On her new book 'Land of the Well'
- Ma'am, I have read the book and as a reader i want to know why have you chosen such a glum ending for the book? Why not something peppy? Asked by: Heena Khan
- Dear Heena, I guess I have a preference for unhappy endings! No, to answer your question seriously - the ending arose organically from the way the story was shaping up. To give it a happy ending would have been untrue to the internal dynamic of the story. There is some hope though - don't you think, in Momo's return to health, her desire to write again at the end of the book? Thank you for reading it so closely.
- Do you actually think peer pressure is so strong amongst today's kids? Is that the inspiration for your book? Asked by: Chetna
- Dear Chetna, I do believe peer pressure is something that has always been strong among young people...the pressure to conform, the pressure to belong, the pressure to be popular. It's very stressful, and I noticed how group dynamics may have a sinister effect on one's own individuality. I think that was one of the inspirations for the book...
- How is this book different from Rupture? Asked by: Jaspreet Kaur
- Dear Jaspreet, I think one of the key differences between Rupture and this book is the way it is structured - more linear than Rupture - and the way it is located - in one location, Goa, as opposed to the nine different cities in Rupture. It's also a different kind of language-space - truer to the spoken word, the way people talk to each other, whereas in Rupture I was creating a more internal language. Also this is about younger people, much younger than my characters in Rupture...
- Hi Sampurna, firstly i want to tell you that i love your books. Have read Rapture and have just started reading Land of the well. Can you please tell me how you come up with such ideas for your books? Asked by: Pria Khanna
- Dear Pria, first of all thank you! I feel truly glad to know you love my work. And you've asked me a difficult question! I guess the idea for Rupture began with an image - the image of the man standing at the bus-stop - a grey man, a defeated man, the man who would become Biswajit in Rupture. There I was concerned with ideas of violence, the way in which we hurt each other, emotionally, verbally, physically, and the characters started coming into the landscape one by one and wanting to recount their pasts. I think the idea of the end of the world is something that has always fascinated me and Rupture was one way of dealing with that fascination. For Land of the Well the idea came from my observation of my peer group and younger, seeing how unwell a lot of us were, the psychosomatic nature of our problems and illnesses, and that triggered the book.
- What was your experience writing such a book? Asked by: Resham Kapoor
- Dear Resham, it was pretty intense! Some parts were hard to write, emotionally and physically draining, especially the part where the boy writes his accusation - I did that after many initial versions - in real time, the kind of time he would have actually written it in, in a frenzy that one night - that was exhausting but also quite wonderful!
- Hi Miss Chattarji, how are you? I just want to tell you that can you share some advise for people like me who want to become authors? Asked by: Ram Sinha
- Dear Ram, only one piece of advise really - write with passion, intensity and integrity. Write because you love it. Write despite rejection. And read, read with passion, read with a critical eye open, and you will learn so much!
- Ma'am I've heard that when one writes, he/she gets so entangled with the characters that what the character are thinking and feeling starts affecting the writer. IS this true? Asked by: Soonam Punj
- Dear Soonam, I think there is truth in what you've heard, yes. But it's more complex than that. The characters come from inside you to begin with - so they are already a part of you - to make them authentic you have to be able to inhabit their skins, to feel their feelings, to think their thoughts. But you cannot let them take over! That's where your critical faculties, your editorial faculties as a writer come in - distance, re-readings, re-writes. Distance is essential to good writing. The closeness and intensity and effect that the characters in your book have on you need to be part of something bigger...
- I've heard (actually read in the book) that you are coming out with a new book, is this true? If it is can you please share something about it? Asked by: Anjolie Mukherjee
- Dear Anjolie, I have several new books coming up. One is a Young Adult book from Scholastic. Another is a book of translations of the poetry of Joy Goswami. And two collections of short stories - Bombay Stories from Penguin and Kolkata Stories from Amaryllis...
- Do you draw inspiration from your daily life to come up with particular pieces in your book? Asked by: Nayantara Banerjee
- I think everything I see, experience and encounter in my daily life finds its way - perhaps much later, perhaps subconsciously - into my work. For example in Land of the Well the section where Momo visits a step-well in Rajasthan comes directly from my own experience of it way back in 2009...
- Speaking specifically to the what you have mentioned in the book about the teenage group, do you think the generation, in today's India, is losing out on who they are because of western influences? Asked by: Doctor Prema Sharma
- Dear Prema, no I don't think 'western influences' can be blamed for today's young generation 'losing out' as you put it...I think we live in difficult times. Everything seems easier, faster, quicker, more convenient, but the stresses are intense, often invisible, and those have an enormous impact on our psyche...weakening, destroying, fracturing us...
