An Unlikely Goddess
by Mohanalaskshmi Rajakumar
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.
The Hindu goddess, Sita, is said to have been born from the Earth.
King Janaka discovers the beautiful infant and in her beauty, believes in her divinity. He raises her as his own daughter……
Unlike her namesake, Sita’s first mistake was being born.
A girl, her mother thought, eyes dark in abject terror. What if he leaves me? She swallowed, increasing the dryness in her post-delivery mouth, the stiches across her abdomen itching. No water. Only ice chips until her bowels passed the tests. Mythili pressed back against the pillows. She closed her eyes, pushing her fingers into the sockets until the darkness was punctuated by bone-white stars. She wished she could as easily tune out the gurgles of the baby in the bassinet beside her.
Yet, even premature and unwanted, Sita was obliviously happy to enter the world, beaming her infant smile at anyone or anything she saw: the nurse, her aunt, her mother’s back, the noxiously-pink cement walls of the Madras hospital in which she found herself. Several pounds underweight, she was otherwise fine—a petite, brown-skinned baby with tufts of black hair crowning a smooth scalp. How could she be expected to know that from her first breath she was, and always would be, a living reminder of her mother’s failure to produce a first-born male heir?
Though swaddled and placed in the bassinet immediately after delivery, her eyes were alive with motion. She blinked up at the faces of passersby, but they were admittedly few, so instead, she followed the blinking lights, the creeping shadows and the occasional appearance of a nurse. Everything about the world kept her busy with delight until sleep washed over her little body
“Look at that smile,” the young nurse said, cradling Sita against her flat bosom.
“Aamam,” Priya, the childless aunt, agreed, rubbing a forefinger across the baby’s somewhat wrinkly face.
Instead of replying, Mythili, Sita’s mother, pulled a see-through blue sheet up to her chin and turned her face away.
Eight Years Later, a Goddess is Born
By Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar
I started writing my first novel in 2005. They were fragments of two voices, the main characters, which I discovered during a writing workshop. The man and woman were each presenting to the reader their version of why their relationship had failed. A few months later, I had a manuscript of alternating chapters.
Enter the writing coach. He explained to me why my idea wouldn’t work. He was the expert and while I disagreed, I didn’t have the courage to continue on the idea on my own. I put the manuscript to one side. I started a blog. I became very interested in writing a novel set in Qatar.
Two years later, with six eBooks under my belt, I came back to the manuscript. This time I had developed a process for working with fiction.
I had a cultural reader, someone versed in South Indian culture. She took a year, but together we went section by section and strengthened pieces.
I worked with another editor, and he and I fixed the tense errors (fiction is told in the past tense, as a widely accepted convention) and other structural problems in the story.
I sent the beta version of the manuscript out to two readers who were also fans of my other books. They hated it; wanted more development, still felt the writing could be improved.
I went to another editor, someone highly recommended. We went through it again.
By now the book had “slipped” or missed it’s publication date. When this happens in traditional publishing it puts the marketing schedule in an uproar. As an indie writer, the only person upset was myself.
But I kept working on it. Refining it. Because by now, so many people had heard and read my other books, I didn’t want to let anyone down.
And, people had heard of my work but not read anything. I couldn’t imagine putting off new readers.
I toiled and waited for the editor’s sick child to recover, the proof reader to get her own computer, the designer to reply; all the people in the supply chain upon who my book coming to life depended.
The moment finally came; nearly 8 years after the first words were written, and 2 years after I began my self-publishing journey in earnest, An Unlikely Goddess was available on Amazon.com. Now the real work: getting people to read, review, and love Sita’s story as much as I did.
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.
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