Tag Archives: Indian-American writers

Krishna Sudhir & The Prince of Typgar

I have not read to and with my kids in many years but this is one that we could have definitely read together.  The first two books in this series are set in an alternate universe, an earth-like planet Syzegis in a distant galaxy. This modern fantasy is a coming of age saga of Nujran, the Prince of Typgar and in the best traditions of Indian mythology, it has a little bit of everything – adventure, friendship, magic, romance, betrayal, loss, philosophy, ethical dilemmas with some guru-shishya relationships thrown in as well.  

Krishna Sudhir is not your typical first time writer.  A Bay Area physician and cardiologist by training, he is the author of over 180 publications in the medical field. In his first attempt at writing a book, he has taken the best things from stories he has read – Mahabharat, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings to name a few, and made it his own with a unique twist. Sudhir has conjured up some cool futuristic technology mixed with his medical knowledge to propel the story between the real and the fantastic.

Read it with your kids or by yourself.  You will recognize many  themes from our ancient puranas to the present day political situation. His use of vocabulary as a canvas to paint this alternative universe is brilliant while he challenges the reader to question many norms we take for granted.   And if that is not enough, try to figure out the anagrams tossed into the book.  Hint: Amsibh is Bhisma!

I interviewed Krishna Sudhir to learn more about the books and how he came to write them.

Tell us about your books.  Catch us up, without giving away the punchline of course.  

Nujran and the Corpse in the Quadrangle is the second in the Prince of Typgar series, a sequel to Nujran and the Monks of Meirar. The stories are set on the planet Syzegis, in a distant galaxy. In the first book, Nujran is a spoiled prince, who leads a comfortable life at the palace. Enter Maestro Amsibh, a gifted teacher with extraordinary qualities, and the prince’s transformation begins. Nujran travels with Amsibh, and experiences romance, conflict, friendship, betrayal, and loss.

 Having published the first book, I felt there was more of Nujran’s story that needed to be told, and I wanted to have readers go along with him on all of his new adventures as he begins college.  We begin the second book, Nujran and the Corpse in the Quadrangle on the campus of the University of Western Foalinaarc, where a body has just been discovered. Who is this girl, and why is she dead? There’s drama in plenty with fugitives on the run, turbulence on the university campus, fresh intrigue, a new romance, a strange kidnapping, an escape from prison, and a rescue mission where things don’t quite go as planned.

Who is the target audience for your books?  What has the reception been so far?

While the books are targeted to teenagers and young adults, I’ve had readers from ages 8 to 85! It’s hard to predict who is most likely to enjoy a good fantasy fiction tale. The novels seem to appeal to readers with an interest in young adult (YA) fiction, sci-fi, or magical realism. An alternate universe, with multi-ethnic characters, many with unusual abilities, likely attracts fans of the Marvel and DC Entertainment films and comic books. The reception so far has been excellent; the stories resonate particularly with people of Indian heritage, both those living in India as well as abroad. Plus, I hope young readers from various immigrant and diverse backgrounds who don’t see their culture widely represented in YA novels will enjoy that aspect as well. 

Can you give us hints about some secret anagrams that you have snuck into your books?  

The names of many of my characters are anagrams or derivations of names in mythology and literature. For instance, Nujran is an anagram (plus an extra letter) of Arjun  from the Mahabharata. Pholtorimes, a detective is a fused anagram of two favorite detectives, Holmes and Poirot. The names of many places are designed to remind you of locations on planet Earth. For example, Foalinaarc is an anagram (with a vowel switch) of California. Nadii is an anagram of India. I’ll let you guess the others!

Why did you self-publish your books?  Can you tell us what you have learned about doing that and the wider publishing world?

