Journalist Bachi Karkaria spoke about her new book ‘In Hot Blood’ at SheThePeople.TV’s Bombaywaali event held yesterday at SodaBottleOpenerWalla in Mumbai..
In conversation with Kiran Manral, author and ideas editor, SheThePeople.tv, Karkaria says that though she has lived in Mumbai a considerable part of her working life, she never became a hard core Bombaywaali. She grew up in Calcutta and says that when she first came to Bombay she used to find it shallow and pretentious.
“I was aghast when at Xavier’s I found that that the students were agitating for a swimming pool, we only agitated for Nicaragua in Calcutta!” she says.
But at the end of the day, She says that everyone from Mumbai likes to keep the idea of ‘Bombay’ as a metaphor in their minds. Bombay represents a cosmopolitan centre of free trade, free thinking and free opinions. The docks and the mills are the things that gave Bombay its character she said. In Bombay, you stood at the edge of the sea, facing westwards, and along with goods, you really did allow ideas to come into the port as well, she says.
Karkaria’s new book “In Hot Blood” is a detailed investigation into the famous Nanavati case, which went on to be perhaps the first case of its kind to see dedicated and consistent media coverage – a case that has long since become part of this city’s mythology.
“When you write, you aren’t looking at who your writing is going to antagonise. Your audience is the truth.”
She says that when she started reading more about the case, she saw that it had many layers. In the book she has tried to capture the flavour of Bombay at the time, the human story of the three characters involved, and the long shadow the case cast on jurisprudence.
“I thought all three characters needed a 21st century perspective,” she says.
Nanavati was a character who was idealised, she says. He belonged to Bombay’s most exclusive club- that of the upper class Bombay Parsis. He was also in the navy, through which he mixed with the likes of Mountbatten, and other officials. He was on a pedestal, self-elevated and otherwise, she says.
When he found out about his wife’s relationship with Sindhi businessman, Prem Ahuja, he stormed into the man’s bedroom and shot him.
The who’s who came to Nanavati’s aid, the best legal minds defended him, and he was made out to be a man of honour.
“I approached this book as a journalist with a deadline. It became a piece of investigative journalism.”
“Is it more immoral for two adults to have a consensual relationship outside marriage, or is it more immoral to march into a man’s bedroom and shoot him. There is something wrong with our sense of morality if we think it is the former,” she says.
Karkaria went through court cases, archives, dense judgements and spoke to many people who had known Nanavati, his wife Sylvia, and Prem Ahuja, while researching the book.
“I approached this book as a journalist with a deadline. It became a piece of investigative journalism,” she says.
She talks about how it is important to uncover every side of the story. “There is always another side,” she says.
At the time of the case Prem Ahuja was made out to be a promiscuous money grabbing Sindhi, Sylvia a hypnotised wife, and Nanavati an upright naval officer. Karkaria was keen to get a well rounded perspective of the main characters in this triangle, apart from the labels that had already been pasted on them by the media and public perception.
“I got irritated with the depiction of Sylvia as a hypnotised woman,” she says. In her research she found many people who spoke about what a nice man Ahuja had been.
Nanavati and Sylvia soon settled in Canada, after the incident. “Marriage is a tough piece, and it survives a lot,” she says.
“When you write, you aren’t looking at who your writing is going to antagonise. Your audience is the truth,” she says.