Dealing with a difficult subject and ensuring that the reader appreciates it is not an easy task. Amrita Tripathi precisely does that in her latest novel “The Sibius Knot”, a Fourth Estate publication. Her tale is about growing up with adolescence, coming alive by way of blood, semen and sweat and the hallucinatory passages of time that join childhood with adulthood. Expounding on her method of approach towards the subject, she says, “There is transition of past and present, there are flashbacks, talking voices and storytelling about the feeling and views of the characters. That is the reason for its bifurcation into three sections to make it easy for the reader. Further the story of Amy, Tara, Mario, LB and Dan – the five broken and fragmented characters, is complicated and intense and the readers cannot breeze through it. Hence, the peripheral dramatis persona in the novel provides breathing space and also another perspective, which is well adjusted.”
The friends are involved in a personality cult and one hears different voices expressed by the characters from their point of view. “It involves fighting real and imagined enemies by adolescents growing up and about whom nobody cares while depicting the fragile relationships and people – the generation of 90s,” summarises the writer. Interwoven into this are issues like drugs, sex, violence, molestation, child abuse, etc. “It mirrors the problems and confusion faced by people in their 20s.”
Incidentally, the novel, the author’s second which she started in 2011, was originally a collection of short stories around the main characters. When informed that it could be a novel, she worked on that format last year.
The author, who quit journalism and is at present employed with a consultancy firm, says, “I wrote incrementally. That is, I kept jotting scraps of conversations and information which I gathered, which led to forming of different characters. When I started the story, the outline and the timeline came into being. In fact, many players in the story were not there initially.”
How much are the characters drawn from real life? “It is mostly fiction though bits have been taken from real life. I included several incidents which happened during that period in Delhi and adjoining areas, like the Nithari killings, assault on women by powerful and well connected persons. These were real life incidents which happened to real people like us. It is a mix of fact and fiction, starting with truth and then fictionalising it since the story has to seem real,” says Amrita.
The theme of the novel came through many stories heard by her as a journalist. “I did a number of news reports and articles on mental health. Besides, I was privy to a lot of information on it. These seeped into the novel.”
Asked about challenges to switch from journalism to fiction writing, she says, “The advantage in the latter is that of inventing a character and spinning a tale around it. At the same time, it is a challenge too.”
Many readers, according to Amrita, described the story as “cathartic”.
“It is not a story told before and some of the points raised in it need to talked about and not unseen and ignored.”