Friday, November 15, 2013

An Interview & a Dialogue on the Redundancy of Marriage

I had given this interview some time back when my second book Mistakes Like Love And Sex was releasing. Recently the conversation came up again when someone new to my Losing My Virginity And Other Dumb Ideas group shared his views on it. I have written this below the interview. And my response to it as well.
BOTH HER books 'Losing my Virginity and Other Dumb Ideas' as well as 'Mistakes like love and Sex,' published by Penguin, have been huge successes among the Indian audience.

You have been named as the 'Carrie Bradshaw on the block' by Cosmopolitan. How do you feel about it?

Madhuri Banerjee: I love being called Carrie Bradshaw. I loved every episode of 'Sex And The City,' and I am greatly influenced by the strong, powerful, independent women it depicts. Carrie is fun, sassy, striking and remarkable. If that’s how my writing is portrayed then I am over the moon with that compliment!

Mills and Boons India has signed you for a book. How did that happen?

Madhuri Banerjee: I am writing a Harlequin Romance kind of book with Rupa Publications. They saw that I enjoy writing love stories and approached me to write the book.

Do you think erotic novels are well received in our country? Or is there a double standard with people wanting to read erotica but at the same time they do not want to divulge that they read these books?

Madhuri Banerjee: Erotica novels in India still need to be openly accepted. People will not buy and read it in a train. Even book covers that are a little risqué become a huge no-no for readers. So erotica writers will be labeled as the women who “think like that” rather than writers who tell a good story. There is definitely a double standard because everyone would have read '50 Shades of Grey' but they will rather say they’ve read a Kamala Das. They disconnect erotica from India. Indians are pure. We don’t indulge in sex or sexual writing!

In your latest book 'Mistakes like Love and Sex,' are you Kaveri the protagonist?

Madhuri Banerjee: Not at all. I’m more Shyamolie. But all the characters are real people with an exaggerated figment of my imagination.

You have dabbled in a lot of things such as being a producer for Zoom, assistant director for eminent directors, and writing a relationship column. Why did you turn to full-time writing?

Madhuri Banerjee: I’ve always written wherever I went. I wrote and directed many things. I was always there for script readings to change the tonality of the scenes. So writing has always been in my blood. Full-time writing came when I realized directing takes me away from my daughter too much. And since I wanted to be a hands-on mother while she was young, I started writing 100 percent instead of splitting it with directing.

You have written a relationship column. Are you the much needed agony aunt for your friends? Does the experience of giving advice to people come in handy now while writing a book?

Madhuri Banerjee: Of course. Every experience, every advice, every story leads some way into my writing. Whether it is in thoughts, scenes, character growth, climaxes, plots or dialogues. Real life is more exciting than the imaginary world. But the imaginary world gives a new perspective for real life.

In your latest book 'Mistakes like Love and Sex' a character 'Shy' says a beautiful line about love and how people interpret love their way, not leaving space for the other person's interpretation. What according to Madhuri is love?

Madhuri Banerjee: Love has no adjective. It’s not true, unconditional, pure, deep, absolute, or unwavering. It’s either there or it isn’t. And when you accept that, then you give yourself to it. And love cannot be mistaken with a relationship or a marriage. It’s a presence in your life, a part of your soul that’s happy, fulfilling, and peaceful.

While reading your book there was an undercurrent feeling that arranged marriage is not something which you feel highly about. Do you feel it is a dead institution?

Madhuri Banerjee: I know of many arranged marriages that have worked. But they all have required tremendous effort. Just like love marriages. I honestly feel that marriages will (somewhere in the distant future) be redundant. When people realize that they love each other and they want to be together, it will not require a legal system and the approval of a family to keep them together. Love requires nothing more than two individuals who believe they can work anything out. A marriage is about two families coming together. When people realize what they want, they’ll have the strength to pick the correct one.

As far as handling relationships is concerned how has India changed from yesteryears?

Madhuri Banerjee: We still see relationships defined in the old way with the man as the provider and the wife as the nurturer. And all relationships leading to marriage. With Bollywood on screen couples, everything is about “living happily ever after” and off screen, the press does not leave two people alone until they get married. So it’s not evolving. I hope that a new generation will realize that you don’t need a bond with an entire family to be complete. It’s wonderful to be in a committed relationship and figure out your own rules and not just blindly accept the society’s norms. Then have a wife as the provider and a man an equal nurturer.

Do we have among us a Kaveri, Shyamoli and Aditi, who is confident enough to lead a life on their own and get into a relationships on their on terms? Don't you feel all these characters are idealists and not so much as realists?

Madhuri Banerjee: No, they are the future of India. They live amongst us now but we don’t pay heed to them. They are not idealists. They believe in themselves. And as an author I can only create strong female characters that can be an inspiration to people as well as have an identifiable quality. Each woman today is an Aditi, Kaveri and Shyamolie put together. All you need is to find the strength deep within. And even if you falter and make mistakes, believe in yourself and carry on!

The Dialogue:
Karan Ajmani The concept of marriage was invented to establish civility of society. Imagine a world with no marriages at all. The result could be that in a live in relationship, without the commitment of marriage, people can act according to their whims and fancies. They shall act irresponsible towards bringing up a child and looking out for each other. They could simply walk out at any given time, infidelity being a reason, leaving the partner and child to fend for themselves without a sense of duty towards them. Another reason, marriage as an institution was created when the issue of whom to pass on the property title of a deceased person arose. It began when the concept of property ownership was created. Earlier land was commonly used and there were no personal boundaries of occupation by an individual. People began fighting for dominance on land resulting in divisions. I know there are bad marriages. The good ones need to be kept alive to prevent the world from entering chaos caused due to absence of responsibility towards spouse and family. We are basically nest builders and intelligent emotional beings.

Madhuri Banerjee - Can I just say I love weddings. The ceremonies, the colours, the bling, the oily food and noisy relatives. Hopes of people entering a world they will make together. The trepidation of the bride as she walks beside people she loves one last time and the groom who stands in anticipation wondering if he can live up to her dreams. Simply beautiful. Now let's get to marriage. Where those dreams are shattered because you are forced to be with each other. A committment is when you choose to be with each other every day. Some marriages are great because they make that choice everyday, every week and every year. Those people didn't need a piece of paper or a fire to tell them to stay together in any case. And people who love their children will always be there for them, even if they're not married. Responsibility doesn't come whether you're married and have a legal heir. It comes from deep in the heart where you know that child is dependent on you for time and love and you will put everything aside for him/her. A parent is one who raises a child with love, not one who has biologically given birth to it or got married. Infidelity happens in most marriages. If you truly love the person, you will be loyal irrespective of a marriage. And when it comes to property, money and jewellery, you don't need a marriage to be able to give it to the people you want. You just need a lawyer to write it out. These are not the olden times. As emotional and intelligent beings, we must move towards a progressive society where we respect, understand and love each other without the institution that binds and gags romance. We must find partners that enrich our souls, not ones who we tie down in marriage. We must find people who help with our spiritual upliftment, even if they're not there forever. WE must give to the other as much and as deeply as we can. The commitment then happens within us, without expectation. And only then it will be forever. And you will get back as well. With or without being married.

Reserved for One: A poem

We don't trust enough We don't pour out our hearts  Telling all our secrets, our fears and surrendering to each other. Comple...