Friday, April 29, 2011

From New Worlds to a New World

TOM SYKES traces the influence of the new wave of science fiction on postcolonial literature

IN 2010, I wrote an article about the new wave of science fiction, spearheaded by authors connected to the seminal New Worlds magazine. The new wave grappled with cerebral themes that the genre had traditionally shied away from: social anomie, gender/sexual politics, the ambiguities of human subjectivity, the dangers and limitations of science and technology, the relationship between rationality and irrationality, and entropy. The simple narrative conventions of the space romance were supplanted by experimental formal techniques such as parataxis, self-reflexivity and cut-up, borrowed from sources as diverse as the Beats, the surrealists and the Dadaists. Originating in the 1960s, this brave new literary approach aimed to reflect a brave new Western world whose values and epistemological assumptions were being interrogated by varieties of social protest, mind-altering drugs, Third World struggles of national liberation such as Vietnam, the anti-psychiatry movement led by R.D. Laing and an all-permeating mass media as conceptualized by Marshall McLuhan.

By the late 1970s, the new wave had petered out as a discernible movement. These days, however, we can see its hallmarks on everything from comic books to steampunk literature to films such as The Matrix. Michael Moorcock makes an even greater claim: ‘We were doing postmodernism before the name was invented’. But while the influence of the new wave on Western culture is clear enough, less well-known is its impact upon certain postcolonial writers of a fantastic, anti-realist persuasion. Salman Rushdie, Amitav Ghosh, Doris Lessing, Peter Carey, Ian McDonald and Sam Watson have all produced works uncannily resonant of the new wave, bringing its key concerns and devices to bear not on the Anglo-American 1960s, but on the postcolonial world and its attendant issues of migration, hybridity, cultural identity, racism and colonialism/imperialism.

While critics such as Maggie Anne Bowers have rightly identified the influence of magic realism on Rushdie, the man himself also admits a debt to science fiction and a love for the films of Terry Gilliam (both men, incidentally, began their careers in the dream factories of the advertising world). Indeed, Rushdie’s debut Grimus (1975) was set to win the prestigious Victor Gollancz Science Fiction Prize, for which new wave stalwart Brian Aldiss was a judge. However, Rushdie’s publishers withdrew the novel from contention for fear of their rising star being labelled a ‘genre’ writer. Whatever the politics surrounding Grimus, its story has a strong taste of the new wave about it. Its setting, the metaphysical realm of Calf Island, is an analogue of J.G. Ballard’s celebrated ‘innerspace’: a fractured psychological landscape of paradoxical notions and images. For Ballard, innerspace was a device for exploring ‘the latent pathology of the consumerist West’. For Rushdie, Calf Island is a metaphor for a rapidly-changing world in which decolonisation, immigration and globalisation are tearing down the old metropolitan certainties and giving a voice to the subaltern subject. His eccentric cast of characters is truly cosmopolitan (snooty Russian aristocrats, racist American cowboys, stubbornly rationalist British scientists) and hybridised (‘Virgil Beauvoir Chanakya Jones’), representing a vast plethora of mores, creeds and world views. In a similar fashion, Sam Watson in his 1991 novel, The Kadaitcha Sung, mingles different cultural outlooks by having his more recognisably ‘real’ characters interact with the ghosts and demons of Aboriginal mythology. This can be read as a forceful critique of race relations and nationalism in contemporary Australia.

Here Rushdie and Watson invite comparison with two classics of the new wave canon: Stand on Zanzibar by John Brunner and Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delany (an African-American author who dealt more explicitly with colonialism in Empire Star (1966), which are both indebted to the cognitive scientific theory of ‘multistable perception’ described by Sterzer, Kleinschmidt and Rees as ‘the spontaneous alternation between two or more perceptual states that occurs when sensory information is ambiguous.’ These books veer between conflicting voices, registers and allusions in order to present a more holistic account of strange invented worlds that nonetheless comment upon the real world. In the case of Stand on Zanzibar, the earth is stricken by overpopulation and information overload, whereas Dhalgren is the tale of a US city in entropic breakdown recounted by a mentally disturbed individual.

Indeed, multiplicity informs the underlying mechanics of Grimus’ fictional universe, for Calf Island is just one dimension within an ‘infinity of dimensions’, one notion of reality amongst countless. Those who cannot muster the single-mindedness to resist this difficult truth succumb to ‘Dimension Fever’, but others, namely the tyrannical Grimus himself, are able to manipulate this situation through such science fictional instruments of power as the ‘Crystal of Potentialities’.

