Praise for My Books

"Manreet Sodhi Someshwar is a gifted writer of great promise. I have a gut feeling we have a new star rising in Punjab's literary horizon. She has an excellent command of English and a sly sense of humour."
- Khushwant Singh on The Long Walk Home

"An enjoyable tale of a sassy girl's headlong race up the corporate ladder."
- India Today on Earning the Laundry Stripes

Friday 31 May 2019

It’s Time To Invite The Dead To Populate Our Novels

Sometimes, to grapple with the present we have to engage with the past. I don’t mean a rehash. (Woh to ho raha hai.) What I have in mind is a close scrutiny of tradition, an exploration of myths, a deep dive into historical archives. Why? you ask. 

Because, for one, in India, the past is forever intruding upon the present. And yet, it is a syncopated vision of the past with its tropes of glory, communal harmony, ahimsa… Bapu spun us a story to which we could all cohere — how, after all, do you defeat a Raj whose toolkit was entirely dependant on dividing us? (Besides, ahimsa was such a pish posh way to illustrate to the world that Western civilisation would be a good idea, eh!) The historical truth however is that despite Gandhi’s successful experiment we are a people whose history is mired in cataclysmic violence. What we are also very good with is historical amnesia. Not our fault entirely: mass violence is numbing. Which is where the novelist steps in. (Reason two, if you’re keeping count.)

The task of the novelist is to transform general loss into a specific loss, to give us characters and their stories we can care about. I am at work on a novel set in the months leading up to the independence of India in 1947. Set in two parallel threads, in the two great cities of colonial India, Lahore and Delhi, this is a behind the scenes look at the negotiations, the give and take and the political skullduggery that gave India its freedom via the price of division. Consequently, it is also an intimate look at the friendships destroyed, the loves lost and the carnage that occurred in the sticky hot months of India’s hottest summer ever. Hopefully, the narrative will allow readers to make up their minds about topical assumptions of Nehru’s contributions and the Sardar-Pandit rivalry. (Reason three, and counting.) 

The past is never dead, Faulkner said, it’s not even past. (Who knew Faulkner was a closet Desi!) Khair, general elections 2019 have just got over, the journey ahead is long, and I invite my fellow writers, and readers: Why not reckon with that past, and invite the dead to populate our novels? I have been wining and dining and sharing multiple cuppa chais with Dickie, Jawahar and Vallabh, and it’s been one helluva ride! (Reason four, and ending. For now.)

Thursday 23 May 2019

India General Elections 2019 - Some Thoughts

With BJP-led NDA sweeping the elections and having swept the Congress into the dumpster of history likely, people (such as myself) who are labelled “sickular”, “libtard” and other such delectably deranged slurs, are declaring the death of the republic, bemoaning the end of the idea of India, questioning the existence of secular-liberal ideology in India. Moot points, all. Here’s what I think.
  • Secularism/liberalism are not foreign to India. Instead of the neat ideals that these two words conjure, a vast majority of Indians have traditionally lived in harmony with others, always smug and snug in the belief that their faith/religion/way of life is superior but they have to coexist with the neighbour whose way of life is different (read ‘inferior’). It was a cheerful disdain for the other, which worked quite well for us for a long enough time period.

  • What has changed?
The playbook of identity politics, which Indira Gandhi finessed, has now been taken by the BJP and updated for contemporary hi-tech times. The general public (read majority Hindus) believe that Congress encourages the basest in the minority groups to use as a wedge against the majority. (I have seen this at close quarters growing up in Punjab when Mrs G’s sponsorship of Bhindranwale threatened another Partition.) Let’s just say the chickens have come home to roost.
Meanwhile, for all those crowing about Congress-Mukt Bharat. Let’s just be clear that Indians have voted for passion over reason - a primal response when tribalism is invoked. It is bigotry, plain and simple, the othering of those who are in a minority. Be it Brexit, Trump or Modi. We can hope that this mandate will be used to deliver development and not frittered over make-believe battles with our neighbours. 
Baaki, the journey is long, and there is a shayr for every season (and reason).
Dil na summed to nahin nakaam hi to hai
Lambi hai gham ki shaam magar shaam hi to hai. Faiz

  • What India needs? Another Gandhi, not in terms of what he preached, but a person who can sell us a story of India we can all believe in and run with. Maha - atma. Hai koi?