Sita’s Curse: The language of desire is India’s first feminist erotica and is making waves among the readers and is breaking barriers to reach out to the topics we often chose to confine to a closed room in the darkest corners of the house and is considered a best kept secret.
Sreemoyee Piu Kundu, the lady behind the book, is flooded with appreciations for her work but more so for bringing out a discussion that has left many to open up and engage in a conversation. Travelling across the country and meeting fellow book lovers and speaking at meet ups, Sree is busy! Busy is an understatement I guess. Here is what happened when we finally caught up for Talk To Tiger as a part of our author interviews series where we catch up with famous authors and their books!
Where were you born? Tell me about your childhood, parents…
I was born and grew up in Kolkata from where I completed my post graduation, being a Gold Medalist in History from Jadavpur University. My childhood was spent in our sprawling ancestral home, in sun drenched balconies reading Tagore and Tolstoy amidst walls adorned with expressive Jamini Ray paintings. Music filled our home, always, as did fiery political discussions and there was always good Bengali food that kept us company.
What and where did you study? Any influences that inspired to write?
My schooling is from Loreto House and college (graduation and post graduation in History) from Jadavpur University. I always wrote poetry as a child – in fact words have been the biggest constant in my life. I always dreamed of being a novelist, and perhaps that was the reason I naturally gravitated towards journalism, going on to then be a National Level Editor for some of the top publications, such as TOI, Mid-day, India Today, The Asian Age and Metro Now, before taking the plunge to follow my own heart and start on Faraway Music – my debut novel that was published with Hachette last year.
What were your dreams like when you were a kid?
Well, I have always believed that dreams are our desires in daylight, so as a child and as an adult, my desires are pretty much the same – to tell stories, to look for silence in the noise, to catch emotions that often go unnoticed.
What was the thought process behind the book? It is a rare topic.
I carved Sita’s Curse from my own personal experience of seeing this Gujarati housewife, daily, on my way to work at the Times of India office in VT from Mahim where I lived some years ago. Sometimes hanging clothes on a flimsy plastic wire, feeding green chillies to a tota in a cheap wrought iron cage or running her hands over her full breasts, the Meera of my imagination almost became a daily obsession – a slow fire, as I soon started conjecturing about her life. Imagining her every single moment. The way she seemed trapped, soulless, sad, sabotaged by the simple irony of her own life. Till the floods of July 26th, 2005 of which I was also a victim, taking three days to reach home, battling a serious viral infection I contracted, being hospitalized…when I resumed work. She was no more. Sita’s Curse is my tribute to that memory. To a life unsung. A woman with the most melancholic eyes – like the color of rain. This is her story. This is her body. Her desires. The premise of the book also being – can desire be drowned? A woman’s desires.
What kind of research you had to do for the book?
My greatest and most meaningful research comes from talking to people and just watching life pass us by, as most of my characters are drawn from reality. For Sita’s Curse however, I read up on a lot of erotica, not the 50 Shades of Grey types though. I delved into our classical erotica literature, absorbing copious amounts of Kalidasa and Jayadeva’s, divinely mystical Geeta Govinda and the Tamil poet Andal. Being drawn to Vatsayana and Kamala Das in equal measure. Fired by the fierceness of Chugtai, night after night. This along with a lot of married women I interviewed – survivors of marital rape, in dead soulless marriages, barren women, or those living with sterile partners, some of whom were even paraded to Godmen, by their in-laws. I find this fulfilling – books and life. Survivors and characters.
Tell me your best experience after your book came out!
The response to Sita’s Curse, India’s first feminist erotica has been overwhelming and has thrown me much beyond guard. Some linger on. The voice of men to be particular. From a gay man coming out to me, saying there was a Meera inside every man too to a naval officer from Vizag saying that he had read out the book to his pregnant wife, as an act of rediscovering their marital mojo. Another reader wrote in from Mumbai saying how he hated his mother all his life because he saw her being thrashed by his father who even forced men into her bedroom as he sat drinking outside. Having lost his mother last year to cancer and on the anvil of being married now, Shankar wrote a mail that moved me immensely asking, ‘what if there is a Meera inside every aiyye Sree?’
This kind of sexual secularism that the book is being able to result in is an eye-opener for me and the biggest gratification.
Amazing responses and feedback. I am sure you have changed the way we look at relationships and people. Please tell me how do you prepare yourself to write. How do you beat writers block?
I never have writer’s block. I just need to be alone when I am working on a book and usually am totally cut off from the outside world. Because I am nothing but energy when I am writing, and I need to exist in a state of suspended silence.
What next? I don’t think you are resting. What are the future plans?
I am not! Starting my 5th book Rahula, a political tragedy. Not Rahul Gandhi as I am constantly asked. But the son of Buddha. 🙂
Any message, tips for aspiring authors? An author’s secret?
Follow your own inner voice. Don’t get sucked into the Best-seller rut. Be convinced about your story. And own it.
Any quote from the book that is your favourite?
‘Desire has no language, only signs…’
Go pick up Sita’s Curse: The language of desire today and discover what you never been told. Congrats Sree on the success of the book. Looking forward to Rahula!