Mothers in My Fiction

(This post was originally written in May, just before Mother's Day. Because it was moved to a new site, it is postdated to June).

Mother's Day reminds me of how important my mother, who pretty much brought us up as a single parent, has been in my life. Perhaps the many mothers that I depict in my books--though they have little similarity to the biographical facts of her life-- are my attempt to understand the loving, stern, mysterious woman she was. (She passed away a few years ago. Here is one of the last photos I have of her, at my niece Neela's wedding.)


Some instances of mothers in my books: In the final story in my collection Arranged Marriage, there is the mother who must, in the wake of her failed marriage, establish a new kind of bond with her teenage son. In Sister of My Heart, there are three strong mother figures that bring up the protagonists Sudha and Anju, each focusing on a different aspect she considers crucial: physical beauty, studies, and mythological stories. And in my newest novel, Oleander Girl, Korobi's mother Anu, who died at childbirth, naming her daughter after a beautiful but poisonous flower, is an enigma who haunts Korobi until she must put off her marriage and travel from Kolkata to New York to discover the secret that lies at the heart of Anu's life.

I don't think I'm done writing about mothers--my next novel will feature Sita (heroine of the epic The Ramayana), one of literature's first single mothers.



Indian Rice Pudding: a Recipe from Sister of My Heart & a Tribute to Mom


Many of you have been discussing my novel Sister of My Heart on my Facebook page, and also telling me that you want more recipes, so I thought I'd combine them in this post! Additionally, it's a tribute to my mother, who passed away in 2010.

Do let me know if you like it, & if you have your own variations.

This recipe was published in a book titled Table of ContentsRecipes and Inspiration from Today's Top 50 Authors, eds. Judy Gelman and Vicki Levy Krupp. Check them out at

A Sister Of My Heart Special: Payesh  (Bengali Rice Pudding)

Inmy novel Sister of My Heart, when Anju and Sudha, the two cousins who are the protagonists of the book, are still little, their aunt, Pishi, cooks several special desserts for them. This one, payesh, is very traditional in Bengal, the part of India where I come from and where Sister of My Heart is set. It is also a dish that my mother was famous for. But whereas hers used to take a half-day to make, I've given you a shortcut recipe.

Makes 8 servings

Note: The payesh consistency should be fairly thick, and it may take a little longer than indicated to achieve this thickness. Keep in mind that the payesh also thickens as it cools.

3 cups half-and-half  (fat free or whole)

1 cup whole milk

3/4 cup basmati rice, washed & soaked for 1/2 hour

1 cinnamon stick

4 cardamom pods--peel & crush the seeds. Discard peel.

1 cup granulated sugar or brown sugar (according to your taste). More if you have a sweet tooth

1/2 cup raisins

1/2 cup chopped peeled almonds

Rose Petals (if desired)

1. In a non stick pan, bring half-and-half  and milk to a boil. Add rice (drain it first), cinnamon stick, cardamom. Cook on low, stirring often to prevent sticking, until rice is soft and milk thickened. (30 to 45 min). Some friends do this in a large container in the microwave oven, but I haven't tried it that way myself. (I tend not to use microwaves for cooking).

2. Add sugar, raisins and almonds. Cook on low heat another 10-15 minutes until the mixture is thick. (Keep in mind it will thicken more when cooling). 

3. Payesh can be eaten warm or chilled. Sometimes I sprinkle rose petals on the chilled version just before serving. If refrigerated, it keeps for 5-6 days.But probably it will not last that long because it is terribly tempting!

Like I said, I'd love some feedback if you try it out.