The first time I heard about Tanushree Podder was when I was working with Rupa Publication, as they had published her book ‘Nurjahan’s Daughter’. I read it and loved it. She is a prolific writer and since then I have been following her body of work and wanted to feature her on our website. Thank you Ma’am for agreeing to do this interview with us!
About Tanushree Podder: After eight years in the corporate sector, Tanushree quit the rat race to wield her pen and found her calling. A well-known travel writer and novelist, she is passionate about travelling and writing. She has written six successful novels, a dozen best-selling nonfiction titles and over 500 travel tales. Her last book is ‘Decoding the Feronia Files’.
How did the idea of ‘Decoding the Feronia Files’ come? It seems very realistic. Is there really such experiments going on?
Over the last two decades, climate, all over the world, has undergone substantial change. Not all of it is due to global warming. I stumbled upon a report, which pointed towards weather modification experiments being carried out by some countries. This piqued my interest and I continued researching. What I discovered was enough to set me thinking, and the idea was born.
As for the experiments, it is quite apparent that they are still being conducted in a covert manner.
You have a co-author for this book. Which parts did you write?
It was a combined effort. Research was a very big part of the book. Once we had the facts, the plot was chalked out and sequenced. While I am a right brained person, Ajoy is left brained. My strength lies in visualising and writing, and his in researching and editing. In a joint effort, it is very important to know each other’s strength and employ it for optimum result.
Now let’s talk about your book ‘A Closetful of Skeletons’. It’s a thriller a crime story; tell us what makes hill stations such an attractive location for whodunit tales?
The mention of a hill station conjures the visuals of misty mornings, winding alleys and deep forests. Over a period of time, Bollywood crime movies reinforced those images in the mind. The readers can easily visualise the scenes when described by a writer. That is the reason you find many crime stories set in hill stations.
Was the character of Ramola based on someone or she is totally fictitious?
Although Ramola is a figment of imagination, many of her traits can be identified with film stars. The existence of casting couch and exploitation by those in power has been reiterated by several actors.
Have you based the character of Munmun Menon on someone you know in your novel 'Solo in Singapore'? Why Singapore?
The character of Munmum Menon is not based on anyone I know. It is purely fictional. I wanted to set major part of the book in a foreign country. Singapore, because it is one of the most popular destinations for Indians. I knew a lot about that country and its people because my daughter had lived there for eight long years. As a result, I had spent considerable time at Singapore.
What made you write ‘Boots Belts Berets’? The fact that you are an army wife? Or you wanted to tell non-faujis about NDA?
The tales told by my husband over a period of time aroused my curiosity. He was nostalgic about his days in the NDA. I thought of writing a book so he could revisit those incidents. At the same time, I was aware that the civilians knew nothing about the hardship teenaged boys went through. The book also highlights the camaraderie and die-hard spirit of the cadets. At the time of writing the book I had no idea it would become such a big hit.
There is a quote in the book “It’s one of the nature’s ironies, when you can’t get away, you want to; and when they let you go, you just don’t want to anymore”. Tell us more about it.
It is a true irony. Initially, the arduous training causes some cadets to think of quitting. The training is especially tough for the boys, who have had no exposure to the demanding regimen. This is where camaraderie comes into picture. There’s always someone to pull one out of the morass. However, once the training is over, they are so much in love with the institution that they just can’t think of leaving it.
Your next book on army is ‘On the Double’ this time you write on IMA. What is the difference between NDA and IMA?
I wrote On the Double one the request of readers. I had been called to IMA to speak about Boots Belts Berets. It was while signing books that I was asked repeatedly about the possibility of another book set in the IMA. Till then, I hadn’t thought of writing a sequel. I couldn’t ignore the request of the cadets, and On the Double was born.
The training in NDA is a joint services academy with cadets training for Army, Navy and the Air Force, while IMA carries out advance training of cadets exclusively for the army.
