Book Trailer and Swag

I came across this video a few days ago. It is a great summary of the story that my book tells. The visuals do a great job of recreating the ethos of the time.

Friends have told me on several occasions that the book would make a compelling movie. This video gives a taste of all that it could be —

It would be a period piece that would juxtapose Indian, American and British locales in all their contrasts. The cities of Bombay and Calcutta, New York and Philadelphia, and bucolic New Jersey. The movie would feature Anandi as a young petite Indian woman dressed in a traditional sari and jewelry and speaking impeccable English. She would be among American men and women — very different in looks but one with her in her and in her mission.

And then there would be Gopal, her husband, who would start out as a passionate educator, albeit short-tempered, who would then morph into a very unsympathetic and eccentric person. The final contrast would be between the Indian communities that would shun her and torment her before she left India and that would nevertheless accord her a heroine’s welcome upon her return after earning an M.D.

The fact that this little video was published now — just as my agent has started shopping the book to publishers — feels like an encouraging sign from the Universe!

Hat tip to the South Asian American Digital Archive (SAADA) and to Imran, who created the video. Hat-tip as well to Timeline who appear to have collaborated with SAADA in the creation of the video.

As for the swag, SAADA have created a T-shirt featuring a photo of Anandi!



Spirit Photographs

In a post titled “Fascinating Findings“, I wrote about Spiritualism — a 19th century faith tradition that recognized women’s authority in religious matters and that was at the forefront of most progressive movements of the time. The roots of Spiritualism lay in a belief in communication with the dead; indeed, that the dead were not really gone forever, but continued to exist “on the other side.” The initial appeal  of such a belief system was to women who suffered mightily due to the high infant mortality rates of the time. The high death toll of the Civil War and the resulting grieving family members led to increased interest — the need to believe — in this phenomenon.

The recently published biography, “The Apparitionists“, tells the story of William Mumler who managed to take photographs which showed images of the dead loved ones of the individuals being photographed. The most famous such subject was Mary Todd Lincoln, whose photograph shows her husband’s spirit looking down on her.

A summary of the story that the book tells is in the New Yorker. The Atlantic Monthly carried a well-researched story on the same topic exactly four years ago (almost to the day).


In the course of  my research, I almost missed the significance of references to spirit communication in some of the letters. However, additional research helped to illuminate the meaning of those references. In the process I also found links between Spiritualism and Theospophy and the ways in which these served to elevate Hindu concepts in the consciousness of Indian as well as Western thinkers.

However, to me the most fascinating aspect of Spiritualism is the fact that, despite being a flawed concept, it made space for fearless thinking regarding other challenging issues of the time. Among these — abolition of slavery, women’s rights, vegetarianism and the theory of evolution!