Source : The Hindu
The media-shy member of the Bachchan family on her new book, braving criticism and why fiction is her comfort zone
Writing is a natural progression for Shweta Bachchan Nanda. Not because she is the granddaughter of Hindi poet Harivansh Rai Bachchan and Bengali writer Tarun Kumar Bhaduri, but by virtue of being shy. “Of all the art forms that my family dabbles in, writing suits my temperament the most,” she says over the phone. On the day of our conversation, she had returned to Mumbai from a vacation with her family, ready to discuss her début book, Paradise Towers , which has, in the last three months, forced the famously media-shy member of the Bachchan clan to give interviews to the press. It was only in mid-2018 that she made her Instagram account public, after launching her fashion line, MxS. But she says she is still struggling to get comfortable with all the attention. “You’re famous for being related to someone famous, so it’s not entirely yours,” she reasons.
Growing up, Nanda was a shy girl who “lived in her fantasy world”. Being driven between her bungalow and school, she silently observed residential buildings and made up stories about the people who lived in them. There was nothing in common between her rather protected life and an apartment building, which was home to people from diverse religions and communities.
For her first book, she was clear she didn’t want to delve into a life she was familiar with, or worse, write an autobiography. “There’s so much written about my family, some true, mostly not true, and I felt that it’s not something I want to add to,” she says. Instead, she chose to tap into her long-standing fascination with residential buildings and their robustness.
Keeping close watch
But there’s always a fear of inauthenticity. Nanda shares that she received feedback of stereotyping characters of different religions and regions. “But I don’t believe it’s stereotyping,” she clarifies. “It’s different quirks and eccentricities of different groups of people that I have experienced in my life.”
Be it her preoccupation with her family (“My life largely revolves around them”), her admiration of Jane Austen’s astute writings (“She takes you into her world”), her paternal grandparents’ interfaith marriage (“My daadi was a Sardarni and she married a Hindu Kayastha”) or her observation of Mumbai’s apartment names (“A two-storey building would be called Quantum Heights”), they all lend themselves to plot points in her book. She also casts an eye on domestic violence, which she passionately condemns. “It’s something that really bothers me and it [also] happens to educated people and young girls, where you are placing your relationship so far ahead of self-worth, respect and sanity,” she says, in one breath.
Why fiction rules
Even though the book has been on shelves for just a few months, she already has an idea for her next novel.
All she needs now is some time off to make notes and get cracking. It’s the empty nest syndrome, after all, that encouraged her to write Paradise Towers.
As much as she is relieved that her kids are old enough to not need her all the time, her daughter is also her biggest support during the writing process. “Families by default are very supportive,” she explains.
“They’ve enjoyed Paradise Towers and as actors, they thought it was a very visual read.” But while her family of actors are under constant scrutiny for their performance and appearance, she is more likely to be judged for her intellect and ideas as a writer. Does that make her nervous? “Extremely,” she replies promptly.
“I am as it is a very shy person, so for me to be able to have something bright and intelligent to say every time a microphone is thrust in front of me, it’s very intimidating.” Despite being part of a literary pedigree, Nanda doesn’t want to be too ambitious and plans to stick to commercial fiction.
“Of course, people will say you have come from a literary background, but the time and education it takes [to write literary fiction], I don’t know if it is within me,” she confesses.
Although, as life has taught her time again, she isn’t keeping any doors closed.