Taking their cue from savage critics of the Enlightenment like Herbert Marcuse and Theodor Adorno, the new wave writers repudiated the starry-eyed progressivism of their Golden Age forebears and spun bleak tales of ecological disaster (Ballard’s The Drowned World), nuclear apocalypse (Walter M. Miller, Jr.’s A Canticle for Liebowitz) and lethal computer malfunction (Harlan Ellison’s I Have No Mouth & I Must Scream). In the same vein, Amitav Ghosh’s The Calcutta Chromosome (1996) rejects the scientific meliorism of the British Raj as hypocritical, arrogant and methodologically flawed. The character of Ronald Ross (who in real life won the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1902) overconfidently assumes that his research into malaria will wipe out the disease forever.

More controversially, another colonial scientist, Cunningham, takes all the credit for a breakthrough in fact made by Mangala, his female Indian assistant. Many years later, a Westernised Indian named Murugan investigates the mysteries surrounding this research. Even though he is the citizen of an advanced future society of artificial intelligence and instant global communication, it is ironic that he must admit, ‘We don’t even know what we don’t know.’ Indeed, like cars in Ballard’s Crash (1973), technological inventions designed to improve humanity in the various timeframes of The Calcutta Chromosome instead threaten or oppress it, whether this be a runaway train in 19th century Bengal or a sophisticated IT system belonging to a near-future NGO.

Ultimately, it is revealed that a shadowy cult devoted to reincarnation is manipulating malaria research for its potential ‘for a crossover of randomly assorted personality traits’. Ghosh blurs the binary between science and spirituality as a way of re-asserting a subaltern world view that for so long had been trampled by the absolutist empiricism of imperial ideology. Likewise, Michael Moorcock’s reappraisal of the Jesus story, Behold the Man (1969), examines the relationship between religion and psychology, but for another purpose: to understand how mass hysteria and megalomania functioned in the historical moment of the 1960s.

Doris Lessing’s Shikasta (1979) and the 2004 anthology So Long Been Dreaming employ stronger science fictional tropes than Rushdie or Ghosh for more overt political ends. These works deal metaphorically with such colonial/postcolonial misdemeanours as slavery, genocide through war and disease, cultural repression and the displacement of indigenous persons. It is fitting then that Lessing declared in 1982 that ‘science fiction is some of the best social fiction of our time’.

While the postcolonial authors are conventionally viewed as following in the slipstream of postmodernism and magic realism, I believe that examining such authors through the prism of the new wave of science fiction leads us to a fuller critical understanding of them. Like Flapping Eagle, the protagonist of Grimus, Rushdie, Ghosh, Lessing and others have travelled the world, adapting to different cultures, absorbing alien concepts and habits. That the richness of their fiction comes from such hybridity is hardly an original claim to make. They have drawn upon the literature and mythology of their homelands. They have incorporated lofty metropolitan ideas learned at Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard and other Ivy League universities. But they have also been inspired by more demotic forms, chief amongst them science fiction.

Reproduced from the January-March 2011 issue of Quill magazine

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Missing Link

When seven kids at a Nepali orphanage disappear, a volunteer decides it’s time to put love into action, writes JANET TAY

I OFTEN GRUMBLE about the low water pressure in my apartment and the numerous filters needed to make the water clean enough for use. It is easy to take running water for granted, as we do electricity and other urban amenities. When you live in the city, it seems inconceivable that there might be places with no running water or proper toilets, much less broadband connection and public transportation.

It took a book by American volunteer Conor Grennan, Little Princes: One Man’s Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal, for me to learn about that country’s problems and not to take for granted the privilege of having basic everyday necessities.

In Nepal, there are some villages so steeped in poverty that they do not have clean water and adequate sanitation, where the nearest clinics or medical facilities are miles away. As if life was not hard enough, the country was stricken by civil war between the government and Maoist (the Communist Party of Nepal) rebels from 1996 to 2006, resulting in more than 10,000 people killed and displaced. During those trying times, some desperate villagers let their children leave with strangers who promised them a better future. Amidst the chaos of war and poverty, there were those who took advantage of the situation and kidnapped the children for trafficking.

