BENGALURU : City-based Assamese author Jahnavi Barua’s book Undertow, which was launched during the lockdown, starts with a flashback of a bandh set during the ’70s in Guwahati. The author says a part of the book, which revolves around family ties, unintentionally gives a feeling of the lockdown. Barua, who is going to talk about her book on an Instagram live session this Friday, says, “An author always has a plan of how to take the book to an audience, speak about the book or even take it to a different film festival. But lockdown did bring in a twist in the plan,” she says.
Set in ’70s and present time, the book has two protagonists, with the narration done by people from two generations – a grandfather and a granddaughter. “The book speaks about family relationships and shows the issues that two generations have with each other. But there is no judgement. It’s up to the readers to decide on what is right or wrong,” says Barua, who also hails from a joint family. She adds, “There was a point when I lived with my great grandparents, grandparents and parents. So I understand what they go through.”
The book (Penguin, `499) makes its reader shuffle between Guwahati and Bengaluru. “The place you live in, the culture around you and people you socialise with heavily influence a writer. Assam is where I spent a lot of my childhood while Bengaluru is my second home. So these two places had to be in my book,” say Barua, who has been living in the city for 28 years, and calls it the most welcoming city. Bramhaputra river plays an important part in the story. “I don’t want to reveal much but the river is almost treated as a character,” says Barua, who moved to the city in 1992.
Considering herself a slow writer, Barua took eight years to write this book. Her first book, however, was a collection of short stories called Next Door, which was followed by Rebirth - a monologue of a woman talking to her unborn child, which was also shortlisted for the Man Asian Literary Prize and the Commonwealth Book Prize. Interestingly, the author has a degree in medicine, and quit the profession in order to spend time with family. “It was supposed to be a short break but I guess it became a long break,” says the writer, who is married to a former banker.
After having lived in Jaipur and Kochi, she finally settled in Bengaluru. “I never planned to become a writer. I was just a voracious reader. At any given point of time, I used to have four books with me. It started with writing short stories for a competition organised by British Library in Bengaluru,”say Barua, admitting that the current lockdown has brought in a wave of ideas for her next book, which she is going to work on soon.
Jahnavi Barua will go live on the Instagram page of Champaca bookstore on June 12, 6:30 pm.