?
Well, I can cut my hair short and wear glasses and sweatpants if that’d work for you.
We’re going to start this by confessing to homophobia? Oh, shit. No, I love gay men. But lesbians tend to take offence so easily. I should stop talking.
You believe in gender roles.
Yeah, because they’re convenient. Imagine having to hold doors open all the time. Or open cans and bottles every time a girl giggles and holds one out. Or drive across town to pick someone up, and drop her back. Or having to crush weed and roll joints. I think feminism was the best thing that happened to men.
What is the most politically incorrect thing you’ve said when you’re stoned?
You’re really fucking up our PR. Can we talk about our writing, please? Fuck, I feel like Gollum.
Why did you choose to write a book about marriage when you’re not married?
You sound like that Fox News lady who asked Reza Aslan why “a Muzzlim” was writing about Jesus. And curly-haired people can’t even pull off the attractive bimbo act. Can’t we speak about how my plays were shortlisted for The Hindu Metro Plus Playwright Award and…
Ugh, stop plugging yourself. Crass. Let’s talk about the first thing you ever wrote.
I drew it on the back of my Class 1 math notebook. It was an illustrated story about a boy who got late for school because his mother made him brush his teeth. His teacher made him kneel all day long in the courtyard. When his mother came to pick him up, she found he’d died of sunstroke because she made him brush his teeth. I think it was those Tamil village-movies that influenced my early writing, you know. I made up a dramatic life. Before I became all classist and casteist, I’d tell people I was born in a slum and Ma adopted me after finding me in a dustbin.
Then, you wrote some morbid short stories, and then shifted to…umm, you tell.
Yeah, when I was 9, I wrote a novel about four cousins who go to their grandparents’ home in a hill station for the summer, and other stories whose plotlines I hoped no one would notice I’d plagiarised from Ruskin Bond or Enid Blyton. At 13, I wrote a novella which began with a soulful, page-long description of sunrise. It was a horrendous teeny-bopper series about a boy-band, which comprised an Indian, a Briton, an American and two Frenchmen. I suppose that’s some oestrogen-propelled Draupadi-fantasy. I persisted with this till I was 15, by which time people in the band had died in accidents, been raped, committed suicide, had their homosexuality revealed by the paparazzi, and gone bankrupt. Then, I began a series about an orphan with cerebral palsy who was hated by all his relatives. I saved up all of these. Some were lost in a termite attack on our attic. And some were thrown out by an aunt whose idea of cleaning up a house was to dispose of everything that didn’t belong to her. Maybe just as well.
So, around the time of your first book’s release, your open letter to Shah Rukh Khan went viral…ish. Has that impacted the book in any way?
What a contrived question. I suppose people are convinced a humour writer’s book on marriage will make for good reading. At least, I hope so. It got me lots of Facebook frandship requests. And, of course, that standard, self-deprecating email from an IT person asking me out for coffee, with a tired pick-up line, grammatically incorrect sentences, a link to his own blog, and a tribute to my “sense of humour”. It went something like, “Hey, Nandini! I think I met you here”, with a link to that open letter, and then said, “Let me get straight to the point. What’s your age and height? No, a better question is, are you single? And then maybe the above questions should follow.” He asked if I live in a foreign country, and whether he was “worthy of [my] immense literary genius of a conversation”. Apparently, he wanted to give me a bouquet of red roses, and the best he could do was to insert some psychedelic graphic of twinkling roses. My face was glued to my palm for a while after.
Umm, can we focus on selling the book now? What was the toughest part about writing it?
Making it seem like I had everything to do with the book. Basically, my interviewees gave me the content, and I got the credit. But I seem to have sold the idea that I’m the wise one dishing out advice on marriage. Even the interviewees think I added something invaluable to it.
Do you think the fundamental principle on which arranged marriage works – that there can be chemistry between any two people – holds?
Yeah, unless one of them is ugly. Chemistry is bunkum. Boredom and hormones will do the job.
Does being a published author mean you need to be more diplomatic in talking about writers you don’t like, in case you bump into them at these literary thingies?
I suppose I’ll have to start saying things like, “A former banker who likely takes less time to write his books than people do to read them.”
That description fits so many people…Ah! Okay, in the aftermath of the book’s publication, what question irritates you the most?
Whether I was paid an advance, and if so, how much. I get asked that at least thrice a day. I’ve started telling people it’s £1 million – that’s the going rate for books on marriage, no? Also, when people whom I’ve not heard from in years want to know when they’re getting their free copies.
What would you do if Hitched became a bestseller?
Outsource my pregnancy to a surrogate – I believe you can order twins for 15 lakh rupees – and write a book about remote post-partum depression called Fifty Shades of Blue. That’s sure to be a bestseller. And I may get sued by the woman who wrote the Grey book, and that’ll get me more publicity.