“Now, I spend my time interacting with individuals, whose lives have been nurtured by the trees” Purva
Bookaholicanonymous is extremely delighted to present this conversation with the multi-talented Purva Grover. We are so happy that she could take out time from her busy schedule to answer our questions. Get hold of her book…we loved it!... :)
About Purva Grover: Purva is a journalist, poetess, playwright, and stage director. She is the founder editor of ‘The Indian Trumpet’, a quarterly digital magazine for Indian expats, and works as the assistant editor with a UAE national daily, Khaleej Times & as the Editor, Young Times, and a magazine for young adults. She is backed with a post-graduate degree in mass communication and literature. She resides in Dubai, UAE. She recently made her debut as an author with ‘The Trees Told Me So’.
Your bio note says you are addicted to the idea of penning down tales to discover your favourite word. And your current favourite word is Meraki (Greek): To do something with soul, creativity or love; when you leave a piece of yourself in your work. So what piece of yourself did you leave in ‘The Trees Told Me So’?
Each story has a part of me — it’s about the comfort, about the way the trees have touched my life and of those around me. It’s my love story with the trees — may be, I fell in love with them, when as a child I spotted a makeshift swing hanging from its branches. Growing up, I had many cups of coffee at a stall, set up under a tree on the university grounds. The spot turned into our space of sharing stories. On my wedding day, I’d absorbed in the aroma of heena’ed hands and realised that I'd never actually seen a henna tree growing.
It’s also as much about the emotions that I’ve experienced through the eyes of others — through observations, anecdotes, et al. Now, I spend my time interacting with individuals, whose lives have been nurtured by the trees. I make notes of stories of surrender, warmth, greed, passion, sins, secrets, faith, hope, anger, disappointment, and pain. I stop by at highways and speak to the fruit-vendor, whose sky is the tree. I visit public parks and wonder why someone would hurt the tree by engraving a heart on its trunk? I watch people tie threads of faith across its bark and hope their prayers are heard. I listen closely and then share the tales, widely.
Your theme of having trees as witnesses for all your stories is beautiful. They are there always aren't they? As kids we all had a favourite tree...which was yours?
Jasmine and frangipani
Do you personally have such a bond with trees?
I don’t have a solid, romantic backstory to share, at least not an exciting ‘butterflies-in-my-tummy’ one. There are a few honest ones, though. I can talk about them. Like how as a child I wondered why my dad went to the barber, who sat under a tree? And how I’d sit there with my sketchbook and draw a picture of the chair, he sat on. The lever for adjusting its height was long gone, with no prospect of being replaced; bricks worked just as well. I was intrigued. Or how I was surprised when a friend told me about a paan wallah, who’d left his village home to pursue his dream to be an actor. A decade later, he still sleeps under the same tree in the city, in harsh summers and unbearable winters. He’s not giving up. Or how not very long ago many Indian homes had a mango tree overpowering their verandahs and how many of us used to read books under its umbrella of branches. Or how I broke down at a funeral when I saw a loved one lying on a bed of wood.
One story that stands out for me is 'Between us, Daughter and Mother'...it is chilling...what made you write it? What was the thought behind it?
On the fateful day, 16th December 2012, I woke up to the sounds of screaming headlines. It was my birthday on 15th December and I suddenly felt ‘guilty’ for having had a good time. I remember talking to my sister and feeling terrible for our mom and dad. I wondered if I ever let them sleep peacefully while I worked night shifts or watched a movie. I felt sorry not just for ‘us, women’ but also for our parents, who constantly worry, care and protect their daughters. I felt sorry for the parents who raised those men & were now being looked down upon and questioned. I wanted to snap out of helplessness. I was shattered. I didn’t know what to do. People were talking, panicking, protesting, screaming and wailing. Someone was chanting a hymn. Many were flooding the authorities with their questions. I couldn’t see the commotion and pain that engulfed India because I was not ‘home’. I could sense it. The sound of fear was ear deafening. Sitting in my home in Dubai, away from the candle light vigils that were taking place in the country, I felt I needed a moment of quiet, to think, to figure out what I wish to pray for… And that’s how ‘Between Us, Daughter & Mother’ came into being. I don’t know if the story would be able to bring a change, but I know one thing that we all need to stay angry — keep the anger alive.
Please explain the story 'The First Kiss'?
