How it was that I wound up there, in the first place, and the things that happened and people I met in the three-year stay there, with my best friend and life partner.
It’s been a long trip, this one, but it started with a commitment:
I’ll go to Ireland, if you will.
He said, ‘Okay. I wonder if we can take the cat.’
What the story’s about
WHEN AMERICAN-BORN Karin Malhotra elopes to Ireland from Durham, North Carolina, with her college sweetheart, she botches the dreams her parents had for her when they left New Delhi with a stalwart philosophy on what a good life “ought” to be. “Opportunity,” her father said, “is in the U.S. That’s why we came.”
But finding herself in Ireland, juxtaposed in not one, but two additional cultures (her new husband is Japanese), Karin finds herself thinking about the early years of her own parents’ married lives, and wondering if, like her, they questioned their decision to leave everything familiar for the mere promise of a better life.
She tumbles headlong without any preparation into a small village in the corner of Ireland. Not only does she have to contend with a new suite of social mores, she wonders what it would have been like had she not quit home.
ONE OF THE ROOKIE MOVES, I found, in publishing first book, was getting too excited about the sharing of it ‘widely.’ So of course I sent a load o press releases, wondering if someone somewhere might be interested in this story. They were. A few times. So I wound up sitting on the other end of phone calls, or in the offices of people who wanted to ask questions, or in a radio station’s live ‘on air’ room. These were awkward moments. Much more interesting, I realize now, writing this and reflecting, was the time the Real Girls of the Triangle invited me to their book club, after everyone there got their own copy an read through it. What did they wish I had written in the story that I’d forgotten to include? What did they think about the characters? I was mesmerized and touched that they wanted to know all the details. All the things you have no idea what a person is thinking when they read your words, a person who knows you intimately in a way, because of that. A person you haven’t met.
Still, I was young and trying things, much in the vein of everything ‘the road’ had taught me to do. See what happens. Learn. Adjust. Try something else. Repeat. Why did people want to know about The ELopement? Puzzled, even though I’d hoped for the reaction that it got (praise, press, buzz). Maybe people were wondering, with me, these kinds of things: Why was it so important to my parents that I married someone they chose? And: How much is too much to trade for a promise of love?
On their website
—Listen to the story at NPR
Another thing I did which I guess helped in some way with sharing this story more widely was to put it on Kindle. For personal reasons that involve wanting to start conversations now instead of just publish books that I write, I don’t use that service anymore. Still, there were some kind words that were shared there through reviews. Here are a couple.
- “Dipika is a[n] author who clearly has been writing for years. Her ability to illustrate a particular moment, object, or emotion is amazing. Her writing style is different than what I am accustomed to reading. Its almost poetic. As the reader you can expect to gain insight into the mind, heart and soul of a Woman who lives life passionately and purposely. Also, Dipika does a nice job at outlining the good and not so pretty reality of what it means to defy cultural norms.” —Anonymous, Amazon Kindle review
“Her writing style mirrors that of her blog, Kismuth, the practical infused with the mystical, perhaps reflecting the duality of the cultures in which she was raised… She faced her own reactions everywhere from a quiet, and sometimes lonely, Irish cottage to flying a kite by herself at lunchtime over Lake Crabtree, desperate to get away from a mindset that didn’t suit her.” —Aaron Mandel, The Clarion Content
Why southwest Ireland?
Where there was this view, outside of the window, the big picture window that I would write about years later, many months after those long, trailing wintry days and then the bright uncannily lengthy summery ones… three years, almost, all together. I think that’s about the length time it takes for me to feel like, yeah, I’ve got enough notes now, I can tell this story. (See Breakfast in Cambodia).
What’s weird is that it would take a bunch of other kinds of writing (news articles, staff jobs at papers, freelance bits and bobs through the years) to feel like I had the chops to put it together. It was, it turned out, the early and original voice that I was most excited about. The first-person story, that’s what I wanted to share. So I had to unlearn my newsjournalism on-the-job trainings, those things I’d imagined would get me closer to my goal instead of moving me away from it.
Back to the poetry, the romance of writing what felt good, as and how it did, with the cadence and the press of just feeling my way toward the good stuff, the light and the centering. The Elopement was the first piece that I shared with the wider world than just my innermost circle. It’s where I felt I could start to say something, given the fact that ten years elapsed between the first scene and the coming-out with the book and sharing of the story, out loud. It helped to be back in the place where I’d left, to circle to ‘home’ and see if maybe, just perhaps, the things I’d recalled or felt or imagined about the way it was and why I had to go, like really go, wihtout looking back, and give up a whole part of my past (without really ever letting go, how can you? It’s your ‘FOO’, ‘family of origin,’ we’re talking about). Maturing? Distance. Time… Time was what helped, the most. Accepting the everything that came with giving up all hope of a better past. Isn’t that what they say is the definition of forgiveness?
Never shall I forget the going-away party in Skibbereen, where FH sang a genuinely beautiful song and wished me the best of luck when I moved back Stateside, not directly to the place I’d left, but a new, green and also rainy clime: Seattle. I guess I just wasn’t ready to go ‘back,’ but wanted to move forward. Something that would come back later, in another place, in an other time… Phnom Penh. Such a crazy journey, all this, but it’s been a work in progress. Life and the poetry of movement, of giving shape to a voice that isn’t stagnant, not at all. This picture was one of the first that we took when we got to the little house where this book is set. Isn’t it a grand view, altogether now?
This is the beginning of how it all happened. The story, the sharing, the learning, and the long light in the summertime of southwest Eire.