More than 10 years ago, Anjali Mitter Duva MCP '99 traveled to Rajasthan, India, to show her husband the country of her ancestry. In a guidebook on Jaisalmer, one of the cities they visited, Duva came across an anecdote that struck her: since children would often live till age five without seeing rain, families used to paint clouds on the walls near each window to prevent them from being scared when rain eventually fell.
“I wrote it down…just to save it, because I thought it was beautiful. I just felt I wanted to bring it to life somehow.”
In the coming years, that anecdote, combined with her love for Indian dance, resulted in her first novel, Faint Promise of Rain, published in fall 2014 by She Writes Press. The coming of age story of a young dancer named Adhira in the temple of Jaisalmer, faced with the conflict of embracing traditional norms and gender roles or rebelling against them, Faint Promise of Rain has earned critical acclaim and become the first of a four-novel series for Duva. Listen to a podcast interview with Duva.
“It was a confluence of things that just came together for me,” Duva says. “I hadn’t intended to set out writing a book.”
While set in the late 1500s, the novel has subtle echoes of contemporary challenges facing India, most pressingly the changing roles of women. “The dichotomy of how women are treated in India has always for me been a mystery—how it can survive this way for so long, that women are revered as the sustainer and on the other hand a blatant disregard for the rights of women,” says Duva. “It’s such a complicated issue that goes so far back. I don’t have an answer. In writing this book, it helped see the different sides even if it doesn’t explain them.”
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