Welcome to Fantasy Magazine! We’re delighted to run your story, “Markets: A Beginner’s Guide.” Can you tell us how this story came to be?
Thank you, I’m delighted to be here!
“Markets” happened because I had a hungry tree on my mind. And then there was Lavanya and her group of friends lurking around, too—they showed up as a set. It took me a while to put it properly together.
The title is a bit of a joke—my spouse trades on the stock market and every new thing I learn about it convinces me that it too exists entirely in the realm of fantasy.
The structure of this story is among my favorites, alternating two different stories that each informs the other. Did your vision for the story include this structure from the start, or did one story come before the other?
Yes and no. I had this image of Lavanya marching into the banyan market from the beginning, and I knew it was a story that needed the presences of both Lavanya and the tree to be palpable. Working out how to give them both voice was harder—I had drafts that ended up more about Lavanya and drafts that were weighed down by the tree’s presence, and they all left me a bit dissatisfied. I like to think this one gives them more-or-less equal protagonist rights.
There are several evolutions taking place in parallel for Lavanya: the dissolution of her friendships, the progression of her mother’s illness, and her own physical maturity. Did these parallels emerge in the story by chance or by design?
To my mind, these are enmeshed, rather than separate or parallel evolutions for Lavanya—they’re influencing and exacerbating and interfering with each other. Caregiving and sorrow make it harder for Lavanya to maintain her friendships, and the doubled emotional losses makes it harder for her to imagine her own growth. Lavanya’s experiencing an all-at-once onslaught of adult burdens—and that was important to build into the narrative’s momentum.
Banyan trees have a rich lore associated with them, and are considered symbolic of things ranging from motherhood, to the fulfillment of wishes, to death. What inspired your own addition to this lore, the Banyan Market?
I tend to enjoy folklore-ish stories, and the kind of narrative that’s bound to a particular place or landscape.
Banyans are great because you can think of them as individuals, but they’re also landscapes in themselves. If you step under an old banyan, the sort that has acquired buttresses and put down root-pillars and started shading tracts of land under its canopy, it can feel like you’ve stepped out of the mundane world, into somewhere else with entirely different rules. There’s a reason, I think, that so many temples and shrines and snake-stones, but also bus stops and gathering places (and yes, human markets) in my part of the world are found in this shade. As you said, it seems inevitable that banyan trees should be teeming with all kinds of lore and stories.
Plus, there was this constant awareness as I wrote, of how old trees like banyans get—they’re experiencing time and space on an entirely different scale from us.
What other kinds of markets might one learn of in Revathi Kumar’s guide?
Aaah, I do have some ideas. But I’m hanging on to this one for when I want to return to this world and write!
What are you working on now, and what can our readers look forward to seeing from you in the future?
I have a light-hearted science fiction story forthcoming in Translunar Traveler’s Lounge one of these days.
More long term, I’m working on a couple of short stories and a YA novel—this last is also very tree-ish, it must be confessed.
Spread the word!