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Familial Love and (Re)Connections: Touching Grandfather-Granddaughter Moments in Misty Assam

Loya is twenty-five: solitary, sincere, with restless stirrings in her heart. In an uncharacteristic move, she sets off on an unexpected journey, away from her mother, Rukmini, and her home in Bengaluru, to distant, misty Assam. She seeks her grandfather, Torun Ram Goswami, someone she has never met before.

Twenty-five years ago, Rukmini – Loya’s mother – had been cast out of the family home by her mother, the formidable and charismatic Usha, while Torun watched silently. Loya now seeks answers, both from him and from the place that her mother once called home.

The story of Torun and Loya is filled with heavier, unspoken moments of regret, longing, , love and connection – punctuated with some mundane banter that bring them both closer. We take a look at some of these that made their relationship all the more poignant for us.

 

Little Moments

Every relationship has its own quirks and mundanities. Loya and Torun are no different; and their periodic games of scrabble are quite heartwarming.

 

Despite his old age and slipping memory, Torun proceeded to trounce Loya at every game. So much for youth.

‘It is that electronic junk that is turning your brain to mush!’

Torun waved at her phone and laptop.

As Torun deliberated over his move, Loya thought of how Roy had laughed when he heard of the scrabble games with her grandfather. She had been angry, but held back from a response. These days she was holding back on all emotions with Roy.

AFFORESTATION. Torun made a long word.

Loya laughed. ‘Good word!’

*

Holding Back

With the history between them, there is a certain precariousness to their relationship in the beginning. We were touched by Torun’s apprehension in the beginning, where he longed to be called koka – Assamese for ‘grandfather’ – by Loya.

 

Torun scowled. The girl still refused to call him koka, although she had no trouble addressing Robin as one.

He took a deep breath. He saw Rukmini’s beloved face in front of him; it was cocked like hers, as if the heavy braid was too much for her small head. She smiled at him. Torun’s eyes filled unexpectedly.

‘Majoni,’ he said to Loya, ‘My dear girl. I am so sorry for all that has happened. Let me do what I can now.’

 

Koka

When Loya finally gets around to addressing Torun as her grandfather, our hearts swelled right with Torun.

 

For three full days Torun hugged the word to himself.

Koka. Grandfather.

‘What’s going on, Deuta?’ Romen teased. ‘You look pleased.’

‘You won’t understand.’

‘Try me!’

‘It’s a secret.’

‘As long as you are happy.’

The girl was stretched out on a sofa, reading. Torun looked at her for a moment.

He was happy.

*

 

Unspoken Love

This particular moment between the two of them carried exceptional emotional weight for us.

 

The girl then rose from her seat and came across to him.

She squatted and put her long arms across his shoulders. ‘I love

you, I think, Koka.’

He watched her make her way back to her bedroom and drained the last of the amber liquid into his glass. He swallowed the last words, lest they escaped him.

 


A delicate, poignant portrait of family and all that it contains, Undertow is an exploration of much more: home and the outside world, the insider and the outsider, and the ever-evolving nature of love itself.

The Bringer of Rain

Translated by Krishna Manavalli, Two Plays brings together two of the most celebrated stories from award-winning playwright Chandrasekhar Kambar.

The first play, The Bringer of Rain: Rishyashringya, tells the story of a village afflicted with a deadly famine eagerly awaits the arrival of the chieftain’s son, whose homecoming promises the return of rain.

The second play, Mahmoud Gawan, is set in the fifteenth-century Bahamani Sultanate, it follows Gawan’s rise to fame during a time of intense civil strife when empires routinely rose and fell.

Find a glimpse of the story in Kambar’s first play in the excerpt below!

*

From the play, ‘The Bringer of Rain: Rishyashringa’
Act I

SUTRADHARA: Brothers seated and brothers standing there!

We’re just raw youth, who came here

And right away got on to the stage.

The one who wrote our play is no seasoned

poet,

 

The ones who act are ignorant lads

If they slip up or go wrong,

Please don’t clap and laugh

And don’t try that gleeful double-whistle!

No, don’t even ask what kind of play this is!

If you don’t get it, don’t drag your chairs and

Yawn

We make no claims to poetic finesse,

But with love, we give you our little message.

Just think that this play was born here

amidst us.

