Find out how to write a gripping novel as a journalist which makes the readers question the institution of marriage!
Mansi Choksi takes Tara and Michelle through her journey of writing her book “The Newlyweds: Rearranging Marriage in Modern India”, a book not just about love and stakes of love, but is also a reflection of the rural and modern divide. How to write a thrilling investigative nonfiction? How did she meet her protagonists and gain their trust to talk about such a sensitive topic? How did she maintain the composure of an observer and a documenter, a fly on the wall? Tune in to find out!
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Produced by Aishwarya Javalgekar
Sound edit by Kshitij Jadhav
‘Books and Beyond with Bound’ is the podcast where Tara Khandelwal and Michelle D’costa uncover how their books reflect the realities of our lives and society today. Find out what drives India’s finest authors: from personal experiences to jugaad research methods, insecurities to publishing journeys. Created by Bound, a storytelling company that helps you grow through stories. Follow us @boundindia on all social media platforms.
Welcome to Books and Beyond with bound. I'm Tara canderel. I am Michelle D'costa. And in this podcast, we uncover the stories behind some of the best written books of our time, and find out how these books reflect our lives and our society today. So tune in every Wednesday to enter a whole new world with a new author. And a new idea. Yes, and after three years and 2 million listens, we are back with our factories and five, with hard hitting questions and life changing books. So let's dive in.
So on today's episode, we're gonna be unpacking the reality of modern marriages in India, and we're super excited to speak to the award winning journalist Mansi Choksi. About her explosive new book The newlyweds. Hi, welcome to Books and Beyond. Thank you for having me. Hi, I when I saw the cover, and I saw the title, I've been sort of waiting to preorder this book ever since I saw it on your Instagram.
And I finally got it at home. And I read it in one go. It was it was so very interesting. So the book is about love and crime in India. And it covers three couples, one intercaste, one into religious and one LGBTQ, and the journeys that they take and the way that you cover their journeys, you know, these are couples who face a lot of resistance at home, they marry against their families wishes, they leave their homes, they face violence, heartbreak and a lot more. And it really took me on this emotional roller coaster journey. And it left both Michelle and I with so many questions about, you know, your fascination with this topic, the couples how you wrote all of this. So, yeah, I'm very excited to do this. Thank you so much. I'm so excited to talk about this with you. One of the things that what I really liked in the book was when I got to the end, and I always read the afterward. And you mentioned that one of the couples grows up, one of the couples grows apart. And one of the couples grows together. And it felt so sort of poetic and it almost seem like a like a happy coincidence that you know, there was this contrast. And then I read that you've been following them for six years. So tell us a little bit more about these couples. And you know, I'm sure our listeners would like to know how you approach them. Yeah, so actually, this this book grew out of a magazine assignment for Harper's, I had heard about the love commandos. The love commandos is a volunteer group that seeks to protect the rights of young lovers that are marked for honor killings by their families for choosing to marry who they love. And it is an organization run in Delhi run by a bunch of you know, middle aged out of work men. And at the face of it, it sounds it feels as if, you know, this is a you know, a great organization that is putting their lives at great risk to protect, you know, individual liberty. And I had heard about them on an episode of subdomain it several years ago, in their, on their episode on honor crimes, and I wanted to go and spend some time at the love commando shelter, and write a piece about them. And when I went there, I met me to end up in there. That's the first couple in the book who from a village in Haryana and run away to be together and their their relationship is taboo not only because they belong to different castes, religions and communities, but mainly because they belong to the same village. And the part of Haryana that they come from.
Girls and boys of the same village are considered to be brothers and sisters. So that was a major taboo that they were running away from. And when I went to hang out at the last commando shelter, I spent a few days to a week with them. And, you know, I went in thinking I'm going to write about the shelter. But, you know, as I spent more time it turned out that the reality was something else. The law of command was morally ambiguous at best criminal at worst. You know, they were accused of extortion, blackmailing, just kind of using the couple's as pawns to to get more donations. And that's when I, you know, it became more interesting, journalistically to spend more time there. And when I met me too, and the vendor, they were among eight other couples that were at the shelter, but I was immediately taken in by me too. I just thought she was fantastic, absolutely hilarious. She she had carried for huge suitcases when she ran away and you know, when you when you run away, you you associated sort of lightness with elopement, but she had carefully
asked for some cases with a favorite clause and, you know, friendship bands, albums,
you know, slam books, stuffed animals, and you know, she she had curated everything that she wanted to leave with it, she talked me through it. And, you know, and she and she wrote, she kept a diary where she noted, you know, the day's events. Yeah. So that's how, that's how I met Nita Vandeventer. And I began following them since 2016, after they left the love commando shelter I returned to,
to Punjab, you know, to kind of to shadow them as they will, you know, going around from Europe, basically, from police office, I mean, a police commissioner's office to government offices
to try to, you know, get justice in a sense, because the vendors parents had been attacked by nietos parents for their elopement in your things that really spiraled out of control. And, you know, over even the course of that first year, you know, I just saw them grow up really quickly. When I first met Nate, when the vendor they were not really naive in a sense
that their worldviews were sort of shaped by Bollywood firms.
