There is a confession to make before I present to you this week’s ‘Author Talk’ column. I don’t know how many of you noticed, but I missed this session last week. The reasons are many – when I visiting my parents after long, couple with one best friend visiting me, the weekend is surely guaranteed to be hectic, isn’t it? I deliberately let the session be missed, for life is not all about the presence one is bound to make on the social media, if at all it is of any gauge of the way life is to be lived anytime. Hence, with no tinge of guilt, I decided to let my hair down, be freed from all shackles and enjoy the days to the fullest with my friends and family. I am happy if you did notice my absence, but otherwise also, it is fine. I uphold the habit of disappearing from this space far too many times over a period of few months.
Moving on to this week’s ‘Author Talk’ column, we have an extremely well-versed and iconic writer, who took the literary arena by storm with her debut novel, which deservingly won her the ‘Muse India- Satish Verma young writer award’ for the year 2016. She has been part of numerous short story anthologies and has proven her craft and talent through multifarious channels. I am talking about Author Radhika Maira Tabrez, the author of ‘In the light of Darkness’ published by Readomania in 2016.
After having read her book, I realised that her characters failed to leave me for a few days. They lingered like the after taste of a delicacy, which keeps reminding you of that first bite of it you took, with each smack of your lips. Hence I decided to put forward a few questions to her, out of which, incidentally, she happened to answer the very question, to hear the answer of which I was hoping for the most. Read on to know more :
An article revolving around the characters in the book.
By Radhika Tabrez
As a debut novelist, a question I get asked often, at various events is – how autobiographical is your book? Considering that ‘In The Light Of Darkness’ (ITLOD) is predominantly a story of a mother and son; and usually while someone in the audience is asking me that question, they can see my four year old son raising a tornado nearby – it seems like a pretty obvious question. The fact is that the story is not autobiographical. But that brings us to the next question. Are any of the characters in the story inspired by people in real life? And the answer to that question is an unequivocal yes. Even if as a writer, I had been consciously unaware of the fact sometimes. Let me elaborate.
A lot of the characters in ITLOD mirror people I know in real life. Some were by design, but quite a few dawned on me as a revelation as I read the first finished draft with an editor’s eye. In fact, the biggest one was broken to me by a beta reader; I didn’t quite figure it myself!
Susan Pereira – It warms my heart to know how much people have loved Susan’s character. Because the truth is, she was the most hypothetical character in the story. I have seen parents who are devoted to their child the way she is, but I don’t think I have come across anyone yet who is able to withstand pain and rejection from their child with as much dignity and understanding as she does. Susan was, according to me, the epitome of love and forgiveness. A kind of parent, I wish I can be to my son.
Matthew Pereira – Now this was a shocker! I wrote Matthew the way the story demanded him to be. And it was much later and that too through a beta reader’s eyes, that I could see how much he was modeled on my husband. Matthew is as sincere in his compunction and his atonement as my husband can be, once he realizes he has done something wrong. Of course, just like Matthew it is very difficult to convince my husband that he is wrong, in the first place; but I guess that holds true for all husbands! 🙂
Meera Vashisht – Meera was initially written as a hypothetical character with a fictional back story. But while editing the first finished draft, and seeing the story from an objective distance, I realized that Meera did have some shades of me. I too, like Meera, can confuse self-preservation with self-destruction. I have sometimes in life shown a tendency to be closed to ‘anything new and good’ because of my experiences with the ‘bad’. I take a long time to forgive myself, just like Meera does. In that sense we’re both too harsh on ourselves. But thankfully, just like Meera I too am surrounded with people who help me by constantly keep correcting that disposition of mine.
Deena/Suhana/Maanav/Vidushi – These, perhaps, are the characters closest to the people in my life. The whole phrase ‘A family of friends’ which finds a mention in the book holds true for our life. Both me and my husband are surrounded with friends, who have often proved to be a steady anchor for us; even more than our families. Hence writing these characters was almost like offering a ‘thanks’ to them. And readers have loved all these characters.
Col. Rakesh Bindra – Another character like the ‘friends’ mentioned above, whom I replicated from real life. He is modeled on a senior colleague of my husband’s. But over the years he has come to be a life-guide and a mentor to the two of us. I don’t know anyone more grounded in reality and yet optimistic, spiritual and yet pragmatic, kind and yet incisive in showing you your follies. I was so much influenced with his personality that I chose to even keep his first name as the name of the character. And it dawned on me only just now, while writing this piece, that I may never have explicitly told him this yet. He has read the book though, so I wonder if he figured it out!
To sum up, I’d like to say, as a novelist, especially as a debut novelist, it is a huge comfort to write the characters that you know so well in real life. It lends great strength and veracity to your narrative. Of course, an important precondition is that they should organically fit into and be able to flow and morph according to the story.
The Blurb of ‘In the light of Darkness’:
Twenty years ago, Susan Pereira had to send her only child Matthew, to a faraway boarding school. That one decision brought their relationship to a cul de sac, which she still hasn’t been able to break out of. Matthew is too distant and too angry to relent. Meera Vashisht’s misguided love left her bruised, shattered and abandoned, only to be found and healed by Susan. Set on a fictional Indian island paradise called Bydore, In The Light of Darkness is a journey of broken souls looking for closures and new beginnings. Does Susan manage to win back her son? Does Matthew find the future his mother hoped he would? Does Meera finally get away from her past?
Buy the book here : Amazon
Know more about the writer here : Facebook Page
Know more about her books here : Goodreads page