Below, she writes about her first novel (and second book)
A great deal of Indian fiction in English has been addressed by the political landscape during and after Independence, and this structure has no room for the stories of women who live "ordinary" lives. In most such novels, even those with a broad canvas, external factors determine the way the story takes shape. However, in my novel, Listening Now, the political landscape lies in the fabric of daily life, which is as valid and vibrant as the other political landscape, and my story is determined largely by internal factors. Thus my novel gives voice to the ordinary by showing in the ordinary all the turbulence of passion and pain, happiness and sorry, guilt and anger, which is normally assumed to belong only to the extraordinary. The suffering and silence so implicit in gender politics, is often intimated and emphasized in the novel by comedy and humour. Themes of female bonding, female sexuality and mother-child relationships span three generations in a narrative that is not chronological, but elliptical. The novel is written in English, but the rhythms of the language and the metaphors, throughout, are wholly Indian.
Ostensibly, my novel is about one woman's love story with its agonizing secrets, and this story unfolds through the narratives of six women, and through her own. But the secrets that appear to be at the heart of the story, and which seem to bind and torture every character in one way or another, is not only what my novel is about. For these secrets are what allow the rest of the story, the true story, to emerge. And this lies not in one woman's love story, but in the internal landscape of all six women, whose narratives cannot be separated from the one that is unfolding in the novel.
And so my novel attempts to simultaneously render two kinds of stories, with their accompanying themes, each weaving in and out of the other. The theme of the first, which forms the fabric of the novel, lies in the narratives of the six women. It draws on what is perceived as their domestic, ordinary, repetitive world. In the course of the narratives, this perception is deconstructed, for it becomes obvious that their world has its own story, which encompasses as much love and passion with all its accompanying turbulence, as the unfolding love story. But unlike the love story, their suffering, their guilt, their anger and their happiness spring from what is perceived as the mundane, from what is perceived as having no story at all, from what is perceived as small and petty and of no consequence. Their rendering makes all this consequential by giving voice to their nameless, subterranean longings and resentments, desires and frustrations, thus legitimizing the agonies rooted so deep in such lives, the agonies which seem to arise out of trivial issues, but have their cause in deeper ones. Theirs is a world where secrets grow like fungus, where guilt ripens and rots, where anger burns and smoulders. They inhabit a world where all of this is directed away from the source, while the source is cocooned in silence. It is almost as if anger must accumulate and swirl around the periphery and be expressed accordinhly, for they have no words for the dark core within.
The other story, the love story, is interwoven into the fabric of these six narratives, the threads of each theme, highlighting the other. It is a story throbbing with all the (apparently) predictable elements of high passion, separation, sorrow, retribution, reconciliation and possibilities for happily-ever-after. In fact, in the opening section of the novel, which is a child's perception of the story, the child's exaggerated romantic fantasies parallel, almost step by step, this actual love story. But as the reader will see, the parallel does not hold. In short, the love stories which the child imagines in the opening section of the book are those where suffering and silence in the name of love and fidelity are romantic and idealized. Whereas in the actual love story, such suffering and silence is a perversion and a terrible, tragic waste. And so, in the course of the novel, the love story too is deconstructed.
Yet neither love nor passion is diminished in the novel; they exist in all their trueness. But they spring out of causes not normally assumed to be legitimate. And so, the shapes they assume and occupy, are unfamiliar.
South Asian Women authors