Published: 29th December 2017
What happened after that? The question that pushed Preeti Jaiman to write a book
Born in Odisha and currently residing in Singapore, Preeti Jaiman did not let anything get in her way of writing her debut book — and it could be one of those modern Indian favourites
Back home in Cuttack, Preeti (Mishra) Jaiman used to treat her mother to make-believe stories in exchange for head massages. And Jaiman’s ever-encouraging mother, at every twist in the story, would ask, “What happened after that?” After migrating to the US, this storyteller decided to become an author. She was further encouraged when her entry to the Atlanta Writers Club short story competition won third place.
Jaiman studied in JIET, Cuttack and then went on to pursue her Master’s from Indiana University, Bloomington and has worked as a Business and IT Analyst with various multinational companies
The story about the relationship between a granddaughter and a grandmother that she had begun to write had a unique voice amongst other books written by NRIs, felt Jaiman, because, “Not all of us are from Mumbai and Delhi and have those kind of stories to tell,” she says. She had written 30,000 words. But then her two children were born, the family moved to Singapore and basically...life happened. Until one day, when her mother called her up to ask the same question that she’d had asked countless times before — “What happened after that?” It was then that Jaiman decided to take up the story again. She not only revisited her initial work, but also rewrote it because, “it felt like a different person had written it, owing to varying maturity level and more,” she explains.
Pose please: Jaiman (left) with a reader and her book, A
“When you are a mother, everything you do becomes a challenge. Fathers can easily shut the door and write, but it isn’t the same for mothers,” 38-year-old Jaiman shares and describes how she used to write at nights after her children were asleep or she’d carry her laptop to her daughter’s ballet class and write there. Anytime and anywhere, that was her writing schedule. And what she wrote was an engaging tale about a character named Prisha, her unique school life and how the mystery behind the death of her father haunts her for life.
In Jaiman's book A, the protagonist Prisha is in her final year of college when she meets a girl who looks excatly like her. This incident leads her to believe that her father had a secret family
And what’s the name of the book? — The author decided to call it A, “as all the names of central characters begin with an A,” including the maid who had an integral role to play in the story. “Few authors have made them the focus of their novels,” she reckons, explaining how maids are an integral part of any Asian domestic household.
I had learnt Odissi as a child but eventually quit. Then I took it up again after my children were born and started learning it with them. I have now given several performances in Malaysia, Singapore and India
Preeti Jaiman, author
But this book doesn’t merely trace the story of Prisha, it even includes some important events in Indian history from 1991 to 2001 which affect the story and the characters too. This includes the Milk Miracle, where the idols of gods across the country were said to be drinking milk offerings. When Prisha tried the same and found that the idol remained indifferent, she attributed it to the effect of her father’s past.
Jaiman has been a voracious reader but she had never thought of writing. So, as a non-writer, she had to pause often and think of apt phrases and expressions for what she wanted to convey
Jaiman was always sure that the book, published by Notion Press, would resonate with many and was further convinced at the book launch, when she found that many of the children actually understood that their parents had a different kind of upbringing. Well, we’re just glad her mother’s inquisitiveness got her back on her feet.