As soon as my life settles back into a normal phase I’m intending to travel to India – a country I’ve always wanted to visit. In the meantime, I’m delighted to be welcoming Ravinder Randhawa to Linda’s Book Bag today so that I can travel vicariously as Ravinder’s The Coral Strand takes me to Mumbai. The Coral Strand was published by Matador on 26th January 20116 and is available for purchase in e-book and paperback from Amazon and directly from the publisher.
Today Ravinder explains what it is that motivates her to write.
The Coral Strand
From English winters to Indian summers. From the cold streets of modern Britain to the glamorous, turbulent and impassioned world of 1940’s Mumbai. Each year, Sita makes a mysterious journey to the Mausoleum, the place of dark memories and warped beginnings. She goes to spy on Emily and Champa, the strange ‘guardians’ she once escaped, and on whom she had taken a daring revenge.
This year proves to be fatefully different… This year, the terrible secrets of the past are starting to emerge; secrets that inexorably link the three women to each other, to the grey-eyed stranger Kala, and to an altogether different world – the glittering, violent and passionate world of 1940’s Mumbai.
Ravinder Randhawa’s women, caught in a desperate fight for survival, cross taboos and forbidden lines in this richly plotted novel, imbued with fascinating historical detail, and the beauties of place and period. Readers of modern and historical novels alike will enjoy Randhawa’s evocative portrait of the compelling relationship between Britain and India, which continues to enthrall and engage us.
The Writer As Agent Provocateur
A Guest Post by Ravinder Randhawa
‘Why do you write?’ I was once asked by the writer Vikram Seth, when we met at a books event.
‘Why do you?’ I asked in turn.
We found that neither of us could answer the question adequately. Writing is multi-faceted: both serious and light, deeply felt and superficial, amusing and heart-breaking. Because life is all these things and more.
When Chuka Umunna, the Labour party politician, was asked why he’d entered politics, he replied it was because he saw injustice and wanted to do something about it. Injustice in the world is also something that motivates me as a writer. It’s a double-sided process. Writing makes me think deeper about a subject, and allows me to highlight an idea, a theme.
The best fiction works subtly and dramatically, engaging not just the mind, but also the heart. So I know, as a writer of fiction, I have to work very differently from a journalist or politician, while staying loyal to the truth. Charles Dickens conveyed the terrible conditions of the Victorian poor, through vivid and remarkable characters, making us empathise with them. Making us learn and think without realising it.
To me, the world’s a fascinating place. Things happen in real life, which a writer wouldn’t dare invent, terrified of being ridiculed. Who would ever have linked David Cameron’s private parts and a dead pig, predicted that Donald Trump would win a presidential nomination, or Gary Lineker strip on TV. ‘You couldn’t make it up, could you?’ people are saying all over the place.
What intrigues me about these events, is what’s happening under the surface, in people’s hearts and minds. “Make America Great Again,” is the slogan that’s impelled thousands to support Trump. But what does it actually mean to individual people? Ask ten different people and I bet you’d get ten different answers. (Oh look, there’s a novel in the making!) And how do they think Trump’s actually going to “Make America Great Again”? Is he some kind of twenty-first century Messiah to them?
I’m a real people watcher. There must be something in this magnetic interest which feeds into the writing. I find that people are the most intricate, complex, frustrating, and bewildering beings in the world. It’s these intelligent and flawed, powerful and weak creatures who make up our world, make it what it is, and create consequences that can affect thousands, for years, decades and even centuries. No wonder they’re the subject matter of novels, plays and poems.
To go back to the original question – why write – it’s a difficult one to answer, but perhaps, like Chuka Umanna, there’s a need to set things right, to try and highlight injustice, false ideas, examine what it is to be human. To be an Agent Provocateur, with the faint hope of entertaining and engaging readers along the way.
About Ravinder Randhawa
Ravinder Randhawa is the acclaimed author of the novels Beauty and the Beast (YA), A Wicked Old Woman, The Tiger’s Smile and the short story collection Dynamite. Ravinder was a Royal Literary Fund Fellow at Toynbee Hall, Queen Mary’s University, the University of London, and founded the Asian Women Writer’s Collective.
Ravinder was born in India, grew up in leafy Warwickshire, now lives in London and agrees with Samuel Johnson’s saying (though of course, in a gender non-specific way) ‘…if a man is tired of London, he is tired of life.’ Loves good coffee and really good thrillers.