Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
One day, a kantha a work sari is kept on author Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s desk at the University of Houston. She didn’t know who it was from or why it was there. But the same saree will eventually inspire her to write her latest novel independence (published by Harper Collins India). Like handspun kantha saree, the book weaves together a dramatic embroidery of Indian history, the West Bengal diaspora, women artisans and their imaginations.
” Kantha the art of West Bengal is created by the women of the region and is very important for their sustenance, creativity and artistic development. Especially in tough times, it’s something they come back to, and that goes for the novel as well,” says the author who was recently in Chennai at The Chambers, Taj Coromandel, for the book launch.
The cover of the book has a picture of him standing up kantha business and it comes at a time when India is celebrating 75 years of independence. Chitra spoke to author and translator Nandini Krishnan.
As the conversation unfolds, the author’s fiery illumination fills the room. “As a child born in free India, I took independence for granted and my mother wanted me to understand that many people gave up many things, including their lives, to gain this freedom,” says the author.
The novel revolves around the lives of sisters Priya, Deepa and Jamini. Set in the tumultuous years of partition, fierce sisters struggle with their dreams, love and loss, while the paths before them constantly change unannounced. The book contains some autobiographical elements. The character of Nabakumar is loosely based on the author’s grandfather. Known for creating compelling female characters, Chitra, d independence, presents to the audience equally sensitive and layered male characters who give color to the plot. Chitra explains, “My other books are focused on women, but in this one, the relationship between men and women becomes problematic for each other. Not because they don’t like each other, but because they do. They become something that a woman has to choose over other things. So much of the drama comes from the difficult choices women have to make about the men in their lives. ”
independence it also explores the contours of a woman’s quiet courage against the backdrop of India’s tumultuous history. The woman was left here. It explores “The price a woman has to pay when men become heroes,” adds the author.
When asked what independence means today, the author emphasizes the need for a secular and peaceful environment. The talk ended with a performance of Rabindranath Tagore’s song Ekla Chalo Re (If no one walks with you, you will have to walk alone) sings Hemanta Mukherjee. The song is touching as Chitra says, “This is a lesson the women in the story will have to learn as the title has a double meaning. These women have to learn what it means to be independent, and sometimes that means walking alone.”