Books and Beyond with Bound

5.28 Manish Gaekwad: My Mother was the Last Courtesan

September 20, 2023 Bound Podcasts Season 5 Episode 28
5.28 Manish Gaekwad: My Mother was the Last Courtesan
Books and Beyond with Bound
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Books and Beyond with Bound
5.28 Manish Gaekwad: My Mother was the Last Courtesan
Sep 20, 2023 Season 5 Episode 28
Bound Podcasts

What does it take to write a memoir of your mother, who was a courtesan in a changing India? Did Manish’s relationship with his mother color his own narration of her life story? Did he leave out bits that made him uncomfortable? What did his mother say when he told her he wanted to write a book about her?

In this episode of “Books and Beyond,” Tara and Michelle talk to Manish Gaekwad, the author of “The Last Courtesan,” a memoir of his mother, Rekhabai, who was one of the last tawaifs (courtesans) in India. 

They discover Rekhabai’s extraordinary life story, from being sold and trained as a wife to becoming a singing and dancing star in Calcutta and Bombay, to raising her son in a challenging world. They find out Manish’s own journey from growing up in a world of mujras, kathak and thumri. 

Tune in to this episode to learn more about the fascinating lives of Manisha and Rekhabai, and their bond of love and courage.

Produced by Aishwarya Jawalgekar
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.

Show Notes Transcript

What does it take to write a memoir of your mother, who was a courtesan in a changing India? Did Manish’s relationship with his mother color his own narration of her life story? Did he leave out bits that made him uncomfortable? What did his mother say when he told her he wanted to write a book about her?

In this episode of “Books and Beyond,” Tara and Michelle talk to Manish Gaekwad, the author of “The Last Courtesan,” a memoir of his mother, Rekhabai, who was one of the last tawaifs (courtesans) in India. 

They discover Rekhabai’s extraordinary life story, from being sold and trained as a wife to becoming a singing and dancing star in Calcutta and Bombay, to raising her son in a challenging world. They find out Manish’s own journey from growing up in a world of mujras, kathak and thumri. 

Tune in to this episode to learn more about the fascinating lives of Manisha and Rekhabai, and their bond of love and courage.

Produced by Aishwarya Jawalgekar
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 Candela. 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 all facts season five, with hard hitting questions and life changing books. So let's dive in.



Hi, everybody, welcome to Books and Beyond. So today's book is something that I was so excited to receive. It's called the last Corizon by Manish Gaekwad. And it is this fabulous story about Manish his mother's extraordinary life as a cortisone and how she fought all of these odds to raise her son who is speaking to today. And what she's done to survive this brutal world of the courthouse in Bombay and Calcutta just I think it was one of my favorite books of the year so far. Same year, I think I'm just, I'm speechless. You know, I was just telling Tara about how it's so difficult for me to really get absorbed in nonfiction books, but this just it was so moving. And it was extremely well documented. You know, it's about the life of a cowboy who's originally from a culture but tribe who was sold and trained as the wife, you know, while she was still a child. And in the 1980s You know, when quotas were no longer recognized as these centers for aesthetics, you know, and society actually disapproved of their art, you know, and they actually felt like it was sex work in disguise of Arthur Curry or artwork. She actually made a name for herself in Calcutta and Bombay as a singing dancing star. It's so inspiring. Yeah. And so today we're going to talk about you know, she was in an era where she had to dodge guns goons and Garland's gazelles to carve out her own destiny, to provide for a family to raise a son in an English medium boarding school. So let's sort of get into the interview because we have Manish Skycar, who's written this book from his mother's point of view, to talk to us. So welcome, Manish. Thank you, Tara. Thank you, Michelle. I'm just very, very glad that you started on a good note by saying that it's one of your favorite books of the year. Thank God, we made it up to that, Mark, that anybody who reads it, would immediately want to put it on the top of their list.



Yeah, no, I'm so glad. You know, but but just to just to sort of add to this, you know, we know that the book came out in in July 2023. And we just read that, you know, unfortunately, your mom passed away in February 2023. And it was so heartbreaking to read that. So I'm really curious to know, Manish know, before we get into the interview, did she get a chance to actually see the manuscript which you get to see that, you know, it's going into print into publication? Yes, she did. Because I've been trying to write this book since 2018. So I, I would go back to Calcutta once a year, meet her talk to her about it. But she was never really convinced that it will translate or transform into a book. I mean, because she always thought of me as a writer who will probably never make a success out of it. So only into 2022. I think when she saw the magazine article in Outlook, with her photograph in it, then she kind of got an idea that this might turn out into something bigger than she expected. So yes, by January 2023, she kind of had an inkling that you know, there's a book and she would meet her relatives and tell them mera Vita marry Barbie Kitab Lika. So I guess she knew it.



