Uma Brooke, an Englishman’s daughter brought up under the care of the Maharajah of Madurai is deeply attached to India; so she finds herself embroiled in a personal conflict when the good Maharajah is keen on her alliance with Captain Ashton Trevelyan of the British army. ‘The Mute Anklet’ is the story of this young couple in a time of political intrigue, set in an era of grand historical events in British India.
Reading and writing have always been great stress busters for me. I had a few plots that were bouncing around in my head. Because of the period it’s set in, this novel seemed like the one I’d have most fun writing. In retrospect, I may have gone slightly overboard describing the buildings, food, clothing etc. It was quite entertaining to make up a heroine with strong opinions and a hero who didn’t care about any of them. I had my shares of disasters too – I lost an earlier draft to a hard disk crash. For a while I didn’t feel like picking it up again. I wrote the book in a haphazard fashion – whenever I wanted to, on any chapter I felt like. This made it difficult to take it to the finish line.
Your book explores a historically tumultuous period in India, when Tipu Sultan was waging a ferocious battle. What made you choose this instant in time?
This story happens during an intriguing moment in Indian history before the Raj, before the Kiplingesque world view, before the idea of India and independence the way we see it today. Across the world we have events playing out in the wake of the American revolutionary war.
You see the complexity and diversity of this country jump out at you when you study this period. The novel explores identity and relationships, albeit at a superficial level, and it seemed like a good idea to set it at this time.
The Mute Anklet masterfully studies the fast changing relationship between an opinionated Uma Brooke and an aloof Captain Trevelyan. Did you have a blueprint for your characters and their development from the outset? Or did the characters grow of their accord as you wrote?
I had a blueprint. I knew at the outset I was going to make my heroine borderline headstrong and the hero an indifferent rake. I also knew at the outset, they’d change as the story progressed. However, the final version is a lot more elaborate than what I had envisioned in the beginning.
The title is intriguing. Could you tell us more about it?
I struggled quite a bit for an appropriate title. Until the book went to print I agonized about it. I must admit the title is sort of an inside joke. There is of course the epic of the anklet, ‘Chilapathikaram’ that deals with fidelity and judgment where the object – The Anklet – plays an important part. So I figured the name would suit a novel that deals with similar themes.