Jayanthi Sankar, born and brought up in India, living in Singapore since 1990, has been creatively active since 1995 This is her first novel after her critically acclaimed short stories collection – Dangling Gandhi. She has edited and translated the Global Anthology of 43 contemporary Tamil short stories ‘Unwinding’-with contributions from 10 countries has been published in July 2019. She’s been published in several magazines and ezines like the
indianruminations, museindia, The Wagon, in Opinion. Her short stories have found places in various anthologies including ‘the other.’ She has been invited to participate in the panels of literary festivals such as (Asia Pacific Writers & Translators) APWT 2018 at Gold coast, Singapore Writers Festival, Seemanchal International Literary festival, ASEAN- India Pravasi Bharatiya Divas Writers Festival. Also a watercolor artist, she has been a freelancer for more than a decade and a half, with three years of experience in
By R. Sredhanea
Q. Why ‘Dangling Gandhi’?
A. As a simple metaphor and the title of one of the short stories, it fitted well as the title of the collection, perhaps better than what I had originally thought.
Q. How much of conceptual research was necessary apart from empirical analysis and personal experiences?
A. Most of the stories required only the basic research as these are more of character-driven stories that are truly fictitious in nature and experimental in craft and form. For example, Mani in ‘Punkah Wallah’ was a character formed from the piece of information I had heard during my mid-teens made about 40% of the substance. When I read both online and in the national library to find out the situation of Singapore during the colonial times, I came across certain sociopolitical incidents
during the era that I’d decided to place my story and that added another 40% and the rest of it came
from the social climate that prevailed in South India during the same period.
Q. War has been the most touched upon historical fiction genre, especially the period of Indian
independence is the go-to desi thought, how does Dangling Gandhi differ from the other stories
about the era?
A. Half of the stories, set in colonial India, and Malaya talk of ordinary humans and their ordinary lives who normally would’ve existed away from war-torn or riots regions or those who lived their lives regardless of ways of their rulers or those who would’ve been affected only indirectly by the significant historical happenings of that particular era. I thought such ordinary people who constituted a larger portion of a population have hardly ever been depicted in any social or political history. It’s always either extolling or criticizing groups or individuals
Q. There are contemporary stories that alternate with the historical fiction in ‘Dangling Gandhi’? Is
there any reason for it, or was this an attempt to be relevant to the present generation?
A. As a collection, I sequenced the twelve stories to alternate, primarily to bring a better vibrant reading experience and also to give the young readers a wholesome feel of reading the past and the present.
Q. Most of your stories figure a male protagonist, how easy/tough was it for you as a woman to tap into a man’s psyche?
A. As any fiction writer, I tend to experiment on how my characters would think or should think and some basic and innate psychology that we humans possess can help in that. I have not had much difficulty in this in and out of the fictional space that gives both pain and pleasure. Although unintentionally the collection turned out to be more of male protagonists perhaps also because of the era that I touched saw more Indian migrants who used to be mostly men.
Q. You’ve brought in a neutral perspective over physical disabilities, and they’re not brought in as a bane or a boon to the host or the third person. How was this brought about?
A. I didn’t think of taking any stand on the differently-abled people. Just the way I wanted to depict the ordinary lives of ordinary people during extraordinary times, I created characters like Mani and Venu, who live their lives normally like their peers despite their physical shortcomings. It’s neither to glorify physical challenge nor to bring any sympathy in the readers but only to show perhaps their inner strengths, more through the feel the readers would get rather than through my words.
Q. With rising awareness and acceptance of the LGBTQ community and their ideologies, there’s still
ambiguity in the knowledge or even the definition of Queer, how were you able to tap into that genre through ‘am I a jar’?
A. The story too carries the required abstractness to indicate the same but raises questions in a reader. ‘Am I a Jar?’ was based on the daughter of my ex-colleague friend. That young girl went through all the confusion in her life in search of the same. Years ago, that girl’s mother had shared so much with me that I’d thought of a full-fledged novel first but the short story formed on a fine day.
Q. How did Allegory being one of the least experimented writing styles, attract you?
A. Normally, I play with the theme and characters in my mind before I start crafting, letting the theme and content choose their form. Different readers can read these stories in different depths. Although the stories are in a simple language, I won’t deny that they are layered and require some effort to understand better.
Q. As you were born in India and have been a Singapore resident for the past 30 years and have
experienced many cultures. How does this affect your thinking proce
A. I have observed myself distinctly becoming more and more human and hence almost always unbiased as I got to experience more and more of diversity. My interest has always been in the differences in the diversity that never fails to strengthen the spiritual perceptions in me. I think it has
always aided my evolution as a person. I’ve noticed in innumerable occasions, my acquaintances
expressing that they rarely come across a person like me who thinks so lesser of self, who can never
judge situations or persons where it might even sound normal to, and I believe wider exposure to
various cultures along with reading alone can naturally bring this in one.
Q. As you brought out so many cultures like Indian, Chinese, British, Singaporean, and many more
through your stories, what’s your take on today’s nations’ trajectory towards unilateralism and global
A. With the bright side of globalization reaching beyond its saturation has been the reason for the
sharing of culture, resources, and knowledge just as it has been gradually adding fuel to deteriorating
intolerance. Migration and sharing of culture existed even before globalization, and the same goes
for intolerance. And this yet again proves that regardless of the politics behind MKGandhi, an international icon, we all know that his ideology of non-violence in all senses will always remain applicable, globally.
Interview by R. SredhaneaBook: Dangling Gandhi
Author: Jayanthi Sankar
Publisher: Zero Degree publishing