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Everything in my novel is true, except the story. The locales are authentic and so are the times. Most of the minor characters are liberally drawn from life. They have been prettified, at times exaggerated, and occasionally caricatured to suit the requirements of the plot. The three major women characters – Shelly, Tashi and Sherry – who are pivotal to the narrative, are altogether fictive. Madan Swaroop, the protagonist, wears my mantle loosely. The outcome is a seamless blend of fact and fiction: a medley of memories, reveries and reflections.

When we learn the symptoms of a disease we get a sneaking suspicion that we too have them in some degree. It also happens when we hear mythical tales or read passages in history or watch contemporary events making big news. We find their echoes in our mundane lives, much like the movements of the planets mimicked at micro level by electrons in an atom. Such micro-mimicries are strewn all over the text: the legendary sixteenth-century saint Mira Bai is reincarnated in a twentieth-century household as the wife of a lecturer; the nativity of Christ is echoed in the first-born of Madan and Shelly; Monica-Clinton shenanigans find a parallel in Madan-Tashi episode; Sukh Ram Sharma's Telecom scam is reproduced in Mr Prasad's exposure; and many more.

No conflict, no drama. The conflict between human physical needs and the otherworldly concerns of spirituality provides the drama. Madan represents the sensual aspirations in life, while his wife asserts the importance of god-centric religious approach to it. Abstinence and renunciation are pitted against the existential outlook, which wants to make the most of the one and only life available to us. The posthumous fate of the hypothetical soul is least of Madan's concerns.

A global survey in 2005 concluded that 96% of humanity believes in God in some form or the other. Only 4% are non-believers, agnostics or downright atheists. Madan is the voice of this minority. Shelly, besotted with a god, represents the majority.

At one level the novel can be read as the sexual odyssey of the protagonist. Diverse facets of his intimate life come to the fore: youthful fantasies, search for conjugal highs, and dysfunctional dilemmas. We are no longer squeamish about the way we portray sex in our art forms. Or are we? I find the prudery quotient of my countrymen way up. Frequent protests over the issue by moral zealots present a gloomy scenario. What's more disconcerting is that the government and the judiciary seem too eager to accommodate them. I did not hold myself back because of this arbitrary censor. I went ahead with what I am comfortable with, trusting that the open-minded reader would enjoy the candid descriptions.

The narrator being an academic, the vocabulary is literate and the text is replete with allusions to myths, paintings, films and literature. Quotes and half-quotes abound. There are dreams and reveries galore manifesting the subconscious obsessions of the characters. Watch out for the intra-textual reverberations and the sundry motifs interweaving the narrative. The leitmotif, of course, remains the fourth monkey.

All novels aspire to entertain. The extent to which this end is achieved is the measure of their success. Creating characters, putting them in predicaments, and then devising ways to resolve the impasse, kept me thoroughly entertained as I wrote along. I hope some of it rubs off on the reader as well.

It took me three years to write and the next three years to find a publisher. The interim period was utilised to hone the text. My daughter, Meetu, and my dear wife, Pushpa, kept me in good humour as the script came back with regrets and compliments of the editors. My son, Nipun, who initiated me to the hypnotic world of computers, deserves special mention. Even with my very rudimentary knowledge of this gizmo and my awe of its near mystical ways, I know I could never have written the book without it.

There were friends who read the novel in its ms form and kept my morale up by lauding the effort and pointing out the shortcomings. Thank you Som Nath, RS Gupta, Sudhir Bose, Gulshan Taneja, Vinod Bakshi, Vijay Ranchan, Nandita Aggarwal and Jyoti Kathpalia. The ones who cheered me on from the sidelines are Jasbir, Kusum, and Makani.

Having taught literature for four decades I made my foray into writing at the age of sixty. When the preliminary version was ready it fell short of my own modest expectations. Three competent editors subsequently gave the much-needed sheen to the rough-hewn draft at different stages of its progress: Ashok Sahay, Ratika Kapur and Anjana Srivastava. The glitches that still stand out are because of my obduracy to ignore their advice.

After collecting a dismal pile of rejection slips, I am glad to have run into Mr Basant Pandey of Indialog who agreed to take up this project. I understand that an altogether new ball game gets underway after the publication. The ball will now be in the court of readers and reviewers. My fingers are crossed.


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