This IIFT student's debut novel shows us the life of the people in the Sunderbans

Ambika Barman's book Womb of fireflies hit the stands during the first week of March. The story is set in G Plot, an island in the Sunderbans
Ambika with the copy of her book
Ambika with the copy of her book

Protruding out of the Bay of Bengal, on the tip of the Sundarbans, surrounded by her siblings, shyly stood the tiny island of G-Plot. That is where Ambika Barman’s family hails from. For 13 years, she spent her vacation there. For 13 years, she spent each day of her summer vacations living it up. 

Far away from Delhi, the city where she grew up in, G-Plot, was a different world altogether. There, almost every day, she heard stories of abusive marriages, unplanned families and child brides. Feminism was an alien ideology and even in the 21st century, being a boy was considered to be a privilege there. Nevertheless, Ambika held her roots close to her heart. So years later, at 22, she is out with her first book called Womb of Fireflies which is, unsurprisingly, set in G-Plot. “The geopolitics of G-Plot always attracted me and the utmost focus was to bring affront a new region, which merely exists on the Indian map without much existence in terms of acknowledgment,” says Ambika, who is pursuing her MBA from Indian Institute of Foreign Trade, New Delhi. She also goes on to explain the story behind the title. “Womb is a powerful word if you look at it through the perspective of feminist ideologies. After all, that’s the centre or core of creation. So here, for these humans and the fireflies, the Sundarbans is their womb,” she explains. 

I believe in keeping the humbleness of roots intact in whichever city or place I visit as it helps to differentiate between two individuals and brings a sense of versatility in introducing oneself

Ambika  Barman, author

This author admits that writing was never difficult for her. She habitually jotted down every interesting thing that she found in her notepad. At the same time, she had a few obvious strains. “The most difficult part was collecting the details and histories of that place, as the Sundarbans has almost 104 islands, out of which 54 are inhabited. Particularly digging out the entire history of one island is difficult,” she says.

Of all the characters in her book, Ambika is in awe of Hari. The reason? He reminds her of her grandfather. “He was the first graduate back in the 1960s from Kolkata. But he came back to his village to help out the poverty-stricken in all possible ways. He could have settled down in Kolkata and have led a better life. I still remember, when he died, the entire G-Plot was there for his cremation,” she reminisces. 

The book hit the stands in the last week of March. “To be honest, after receiving the first copy, I cried for a couple of hours because the phase just before this was a bit rough,” she admits. She also tells us a little about what she’d got planned next. “I’m planning to finish my short story collection. So, I could add on more in the upcoming years,” she says and signs off.

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