Interview With Priya Hajela, Author of “Ladies' Tailor”
on Aug 10, 2022
Priya Hajela is a fiction writer who lives in Pune with her husband and two dogs. Writing is a second career for her. She graduated with an MFA in Creative Writing from Goddard College in Vermont in 2017. Prior to taking to writing, Priya got an MBA from Vanderbilt University in 1992 and worked in a variety of telecom and IT organizations in senior marketing and business development roles for twenty-two years. One of Priya's short stories, ‘An Affair, was published in Indian Ruminations. A second short story, ‘The Tattoo Artist' was published in Live Encounters. A third short story, ‘Daughters' Revenge' recently appeared in Kitaab.
Frontlist: Working as an employee at IBM and then resigning from it to start your career as a writer. What was the primary motivation behind opting for this decision?
Priya: My decision to quit corporate life was long overdue. I had previously quit Tata Communications and gone soul searching but had not come back with writing as the next step. I had only been out of work five months when IBM came calling and I rushed right back in. I think there should come a time in people’s lives when money is no longer the primary motivator and one should look for ways to learn, challenge oneself, look on the inside and find the closed boxes that need to open up and aired. It is not an easy thing to do and most people are either unwilling, unable, or uninterested to do it. I found the will as well as the logistical support and went ahead.
Frontlist: Are you interested in writing in any other genres besides fiction?
Priya: I like telling stories, spinning something out of nothing. I sometimes write short pieces on my views on life. The book Ladies Tailor is about Gurdev, a survivor who joined a group of refugees from East Pakistan after the partition.
Frontlist: Why did you decide to write a novel with this particular plot?
Priya: I had an interest in partition because my grandparents were affected by it. I was keen to learn more about the time, the experiences, the choices, the tragedy, and the rebuilding. I was particularly interested in rebuilding. It takes a particular kind of person to start something entirely new and unfamiliar. Most people restarted the businesses they had already been running on the other side.
Frontlist: Since your story has elements like marriage, friendship, and love, can we call it a romantic novel?
Priya: Ladies’ Tailor has those elements but I wouldn’t say that it is a romantic novel because it has so much more. There is adventure and intrigue, a little suspense, a little brotherly love, and a smattering of romance.
Frontlist: Would you please provide a brief description of your book's protagonist, Gurdev? Has a real-life person influenced the character?
Priya: Gurdev is a tall, handsome Sardar who is mostly a good guy but believes he knows everything. He is dismissive of his wife and even his business partners at first. He learns life’s lessons the hard way, first from his wife and later from Noor. His acknowledgment of Jagat as a level-headed young man is part of Gurdev’s transformation.
A single real-life person has not influenced the character. Gurdev is a combination of several people, that I’ve known over the years. My grandfather was strong and silent. He loved food just like Gurdev but he was not an adventurer or a seeker. I created Gurdev the way I did because many men of that generation have this feeling of invincibility. I wanted to address that.
Frontlist: An incident in your book refers to the partition done by the Britishers on the 3rd of June 1947. Could you please tell us more about it since you have researched it?
Priya: June 3rd, 1947 is the day Mountbatten announced the partition of the two countries. The actual lines were finalized on August 17th, 1947 but communal violence which was seeded in the Eastern part of the country slowly moved west in the interim.
Frontlist: Could you please tell us more about your writing experience so far? Do you have any advice you would like to provide other aspiring writers or us?
Priya: My writing journey has been long and arduous. I did not want to take any shortcuts and don’t recommend writers look for them. That said, I just read an article about writer Colleen Hoover and her literary success, leveraging ‘angsty love scenes, catchy premises, extensive sex scenes, and outrageous plot twists.’ So, it all depends on what you want to write, how adventurous you want to be to promote your writing, and how quickly you can write your next book and keep your fans satisfied.