days of delving in the past I fast forward to current times and pick a modern
day favourite, an Indian American this time and a lady yet again.. I really
hadn’t realised I preferred women writers with women protagonists.
Today it is
Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni the author of the award winning The Mistress of Spices.
She has authored over a dozen books including novels and short stories as well
as some poetry. Her subjects are often Indian American immigrants. Her books include Arranged Marriage (short stories), Sister of My Heart, The Vine of Desire and Oleander Girl among others.
She was born
in Calcutta (now Kolkata) and after finishing her graduation she moved to the
United States. It wouldn’t have been easy for her there and she took up various
small jobs to put herself through college - ‘menial and minimum wages’ is what
she terms them. However had she not moved, she just might not have become a
writer at all
On being a
In her blog
she says, “In India, growing up in a traditional family, I had never considered
being a writer.” In America she came across other immigrants like her. She
identified with their struggles, struggles to fit into this new country yet to
keep their values intact at some level. And that’s where she started weaving
her stories and her first book ‘Arranged Marriage’ was born. Some of her stories
have a nagging melancholy, I don't particularly are for, but they do paint a vivid picture of immigrants.
I love the quaint
mix of India and America she serves up in her novels. I enjoyed The Mistress of Spices. That mix of magic and exotica coupled with
human longings and failings made for a compelling read.
However my absolute all time favourite is the one novel that doesn't talk of immigrants. It is The Palace of Illusions - a retelling of the Mahabharat, from a woman’s
perspective. Banerjee simplifies the epic once more talking of human failings and human relationships.
Her protagonist Draupadi is a princess 'born to destroy', the 'ill-fated' one. Yet how strong she is - a woman who refused
to take the name Draupadi (from her father’s name Drupad) and preferred to call
herself Panchali (after the kingdom of Panchal, where she was born). That must
have been quite a rarity in those days when women spent their lives in the shadow
of their fathers, brothers, husbands or sons. Forced to marry five men instead of the one she truly loved she strives to be a good wife to each. I loved her special relationship with Krishna too - his cool responses to her heated ones. She is passionate and outspoken, rash and vengeful too. Yet you cannot but fall in love with Banerjee's Panchali.
PS: I have
to add just a tiny bit about my other favourite ‘C’ author – the lady from
Nigeria Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Interestingly her latest novel Americanah
also deals with the issue of immigrants to America. Talk about connecting across
This post is part of the April A to Z
Challenge, 2014 for the theme AMAZING AUTHORS.
Also linking to the Ultimate Blog Challenge.
Labels: April A to Z Challenge, Authors, Books, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, reading, The Palace of Illusions