And, yeah, and when I went, when I returned, the next year, they had, you know, been forced to reckon with the consequences of their actions. They started to look as if they were being burdened by, you know, just this huge choice and the repercussions that had had not only for them, but for their families. You know, the vendors parents were essentially kicked out of the village and an ancestral home, they were going from relative's house to relative's house, everybody was out of work. Nobody wanted to buy the house that the vendor's father wanted to sell. Because it had now become it's become tainted as society for community fluid. Within that one year, I felt as a need when the vendor had, you know, age, gender, and the sort of arc in their personalities from the day that I've met them to the day that I finished writing this book was really massive, they came into the book being some someone and they left the book being someone else.
And I wanted to write a book that was not simply about how young love falls and you know, forms and falls apart. But I wanted to use the vehicle of the left story to explore the bigger forces shaping India. So why did you tell the story about you know, India's loss to the right through a love story and love Jihad was a thing in the news. When I was reporting this book, I found our friend Monica, through a newspaper snippet. I contacted them when
they were already on the run. They were already on the run. And they were really hesitant to open up to another reporter because they've been burned in the past.
So that so that took some some time. And eventually, they decided to do let me in and I followed them for Yeah, for about five years. And finally, I wanted to write a story about section 377, the colonial sort of legacy of 377 You know, the sort of learning and unlearning that we as Indians have to have had to do in terms of acceptance of same sex, same sex love. And I wanted to tell the stories, specifically not, not through privileged, gay men in metros, which is usually, you know, the lens with which the story is told where I've deliberately wanted to go out to look for working class women, I found Richmond pretty in the Mumbai Mirror article. After they had run away, Reshma had spoken to Mumbai Mirror journalist and, you know, basically put out her plea for wanting to be together with with 3d, I found them and, and then I started to follow them everywhere they went, I, I visited every village and city that they lived in.
I lived with them, I spent a long long stretches of time, keeping up with them, ya know, and these are really, you know, heartbreaking stories, I had to really control myself to not, you know, break down while I was reading them. But another thought came to my mind that, you know, growing up in the 90s, this was exactly what I had wanted to read. I was saying, oh my god, you know, I can't believe that I never really imagined that this book would exist. You know, like, I never thought that I never thought that someone would actually write about it. And that made me really happy. But I would say the book is also very haunting. And, you know, especially for me RF story was something I literally held my breath while I was reading I realized that and it's a very disturbing experience. I can only imagine what it was like for you to you know, go out there you know,
live beside them, you know, follow them throughout and write your stories and, you know, out of all the things in your book, Marty, actually the subtitle really stood out to me because it says rearranging marriage in modern India. So, ya know, you know, why these three couples so out of you know, 1.4 billion people that we have India why these three? And I will say why small town India? Yeah, I was especially looking for for couples for whom the stakes would be higher.
So, you know, if you're born into privilege and power and money, usually the stakes are kind of softened, right.
You know, a lot of this book is not just about about love and the stakes of love, but it's also about this rural and modern divide. It's on each, all six of these young people have this idea that, you know, they grew up in an ascending part of the world in the 90s. Like a lot of us, we grew up when you know, the economy was liberalizing, we grew up when we had access to television, social media, were very different from our parents generation, because, in a sense, the world opened up to us as we were growing up. And it gave us this illusion that the world was asked to cease. And that's why I wanted to focus on on couples from small town India, because all of them grew up with the sense that their lives were going to be different from their parents lives, because the economic, political and social forces that were shaping the country at the time was so different. So So for instance, Aref is, feels as if he is stuck in his frame. The only real desire for him is to break out of the mold of growing up in bas mud. He you know, even for Monica, she she kind of sees herself as someone who's made for bigger cities. Same with me, too. She she doesn't want to, you know, live the life that her mother led, which is, you know, Maddie from one village to another she's she's cut out for bigger things. Yeah, I actually went out deliberately looking for couples that were not from big cities. Okay, yeah, definitely. That's, that's very interesting. You know, and that, we did sort of wonder why that was the case. My favorite couple
in the book was Reshma and pretty, because I sort of agree with what you're saying, we see a lot of narrative about gay men, gay lives, etc. And this was something very new. And I also really liked their story in terms of like, the heartbreak that they went through, I won't give it away. And there was a lot of sort of, you know, drama within the couple as well.