Oh, that's, that's really nice to know, you know, because it is basically written from her voice. You know, I want to know, out of all the things that that your mother did in her life and such a colorful life that she's had, right, you know, from learning how to sing and dance in the courthouse, you know, with no background or training in the art form, which I found really fascinating, right, and, you know, to earning money, despite so many hurdles, you know, helping her own siblings, so she's fought very hard against all odds and what she's fought the most hardest to keep you in her life, you know, to educate you and to make you somebody that she's proud of, you know, out of all these things. What do you find the most inspiring about your mother? That she was never aware of how beautiful she was? I don't mean it physically.



quickly but also emotionally, that despite all these problems and these hurdles that she's she faced, she was always going out of her way to love her family to love her love. Who was not as loving? I mean, obviously love her child unconditionally. You know, sometimes innocent people are not aware of how beautiful they are. She's so innocent, but also all embracing that wonderful quality. I mean, so rare to find. Yeah, absolutely. I mean, there was so many sort of anecdotes in the book that just made Michelle and I just go like, Oh, wow, you know, right from the beginning where she gets married, and she doesn't know that her mother in law is gonna sell her off eight, let me What a twist of fate, she has no clue at all.



And then, you know, when she goes back home to Calcutta, and she realizes that, oh, a family actually needs funds. And she goes back to the courthouse, you know that what a courageous lady. And we can really see that. And what I really liked is that, you know, it's sort of meta, this memoir, because it's you writing from her voice, right? And in the book you have, you know, she, she, you have, it's such a roller coaster, we have so many good things. And then you have so many sort of so many bad things that happen. And she's dancing for goons who have weapons in their ends. And, you know,



it's just a rollercoaster of emotion. So why was it sort of that? Why did you decide, okay, I'm going to write this in, you know, your mother's voice it as your mother, versus, you know, the third person or another sort of way of writing it. That's true. I mean, I did start writing it in third person. But I got stuck, I found that the narrative wasn't flowing as freely as the way she talks, because when I started recording her and started taking notes, it was her voice ringing in my head. Now, when I put it to paper, I'm obviously translating that in my style, my tonality. And that wasn't working for me, after the first draft, I felt like I, it wasn't working for me. So I should try and rewrite it again, in her voice. And so when I started that, when I started with the first line of her saying, I don't know when I was born.



And that was it. I mean, I perhaps just needed that one line, to start in her voice. And when I did that, it flows very freely and easily. And it came very naturally to me, because her voice was always in my head. I mean, not just as the writer, but also as somebody who grew up with her in Dakota, in the 80s, and the 90s. And I feel like if you're reading the book, and and you feel that she's there with you in the room, and you're just listening to her, and then I think that's what I wanted to achieve. Yeah, yeah. And since you're talking about the very first line of the book, it really just, you know, for our listeners viewpoint, it is the best first line I have come across in a long time, because it's not really the story that begins it's more of your note to the reader. So it begins with it literally says, I have entertained the thought of killing my mother. And I remember when I read that line, I just I shut the book. I was I was just so moved, you know, and I just wanted to read, read further. So, you know, throughout while reading your book, there was a thought that kept coming up to me. MANISH is the fact that, you know, it could be an unreliable narrator. Why? Because obviously, we know that, you know, relationships sort of blur, you know, blows our vision. And you know, there are so many layers here, right? Because you're not only Hassan who grew up with her, in that world, but you're also now being the writer who's sort of, you know, filtering that and writing it. And yes, the writing is beautiful. I was just telling Tara that imagine having so many emotions and being so close to the text, and yet being able to write such beautiful lines, like there is a line that goes like hunger kept me alive, you know, and it is just there are so many lines, which I could frame are universal. So with all of these sorts of you know, things that you have juggled in the book, did you feel that there were certain things that were sort of embellished because you know, you're the son, but what were your thoughts? Not at all, Michelle? I mean, I, I'm, I think if you're not honest with your material, it will not come across truthfully, and it will not connect with your data. And so we have to be very, very honest. And because I personally don't read biographies because I know they're full of



the kind of stuff that is not true, and there's a lot of sugar coating.