Grennan hopes his book will make the world more aware of Nepal’s problems.

Grennan was born and raised in a peaceful suburb of New York City and moved to New Jersey when he was 10. Growing up in a very poor and dangerous urban neighbourhood taught him resilience, which perhaps contributed to his determination and success in Nepal. “I have always wanted to be in government—not as a politician, but as somebody who helped the process, who learned about the issues that would affect people, and try to make the best decisions possible for everyone else,” he says.

He never thought his time at Little Princes, the Nepalese orphanage where he volunteered, would result in Next Generation Nepal (NGN), an organisation he set up to provide temporary care and education for trafficked children, and also to try reunite them with their families. “I knew that I loved the kids and wanted to help, but I never thought I could make a difference. But when seven children disappeared, I realised that I was maybe the only one who could save them. That’s how it all began,” he explains.

Grennan’s book details his journey to Little Princes, his daring rescue of trafficked children and the subsequent formation of NGN ( His great sense of humour is reflected in his style of writing as well as how he communicates with the children. “The truth is that working with them is pretty hilarious, because kids around the world are naturally funny. I wanted to make sure that made it into the story, that you could hear the children’s voices come through because they make each day possible.”

Grennan is very aware that these are not your typical Western kids and is careful with how he and his organisation works with them. “Kids are so impressionable, so if we come in with our own ideas about what their culture should be like, or what their needs should be, we risk having a less than positive impact on these young lives. We have to remember we are not just helping, we are taking the place—at least temporarily—of parents,” he says.

Little Princes describes Grennan’s many close shaves, but he thinks Nepal is safer now. “The traffickers themselves do not threaten us as they used to. I definitely got lucky a few times when I was in the mountains searching for families.”

He hopes the book will make the world more aware of Nepal and its problems. “It is not a part of the world we know much about. We don’t hear much about this type of child trafficking. I want to raise awareness of the work we are doing with NGN.”

Now a father himself—he met his wife Liz while volunteering at Little Princes—Grennan finds even more meaning in his work. “For the first time I really understand there is a large group of people out there, children, who need help. I think of these kids as I think of my son—if he was in danger, how desperate would I be to have somebody with resources step in and help? Now, I am that person who can help. That changes everything.”

For those who are thinking about volunteering, he has this advice: “Just try to get to know the children, what really drives them, what their dreams are, how they see life. You can change their lives for the better, and they will change you too.”

Reproduced from The Sunday Star of April 24, 2011

Friday, April 15, 2011

Kolkata, City of Furious Creative Energy

British writer TOM SYKES explores the ancient city of Kolkata, known for its literary, artistic and revolutionary heritage

IN SOME WAYS, Kolkata (Calcutta) is like any other big Indian city with the same problems of pollution, gridlock and overcrowding. Aged Ambassador taxis, merrily coloured auto-rickshaws and trucks with engines salvaged from farm machinery zoom in every direction, honking their horns as a matter of course rather than as a warning to others. A three-wheeler almost collides head-on with a twelve-year-old on a motorbike, but both parties brake just before the moment of impact. There are too many people everywhere, 15 million to be exact. They hang off the sides of lorries, sprint across roads without the aid of traffic lights and bounce against each other on the pavements at rush hour. If you didn’t already understand the phrase “the world population problem” then you will after a day in Kolkata.

Then again, Kolkata is very different from the rest of India. The proverb “may you live in interesting times” could apply to the whole of its eventful past. Good and bad things have happened of course; the City of Joy, as Roland Joffe’s 1987 film styled it, has also been the city of pain. Kolkata spearheaded the Bengal Renaissance, gave birth to the independence movement in the 1850s, and saw its economy galvanised by Information Technology in the 1990s. But at other times it has been cursed with famine, colonial repression, communal violence and terrorism. Nowhere are these contrasts better explored than in Kolkata Panorama, based in the Historic Town Hall (open from Tuesday to Sunday at 11am-5pm). This state-of-the-art museum uses animations and sound shows to relate almost 500 years of local history.

Radical politics are inseparable from Kolkata history. In the late 1960s, students combined with rural guerillas to pursue a revolutionary campaign against politicians, academics and landowners. Ever since that time a democratically elected communist government has ruled West Bengal—another national anomaly. Head to Park Street and you’ll find a surreal sight indeed: red hammer-and-sickle flags flying from neoclassical buildings erected by the British Raj.

