Habit of love
Madhusree Chatterjee 

Love and grief, motherhood, redemption and her hometown Nainital...Writer and novelist Namita Gokhale runs her readers through a roller-coaster of emotions in her first ever collection of short stories, The Habit of Love, peeling the skin off feminine dramas across centuries in a contemporary voice. "The stories speak of a woman's need to love, rather than the objects of love. Women love passionately, deeply, often angrily. Real love is not about sexual conquest, it is not a triumphant place, but a space of surrender," according to Gokhale, co-director of the Jaipur Literature Festival. "These stories have been written over a period of time. The first of them, Omens Sacred and Profane, was penned over 20 years ago. Poet and novelist Jeet Thayil asked me to submit something for an anthology he was editing. I wrote it very quickly in Kathmandu, where I was holidaying with my husband, some time between lunch and dinner!"

"Novels need structuring, planning, graphing. But short fiction requires a relentless flow and a sense of inevitability about the ending. I find it easier to write sad stories than funny ones, although a slightly macabre humour does creep into all that I write.," says Gokhale. "These narratives have been imagined in airports, scribbled on the backs of envelopes, corrected in traffic jams! I think I'll be doing more of them, carrying my tangled balls of wooly ideas and half-knitted stories around with me everywhere I go,"she said. "There is something about these very different voices and settings that hold together. They speak of the interior lives of women. They carry a note of anxiety, of regret, of time flying by and the fact that real love comes from vulnerablility," she said. "Omens is about Vatsala Vidyarthi, a lonely 'literary lady' who works in an advertising agency. Vidyarthi suspects she has been robbed by her one-night stand during an official junket to Rishikesh and returns determined to bury the hurtful incident; yet it leads her to reassess the nature of faith and trust.

In Hamsdhwani, a golden-winged swan, becomes the narrator of the tale of star-crossed lovers Nala and Damayanti. "The myth touched something in me ever since the time I had worked on the Mahabharata for young readers and encountered it hidden in the folds of the epic. IANS