So I was very aware that that's something I want to avoid and because, you know, this is not a mother that I have put



Donna Podesta ever since I've known her, so why should I now try to wrapper wrap her up in some, you know, I don't know, satin cloth and worship her. I've seen all of it myself. And what she was saying is also something I had previous knowledge of, like, I was told the stories in bits and parts by her by the by her colleagues, the other two wives, by her friends, by her patrons by her relatives. So I kind of had a lot of this with me. And I, I chose not to paint her as a martyr.



Because that's what Indian men tend to do with their mothers.



And I thought, if we are not suitable to her, then then there is no point doing this. Right? I mean, she does come across as a well rounded individual, right, like we know about her flaws.



We know all of those ups and downs. And yet we can see the immense love, you know, that does come through



your love for her comes through in her voice as well. In the memoir, I think one of the most emotional scenes for the emotional parts of the book for me, and I think Michelle, when we were discussing the book was, you know, when she was talking to you about you, and you know, you grew up in the courthouse, and you in an article, you said that, you know, inside was paradise and outside was held. And I would just love to know, you know what you meant by that. And I think one of the most emotional parts of the book was, you know, how much he wanted for you to sort of study English. And when you came when you started using words like fork, and all these other things, she was just so amazed that my son is speaking all these fancy words, and he knows all these, like fancy nursery rhymes, you know? And that was just so heartwarming. What could you tell us about you know, so the first thing is that she she wanted to study, I remember her telling me once that she would walk past a school with her goats, when she was herding goats, as a child, and should always be curious about the lesson being taught inside and she would wonder if she should go in there or, and she would like, peek from outside and check other students studying, but because of family could not afford to send her to school. She missed out on that. And that's something she's, I think, consciously, always carried with her that if I can't do it for myself, I will do it for my siblings, as she did try to get her



younger brother and younger sister educated, but then they didn't want to also study. So when she had a child, she made sure that she passed on that unfulfilled dream to her child. So as a child, I think when I grew up in the Kota I, you know, it's a word of music and dance and colors and perfumes. And it's very cinematic, it's not very different from what you see on television. I think I'm, I taught that I lived in television.



And it was never very removed from that. Even the violence I suppose, you know, if you saw the violence on TV in a film, where the goons are, you know, being



bad to the woman and but in the in the quarter, the woman actually fought back.



Like she had her sisterhood and they would fight back and they would sort of hold their own. So I saw that word and I found it very






And, and because the minute I stepped out of the courthouse, somebody or the other would try to taunt me or sort of physically manhandled me. Then I then I guess, I guess, when I came out, my mother was not there to protect me.



I was on my own. And I didn't like the fact that I was being taunted and abused. So I prefer staying inside. And therefore with all the music and dance, I think that's, I mean, it's as good as paradise right? Yes. And that is a line in the book where you describe the world of quotas as the word of whiskey, women and music and and people who want to spend your last moment sort of come there because why wouldn't you in such a such a brilliant, you know,



Paradise would have whiskey for sure.



I think I think my version of Paradise will also have books but



no, no, I just I wanted to just comment underneath I just love the



A couple photo. Yes of the thing. And I also really liked the fact that



your mom was very honest. You know, she's, there's one instant in the book where she says that, you know, Tina, her name was quite rude to us.



And she talks about the film stars and all of these interesting facts as well. So that's what I wanted to comment on. Yeah, yeah. No. And it's brilliant to come into the film, industry and all of that. MANISH you know, like, because you just spoke about how difficult it was for you to just step out of the quarter like, like, literally when people would just, you know, you would not understand what's happening in the world. But what I find really, really inspiring is, you know, despite that you've actually made it outside the quota in this world because we do know you've had a very illustrious career, right? You know, from having different jobs, like being an admin staff at Oberoi to being a car wax polish salesman to work call center employee, right. And now you're a screenwriter with Rachel is entertainment. So I really am very curious to know, sort of, like, how did you bridge that gap from being so scared to even step out of the quota to actually making it in the world and doing what you like? Because you love writing? Right? And now you're a writer you write as a as your day job? So how did that happen? Michelle, very good. Research, you've done



every single detail about my history.



