Our 14th residency for the year is held by Rijula who lives and works in Wellington. Her debut novel Other Town will be published later in 2019 by Picador India and her translation of Nabarun Bhattacharya’s novel Kangal Malshat is forthcoming from Seagull Books in Spring of 2020. She holds a PhD in Creative Writing and was the recipient of the 2016 Dastaan Award for her short story Notes From A Passing.
Whilst on her residency Rijula will focus on a book-length work of fiction that tells the story of a single mother and her daughter through interconnected short stories that focus on significant times and locales of the two characters’ journey. The narrative begins in late 1980’s small-town India and eventually follows mother and daughter outside India as they emigrate to New Zealand and looks at the cultural impact it has on both of them.
About her residency Rijula says, “The first thing that floored me is how beautiful the house was. Pictures of alumni line the walls and I spent some time reading the little descriptions of what they were working on. It was incredibly powerful to think that the manuscripts the writers were grappling with, ended up being a finished, sometimes sublime pieces of art. It was a heartening idea to hold close in those wee hours of anxiety, creative turmoil and all-out-panic; a talisman against that unwieldy line that just wouldn’t come out right.
The house– full of books, writers, sunlight and ample spaces to hide and write– seems to open a creative portal to other writers who have trodden the same path.
I’d be hard-pressed to find my favourite spot in the house. A lot of the times it was the studio, with its comforting yellow lights, the best teal blanket a woman could ask for and cheerful yellow cushions. In the wee hours of the night, the right spot was to hunch over the covers in my bedroom. And sometimes, it was in the garden, having a one-sided conversation with the most cautious stray cat in the world, who visited us every morning. At night, a blue glow suffused the bridge. It felt magical under a sickle moon, among the twittering of a lone night bird. Last night, I saw a spectacular fireworks display, whether for the NZ cricket team, or some chimerical reason only known to the one with the lighter, who can tell. But standing alone in the darkness, hidden behind a luxuriant lemon tree, watching the sparks fly off the sky, I felt very, very lucky indeed.
Thank you, and may the spirit be with you.”