Like negotiation? Yeah, about the respective roles, you know, and then falling Exactly, exactly, yeah, these predetermined sort of, they almost felt like they had to fall into these predetermined gender roles. And then you mentioned in the book that you are actually there for,
you know, because you follow these couples, so closely, you actually there for certain things like even like, fights between these couples in a fight between Reshma and treaty, and I would have been so intense, and it just got me wondering, you know, they allowed you into their lives, they gave you so much access, and you're, of course, very different from them. So, what were the boundaries between you and these couples in your interactions? How did you gain that trust, so as to be the sort of fly on the wall, observing these intimate moments.
Initially, the kind of access that I had was not as, as deep as it got, you know, towards the middle, and the end, it was a very, like, I would I would meet them at cafes, I would meet them, you know, on the beach, I would meet them, you know, on a on a bench somewhere, we would, we would spend a couple of hours together and, and leave. And then as I started meeting them more and more, they will just say, you know, come to my workplace while I'm doing this, or you know, come home while we're cooking lunch, and those were actually the interviews and the moments at which,
you know, the narrative really came through, they weren't talking to me or they weren't telling me things that were happening, but I could actually see things as they were unfolding. A lot of these capacities just you know, sort of scepter of violence, right like with neat when the when the there is actual physical attack on the vendors mother in RF and Monica's case you know, there is this looming sort of threat of the Bajrang dal and you know them getting entangled into into this very real you know, sort of threat from you know, people protesting love Jihad and but with Reshma Preethi they're also my favorite couple because the, the violence was, was was was from their own internal frameworks of morality, right like their own ideas of what it means to be a respectable couple, eventually led to their
Um, they're undoing, um, you know, there are there are moments in which, you know, they, they both act really cruelly towards each other. And I remember when we wouldn't surely.
And when I met, I met them one one day, and they will find the next morning, when I went back to their home, you know, pretty suddenly had, you know, shown here.
And that was, it was really shocking to me, because I had known that it was not shocking, it was, it was surprising for sure, because I had known how much pretty valued her hair, it was something that she thought about as like, you know, the seat of her beauty and prestige.
And to see that she had suddenly lopped off her hair was just, you know, felt strange. And I asked her what it is, that made her do that. And, you know, at that point, she just gave me some explanation, like, Oh, my hair was falling too much. So I decided to cut it anyway, you could, you could see that was very unevenly cut. And later, it
kind of turned out that it had been a result of like, a pretty intense fight between them. And hearing that was, and witnessing that was probably one of the most heartbreaking moments of reporting this book. And it just filled me with so much anger and resentment against Reshma. And I had to do my own sort of like processing of it, to detach myself in order to provide Reshma the opportunity to, like tell the full extent of of her truth and to like, make room for, you know, for her version. So yeah, I mean, because we had spent so much time together, there were, you know, there were definitely moments in which I had to kind of step back and kind of remind myself that my job is to be an observer and to document what's going on. With RF and Monica, I was genuinely concerned about their well being, as with neat vendor vendor, I followed need when the vendor, you know, to Chandigarh, where they were trying to get police protection, and it just really broke my heart, seeing them wither away in waiting rooms,
you know, trying to like navigate this vast, forbidding system of justice and getting nowhere, simply because
they come from a particular place and from a particular strata of society. It will I think it also gives them a sense of security that I was a journalist following the case. And if things really got bad, I would intervene. Yeah, I think that's that's partly why they let me in and, and another reason why I think they let me in is because I think they found it comforting to actually talk and process their feelings with with somebody who was listening. Yeah, no, actually, that makes a lot of sense, you know, especially the safety aspect that you mentioned. Now that I think of it, but also, you know, see one thing, it's one thing to share things in the moment, and then, you know, go back and read about it. So I'm really curious to know, how did they react to the book, you know, like, Yeah, they did have they have responded to it, especially Reshma, you know, because she caught your water heartbreak. So what was the reaction? Right? So you know, this, this book was actually heavily fact checked. So before the book went into publishing, I had read back the book to each of them, I think the fact checking process prepared them for what it would be what it would feel like to read it back, as you said, you know, one thing is to tell to tell the reporter something in the moment, and the another is to kind of go back and see it in print. Right. But I think the fact checking process made that easier, they knew what was coming, you know, they had a chance to correct facts, when, you know, there were errors, they had a chance to step in, not one chance, several chances to step in, and fix, you know, details. So, did they ask you to change anything? No, nothing is changed, no, nothing is that I've like use their real names, photos, nothing has changed. I was also made clear to them that you know, that there were there were obviously there will be some parts that will make them uncomfortable. But the reason that these parts were included was
to make sure that the full extent of of their The truth is captured in the book that that that's really been my
goal, like I've I've tried, like, you know, like Tara said that, you know, while I was interviewing them, I was obviously a different kind of person. So how did I
you know, become a fly on the wall or, you know, how did that like kind of level of comfort come in and I think it I think it just I tried to compensate for my difference from them by just listening and transcribing and, and taping everything religiously. So everything was on tape. And whenever I had a question or whenever I wanted a clarification, I would go back on
I would, you know, write a chapter read it back to them. You know, there were parts of the book that made that, you know, that made Monica slightly uncomfortable, especially, you know, the parts where we talk about, you know, how her sort of
impressions of Ahrefs family when they first met, and it's obviously not a good look on someone to think that the family's way poorer than she had first thought.
