Kerala, 1900. Wealth, beauty, and intellect-sixteen-year-old Padma hasit all. Her
husband worships her, her mother-in-law adores her, and everyone else looks
up to her. Yet she continues to be deprived of the one thing her soul aches for:
children. Desperate for an heir, her husband succumbs to familial pressures and
agrees to a second marriage that turns her life upside down.
Mumbai, present day. Naina loves her life the way it is- an exciting career in
advertising, married to the love of her life, and they’ve just decided to start a
family. Sounds perfect? Except, it isn’t. Naina soon discovers she cannot give her
husband what he wants. Determined, they put their hopes on In vitro
fertilization (IVF). But this is only the beginning of the storm that will soon rip
Naina’s life apart.
Two wilful women, separated by the chasm of time, negotiate their feminine
identities, struggle against patriarchal forces, face accusations of crime, and
resurgence of old wounds–all in pursuit of fulfilling their innermost desires.
Powerful and unflinching, Padma offers an intimate portrait of womanhood in
India that will captivate you from the very first page.
*About the Author*
Mala was born and brought up in Mumbai. In 1999, she
moved to Singapore where she lives with her husband, two
children, and Labrador, Magic
She published a book in the early 2000s, titled History of
Painting for Young Readers, and contributed the column ‘Art
Beat’ for Young World – the children’s supplement of the
Hindu newspaper. She also contributed to company
newsletters and promotional materials.
Padma is her second novel, and her first literary fiction.
Mala works with her husband in their shipping and logistics
company, Transworld Group Singapore. Her other interests
include event planning – both commercially as well as for
charity. She enjoys walking, cycling, dancing, and golf – and is
very particular about living a healthy and fit life.
*Q & A with the author Mala Mahesh*
What made you write this book now?
I wrote the first draft for this book long back but had been busy with work and other
priorities. Around May 2020, I restarted this book again with a new focus to complete the
writing and editing to get it ready for publishing.
Why did this subject matter interest you?
My grandmother told me about some true-life incidents on the issue of infertility. From
those times to now, a woman’s worth is judged on their capacity to bear children. They
were blamed and shamed for something beyond their control. Between the couple, the
problem could lie with the man, but they would refuse to accept that fact. I felt it was unfair
to pin the blame on women for this condition and wrote a story on how this situation could
impact a woman’s feelings, psyche, and family.
Why did you choose two women so many years apart?
The taboo surrounding infertility is as prevalent now as it was before. I felt using two
different time periods would make the story relevant through its comparisons from then to
Why is this issue still touchy?
Perhaps because it’s not really understood. People feel embarrassed or uncomfortable to
talk about their body and its problems, especially in front of others. For generations, society
believes that childbirth comes naturally to woman. Hence, there’s a feeling that you’re not
good enough because you can’t do what comes easily to your family and friends.
Is it lack of thinking or understanding?
I would say it is lack of understanding. Many people do not realize difficulties surrounding
childbirth are rather common. Also, these issues are not the result of certain lifestyle
choices that a woman or man has made.
How does it affect modern women?
Since not many people openly speak about this topic, women with this problem suffer
alone. Their loneliness and sense ofshame, which is unjustified, is a heavy burden to carry.
Do you offer a solution?
Often such problems are caused by preconceived notions, laced in patriarchy. Therefore, a
straightforward solution seems elusive. I feel it would perhaps help to be honest with
yourself, as to what you really want? Then communicate it with your partner, family, or
friends or if you feel comfortable, speak to a therapist. It could help in easing the loneliness
and self-doubt. This is purely my view.
How can this problem be overcome?
To have a child or not, is a very personal decision. There’s no right or wrong answer. The
best way to overcome this problem is communication and support from family and society
Did anyone else help you with bringing out this book?
I’m lucky to have the support and guidance from my husband Mahesh, my children Mithila
and Murli, and my son-in-law Ajay. Certain terms and content in my book had to be checked
and verified for accuracy. I’m grateful to Mithila, a clinical psychologist, Murli, a lawyer- intraining, and my sister-in-law Sumitra, a medical doctor, for their valuable advice. I have
received input from a few close friends on traditional Kerala architecture, as well as
feedback on the structure and pace of my story.