I FOUND MYSELF DEEPLY moved by Anukruti Upadhyay’s books, Daura and Bhaunri, published in two beautiful little volumes by HarperCollins. Both the novellas are set in Rajasthan and Upadhyay sweetly brings the lilt of the local into her English. The resulting language of the stories is lyrical, earthy, direct and delicate all at the same time and its undertones bring with them an entirely different music.
Upadhyay also writes in Hindi and in these English stories, she suspends you, with the greatest of ease, between the real and the magical, between worlds and idioms, between the mundane and the poetic. It is not only Upadhyay’s language that is so seductive, the stories, too, are gently haunting. With nary a false note in word, landscape or character, Upadhyay locates us firmly in leaving, breathing, rural India, a place becoming all too rare in Indian writing in English. In Daura, a young bureaucrat from the city gets completely involved in a local folk tale and as credulous readers, we follow him without any hesitation as he moves from one way of living and being to another, from a world that we recognise to a realm that sits both within and outside it. In Bhaunri, a lovely young bride learns to negotiate patriarchy with both her body and her mind. In the softest of whispers, Upadhyay also reminds us that the inequities of gender, caste and class remain as destructive as ever in the places and people that we have learned to disdain.