Anita Nair shares her opinions on the changes in her neighbourhood in her latest psychological thriller
Who needs a host of dancing daffodils to inspire words when the dusty swathes of Outer Ring Road in north Bangalore can work just as well?
Hennur and surrounding areas provide the canvas for parts of best-selling author Anita Nair’s latest novel, a psychological thriller.
The eucalyptus groves there that act as cover for illegal activity, the many food outlets that claim to be family restaurants but “are filled with drunks”, the burgeoning layouts and dying lakes all find more than a passing reference in Cut Like Wound.
“The way I know Bangalore is only the Cantonment area and this side,” says Anita, a resident of Hennur for the last 10 years. So, the Hennur-Kothanur-Dodda Gubbi area inspired the fictional “fiefdom” of her hero, the Bullet-riding Inspector Borei Gowda, while he investigates a serial killer in Shivajinagar.
Through him, she shares her opinions and concerns on the changes in this corner of Bangalore, with its rising rents, influx of foreign students and newly developed taste for exotic vegetables.
“This is still, in many ways, an untouched area. But you can see how the city is encroaching, taking away what was once pristine land,” she says.
She points to the “sneaky and secretive” dumping of the city’s garbage and construction debris as evidence of this.
When she moved here, Dodda Gubbi was a vast lake, a birding hotspot, and not the muddy, plastic-filled pond that’s left now.
“[But Hennur] is still a green lung space. When I go into the city, I come back with a great sense of relief,” she says, drawing attention to the fruit orchards and vegetable gardens in the area.
While this isn’t the first time Anita has written about Bangalore — there was also 2010’s Lessons in Forgetting — it is the first time that the she has delved into the grimy underbelly of the city. She admits that unlike Mumbai, Delhi and increasingly, Chennai, the city isn’t producing the kind of English writing where specific urban landscape is integral to story-telling.
“There is an evenness to life in Bangalore. Writing becomes exciting when there are jagged edges and different textures,” she says.
Digging up stories
There are many “fine” writers in Bangalore, she adds, who have all carved a space for themselves. But given the city’s floating population, there may simply not be enough writers who can dig past the “monochrome” of the city and explore a variety of characters. “The people who could have written about Bangalore, they have chosen to locate their stories in middle-class Bangalore, which is evenly textured.”
Anita, who has till now written extensively about Kerala (Mistress, The Better Man, Malabar Mind and Where the Rain is Born – Writings About Kerala, which she edited), dismisses the suggestion that there’s a danger of making a place sound all too exotic.
She doesn’t write with a “wide-eyed, tourist gaze”, she says. “The relationship I have with a place is very real...I’m not going to be enchanted by the exotic elements...I only write what is real to me.”