And even though she was uncomfortable, she felt uncomfortable by that. I think she just kind of understood why it was important for the for it to be in the book. You know, what their their main concern is? Like, why did you choose the photos that you chose? Why didn't you let us choose the photos I prefer to choose? Yeah, I love the first photo of Reshma and treaty with the tongues out. Yeah, yeah. Naughty photo. Yeah. And then I mean, those are selfies a lot. Most of these photos are selfies. Yeah, they have taken Yeah.
Yeah, they're really cute. You know, the book obviously got me thinking about just generally,
you know, marriage in India and marriage, and also urban settings. And there's so much conversation going on nowadays about, you know, the modern and the traditional. And, you know, like, as like millennials, like, where are we on the spectrum? Is marriage relevant? You know, we have shows like Indian matchmaking. We have self help books. So what do you think? Do you think I mean, I know you're mad at you, but what do you think about marriage? Or do you think marriage is relevant, and has the book changed the way you think about marriage in any way, my, my, my thoughts and the reality of what marriage means in in India, are not the same. So I don't think marriage is a relevant institution any longer. But I do think that in India, it is it is a tool to keep power hierarchies in place, and you know, it's there is not going to be done away with
you know, especially in, in large parts of India, marriage is seen as a tool to cement hierarchies, you marry within a particular caste, caste, community, language, regions status, just so that
you continue to be you continue to, to occupy the place that you're currently occupying in society, it is seen as a way to keep society stable,
and not allow it to tumble into the anarchy of freedom of choice.
So, in my mind, like, if young people,
when they when they think black, you know, like the six young people that I focus on, when they're exactly the kind of young people that are raised to not defy these boundaries of tradition, right, they're exactly the duteous. You know, a big part of who they are and their identity and self worth is derived from what their parents think they have a deep sense of filial duty and filial piety. You know, even economically, socially, their identity is tied into their families. So to break away and to make a choice.
To choose your own partner for love is a very radical decision for for six of them.
And as we learn in the book, the consequences are pretty far and wide. I think that the idea of right and wrong for a lot of young people, comes from our parents. And while I would love for that not to be the case. I think sadly, that is the reality. Your question was how to change my view on marriage the book? No, but it's changed. It's not changed my views on I don't know how to answer this, except to tell you that I think matters is irrelevant, but I don't think what I think matters. Makes sense. Got it. Ya
know, what's interesting, it's not just small town India, that I would say kind of, you know, thinks that okay, let's say dating is bad or dating is morally bad, and marriage would legitimize it because I can see that I totally relate to that, you know, like, also growing up, I felt like dating is something you know, we shouldn't do. But marriage is something that is, you know, like everyone, I would say everyone consents to it. It's like legitimate, you know, I think this fear, this innate fear that we will be judged, is something that comes across across all stratas that of course, it's different. There are lots of layers, but, but that's something I felt as well. I think subconsciously, you know, like, I never thought dating is bad was subconsciously sort of you want marriage as a way to legitimize yourself. You know, and especially like in the eyes of others, it's more for other people. So even like, me, like Michelle and I were both sort of single. And you know, like, we
Let's speak about like, you know, because we're in our 30s. And we're like, do we want to get married? Or, you know, what do we want to sort of do with our lives? And I think there's a lot of legitimacy that you can't really ignore when it comes to getting married and validation and as human beings as social creatures. Yeah, that's what we think. Yeah, we want that we don't want that rejection of sort of, like, yawn. Having that I think that exactly are these is a driving force. Yeah, exactly. I completely hear you. And I, you know, this is true, even for the couples in the book, you know, there is this constant
cloud of regret. Would it have just been easier? If I had done the thing that I was expected to do? You know, there is, I think, many of them craved that, you know, that peace that you get from just obeying,
you know, the kind of
clamor that came into their life after they made this choice. And the way that it completely up ended every sort of semblance of
peace in their lives.