I mean, I must applaud you for that, and bringing it up. Thank you so much. Yes, I did make it out of that world. I did make it in the health space. But I, I went through the I went into the health space through literature. So when I was in boarding school, and when I was



I was I wasn't a minute boy, and a lonely boy. And my mother says that I didn't speak for a very long time when I for a while, I mean, till up to four or five, eight, I suppose I didn't speak. So when I went to the boarding, and since I was not an active kind, I will just sit and perhaps want to listen to music, like the patrons.



And since I couldn't mingle with the boys and play with the boys, I would spend time in the library.



So I mean, I took shelter in books, but they gave the books gave me the opportunity to dream and become something. So when I went back to the Kota, I hate magazines, Archie's magazines, comics, and all of these film magazines under my mattress, and I would be reading them while my mother was performing in the other room.



So I think I found my comfort



in that. And that allowed me to go back out into the world and carve a space for myself. But it did take a while because initially, because I didn't have anybody to guide me into this literary world. I had to find my way through all jobs of like you said call center or as a salesman.



And then eventually, of course, you find your way you find your truth. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. So one thing that I was very interested in is that, you know, your mother had lots of sort of propositions and proposals from men a, there's a story about, you know, this Sheikh who wants to sort of marry her and take her to Moscow. And then she tears up the passports, but she doesn't want to be away from you. And, you know, we also see a little just a little bit about, you know, your father in her life three month con. And, you know, so I just want to know, you know, I did read the excerpt at the end of the book. So throughout the book on his ebook, I wanted to know a little bit more about your relationship with your father, or where he would be now a little more information, which I felt was a little bit missing from the book. And I came to the end of the book and read the excerpt. And again, it's very visual, you know, you describing a scene where they're having sex, for example, and you're sort of right there. So it's very sort of visceral and my hero. So tell us a little bit about, you know, your father, what is his next project? That will be about? I'm very curious to know. Sure. So. So in the in the boarding school, I mean, because all the children have a set of parents, and mine was the only flamboyant single woman sashing in and sashing out and all tissues were wondering, who is this beautiful and wild woman?



So I also wondered, why didn't I have a father? So and I went back, when I went back to the quarter, I would see my father and then, of course, she identified him as my father. And so once a year when I came back from holidays, I would insist



that my mother allowed me to go to his car Karna I suppose it's a shop where he sold 10 scraps.



Ah, so once a year, I actually would ask house help to take me to his shop and meet him. And I could go there and, and I would be very happy to see him give, like everybody else, even I have a Papa.



And he would buy me a small treat or buy me a magazine from a bookstore. And that would make me immensely happy and, and my, I would say my vacation was complete with that one, one experience of meeting him.



So this happened for a couple of years.



And then, of course, like, they fell out my mother and father. And then he stopped coming into the quarter. And



I also stopped going to see him, then I think I was kind of growing up and I kind of understanding more how the quarter works. And nobody's really your father here. Just a guest, a patron, who come visit, I entertain, and they leave. This is a woman's five. So I understood that and, and as I grew older, I also realized that he had his own family. And so we were not his first family. And so that's something also, I think tolerates because from where I studied and the kind of education and the kind of literature I was reading, I was able to understand this without asking anybody about it. I don't have a love hate relationship with him. I mean, he's, I suppose he's still alive. He's in Calcutta with his first family. And I haven't seen him in at least



20 years. I mean, I hope to go back someday to Calcutta and try and meet him. Because I'm heard his son was looking for me



in the mall law.



And I feel like maybe, because I was told that he's become Namazi. So when you become old, and you're nearing, you're nearing death, you become pious and devout and you spend all your time praying to God. So he's become Namazi, like that.



And that's the time you will, perhaps look to find your sins and ask them forgive forgiveness. So he's perhaps looking for me like that. And I hope to go and meet different shades. It's alright. You have a thumbs up sign from me saying, I'm okay with this. Please go ahead.



