To sister, with love

Ambika Shaligram
Saturday, 1 June 2019

Anuj Tiwari, who writes ‘realistic’ stories is back with his fifth book, which is his most personal tale yet

With his fifth book, Anuj Tiwari wades into his personal territory, one which involves his parents, his sister, her estranged husband and in-laws. Of course, Give your Heart a Break is fictionalised to a certain extent, but the bare, honest truth is there for all to read. 

It’s a story of three people — Arjun, an author, his cousin Agastya and their sister Addya. Within a year of Addya’s marriage, the relation turns sour, with her husband Bali beating and abusing her. She copes as much as she can, until one day when she can’t and returns home to Agastya and her mother. She is pregnant and it’s up to Agastya, a life coach, to support her and keep her spirits up. Their story is told by Arjun at the urging of his Dimpy aunty, bestfriend-bully-motivator all rolled into one. 

The readers of Tiwari’s books were used to Arjun as the stand-in for the author, who chooses to write what is called ‘realistic’ stories. When asked who plays what in the Give your Heart... Tiwari, who is also a TedX speaker, says, “I have often told stories, incidents and episodes picked from my life, in my book. Arjun has been the protagonist and so far, those who have read my books, know that it’s me who is talking to them through Arjun. In this case, however, because of legal hurdles, Agastya, to a certain extent, characterises me.”

The book, which has been published by Rupa, was a difficult one for Tiwari to write. He says, “I have always written true stories. My first two books, Journey of Two Hearts and It Had to be You were drawn from my life. The third one, It’s Not Right, But It’s Okay was inspired by a friend’s life. This one was about my elder sister. It was difficult to write about the issues she faced in her married life, because people judge you. In real life, you can side step nosy questions about your life. But when it’s out there in a book form, it becomes more permanent somehow.”

And, yet that was the reason Tiwari decided to go ahead with writing his sister’s story, after taking her permission. “I hail from Bareilly and in North India, especially in Uttar Pradesh, people are very narrow-minded, very conservative. People still believe in dowry system and if you refuse to give into the demands, then there is harassment. I lived there for more than 20 years and then moved to Mumbai. In Mumbai, I realised it’s such a big, wide world where narrow-minded leanings don’t hold sway. But the truth of girls being harassed remains. I wanted to write about it and hopefully encourage my readers to not fall prey to these practices,” he adds. 

When asked what was his sister’s reaction to the book, Tiwari says, “I am not so communicative when it comes to expressing personal sentiments. I always struggled to find the right words to console my sister. Through Give your Heart... I have said all that I couldn’t say to her in person. I dedicate the book to her. When the book was published, she read it and said one line from the book aloud, ‘Girls are a liability’. She just said that and then nothing.”

In about 200 pages, Tiwari writes the story of abuse, friendship, brother-sister bond and sprinkling of romance. It often has advice rolled into the story on what each gesture (in the book) or thought meant. Asked if it was a way of preaching to a younger audience, the author says, “I think this story is not necessarily targeted at youngsters. My earlier books were for people in their 20s, with this one, I hope to reach out to more older readers, in their 30s and 40s. Also, I don’t think I am offering advice per se. It’s more like flashing the red light to the readers, anyone can take a wrong step. I am cautioning them against taking the wrong step.”

Tiwari admits that romance writing was never his thing, but he is working on it. He is also planning to dabble into a genre which will be again rooted in his family history and traditions.

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