Books corner: Where Earth Meets Water by Pia Padukone

  • Ambica Gulati
Born, raised and living in New York City, Pia Padukone is a graduate of Stuyvesant High School and the London School of Economics. In their spare time, Pia and her husband write Two Admirable Pleasures, a blog that combines their shared passions for books and the culinary dishes that are inspired by them. Pia debuts with Where Earth Meets Water and is working on her second novel.

An email conversation reveals a lot more:

How did the writer's streak emerge?
Literature has always been a part of my life – I began reading at the age of three, and began composing short stories as soon as I could. I wrote my first “novel” on an old typewriter that my grandfather gifted me when he noticed my interest and prowess for writing. I had always participated in the New York City Storytelling Competitions in grade and middle schools. At the age of twelve, I won an essay contest for women aged 18 and older, which gave me a huge confidence boost. While I constantly had my head buried in books, I was still rather pragmatic; in college, instead of choosing to study English, I sought a degree in Political Science. But it was after college while I was working as a copywriter at an advertising agency, that I began writing short stories once again. I joined a writing group where I shared my work and received feedback and encouragement. Where Earth Meets Water initially began as a short story. I expanded upon it once I realised that there was more to the story than just those 15 pages. 

The story has stories within stories…what makes you put together such intricate plots?
When I first started writing Where Earth Meets Water, Karom’s perspective was the clear, primary narrative. But as I continued writing – without outlines, or any idea of the direction in which I was heading – six different voices emerged from my mind that were indispensable to the telling of Karom’s story. I’ve always been incredibly drawn to stories about intertwined characters, and it made the most sense to set the book up in this manner. At the same time I began writing the novel, I was reading Jennifer Egan’s A Visit From the Goon Squad, a novel composed of chapters that use unconventional narrative to guide the story. Egan’s work inspired me to explore unique methods of storytelling, including an epistolary chapter, as well as a story within a story.

Which is your favourite character and why?
I love all the characters immensely and can see loved ones and even some of my own characteristics reflected in each of them in some way, shape or form. Having said that, I hold Kamini closest to my heart. Her combination of feistiness, independence, dedication, and intrepid spirit are all qualities I hope to imbue someday. Both my grandmothers were the inspiration behind the character – my mother’s mother has just as much pluck, drive, and intensity and is one of the most independent people I know. My father’s mother was a gentle, devoted presence, and incredibly creative and talented in her own right. With these two phenomenal women in my life, Kamini’s character and story just flowed from my fingertips. 

Who would you see Karom as if you got an offer for a TV series for the West and India?
I’m a bit hesitant to answer this question, because I would love for readers to envision their own version of Karom before I place a visual in their minds. But truth be told, I’ve already had two actors in mind who I believe could truly bring Karom to life in very different ways: Samrat Chakrabarti, an incredibly talented actor of Bengali descent, and Prateik Babbar, whose quiet intensity in the stunning movie Dhobi Ghat, was also deeply reminiscent of another side of Karom’s persona.  

What are your future plans?
I’m currently working on my second novel, which tells the story of two families that live in New York City and Tallinn, Estonia. They are brought together by a high school student exchange program, and the novel explores the effects that one year has on the rest of their lives. I recently travelled to Estonia to conduct some on-the-ground research about Tallinn. It’s been a complete departure from the themes of Where Earth Meets Water, but still harnesses my love of intertwined stories. 

My take on the book
Penned by an Indian, one does expect a lot of India in the book and that doesn’t disappoint. But the USP is the language and the expression. The emotions and the upheavals are so beautifully expressed that one feels like reading paras again and again before moving forward. The characters are well defined. And each chapter is a passage. If you miss one, you have missed a lot. So you just can’t flip through the book and say you have read it. I personally liked Lloyd’s character. The beautiful friendship, the possessiveness, the desire to break away and begin afresh, it’s so heartbreaking and challenging at the same time. I am sure all of us have experienced this deep one-sided ‘I love my friend most and will not share him or her with anyone’. And the need to break out of this mould becomes strong when we realise the futility of it all, the need to move on when we see the other person has moved on. I find this mould-breaking the most touching of the stories. All in all, read it for the many emotions, the many plots and a good writing style.

About the book
Where Earth Meets Water by Pia Padukone
Publisher: Harlequin MIRA
Pages: 288
Price: Rs 224

Karom Seth should have been in the Twin Towers on the morning of 9/11, and on the Indian shores in 2004, when the tsunami swept his entire family into the ocean. Whether it's a curse or a blessing, Karom can't be sure, but his absence from these disasters has left him with crushing guilt—and a belief that fate has singled him out for invincibility.

Karom's affliction consumes everyone around him, from his best friend, Lloyd, to his girlfriend, Gita, who hopes that a trip to India will help him find peace. It is in Delhi that he meets Gita's grandmother, Kamini—a quirky but wise woman with secrets of her own. At first Karom dismisses Kamini, but little does he realise that she will ultimately lead him to the clarity he's been looking for.


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