March 25th my dear friend Rajeswari arranged a Book Reading at her neighborhood Community Center in New Jersey.
I met Rajeswari in ’98 when I moved to New York from Argentina. I started music classes with her and our children Lavanya and Shyamala were buddies. We hit it off really well and the connection was deep enough for our friendship to mature over the years. What can I say about Rajeswari? She has the voice of a nightingale and is the gentlest and sweetest person I have met. There was really no reason for her to go out of her way to arrange the readings in New Long Island and New Jersey. She could have been like a lot of my acquaintances who encourage and support me verbally. Yet for no apparent reason, she decided to undertake this special event to promote my book and for that I am truly grateful.
We were around 7 ladies that met that morning. Rajeswari was a little disappointed, but it turned out to be an extremely animated and gratifying reading. The guard at the Center did everything he could to make us miserable including forcing Rajeswari to pick out her trash from the garbage and take it with her. I applaud her for remaining calm. I know I was ready to explode. Instead, taking my cue from her, I focused my energies on greeting the group of ladies that had honored me by taking the time to be present. Almost all of them had read the book and I had no need to introduce or promote the novel. They picked up on the characters and were generous with their compliments. One of them had tears in her eyes as she spoke about Velandi the untouchable and his wretched condition.
One lady remarked about how she was fed up of reading about immigrant “desis” who mix chutney in their cereal and are awestruck by the cars and technology in the US. ” We are not villagers from some remote corner of India. I have lived a very comfortable life in India and I’m tired of reading about the desolate, stereotypical Indian immigrant. This book touched my heart because it brought back memories of my own grandparents. The stories were familiar and the characters so vibrant I felt I knew them and had met them before in my life. The nostalgia was overpowering.”
When the lotus Blooms will probably appeal to that generation of Indians who spent their childhood in India. Although the book is set in Tamil Nadu and East Bengal the situations of the protagonists apply across the board to that generation of Indians.