Of infidelity and love

Kanchana Banerjee says her book is the realisation of a cherished dream

For Kanchana Banerjee, who had a two-decade long innings as a writer for various publications, PR firms and companies, writing her first book, A Forgotten Affair was a logical procession. “It is a long cherished dream,” she says as as we settle down for an interview. “Whenever I used to visit book fairs with my father, I would wonder when will my book be published!”

The journey began with a three-minute pitch to a panel of commissioning editors at the Bangalore Literature Festival. “At Lit-Mart, which was for unpublished authors, we were asked to submit a 300-word synopsis.” Twenty-five writers were selected, and Kanchana made the final cut.

As for how the idea for the book came to her, Kanchana says: “I believe the story chooses the writer. The story comes to you like a flash and then you build on it.”

A Forgotten Affair follows the life of Sagarika Mehta, or Rika, who is married to a rich man, but the marriage leaves her emotionally unsatisfied. She has an affair with a struggling writer, Akash. The Mumbai train attacks changes everything. “The protagonist’s marriage is difficult. Her husband is emotionally abusive. She tells her husband before the terrorist attacks that she is leaving him.”

Kanchana says the idea for the book is based on the premise of what would you choose if you were given the opportunity to live your life all over again. “What does Sagarika forget and what does she remember? Sagarika is like every woman. Emotional abuse is rampant in India, and it happens in affluent societies as well,” reflects Kanchana.

“Do we get what we deserve or do we get what we allow in our lives? After the terror attacks, Sagarika isn’t pliant. She confronts her husband and asks him what kind of couple were they. Relationships aren’t just about managing another person. It is about managing yourself.”

The book does not glorify extra marital affairs. There are no moral judgements attached to it. “I haven’t taken any moral stand point. And many women readers have liked that. We live in an open society, where on Facebook, women pour their hearts out.” The book has received good reviews for its powerful characters, and layered story that has an element of suspense.