by Jerry Waxler
In a previous post, I reviewed a life story called “Love in Hyderabad” by Bhaswati Ghosh, about her romance with the city and her budding relationship with her new husband. This is the second part of the interview about writing and publishing the story.
Jerry Waxler: You wrote your story within your own cultural point of view, so you made no comments to the fact that you were falling in love with your husband after marriage, rather than before. I think you did a lovely, fun, uplifting job showing this love. I suspect one reason this component had so much authentic power is because you gave no background that it was an arranged marriage, since in your culture, that is the norm and there is no reason to explain it. You were just there, inside it, inside your own point of view. To me, that makes great memoir writing. Did you debate this decision within yourself or with your editor? Were you tempted to offer any explanation to a reader who might have been confused about falling in love with your husband?
Bhaswati Ghosh: Ha, ha, I am glad this question came up. Ours wasn’t an “arranged marriage” in the conventional sense of two strangers getting married after brief introductions. We had known each other for about a year through our blogs before we first met in person. At the time, my husband was working in the US and I was in India. When he came to visit me, we met just twice. Even though we knew each other, our interactions were mostly limited to the virtual space. So while we liked each other enough to get married, the love needed ripening. And that happened after the marriage, in Hyderabad. In the context of the story, I didn’t feel the need to share all this detail with the readers and hence left it a bit ambiguous. I do remember my editor asking me about this, and I told him that we had met each other online.
Jerry Waxler: That’s a fascinating circumstance, Bhaswati. Maybe an opportunity for another story. (laughing) You delved into the delicious food you ate. I was surprised by the specificity of your menu and the intensity of your pleasures. I don’t typically see this much emphasis on food in memoirs, although I do know that in writing we are taught to include all five senses. Typically taste is short-changed but not in your story. I wonder if you had a particular reason for focusing so specifically on your eating experience, or if you could comment on that.
Bhaswati Ghosh: Oh yes, I have a particular reason and that is my intense love of food. Food is essential to my appreciation of any culture, and it was the same in case of Hyderabad. What made it even more prominent in this story was the novelty that this city presented to me in terms of cuisine. The rich assortment of food available here was definitely good news to me, but what made it even more appealing was the affordability. This enabled us to sample a lot of different foods within a short span. Since a lot of the tastes were new to me, I remained more curious than I usually would be. My taste buds were alive to the unfamiliar but inviting sensations, and that has possibly found a reflection in my descriptions of foods in the story.
Jerry Waxler: The journal, Global Graffiti Magazine, that published this short story focuses on international articles so your piece about Indian culture spoke directly to the heart of that particular publication. How did you find a publication that was looking for a piece like this? I ask because I think most aspiring writers are trying to figure out where to publish their work, and so we would love to learn something from you.
Bhaswati Ghosh: My “system” of finding venues for my writing is quite conventional. Like most people who use the internet, I rely on Google for my searches. Currently, another good source of finding suitable markets is Facebook, which has a number of resources in the form of Groups/Pages that provide links to writing sites/journals etc. I found the link to Global Graffiti via one such group. As far as I remember, it was Places for Writers.
Jerry Waxler: Where can I look for more life stories, with this same, clearly communicated, lovely storytelling quality?
Bhaswati Ghosh: Unfortunately, I haven’t found too many avenues for this form of (personal) storytelling. The immediate names that come to mind are Granta, Cha (an Asian literary journal) and The Caravan.
Jerry Waxler: I love to read about cultural mixings, for example reading books about travel to foreign lands, or immigration, or cultural intermarriage. Such crossings reveal things about our lives that we wouldn’t have the opportunity to see when our perspective stays within one culture. Your story was actually based on such cultural surprises, crossing from the city of your birth to the city of Hyderabad. However, there is another cultural crossing at work here. By reading it in the U.S. I had some of my own surprises. So it became cross-cultural not within the story, but out here in the contract between reader and writer. Interesting! What was your relationship to international writing? Did you have any particular background,r preparation, or intention to write for an international English speaking audience?
Bhaswati Ghosh: Not really. About six or seven years back, I joined an online writing community, the first for me, which mostly consisted of Americans as members. My interactions with these writing buddies enhanced my knowledge of Americanisms more than American English. That and reading international publications has enabled me to develop a style that I hope appeals to readers from different cultures.
Jerry Waxler: Nice. I love writing groups, and you’ve offered yet another benefit that I hadn’t thought of. How about a crossover market in the other direction? What sort of audience is there for aspiring western authors in India?
Bhaswati Ghosh: That market looks more and more promising. If a recent report published in a leading Indian daily is to be believed, nearly 90 million Indians speak English. Publishing houses are proliferating in the country, bringing out more titles than ever before. Festivals like the Jaipur Literary Festival (http://jaipurliteraturefestival.org/) draw big names from the Western literary circuit every year, besides also featuring notable authors from Asia and Africa.
Jerry Waxler: You write about living in India, and now, it looks like you have immigrated to Canada. We’re on the same continent. Welcome! How do you plan to reach out to publications in this part of the world?
Bhaswati Ghosh: Thanks for your welcome. At the time of writing and subsequently publishing “Love in Hyderabad”, I was already in the US, in California, for nearly a year and a half. My husband worked in the Bay Area as an IT specialist, while I managed the home and my writing. We moved to Canada in June 2011. Being relatively new here, I am still exploring publishing avenues in this country. I hope to answer your question with more clarity only after spending some more time here.
Jerry Waxler: What else of yours can I read on line? What else are you working on that I can look forward to reading?
Bhaswati Ghosh: I blog at http://bhaswatighosh.com/. It’s part of my website, which also has links to some of my online publications. Among new things, I have started a series on my blog called “Immigrant’s Postcard” (http://bhaswatighosh.com/category/immigrants-postcard/), in which I record my experiences as a new immigrant in Canada. I intend to write these as short, conversational sketches that will acquaint readers with an immigrant’s perspective. I am also working at a tree sloth’s pace on my first novel, but your interest may just move my writing limbs a bit faster!
You can read Bhaswati’s story by clicking here. Global Graffiti Magazine, Bhaswati Ghosh, Dispatch: Love in Hyderabad
More memoir writing resources
To see brief descriptions and links to all the essays on Memory Writers Network, click here.