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    Arts Interview  :  SARITA MANDANNA

    Tiger Hills author Sarita Mandanna on buzzine.com
    Some authors like to create new worlds. Others like to reflect in a world they are most familiar with. Sarita Mandanna chose to dab a little in both, creating a new world while also staying close to home in her debut novel Tiger Hills, which just hit bookstands in 18 countries and is being translated in 14 different languages, including French, Italian, Spanish, Catalan, Hebrew, Hungarian, Dutch, Russian, Slovenian, and Greater Chinese.
    A native of Coorg, Sarita’s hometown provides the stunning setting of Tiger Hills. According to her, Coorg is often described as the “Scotland of India,” ergo providing an ideal backdrop for the romanticism of her story. WhileTiger Hills is quite the fictional tale about Coorg, there are a few truths to share about Sarita, such as her degree from the Indian Institute of Management, as well as an MBA from the Wharton Business School. After working as a private equity investor in New York, Sarita moved to Canada in 2010. When she finally wrote and completedTiger Hills, the novel was long-listed for the 2011 Man Asian Literary Prize and was a 2011 TV Book Club pick in the United Kingdom.
    Every so often, I choose to drift from the narrative storytelling and offer you, the reader, a chance to observe a conversation in almost complete entirety. In such situations, it is far more compelling for you to feel a part of the conversation and take whatever messages, if any, you choose to take as opposed to me taking liberties of determining what is important and what is not.
    With that, enjoy the conversation I had with Sarita. She is more than a promising talent; Sarita is someone who I believe will go places with her writing talents, and I certainly hope that, after reading her story below, you will go out and support her by buying her book or recommending her work to a friend. Either way, enjoy!
    Parimal M. Rohit: Let’s start with the most interesting of observations. You reportedly garnered the highest advance for a debut novel. How did that come about? What was it about the story that made Penguin India believe in your story that much to pay you a high fee up front?
    Sarita Mandanna: That is a question best reserved for Penguin India! It was a huge honor, of course, to have my debut novel published by Penguin and for them to express the confidence in it that they have. They were the first to come on board, and Tiger Hills has since been sold in 18 countries to date. As far as the actual amount is concerned, there have been many conjectures in the Indian media–suffice it to say that, had I received but a fraction of the amount I was supposed to have, I would be on a very expensive vacation, lounging on a beach somewhere right now!
    PMR: Funny! As for the story itself, the title is very revealing, especially to those who know of the true setting of Tiger Hills in India. Tell us about the world you built and how you brought it to life through your words…
    SM: Tiger Hills is named for a fictional coffee plantation in Coorg, which is a beautiful part of Southern India. It’s where I’m from–my family traces roots here for centuries. I love it dearly, and when I began to write Tiger Hills, I knew that Coorg would be the setting, and none other. Tiger Hills begins in 1878 and spans the next 70-odd years, through World War II and beyond. It traces the lives of Devi and Devanna, two childhood friends, inseparable until Devi meets Machu, a tiger-killer and a man of much honor and pride. It is the relationship between the three that sets into motion a series of events that change all three lives, with consequences that affect generations to come. While Coorg forms the highly personalized canvas of the story, the characters in the novel all struggle with universal themes. What do we do when thrust into circumstances not of our choosing? Tiger Hills explores the nexus between fortitude and acceptance, the choices we make, and the far-reaching impact they can carry.
    PMR: What made you choose the time period?
    SM: I wanted to write a story that was almost classical in structure–something with a large narrative arc. Tiger Hillsspans almost the entire lifetime of the central protagonist, Devi, beginning with the day of her birth and following her through maturity and into her dotage. To cover that length of time necessarily meant that the novel had to start decades in the past. The early 1900s were also a particularly interesting period in Coorg. Coffee-planting had become widespread, introduced by English and European settlers in the mid-1800s, and there was a significant influx of wealth into the region. There was a whole new generation of Coorgs still wedded to the old ways but simultaneously Westernized, being sent overseas to study, etc. That intermingling of cultures, especially in the context of the time, was intriguing enough that I wanted to explore that in the course of the novel.
    PMR: Are there any characters in the book you most identify with? Anyone a fictitious representation of who you are in real life?
    SM: All the characters are fictional in the aggregate but draw in bits and pieces from people I have known. As far as any of the characters representing me–not really. Devanna is bookish, and I can certainly identify with that. Devi is headstrong and, well, no surprises there either. Other than that, no, they are all completely fictional!
    PMR: What do you want the reader to feel as they read the book? How about the feeling after they complete it?
    SM: I take it as the ultimate compliment when people tell me that Tiger Hills is a page-turner and that they were unable to put it down. It’s also fantastic when they tell me that they found themselves exploring a new world and that they were angry, they were sad, they were laughing out loud as they read; that they were so invested in the characters that they find themselves thinking about them well after the last page is turned.
    PMR: Any prospects of selling the movie rights?
    SM: I haven’t really given it much thought.  I’ll cross that bridge when it I come to it, I suppose.
    PMR: As this is your debut, what was the writing process like? Was it much more difficult or enduring than you realized? What did you learn from the process that’ll help you with your next book?
    SM: Tiger Hills was five years and counting in the making. I wrote it while living and working in New York City. It wasn’t an easy time–while deeply satisfying in the aggregate, there were also days when I seriously questioned my sanity for taking this on.  Extracting yourself from the immediate world–the physicality of it–and immersing yourself in one of the imagination takes a bit of transitioning, and it was all the more challenging in the case of Tiger Hills because I was working full-time as well. While work took priority, I wrote in all the spare time that I had, even correcting drafts while on the treadmill. I’d write late at night, after the work day …and on all the weekends when I wasn’t working. I don’t think writing the next book is going to be particularly easier or different. I just hope it doesn’t take another five years and that I get a bit more sleep during the process than I did while crafting Tiger Hills!
    PMR: Speaking of your next book, do you have any ideas of what it will be about (assuming you are planning for a second book, of course)? If there is another book, is it still in idea phase, or are you already writing?
    SM: I’m in the process of researching an idea. It is still early days, and it is in very nebulous form right now. I’m excited about it, though, and am looking forward to plunging into the writing once more.
    PMR: Finally, tell us about your background.
    SM: I was always an avid reader, and while I did think that I would write, it was very much a “one day, some day” kind of aspiration. About seven years ago, after a particularly draining week, I came back home from work itching for a creative outlet and to do something completely removed from what I did during the day. I booted up my laptop and simply began to write. That initial output became a short story, followed by six more in rapid succession, and formed the springboard to Tiger Hills.

