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THE REAL WORLD Priya Sarukkai Chabria: ‘As a society governed by fear and terror, we are not thinking for ourselves’
THE REAL WORLD Priya Sarukkai Chabria: ‘As a society governed by fear and terror, we are not thinking for ourselves’

Priya Sarukkai Chabria has used imagination and poetry to explore emotions in her novel Generation 14

Poet and novelist Priya Sarukkai Chabria prefers to call “Generation 14” speculative literature, and not hard science fiction. “My second novel is not science fiction as it is not a book by a scientist researching on science,” says Chabria, who feels she has used her imagination and poetry to explore emotions.

“Generation 14”, jointly published by Zubaan and Penguin India moves in the memory of Clone 14/54/G in the 24th century. The Pune-based Chabria says she explored the idea of cloning as “we are moving towards an era of cloning”. She wonders: “What is the relationship with a human clone going to be like?Will we have problems with him/her, will we treat her like an independent being?”

The writer, who was at the National Institute of Advanced Studies to talk about the meeting of arts and sciences, says she used the clone as a metaphor for a world that is fraught with communal stripes of violence.

“As a society governed by fear and terror, we are not thinking for ourselves.A clone’s mind is controlled – she cannot think for herself and she is not allowed or incapable of pondering about certain facts of life.” Clone 14/54/G has a default memory chip that takes her into the prohibited world of memory and emotions.

“It is an amnesiac journey into her past – a journey into her heart.” And this is what took Chabria eight long years to research and put together. “I explored history from 2500 B.C. to the 24th century.” Chabria feels that visual historical material has helped contextualise the protagonist’s blast into the past.

“Writers or artists who engage with other art forms broaden their writing canvas.”

Sense of release

With the publication of the novel, Chabria feels “a great sense of release.Now I leave it to different intelligent readers who will create their own understandings from it.”

Can the book be looked at as a political satire?

“The book is constructed through time and space, to arrive at the philosophical question of internal identity and that of the nation.Will we learn from the mistakes we have made in the past and reformulate our identity and purpose?” She does not believe that a clean slate will help either. “That is why Clone 14/54/G has visitations from her past. The idea was to show that even banned memory and not being allowed to think is affecting us at a time of information overload.” Chabria, however, feels that she is not being cynical in this futuristic dystopia she created in “Generation 14”. “It is quite the opposite as there is always space for hope in the darkest novel – as Sartre says.” She believes that her book is then, embedded in faith and that writing becomes an act of expressing that faith to the readers, pointing to the lines she from Len Cohen’s Anthem with which she opens her prologue, “Ring the bells that still can ring/Forget your perfect offering/ There’s a crack in everything/That’s how the light gets in.”

Chabria, who is working on an anthology of poems titled “Not Springtime Yet” feels that there is no place for meditative literature and that “Generation 14” is about “history, identity and memory.”

“Generation 14”, a 284-page paperback is priced at Rs. 295. Visit www.priyawriting.comAYESHA MATTHAN

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