Worlds Apart

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Growing up as an Indian immigrant in America, one of the things I began noticing is how difficult it was to admit other worlds into your own for some, easy for others. Though they mingled, they stood worlds apart.

Let me explain. The Indian community that congregated around itself where I  lived was tiny and no one had any regional affiliation with another’s or even shared the same mother tongue. But they were Indian and for the most part they stuck together on that basis alone, sometimes doggedly in spite of religious differences. Those that ventured out socially to include fellow immigrants or Americans in their society were often regarded as transgressors, adopting the ways of the West.

Such transgressions when they occurred would end up transforming relationships within the Indian community. Gossip would be passed around fueled not only by disdain but envy. An easy familiarity with the surrounding culture was not encouraged unless it was economically grounded.

The younger the transgressor, the greater the shame brought upon the family, the community. Thus young females particularly were bounded by strict rules of conformity to their parents’ cultural expectations on threat of being branded a pariah.

Things change, of course, with successive generations. But the cost is time.

When I wrote CYBELE it was with a female character in mind who has played out the role of her family’s expectations by entering an arranged marriage, escapes that marriage, and with each successive transgression discovers and comes to rely on a multicultural society of friends. Each of them is willing to admit other worlds into their own. The ties that bind are a shared experience of suffering, loss, courage, and loyalty.

So though the novel is at heart a mystery with the seeds of romance and humor sown liberally, it is also one of cultural transgressors who ultimately prevail against all that threatens their freedom.

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