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Q&A with Ajith Thangavelautham

On 'Chhaya's Heart,' writing lineage, & his favourite snacks

Who are you, Ajith?

26 year old Guju-Tamil-somehow-Canadian. I like unmicrowaved strawberry pop tarts, 70’s Miles & playing Fifa. I do a lot of things and 1 of the few I do well is write short stories.

Unmicrowaved Pop Tarts sounds scary and powerful. Can you bring some to the next Recess gathering?

I thought it was a normal thing… I got y’all though.

This is your first published work. How does it feel to have it out in the world?

Very small run of prints, but yes this is the most into the world my writing has been so far. It feels like letting your child go. I assume.

You use a lot of natural elements in your writing. In passing, we’ve discussed the work of Arundhati Roy. Can you speak further about your influences and upbringing as a writer.

My mom is an avid reader (I borrowed The God of Small Things from her collection), and my dad lowkey writes/wrote. So it’s definitely from them. Not to mention the long long lineage of literature in South Asia; that gives me comfort.

My favourite authors right now are Clarice Lispector & Flann O’Brien. Also, friends - old and new - who are kind enough to share their writing with me.

What are some themes you approached in Chhaya’s Heart and why did you feel the need to explore them?

I started with the setting. That first house we live in. The small, crowded one, with a couple of families and a lot of uncles. It’s a fun home for a kid but everyone else is tryna figure out what to do, where to go. This inevitably brought up the concept of Space: Outer, Physical, Mental, The Accidentally Deliberate Re-Arrangement of Bodies Within, and So On Into. The pattern I noticed was Hierarchy and a corresponding resistance to it at at least the 2 levels of life in the story, one of which is domestic.

The proto-thesis became: the hierarchy of violence in the many definitions of space. For the most part I kept it fairly subtle, 1. because I’m still a rookie writer, and 2. because I’m scared.

Check out Ajith's curated set of books, including his written work, Chhaya's Heart.