She always wanted to write, she says. In school she had to write an essay on what one wants to be on growing up, and she chose a writer. But somehow, after she finished school and college, it was taken for granted that one needs a career.
"I don't think writing was on the horizon as a career at that time. I automatically moved into a line that would help me get a job. In my job a lot of writing was involved. I used to put a huge amount of effort into my reports on rural development to make them perfect. We used to visit villages, convert the information into reports. I used to do several drafts, it gave me a lot of pleasure. I wanted to be a creative writer, that was altogether a different genre."
She thought of being a writer only after crossing 40. She says, "I always used to think that one day I would be a writer. I used to think I am not mature enough, I haven't seen enough. I haven't done enough and I don't know enough. But, I think when I started approaching 40 I thought if I don't know enough now, then when am I going to know enough? The 40th year was like a trigger. I thought now I have to write what I like. When I started I wasn't thinking in terms of a book."
When asked why one should read her simple and soft novel in difficult times like these, Daman Singh says, "That's precisely the reason people should read my book. The world is so much in a constant state of turmoil that sometimes one should step back from what we see. We need some moments of quite reflection which we get through reading about other people’s stories. I think that's a good reason to read."
She says she based her novel inside a hostel as life inside it is complex. "It allowed me as a writer to explore different contrasting elements. Also because I spent the best years of my life in a hostel. It's a very rich life, constantly changing. So many influences are working together, and sometimes against each other. It's like a family but it is also in contrast to a family. In a family your relationships are already established whereas in a hostel you have to establish the relationship right from scratch. And, some of these relationships last all your life. You can be closer to your hostel friends than your own family members. You are at a very impressionable age, I think friends made in a hostel last one's entire life."
Daman stayed in a post-graduate women's hostel for two years, from 1982 to 1984 as an undergraduate. Since her college didn't have a hostel for graduates they were allowed to stay in the PG hostel.
She is a writer, but not a rebel. When asked about relationships in the era of mobile phones, she says, "I think human relationships remain the same and they are universal. I think superficial elements change. Dress changes, the manner of speaking changes and what you do with your time changes, but I think human relationships do not really change that much. They really last and they are very familiar."
Asked why she separated Anjali and Ranjan, her reply is prefaced with a lot of shyness in her eyes and voice, and giggles. "Why have I parted them? That's life (Laughs ). People do part in life. I parted them because Ranjan is so deeply connected to Anjali's past but could not connect to her future. Her future lay elsewhere. All along Anjali assumed that while she will go abroad to study, both of them will work out something. But this was something they never discussed. She took it for granted. He resented being taken for granted like that. He had his own very different idea of what he wanted to do with his life. Their paths just happen to move in different directions. Anjali will find someone -- in my next book."
Why didn't she write on or about politics? "I don't understand politics. I understand the issue of development."
Her book is not something serious critics have cared to judge but Daman knows what she has written and what it is all about.
"Will my book click like Chetan Bhagat's? I am not being so ambitious. I think anyone of any age could read my book. There's something in it for everybody. I would be happy if young people read my book. I write for myself. But, if somebody else also enjoys it then it's like a bonus."
She likes to read Vikram Seth; an old favourite is Gerald Durrell. "People don't read him much but I like his books a lot. I am keen on animals. He writes on animals."
Also see: Dr Singh's daughter steps out of the shadows