MORE THAN the love stories based out of IITs, it is the absurd, the unresolved, the questionable that appeals to the writer in Jaskaran Chauhan. So, when she quit her job as an architect and returned to her beloved world of art and musings in 2014, she chose a rather dark and conflicted subject as the premise for her debut short fiction book. Published by Pune-based APK Publishers, Lurking Demons watches a man take his life and chronicles the reasons people in his life try to give and console themselves with for this ‘ungodly’ act.
Cowardice, personal sorrow, terminal illness — while there can be multiple reasons for suicide, for Chauhan, it was an essay by philosopher Albert Camus that pointed her in the direction of a reasoning so absurd that it made her sit up and explore it. Camus, in his 1942 essay The Myth of Sisyphus, struggles with the question whether “the realisation of the meaninglessness and absurdity of life necessarily require suicide”.
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“To some level, he justifies suicide, as an act of free will. We cannot choose our birth, but we can control our death. So, if you remove the concept of reason, taking one’s own life does become an act of free will,” explains Chauhan, who was left in a state of shock and awe when she read this ‘stunningly beautiful’ essay on something so dark and depressing.
And although she personally doesn’t believe in suicide, the 27-year-old decided to explore the taboo of suicide and lend a new perspective to it. Truth can be subjective, and for Chauhan, to step into the minds of people who lose the protagonist to suicide, to see them make sense of it, was a revelation. “For most of the times, the reasons stem from one’s own fears and is hardly anywhere near the truth. The guilt-ridden parents, the remorseful girlfriend, the shocked professor, the friend, the Pandit… how each and every one believes they are the reason he died for, which is probably not true. Sometimes, there are no reasons, or the reason is lost,” says Chauhan.
With a three-book deal from APK, Chauhan is almost over with book number two, Godless Men, and is working on the third on child abuse. There is no doubt about the fact that she is attracted to the absurd, “to the words of Jim Morrison and William Blake, and surprisingly, Rabindranath Tagore,” she laughs.
In the next book, Godless Men, she explores the transfer of guilt. “I am an atheist, and I feel people view God as an entity that will absolve us of all sins whereas an atheist takes full responsibility for their actions — good or bad,” she says.
Interestingly, the subjects she chooses are difficult and heavy, contrary to the sheltered upbringing she has.
“Well, stories stem from one’s experience and imagination. I worked as an architect but gave it up because it had become too dreary and monotonous. There was no creativity or art and I was disilluisioned. So, I took a break, went back to writing that caught my fancy, for which I research endlessly, read voraciously, and interact with people,” says Chauhan who is a visiting faculty at CCA, blogs regularly, plays the violoncello and is simultaneously working on pen and ink artwork (her works were recently exhibited in London’s annual Coffee Art Festival), along with a book of illustrations with a Hong Kong-based poet.