In Himanjali Sankar’s book Mrs C Remembers, two narratives – that of  Mrs Chatterjee, the devoted wife of a successful lawyer in Kolkata and her artist daughter Sohini – albeit at times contradicting, run seamlessly parallel to each other. The protagonist of the story is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and Sankar’s mother has Alzheimer’s so she has had a first-hand experience before writing this novel.

“Writing for me is cathartic and enjoyable and I prefer to write about the thoughts and ideas that are already important to me, that I’ve spent time mulling over and understanding, before starting to write a book.”

The author says, “I do mostly write what I know – maybe that is one of the compromises of juggling a job and writing at the same time – writing for me is cathartic and enjoyable and I prefer to write about the thoughts and ideas that are already important to me, that I’ve spent time mulling over and understanding, before starting to write a book. All the books I have written have a strong autobiographical core. Perhaps one day, I will stop being lazy and step out of my comfort zone and write about something I know nothing about! But as of now, I prefer doing it this way.”

Himanjali Sarkar
Mrs C Remembers, Book Cover, PC: Amazon.in

After having written several books for children, this is Sankar’s first attempt at writing for adults. Since her writing for children tends to be more plot-driven, not so much teasing out complex ideas or thoughts as much as a narrative that moves forward constantly. And initially with this book too, she tried to rush with the narrative.

She says, “In fact, the book is possibly a little bare in terms of descriptive details and the language is functional rather than beautiful. The research was minimal – only confirming or fact checking on Google a few times.”

An editor with Bloomsbury, I asked the author why she chose to go with PanMacmillan as her publishers – “I’ve always been an editor and I like to keep my writing separate from my profession. Of course, writing is also a profession and writers need publishers, but it would have been strange to send the manuscript to myself for consideration for publishing! Jokes aside, I had discussed the book idea with the publisher at PanMacmillan and sent the initial chapters to her so I wrote for PanMac from the outset.”

Being an editor also helps her look at her own work differently. Since she is constantly in touch with literature, writing, and manuscripts it means she is already in the world of writing and books and it can only feed into her own writing in a way that is positive.

“To be able to do both, a day job and write, I think it’s common enough – maybe not for the most prolific or successful writers but for the rest it’s just a question of time management which I find easy enough to do.”

“And to be able to do both, a day job and write, I think it’s common enough – maybe not for the most prolific or successful writers but for the rest, it’s just a question of time management which I find easy enough to do. There are twenty-four hours in a day after all, how tough can it be.

Sankar partially worked on a young-adult book before she wrote Mrs C – she hopes that should be done sometime soon, “And some others in the pipeline always. It’s the pipeline that keeps me happy!”

Also Read: Excerpt on “Work-Life Balance” from Lalita Iyer’s “The Whole Shebang”

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