Kolkata is the arts capital of South Asia, home to a thriving film industry, dozens of galleries and the third largest book fair in the world. If a competition was held to find the city that had produced the largest number of great writers, Kolkata would be a hot contender. Arthur C. Clarke Award-winner Amitav Ghosh, founder of the Writers Workshop P. Lal, Satyajit Ray (a world renowned film director), Bankim Chattopadhyay and Joy Goswami all came from the City of Palaces. The most famous of them all, 1913 Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore, was born at Joransanko Mansion, now part of Rabindra Bharati University. A small museum here (open from Monday to Friday 10am-5pm, Saturday 10am-5.30pm) displays original manuscripts, notebooks and photographs that give you the lowdown on the national poet.

Of course, culture is about much more than epic poems and objets d’art. It happens at street-level too. The first thing many visitors to Kolkata notice is the plethora of traditional jobs and practices that still go on here. This is the last city in India where brawny men in loincloths pull rickshaws by hand. Craftsmen kneel on the pavement, carving figurines into lengths of wood. Horse-drawn carts lug carcasses swarming with flies. Cyclists somehow balance drums of milk as big as their own bodies on their backs. You don’t need to go anywhere in particular to see all this—it’s part of the fabric of everyday life.

The historian P. Sinha has called Kolkata “a city of furious creative energy”. It’s true that while Kolkata exhibits an energy of the streets that can overawe visitors, there is an energy that drives it forward in a social, cultural and artistic sense. The old Raj maxim, “What Calcutta (as it was then spelt) does today, India does tomorrow” has remained true for centuries. For this reason alone, Kolkata should be on everyone’s itinerary.

Reproduced from the 2011 Annual Issue of Quill magazine

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Hither, Thither & Yon

“The writers in this collection will sweep the most jaded traveller off his feet with their sheer ebullience. After reading these vivid vignettes, chances are, you will—like me—itch to jump into your car and make a road trip to all these wonderful-sounding villages and towns, to play explorer, risking life and limb.” ALEXANDRA WONG

Travels in Malaysia
Edited by Tom Sykes & Tan May Lee
(MPH Group Publishing, May 2011)

OUR FIRST MEETING was in the heart of Kuala Lumpur, where we wanted to visit the best curry house in Brickfields. It was a busy weekday; the bus stops were crowded and the four-lane streets were clogged with cars, lorries and motorbikes. As we chatted excitedly about Malaysian travel stories, we fell a few steps behind another editor. When we glanced at him again, he was surrounded by a group of men.

One of the men tore at the leg of his trousers while the others held onto his arms and shoulders. Amidst the commotion, it looked as if he was having an epileptic fit, and before we could reach him or shout for help, the men had dispersed into the crowd as suddenly as they had appeared. The editor caught his breath, felt his pockets, and realised his money was gone. He had been robbed right before our very eyes!

We spent some time wondering if this was a precursor of the kind of stories that would come our way, and if they would repel our readers instead of attracting them to Malaysia. Kuala Lumpur alone is notorious for taxi drivers who use fake meters, snatch thefts, and burglaries in “gated” neighbourhoods.

But there is a Malay proverb that goes like this: “Hujan emas di negeri orang, hujan batu di negeri sendiri, lebih baik di negeri sendiri.” It rains gold in other lands, it rains rocks in our own. Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home.

Sini sana” roughly translates into the English expression “here and there”, or perhaps the more archaic “hither and thither”. Either way, the phrase aptly describes the range and breadth of the stories in this collection. By going off the beaten track, our writers have gained fascinating insights into the real Malaysia.

When we called for submissions that steered clear of the usual tourist traps, we didn’t expect to be told things about Malaysia we never knew. On the other hand, the themes and settings are familiar: picture-postcard scenes, the Manglish vernacular, an obsession with food and obscure politics, and the legacy of colonialism. Our contributors represent Malaysia’s ethnic diversity and include foreign travellers and expats who have come to call Malaysia home.

While people tend not to come to Malaysia on pilgrimages or for spiritual enlightenment, indigenous faiths are wide-ranging. There are Muslims, Christians, Buddhists and Hindus, and there are those who believe in feng shui and bomohs (or witch doctors). Malaysia has some of the tallest buildings in the world, yet it is also home to the oldest rainforests. There are millionaires who live in the lap of luxury and aborigines who dwell in basic longhouses. And all this is just an appetiser of the many things Malaysia has to offer.

