Authors: Ghalib Shiraz Dhalla
She returned to Ajay’s room and stripped away her clothes. She lay down in his bed where she could no longer even smell him, traces of him already wiping out from the log of atmosphere. What she wouldn’t do to birth him again, to feel him kicking in her stomach, hold him swathed in the yellow cotton blanket in the hospital bed, feel the pressure of his gums around her nipple, each tug bringing forth his nourishment, to spend long soporific afternoons of story-telling and find him looking up at her with those wondrous black eyes. If she had created him once from her own primordial substance, couldn’t she conjure him back into life again like Parvati who had longed for a son and had sloughed the dirt and ash from her skin to create Ganesha?
She opened up the urn and dipped her hand into it, feeling the cool ash. Slowly she lifted a grey mound of his remains in the palm of her hand and closing her eyes, began rubbing it over her face, her neck, her shoulders, her arms. Her eyes burned and tears ran as the ash of bone and flesh rolled off her and fell to the side of the bed. She reached in for more, now covering her breast, her stomach, her thighs and the space in between from where she had once portalled him into life with the dust of his existence.
Then she closed her eyes.
A great number of people have assisted me in various ways and this list in no way includes all of them.
To my mother, whose blind faith gives me strength, and my father from whom I first learned to create.
My special thanks to my agent and friend, Deborah Ritchken, whose passion for books is inspiring, and who has nurtured and enabled me to stay true to my vision; Adrienne Brodeur, for shaping the novel in such a fundamental way; Don Weise for embracing (and holding onto) this novel, the invaluable guidance and being such a class act; Sarah Van Arsdale, for the astute copyediting.
I am blessed for my family of friends who have stood by me through the ups and downs of a writer’s journey. Victor Riobo, for being a confidante and patient sounding board; Corky Velasquez, for being my bulwark and providing unwavering support; Elena De La Cruz, for your kindness and love; my writing comrades—Shilpa Agarwal, Bhargavi C. Madava, and Francesca McCafree—for their solicitous readings and suggestions, and for getting me to the finishing line. To the late, dearly missed Aaron Davis, Steven Valentine, Shauna Aminzadeh, and Sarah Robarts and her team for getting the word out.
Noel Alumit, for encouraging me to submit
Ode to Lata
and starting me off on this journey; John Schatzel at Barnes & Noble for hosting memorable readings; Lynsi Derouin Freitag, D.J. Carlile and the folks at the
Los Angeles Times
for featuring my work. To Andrew Holleran, whose words can shatter any writersblock.
In researching this book, I am especially indebted to the staggering amount of information provided by Ruth Vanita and Saleem Kidwai, and Stephen O. Murray and Will Roscoe. To Coleman Barks for introducing me to Rumi; Lieutenant Frank Padilla at the Santa Monica Police Department for patiently explaining procedure; Vikram Doctor for teaching me Bambaiya Hindi and always opening doors.
Craig Kirkland and Robert Martinez, for understanding the importance of balance and enabling it. To the many others who have offered me support: T. Heather Ho, Jeremy Kinser, Sandip Roy, Jitin Hingorani, Myna Mukherjee, and David and Paige Glickman.
Finally, my thanks to the readers who come to my readings; to those who took the time to write to me and demonstrate how far and wide a novel can travel—your voices provide encouragement when I’m struggling and conviction when I’m in doubt.