Bear with us for a bit, forgive the flaws.

And you, our elders here, we salute you again!

 

(He breaks a coconut in a ritual manner and throws the bits on both sides of the stage. By now, it is getting dark. Village entrance. On the right of the stage, you see a raised platform. Backstage, you see a crowd. The people in the crowd are not interested in the Prelude taking place on the fore-stage. With a vacant look in their eyes, they move slowly and gather around the platform once the Prelude is over. In the Prelude, the acting, dialogue and the manner should all follow the style of the traditional folk play

Srikrishnaparijatha)

SUTRADHARA: How can I tell you of this? And how can I not?

Whatever I say, our words will sound

Like the clatter of broken pots and pans,

You miss the inner voice here, I know.

We say something, it means another thing—

True, there’s no rhyme or reason! But we can’t

walk away from this

We try to grasp ‘it’ in our words, grasp it and

see!

We struggle hard, yet when we open our lips

We are saying something, and you are hearing

another thing.

Of course, you make sense of nothing!

Where did we start, and where did we end?

All right, enough of this rant, let’s get to

business

We’ll go on the stage to act, but the play isn’t

new

If you ask me, so what? Life’s a play too, right?

Our faces are the theatres where this drama

unfolds,

God, what a lot of the daily drama!

Starts in the morning and goes on till you go

to bed

What pretensions, what masks!

Oh, True God, I pray to you,

Make the inside and outside seamless and

one!

But who knows, where, how, and in which

cave He is hiding!

Meanwhile, we talk, drink, eat and walk—

We don’t know who we are, do we?

Sometimes, when we bathe in the well—

We seem to recognize ourselves in the water.

And stretch our hands to touch it,

When we try to touch, it slips from our grasp,

When we try to grasp, it slithers from our

hold,

In the end, you just want to pinch your nose

and weep.

But weeping when you see a corpse is such an

old custom!

Anyway, what do we do now?

In the big mortar house, a huge tiger has

got in

There isn’t a drop of rain, there’s no crop in

the field.

The seeds we planted are burnt, the parched

earth is cracked,
With cracks like so many gaping mouths!
People’s faces look burnt, the green fields
have all gone dry.


Two Plays is a must-read for anyone wishing to dip a toe into the rich water of Kannada storytelling and folklore!

The Play of Dolls- An Excerpt

Kunwar Narain’s unusual short stories broke new ground and rejuvenated the genre when they appeared on the Indian literary landscape in 1971. Half a century later, in vivid English translation for the first time, they seem just as far-reaching: sometimes in the novelty of their insight, sometimes in their transcendence, sometimes in the world views they together uncover.

Read an excerpt from the short story ‘The Court of Public Opinion’ below:

Sadiq Miyan managed to keep his motives in check at first, but then they went awry. A completely new bicycle, stood completely unclaimed—without even a lock to guard it! He glanced around once, then ran his hand over the bike’s glittering handle, as if caressing the mane of a magnificent Arabian horse. He couldn’t hold back any longer, and jumped on the bike. No one objected, nor noticed; and, well, what could the poor bike say either? He pushed down on the pedal lightly. The youthful cycle was ready to take off with him right away. The people nearby came and went by as usual, just as before.

Sadiq Miyan spurred the bicycle on, and it began to fly like the wind. It was his now.

But, alas, what an awful stroke of bad luck! An endless herd of buffaloes came along, straying right into the middle of the road. Sadiq Miyan lost control and collided with one of the stoutest in the bunch—head-on. What could he do, the poor guy? He hit the ground—his own injury less, the cycle’s, more. Bent and broken, the wheel went from being hoop-shaped to heap-like. The handle, twisted backwards, gazed at the seat, and the mudguard took on a look as if it were not a part of the bike but of the buffalo. The buffalo stood in stunned silence; Sadiq Miyan glanced nervously at the crippled bike. What could he do? He’d really landed himself in a strange sort of trouble. It crossed his mind to abandon the bike and make a run for it. After all, it was only the bike that was broken—nothing wrong with his legs!

But in the meantime, a crowd began to gather all around him, as was only natural. Running just then would have meant getting himself in more trouble. Two, four, six . . .dozens of women, men and children began surrounding him. In the middle lay the mangled bike; with the buffalo, chewing cud, on one side, and Sadiq Miyan, head reeling, on the other.

