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Relishing the write stuff

I was a vegetarian till the age of 30. Then suddenly, I became a non-vegetarian but I found red meat difficult to digest.



Namita Gokhale sharing a light moment with the chef at Maurya Sheraton's The Pavilion restuarant in New Delhi.

HER PERSONALITY is an amalgam of sorts. She might be a colourful person but she chooses to tread the path of shadows. She might stick to the norms of the society and try to discover Shiva through her works but her novels like "Paro" defy tradition, vision blurs the distinction between the living and the dead. No wonder she can draw out similarities between wielding the pen and using the ladle.

Some fresh coconut water and the lovely view from Maurya Sheraton's The Pavilion restaurant gets authoress Namita Gokhale in the mood to talk about things the way she perceives them. "I believe cooking is similar to writing. Both involve creativity and both require patience. It is due to creativity and patience that Jatin Das is such an accomplished cook."

She, however, confesses to her limitations. "I am a decent cook but I tend to take shortcuts. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don't. Even in writing, critics say that I am in a real hurry towards the end and they are right in some cases. I don't think I am a great writer. I just write for myself. My novels are my journeys in different directions," says Gokhale, who is compared to Isabel Allende if not for the grotesqueness that is a part of her novels like "The Book of Shadows".

However, at The Pavilion, things differ. She doesn't supervise anything. May be the staff there knows the preferences of the regular guests. "I come here often but I really like the pastry shop here. I am a real sweet tooth. Other than that, I also like the offerings at Saravana Bhavan, the Golf Club, the IIC lounge and at a Japanese home," she informs.

The chatpati fish and the chapli-kababs get her back to the subject of writing. "I like to do literary stuff. Sometimes I like to do book reviews. I also love doing big profiles. However, most newspapers are no longer interested in such things," she laments. She excuses herself for a few minutes as she picks up Singaporean noodles, black mushrooms and an idli. One wonders if she is a vegetarian and she has another interesting story to tell. "I was a vegetarian till the age of 30. Then suddenly, I became a non-vegetarian but I found red meat difficult to digest. As of now I am exercising restraint to have a go at the desserts later. Besides, the idlis here are really great."


She continues from where she left. "Nowadays, the media is only interested in recycled gossip. I believe gossip should be clever, funny and brutal. It should not undermine the intellectual levels of the readers. Also, today the marginalised are aware of the rich but the rich don't know about the poor. I am not an activist but I believe serious stuff that stimulates thinking should also find place in the newspapers," says Gokhale, who has mentioned topics like acid throwing on the faces of women as a backdrop in her novels.

It is not that she proclaims her heart beats for such issues. It does so for the jelly and the caramel custard apart from the franzipan triangles in the dessert section but she believes that for literature to be good, it should be a mirror to the society.

"Social issues should take the backdrop in any plot and I am happy that right now Indian literature is really doing wonders."

As for her own works, she feels content that publishers are accepting her works, which was not true in the years that followed the release of her first novel "Paro", which was a bold attempt by many standards. Besides, she is happy that she has been able to organise writers' retreats to allow selected writers to ponder over issues.

Meanwhile, she also wants to live another life in the form of another novel. Happy writing to her or was it happy cooking?

S.M.YASIR

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