Eastern Exposure: Indu Sundaresan

Thanks to an influx of Washington's East Indian population, Seattle is becoming a hotbed of Eastern

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Thanks to an influx of Washington's East Indian population, Seattle is becoming a hotbed of Eastern arts. As Indian expats share the dance, theater, film, music and literature traditions of their native country, our city reaps the rich cultural benefits

Indu Sundaresan {Writer}

Talking with novelist and short-story writer Indu Sundaresan is a little like reading one of her intricate, precise tales of life in 17th-century Mughal India. Born and raised in India, Sundaresan came to the States 20 years ago to earn an M.A. in economics and an M.S. in operations research from the University of Delaware (she moved to Seattle in 1993). “I intended to be an economist,” she says, “but began my first novel simply because I thought I could write a novel.” Turns out she was correct. In fact, she incorporates the mark of the true storyteller—intricate plot twists, character development and careful word choice—in explaining even the most quotidian events of her life.

Sundaresan’s fourth work of historical fiction, Shadow Princess, will be released by Atria Books in April 2010. The book returns to the narrative she began in her first novel, The Twentieth Wife (2003) and continued in The Feast of Roses (2004)—an imagined account of real-life empress Nur Jahan, whose niece’s death inspired Shah Jahan to build the Taj Mahal. “Indian people have been hearing these stories all their lives,” she says. “The stories about the powerful empress of India are like bedtime stories. And people who do not know about Indian history respond to the themes of perseverance and strength.”

Sundaresan’s tales may be 400 years old, but her means for researching her subjects are distinctly modern. Based in Redmond, she reads about 17th-century Indian politics, intrigue and love from the comfort of the Bellevue and Redmond public libraries and the Suzzallo and Allen libraries on the University of Washington campus. “There were six main emperors of Mughal India,” she says. “All of them left printed memoirs or biographies in Turkish or Persian. They have all been translated into English. I can just sit in Seattle and read about 17th-century India.”

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