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Liddle Miss Sunshine
April 12, 2013 COMMENT comment
     
Liddle Miss Sunshine
By Julia Dutta
 
Best known for her books featuring the Mughal detective Muzaffar Jang, author Madhulika Liddle recently released Engraved in Stone (Hachette), the third book in the series. "I would like to be known as an author who writes stories in different genres and not only one, including socially relevant stories."
 
You might have looked hard for her at the Jaipur Literary Festival, or even expected her to be seen at book readings in Delhi, but she is best found in Wikipedia prominently figuring as the author who created the 17th century detective Muzaffar Jang, placed historically in the Mughal period in India. With her debut novel The Englishman's Cameo, Madhulika Liddle secured her place in the history of the literary world of Indian authors writing in English, to give India its first detective placed in a period.

Liddle (40) began writing when she was six years old. "My mother used to subscribe to Femina and I thought it was the perfect magazine," shares Liddle. "A story here, a recipe there, some fashion... and so I emulated it and had my own 'Madhu's Magazine', which had a story, a grotty recipe, some drawings, it had a bit of fashion with little swashes of material hanging out...!" 
The journey with words had begun but it was much later, in her late 20s, that Liddle began to look at writing more seriously. Into her third book featuring Muzaffar Jang, the latest being Engraved in Stone, Liddle's books sell even before the launch. The sheer romance of a period equals the love and addiction people have developed for her main character. The language is excellent and the plot so engaging that the reader is sure to be kept hooked till the end. 

Liddle studied hotel management in college. But it was her historian older sister who became her source of inspiration for writing about the Mughal period. Besides, when her brother-in-law, passionate about historical detective novels, brought into the family trunk loads of novels, Liddle got hooked. It is then she decided that she was going to create one herself.

"While reading these books, I found that in almost every period of history there is a detective – there is a medieval Chinese detective, a Welsh monk, an Egyptian eunuch... and I thought why not one from India? If there has to be one, then I must create one."

And bingo! Muzaff ar Jang was born. The enormous amount of literature and research material available on the period helped her write stories placed in the Mughal period. The creation of a detective placed in a period is not the only first that Liddle has achieved. The first prize at Femina's thriller contest with her story, 'Silent Fear', now a part of her latest humour short story collection, My Lawfully Wedded Husband was followed by a first at The Commonwealth Broadcasting Association, with 'The Morning Swim'; again a first at Sulekha.com with 'Crossing Paths'. 'A Suitor for Saraswati' was the second runnerup in The India Smiles Contest and also, in Zubaan's 21 Under 40 short stories collection. All this gave a fillip to her confidence and she realised that she could write stories that people liked to read.

Liddle is now a prolific writer and has four published books, a few short stories, and plans to create a series of books placed in Delhi between the period of 11th CE and 1947 when India got its Independence. She wishes to carry on her Muzaff er Jang stories, the first of which, The Englishman's Cameo, was also published in French by Editions Philippe Picquier, as Le Camée Anglais. Indeed, Muzaff ar Jang is an extension of Liddle, with his love of books, birds and curiosity. But he may begin to sulk soon as his creator aspires to publish another series of detective novels with a different central character! Liddle has her mind full with a number of other books and stories she wishes to write in the near future. "I would like to be known as an author who writes stories in different genres and not only one, including socially relevant stories. The story which won the CBA competition is one such. I am hoping to bring out a collection of stories which showcase this aspect of my writing," she says.

Liddle follows a strict discipline. She doles out at least 1,000 words per week day. She reads a lot, does not watch television and writes throughout the day. She also writes frequently on her blog on cinema before 1970. She regards her husband Tarun Bhandari as her greatest support. It was he who stood by her when she decided to leave her job to pursue a career in writing. "He is the sweetest thing in my life," says Liddle coyly. "Actually I would not have been an author today if not for him. He is my first-level editor, and the in-house marketing person for my books."

Cheers to Tarun for supporting the lady's success as India's first historical detective novelist. Indeed, Madhulika Liddle's name is engraved in stone for giving birth to detective Muzaff ar Jang, from India.

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