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November, 2013

Chitra Divakaruni with desideewar.........

Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni has authored famous books like The Mistress of Spices, Arranged Marriage, The Palace of Illusions, among others. Her work has won her several awards and recognition. The Mistress of Spices, starring Aishwarya Rai and Dylan McDermott, was made into an English film by filmmakers Gurinder Chadha and Paul Berges. The Palace of Illusions was made into a play titled Fire and Ice:Draupadi's Story, written and directed by Joe DiSabatino in India. Her works have been made into TV serials and short films as well. 

 Divakaruni was born in Kolkata and did her graduate studies in the US. She teaches creative writing at the University of Houston and lives in Houston, Texas.  We, at desideewar, had the wonderful opportunity of interviewing her. We're happy to publish it and thank her for her time.

(Photo on the left: Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni) 

 1. You started your writing career with poetry and then wrote your first novel in 1995. Since then you have authored over a dozen novels in less than 8 years. Where do you get your inspiration from?

INSPIRATION COMES TO ME FROM MANY SURPRISING SOURCES, FROM THINGS I SEE OR HEAR AROUND ME HERE IN AMERICA, FROM VISITS TO INDIA, STORIES TOLD TO ME BY FRIENDS OR STRANGERS, BOOKS AND NEWSPAPERS, DREAMS. MISTRESS OF SPICES GREW OUT OF A NEAR-DEATH EXPERIENCE; SISTER OF MY HEART CAME FROM WATCHING AN OLD COLONIAL MANSION BEING TORN DOWN; OLEANDER GIRL FROM A NIGHT-RIDE ACROSS KOLKATA ON A RECENT TRIP; PALACE OF ILLUSIONS FROM STORIES MY GRANDFATHER SHARED WITH ME.

2. How did it all start? Did you always know that you'll be writing books? Did your fame come as  a surprise to you? Of all the awards and recognition that has come your way, what are you most proud of?
IT STARTED VERY PRIVATELY, WITH JOTTINGS IN MY WRITER'S NOTEBOOK, AFTER I MOVED TO AMERICA FOR GRADUATE STUDIES. YES, THE POSITIVE RECOGNITIONS ARE ALWAYS SURPRISING, AND I AM MOST APPRECIATIVE. MY FIRST MAJOR  AWARD MEANT THE MOST TO ME--AN AMERICAN BOOK AWARD FOR MY COLLECTION, ARRANGED MARRIAGE. IT GAVE ME A LOT OF CONFIDENCE.
 

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 3. In the Palace of Illusions, you chose to re-tell an epic saga that has been told countless times, yet for the first time from Drapuadi's perspective. How did that come about? What kind of research it did involve? I was most intrigued by Drapuadi and Karan angle- do you think there is any evidence for that in the scriptures, or is that purely fictional?

PALACE GREW OUT OF MANY STORIES THAT MY GRANDFATHER TOLD ME FROM THE MAHABHARAT WHEN I WAS LITTLE. I ALWAYS WONDERED ABOUT THE WOMEN--WHAT DID THEY IMAGINE? WHAT WERE THEY FEELING? I READ MANY VERSIONS OF THE MAHABHARAT, AND WHAT OTHER WRITERS, FROM TAGORE TO PRATIBHA RAY, HAVE WRITTEN. IN THE BENGALI MAHABHARAT, THERE ARE HINTS THAT DRAUPADI WAS INTERESTED IN KARNA. AND ALL THE VERSIONS SHOW THAT KARNA WANTED TO MARRY DRAUPADI--HE COMES TO THE SWAYAMVAR. THE REST --HER THOUGHTS--WAS MY IMAGINATION.

4. Tell us something about the poetry you compose?
I STARTED WITH WRITING POETRY. I LOVE THE COMPRESSION OF POETRY, ITS USE OF IMAGERY TO CONVEY MEANING. MY POETRY IS LARGELY NARRATIVE. I'M VERY INTERESTED IN STORY AND CHARACTER GROWTH, WHICH IS WHY I WRITE MOSTLY FICTION NOW.

5. You were born and raised in Kolkotta. You moved to US for your graduate studies and have been living here since. How 'desi' are you still at heart? Do you listen to Indian music, watch Indian movies, love Indian food the most, wear Indian clothes at every chance and visit India often?

YES, TO ALL OF THE ABOVE. I WEAR INDIAN CLOTHES ALMOST ALL THE TIME. I TEACH IN THEM AND I GIVE ALL MY TALKS WEARING THEM. I THINK THEY ARE BEAUTIFUL. I LOVE WRITING ABOUT FOOD. (I HAVE A BLOG, AMAZING THINGS, AT WWW.CHITRADIVAKARUNI.COM, WHERE I SOMETIMES PUT UP RECIPES.   LIVING IN AMERICA HAS REALLY MADE ME APPRECIATE MANY THINGS ABOUT MY CULTURE THAT I TOOK FOR GRANTED WHEN I LIVED IN INDIA. BUT IT HAS ALSO MADE ME APPRECIATE DIVERSITY, WHICH IS A THEME IN MANY OF MY BOOKS.
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