Wow, that's wonderful. Tell us about the excerpt at the end of the book. That's on your next project. So the



I'm going to write about my own experiences growing up in the Kota and that is just an excerpt of that one time that



this incident has stayed in my memory for the longest. That is actually, you know, super interesting, because when we reading the book, that's what we wanted to know, you know, because we were looking at the book from your mother's point of view, obviously. And the whole time, I think Michelle now discussing, you know, I want to get inside Manisha his head a little bit more, because I want to know what it was like for him. You know, there's so many layers, so definitely gonna read. Read your next book? Yes. So what happens is that, usually you, maybe you read about the experiences of a girl growing up in a quota, what happens to boy who grows up in a boat. So initially, the book was, in one part where it had, I mean, there were two,



two parts in the same book, The Last quarter sank. One part was her telling her story, and one was mine. But we decided at the last minute that we should split it. So I have only half the book written. I just have to complete it now and submit it as soon as I can. Yeah, really looking forward to that actually manage because, you know, like Tara said, this is something that has been going on in my mind, what was it like for you to grow up? You know, like you said, just now, you know, just to do with your father, you do experience certain things, and then in your own time, you do understand certain things. Right. So my question has to do with this whole world of the courthouse and the wives, right. So we do know that this world has sort of ended, right, we don't really have, at least not, you know, officially, we don't know of the virus or the virus existing as of now, you know, it did reduce by the end of the 19th century, somewhat around that time. And you know, what the



So many nuances to this craft that I actually understood through the book because your mother actually explains the differences were in certain quarters, certain providers only sing, they don't even dance, right? They're classical singers, and they would obviously consider themselves different. And the others are, you know, dancers and singers. And yet, you know, despite it being an art form, despite it, you know, having so many nuances, it has been over the years, you know, in famously been, you know, tied up to prostitution as well, right. And as your mother says, This, in the book, I do not condemn sex work, you know, because, but I've worked very hard to live my life, you know, with my head held high, perhaps the other kind of work would have not given me the same feeling right. And, and she says, You know, I had seen the girls in Sona Gachi, living in worse conditions, and us I do not want to be asleep, I do not want to, you know, be a slave to a pain for some madam or, you know, whatever, I had my own space, I had my own agency, and this is something that I really liked. So I am very curious to know, growing up, was this difference very apparent to you? Or did you really know the difference between these different worlds? Or what was it like?



Yes, Michelle, I thought of had an idea, because once in a while, we will travel from the courthouse of Bob Lazar, and go visit



a friend in a mother's friend in Sona Gottschee. And I would see those lanes and, and those women in those, I don't know, like caged windows, and those



new red lights. And I would wonder this is very different from our side of the business, where it's slightly more open, and the air is fresher, and, and I suppose there's more scent in the air.



And here, it was just a sense of suffocation that I've been feeling so not patchy. And there was a sort of hushed way for us to walk or talk around in these places.



And I didn't feel free there. So I always wondered key if the girls were really free here the way they were in the courthouse.



So and So I understood that. Because you know, what happens in the courthouse is also there are a lot of patrons who are very,



they patrons who are very physical with the girls, they want to touch them, kiss them, you know, reach out, and girls know how to draw the boundary.



So and so I knew that this also can extend into sex work. But it depends on this girl who's sort of maintaining that boundary. So I knew that so I could differentiate between sex work and the work of the courtesan in the quota from a very early stage. Yeah, I think I think that is something that that is apparent. And I didn't, I didn't really realize that until, you know, told me about the stark difference, you know, between between both of these areas. And yeah, I think as children, like, the experience comes first, and then the understanding



comes later. Right. So what I what I'm also very curious about is, you know, this whole world is something that we have captured on screen in books, you know, it is this never ending curiosity that we have about this. Right. So we have also seen a lot of films covering the underworld, you know, this dawns, and that is something that is mentioned in the book as well. So there is a terrorist attack. That's also mentioned. And so I'm really curious to understand how do you envision this book or your mother's story on screen? MANISH is there is that and you are also a screenwriter? So is this something that you had in mind while you were writing it? And is it possible that we will see it as a web series or as a movie? Since I've written screenplays, I understand how screenplays written and since I've also written a book earlier, I understand how book is written. So I was able to write this book in the way that would make it entertaining. And have literally marriage also, of course. So also for someone it might read off as a screenplay for someone might read off as a literary account.



But you can see the visuals like you said.



