HYDERABAD: It is not the voice that commands the story; it is the ear,” wrote Italo Calvino, in the timeless book ‘Invisible Cities’. And the slight tinkle of a chandelier or the rustle of silk draws the eyes and the ears to the narrative that they are part of, a trail of tales that flows like a river, falls like an aabshaar. This is ‘Sometimes Ivory, Sometimes Sand’, the debut novel by Hyderabad-based author Mahek Jangda.
The 26-year-old writer creates a fictional landscape, weaves it with plots and subplots, and takes the reader on an itinerary that meanders across the lives of two women who deal with the power dynamics of their families and the State ready to lose everything they own.
The book was launched on Saturday at The Chalet, an open cultural space in Jubilee Hills. Excerpts from the interview:
The opening lines in your novel is about crockery. Are you setting the mood both for a taste of fragility and strength much in the way poet Dana Gioia explores ‘the broken crockery of living things’?
In a true sense, crockery isn’t that delicate. It holds a sense of oneness of both fragility and strength. Of brokenness and beauty. Yes, the book does have these elements. The characters hold the same as a chalice within themselves as they move across different turns and twists.
What made you choose the title ‘Sometimes Ivory, Sometimes Sand’?
The lines of the book title are from poet Akhil Katyal’s poem ‘Udaipur (early morning)’. This piece of work is so vividly described that the words got etched in my mind. It’s about when paradoxical elements come together. Both can be fluid at the same time. In the same way, stories shift like sand.
Why did you decide to create a fictional landscape?
I wanted the place to be ambiguous because we often associate a context with the place in a way creating pre-conceived associations in the mind which don’t do justice to the development of the characters and the story as it unfolds. That’s why I wanted to create a fictional world of my own in which the characters live, breathe, and evolve.
You have named one of the protagonists Jasmine, called her a princess, dressed her in blue, and given her long hair. Are you bringing a disguised Princess Jasmine of Disney World?
(Laughs) Maybe subconsciously I did. Jasmine in my novel has her own journey of strength and courage as she evolves throughout the chapters especially when she meets the other important character, Laila. Women do not have a voice. The two women struggle through life and a political set-up to become who they fundamentally are.
There’s an uncanny similarity between your work and the novels of famous Afghan-American author Khaled Hosseini especially in the imagery of food, the torture of women, and their silent endurance of abuse...
I am deeply influenced by Khaled Hosseini’s works. I have read all his books and connect with his characters quite well. His novels describe the fabric of a place that has bled so much. There was a subconscious connection as well. His stories are of humans and we all are connected with one another. We do have similar stories in our country as well seen from the lens of the political-cultural-social lens. I wanted to show a borderless landscape through varieties of food; I almost mosaicked.
You have studied BBA in Marketing, how difficult was it for you to get into the role of an author?
It was tough as where I come from doesn’t have those literary pillars. I found art outside my environment. I painstakingly learnt a lot on my own. While I was studying in DPS, Sec’bad, I always got help from my teachers. However, I always had in my mind that one day I will be writing books.
Publisher: Hachette India
Available on Amazon
Price: Rs 450