At first, the people pitied the bike that was now a mess, then their hearts were kindled with compassion for Sadiq Miyan, and finally, they got angry at the buffalo. Because there was clear evidence before them of what happens when one locks horns with a buffalo, they decided to tackle the herdboy instead. It was because of him that the hazard of something like a buffalo had sprung up in the middle of the road, and someone upright like a Sadiq Miyan had become the victim of that hazard.

By consensus, it was decided that they should fix the herdboy properly, right then and there. But Sadiq Miyan objected: in his view, it was more important to fix the bicycle first—and the herdboy should be made to do that. Everyone agreed.

The crowd lifted the bike tenderly and delivered it to a nearby cycle hospital with great care, where its wounds were treated for a cost of ten rupees. But when the herdboy was told to cough up the money, he expressed his inability to do so, and asked how on earth was he supposed to come up with ten rupees when he hadn’t even ten paise to his name then?

Confronted by this new problem, an extraordinary debate took place among the ordinary folk assembled there; so many arguments all at once that it was practically impossible to make out any argument clearly. Nevertheless, one solution somehow seemed to survive intact: whatever the herdboy was wearing should be sold to cover the penalty cost of the repairs.

This too was easier said than done, because the herdboy had nothing but a dhoti around his waist and a lathi in his hand. Even if both these items were taken, it wouldn’t be enough.

Anyhow, after the cycle had recovered, it was agreed that Sadiq Miyan and the cycle should be considered free from the whole dust-up. This was deemed incontestable not only in the eyes of the public, but also in the eyes of the luckless bicycle mechanic, who now, having taken the entire burden of Sadiq Miyan’s ten-rupee misadventure on his own head, was an eager prosecutor of the blameworthy herdboy. As for the public, it was surely commendable that not a single person there was willing to step back until final justice had been delivered, no matter what.

Some wise guy then repeated the suggestion that, if it satisfied the cycle mechanic, the herdboy could also be handily fixed, with a flogging worth ten rupees! But nobody paid much mind to this idiocy, though the herdboy was entirely willing to go along. Everyone’s attention was stuck on the intricate problem at hand: how could they wring ten rupees from the herdboy in his present condition?

One gentleman, who had perhaps trained as a lawyer, or was capable of being a lawyer, came up with a novel proposal: by selling that same buffalo which had given rise to all this mess, the cost of the fine could be recovered. The idea wasn’t unreasonable, and his submission was accepted.

The buffalo again became the centre of attention. For five minutes, the people waited. But where would they find a ready buyer for a thing as big as a buffalo? A buffalo isn’t some wad of paan, a bidi or a cigarette that can be purchased along the road, tucked in one’s pocket, and hung along with the pocket on a peg on some wall back home. It was a matter of responsibility, which could go as far as spelling fortune or disaster for one’s offspring. Second, who had the cash on hand worth a buffalo at this time? As a result, this attempt at justice proved unsuccessful as well.

Around now, everyone was sorely feeling the need for some kind of mastermind in the crowd. A few sights fell on one particular gentleman, and remained on him. He certainly looked like a wiseacre—though some others pegged him as a daydreaming wiseass. They held a vote; and it was decided that he was indeed a wiseacre, not a wiseass, though he himself kept claiming to be nothing less than a prophet.


What will happen next? You’ll have to read The Play of Dolls to find out!

Of Love, Home, and the Outside

Loya is twenty-five, solitary and with restless stirrings in her heart. In an unexpected move, she sets off on an unexpected journey, away from her mother, Rukmini, and her home in Bengaluru, to distant, misty Assam. She seeks her grandfather, Torun Ram Goswami, someone she has never met before.

Twenty-five years ago, Rukmini had been cast out of the family home by her mother, the formidable and charismatic Usha, while Torun had watched silently. Loya now seeks answers, both from him and the place her mother once called home.

In the excerpt below, find a glimpse of the fateful wedding day in 1983, which ends up defining Loya’s exploration of home and family.

 

The Wedding

3 December 1983

 

Despite her father’s enormous love for her and her brother’s steady affection, she had been consigned to the margins of life in the Yellow House by Usha. Well, Rukmini found she did not feel so negligible any more. In a glad inversion of the way Usha diminished her, with Alex Rukmini was enhanced; she felt more of herself.