Our collection kicks off with two stories by Zhang Su Li, one of Malaysia’s finest contemporary travel writers. In Perak, Zhang encounters a wizened old lady who survived World War II, and an enigmatic young woman who invites her home for tea. Later on in her third story, which takes place in Kedah, she meets a street urchin who is seemingly possessed by a Hindu god.

While Malays make up the majority of the population, Marc White’s stroll around a night market and visit to a barbershop shed light on two important ethnic minorities: the Chinese and the Indians. On a visit to Sarawak in East Malaysia, Polly Szantor revisits a little-known tribe and feels a sense of camaraderie with its women. “These women, from a culture so very different to mine, have touched my heart,” she writes of the longhouse-dwelling Kelabits.

Just when we thought that any animal-related travelogue set in Malaysia had to involve mousedeers or orang-utans, writers like Damyanti Biswas and Jason Moriarty relate quirky adventures with octopi, mischievous monkeys, exotic fish, birds and bees, while at the same time highlighting the beauty of our lakes, rivers and waterfalls.

Three stories turn the idea of an island paradise on its head: Sarah Cheverton battles her inner demons and discovers romance on an idyllic Perhentian Kecil; Subashini Navaratnam fears that Langkawi is haunted by evil spirits; and Jennifer Stephen’s sojourn to “Malaysia’s Alcatraz” reveals an even darker destination.

While many people travel to rural Kelantan every year, a comic turn by an elephant ensures that F.D. Zainal’s hilarious retreat from city life isn’t your typical balik kampung tale. Lee Eeleen, too, makes her annual trips during festival season—it just happens to be Qing Ming instead of Chinese New Year. “It is a day to visit the graves of deceased family members, and to travel long distances to get there, if necessary. Such locations are not marked on maps and exist only in one’s memory,” she explains.

One of our more athletic contributors, Lee Yu Kit, climbs Gunung Tahan, the highest peak in Peninsular Malaysia. “Sited deep within the rainforests of Taman Negara, the mountain is a magnet for both climbers and those who want to hike the pristine forests surrounding it.” He does so in hair-raising conditions—not exactly your average tourist activity. And straying into the wilderness at Bukit Kiara, Robert M. Bradley chats with joggers from all walks of life and gets the lowdown on what urban Malaysians really care about.

Packed with sharp, nuanced observations and poetic insight, these stories are inspired by Malaysia’s immense diversity of cultures, customs, religions and natural wonders.

Read the collection and see the sights, hear the sounds, smell the aromas, and taste the flavours of the real Malaysia.

“Hujan emas di negeri orang, hujan batu di negeri sendiri …” Thus begins a Malay version of the proverb, “Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home.” Humble, perhaps, but never humdrum. Sini Sana: Travels in Malaysia features the very Malaysian journeys of a dozen writers who have managed to uncover hidden gems that may not all glitter like gold, but are still rare and precious finds.

A kopitiam (coffee shop) stopover yields an unexpected trip back through time, and a promise delivered too late. A foreigner’s visit to a pasar malam (night market) educates and overwhelms him at the same time. A bad call turns triumph into tribulation atop a storm-swept mountain ridge. A catch-your-own-lunch island holiday enlivened by dodgy old boats, crusty captains and run-ins with the island’s local residents. There are encounters with trees that come alive and a child seemingly possessed by a Hindu god. These are just some of the stories found in this collection.

From idyllic beaches, isolated jungles and ancient ruins, to sleepy hollows and small towns, these travellers’ tales chart a course back to a country we once knew—or thought we knew—and its ongoing metamorphosis into a place of our best hopes and sweetest dreams. Even after all this time, it’s actually possible to find the new within the familiar.

