India a land of powerful stories: German author Roswitha Joshi (Interview With Image)

May 11th, 2009 - 12:59 pm ICT by IANS  

By Madhusree Chatterjee
New Delhi, May 11 (IANS) Having lived in India for 30 years, Delhi-based German author Roswitha Joshi believes it is a land of contrasts and powerful stories. As she pens her next novel, she says these tales inevitably feed her writing.

“I have lived in India for the last 30 years and have travelled widely. All my books are based on my personal experiences and on those that other people have told me,” Joshi, a former employee at the German embassy who has taken to full-time writing, told IANS in an informal chat in the capital.

Joshi, who is in her 50s, has written three books - “Life is Peculiar”, a collection of humorous anecdotes, “On the Rocks and Other Stories”, a collection of suspense stories, and “Once More” - a novel.

“I love the people of India, its sunny climate, its people, and its culture. “For me, it is a land of contrasts and very powerful stories,” she said.

The writer was born in Hamburg in Germany. After completing her school, where she took up classical European languages, she studied political science and history at the universities of Hamburg and Frankfurt. Joshi came to India 30 years ago after marrying an Indian economist-turned-businessman. In 1999, she decided to write her first book.

“I am working on a sequel to my novel, ‘Once More’. The book begins from where the first novel left off. ‘Once More’ is set in the Germany of the 1960s when the old value system was collapsing. The protagonist of the book, a woman, feels neglected by her husband and befriends an Indian, who becomes her lover. But he disappears, leaving her alone,” Joshi said, narrating the story of ‘Once More’.

The sequel, says the writer, takes off from the point when the “woman and her Indian lover” reconnect.

“She comes to India and takes up a job as a travel consultant. In the course of her assignment, she visits the palaces that are being converted into heritage hotels by the rajas (kings) in the 1970s after the scrapping of the privy purse. It describes her encounters with the erstwhile kings and fief owners,” says Joshi.

Joshi likes to dabble in all genres of literature. Her book, “Fool’s Paradise”, published by UBSPD in 2009, is a collection of “musings, short stories, travelogues and poetry”.

“I deliberately put them all together to make the volume more readable,” Joshi says.

Explaining why she named her new anthology, “Fool’s Paradise,” Joshi said, “In the 70s, when I started as a young bride in Bangalore, I could not escape a lady who was my Indian husband’s American aunt. I presented a big challenge to her. She tried to break my spirit and I stiffened my spine,” she recalled.

During an “especially argumentative session about something that she regarded as utterly important and I as utterly trivial, she suddenly burst out: ‘Roswitha, you are living in a fool’s paradise’.

“That gave me the name for my book,” she said.

The novels “Once More” and its sequel are loosely based on Joshi’s life. “But I have tried to go beyond it,” she says.

The writer has a flair for humour. “In my first anthology, ‘Life is Peculiar’, almost all the anecdotes were humorous. If I experience something, I try to look at it from a distance and in that moment I start laughing,” Joshi says, delving into the source of her wit.

She also likes to explore nuances of relationships. “In my volume, ‘On the Rocks…’, I have looked at relationships which have gone wrong, all kinds of them like landlords’ spats with tenants, husband versus wife, employee vs employers. I like to take an optimistic outlook to life, and I have always two streams of thoughts in stories - one German and one Indian,” the writer said.

(Madhusree Chatterjee can be contacted at madhu.c@ians.in)

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