Tag Archives: Aruna Chakravarti

Book Excerpt: Suralakshmi Villa by Aruna Chakravarti

Suralakshmi Villa

 

Title: Suralakshmi Villa

Author: Aruna Chakravarti

Publisher: Macmillan, 2020

Links : Amazon

 

Two days went by. On the third, Ayub drew up at an ancient stone ghat slippery with moss and lichen.

‘Why are you stopping at this God-forsaken spot?’ Muneera exclaimed. ‘We’ll get nothing here.’

‘The next ghat is two and a half miles away. And it’s already past noon.’

Suralakshmi, Pratul and Tara looked around. All they could see was dense forest without a sign of human habitation. The trees had crept right up to the bank. Yet there was a wide stone ghat which, though crumbling in parts, had obviously been impressive once.

‘What is this area called?’ Pratul asked. Read more

How Aruna Chakravarti weaves syncretic and feminist lore in Suralakshmi Villa

Book Review by Mitali Chakravarty

Suralakshmi Villa

 

Title: Suralakshmi Villa

Author: Aruna Chakravarti

Publisher: Panmacmillan, 2020

 

In these troubled times, where exclusivity seems to be the norm, Suralakshmi Villa, a novel by Sahitya Akademi winner, Aruna Chakravarti, seems to rise like a tsunami with its syncretic lore spanning different parts of India—Delhi and Bengal, especially the hinterlands of Malda — and flooding the narrative with gems of not just culture and fantasy but also feminist and progressive concerns.

Developed out of her short story of the same name on the advice of Ruth Prawar Jhabarwala, an eminent author and the subject of Chakravarti’s PHD dissertation, the story is narrated from various perspectives. It is an interesting technique as the story rolls out different aspects of the development of women and society across almost half-a-century — from post-independence to the pre-internet days.

The first introduction to the Villa in the book is given by the youngest generation — Joymita, an avant-garde journalist. The story coils around generations of Indranath Choudhary’s clan or should one take a non- patriarchal stand and say — Suralkashmi’s family? Suralakshmi was the middle daughter of the man who build separate houses for each of his five daughters and named them after the girls. Suralakshmi was perhaps the most unusual of all the sisters and therefore a good protagonist for any novelist. Was she a feminist or did she live by her beliefs? We have to read to discover.

Chakravarti, in Jorasanko, her best- selling historical novel, took up the concept of abarodh, a kind of purdah that was practiced among women in Bengal prior to the late nineteenth- early twentieth century. In this one, she pauses a little on abarodh but introduces women who have already moved out of the confines of the purdah and have a right to decide their lives, though the less-educated and impoverished have difficulty in finding their independence. She says in an interview: “Like all my other novels Suralakshmi Villa focusses on the lives of women. It is about two sets of sisters. The first belongs to a wealthy, modern, enlightened, household of Delhi. The other, a goatherd’s daughters living in a slum in Malda, comes from the dregs of society.  But close inspection reveals that there is not much difference in their lives and fates. There is emotional violence in one world…both physical and emotional violence in the other.” Read more

Aruna Chakravarti converses on  Tagore Women, Jorasanko, Patriarchal Values and More…

By Mitali Chakravarty

Aruna pic

A versatile woman of arts and letters, acclaimed and celebrated, Aruna Chakravarti’s writing has been acknowledged by awards like Vaitalik Award, Sahitya Akademi  Award and Sarat Puraskar. Chakravarti talks of interactions with greats like writer Sunil Gangopadhyay and actress Sharmila Tagore to discuss her books and translations in festivals. Her books are often a protest against social ills which linger beyond the past. Her first novel  The Inheritors ( 2004, Penguin)  was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and her third, Jorasanko ( 2013, Harper Collins) received critical acclaim and also became a best seller. Daughters of Jorasanko ( 2016), a sequel to Jorasanko, has sold widely and received rave reviews.  Her translated works include an anthology of songs from Rabindranath Tagore’s Gitabitaan, Saratchandra Chattopadhyay’s Srikanta (which won her the Sahitya Akademi Award) and Sunil Gangopadhyay’s Those days, First Light and Primal Woman: Stories. Chakravarti was the  Principal of a prestigious women’s college of Delhi University for ten years. She is an academic, creative writer and translator with fourteen published books — three novels, one book of short stories, two academic works and eight translations.

22fa274f-4a0d-4c09-8935-35685fae7e7eChakravarti’s latest work, a novel titled Suralakshmi Villa, published by Pan Macmillan this year, will be her fifteenth book. The launch scheduled for 25th February, 2020, in Delhi’s  India International Centre will have a panel discussion on the book by eminent academics for half-an-hour followed by a multi-media presentation of an excerpt from the book created by the author herself. In this exclusive, Chakravarti talks of why and how she writes and more.

 

Since when have you been writing? What inspires you to write?

I used to write prolifically as a child. Poems and stories would pour out of me in a joyous, unthinking stream and I loved the feeling it gave me.

Things changed when, after joining the English Honours course in college, I was introduced to the academics of literature, taught the principles of criticism and how to distinguish good writing from mediocre. I became disillusioned with my work. I found it wanting on so many counts.  I felt I was useless as a writer. Self- criticism is good but, in my case, it verged to the point of negativity.

I stopped writing altogether.

There was a gap of twenty-five years before I picked up the courage to write again.

