A literary exploration of female sexuality and mental health

New Delhi, July 4 (IANSlife) The need for daily validation from others, gets amplified in this digitally-altered world which is filled with filter-loaded images of unrealistically and seemingly perfect women, says author Deepa A. Agarwal, whose new book ‘The Hangover of Choices’ addresses disassociation with one’s sexuality and the constant need for external validation.

The entrepreneur-author says: “The book is my humble attempt to bring forth the idea of inner life and the criticality of taking self-action. It’s an invitation for the readers to get an honest look at themselves, before being assailed by the hangover of their own choices. Through this book, I aim to highlight the importance of strengthening one’s inner self and build a stronger self-identity.”

The book ‘The Hangover of Choices’ has been packaged in fiction, and highlights concepts and the futility of the need for external validation, the need to stand out in a crowd, fears, and other related aspects where one seems to feel that they have no control over their own lives.

Asked about her prompt to write the book, the author shares: “The trigger to write The Hangover of Choices came from two points– The first being my work in the mental health and gender space. The second being my philosophical studies and journey. I have observed common narratives and themes among people, during workshops or setting up mental health or DEI practices: People share about regrets they have in life, stemming from certain decisions and choices they may have made in the past. The other narrative is of dissonance that I sense among women — the need to look and be perfect, a disowning of one’s sexuality, desire for validation from loved ones, a negative body image — are all very common themes,” she tells IANSlife.

“The second trigger comes from my philosophical journey and studies of Buddhism. If there is one thing that I have understood, it is that in order to understand our actions and behaviours, we must step out from where we are. We need to take an honest look at ourselves, if we are to live a really meaningful life. I wanted to offer this understanding of stepping out of the self and re-evaluating one’s world view and actions. And that we are individually far more in control of our lives than we would like to believe,” Deepa adds.

Deepa is the recipient of the “Exceptional Woman of Excellence” award by the Women Economic Forum and an expert panel member with the Center for Global Inclusion. What are some of the stories that the book tells?

“Through the character of Nidhi Verma, the stories that I have shared are around the themes of female sexuality, body image, need for external validation and mental health. In that sense, the book is the life journey and story of the protagonist. The stories come in the form of experiences — a sudden encounter with an old flame, a reunion with school friends, a boss who forces therapy, and counselling sessions with a psychologist. The specific stories shared are fictional in themselves. However, they have been inspired by the narratives and conversations that I have with people from many walks of life.

“Our protagonist, Nidhi Verma is on her deathbed and recollecting her experiences. However, there is a twist. She simultaneously becomes the actor and the viewer. It’s this interplay of being the actor and the viewer at the same time, that I have used as the backbone to further the narrative and the great need for self-action as well as finding inner stability,” explains Deepa.

The book which talks about reconnecting with one’s mind, also has ‘body acceptance’ as a key theme.

(IANSlife can be contacted at ianslife@ians.in)