‘Same-sex relationships are better understood today’
BENGALURU : Poile Sengupta, the author of Inga, that looks at the love of a young woman for her girl cousin, speaks to City Express about the recent SC verdict on Section 377, her favourite books, favourite fictional character, and much more.
Your book, Inga, was written at a time when homosexual relationships were criminal. In light of the recent verdict on Section 377, how far do you think we as a society have accepted this community?
Inga was about the love of a young woman for her cousin sister in the 1960’s/70’s period when there was little understanding and even less acceptance of same-sex relationships.
Though the novel ends tragically, it portrays the bewilderment and agony that a woman would have felt those days at being different. Today, there is a much better understanding of the issues involved, but this still is in pockets, and not widespread enough. Even though the Supreme Court judgement is remarkable, it restricts itself to striking down the criminality of consensual sex between two adults of the same gender, an 1865 provision of the IPC which reflected the British mores of those times. Total social acceptance will take a long time yet.
Your favourite book of all time and why? Could you quote a passage?
There is no single favourite book. Jane Austen and Charles Dickens are my all time favourite authors.
Your favourite fictional character and why?
Miss Bates in Jane Austen’s Emma. A good-hearted lady who talks incessantly and mixes the trivial with the important. An engaging character, very skillfully drawn.
Few lines you got from a book, which you would never forget?
Books here must include poetry. And so the first and last verses of a poem which is an all-time favourite of the family, by EE Cummings. “Somewhere I have never travelled”, from Complete Poems 1904-1962, somewhere I have never travelled, gladly beyond any experience, your eyes have their silence: in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me, or which I cannot touch because they are too near” (I do not know what it is about you that closes and opens; only something in me understands the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses) nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands.
Which author would you like to have tea with and what would you talk about?
Charles Dickens and discuss Indian snacks, particularly samosas.
Which books would you take with you on a solo holiday?
Vyasa’s Mahabharata in modern English translation, Tolstoy’s War and Peace, which I have never been able to finish; and as many detective novels as I can pack. But all this should be audio books as I have a visual impairment, macular degeneration.
Your one guilty-pleasure read?
All the Mills and Boons I have read!
One fictional character you go to when you need a friend?
Betsey Trotwood, Davis Copperfield’s great-aunt, who has a great deal of common sense even though she is eccentric.
What is one quality of a book you wish people would have?
A sense of humour, a sense of the ridiculous.
One book you wish was never written, and why?
Fifty Shades of Grey. Bad writing, even the porn bits.
What is one thing you cannot tolerate when you are reading?
The phone ringing.
Your favourite reading nook?
Do you remember to keep bookmarks?