Interview with Richa Gupta, the author of The Jamun Tree and Other Stories

13th January 2022
Booknerds Team

Interview with Richa Gupta | The Jamun Tree and Other Stories

The Jamun Tree and Other Stories is a collection of short stories dissects and analyses a cross section of society to decipher our complex existence, psychological truths, range of emotions, relationships and subjective morality.

About the Author
With an MA in English from Delhi University, Richa Gupta has also been certified in Instructional Design and Editing by NETg of U.S.A. She has had a career over 31 years in the allied fields of English Language teaching, technical editing, instructional design and creative writing. She has published two novels and two collections of short stories.

We interviewed the author about her latest book The Jamun Tree and Other Stories, the themes explored and much more.

Booknerds: The Jamun Tree and Other Stories deals with the intricacies of human life. What is your understanding of life so far? What is the purpose of writing short stories about the same?
Richa Gupta: Human life is too bountiful to encapsulate its understanding in a few words or even a few pages. It encompasses so many aspects—psychological, spiritual, physical, extraneous, environmental etc.—that I love to explore its intricacies. I write stories because I love grappling with, understanding and expressing my thoughts and perceptions. The process is itself the purpose and the reward.

Booknerds: Jamun Tree, a story where you have mentioned how due to the modernisation of a locality, trees are being sacrificed. What is your perspective on such advancement where nature is put at stake? 
Richa Gupta: I believe that Nature and all life forms on the planet are interdependent and trees have an inextricable role in the cycle of nature. Our civic planning needs to incorporate the preservation of trees and a green cover both for ecological and aesthetic purposes. However, many do not understand this concept and cut down trees planted long ago for city housing and infrastructure. They mistakenly presume that trees are obsolete while cement, glass and concrete structures are a sign of technological advancement. 

Booknerds: Dealing with grief is a valuable lesson in the art of living that we can learn through experience. A truth of life is mentioned in your story Art of Living. What is your definition of grief? What do you want your readers to experience through this story?
Richa Gupta: Grief is the feeling of sadness that we are all overwhelmed by at some time perhaps due to a mishap, separation, the loss of a loved one, hostility from another, a misunderstanding or any other unfortunate incident. At such times, we can plunge into the depths of despair and think that life is not worth it. However, the soul is resilient and we sooner or later emerge from this sense of hopelessness and derive pleasure in life again. I wanted to portray how moral support from a friend and creative pursuits can play a vital role in this recovery. 

Booknerds: In Discovery, you have written a very thrilling encounter about a girl who was accused of being a schizophrenic but then there was a plot twist that I don't think anybody was ready for. Do take us through the writing experience.
Richa Gupta: I have always loved reading thrillers and mysteries, especially those in which there is an undercurrent to the narration, such as the murder mysteries of Agatha Christie and the psychological thrillers of Paula Hawkins. The reader waits for the final resolution that delivers an unexpected punch. The narrative style of ‘Discovery’ is influenced by this genre of fiction.

Booknerds: In a few stories, you bring out how important human relationships are for our existence, that without them it is tough for any individual to survive, but humans distracted by materialism devalue real intimate emotions and relationships. So what, according to you, could be done to bring back such warmth among us?
Richa Gupta: We presume we will find happiness if we acquire physical possessions and unconsciously perpetuate these values amongst youngsters. We should teach children to value human relationships instead of craving for the latest mobile phones, toys, watches and other luxury goods. Our educational system should also foster the emotional quotient and positive values such as love, empathy, gratitude and forgiveness.

Booknerds: "All I want is grandma’s room, her photographs and the folders containing the poetry she wrote so that I can remember her warmth and talent….I’ll publish her poems to keep her memory eternally alive." This excerpt from the story Inheritance touches an emotional chord! Have you felt something of that sort while penning down this particular story and are you connected to the world of poetry in real life as well?
Richa Gupta: I have taught literature for a long time to Senior School students, so poetry has been an integral part of my reading. I also dabble in writing poems though I have never published them. When I read the work of poets like Wordsworth, Coleridge, T.S. Eliot, Sarojini Naidu, Rabindranath Tagore and countless others, their emotions and thoughts are lucidly transmitted to me across the lapse of time. I marvel at the legacy they have left behind which has endured over the ages.

Booknerds: Most of the stories in the book revolve around the unfortunate times of the COVID-19 pandemic. Did you use the reference in your stories for relatability? 
Richa Gupta: I did not include these references deliberately but precautions such as masking and sanitising the hands were part of the world I was witnessing and depicting. I wrote these stories between March, 2020 and April, 2021, so the pandemic lurked in my mind whenever I depicted the contemporary world.

Booknerds: A Good Upbringing which beautifully sets out to explain the dilemma and rough situations modern women have to go through. What’s your take on the understanding of society’s mindset which never fails to degrade women’s choices? 
Richa Gupta: As Indian society is evolving, I think there are two schools of thought. The traditional outlook views the marriage process as a deal between two families in which the boy’s family does the girl’s family a favour by accepting their daughter. However, the progressive outlook is that both the girl and the boy are equally capable and there is no special favour done on either side. In this story, I have depicted a clash between these contrary views and how they can co-exist harmoniously. The worth of a young woman should be defined not by her parents’ wealth or status in society but by her character and abilities.

- Team Booknerds