Mumbai is a prominent character in Twice Written, the book that marks scientist and researcher K Sridhar's foray into the world of literature. In the book, the author attempts to dissect his love affair with the City of Dreams
Three intelligent, but confused 20-something protagonists Prahlad, Ananya and Laila strive to make sense of their lives through different approaches. This is the basic premise of Twice Written set in the buzzing Mumbai of the 1980s (Bombay at the time).
Sridhar, a professor of Theoretical Physics at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, talks about his first attempt at fiction. Excerpts from the interview:
What is someone with a research background doing writing books?
I live in Mumbai with my wife and daughter and I have lived here all my life except for some stints in London and Geneva. I work as a theoretical physicist at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research in Mumbai and I specialise in High Energy Physics. But, for me, it has never been physics to the exclusion of everything else. In fact, I believe my interests in literature, philosophy and culture invigorate my physics. So, at least for me, there is no tension between scientific research and novel-writing.
What challenges did you face as a first-time writer?
The problem is to find one's voice as a writer to write as oneself and to not be an imitation of someone else. It is like trying to find your balance when you ride a cycle you need the balance in the first place to ride and pick up speed. Once you have done that, you realise that the balance comes more naturally. That is the first issue to find one's voice and then having done that you ask whether people respond to that voice, relate to it, like it. I think the first experience of writing can be a daunting one, if one lacks self-belief and I am fortunate to be blessed with a good measure of that!
Every book has bits and pieces of the author in it. Do you and people in your life feature in the book?
We are present, in big chunks. The reader will notice that I start my book with a disclaimer: "The characters in this book are all real and, therefore, bear no resemblance to any person living or dead." I have a memory, which does not allow me to forget my past so these experiences make it to my novel. The act of writing is an act of remembering. But, as Milan Kundera says: Remembering is not the negative of forgetting. It is a form of forgetting.
Why did you choose Mumbai as the backdrop for your debut novel?
Bombay is yet another character in my book. I relate so deeply to this city that it had to be part of my story. My book is simultaneously a paean and a lament to this wonderful city of ours lament because of all those institutions that have disappeared erased and written over like in a palimpsest. But it also a paean to the compositeness that a palimpsest necessarily brings in.
Twice Written, K Sridhar, Popular Prakashan, Rs 195. Available at leading bookstores.