Much like Lewis Carroll’s iconic character, Alice Albinia weaves a world of her own. Only, there’s a lot of Delhi in it. The 34-year-old London-born writer, who first came to India in 1995, has found inspiration in the Capital for her latest work, Leela’s Book.
The title, launched last week at The British Council in Delhi and at Quill and Canvas in Gurgaon, revolves around three families in Delhi and their response to a secret that is revealed during the course of events. It is some of her favourite places that have inspired the chapters — the Purana Quila and the social mix at Nizamuddin, the most.
An ardent fan of Delhi, Albinia travelled across India for six weeks in 1995 and returned in 1999 to take up a job as a journalist and writer in Delhi. After her first book, Empires of the Indus won accolades and awards in the non-fiction category in 2008, Albinia decided to attempt fiction in the form of her latest title.
Though most of the book has a third-person narrative, the story is interwoven with some first person accounts, too. The character who narrates these bits is Ganesh, who wrote down the story of the Mahabharata as dictated by the epic’s author, Vyasa. “I remember watching Mahabharata on television as a child. In college, I had an abridged version of the great epic with me, and discussed it with an Indian friend,” says Albinia.
It was this that inspired her to travel to India at the age of 18 and span the country far and wide, only to come back after university, make this her home for the next two years and write two books. And hopefully, more!
Alice Albinia, 34
Status: Married for 10 years
First visit to India: At the age of 18, in 1995
Visits to India: Numerous
1999 to 2001: Worked as a journalist at Centre for Science and Environment, Biblio: A Review of Books and Outlook Traveller in Delhi
2002 to 2003: Went back to London to study Indian History at School of Oriental and African Studies
Favourite place in India: Delhi — Nizamuddin (Whenever Alice is in Delhi, she stays at a guest house in Nizamuddin)
First Book: Empires of the Indus, 2008
Awards: Royal Society of Literature/ Jerwood Foundation Special Prize for non-fiction work in progress, a Somerset Maugham Award and the Dolman Travel Prize
Latest book: Leela’s Book, launched this month
Next in line: Abook on Britain and it’s culture.