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The Love Song of Maya K – Shuma Raha

The Love Song of Maya K – Shuma Raha

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The Love Song of Maya K – Shuma Raha

Meenaxi Rawat

Is there a story behind why you picked ‘The Love story of Maya K’ over the others, as the title of this book?

I picked The Love Song of Maya K, which is one of the stories in the collection, as the title of the book primarily because, in a way, it encapsulates the theme of love that runs through most of the stories in the book. And by that I don’t just mean romantic love — but unrequited love, disillusioned love, nostalgic love, brutality in love and so on.

The title is, of course, derived from T.S. Eliot’s celebrated poem, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, which is one of my most favourite works of literature. That, too, was one reason I chose The Love Song of Maya K as the title story of the book.


You have also been a journalist. What draws you to writing fiction? Has your journalistic writing inspire your stories in any way?

I continue to work as a journalist. However, for many years I had felt the urge to write fiction. Looking back, I think what drew me to fiction was that the genre sets you free from the bounds of facts, which is what I concern myself with in journalism. Also, I suppose I had a creative impulse, and it was clamouring to be fulfilled even as I devoted my energies to my journalistic career.

Yes, my experience in journalism has certainly influenced many of my stories. While a few are inspired by actual news events, most are based on my observation of society and its mores. I think I owe my powers of observation to my training in journalism.


Your narration is interspersed with colloquial terms. We’re curious to know whether this is your natural and authentic way of writing – your voice – or if there is a conscious thought, or reason behind the usage?

I would tend to believe that this is my natural way of writing. However, I have found that, by and large, my style flows from the subject of a story and the treatment I am giving it. It is, for the most part, automatic and unconscious. In other words, if I am writing a story about contemporary urban India, my linguistic style tends to be in sync with it. 


You portray many lives in these thirteen stories. There are also a wide range of issues and characters that you’ve written about. Who is your favourite character from your book?

That’s a tough one! I guess I find the character of Sumitra from The Leaving particularly nuanced and finely etched.


Could we say that these stories have been inspired by lives around you, or are more fictitious than that?

The stories and the characters in them are an amalgamation of my observation of real people and events and my imagination. I think the creative process is a lot like putting stuff in a blender. You put in your experiences and the resources of your imagination, and what comes out of the churn is your creation.


Your stories have wild twists, some of them, and are spicy to say the least! Are there other genres as well that you are thinking of writing in? Also, are you working on another book?

I love the short story genre for its brevity and its power to make the reader think beyond the contours of the narrative. I hope to continue to write more short stories.

However, my next work is a novel. It will be published by HarperCollins later this year. 


Your writing is flawless, and really draws the reader in. Who are your favourite short story writers; or short stories that have had a profound impact on you?

My major influencers in the short story genre have been Katherine Mansfield, James Joyce, Katherine Anne Porter, Raymond Carver and William Trevor. There are many many stories that have left a lasting impression on me. Let me mention just one: The Dead by James Joyce.

About the Interviewee:

A career journalist, Shuma Raha started writing fiction a few years ago and won the Juggernaut Short Story Prize in 2017. Her debut book, The Love Song of Maya K and Other Stories, was published in 2018 to considerable critical acclaim. While she pursues her passion for fiction, Shuma continues to be excited by current affairs and contributes columns to several print and digital publications such as Business Standard, The Quint, Gulf News and so on.
Her English translation of Bonophul's Bangla novel, Haate Bajaare, has been published by Sahitya Akademi.
Shuma's second book, a novel, will be published by HarperCollins later this year.