And that's something obviously, I would like to see also, but I not sure if I want to write that because my job is done as the writer of the book, I would like somebody else to see it as a screenwriter to see it from their point of view and try and adapt it. Ideally, I would like to see it as a film, but if somebody is making a series, why not? Yeah, and the comparison that you know, whatever, obviously, come up is the one the gun goodbye, right. I'm sure that you know, you also sort of heard that time and time again with that more



v. And yoga obviously stood out stood out in her environment as a leader. Your mother is a very feminist character, she has a very soft but commanding presence. So and you mentioned in this interview and previously as well that you didn't want to sort of position or as a martyr Vega. So what is your view on this comparison between, you know your story and go by, I think it should be a story about a woman wanting



to be



learned, educated, knowledgeable,



but not having the opportunity for herself. And so passing it down as much as she can.






so whatever she's been denied in life, she's wanting to pass it down to somebody if she can,



in some way or the other. I think that's her story, I suppose. So if she couldn't have it, she tried to make sure her siblings had it. And then later her child.



You know, for me, also, like, it must have been so difficult right? Writing this book, because there's so many sort of unsavory elements so much. The see the violence, you know, you see,



you know what Mr. Khan tries to separate you as a baby from your mother.



We see, you know, men stalking your mom. So there's a lot of sort of, you know, these unsavory elements, so many difficulties in her life, as you know, a writer and as a son, you know, how did you sort of when you were writing in muscle, very emotional experience? So how did you sort of deal with that, you know, in your writing process?



The other The thing is, she was telling me all of this, with the smile and laughter.



So when I was recording her, yes, there were some moments where



I was choking with emotions, but she wasn't. And I was feeling the need to stop recording her and take a moment. There was one incident where both of us were just weeping silently, but she was talking and I was just listening.



Yes, there were instances,



when she told me about my father doing all these things, trying to separate and asking for ransom. These are things I didn't know.



And these are things that she perhaps protected me from as a child or when I was growing up. And it's only now that she felt the need to tell me knowing that I would understand it, and not hold it against him.



So yes, there were lots of parts that



I was furious about what I understood why she had held on. And






I mean, it was yes, it was difficult. Some bits were quite difficult to write the things that happened to her sister, her cousin, sister,



those were horrible, tragic things that happened.



I mean,



but I have to put my emotions aside and write what she wanted to say.



Because, for me, it's important that she is has always wanted an education. But since she did get it, it's through her story that she's passing on the story saying, I hope it educates somebody.



Yeah. And you know, though, I will say the hook of the book, right is the title for me, right? The last court is on because we have come across stories of quarters nuns of the wives in different forms, write historical fiction in different formats, all of that. But what drew me to this book is the fact that she was the last court is on and to give context to our listeners. So there was a bomb blast in the quarter at that point, and that literally destroyed the quarter, right? There was nothing left. A lot of people died, unfortunately. So what happened was her world was destroyed. It was shattered the kind of world that she knew that held refuges gave her comfort, all of that, and that's when she left been googly. And if I wanted to read further I was I was just heartbroken and disappointed that the book ended there because I feel I feel you know, the transition that you that you talk about very briefly, right. You do mention very briefly that it was a point where she's not in the courtroom anymore, and she sort of tries to do this different life, but then it ends there. So I want to know why did it end there and what exactly happened? What was the most difficult thing for her to adapt? Right? Like you said, it was a paradise for y'all Dakota in a way so when she stepped out, was it hell for her or what was an adaptation like



I'm sure it was easy for her because she had started living this, let's say, this double life as somebody who work in the Kota, it was like a job that she did that she would be there, and then she bought another apartment. And after she did her mantra in the quarter, she would back up and come to the other apartment, and try and live a normal life with me, when I used to come back from for my vacations. So, then there she was living with me as a mother who's like sort of cooking and, you know, looking after me, and, and there was no chaos there. So, it was a very ordinary life there. So, she was switching, she was doing this as a job and then coming back and doing that, and she had understood also that the, when I grew up, it can be difficult for me to be in the quarter, or to have friends or to be accepted in society. So she was slowly also transitioning out and she you know, and



the wife accord the sounds like, you know, professionals only till how young beautiful shades after a certain age, she will become, madame, you know, who will torment the other young girls. So I suppose she never wanted to be that person. So when it came to and and



it was perhaps just the right time, also, yes. So it all just sort of came together. And, you know, you mentioned that there's so many parts of the whole story that you had never heard, right, that especially about your father and things, and then so many things that you came to understand only later, through books,



and through introspection, but I want to know, you know, this just again, so much. So many layers, so many details, what a rich life, you know, I want to know what is according to you, the part or the story of hers that has moved you the most



know, when she was talking to me about the jewelry violence, she meets in Vegas form and he comes to the station to give her a box of bangles with her name recount. And she's so moved by this



young innocent man who's completely besotted with her. And she can sort of feel the first flush of love, but she doesn't quite understand that this is what it is. And that could have been that moment where her life could have taken any turn, she could have just gone with the Choti Viola and lived a happy life, married to a man who's in love with her.



