Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Spotlight on 'Tell A Thousand Lies' by Rasana Atreya

Genre: Literary 
In a land where skin colour can determine one's destiny, fraternal twins PULLAMMA and LATA are about to embark on a journey that will tear their lives apart.

Dark skinned Pullamma dreams of being a wife. With three girls in her family, the sixteen year old is aware there isn't enough dowry to secure suitable husbands for them all. But a girl can hope. She's well versed in cooking, pickle making, cow washing -- you name it. She's also obliged her old-fashioned grandmother by not doing well in school.

Fair skinned and pretty, her twin sister Lata would rather study medicine than get married. Unable to grasp the depth of Lata's desire, the twins' Grandmother formalizes a wedding alliance for the girl. Distraught, Lata rebels, with devastating consequences.

As Pullamma helps ready the house for her older sister Malli's bride viewing, she prays for a positive outcome to the event. What happens next is so inconceivable that it will shape Pullamma's future in ways she couldn't have foreseen.

TELL A THOUSAND LIES is a sometimes wry, sometimes sad, but ultimately realistic look at how superstition and the colour of a girl's skin rules India's hinterlands.

Sneak Peek
“Good thing you aren’t pretty, Pullamma,” Lakshmi garu said with a laugh. “Can you imagine the headache if we had to hide you, too?”

I bit the inside of my cheek. Lakshmi garu was here to lend moral support for my older sister’s bride viewing, and I mustn’t forget it.

“Towering like a palm tree, you are,” she said, “and skin dark like anything.”

I wondered if ‘garu,’ as a term of respect, was wasted on this friend of my grandmother’s. Still. I was sixteen now. Couldn’t let words escape my mouth without proper consideration.

Lakshmi garu studied me for a long moment, the wide slash of her mouth disappearing into the flat rectangle of her face. Shaking her head, she turned back to my grandmother. 

It couldn’t be easy for our Ammamma, saddled as she was with three orphaned granddaughters and no male support, to marry us off. If today’s alliance for Malli fell through, where would we find another family willing to accept the limited dowry we had to offer?

Of the three of us, Malli was the most beautiful. But my fraternal twin, Lata, was pretty, too; it was for this reason she’d been packed off to a relative’s house, out of sight of the groom’s family. For, if they got it into their heads to take Lata home as their daughter-in-law, it would be hard for us to refuse them. Given that Malli was the best-looking, it was unlikely, but why take the risk? If they chose Lata over Malli, forever people would think there was some defect in Malli that had caused the groom’s family to reject her. Who would marry her then?

Now, as Ammamma, Lakshmi garu and I waited for the prospective bridegroom’s family to grace us with their presence and decide if our Malli was good enough for them, I surveyed our walled-off rectangular courtyard. Our house was a series of rooms lining the back of our courtyard, one opening into the next, like the compartments of a train. A veranda separated the rooms from the courtyard. Perpendicular to it was our cowshed. On either side of the cowshed were a tamarind tree and a sampangi tree. A coconut tree drooped against the far end.

Lakshmi garu was settled next to the sampangi tree, on a straw mat laid out on the mud floor. It was against this tree I sat, as I made my promise to Goddess Durga – if this alliance went through, I’d break coconuts at her altar.

That got me thinking. How many coconuts would it take to appease the Goddess? Two? Five? Twenty? Two seemed a little... miserly. This was bride viewing, not some silly plea to have a cute boy smile at me. But, if I promised too much and couldn’t deliver, the wrath of the Goddess would surely befall me. Even more important, if Ammamma were forced to pay for twenty coconuts out of our meagre household income, she would strike me dead. Five seemed safer all around.

“Pullamma,” Ammamma said, interrupting my internal debate. “They should have been here twenty minutes ago. Go over to the post office and keep a watch for them.”

The only way into the village was past the post office, so I sprang to my feet.

“Let the girl be,” Lakshmi garu said. “How can they come here so soon? That, too, after travelling all night? They need time to freshen up, don’t they?”

I flopped back on the ground.

"Pullamma!” Ammamma said reprovingly.

I sighed, carefully arranging my half-sari over my feet. Remembering to be ladylike wasn’t as easy as it sounded.

Know About the Author
Rasana is the author of Amazon bestseller 'Tell A Thousand Lies', which was shortlisted for the 2012 Tibor Jones South Asia award. UK’s Glam magazine calls this novel one of their five favourite tales from India (June 2014).  Her other works are 'The Temple Is Not My Father' and '28 Years A Bachelor' (coming September 2014).

The cover of The Temple Is Not My Father was awarded the coveted gold star by book designer Joel Frielander.

Rasana declined a traditional publishing contract in order to self-publish. She was also invited to New Delhi for Amazon India‘s launch in February 2014. She is the only self-published author to be invited to the prestigious Jaipur Literary Festival as a panelist (January 2013).

She’s mother to a girl and a boy who were respectively six and eleven years-old when they wrote and illustrated The Mosquito and the Teapot. She lives with her husband and children in Hyderabad, India, where a lot of her stories are set.

She blogs at http://rasanaatreya.wordpress.com