Rituparna Chatterjee is a journalist and writer. A former US correspondent for the Economic Times, she now writes a column for the paper on life as an immigrant mother in the US.
In this interview with Newslaundry’s Shardool Katyayan, she talks about her latest book, The Water Phoenix, a magical realism memoir of child abuse, healing and forgiveness.
As a child, Rituparna says, she felt like Alice from Alice in Wonderland, and says the novel became a coping mechanism for her while growing up.
“Alice in Wonderland is actually a horror story; she’s going through one horror after another and she’s supposed to behave, while the grownups can do whatever they want,” she says. “To me, that felt exactly like my life, that the grownups could do whatever they wanted and as a kid, you’re supposed to behave; you have no manual for processing anything. Everything is new.”
Do boys and girls deal with abuse differently? Rituparna says yes, pointing out how it’s related to social conditioning. When it comes to child abuse, she says: “It’s shocking, the number of men almost equal the number of women. Children are children..."
On the process of healing, and how victims of abuse can process their feelings, she explains how love healed her. “It’s not about external love as much as how much you love yourself. And that’s not about buying yourself whatever is the latest, fanciest gadget, clothes or car. Loving yourself is a tough job.”
How does society look at mental illness, stress and suicide? “What is this terrible society which cannot even allow for a panic attack?” Rituparna says. “You have to shut it down and go to work. And 10 years later, when they commit suicide, everybody is shocked. There’s nothing shocking. Anybody who is not suicidal is shocking because they’re totally blocked.”
The conversation also spans forgiveness, drug abuse, and much more.
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