But even then, she was still young, she could see that it wouldn't be as rosy as love is what we make it out to be.



And she held on to her instinct that maybe I can do better than this for myself.



So her whole life she's always trying to be the best version of herself. And



and that instinct that she has for the right thing. It's something that I find like so commendable because I saw so many other of quality funds into quartiles.



Eventually rot and disappear



and fade away



with whether it was in alcohol or whether it's just running after the wrong men or whether ruining their lives over their own daughters.



And I saw that she



had this very natural survival instinct to overcome everything. Yeah, and for me that Judy avala scene was also very, like, it was like this Bollywood, romantic kind of things. And via light it was there was a hint that it was not really sexual. Right. As she mentioned, he was a very nice person. He just he respected her and sort of gifted her this thing. And it was it was very beautiful, I think because it was brief. And and as you said, I think your mother's and in today's language, we call it red flags. Your mom was very good at good at picking on red flags. And what I loved throughout was she fought for her independence, right? Because a lot of men did try to woo her in a way and it's sort of like, you know, it's like a trophy, like, you know, I want to get her but she stood her ground, which is what I found fascinating and I know for all our listeners, Manisha, you want to know this world better, right? Because we do know there are a lot of movies out there. But would you have any book recommendations for avid book readers of avid, you know, bookworms, who want to know about this world? So it could be fiction. It could be nonfiction. Do you have any recommendations? Michelle, there aren't enough books.



But the most recent that I read was somebody once Tobias Nama



and also of course, then you go back to



Bruce was Umrao. Jaan atta. These are the two books that come to my mind about this world. I don't know if many have written there are some books in Hindi. But I haven't got to it as yet. So



I will do my own work.



And what do you like to read? Generally? I know you said you don't like reading biographies and memoirs, but what else do you actually



I read a lot of fiction. In fact, today, I finished reading Bombay ball Chow by Jane ball, this lovely, lovely book about



I mean, a culture that



I don't know much about in Bombay itself.



And then I just read, I in fact, put up a post placing, I read this other book called the Bangalore detectives clerk.



She's also an I mean, there's a woman in the 1920s, who goes about spying and assaulting a modern history in Banglore.



I quite enjoyed that as well.



So it



is nice. I like that these books are Indian fiction. And they are they're like recent, yummy contemporary ones. Because even we read a lot of contemporary fiction. And we've interviewed Jane Borges for Bombay, Bill Chow as well. You know, for season. Yeah, it was lovely.



So now, before we go to a fun quiz, I just wanted to also Michelle asked you because, again, like, I can't hang on, hang on, hang on, is there a hamper for this quiz?



Fortunately, we have not reached current Johannes level, as of.



But I wanted to ask you, you know, which incident in the book, you know, moved you the most? Okay, so, honestly, it was it was the it was two points. I mean, two scenes. One was when money's got his name, you know, and we make such a big deal about people about kids getting names and and that scene was so full of the tension, you know, because of Mother poor thing she was, she was under so much stress. She just wanted him to get admission in this awesome College, school. And, you know, when they're asking, what's his name, what's his name for she says, are no garganey Who's the, you know, uncle, but then she changes it. And it's a random name, which is managed care card and your ID stays.



And we are speaking to him, and it's, you know, got him so much fame. So that was that was the first incident that that really moved me another incident was honestly when, you know, the Mad Cow know, the father hated the child for ransom. And, and when he tried to separate him from the mother, I just, I couldn't read further. You know, I actually had to pause I had to take a break, do something else and get back because it just it was very difficult for me to imagine that that someone can do something so brutal, right? I mean, already her life is. So it's full of hurdles. Right? And why would you just add to this instead of making it better when you had the opportunity to make it better? So yeah, I think for me, that was one of the most moving scenes. What about you?



