Book Talk: Mixed marriage and a real-life love story

Fri Aug 20, 2010 11:32am EDT
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By Tony Tharakan

NEW DELHI (Reuters Life!) - Snooping around as a teenager, Tishani Doshi came across a bunch of love letters written by her Welsh mother to her Indian father and thought it would make a good novel.

"The Pleasure Seekers," just launched in India, was several years in the making for the 30-something Doshi, a debut novel for the poet, dancer and journalist who has also co-authored a biography of Sri Lanka bowler Muttiah Muralitharan.

The novel tells the story of the Patel-Joneses, of the Indian Babo who falls in love with the Welsh Sian and how they navigate their way through the uncharted territory of a "hybrid" Indian family in the latter half of the 20th century.

Doshi, who worked in London before moving to India in 2001, spoke to Reuters about "The Pleasure Seekers" and why her parents' cross-cultural marriage was perfect for her first novel:

Q: How much of "The Pleasure Seekers" is autobiographical?

A: "I think to be fair there's a lot of real elements in the book, a lot of the characters began with an idea of a real person. Particularly the main love story of Babo and Sian, that was very loosely based on younger selves of my parents. But sometimes reality can bog you down and I was not interested in writing a memoir or biography and the fictional part is really exciting because you can take real things and make them into even better things. So yeah, it's hard to say what's real and what's not because after spending a lot of time with it, that line blurs and it almost needs to blur if it is going to be fiction."

Q: As a teenager you discovered your mother's love letters to your father. Did that inspire the novel?

A: "This story of my parents, I always thought it was full of all the requirements of a good novel because it had the drama, it had the love story, it had the conflict. Actually, I think when I was growing up, I wasn't really aware of all the backdrop of that because everything was presented very hunky-dory, like it's all natural. When I discovered these letters, I guess I was snooping around when I shouldn't have been. I realized I caught the undertone of the fact there were a lot of hardships and sacrifices and conflict on both sides because it was this cross-cultural marriage and because they both came from fairly conservative families."   Continued...