Writer Andaleeb Wajid chatted with Bonobology about her books, marriage and relationship nuances.
Which book on relationships (yours or any other that you have read) is your personal favourite? And why?
It’s a little tough to recall favourites from so many books I’ve read although a couple of Maeve Binchy novels were quite layered when it came to relationships. Among my own, I think my novel When She Went Away explores relationships as we see them and as they are. A mother leaves her family and goes away for whatever reason, and her daughter is determined to find out why. The answers, when she does find them, are not what she had expected. Another book that is close to my heart is the as yet unpublished Sum of all my Parts. It’s about an old lady revisiting her past with her crochet students, each of whom is connected to her in some way or the other.
How much of what you believe in relationships is reflected in your books?
Honestly, I haven’t given much thought to this. I write as the stories come to me and sometimes, I step back and I’m surprised that I’ve written it. A common thread in most of my stories is the mother-daughter relationship, a reflection of my own relationship with my mother, which has had its ups and downs, but is nevertheless the strongest relationship I have.
In your book Blinkers Off, you question stereotypes of beauty. Also, in the book My Brother’s Wedding you have written about a girl who starts blogging about her experience of looking for a girl for his brother. What are your observations about the way we choose our partners in India?
When we were looking for a bride for my brother-in-law, that’s when this idea came to me, but I let it be and didn’t write the book until another five years. Choosing a partner in India differs from community to community even within the same religious group. It’s not easy definitely.
The focus unfortunately is always on the larger picture, when a family starts looking for a prospective bride, particularly in my community. There’s no question of compatibility or anything.
People just assume that the way things have been working for the past 80 or 100 years or so will continue to work even now.
We definitely need to evolve.
What do you think are the biggest relationship challenges for a couple in urban India?
Communication. So we’re all constantly connected to the world, through Instagram and Facebook and all forms of social media, which is wonderful. But when it comes to actual communication, we seem to be losing out on the simple joys of talking with one’s partner. People find it easier to send WhatsApp messages to their spouses who are in the house at the same time, rather than confront them directly.
We all need to put our phones down and look up once in a while.
What’s the kind of relationship that you share with your husband? What have been the greatest gains from the companionship that you share?
My husband is my cousin. I’ve known him forever. When I was young, he was always this inaccessible, somewhat cooler older cousin who wouldn’t deign to talk to us little ones. Then when I was in my teens I got to know that my marriage had been planned to him. I was not expecting it, to be honest, but I preferred it to the other option, which was to marry a complete stranger. Our relationship is not perfect and we’ve had our ups and downs. But what I find most comforting about my relationship with my husband is that I know he’ll always have my back.
Is your husband a reader? Which of your books is his favourite and why?
He’s not a reader. He hasn’t read even one of my books.
Food plays a very important role in your books. You are known to be a great cook too. Was it the way to your husband’s heart?
I’m not a very good cook. I leave it to the other ladies in the family who excel at it. I do enjoy baking though, but mostly because I thought I’d get to wear an apron and look cool! Food plays an important role in my books because I enjoy writing about food. I try and include it in the story somehow or the other.
As they grow up, what is it that would you like to pass on to your sons as wisdom about relationships?
Equality most of all.