by Namrata and Elizabeth Ruth Deyro
There is always power in raw storytelling, when the voice of truth remains audible in the world of fiction. We got to review such novel, A New Dawn, and chatted with the brilliant mind behind the work of art, Sudha Balagopal.
A New Dawn by Sudha Balagopal is a read that left me thinking, in many ways.
This book tells us the story of Usha, a forty-eight year old widow who is now learning how to deal with life, alone. She has never dated. Like most of the Indian girls, she married the guy her parents chose for her and shifted to Phoenix, US with him. Suddenly after twenty three years of marriage, her husband's demise shakes her to the core.
After battling with loneliness for three years, she has now decided to start dating. Not knowing where to start from, she decides to meet someone from a dating site. But she ends up meeting a completely stranger. The rest of the story tells us her experiences with dating, love and most importantly life.
One of the lines from the author's bio which struck me the most was that "her work delves into the everyday lives of ordinary people to reveal larger, universal truths." Because that is exactly what she does with this story.
Usha, a seemingly ordinary lady is a character that grows onto you. The incident in the starting of the novel where she is unable to open her bathroom door gave me goosebumps. Her fear so palpable and the narrative, hauntingly real. It overwhelms you and at the same has the power to kill you silently. The beauty was in the description of Usha's state of mind. The author takes us deep into her psyche revealing each and every thought of her bit by bit.
Why she decides to date, how difficult it was her to move out of her comfort zone, to meet a stranger, to experience an excitement that could be easily misinterpreted as love, understand her real feelings, analyze her thoughts and decide what is right - after reading this intense chain of thoughts, you begin to believe you share a deep connect with Usha, one where she feels like an extension of someone you know. Her transition is one that is deeply moving and satisfying to witness.
Usha is a child-woman as portrayed in the story, completely unsure about her own feelings. One moment she is all mature and talks about dealing with things in a matured manner, the next moment you see her immaturity when she fights for something extremely trivial. One can always argue that it is because Usha wasn't worldly wise, she never got to see the outside world or the real world. She had always lived in a cocoon, safely protected from it all till now. But one cannot help but admire the nuances of human nature explored poignantly by the author.
The character of her husband Raja is not as strongly etched as hers, but nevertheless he does have an important role to play in the story. For he is not only responsible for the way Usha has become, he is also responsible for the way she thinks now. While we are constantly told and reminded what all Raja wanted and how he wanted it to be, we never exactly get to know what Usha wanted or wants. Maybe that is what the author wanted us to know, because perhaps even Usha doesn't know what she wants. Women are taught to be like this and after a certain time, they forget they are even supposed to have wants or desires.
Usha's confusion, fears, self-doubts, excitement and anxiety, it all comes alive in those pages where story glides through the busy streets of Phoenix. As a reader I fell in love with the library mentioned thereof. That is something I would really love to visit in real life.
The author addresses a lot of issues with this book. She shows us how deep our social conditioning has been in making women low on self-confidence. She also tells us, how a woman gets so used to being the secondary person in a marriage that after the death of the primary person or even a divorce, they suddenly feel directionless. Marriage and kids being the key driving elements.
The author depicts the life of a young Indian girl who shifts to US after her marriage very well. The dreams that Usha harbours in her heart during the initial phase and the harsh realities that greet her once there are as true to reality as possible.
As a reader, there were certain passages which did get dull where there is a lot of self-introspection depicted. However the strength of the plot and lucid language hold onto you till the end. Beautifully textured with rich emotions and layered with subtle nuances of human relationships, this book is a heart warming read of a woman who gets a second chance at life and this time she does it the way she wants it.
What inspired you to write A New Dawn?
The idea for the story bubbled from a visit to our city's beautiful public library. It was heartwarming to see people sharing space, united in their common pursuit. The concept for an unlikely relationship springing from a chance meeting in the library wouldn't let go. Meanwhile, this widowed, not-so-young woman occupied my mind. Where and how could she meet someone? I put the two together and came up with A New Dawn.
What are you hoping to achieve with your words?
I will answer your question with one of my own: why do people read?
They read so they can inhabit other worlds, become immersed in them. They read to form connections with the characters by using their imaginations. They read for entertainment, for enrichment. Ask any reader and they'll use words like diversion, relaxation, escape. Another concept readers mention is the feel-good factor. Like many writers, I write because I simply have to. So, while I did not create my novel to specifically achieve any of the above, I hope and pray, the reader finds internal fulfillment to some degree.
What are some highlights in your process of writing the novel?
Research is always fun. While I create a fictional world, the story has to ring true. For that to happen in my book, I did a lot of research which included not just reading from resources or interviewing people, but visiting some of the places mentioned. I enjoy the revision process. Like most writers will tell you, writing is re-writing. One of the highlights was completing the draft, so I could get to the revisions. And of course, the brightest highlight: to have a publisher accept your manuscript and hear her say, “I couldn't put the book down.” Truly, such an overwhelming honor.
Tell us about your most recent projects, and how we can support them.
For the past couple of years, I've been writing a lot of flash fiction, stories under a thousand words. So I've gone from my bigger project, a novel, to projects that are smaller. Much of my flash fiction can be found in online journals. Check out my website where I provide links to stories. Also, do like my author page on Facebook where I regularly post links.