- Sampurna ji, I'm a big fan. Have not met a talented writer like you. But why have you picked to write about a boy's teenage story? Asked by: Shaleen Singh
- Dear Shaleen, thank you for the compliment! To answer your question - this is more than the story of a teenage boy. The teenage boy - on the cusp of adulthood, he is about to turn 18 - is my entry point into understanding the universe of the slightly-to-majorly dysfunctional. So he is my witness, he is my medium, he is my way of trying to understand the complexities of physical and emotional illness, as expressed by the other adults in the book. He becomes my point of empathy, as he is the outsider, desperate to belong, and I always have a soft spot for the one who is marginalised, ignored, unpopular. Through the boy, the clarity of his outsider's point of view, I wanted to shed a light on the predicament of the adults.
- What inspired you to write such a book? Asked by: Sumita
- Dear Sumita, I think I was inspired to write this by my observation of what was happening to people around me - the way young people seemed more stressed, more sick than the older generation...I wanted to explore that and the novel seemed the best way to do it.
- Can you please explain the reason why you have used the well? Asked by: Nishant Kumar
- Dear Nishant, I don't think there was a very premeditated logical reason for using the well in the book. But what I do know is that from the beginning I knew that the word "well" would be very important for this book - not only for its double-meaning - but also for the resonances the word had for me. To be well. To create a mythical Land of the Well, as the boy does in his story. To be no one in the Land of the Well. These ideas were crucial to the book. It was more than a metaphor. What was unexpected however was the way in which I found an actual well - the step-well that Momo describes - entering the novel. That was very strange to me, but when it happened, I was also delighted - as it was part of a very important experience for Momo - and it is the only actual WELL (as in 'kuwa') in the book!
- Do you think the story would have taken a different turn had it not been set in an exotic location like Goa? Asked by: Sudha Aiyer
- Dear Sudha, I do not think of Goa as an 'exotic location'! It is very familiar and very dear to me. In fact I have not 'exoticised' it at all in the book. The only person who has a cliched idea of Goa in his head is the boy, who associates it with raves, the kind that his friends have been to, but to which he cannot imagine being invited. Goa in the monsoon is as un-exotic as possible! The reason I chose it was from my memory of how strange it is during the monsoon - devoid of tourists, kind of empty, and that seemed to me the perfect place for a drama of this kind to unfold - a place in a kind of limbo, isolated, floating, like Goa feels in the monsoons...
- How long did it take you to write this book? Asked by: Smita Sharma
- Dear Smita, I wrote a first draft of this book way back in 2005-2006! Once HarperCollins bought the book in 2008 along with my first novel Rupture (which came out in 2009), I revisited it, and rewrote parts of it many times till it's publication in 2012.
- Which is your favourite book? Asked by: Madhu
- Dear Madhu, I have too many favourite books to list them here! All the books of Jose Saramago, Coetzee, and so many other authors. But if I had to pick one book that I can return to any time with the same sense of delight in it - it's Joseph Roth's The Legend of the Holy Drinker.
- What is your book about? Asked by: Gunjan
- Dear Gunjan, I don't believe I can summarise what the book is about - you'll have to read it to know the answer to that! But one of the things it is about is the nature of illness, what it does to us, how it binds and destroys and shapes us. Perhaps it is a book about sick people?
- Do you think you have reached the end of observations with the release of one book? Asked by: Sumita
- Dear Sumita, I don't quite know what you mean. This is my 9th book, my second novel, and I don't think observations ever end for a writer - we're constantly observing, absorbing, trying to understand things that bother us. Some of those are in this book, I'm sure there'll be many others! If you mean "am I happy it's out" - the answer is, "yes!"
- Where do you get time to write? You have so many books coming out! Asked by: Anjolie Mukherjee
- Anjolie, I'm a writer, that's what I do, that's what I love, that's my whole life! There's no question of not finding time :) It's obsessive yes, but I wouldn't exchange it for the world!
- How was your experience while writing this book? Asked by: Anu
- Dear Anu, it was very interesting - because the first draft happened seamlessly, and then when I revisited it some years later, I changed things around, rewrote parts, introduced new elements, took things away, spoke incessantly and intensely to my Editor, Karthika, despaired, rejoiced, felt ecstatic, felt traumatised - in short it was like life - full of ups and downs and inexplicable moments of joy - and at the end - a kind of blissful exhaustion!
- if you could change anyone one thing about the book, what would it be? Asked by: Rahul Sareen
- Dear Rahul, perhaps I would have made the boy's Accusation more incoherent than it is now...I don't really know. Once a book is over, you have to learn to let it go!
- How much you resembled Momo in your childhood. I mean how much is the character influenced by your own life? Asked by: Santanu Bhattacharjee
- Dear Santanu, the only resemblance between Momo and me is that she, like me, wrote poetry, but unlike me, she never had as much faith in it, she gives it up, and it's only at the end of the novel that we get the feeling that she will return to it, regain her faith in words, in life. I have always had faith in both!