Janice Pariat “Boats on Land”
An excerpt from an email exchange with Janice Pariat who recently published her debut collection of short stories — Boats on Land (Random House India, Hb), Nov 2012
: I cannot tell you how much I have enjoyed reading the anthology. It has taken me back to the time we spent in Shillong. Much of what you write about is so familiar to me including the silence on the streets during the curfew, playing cricket and the unexpected violence. Your anthology is so focused on the Khasi life, stories, people, the richness of stories and histories that intermingle that at times it is difficult to separate them. (Somewhere I read a review that termed it as a North Eastern collection. I do not agree with it.) I also like the arrangement of stories in the book. Starting from mid-19C to the present day. There is a gentle walk through time. Many reviewers have termed your stories as nuanced but for me, you live and breathe Khasi culture. You are the perfect medium with your wonderful command over the English language to communicate it to the outside world. I am sure your stories have generated many positive reviews but they would resonate well with those who are familiar with Shillong. The casual references to ceremonies, familiar landmarks in the city, the mix of folklore and reality, the growing tensions, the dhakars….I love the way you create the characters many of whom I suspect are really etched after your sharp and astute observation of people and listening to stories. There is a deep sense of calm and confidence ( I do not know how to explain this to you) in your writing. It is as if you are completely at ease writing what you do, this is what you do best and will never be apologetic (nor should you be!) about who you are. I love the way you bring in Khasi words, references to the Kongs, the dishes, without necessarily explaining them to anyone! Thank heavens! High time someone did that. For years I have been hearing about it being critically analysed but rarely spotted it in print. All those questions that you have been asked in interviews about writers who inspired you or you like reading sound trite. You are an original voice. Truly loved what you have written. As for the lesbian question in an interview baffled me considerably. Was it asked on the basis of the kissing scene and the title story? I am really not sure what to make of it. Maybe in DHL’s time yes, but now? No. At least not to my mind. But that is for you to tell me.
Janice: … absolutely thrilled that you loved the stories and thank you for your extended feedback. So glad you connected with them in that intimate, special way. It cheers me up endlessly to know that my work is read and treasured.