There may never have been harmony, but the aspiration was coexistence, explains author Anuradha Roy who mourns the death of this ideal in her latest book “The Earthspinner” which delves into the heartbreaking history of a potter and his dream project – a terracotta horse.
Elango the village potter was ready for all the great things in life with this horse for which there were many takers. Then appeared strokes of Urdu calligraphy on it and whispers of her interfaith affair with Zohra, and in the blink of an eye her creation was destroyed and her perfect world turned into a nightmare. That was the problem with religion: it could lead to a kind of madness. Muslims and Hindus – it was not so much a question of religion as a vendetta like ‘Romeo and Juliet’ ”, remarks a character in“ The Earthspinner ”.
“Especially for people of my generation and older, I think, we miss a faded country where harmony between very diverse people was at least an ideal we aspired to. There has never been harmony, and there have always been oppressed, brutalized and excluded people, but despite everything, the aspiration was coexistence. In that sense, the book is about the death of that ideal, ” Roy told PTI in an email interview.
Published by Hachette India, “The Earthspinner” is the story of the new ways of “living and loving” in the modern world and the death of the aspiration for coexistence in India.
” I want to write a fiction that responds to my present, to everything I see around me, but which tries to find its links with the larger world and with the past. ‘The Earthspinner’ in the title of this book refers to the Creator – god, who is portrayed as a potter, across religions, ” said Roy, who has dabbled in pottery since his college days. “The way the Creator created the earth, which is destroyed by human action, the beautiful creation of Elango the Potter is also destroyed by human action,” she added.
Set in the 1980s, the 223-page novel chronicles Elango’s passion for creating a terra-cotta horse, destroyed by a community driven by “an incendiary passion of a different kind”, his love for Zohra and his dog Tashi. It is narrated by Sara, who studies English Literature in England and enjoys spending time throwing wheels, something she learned from Elango as a child.
Sara’s personal history, like that of her guardian, is also one of multiple losses – the loss of her father, Elango as a teacher, and the land in which she was born and raised.
Roy, 54, author of “The Atlas of Impossible Desire”, “The Folded Earth” and “All the Lives We Never Lived” and “Sleeping on Jupiter” , said his latest book was in the works for a long time. She said she explored her themes by writing shorter pieces – some of which have been released and others remain as notes.
” Sleeping on Jupiter ” was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize (2015) and won the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature (2016). Her latest book ‘All the Lives We Never Lived’ won Tata Literature Live! Book of the Year Award (2018).
The rewards are appreciated because they are ” decided by peers ” but are also ” very hit and miss ” with ” deserving books ” often missed, she argued.
I think it’s a little unfortunate how obsessed we have become with prices – the bottom line is that books that haven’t hit them can just fall off the reading card, and that’s a tragedy. What we need is to rediscover the pleasure of reading a book which may not have won any prize but which takes you into its world, invades your mind and heart so much that it modifies somewhat your way of seeing things and you have a hard time starting another book afterwards. ” When asked if the COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdowns that followed resulted in a collapse in creativity, the author who lives in a quiet cantonment town of Ranikhet in Uttarakhand replied in the negative.
When the pandemic started, I was already quite advanced in his writing, and when I write, I lead an even more isolated life than usual. The blockages have therefore not affected anything in this sense. As the pandemic escalated, anxiety for friends and relatives made it difficult to concentrate. Still, I was grateful that I had something else to focus on, so I didn’t give in to a feeling of helpless panic, ” she said.
Roy also detailed his writing process.
She emphasizes ‘phrase music’ and ‘well-structured prose, strained with meaning, poetry, wit, imagery’ and will continue to ‘revise and revise, every sentence’ ‘until she’s happy with the way it falls on her ears – also why she enjoys listening to the book read aloud multiple times. It’s different for me with every book, and every time I feel like I’m on the edge of a precipice and I feel fear and dizziness as well as fascination. If I’m completely engrossed in ideas and images that keep me going, then I know I’ll be back at work, writing. I’m not the type of person who writes a certain number of words even in a journal, no matter what, ”she explained.
” The Earthspinner ” was released on September 3.
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