& occasionally about other things, too...

Monday, September 03, 2018

Interview with Anubha Mehta - author

Anubha Mehta
Peacockin the Snow is a debut novel by Anubha Mehta and is being launched by Inanna Publications and International Festival of Author’s Toronto Lit Up on 28 September 2018. It has been selected as the most anticipated books to read for Fall 2018 by the 49th Shelf.

Tell us about your journey that led you to write Peacock in the Snow

This is a journey of the girl who was healed by her story. This journey started some 18 years ago when my husband and I immigrated to Canada on a whim! We were as taken-aback at our foolishness of leaving a reasonably cushy life in Delhi for no dire necessity to move, as were our friends and family.

Taken-aback but not really surprised. While others suspected, we both knew about that deep restlessness and insatiable curiosity to explore and know more about the world. We also knew that these weren’t generally the typical or sensible reasons for leaving a country of birth. But here we were, snow beneath our slippery soles and icy draughts clawing our face while forcing every facial muscle to pose a brave smile.

Canada of 18 years ago was very different from today. Our immigrant struggles were not so much of getting our degrees converted or breaking into our own professions but more around the pain of isolation from a community that we left behind till we found another one, coping with a new reality as a young family, dealing with a more equalizing society and then learning to forgive and love this new land day by day with all its faults and disappointments as well as its contributions and gifts to us, not necessarily all material in nature.

Peacock in the Snow: Section III Forever, Life:

“It is in moments of hesitation, not clarity, that I find my answers, my resolve
It is in darkness, not light that I can see clearly, I understand the truth
And it is in truth that I grasp ingenuity and find strength to embrace life”.

~ Copyright © Anubha Mehta 2018

But at a more immediate level, my journey of writing Peacock in the Snow started some five years ago when I got a stomach ache that refused to go away. After a few agonizing weeks of contemplating, I finally found my answer.

I found that there were all these stories in me, stories that were not mine, but stories that I had internalized. They belonged to countless individuals that I had met, socialized with, confided-in, competed and confronted, learnt from, sought, empathized and helped; and from the countless places across the globe that I had visited.

These stories needed extracting, not through a painful medical procedure, but by the simple act of putting pen to paper. So, for the next few months that’s just what I did. I went into a frenzy and wrote them all down. When I emerged, I realized that in my madness to write, I had forgotten to take my medication. I didn’t need to anymore. I healed a little every time another story spread itself in front of me. Was there a story line here? Yes, there was!

Why did you write this book? Why is this book timely?

Peacock in the Snow lifts the veil on present life and times of Canada and characters within this transitional time.

The complexion of mainstream Canada is changing. This new class of newcomers who have immigrated in mass numbers (since 1990’s) and whose profile and tastes, motivations and needs, are very different from what this continent has seen before- originating from non-western countries, educated, socially connected, internationally mobile, professionally astute and affluent. They are less tolerant of structured racism, the chronic underemployment and lack of opportunity for newcomers. They strive for equal access on the basis of experience, qualification and merit. Peacock in the Snow is a story of one such family.

What are the main themes that you like the readers to remember after reading your book?

Peacock in the Snow is a contemporary story of a modern woman that amalgamates voice, adventure and magic. This book mixes conversations, habits, and conventions of parallel lives from a non-western to a western context.

Intrinsically, the reworking the concept of privilege has been very powerful for me throughout this novel. Privilege can only be decolonized when abstracted from wealth, gender and class and its associated expectations or subjugations. For our protagonist Maya, her courage and peace came, not from her advantageous social placement, but by the exact opposite, her renunciation of it. So, until Maya reworked her privilege it did not lead her to either freedom or happiness.

This book also talks about the ‘other side’ of issues and isms, that fall within the shadows or silences of the noise. For example, when women become gatekeepers of patriarchy from all shades of benevolent to hostile or when sexism also affects sons who are trapped within its expectations to live, act or behave in pre-ordained ways, at the cost of their own love or dreams. Issues and isms are not contained within geographical boundaries. They mutate and change colour, shape, form within the cultures and tolerance of different countries and their people.

This novel and its protagonist mirrors the mood of today’s woman readers in her various avatars. She is tired of handed-down definitions of perfection and is compelled to be assertive in unprecedented ways, ways that have not been taught. Her inadequacies are no longer seen as weaknesses but an opportunity to grow, and her fear is accompanied with courage to risk everything for her conviction. Our protagonist releases that hope for a better tomorrow while validating similar struggles that we face in today’s world conflicted with diverse beliefs, ethnicities, cultures, and expectations.

Describe your writing process - did you seek guidance, inputs; did you have a mentor?

Alas, I have not been lucky enough to have worked with a mentor till now. That would be one dream I would like to work towards. My writing process has been more instinctive and unplanned. At a high level all the multi-faceted experiences that I have been blessed with – in performing arts, as a classical dancer, an instrumentalist, a theatre artist, in literary arts- academic writing, journalism and fiction, poetry- went into the birth of Peacock in the Snow.

Here is what made me tick while transitioning from a writer to an author: https://www.anubhamehta.com/part-1-how-it-all-started/ 

Peacock in the Snow is being launched on 28 September at Ben McNally Books (366 Bay Street, Toronto) at 6 pm. 

Book Launch Invitation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WxK7Jgx7dTI  (Please keep the volume on)

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