Monday, 26 November 2012

'Jasmine Skies' travels 'home' to Kolkata

November has been a busy month! It began with a visit to Kolkata with my daughter Maya. We visited family and took part in a book event organised by Maina Bhagat of The Oxford Bookstore, Kolkata and Rachna Kalra of Pan Macmillan India.

It was a real honor to be interviewed by Sujata Sen, Director, British Council, East India and the renowned Manipuri dancer Priti Patel.

 'Jasmine Skies' was presented to the audience through dance, song, music and readings. My cousin Jhuma Basak (Dance) and fellow artist Anuttumaa Banerjee (Singing) and Nishad Pandey (Guitar) presented a performance exploring themes of identity, history and diaspora in 'Jasmine Skies'. In my story Mira questions the nature of her 'connection' with her Indian family and it was a deeply moving and connected experience to perform with my cousin and read excerpts to our Kolkata family in the city that inspired the story.

Article in Bengal Post
I couldn't hide my pleasure as I walked into the beautiful Oxford Bookstore to find 'Artichoke Hearts and ' Jasmine Skies' displayed alongside J. K Rowling's new book!!!

Here are some pics of our week in Kolkata linked to lines in 'Jasmine Skies' that somehow see to fit...

Beautiful Pandals for Durga and Kali Pujas.

I don't think I've ever felt such a mix-up of emotions as I''m feeling right now, as I take my first steps into India on my own'

( From left to right. Myself, my daughter Maya and cousin Jhuma)

'To meet a whole side of your family in the flesh, for the first time in your life, is the strangest feeling in the world, sort of like coming home.' 

A girl carries her baby sister outside artisan's workshops

'The workshops are all floodlit, like mini theatre stages. In each shop an artist is working on figures of idols - gods and goddesses, with their multiple arms outstretched. Some of the artists are dwarfed by the giant limbs of clay.'

The Howrah bridge at sun-set
... we watch the sun sinking through the sky... 'You see, no language between us, and we hardly know each other, but we are like Howrah - no matter what happens, strong standing family.'

Bathing in the Ganges

'The family bathing in the river have darkened into silhouettes. And I suppose when they look at us, that's all they see too... Suddenly I feel smaller and less important than I've ever felt before. I'm just a tiny speck among millions and millions of people'

Outside Howrah Station
'Now you need to stay close!' Janu tells me, wrapping one arm around my waist and taking my other hand as we walk under the metal grid that is the roof of Howrah station. It seems as if the whole world is living inside these red brick arches.'

And of course the ' Mishti' were delicious!

'A few paces up the road we come a stall stacked full of Indian sweets of every colour and flavour: pistachio, orange, carrot halwa, sonpapri (Grandad's favourite), creamy Rasamalai (my favourite), syrupy rosogolla and curds...'

...And the sweetest news of all to come home to was that ' Jasmine Skies' has been long listed for the Carnegie Prize. 

Hope you've enjoyed this little taste of out trip to Kolkata...


  1. Sita! What a she-roe you are. I am a South Asian woman currently in India doing research on a play I conceived about a mother and daughter who are embroiderers. The mother is losing her memory to alzheimer's and through her babbling and the images in the embroidery the daughter learns about a repressed ethnic identity. I am really looking forward to reading your book ... but am slightly afraid that it will de-motivate me to have read a brilliant work on a very similar set of themes! Anyway, so glad you exist!

    1. Every individual author's voice is different and distinct. Your book sounds wonderful and I would like to read it myself. I have recently had an article published in 'Selvedge' magazine about Kantha cloth and weaving stories. Thanks for writing.

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