This week on Guest Blog Wednesdays at The Australian Bookshelf we are joined by author, Priya Vasudevan who lives in India. She shares the origins of her novel, Middle TIme.
Time in the middle- ‘Middle Time’
I first saw Hampi by moonlight, the outer battlements of the city wall glimmering, and the enchantment slithered into my subconscious, unfurled and remains to this day. The next day, sitting in the Queen’s Bath, I slipped back in time and Achale danced before me, out of the keys, onto the page. While Achale remained a part of me, I heard the first faint whispers of her story only when I read about the strange case of the boy-saint, a widow’s son who came out of the temple pond with his sacred thread, in the colonial gazetteer. This is a true story, which happened in Virinchipuram, Tamilnadu, India. I n the book, I set this incident in the fictional village of Alur, near Hampi.
The theme was born out of the desire to rewrite history from the woman’s perspective, not as a victim as she is so often shown, but as an individual, making the best of her circumstances. Hence, Achale, courtesan but not prostitute, a career woman who gets waylaid but not derailed, by life. Maya, the other protagonist, seemed to me the ideal counterpoint to Achale- the modern career woman- how far has she journeyed?
What started me on this journey was an article in the woman’s journal, ‘Manushi’ about women saints and sainthood being an act of liberation. Religion, even in modern India, occupies not only the headlines but page three as well. More so in Vijayanagara, where an empire was established allegedly to rejuvenate an ailing religion. The sacred and the profane are closely interlinked in the religious discourse and sexuality is but an expression of love for the divine. I was intensely interested in AK Ramanujan’s translations of Tamil poetry of the saints in ‘ Speaking of Siva,’ the meta physical yet erotically charged imagery of secular poetry and Hindu philosophy which links Creation, procreation and destruction in the dances of the Gods.
The title ‘Middle Time’ alludes to the medieval era, of course, in which part of the novel is set. It is also a reference to the continuity of time- its cyclical nature. Between Hampi in the middle ages, and Chennai in 1996, there is a similarity, in that, society was changing and economic opportunities were growing. As well, there was a religious revival sweeping through India in both periods and governance was at an all-time low.
More about Priya: I am a lawyer, writer and trainer. I have written Contempt of Court in Halsbury’s Laws of India for Butterworths India Limited (now Lexis Nexis).
My articles have been published in magazines such as Femina. I have also published several short stories for children, in Children s World and Target. My first published book was “Nasreen’s Park’ by Orient Longman Ltd. It is a children’s book. “Middle Time’ is my debut adult novel. I live with my husband and two daughters in Chennai, India.
I have a page on ‘Good reads’ www.goodreads.com/author/show/4311796.Priya_vasudevan and a facebook page which I update from time to time-www.facebook.com/pages/Priya–Vasudevan/107403402680564 and a blog– http://priyavasudevan.wordpress.com/. I have a you-tube channel for my book trailers-thepriyavasudevan, as well.
Middle Time: Middle Time alternates between present day Chennai in South India and Hampi, a World Heritage site, in medieval India, during the last days of the Vijayanagara Empire. Maya, the protagonist is a lawyer whose client Tulsi has died under mysterious circumstances at a dance school. While going through her client’s papers, Maya discovers an ancient manuscript which transports her back in time. Maya discovers that Tulasi, a widow who had been excommunicated when she had a son a year after her husband’s death, has been murdered. Ningi, maid to Achalebbe, a temple-dancer of the Virupaksheshwara temple at Hampi comes across the body of Tulasi on the banks of the river which flows past their town. Maya has to answer a number of
questions as she struggles to solve both the mysteries not least being-is there a connection between the two deaths?
Middle Time is a historical mystery. Follow, courtesan Achale of medieval hampi and modern-day lawyer Maya as they race against time to stop a deadly and dangerous enemy.
Published by Niyogi Books, Delhi. Available on amazon.com & flipkart.com.
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