Sankaran, Lavanya 1968(?)–
Sankaran, Lavanya 1968(?)–
PERSONAL: Born c. 1968, in Bangalore, India; married; children: one daughter. Education: Attended Bryn Mawr College.
ADDRESSES: Home—Bangalore, India. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Dial Press, 1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019.
CAREER: Writer, investment banker, and financial consultant.
The Red Carpet: Bangalore Stories, Dial Press (New York, NY), 2005.
Contributor to periodicals such as Atlantic Monthly and Wall Street Journal.
WORK IN PROGRESS: A novel for Dial Press.
SIDELIGHTS: Indian author Lavanya Sankaran, a native of Bangalore, began her career as an investment banker, business consultant, and financial professional. Though she worked with figures and statistics, she maintained a close connection to the world of words as well, and wrote articles for the Wall Street Journal, "But I wrote fiction on the side," she said in a interview with Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan in Delhi Newswire. Encouraged by writer friends in the United States, she submitted some of her creative writing to agents. On the strength of two short stories—an unusual situation in that agents often prefer to see completed book-length manuscripts—she sparked interest in her fiction among five American agents. Finally, she selected Lane Zachary of the New York agency Zachary Shuster Harmsworth. Zachary told her to "go and write," she related to Madhavan. With this exhortation from her agent, she went to Bangalore and, two years later, emerged with The Red Carpet: Bangalore Stories, a collection of short stories and her debut work of fiction. Zachary warned her that the American market for short stories has long been weak. However, Sankaran's book ignited keen interest and sparked a bidding war among nine publishers who vied for the book during a three-day auction.
Sankaran ascribes much of the interest in The Red Carpet to reaction to the non-stereotypical subject matter of the stories. "All told me that this is incredibly fresh," she remarked to Sangeeta Barooah Pisharoty in the Hindu, and "unlike the misery of women, grinding poverty, or mystery and magic, the subjects that one usually gets to see from India." Instead, the book "deals with India as we know it—socialites, software programmers, convent schools, young modern couples—an India of changing times," observed Madhavan.
The Red Carpet contains eight stories set in modern-day Bangalore that "approach the changing city from eight different angles," commented the Hindu reviewer. "It speaks of several worlds and points of view that cohabit a landscape and touch each other, collide with each other, or go their separate ways after brief encounters." In Sankaran's work, the characters, the cities, and the country itself struggle to maintain a connection to their history and traditions while the conveniences and trappings of Western society inexorably infiltrate Indian culture with their modern enticements. In "Bombay This," Ramu, a thirty-year-old software expert, sets his mother the task of finding him a suitable wife. Before she can finish her quest, however, Ramu takes an interest in a vibrant woman from Bombay whose modern ways dismay his mother. The accountant protagonist in "Mysore Coffee," still reeling from her father's suicide, discovers that her work has been wrongfully claimed by a charismatic, handsome, but unscrupulous colleague. Rangappa, a driver for the wealthy Mrs. Choudhary, toils in rela-tive poverty while silently observing the excesses of his employer in "The Red Carpet." Though Mrs. Choudhary is kind to Rangappa and his family, the driver is scandalized by her modern clothing and habits. A well-educated Indian woman who grew up in America feels a cultural obligation to return to India and be "Brown in a Brown Country" in "Alphabet Soup." After living in India for a while, however, the choice to leave or stay is not as clear-cut as she thought it would be. A group of American-educated software professionals, highly sought after for jobs, live the ultimately vapid reality of their childhood fantasies of success fueled by American influences in "Apple Pie, One by Two." In the end, the collection stands as "well-polished, smartly relevant fiction," commented a Kirkus Reviews critic.
"Sankaran is an observer of some talent, and in her writing, the flavor of the city and its contemporary character comes through beautifully," according to a reviewer on the DesliLit Web site. A Publishers Weekly contributor noted that "Sankaran builds tension brilliantly" in her stories, although she "doesn't always offer a climax to balance it." Mini Kapoor, in Bombay's Indian Express, observed that "these are often sad stories. Their slick structure is repeatedly unsettled by yearning and nostalgia. But each time Sankaran finds a way of enlarging the idea of the city, of celebrating Bangalore." The collection reveals a "varied, vibrant culture in flux," remarked Aaron Clark in Newsweek International.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Deccan Herald (Bangalore, India), May 15, 2005, "Red Carpet Welcome, Alright!," Priyanka Haldipur, interview with Lavanya Sankaran.
Delhi Newsline, April 29, 2005, Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan, "The Red Carpet Welcome," profile of Lavanya Sankaran.
Entertainment Weekly, April 29, 2005, Nisha Gopalan, review of The Red Carpet: Bangalore Stories, p. 153.
Hindu (Chennai, India), May 5, 2005, Sangeeta Barooah Pisharoty, "India That She Knows," review of The Red Carpet; May 9, 2005, "Sankaran's Success Story," profile of Lavanya Sankaran.
Indian Express (Bombay, India), May 8, 2005, Mini Kapoor, "The Word: Change Is a Two-Way Street," review of The Red Carpet.
Kirkus Reviews, February 15, 2005, review of The Red Carpet, p. 15.
Newsweek International, May 16, 2005, "Snap Judgment: Books," review of The Red Carpet, p. 63.
Publishers Weekly, April 25, 2005, review of The Red Carpet, p. 40.