Getting into the ‘writerly’ groove with Yasmeen Premji

Did something  new today. Went for a book club meet at Urban Solace@ Ulsoor Lake, Bangalore. My first ever book club meet.

It was a book reading session with a Q& A at the end, giving people an opportunity to interact with the writer.  ‘Days of Gold and Sepia’ by Yasmeen Premji was the book. I’m not a huge fan of Indian writing other than perhaps Indian chick litt, so left to myself, I might not have bought this book. I viewed this as an opportunity to experience a book club atmosphere and interact with like-minded people, learn something, and get into a ‘writerly’ groove. And I think I did the right thing. I bought the book from Landmark yesterday and wanted to get Yasmeen’s autograph. Of course, in the intervening one night, I couldn’t read the book. So I did the next best thing: Googled her:)

So when she stood next to me this morning, I recognized her. Currently, with no cable TV and living in my own cocoon, Google is my lifeline.

What interested me about her background was that she had studied psychology and was a writer. So I asked her when I got the opportunity whether her background in psychology helped her develop the characters in her novel, or whether it was her own personality that she drew inspiration from. She said most people take up psychology thinking it will help solve life’s problems, but only life can help in doing so, not the study of psychology, per se.

Another question I put forward was whether the fact that she had taken 20 years to write the novel altered things as far as character development was concerned since one grows so much in 20 years. She laughed it off saying she probably hasn’t grown that much. Since her book is more historical fiction than a memoir or a novel that draws heavily from her own life experiences, I guess this question wasn’t that relevant.

There was a lot of other discussion around editing and the characters in her book, which I won’t get into here since there are some things you’d just like to savor as your own memories of an event and wouldn’t want to publish on the worldwide web.

When I went to get her autograph, I requested her to write any message for me that she felt would be appropriate for me. She asked me whether I wanted to be/was a writer…I said ‘I’m not sure’….to which pat came the reply “Then you are”. I do hope these words are prophetic:)

On the whole, I enjoyed my first session and consider it a step in the right direction toward leading a ‘writerly’ life.

And I think it’s incidental that she is the wife of Azim Premji – Indian business tycoon and philanthropist, Chairman of Wipro Limited, and the third wealthiest Indian – because I believe every woman has her own identity.

In that sense, Yasmeen Premji is clearly an inspiration.

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