Non Resident Indians—a world of intrigue! A world of people trying to keep their cultural practices alive whilst not noticing that India has changed. A place where men, labouring under their psychological deficiencies, attempt to impose their will. This is the premise behind Shaam bhar baatein the debut novel by London resident Divya Mathur.
A large crowd packed the launch event held at the India International Centre in New Delhi on 29th November, all eager to hear Divya Mathur’s take on what it is like to be an Indian abroad detached from one’s roots. The audience, including eminent scholars such as Prof. Asghar Vajahat, Dr Leeladhar Mandloi, Prof Krishna Dutt Paliwal, Dr Kamal Kishor Goyanka, Dr Ajit Navaria and Mr Anil Joshi, heard dramatized passages of the novel that featured arranged marriages, ill-treatment, misbehaviour in public offices, and eventually murder.
Divya’s residency in London has given her a direct insight into the ways of Indians living abroad. She has strongly portrayed the psychology of being a minority in another society. A position that causes many to seek comfort in their memories of how things were back in India. Problems arise when those memories cause individuals to behave in ways that are clearly out–of-date and would be seen as such in India. The whole world is rapidly changing because of globalisation and this has ramifications in the way that families are organised, marriages are entered into, and relationships are explored or maintained. Divya’s observation powers are great and so is her control over the dialects her varied characters speak, all from different backgrounds.
A heated discussion of Divya’s book went on for more than 45 minutes with some frank exchanges of view taking place. Truly it was an exciting occasion as those attending debated the book’s merits and whether her story may cause some to become unsettled.
Well-known for her short stories and poems, this is Divya’s first novel. She has published five story and six poetry collections, three of them have received coveted awards. Translator of five children’s books for Mantralingua, she has also edited two acclaimed anthologies of stories of Indian women settled abroad and a third, India Bourn, is coming out in January 2015. Held in collaboration with Vatayan-London and Pravasi Duniya-Delhi, this programme was brilliantly anchored by Alka Sinha, author and presenter, thoroughly enjoyed by the overflowing audience which included eminent authors, media personnel and NRIs who are in India on holiday.