NEW DELHI (Reuters Life!) - For many people, the city of Bangalore, also known as Bengaluru, conjures up an image of a metropolis that plays host to the headquarters of some of the world’s biggest software companies.
But dubbing Bangalore “the Silicon Valley of India” has started to irritate local residents and even those who have made it their home as they argue the city in the Indian state of Karnataka is much more than just an IT hub.
Award-winning author Usha K. R. from Bangalore uses the city as the backdrop to her latest novel, “Monkey-man,” published by Penguin India, that features a mix of lifestyles influenced by the city’s deeply entrenched past and evolving culture.
There are characters worried that globalization has made their skills obsolete and those who want to make the most of the new opportunities and surge ahead with confidence.
The author, whose other books include “A Girl and A River,” “The Chosen” and “Sojourn,” spoke to Reuters about her writing:
Q: What sparked the idea for the novel?
A: “My thoughts on Monkey-man started coalescing around the year 2000. The ‘90s were a period of rapid and evident change. The economy was opening up for the first time since independence, globalization seemed certain and inexorable, IT and its manifestation, the Internet, were changing the face of communication, our conception of time and space even, and India seemed to be catapulting from a developing economy to the exciting new destination for the world. I began thinking about how these changes would affect different people, how much control they would have over their lives, and then my characters, situated in different forks of time and circumstance, started coming to life.”
Q: And the monkey-man?
A: “Around this time, there was a spate of stories in the press about strange menacing creatures, even UFOs and extra-terrestrial beings, being sighted all over the country. This suggested a connection that could this be a metaphysical expression of what a society or a city stand for? A symbol of the manifest destiny of the people? Or was it a subconscious projection of individual hopes or disappointments? And so the novel was born with the framing device of the monkey-man which would connect with the lives of ordinary people, affected by change.”
Q: The book cover has a couple of monstrous buildings with overcast skies and birds. Is that to portray a town that has been reduced to offices with ‘software windows’?
A: “The cover is very effective and expresses quite effectively the undertow of the novel. It also matches a populist conception of a city as a dark brooding place. But there is more to it in the book. It is not an unremittingly dark place. It is a place of hope, of opportunity for some people. The book also says that even as some people find it difficult to cope with change, the younger lot, who are free of the baggage of the past, can grow here unfettered.”
Q: Where did you find the characters for the plot?
A: “One just has to look around, observe with sympathy and be open to the human predicament. Ours is such a rich, complex society. So much is being made of late of stories of migration and multiculturalism in the West and I thought to myself, how would I deal with these things? That was the spur, in a way, for the character of Neela Mary Gopalrao in Monkey-man, standing at the confluence of two different faiths, languages, classes and castes and yet not representative of any of them.”
Q: How long did it take you to finish the novel?
A: “I started thinking about it, making notes and reading up for it from the year 2000. Eight years later in 2007-2008 I wrote the first draft in about four or five months. I think novels take long to gestate, though the actual writing does not take very long.”
Editing by Belinda Goldsmith