June 5, 2023

Great Indian Mutiny

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The essence of India in one book

She never dreamed of becoming a writer. Alka Joshi wanted to draw. However, upon entering the world of advertising as a copywriter, he discovered that he was interested in creating stories. When her company was in crisis in 2008, she signed up for a master’s degree in creative writing inspired by her husband.

Around the same time, he returned to his hometown of Jaipur, where part of his family still resides, where his mother shared details about her childhood, motherhood and arranged marriage with her father in 1955. He realized that even though she was brought up in a very traditional way, he was trying to give her the freedom to make her own decisions. “I was filled with gratitude for the extraordinary life I was able to live.” From that moment on, the character of Lakshmi, a female henna artist, tries to leave her abusive husband and set up an independent life for herself at a time when India is paving the way for independence. .

Her reunion with her roots (when she was nine, her family moved to the United States) inspired her to embark on the intense process of documenting India in the 1950s, especially the pink city, Jaipur, the former seat of the royal family. The monuments that bear witness to its noble history, the conflicts of caste, color and class of the society of that time, were marked by the colonial influence it revolted against. A process based on reading and watching movies about that period, starting with his own parents and friends and doing multiple interviews. Little by little she unravels the story of a woman who struggles to move forward, wanting to provoke for her mother all the freedom she did not enjoy in her youth. This is how it came to be Henna artist (Meva).

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The protagonist Lakshmi is able to take a place for herself as a renowned henna artist in the high society of Jaipur, until the appearance of a sister who does not know that she exists, putting all her achievements under control and putting her in a predicament. As many women are forced to do, it instills in a woman the values ​​of a good wife that she does not trust, a rebellious attitude that makes her fearful of what awaits her in old age. And, beyond that, the female characters throughout the novel struggle to gain autonomy in their lives within their own circumstances.

This work has attracted readers from all over the world. Indians, Pakistanis and Bengalis appreciate the way they portray the richness of their cultures, while Western readers are struck by female protagonists and deep reading experience, and are inspired by elements of Indian cultural heritage such as henna or medicinal herbs. The author points out that this ability to write an internationally successful novel may be due to experience living in many countries such as India, USA, Italy and France, which allows one to feel part of a culture. , Notice it from the outside. “Just as there are no right people, there are no right countries. As a writer, I’m interested in exploring the good and bad of a writing culture.” On the other hand, since most of the fictions about India are written from a foreign perspective, he believes that culture must be viewed from many angles to complete the story.

Global success

However, he could not have imagined the huge success of his novel around the world, and he deeply appreciates the warm welcome it received in many countries. He feels a special connection with the booksellers in which he claims to have discovered his “tribe” and believes that promoting stories as he writes can contribute to improving gender equality for strong protagonists who choose their own future. On the other hand, he prides himself on showing Indian culture through his books up to the most refined details, including scents and emotions, because he thinks that the stimulus potential of his novels is there: “it is emotional information and my ability. I must translate it into words that make up my literary essence.”

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On the other hand, a Netflix series based on the novel is being prepared. Henna artist The author hopes to invite many more readers to immerse themselves in the story of a woman who struggles to create her own destiny in a country that will rebuild itself after centuries of domination, invasion and colonialism.