Life | Secrets And Disclosures

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Secrets And Disclosures
Published: Volume 17, Issue 6, June, 2009

Jaishree Misraís novel, Secrets and Lies, scheduled for a July release, explores the strength of female friendships, the impact of memories and mysteries, triumphs and compromises...

At the recent London Book Fair in Earlís Court, Jaishree Misra created quite a stir whilst sharing the platform with fellow writer William Dalrymple, debating diaspora writing and the importance of being present in the environment to be able to write about it. Dalrympleís stance was inclined towards the necessity of experiencing the situation and then writing about it. Much to the amusement of the applauding audience, Misra disagreed with him, emphasising research, imagination and an ability to view situations objectively.

NISHA PAUL met her at Patara Thai restaurant, in London for a chat about her new book. Excerpts from the conversation....

Does Secrets and Lies reflect your life?
Itís about the wonderful affection that I have had from my girlfriends. We do not meet often and they are not all school friends though some of them are, as in the book. Living a rather frantic busy life in London, I feel my friends have brought a feeling of fun and joy to my life. I have been wanting to acknowledge that and show that the power of female friendship raises life to another level. I wanted to depict the strength of friends standing by you in a crisis and equally being there for you to share your most joyous moments, without being demanding in any way.

Why a murder mystery?
Actually, you donít need a dark secret to keep you bound to your friends; you can do that with all the fun stuff that you share together. But when writing a story, you need to have a plot and itís important to have a sense of events. The dark secret they share is a specific bond but they would have been friends despite that.

Do you think women are better at keeping secrets than men are?
Women are very good with secrets. I am not sure if I were to tell my husband something today, that he wonít go and tell his brother, a friend or his mother. But if I confide in a girlfriend I know she wonít disclose it to anyone.

How do you relate with the four characters?
All four women have something of me in them. Sam is a bit sad and introverted like I was at school even though I was head girl, dependable and a lot of people came to me with their confidences. Bubbles is my favourite character and I share a very important thing with her, about how she didnít marry the boy she loved but as you know from my first book, Ancient Promises, I later did marry him. Anita too, has a lot of me in her because she is a hard-pressed career woman. Despite requests to make her more glamorous, I wanted readers to know there are women like her, who have to pay the mortgage and her friendship with two wealthy women does not have any bearing on her life. In some ways they envy her independence and confidence. The one I have least in common with is Zeba because sheís a Bollywood film star and she is lonely even after having achieved great heights of success.

If one of them had innocently Ďdone ití, would it bind them more firmly?
That would be a huge secret to keep, for anyone. These four women actually didnít know what happened on that night in school and it takes them several years to find out. My sensibilities would tell me that if a criminal act is committed, even by my best friend, I would be advising her to do the right thing and making sure that appropriate action is taken. As a writer, it would have been very difficult for me to maintain the readerís sympathy for these four friends. Friendships often break when oneís own personal values are challenged and compromised.

Does a woman have to have an injustice done to her to break away?
Women do break the rules like one of the characters in the book, developing male characteristics along the way but usually they tend to be loyal and traditional when it comes to their attitude to love, children and families. I believe most women would not stray unless something propels them to do that. They have expectations and itís usually dependent on the way their husbands treat them and how they have responded to them within the family circle. These characters are all still a bit stuck in a time warp with their Indian roots and having grown up in India myself, I relate to women like that even though I enjoy my friends and life in London.

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