Leader-Post Interview - Ven Begamudré

Reviewed by: Ashley Martin

Throughout his writing career, Ven Begamudre always had three books on the go: One that he was writing for the first time, one that he was revising, and one that he was finalizing for publication.

It took 34 years for Extended Families to reach that last stage.

"(The book) got more complicated over the years," its writer explained during a recent interview at his downtown Regina apartment.

"It just started out as a simple retelling of the journal entries and some memoirs, but as it went along I started putting more stuff in."

As a result, it's a family history and memoir, featuring hand-coloured family photographs and a narrative woven with Hindu legends, poetry, fiction and diary entries from two visits to India, one in 1977-78, when he was 21, and the other in 1988.

Published by Coteau Books last year, Extended Families is up for the Regina Public Library Book of the Year Award at the 2018 Saskatchewan Book Awards ceremony on April 28.

Venkatesh Begamudre came to Canada from Bangalore as a six-year-old with his mother Lakshmi — his father Rakosh was already here.

Growing up mostly in Ontario, Begamudre left Ottawa after finishing his bachelor of arts honours degree in public administration at Carleton University.

Author Ven Begamudre in his Regina apartment. BRANDON HARDER / REGINA LEADER-POST

That's when he travelled to India via England, keeping a journal that would inform Extended Families.

It was after that trip, in 1978, that Begamudre moved to Saskatchewan.

His friend David Stuewe was living here. So — after hitchhiking across Canada, looking for a place to land — Begamudre settled here too.

"My father wrote to me, ‘I don't know where I failed that you ended up in a godforsaken place like Saskatchewan.' I just waited until he came to visit and he met lots of nice people here, including people in the Indian community."

For Begamudre, it was the writing community that enticed him to stay, first with a scholarship to the Saskatchewan Summer School of the Arts at Fort San.

"Yeah, I'm glad that I stayed. I had a chance to go to Toronto or Vancouver, but I find it's easier to live here. Life is not too complicated."

Begamudre's latest book begins with a prologue that, in part, reads: "Maybe I just want to see how many different ways I can write the truth."

(Given a few far-fetched stories in my own family, tales born from tiny grains of truth, I was hooked from this point on.)

Author Ven Begamudre looks through family photographs that he hand-painted. BRANDON HARDER /REGINA LEADER-POST

Begamudre's great-grandfather Subbha-Rao sold all of his land to pay for two sons' indentures to their employer. Or maybe it was to pay off their gambling debts.

"Sometimes there would be more than one version of some important detail, like how my great-grandfather lost his land," said Begamudre.

"It's like the story of any other family, you piece it together. It doesn't start at the beginning and end at the end. You just have to take the stories that you hear and put them together into some sort of a coherent framework."



This article originally appeared in The Leader-Post. To read the article in full, click here

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