Could you shed more light on Hindu culture?
People often confuse being a speaker of Hindi, which is one of the 16 official languages of India, with the religion, with being a Hindu, which is someone of the faith of Hinduism.
Hinduism is an ancient religion which is polytheistic, or believes in many Gods and is mostly practiced in India but also in Nepal and places with Indian influence like Bali or Singapore. There are male and female deities, like the goddess Sita, who the main character is named after, and like the Greek gods, there are many, many stories about their origins, lives on earth in human form, and the ways they can help people.
Many of the gods have allegorical positions or they stand for certain values. Sita, for example, is a paragon of womanly virtue. A parallel might be the Virgin Mary for Catholics; she is seen as above reproach and the perfect woman (the comparison ends there, no virgin birth for Sita).
I named my main character Sita because she is a “good girl” who struggles with how to come into her own, whether as an Indian, or an American teenager. Her struggle is one anyone who has ever tried to fit in can relate to.
Do you have any personal experiences involving unwanted daughters?
I was the second daughter and it’s no secret that my family was eagerly expecting a boy since all of the 10+ cousins were also girls. I wrote a short story, “Truth” about unwanted daughters and the dangers of the ‘sex test’ in Asia (which allows women to know whether or not they’re having a boy) in my collection Coloured and other Stories. Throughout India, China, and other parts of Asia, girls are often viewed as a burden because of the high price of dowries and marriage practices where they are given away to the other family. “A daughter is the wealth you give away,” a character says in the novel Toss of a Lemon by Padma Viswanathan. This is a mentality is changing but is at the heart of sexism against women all over Asia. And certainly a key part of Sita, my protagonist’s, story.
Sita is the firstborn but since she is a female, her birth makes life difficult for her mother who is expected to produce a son. From the start, Sita finds herself in a culture hostile to her, but her irrepressible personality won’t be subdued. Born in India, she immigrants as a toddler to the U.S. with her parents after the birth of her much anticipated younger brother. Her father’s academic ambitions take the family all over the United States, as he chases grant funding at universities in several states. His financial challenges make life at home stressful for Sita, her mother, and younger brother – but the women of the family bear the brunt of his frustrations – both physically and emotionally. Hers is a South Indian family, from Tamil Nadu, one of the most conservative states in the subcontinent.
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar is a South Asian American who has lived in Qatar since 2005. Moving to the Arabian Desert was fortuitous in many ways since this is where she met her husband, had a baby, and made the transition from writing as a hobby to a full time passion. She has since published seven e-books including a mom-ior for first time mothers, Mommy But Still Me, a guide for aspiring writers, So You Want to Sell a Million Copies, a short story collection, Coloured and Other Stories, and a novel about women’s friendships, Saving Peace.
Her recent books have focused on various aspects of life in Qatar. From Dunes to Dior, named as a Best Indie book in 2013, is a collection of essays related to her experiences as a female South Asian American living in the Arabian Gulf. Love Comes Later was the winner of the Best Indie Book Award for Romance in 2013 and is a literary romance set in Qatar and London. The Dohmestics is an inside look into compound life, the day to day dynamics between housemaids and their employers.
After she joined the e-book revolution, Mohana dreams in plotlines. Learn more about her work on her website at www.mohanalakshmi.com or follow her latest on Twitter: @moha_doha.
Twitter: www.twitter.com/moha_dohaFacebook: www.facebook.com/themohadoha
Mohanalakshmi will be awarding a free ecopy of An Unlikely Goddess to one randomly drawn commenter at every stop, and a Grand Prize of a $50 Amazon GC will be awarded to one randomly drawn commenter during the tour.