by Radhika Jhamb
An eclectic collection of poignant tales that seamlessly flow as poems resonating the rich cultural experience both within and outside of the region ‘Where Monsoons Cry.’ Lalita Noronha in her collection eloquently pens down various shades of love, longing, belonging, and such emotional experiences, each time packaged in a different setting and from a different perspective.
From places where girls are still considered “deep wells of sorrow,” to “the land of milk and honey….wide open spaces, big houses, cars, money,” Noronha opens the readers to some relatable and some imaginable characters.
From Lilavati who turns into Lily yet is unable to give up her love for saris as a form of ethnic identity to Sunanda who considers herself from a cultural heritage of- “half-and-half, a hybrid, mentally straddling continents,” to Sunil who inadvertently falls for “the arrangement” that he never thought would be possible- these are stories of ordinary people dealing with the lives that they have created for themselves.
Although different from each other, stories do have some commonalities- they are all family centered, there are no antagonists but there are a lot of grays, and the characters lead layered lives but with one common theme of cultural relevance.
Lalita Noronha has won the Maryland Literary Short Story Award (1997) and a Maryland Individual Artist Award (2002). In an interview with India Post she shared her experience of working on the book:
India Post: You have a Ph.D. in Microbiology, and Master’s in Genetics, how did you get into literary writing?
Lalita Noronha: Although I have been fascinated with biology, I had always wanted to write. The inspiration that led me to writing, however, came recently when my mother brought me a set of my writings that she had saved for years. After losing my sister at a very young age to cancer, I started writing about our experiences together while she was alive, and developed them into stories. After contributing poems and stories to different outlets, a short story collection was the obvious next step.
IP: What is the theme of your book? And how did the story ideas come to you?
LN: The book is about people who leave their home not just the physical space but also the emotional space. It is about leaving something behind for the unknown, feeling uprooted. Every person feels severed, and feels a gentle erosion. The ideas came to me in no particular order, the book just wrote itself. I didn’t have any private agenda. The stories came from the things I had taken in as a child.
IP: Each story is different than the other, how were you able to accomplish that?
LN: From a philosophical view, nothing is as simple as it appears, there are all different perspectives to derive to the truth- that’s what I tried to accomplish through the stories and that’s how they were reflected in the book.
IP: Tell us about the title of the book. Why ‘Where the Monsoons Cry’?
LN: That’s one of the distinct images of India that I remembered. The theme of the monsoons was carried throughout the book. Monsoons in India cleans and clears everything, it also leaves us with a message of not being ashamed of anything, much like the message of these stories.
IP: What’s coming up next?
LN: Two novels- one is a continuation of the third part of the book. And second is not a mystery per se but has some intrigue, it is related to breaking the law, some of it is based in India and some in America.