There's no place like home

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LAUNCH Dipika Mukherjee's debut novel ‘Thunder Demons' makes a strong case for rediscovering and strengthening one's roots

Rooting for her country Dipika Mukherjee Photo: R.Ravindran
Rooting for her country Dipika Mukherjee Photo: R.Ravindran

A s the daughter of a diplomat, Dipika Mukherjee says her life has been rather nomadic. She describes herself as ‘globally promiscuous', with an Indian passport and Permanent Residence in the U.S. and Malaysia.

But, her debut novel “Thunder Demons” presents a different point of view, where the protagonist is rooted to the country she calls home.

“Since I've lived in many places, I think my writing is a shift away from the American migrant Diaspora. Most of these books make you believe migration is the solution to everything. I think people just need to find their home and make it a better place. In my book, Agni fights for her hometown instead of migrating. She does leave Malaysia for a while, but comes back because that's where her heart is.”

“Thunder Demons” not only revolves around the protagonist, Agnibina, but also the underbelly of Malaysian politics.

Spotlight on politics

“Malaysia is going through a lot of changes. Civil rights movements have started springing up and recently people marched on the streets of Kuala Lumpur demanding a clean-up of the electoral roll. My husband is Malaysian and what's happening there right now has upset us. We felt we couldn't continue to educate our children there. But I have lived, worked and taught in Malaysia and so the book is based there,” says Dipika.

“We all have demons that we fight in life. In my book, Agni fights two; why her mother killed herself; and terrorism, since she's in charge of airport security at Kuala Lumpur,” says the author, adding, “I went through many names, including ‘The Reluctant Gourmet'. Since the book had a “Thunder Demon” motif all over it and a lot of violence, I decided on this one.”

A professor of Linguistics at the Institute of Linguistic Studies in Shanghai, Dipika reveals that her interactions with the Bengali community in Malaysia helped her write the book.

“When I started writing it in 2003, it was Agni's grandmother who was talking to me in my head since a lot of Bengali women I was interacting with then were around that age and I could relate to them well. But I realised that because she's old, her depiction of modern Malaysia may not be significant. Therefore, I chose Agni as the main character,” she explains.

Dipika's second novel “Finding Piya” brings out the ‘Indian' in her. “Every time people see my book they ask me where the ‘Indian' in me is. My second book will address that part and it should be out sometime next year,” she smiles.

“Thunder Demons” (priced at Rs. 280) is available at leading bookstores.





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