Emails From India: Women Write Home is a book of short stories by women in North America about their widely varying experiences in India – compiled by the goddess of patience, Janis Harper. Janis contacted me 3 years ago when she saw a blog post I wrote (in a personal blog long-since dead) about traveling on the night train to Varanasi on one of Beth’s WanderTours. She asked if I’d be interested in contributing the story to a book, and I said “absolutely.” I signed the paperwork and heard nothing for months.
Then emails from Janis started coming. More paperwork was signed, followed by months of forgetting there was ever a book. Anyone who has published a book will be familiar with this pattern. About 6 months ago, we did a wave of edits, and then all of a sudden there was a COVER!
Followed by the question: “Did we spell your name right?”
I’m the fourth name down on the third column, and yes, it’s spelled right.
What I love about this book (other than the fact that my name is ON IT!!!) is that the collection of stories reveals more than just what India is like – really like. Flowery and romantic notions are put to the test within these pages. But the “more” is that these stories reveal how we were all changed by the place. What we found in India was more than souvenirs, more than amazing pictures, more than any “vacation” could possibly supply. It’s hard to describe, even as a writer by trade, what you find in India. But, perhaps after reading these stories, all of our words together will give the reader a glimpse.
Excerpt From My Story: “Night Train to Varanasi”
My top bunk was narrow with no railing and felt very high off the ground. I pushed my purse and sandals to the wall and wrapped my legs around the bags, covering them and myself with a brown blanket when it was time to sleep. Thieves walk up and down train hallways during the night looking to steal belongings from sleeping passengers, so it’s best to keep everything tucked as far away from the edge of the bunk as possible. I used the duffel as a pillow and covered my head with one of my newly acquired scarves for extra warmth. Only my nose peeped out.
An hour after lights-out, just when I began to doze, an official in military dress entered the car checking assignments, and paying special attention to foreign travelers. He seemed to already know that this car had white, female tourists inside. When he pushed aside our curtain, the Indian mother was upright in blur of movement and didn’t let him get half a sentence out before she started bombarding him with Hindi. In my half-asleep state, I had a vision of a bird defending its nest against a crow. For fifteen minutes she argued and berated, the auditory equivalent of machine gun fire but without pauses to reload. Frustrated, the man left to bother the other passengers, and my defender returned to her bunk under mine.
From the back cover:
India fascinates many people. But why are women, especially, drawn there? Twenty-seven women writers – from Canada, the US and the UK – share their experiences in thirty-seven emails, and so provide some answers to this question. Poignant, humorous, outrageous and astute, these stories come from the big cities and remote villages, the beaches and ashrams, the trains and buses. They speak to the mysterious relationship that women and India seem to share, as well as to themes common to all India travellers: meeting the challenges of getting from here to there, adapting to the many faces of the unforeseen, and learning the art of waiting. And then there’s the food, the smells, the clothes; the poverty, the distinct gender roles and attitudes, the ubiquitous con artists; and the exuberant children, the spirituality, the discovery that all is not what it seems. These voices inspire nostalgia in those who have already taken this journey, and dreams of India in those who haven’t. Yet.
Curious about India, or just want to re-live your own Indian adventure? Check out Emails From India: Women Write Home on Amazon!