Q&A: Kavita Bhatnagar, Author of 'Second Chance'

Dr. Kavita Bhatnagar belongs to Ajmer, Rajasthan. She joined the Indian Revenue Service in 1996, and she is presently posted as Commissioner of Customs Audit, New Delhi. She has recently come out with her debut novel Second Chance. Her writings focus on relationships and dwell on a woman’s perspective towards them.

I chat with her about her book Second Chance, what inspired her to write this book, book recommendations, and much more.

Hello, Dr. Kavita! Tell us a bit about yourself!

Hello, I belong to Ajmer, Rajasthan. I did my entire schooling and college from Ajmer which included BA English Honours from Sophia College and Masters in Political Science from DAV College. After clearing the Civil Services exam, I joined the Indian Revenue Service in 1996.

Having worked for over two decades in various charges in the Customs, Central Excise and Service Tax wings, I am presently posted as Commissioner of Customs Audit, New Delhi. Prior to it, I have worked in Ahmedabad, Jaipur and Bengaluru. I also hold a Doctorate degree on the topic – ‘WTO & India’s Political Economy: A Critique’. I have represented the country both at World Customs Organization and World Trade Organization and have been awarded the WCO Certificate of Merit in 2017. I have brought out two anthologies of poems in Hindi, Rishto Ki Tanhaiyaa and Metro – Ek Mrigtrishna. My debut novel Second Chance was released in August 2020. It won the NE8X Lit Fest, 2020 award.

If you could only describe your book Second Chance in five words, what would they be?

Emotional, tenacious quest for love!

Now tell us a little more about the book! What can readers expect?

Second Chance is a tale of the protagonist Ragini Mathur’s desire to remarry after she opted for a divorce to end her abusive first marriage. Ragini is portrayed as a simple girl with traditional values yet as someone who has a strong, independent mind and knows what she wants. Her high emotional state of being makes her vulnerable at times and the story brings out such situations as she endeavours to find a suitable match. Her efforts make her meet and interact with at least six different suitors and take her on a roller coaster emotional ride. Finally when she does meet her ideal match, she finds he is not legally free to marry. However, her determination to marry again, and that too more or less on her terms is what defines the story.

The novel shows the myriad hues of male and female mind sets and the extent to which humans can go to achieve their personal goals. Deceit and connivance come face to face with hope and aspiration.

There is romance in the story but it’s not ‘Mills and Boon’; there is suspense, but it’s not a thriller; there is humour, but it’s not a comedy… it’s a little potpourri to which the readers can relate.

'Second Chance', published by Sterling Publishers

What inspired you to write this novel?

My observations about the changing face of Indian society, in general, and my perceptions about the struggles that a single woman undergoes, in particular, prompted me to write this novel. Ragini’s travails to marry again show that divorce and remarriage are not so much of a taboo now. They are also a contemporary take on the influence of internet on our society. Set in 2005 when the internet had just begun to storm the society, the story brings out the ease of anonymity which the internet offers and the associated dangers.

Can you tell us your creative process behind the characterization of Ragini, the protagonist?

Ragini is the quintessential girl next door. She is from a small town and her character is shaped by aspirations both emotional and professional similar to any small town girl. Her defining personal traits are often contradictory – she is impulsive yet balanced. She is stubborn yet gives in to the moment. But what matters most is that she has the ability to make her own decisions and choices. The novel brings out all these shades and more. Having been through a divorce myself, somewhere that influenced the character of Ragini. Her anguish at being jilted, duped and not finding a suitable match was hence, easy to define.

Is there a scene, element, or character you really enjoyed creating and writing?

I enjoyed creating the character of Mia, Ragini’s friend and confidant. She defines what true friends are for. She is protective of Ragini and is always there for her. Her own personality is more bindaas than that of Ragini and she handles her love life differently, but together Ragini and Mia give us great friendship goals.

Besides, the scene in Goa where Ragini and Mia go on a boat ride and meet Neil, is one of my favourites too. There is anticipation in the air and Ragini realizes she has to follow her heart. It is an important build up to the rest of the story.

How have you been coping with the current pandemic and what will be the new normal for you post it?

Being part of essential services, it was work as usual during the pandemic. However, a lot changed inherently as one realized that nothing can be taken for granted. Importance of being fit and of family ties increased. There was also growth in the empathy barometer.

I brought out my first novel during the lockdown – the creative process helped me deal with the pandemic in a positive way.

The new normal will be defined by a compulsive need to do what one is passionate about, and be generous and positive in life.

What are you reading currently? Do you have any book recommendations for our readers?

I have just started reading Priyanka Chopra’s Unfinished. It looks promising and inspiring. The glamour world of celebrity lives often blinds us to the dedication and hard work they do to achieve success and this book should bring home this fact.

Besides, I would recommend Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake, for its wonderful story and fine narrative. Amongst the classics, Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles remains one of my favourites for its intense characters and Hardy’s inimitable writing style.

The book ‘Second Chance’ is available online and at your nearest bookstore.

From Jammu, J&K; Studied in DPS, Jammu.