Tag Archives: riots

An Interview with Esther David

So after reading The Man with the Enormous Wings, I had this need to connect with the writer. To ask her questions. To know a little more about the book and her thoughts. Here it is…in the form of this interview!

What gave way to the idea of writing, “The Man with the Enormous Wings”?

During the riots of 2002, my publishers were suggesting that I write a novel and weave it around the earthquake and riots. But, I was so traumatized by the communal riots of 2002,  that I could not. All, I wrote was a poem and a short story, which is used as the last chapter of my novel The Man With Enormous Wings. Then, I did sign a contract to write The Man with Enormous Wings, but it took me ten years to give form to the novel, by concentrating on specific incidents, and people. During this period, I saw how Mahatma Gandhi was forgotten in Gujarat. I thought, he would be the perfect character like Alice in Wonderland, as he grows wings, changes size and keeps on falling between warring groups of people. So, I made him the central character of my novel.

Esther as a person….

Author – Novelist – Storyteller. Always an insider, who is an outsider. Armchair naturalist, armchair anthropologist, armchair artist, armchair art critic.

Esther as a writer…

An artistic dreamer. She has to work very hard to give form to her novels. Has to rewrite many times, till she gets the poetic imagery she wants to create in her work. 

Did you ever feel that you cannot write this book because of the surge of emotions? I for one could not read it at length because it stirred so many feelings in me.

2002 happened around my house. I was witness to many events. It was too close. I could not write. I was also frightened. I am still frightened that it can happen again, so I so long to write.

Esther’s favourite books

The Strange Case of Billy Biswas by Arun Joshi. A thousand years of Solitude – by Gabriel Garcias Marquez. Shame – by Salman Rushdie. Aphrodite – by Isabelle Allende

Esther’s favourite writers…

Gabriel Garcias Marquez, Salman Rushdie, Isabelle Allende, Toni Morrison, Amos Oz.

If you had to describe, “The Man with the Enormous Wings” in one word, what would it be and why?

Unwanted. In the present scenario of Gujarat with its Vibrant Gujarat and ghettoization between communities, there is no place for Mahatma Gandhi and his ideology, meaning The Man With Enormous Wings.

 I loved that the book ended with a lot of hope and optimism. What do you think about it? Will it be like this?

I am just consoling myself, because, most people have forgotten 2002, and, as we say in the Bible – if we forget, it will happen again.

 Your views on today’s literary world…

It gives a writer a wide scope to be read and become known and publishers help in the growth of writers, as long as authors are willing to work hard. Yet, the media needs to focus more on writers who live in India, than expatriate Indian born writers.  

That was this. You can read the review of “The Man with the Enormous Wings” here.

The Man with Enormous Wings; David, Esther; Penguin India; Rs. 199.

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The Avenue of Kings by Sudeep Chakravarti

I did not read “Tin Fish” when it was released. I haven’t read that till now. However, now I will. I finished “The Avenue of Kings” in one sitting. I was literally taken in and stayed there till I finished the book and even after finishing it, it did not leave me. It remained in my thoughts and still does.

The Avenue of Kings is the kind of book that shakes you from a dream, bringing you back to reality and showing you what the world is really made of.  The take is simple: Real India and real people. So people, who have a problem with reality, then you better, stick to your Harry Potters (which by the way I love) and the hobbits of the shire, because “The Avenue of Kings” is nothing like that.

The Avenue of Kings is a collection of three novellas that come across as raw, uncompromising, not frightened and unapologetic. The first novella, which is also the title of the book centers on the gruesome killing of a Sikh Boy as witnessed by the protagonist Brandy Ray, by a blood-thirsty mod in the aftermath of Indira Gandhi’s assassination.

The first novella shook me like no other in this collection. As I type this, I can almost visualize what must have taken place during that time in our country. Indira Gandhi’s assassination was huge and I can only imagine the communal disharmony it would have caused.

The second novella, “The Cradle of Innocents” deals with the dream of Rajiv Gandhi and its fading. You can sense the era gone by – the Sonia and Rajiv Days and their grandeur so to say, the ideas and the opinions that shaped an emerging India, only to bite the dust with RG’s assassination.

The author successfully portrays the disturbed youth of the 80s – the era of Doordarshan, STD Booths, Trunk Calls, and Coca-Cola. A generation that was neither here nor there, trying very hard to fit in and may be could not at some point.

In the third novella, “The Well of Three Wishes” we are taken to taking asylum in fantasy when faced with grief. Grief can make you go to crazy a place – happy or sad, real or imaginary – that’s the power of grief. This part recreates the tensed situation surrounding the demolition of the Babri Masjid.

We see how the deadliest weapon of them all – the sickened mind is used to sow seeds of dissent and destruction. Brandy in this time turns to old Jinni-baba, of the well of wishes, ending the novel with a sense of hope at the end of the tunnel in the form of little Aziza – the symbol of peace, the symbol of new India.  

Chakravarti brings out the worst of the times, and manages to do that keeping his wits about himself. The collection of novellas is surely disturbing; however it leaves you with a sense of disquiet and optimism at the end of it all. I for one am looking forward to reading more of Brandy’s adventures for sure.

The Avenue of Kings; Chakravarti, Sudeep; Harper Collins India; Rs. 299;