In the tradition of Bem Le Hunte's acclaimed novels, The Seduction of Silence and There, Where the Pepper Grows, this is a spiritual and emotional journey like no other – a richly realised and hugely entertaining story that straddles cultures, continents and generations.
An encounter with Elephants with Headlights is a collision between east and west, modernity and tradition – between driverless cars and ancient lore – and a world that needs revolutionary reappraisal. In this world, Savitri, named after a Goddess, refuses outright to marry anyone. Her brother, Neel is intent on marrying an Australian girl called Mae, much to the displeasure of their mother, Tota, and father, Siddarth. But do they have the power to command love or destiny? Only the family astrologer, Arunji, knows, yet his truth is tempered by obligations to the family that transformed his life.
Characters we come to love and care for teeter on the brink of a radically altered future, leaving questions in their wake. What is the generative legacy of tradition? Can spiritual values survive amidst personal challenges, the tragedy of a death foretold, and the momentous changes of our times? A warm and engaging novel touched with love, wisdom and soulfulness, Elephants with Headlights is a breathtaking story for the threshold era we all navigate.
Bem Le Hunte is the author of four novels. The Seduction of Silence and There, Where the Pepper Grows have become number one bestsellers and been published internationally to critical acclaim. She is also an Associate Professor at the University of Technology Sydney, where she's the founding Director of the Bachelor of Creative Intelligence and Innovation, a transdisciplinary, future-facing degree that teaches creativity across 25 different disciplines. She has a BA and MA in Social Anthropology from Cambridge University and a Creative Doctorate from the University of Sydney. Writing has always been her elemental passion, and the gift of this calling has allowed her to ﬂourish in many ways and worlds – well beyond the written word
Elephants with Headlights
Author: Bem Le Hunte
Question: What originally inspired the idea of 'Elephants with Headlights'?
Bem Le Hunte: I wanted to write about the sacred feminine in the everyday woman, and this theme really came to life when I went on a literary sabbatical to a utopian community in South India, Auroville.
As for the title: I was driving back from a New Year's Eve party in New Delhi once and nearly ran into an elephant on an unlit street. Soon afterwards, I heard that the Government had insisted that elephants should wear headlights on the streets at night. One of the characters in this novel is investigating bringing driverless cars to Delhi, and the absurd contradiction of the ancient and futuristic existing together became a central theme of the novel.
Question: How much of your inspiration comes from real life and real people?
Bem Le Hunte: This is a love story between Australian and Indian characters, and the father of the Australian character, Mae, is based on a doctor uncle who started the home birth movement up in Byronshire. This uncle once had a couple pull up in a van who wanted to deliver a baby at home, but they didn't have a home, so he offered them his. In 'Elephants with Headlights' there's a couple who do just that. There are many such *real* characters, including a 200-year-old guru, and a friend of mine who took her life, who is immortalised (for me) in one of the characters.
Question: What's the main message you hope readers take from 'Elephants with Headlights'?
Bem Le Hunte: The main message is the same I stand by in many of my books – it's about the importance of a spiritual life, as well as the importance of tolerance – the need for unity as well as diversity.
Question: What research did you do, prior to writing 'Elephants with Headlights'?
Bem Le Hunte: I lead a degree called the Bachelor of Creative Intelligence and Innovation at UTS and I've run many labs for our students creative thinking and future-making, and because innovation and the future are always associated with young people, I ask them who they would take into the future with them. Well one of the people we 'read' is Bunker Roy, who decided to take grandmothers in the villages of India into the future with him. In this story, there is a lovely grandmother who is 'dragged' unwillingly into the future, into a century she would rather have avoided.
Question: What or who inspired your love of reading/writing?
Bem Le Hunte: This book is dedicated to my mother, and to the sacred feminine. She came over from India to study literature at Cambridge University at a time when only one woman for every ten men was given a place. She was an inspired English teacher, and encouraged me to write from a very early age.
Question: What book are you reading, right now?
Bem Le Hunte: I'm reading 'Unsheltered' by Barbara Kingsolver because it was 'prescribed' for me in a Bibliotherapy / Bibliomancy session!
Interview by Brooke Hunter
Elephants with Headlights
Author: Bem Le Hunte