Anukrti Upadhyay, a writer based in Mumbai, sits and talks to us about her recent English novellas, published by HarperCollins. Her twin books, Daura and Bhaunri, have received acclaim for the fresh storytelling and their ability to transport you into a whole new world in the midst of the Rajasthani desert.
Hailing from an academic background, this author has always been around stories, which inspired her to weave her own stories and share them with the world. Currently, she is working on various writing projects and her job simultaneously. We spoke to this inspiring woman about her books and the inspiration about them.
- Hello Anukrti! It’s exciting to have you here today. Please introduce yourself to our readers.
I am Anukrti Upadhyay and I am a writer. I have post-graduate degrees in Management and Literature, and a graduate degree in Law. I also wrote a doctoral thesis in Hindi Literature.
Today, I write fiction and poetry in both English and Hindi. A collection of my Hindi short stories, titled Japani Sarai, was published by Rajpal and Sons in January 2019 and I was thankful to have received such a positive response, as people referred to my work as ‘fresh’. My two English novellas, Daura and Bhaunri, were published soon after in May by HarperCollins. Recently, Bhaunri has been longlisted for the Atta Galatta BLF fiction award. Beyond these, Several other of my short stories have also appeared in other literary journals.
Other than being literary inclined, I have worked for Goldman Sachs and UBS for two decades, in Hong Kong and India. Currently, I am working with Wildlife Conservation Trust, a conservation think-tank. Im married and a mother, and am dividing my time between Singapore and Mumbai!
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❓QOTD: Recommend me a book? . . 📖'Bhaunri' and 'Daura' by Anukrti Upadhyay. . ✨Bhaunri- Bhaunri falls in love with her husband Bheema the moment she sets eyes upon him. But Bheema is far from the ideal husband. As Bhaunri's love for Bheema increases each day, she also finds out about her husband's pursuits with other women in the village and demands that her love be returned with the same intensity. Bheema resorts to threatening and beating her in order to make her understand her position in the household but Bhauri has other plans in mind. 'Bahunri' takes us to a typical desert household of a Lohar, with its one quarrels and problems. As Bhaunri's love for her husband increases, there is a steady shift in her equation with her in-laws. You'll love this book if you've loved: The Poison of Love by K R Meera. ⭐⭐⭐⭐/5 . ✨Daura- A player of the instrument Sarangi bewitched the young Collector in a village in Rajasthan. With him he brings the tales of kings and peasants alike and the story of a Princess so beautiful, she denied the company of anyone and turned herself into a tree. But is this just some folklore or a love story waiting to happen? Written by individuals who observe the collector through their eyes, this story is layered and mysterious and for some of us, very believable. You'll love this book if you love magical realism and storytelling that involves elements from various folk lores. ⭐⭐⭐. 75 /5 . I decided to review these books together because in both of these books, the author takes the readers right into the heart of a Rajasthani village, the shifting sand dunes, the barren lands and their vegetation, the food and culture mixed with takes from various folklores. Reading these books is an experience in itself. Atmospheric, unpredictable, engrossing and enlightening, these short novels are a true delight. . [#gifted] by @harpercollinsin All opinions are my own. – – – – – –
- Tell us a little bit about the genres you dabble in.
I don’t believe I write in a particular genre. My Hindi short stories have cosmopolitan themes – focused on lives in different cities but are also about women caught between tradition and modernity and between dynamic relationships.
Whereas, both my English short novels are located in rural Rajasthan and are steeped in Rajasthani culture and lore.
On the side, I have also experimented with a thriller plot based in a bank and a book of mysteries for children, neither of which have been published yet.
- Tell us more about being a self learnt writer.
I grew up in a home filled with books and I have always been a voracious reader. This was how I learnt to write – from books written by great writers – and am still learning.
I have always been writing, mostly Hindi poetry. It came from my love and fascination with the language. I wanted to see how I could mould it to create beautiful pieces. Writing fiction is fairly new to me, I evolved into this genre because there were stories I couldn’t help myself from sharing, first to see how it would come together for myself and then for others. Daura and Bhaunri was born from two images – that of a beautiful tree and of a nomadic woman, strong and independent.
- As the book is attentive to details, how much research was involved in writing this book?
I was born and brought up in Jaipur and grew up with the rich Rajasthani culture all around me. I guess, I have been researching for these books all through my life and imbibed the details about customs, seasons, landscape and bureaucracy by keen observation tied in with my imagination. However, in order to get the hierarchy and bureaucratic minutiae correct, I ran Daura past serving and retired administrative officers.
I will let you into a secret – the folktales recounted in the two books, whether it is the story of the tree princess or Bhaunri’s ancestors, are not really old folktales, they are all imagined with the flow of the narrative in each book!
- How did you take on the ambitious difference in structures for the two books? Also, how did you balance the facts and the more magical side of your novels?
I write intuitively, without an outline or a plan. The structures – polyphonic (the simultaneity of points of view) narration in Daura and a third person, looking-over-the-shoulder narrator in Bhaunri – were created organically. I wrote the first draft of Daura in a euphoric flow but the revisions were tough. Bhaunri, on the other hand, had so many gaps after the first draft that writing the second one was like a different story altogether.
Also towards creating a balance between the magical and the facts, I didn’t make a conscious effort, I simply followed my flow. But in the rewrites, I did make an effort to keep the story more focused and cut out any extras that did not serve it.
How have your roots influenced and inspired your writing?
I grew up in an academic household. My father, Professor Surendra Upadhyay, taught literature at the University of Rajasthan and my mother, Puja Upadhyay was an avid reader and a beautiful storyteller. I got my love for books and writing from them. Also, Daura and Bhaunri both were set in the desert, which was an image I have had on my mind growing up.
The stories ultimately belong to the readers; the writer is a nobody, a medium through which they passed through to reach their true owners. That being said, Daura to me, is a story about the seen and the unseen, beauty and belief, nature and humans. Bhaunri, on the other hand, is about the all-consuming nature of love. I would say they are inspired by the hardship and beauty of Rajasthan, fraternal twins born from the harsh desert.
- How was your journey working with Harper Collins?
I have a very supportive editor and publisher at HarperCollins! Rahul Soni, my editor, gave me very valuable advice about shaping Daura and to not second-guess myself all the time. Plus, the credit for the titles of the books goes to Udayan Mitra, my publisher. I’m very grateful to them.
I am currently working on a short novel in Hindi and a few short stories in English and gathering myself to pick up a novel in English that I left off midway. A story-cycle is set for publication in 2020 by HarperCollins, all under their literary imprint, Fourth Estate.
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