Some voices go unheard, the story is about the love and fear, strength and shame, and struggle and acceptance of a few such loves and lives.
Being a journalist you have woven real life incidences in your stories one story had mention of ‘a motor running over the people sleeping on the street’ ...and ‘a flyover collapsing’. Do you deliberately add these?
I’d say sub-consciously and not deliberately. Fiction does stem from real-life incidents. As they say, art is an imitation of life.
Many of your stories have a presswalla, barber, cobbler, paanwalla, mehendiwalla, paaniwalla...do you think they are more connected to the trees (nature) around them?
Not necessarily, I’d say an individual looking at a tree just outside his/her window is as connected. We may or may not spend our life, but trees touch our lives, knowingly and unknowingly – which, is the very essence of ‘The Trees Told Me So’.
Tell us about 'The Indian Trumpet’?
When I, Purva Grover, an Indian girl, landed in Dubai, I felt I couldn’t leave behind my passion for journalism and my love for home. At the same time, I couldn’t help but play with fonts, colours and words to create something for my fellow NRIs. Little did I know that hearts and minds from all communities would greet my dream with the same passion and love! I became an NRI in November 2012 and felt a strong urge to strengthen my bond with my home, India, and also a strong desire to explore my new home, Dubai. Very soon, this aspiration (first expressed via a blog) became a talking point amongst the huge Indian diaspora, not just in Dubai but all across the globe, and the magazine was born in July 2013.
The story of ‘The Indian Trumpet’ magazine has been that of knowing Indians all over the world and falling in love with all things Indian all over again. Running the magazine has been an exciting, fascinating and challenging journey. I have lived through moments that made me smile and scream at the same time. There were times when the laptop misbehaved, fonts got mixed up, and writers and photographers missed deadlines, but then these were complemented with times when my inbox got flooded with encouraging words, download speeds improved, and colors and words just fell into place. I even accepted that while I couldn’t do it all in one issue, each day would bring me one step closer than I was the day before to achieving my dream of doing something for Indian expats. I began to smile at the thought that, as an NRI, I was getting a chance to love, miss and appreciate ‘home’! And honestly, even if someone had told me that this is how tough the journey would be, I would have still done exactly the same thing, and with the same enthusiasm. “The Indian Trumpet” is for all the people I knew, got to know, and will know through this magazine.
‘The Indian Trumpet’ is the ONLY e-magazine for Indian expats/NRIs. Its unique content captures the colour, culture and chaos of India that NRIs crave and miss. The magazine is aimed at anyone who wants to be in touch with India and its ethos. The target audience for the magazine includes Indian expatriates globally, resident Indians and non-Indians across the globe. ‘The Indian Trumpet’ is a celebration of India and Indian-ness. Meet us at www.theindiantrumpet.com.
And the plays you have scripted and directed. How were they received?
In 2016, I wrote and directed a play as part of the 2016 Short+Sweet Theatre Festival, the largest festival of 10 minute plays in the world, and won the Judges’ Choice Award in the Wildcard Category (Dubai). The play highlighted the issue of rape and safety of women and was recognised for its bold content and unique directorial approach. In April 2017, I was selected as one of the five local writers in the UAE to write and direct a theatrical production for a show called Queens of Drama, which focused on women-centric themes. My theme for this show was Breast Cancer. In August 2017, we took the same play (on the issue of rape/women safety) to India and won the best director & playwright award at Short & Sweet Kolkata (India). In February 2018, I wrote and directed a play called Farewell, which served as a reminder on how short our lives are.
You also take writing and critique sessions in Dubai...give us some pointers.
A couple of years ago, when I took my baby steps towards building this community of creative souls, I didn't know it would connect so many hearts, words, minds. Meeting strangers is a beautiful thing. Each time, I host a Written Words meet-up I stress! How will it go? Will people show up? Will there be a comfy vibe? And each time, I am left surprised, happy. The talent, the warmth. Why do I do it I am often asked? Well, because every reader and writer needs a listener, who'd not judge you but only encourage you to get better with each word. As long as we can all simply remember that every word counts we can build a better place.
Finally, what are you working on next...? Another book? Play?
With my second book, I intend to provide the readers a script, which shall be laugh-worthy, yet thought-provoking. It would be about women, but not about the bra-burning issues. I’d leave it at that, for now.
Good luck in whatever you do next Purva! We cannot wait for your next book…:)
Latest Author's Interview