Global Recognition Followed by Local Honor for Chitra Divakaruni

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Photo: Bijay Dixit

By Pramod Kulkarni

HOUSTON: India House bestowed accolades on the the community’s own author, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, at a reception held Wednesday, Feb. 25.

In January, the Indo-American author was recognized by The Economic Times of India as one of the “20 most influential global Indian women”.

As described on her website, Divakaruni’s themes include the “Indian experience, contemporary America, women, immigration, history, myth, and the joys and challenges of living in a multicultural world.”

Her books have been translated into 29 languages, and her works have appeared in over a hundred magazines and anthologies.

Several of her novels and stories have been made into films and plays. These include the Hollywood film Mistress of Spices and a TV serial in India, based on the book Sister of My Heart.

In her brief acceptance remarks, Divakarunui revealed that her latest book, One Amazing Thing, has been optioned by a Hollywood production company as the basis of an upcoming movie.

Divakaruni teaches Creative Writing at the University of Houston. Several of her colleagues from the UH English department attended the India House reception. She was joined at the reception by her husband Murthy and one of her sons, Anand.

The evening’s celebration began with an invocation from Trustee Nalini Mathur. This was followed by a welcome from President Jugal Malani. “Chitraji is well known around the world and is from our own community in Houston,” Malani said. “She is in the company of other well respected women leaders such as Indra Nooyi, CEO of Pepsi; actress Frieda Pinto of Slum Dog Millionaire, and film producer Mira Nair.”

Dr. Amitabh Shukla, a close friend of the Divakarunis and president of a book club in Sugar Land,  introduced Chitra to the audience. “Chitraji is an astute observer. She has imbibed many experiences that come alive in her books. What is unique about her books is that not only are the central characters well sketched, but also the surrounding characters are so well defined that it make you think, ‘I know that person.”

In addition to her writing and teaching, Chitra has found time to devote time to social causes such as Maitri, Daya and the Indo-American Charity Foundation.

After Dr. Virendra Mathur presented a shawl as a token of the community’s appreciation, Chitra made brief remarks of acceptance. “I am overwhelmed for this honor from India House and the Indian community,” said Chitra. “I thank God for all the writing talent and the awards that I never expected.”

Chitra made special mention of the friendship and the warmth from the Indian community. “It is because of all of you that we returned to Houston after spending some years in California.”

The evening concluded with dinner catered by Madras Pavilion.