Poet-turned-debut novelist Tishani Doshi speaks to Meena Kandasamy about writing The Pleasure Seekers, a fictionalised chronicle of her parents' love story, her blood connection with Chennai and fascination with displacement.
No, they haven’t read it yet. I have a wonderful freedom, because I don’t expect them to read it and provide feedback. If they want to, they can; if they don’t want to, they don’t have to. I think they’ll probably read it, but not at the moment. I think they are going to wait.
Why did you choose to chronicle their love story?
It was not so much a conscious decision like saying, “I am going to write this story.” It was always a story that I had. Because I am a poet primarily, I don’t think in terms of storylines so much — more in images and different ways of looking at the world — in terms of my writing.. I had been doing short stories and I thought that for a novel, what I had around me was good stuff to mine and explore. I had to make up a lot, most of it is imaginary. I didn’t have my grandparents to tell me stories, even my parents were very reticent. I had the bare bones of this story, and I went for it.
You talk of the transition from poet to novelist. How was that experience?
It was difficult, which is why it took me quite a long time to write the book. But I am very happy that I took this long. It is not easy to switch registers. I don’t know of any prose writers who have suddenly decided they want to write poetry. I think you can develop an instinct for different kinds of writing, and for me, I have always loved the novel as a form. You need to be able to contain a whole universe in your head. You need to be able to sustain it for weeks and months at a time. It requires so much stamina and continuity that are not necessary in poetry which involves little bursts of wondrous joy. There’s a lot of despair in a novel that I never feel with poetry.
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