Not Native by Murali Kamma

This is a review of “Not Native: Short Stories of Immigrant Life in an In-Between World” by Murali Kamma. Five stars!

What I found refreshing about the stories is that they are not about nostalgia and they are not ruminations on identity. Rather, the stories illuminate aspects of everyday lives, ranging from reconnecting with long-ago friends or acquaintances to coming to a new understanding of the old Indian society and the new American one.

“Holi Day in America” is a heartwarming story that portrays a low-key yet deep friendship between Rohan, a young newly arrived man, and David a casual friend of his who, knowing about the Holi festival, offers to celebrate it with him. An exchange between Rohan and David, about their differing views of America’s promise of opportunity, is a gem. Only too aware of America’s underbelly, David is jaded. But Rohan’s can-do spirit is a distillation of the hope with which millions continue to dream of America.

… Being a recent immigrant, the path is more challenging for me, David. I have to pay my dues — at least, that’s how I see it. I made a conscious decision to come here, so I accept that. I was willing to give up certain advantages, because I knew there would be other advantages.

“Fragments of Glass” is a notable story as it delves into India’s caste system and the progress that is possible when individuals take it upon themselves to act with intention to challenge the system. Finally, “Brahms in the Land of Brahma” is about a relationship that develops between an American working in a high-tech city and his Indian host.

In summary, the stories in Not Native are quiet and gentle. But, they are far from weightless. I think immigrants of all stripes will relate to these stories. So will others who are curious to understand the inner lives of the immigrants who live unobtrusively among them with their stories tucked quietly inside.

Today is Women in Medicine Day!

Today (September 5) is Women in Medicine Day. The entire month of September has been designated as Women in Medicine Month.  #WIMMonth.

I am honoring Dr. Anandi-bai Joshee, the first woman from India who became a doctor. My book about her, titled Radical Spirits, is due out at the end of 2019.

Here is a brief summary of the story that my book tells:

In 1883, an unschooled Indian teenager named Anandi Joshee sailed from Calcutta to New York. This was a time when there were no schools for girls in India. Also, doctors (who were all male) could not treat female patients. Having witnessed the suffering of women, Joshee decided to become a doctor so she might provide medical care to her “country-sisters.” Through her achievement, she hoped to help create a culture that saw women as deserving, and capable of, equality with men.

Anandi faced critics in India and skeptics in America. Her two champions were her husband Gopal who had tutored her and fostered her ambition, and Theodocia Carpenter, a New Jersey housewife who had initiated a correspondence three years before, offering “all possible help.” With her determination and grace Anandi won the support of all—American, British and Indian alike—who crossed her path. Three thousand people attended her 1886 graduation from the Woman’s Medical College in Philadelphia, and Queen Victoria sent congratulations from London.

Based on original letters, diary entries, archives and newspaper accounts, the book draws a textured portrait of British India and post Civil War America and the rich relationships that thoughtful Indian, British and American individuals managed to forge by bridging cultural, political and class boundaries.

Who are some of the women in medicine that you want to honor today?


What is the value of an object? Is it the price you pay for it? Or is it the significance in the greater scheme of things? Ranjani Rao, co-founder of Story Artisan Press shares the story of her first wrist watch bought in Mumbai and why it holds a special place in her heart. Here is a free peek into the soon to be launched essay collection – Train Friends.

Not Unexamined

According to Socrates, “an unexamined life is not worth living.” Story Artisan Press cofounders, Ranjani Rao and Nandini Patwardhan have lived by this maxim and have been recording their life experiences. As two Mumbai girls, who may have met on the local train in an alternate universe, they have compiled a series of essays on similar topics for their new essay collection, Train Friends. Stay tuned for updates on what emerges when these two girls fly from their Mumbai roots.

Ladies’ Compartment

The Baader-Meinhof phenomenon, aka frequency illusion or recency illusion, is a phenomenon that occurs when the thing you’ve just noticed, experienced or been told about suddenly seems to crop up constantly. As the Story Artisan Press team geared up for the launch of Train Friends, we found a kindred soul in fellow Mumbaikar, Jaina Mishra, of Woven Souls, who has lovingly chronicled the ladies compartment in Mumbai’s local trains.