Books

Anita Nair’s latest story ‘Why I Killed My Husband’ can be heard in her own voice

Anita Nair’s latest story on the audio book app, Storytel, ‘Why I Killed My Husband’ is set in Chennai. As the protagonist’s dreams are crushed methodically by societal expectations and her musician husband’s casual cruelty, she decides to strike back.

“In all honesty, I can’t specify how the story happened,” says Anita. “It was a combination of things. The 2020 lockdown, a mouth organ that had been sitting in my study for over three years, stray pieces of conversation, and above all my great passion for Carnatic music and my having to grapple with how within that beautiful realm, there is the ugly murkiness of caste and privilege. I think one of the inexplicable joys of writing is how diverse and unrelated thoughts come together to form a cohesive storyline. ‘Why I Killed My Husband’ was born thus.”

Structured like music

The story is divided into chapters, each starting with ‘I should have killed my husband when…’ Anita says she structured the story like a Carnatic kriti. “More often than not, each charanam (the end section of a composition) concludes with the pallavi, (the thematic line of a song), which is also like the beginning for the next charanam. Here the pallavi is ‘I should have killed my husband...’”

The Bengaluru-based author said she likes to set her audio stories in different places. “‘Twin Beds’ was set in Thimpu and ‘The Little Duck Girl’ in Kerala. While I wasn’t entirely sure about how the story would emerge, I knew for certain this one would be set in Chennai. I know Chennai. I grew up there and am still very rooted in Chennai. I have a home there and over the last few years, I have tried to attend the Margazhi concerts. At the risk of sounding kooky, places like characters demand to be written about.”

Time critical

In the story, the protagonist makes a decision during the Chennai floods of 2015. Setting the tale in particular time frame, frees the mind, the 55-year-old author comments. “It lets the mind wander within a set period and allows me to delve into both the significant and insignificant aspects of the time frame.”

Music, Anita says is the leitmotif of the story and the element that adds agency to the telling. “As an artist, I have wondered about the effect my artistic life has on my family — my mood swings, my retreating into a space beyond anyone’s reach and my impatience with having to deal with what I think are the inconsequential aspects of living. I have worked very hard at separating my artistic life from my everyday responsibilities. It isn’t easy and takes a great deal of effort. What if an artist cannot be bothered to do so? What if an artist (no matter his or her degree of artistry) wants the world to revolve around him or her? Writing about a writer wouldn’t cut ice here. So I chose to use music.”

Reading right

Anita said she decided to read ‘Why I Killed My Husband’ to have control over the nuances. “The first two stories were read by actors. Konkona Sen Sharma and Satyadeep Mishra did ‘Twin Beds’. Prakash Raj did ‘Little Duck Girl’. I wanted a strong but measured voice to read ‘Why I killed My Husband’. This is a story that could so easily slip into caricature if not approached with maturity.”

Reading for an audiobook production was not easy, Anita says. “Thanks to my music practice, I have the breath and stamina to not let the voice or the narration sound fatigued by the end of the recording. I hugely enjoyed it. In fact, I have just finished recording my first book for Storytel, a collection of short stories titled Satyr of the Subway.”

Future plans, Anita says include a new audio story, ‘Field of Flowers’ and hopefully the third of her police procedurals featuring Inspector Gowda will appear soon.


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Printable version | Jan 27, 2022 12:31:10 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/books/anita-nairs-latest-story-can-be-heard-in-her-own-voice/article34607335.ece

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