Changing social worlds of Bangalore, old and new traditions in outlook, were the subject matter of this investment banker-turned-author’s first book, The Red Carpet (2013). This short story collection was applauded worldwide and remained on the bestseller list for more than two weeks at a stretch. All of the stories in this collection are as captivating and eloquent as any novel. The reader cannot miss the unmistakable wit, brilliant humor and admirable wisdom.
Bangalore is the city where the author herself grew up before moving to the United States for higher education. Sankaran graduated from Bryn Mawr College, Pennsylvania, and currently divides her time between New York and Bangalore with her family. Reading the stories from The Red Carpet where the old world of India’s Silicone Valley might taste like exploring the old memory lanes of one who has been in the city even before the software boom. People who have open-heartedly embraced western culture not totally forgetting their roots—despite the conflict, it entails—find their voices vividly heard in this slice-of-life tales. The lives and choices of such people as smartly sculpted characters who proudly describe this city-in-transformation as their “home”, a generation caught in the limbo, in the in-between, in the nowhere and everywhere, the anarchic crossroads between past and present—all this, and much more, through the eyes of someone who has lived both sides of this day-to-day encounter of new vs. old.
The Red Carpet is currently sold in fifteen countries. Since its publication, awards and nominations for The Red Carpet include Barnes and Noble Discover New Writers, Borders Original Voices, and the Poets and Writers Magazine’s Best First Fiction Award. The title story was first published in The Atlantic Monthly . A literary critic in Washington Post commented, “I recommend this book so highly! …Here’s the magic of this book: By the end of this very first story, people half a world away have been transformed into complete human beings, full of frailties and fragile self-regard, achingly sympathetic. That’s why “The Red Carpet” reads like a revelation.”
The Hope Factory (2013) is Sankaran’s first venture at novel-writing. Selected as Amazon UK’s Top Picks for April 2013, The Hope Factory has received rave reviews from Publisher’s Weekly and Kirkus, amongst others. Rich with irony and compassion, the novel affirms Lavanya’s gifts as a born storyteller with remarkable prowess, originality, and wisdom. The author herself says, ” The Hope Factory is the story about modern India—so chaotic, captivating, bewildering, heartbreaking — that had to be told.” When asked what according to her comprised the hardest part of writing, she claims, “The Hope Factory crosses so many landscapes: social, political, industrial, familial, a changing world full of growing pains. I wanted to capture all the nuances very carefully and also structure this complex, multi-layered story very tightly. The writing of it took me six long years—and a necessary discipline as a writer undertaking a long work of fiction is to keep that vision that only you can see for that length of time.”
The Guardian reviewed this book in the following words: “There are strong echoes of Dickens in this vibrant portrait of ambition and struggle in Bangalore.” Though from two different social and economic strata of the society, Anand and Kamala both dream to make it large in their lives. They are each entangled in the quagmires of the city’s grandiose but arduous energy. In The Hope Factory , Anand K Murthy, a flourishing entrepreneur, fights a tough battle against many odds while climbing the ladder of his ambition. When his car parts manufacturing company has an opportunity to sign a deal with a Japanese car manufacturer, he needs a big amount of land for that. And in a country where politics are all but corrupted, it becomes tough to succeed in a business venture, as the government seldom provides any support and rather creates hindrances. Anand’s family consists of his wife Vidya, a self-centered whimsical woman busy with her mobile phone all the time and two kids.
Anand’s maid servant Kamala is also fighting a battle in her life. The woman lives in a claustrophobic room with a common toilet, with her only son Narayan. Both Kamala and her son Narayan dream for more money and a better life for themselves. But Narayan keeps bad company. How do these two different families get their uncertain, wavering fates linked? What role does the city play in their awry lives?
Sankaran’s opinion pieces and fiction have appeared in The New York Times , The Guardian and The Atlantic , among others. She has been invited as a guest speaker at the Hay Literary Festival, UK.
Lavanya sponsors the annual Lavanya Sankaran Writing Fellowship at the Sangam Writers Residency which she hopes will encourage new writers in India.