    (Photo Credit: Dan Abramovici)
    source: http://www.buzzinebollywood.com / by Parimal M. Rohit / Mar 18th, 2011

     

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    Air Marshal K C Cariappa (retd), an environmentalist who took on the powerful timber lobby in Kodagu district of Karnataka is the ‘Coorg Person of the Year, 2009’.
    K C CariappaAir Marshal Cariappa, son of Field Marshal K M Cariappa, topped a poll conducted by www.coorgtourisminfo.com, the first news portal of Kodagu, to select the Coorg Person of the Year. The others who were in the reckoning for the title, include another hardcore environmentalist and President of the Coorg Wildlife Society, Col C P Muthanna (retd) and New York-based novelist Sarita Mandanna, who has been given the largest advance by Penguin India ever paid to a debut novelist for her novel ‘Tiger Hills,’ set in Kodagu. 

    Taking a pro-active role, Air Marshal Cariappa went beyond the ‘call of duty’ and approached the Supreme Court of India to restrain the timber mafia, backed by the Kodagu district administration and sundry politicians to prevent the formation of a road across the Pushpagiri Wildlife Sanctuary in Kodagu in the ecologically sensitive Western Ghats.

    Following a public interest litigation filed by Air Marshal Cariappa, the Apex Court directed the Central Empowered Committee (CEC) to make an on the spot study of the situation and file a report. In a blatant violation of the law, the Kodagu district administration, backed by the two Kodagu MLAs, and supported by local villagers attempted to lay a road through the Pushpagiri reserve forest, amid opposition from Karnataka forest officials.

    The controversial road is a seven km stretch between Madikeri and Subramanya near Mangalore in Dakshina Kannada district. Over 400 villagers from Galibeedu near Madikeri, deployed earthmovers to make the road. Their contention was that the road would shorten the distance between Kodagu and Subramanya.

    In a mockery of justice, the villagers were provided ‘police protection’ to form the road by the district administration, headed by the then Deputy Commissioner Baldev Krishna. The top district officials, including the Superintendent of Police, went to the extent of publicly humiliating forest official Anil Rathan who protested against the road being formed through the reserve forest.

    Air Marshal Cariappa was commissioned into the Indian Air Force in 1957 and he was shot down in the 1965 India-Pakistan war while carrying out attacks on enemy positions and taken Prisoner of War (POW). When President Ayub Khan of Pakistan, an old buddy of Field Marshal Cariappa, offered to release his son forthwith, the later famous said: “They (other POWs) are all my sons, look after all of them.”

    After retirement from the Air Force in 1996, Air Marshal Cariappa has been living at Madikeri in Kodagu. He has been taking a keen interest in environment and was the President of the Coorg Wildlife Society for four years. Two years ago, Air Marshal Cariappa wrote the biography of his father, which brought out his literary talent as a writer.

    Dr Jagadeesh Subbaiah Moodera, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and winner of Oliver E. Buckley Prize, was the Coorg Person of the Year, 2008.
    The past winners of Coorg Person of the Year include cricketer Robin Uthappa, researcher Dr Boverianda Nanjamma Chinnappa, and novelist Kaveri Poonacha Nambisan.

     

    source: http://www.deccanherald.com / Madikeri / DHNS / Dec 31st

     

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