The world would alter again this morning, Rukmini thought as she walked up the path towards Alex. In a few hours, she would be a wife and Alex, her husband. She shivered again and, as if sensing her fear, Arun turned and linked his arm with hers.

At the veranda, Arun released Rukmini’s arm and she walked, instead, beside Alex, into Robin Khura’s small drawing room. It was a humble room, with its old wooden threepiece sofa set and a couple of cane armchairs. That it lacked a woman’s touch was obvious. But Jitu and Robin, with the aid of the woman hired to help around the house, had done their best to smarten it up. The cushion covers were freshly washed and ironed. There were vases of clumsily arranged flowers on the bookshelves, one tall arrangement of fragrant rajnigandha and other of red roses, overblown and already shedding petals.

‘Sit, sit!’ Robin Khura ushered the couple into the twoseater sofa. ‘The magistrate will be here any minute.’

Rukmini sat down beside Alex. Her hand resting on the seat of the sofa was alarmingly close to Alex’s. She hoped he would not reach across and take her hand. She did not know how things were done in his family down in Bangalore but here it was taboo to touch even your spouse in public view. In fact, it was bad form to express any affection or love between a wife and a husband at all. This was not a society that believed in a hug or embrace outside the bedroom.

‘Tea, anyone?’ Jitu asked.

Rukmini spoke quickly, maybe too soon, and regretting her haste. ‘Not now, later, maybe.’ She could not possibly eat or drink anything now. When would the magistrate arrive? She wanted to be done with it all as soon as she could.

‘Easy, sweetheart,’ Alex said and Rukmini felt herself flush. She was embarrassed at Alex’s use of this endearment before the assembled.

There was just the five of them this morning. There would have been more had it not been for the bandh. All eight of their study circle group and many more of their batch mates—Alex after all was a favourite with many. Some of her friends too, from school, may have shown up. The bandh had kept them all indoors. No family either, though Arun and she had three cousins—all in Jorhat. There were none they were particularly close to.

But what of Alex?

Rukmini realized she had not given any thought to Alex’s family, who were absent. His father had died two years ago, but what of his mother and sister, Rose? When asked, he had said that it was too far for them to travel and they would be going down to Bangalore the next day anyway. There, he said, there would a big reception at Bangalore Club. She had not thought it odd then, but now sitting in the still drawing room, suffocated by the cloying scent of the rajnigandhas, Rukmini was struck by how very strange it all was.

The magistrate arrived, half an hour late. At ten minutes past ten, Rukmini put down the pen she had signed her name with and allowed Alex to gather her up in a quick embrace, before bursting into tears.

 

Undertow presents a delicate and poignant portrait of family and all that it contains. Through Rukmini’s and Loya’s journeys, Jahnavi Barua crafts a complex exploration of home and the outside world, and the ever-evolving nature of love itself.

 

Meet These Chatty Dead Folks!

How would you feel if you woke up waiting in an endless room one day?

Chats with the Dead gets us to meet Malinda Albert Kabalana (or Maali Almeida), who sets out to reach ‘The Light’ – a place where the afterlife comes to an end and the next life on Earth begins. As he glides his way through the afterlife, he meets some dead folks – who are way chattier than one would expect the dead to be. They have some very engaging stories to tell.

We are revisiting some of our favourite afterlife folks below!

 

Dead Lawyer

The Dead Lawyer is witnessing a protest by 113 victims of the 1987 Pettah Bomb blast demanding justice. She wonders:

‘If suicide bombers knew they end up in the same waiting room with all their victims, […] They may think twice.’

*

 

Dead Lovers

Adjusting to the mysterious afterlife, Maali notices the Dead Lovers by the elevator at Galle Face Court. The woman wears a chiffon dress and the man is in a banian and Burberry shorts. The couple tells Maali that,

‘We went together in 1948. […] He was Sinhala, I was Muslim. I think you know the rest of the story.’

When Maali inquires why haven’t they gone for The Light, the Dead Lovers respond with:

‘They say The Light is bigger than heaven or hell […] Easy to get lost. If you think you have found a soulmate, go to them and hold tight.’

*

Dead Mother

Maali comes across his Dead Mother who admits,

‘There is so much to see. I listen to music in different homes. I like to play with the children. I like watching married couples fight.’

