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Ex-diplomat Dogra pens story of friendship, love and loss

twitter-logoPTI | August 16, 2019 | Updated 15:22 IST

By Zafri Mudasser Nofil New Delhi, Aug 16 (PTI) Former diplomat Rajiv Dogra, who has penned two books on Indo-Pak relations and the Durand Line, is equally at ease with fiction and has just come out with his third novel. Dogra, who was India's Ambassador to Italy and Romania, the Permanent Representative to the United Nations Agencies in Rome and Consul General in Karachi, says fiction comes naturally to him though non-fiction fulfils him. His latest novel "Second Night" is a story of friendship, love and loss; and, in his words, a "Thousand and One Nights" compressed into one night. "Second Night", published by Rupa, is about a woman determined to escape and a man who has vowed to find her. An unforgettable tale of friendship unfolds as three friends come together in Mussoorie to spend the most amazing night of their lives. "Sometimes we restrict love to a narrow space of man, woman relationship. But human emotions can be rich in a variety of other ways. There is the bond between siblings. And that between friends too," he says. "That apart, the question which is being asked in India and outside for sometime is this: is the 'novel' dead? I remember a conversation some years ago with British journalist and writer Ian Jack. We were in a reflective mood talking of this and that when he unexpectedly sprang this question at me, is novel dead? "I recall having replied that as long as there is variety in human interaction people will keep writing about it. And the novel will keep surprising the world with its newness," Dogra told PTI in an interview. "Second Night" is unusual in its range, he says. What prompted him to write a romantic novel? "I recall my first visit to Verona in Italy. There, the legend maintains that Romeo and Juliet had actually lived in houses that still stand not too far from each other. Juliet's house draws people from all over the world and its walls are covered by thousands of messages in almost all languages known to man. "Each one of those messages beseeches Juliet to help the young in their love. I have been there a number of times since, but that first look stayed with me. That amazing phenomenon kept haunting me urging me to write and add a fresh chapter to that splendid theme," he says. Ever since Dogra can remember, stories have bubbled over in his mind. "Fiction snared me when I was very young. I used to lie at night in my engineering college hostel room dreaming not of how machines whir, but how the next story I write might spin. As for non-fiction, my daughter, who is a writer herself, convinced me that I had the stuff. And that I must contribute by taking to non-fiction as well," he says. For him, writing fiction is like floating in a dream. "It is an act of creation and I like to savour it by writing at my pace, when the mood strikes me. Writing fiction becomes a feast in slow motion," he says. While writing non-fiction, Dogra becomes completely absorbed in the topic. "I guess it must be the desire to know more about the subject. This was the case with both my books, 'Where Borders Bleed' and 'Durand's Curse'," he says. He is now writing a book on foreign policy and the legacy of Indian prime ministers and the "subject overwhelms my existence". "Second Night", he says, is about people of flesh and blood; those one sees around every day. Dogra feels there is a very thin line that separates the real from fiction. "Something that I have heard in a conversation, a casual passing remark by somebody becomes the feed for my imagination. Characters begin to form in my mind and I start to put pen to paper. The characters are an image of the real. But only to the extent of being the seed. How it sprouts and what shape a character takes is up to me, and my imagination," he says. Dogra uses Mussoorie as the backdrop for his novel. Asked why, he says, "I love the winters of Delhi, but I find its heat forbidding. It drains me. Ever since I can remember, mountains have been the welcome escape for me in summers. "Our hill stations have a rhythm of their own. And each one has amazing stories to tell; some about ghosts, others about love; requited or unrequited. I have lived in Mussoorie at the National Academy as a young officer, and returned to it many times," he says. So when he decided to set "Second Night" among the mists, Mussoorie became an obvious choice. PTI ZMN SHD SHD

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