How did ‘Ladders against the Sky’ happen? Could you describe the journey?
The journey began with my travels. As a student, I joined the excursions arranged by our college. In addition, I traveled on my own to different parts of India.Later, when I worked for an export company in Taiwan, my work involved travel to various parts of the world. These stories are a gift of my travels.
What according to you is different about your book?
Two things. One, half the stories are about Sindhis. I wanted to show the human aspect behind the stereotypes that the popular mind carries about Sindhis, both in India and overseas. Two, the other stories are about how the contradictory strands of science and superstition, tradition and modernity are intertwined in the lives of Indians and how this paradox impacts life in India.
What kind of research was put into the writing of this book, especially with so many varied stories?
My observations during my travels were my research. The writer in me noted the displacement Indians overseas had to work through and the cultural adjustments they had to make. In India, I saw, with pain, the conundrums that the various layers of traditions imposed on its modernity – oriented inhabitants.
How would you relate the lives of your characters to the lives, today? Any similarities?
Since my stories have grown out of my observations of people and places, they are realistic. For example, two stories deal with human sacrifice in India. Who would imagine that such a thing would happen in the 21st century, yet is exists.
What was the most challenging part about writing ‘Ladders against the Sky’?
Since there are 23 stories in the collection, each story presented its own challenge. In one, the question was how to structure the story. In another, how to weave in the atmosphere without losing the emphasis on character. In a third, at what point should the story open: towards the middle to grab the reader’s attention and then go into the back story, or begin at the beginning? In a fourth, should dialogue or narration carry the story forward or how to balance dialogues and narration. In brief, technique was the biggest challenge.
Could you tell the readers about your experiences and how they were related to what you have written?
What I observed, felt, thought, reacted too – whether it was regarding the people I met or the locales I traveled through or the way of living I shared during that period – became the warp and woof of the stories.
What is the most fulfilling part of writing this book?
The book itself. It is a record of my experiences and how I interpreted them. Since we live as much with our memories as we do in the present, the stories will help me to time-travel and re-live my experiences whenever I’m so inclined.
Who was it that told you that you could become the author that you are today?
One of my English Literature teachers, Rev Brother Michael D. Curran. When I asked him why everything I wrote was so prolix, he said as I move from teen age to the next phase of my life my writing would become muscular. ‘Writing matures with the person’. I doubted his advice at that time. Time has proved him right.
When will your next book be out?
I hope to write about the experience of Indians who visit their adult children working in America. They come to the States every year, anywhere from 1 month to 6 (the maximum time their visa allows them). They are the reverse of the “snow birds” from Canada who fly to warm Florida in winter. The problem is that the children and the children’s spouses of the Indian seniors have full time jobs. The result is that the parents have their company only for a few hours in the evening. What they do to pass the time during the rest of the day will be the subject of the book. I don’t know when I’ll start working on the book.
Who are your favorite authors and why?
An odd assortment: Somerset Maugham, Mulk Raj Anand, H.E.Bates, Padma Hejmadi, Frederick Forsyth, Philip Roth, Anita Desai, and Salman Rushdie. Why? Because they entertain – in the best sense of the word.
Which books are you currently reading?
Three books concurrently. Crazy? Of course. ‘The Feast Days’ by Ian MacKenzie (dealing with the experience of the ‘trailing spouses’ of expatriates), ‘The Ninth Hour’ by Alice McDermott and ‘The Underground Railway’ by Colson Whitehead.
What else do you do on a daily basis?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s Sudarshan Kriya (more or less daily), workout in the gym, read, and drink – my favourite Assam tea!
links to the interview:
http://srutis.blogspot.com/2018/06/author-interview-murli-melwani-author.html and https://srutis.blogspot.com/2018/06/author-interview-murli-melwani-author_6.html