The Immortal King Rao ft Vauhini Vara

Vauhini Vara was born in Saskatchewan, Canada, as a child of Indian immigrants, and grew up there and in Oklahoma and the Seattle suburbs. Her debut novel, The Immortal King Rao (W.W. Norton), is a New York Times Editors’ Choice and has been longlisted for the Center for Fiction’s First Novel Prize; reviewing it in the Times, Justin Taylor called it “a monumental achievement.”

Q: You started working on the Immortal King  Rao in the year 2009. How was your creative endeavor working on  this novel which certainly marks your debut as an author?

VV: It was long and arduous but, in the end, very fulfilling.

Q: On the work front you have worked as a Wall Street Journal technology reporter and as the business editor for The New Yorker. Was there any way in which you feel your job has contributed to this multigenerational epic journey as an author begin?

VV: Yes, the book’s concerns, having to do with capitalism, technology, and family, are deeply informed by my work as a business journalist.

Q: Much of the success of the multi stranded narrative depends on how well it has been characterised. The Immortal King Rao has been reviewed  as three great novels as one. The book consists of three different storylines, we would like to know about the process of amalgamating these three storylines into one novel and the sequencing or structuring of the same ?

VV: Properly structuring the book was one of the most difficult aspects of writing it. I kept trying different structures, over and over, until I finally arrived at one — after many years — that worked.

Q: A few major subjects or questions the novel immortal King Rao poses at the familial, societal and global scale  is concerning the rising self sovereignty among people and the materiality of interdependence. What are your personal opinions or ideologies about these subjects?

VV: I prefer to engage with these questions in a fictional format and try not to say too much outside of that, to better allow readers to come to their own conclusions.

Apart from being Satirical and heartbreaking, packed with historical detail and flawless dystopian world building, The Immortal King Rao is also an intimate character study, portraying the complicated bonds of families. As one continues to read the book proceeds to unravel the personality of the king from being a larger than life genius to a scared and puzzled child, how would you describe this process of intricate character building?

VV: I didn’t know who King, or his daughter Athena, for that matter, would be, until I started writing and kept going. It was a process of discovery for me.

Q:Lastly, what piece of advice would you like to give all the young writers out there? Anything you would like to share that has helped you maintain momentum or to grow and evolve not only as a writer but also as a person?

Read as much as you can!

Q:Tell us about the future literary projects that you are working on.1 response

VV: I’m working on a story collection called This is Salvaged.

Kesar and the lullaby birds ft Debasmita Dasgupta

Debasmita Dasgupta is a Singapore-based internationally published picture-book illustrator and graphic novel artist with over a decade of experience in the field of art-for-change. She specialises in creating cause-based illustrations, be it about promoting girl child rights, ending violence against women or sharing inspiring stories of change makers. Her work has been showcased across many countries in the world.

Have you ever considered writing under a pseudonym, and why or why not?

DD: No. My name has always been a conversation starter in my life. In Sanskrit it means “the smile of God”.

How long did it take to finish “Kesar and the Lullaby Birds” ?

DD: From visual research to final colour illustrations took me about 6-8 months.

Tell us about some anecdotes that were a part of the writing process of this book?

DD: Illustrating Kesar’s story has been a terrific experience. I love vibrant colours and patterns and textures. And this story gave me to opportunity to experiment and create with each of these elements. I have dedicated this book to India’s incredible indigenous artists who have always inspired my art.

How would you describe your Book’s Ideal reader ?

DD: Children of all ages, precisely 7-9 years

Tell us about the future literary projects that you are working on.

DD: I am working on one picture book, 2 graphic novels for children, and one graphic novel for young adults. All releasing in 2022-23.

Book Review

Imaan went to Central Jail as an infant in his mother, Zahura Bibi’s arms. She was charged with her husband’s murder and dies in jail a few year later. Imaan has no relatives to take care of him and hence he stays in jail for twenty years. He is always fascinated by the outside world based on all the stories he heard from the fellow inmates.

Sometime later, his wish is fulfilled and he is released from the confines of the jail. Not knowing where to go and what to do, he ends up at Jadavpur Railway Station, becomes a ragpicker and is now craving to go back to the comfortable life in jail.

This is my first read by Manoranjan Byapari and I am bowled over by the raw account of life in the jail and the bosti near the Jadavpur Railway Station. The nuances of the contrast in life at both the places have been captured very well through various independent incidents.

The story does not move in a linear fashion, one connected event after another yet the reader can find a distinct connection amongst all the individual stories. There are a huge number of characters each with a different set of problems yet one common thing that binds them together – their daily grind to survival, described in a heart-wrenching manner.

The book has disturbing accounts of rape, murders, prostitution and the condition of the prostitutes. The dead body being exchanged for money, young girls being dragged in flesh trade, small gangs operating to rob people in trains, buses and crowded places were described in a brutally honest manner.

The book ends with Imaan sorting out the dilemma of going to jail or carrying on his life in the bosti. The part depicted how Imaan ultimately gets sucked into the way of life despite being oblivious to the outside world and happy in the safety of his shell in the jail.

I am glad that it was translated from Bengali to English so that it can reach the non-Bengali reading book lovers as well. The book is rich with the flavour of Bengal in terms of the language, life style of the people living in slums and their struggles. A hard-hitting book that I highly recommend !!