Capital Interview – Mr Seth’s Suitable Girl

Capital Interview – Mr Seth’s Suitable Girl

The author of A Suitable Boy talks to The Delhi Walla.

[Picture by Aradhna Seth; Interview by Mayank Austen Soofi]

Fifteen years after writing that wrist-breaker, A Suitable Boy (ASB), one of the longest novels in English language, Mr Vikram Seth is all charged up about its sequel — A Suitable Girl (ASG).

In an e-mail interview with The Delhi Walla, Mr Seth, who divides his time in Delhi and United Kingdom, confessed that he is excited about the idea of a boy looking for a girl this time; rather than the opposite in ASB. The boy will be the grandson of the memorable Lata Mehra, that fussy heroine who had taken a whopping 1,488 pages and 591,552 words to find a suitable boy for herself.

Mr Seth, who has a family home in Noida, has promised Penguin UK, his publisher, that the novel will be out in the bookstores by 2013.

Mr Seth, any idea how many pages the new novel will have?

Between 10 and 10,000; I really have no idea yet.

You hit upon the idea of your earlier novel, An Equal Music, while taking a walk in Hyde Park, London. Was there any such moment for ASG?

Not exactly, but the feeling of excitement about writing it came when I realised it needn’t be set, like ASB, in the 1950s, but in the present, with Lata being a grandmother. This idea for a “jump-sequel” made it seem not a mere humdrum reaction to publishers and readers, who’ve been bugging me unsuccessfully for years, but something I myself wanted to do. But it’s taken me 17 years to discover this.

Lata Mehra was inspired from Justice Leila Seth, your mother. Who has inspired the boy’s character? What will his name be?

He’s still a foetus, Mayank. Give him a break.

Will Lata Mehra’s husband be alive in the new novel? How many characters we know in ASB will no longer be living?

Well, Cuddles, the vicious dog, will certainly have gone to the great kennel in the sky. As for the others, actuarially speaking, quite a few will have died. Will Lata be a widow? An interesting thought.

Last time it was Brahmpur. Where will this novel be set?

Brahmpur, Delhi, some other places in India, maybe even a bit of it abroad – given the changing likelihood of travel. It’s too early to say.

In ASB, the Indian Partition was the defining event. What it will be in ASG?

I’d say that even in ASB, there were other issues than the Partition — land reform, the position of women, etc. In ASG, similarly, the issues will depend on the obsessions and interests of my characters even more than my own.

What does your mother say about your new enterprise? Will the new old Lata Mehra still be based on her?

She’s pleased, as is my father. In fact, come to think of it, I’d better ask both of them whether Haresh, Lata’s husband, should be alive or not. As for your second question, life has changed Lata, but she’s still Lata; the same could be said of everyone.

You wrote ASB in Delhi. Where will ASG be written?

I’m not sure; sorry to be so tentative in my answers.

Are you sure it will be finished by 2013?

No; but don’t tell Penguin.