Interview with Jacquelin Singh

What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
The prospect of a hot cup of tea.
How long did it take you to write Majra?
A short answer would be, "all my life". It starts early, this wanting to share sights and sounds, impressions and feelings about the things you're passionate about. The actual writing of Majra began about 18 years ago.
What got you going on the novel in the first place?
This requires somewhat of a long answer! After Home to India came out, people kept assuming it was an autobiography and would ask me if I really had a co-wife in India.I got really tired of saying, "No, I didn't, but I knew several 'foreign wives' in India who did...have a co-wive." Finally, confronted with the same question again and patience having run out, I replied out of the blue: "Yes, I had a co-wife. And she died in Faridkot in 1953." That got me wondering how come she died in Faridkot and what was she doing there, anyway? Who or what killed her? And why? I took off from there.
You have said that you had put it away for years. Why? And what made you resume work on it?
I guess it got neglected because I was too busy living life: teaching,writing shorter pieces, travelling with my husband Ranjit Singh. I picked up the manuscript again at the urging of a fan who had liked Home to India and wanted to know what happened to Dilraj Kaur, one of the major characters, after the novel's end. She was glad to know I had just the work she was looking for, and I dusted it off, encouraged by her interest and support..If it weren't for Maggie, the neglected manuscript could still be languishing in a desk drawer.
Are the characters in both books drawn from real life?
Like most writers of fiction, I snatch characters from real life, but mix them up in the process. For one thing, the author is able to get inside a fictional character's head and reveal the contents, can conjure up emotions, compulsions, and motives, but one cannot do this with a real person.So even if a character in fiction has been inspired by an actual human being, lots of guess work has to go on. By that time, the "original" could be unrecognizable!
The story line of Majra seems to be much the same as Home to India, your earlier novel.
Yes. The situation is the same, but Majra continues where Home to India leaves off and then some. However, I don't think of it as a sequel. Some of it is the re-telling of portions of Home to India, but from Dilraj Kaur's point of view, one directly opposed to that of the American bride Helen's in the earlier book. This device is fairly common. Think: Roshomon, the Japanese film that recounts a murder from several different points of view -- each at variance with the others, or Lawrende Durrell's The Alexandria Quartet.
What prompted you to adopt this method of story-telling where more than one version of the happenings is given?
I could say it just happened. But that would be no answer. Reflecting on it now, I probably had a subconscious feeling of not having done right by Dilraj Kaur in the earlier book. She needed someone to testify on her behalf; something was missing. That something or someone had to be me. The. more I thought about her situation, the further I got inside her head; I became privy to her feelings,and her sense of being wronged. I had to write on her behalf.
Why would anyone take time out from a busy life to read Majra? What do you want your reader to come away with?
In both Home to India and Majra I'd like to make you the reader hear, feel, and see the India I knew, not the urban mix of a City of Joy or Slumdog Millionaire, works that perpetuate the stereotype of a wretchedly poor, hopelessly lost culture and civilization. My focus is on everyday people living ordinary lives with whom the reader can connect through my writing. And a word about those portions of the books taking place in the United States. Here I go back to the mid-twentieth century, a time fast receding into past history. And the past itself is a "foreign land" to those who haven't shared it. What were San Francisco, Berkeley, and the University like then? What concerns did people have? How did they spend time without texting, talking on cell phones, and just hurrying impatiently along, multi-tasking all the way?
In your profile you give your age as 89. Have you any further projects in mind?
Yes. I'm 89, and I refuse to buy into the implication of your question that there's a magic age beyond which one would not be expected to perform! But it's okay. No offence taken. And it's not a surprising question is it? Anyway, I do have some ideas knocking around in my head. This time the project is non-fiction, autobiographical. I recently became widowed and returned to live out my life in the United States, the land where I was born, brought up, and educated. I had resided in India for 64 years, One would think such changes are daunting. They are. Stay tuned..
Published 2015-02-19.
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Books by This Author

Majra Jacquelin Singh
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 90,320. Language: English. Published: February 15, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Cultural & ethnic themes » Asian American
Nicholas Graywall arrives in Berkeley from India in 1968 with a graduate scholarship in his pocket,an anglicized name, and lots of charm. But his occasional secretiveness and a series of self-destructive moves threaten his future in America until he agrees to confront what's haunting him. This opens the door to his childhood past in Majra and to the most startling source of his deliverance.