Batik Rain explores the theme of rootlessness and displacement. It's about people who are drifting. But just as you are about to give up, the mist clears a little, bit by bit, till sunlight penetrates through and you feel the warmth. The stories revolve around individuals who yearn for a sense of belonging and how they go about trying to find that.
Here's an excerpt from the book:
Aai and I haven't spoken much. She seems to sense my disquiet and I'm thankful she isn't probing. The last thing I want to do is discuss Diane with her in an environment that couldn't be further removed from my suburban American life. When RDM acquired the Bangalore firm, my return to India became a sine qua non. Besides, after Diane left, the suburbs began to suffocate me.
Returning to Pune after two decades felt a bit weird. I was a foreigner in my own country, with my Boston drawl, LL Bean shorts and an American ex-wife. I call her ex now. The divorce came through just a few weeks ago. There was something horribly final about it. I wonder if it tore her apart as it did me.
And then there was Aai. Her involvement in the local political scene was intensifying and that made me uneasy. Aai's orientation and leanings were so sharply divergent from mine, it gave me the heebie-jeebies.
"Ajit, tu kai tharavla ahe? What are your plans?"
We had just finished our morning tea and I was pouring over the Times of India and its supplement, the colourful, tabloidy Pune Times. "These papers have stopped covering international news," I grumbled. "It's all about India now. Sorry, Aai, what did you say?"
"I said what are your plans now?" Aai's tenacity in pursuing a subject I had no interest in discussing with her, was admirable.
"I'm not in a rush. I'll wait for something good to come along," I said, eyes still on the paper.
"But you can't waste your time like this!" Aai was not adjusting well to my jobless status, which she perceived to be a self-inflicted malaise. "You should go out, meet people. You are just, always at home. You need to get over...over Diane."
I flinched. She'd never uttered the name since I got back. Not once.
"I have.....gotten over Diane."
"Ajit, I have many friends in Poona who can help you. But you must show interest, na? Now its six months since you came back from America. It's high time you do something."
At least Aai wasn't trying to recruit me into her political squadron. This was just harmless spitballing and I was okay with that.
"I'm okay, Aai. Don't stress, I'll be fine."
"Ajit, kiti barik jhala ahes re, you have lost so much weight."
"Aai, I'll be fine," I gritted my teeth.
"Fine, always fine! So American you are! Sometimes I think why did I ever let you go study there." Aai started gathering the teacups and piling them noisily in the sink. "You can't waste your life. Certain things have to be done at the right time in life. You must get another job and think of getting remarried..."
Her voice faltered as a curtain fell over my eyes.
Batik Rain explores the theme of rootlessness and displacement. It's about people who are drifting. But just as you are about to give up, the mist clears a little, bit by bit, till sunlight penetrates through and you feel the warmth. The stories revolve around individuals who yearn for a sense of belonging and how they go about trying to find that. These are individuals who move away from home, are risk-takers, willing to step out of their comfort zones. They return to their roots, and it is about the catharsis they experience when they reach their destination. Many of my characters are global citizens who belong to the Indian Diaspora. As immigrants and minorities in foreign lands, they must navigate unknown waters. They embody the resilience and perseverance required of them to undertake such journeys.
I grew up with a fascination for current affairs. I also loved to write, so the natural transition was to blend the two, which is how I became a journalist. I enjoyed my career as a television reporter and the rush of breaking news, but over the last few years, I felt I wasn't doing justice to stories by covering them in 1 or 2 minutes, which always left me feeling dissatisfied. I wanted to write longer pieces but never had the time because TV-life was always so frenetic. It was such a relief not to have to slap on make up for a graveyard shift and to chase people around for soundbites. To be able to write freely, for myself, was truly liberating. The best part was to have the freedom to write in paragraphs, not soundbites!
Having lived in many parts of the world, I realized there was so much to absorb from other cultures and people. It was a constant learning process. The Japanese philosophy of gaman is something I discovered when writing about the earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan in 2011. gaman means calm endurance, control for the sake of others and enduring the seemingly unbearable with patience and dignity. What karma is for Hindus, gaman is for the Japanese. It also made me realize there are so many commonalities among cultures, but we get so wrapped up in our own little cocoons that it is easy for complacency to set in.
Globe-trotting with a father who was in the Foreign Service took us all over the world-from countries as diverse as Ukraine and Indonesia. These cross-cultural journeys undoubtedly found expression in Batik Rain.
We are who we are. Shaped by the varied influences we encounter through our lives. The story our grandmothers told us, the whiff of our mother's sari, a quiet moment shared with a father, a sister, a brother, a friend, a teacher. They have all played a part in making us whole. These influences are intrinsic and as I wrote, they hovered above me, seeped in me. One of the stories that is dear to my heart is Saroj-- a story about a daughter who never knew her mother and a granddaughter who yearned to seek her through a prism of the past.