If we look into ourselves, we are all freaks. We all are flawed. We can point one finger at one person but the other three fingers are pointing back at us,” is the message that Pune-based author and poet Aparna Upadhyaya Sanyal whose debut book Circus Folk and Village Freaks, is trying to convey, through her poems and stories.
The book takes readers through the journey of a village and a circus which exists side-by-side somewhere in India but cannot be pinned down geographically. There are 18 tales that are told in rhyming couplets. “These are narrative poems and each poem tells a short story, of different people at the circus and village,” says Sanyal. These stories are interconnected as the characters of the story meet each other at different points in time.
The title of the book is “interchanged” she says as generally people use the terms, village folks and circus freaks. But Sanyal interchanged the terms as her book deals with the different aspects of human nature, from darkness to joy inside people’s hearts. Sanyal says that the people performing in the circus have purer hearts and are more humane than the world which goes by external appearance alone. “What I have tried to show is that if you look inside you may find that you are the freak and that circus freak who you think is a monster is actually a decent person. I have tried to hold up a mirror and show reality. It’s not just about the faults in people, but the strength and potential that lies within.”
The book deals with themes of sexuality, caste, hierarchical system, differently abled people, mental health, racism, classism, and feminism. One of the stories from the book which, Sanyal says, makes her emotional is of Murugan. He’s an astrologer, who is superstitious and bears the trauma of the caste system. “After I wrote it, it made me cry because it goes through a very dark phase and has many layers to it. It deals with superstition and how as a society we are led by it. It also deals with the caste system and the trauma of being a parent. These three issues left an impact on me.”
Sanyal, whose poetry has been featured in international literary journals such as Smartish Pace, Dunes Review, Typehouse and Literary Review, launched her book in Mumbai. On Sunday, she will launch it in Pune with a dramatised poetry performance at the Monalisa Kalagram, Koregaon Park, at 6.30pm.