Robert M. Bradley | Sarah Cheverton | Damyanti Biswas | Lee Eeleen | Lee Yu Kit | Jason Moriarty | Subashini Navaratnam | Jennifer Stephen | Polly Szantor | Marc White | F.D. Zainal | Zhang Su Li

TOM SYKES is a freelance writer and editor who has lived and worked in India, Malaysia and the Philippines. He spent a good part of 2007 travelling in Malaysia, falling in love with Pulau Tioman, Melaka and Georgetown. He has been published in GoNomad, A to Z World Travel, The Spark, The Bristol Review of Books, Underground Voices, Taya Literary Journal, WeBooks, The Philippine Free Press and Quill, as well as in international anthologies such as Small Voices, Big Confessions and Urban Odysseys: KL Stories. He co-compiled and -edited five non-fiction books, including No Such Thing as a Free Ride?, which was serialised in the London Times and named the Observer’s Travel Book of the Month. Currently based in the United Kingdom, Sykes is pursuing PhD studies at Goldsmiths College, University of London.

TAN MAY LEE was formerly the editor of Quill magazine. She now works for an Asia-based hotel group. She has written for publications such as Management, Seni Hias, Heritage Asia,, Malay Mail and The Star, as well as for The Malaysian Insider, an online news portal. Her stories have been published in anthologies such as Urban Odysseys: KL Stories and Body2Body.

MAY 2011 | NONFICTION TRAVEL | 5.15 x 7.75 | 240pp | ORIGINAL PAPERBACK | ISBN 978-967-5222-82-5 | e-ISBN 978-967-5997-79-2

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Planting New Seeds

DIPIKA RAI touches on the plight of rural Indian women bound by tradition in her first novel, Someone Else’s Garden

INDIAN-BORN author Dipika Rai feels strongly about the injustices meted out to the rural women in her country who are shackled in traditions that curtail their freedom. It is these very thoughts and feelings that she has poured into the pages of her début novel, Someone Else’s Garden.

“I had something to say and I created a story to say it. I think that’s what inspires most writers. I wanted to examine the disconnect between the dharmic (spiritual) India and the karmic (empirical) India,” said Dipika in an email interview arranged by MPH Publishing.

“I wanted to explore why in such a spiritual place like India, there’s so much social injustice sanctioned by tradition—what I call the cultural burden of ancient civilisations—and the ways in which that burden can be lifted. In this case, the story for my thoughts happened to be a story about rural women.”

Born and raised in New Delhi, Dipika worked in the banking sector before switching to journalism, writing for publications such as Vogue India and Marie Claire for 15 years. When her husband got a job in Bali, she moved there with him and their two children. There, she contributed articles on Indonesian arts and culture to 13 publications around the world.

Four years ago, Dipika started work on Someone Else’s Garden. It tells the story of Mamta, who is born to a low-caste family. Her father believes that bringing her up is akin to “tending someone else’s garden”. At a young age, she is married off to a man who promptly sells off one of her kidneys for money! Unable to bear the terrible situation she is in, Mamta takes off to the big city in search of her two brothers who are there in pursuit of a better life.

While in the city, Mamta wakes up to the possibilities that the world has to offer her. One interesting character in the book is one of Mamta’s brothers, Prem, who has strong views on what is right and wrong. “My characters appeared organically. There are so many village boys out there who are desperate to get an education but are thwarted from doing so by circumstances. These are the boys who are the inspiration behind the character of Prem.”

Another intriguing character in the book is Daku Manmohan, a local folk hero and dacoit, who turns himself in to ailing landowner Singh Sahib and opts to live in servitude to make up for his past misdeeds. “I wanted to add Daku’s character because he is a symbol of changing times just like his captor, Singh Sahib. I liked the tension created by the ironic twist of fate that allies these two enemies in a common context.”

Mamta’s mother, Lata Bai, accepts her wretched life and feels that her daughters should do so as well without questioning it. However, when her husband dies, she opts to send his body adrift in the river rather than give him a funeral. “It’s almost as though her husband’s death freed her. It’s her moment of catharsis, but it’s a brief flash as many women don’t consider themselves complete unless they are married. Lata Bai knows she has a dreadful marriage and yet she cannot see a life outside it because she considers it ‘normal’.

“Yes, her marriage did shackle her, but it did so with her consent. That’s why she is incensed when her daughter rejects the dictates of traditions and chooses a different life path.”

Dipika said through Lata Bai’s character, she attempts to explain why it is the mother who sometimes perpetrates the worst injustices against her daughters by forcing them to follow the same traditions that she herself hated. When asked who she was writing the book for, Dipika said: “First, I wrote Someone Else’s Garden for my children, because I wanted them to experience my India, warts and all.

“To be honest, I set out to write a story that people might want to read and didn’t consciously aim it at anyone. But many people, especially women, see a message in it, and that’s a true gift.”

