Friday, May 23, 2008

Guest Post: Homes In My Heart, Padma Venkatraman

After those two long interviews (with some wonderful questions) on Thursday and Friday at Saffron Tree and at Reading, Writing, Wondering it’s nice to have a stop here to write a short guest blog. Thanks for having me, Sujatha!

As I said recently in an interview with South County Independent editor Betty Cotter, I have a lot of homes inside me. And that’s what you’d asked me to blog about – travel, my early life, how (if) that has affected my writing.

I grew up in India. I lived in Chennai (Madras) until I completed High School and I spent many summers in Mumbai (Bombay) in my sister’s home. Chennai and Mumbai are of course the cities where most of Climbing the Stairs takes place. One obvious way living in different places has influenced me is the detail with which I can recollect and thus recreate the ambience of these cities. I can still remember the Jamun tree that grew along the drive in the house in Velacheri where I spent my early childhood, and the ripe fruit really did dye our drive purple in August, just as the tree outside Vidya’s home does at the beginning of the novel.

For my undergraduate degree, I moved to Bangalore – mostly because I was stubborn and I decided that I wouldn’t do engineering or medicine (the two professions that everyone else around me who got excellent grades wanted to do). I wanted to do something for the environment and only St. Joseph’s College in Bangalore had Environmental science as a major.

My days in Bangalore…I met a lot of people, made many friends, enjoyed myself socially. I don’t really remember studying very hard, but my CV indicates that I must have done something right…

Bangalore…when I returned there recently it was such a shock…high rises everywhere…so many lovely old homes destroyed…gridlock…no longer the idyllic place I was sentimental about. MG Road, Brigade Road, Commercial Street…Koramangala…and of course Indranagar HAL Stage II I think, where mum bought a flat…Rotaract Orchards…research at the Indian Institute of Science.

Then, I left India, for the most part, to study abroad, although I did return to work as a researcher on the Andaman and Nicobar Islands – the place where my second novel, Island’s End, now under contract to Penguin and scheduled for publication in 2010, takes place.

Where else have I lived? England for a bit, at a very Hogwarts-ish boarding school. A few years ago I met an old friend from there and he said reading Harry Potter had taken him right back to Brockwood Park, the international Krishnamurthi School where I’d spent a few years, both as a student, and later as director and head of Inwoods, the elementary-middle school there. I remember beautiful walks, rolling hills, and mountain climbing trips and hikes to Wales, Cornwall, Dover, Dorset, the Lake District. Maybe I’ll write about it someday, who knows? We’ve had lots of Brits write about India from their point of view, and now we Indian authors are starting to write about the UK…

Germany. Maybe one day I’ll write a novel set here…for adults though, not YA. Why is that? I can’t explain. But if I did write a book set in Germany, I think it would have to be a book for adults not children, not even young adults.

Then, of course, America. The College of William and Mary, where I did my graduate work. The colonial parkway covered with dogwood blossoms. The sparkling waters of the Chesapeake. Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, where I did post-doctoral work. The farmers market in the middle of the city. Swimming pools on rooftops. Cozy coffee shops. Crazy ambulance drivers screeching past my flat all night long.

And now, Rhode Island. Ocean State sums it up perfectly. Started my life in the ocean state of Tamil Nadu, and now here I am in the Ocean State of Rhode Island… but not quite at my life’s end, I hope! After all, I have the rest of this blog book tour to complete.

Here are my remaining stops:

Tomorrow, Sunday, May 25th, I’ll be blogging on the topic of being a writing mom and finding time to write at Desi Momz Club;

Monday, May 26th, another guest post. Where were the British colonies during WWII? Doing background research for Climbing the Stairs, at author Laura Purdie Salas’s blog;

Tuesday, May 27th. Climbing the Stairs - The process of writing the novel, weaving together the different threads, at the 5 randoms;

Wednesday, May 28th. Oceanography, research and Climbing the Stairs. Making my schizophrenia work to my advantage. My (at least two) personalities. What it’s like to spend your 21st birthday on a research vessel at author Greg Fishbone’s blog;

Thursday, May 29th. What exactly is that dot on the forehead all about? Arranged marriages, Women in India in the 1940’s, Indian marriages today, gender equality issues in Climbing the Stairs, anything else you ever wanted to know about India at author Carrie Jones’s blog; and

Friday, May 30th. The grand finale. Moving to America, Becoming an American, Multicultural writing at author Mitali Perkins’s blog.

And before I forget, if you want to travel to places online that have reviews of Climbing the Stairs, here are some links:


Padma, thanks for stopping by. Best wishes for a fun and successful book tour, and for continued writing success.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Sujatha!