Why Behind THE IMMIGRANT WIFE | Madhu Bazaz Wangu
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Why Behind The Immigrant Wife: Her Spiritual Journey

The beginnings of The Immigrant Wife came from two sources: first, the two journals I kept in 1997 on Semester-at-Sea, University of Pittsburgh. I voyaged around the world with undergraduates sailing to Bahamas, Venezuela, Brazil, South America, Kenya, India, China, Japan, Vietnam and Philippines. I taught history of Indian, Chinese and Japanese Art and Architecture.

The second source was the story of a woman I met in Toronto, Canada. I had gone to attend the cremation of my young nephew who died a tragic death. At the last family meal in his apartment I met a newly married woman. When she discovered that I was an artist she said she was an artist too and talked passionately about her paintings. So much so, that I wanted to see them. She invited me to her home before I was to leave for Pittsburgh.

Inside her apartment, she had hung her paintings on all available space, the walls of the corridor, living room, bedroom, even bathroom. Her paintings sang songs of landscapes she had left behind, a mother saying goodbye to her child, a woman with her back towards the onlooker gazing at mountains, a girl letting go of a bird, a tender scene of a sunset. Being already vulnerable, her artwork touched my heart with the same sadness she was trying so hard to hide.

None of her paintings was recent. The reason she gave me was that since her marriage she felt blocked, unable to paint. “Start one and your clogged channel will reopen. You’ll see.” I said encouragingly.

“I don’t think so,” she said, “My husband thinks painting is a waste of time.”

I gave her my telephone number and address and in case she wanted to get in touch. I never heard from her again.

On my way back home I thought, What if that had happened to me! And the seed of a story was sown. By this time I had published non-fiction books. And suddenly I was excited to write a story. How different can writing fiction be from non-fiction? How wrong I was! (It took me a decade to write the novel.) I ended writing a novella about the Toronto woman.

After reading the two journals and the novella my husband suggested I should combine the two, write one big book and get it published. At first, I dismissed his suggestion. But the thought refused to leave my mind. And imagination is a wondrous human gift. Layer after layer the story developed. Draft after draft my non-fiction style transformed into fiction and The Immigrant Wife: Her Spiritual Journey was born.

  • Ruth G

    And what has happened to the woman you met? I put away my songwriting for about 15 years and it came rushing back to me. It disappears from time to time but as soon as I talk about songs or listen to a masterful one, it returns. It is good that you inspire others by your stories and example — I am looking forward to listening to your CD.

    March 1, 2016 at 9:07 pm

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