Author VINEETHA MOKKIL uses Delhi city as a fictional backdrop in her new book
The stories in “A Happy Place” are set in Delhi (except for one which is set in Kashmir). Delhi is a city seething with stories. Keep your eyes and ears open and the stories come rushing towards you. It is hard for me – as for many other writers — to resist the temptation to use the city as a fictional backdrop. Love it or curse it, it is not a place you can ignore. In “A Happy Place’, the city is as much a character as the fictional figures who populate the pages. I have lived in Delhi for a long time. But I am still surprised by it, still learning to understand it. I doubt if anyone can claim to understand it fully even if he/she has spent a lifetime here. It is a city of many realities. A sprawling metropolis made up of many ‘mini-worlds’.
For the writer in me, it holds infinite possibilities. It is not a predictable place. It cannot be contained in a single narrative or broad brushstroke. Past and present co-exist here with a nonchalance that is hard to find elsewhere. Mughal ruins and lush gardens brush shoulders with malls and multiplexes. There is chaos and calm, movement and unbridled growth, dreams that propel the city forward, dreams of making life bigger and better. The air crackles with energy. People from all over India, and abroad, live and work in Delhi. Everybody has a story to tell. Everybody tries to find ways to call the city home, but nobody can claim absolute ownership of it. It belongs to everybody, yet it belongs to no one in particular. Sometimes the city can rip your heart out with its coldness, sometimes it surprises you with its humor and warmth. Life here is a mix of contradictions. And this is fertile ground for fiction. The city’s stories seep into you without asking for permission. I think I would implode if I didn’t write them down!
The stories in this collection have been inspired by many different things: rumblings in the corridors of power (Delhi being the hotseat of political clout), rambles to gardens and forts and ruins and unexplored alleys, rumours floating in the air like smog, conversations with friends and strangers on city streets, accidental meetings, incidental partings. Each story views the ups and downs of urban life through a different lens. They trace our fascination with the future and our tricky ties to the past. If I were to sum up the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of “A Happy Place” in a line, I would say that this book is a prism through which the reader can view the many complicated realities that make up modern living.