Alumni Profile

Raj Kamal Jha MA ’90

Dreams of India Raj Kamal Jha MA ’90 doesn’t count sheep. He doesn’t pop pills. He doesn’t do anything, really, to combat the

insomnia that has gripped him since he was a child growing up in Calcutta.
“The times I remember most about my childhood are staying awake all night, staring at the dark, making stories up in my head,” he says.
You might say a good night’s sleep is the best

Raj Kamal Jha’s first novel has been praised as “a ghostly, elliptical piece of prose of quite magical quality.”

thing that’s never happened to him. By day, Jha is executive editor of The Indian Express, India’s second-largest English-language daily newspaper, based in New Delhi. By night – and these are long, long nights – he indulges his passion: writing fiction.
He has given readers something of a dream with his first novel, The Blue Bedspread, which was published last March by Random House. The book won high praise in leading publications across the world, including the New York Times Book Review and the London Evening Standard, which called it “a ghostly, elliptical piece of prose of quite magical quality.”
The story unfolds over one hot night in Calcutta. A man is awakened by a phone call telling him that his sister has died in childbirth, and he must watch over the newborn girl until foster parents can take her in the morning. As the baby sleeps in the next room, the man writes stories to her – frantic, fragmented stories of their family that she will never hear in person. Horrible, corrosive secrets slowly take shape as the reader follows the narrator’s excruciating journey through his own repressed memory.

IT TOOK JHA NEARLY a year to write the book. He says the daily deadlines of the newspaper business complement his fiction-writing perfectly. “One pays the bills, the other takes care of everything else,” he says.
Jha went to a prestigious engineering school in India before he set his sights on journalism as a good way to write while earning a regular paycheck. On this lark, he came to Los Angeles and completed the print journalism master’s program at USC’s Annenberg School for Communication.
When a call came about an opening at The Statesman, an English daily in Calcutta, he jumped at the chance to return home. After a stint at India Today in New Delhi, he signed on in 1996 as deputy editor of the 700,000-circulation Indian Express. This summer, he took over the paper’s helm. For Jha, even daily newspapering is about more than just getting to the story first. “I never looked at journalism of the hard-nosed school of Woodward and Bernstein,” he says. “I just always loved the idea of meeting people and telling their stories.”

– Shashank Bengali


 

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Book Jacket Design by Krista Vossen / Photograph of Design by Peter Beavis

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