This is probably the most low-profile book launch for a lady who hails from a high-profile family. But those who know Yasmeen Premji well are not in the least surprised. She is known to fiercely guard her privacy. That is now going to change with the formal launch of her debut fiction novel, Days of Gold & Sepia today. The event will take place this evening and Wipro Chairman Azim Premji’s wife will woo readers and media alike for the first time.
The art fraternity is used to seeing a simply turned out Yasmeen unobtrusively walking into exhibitions and quietly watching the proceedings. She shuns the limelight with a vengeance, has to be coaxed by shutterbugs to pose for pictures at social events. So is she prepared for the brickbats and the bouquets? “I’m not apprehensive. I’m not looking at name, fame or money. I wrote the book because I had a story to tell,” she says with a disarming smile.
The novel is based during the historically dramatic period of India’s war of Independence in 1857 and spans across 90 years as it enters the dawn of Independence in 1947. “The protagonist is a young boy Lalljee Lakha, a penniless orphan who leaves Kutch to enter Bombay in search of that elusive fame and fortune,” says Yasmeen.
The inevitable question at this juncture is to question the birth of the novel. How did it all begin? “I always knew I wanted to write. I have lived with the book for 20 years, writing it at my own pace,” she candidly confesses. Yasmeen has spent her formative and significant years in Bombay and has been exposed to a “gentle” time where the city was not the thriving, bustling metropolis that it is today. “I wanted to capture that period. I grew up listening to some extraordinary tales of some very ordinary lives. My decision to write a book came about after my father passed away two decades back,” she adds.