A few months ago, Judy Balan was a name that only a lot of avid bloggers and blog-readers were familiar of. I must admit that I wasn’t one of them. However, when I was handed a copy of Two Fates, I just spent a full five minutes digesting the fact that someone had even attempted this take on Chetan Bhagat’s 2 States. I was really interested in meeting the author ever since and I finally got my chance before her book launch in Pune. As I approached the venue, I saw her sitting demurely on a chair. Hesitantly, I said the first hello and soon enough, she had me in splits!
Obviously, I began by asking how the idea of writing Two Fates came about. With a short laugh, she said that she never planned on writing a book at all. To put it in her words, “I stumbled across the parody of Eat, Pray, Love and Googled the guy who had written it. I was surprised to find that he had already sold movie rights!” At that time, Judy was reading 2 States and she happened to be divorced. Given her love for writing, of course she thought of writing something similar herself. “I blogged about the idea as a joke but people actually got back and told me to give it a shot!”, she said. Judy started writing Two Fates as an experiment but in a span of two and a half months, she was done writing her first full-length novel.
I could observe an innate liking for Eat, Pray, Love and its author, Elizabeth Gilbert in Judy’s voice. Referring to that, I asked her about the importance of travel is a woman’s life. Has it changed Judy herself as a person?
She started off by saying that she hardly even travelled within India till a few years ago. After her divorce, she took a trip to London since her brother lives there. “Travelling to another country makes your problems look smaller. It gives you perspective about life.”, she said. Well, we couldn’t agree more either! For Judy, it surely was a liberating experience after going through a dark phase in her life.
One thing I really appreciated about her was how open she was when it came to talking about her divorce and life after that. She had no air about herself and was incredibly easy to have a conversation with. Continuing where we had left off, I asked her about what she thought of modern-day relationships. Are people maturing?
Instantly, Judy said, “I think they are regressing!” Surprised, I asked her to elaborate. “I think that you cannot have compartmentalized relationships – like friends with benefits.” She went on to say that these might be convenient solutions since we live in such a fast-paced life. She explained further with an excellent metaphor. “I often liken this to Voldemort splitting his soul into seven pieces! People go for love to someone else, sex to someone else, and social situations to someone else…” She just doesn’t see it working for a long time.
About books and reading, I asked her about what I call the ‘paperback era’. Books that are about simple, everyday affairs. She replied by saying that she has never taken to hardcore literary fiction. She doesn’t care about how “the clouds gathered over the horizon” and so on and so forth! “Cut to the chase – tell me the damn story!”, she exclaimed. She thinks that Indian writers who write about stuff like ‘the monkey king’ and other mythological beliefs appeal only to Western audiences who have this particular perception about India. Judy says she was raised in a very different, very urban setting. “I grew up listening to Guns N’ Roses and watching Doogie Howser!”
Getting to Judy’s writing, I noticed that dark humour and sarcasm are cleverly sprinkled all over the pages of her book. I asked her what role these elements play in her writing and thinking as a whole. “I think they are a part of me.”, she said. Especially after her divorce, Judy’s found herself in a lot of “aunty-uncle situations” where random advice has just kept popping up from almost everywhere! “I don’t get easily riled up. I start seeing humor in such instances at some level.”
Finally, I ask her something that I have been waiting to know about since the beginning of the interview. What the hell is ‘loola’ and why is she so fascinated with this word? She gives a loud laugh and tells me that it is actually an Irish term for ‘mental’. It’s a word she connected with almost instantly. “It even has a very nice ring to it!”, she concluded with a smile.
Photographs by Jayanta Dasgupta