A note to the reader

Dear Reader,
Let me start with telling you something about my new-found love for writing: I write to forget and hence I don’t forget to write.

This story was written over a period of one year and six months. This was a period of an amazing family experiment and adventure.  My wife and I decided to single-parent one child each over an academic year! She in Pune with our older boy, and I in Silicon Valley, with our eight-year-old. The following six months I took a cross-country road trip alone in the US, and had the opportunity to stay with some amazing and diverse American families, through Airbnb.

During this time, my elusive inner artist, who I had successfully suppressed for decades to focus on my high-tech career, rose during the wee hours of the morning, and wrote from 4:00am to 5:30am. With a white noise app in the background, I would sit in my dark bedroom with my eyes closed, trying to streamline the thoughts racing in my mind, and hammer away at my keyboard. The struggle to find the right words to express my thoughts, and to find the right slots for my characters, themes and timelines felt like I was dealing with a giant 3D mind-Tetris! I would write what I could, but would have to let it all go into the background once I plunged into the day. Transitioning from that writing universe to the daily demands would leave me at times with a sense of loss – like when a delightful dream scatters and evaporates too rapidly and is forgotten far too soon.

I spent most of my day working with numbers as a data scientist and fulfilling my duties as a fun, single soccer dad. That year became an ‘every father must do it’ kind of experience, which is a story in itself; but for another time and another book that is in the making.

That early-morning rush of thoughts, ideas and emotions was the same as my one-time experience of scuba diving. All the thoughts residing in the depths of my subconscious mind would rise up, swirl around and press against me like a swarm of sardines. They were iridescent, mind-altering and deep! Forgetting or getting rudely separated from those thoughts by the demands of the day was painful, like ignoring a close friend visiting you.

Do other writers feel the same way? Most of my life has been spent with geeky and nerdy friends and colleagues whose creativity was focused on objective rationality, business and technology. They were extraordinary in their own ways, but talking about feelings and emotions and any half-formed inchoate ideas was not their cup of tea.

I was certain that harnessing this rush of emotions and turning them into a story would give me great joy. It felt as if a life, a baby, a story was growing within me. It would be a waste to let it simply fade away without being told. At the same time, it was impossible for me to carry it forever. It had to be brought into existence and nurtured. Putting my thoughts into words offered me an emotional outlet.

This is not an autobiography, even though it may seem like one. Of course, a tiny part of me inhabits every character, but I don’t find myself in any one character. That is the magic of writing that I have discovered in my very first work of fiction. You can play GOD and create an imaginary world in your reflection with your own set of characters, situations and perceptions. Even in pictures I take during my travels, what I see around me is so much interesting that I hate to put my own face in it. Selfies are not for me! The same is true for my writing. What I have observed over many years about people, their personalities, their characteristics, their struggles and their experiences became the material woven into this story. Individual strands of real stories have been morphed into a new fictional universe. As I wrote, they became so real for me, that I began to wish that it had all happened in reality!

A few words about myself:

I am a serial immigrant. Switching between countries and cultures is my only addiction. Every time I leave India, patriotic melodies play in my mind. I miss the warmth of the love of my people. While in India, I miss my life in the US, the land of the brave and independent. The more I travel between the two countries and to those between them, I realize that I cannot live without either country. The two countries are on the opposite sides of the globe and are so very different, culturally. This diversity makes my life more interesting and difficult at the same time.

Growing up, I lived with my father, who worked in the Indian rural banking sector, two siblings and my mother. From time to time, we would get transferred to different villages as a result of my father’s job. Hence, I didn’t speak or understand a word of English before high school.

Marathi, a western Indian language mostly spoken in the state of Maharashtra, is my mother tongue. Being the first language I learned, it taught me how to express my innermost feelings in words. Hence, it is a language I love the most. I sang and danced to Hindi Bollywood music. Urdu taught me the words to express deep philosophy, passion and poetry. My love of Sanskrit, which I proudly inherited from my parents, inspired me to appreciate the mesmerizing hymns of worship sung by Hindus during my days of struggle.

English became the language of business, science, news, and the ‘Hello World’ in computer programming for me. It took me a little over 40 years of my life to be able to express myself almost as effectively in English as I did in the other four languages. However, they remain my primary means of expression. My native English-speaking friends, critiques and the editor played an indispensable role in helping me articulate the feelings, thoughts, views woven into this story.

Finally, a word on the way I chose to tell this story, why it unfolds through the eyes of a narrator, but also through the points-of-view of different characters, across continents and across decades: I believe that the best way to appreciate the world and the inner and outer compulsions of people, is from many contrasting and colorful perspectives.

Writing this book, for me, was an adventure, and a cathartic and joyful experience! I hope you enjoy reading it!
Sudarshan Mahabal