july 2008: gouri dange
On a telephoner from Pune, Gouri Dange, debutante author of 3, Zakia Mansion, in an exclusive interview to Ashwini Muley Kulkarni talks about the novel and lets out on the good news that the second one is already on the way, (pun clearly intended)

Q: Which is the question you are tired of answering by now?
A: Oh actually no such thing. Unless it is something  generalised like, “So what’s your novel about?” That is such a broad term. Just those otherwise you are welcome to ask anything.

Q: Your book is being called a Neo-Cinderella story. Comment
A: (Laughs)Yes I know. Love story is just a part of it. It is injustice to reduce anybody’s novel to one line. If may be someone was forced to reduce it to one line due to space constraints then ok. But that it was in the hot picks recommendations so it's justified in a way.

Q: You have written both fiction and non-fiction which one is more interesting?
A: Both are interesting. Non-fiction comes easier because I have been doing these columns. I have written in these weekly. It is just expressing your opinion. It is easier to articulate and formulate your thought. With fiction there is so much crafting to be done. You can’t just ‘say’ what you want to say. It is situations to be made, characters, dialogues, different voices. People ask me, “How could you write in so many voices?” Fiction is difficult but definitely more interesting.

Q: Tell me have you been able to write a single word post book launch?
A: Yes, yes, since the time in April when the publishers were planning the book launch to be in June, which I thought is going to be a tough job with Bombay rains. But I rather left it to the publishers to market it and all…I didn’t try to micromanage. I just did the essential and started on the second book.

Q: That’s good news!
A: (Laughs)Yes, I mean, I am sure there might be a revision but I am working very intensively and I expect my first draft to be ready by September, ready enough to be shown to editors.

Q: Who are your favourite authors?
A: I like Graham Greene very much. He writes in this way that…it is a study of dark side of human nature. I particularly like one of his books called Travels with My Aunt. I liked reading Alexander McCall Smith's writing with his understated humour. Actually what I like to read is not specific era, or a specific author, the common thread running through all the books of my choice is the study of human nature. I have been reading Naipaul and…among contemporary writers I like Vikram Seth very much. Among young authors I like Kanika Gahlot both of us have contributed in the Penguin anthology. I like Nick Hornby.

Q: And do they influence your writing in any way?
A: No, actually you see this very morning, I wrote for a while then I decided to relax and read the book that I was reading. But I do it constantly it tends to interfere with my writing process or editing. Actually people write in their own voices and create a whole new world full of characters. So really I need to distance myself a bit. My friend Tanvi Azmi, who did the reading during to Pune launch said to me that, “It must be so great because you are so content in your head, for you it must be like what not to put rather than what to put…”

Q: In fact, that is my next question, has there been a moment when you felt that the novel is going to be never ending?
A: No actually if you see it’s a very thin novel. People have asked about why it is so, that they wanted to know more about this person or that they were wondering what happened after that. But no it was clear in my head.

Q: So you blog too, is there an urge to be blunt or say be politically incorrect at times?
A: Yes, as a person I am very direct. I am not blunt in the sense that I have a ‘don’t care’ attitude. My bluntness is I’ll say what I believe in without worrying how others will react to it. It’s like calling a spade, a spade.

Q: Your protagonist is a Muslim…
A: No, no particular reason for her being a Muslim, she just happens to be. She is a typical westernised, English-speaking, Bombay person. But I could easily set her in a Pune, Prabhat Road bungalow family. It’s not a treatise on Islam or anything it is just a setting. I have neither played up or played down her being a Muslim, it’s just by-the-way. Her problems have nothing to do with her being a Muslim, it’s just a backdrop; just like Bombay is a backdrop.

Q:What do you think is the future of Indian English Writing? When will books written by people living in India make waves like the ones by writers of Indian origin?
A: Yes that’s true, most books that made waves are mostly by authors of Indian origin. But look at Arundhati Roy, her book has a universal appeal and she stays in India. Or look at Chetan Bhagat, his success is commendable, he writes about common people’s lives, nothing exotic. And he is showing fantastic circulation figures. There are all kind of readers and there are all kind of writers. People who like to write high brow kind of writing have their following and people who write racy time-killers have theirs. So yes, there is no dearth of either writers or readers.