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     Volume 4 Issue 1 | June 25, 2004 | 8th Anniversary Issue


   Editor's Note
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   Nothing if Not     Serious
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Slice of Life

Richa Up Close and Personal

Richa Jha, one of SWM's most popular columnists is an incorrigible humourist. Life can be a drag and marriage can be quite a trying phenomenon. But Richa manages to dissect relationships into their most hilarious basics, poking fun at disgruntled husbands and neurotic wives, giving us a glimpse of the lighter side of life. With her mischievous jabs at human frailty she never fails to make her readers smile. But just who is Richa Jha? SWM's exclusive on the columnist tries to unfold the mystery...

How did you come to be a columnist for SWM?
I remember calling up Aasha when I was barely a fortnight old in Dhaka (early April 2002), expressing my interest in writing for SWM. The initial enthusiasm notwithstanding, I disappeared from her radar! Part inertia, part pre-occupation with setting up my home in this new place, it took six months of persistent nagging (he prefers a more respectable 'motivating') from my husband to re-establish contacts with the SWM team. I did a few light pieces for the magazine, and then things moved on from there.

What is your background as a writer? How did you start writing?
To answer the second part of the question first, vocational writing was never a priority in life. Yes, I had toyed with the possibility, but never got around to putting pen to paper. But once I did start writing, and eventually quit my full-time job for it, I found it satisfying and fulfilling, apart from just good fun!

I have been writing for several newspapers and magazines in India for six years. Over the years, I've worked on feature articles, pieces for websites, essays, commentaries, travelogues, short stories, book reviews, film-reviews and the like. I am still experimenting, so am quite open about venturing into new genres.

Do you have plans to write a novel? What will it be about?
I saw this one coming! No, none that I can think of at the moment. I did start one the previous year, but a virus attack ensured that my efforts and intentions were consigned to the depths of cyberspace. But yes, if ever I do write one and every writer dreams about writing the ultimate magnumopus, it will be something funny, and Dhaka is sure to feature in it.

How has your experience been living and working in Dhaka?
Great, and getting better by the day. I have been hard-selling Dhaka to my friends and family back home for brief holidays. In fact, the editors of several Indian publications are tired of receiving countless Bangladesh-specific story ideas from me! Dhaka's biggest strength is its people, and I too, am an amiable person. Everyone is so unfailingly polite and courteous, that the sheer meeting up is joy.

Are the things you write about from first hand experience? In other words, is the hubby you write about your own hubby?
There're few experiential inputs in the Slice pieces. The more substantial chunk comes from observing, and feeling strongly about certain things. The situations in nearly all pieces are concocted, written representations of the constant signals being picked up from people around me-- acquainted or otherwise. Stray observations, then, get a contextual framework within The Hubby and The Wifey's world. No, they don't exist outside the Slice pages, though the context often does.

The Hubby is such an adorable character! And he is just that -- a character. Friends who know my husband know that The Hubby is not my husband, but that still doesn't save him from getting ragged at his place of work and outside! But then, I'm sure there are traces of his that trickle down to the Slice pages. Specifics? Keep guessing!

But on the other hand, aren't most men a bit like The Hubby: self absorbed, all-knowing, opinionated, and glowing in their male-ness! They practise selective hearing when women speak, and believe that they have been sent on earth to shepherd the women folk.

In some of your pieces you write from a man's point of view. How do you view men in general? Are they all sexist, wife-weary individuals who think women are just either too dumb or too manipulative to take seriously?
I don't believe men consider women dumb; it is their pursuits they may term trivial – be it chatting over the phone for hours, gossip, shopping frenzy, mulling the vital differences between a shade of violet and a shade of mauve for clothing (most men just wouldn't know the difference) or just re-arranging the home every other month! Yes, deep down, every man is still a chauvinist, but in these days of political correctness, they are more watchful with their words. The last thing the modern man wants to be penalised for is messing up his pronouns! He may say 'she' rules, but we know the reluctance with which that extra alphabet has found its way in.

Wife-weary? Not necessarily. We are wearier of our husbands than they are of us, only, they are too absent-minded to pick up these pointers.

What are the qualities you would look for in your ideal man?
Ideal man, or ideal husband? If it is the former, then I am lucky to have him for my husband. He's sensitive, forthright, transparent, gentle (I don't like aggressive behaviour), witty, well read, and a travel freak. His not being a TV addict, always pushing me to out-excel myself, and usually putting my interest first nearly earns him a 'demi-ideal-husband' sobriquet, but that's about where this encomium should end. There isn't, and indeed, cannot be, such a creature as the ideal husband. And if there was, it would take away most of the spice from our lives!

l At 30, I feel I still haven't experienced a fraction of what life has to offer.
l My husband and I are indefatigable travellers. I wish I could keep travelling all my life.
l In Dhaka, you could spot me at: supermarkets, libraries, walking tracks, swimming pools, any busy intersection clicking photographs, Wonderland Park.
l At home, you'll find me: reading; preparing scrap books; playing with my child; reading aloud to him, and to other children interested in books; filling up the walls of my child's play room imaginatively; entertaining; making travel plans; cuddling up with my husband and child– we call it 'family cuddly poo'!

No motivation, or threat, works better for her than getting Aasha's call on a Saturday afternoon: 'where is the piece for the next week?' And presto, the cobwebs and idea-blocks that have been the permanent excuse for the past week are cleared, and the keyboards start dancing! So there, ignore any pretensions of inspiration that she may claim, it is the simple threat of a deadline that works.

A seasoned party animal, Richa is on her toes every Thursday night.








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