Sacred River: How it came about
In 1994 I trekked to the source of the Ganges River in India. As I stood at 13,000 ft, admiring the Gangotri Glacier, I conceived the idea of a novel where the main character will come from America to this beautiful, yet mystical setting. I developed the story against the background of a gold heist from a temple, which is on the path to the glacier.
The story has three narrative streams that flow independently at the beginning but converge at the temple for the conclusion. In the first stream, because of financial problems, the head of a non-profit organization in India secretly plots the unthinkable – to steal gold hidden in a sacred Hindu temple and use that gold to uplift the poor people of India. He coerces the help of a senior monk from the temple by fueling his desire to become a famous religious leader. This is the first stream.
In the second stream, an Indian-American scientist who is disillusioned with the American rat-race travels to his home country in search of peace and renewal. In the process, he realizes that wealth and status do not matter. His American traveling companion, who realizes there is some kind of plot to rob the temple, falls in love with their beautiful Indian guide and tries to convince her that he is sincere.
The third narrative stream describes the life struggles and spirituality of an illiterate farmer and provides intriguing counterpoints to the story.
On the surface, the action centers on the treasure heist; but underneath, this is a story of a quest nurtured by Indian mythological and folk tales, of unconditional spiritual devotion, and of intercultural romance.
It took me twenty years to write and rewrite, edit and re-edit, arrange and re-arrange the chapters to come to its final stage. It’s a Kindle book now and I am receiving reviews from many; the final printed book will consider these reviews and suggestions and be out in a few months.
From the Ganges to the Snake River:
In the Acknowledgments of this book I wrote: “In a non-fiction class, English 324, we were reading essays by E. B. White. White had lived in New York City for many years and had written a wonderful essay about the city. I wondered what he would have written about Idaho Falls and about the locals if he lived there. ” That was where I started to write these essays about East-Idaho. I had another purpose; I wanted to write my friends on the east coast about where I had come to live, how the place and the people are, and how my life is in Idaho.
When the creative non-fiction book was published by Idaho State University, a young journalist came to our house to interview me for the Post Register newspaper. One of the questions he asked me was: how do you decide what to write? In other words, how do you get the ideas you write about?
I didn’t have a problem in this area, especially choosing topics to write for this book – about Idaho and India, their similarities and contrasts, but I knew it was a question many struggle with. Among the many things one can write about, how do you decide on a topic? Of course for a pure non-fiction book, the author will have to have some deep knowledge of the subject, be passionate about the subject, and perhaps have a specific theme to propagate. It is not so rigid for creative non-fiction essays which often deal with events, emotions of people, and the author’s views and reflections. It has more to do with the author. There is no clear answer to the question posed. I told him instead about my set up for writing. I get up early in the morning before the sun rises, sit in front of my computer in my Study and turn on music. I listen to classical music – Indian vocal classical (my favorite is Rashid Khan) or western classical (my favorites are Mozart and Beethoven, but I developed a special fondness for Schubert when I was in Vienna). Sometime I stare outside through the window behind the computer screen and watch dawn breaking. Then ideas come to me and I write. I think the mood of the moment generates the ideas I write about. There is no logical process for me to choose a topic at that moment. Then later I go over what I wrote many, many times.
This brings me to a subject of my failure. I wanted to write an essay on potatoes. How could I write about my experience in Idaho without writing about potatoes? But I couldn’t. I didn’t know anyone involved with the farming, harvesting or the business of potatoes. I visited the Potato Museum near Blackfoot, but I couldn’t connect with any individual or family in the potato farming or business. I could have written a dry essay on potatoes – its introduction, development and how the Idaho pioneers made it famous, but that would not have any personal connection to it; to me it would be sterile. So my book of creative non-fiction essays does not have an article on potatoes.
I used to go to Bush Elementary School in Idaho Falls to tutor children after school. There I saw that the 2nd and 3rd grade children did not have any knowledge of the outside world; even the fifth graders were quite ignorant of the world. But when they grow up and enter the job market, they will be working with people from all over the world; some of these coworkers may not be sitting in the next cubicle. They will be working via internet and videos. It would help them if they knew a little of the cultures and where their colleagues grew up. Their working relationships would then be much smoother. With this thought in my mind, I remembered how my children loved to hear the Viku story I used to tell them when they were very young. They always clamored to hear more. I made up the stories but they loved whatever Viku did with his elephant friend, Haatee, in the jungle. “Tell us a Viku story,” they asked me often. “What did Viku do next?” Now many years later, when my two sons had already graduated from college, I thought if my children enjoyed Viku stories so much, perhaps all other children would like those too. And I could tell children about another culture, in this case about India. I wrote up the first book, Viku and the Elephant. It was very well received and so I continued writing about the two friends and their adventures in the forests of India.
One other thing I did with these books: each book has a theme based on good principles. The first book is based on friendship – how friends help each other. The second one is on perseverance – never give up because then you will have no chance of achieving what you want. The third book is about preserving the animals and the forest. And the fourth book is about bullying in school. Bullying is a global issue. Even I have been bullied in school. So I wanted to make children aware of this problem and learn what they can do.
These Viku books are:
Viku and the Elephant
Viku to the Rescue
Viku and the Ivory Thieves
Viku Goes to School
Finally, I express my appreciation of National Award-Winning teachers who have supported me in this endeavor and helped me develop discussion questions at the end of each book. I am particularly happy with the discussion questions on bullying. If parents and teachers go through these questions with their children, they will develop a healthy understanding and response to any bullying they encounter.
All my books are now available both as printed and electronic books.
Multimedia Children’s books:
I have spent many hours learning and developing two multimedia books. They are titled Viku and Haatee and Viku meets the Poachers. They are developed from my first children’s book Viku and the Elephant. They have many pictures and sounds of animals, photos with cultural information about India and an audio reading by me. Children can read these stories or hear them. This is an excellent way for children to learn and I believe this will soon become a good way for children to absorb lots of information. So I am proud of these two books. Unfortunately, they are only available for iPad and Mac computers.