SHUNALI KHULLAR SHROFF is a Mumbai-based writer and writes regularly for publications including Conde Nast Traveller and HT Brunch. She has recently come out with the book “Love in the Time of Affluenza”, published by Bloomsbury India, which is a witty take on the lives of the Mumbai rich, and has been described as “a sparkling comedy about love, marriage and making that Valentino gown fit after motherhood”. With fabulous reviews pouring in for the book, CHIRDEEP MALHOTRA connected with the author to know more about her and her latest book.
Please tell us more about Shunali Khullar Shroff as a person.
Feels odd to describe myself. I suppose you could go with imaginative, outspoken, bookworm and a borderline introvert.
Has writing always been a part of your life? Or did you chance upon it later on and then instantly fell in love with it?
I used to keep an awful diary that my father had insisted I write when I was a kid. And my mother used to kill my joy by asking me to write essays during my holidays. Reading was my greatest pleasure and escape, and I think it was the same for most kids of my generation.
Then my first job was as a journalist with The Asian Age. I did take a long break from writing after a few years of being a features writer when I moved into the corporate world. Eventually I gave up the corporate life to manage my two kids and that is when I returned to writing with my blog, which was a decompressing exercise for me initially. I started to freelance as a writer for publications by doing columns and odd pieces for them. Then followed my first book, which was non-fiction and now this.
Can you tell us more about your book “Love in the Time of Affluenza”?
“Love in the time of Affluenza” is a story about an ostensibly happily married woman belonging to the upper crust of Bombay society, who discovers to her horror that her best friend is having an affair.
She expects the very worst and in a way wants the very worst for her but when it happens, the outcome is far from what she expected. It is also the journey of three different women, as seen from the protagonist’s eyes. Through their individual stories, the book explores the themes of marriage, fulfillment and the inescapable
quest for happiness that plagues all human beings.
This book offers a glimpse into the lives of the Mumbai rich. How did the idea of writing on such a theme come about?
It is just easier to write what you know. I happen to be exposed to the well-heeled population of Bombay. I am familiar with this world they inhabit and so it was easy for me to place my story in it.
I also feel that this world of privilege is underrepresented in Indian fiction. But ultimately the people in this world have as many stories, issues, dreams and disenchantments as people from any other section of society. All I have attempted to do is to offer a window into their lives without fawning, snobbery or making caricatures of them.
What’s the recipe to a romcom-satire?
This is hard for me to say because with this book it wasn’t a conscious effort to do that. I am naturally irreverent and as such I have more fun writing satire, my first book, was also a satirical take on parenting. With “Love in the time of Affluenza”, at the heart of it all was the story, that was key. The environment easily lent itself to a little humour and a little irony.
What are your favourite books? Can you share with our esteemed readers about the genres that you like and your favourite authors?
I loved The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford, Tender is the Night by Scott Fitzgerald, The Girls’ guide to fishing and hunting by Melissa Bank, Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys, Hotel du Lac by Anita Brookner, A Case of Exploding Mangoes, Norwegian Wood by Murakami, The Way of the White Clouds by Lama Anagarika Govinda, everything by Jane Austen and above all The catcher in the Rye. Among writers I have enjoyed reading Elena Ferrante, Sue Townsend, Dorothy Parker, Woody Allen, Edith Wharton, P.G. Wodehouse, Evelyn Waugh, A.A. Gill, Bill Bryson and Julian Barnes.
Which book are you reading presently?
I am reading “Killing Time in Delhi” by Ravi Shankar Etteth and “The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters” that I have picked up just this afternoon.
Do you have a reading schedule? We and our readers are always curious to know about what and how writers read. How much time do you normally take to finish a book?
I read very slowly and so I read a light book along with a serious book at the same time to give myself a break. I read every day before going to bed, or on audible in the car. What I have recently realised is that when I read the classics I was too young to fully appreciate the nuances. So I am now keen to read a lot of them all over again. The only problem I envisage then is that my contemporary reading will get affected.
There are many new writers and poets who are aspiring to get their work published. What would you say to them?
Write a story you would like to read. Write with your heart. Do not think about the genre, don’t think about what is popular, just write. Put your manuscript away for a few weeks before looking at it again and then, do this over and over again till you can read what you have written without cringing. Get an editor if you are not confident about doing it on your own. And then just submit. If it is good, it will find a taker.
Would you like to see a silver-screen adaptation of the book? If yes, which actors would you like to be cast in it?
I think if anybody tells you that they do not care to see their book adapted for screen, they are lying. As far as actors go, I think Kareena would make a very good Natasha and Priyanka Chopra can do the role of Trisha. Also, Anushka Sharma, Swara Bhaskar, Fawad Khan(sadly he cannot act in Indian films now) would be good for cinema.
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