Multi-award winning author K.R. Meera is out with her spell-binding new book ‘The Poison of Love.’ We spoke to her about the idea behind the book, how the story of Meera Bai has inspired the tale, her writing process, and how she created the emotional arc of her character Tulsi.

Excerpts from the interview:

What was the idea behind the book, and what was the main idea or theme you want readers to take away?

There are a number of ideas behind every book. And once the author cries out to the readers,  come on, here is the idea/ message I want you to take home,  won’t it be suicidal? As an author, all I want is to make my readers go through what I have gone through while writing,  so that they would cry my tears, laugh my happiness, bleed my wounds and burn my burns, thus become one with me. With this book, I wish to drive them insane and char them with the poison of love so that they would be transformed into better human beings.

The language used in the book is both contemporary and traditional. How difficult was it to create a mix of traditional and modern in the narrative?

In the translation, well, I should thank Ministhy for that.  But in the original, it came naturally. I was writing about a woman who chose to revolve around a man so intoxicatedly that she started spinning and whirling around like a top which has lost all control over itself, breaking down and scattering into pieces. Things which turned poisonous should have that bone chilling sourness in the narrative.

Tulsi is a woman who falls in love despite any consequences. But her marriage quickly disintegrates, Madhav isn’t the man she thought he was, and love doesn’t conquer all. What is the message to young women here, if any?

What message do you read from a bottle of poison? The message of the poison is delivered only through its consumption. The message each one gets will be different. Anyhow, please be careful when you drink it. It has killed me whenever I tried to savour it.

What are the parallels between the way Tulsi and Mirabai left their worldly responsibilities? And what are the main differences? Tulsi chooses to be Meera, not Radha. Similarly can you talk more about the parallels with the Radha story, and Tulsi’s choice to be Meera?

My dad named me Meera after the saint Meera Bai. I was always proud of my name. It thrilled me to think that the name stands for intense love and immense creativity. I had wanted to love like her, create gods out of lovers, for I could not love a lesser man. Meera Bai was poisoned by her husband and in-laws, according to one story. But she didn’t die because she was already poisoned with her imagined love.

Meera Bai walked on this earth. But Radha is just a myth, she is not there in history. Isn’t it an irony that the mythical Radha and historical Meera who were both married women went in search of Krishna, who had married another 16,008 women? He was one man who couldn’t say no to love.

In mythology, once Krishna left for Mathura, there is no reference to Radha. Her story ends there. She was just another flower which Krishna accepted for worship. But Meera is the one who transcended the confines of the body and rebelled against family, society, religion and even herself.  And, remember, Meera made herself immortal with her poetry.

What is the meaning behind what Tulsi does to her children? What relationship does she have to motherhood?

Again, it is the privilege of the readers to discover those meanings. But personally, I believe that a woman who insanely invests all her life in one man (or one idea in a broader sense), would consider her motherhood only as a part of that commitment and not as an independent entity.

Tulsi starts out being an optimistic young woman, and turns into a bereft wife, and then a minimalistic Krishna devotee. Can you tell us about your writing process and how you went about creating her transformations?

She was addicted to the poison of love. The more she drank, she lost her senses. She lost her self-confidence and self-respect and was revolving around this man whom she thought was the epitome of masculine love in her imagination. Originally titled Meerasadhu, this book followed my other brief novels, which all deal with painful love. I was in my thirties and that was the time I was intrigued with the question — what exactly is a man’s love for a woman and a woman’s love for a man. When you are tormented by answerless questions, the best way out is to write a cruel love story.

What statement does the book make on feminism and patriarchy?

You should tell me what it is. That statement would be different for each reader. But I would be happy if readers realise that whenever society manipulates a woman to think that it is a great virtue to invest all her life and her existence in one single man and sacrifice herself for his happiness, in the end it is he who is going to suffer more than her.

Also Read: Excerpt: K.R Meera’s ‘The Poison of Love’