A.X. Ahmad was raised in India, educated at Vassar College and M.I.T., and has worked internationally as an architect. His short stories have been published in literary magazines, and he’s been listed in Best American Essays. The Caretaker is his first novel, to be followed by Bollywood Taxi next year. He lives in Washington, D.C.
From the author's conversation with Aarti Virani for the Wall Street Journal’s India Real Time:
The Wall Street Journal: How has your background as an architect colored your worldview as a writer?Learn more about the book and author at A.X. Ahmad's website and Facebook page.
Mr. Ahmad: Even as I worked as an architect in Boston, I was escaping back into India, into the past. I was writing as an antidote to my life. I produced these ramshackle novels – my first two books were never published – as a way of recovering the past. But I realized I couldn’t do architecture and write at the same time. They were just drawing too much from the same part of my brain. I treated writing as I’d treat the design process. In my fiction, I’m drawn to situations that have a very strong sense of place.
WSJ: Tell us about the genesis of ‘The Caretaker’ trilogy.
Mr. Ahmad: ‘The Caretaker’ evolved from a trip to Martha’s Vineyard many years ago. My wife’s family has a home in Oak Bluffs, a resort town in the area. We have a family friend who happens to be a caretaker, and over a beer he told me that these luxury homes, with swimming pools and indoor theaters, are sometimes used for as little as two weeks a year.
I realized that the seasonal labor on the island is composed primarily of foreigners. So you have this quintessentially New England town with white picket fences and everyone’s there to experience the authenticity, but who’s doing the work? It’s the Eastern Europeans, Brazilians and Jamaicans.
The central character, Ranjit Singh, came to me shortly after 9/11. I went to a local supermarket in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and encountered a Sikh cashier. He had a big American flag sticker on the front of his turban. And I thought, ‘That is...[read on]
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