May 25, 2012


We recently interviewed published author Manreet Sodhi Someshwar

Short Bio:
Manreet Sodhi Someshwar trained as an engineer, graduated from the Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta, and worked in marketing, advertising and consulting. An award-winning writer (Commonwealth Broadcasting Association), and copywriter (Creative Abbey), she is a popular blogger as well.

Her debut novel, Earning the Laundry Stripes, released in 2006 to critical acclaim, with India Today calling it ‘an enjoyable tale of a sassy girl’s headlong race up the corporate ladder...’ Her second novel, The Long Walk Home, published in 2009, has garnered critical acclaim and hit several bestseller lists in India. Legendary poet-lyricist Gulzar has called it ‘a narrative of pain that knows no borders’.

She has featured at several literary festivals including the Singapore Writers Festival, the Shanghai International Literary Festival and the Man Hong Kong International Literary Festival.

Her articles have appeared in the New York Times, International Herald Tribune, South China Morning Post (Hong Kong) and several Indian publications.

The Taj Conspiracy is her third book

Book Summary of The Taj Conspiracy
Mughal scholar Mehrunisa Khosa stumbles on a conspiracy to destroy the Taj Mahal when she discovers the murder of the Taj supervisor, and the Quranic calligraph on the tomb of Queen Mumtaz altered to suggest a Hindu origin of the Taj Mahal. That urban legend had always existed. Now, though, someone was conspiring to make it come true.

In the case of the famed marble monument, all was not on the surface. A vast labyrinth ran underneath closed to visitors where Mehrunisa was trapped once. In a series of suspenseful twists and turns, the action traverses from the serene splendour of Taj Mahal to the virulent warrens of Taj Ganj, from intrigue laden corridors of Delhi to snowy Himalayan hideouts.
As a right wing Hindu party ratchets up its communal agenda and Islamic militants plot a terror attack, in the dark corners of his devious mind a behrupiya, a shape shifter, is conniving to divide the nation in two. To save the Taj Mahal, Mehrunisa must overcome a prejudiced police and battle her inner demons as she sifts the multiple strands that lead to the conspirator.  

-How did this book happen and why did you choose to write about it?
When I last visited the Taj Mahal I was shown around the monument by a guide who came highly recommended. However, he served me legends as facts and made-up stories for history. I thought the monument which is symbolic of India, both for Indians and the world, deserved a better chronicler. It was then that I resolved to write about the Taj in a format that would draw readers, hence the thriller. The book took 5 years of research and all mention of art, architecture, calligraphy and history in the book is accurate. 

-When did you take to writing?
In the year 2001. 

-Where do you usually write? What is your favourite setting to write in?
My table, with the sun and the mountain or the mist and the mountain - depending on the weather - at my back! 

-Did this story  come to you easily or did you find yourself stuck with a writer’s block sometimes?
Nothing comes easy but I don't believe in writer's block either. The idea is to sit down everyday and fight the battle with the blinking cursor. Or in the words of Clarence Buddington Kelland (replace typewriter with keyboard):  
"I get up in the morning, torture a typewriter until it screams, then stop." 

-Tell us about your life online and the sites you maintain
I have my website --,  
and I write a popular blog --

-What are your thoughts on life – The one thing that it takes to live it?
I am still working my way through it :) I guess you live and you learn. 

-How has your experience been so far in the literary world? Any highs or lows being a part of this space that you would like to share here?
That being  a writer is not an overnight thing. It takes years of dedication to become a good writer. My philosophy as a writer is best summe dup by Bahadur Shah Zafar's inimitable shayr: bahut lambi hain raahein pyaar keen, aur zindagi kum hai...

-Tell us something about your work & hobbies?
I am a full-time writer & a full-time mother though previously I would never have envisioned that product descriptor for myself. Writing was for the romantics (didn’t I know Mirza Ghalib’s life story well enough to shudder at the thought of posthumous fame and riches?) 

Besides, I was a corporate executive and motherhood, while on the agenda, was meant to add, not subsume. But Life is a tough tango partner and it taught me that a pause can be as significant as a step. Writer-mother – the two are inseparable in their omnipresence: at my writing desk, a part of me is wondering if my daughter will remember not to jump from the school steps and graze her knee; while playing with her, my fictional characters plot their next moves!

I have been writing for six years now and am happy to report that every morning the steady blinking of the cursor unnerves me – it also spurs me on. Kafka said of writing that it must 
“… serve as an axe for the frozen sea within us” – it is advice I try to remember as I engage with the world through themes that are important to me.    

A few of my healthy obsessions include Urdu poetry (having grown up on a diet of ghazals and Pakistan TV), Shakespeare, dogs and travel. At some point in my life I want to spend six month-stretches writing in places that inspire me. Imagine, being able to… gaze on endless fields of lavender in Provence, sip Chianti in the lap of Tuscan hills, stroll through white Andalucian villages, lie in the Cumbrian grass and watch daffodils sway. Wishing for too much, you would say? That too, on a writer’s meagre income! Ghalib, as always, has the answer: Hazaron khwahishen aisi ke har khwahish pe dam nikle
Thousands of desires, each worth dying for… 

-So how did it feel when you finally finished writing the book?
Relief, first, then happiness, and finally a sense of loss because what sustained me for so long is now out in the world on its own. 

-Top 3 All-time favourite books.
Always a difficult one. Some of my favourite reads are:  

-Of mice and men, John Steinbeck; 
-Who killed Palomino Molero by Mario Vargos Llosa; 
-A case of exploding mangoes by Mohammed Hanif; 
-A tale of two cities by Charles Dickens; Diwan-e-Ghalib; 
-Julius Caesar by Shakespeare

We would like to thank Author Manreet for giving us her valuable time for this interview.

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