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Lawrence David Moon's novel idea in lanes of history

He was here to see the Raj Bhavan, built by his ancestor Wellesley in the early 19th century.

india Updated: May 02, 2007 16:18 IST
Nandini Guha
Nandini Guha

An American descendant of the nobility, with a Hollywood address, but with Indian and British roots. Meet Lawrence David Moon, great great great great great grandson of one of Bengal's most ambitious Governors General, Lord Richard Colley Wellesley. In town to see the Raj Bhavan, built by his ancestor Wellesley in the early 19th century, US—based author and opera composer Moon found just what he was looking for in Kolkata—a backdrop for his forthcoming novel Consummation.

"The heroine of my novel — Ankayarkanni Pandya — a princess from Tamil Nadu — gets married to Alexander Pella, the 12th Duke of Brendon at Governor's House. She subsequently becomes a widow when the Duke is killed on the first day of the Gulf War of 1991 and continues to live in Chennai, from where she runs a film production company, Pandya Pictures. Things reach a tragic climax when Pandya's only son gets killed in Nagapattinam during the tsunami of 2004. Pandya subsequently concentrates on a life of philanthropy. Ankayarkanni makes a spiritual pilgrimmage to Varanasi to reclaim her husband's ashes, which have been missing since 1991. During her visit to the Holy City, the princess is murdered," Moon told Hindustan Times.

So is Moon's love of India just a simple quest for an exotic tale or a more complex search for his roots? "I've seen one lithograph by Wellesley at Raj Bhavan today. I have seen all the grand halls that he built and also the Governor's desk. At the state archives, which I'm visiting on Tuesday, I hope to find some policy documents signed by my ancestor. Actually, there are very few records pertaining to my ancestor in the US since the East India Company returned all documents to the UK once the transfer of power happened," said the Hollywood resident, who still feels like an outsider in America.

Moon is now on his way to Varanasi on Wednesday and plans to spend a couple of months soaking in the atmosphere of the temple town. But he plans to come down again to Kolkata, which impressed him as a lively city, "just like Cairo".

"Kolkata is full of poor people but I didn't see tragedy writ large on the faces of its common folk. It is clear that India is poised in a transitional stage and is no longer a third world country which can be ignored. Like Wellesley who travelled to Varanasi on a boat down the Ganges, I will breathe in the ambience of the holy city but then I will ready the draft of the novel before I hit Los Angeles," Moon said.

An avid fan of Bollywood films, Moon has watched Aamir Khan's Lagaan, which was sent to the Oscars in 2002. He doesn't mind if Hollywood makes a film based on his novel Consummation. But he plans to make the tragic story public only in 2010, when he will release a set of 6 novels in a row.

First Published: Oct 10, 2006 18:38 IST