Mahesh Rao was born and grew up in Nairobi, Kenya. He studied politics and economics at the University of Bristol and law at the University of Cambridge and the London School of Economics. In the UK he has worked as a lawyer, academic researcher and bookseller. His short fiction has been shortlisted for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize, the Bridport Prize and the Zoetrope: All-Story Short Fiction Contest; his work has appeared in The Baffler and is also due for publication in Prairie Schooner. The Smoke Is Rising is his first novel, which is already garnering great reviews. He lives in Mysore, India.
Kitaab recently reached out to him to ask him about his writing journey so far.
‘The Smoke is Rising’ is your debut novel. How did the idea of this novel (clash of modernity and tradition) come to you?
It was while walking past the house where R K Narayan lived in Yadavagiri, Mysore, that I began to wonder how Malgudi would appear on the page, if it were being written about today. After a number of drafts, this eventually became a novel set in contemporary Mysore. And in the novel, the construction of Asia’s largest theme park, HeritageLand, and what it represents to the inhabitants of the city, raises questions that could apply to almost any other city in India.