Children’s writer and playwright Poile Sengupta turns novelist with Inga. Five years in the making, the book unravels the life of a young woman, a misfit within her family and her community, touching lightly upon themes including sexuality, caste and perceptions of beauty. We catch up with her as the book makes its debut this week.
On your first adult novel
A novelist has greater creative freedom than a playwright but has to sustain the narrative and the characters. It is actually much more difficult to write for children. There is
a sense of responsibility cast on the author and children have a tremendous sense of fun, which is both a challenge and an inspiration.
More on Inga
I have traced a young woman’s relationships and her obsessions through a journal that she maintains. Rapa’s diary tells of her intense desire to be an author. But her deep passion for her girl cousin Inga leads her into a world where religiosity collides with spirituality, and where the ordinary is the extraordinary. The book is set in the 1960s when same sex relationships were not understood, so Rapa is confused about her feelings, and has to discover herself as a woman, as a writer and also as a human being.
On writing that challenges the status quo
Sexual violence is still a very serious concern. Yet there is greater awareness today and an urge to fight, as the Nirbhaya case has shown. In Inga, one of the characters says, “The world has changed considerably over these years and what could not be told then may be understood now.” All forms of art have the capacity to bring social issues to the fore. But, as a writer, I wonder what we can do about those who have the opportunity and yet do not read.
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— Maegan Dobson Sippy