The Indigo Sun is the story of Maya, who has found material success but can’t seem to find happiness.
New Jersey-based Rupa Bhullar is a first-time writer. The Indigo Sun, published by Rupa Publications is the story of a strong-willed woman, Maya, who is looking for happiness and her journey in its pursuit. The characters in the book are an assimilation of the writer’s observations, reflections, inspirations and even longings.
In a conversation with HerStory, she speaks about her book, her inspirations, and her take on love in the present age.
HS: Can you tell us about your debut work of fiction, The Indigo Sun? What is the premise behind this book?
RB: The Indigo Sun is the story of Maya, who has found material success, but can’t to seem to find happiness. As her glittering New York city life starts to fall apart, she follows a recurring dream and takes a journey back to her roots - Rajasthan. Here, she meets a series of unconventional teachers, discovers a new perspective and understanding of life, meets the man of her dreams and uncovers her own truth – The Indigo Sun. And with that - Maya is finally home.
HS: How did you become a writer?
RB: I absolutely have no background in literature. Far from that, finance has been my primary field of study all along. However, somewhere along life’s journey, we often stumble upon certain significant, life-altering questions that we can’t turn away from. Initially reading, reflecting, and eventually writing was a part of the process that led me to uncover my own answers. I found comfort and solace in writing. It offered me a warm an inviting place to be in.
HS: Can you tell us about your early life and career?
RB: I spent a few years of my early childhood life in Jaipur before moving to Chandigarh, where I spent a bulk of my growing years. In the year 2000, I relocated to the US. My primary field of education has been business and finance. I hold a CFA Charter (Chartered Financial Analyst) and currently serve as a Director of Finance at a technology corporation and live with my family in New Jersey. In a certain sense, I acquired my love of arts from my family – my father painted and wrote poetry in his spare time, my sister has successfully published a book in Canada, and my grandfather was greatly influenced by Sufi mysticism – I think a part of this late discovery and natural inclination comes with the territory.
HS: Can you tell us about the characters in the book? How did you sketch them and are they influenced by people in real life?
RB: Some of the characters are inspired by what I see within and around me and others by what I might wish to see. Maya is true to the emotions and challenges of what an average woman deals with as she balances her life, career, relationships and personal aspirations. Veer, on the other hand, is an attempt at projecting my version of an ideal man, perhaps an ideal that our youth might aspire to be - one who is intellectual, respectful, believes in enabling, attaining and giving back. Dadi is someone I wish to be when I’m 80. Apart from these influences - characters do have a mind and personality of their own that you need to work with while you’re writing them up. They do reveal themselves and often tend to surprise you throughout the writing process.
HS: What is your take on love in the present age?
RB: Romance is a part of this book, and an important one at that, but essentially this is a journey of self-discovery. Much like life, it can’t be compartmentalised - it’s a curious blend of everything - friendship, love, pain, lessons, discovery, and laughter. My take on love in the present age is that people stay on the periphery where love is intense, but it’s not deep. It feels agitated and defensive. People often have too much of their minds invested in a place that’s ruled by heart. I think love needs a little more trust, surrender, and belief. They need to step deeper into the calm centre. It needs knowing more than rationalising. It needs giving more than receiving.
HS: Where do you get your ideas from? Who/what are your inspirations?
RB: I don’t actively pursue ideas, they come randomly floating in, often at the least opportune times. My contribution to this two-way process is to simply create a receptive space - a relaxed state of mind where 500 thoughts are not rushing in and out of my mind. When I slow down, my mind becomes open and fertile. The ideas are already there, but now I start to hear these, capture these. Just like a flower may already be there with all its fragrance and beauty but if you are wrapped up in your mind, you will miss both its beauty and its fragrance. Inspiration is all around us - in a raindrop, in a cup of tea, in a smile - we just need to slow down.
HS: Do you think marketing plays a role in the 'acceptance' of a book? What do you think of it?
RB: Marketing certainly plays a role in the success of a book, but if it was only about the marketing, the formula could be replicated to create bestsellers each time. But that is usually not the case. In all honesty, it’s a combination of both. Marketing helps create awareness, appeal and positioning, which is essential to the success of a book but it cannot replace good content, sincerity of voice and an audience connect. Word of mouth is the most exclusive form of marketing as we all know. Strange as this analogy may sound - books and marketing are like a car and gas - without one, the other can’t take you far.
HS: Do you think Indian writing (by women) has come of age?
RB: I am certainly not the authority to comment on that but as a respectful opinion I feel that writings of Indian women have always been of age – more so in times gone by than today even. Amrita Pritam for instance – I have so much respect for her fierce individuality. I believe that writing which is pure and uncompromised will always be of age, and everyone is capable of it. We often tend to second-guess our voice and end up diluting our message to one that might better cater to accommodating certain ends.
HS: Who are your favourite women authors?
RB: I greatly admire the writing style of Arundhati Roy and Jhumpa Lahiri, but on a personal level I really connect with the writings of Elizabeth Gilbert. As a natural consequence, I have immensely enjoyed all her works - Eat Pray Love being an all-time favourite.
HS: What other books are in the offing?
RB: Authors always carry multiple stories within them, waiting to be bundled up and let out the door. I already hear the next one knocking and I know it’s growing impatient. I plan to actively start working on my next book sometimes over the summer. It would be a quicker and lighter read with themes touching upon a prominent love, relationships, travel, and a glimmer of bygone era. I’m truly excited about this one since I plan to undertake some travel before I begin to pen this down. I can’t wait to meet all the characters who will be spending time with me a few months from now.