I also agree, I read the Manish Kai quad. Naming really, really stood out to me your name when he had no idea that, you know, that was the history. And I really liked when you know, the struggle that you had to find caregivers for you, right, because you had a show who is to take you to film screenings, and then he would just get so engrossed in the film that he would forget about you, right when the mom is working, who's going to actually sort of, you know, take care of you when you're small. And then she hired a domestic help, who Salim again, turned out to be a crook. So they all these characters that were also involved, you know, in her life and in your life, trying to sort of raise you. So I think, I think for us, maybe the thing that really stood out was her raising you. I think that's a theme that stood out for both of us. And I just can't leave to read your next book. So may or may I ask both of you, I hope both of you






Because a lot of readers are coming back and telling me I cried, I cried, I cried. I was like, Okay, I think that's a good sign if they are crying because we have a hit. It was I usually don't cry much at all. And it's very difficult. It's very difficult to make any cry with with with your writing. I feel like I mean, it's even for me, I've been a reader, a lifelong reader. There are very few books that have moved me to the point where I've sort of got teary eyed so and because I'm asking you this only because I not just women, but even men have come around and told me how to write they got and they had to stop reading



And then to like, like, Michelle said, like, take a break to something else, then come back. So, I mean, I think we've made this experience for a lot of readers. Personal.



Yeah, they feel something, they feel something. And that's something so hard to achieve. But thank God we, I mean, I think it's just because of the honesty of the story that we've been able to do that. Yes, and totally. And I think another craft decision that you took, because the third person didn't work, and you went with a mother's voice. I think for me, the mother's voice is something, you know, sort of like reliving those scenes and admitting that or confessing that to your own son was something that really stood out to me.



And yes, and definitely crying is a compliment for



you, you know, you have done you've done a great job. So, so yeah, we cry a lot when we watch movies. I mean, I, I don't know if y'all cry, but I cry a lot when I watch movies very easily. And that's very embarrassing for my strange.



Yeah, but books is definitely yes, you're right. It is definitely more difficult with books. Yeah, man, I think yeah, I mean, it was just so emotional, because I felt it was truthful. And it was very raw, which I really, really liked. You know, I didn't feel that sort of it was unauthentic at any point in the narrative, which is what made it stand out so much. But yeah, you know, I wish that we could continue talking about the book and you can tell us so many more anecdotes and just sort of you know, immerse ourselves you know, in your stories, much mom but we are almost at the end of the interview. So now we have our quiz down which Michelle is actually his master so she has taken ahead. So this is a fun quiz that we do with all of our guests when each so I'll be giving you some options. You have to pick one from it. Okay. One Bollywood song that your mother loved. A AP Jessa koi b two very Sartre HIQA Munna si vocab la hum Seneca Vidya chunky. Oh, nice. Okay. One feature of your mother's that you have inherited a her smile, be her complexion. See her attitude.






instinct for the right thing.



Oh, I liked that your options are on out of water.



Okay, one film star that your mother adored a Marguerite B. Three Debbie C. Shabana Azmi Helen. Oh, yes. I remember this line. Yeah. Where she's anticipating, you know, Helen, sort of coming to Congress house. Okay, great. So this brings us to the last round of the interview, which is called the rapid fire round. Okay. Unfortunately, there's no handful.



But you will have to be rapid with the answers. Okay. One word to describe the world of the courthouse.






One word your mother loves to use while addressing you.






Nice. Okay. One destination that you have traveled to with your mother.



As you may have a lot



your mother's favorite dish.






Okay. All right, one song from the playlist that you have made on Spotify for the book that you listen to on loop.



I can listen to chop the luck.



It's beautiful. Where do you write?



In my bedroom?






So this brings us to the end of a fabulous interview. It was like a movie for me like reliving the book. Like I just wanted another reason to read the book. And this is a way to do that. And I learned so much more about your mother and your process of writing. So thank you so much for being so generous with with all of the memories with everything, no matter how difficult it was. You've been very honest. So thank you. Thank you so much. Thank you, Tara. Thank you, Michelle. I had a great time talking to the two of you was really wonderful. I mean, it's such a nice chat. It felt very, very casual and not like an interrogation.



So here we are, where the end of yet another journey into the many worlds of Books and Beyond with bound. I'm Tara Karneval. I'm Michelle D'costa. And this podcast is created by bout a company that helps you grow through stories. Find us at sound 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 take into the lives and minds of some truly brilliant author



Tell us from India and South Asia and don't forget to keep your love for stories alive for Books and Beyond