BANGALORE: Jahnavi Barua is a author from Assam based in Bangalore. She is the author of Next Door, a critically acclaimed collection of short stories set in Assam with insurgency as the background. Her second and most recent book 'Rebirth' was nominated for the Man Asian Literary Prize for the touching story of Kaberi, a young woman coming to grips with an uncertain marriage. Her book beautifully portrays the passionate bond between a mother and her unborn child amidst the turbulent landscape of her strained emotional ties. City Express caught up with Jahnavi about her book and inspiration.
How did the idea of the central character, Kabiri, come about?
A. I was inspired by the difficult lives many young women in our cities have today; away from family and friends they are often very alone and isolated.
Is Kabiri’s story particularly an Indian woman’s story or is it universal, something every woman is likely to face at one point?
Kaberi's story is a universal one, I think, although some of the details of her life are not.
Are any of the characters in the book, people you have known or met in your life?
No. None of them are.
How did the idea of such a unique narrative device come up?
Kaberi is very alone and it is not uncommon to have pregnant women talking to their unborn children; it is natural then, that she should begin talking to her child in her isolation.
Has the place you come from, Assam and the place which you have now made your home, Bangalore, shaped your fiction to a great extent?
Yes, both places do inform my fiction.
Assamese literature is replete with references to Brahmaputra. Is that the reason the name of the river has found mention in most of your book?
No. The river has been a central figure in my own life; I have lived right upon its banks in childhood and it made an indelible impression on me.
The people from the North Eastern part of India including Assam have always felt neglected and have been distant from the centre of things. What do you think needs to be done to address the issues?
A.One way would be to initiate and accelerate development in the region.
The trees and flowers in Bangalore make frequent appearances in your book. Is that how you identify with the city or you are simply a nature lover?
Because I love nature, I identify with the natural beauty of a place.
Who are your favourite authors?
Too many to name; to name a few: Alice Munro, Raymond Carver, Kawabata, Coetzee, Shashi Despande.
Being a doctor by training, has it influenced the way you write?
It makes my writing precise and organised.
How is a typical day in the life of Jahnavi Barua?
A lot of domestic chores and responsibilties, and a little bit of writing at night.
Were you surprised to be shortlisted for the MAN Asian Literary Prize?
Yes, I was surprised at the shortlisting.
Has the response to your book from readers been overwhelming?
The book is not available across the world, but a few dedicated reviewers in the US, UK and Australia managed to get hold of it and gave it such outstanding reviews that I was quite overwhelmed.
I am working on a novel that I hope to complete shortly.