DNA Sunday (Mumbai) - - BOOKS - Deep­an­jana Pal

Usu­ally, in­ter­views be­gin with a hello. This one with Anuvab Pal, the au­thor of Chaos The­ory, opened with me say­ing, “Don’t waf­fle and don’t lie.” Full dis­clo­sure: Anuvab Pal is a play­wright, a stand- up co­me­dian, a screen­writer, a nov­el­ist and my hus­band, which is why I can bark in­struc­tions to him. Which is also why he can com­pletely ig­nore said in­struc­tions.

Chaos The­ory is Pal’s fourth book but it’s also the first play he wrote, back in 2001. Eleven years and many ver­sions later, the story be­tween two In­dian pro­fes­sors whose re­la­tion­ship teeters be­tween love and friend­ship is now a novel.

In 1999, I was asked by Columbia Univer­sity’s de­part­ment of the­atre to write a 20- minute play. Ini­tially, I wrote a play about two men, one of whom leaves. That was not a ro­mance, though it could have been.

Re­place Ne­braska with Columbia and Chaos The­ory is ex­actly the same. Any­way, some­one sug­gested, what if it was a man and a woman. I said, yes.

She es­sen­tially came from my head. But it would be nice to have women like that in the world.

Im­pos­si­ble. I don’t know what you mean.

I don’t know any women in any Ivy league cam­puses.

Look, a book needs a ded­i­ca­tion, just like a car needs a brake. It doesn’t mean any­thing. Well, it does in a car. Oth­er­wise, you’d have an ac­ci­dent but here, it is what it is.

The charm of ro­mance comes from the im­pos­si­bil­ity of it. In life, you don’t have love sto­ries that end in per­fect mar­riages. That’s what in­ter­ests me about peo­ple: the petty de­ceits, the se­cret motivations. I start think­ing, “What’s really go­ing on?”, “What are her se­cret motivations?”, “What are his?” and so on. Love is not hard to ob­serve. It’s not a spy story. Love lost is dra­mat­i­cally more in­ter­est­ing to me be­cause of the in­her­ent con­flict in there.

See, writ­ers who write about love try to come up with con­flicts to keep lovers apart. For in­stance, can’t get to- gether be­cause fam­i­lies don’t want it ( Bol­ly­wood) or can’t get to­gether be­cause of World War I ( Gra­ham Greene). I’d have to come up with and use a war far bet­ter than Gra­ham Greene did. So I thought I’d give Su­nita and Mukesh a far sim­pler rea­son: they just can’t own up to them­selves to ad­mit who they are so they can’t ob­vi­ously own up to telling each other their feel­ings.

I think when one lives with a story, one changes and the story changes with them. I mean that very lit­er­ally. I was liv­ing with Chaos The­ory in New York when I first wrote it. I was a di­shev­elled writer when writ­ing was cool, so two pro­fes­sors drink­ing and talk­ing about life made sense. Now, writ­ing the novel years later in Bom­bay, it is a dif­fer­ent world. Those things don’t mat­ter here. This is a glitzy world of par­ties and pop and bling, and within this world, the charm and cool of that world I re­mem­ber is of­ten for­got­ten. I had to find Su­nita and Mukesh again, which was hard sit­ting in Ban­dra in 2011.

I think as you get older, so must they and you tend to be less flip­pant and glib. I think by turn­ing it into a novel, that glib­ness and that sort of rid­ing out life with ca­sual wit got re­placed with a lit­tle more re­al­ism. The hard­est part was fig­ur­ing out who is telling us this story and why.

I al­ways hear them in my head, per­form­ing it. I have no other way to write. Mukesh is a com­bi­na­tion of Naseerud­din Shah, Roshan Seth, Jeremy Irons… it’s really an odd face that shows up in my head.

A Kate Winslet/ Sharmila Tagore… thing. Chaos The­ory, ( Pan Macmil­lan), Rs499

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