How to pronounce Anita Rau Badami: a-NEE-ta row (rhymes with how) ba-DAHM-ee
Born in the eastern town of Rourkela, Badami spent her childhood drifting around India as
her father, a mechanical engineer and train designer, was transferred
frequently. Her family moved at least eight times before she was twenty. Since
her parents both spoke different Indian dialects, English was the bridging
language for the family. (Badami's second language is Hindi.) The convent nuns
who took care of her schooling were not always a receptive audience for Badami's
budding literary talents. "Dear child," one of her teachers commented
in response to a writing assignment, "what big lies you tell. Please ask
your mother to see me." At school the nuns taught Greek and Roman myths,
and even Celtic tales. "The only mythology I don't remember learning in
school was Hindu mythology," Anita recalls. At home, however, Badami was
immersed in the cultures and myths of her family and the multilingual railway
workers. This mélange of myths informed Badami's formidable storytelling
ability and shaped the exploration of heroism that runs throughout her latest
In 1991 Anita Rau Badami left Bangalore in southern India to join her husband in Calgary, where he went to pursue his Masters in Environmental Science and then to Vancouver for a PhD in Planning. Arriving with their four-year-old son and five hundred dollars, the family was soon ensconced in a depressing basement apartment. To earn money, the former journalist, ad copywriter and children's writer ended up selling china in a mall. Of this time, Badami says, "I learned an awful lot about figurines and place settings, but I also made the most wonderful friends."
Badami began taking creative writing courses and wound up with Tamarind Mem, her master's thesis project at the University of Calgary. She sent the manuscript to Penguin Canada and quickly found herself a bestselling author with a reputation as a talented new Canadian writer. Her stories of home and away, of here and there, made her a part of the tradition Badami refers to as the post-postcolonial-immigrant school that began with Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children. "I don't think I could have written a novel if I had not left India," Badami said in an interview with The Globe and Mail. "I find that the distance gives me perspective and passion. I was twenty-nine years in India and ten years here, so I have a foot in India and a couple of toes here. I am both doomed and blessed, to be suspended between two worlds, always looking back, but with two gorgeous places to inhabit, in my imagination or my heart."
Just after the publication of The Hero's Walk, Anita Rau Badami won the prestigious Marian Engel Award, given to a Canadian woman author in mid-career for outstanding prose writing. (Previous recipients include Carol Shields, Jane Urquhart, Bonnie Burnard and Barbara Gowdy.) Most recently, The Hero's Walk was optioned for film by a Canadian producer of See Spot Run Films in Los Angeles.
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A House on Wheels : Anita Rau Badami talks about her novel Tamarind Woman
When I was eight or nine, my parents bought me a green canvas travel bag for
the frequent trips that we made as a railway family. I was allowed to paint my
name and a flower on the bag and use it for my toys, a change of clothes, paper,
and color pencils. It accompanied me on our travels for many years--the contents
changing as I grew older. That bag was finally discarded along with my father's
black Gladstone bag, eighteen steel trunks, five bedding rolls, a wooden crate
that had carried our refrigerator, and several bags of assorted packing
material. After thirty years as an officer in the Indian Railways, my father had
died, and we were leaving that spacious world of bungalows and clubs, swimming
pools and tennis courts to move into a small apartment. "There would be no
more transfers or tours, no more packing and unpacking," my mother told us
with a small sigh. She had enjoyed the life of a railway memsahib, but hated the
constant movement it involved.
While my mother was glad to be free of an existence bound by train schedules and the need to pull up roots and travel every three years, I regretted the loss of that existence. I ...
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