Archive for the ‘Events’ Category

The Cages of Mumbai’s Red-Light District

Saturday, April 9th, 2016

Last night I went to see the LA premiere of SOLD, an extraordinary film based on the true stories of girls sold into prostitution. The film opens in Nepal, where twelve-year-old Lakshmi is deceitfully taken away from her home and forced to work in a brothel in Kolkata, India.

The film is heartbreaking and violent. How did we as a society get to a place where we’ve allowed the abduction and serial rape of the poorest and most vulnerable? Who are these men who thrill at causing such brutality and suffering? It’s said that every eight minutes, a girl disappears into sex slavery. And yet, throughout the film, there it is, the light of humanity, in simple kindnesses between the girls in the brothel, in their camaraderie and caring, in the ways in which they resist, and eventually, in the act of sacrifice that saves them all.

I wrote about the red-light district of Kamathipura in my first novel Haunting Bombay. I had walked those streets with a group of fellow students, and later had done interviews and research to learn more in order to set my story in the 1960s, but time seemed to have stood still there, adding only more decay to the peeling painted wooden buildings, the lower sections fitted with bars behind which the prostitutes beckoned. Garbage festered in the corners, the tang of sweat and desperation saturated the air. My heart felt as if it might burst from my chest. I felt drained of hope just being there. How could anything ever change?

In my book, my minor character Chinni had been sold into prostitution upon her husband’s untimely death, her infant son taken away from her. Her first thought was to kill herself. But the madame, experienced with breaking-in girls, chained her to the cot by her ankle and promised that she could see her son after half her debts were paid off. Of course, debts are rarely paid off. The brothel, 24 Falkland Road, is fitted with velveteen drapes and rexene-covered sofas. Behind the drapes lie tiny cubicles where girls and women have access to nothing but a filthy toilet pit and a bucket of potassium permanganate diluted in water to be used as a postcoital antiseptic, or in more concentrated doses, to induce abortions.

Years later, Chinni’s son eventually shows up at the brothel, a gangly, pimply-face adolescent, with his uncle, the man who had sold her into slavery, eager to take his first prostitute to bed. Chinni’s story is a thread linking the centers of power to the peripheries, showing how we are all culpable, how we are all connected in this dynamic that allows such depravity. In the end, she does what she can to break the cycle, stealing a knife and murdering her son, her betrayer, and then taking her own life. Fifty years ago in Bombay, this is the only way she could bring an end to her suffering, never mind the massive juggernaut of pain and abuse that continued on beyond her.

This is why the film SOLD, now in the midst of its 21-city tour, and the work done by so many in the ensuring years to end sex slavery and give survivors a new chance is critical, as is the rising tide of compassion and consciousness in each one of us. Change is happening. We can bring an end to this global crime. Death should not be the answer but life. Life, hope, renewal.


Groundbreaking Film “Margarita, With A Straw”

Friday, May 1st, 2015

It was so amazing to see so many friends last night at the closing night of the Asian Pacific Film Festival in mass support of Shonali Bose and her incredible film “Margarita, With A Straw,” exploring the taboo subject of sexuality of a disabled person. Knowing Shonali’s five year journey of struggle and pain that led to the making of this film made it all the more astounding. For me, hearing Shonali talk about the film afterwards was so moving. She had so much poise and clarity in her vision, and she spoke about scenes that broke her open, and what it meant to be a female director to openly weep on the set in front of her entire cast and crew. Did this mean that she would lose respect as a filmmaker? No, because she took that pain, the loss of her eldest son, and that intense suffering, and brought it bear upon those scenes with a razor-sharp focus and tenderness. Gorgeous, gorgeous filmmaking. Shonali, thank you.

Haunting Bombay in Spain!

Saturday, October 1st, 2011

The venerable Martinez Roca has just published Haunting Bombay in Spain this month, launching from Madrid with the beautiful title La Casa De Los Aromas Sagrados.  I believe that this is translated as The House of Sacred Scents.  Additional lines on the book cover capture the essence of the book, “The secret of one family….A tale that evokes the magic of Bombay.” Doy las gracias a todo el mundo en Martinez Roca por su incansable dedicación a mi libro!



Cerritos Library Annual Mystery on the Menu Luncheon

Sunday, January 30th, 2011

I attended the 7th annual Mystery on the Menu Luncheon at the Cerritos Library on January 29th.  It was a sold-out event of almost two-hundred attendees that mixed and mingled with mystery writers while enjoying a delicious lunch.  Click here for more details. (more…)

All Over The Map International Fiction

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

This Sunday’s West Hollywood Book Fair was a fantastic afternoon of books, writers, and readings. I was speaking with authors Tatjani Soli, Lucy Bledsloe, Tim Hallinan, and Other Voices Editor-in-Chief Stacy Berlein about the thrills and travails of fiction set in distant lands. It was an amazing journey to Thailand, India, Vietnam, and Antarctica.

ARTWALLAH, 10th annual Festival of South Asian Arts this weekend

Monday, June 14th, 2010

ARTWALLAH, North America’s renowned festival of dynamic South Asian art is this weekend, June 18-20th in Santa Monica, CA.  This year ArtWallah partners with the venerable Highways Performance Space in presenting the freshest in Cultural-Art-Collision, food and family fun. Classically grass-roots in nature but modern in form and context, ArtWallah’s fringing of music, dance, solo performance/stand-up, literature, poetry, film and visual art, digs deeply into its ethnic roots: Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka to find its fusion in a uniquely American expressionism.  For more on ArtWallah, and to buy tickets, click here.

The House of Ghosts, Italian Edition of Haunting Bombay

Tuesday, May 4th, 2010

The venerable Piemme Publishing House in Italy has translated and published Haunting Bombay this month, titled La stanza degli spiriti, or The House of Ghosts.  I am indebted to everyone at Piemme for their enthusiasm, dedication, and the gorgeous cover, and also to my Italian translator Laura Pignatti.

Paperback Release!

Friday, April 30th, 2010

Haunting Bombay was just released this month in paperback with a discussion guide tucked in the back for book clubs.  It’s been an amazing year since the publication of my hardback last April.  I’ve travel the country, met wonderful authors, signed books, and discovered fans.  I am thankful to all the bookstores who have invited me, the many book clubs who have hosted me (whether in person or on the phone), and the family and friends who have supported me. (more…)

Tucson Book Festival

Tuesday, March 16th, 2010

I drove into sun-drenched Tucson this weekend for the annual Tucson Book Festival held at the University of Arizona.  The weekend was kicked off by an Author’s Table cocktail and dinner to raise money for local literacy programs.  “Untold stories are like stones on the heart,” quoted the Festival Chair.  Saturday morning, I spoke on a panel titled, “Other Countries, Other Crimes” with fellow Soho Press author Cara Black.  I caught the tail-end of a circus (no animals) in the children’s section of the Festival with acrobats and a contortionist.  Saturday evening concluded with a fete at Glen’s Brewery and, across the street, a free screening of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  Click here for more on Saturday’s Mystery Panel. (more…)