The publishing industry is not kind to first-time authors.  Additionally, as a physician, with a full time job in the Medical Device industry, I didn’t have a lot of time to go back and forth with agents, traditional publishing houses, and so on. The self-publishing route makes this process a lot easier; I worked with Notion Press in Chennai, who then made the book available on Amazon, Google books, iBooks, and other sites, both in paperback as well as e-book options. Furthermore, one ends up owning the copyright, with a lot more control over format, cover design, advertising, etc. In retrospect, the self-publishing approach saved me a lot of time, uncertainty and angst, and I would certainly recommend this approach to fellow writers.

Sudhir, you are a cardiologist by training.  What made you delve into writing books? 

I’ve always wanted to write, but a career in medicine and cardiology took me down a different path. I’ve published quite a bit in the medical literature…a few years ago, I thought I would try my hand at fiction. As an Indian-American writer, I wanted to bring a unique perspective to storytelling, drawing from my love of Indian mythology, the Arabian Nights and other classic literature in the diversity space.  The ideas for the books came from multiple directions. Raising two boys (who are now 26 and 24), I read a lot of young adult fiction. We perused the Harry Potter novels together, a delightful shared experience. When they were younger, I learned to spin a lot of yarns, mainly as bedtime stories. And going further back in time, there was my own childhood and early adult fascination with the Indian epics—magnificent tales of princes and warriors woven into stories. 

As for how I found the time to write, here’s the scoop: the entire first novel was written on long trans-continental United Airlines flights, something I had to do a lot of in my working life pre-COVID. The cabin of an airplane is an unusual, but perfect place to lose yourself in a new universe through writing! Most of the second novel was also written at 35,000 feet, before quarantine and shelter-in-place restrictions kept me home for the tail end of the process. 

What advice do you have for aspiring writers out there?  

Writing is hard, but is wonderfully relaxing at the same time! We all have great stories to tell, so why not write and share these stories with the world? One can pursue a dream at any age, whatever that dream might be.  In my case, having a stable career was the perfect backdrop to working on the novels, because then writing is for fun! 

And when you write, don’t edit while creating new content. Write first, then edit later. Let the thoughts flow and write them as they come, then go back and re-shape the manuscript as many times as you need to.  

Who are some of your favorite writers?  What inspiration do you draw from them?

I enjoyed reading all the Harry Potter novels with my sons. That said, my favorite books are (1) One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (2) Midnight’s Children, by Salman Rushdie (3) The Master and Margarita, by Mikhail Bulgakov. Marquez’s novels introduced me to magical realism, Rushdie draws on his Indian heritage, and Bulgakov was a medical doctor who wrote one of the most phantasmagoric masterpieces of the 20th century. As I have no formal training as a writer, reading is a great way not just to be inspired, but also to learn how the best authors approach their craft.

What are you reading right now?  What are you watching right now?

I’m re-reading Crime and Punishment, by the great Russian writer, Fyodor Dostoevsky (I first read it as a teenager). On TV I’m currently watching the detective dramas Midsomer Murders and Death in Paradise, Nordic Noir mysteries like the Valhalla Murders and Deadwind, and a futuristic sci-fi comedy-drama called Upload. On a separate note, I enjoy culinary exploration, and appreciate cooking shows like the Bombay Chef and the Great British Baking Show,

What are your plans going forward?  

The series is planned as a trilogy, so there’s one more novel after this one.  I hope to release it in mid-late 2021. Nujran’s adventures will continue,and hopefully my readers will stay with me through the end of the series. Once I finish the Prince of Typgar trilogy, I want to write detective fiction. That was my favorite genre growing up, and continues to be my favorite type of TV drama. Or I might start a new fantasy fiction series…let’s see where life takes me!

The first two books of the trilogy are available on Amazon:

https://www.amazon.com/Prince…/dp/1947137034/ref=sr_1_4…

https://www.amazon.com/Prince…/dp/1648508782/ref=sr_1_3…


Anjana Nagarajan-Butaney is a Bay Area resident with experience in educational non-profits, community building, networking, and content development and was Community Director for an online platform. She is interested in how to strengthen communities by building connections to politics, science & technology, gender equality and public education.

