I started writing to make sense of things, says author

I started writing to make sense of things, says author

Priya Balasubramanian is an Indian-American physician and writer. A voracious reader, Priya used to write while in school and medical college. However, the demanding life during her residency, fellowship and motherhood, forced her to give up her passion. “When I finished my training, I had a job that was less consuming though. There was this sense of emerging from a long tunnel. I was no longer the carefree seventeen year old; I was a doctor and a mother to two, in a new country. I started writing to make sense of things,” says Priya. 

Her latest book, ‘The Alchemy of Secrets’, follows the life of 24-year old Mira, who comes back to India to spend time with her dying grandmother. Her return brings back memories of a past she hoped to escape and unravels the mystery behind her mother’s death during the Emergency. “The book is about the importance of families—the ones we are born into and the ones we acquire--and the humanity that binds all of us, irrespective of caste, religion, or other identities, and the pervasive nature of corruption in society. It is also about the place of women—how they are scrutinized and judged, in ways that men are not,” she says. 

The book is set in Bengaluru, the city of Priya’s childhood. “One of the biggest joys of writing this book was the way it allowed me to return to the streets and people of this city. It was the emotional pay-off that allowed me to stick with this long project and finish it,” she shares. 

In the novel that spans five decades, the politics becomes personal, and shown from the lens of the events that transpire within the family. “History and politics shape the plot and contribute to some of the tension in the novel. I had to get the details right, and it involved talking to family and friends who had lived through the periods described, and a lot of reading,” she explains. 

At the moment, she is also working on a collection of short stories, that is set in an apartment complex that is described in ‘The Alchemy of Secrets’. She is also working on a novel that is reflective of an Indian-American immigrant’s experience.