To answer the second part of your question my juvenilia reflected whatever I was reading at the time, mostly poems and stories written by English writers, and was hugely imitative. But my adult work is derived directly from living experience. It is from the world around me that I draw inspiration. Read more

Shweta Taneja’s dystopian story published in Kitaab’s The Best Asian Speculative Fiction a pre-finalist in major French Award 

By Mitali Chakravarty

Shweta Taneja’s story named as pre-finalist in French Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire

The Best Asian Speculative Fiction (2018) is like a rebellious shout to change the world with its threat of futuristic dark stories. Many award-winning and well-known writers like Kiran Manral, Vrinda Baliga, Rochelle Potkar, Park- Chan Soon, Tunku Halim and Eldar Sattarov, have contributed to the anthology. The stories have covered different areas of the genre called speculative which the editor, Rajat Chaudhuri, an established voice in this field, calls, “our adorable, shape-shifting, slippery creature”. 

Zafar Anjum, the series editor of the Best Asian series and publisher, explained how the Speculative fiction anthology  came about and the editor was chosen: “It was an idea suggested by one of our authors, Anuradha Kumar, and when we got in touch with Rajat to work on an anthology of speculative fiction, he readily agreed. Rajat had done reviews for us before and we always admired his writing, so it was a natural choice.”

Chaudhuri picked Shweta Taneja’s story, ‘The Daughter That Bleeds’, for the Editor’s Choice Award. And now, it has been picked as a pre-finalist in the prestigious French Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire. This French award was first given in 1974 for science fiction and later stretched to the emerging genre of speculative. Winners include Ursula Le Guin (2008), Ken Liu (2016) and Carolyn Ives Gilman (2019). The French Ambassador to India, Emmanuel Lenain, has tweeted about this, tagging Kitaab and Chaudhuri.

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Grand Prix De L'Imaginare

Chaudhuri has remarked that Taneja’s story fits into Margaret Atwood’s formulation of this genre. In his introduction he tells us, “Atwood’s test for the speculative is on the touchstone of possibility … Marking a clear break from some of the improbabilities of science fiction, her formulation stresses on this aspect of possibility as the sine qua non of the speculative.” Shweta’s story is “about a market for fertile women who have become rare in a post-apocalyptic India”.  Read more

Jaipur Festival: Where flows the love for literature…

Every January, India hosts the largest literary festival in the world — the Jaipur Literary festival. Founded in 2006, it gathers the glitterati of the literati in the Diggi Palace Hotel in the heart of the historical city. The festival directors are writers Namita Gokhale and Willian Dalrymple.

This year, it stretched from 23rd to 27 th January and hosted around 300 writers. Speakers this year include well-known names like Nobel laureate (2019) Abhijit Banerjee, Javed Akhtar, Madhur Jaffrey, Aruna Chakravarti, KR Meera, the controversial Shashi Tharoor, Magsaysay award-winning journalist Ravish Kumar and many more. Authors from other countries included Man International Booker Prize Winner (2019) Jokha Alharthi, Elizabeth Gilbert, Paul Muldoon, Stephen Greenblatt and Christina Lamb. More than 200 sessions stretched across five days with writers from 20 countries and literature in more than 25 languages.

Earlier, it had hosted names like Margaret Atwood, Salman Rushdie, Vikram Seth and more big names. Subjects like climate change, the water crisis, history, economics, politics, feminism, fiction and non-fiction all came under discussion in these sessions. Even the poetry of Faiz Ahmed Faiz that created such a stir in India was under discussion. Read more

Book Review: Daughters Of Jorasanko by Aruna Chakravarti

daughters

The world may not know of Jorasanko, but to Bengalis it’s the epoch of extraordinary creative output now known in history as the “Bengal renaissance”. For Jorasanko, a neighbourhood in north Kolkata, was the Tagore family seat and home to Asia’s first Nobel laureate.

Rabindranath is the most recognised, but he was merely the brightest spark in a family of remarkably talented members, many of whom were pioneers in their own right. Their contributions no less important, but now only known to specialists. His father, Debendranath, for instance, was the founder of Brahmo Samaj, his sister Swarnakumari was one of Bengal’s first women writers, sister-in-law Jnanadanandini was credited with improvising the modern style of wearing the sari, and many others whose achievements could cover the whole page.

The family was full of creative energy, but the Tagore women had an ambivalent existence—liberated and limited at the same time; speaking English and playing the piano like memsahibs, but having no say in whom they married or if mistreated by their husbands.

This is the world in which Aruna Chakravarti sets Daughters of Jorasanko, a historical novel about life in Jorasanko Thakurbari’s “andar mahal”. Like its bestselling prequel, Jorasanko, published in 2013, this one too has the poet as its protagonist. Read more

India: Sharmila Tagore inaugrates Taj literature festival

Veteran actress Sharmila Tagore today inaugurated the second Taj literature festival in which a number of authors and poets will participate.

In a discussion, Sharmila spoke with Aruna Chakravarti, author of the historical novel, Jorasanko, the ancestral house of the Tagore family.

Sharmila told the audience about the state of women in the Tagore household, particularly their lifestyle.

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Inside the Tagore home

jorasankoIn North Kolkata, big gates lead into Rabindranath Tagore’s ancestral home, Jorasanko. Staircases lead up to wide verandas that skirt rooms with high ceilings, cold black and white marble floors and arched doorways with green louvered shutters. They all overlook a courtyard downstairs. Once, the big rooms were filled with men in their crinkly dhotis and kurtas holding animated discussions and debates on art, literature and politics. In the abarodh or the women’s quarters, mothers, wives, sisters, daughters and daughters-in-law held sway.

Like Tara of Gone with the Wind, or Manderly of RebeccaJorasanko drips atmosphere. The great house was packed to the rafters with people, yet there was always loneliness, fear and despair. Within its walls lurked insanity, abuse, infidelity and politics. Aruna Chakravarti gathers all these details and turns out a novel in which she recreates the world of 18th century Bengal, especially the privileged yet cloistered world of women.

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