Hariharan Iyer has a cushy corporate job in Tanzania, heading the financial function of a 150-million-dollar group based in East and Central Africa. But his passion for news and politics, especially about India, also led him to start a blog on current affairs and media ethics almost a year ago. He realised soon enough though that to “connect the dots, one has to either get into investigative journalism or move into the realm of fiction. I chose the second option,” he says.
This was about two years ago when the ‘crimes against women’ debate started dominating media space. This resulted in his novel, Surpanakha, a book that brings back the age of political thrillers. “A couple of years ago, a law intern alleged that a retired judged misbehaved with her. High-profile lawyers took up her case. The media hounded the judge. He was forced to resign from a strategic post-retirement job. Thereafter, when the police registered a case and wanted the victim to testify, she vanished. We don’t know what happened. Was there pressure on her not to testify?”asks Hariharan.
Then, a series of articles by an IIM professor on the mushrooming NGOs and their questionable sources of funds forced him to sit up. Around the same time, there were reports that well known personalities, who were running foreign-funded NGOs, were using the funds to buy branded jewellery, clothing and shoes! “Both incidents remained etched in my memory and gave rise to a lot of ‘what ifs’,” Hariharan recalls. “They pushed me into the realm of fiction. And the novel was born. But this is not a real life story,” he clarifies. The novel revolves around a respectable chief minister who becomes embroiled in a sexual harassment case filed against him by an activist. His wife, Mythili, seems to be the hero of the story as she sets out to uncover the truth.
Currently working on his second novel, Hariharan says that his biggest challenge has been to find the time to write: he has his day job and he is a dedicated family man. “The passion to write and strong filter coffee helped me overcome the challenge,” he says, writing for an hour every morning for over six months to finish his book.