What You Call Winter is a collection of short stories about families who live on Saint Hilary Road in Santa Clara, a fictional Catholic neighborhood in one of Mumbai’s northern suburbs.
My mother grew up in a similar community and we used to visit regularly when I was a child. When I was older I began to go on my own, in part to see family but also because the place itself intrigued me. A quiet grid of streets named for saints and martyrs, several thriving parishes with masses offered in English and Hindi, a fishing village on one side and the lavish homes of film stars on the other.
I’ve always been curious about migration. This began with questions about my mother’s experience, but soon became an encompassing interest. In college I began to read more extensively about colonialism and migration, and eventually I had the chance to work for Caryl Phillips. His own work deals brilliantly with such questions, and as his assistant, I helped research an anthology about “Extravagant Strangers,” which brought me into further contact with writing about migration.
It has always seemed to me quite natural that so much of my family lived at the other end of the world, and that my father, who toured with jazz musicians, was away from us for long stretches of time. But I grew up constantly aware of distance and I’m interested in the way it functions in families, whether people are flung across the globe or living under the same roof. When I began to explore these questions in fiction, I realized that the characters were all connected to a place, partly remembered, partly imagined, partly mythical, where I have never lived but which continues to fascinate me.