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Anu Kumar speaks to managing editor Emily Everett about her essay “The Woman in the Well,” which appears in The Common’s spring issue. Anu talks about the vivid memories from childhood that inspired this essay about ghosts, fear, family dynamics, and violence against women in India. She also discusses the revision process for the essay, her interest in writing women’s untold stories, and her current writing projects.
For nearly two years of my life, I lived with a ghost. It was when my father, a civil servant, was posted in Sambalpur, a now forgotten town in northern Odisha, a state in India’s east. Newspapers then, and even now, always added the descriptor “India’s poorest state” whenever Odisha made the headlines. This happened in the late 1980s, when several hunger-related deaths were reported in a tribal-dominated district in the state’s west, and a decade later, after an Australian missionary was burnt to death, along with his two sons, by a group led by a Hindu fanatic.