Ladies of Lune: Janice Pariat

Ladies of Lune: Janice Pariat
In our second edition of the writer’s series, we spoke to celebrated poet and author, Janice Pariat. A proud winner of the Sahitya Akademi Young Writer Award for her debut collection of short stories Boats on Land, Pariat’s most recent offering, The Nine Chambered Heart narrates beautiful tales about love through the eyes of unnamed characters in multiple cities. 
As we shoot her at her cozy abode in the capital metropolis, the talented author gets candid about her favourite cafes and libraries, the vast bounds of social media and how she keeps her creative juices flowing. 

 
Sun sign: Aquarius

Day job: On some days a week, I teach creative writing and history of art at Ashoka University

If you weren’t an author, what would you do: Run an old-fashioned apothecary.

City you presently live in: New Delhi

 Your current favourites
Beauty products: I make my own body butter, moisturiser, and soap, but I do love a few make-up treats: Estee Lauder’s Cool Glow Cheek Tint, Clinique Juicy Apple Glosswear, Clarins’ Ombre Glitter eyeshadow. 
 
Self-care ritual: Yoga in the morning, a walk in the evening, lots of water throughout the day.
Instagram handles: Accidentally Wes Anderson, India Lost and Found, The Doi Host, Northeast_India, Herbal Academy, Tom Gauld, Strange Planet.
 
Podcasts: Not a frequent podcast listener but once in a while New Yorker Fiction.
 
Films: Where to begin? Farhadi’s The Separation, Linklater’s Boyhood, Sorrentino’s La Grande Belleza, Kaurismäki’s The Match Factory Girl, and so many others that I ought to stop here.

A recipe: A simple one for spiced whole-roasted cauliflower—snip off leaves and stalk, turn upside down and dribble coconut oil blended with spices of your choosing (cinnamon, star anise, cumin, nutmeg) through the cauliflower head, and bake for an hour in the oven on a raised plate in a tray of water. So delicious.
 
Websites: Arts and Letters Daily.
 
Currently on your playlist: Billie Eilish, Kanye West, The Divine Comedy, The National, DeLaurentis, the soundtrack for Modern Love.
 
Haunt in the city: Behind our house, the ruins of Jahanpanah, shelter of the world, atop the Bijay Mandal, where Delhi lies spread out before you.
 
What jewellery style naturally suits you: Bold, minimal, contemporary.  
 
First thought or word that comes to your mind when you think about Lune? Ethical, special, elegant. 
Opinions/musings about the following:
 
When did you know you wanted to become an author?
From when I was about five and ripping off Enid Blyton plots as my own.
 
What’s your all-time favourite book and why? 
This frequently changes depending on when I’m asked this question—for the moment, though, Jay Griffith’s Wild, which traces an astonishing seven-year odyssey the writer takes to the last ‘wild’ places of the earth. 

What’s the strangest source of inspiration? 
Nothing’s too strange! I’ll take inspiration wherever it comes from, thank you. 

Tell us about your relationship with libraries, do you use one?
Both of adoration and unease. For the book, I’m currently working on I’ve had to spend many lovely summer days indoors at the Kew Gardens reading room, the Linnean Society Library, and the British Library, all in London. But I come from a community in Meghalaya with strong and vibrant oral traditions, disrupted by the coming of British missionaries in the mid-1800s (they needed to translate the Bible into Khasi and gave us a script). While I love and am indebted to books and the marvels within them, I also campaign to keep oral story-telling traditions and knowledges alive. What library then for stories that float on the wind? That tell me about my land’s geography, its hills and rivers, and its people? Some stories cannot be contained, some die when written and stored on a shelf.
 
What are the quaint libraries in New Delhi that one must frequent?
The Goethe Institut, the British Council, the American Library, the Japan Foundation library, Teen Murti.

What cafes do you like reading or writing at, what’s your favourite work snack? 
Greenr at Basant Lok, where I will faithfully order their Moroccan Orange Earth Bowl and seven-day fermented homemade ginger ale.
Name a young author whose recent work took you by surprise? 
Shubhangi Swarup’s Latitudes of Longing, Madhuri Vijay’s The Far Field, Avni Doshi’s Girl in White Cotton, Anukrti Updhyay’s Daura, and Amrita Mahale’s Milk Teeth.
What’s the most fulfilling part of being a writer?
For me, messages from readers who say something in your book resonated so much, and so deeply with them. Suddenly, all that work, all those hours and years, all those moments you wished to hurl your manuscript out of the window, seem worth it. 

What are the biggest challenges of your occupation? 
Discipline—the ability to sit at your desk and plough through word after word, sentence after sentence, and finish your manuscript. 
Self-criticism—sometimes too much and it paralysis you, too little and you end up writing a rubbish book.
The intangibility of it all? I may spend eight hours a day writing, and once I switch off my laptop, there’s nothing to show for it…
 
Your most recent offering, The Nine-Chambered Heart weaves a beautiful story above love. What is love to you? 
Love is empathy. It is the ability to be able to loosen the grip of your own reality that cinches so tightly around you and allow in another perspective to reside alongside yours. This makes love the greatest gift offered to you and offered by you to someone else.

A piece of literature that you feel every woman must read? 
Deborah Levy’s Things I don’t Want to Know and The Cost of Living, Kate Chopin’s The Awakening, Lena Andersson’s Acts of Infidelity—though I’d insist men read them too.

A guilty indulgence when it comes to reading? 
Crime novels from the 1950s.

How does writing and introspection help to heal or process your thoughts and emotions? Writing helps things feel manageable, tangible, finite. It allows me to sometimes discover what it is I’m feeling exactly—journeying through a story is journeying through myself. 
 
What are you reading lately?
Gwalia in Khasia—an incredible book by a Welsh poet and non-fiction writer named Nigel Jenkins, tracing the Welsh Christian mission to the hills of Meghalaya through the 18th and 19th centuries. But it’s about so much more. The forgotten histories of the region, their folktales and belief systems. The stories and people of my hometown Shillong, and in pockets of places outside truly come to true, authentic, and witty life in his hands. 
 
How does your social media use factor into your practise of writing? 
Instagram, which I think is my favourite social media platform, allows this wonderful convergence of visual and text. The caption below is space for vignette, for micro-fiction, for poetry—and I think perfect for capturing in brief thoughts that one day may inform a longer piece of writing. 
The future is…hopefully plastic-free. On being able to think ahead… useful as long as one isn’t living in the future always, and being present to life here and now.



 

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