Coorg inspires debut novel from Indian financier

Wed Jul 28, 2010 6:03am EDT
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By Tony Tharakan

NEW DELHI (Reuters Life!) - When private equity professional Sarita Mandanna set out to write a novel, it seemed natural to set it in the forests of Coorg, a region in southern India the British colonialists called the "Scotland of India." It was where she spent her childhood, surrounded by coffee plantations and the dense jungles that come vividly to life in her saga of star-crossed lovers in the early 20th century.

"Tiger Hills," just launched in India, was five years in the making for Mandanna and involved hours of research at the New York Public Library.

Mandanna, a vice president of New York-based Equifin Capital, also caused a buzz after reportedly bagging the highest advance ever paid by Penguin India for a debut novel.

Mandanna, who worked in Hong Kong after leaving India and before moving to the United States, spoke to Reuters by telephone about the novel and why she meant it as a tribute to Coorg:

Q: Coorg is almost like a character in the novel. Was it this setting that inspired you?

A: "I do belong to Coorg. The family is from there and we trace our roots back there for generations. I love Coorg with a passion. It's home, a place that I feel absolutely rooted to. A number of debut novelists end up writing what they know and love best and that definitely was the case for me. When I began to write, I knew the setting was going to be Coorg and that would form the backdrop as well. It's also a part of the country that you don't see very often talked about or read about -- that was kind of my ode in a sense to a place that I deeply cherish."

Q: How autobiographical is "Tiger Hills"?

A: "Being from Coorg and belonging to Coorg and having a lot of family and friends there, I was acutely conscious of not mirroring reality in any shape or form at all and kind of inadvertently ending up ruffling feathers or offending someone. It's a purely fictional story, the characters are all fictional as well. Having said that, whenever you create something you always do draw in some form or measure on personal experience or memory or observation. Some of the characters are probably a composite of people I have seen or met or heard of but in aggregate "Tiger Hills" is absolutely imaginary."   Continued...