I think a lot I think they really did. That's why I kind of keep going back to the, to the idea of, you know, they were burdened by the question of Was it worth it, and it has, it has something to do with this piece that we're talking about.
One is to rebel against, you know, social structures and families, to live your full, authentic self, and to live with that, you know, to be able to live freely in in, you know, like, in,
you know, with your full fledged desires. And the other is to live partially authentically, but, but to have the peace and support of those social structures.
Actually, that was one of my favorite parts, or the favorite themes of the book, you know, because it's sort of like these couples, they want the relationship so badly that they defy these social structures. And then, you know, there's so much regret, there's so much doubt. And I found that the most fascinating part of the book, yeah, yeah, yeah. Because that's, that's why, you know, like, all six of these young people, they, you know, like I said earlier that day to drive their self worth from their families and the social systems, and then they have to defy them to get the partner that they love. And then they they seek to go back into the same social systems that they define. And yeah, that's, that's also the kind of human nature No, once you know, once you get something, you start to wonder if the fight was worth it.
Yeah, yeah, exactly. And also, you know, the interesting thing about this is that all six of these relationships progress so fast, you know, they fall fast and hard. Because of this, like looming threat of being married off to other people, according to their family's wishes, they don't even really get a chance to, you know, suss out whether this is the right partner for them. They don't actually critically, they don't get to critically question and think about whether this is a choice that they have made, you know, with the full breadth of their understanding. That's also part of the kind of tragedy here like for our friend, Monica, they, you know, she kinds of, she hates him, because she's like, Oh, he's hot, and he's cool. That's literally all it takes.
And then, you know, the dating before, before they know it, they're stuck with an unwanted pregnancy. And then things escalate so quickly, it's do or die. So it's the either run away together,
and, you know, give birth to this child, or she contemplate suicide and it's that intense. And, you know, I don't think she was
she was missing when she said that, because, you know, for her the idea that
if she would have to live with that, that dishonor
you know, the silence of Hall of her family towards her would would be more painful than death itself. And again, sorry, yeah, no, I just remember that, like one of the scenes that I really liked, and that was when she's pregnant. And she's in her sort of, like, husband's home. And it's obviously like, a much sort of poor household. Dreaming of like, you know, if she was pregnant, and if she was in her parents. Yeah, yeah.
Yeah, right. Yeah. I mean, yeah, I think she that that is really something that she struggled with and I think now Now finally, she's like, starting to,
to kind of accept and process that this is her reality now. Yeah, no, I think it's also this impulse was taught right. So with these couples, what came across to me is of course, you know, love is very impulsive. It's kind of that attraction can there's no logic around that attraction and I think that's where you know, the later on probably the regret comes in like I can't even imagine you know, doing that to my parents because I think it also challenges your your belief system, you know,
manages your loyalty. And and it's obviously, you know, because we spend a lot more time with parents, right.
And with a partner, I think it's very complex. And and for me, you know, the book made me actually revisit all those questions, you know, my belief system, all of that. But you were talking about our own views about marriage. For me the I would say the highlight of the book was the introduction and the foreword, actually, yeah, and wanted to see more of you in the book man.
tempted to add more details, you know, I was suffering when I was writing those two sections, because I'm like, I really struggle with writing about myself, or, you know, like, my mom, or anybody close to me. So it was a real exercise in
Yeah, it was, it was total. Yeah, it really liked it. Because, you know, like, I get that it's torture for you. But it's fun to get the inside view into writer. Yeah, did speak about, you know, your own parents will because it's this book is so much about parents, right, as much as about, and you spoke about sort of not knowing who your dad was, or you know, your mother's relationship with you. So, I love that part. But I disagree with you, Michelle, where I think that, you know,
I like that Mansi wasn't in the book, because I just felt like that whole fly on the wall. Part of it was quite interesting.
For me, so I think like, sort of, like differing views there. But no, the foreword and afterword was super interesting, for sure. Yeah, I mean, I, you know, I actually ended up writing these last, I first wrote the stories, because, yeah, that I started the first.
So the first chapter was actually part of the happiness piece. So I wrote need to end up in there last, I first started writing RF and Monica stories, and I wrote them by couple. So I would write, you know, all six chapters of one couple and then move on to the other. So I did RF and Monica first Reshma and pretty, and then and then need to work on the vendor, because I'd already written about them earlier.
