Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Madhulika Liddle: Engraved in Stone


You might have looked hard at the Jaipur Book Festival for her, or even expected her to be seen at book readings in Delhi, but she is best found in Wikipedia prominently figuring as the author who created  the 17th century, detective Muzaffar Jang, placed historically in the Mughal period in India. With her debut novel in The Englishman’s Cameo, Madhulika Liddle secured her place in the history of the literary world of Indian authors writing in English, to give India its first detective placed in a period.
Liddle (40) began writing when she was 6 years old!
 “My mother used to subscribe to Femina and I thought it was the perfect magazine, a story here, a recipe there, some fashion and so I emulated it and had my own Madhu’s Magazine, which had a story, a grotty recipe, some drawings, it had a bit of fashion with little swashes of material hanging out...!”
The journey with words had begun but it was much later, in her late twenties that Liddle began to look at writing more seriously.
Into her third book featuring Muzaffar Jang, the latest being Engraved in Stone, Liddle’s books sell even before the launch. The sheer romance of a period equals the love and addiction people have developed for her main character. The language is excellent and the plot so engaging that the reader is kept hooked till the end.
Madhulika Liddle studied Hotel Management. But it was her historian older sister who became her source of inspiration for writing in the Maurya period. Besides, when her brother-in-law, passionate about historical detective novels brought into the family, trunk loads of novels, Madhulika Liddle got hooked. It is then she decided that she was going to create one herself.
“When I read these books I found that in almost every period of history there is a detective - there is a medieval Chinese detective, a Welsh monk, an Egyptian eunuch and I thought why not one from India? If there has to be one, then, I must create one.”
And bingo! Muzaffar Jang was born! The enormous amount of literature and research material available on the period helped to write stories placed in the Mughal period.
The creation of a detective placed in a period, is not the only first that has graced Liddle. The first prize at Femina’s thriller contest with her story, Silent Fear, now a part of her latest humour short story collection, My Lawfully Wedded Husband was followed by a first at The Commonwealth Broadcasting Association, with The Morning Swim; again a first at Sulekha.com, Crossing Paths. A Suitor for Saraswati was the second runner-up in The India Smiles Contest. Also, in Zubaan  21 Under 40 short stories collection All this added a philip to her confidence and she realised that she could write stories that people liked to read.
Madhulika Liddle  is a prolific writer and has four published books, a few short stories, and plans to create a series of books placed in Delhi between the period of 11th CE and 1947.when India got its independence.  She wishes to carry on her Muzaffer Jang stories, the first of which, The Englishman’s Cameo, was also published in French by Editions Philippe Picquier, as Le Camée Anglais. Indeed, Muzaffar Jang is an extension of Madhulika Liddle, with his love of books, birds and curiosity. But he may begin to sulk soon as his creator aspires to publish another series of detective novels with a different central character! Madhulika Liddle has her mind full with a number of other books and stories she wishes to write in the near future
“I would like to be known as an author who writes stories in different genre and not only one, including socially relevant stories. The story which won the CBA competition is one such. I am hoping to bring out a collection of stories which showcase this aspect of my writing.”
Liddle follows a strict discipline. She does at least 1000 words a week day. She reads a lot, does not watch Television and writes throughout the day. She also writes frequent on her blog on cinema, before 1970.
She regards her husband, Tarun Bhandari as her greatest support. It was he who stood by her when she decided to leave her job to pursue a career in writing.
“He is the sweetest thing in life,” says Liddle coyly. “Actually I would not have been an author today if not for him. He is my first level editor, and the in-house marketing person for my books.”
Cheers to Tarun for supporting the lady’s success, as India’s first historical detective novelist. Indeed, Madhulika Liddle’s name is engraved in stone for giving birth to Muzaffar Jang, from India. 


The article by Julia Dutta was first published in the March 2013 issue: 

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