Week 3! I can hardly believe we’re at the halfway mark already! Here are answers to some of your questions:
Now for some of the other questions I received this week.
How did I get the idea for Rukku selling necklaces? (Hutchinson Middle School, TX, USA)
I’ve grown up seeing bead sellers like this beautiful woman in the picture below (which was taken this summer in the city of Chennai or Madras, where I was born). They inspired that part of The Bridge Home.
Why did I decide that Viji and Rukku would end up living on a bridge? (The Book Cavaliers, NC, USA)
Here’s a photograph, also taken this summer, of the very bridge that inspired that particular setting in the novel. When I was a child, the bridge was already falling into disrepair – but I remember seeing families sheltering on the bridge. Now, it’s been fenced off, so it was harder for me to get a good picture – and it’s also not as easy to live on it right now, but unfortunately, in most Indian cities, people live in places similar to this ruined bridge. Be sure to look at the photographic resource (a pdf file on my website’s resource page for The Bridge Home) – I annotated it, so you will have a better idea of how the pictures are connected to the novel.
I just received another important question from a school in Lubbock TX about whether I’ve ever been bullied for my religious beliefs. I do want to address it – although this is much too brief a response today – because I have to run off in a moment to attend to some other commitments I have. It’s probably going to come out all jumbled, too – but then, you ought to know that even published and award-winning and acclaimed writers can write pages that aren’t polished or perfect.
Yes, I’ve sometimes met with derision because of my beliefs. The awful truth is that even adults engage in behavior that isn’t exactly admirable sometimes. Religious diversity needs to be celebrated in books and in the world. Part of that diversity is honoring those who are agnostic or atheistic. Arul, to answer another question I was asked, is deeply Christian – because I met children like him and I admire his faith immensely; I also respect, equally, Viji, who has an irreligious philosophy. Just as Arul and Viji respect one another and love each other and remain friends and family despite their very different views, we need to accept one another – whether we hold a certain faith or adhere to no faith at all – and we must respect one another if we hope to create peace as a world. In my books, spirituality always has an important place, because I think when we ignore religious diversity, we do ourselves a disservice. We need to respect one another and accept one another. Here’s an article I wrote about that for Kirkus Reviews that you might find interesting. My novel A TIME TO DANCE is the first novel that looks at a girl’s spiritual awakening through the Hindu lens. And, at the end of the day, I wish we could think of our various religions as lenses through which we attempt to capture something that is beyond us; something that cannot be completely described in words. I haven’t studied every religion in the world, but I believe that compassion and love and service to others are important aspects of all of religions; I also believe that atheists and agnostics can work just as much for peace and believe just as much in goodness and morality as people who are religious. If you are being bullied because of your religious beliefs, find someone you can trust and tell them what is happening. Sharing a problem doesn’t make you weak, it makes you strong. You need to stand up for yourself and be compassionate to yourself and take good care of yourself – just as you need to be concerned about others’ needs. Make sure you stay safe, and take steps to protect yourself from bullies – of any and all kinds.
I did hear a great many wonderful questions that I’ve already answered one way or another – so please do have a listen to the videos I’ve been posting (since the week before the global read aloud began, as well as at the end of the first and second weeks). You’ll also find a page on my website with answers to some FAQs that might interest you.
As you can see, I’ve been having a bit of a cough, and that makes it hard for me to repeat myself as well. Do send me your get well wishes, please, everyone…I have a lot of events over the next few months! I’m going to be incredibly busy traveling, especially next week and the week after, which is wonderful – but it also means I’ll have to ask for your patience. I’ll have to try and create a video on Wednesday night next week, because Thursday will be impossible; I could try to squeeze another in on Friday, but I can’t promise that. So if you have questions, please do try and get them in early, alright?
On Monday, October 28th, I’m going to be doing my very best to have a Twitter chat, so that I can answer questions live. It will probably be 2:00-3:00 United States Eastern Daylight Savings Time (and I know that won’t work for everyone, but it’s one of the few times that I can manage it). Please do follow me on Twitter (see the button on the left) if you don’t already, to stay abreast of information on this event – it’s not quite confirmed yet but I am really hoping we can do this, if there’s enough interest (and again, look at my twitter feed for confirmation of date and time). I’ll also be answering questions via YouTube’s livestream (and will announce that on twitter as well). to
As always, to leave questions on this website: 1. Click on the blog title or click on it on the title beneath “recent posts” (on the right hand side of this screen). 2. You’ll be redirected to a screen with just the post. 3. Scroll down and you’ll see the box where you may leave me your school’s name and location (city/town, state, country) and grade (class level), along with your questions. 4. To return to the “home page” at any time, click Padma, Author and Speaker (top left).
Have you been thinking of ways you might take action to help make the world a place where fewer young people are forced to face the sort of situations that Rukku, Muthu, Arul and Viji faced in THE BRIDGE HOME? I hope very much that in a few weeks, when we’re done with the global read aloud, you’ll spend time on one of the challenges I suggested last week. The project ideas I provided are just suggestions – I’d love to hear of any project you might decide to do that fits in with the themes of the challenges I outlined. Thanks again, so much, for journeying with Muthu, Arul, Rukku and Viji and for choosing to read THE BRIDGE HOME!
Photo credits: An Open Book Foundation for the two photographs in the first row above; Connecticut Head Shots for the portrait (bottom left).