When Maali asks her about The Light, she replies:

‘I was abused throughout my marriage. I was forced to give up a baby, my firstborn. If I step into The Light, will they reward me for suffering? Or punish me for being a bad mother?’

*

Dead Dog

A few adventures later, Maali ends up in an exhibition titled ‘Law of the Jungle. Photography by MA.’ The gallery is filled with the finest shots taken by Maali. While looking at the photographs, he’s interrupted by his first visitor – the Dead Dog. And the Dead Dog can talk!

‘If I am reborn human, I will commit cot death.’

*

Dead Leopard

Towards the end of his journey to The Light, Maali is visited by the Dead Leopard who is fascinated by human intelligence. The Dead Leopard admits:

‘I tried to survive without killing. Lasted a month. What to do? I am a savage beast. Only humans can practice compassion properly. Only humans can live without being cruel. I want some of that.’

Maali disagrees and tells the Dead Leopard that humans are most savage of all living beings. The Dead Leopard still wishes to be a human in his next life and asks the way to The Light. He says,

‘Leopards can’t invent lightbulbs. I’ll take my chances.’


Shehan Karunatilaka, bestselling author of Chinaman, is back with a darkly comedic tale of voices from beyond!

Will Ullis be Alright?- An Excerpt from ‘Low’

Following the death of his wife, Dominic Ullis escapes to Bombay in search of oblivion and a dangerous new drug, Meow Meow. So begins a glorious weekend of misadventure as he tours the teeming, kaleidoscopic city from its sleek eyries of high-capital to the piss-stained streets, encountering a cast with their own stories to tell, but none of whom Ullis – his faculties ever distorted – is quite sure he can trust. Heady, heartbroken and heartfelt, Low is a blazing joyride through the darklands of grief towards obliteration – and, perhaps, epiphany.

Read an excerpt from the book below:

The mysterious quality of in-flight air. The low whine of tinnitus, a charged anxious ringing that kept adjusting its volume. The sense of something about to happen, something decisive. Then the lights dimmed as the aircraft dropped through the clouds and prepared to land. It taxied and turned, taxied and stopped.

Payal sprang up again, grabbed her wheeled case from the overhead bin, and went to the front exit, resplendent in her sari. Ullis stayed where he was until the other passengers had left. Then he put half an Ambien under his tongue and took the white plastic box from the overhead bin and floated towards the lovely slum city.

He’d left Delhi on a whim, carrying only the box from the crematorium. If not for the box what would he do with his hands? He would wring them. Repeatedly. Aki was dead and he didn’t know what to do from one moment to the next. The vast abstraction of time reduced to this: stupefaction with the hands. For now it was okay. For now his hands were cradling the box that contained her ashes.

The events of the week had passed through him without resistance from the moment he came home to find Aki dead in the study.

He’d panicked and called her mother. Then he drove to her house, breathless and shouting in the suffocating car. Aki’s mother had come back with him to the apartment in Defence Colony and they’d taken his wife’s body to the hospital. A quartet of stone-faced orderlies had moved her from the emergency room to the morgue. All night the panic sat like a heavy bear on his chest. The bear stayed for many days and nights, until it gave way to exhaustion and blessed amnesia. His mind disengaged from his surroundings. He felt separated from his body, but only partially, as if he’d been insufficiently anaesthetised.

Later, the only thing he remembered clearly was the crematorium, the priests in their white dhotis and saffron forehead smears, their oily faces peering at him from clouds of smoke, the cold young eyes devoid of all earthly emotion except boredom. He’d been shaken by their indifference and dazed by all that was expected of him.

Her mother had dressed Aki in a spectacularly inappropriate multi-coloured silk sari, and she’d made Ullis don a black suit and white shirt. He’d added a pair of chocolate loafers for urgent private reasons and foregone a tie as a concession to the April heat. This was how husband and dead wife had arrived at the crematorium: dressed for a wedding, in clothes neither had worn in their life together.

The suit and sari had been unnecessary. There were no mourners, no witnesses other than a handful of crematorium employees and Ullis and his dry-eyed mother-in-law. She had organised the cremation in such haste that there had been no time to call those who had known Aki and loved her. There was no time for anything other than the observance of rituals, each more pointless than the next.

