Bandilanka, a fictional village in Southern India, personifies those villages across the Indian
subcontinent that are caught up in destructive customs and superstitions, and the abuse of “tradition.” My stories are a microcosm not only of India, but of the world!
What is the genesis of this collection of short stories? I pictured the many summers I spent as a child
in my maternal grandparents’ home in a remote village in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh.
What did I remember? Whom did I remember? My Brahmin grandfather remained remote in his ‘puja’ room, and I was cocooned by an overworked grandmother, and a bevy of aunts and female cousins. As a girl, I was also subjected to practices that were accepted as traditional, and remained unchallenged despite their harmful effects. But what of those who were at the periphery of my childhood memory, those who slaved for us, and starved, and slipped through the cracks? What about their voices?
Re-reading R.K. Narayan’s “Malgudi Days” inspired me to write my own collection of stories about a fictional village called Bandilanka. “Bandilanka’s Forgotten Lives” makes those forgotten lives visible again, allows them to voice their concerns.
My stories will hopefully attract those of you who are not only interested in learning about other cultures, but also willing to critique their own. As I said, the characters in Bandilanka’s Forgotten Lives suffer from some form of injustice or loss because of the social group to which they belong: widows, washer-men and -women, night-soil workers, vegetable vendors, child laborers, domestic workers, and the LGBTQ+ community.
The stories highlight the inherent worth and dignity of the lives of these disenfranchised groups, thus challenging socially constructed divides and inequalities of caste, religion, gender, sexual orientation, and age.
I’d love to give you, my captive audience, a brief glimpse into the stories. Do go to YouTube to hear me tell you about “A widow reborn,” a story that my paternal aunt Lalitha inspired. She was widowed at the young age of 18, left with a baby daughter. But instead of wearing a widow’s garb (white in India) and being banished to the backwaters of the household, she was sent by her loving parents for further schooling! She graduated in 1943 as the first woman electrical engineer in India!