Edited by Meera Kymal, contributing editor at India Currents

 

The Red Dress

You are completely crazy. In the past you have called yourself fat, stupid, lazy, and clumsy—all of which you are, to some extent or the other, but not crazy. Not until now.You are vacating the house, your home of four years. “I think it’s a good idea to take a break from the relationship,” your fiancé says, “to find out, what it is you are really seeking.”You gather your things you acquired before moving in together, and the things collected since. You box up souvenirs of your travels; wooden figurines of women holding babies, and dolls in red frocks and from all over the world: African, Chinese, Indian, Norwegian, Peruvian and others.You possess dozens of things—sweet, cute, and innocent. But you’re not a hoarder. You know you are not. You just have a penchant for happy looking things—cute and small, bright and beautiful.You remember the day you met your fiancé four years ago. It was the day you had seen the little girl in a red blouse and a denim skirt, with a woman crossing 23rd & 7th in Manhattan.The woman is probably in her mid-thirties, but could be older. Nowadays, women have started to age differently you think. You know about corrective facial surgery. You know because your surgeon corrected yours, working on your eyes as a medical necessity, and you wonder why anyone would want to go through that for vanity’s sake.You know that this woman and the child in a blue denim skirt are mother and daughter. They are happy, bright and cheerful—their life full of dreams, and hope. You are compelled to follow the little girl on the crossing—like the way you pursue happiness. You follow her on the pedestrian crossing, against your judgment. You don’t think of how odd this might appear if anyone notices. But you are in New York. No one notices.You think of your surgery. You fingers move toward your left eye, softly touching the scar, touching your lashes. You close your left eye unconsciously, and see everything only with your right eye, the way you had seen the world for so many years prior. The faint yet visible scar is your only testimony to your one-eyed blindness of your past, and to that moment that changed everything. Proof of your disability, if someone asks you, if they are bold enough, but you are in New York and no one cares about scars, emotional or otherwise.You remember how your doctor surgically opened and released your eye from the scarring. And how you were able to see with that left eye for the first time in eight years. It is now fifteen years, three months almost to the day since the incident, but you’re not counting.You imitate the little girl’s stride—a little skippety skip, hoppety-hop. You stop as soon as realize you are doing this. You do not want to be perceived as weird. Yet, deep down you recognize that spirit of childhood that makes you do that. You want to become that child again.As you are packing, you think of that warm spring day in Manhattan when you first met your fiancé on a crossing, walking behind the child.He tells you over the course of the next few months why he is drawn to you. How he loves your childlike fascination and wonder. He says he admires and envies your delight and your vulnerability, your desire, and your dreams. He says he had seen it in your eyes.And one normal day in the near future on a crossing in Manhattan when the rumble and roar of the cars and buses start up on a green, when talking softly is not an option, he asks if he can hold your hand and skippety-skip and hoppety-hop life along with you. In that moment you know that the universe is conspiring to hold your hand and celebrate life with you. In that joy and bliss, a déjà vu.

You are packing your closet. You see a few clothes: white, black and lavender, the ones your friends gift you because they are your friends and they tell you that variety is the spice of life, that you are obsessing with red, and that you’re always wearing a dress, like an air hostessthey say, teasing you.   They tell you in a foreboding tone that there’s a fine line between an immense liking, an obsession, and possibly a real problem.“You can choose where you want to be,” your closest friend says one day when you go out for coffee. You are not sure what she is talking about. Then you begin to comprehend when you see the gift she gets for you. It is the same lovely canary yellow dress both of you had seen a few weeks earlier in a window you passed by. You accept it gracefully but never wear it. It’s not your comfort color. It’s not red. And it can’t do you any good. There is no evolution. There is no point.You look in your closet. You see nothing odd, but you know you ought to find a hidden message. And then, this time there is no denial. You take a deep breath and close your eyes. You are afraid to open them. You wish you were partially blind again, and maybe you still are, just differently. You pretend to be your fiancé, just for a moment to see things his way. You open your eyes and take a look again.The closet is now revelatory. You see it like he does. Like they all do. You instantly feel exposed and want to box yourself never to emerge again. The closet is like a funny mirror showing you contours and caricatures of yourself you might never see otherwise. But this closet is real — like truth — bitter and hard to swallow. And not funny.You see your madness—insanity usurping your world. Your closet is your mirror. The mirror your fiancé and your friends tried showing you so many times in the past.You look again. Barring four dresses, all gifts given to you; lavender, white, black and the canary yellow still in its box, you see only red dresses. No matter what style or shape or shade, they are all red. You suddenly comprehend it. It all comes back to you.

