A Chat about History, Books and People
Rajeshwari Chauhan, the author of Daniel’s Dairy has written a historical saga of Love, Hope, Betrayal and Loneliness. I had the chance to chat with her and get to know her, her story and characters better.
Q1) What was the Motivation behind Daniel’s Dairy?
As a child I had seen a movie in which a love story was going back and forth between the past life and the present. It left an huge impact upon me. I was so fascinated by the idea of two parallel stories set in different era, crisscrossing each-other at some points. Unknowingly I began to collect threads from whatever I read, saw, felt, endured, shared, cared or believed. I began to weave the warps and wefts of ancient glory and modern chutzpah into a logical tapestry, not the reincarnation kind. The modern characters, while reading pages of Daniel’s diary are transported four centuries back, and when they take a break, the modern story continues.
Q2) Did you find it difficult to write in this genre of historical fiction?
No, rather I enjoyed dwelling in those glorious times. Moreover, it charted a route for my unleashed horses, as I had to be within the frame in terms of dates and events. It was akinto joining the dots. I had to use my imagination between those dots and had freedom to go for a line, curve, or a wave.
Q3) Your book is a mix of narration and Dialogues. Are you more comfortable writing narration or dialogues?
When I write dialogues for a play, I have to give inspiring quote to pack a punch. The same can’t be done in a fiction because I want the dish to simmer for some time before bringing it to a boil, unlike my plays in which I serve kind of instant food. I was equally comfortable writing this narration part too.
Q4) The female characters in your book, Mirnalini, Suzan, Jodhabai and Mahamaya are four really strong and very different characters. Which one do you most Identify with and why?
Mrinalini is closer to me as I am an artist like her. I love company of children and spend my time with kids of Bubble’s age. I help them in their school projects, funfairs, plays etc. I have lot of enthusiasm and tend to put monotonous or mundane things in a ‘game frame’, like Mrinalini. When my overenthusiasm backfires, I sulk for a while and bounce back big time.
Q5) If you go back in history, which era you would like to be in and who would you like to be?
I would choose a time around 300 BC – the time of Kautilya, Chandragupta Maurya, Alexander and Selucus Nicator. I would love to be the niece of Megasthanese – the Greek ambassador in the court of Patliputra, so, when my uncle sat to write ‘Indica’, I would sit beside and write an account of the lives of people living in the royal chambers!
Q6) Is there a different approach to writing in the historical fiction genre?
Yes, while writing historical fiction, the facts have to be well researched. One must be alert about the social norms, prevailing conditions, mindsets of those times, use of items in terms whether they were invented or available. It was so put off by a popular historical fiction as in the beginning the characters were shown drinking tea in Akbar’s time! Tea was brought in India by Britishers.
Q7) Which is your favourite genre and your favourite Author?
I love reading classics and biographies. Amitav Ghosh is one of my favorite writers. I love his fiction that is layered, and every layer has hidden nuggets to relish.
Q8) Which is your favourite book?
There are many books that has left a mark upon me. ‘To kill a mocking bird’ by Harper Lee and ‘Sea of Poppies’ by Amitav Ghosh are among them.
Q9) Which fictional character do you wish you had written?
Catherine of ‘Wuthering Heights’ is one that comes to mind!
Thank you for taking the time. I wish you and your book great success.