Which of the books on the army got a better response?
Both the books have received a thumping response. While both are about training, the stories are very different. The readers are so much in love with the characters that they can’t help picking up the next one in the series. Incidentally, the third one is scheduled to be released by mid-2019. Titled No Margin for Error, it begins where On the Double ends and is about a newly commissioned officer.
For your historical novel ‘Nurjahan’s Daughter’ how much research did you do for it? How did you get to know about Laadli?
The book required careful and extensive research as well as imagination to execute such a project. One can’t afford to go wrong with dates, sequences, and descriptions while writing historical fiction. Initially, I had decided to write a book on Nurjahan. However, as I researched further, the character of Laadli, Nurjahan’s reclusive daughter, caught my imagination. Very little has been written about the girl, so it was a challenge to develop her character.
Is it true that Nurjahan who ignored her daughter Laadli for her ambition was the only company for her when she lost power after Jahengir's demise?
That is true. The relationship between mother and daughter can withstand many storms. With the passing of years, the bonds of love grew tighter between Nurjahan and Laadli. Once the trappings of wealth, power and ambition had been removed, Nurjahan grew closer to Laadli. After Shahjahan sat on the throne, the two of them lived at Lahore. The daughter, despite all the wrongs done to her, remained devoted to her mother till the end.
Tell us how did you get the idea of writing your book ‘Escape from Harem’? It’s a fictitious tale set during the golden era of the Mughals right?
It happened by chance, while I was compiling notes about the Mughal harem. I was mystified by the life of the inmates, their dreams, joys and sorrows. I decided that the protagonist of my next book would be a woman who escapes the harem and lives to tell the tale. The exhaustive research I had done for the first book helped me flesh out the details for Escape from Harem. It’s the story of Zeenat, a young girl brought to the harem to satisfy the lust of an emperor. Determined to escape from the harem, the protagonist dares to defy Jahangir and joins the camp of his mutinous son, Shahjahan. Set against a backdrop of Jahangir’s reign and Shahjahan’s revolt, the book traverses the span between circa 1610 and 1650, ending with the construction of Taj Mahal. It is the narration of events through the eyes of a concubine. Although the protagonist is fictitious, the events are based on history.
What really fascinates you about the women whether empresses or common women during the Mughal era?
It was an era of grandeur and passion. There was subterfuge and intrigue, as well. Power struggles within the harem were a common occurrence. Yet, one can’t ignore the contribution made by Mughal women to architecture and culture. They were multifaceted. For instance, Nurjahan was an expert hunter as well as a poetess. Not only did she design her clothes and set fashion trends, she also designed her father’s tomb. Interestingly, she was not born into a royal family.
Other than your novels you have written non-fiction books as well. Which is your favourite? Which one was liked by your readers the most?
I began my foray into the publishing world with non-fiction books. However, the one on ‘Happiness’ brought me lot of feedback with many readers sharing their experiences with me. Although, I have no favorites, the one that invokes strong feelings was ‘Death of a Dictator – the Story of Saddam Hussein’. This was written after the US invasion of Iraq, because I was angry about the invasion.
You have written hundreds of ‘Middles’ that entertained readers of almost all English dailies in the country for over a decade. Do you still write them? What were the topics you wrote on?
Unfortunately, I am so involved in writing books that I no longer find time to pen ‘Middles’. As for the topics, most of them were humorous ones, based on my daily observations. It is easy to spot the brighter side in all situations of life and my pieces were all about that.
About Ajoy Podder (Co-author of ‘Decoding the Feronia Files’): He is a retired Army officer who has travelled all over India and has been posted to offbeat places around the country. A qualified mountaineer, he has undertaken several mountaineering and bicycle, as well as, trekking expeditions in the mountains and valleys all across the Himalayas. Reading, writing and photography are his passions.
Bookaholicanonymous thanks Tanushree Podder for taking out time for us. We are waiting for your next book already!
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