by Monideepa Sahu
I generally only write when I have a story pressing away inside me, driving me a little crazy. Sometimes I write when I’m puzzled or troubled by something. It’s an excellent way of working one’s way through a prickly issue, and very therapeutic!
Tell us about your most recent book or writing project. What were you trying to say or achieve with it?
I discovered the story of Margaret Wheeler years ago, when I was researching my Rani Lakshmibai book. It fascinated me to think that an 18-year-old English girl, the daughter of General Wheeler, should marry the Indian soldier who kidnapped her during the riverside Kanpur massacre of 1857, subsequently seeming quite contented to live the life of a Muslim wife and mother. My original plan had been to write another straightforward work of historical fiction in order to work out what might have happened to Margaret. But, as I started to describe her kidnap and incarceration, the Nirbhaya rape hit the headlines. Watching scenes of public outrage on TV, it seemed suddenly a bit ludicrous to be dwelling so intently on a case that took place 150 years ago when women continue to be kidnapped from our streets, gang-raped and killed. The parallel story of Tara, the Delhi schoolgirl, emerged from that depressing reminder and I ended up entwining the two stories (one tragic and the other more hopeful) in a binary, half-historical-half-contemporary narrative.