Monday, January 22, 2018

The political is personal is political

The author of The House of Discord, Sadiqa Peerbhoy discusses some difficult questions. Portraying the personal is the political is the personal, Sadiqa’s narrative explores conflict as a spectrum ranging from micro to macro, and makes a compelling case for the truth that peace from within is the starting point for any peace beyond. Here is Sadiqa’s own story.

I think I always wanted to be a writer because I was an avid reader, as was my whole family. I recall telling my class teacher, Mrs D’Cruz, in Class 3, that one day, my books would be in the school library. I selected Literature and Psychology in College and did an MA in Journalism, all the better to understand human psyche with. I think I have been writing for publications since I was fourteen. Before that, I mopped up all essay and story writing prizes in the contests in the Illustrated Weekly Youth pages, so much so, that it became embarrassing! I changed my name on the entries.

My skills were honed in Advertising. I married into the profession but I wrote short stories, columns, middles and scripts for serials along with my deadline ridden work. I also wrote much of and published a spiritual journal called The Mustard Seed for sixteen years.

I think it was a buildup to my emergence as a full-fledged writer of fiction once I gave up working. Regardless of what I was doing, I always saw myself as a writer and am never happier than when in the flow or the zone when word keep tumbling out fast and furious. I have always seen myself as a writer and believe that I was born with a God given talent and it would be wasteful not to realize it to its full potential. So, becoming a full time writer was an organic process which has taken its time unfolding.

Literature and good writing have always been a mirror of society and an exploration of human beings and the relationships with themselves and each other.  

The House of Discord was inspired by a family I used to know where the interpersonal dynamics fascinated me. They lived in a house much like Barrot House and were ruled by the Matriarch. The relationship between the mother and older son relationship, for one, was where I could see the underlying love, and yet they never saw eye to eye! There was simmering resentment on both sides. I am so involved with my characters as they unfold that I cannot bear for anything untoward to happen to them, and that is why Lily escapes rape in the riots. As for the violence, I was not in Bombay then, but my parents were, and despite living in a very secure government building for high ranking government officials in South Bombay, they felt so insecure that decided to move out of Mumbai. That, to me, was the tragedy of a city which was known for its homogenous mix of castes, religions and races.

When writing about any violence one has to walk on eggs. In The House of Discord, I took great care to see that I did not take sides or in some way implicate a name by religion. In fact, I do not even mention the political parties concerned for fear of reprisals by fundamentalists before they even read the book as is happening with Padmavati. The challenge is to rise above ones name and bemoan only the difference that it made to the city rather than who did what to whom. The House of Discord works on two levels…the discord within the homestead is a metaphor for the discord outside it. At various times, they intersect to take the characters forward and move the story towards its denouement of hope. It is troubled times like that of 1992 which foster transformation and change. Otherwise, the Deshmukh family may have gone on forever nursing its problems and eking out a stringent life in the rambling homestead while clinging to old ways. The two narratives were not consciously constructed. They just flew out once the time and space were established.