The bored priests had mouthed their inane mantras. They had sifted uncooked rice and read from ancient leather-bound tomes and stared with their oily eyes. They rang tiny brass bells in a sequence to which only they were privy. (The bells are an omen, and they ring more than once in this story.) When they demanded of him some minor role in the general pagan tumult, he had obliged with the acquiescence required of the husband of the bride. After all, this was what she had been made to resemble, a young bride in silks and flowers. Except that the marigolds were uniformly wilted. Were they leftovers from a previous funeral?

When the priests told him to push the button that would slide her into the electric furnace, he had worried that the absurd sari would burst into flame.

He’d taken a last look at her slight figure dwarfed by piles of flowers and sundry low-priced objects, her face obscured by the sari’s pallu, artfully obscured so no viewer would remark at the blood vessels that had burst on her cheeks and forehead and neck like scarlet-brown buds that would never bloom. “Kar do,” the priest had said. Obediently Ullis slid her in, and some time later his mother-in-law divided his wife’s ashes into two boxes: “One for you and one for me.”

From the crematorium, clutching the box and dressed in his mourning suit, he walked into the dust of an enclosed courtyard surrounded by dead trees and broken concrete columns. From there he walked into the dust of the street.

“Dominic,” his mother-in-law had said. “You will be all right.”

“No,” he said. Was she now his former mother-in-law?

“Of course you will,” she said. “You’ll be just fine.”

“Okay.”

“Shall I ask Jeevan to drop you home?”

“No thank you,” he said. “I’ll take a taxi.”

“Arré, why? I have car and driver. He can drop.”

“I’ll take a cab. But thanks.”

As soon as he took a seat in the back of the battered white Honda that smelled of garam masala and hand sanitiser, Ullis decided not to return to the empty apartment in Defence Colony where each room reminded him of his dead wife and his abject failure as a husband and a man.

What was the point of going home? It was the last place he wished to go. No, he could do better. He’d travel to a city by the sea. After all, was he not carrying his wife’s ashes and did they not need to be immersed?

“Can you take me to the airport?”

The driver was young and easily shocked. He seemed unreasonably upset by the change of plans.

“Sir, I cannot,” he said.

“But why not?”

“First, you must change destination on phone.”

Ullis opened the app. He deleted “Defence Colony” from the drop location and typed in ‘Delhi Indira Gandhi International Airport’.

In half an hour he was at a reservation desk where he bought himself a ticket to the city he knew best, where oblivion was purchased cheaply and without consequence.


Low is a blazing joyride through the darklands of grief towards obliteration – and, perhaps, epiphany. The book is available now!

Heartbreaking Lines from Layla and Tanya’s Story

A richly atmospheric, deeply claustrophobic story with a stunning denouement, of two women confronting the everyday realities of their city and country, So All is Peace by Vandana Singhal provides an unflinching insight into love, lust, fear, grief, and the decisions we make, through a cast of sharply drawn characters brought together by an unspoken wrong.

Here are some powerful but heartbreaking lines that stayed with us long after we had turned the last page:

‘…it made me have an epiphany that that is how my life was going to be; its beauty forever marred by ache, its moments of ecstasy shadowed by agony. I was wrong of course. My moments of happiness reached a point and snapped off. Just like that. Never presaged and never returned.’

*

‘That’s Tanya. She was always beautiful, always a better person, always by my side to make me stronger… But when I begin speaking again, the words stumble and lose direction and fall out as droplets of water. Ok. Perhaps I am not ready to speak yet. In time, but not quite just yet. Or perhaps never.’

*

‘All I feel is pain. Unmitigated, unending pain. Like a loud horrible keeeeeeeee of a faulty microphone inside my head. And cold. I am always so cold that I seem to be discovering new parts of my body that are developing little icicles inside them.’

*

‘His restlessness despite his otherwise structured life as a successful award-winning journalist probably comes from the complete lack of emotional support that he received from his parents throughout his life and although it feels a little juvenile and unfair as a thirty-seven year old man to still attribute his lack of emotional depth to his parents, what is undeniable is that they could be from another planet for how much he understood them or how much they have ever understood him.’

*

‘It is difficult to feel unique when there is another person who looks exactly like you, mirroring your every expression, replicating your every action, even if the replicator is as good looking as Layla often is.’

