BENGALURU: A 25-year-old writing a book set in the Emergency period meant a lot of researching and reading. Srishti Chaudhary, who was doing her masters at the University of Edinburgh, worked on a dissertation, a romance set during the Emergency, evoking a nostalgia of Rajesh Khanna movies and this politically turbulent period, which she decided to go ahead and publish. On Saturday, Chaudhary released Love And Censorship: Once upon A Curfew, in Bengaluru at Atta Galatta.
“I’m just 25 years old so of course there was literally nothing I knew about the 1970s. There were two kinds of research involved in this book: one is the basic historical and political facts, for which books and the internet was biggest resource. I was studying my masters in creative writing at the University of Edinburgh at the time and had the university’s fantastic archives at hand- old newspapers, books etc,” Chaudhary says. The second kind of research was something she couldn’t get from books: how people lived in the time. “For example, how did a woman living in the ’70s in India spend her weekends? Was it easy to talk to people from the opposite sex? How much public transport did she use? This I could only get from talking to people, so I spoke to my family members and teachers who lived in that time. The political and socio-economic settings provided the framework, but to make the novel sing, I had know how it was to live back then. I also relied a lot on Bollywood movies set in the time -- that’s why my protagonist, Indu, has such a big crush on Rajesh Khanna,” she adds.
The Delhi-based writer who was previously an editor with Juggernaut Books wishes she had some fascinating story behind the idea of the book, “but it was just that it was my dissertation and I had to write a book”. “I used to always study in the library, and realised what an empowering space it can be so the book is about a library. Additionally, I set it in a different time and political climate as it helped me distance myself from the character and imagine more. I love writing romance, and at the heart of it, this book is a romance,” she says about the book that took her about 6 months to write it, although she was already thinking about it and researching for it for three months before that. “Of course, there are blocks: I left writing it a couple of time in the middle, when I moved back to Delhi, and then picked it up again. But for any writer, determination is key, and once you finish writing a book, the satisfaction is unparalleled,” she says.
While she is aware that the older generation might be more critical -- “no it was not like this, it was like that”, she says the feedback from young people has been encouraging, especially considering that its an easy read. “For example, I just read Nectar in a Sieve by Kamala Markandya, which is the story of an Indian woman in a village in south India in the early 20th century. It was fascinating, because I could never imagine how it was to live in that time,” says Chaudhary.