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An Interview with Lahari Mahalanabish


Lahari Mahalanabish (Chatterji) is a writer and poet from Kolkata, India and currently based in Sydney. She is the author of the recently published short story collection Tales of the Anointed Skeletons and Love (Ukiyoto Publishing) and One Hundred Poems (Writers Workshop, 2007). Tales of the Anointed Skeletons and Love was nominated for the Rabindranath Tagore Literary Prize 2023.

Lahari’s short fiction was long-listed for the Grindstone International Short Story Prize (2020); her poems were shortlisted for Passionfruit Poetry Prize (2023), Mslexia Poetry Competition 2021, Erbacce Prize Poetry Competition (2009 and 2010) and short story collections for Eyelands Book Awards (2019 and 2020). She also won Money Series Short Story Competition by TMYS Books (2021) and was among top 5 in the Being Woman contest held by Story Mirror.

Her short stories were published in the anthologies 2020 Grindstone Anthology, Where the Kingfisher Sings (2021), Moolah (2021) and From my Window (2023); her prose pieces were published in Through the Looking Glass: Reflecting on Madness and Chaos Within and But You Don’t Look Sick. Her poems have found places in anthologies such as Yellow Chair Review 2015 Anthology, Freedom Raga (2020), The Kali Project (2021), The Ocean Waves (2021), New Normal (2021) and Van Voice: Forests and Their People (2021), Petals and Chocolates (2023), An Adventure called Life (2024). Her short stories have appeared in various literary magazines like The Bombay Review, The Bangalore Review, Asian Extracts, The Teesta Review, Soft Cartel, Muse India, Himal Southasian, Spark, Indian Review, The Criterion, Ashvamegh, The Thinking Pen and newspapers such as The Statesman and The Asian Age. Her poems have been published in Passionfruit Review, Mslexia magazine, Yellow Chair Review, Poets Online, Saw, The Statesman, The Hans India and the Setu journal.

A software engineer by profession, she blogs to chronicle her travels, describe the antics of her little daughter, and highlight the work carried out by the orphanage, blind home and rural empowerment initiative she is associated with. She draws inspiration for her fiction and poetry from the exposure gained through her different pursuits and involvements.

Who/what made you want to write? Was there a particular person, or particular writers/works/art forms that influenced you?

I was born and brought up in Kolkata, India. Most people around me possessed a great love for literature. My parents were avid readers and there is a book shelf in each room of the house where I grew up. My school teachers also took care to inculcate a reading habit in us. Besides a big library, my school had cupboards full of books in each classroom and encouraged us to read one of them every week. The annual book fair in Kolkata is a big draw for most people in the city. There are lanes in Kolkata lined entirely with bookshops, big and small. It’s the city of Kolkata which made me want to write. Among writers, the earliest influence was Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore who was also from my city. Over the years, I have been influenced by many novelists, short fiction writers and poets from all over the world. Other than writing, I feel inspired by great movies as well.

What other professions have you worked in? What’s something about you that your readers wouldn’t know?

I am a software engineer and I will be completing seventeen years in one of the leading IT companies this October. I am also the mother of a ten-year-old daughter. I was working on the earliest drafts of the book when she was born and it had been challenging labouring on the subsequent drafts while managing childcare duties and demands of a strenuous full-time job.

Tell us the story of your book’s title. Was it easy to find, or did it take forever?

The term ‘anointed skeletons’ signifies disguised decay, and love is what steers us, motivates us to rise above all the decline and decrepitude. It wasn’t easy to find but not too difficult either.

How did it feel when you first saw your book cover? Or when you first held your book in your hands?

It seemed magical after all the hard work;the end of a journey and the beginning of a new one.

If your book had a soundtrack, what are some songs that would be on it?

Since the short stories are on different themes like love, friendship, empowerment, even mystery and adventure and a hint of the supernatural, I can think of many songs like “Until I Found You” (Stephen Sanchez), “Country Road” (John Denver), “On Top of the World” (Carpenters), “Everybody Here” (Backstreet Boys).

What is one thing you hope readers take away from reading your book? How do you envision your perfect reader?

I believe my book can take its readers on a cathartic journey. The ideal reader would be someone who is not only passionate about people and things in his/her own life but also about the struggles and triumphs in the greater world.

What was the most rewarding/meaningful part of publishing your book?

The most rewarding part was being able to share my stories with others and being able to provide my readers a handful of happiness and a several hours of enjoyment.

What new writing projects are you currently working on? Or, other projects that are not writing?

I am currently working on a collection of poems and trying to get the manuscript ready by this September.

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