Erotic fiction is becoming much more popular in India today, but sexual expression is no news to Indian culture. After all, sensual carvings in ancient temples and the Sanskrit text Kamasutra have always been around. The usually orthodox Indian reader, it seems, has finally woken up to mainstream erotica. Buoyed by the success of Fifty Shades, a host of other erotic titles have also racheted up big sales. Short, unconventional stories of erotica published on digital platforms and apps are driving new interest in the genre in India, adding to a growing conversation about sexual freedom in the country. This week we spoke to one of our star erotica authors who writes from both male and female perspectives under the pseudonyms Karan and Khushbu. Their short stories with unexpected plot twists span across crime, human psychology, and complex relationships, and are some of the most downloaded ones by the readers. Find out what they have to say about the space of erotica in India, what their definition of sexy is, and women’s desires.
Q: What first inspired you towards erotic themes, and what impact did the writing process have on you?
K: I wanted to bring in a fresh perspective to the Erotica genre and write short erotic stories with unexpected twists. That’s how my journey as an author of erotica started with stories having surprise endings – sometimes with elements of complex psychology, sometimes about crimes, and sometimes about complicated relationships. Personally, the writing process is extremely adventurous and refreshing, more so because I get to live the bold and uninhibited lives of so many different characters who get to have fun under so many different circumstances!
Q: What do you think about the current ‘hookup culture’? Do you think the pandemic has had an effect on people reading erotica?
K. I strongly believe that, when practised with the necessary safety and precautionary measures, there is nothing wrong in it. It is important for one to explore one’s own sexuality, as well as one’s sexual compatibility with a potential partner, before getting into a committed relationship, as sex is an extremely important aspect of any relationship. I believe there is a surge in readership for erotica during the pandemic as a lot of people are staying away from partners, there are lesser opportunities of hooking up in person, and most importantly, erotica helps one escape the grim realities around and takes one to a fantasy world where desire rules and nothing is out of bounds!
K: It’s more about the mind than anywhere else. Being sexy is being adventurous, uninhibited and imaginative.
Q: What kind of effect do you think reading erotica has on the readers? Do you write with the aim of evoking something in particular?
K: Apart from the obvious stimulation, I think erotica is also about escapism. It takes the reader to a fantasy world where temptations rule and nothing is out of bounds. The words are meant only to guide your imagination, but how much pleasure you derive from the writing is limited only by how far you can imagine.
Q: What do you want readers to take away from your stories?
K: A few minutes of raw, unbridled pleasure, far away from the grim reality around, when the reader is in touch with her or his real self in the truest sense. In a country where sex is still largely considered to be a taboo topic, this is a welcome relief!
Q: When you published your first erotica story, were you concerned with how people you know and your family would react?
K: I started writing, and I still do, with a pseudonym, which was necessitated by the fact that, I write in other genres with my real name, and I wanted to use a pseudonym for a genre that’s completely different. So, when my first story came out, more than people I know personally, I was worried about how readers would react, because, for all my success in other genres, I was effectively this new kid on the block, and no one had ever heard of Khushbu! Thankfully, right from my first title, My Bad Boss, my readers have stood by me.
Q: You write from both the male and female perspective, and the woman leads in all your stories (which is rather refreshing, might I add) What was your impetus to do this?
K: I firmly believe that female sexuality is not just about the body, but it’s also a great deal about the heart and the soul, and that makes sex all the more exciting and gratifying. You would see that in the works of legendary writers like Ismat Chughtai, as well as in the works of contemporary writers. That’s why, in most of my stories, you would find the woman leading. A perfect example is the character of Piyashi in the novella The Festival of Desires. I still get requests for bringing her back!
Q: So Khushbu or Karan, who came first? And why?
K: Khushbu came first! The titles in the Khushbu series started coming out in January 2017, and like I said, a lot of them were twisted tales of crime and about the complexities of the human mind. My novella The Festival of Desire came next. Later that year, my editor and I felt that we should also plan a light-hearted, fun series, and that’s how Karan’s Konfessions was born. We wanted Karan to be this modern-day Don Juan, who’s always up for fun (pun intendedr), in all conceivable places and often in apparently improbable situations. Once again, my readers loved the series, touchwood!
Q: What are your thoughts about the space of erotica in India? Do you think there is an advantage of having the stories on a digital platform?
K: There’s a vast consumer base out there for all kinds of erotica in India, not just in literature, but also in channels like OTT platforms and audio streaming services, irrespective of gender and age, irrespective of one’s relationship status, irrespective of whether one belongs to an urban population or otherwise. So, this is a great time for erotica authors! I do feel that there is a distinct advantage of having the stories on a digital platform as it tends to provide the reader with a sense of privacy. I feel some readers would still feel uncomfortable flipping through the pages of an erotica title in a bookstore or bringing home a stack!