Dark Rooms: A Saga

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9781591295037: Dark Rooms: A Saga

Gopal is the only one left in the Kachiguda house. In its dark rooms, once filled with a great family legacy, his legendary father’s intellectual whispers and the cries of six children, he looks back on a generation gone wrong. Why did their litter fail? Where did they go wrong in their lives? Can a family’s decadence be explained in the little things left behind in those Dark Rooms – a picture of his father standing next to his Moris Minor, a broken gramophone, a deserted kitchen. Sleeping for hours under an old creaking fan, he looks back to his failed marriage to Kaveri, Kaveri who left him, remarried and moved to America. Dark Rooms is also a saga of a man seen through the eyes of a nephew, from the time when Gopal first meets Kaveri to when the news of Kaveri’s death comes to him, while he awaits her, sitting in one of those Dark Rooms.

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From the Author:

A man sits in a house full of dark rooms waiting for his lover to return to him. Gopal is the only one left in the Kachiguda house. In its dark rooms, once filled with a great family legacy, his legendary father's intellectual whispers and the cries of six children, he looks back on a generation gone wrong. Where did they go wrong in their lives? Can a family's decadence be explained in the little things left behind in those dark rooms - a picture of his father standing next to his Moris Minor, a broken gramophone, a deserted kitchen. Sleeping for hours under an old creaking fan, he looks back to his failed marriage to Kaveri, Kaveri who left him, remarried and moved to America. Dark rooms is also a saga of a man seen through the eyes of a nephew from the time when Gopal first meets Kaveri to when the news of Kaveri's death comes to him, while he awaits her, sitting in one of those dark rooms...

When I started writing Dark Rooms, I wanted to write something more than a collection of verses. I wanted to write a story. And hence, Dark Rooms came out being a story - a story that unfolds the drama of family struggling to stay afloat in the early post-independence era of India.

Dark Rooms takes a period of time long dead, and attempts to immortalize it in the reader's mind. The book looks back on a family of six children born into a famous literary family, examining the reason for them failing in life, and why they could not living up to the reputation of their esteemed father, who dies when they are still very young, leaving them fatherless. It observes how each one of them slips further away from the greatness of their father, getting sucked into the mundane lives of survival, in a country that was yet altering its course after independence and re-mapping its future. Was each one of those dark rooms in which they grew up in to blame for the outcome?

In the end, we are left with questions. Did the family fail or was it inevitable fate that could not be avoided? Could the family have avoided their decadence had it not lived off the pride of their famous father? Was their father to blame for instilling this confusing emotion in his childrens´ minds that eventually led to their failure?

The book focuses on Gopal, one of the siblings and the biggest failure of all, whose wife Kaveri leaves him and moves to America, and who turns into a Devdas-like poet thereafter. In his poems, sleeping for hours under an old creaking fan, he reminisces the shallow joys of his life, burnt into deep agonies.

Other characters enter and leave. Yadagiri, a dancer. And Surya, an artist who draws cartoons for local periodicals. All artists who, like Gopal, feel they are waste products of society. Then, comes my own character, Gopal's nephew, I am the second and the more neutral eye of the book, exploring and interrogating each one of those six children.

Later in life, when I am in a dilemma of whether to go to America for his higher studies, it is Gopal, though a person rooted in his ground and who detests the fact that Kaveri left him to go to America, who influences me to go. I go to America but do not find true happiness there. Part of the book deals with this immigrant syndrome.

The book is split into three parts - the Birth of Kaveri, the Monsoon of Kaveri and the Death of Kaveri. These individual parts describe respectively the marriage of Gopal and Kaveri, the inevitable separation, and finally the arrival of the news of the death of Kaveri as Gopal awaits her return, sitting in those very dark rooms. There is a hidden metaphor of Kaveri to the river. Here, I quote from the book: ...Kaveri is the name of a river in south India that dries up in summer but runs free and full after the monsoon rains have come and left the air smelling of earth...

