Wednesday, August 31, 2016
Belief - a novel
Belief, my debut novel, is being published next month. I began writing it soon after I came to Toronto; when I was working as a security guard at a condo in Toronto’s St. Clair West.
Those long and lonely (and cold) night shifts turned me into a fiction writer. The residents of the building supported me in many different ways, and one of them told me about Diaspora Dialogues. Through Diaspora Dialogues I met MG Vassanji, and then began a journey that transformed me as a person.
Writing doesn’t come easily to me, and it became more painful and nearly impossible during the four years I struggled with the manuscript. Many friends helped me in this process. And sometime in 2014, I forced myself to stop revising the manuscript.
Then, I waited for a publisher to publish the novel. Nobody seemed interested. If writing had been hard and painful, looking for a publisher was even more so. Helen Walsh of Diaspora Dialogues suggested I should ask Nurjehan Aziz of Mawenzi House (earlier known as TSAR). I did, and she agreed.
Finally, after a very long time, the novel is ready for its readers.
Here’s the media release from the publisher:
TERRORISM: What makes young people give up their secure, sheltered lives and take up causes that are sure to lead to catastrophe, for others as well as themselves? This is a burning question that plagues our times.
Rafiq is a young man whose family fled the 1993 violence against Muslims in Mumbai. His father Abdul is a sceptic in religious matter and a liberal, a former labour activist in India. His mother Ruksana is devout and practicing though also a former activist who worked with poor women. The family was reduced to humble circumstances after arriving in Toronto and with Rafiq working as a web-designer, is only now beginning to look up. They proudly own a house in Mississauga.
One late afternoon Rafiq’s father and his sister discover some files on Rafiq’s computer that strongly indicate that he is part of a Muslim-radical plot to bomb public places in Toronto.
Belief examines the radicalization and alienation among a section of young Muslims living in western societies, the interplay of attitudes on both sides that is leading to an ever-widening chasm.
It does this not polemically but by setting it within the intimacy of a family situation to accentuate the difficult material conditions and the conflicts of belief, values, and hope that immigrants face in a new country.
Mayank Bhatt immigrated to Toronto in 2008 from Mumbai (Bombay), where he worked as a journalist. His short stories have been published in TOK 5: Writing the New Toronto and Canadian Voices II. In Canada he has worked as a security guard, an administrator, and an arts festival organiser. He lives in Toronto with his family.