Your body slumps over the edge of the bed. You are on the floor curled up like a little child. You shake uncontrollably. No tears come through—just guttural sounds of loss, pain, and grief. You know your body is revolting the death of this relationship—of four years and millions of memory cells murdered, yet struggling and seeking revival. Maybe this too shall remain a memory. You know that time will heal, yet scars remain.

Your mind takes you back to where it all began. It was so long ago, but only seems like yesterday.

You are thirteen, on the threshold of a being child-woman. You had gone to India for vacation in winter, the time of festivities; Dasara and Deepawali, “to understand and absorb your culture,” your parents had said.

It is Deepawali, the festival of lights on the moonless night in the month of Kartika. Every house in the neighborhood is lit with lights, small and big, old-fashioned candles, low energy LED’s and mud-diyas filled with oil— lit at dusk, and refilled and relit to keep the dark Amavasya night at bay. This is your favorite festival, more than even Christmas. Firecrackers crackle and burst leaving behind smoke, and little sparkles fall away like twinkling stars. In every home, there is food, fireworks, and family. Everyone is celebrating.

You are wearing a new red dress. You love your dress. You are twirling around and around in your frock, filling in air beneath the dress and propelling your own rotation, faster and faster.

Your head is light. Your body is nimble. Your mind is happy. You are in motion. You are laughing. Happiness fills the room. The room is spinning—the world is spinning. Then, everything outside of you—becomes one. Everything inside of you—becomes one. You become—everything. Everything—becomes you. In that oneness, you are outside and you are inside. Then nothing.

You are moving and then you are not. The moment pauses and you are not sure how long this lasts—the stillness encompasses everything around.   Is it just an instant, or could it be hours or days?

Time and space mean nothing. You become the laughter. Joy becomes you. You become the earth you are spinning on. You are the air you breathe. You are the earth that moves. You are everything around you. You are the sound. You are the light. You are the darkness. You are nothing. You are Empty. You are Shoonya.

Then you feel the lick of fire. The sparkle from a cracker becomes bigger and brighter and hotter. Your skin scorches with the burn. The red dress becomes your skin. And then, the oneness of moment is lost.

You hear your own shrieks coming from a place you didn’t know existed. You smell things you have never smelt before. Your skin touches something deeper and inside of you. Your mind is dark. The room is dark. Then nothing.

You are now a statistic for Deepawali fire accidents.

It is eight years before you can see with your left eye again. The burnt skin sealed over your eye carefully snipped away with surgical precision.

You have missed nothing. Yet you are aware how nobody sees you in the same way again. And you see nothing in the same way again. You are an invalid and will be for the next eight years. You understand impermanence. You understand transience. You know what is true and what is not. You know the bliss of Shoonya

You have known this bliss only wearing a red dress. You experienced nothingness, and in that nothing you had everything. And, you have been trying ever since. You put on a red dress and close your eyes. You even twirl. You know you are being silly. But you believe. You are desperate. You will do anything to recreate that moment. You do not give up.

You are in your room, surrounded by boxes and an emptiness that always was. You see the madness of your life going back to that one moment. You understand the seeking. You feel the turmoil in the void. Then you look into the mirror and see the little girl in the red dress.