I am posting an interview with Suneeta Misra, the author of Rani of Rampur. If you have some time, I encourage you to check out this novel, and her blog: www.suneetamisra329.blogspot.com. Enjoy! More reviews and other fun stuff coming your way soon!
1. What is your background and how did you get involved in writing?
I have been a Maryland public school teacher for the last 20 years, and have always been involved in encouraging my students to write. I grew up in India, hearing folktales from my grandmothers, about the different gods and goddesses of Hinduism. In fact, in Asia, as in Africa, oral storytelling is a way of passing down cultural values. All children are told stories about the past history of their country or community. I also got interested in making documentaries on the education of lower-caste girls in India, who have been kept out of the school system for so long. While shooting for a documentary, I was humbled by the challenges that many of these girls had faced in order to complete their education. Inspired by some of the stories I heard, I decided to write a fictionalized account of a strong Indian girl who refuses to become a victim, and in fact, ends up rescuing some of those who are dear to her.
2. Tell me more about writing Rani of Rampur, and how you developed the characters and specific situations in the novel.
As I said before, I have always wanted to write stories with a strong female protagonist, due to my interest in the education of lower-caste girls in India. I also have an abiding interest in the mystery genre, and so I thought that combining these two interests would make it a page-turner, and a much more interesting tale.
3. Why did you choose to talk about the politics of India in your story, which could otherwise be categorized as a mystery?
I believe that you cannot separate the politics of India, which is so volatile, from any story about the interactions between the land-owning rich and the landless poor. Since its independence in 1948, India has been a democracy, and has tried to bring about land redistribution, to balance the scales between the rich and the poor. In reality, it has not succeeded, and much of the land is in the hands of a small percentage of people, in a country that still has a largely agricultural economy. Therefore, the relationship between the “landed and the landless”, especially in rural India, is exploitative.
4. In discussing this book with others, I have often heard the following question: Why are many of the male characters in this book evil? Please discuss your thoughts on this matter.
India has a patriarchal society, and thus much of the power is still in the hands of the male members of the family. Women are often viewed as minions and this is surprising in a country which has a history replete with strong warrior queens and a major religion dominated by female deities. Despite these contradictions, the relationship between men and women in India remains exploitative, with females enduring the brunt of society’s injustices.
5. Tell me about what’s next for you.
I am currently working on my second novel, which is again set in a fictitious village in India. It is about a much younger autistic girl. Durga, who overcomes overwhelming odds, to save her friends and family from evil. In this book, I have tried to look at the world through the eyes of this highly intelligent autistic child, in contrast to that of her sister, who is illiterate, but normal in the eyes of society.