Book: Paper Boats
Author: Ruth Khanna
Pages : 240 pages
Price: Rs 350.
Ruth Khanna’s Paper Boats is an engrossing read. Ruth’s debut novel is a gripping tale set in India and England. It describes Murali’s journey through life with an extraordinary gift. All Murali ever wanted in life was to trace his father Viswanathan, who suddenly disappeared when Murali was just seven years old. Viswanathan lived and worked in England, while he and his mother Sumana live in India.
A pilgrimage to the temple town of Chidambaram is where the ‘gift’ of healing is bestowed upon him. An unwilling and unprepared receiver, Murali struggles to live a normal life and work towards going to England to look for his father. The story twists and turns, takes us from Marina Beach to England and back. The tsunami of 2004 is used with very good effect as a setting for the ending.
In England, Murali comes in contact with Mohan Ramaswamy and his wife Swarna, who run a centre for Yoga and Meditation in Devon, and Charlene and Josh, who become his good friends. The author very ably weaves the lives of the characters together one thread at a time and brings to us the fact of Murali’s emotional involvement with Swarna.
A different story, the author takes us on a fascinating journey to many places in England and India and keeps us guessing until the end. A read I would recommend as this book has something in it to interest everybody.
Ruth Khanna’s Interview
Q: It is refreshing to review an author from Hyderabad. Have you always wanted to write a book?
A. I’ve always loved writing stories, and I’ve always wanted to write books. Paper Boats is my first published novel, but the second full length book I’ve written.
Q: How easy was it to get published?
A. It’s been a long hard road this far. I was an unknown author approaching publishers. I managed to get an agent in the U.S. quite quickly, but getting a publisher was very difficult. I still have a stack of rejection letters that I look at from time to time as, in some strange way, they spur me on.
Q: Describe your journey from childhood to the present. Has your family been supportive?
- Through my childhood and teenage years, both my parents always encouraged me to write. My father encouraged me to write poetry, essays and songs, and my mother inspired me to write stories. She loved reading anything I had written. My two elder sisters were my critics and they really helped me evolve.
I lost my mother when I was just sixteen, so I think I expressed a lot of my feelings at that time through both poetry and prose. My stories have always helped me escape into another world. Today it is my husband and children who motivate me to keep writing.
Q: Who are your favourite authors? Are there any Indian Authors in this list?
A. My all time favourite authors are Daphne Du Maurier and P.G. Wodehouse. Nobody can replace them. I also love the themes of books by Jane Austen, Charlotte and Emily Bronte and the prose of Thomas Hardy and Charles Dickens. I greatly admire Ian McEwan who is undoubtedly one of the most phenomenal writers of our time and I think Eoin Colfer and Tarquin Hall are hilariously entertaining!
My favourite Indian author is undoubtedly Vikram Seth, though as a child I also loved reading Ruskin Bond’s stories…and those of R.K. Narayan.
Q: You have described an ordinary boy with an extraordinary gift. Have you any such extra-ordinary gifts? What are your hobbies?
A. No, I don’t have any extraordinary gifts, but I think of my love for writing as a gift.
My hobbies are reading, cooking and listening to music. I also practice Yoga and Meditation and learned Bharatnatyam – a dance form that I feel is truly like a spiritual experience.
Q: You have used the Tsunami of 2004 as a setting for the ending. Was it from a personal experience?
A. The Marina Beach holds a special place in my heart as I remember some of the happiest times of my childhood there. Therefore the Tsunami struck a chord when I heard of the devastation along the coast. For some reason I felt like I was there, watching that gigantic wave strike, seemingly out of nowhere. I knew then that I wanted to pay tribute to the Marina Beach through my reference to the Tsunami. When I went back to Madras and visited the beach I found it almost unrecognizable. That chapter of my life seemed to have been forever erased. So yes, to that extent it was a personal experience.
Q: Are you writing another book now?
- Yes, I am. It’s something I’ve been working on for the last couple of years. It’s very different from Paper Boats. I’m keeping my fingers crossed as I reach what I think of as the ‘home stretch’ in the plot. I’m enjoying the way it has developed, and I also have a sketch for a sequel. It’s an exciting process.