Most people think of India as that very poor country on the other side of the world that’s completely different from the US. They’re partly right. India is on the other side of the world but it is not a poor country (it has the fifth largest army in the world and its share of billionaires) and its problems are not all that different from ours. India faces many of the same problems as the US—particularly in terms of immigration.
The United States worries about illegal immigration mainly from the south—from the Caribbean and from Mexico. India faces illegal immigration along all its borders. The Chinese invasion of Tibet in 1950 displaced thousands of people. The war between East and West Pakistan that led to the creation of Bangladesh displaced millions of people, many crossing into India. The long-running resistance by Tamils in Sri Lanka gave rise to waves of immigrants crossing the channel to South India.
For the Love of Parvati grew out of my greater awareness of the immigration/refugee problem in South India. In the United States I am used to meeting people who are citizens but speak English with an accent. I don’t think anything about it, and I rarely identify someone’s origins by their speech unless it’s an accent particular to America. But in the South India states, Indians often identify people by their language, their accent and dialect. For an immigrant to speak freely in a bazaar or another public place is to risk being identified as a foreigner.
In India as in the United States, people respond to illegal immigrants according to their own personal character. Some dislike the newcomers for fear of what they will take from the country—jobs, stability, services. Others meet an illegal immigrant and see only the individual escaping violence or discrimination against a minority. Many Indians willingly hire illegal immigrants for a variety of jobs that “fly under the radar,” and think nothing more about it. For the Love of Parvati is one of these stories.
Parvati is a young woman who fled the war in Sri Lanka with her brother. They have separated, and she has been hired as a maidservant. As the story opens she is living and working in the hills, wondering when her brother will show up. She learns early on what has become of him, and is now entirely alone in the world. The rest of her family died during the wars in Sri Lanka. As a former member of the Tamil Tigers, Parvati took a risk in escaping, and she takes another risk by living openly with a family.
The idea for the story originally came during a conversation with another writer. Sarah Thomas, who lives in Trivandrum, South India, is well known for her socially conscious novels, but after a while she decided not to write this story. When it was clear she wasn’t interested in it any longer, I decided to write it. We are very different writers, and I would love to have read her interpretation, but as it is I can only speculate.
Parvati faces every refugee’s worst nightmare when she realizes that for her there may never be an escape. For her, every day is part of a never-ending flight from what she left behind.
To read Parvati’s story click HERE.
To read one of Sarah Thomas’s books, go Here.
Susan Oleksiw writes the Anita Ray series featuring an Indian American photographer living at her aunt's tourist hotel in South India (Under the Eye of Kali, 2010, The Wrath of Shiva, 2012, and For the Love of Parvati, 2014). She also writes the Mellingham series featuring Chief of Police Joe Silva (introduced in Murder in Mellingham, 1993). Susan is well known for her articles on crime fiction; her first publication in this area was A Reader's Guide to the Classic British Mystery. Her short stories have appeared in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine and numerous anthologies. Susan lives and writes outside Boston, MA. To learn more about Susan’s two series, go to www.susanoleksiw.com
Hope you enjoyed this week's Saturday Spotlight! On Tuesday I'll be joining with a group of authors for Rocking Summer Reads blog hop so check back often!
Until later...take care & God Bless!