In Conversation with Kalyani Rao
It is quite surprising to see a city person like Kalyani Rao come up with a book like Bubble Wrap that’s set in a rural background. She speaks about this book on a child bride’s struggles.
Writing is a passion for many, but only a few dare to follow it. One such name is Pune-based Kalyani Rao, whose debut novel Bubble Wrap is a refreshing change from the usual urban-centric books we read. Bubble Wrap is all about a child bride from Rajasthan. Krishna Singh is married off at the age of 12. Along with a jewellery box given by her grandmother, she is accompanied by 15-year-old widowed sister-in-law Gudiya. Living in a sheltered house with a shady father-in-law, weak mother-in-law and a husband studying far away.
Bubble Wrap comes across as very different and fresh and one may get curious about how an urban citizen wrote such a serious story based in a rural background. Kalyani, who runs a theme-based travel agency, has a simple answer to that. “I have been travelling a lot. I have been to Rajasthan and Gujarat where I have seen families like the one in the book. I learned a lot as a writer with them. I was inspired.” While going through the synopsis, one connects it to the popular serial Ballika Vadhu. Kalyani has heard about it, but only later. “I am aware that people will connect the book with the serial. But after reading the first few chapters, they will brush off the idea.”
While most of the book is a work of fiction, some of it has been inspired from real-life events and been dramatised. “I was very passionate about the book and it was a challenge not to sound repetitive and grim. The subject is not an alien one. I have not kept it like any other story. It grows on you and makes one realise that another India exists in rural areas.” Through her book, she wants to show that although India is changing, it still has a primitve side to it which is very medival. According to her, the mindsets have not changed.
Speaking on the response her book received, she says, “It has just been released over a month back and I was surprised to note that some of the episodes were emotional for readers which even I did not consider. Someone said it was her story and I was touched.” Kalyani’s personal choice of books to read is very different. She acknowledges that she loves reading western writers like Haruki Murakami or essays like by Susan Sontag. Non-fiction is not her cup of tea.
In Kalyani Rao’s words, Bubble Wrap is a story which is happening in your own neighbourhood. “The book will inspire you to peak within. We are progressive and liberal but with a primitve and medival mindset. It is not just another story. I hope that most will take something from it.” We certainly hope so!