Mrs Funnybones is back with a new book! In The Legend of Lakshmi Prasad, Twinkle Khanna writes about Noni Appa who, at 68, is drawn to a married man; Bablu Kewat, who becomes obsessed with sanitary napkins; and a young woman who keeps checking the weather as she plans each of her five weddings. Funny, observant and wise, this is storytelling at its most irresistible.
In a freewheeling conversation with Chiki Sarkar, Twinkle describes why she decided to not write a sequel to Mrs Funnybones, and how some of the stories were in her head for 20 years before she wrote them:
Chiki Sarkar (CS): Twinkle, when we first started thinking about your next book, we had actually talked about a novel, which eventually became the Noni Appa story. When did you make the jump from novel to stories?
Twinkle Khanna (TK): We had talked about a novel and I then sent you the first few chapters to just get a preliminary perspective. But after around ten chapters, while researching a little bit about menstruation for a column, I read about Arunachalam Muruganantham’s life and work and his story really gripped me. That is when I sat down, wrote the first few pages of the story ‘The Sanitary Man in a Sacred Land’ and sent them off to you to have a look. I then began chasing Muruga and after numerous lengthy interviews, he agreed to let me fictionalize his story, and that is how this book started.
CS: One of the things your fans might say about this new book was that your voice is very different. It’s more emotional, more sensitive, less funny. How did that happen?
TK: The simplest step to commercial success would have been to write “Mrs Funnybones Part 2”. But these stories had been rattling inside my head – some like ‘Salaam Noni Appa‘ for almost two decades and I did not feel that the sarcastic style I use in my columns would do justice to these delicately layered stories.
CS: What was the hardest part of writing this book? As your editor, it felt effortless.
TK: The hardest part was slowing down the narrative and layering the emotions of the story clearly. I had to break away from the fast pace I have become accustomed to in the last three years of writing columns, where a story has to be presented and summed up within a thousand words.
CS: And what was the easiest part?
TK: The easiest part was because ‘Ab Ki Baar it was Chiki Sarkar again!’ We had already done “Mrs Funnybones” together, and even with this, the edits were easy because both of us look for logic in a story and behavioural patterns first.
The part I enjoyed the most with this book was all the research. I like details and numbers. Small things, like what the ICU was really like during the late 1980s? If I wanted the train to stop on the way to Uttarakhand, I would check existing train schedules to see if it stopped at that particular station for sufficient time for my protagonist to get down and get samosas and tea. We had an argument once, Chiki, where you felt Anand ji (of ‘Salaam Noni Apa’) should be listening to CDs instead of audio cassettes, remember? Then I sent you my notes about when the first CD player was introduced and realistically how long it would be before a yoga teacher would get his hands on it.
I also discovered that I like to write the rough plotline of each story by hand. I bought a large blue notebook that I slowly filled with the basic plot, my notes, research, impressions. It became my most precious possession. While travelling I always carried it in my hand luggage because if my bags went missing then everything I had worked on for the last year would be lost.
Twinkle Khanna’s new book, “The Legend of Lakshmi Prasad”, is exclusively available on the Juggernaut app here.