I am currently working on my memoir, Sari Swinging: One Mom Opts out of the American Work-Family Grind, the story of my maternal growing pains and of the circle of eccentric friends who embraced my young family for two years in a small mountaintop community in southern India.
Friends in California thought we were crazy, toting our infant son halfway around the globe, but I was a “have-it-all” sort of gal, certain that with a little gumption I could marry motherhood and international adventure, while still keeping my foot in the professional door. Besides—and this was perhaps a greater motivating factor than I was willing to admit—nannies are considerably cheaper in India. So, as our firstborn neared three-months of age, the three of us boarded an international flight, dreaming of succulent curries, resplendent Hindu weddings, breathtaking hikes to remote mountaintop villages, and the opportunity to define parenting on our own terms, free of the rat race that is America. India’s curries didn’t disappoint, but also on the menu was ubiquitous corruption, a head wound in a remote mountain stream, and the widely-held belief in the evil eye, which casts a death sentence on a baby should he or his mother leave the house during the first year.
The chaos of India and the stresses of a colicky and then dysentery-ravaged child forced me to reexamine both my notions of motherhood and the “have-it-all” expectations common to my generation and demographic of American women. I grappled with issues, such as opting out and irrational maternal guilt, raised in popular books like Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In, Judith Warner’s Perfect Madness, and Jennifer Senior’s All Joy and No Fun. Unlike these other works of nonfiction, however, Sari Swinging is narrative in form, rendering this discussion accessible for a much broader audience as it is embedded in a memoir set in a cloud-scraped town in the mountains of South India, where the cast of characters includes a raving, holy-man sadhu; a slew of alcohol-abusing boatmen/babysitters; and a sage in the form of our beloved Tamil housekeeper and nanny.