Q. What prompted you to enter into an uncharted territory? Why, according to you, has no Indian male author ventured into erotic fiction until now?
A. It started out as a conversation around the lack of good erotic fiction in India, especially given the success of EL James and Sylvia Day. I was asked by my publisher if I’d like to write a novel and I accepted. It wasn’t a question that came out of the blue — my colleagues knew that I had written short erotic pieces before. Yes, we did know that this was uncharted territory. I think Indian fiction either takes itself too seriously, or has always played safe. It’s a very thin line between good writing and bad, further discouraged by awards for bad sex writing. It could also be cultural, it’s hard to tell.
That afternoon Cara and I met for lunch at a newly opened French bistro. She was upset because I had ignored the naked selfie she had sent me while I was in New York and showed me that picture again, along with many others she had taken. At one point, just when the waiter turned his back, she leaned over and told me in a loud whisper, so he could hear too, ‘I am not wearing panties’.
‘How was the trip?’, she said, switching subjects.
‘Great’ I said, picking at food. I had ordered the Caesar salad with burnt chicken and decided not to drink and make my jet lag worse. Cara didn’t eat anything at all, choosing to have just wine.
‘I miss New York, and Mom’.
‘Why don’t you go see them?’
‘I will’, she said, and shook her head like a school girl would have before emptying her second glass of wine.
‘I am happily tipsy, you want to come home and take advantage?’ she asked with a wink as I walked her to her car.
I did think about it for a moment but excused myself very reluctantly, telling her that with a flight to catch in the morning, a night of intense love-making would screw things up.
‘You choose which one is the better way to get ‘screwed’ she joked and gave me a long, warm hug. We kissed while the parking attendant stood staring at us. Normally, I would have spent the evening with Cara, but since leaving New York I had been thinking about Nat far too often, replaying our time together over and over in my head, particularly the kiss we had shared, and how happy I had felt.
Later in the evening, when I thought it an appropriate time for New York, I messaged her.
Hey, you good?
Loving it here
Wish you were here.
I know. I miss you too!
That came out subconsciously
Are you OK?
Yep. Packing for Goa.
I will. Come back soon.
Can’t wait to see you!
Bye. LOVE YOU.
I wanted to say, Love you too, but resisted, and then dropped the conversation. I sat there on my couch thinking about where I was going to take this. I didn't know anything about her life other than the fact that she was not exactly a happy bunny but was trying to have a child. She was a lovely person, with a measured sensitivity — a stark contrast to the firebrand that was Cara, whom I thoroughly enjoyed being with too. But something had definitely begun to shift after the day in the hospital when Nat had been around all the time and something had definitely changed the way I felt about her after I realized how much I loved spending time in New York.
But Nat didn’t know what Cara and I were doing and I was probably deluding myself into believing that we weren’t in a relationship. Either way, I was or had become a hedonist, sort of. Living alone without parents and having to fend for myself had taught me a very valuable lesson about myself: when faced with a difficult decision, I often went with the first thing my heart settled on. And the accident, which could have been my last breathing moment here, taught me something about myself that I hadn’t quite confronted — I sought love.
Extracted from Play with Me by Ananth (Penguin Books India, Rs 250)