PM’s daughter wins over readers at Kerala fest

By Madhusree Chatterjee, IANS,

Thiruvananthapuram : Far from the dazzle of the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony in Delhi, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s writer-daughter Daman Singh charted a different course as she interacted with a galaxy of writers, readers and the media in freewheeling chats at the Kovalam Literary Festival here Sunday.

Support TwoCircles

The writer, who arrived in rain-washed city Saturday with son Rohan and a posse of security men, said “she has not inherited her gift for words from her father”.

Daman Singh read out excerpts from her book, “The Sacred Grove”, and fielded questions from the audience at an interactive session Sunday.

“I don’t think I have inherited the gift of fiction writing from my father. He works in an intellectual ambience. My work is non-intellectual. The characters I need to create are quite different. I have to live with them,” the writer said.

She said “her father has not read her books”.

“He is not into novels and fiction. For the last 30 years, he has not enjoyed fiction,” she said.

Is she missing the excitement of the opening of the Commonwealth Games in the capital Sunday? “No, not at all,” comes the reply.

“The festival is an interesting experience. The Commonwealth Games will go on for a fortnight – I think I will watch some tennis and table tennis matches with my son after returning to Delhi. I like tennis,” she told IANS.

Daman Singh’s book, “The Sacred Grove” published by HarperCollins-India, is about a 13-year-old boy, Ashwin, who tries to understand life in a small-town city in central India where he lives with his housewife mother, a ‘memsahib in ways’ and bureaucrat father.

He befriends Rafiq, the driver, pursues cricket with passion in school and soon discovers that beneath the small town serendipity lie social prejudices and schisms. And gets unwittingly drawn into a controversy.

“My book does not talk of politics, but of prejudices that exist in every mind – including mine,” she said.

“When I wrote the book, I felt strongly about being a parent. I spent all my mental energy on how best to bring up my son, how to give him the best nutrition and how to stop him from watching television,” she said.

“I realised that I was an abiding influence on my son’s life,” she said.

Her protagonist, Ashwin, hence resonated with echoes of Rohan, her son. “Our home is an open house. Lot of kids come over and spend time with my son – I had the opportunity to observe them,” she said.

“Rohan has not read my book. I think he is not ready for it,” she said.

Singh, who stayed at the sprawling resort at Taj Kovalam for two days, divided her time between her fraternity of writers and attending to her son’s whims that included visits to the tennis court”.

She said “her book was named ‘The Sacred Grove’ because it was set in tribal India and represented the space over which her teenage hero lorded.

“The title can be interpreted in very many ways,” she said.

Daman Singh is also the author of “Nine by Nine”, a story about three friends.

(Madhusree Chatterjee can be contacted at [email protected])