Jaishree Misra, whose A Scandalous Secret is the story of an Indian woman who gave up her new-born child for adoption when she was a student in England, feels her novel has a bit of reality invariably creeping into fiction and that makes it credible.
"While first writing the synopsis, I had not given much thought to the problems that would be faced by the other mother in the book - Laura, the Englishwoman who was the girl’s adoptive mother. It was only while I was writing the book and developing Laura’s character that I realised she was entitled to some angst as well," the writer says.
"The hurt feelings and the fear of somehow losing the love of a precious adopted child when she decides to go in search of her biological mother only became apparent while I was writing the book," Misra told PTI about the mother-daughter relationship in the book.
While studying at Oxford, naive 18-year-old Delhi girl Neha fell pregnant and made the difficult decision of giving the baby up for adoption, vowing never to contact her child again. But years later, her daughter Sonya is determined to find her biological mother.
"She kept that a secret from everyone in her life (including the man she subsequently married) but it all threatens to emerge when the child, herself now 18, comes out to India in search of her birth mother," she says.
According to Misra, a bit of reality invariably creeps into fiction and that’s what makes the work credible.
"The story emerged from a newspaper story I read about a British Labour minister called Claire Short who had a very emotional and happy reunion with her long-lost adopted son a few years ago. I was pleased to see her happy ending but couldn’t help wondering at how destructive it could have been too. It was interesting to shift that subject to the Indian context too, which brings another whole set of social issues to light," she says.
But she doesn’t think that unwed motherhood has become a common occurrence among the elite set in India though "I can’t help wondering sometimes at the number of skeletons that must be lurking in many a family cupboard".
The writer feels feminism has gradually crept into urban Indian society as more and more women enjoyed the benefits of education, careers and financial freedom.
"Besides, women are very visible in many of the top jobs, particularly politics. We do have a long way to go just yet, however, as there are still large swathes of India where these attitudes have not permeated, and I’m not talking about just our villages. Nevertheless, it’s moving hopefully in the right direction and one can’t expect such major changes to happen overnight."
Misra is now working on a part-historical, part- contemporary story which has a "much grittier feel" than her last three popular fiction books.
"It takes its inspiration from the real life story of Margaret Wheeler, a young English woman who was kidnapped by a sipahi at the time of 1857 uprising and later married him."
Her first semi-autobiographical novel Ancient Promises describes a Delhi upbringing, interspersed with idyllic holidays in Kerala. Secrets and Sins is a love story of sorts and A Scandalous Secret is her third novel.
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