When I was eight, we almost moved to India while my father was making a film. Months in Jaipur followed by a few more in London. Everything was being planned when a WHO emergency travel advisory brought things to a halt. Suddenly, the idea of taking a five and eight-year-old seemed a huge health risk. Even my mother, a pretty fearless world traveler, thought it was best we stay home. That’s my India story. The one that almost was.
My friend Jenny had a very different India experience. To begin with, it involved actually stepping foot off a plane into the country. I never made it to Jaipur in 1986, but twenty years later, life took Jenny, her husband and their dog to Hyderabad. And it’s the story she tells in her just released memoir, Karma Gone Bad.
It seemed so perfect: A writer in Manhattan with a blog called Karma In The City, managing a Bikram yoga studio on the UWS. If her husband’s work was to take them to any place in the world, India seemed like the perfect adventure.
Except she wasn’t looking for an adventure. Not at that moment. And she writes about it with wit and honesty.
Moving to India was the opportunity of a lifetime. A gift from the universe. Karma at its very best. Except…not really.
I hate to ruin the myth – the one about writers being competitive and snarky and not supporting one another – but it isn’t my experience. In fact, without other writers in my life there would be a gaping hole. Whether those writers are more or less prolific/successful/well-known it doesn’t matter. We celebrate the successes and support the setbacks. It’s a hard life. It’s a wonderful life.
Jenny and I both met writing at BlogHer a few years ago. Last year, we were collaborating with a few other writers on a startup that ended up being shelved for the time being. As has become the norm in social media, we’d become friends via URL rather than IRL. And as we were working on the literary startup, she was finishing up her book.
About six months later, amongst the book galleys I regularly read, I received one with a great big, golden Ganesh on the cover. It was Karma Gone Bad. And I loved it. I emailed Jenny right away. Only connect, right?
I often wonder how that time in Jaipur would have shaped my life. Be it books or films or people I know, the consensus is that a visit to India is a life changing experience. Magical. Enlightening.
Except something truly life changing can often be exhausting before it can be magical or enlightening. Or even just fun. Change is hard. And that’s what makes Karma Gone Bad so good. So utterly relatable. Jenny did not sign up for two years in India; it happened. And she learned to make it work. (The dialogues between Jenny and her husband with their driver, Venkat, deserve a volume of their own.)
Sometimes life is a little more overwhelming that we can make sense of. Perspective is wonderful but requires time. It makes me think of Zadie Smith’s White Teeth, “the past is always tense and the future, perfect.”
Here we are, in the now. Now what?
First world problems in a third world country are still problems. Stepping outside your comfort zone – be it Hyderabad or Hollywood or wherever you call home – is complicated. Against the backdrop of India – the sites, the sounds, the smells – it becomes a story hard to put down.
Find Jenny’s book on Amazon, in stores or your local library. Tonight, I’m picking up a few copies for holiday gifts at Book Soup (indie book stores 4eva), where Jenny is doing a reading. Writers supporting writers. As we do.
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