Well-known theatre personality and playwright Bubbles Sabharwal, now the co-director of children’s theatre company Kidsworld, has penned her first novel, Tomorrow’s Promise. The book, in very accessible language, traces the outer and interior trajectories of the life of a city woman trying to negotiate the demands of her duties and her dreams of fulfilment. Edited excerpts from an interview:
Uncommon script: Sabharwal did part of her writing at Gangaram hospital. Harikrishna Katragadda / Mint
You have been a flight attendant, you used to run a boutique and now run a children’s theatre company and a book club. What prompted you to write a novel?
I published a book of plays I wrote in 2004, and fact is that there aren’t many takers for theatre. Novels are more popular. Also, the last few years have been tough; I lost my father and my mother has been fighting cancer. One way for me to cope has been by writing. Sitting in the corridors of Gangaram hospital, instead of getting depressed, I wrote. I did a lot of writing there.
There seems to be a straight parallel here to Shirin, the heroine of your novel. She loses her father and her mother is battling cancer.
Some instances have been borrowed from real life. As I have written in the acknowledgements, truth runs rings around us.
Would you call Shirin a typical south Delhi housewife?
She is an urban woman moulded by her circumstances. She is someone we can identify with. She is not on edge, she is not a politician. Her character comes from real life; she could be my mom or my aunt. There are many unsung people who lead their everyday lives and, in life, find their solutions. All of us don’t have to be Hillary Clinton or Sonia Gandhi.
How would you compare an Indian housewife 30 years ago with one today?
Tomorrow’s Promise: Penguin India, 132 pages, Rs199.
Not very different. Life doesn’t change that much, though circumstances do—more TV, better cars, more polluted environment. But I think that my mom, who got married 45 years ago, is a stronger woman. Today, women’s centres are getting more fragmented. Many young people, who are 27 and 28, can’t find right partners. My young friends in the TV business are getting isolated. They are ambitious and think big, but you also have to live with the ordinary and that’s a journey you have to make and explore. But 30 years on, women are also coming to terms with issues and problems, and they want to address them. If a marriage is not working, they don’t stay in it.
How was writing a novel different from writing a play?
Very different. Theatre is larger than life and it is all about teamwork. You’ll have 65 people but one face, one body, one energy—there is no “me”, it’s “we”. Writing is a solitary pursuit, very quiet. It’s about a quiet corner with a quiet cappuccino. For me, it is the night side of life.
And how is it similar?
Every 10 years you get very bored with yourself and you want to do something new. Which is how I began writing plays in 2002. And also because there was a need for new plays—how long can you keep borrowing from the West? Writing plays came naturally to me, and it helped because I developed the discipline of writing and became very critical of myself. The more you write, the more you perfect your art.