Dipika admitted it was hard to get her book published initially. “First, one has to find the right agent and then the agent has to find the right publisher and that’s a huge challenge. It took me a year and half to get my novel published. One has to be willing to take criticism and rejection, and have a very thick skin to be a writer!”

Dipika is now working on her second book, which is written in a completely different vein from Someone Else’s Garden.

Reproduced from The Sun of April 6, 2011

Friday, April 01, 2011

April 2011 Highlights

1. The Great Night (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2011) / Chris Adrian
2. The Peach Keeper (Bantam, 2011) / Sarah Addison Allen
3. The Color of Money (Vintage, 2011) / Madison Smartt Bell
4. Once Upon a Time, There Was You (Random House, 2011) / Elizabeth Berg
5. The Water Children (Blue Door/HarperCollins, 2011) / Anne Berry
6. Beggar’s Feast (Viking Canada/Penguin Canada, 2011) / Randy Boyagoda
7. Caleb’s Crossing (Fourth Estate, 2011) / Geraldine Brooks
8. Other People’s Money (Bloomsbury USA, 2011) / Justin Cartwright
9. The Sisters Brothers (HarperCollins Publishers, 2011) / Patrick deWitt
10. The Devil’s Garden (Picador, 2011) / Edward Docx

11. The Last Werewolf (Canongate, 2001) / Glen Duncan
12. On Loving Josiah (Maia Books, 2011) / Olivia Fane
13. Inspector Singh Investigates: A Deadly Cambodian Crime Spree (Pitakus Books, 2011) / Shamimi Flint
14. Lucky Break (Bloomsbury, 2011) / Esther Freud
15. The Final Testament of the Holy Bible (John Murray, 2011) / James Frey
16. Elizabeth I (Viking Adult, 2011) / Margaret George
17. Say Her Name (Grove Press, 2011) / Francisco Goldman
18. The Love of My Youth (Pantheon, 2011) / Mary Gordon
19. We Had It So Good (Simon & Schuster, 2011) / Linda Grant
20. Toxicology (Viking, 2011) / Jessica Hagedorn

21. Hanging Hill (Bantam Press, 2011) / Mo Hayder
22. The Proof of Love (Portobello Books, 2011) / Catherine Hall
23. Alone in the Classroom (McClelland & Stewart, 2011) / Elizabeth Hay
24. Long Time, No See (Faber & Faber, 2011) / Dermot Healy
25. Blossoms and Shadows (Quercus Books, 2011) / Lian Hearn
26. The Betrayal of Trust (Chatto & Windus, 2011) / Susan Hill
27. A Man of Parts (Harvill Secker, 2011) / David Lodge
28. The Love and Death of Caterina (Quercus, 2011) / Andrew Nicoll
29. The Tragedy of Arthur (Random House, 2011) / Arthur Phillips
30. My New American Life (Harper, 2011) / Francine Prose

31. The Coffins of Little Hope (Unbridled Books, 2011) / Timothy Schaffert
32. Please Look After Mom (UK title: Please Look After Mother) (trans. from the Korean by Chi-Young Kim) (Knopf/Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2011) / Kyung-sook Shin
33. The Novel in the Viola (Sceptre, 2011) / Natasha Solomons
34. The Pink Hotel (Alma Books, 2011) / Anna Stothard
35. The Pale King (Hamish Hamilton, 2011) / David Foster Wallace
36. The Visiting Angel (Tindal Street Press, 2011) / Paul Wilson
37. The Uncoupling (Riverhead, 2011) / Meg Wolitzer
38. Dream of Ding Village (trans. from the Chinese, Ding Zhuang Meng, by Cindy Carter) (Corsair/Constable & Robinson, 2011) / Yan Lianke
39. Song of the Silk Road (Kensington Books, 2011) / Mingmei Yip

First Novels
1. City of Bohane (Jonathan Cape, 2011) / Kevin Barry
2. In Zanesville (Little, Brown, 2011) / Jo Ann Beard
3. The Sly Company of People Who Care (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2011) / Rahul Bhattacharya
4. A Cupboard Full of Coats (Oneworld, 2011) /Yvvette Edwards
5. The Girl Who Would Speak for the Dead (Putnam/Amy Einhorn Books, 2011) / Paul Elwork
6. Hill Farm (Chatto & Windus, 2011) / Miranda France
7. 22 Britannia Road (Fig Tree, 2011) / Amanda Hodgkinson
8. The Guardian Angel’s Journal (Little, Brown/Piatkus, 2011) / Carolyn Jess-Cooke
9. The Sojourn (Bellevue Literary Press, 2011) / Andrew Krivak
10. The Coincidence Engine (Bloomsbury, 2011) / Sam Leith

