Heading towards the starting point

In his latest novel, Sarojini’s Mother, Kolkata-born author Kunal Basu explores the story of an adopted daughter who comes back to India looking for her biological mother

Published: 05th February 2020 06:35 AM  |   Last Updated: 05th February 2020 06:35 AM   |  A+A-

By Express News Service

How did you come up with the idea behind the book?
In the late seventies when I was a student in the US, I’d find rows of newborns travelling from India to Europe and beyond. They were orphans, I was told, ferried over to the homes of their adopting parents. That image had stayed with me, and was evoked whenever I read a newspaper report of a young person visiting India in search of her/his biological mother. A recent Hollywood film was based on one such story of a reunion. However, only 5 per cent of searches have a happy ending, the rest remain unresolved. Even more than the search, the motive behind it was my starting point. What could the adoptee be searching for? Simply a biological entity or something else – a psychological anchor? What if the person had to choose between two prospective mothers, each offering a different kind of bond? Such thoughts lay behind the story of Sarojini’s Mother.

Has there been any inspiration drawn from any real life incident?
I was once asked by a friend to help her look for her biological mother. It was an unsuccessful search, but it taught me a thing or two about the psychological complexity of the process and the challenge of acquiring “true evidence” of motherhood.

Have you come across anyone who is as determined as Sarojini? 
Most certainly. Not just in terms of searching of a mother, but in several kinds of pursuits, such as establishing a stable livelihood, overcoming illness, fighting against injustice.

What is the process to the research behind this book?
There were two areas of research. First, understanding in detail the science behind DNA analysis to establish maternity. And second, revisiting parts of Kolkata that are featured in this novel, to draw out their novelties.

Who has been the first reader of your book? 
Susmita, my wife – as always.

Did you always want to be an author? 
I was born in a house full of books. My mother, Chabi Basu, was a well-known author and my father a publisher. In fact, I was born on the floor of their home library. I grew up in the company of my parent’s friends, many of who were authors, poets, playwrights or film directors. An avid reader from an early age, I knew I was bound to gravitate towards writing.

Which are the authors we can find in your bookrack?
It is a very long bookrack, full of classic and contemporary authors. Among classics, you’d find Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay, Tagore, Saratchandra, Dickens, Zola, Dostoevsky, Steinbeck, Faulkner… and many more. JM Coetzee, Michael Ondaatje, Pamuk and others make up the list of the contemporaries.

How long did it take for your to finish this book?
About a year.


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