Nirupama Dutt, a literary and art critic was in conversation with author Belinder Dhanoa and literary agent Preeti Gill during the recently concluded Guwahati Literary Festival 2014. Excerpts from the conversation
Belinder Dhanoa names her book “Echoes in the well”. The name is taken from a story where a person is threatened by the king that if he tells stories his throat will be slit. So he goes and tells them to the well as they are so compelling stories. Her book talks about the patriarchal situation and power relations. “I am interested in how societies define ‘normal’ and ‘deviant’, and how these definitions are used to control individuals and whole societies,” she says.
Her book talks about a man who lies dying tended by his two daughters. A strangely absent presence, their father has dictated the shape of their lives — sometimes distorting and at others shaping their hopes, ambitions and desires. To these two narrative strands, Belinder Dhanoa adds a third, that of the girls’ mother – a strong and single-minded woman, who defies society’s expectations of how a woman should behave.
Set partly in Shillong and partly in the Punjab, Belinder Dhanoa’s novel is not only an insightful study of the pressures of living in a patriarchal society, but also a moving account of the complexities of family loyalties, betrayals and love.
“I am also talking about the normal and the deviant at all levels. I am also thinking about it as all forms of mental illness. We completely have to rethink. It’s an illness like any other physical ailment. Rather we see it as a failure of a complete human being and the person is stigmatized,” she adds. It’s a story about three women who negotiate their identities.