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Imtiaz Ali to release scribe's debut novel

Posted on Nov 11, 02:54PM | IBNS

About three ago, when Mumbai-based journalist Chandrima Pal was on a sabbatical and tried to scribble something that is not a news story, she found that it is music which remained constant as the theme of her efforts.

Three years on, Pal is making buzz with her debut novel "A Song for I" that her generous critics term a "ragas-to-riffs tale that weaves a melody that will linger after one turns the pages."

So when on Nov 15 critically acclaimed Bollywood filmmaker Imtiaz Ali releases the book at a Crossword bookstore in the tinsel town, Pal's own journey as a daughter of an Indian classical musician to the daily grind of journalism will come a full circle.

In conversation with the writer at the launch will be her former colleague and noted CNN IBN film critic Rajeev Masand.

Speaking to IBNS ahead of the big launch, Pal said though she had been writing short stories and flash fiction all the time she wanted to take on the challenge of something bigger, more complex.

"The story had always been inside me. But in fragments. I had tried out different approaches, structures, styles. But what remained constant was the theme of music," she said.

"I grew up in a family of musicians - amateurs, professionals and legends. We woke up to music, went to bed with music. Our house would be teeming with musicians all the time. When we studied - my cousin and I - it would be in a room adjacent to my father's music room where five people would be playing different musical instruments all the time. But it was mostly one genre - classical," she shared.

"It was much later, that I was introduced to the other genres. And with that, different philosophies, life views. A whole new world had opened up for me. And with that came conflict. The conflict between spiritual music and that which is purely sensual. Eternal versus ephemeral," said Pal.

A Song for I, a lot of which is inspired by her own growing up experience, is about Ira, a woman trying to make peace with her past and search for the self that made her invite herself into the life of Himadri, her estranged father, who is an ambitious and successful sitar player.

A Mumbai Mirror journalist now in Mumbai, Chandrima Pal herself grew up in a home in Kolkata where the maestros who defined Indian classical music were familiar faces.

Her father Pandit Barun Kumar Pal, a noted Indian classical musician who has been the force behind the Ravi Shankar Centre in New Delhi, is a disciple of the sitar maestro. Her grandfather gave Pandit Hari Prasad Chaurasia his first All India Radio gig. Her uncle toured with George Harrison and played with everyone from S D Burman to Kalyanji Anandji. New generation sitar virtuoso Niladri Kumar is her first cousin.

But nothing brings a bigger grin on her face than travelling with her guitar-playing journalist husband Sumit - deep and high in the Himalayas or in Europe, one of her favourite destinations.

Several of Pal's short stories have been published in anthologies and e-magazines but with A Song for I she makes her debut in novel writing and joins the impressive list of Indian writers in English.

Chandrima is now working on her second book, which marries her experience as a tabloid journalist with her love for the macabre.