Between the lines

Shuvashree Ghosh’s debut novel “Across Borders” is set against the ferment in erstwhile East Pakistan

Published - December 27, 2013 09:00 pm IST - New Delhi

Shuvashree Ghosh, author of "Across Borders".  Photo: R. Ravindran.

Shuvashree Ghosh, author of "Across Borders". Photo: R. Ravindran.

The title of Shuvashree Ghosh’s debut novel, “Across Borders”, is significant in more than one sense. It represents her own crossing of borders from her various managerial roles into her passion: writing.

Launched recently in New Delhi, the book tells the story of Maya, a girl born in a small town in Assam in pre-Independence India, and the seismic changes in her life brought about her father’s second marriage. The novel tracks Maya as she grows up with an uncle near Dacca, and her trials and tribulations in the years leading up to Bangladesh’s war of liberation. The 1964 communal riots are a prominent presence in the book.

Explaining her motivation to write the book, the author said, “Both my parents come from erstwhile East Pakistan, and I have grown up with stories about the circumstances which led to their coming over. I have always wanted to write, and since I have grown up with these stories, and I am familiar with these circumstances, it was a good way to start I thought.”

Real people

“All of my characters are real, I have just recreated them. To me they are all living people, people whom I have spoken to…maybe they are not related each other, but I have strung their stories together to form the novel,” she added.

The book was launched by poet and editor Sudeep Sen, who has spent some time in Bangladesh and had read the manuscript over a year ago. “I was struck with the urgency of the writing, the panache, the brioche…its relevant to the times now with the political situation in Bangladesh. The other aspect of the book which drew me was the extreme immediacy of her voice, which is quite reminiscent of Hardy,” he said, and complimented her for taking up this subject.

Also present was Brigadier B.K. Ponwar, who participated in Bangladesh’s war of liberation, and is now the director of the Counter Terrorism and Jungle Warfare College, Kanker. He took the audience through a slideshow, comprising maps and pictures, of the Indian Army’s strategies during the war.

Thereafter, the author read from the book, and answered questions. Responding to a question about the multiple tonalities in the book, she said, “I am not a literature student, I am a commerce student. I have been doing things far from literary…I have subconsciously picked up all these styles, because I have not had any formal training in writing. If you ask me to analyse it I can’t. I am just telling a story.”

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