And, you know, it was interesting for me, because, you know, RF and Monica, I had, I was actually working on a magazine piece that eventually, you know, didn't see the light of day for California, Sunday magazine. So I had, I had done a lot of thinking, you know, with the editors on that piece. But Reshma and pretty were the only couple that was someone that, you know, with the only couple that I had to think through myself, like without getting out of my head. And I just found, I thought that it would be, you know, it will probably
that this couple, because of the fact that I hadn't had the chance to workshop it and brainstorm it with somebody else. I thought that it would, you know, kind of be the hardest, right? But somehow,
I don't know, there was just something. So
it was something so interesting about the way that their relationship dynamic progress, that they ended up being my favorite chapters.
Yeah, anyway, so this. So after I finished writing these three stories, my editor really encouraged me to think about why this was a book that I needed to write and why this was a book that only I could write. And then, at the time my mom was in Dubai, helping us with it was it was the second wave of the pandemic, and everything was in lockdown, and my mom was here, and I have a have a small child. And she was, you know, it was, it was really great to have a heal, you know, to be with him so that I could step away and right. And then it all made sense to me that it's because of my mom. And that's how those two chapters came together. Yeah, that's a good editor, actually, because that's sort of the first question, you know, that any reader would have is like, why Muncie? And what, why is this topic? Yeah, you know, where is it coming from? And why is it close to heart? And I think those sections did that really? Well. Um, you also haven't, you know, it's been published internationally. And congratulations on that.
And I noticed that in the Indian version, there are certain phrases or lines that provide context for the reader. For example, you know, you mentioned Mahabharata, the Hindu. Yeah. So was that a conscious choice? Because you wanted the book to have a global audience? Or do you think like, you could have done away with a little bit of the week or we absolutely could have done away with it. I think that I think that those were not needed in the, the Indian edition. Yeah, especially, you know, things like describing what, you know,
a dose is or what in Italy is like those things could have absolutely been dropped. I think it just was a product of the fact that it was a manuscript so I filed this manuscript first for the US edition, and then it was adapted to the Indian and UK editions to my primary publisher is the US Army.
So that's probably why these details have still remained. There was some changes made in the Indian edition, the Indian edition is heavily annotated. And the other two editions were not. There was some changes made in the Indian edition in terms of, you know, just, I guess, from the, because of the political climate we're currently in.
You know, some details were removed from the Indian edition.
But yeah, I agree with you. Those, those things should not have been in the Indian edition. Okay. So this brings us to our fun quiz. Monty. Okay. What you're gonna do is we're gonna throw some modern love terms at you. Oh, you're gonna tell us what they mean? Oh, God. Listen, I'm like, I'm like, way too old for this.
Okay, let's, let's try. I don't know any of them. My cell phones.
I'm very curious to find.
Okay, I think yeah. And probably our listeners will also learn something new. Yeah, okay. Okay. Okay. All right. So for example, let's start with zombie.
Zombie. You know, you like how we have ghosting. Yeah. Oh, my gosh, I have no idea. Yeah.
Yes, I can guess. Okay. So if it's like ghosting, maybe it's like in the relationship if somebody's already relationship, but they sort of like don't stop participating. Oh, oh, no. From from what I read, apparently it means it's like the next stage of ghosting when after somebody goes you they come back so they become a zombie.
Okay, the next one is bread. crumbing. Oh, my goodness. What could that be? Oh, okay. That is to not fully commit to a relationship but like, keep providing crumbs to keep the person interested. But not the full of all right, got it. Yes, you're right. Okay. All right. The third one is peacocking. Oh, do no idea. I think I think this one okay. I think I can I can I can.
So it's sort of like, like wearing your best clothes and like showing off and driving your best car and like
to attract your fans. Yeah, this potentially meet. Ha so this is the stage where you woo your partner by showing all your best qualities, you know, is it that peacocking Wow, I'm learning so much.
This is a much fun actually.
So let me do one more. Okay. Walk fishing. What fishing? Walk W O walk fishing. Yes.
What could it be actually been? I mean,
we just took it out.
Seriously? They're so educational. Oh, yes. So yeah. So this means that when someone pretends to be, let's say, a feminist or someone for the environment, and based on all these work terms that they carry on them, but they actually not at first? Yes. Yeah, that makes sense. Okay, so maybe, yeah, yeah. Really good.
Yeah. So now we're gonna move on to our reading recommendations section.
