Tuesday, April 27, 2010


To the Iranis, Anna's chai stall is one of Dahanu's most prized possessions. Each morning, after making a round of their chickoo farms, the Iranis gather here for tea, coffee, or Pepsi. Cigarette smoke gives the place a sinister haze, like fog in a cemetery. The crowds have dwindled now at Anna's because some of its regular customers have passed away, but I still remember the raucous laughter, the jokes, the political diatribes, and the conversations in different tongues that made Anna's a brothel of languages. A line from the novel: "All languages knew each other well, were familiar with the twists and turns of each other's bodies, and were not afraid to inhale the pungent smell of each other's underarms."

It was wonderful to see the Iranis arrive on motorbikes each morning -- on Kawasakis, Hondas, Yamahas, BMWs (and a couple of sorry mopeds) -- and line up outside this tiny chai place; giant men with thick forearms and handlebar moustaches sipping tea from tiny glasses. Forget Starbucks. I'm opening a series of Anna franchises in Canada. The Iranis will be part of the decor, like the girls at Hooters. Except that the Iranis are hairy and have handlebar moustaches. But why discriminate?

Sunday, April 18, 2010


The Khordeh Avesta, or "The Little Avesta," is the sacred book of the Zoroastrians. However, Zarathushtra was a poet-prophet. He composed sacred hymns known as the "Gathas", and his teachings were handed down orally through the priesthood. It is believed that Alexandar destroyed a lot of the written teachings and massacred Zoroastrian priests during the seige of Persepolis. All that remains is the Khordeh Avesta.

But here's something that may not be found in any holy book. It's what my aunt told me years ago, and the simplicity of the image has stayed with me to this day:

Our prayers travel upwards in the form of rays of light. If the prayer is genuine, it is intercepted by an angel who is specially trained to answer prayers. The strength of the beam of light depends entirely on the sincerity and selflessness of the prayer.

I love the idea of angels roaming the heavens, watching over Earth, responding to light that, for a change, comes from us.

Saturday, April 17, 2010


I'll be reading from Dahanu Road on Thursday, April 22, at 7.45 pm as part of the North Shore Writers festival. Venue: North Vancouver City Library. The event is free, but seating is limited.


And on Apri 26th, a reading with Yann Martel at the Kay Meek Centre in West Van. I did my first ever reading with Yann Martel in 2004 when The Cripple and His Talismans was published. It wasn't good for me. Got used to reading to 400 people.


Wednesday, April 14, 2010


A well-written article about DAHANU ROAD (and myself) in today's Globe and Mail:


Bombay and Dahanu do inspire and haunt me at the same time -- perfect catalyst-muses for a writer; Canada, on the other hand, with its wide open spaces and receptive readers, makes for a great canavas. I prefer to write here. This place is designed for creation.

Sunday, April 11, 2010


The Zoroastrians are followers of the prophet Zarathushtra. It is said that Zarathushtra lived in the region that is now Iran or Afghanistan anywhere from 3,500 to 6,000 years ago. His basic teachings include the moral triad of Manashni, Gavashni, Kunashni -- Good Thoughts, Good Words, Good Deeds. Zarathushtra was the first prophet to speak of One God. In this respect, he was a pioneer. He received his divine revelation by a riverbank at the age of thirty, when Ahura Mazda (the One God) and six other Amesha Spentas (archangels) appeared before him. The light that emanated from Ahura Mazda was so dazzling that Zarathushtra could not see his own shadow on the ground. Initially Zarathushtra had just one disciple, his cousin Madhyoi-mangha. According to folklore, when Zarathushtra challenged the priests in the court of King Vishtaspa to a spiritual debate and won, they had him imprisoned. When the king's beloved white steed was paralyzed, Zarathushtra healed the horse, and King Vishtaspa embraced the prophet's teachings. Thus began the rise of Zoroastrianism. No one knows how Zarathushtra died. But there is no doubt that his teachings inspired an ancient Persian empire. Today, approximately 140,000 Zoroastrians remain worldwide.

The photograph shows a fire temple -- the Zoroastrian place of worship -- in Dahanu. The winged angelic being is the fravashi, a guardian spirit that encourages the soul to enter the physical world, gather experience, and choose asha over druj, the truth over the lie.