Manjul Bajaj: Author Interview

In Search of Heer. It sounds like a tale thousands of years old but still relevant to today’s times. So we at thenotoriousreader decided to talk to the author of the book, Manjul Bajaj to know more about this book and her writing style.

Manjul Bajaj worked in the field of environment and rural development before she became a writer. She is the author of Come, Before Evening Falls and Another Man’s Wife. She has also written two books for children—Elbie’s Quest and Nargisa’s Adventures. Here is what she has to say:

Can you tell us what inspired you to be a writer?

I can’t really say what inspired me to be a writer as it just seems like writing is an intrinsic part of my nature. I have always written from as far back in time as I can remember. I remember writing limericks and poems at the age of six and receiving a lot of attention from teachers and other adults. Through my school and college years, writing was a passion and I was an active member of the editorial board every place I went. However, writing wasn’t my first career choice. I spent many years as rural development and environmental expert. And then one day I gave it up
and decided I wanted to write fiction. Some of the places I had worked in, the rural communities I had interacted with were my primary inspiration.

Please tell us more about your book.

My book In Search of Heer is a modern retelling of the much-loved love story of Heer-Ranjha from Punjab. It is an old story retold in an absolutely new and different way. Multiple characters tell the story from their perspective, including a crow, a flock of pigeons, and a goat. I believe that stories like this appeal to our emotional core and are told and retold over centuries precisely because they trigger off our deepest feelings. A new retelling like mine is important because it is written in a fresh language and with a sensibility that will appeal to today’s readers. It adds a
new narrative style to an old favourite and creates a rich reading experience.

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Can you please shed some more light on the main characters of the book?

The main characters of this novel are the lovers’ Heer and Ranjha. They are both rebels in their own way. Heer is a very beautiful and defiant daughter of the Syal chief of Jhang. Ranjha is the youngest son of a landlord from the other bank of the Chenab river. After his father’s death, he leaves his family home, preferring to travel and play the flute, rather than be cheated of his share of land by his brothers.

Why did you choose to write about this particular topic?

Mostly because both the characters of Heer and Ranjha fascinated me. They subvert gender stereotypes. She’s a fighter and probably one of the first feminists our literature gives us. He’s an early prototype of a metrosexual, liberal man. So we have an interesting combination of an alpha female and a beta male, which I found irresistible.

Will you try your hand at any other genre?

I have already written Come, Before Evening Falls – a historical novel set in 1909 and a collection of short stories called Another Man’s Wife as well as two books for children.

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When should we expect your next book? What will it be about?

As a matter of fact, I just released my next book called Locked Down in ebook format. It’s my lockdown journal written in about a hundred micro poems. It’s mostly humorous but is also brief, sharp takes on all that has happened in the world around us in the past two months.

What would you have been if not a writer?

I care deeply about environmental issues. I have worked in that sector for over 15 years before becoming a writer.

Who is your favourite author?

It’s really impossible to name one. There are so many.

How do you like to spend your free time?

Walking, gardening, being in nature.

Is there any message you would like to give to your readers?

To read is to live hundreds, even thousands of different lives, in different times, different places. It makes you thinking, feeling member of the human race. Whatever else you do in life do make the time for books. Find the type of books you like and read, read, read.

You can read more about her book In Search of Heer here.

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