In-between the conflicts of war, the clashing of cultures, as well as the personal struggles of the protagonists as they wrestle with both heart and mind, 912 Batu Road is a cleverly woven tale of fact and fiction, interspersed with personal instances of writer Viji Krishnamoorthy’s life. From the unique retelling of forgotten war heroes like Gurchan Singh and Sybil Kathigasu to the little not-so-secret life of the author, like how the book’s title is actually based on the house her father grew up in (there’s more where that came from, so keep your eyes peeled), this gripping tale is a timely reminder that despite the tumultuous times we live in today, there’s always a tomorrow to strive towards.
When I took over as editor of R.AGE in 2014, I proposed to revamp the section to focus exclusively on Viji Krishnamoorthy (VK): Did you know that I never intended for that chapter to become a book? It all started when one year, I just couldn’t figure out what to give my husband for his birthday; we were in Pangkor for a holiday where I gifted him the first chapter, handwritten with a pen. It was about this fictional moment between a fiery young Indian girl named Gomathy—whose name I scrapped and had it changed to Gheeta instead—and her subdued, dutiful Indian mother. But then, my husband proceeds to tell me that I ‘shouldn’t leave the chapter hanging’ and that I should develop it more seriously! It was at that moment I wondered if I’d made a mistake. I was an extremely reluctant writer, you see, I never liked calling myself one, but my god was my husband irritatingly persistent. So, to finally get him off my back, we sat down, talked, and came up with the framework of the story.
Talk to me about that framework—what was the novel’s setting inspired by?
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