Sharmilla, tell us briefly about your story in the book, and what is the inspiration behind it?
The story’s title, “Grandmother Story”, literally explains the inspiration behind it – it is based on stories my paternal grandmother used to tell me as a child. In this case specifically, stories about the Indian supernatural being called mohini, a ghostly woman whose anklets you’d hear as she walked outside your house (the pontianak is her Malaysian counterpart, though they’re not exactly the same). As I began writing the story, this folk tale somehow began merging with the real-life stories I knew of both my grandmothers – of how they left their homes in India when they got married to move to a country they’d never seen.
What is the most difficult part of writing this story?
I wanted to stay true to the folk tales of the mohini, but without resorting to cliches or tired tropes. Finding that balance was tough. I also wanted to do away with the misogyny that typically underlies these stories – where the evil ghost is typically a woman scorned. And on a more personal level, I’m definitely still not completely over my childhood fear of these stories – and working on this one late into many nights hardly helped!
What can the reader expect from you in the near future? Is there any book/story/work coming out soon?
I was one of the long-listed entries to the 2016 D.K. Dutt Memorial Award for Literary Excellence, and the anthology of that should be out this year. Besides that, I’m working on creating a collection of short fiction of my own – though I’m quite far from being done with it!