CHENNAI: A couple of years ago, when Vibha Batra, a copywriter for a reputed ad agency was working on a campaign for a city landmark that was being converted into a residential space, little did she know that the subject was going to form the plot of a future novel.
So, when Canada-based independent publishing house Indireads got in touch with the Chennai-based writer for a romance novel, The Activist and the Capitalist took shape. “I was not very sure of romance as a genre, but went ahead with it. As I had worked on this ad, which was for a residential space, I set the plot in a similar backdrop. There is an activist who doesn’t want the space to be converted and an ambitious builder who wants to change the city’s skyline. The story is about how they get to see each other’s perspectives,” she says.
Influenced by a range of writers like her grandfather the late Vishnu Kant Shastri (whose book on the Ishaavaasya Upanishad was translated by Vibha), Ogden Nash, Ruskin Bond, Bill Bryson, poets Mirza Ghalib and Rumi, Vibha’s love for writing began at a very young age. For Vibha, who has a translation, a collection of poetry, short stories and a trilogy (teen humour) to her credit, The Activist and The Capitalist is the writer’s first complete brush with romance. She adds that it is a genre that she discovered she could dabble in after she penned her latest work.
While the genre is romance, Vibha adds that she couldn’t conceal her penchant for humour and satire. “It has trickled into the book, inadvertently,” she adds with a laugh.
While Vibha says the thin line between romance and kitsch wasn’t a challenge, the book was an exercise that opened her up to the potential that romance as a genre had. “I love fiction for the fact that you make my characters do unconventional things — something that other normal people may not do in the same situation.
Setting the plot in a local backdrop has been received enthusiastically by many and Vibha says that localising the story offers a unique flavour to it, something that is not applicable to romance novels set in the West. “Some people told me they were excited to read about Amethyst and ECR. Romance as a genre is huge in the West, but it’s nice to record our own experiences in this context. What happens in the West doesn’t happen here. It is easier to relate to stuff here,” she says. With a rom-com in the offing, Vibha says she is not keen on limiting herself, adding that she can’t help include social commentary in all her books.
The e-book of The Activist and the Capitalist will be available on Amazon and Flipkart from April 29.