11. An Atlas of Impossible Longing (Free Press, 2011) / Anuradha Roy
12. Out of Shadows (Holiday House, 2011) / Jason Wallace
13. Before I Go to Sleep (Doubleday, 2011) / S.J. Watson
14. The Godless Boys (Picador, 2011) / Naomi Wood

1. Smut: Two Unseemly Stories (Profile Books, 2011) / Alan Bennett
2. Bullfighting (Jonathan Cape/Penguin USA, 2011) / Roddy Doyle
3. The PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories 2011 (Anchor Books/Random House, 2011) / Laura Furman (ed.)
4. Swim Back to Me (Alfred A. Knopf, 2011) / Ann Packer
5. Blue Collar, White Collar, No Collar: Stories of Work (Harper Perennial, 2011) / Richard Ford (ed.)
6. News from the World: Stories & Essays (W.W. Norton, 2011) / Paula Fox
7. Someday This Will be Funny (Cursor/Red Lemonade, 2011) / Lynne Tillman

1. Carnations (Princeton University Press, 2011) / Anthony Carelli
2. Horoscopes for the Dead (Random House, 2011) / Billy Collins
3. Family Values (Faber & Faber, 2011) / Wendy Cope
4. Clavics (Enitharmon, 2011) / Geoffrey Hill
5. At Lake Scugog (Princeton University Press, 2011) / Troy Jollimore
6. Sparrow Tree (Bloodaxe Books, 2011) / Gwyneth Lewis
7. New Collected Poems (Gallery Books, 2011) / Derek Mahon
8. The Frost Fairs (Salt Publishing, 2011) / John McCullough
9. November (Picador, 2011) / Sean O’Brien
10. Selected Poems (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2011) / Robert Pinsky

11. Ghost Estate (Salmon Poetry, 2011) / William Wall
12. Bye-and-Bye: Selected Late Poems (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2011) / Charles Wright
13. Fall Higher (Copper Canyon Press, 2011) / Dean Young

1. London Under (Chatto & Windus, 2011) / Peter Ackroyd
2. Deep Country: Five Years in the Welsh Hills (Hamish Hamilton, 2011) / Neil Ansell
3. All About Love: Anatomy of an Unruly Emotion (Virago Press, 2011) / Lisa Appignanesi
4. The Possessed: Adventures with Russian Books and the People Who Read Them (Granta Books, 2011) / Elif Batuman
5. Why Marx Was Right (Yale University Press, 2011) / Terry Eagleton
6. Confessions of a Young Novelist (Harvard University Press, 2011) / Umberto Eco
7. The Crimean War: A History (Metropolitan Books/Henry Holt & Company, 2011) / Orlando Figes
8. The Horseman’s Word (Jonathan Cape, 2011) / Roger Garfitt
9. Lives and Letters (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2011) / Robert Gottlieb
10. The Good of the Novel (Faber & Faber, 2011) / Liam McIlvanney & Ray Ryan (eds.)

11. Confessions of a Young Novelist (Harvard University Press, 2011) / Umberto Eco
12. Truth, Beauty, and Goodness Reframed: Educating for the Virtues in the the Twenty-First Century (Basic Books, 2011) / Howard Gardner
13. G.K. Chesterton: A Biography (Oxford University Press, 2011) / Ian Kerr
14. Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention (Viking/Penguin USA, 2011) / Manning Marable
15. Beautiful and Pointless: A Guide to Modern Poetry (Harper/HarperCollins Publishers, 2011) / David Orr
16. Black Milk: On Writing, Motherhood, and the Harem Within (trans. from the Turkish by Hande Zapsu) (Viking, 2011) / Elif Shafak
17. Reading My Father: A Memoir (Simon & Schuster, 2011) / Alexandra Styron
18. The Essential Tagore (Harvard University Press, 2011) / Rabindranath Tagore (eds. Fakrul Alam & Radha Chakravarty)