Trasi’s debut novel, The Color of Our Sky, follows unlikely friends, torn apart by tragedy and connected by a deeper history. Set in Mumbai, their story is both hopeful and heartbreaking.
You've said before that this story has roots in your own childhood. What challenges did you face as you fictionalized people and places so important to you?
I didn’t intend to fictionalize my memories when I began writing this book. But the deeper I explored this story; certain memories emerged to give color to the characters and scenes. As the character of Mukta is largely inspired by a servant girl I knew, it was excruciating to walk in her shoes and imagine her life as a sex slave. Another challenge was writing certain scenes that required me to confront agonizing memories: encountering harassment by men on the street or finding a dead infant buried on the side of a dirt road (a case of female infanticide) or navigating a red-light area.
Tara and Mukta's friendship takes center stage throughout, was that always the story? What about their friendship was most meaningful to you as a writer?
Yes, the foundation of this story was always their friendship. What I find most meaningful as a writer is that they are there for each other defying social norms and establishing a strong bond which is rare in a predominantly caste and class based Indian society.
The book also tackles sex trafficking and the experiences of women forced into prostitution. What aspects of this terrible reality were most important for you to convey to your readers?
Prostitution is typically viewed in black-and-white terms without adequate thought about the lives of these women and what forces them into this trade in India. My endeavor is to humanize the lives of prostitutes like Mukta and bring to light age-old traditions like the Devdasi that still trouble India today. I also attempt to highlight the horrors of a life confined by sexual slavery.
Despite many sources of grief there is a great deal of optimism in your novel. What can readers learn from Mukta and Tara that might give them the same sense of clarity and strength?
Despite the hard, brutal life Mukta is facing, she doesn’t give up. Her resilience to numerous hardships lies in her extraordinarily sensitive nature which allows her to see beauty in small things. This invigorates and strengthens her during tough times. Tara is strong-willed, faces her fears and is willing to go to any lengths to save Mukta. Her need to help those in trouble also exemplifies her compassion. I hope that readers find through both of these characters that our strength lies in different facets of our humanity— be it extraordinary compassion and courage or just a simple sensitivity to the beauty of life.