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Intensely political

NIKHIL VARMA
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BOOK Thunder Demons is not just an oversimplified immigrant experience, insists author Dipika Mukherjee

OF RELATIONSHIPS Dipika Mukherjee
OF RELATIONSHIPS Dipika Mukherjee

T he Indian immigration experience has been documented in many books, movies and documentaries by writers from across the world. “Thunder Demons” author Dipika Mukherjee says, “Deals with a Malaysian-Bengali family that has been staying in Malaysia for three generations. A young woman, Agni, is struggling to come to terms with her mother Shanti's suicide, while her grandmother has been keeping a dark secret about the family's past.”

Dipika, who currently is professor of linguistics at the Institute of Linguistic Studies in Shanghai, but has lived a good part of her life in Malaysia (her husband's Malaysian), insists this novel will not be the usual immigrant experience of three generations of beautiful women coping with life outside the country. “It deals with many social and political issues. The secrets that the family holds are also interlinked to government policies. It is a politically intense book.”

She adds, “Malaysia is one of the few countries in the world that has vestiges of the apartheid written into the constitution. The local majority community is given preference in all institutions. There are certain elite institutions that are specifically for Malay citizens. I wanted to write about the inequities that many Malaysians have to deal with, for not being part of a specific community.”

Does the book dwell too much on the immigrant experience? “‘Thunder Demons' is a book where the protagonist is making an attempt to find her relationship with her country, unlike in ‘The Namesake' where Gogol is looking to discover himself in a foreign land.”

She contends, “At some level, such issues are prevalent in all societies across the world, since human nature is standard throughout the world. However, in Malaysia, calls for reworking the system have been cropping up from time to time.”

She adds, “I am irritated by the recent trend of some writers looking at migration as an escape route from all evil in society. It is not a solution by any standard and such a stance lacks nuances and tries to simplify complex issues. Writers like Amitav Ghosh are exceptions; they exhibit a better understanding of the world and their writing fits well into the globalised world we live in today.” Dipka loves writing both short stories and novels. “Short stories happen when I notice something unique and decide to build a story based on it.”

“Thunder Demons” has been published by Gyaana Books (Rs. 280).

NIKHIL VARMA

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