In India this fact of being sustained by poverty came with the sunrise: it was in everything we ate, everything we wore and touched, and I knew the greater part of what I glimpsed in New York was continuing on the other side of the world. Knowing this, and remembering the advertising that you see in remote Indian villages – “Welcome to USA” “Welcome to UK” – recruiting nurses or cruise ship workers, I couldn’t ignore this in my writing. But no sooner did I decide to expand my novel thus than it became obvious that I should also include those migrations made long ago that had ensured that some of us would never again be able to find a place in our own landscape. And there were, of course, some whose sense of dislocation didn’t even involve the rest of the world: the rift had been so deeply absorbed that they were rendered foreigners in their own country, reading Jane Austen to feel cosy…
…But as I wrote The Inheritance of Loss, I began the process of considering that one’s place in the world might be merely incidental, just a matter of perspective. Perhaps the centre was not firm at all? And as I wrote I became aware of the rich novelistic moments that come from many stories overlapping, from this moral ambiguity, and from the utter uselessness of the flag. Even the past – home of sorts to all of us – wasn’t fixed. History is only someone’s story. I felt as if I were writing to displace myself, and to know that my story wasn’t the only one – that there would always be other books on the shelf.
February 22, 2006, Volume VI, Number 32