It’s rare to come across a writer who tries to show the world through a female lens. In a literary world dominated by female characters drawn from a male perspective, Chitra Banerjee Dibakarni She has always offered a unique perspective and brought women from the periphery to the center of the story.She is famous for retelling the great Indian epics. Ramayana When Mahabharata – from Sita’s Perspective Despite being central to each story, Draupadi is usually forgotten in the heroic brawl of the male protagonists.
But that’s not all! Indian-born American writer She also raised the issue of the immigrant experience, being an immigrant herself, through her nuanced writings. Over the course of her nearly 30-year journey as an author, Chitra has branched out into multiple genres, including magical realism, mythology, realistic fiction, historical fiction, and fantasy.
To understand her novel, her writing process, her emphasis on strong female characters, her journey, and more, we spoke with the author before her appearance at the 2023 Jaipur Literature Festival.
What inspired the latest book Independent: Novel What chronicles the lives of three sisters navigating partitions?
I started thinking about this novel as soon as I finished reading the previous one. the last queen, about Maharani Jindan Kaur, the last queen of Punjab.Although she fought valiantly against the British, Jindan was ultimately unable to save her kingdom from their clutches.This was India’s darkest moment. historyI felt a strong need to follow up that story with a novel about India’s victory, liberation from the British yoke. rice field. I immediately knew that I wanted to individualize my experience of this momentous moment in the history of this country. We decided to explore the national struggle for freedom from the perspective of three dissimilar sisters who learn what their independence means in the process of navigating turbulent times. I focused on Bengal because that’s where I’m from and very little has been written (in English) about Bengal’s painful impact. partition on the eastern border of India.
Your novels typically feature strong female protagonists. What’s the idea behind the same?
Since the first book I have been interested in put women at the center of my story. Perhaps this is because I’ve read a lot of books where the main character is male or female characters are presented through a male gaze. I feel that empowering women to tell their own stories is very important to me. independencefeatures three female protagonists who are able to see and interpret the world through the eyes of women. It’s also important to me that my female protagonist be complex, flawed, and human, and that people accept their own imperfections. gandhi) has always been a great inspiration for me. She raised my brother and I alone and taught her to stand on her own feet. By the way, she told me many harrowing stories about her 1946 Calcutta riots, which she lived through, and other incidents captured in this novel.
The immigration experience is a large part of your writing, and you have said before that it is a political act. Could you please elaborate?
I feel more and more that all writing is a political act. Constantly pointing out issues with how they are treated. This is certainly true about my immigration story set in America, in books like: arranged marriage When queen of spices, points out the many challenges facing the Indian-American community.novel like independence political in another sense. Remember when India became independent?Remember how the whole country banded together to take liberty from Britain? And remember the horrific killings during that time? partition, how Hindus and Muslims turned against each other in sudden hatred and anger, resulting in nearly a million deaths. Let’s remember history so we don’t repeat our mistakes.
How have your own immigration experiences and personal travels influenced your writing?
I started writing a few years after I moved to the United States to study in graduate school. After leaving India, I missed my culture, my family and my friends so much that I turned to India. write in As a comfort and to remember everything that was so important to me. Also, being half a world away allowed us to ‘see’ both the good and bad sides of India more clearly. At the same time, I was an outsider in American society. It was exciting and adventurous, but it was also a difficult and lonely place. This combination has been great for my writing. I was able to focus, feel and remember my home country. At the same time, I see clearly the immigrant communities that were around me and share their stories with my readers.i started working with domestic violence Volunteered with the organization and survivors and has been active ever since. From that time on, advocating for the empowerment of women so that they can live lives of dignity became important both in my life and in my writing.
Can you describe your writing process?
Each book has a different inspiration.novels like fantasy palace When magic forest our amazing epic, Mahabharat and the Ramayana—however, I was more interested in the female characters and always felt they were misrepresented and misunderstood. the last queen When I saw a painting of Maharani Jindan, I was immediately drawn to her beautiful yet stoic face.for independence(as in an old Bengali folktale) the idea of three sisters came to mind.
I mainly read and study books and old newspapers widely. I love looking at images, old paintings, photographs and even maps spark my imagination. Of course, I read other authors as well. Tagore It has a big impact on me.his novel home and world It was in the corner of my head while writing independenceWhen I start composing I have a few stories in my head, but as the story progresses the second half slowly and organically forms and the characters become better understood. I am often amazed at what my characters do and how they grow and change. I think the element of discovery is important in a successful novel. As the poet Robert Frost said, “It is not surprising to the writer, nor is it surprising to the reader.”
from Mistress of SpiceWhat independencehow did you evolve as a writer?
I hope you learned more as you progressed as a writer! I wish my character had become more complex. I hope my language has become more nuanced.I want to be good at drawing complex drawings relationship and situation. But there are some things that are the same, such as the excitement you get when you have a new idea. Then I don’t want to talk to anyone and I don’t want to do anything else. I just want to go to my study and write, write, write!
What can your audience expect from your session at this year’s Jaipur Literature Festival?
I will do many things this year. First, have a conversation with Aanchal Malhotra about the new novel. independenceI am very honored to have Sudha Marty, whom I greatly admire, as the founder of this book. Then I talk about Madushree Ghosh and her new non-fiction book. Havar, about the Bengali cuisine she grew up on. This book is, above all, a meditation on immigration, family and personal challenges, and has many great recipes. increase!
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