Published: 12th May 2021
Why Deepa Agarwal's book will get you to look at life and validation differently
We speak to Deepa Agarwal, debut author of The Hangover of Choices — a story about a woman on her deathbed
Nidhi Verma is on her deathbed. She doesn't know what exactly happened, how she ended up there. All she wonders is what her life was and what could have been. It is with this baggage of regrets and what-ifs that sets the tone and intention of Deepa Agarwal's debut novel, The Hangover of Choices. The Chennai-based author takes her protagonist deep down memory lane in vivid, technicolour clarity as she rediscovers herself as the subject and audience of her own life story.
Deepa embarked on this four-and-a-half-year journey of conceptualising, writing and publishing her novel after she interacted with a lot of women from various walks of life. "Through my work on diversity, inclusion and mental health, I was able to meet women in corporate companies, nonprofits and even in jail. All these women seem to have one common peeve," says Deepa, adding, "They seem to feel that what they are and what they do isn't enough. This is essentially what leads them to seek external validation and also gives rise to negative body image issues." It was this concept that prompted Deepa to write a book.
However, Deepa didn't choose to just jot down facts and figures in her book, although she had plenty of those in her arsenal. "I decided to take the fictional route because the impact increases when a person can relate to a character they read about or see on the screen," she says. Deepa says instead of telling the reader about the issues, she wanted them to discover it for themselves through the protagonist's experience when they read the book. Eventually, she hopes that her readers can identify these issues and address them within themselves.
The book is quite short — around 150 pages — and is an easy read, written in simple language. The book is told in a first-person point of view and alternates between the past and the present. "Nidhi explores a memory and then suddenly she comes back to the present, at the hospital and wonders what happened to her," explains Deepa. "Although the narrative technique might seem complex, the language used is lucid and easy to understand," she says. Deepa took almost a year-and-a-half to write the book as she could only do so on the weekends and after her working hours on weekdays. She is the CIO at Relink, an organisation that works towards inclusivity in the society.
The Hangover of Choices was published only last month and the entire publishing process was undertaken during the pandemic. "The book talks about a person's inner stability, which determines how they react to a situation. There's so much chaos all around due to the pandemic and this book might be an interesting perspective to add during these times for people to recognise that inner stability is needed to overcome such situations," states Deepa about her intention to publish the book during these times.
Nidhi's story is based in Chennai as Deepa too was born and brought up in the city. "I identify as a Chennai girl even though my parents hail from the North of India. I have gone to school and college in Chennai and have spent most of my life in the city," says Deepa. She insists that none of the incidents in the book or any of the characters are autobiographical or based on people she knows in the city. "But readers will see some of my favourite places like Basant Nagar beach in the book," concludes Deepa.