The Book Passage blog welcomes Kalpana Mohan as a guest blogger. Kalpana is a local writer and regular patron of the store.
I'm a Book Passage stalker; I've commuted to Book Passage for a dozen years now all the way from Saratoga and every minute of my three hour drive has been worth it; I've made wonderful friends; my family has spent days reading at BP just because we all love to read. I'm part of Left Coast Writers and every time I walk into BP, it's a reminder about why I left the high-tech world. It's a reminder about why I do what I do, a reminder of how I love to write.
I'm really looking forward to talking to Katherine Boo when she reads at Book Passage on February 17th. I'm reading Boo's new book, Behind the Beautiful Forevers, and I'm thinking about all the things it would have taken this writer – who did not speak the language or know the culture – to immerse herself in that alien world of grinding poverty. I have never been to that world even though I was born and raised in India. But I have been on the other side. I have looked at the slums from those high-rise hotels that she refers to in her book. I've never had the courage to walk into such a slum for I have been conditioned, since the day I was born, to ignore those slums, to pretend that they did not exist in my world and to be indifferent to the life teeming under those corrugated tin roofs. Oh, yes, our maid, our driver and our plumber belonged to them, but we didn't think of how and where they lived – unless they didn't report for work.
I can see how Behind the Beautiful Forevers will be a touchstone for nonfiction that will change the world. We need more such non-fiction work that will inspire the action to bring about systemic change in India. I hope I'll be able to do the same through my writing, even if it's in far less gritty ways than Boo.
I would love to share information with you about my blog – SARiTORIAL: Unfolding An Indian Icon – in which I write about India, the old and new. In it, I write about things, places and ideas that are specific to India and Indians in the diaspora. The stories are many. Every story, I promise, will make readers pause and reflect. I really do think that the stories I'm narrating are as universal as they are unique.
A few months ago I wrote about Aiyyelu, a renowned silk costume maker in the South Indian coastal city of Chennai who, at 82 (no one, not even Aiyyelu, knows exactly how old he is), doesn't need to wear glasses to thread his needle. His exquisite silk costumes are mailed around the world for classical Indian dance performances. Read about him at http://www.bit.ly/Aiyyelu.
On January 30th morning, on the anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi's death, I wrote about my day at his home, Sabarmati Ashram in India's Ahmedabad, and linked that to my experience of listening to Gloria Steinem's lecture at Stanford on January 26th. Check it out at http://bit.ly/gandhisteinem. And, just last week, when I found out that Starbucks was filtering into India, it became grounds for a venti post. Why? India grows coffee. India could teach Starbucks a thing or two about beans. The South Indian degree coffee is unmatched. Why not let this old coffee culture be? Why does India need yet another multi-national corporation? Read more about my frustration at http://bit.ly/degreecoffee.
I hope readers will subscribe to my blog and send me their thoughts and suggestions. I'd be thrilled if readers could pass the word and the link along to a relative, a colleague, a friend, a Facebook friend, an adversary, a Frenemy...anyone, really, who will find it interesting. Readers across the generations and across all cultures, follow me on my journey at SARiTORIAL.
About The Author: Kalpana Mohan enjoys writing about parenting, ethnic issues and lifestyle. Her stories have appeared in Better Homes and Gardens, Business Week Online, FamilyFun Magazine, USA Weekend Magazine, San Francisco Chronicle, San Jose Mercury News, Bay Area Parent, India Currents and other print and online publications.