Obviously, the book, you know, speaks about elopement of couples. And there was recently award winning film called Syrah that also addresses a problem. Yeah, that was such an excellent. Yeah, but but we have not seen this actually. Like, surprisingly, we have not seen this covered in mainstream cinema much or books. So could you recommend other stories to us which unpack the reality of intercaste couples of intercaste couples? You know, I read an excellent meant. I mean, not it's not a story, but I read an excellent anthropological study about rural lesbian women. It's more like a study so I'm not sure if that makes sense. Yeah, I second research paper, but I thought it was really illuminating. Oh, of course, and there's
magic going on. Same sex. Right.
Right. Ruth Veneta. She has an excellent book on loves right same sex marriage in India in the West. That was an amazing book that completely informed a lot of my research. Then there is Manoj bubbly a Hate Story by Chander SUTA Dogra
that was also published by Penguin that was a story by Manoj and bubbly. They're in one of the chapters in the book.
And in the past couple but with the from the same Godhra that are actually murdered by one of their families. Oh, then there is seeking desperately seeking show
Iraq. I love that book. Yeah, that was
so similar and also, so yeah, it was just, it was an excellent book. And then okay, so I think that's it for me in terms of books that unpack
love, but in terms of other favorite books you want to know. Oh, yes, of course. Actually. That's a nice question. What are what are your top three favorite books all time favorite? Okay, not all time favorite. Okay, so number one is behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine boo. I love that. Yeah, yeah. It's just Yeah, it's amazing. My second favorite book is a fine balance. By Rohinton. Mistry. That was actually one of the books that I sort of wrote an essay on to get into the Columbia publishing costs. Oh, really? Yeah.
Yeah, just, yeah, it's my absolute favorite. And
a third book is a collection of short stories by Akil Sharma called a life of adventure and delight. I think we're reading soulmates I like
Arkansas was one of my favorite authors. Yeah, he's, oh, yeah, me too. Me too. I was just looking. What is she gonna say next?
Wow. Yeah, so you don't want it? Yeah, we have covered books on marriage. Okay, so what about books on dating? Because, you know, Tara and I actually have read how to guides on dating. You know, there's a lot of self help out there. Yeah.
Give you the gist. Yeah.
Like, yeah, I thought the L word. Yeah. I wasn't what do you think of? Oh, you know, these dating guides? And do you have any recommendations? No, no, I do not. I do not. I just have a recommendation of like a bunch of reality shows. Oh, yeah.
What did I once I can what have I been watching? I've been what I watch all the trash there is on TV. Like, whatever's there. I watch it.
I just finished watching. Are you the one? It should probably not be saying this on the podcast.
I've watched was the other one with the Indian couple. Love is blind, though. Yeah, I don't know. Yeah, that's Yeah, yeah. Love is blind. Yeah, these are whatever the Netflix has like a big boom in loving dating shows at the moment. Yeah, I think it's just like as human beings. We're just super interested in Yeah, exactly. You know? Yeah. Yeah. I watch any dating show. Yeah. Like from Splitsvilla to anything. I used to watch. Flexible. I remember. Yeah, me too. Yeah.
It's so much fun. I think right now, right now. It's something that comes to mind in the dating sphere. Of course, it's not a dating show. But Big Boss is a reality show. And yeah, kind of a dating show. You're like, Yeah, I'm watching Big Boss.
Okay, all right. So, um, give me one book that covers an unhappy marriage. It could be fiction or nonfiction. One of the stories in our culture was a life of adventure and delight called if you sing like that for me. Yeah, just a gorgeous, gorgeous essay about a woman who finds herself stuck in an unhappy marriage. And it's just nothing really happens. There's no plot. There's no big incident that happens. But it's just like an internal journey of her realizing and like learning and unlearning a gorgeous God. Like, I feel like that's my most favorite piece of writing on relationships. Yeah, I actually teach that essay, I do a class called read like a writer. And those wild essays that I always sort of give as reading material. It's fabulous. You know, one of the books that I really liked, and this is written by Michelle's mentor, Rhea Mukherjee is the body myth. And it's about a three person couple, and that's something unconventional relationship. So do you have any book recommendations?
About unconventional relationships?
You know, so I should be having answers to these questions. But the way that I approach writing this book was not from the lens of, of love stories. I wanted to tell the story of young people. So I don't have a lot of recommendations on on relationships and
and couples and marriages per se, sadly.
So, you know, I love Sonia Phulera was writing. Yeah, I saw a lot of parallels between writing and hos. Yeah. What are those sorts of narrative nonfiction? Yeah, I love the good guys. That was really good. Yeah. That was excellent. I love this book by Anton Gopal. Called no good men among the living
It's about, it's about the war in Afghanistan. I'm told through the lens from three characters, one former Taliban commander, one woman, and well, I can't remember the third character right now. But yeah, what it was, it's an excellent, excellent book.