Then when Kaveri decides to leave Gopal, she tells him: ...I am a river. I need to flow. If you try to stop a river, it kills the people around it...

When the news of Kaveri's death comes to Gopal, he thinks that Kaveri, the river, always dried up in summer. She would swell again when the monsoons came. This is the central power in the story - how hope and can suspend a person in the fine equilibrium between living and lasting.

It was Arundhati Roy whose book God of Small Things won a Bookers Award influenced me into the use of metaphors and you will see them throughout the book.

Another example from Dark Rooms: ...the descent of his landlord's voice, words heaped in abuse, intermittent between sprinkles like mango-showers in mid-April...

Of course, my religion has a large part to play in this style. I was born a Hindu, I was a staunch believer in God till I was around fifteen and then I grew out of it. Now, I would like to think of myself as a detached atheist. But religion is not just about God. Religion is a combination of godly beliefs and traditions. What Hinduism has given me is a truly unique culture and tradition, it has created a microcosm of values, traditions and festivals that have not only given me the discipline to remain focused on my writing but has also made my writing very colorful. Hinduism is a very colorful religion. The gods themselves are very colorful and imaginative. What else can you say of a religion that has a god with an elephant and lion-heads and human bodies.

Here's another example from Dark Rooms: ...Each room needed to be turned inside out, Like Lord Narasimha, the half-lion, half-man did by splitting his foe in half with his bare hands. I am a shrink, neither a man nor animal. I tried to invert this house, will all its dark rooms....

The trilogy is an examination of three lives. Dark Rooms is the first book of a trilogy. The second book is expected to be out in 2003.There is a progression in each part. The first part is about Gopal. The second is about Leela, the oldest sister. And the last is about Ram, the oldest brother. This kind of progression is a vital part of writing. As Manil Suri, a mathematician and the famous author of "Death of Vishnu" said, "each line in a book should be like a math equation. If you use the wrong word, the entire sentence and hence the entire book would fail in reaching a correct answer. Similarly, it is important for not only lines and characters to be like math equations, but a writing career should be planned ahead of time just like an equation. My first novel, yet unpublished, is also a part of a trilogy. This first attempt at fiction is about my own life. The next books in the series will each step back a generation and explore the ironies of Indian life in that generation. In other words, it is the drama of three generations played backward. So there is a progression even there.

The central quality of the book Dark Rooms that would most appeal to readers is the mood. The most important thing that a writer must put down, right on the first page, is the mood. In the very beginning of the book, the author sets the mood - one of lost grandeur and one that can only be understood standing in the dark rooms of a house that was once rich and famous, full of children running around. Gopal's role in setting the mood is also important. Here is a man who does nothing but sit in a house full of dark rooms, reminiscing his lost love and their family's failures. His character makes people wonder whether such a life is possible in today's fast paced world.

The name Dark Rooms is the literal translation of "Cheekati Gadilu" a novel written in Telugu by my grandfather, Tripuraneni Gopichand. Awarded the Sahitya Academy Award, one of India's highest literary awards, he was renowned as one of the pillars of Telugu literature, famous for writing the first psychological book ever in the language. My great-grandfather, Tripuraneni Ramaswamy Chowdhury, was a famous revolutionary poet whose postal stamp was released by the Indian government. So, the writing heritage has always been there in my family. Somehow, during the lost generation mentioned in the book, there were no writers. Today, I have been chosen as the humble bearer of their name and I am honored. I've named the book after my grandfather's great novel because I perceive my writing as a continuation of his spark.

About the Author:

Siddharth Katragadda was born in 1972 in Bangalore, India and spent his first twenty-three years there. He received his Masters Degree from the University of Texas, Arlington, and works as a software engineer in a major telecommunications firm. This is his second novel in verse. Dark Rooms, his first book, won the 2 nd Prize at the prestigious 2002 San Diego Published Book Awards (Poetry). His first prose novel is awaiting publication. He lives with his wife in San Diego, California.

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