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India Currents gave me a voice in days I was very lost. Having my articles selected for publishing was very validating – Shailaja Dixit, Executive Director, Narika, Fremont
Anoop Judge’s latest book, No Ordinary Thursday, is a novel about a dysfunctional family where relationships between its members are tested in the aftermath of the tragedy. Amidst all the antagonism, each of them must seek out their path to healing and rebuilding broken relationships.
One Man’s Cowardice
The story begins with a devastating tragedy brought about by one man’s addiction and cowardice. The tragedy catapults his family and him into the very public glare of disgrace and humiliation.
The inspiration for the book came from a news story Judge read about a case of an Indian man who, after an accident, left a woman to die in a burning car, and ran away from the scene. “I followed the story and thought to myself, what kind of a young Indian man would do something so base?” she says. “What could have happened to him in his childhood, I wondered, since Indian families are usually stable. I used that germ of an idea and created the background of childhood trauma in a dysfunctional family.”
Judge identifies herself as a diaspora novelist and an author of color who is at ease with the book-club form of the novel. A Californian who was born and raised in Delhi, writing is Judge’s second calling. She was a practicing attorney in California before she briefly became a television anchor and then turned to being a full-time novelist.
Book Wins Award
Judge’s first book, The Rummy Club, published in 2014, won the Beverly Hills Book Club Award. It is a preppy novel about four women—three inevitably wealthy, and one chasing the great American dream—who came to the United States from India. They were friends back home, and studied together at a boarding school in the Himalayas. There they played the card game Rummy to pass the time during bored evenings and thought to rekindle the club and their memories through the game. This novel was self-published.
Onward into her writing and journey, Judge took some writing classes as well, and realized as she got into her self-publishing journey that while there is an audience, there is no distribution network to support self-publishing authors. “For an author to do everything from writing to marketing to publicity and distribution, that’s wearing too many hats. It was not for me,” she says. So it was back to traditional publishers and agents.
Writing Books To Market
The aha moment for her second novel came to Judge while watching the movie Slumdog Millionaire. “It won a lot of awards and I realized that this is what the West was really looking for in terms of themes. Western audiences don’t want to see modern, upper-class India. They want to see the slums; they are looking for what is slovenly, what is pitiable about the conditions in India,” she says.
With that realization, Judge set out to write about that scourge of Indian society, the caste system, which she describes as the “cancer.” Thus The Awakening of Meena Rawat came to be written. “I thought I would have to set it in the pre-independence era but when I began my research, I realized that the problem had in fact increased greatly in the recent years.”
“It is not very evident in the big cities per se,” she explains, “but go a hundred kilometers into the outskirts and it is quite evident. It is a pan-India problem that besets all communities. I was very ashamed to discover—as I am a Sikh—that it is widespread in the villages and towns in the Sikh community too. It is very sad since Sikhism was a religion founded to eradicate this problem.”
However, since the theme was rather intense, and Judge intended to write book-club fiction, she cloaked it in a romantic story with the backdrop of the caste system. Meena Rawat’s husband, a Khatri, overlooks Meena’s Dalit caste when he marries her for love but, eventually as their marriage breaks down—for other reasons—her caste becomes an issue. At the end, with her awakening, Meena is also able to resolve the identity crisis she faces as an Indian immigrant in the US.
The theme of the identity crisis faced by Indian immigrants is also one of the themes that Judge explores in No Ordinary Thursday, set in the San Francisco Bay Area. Besides the backstory to Sameer’s character, the idea for this book also came from reactions to the Priyanka Chopra-Nick Jonas marriage, and the age difference there.
“There were so many memes coming out where she was accused of cradle-snatching and a lot of other unsavory things,” Judge says. “I realized that all the ‘Indian aunties,’ and I am one of them,” she is quick to clarify, “feared that if they gave approval to this union, then it could well be their own children bringing home a much older woman, or a much younger man.”
“So I thought to look at the Indian family in the US and its challenges through a slightly different lens,” that of the relationship between a younger man, Veer, and a much older woman, Maya. The book has a lot of themes, Maya’s identity crisis, the trauma of growing up in a broken home, the inter-community marriage between, Lena, a divorced Indian woman with two adult children, and Manuel, a Hispanic man, “a good man.”
The climax of the novel is poignantly set in the town of Paradise, CA, which recently in recent history faced the most devastating of wildfires in California’s history. “What happened in Paradise, the intensity of the devastation just horrified me. I had to tie it in. The Fire began on Thursday, November, 8 and therefore the book is called No Ordinary Thursday,” Judge says.
Coming out next year is Judge’s next novel, yet-to-be-titled, inspired by the Amazon Prime Video show, Made in Heaven, which tackles the themes of match-making and lavish Indian marriages, tying it up with events that happen during the dark and turbulent aftermath of the demolition of the Babri masjid.
“Everyday something that happens in the news prompts a story in me, the Indian diaspora, in the context of 21st century America is what I want to always write about,” Judge says.
Also in the works is a fifth novel about two Indian American sisters who are estranged but go on a road trip together in India. “It will tackle the theme of colorism, take head on the “fair and lovely” brigade.”
A toast to that one!