*

‘The spaces for women have been systematically, methodically truncated. Not by any dictate. That would be too obvious…No, there no boards saying ‘Women not Allowed’. But open a map of Delhi and there they are. The many, many places where no woman can go and the many, many more places where no woman can go after sundown. A temporal and areal-shrinking of their boundaries.’

Full of memorable characters and poignant scenes So All is Peace is a crucial commentary on the emotional realities and heartbreaks faced by women in today’s cities.

Meet the Characters from ‘Jaipur Journals’

Jaipur Journals is a unique, metafictional novel by Namita Gokhale, one of the founder-directors of Jaipur Literature Festival. Set against the backdrop of the festival itself, the book brings together a rich cast of characters and their even richer stories.

We introduce you to some of the characters whose lives intersect and collide within these pages.

 

Zoya Mankotia

A writer who identifies herself as pan-sexual and non-binary, Zoya Mankotia is an icon of queer literature and representation. Her most recent novel, The Quilt, created waves, occasioning both outrage and intense appreciation. Her voice holds a mélange of accents.

In the world of Jaipur Journals, we meet her in a panel, where she introduces herself:

‘I am by discipline a novelist […] as passionate about crossover genres as I am about gender fluidity. I am nonbinary and pan-sexual, and I am committed equally to my writing, my raison d’être, and my wife, my monogamous partner. We can be who we are, write as we like. Sexuality, as a narrative, is a freeflowing river.’

Raju Srivastava

Born in Bijnor, Raju Srivastava is a burglar who is passionate about poetry. He is the son of an unsuccessful tailor-master. He arrives in Jaipur to fulfil two purposes: meeting India’s greatest poet, Janab Javed Akhtar, and covering the cost of the trip through some well-executed burglaries.

Raju nurses a deep-seated desire to become a poet, and is an avid reader of poets like Nirala and Dushyant Kumar, Muktibodh and Firaq Gorakhpuri and Faiz Ahmad Faiz. He writes prolifically, and his preferred form of poetry is the ghazal. His hero and idol in the poetry world, however, is Javed Akhtar.

Anura

Anura is short for Anuradha, a twelve-year-old student en route to Jaipur on a school trip. She is a prodigy, having been selected for a Young Adult panel in the Jaipur Literature Festival. She has self-published a dystopian novel.

As is evident from her preference for the shortened form of her name, she is quite taciturn, and likes to save her words for important things.

Anna Wilde

Anna Wilde is a writer from America, who primarily publishes books on meditation and reflection. Anna is quite renowned for her association with the Beat Poets, especially Allen Ginsberg. She is attending the Jaipur Literature Festival to talk about her books The Inner Eye, which was very successful, and The Third Way, which has recently been reissued.

Anna teaches theology at the University of Colorado. She calls herself a Hindu, by ‘dharma and karma’, and has spent many years in India before returning to America.

Rudrani Rana

Rudrani Rana is a woman in her seventies, who sees herself as a ‘failed novelist’. She always carries around a handbag that contains her unpublished magnum opus; which she refers to as UNSUBMITTED.  The novel is actually titled The Face by the Window and is a dedicated to Alice Walker and her book, The Colour Purple.

Rudrani is an alumna of Waverly Girls School in Dehradun. Alongside her unpublished semi-fictional novel, she also writes anonymous letters as a means to express herself.

She is a huge fan of Oprah Winfrey, which is what had drawn her to the Jaipur Literature Festival for the first time, back in 2012. She is often fatigued and lonely, and feels like an outsider within the literature circuit at the festival.

Gayatri Smyth Gandhy

Gayatri Smyth Gandhy is fifty-two, single, divorced and is a self-proclaimed ‘citizen of the world’. She is a  historian and cultural anthropologist with an American green card.  She is also an aspiring novelist.

She is stuck in her novel, struggling to understand herself what it is about. She lived in Jaipur as an adolescent when her father Brig. Gandhy was stationed there. She considers herself a Jaipurite in many respects, and makes annual trips to the city during the festival. She often feels divided between her Indian and Western selves.


Namita Gokhale’s Jaipur Journals  brings together these characters within the setting of the Jaipur Literature Festival, and their stories are as vibrant and diverse as the largest free literary festival in the world!

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