I would like to thank Sharon Maas for her time and for answering the review questions, as well as giving me an opportunity to read and be acquainted with her wonderful and breathtaking story.
1. What inspired you to write down Of Marriageable Age?
I had read so few books set in my home country, Guyana, and I really missed reading about the kind of people I knew best, in the kind of situations I was familiar with. And then there was India, a country I was familiar with, and loved. Was there a way to combine these two settings in one book, to create a story with that background? There was!
2. Who are your characters based on, if anyone?
I wouldn't say "based on"; it's more like "inspired by". My best friend, Pratima, grew up in a Hindu family with a very strict father. Like Saroj, she was not allowed to see boys or even speak to them. But she is nothing like Saroj otherwise .. though she did have hair that almost reached her knees! Similarly, here is a slight correspondence between myself and Trixie, and my mother and Trixie's mother. But still, I would use the words "inspired by" rather than "based on". The actual stories that evolved froth characters are quite different to the stories of the originals.
3. What do the names for Savitri, Nataraj and Sarojini mean, as well as the significance for butterflies?
Savitri means "relating to the sun" in Sanskrit. This is the name of a hymn dedicated to Savitr, a Hindu sun god, and it is also the name of his daughter. It is borne by several other characters in Hindu epics.
Nataraj is one of the names of the Hindu god, Shiva, the most revered god in this religion. The image of Nataraj is also known as "dancing Shiva". He is often depicted in statues with one leg raised, within a circle of flames.
Saroj is short for Sarojini, a Sanskrit word meaning "One with lotuses."
As for the butterfly symbolism: I think Ma put it into words best of all. The butterfly is the real soul, the true spirit that dwells in every human being, concealed by the ugly, selfish cocoon of ego. The caterpillar carries the longing to be a butterfly deep within; when it is time to awaken to his true being, he retreats into himself, and the transformation takes place hidden from the world. And then the day comes when the butterfly emerges and flies free.
4. How much did your experiences play into writing Of Marriageable Age? Any specific instances?
Actually, while the whole story is made up, the background effects are sometimes based on my own experiences, such as the country doctor with a queue of poor Indians sitting in the dust outside his home. I also once experienced a great flood in India, so that came into the story. Oh, and travelling to England from Guyana on a ship -- I did that as well! Going to Bishops High School -- that came from my own life, as well as Trixie going to boarding school. Growing up Guyana... I did that too, and I was just as naughty as Trixie!
5. What do you hope your readers will take away from reading Of Marriageable Age?
I hope they enter the world of the novel and feel every bit of the joy and the pain of the characters -- hopefully more joy than pain!