Hyderabad: In the past, author Janhavi Acharekar has published several travelogues and short stories about travels, adventures and more. But her latest offering has her travelling across an altogether different dimension as she takes us on a trip through pre-Independence Mumbai in her first full-length novel, Wanderers, All. Told through the eyes of a free spirit and wandering soul in the novel’s protagonist, Murlidhar Khedekar, the story portrays the cultural mould of yesteryear Mumbai and its identity and origins. Telling us about the core idea behind her book Janhavi says, “Wanderers, All is not just about travel. It has a larger theme about one’s identity. It depicts our journey through the colonial times, which is reflective of who we are today. The book tries to show that our identity is fluid.”
A copywriter by profession, Janhavi’s transition from taking writing as a part time occupation to a full-time one has been a bittersweet experience. It has been 10 years since she quit copywriting, the last five of which alone Janhavi spent working on her book. Telling us about the experience of writing it, she says, “Writing a novel requires discipline. I worked from noon to night while working on the novel. I visited libraries, referred to antiquarian books, spoke to quite a few people and also browsed through the Internet. Information about the pre-independence era was quite easily available. However, data on the Bombay City Police was difficult to find. There were few such as Deepak Rao, who is a city historian, who helped me a lot in this journey.”
Her protagonist, like herself, is someone who dons more than one cap. “Murlidhar dabbles between acting, wrestling and clerical work to finally end up as a policeman,” says Janhavi. Telling us about her inspiration for the character, she says, “Murlidhar’s journey through varied professions is fictional although the fact that he ends up as a police officer with the Bombay City Police was inspired by my great-grandfather who retired as a Superintendent at the Bombay City Police. The book also describes in detail Marathi theatre, which was at its peak during the 1900s. Additionally, people frequented akhadas during those times, which I’ve portrayed through his career in wrestling. So I have taken different aspects of the culture back then and moulded the character’s journey around it.”
A main focus of the book is also on the identity crisis of the city itself. “Our origin could be completely different from what we think it to be. The book explores a larger context of one’s true identity and throws such questions at the reader as ‘Who are we?’ It’s kind of like a metaphorical journey,” concludes Janhavi.