WATCHING TELEVISION FOOTAGE OF REFUGEES streaming west by their thousands, along the highways of Hungary toward the Austrian border, my first thoughts are about my mother. She made a similar trek, 69 years ago almost to the day, when she was only six. I see her in the girl raised by her father above the fray at the Bicske railway station in Budapest, or holding tight onto her mother’s hand in the throngs filling a nighttime road, led by men using their cellphone GPS to find the way. She too was fleeing war — or more exactly, walking through the heart of it, as what had been the Indian Raj was violently split into India and Pakistan.
Read the full article over at the Los Angeles Review of Books.
When I first arrived in Crete last year, despite the ongoing economic crisis, times felt better, much freer, and few people were talking about the crisis all the time. That’s changed since then, unfortunately, so here’s a glimpse back to those first months I spent here, courtesy of the wonderful people at Split Lip Magazine. Read it here, or click the image below.
Back in 2011, when I was stuck in New Delhi and didn’t know what to do with myself, I decided to take a trip to Ladakh for the summer. Little did I know the journey itself would be as wild as anything I found when I reached the ancient Himalayan kingdom. Over at Terrain.org, I tell the story of that sometimes harrowing journey. One day maybe I’ll tell the story of all that happened when I finally arrived. Read it here.
Just up on Salon.com, my new essay. If anyone is wondering, this is not a story — the account is purely factual. Check it out here.
It was the first days of the new year, and thrumming through the soles of my feet was that distinctive, hard-driving rhythm—the dhol drum singing out its bhangra beat. The dance floor was small, swallowed whole in a corner of the underground ballroom, but we were all crowded onto it, celebrating the closing night of the wedding. The speakers strained and gaudy lights painted our bodies in splashes of color and soon, after leaving the dance floor, I watched as a young Indian man newly arrived from a Midwestern city stammered across the ballroom toward a girl he claimed he loved with the simple plan of asking her to dance.
He’d come here with friends, three young men looking to discover India, reconnect with their roots, learn something of the land their parents came from. In a minute, he’d be sprawled across the floor, his face streaming blood and I’d be racing toward his attacker, a relative of mine, who now hoisted a heavy steel chair high over his head and was about to bring it down with all his might and crush the foreigner’s skull.
A lovely new interview up over at W3Sidecar. Check it out here.
I can be stuck on a story for years—actually many of the stories included here were written in part, left unfinished, and then returned to years later to finish. Where that final push comes from I don’t know, except that time is mysterious, it allows connections to be made that otherwise wouldn’t have, and it allows a much deeper immersion into a character—someone I might have casually created without any clear goal in mind—to develop and emerge.
Over at her Intermittent Visitors site, the marvelous poet and blogger Joanne Merriam has a brief interview with me up. What will you learn? That I’m a messy writer who hates getting out of bed, thinks you should ignore all writing advice, and oh yeah, still an Alasdair Gray fanboy after all these years. Take a look here. And check out her small publishing house, Upper Boot Books, here.
What is your writing process?
Messy and undisciplined, with no clear schedules. I write in bed when I can, and I often try and get away and write while traveling, where I can keep the laptop next to my head, wake, sit up with some pillows behind my back and pull the computer onto my lap and get immediately to work, often still half-asleep and remembering dreams.
Over at The Story Prize blog, I have a guest post up. Check it out here.
In presenting deeply conflicted characters, and sometimes unpleasant characters, I guess, in hindsight, I was looking for ways to broaden the emotional landscape of much of so-called contemporary Indian American fiction—though perhaps more accurately I was reacting to what felt like a strangled emotional territory. And also to make, in my own small way, a larger claim on the universality of experience, and that it doesn’t have to born out of exhausted tropes— the newly arrived immigrant, the clash of cultures, the relatively narrow emotional bandwidth of adapting to American middle class life.
This just up at The Margins, with photos, one last dispatch from Athens, this time with hookers, junkies, immigrants, and cops.
At night, the junkies take over the square. They are almost vaporously thin, like the dead even before they shoot up. They have ruined most of their veins and bend forward to stick the needle in the backs of their knees or other parts of their legs. The happy ones are curled up fetally, oblivious to everything. A tall South Asian man with a tense, fierce face asks me several nights in a row if I want anything. “Hash? Junk? Anything?”
Read the whole story here.