Two Fascinating Women, One Unforgettable Story!


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

without judgement.

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.

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