Anushka Jasraj has a bachelor’s degree in film production from NYU, and has worked on various independent films. She currently lives in Bombay, and is working on a novella based on an apocryphal story about Franz Kafka. We spoke to her about her writing and the impact of place on her writing voice.
How much do you feel a connection in your stories to Britain and its Commonwealth ties?
Honestly, not much. Writing in English is a de facto connection, but it’s not something I consciously think about. I wrote ‘Radio Story’ because I was fascinated with the story of the Secret Congress Radio – I thought it would lend itself well to fiction. I wasn’t concerned with the larger context at the time.
Does having a global readership alter the way you approach writing stories?
I’ve never really had any readership, apart from fellow writers who have been forced to read my stories in writing workshops, so I’ve always written without an audience in mind because I didn’t expect to get published. But even when I’m writing for a classroom of mostly Americans, it doesn’t alter my approach, unless I’m using obscure cultural references which Google wouldn’t be able to explain. And even that is quite rare – everyone is familiar with Indian culture these days. No one asks if I keep an elephant in my backyard at home.
Is place, the landscape and language of where you’re from, something that has a bearing on your writing voice?
Yes, definitely. I grew up in Bombay, and I’ve always lived here – growing up in such a multilingual environment has probably affected my prose. My stories are usually situated here as well, but often it’s not the physical reality of Bombay as much as the emotional – and linguistic – landscape. You know how people have memory palaces? Bombay is like my narrative palace: It’s the place most easily available in my imagination when I need to tell a story.
Photograph by Monica Zhang