Where Has Raji Been?!
Updated: Oct 23
I have not written to you or posted anything since January of this year. How the months have flown by!
I last posted a book review of Vivek Murthy’s book “Connecting.” Soon after, the City of Menlo Park granted a permit for me to convert my garage to a studio apartment. The State of California has lifted previous restrictions on such construction, because there has been a shortage of housing (particularly, affordable housing in this bastion of tech millionaires) that has developed into a full blown crisis. Garage conversions are relatively simple ways to increase living space, for oneself or as a rental.
From when the permit was granted, it was an endless saga of managing the contractors who were doing the work. I must have made what seemed like at least 20 decisions every single day, small and big, over a 6-month period. What kind of flooring? Carpet, tiles, wood or vinyl? Where should the electrical outlets be? Should the architect’s vision of the kitchen be modified as suggested by the design-savvy contractor? How should the place be heated? What about hot water for the studio: separate water heater or supply it from the heater for the main house? What about lighting? Shower fittings and door, faucets, toilet, sink for the bathroom, sink and disposal for the kitchen, dishwasher, microwave, washer and dryer, microwave. And so it went, on and on.
With my brain occupied with all this every moment except when I was working or taking care of Sunaina, you may understand why I simply didn’t have words to share on www.rajiwrites.com
The studio apartment got completed, and despite strong urges to strangle them now and then, the contractors survived. Mainly because they did a pretty good job with the project. Here are some pictures of the front yard, front of the house, and the studio (formerly the garage.)
I found a wonderful tenant, a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford who reminds me of myself when I came to the bay area many years ago for a similar position, during the tech boom, rents were sky high, and postdoc salaries were very low.
Come August, I started experiencing, after a while, what it was like to have some time. I started reading again.
Books I Have Read, or Started Reading:
Here is some of what I have read:
Burnt Sugar by Avni Doshi (first published in India as Girl in White Cotton)
A Burning by Megha Majumdar (read my review of it here)
The Phone Booth at the Edge of the World by Laura Imai Messina
Nocturnes by Kazuo Ishiguro
The Secret Keeper of Jaipur by Alka Joshi
I regularly read short stories for an online book club that writer / translator friends Mahmud Rahman and Shabnam Nadiya started during the pandemic. It has proved to be informative, enjoyable and educational, in addition to fostering community among readers, writers and friends.
I have a pile of started-but-not-yet finished books.
Code Breaker by Walter Isaacson, about Nobel Laureate Jennifer Doudna, a UC Berkeley biochemist, who was awarded the 2020 Nobel Prize in chemistry for her pioneering work in CRISPR gene editing.
Hawaii by James A. Michener
Books on the to-read pile:
Caste Matters by Suraj Yengde
The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Ann Fadiman
Dusk Night Dawn by Anne Lamott.
Also, I have been working on a novel! I took a class at Stanford in April-May to learn more about how one gets things published. Other than posting it on rajiwrites.com, that is! :-)
A few friends and editors have read some pages from it, and I have heard impressions such as "The Prophet meets Calvin and Hobbes!" I might say "Tuesdays with Morrie meets Martha and George!" Those comments do, in some way, capture the spirit of the book. However, one key task is to narrow down the intended audience. Apparently, it is not enough to say “My book is for anyone who loves to read!” The publishers / editors/ agents have to know, it seems, “which shelf to put it on.”
There is much to learn, and it is going to take some time and effort. To this end, I started reading some children’s books, young adult and middle grade, to learn more about these categories. While literary fiction is what I read most, it is certainly interesting to dip into children's books.
Here’s what I have read so far:
Young adult books
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
The Bridge Home by Padma Venkatraman
And on my list, recommended by friends:
The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume
Savvy by Ingrid Law
There are more books to be added, for sure! Send me your recommendations if you wish, or add them to the Comments section (assuming it works!)