“Erotica is divinely mystical.”
As Sreemoyee turns her limpid eyes on you, all decked up in a gorgeous green silk sari and a smile which lights up her face, it is as though a child-woman stands before you! She might be in her thirties, but there is a quality of innocence that flickers in her eyes and which one does not quite expect, especially after her ‘Sita’s Curse – the Language of Desire’ (Hachette) has earned her the soubriquet of the ‘Queen of Erotica’. Deepti Menon decides to decode the mystery that is Sreemoyee.
Did you always want to be a writer?
Growing up as an only child, I had to liven up my solitary childhood by manufacturing my own excitement. I was good at writing in school, having won numerous essay contests. I began writing poetry, which I still do. I always had the knack of observing people, and I would put things I couldn’t say to them in my writing. Thus, my sojourn with writing began, and it was a natural progression, as one thing led to another.
Who was your greatest influence when you were growing up?
I have been brought up in a culturally evolved Bengali household where everyone sings and dances! My grandmother did all this, and wrote poetry as well. She was one of the strongest influences on me, as this was my first exposure to writing, and to poetry specifically.
How does it feel to be called ‘the Queen of Erotica’?
I take it as a great responsibility. India has always had this treasure house of classical erotic literature which unfortunately has been brushed under the carpet over the decades. Today, 50 Shades of Grey seems to be the only exposure that people have to modern day erotica. I hope my book will be able to live up to the reputation of the ancient texts.
Wasn’t ‘Sita’s Curse’ initially meant to be a short story?
Yes, this was meant to be a short story that was part of an anthology on erotic literature. When I wrote the prologue, I realized that there was something bigger and more meaningful within my mind, an intense story that needed to be explored. Meera had to mean something more. So I did much research, delving into classical books on erotica, and when I finally wrote ‘Sita’s Curse’, it was akin to a spiritual awakening.
How difficult was it for you to write a book on erotica in the prevailing atmosphere of conservatism, which is so ironic, considering that India is the country where the Kamasutra originated. Was your book able to lead your readers to the spiritual level that lay alongside the physical one?
‘Sita’s Curse’ is imbued with the philosophy of eroticism. I believe that your soul can only be complete, if you are free with your body. The book goes much beyond the union of man and woman. All I tell my readers is not to go by hearsay and innuendo, but to take the trouble to read the book, and get hooked on to its story line. It is, no doubt, a physically provocative book, but I don’t see anything wrong with that. Today, sexuality is being bandied as a bad word that people want to keep under wraps.
As far as the difficulty in writing the book went, my earlier book ‘Faraway Music’ also revealed a very sensual style of writing, even though it fell under the genre of literary fiction. While writing ‘Sita’s Curse’, my language had to be descriptive and evocative, and it is not easy to sustain the pace, given that it is laden with sexual explicitness.
Is there a Meera within every woman? You have used the metaphor of water throughout the book – the Mumbai sea, the river, the rains and the floods of 2005. What is the significance of water in your book?
In classical erotica, nature has always played a vital role in deciphering the emotions of the characters. The flood, for instance, related to the flood and the onrush of feelings within Meera’s heart, when certain painful truths are unveiled. There is a Meera within every woman, but not many women have the courage to let her break loose and reveal herself.
Sreemoyee signing books at Starmark, Express Avenue, Chennai
Maharaj, one of the male characters in your book, seems to have been lifted from real life. What about the other men in Meera’s life?
Maharaj is a strong character who has many women fantasizing about him. He is a God man who is believable, as so much of exploitation goes on in our country in the name of religion. There are so many instances of social openness in the Mahabharata – Kunti’s sons born of gods, rishis and munis, the role that Veda Vyasa plays to carry on the lineage, and the like. We were never repressed in the past, but today we have regressed as a society, having turned conservative, almost puritanical.
Mohan and Yosuf are the means and never the end to Meera’s emancipation. Each man comes into her life to teach her something, and she uses her body to break free of all boundaries and to grow from strength to strength.
Moving on to other things, how do you relax? What are your hobbies? Where do your ideas spring from?
I don’t relax! (Smiling) I am forever writing, editing and promoting my books! However, I do love to travel… I am a compulsive traveler. It need not be an exotic destination, for even a trip to the nearest beach would suffice.
Where do my ideas spring from? That is a difficult question to answer. I never know from where the germ of an idea comes; maybe when I watch people, and they tell me their stories!
Do tell your readers about the books that are in the pipeline. What does the future hold for you?
Apart from ‘Sita’s Curse’, which comes under erotic literature, I have two other books that are in the pipeline. ‘Cut’ deals with the life of a Maharashtrian thespian, and the darkness of theatre from an artiste’s perspective, while “You’ve got the Wrong Girl” is a genre titled ‘lad lit’ as opposed to ‘chick lit’.
My next novel is titled ‘Rahula’. It is a political tragedy, and hence, people ask me if it is based on Rahul Gandhi. Actually it is based on Rahul, the son of Gautam Buddha. It is, at present, a work in progress, and in it, I plan to delve into the concept of homosexuality by meeting and talking to gay couples as a part of my research.
And a question that your readers would love to ask you... is there a Yosuf in your life?
No, there is no Yosuf, not even a weak Mohan, in my life. Maybe I am too creative and independent. I love being single, and I feel that it will be difficult to find a man who understands that I need to work 19 hours in a day. That is what scares me in a relationship. Will he be able to understand my work? Will he realize that I need solitude to write? Of course, I am not saying that such a man might never appear on my horizon. Hope lies eternal! (Smiling)
And that is Sreemoyee for you – erudite, frank and fiercely unapologetic about her chosen genre of writing. Her sincerity and belief in her writing shimmer through her lines, stopping readers in their tracks, as they flock around her asking open questions on sexuality and eroticism. And that sense of self-belief, maybe, is her strongest quality.