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Authors: Anjali Banerjee

Imaginary Men (21 page)

BOOK: Imaginary Men
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HOW MANY INDIAN WEDDINGS HAVE YOU
ATTENDED?

None actually in India, but I recall a traditional Indian wedding in Canada that was packed with relatives, friends, and children running everywhere. The beautiful bride, decked out in gold jewelry and a red silk sari, trembled with anxiety. Before the ceremony, she ran to the bathroom and threw up.

Within India, there are many different types of wedding traditions. The movie
Monsoon Wedding
depicts a typical upper middle-class Punjabi wedding, while the wedding in
Imaginary Men
is Brahmo Samaj, a more reserved Bengali affair.

A few months ago, I attended my Bengali cousin's wedding in Denver, Colorado. She married an American man from a Roman Catholic family. The couple and a few friends later flew to Kolkata, India, for the Bengali version of the wedding.

THE SCENES SET IN KOLKATA ARE SENSUOUS AND
VIVID. DID YOU DO RESEARCH TO CREATE SUCH A
SEEMINGLY AUTHENTIC SENSE OF PLACE OR DID YOU
RELY ON FIRSTHAND EXPERIENCE?

While I did some research to sharpen the details, I relied mainly on firsthand experience. I was born in Kolkata—then called Calcutta—and I've returned a few times. A complex, energetic city, Kolkata conjures images of crumbling colonial facades, enchanting beauty, culture, chaotic crowds, traffic, squalor, poverty. Everyone who's been there has to agree—Kolkata is unforgettable.

THE RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN LINA AND HER SISTERS,
DURGA AND KALI, RING WONDERFULLY TRUE. DO YOU
HAVE SISTERS?

I'm the eldest of five children in a rather unusual family. When I was four, we adopted my younger sister, Nita, from a Cree reservation in northern Manitoba, Canada. She's the other kind of Indian—Native American.

After my parents divorced and remarried, my father and his Italian wife had a son and adopted two daughters from India. They spend the school year in California and holidays in Italy. So I have three Italian-speaking Indo-American siblings and one Native American sister. Our cultures are all over the map.

WHEN DID YOU START WRITING?

As a child, I typed stories, stapled the pages together, and pasted copyright notices inside the front covers. I guess I inherited my grandmother's love of writing fiction. A British author, she married a Bengali man and moved to India. My mother, who is Anglo-Indian (half-British, half-Indian), grew up in Kolkata. When my grandmother visited us in Canada, she pretended to edit my drafts. She just scribbled a note here and there in the margin.

WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON NOW?

I'm working on an unusual love story, set in Seattle, featuring an Indo-American woman who lives a clandestine, double life. That's all I can say. It's a secret! Stay tuned!

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BOOK: Imaginary Men
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ads

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