Writing as Redemption
Himansu S Mohapatra
THIS IS SALVAGED: STORIES by By Vauhini Vara HarperCollins, Delhi, 2023, 181 pp., INR 399.00
June 2024, volume 48, No 6

Vauhini Varais the second US-based Indian-origin writerto watch out for after Jhumpa Lahiri. Vara promises to be an incredibly talented writer, just as Lahiri did when she started out. More importantly, in her latest collection, This is Salvaged, Vara seems to have balanced Lahiri’s focus on the East of India and the USA (Bengal and Boston) with her own revelation of the South of India (Andhra Pradesh) and the Pacific Northwest of the USA (Seattle).
At an awards function, held at Bhubaneswar recently under the auspices of Kalinga Literature Festival, Vara, joining online, said that the book was her struggle to deal with grief and loss, and an ‘attempt to find a way to write about them’. The tell-tale sign of it is the dedication of the book to her elder sister, Krishna Dweepa Vara, who died of cancer at a tender age. The stories themselves, suffused with a brooding tone of introspection and melancholia, carry the burden of a dearly departed poignantly. It is directly stated in the story, ‘The Hormone Hypothesis’ where the lead character, an Indian-American woman, ‘traverses the world in search of sister-shaped people’ (p. 111) to fill the space her deceased elder sister had left. The very first story, ‘The Irates’ changes the lost object to a brother. But the effect of the loss is the same: a sense of futility and the growing void, leading one at a ‘subliminal’ level, to use a concept from FWH Myres discussed in the last story, to substitutes and at a philosophical level to a quest to ‘find your own meaning’ (p. 5).

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