What is the premise of your novel A Few Good Friends?
It is a refreshing ride of friendship, love and life .The narrative follows Aadi, Srini, Ambi, TD, Miru and Kajo, in the twentieth anniversary reunion of their batch from IIM Calcutta, which provides the perfect opportunity to set aside their everyday anxieties and relive the heady days of their youth. Things begin to go awry when ex-lovers reunite, old grudges resurface and long-held secrets come tumbling out.
How important are friendships for you? Have they helped you etch out the characters?
My friendships are what inspired me to write ‘A Few Good Friends’. And I definitely think my friends have helped me grow as a writer. Also, while the characters in the story are all fictitious, the situations and problems they face are very real, and in a way, universal.The women are in a way all me; or various parts of who I am and who I wish I could have been.The one thing you realize as you grow older, is that the graph of life is not linear. There are big setbacks and there are small glories; there are giant leaps forward and there are crushing losses. Somehow, we all have to find a way to keep moving on.
You’ve done your MBA from IIM Calcutta, and then worked in the corporate sector. When and how did you first discover writing as your passion?
I’ve always enjoyed making up stories, events, characters… But when I was growing up, ‘writing novels’ was never considered an occupation or profession; it was at best a ‘hobby.’ So I started my first book entitled Piece of Cake as a hobby, while taking time off from my ‘work’ as a brand manager. I wrote Piece of Cake because I thought it would be fun to string together a story about a young woman in the workplace and share it with my friends. I didn’t know then that I would publish it, and that it would lead me down the path of becoming a full time writer, which is, thankfully, very much a profession!
Your books are viewed as “chick lit novels”, a genre that is hugely popular in contemporary times. What is your concept of a “chick lit”?
Personally, I don’t like the term ‘chick.’ I really don’t know what people mean when they refer to ‘chick’ lit. Are they talking about all books with a female lead? In that case all books with a male lead would be ‘rooster’ lit. Sounds a bit ridiculous!
What are the women in your novel like? Did you incorporate real life incidents and traits in them?
The women here — Aadi, Ambi, Miru and Kajo — are as different as chalk and cheese. Aadi is coping with a listless marriage, Ambi is making strides in her corporate career and dealing with health issues, Miru is a single parent and an independent artist wading through financial crunch, and Kajo, comfortably placed in her career, shudders at the thought of revealing her gay identity.The issues faced by these women and the men of IIM are real-life ones, but I didn’t appropriate personal stories of my friends for the book. I would never want to invade their privacy.
Which character fascinates you the most?
Among the women, Aadi fascinated me the most. She’s caught in that zone between family obligation, traditional value systems and her own needs and desires. In a way she is Minal Sharma from ‘Piece of Cake’ all grown up. That is a situation so many women of my generation, who thought we would ‘change the world’ find ourselves in, having chosen to prioritise family over career. So for Aadi I wanted to explore how that felt, feeling trapped by family obligations, and what is at stake when faced with a choice to start over.
What makes friendship an integral part of our existence?
Friends are our therapists, mirrors, cheerleaders, and our partners in crime. They make life bearable when times are tough and they make life sublime when things are good. We need our friends when we have a bad day at school, when we fall in love and need to tell someone about it, when we get dumped and need someone to cry with, when we have a horrid day at work, and when we are struggling as partners or parents to make things work. They are the ones who speak truth to reality, who tell us when we are being idiots, and when we need to buck up and get going.
About the Interviewee: Swati Kaushal is the bestselling author of four highly acclaimed novels, Piece of Cake, A Girl Like Me, Drop Dead and Lethal Spice. An alumna of Lady Shri Ram College, New Delhi and an MBA from IIM Calcutta, Swati has worked with Nestlé India Ltd and Nokia Mobile Phones, India. She lives in Connecticut with her husband, kids and a few good friends.