I also love the book, women's work. By Megan stack, I really resonated with it, it is about, you know, it is about, it's about her when she has her child and about the fact that, you know, in order for her to work, she must,
you know, sort of hired a nanny to look after her child, and just the kind of the push and pull effects of that of what it takes for women to be in the workforce, um, was, yeah, something that I felt really
moved by. And yeah, I, you know, it shaped a lot of my own
identity after having a child.
And then, of course, I love, you know, a lot of the iconic essays by all Well, my favorite is, you know, shooting an elephant.
I don't know, if you read that story. It's about
yeah, it is about a young boy. I mean, it's about him while he was a officer in Burma. And there was, you know, he writes about an elephant that, you know, you know, that had gone must in a village. And, you know, the, he was he was, he was asked to come with a shooting rifle. And he was surrounded by,
by people, you know, kind of clamoring for him to shoot this elephant that had gone must, and, you know, he really did not want to shoot it. But he does end up shooting it because of who he was. And, you know, because of the fact that he was a white man in a sea of, of brown people that were expecting him to take charge. And that, you know, it basically, this, what the story is really about is
how we do things
to kind of align with
not our ideals of who we are, but of who we're supposed to be.
You know, it just really gets to the heart of that conflict, which is so relatable in in, in our daily lives,
you know, in the way that we act, yeah, in our ordinary day to day lives, and just the way that he captured that conflict was I just think
I haven't read anything like that.
Lots of good recommendations there.
So this brings us to the last section of our episode, which is the most fun thing so far. It's called the rapid fire round board.
Yes, it has it okay. No cheating. Okay. Okay. So we're gonna, you know, ask you a question and you're supposed to reply, let's say one word or two words and era. Okay. Okay. All right. Um, okay. What is the first thing that comes to your mind when I say marriage? Love when I say book, mine?
duty. Relaxing, napping. Nice. Two traits. Every journalist must have
the ability to listen and to thoroughly take notes. Nice. Okay. One hobby of your mother that you have inherited painting. Oh, wow. Yeah, she used to do that for fun. And I do that for fun. Yeah. Amazing. Okay, um, where do you write? Oh, I so this is not rapid. So basically, after I gave birth, I had to teach myself to write in like 1015 minute installments. So this most of this book was written in the waiting rooms of doctors while putting him to bed. While Yeah, just like in long, you know, when you have a small trial, it's like long periods of nothingness. In between very intense periods of doing too much. So it was yeah, they were written. Yeah, intense. 15 minute installments of how a child now is three now. Okay. Oh, this unit, this actually reminds me of what the Smiths said, you know, like when she used to breastfeed her child, and yeah, they wouldn't do anything else. You would just type out a hospital. Yeah. The same time? Yeah. Oh, yeah, absolutely. A lot of the book was written in Google Docs on my phone. So I said, I had set a goal for myself to write 250 words a day. Yeah. So the way that I did this was, yeah, 250 Well, 250 good words every day that would be usable by the end of the day. So I would start my day in the morning while my husband would take care of our kid, I would run off
downstairs and exit at a cafe and right from 6am to 11, then I would come back home, he would go to work, I would be with a kid from 11 to seven. And then when he would come back home, I would get a chance to kind of just polish what I had done in the morning. But actually that, that the entire day from 11 to seven, there was such long periods of of like, just being with my own thoughts that a lot of the work got done then. So fascinating. Yeah.
Okay, um, what's your phone wallpaper? Like? No. Oh, it's my kid. Oh, I'm a cliche.
The last one, what are you working on? Next? I am working on. I mean, I just turned in a piece, a nonfiction story for The New York Times Magazine about quota. But I am now thinking about maybe writing a novel. Not a nonfiction project, but a novel but I'm not sure about.
Yeah, awesome. Yeah. Looking forward to that. Thank you.
Yeah, thank you so much. Thank you. This was a lot of fun. Yeah, it was super fun. And really, once again, you know, I really enjoyed your book. And we'll be you know, talking more about your book recommendations and all of that as well in the show notes. Thank you. Thank you so, so much.
So here we are, were the end of yet another journey into the many worlds of Books and Beyond with bound. I'm Tara Knievel. I'm Michelle D'costa. And this podcast is created by bound a company that helps you grow through stories Find us at about India, or all social media platforms. So tune in every Wednesday if you live, eat and breathe books, and join us as we discover more revolutionary books and peek into the lives and minds of some truly brilliant authors from India and South Asia. And don't forget to keep your love for stories alive for books and beyond.