India a motif for two Israeli writers

Thiruvanathapuram, Oct 11: India, its people, its religions and its scenic panoramas have exerted a powerful influence on two Israeli authors who have visited the country several times and plan further visits for ideas as well as fun.

Sarai Shavit’s “India Express” is the tale of a young woman searching for her missing brother across the length and breadth of India, while Dorit Rabinyan features a shelf of idols of Indian deities in her second book “Strands of a Thousand Pearls”, a fictionalised account of the lives of her mother and aunts in Israel of the 1960s and 1970s.

Shavit and Rabinyan, who were here to attend the just-concluded 5th Kovalam Literary Festival, admitted a strong liking for India as they talked to IANS about their books and literary inspirations.

“My book is about two siblings. About Mali, who returns to India with a private investigator to search for her elder brother, who had gone missing during their earlier trip,” said Shavit, who is in charge of the literary section of Israeli web portal ynet.com

“India has had a great influence (on me)…. its languages, cultures, landscapes, religions, its people and their natural emotions… India fits like a glove to my narrative,” she said to a query on what made her choose India as a setting.

The action in “Indian Express” moves from place to place, and Shavit says this was because she was fascinated by how Indian vistas change in a short distance span.

“Indian roads lead to a number of interesting places and scenarios… India offers the best background. Changes you expect, and the unexpected, the wide variations help to build the suspense in my narrative, make it an action thriller…” she said.

Shavit, however, says her book, which came out in Hebrew earlier this year and is “doing well”, is not just a mystery or a thriller.

“It also has the universal point of complicated relationships, tensions in families, the aspirations of youth…. their belief that they can conquer the world (after) leaving their homes, the confusion…,” she said.

Shavit, who first came to India in 2001 after her military service, believes there were different reasons for Israelis, especially the youth, thronging India in the 1990s and now.

“Earlier, they came drawn by the spirituality, the traditions of the Hindu religion. That is still a reason but now they are also attracted by the idea of experiencing the rich diversity of India’s cultures, religions, languages, food, clothing.”

“It is these different points I put… the fact that in India, ‘sab kuch milega’,” said Shavit.

How long will it be before we can expect “India Express” in English?

“I don’t know… it just came out this year. Lets see,” said Shavit, whose first book “Bruria Productions” (2009) – a collection of three novellas – has one of them touching on India.

For Rabinyan, India is not so much central in her work but does play a part.

“I travelled to India first in 1996 and then again in 2000, travelled across the north – Gaumukh, and down the Ganga to Varanasi and Kolkata…. some experiences were used in my second novel,” said Rabinyan, whose first book “Persian Brides” was a fictionalised account of her grandmother’s early life in the opening decades of 20th century Iran.

“In ‘Strands of a Thousand Pearls’, my mother’s family travel from Iran to Israel via India. In their house, they have a passage with a shelf full of idols of Indian gods and they call the place ‘The Corridor of the Indian Gods’ and play there often,” she said.

What do they like best about India?

It was Shavit who answered. “It’s the people… their compassion, humour, perspectives about life, compassion towards strangers…. Indian people know to be happy.”

(Vikas Datta can be contacted at vikas.d@ians.in)

IANS