Actor-author Diksha Basu talks about her debut novel, The Windfall, which is highly influenced by the way the Capital had an impact on her life.
Author Diksha Basu says: “It’s very important to be able to see the world with as much humour as possible.” And one gets reminded of how Mr Jha squirms at the thought of a Mercedes car delivery boy seeing him in his not-so-luxurious middle class house in East Delhi. Mr Jha is the central character of Basu’s debut novel, The Windfall, and this book explores the lives of Mr and Mrs Jha, as they shift from a middle class neighbourhood to the posh NCR suburb of the Capital, Gurgaon.
Humour subtly seeps in the narrative and pulls the reader, right from the beginning, as Delhi gets chronicled from the past to the present. “Delhi is a crucial character in my book, and as much as [any of] my human characters. This book is based on Delhi, and part of it is also influenced by upstate New York, where I also spent my childhood,” says Basu.
Beyond the themes of materialism, insecurities and personal wealth, this book is highly influenced by the impact the Capital has had on her life. “I grew up in the 1990’s in Delhi and then shifted to upstate New York in 1994 but often came back to India to spend time here, every four to six months,” says the Delhiite turned New Yorker, adding, “I have grown up in Delhi in the 90’s, when there was a visible explosion of wealth all around. It was hard not to see that. And then, I moved to America… The distance and return after a period of months, every time, made me aware of how the city was changing. I was preadolescent, so I wasn’t consciously thinking about it. But, when I went back 15-20 years later, to start writing, I realised how Delhi had changed. That really ascended itself to my subconscious.”
The contrast she creates between Delhi and Gurgaon hooks a reader. “Gurgaon is both physically and metaphorically separated from Delhi. It’s like an attempt at being a very artificially closed [kind] of space. The lanes look straight out of Desperate Housewives that makes it very interesting place for me because it’s adjacent to the bustling centre, that’s Delhi,” she adds.
Having acted in a film, A Decent Arrangement (2011), alongside veteran Shabana Azmi, the actor turned author says she was always interested in writing: “When I was acting, I was sick of waiting for decisions that were made by others. I wanted a career that was in my control.”
That’s when writing came in to satisfy her professional pangs. But, Basu admits that it isn’t an easy job. “Writing is a difficult profession — it’s slow, lonely, challenging and [a] difficult profession. Writing is so deeply isolating and lonely as you spend hours [at a stretch] at your laptop. That’s the hardest part. But it’s so nice to bring the book out to the world,” says Basu.
Her passion has got wings as her book’s copyrights have been bought by Paramount TV and Anonymous Content, to be developed into a television series and a film, which director Shonali Bose is developing into a plot at present.
And going back to the question of how important is humour in life? Basu, whose favourite authors are PG Wodehouse and Nora Ephron, says, “It’s crucial. We are losing ourselves of humour… It’s important to see the world with as much humour as possible because everything can be so horrifying.”