'The Earthspinner': New lives and ancient myths

Anuradha Roy tells Medha Dutta Yadav how the lives of the two main characters in the book follow 
trajectories that are linked, and which take them far away from their origins.

Published: 26th September 2021 05:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 04th October 2021 11:03 AM   |  A+A-

Anuradha Roy

Anuradha Roy. (Photo | Facebook)

Express News Service

It’s not often that we come across writing combining a passion for pottery and lost pups. Tell us more.

I wanted to knit together several themes that meant a great deal to me: What is our relationship with animals? What does it mean, practically and intellectually speaking, to live by making art; how does great loss, such as that of a parent, affect a young person? How does malice and hatred destroy communities? 

The book is about “changed ways of loving and living in the modern world”. Would you care to explain for our readers?

The two main characters in the book are a young girl and a potter. Their lives follow trajectories that are linked, and which take them far away from their origins. Their relationships and work force them to face many things that shake them to the core. For the girl the things she must confront have to do with growing up, losing a parent, leaving home; for the potter it is his desire to create something and love someone—when his community opposes both. In our country, what you paint or write, who you marry, what you eat, what you name your child—all of it is a battleground. What happens to the potter and the clay horse he makes are like a parable. It is a story we have seen play out in many ways over the last decades and we will continue to.

Anuradha Roy (Photo | Rukun Advani)

This book is almost an ode to love and seems forlorn at times. How important are these themes to you?
The book does assert the absolute importance of love—and by that I don’t mean romantic love. What transforms Elango is his inexplicable tenderness for the dog he finds abandoned. The feelings that grow in him for this dog, his need to care for it and protect it, the sense of fellowship he feels with it—all this changes him profoundly. The book is also about the other side of love, which is loss. 

Tell us about your protagonist, Elango? Is he a bit of a reflection of you?

Elango is a traditional potter, by which I mean a potter who comes from generations of potters. Despite their great skill, these potters are often very poor and Elango’s father tried to draw him away to other professions by giving him an education. But Elango’s passion was to make things with clay and so despite his education and the fact that his college friends were in profitable, high-status professions, he remained a potter. The only thing I share with him is a passion for clay. He is not a reflection of me at all.

Why choose to base your story in India and England?

One of the themes of this book is discrimination and the way it changes with your context. The girl, Sara, discovers this when she begins living in England. Privileged, middle-class people from India are at the top of the heap here, and it is only when they reach the West that they realise what it is to be from an underclass. It is a hard lesson for Sara and it enables her to understand the events of her childhood better.

You began writing in 2008 and it has been a fruitful journey. Do you think you still have an unfinished book inside you?

I honestly don’t know the answer to that. Even if I am constantly writing it’s a long and uncertain path to a book.

Do you think the pandemic has brought forth more readers and writers?

From what we read, book sales shot up in foreign countries the last two years. Here, most publishers report that they plummeted during the pandemic. Young people write to me asking how they can become better writers—I always tell them they need to read, read, read. I don’t think most of them want to hear this, though. Reading books is not a priority in our country.

Did the pandemic affect your writing?

Writing is a solitary job and solitude became even easier with the pandemic.

What next?
Who knows?


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