I keep thinking back to a conversation I had with my friend Uma Krishnaswami, while we were at the Asian Festival of Children’s Content.

It was such an amazing experience.

I guess coming from a place where I’m writing as a minority to a place where Asian children’s content is the majority, seeing how seriously everybody takes this business of writing and producing content for children, was so refreshing.

Asians are such hard workers, and so many times I’ve been impressed in particular with Uma. It was a privilege working with her (and Elisa Carbone) on our book Many Windows. Uma really lent her considerable editing skills to the project!

She’s one of the hardest working authors I know!

And she said something (she might have been quoting someone else, but I can’t be sure) about how there can’t be just one story coming out of a culture.

You have to ensure that there are many many stories coming out of a culture.

And she, or whoever said that, is right!

Think of certain cultures like Jewish culture and Chinese culture.

There are multiple ‘stories’ coming out of these cultural identities. In the case of Jewish stories, yes, you have the holocaust stories/movies, but you also have comedies by the many talented Jewish comedians.  They’ve been very successful at having a variety of stories ‘representing’ their culture.

And Chinese culture too has many different stories coming out of it, although less so.

India has Bollywood of course, and talented writers like Rohinton Mistry, Shauna Singh Baldwin, Chitra Divakaruni and of course Uma Krishnaswami.

When you think of India,  it used to be that you only thought of starving children begging with their hands out, in the street.

Not any more.

With the variety of narratives out there now, you get a much more rounded picture of the culture.

So then maybe, my idea of turning the sequel of Wanting Mor into a sort of comedy of errors, isn’t such a weird idea.

I wonder if I’ll be letting down readers who loved Wanting Mor.

It’s been very strange writing the sequel.

Jameela is no longer the centre of the story and seeing her from the outside, gives a completely different view of this girl, and yet, I’m doing it deliberately.

I’m showing her the way people from the outside would see her, and of course they’d have no access to the inner dialogue that seems to be the strength of her original narrative.

And really, I’m tired of sad stories emanating from Afghanistan.

You’d think the people there are a somber sad bunch.

Not at all!

Just thinking of my sister in law, who is currently in Kabul visiting relatives and attending weddings (and hopefully visiting and taking pictures at the orphanage where the real-life Sameela (whose story I based Wanting Mor) is located).

And when I think of my son in law’s family, they are some of the most cheerful people I know.

I’m trying to remember if I’ve ever seen any of these people really sad. And of course crying a few tears at the wedding doesn’t count.

I’ve seen them pensive, but never sad.

I think that’s what threw me when I went to visit my foster child in a refugee camp in Peshawar in 1992. It’s why it took me so long to write The Roses in My Carpets.  My foster child turned out to be a happy little kid.

It was incongruous to meet a ‘happy refugee’. And why wouldn’t he have been happy under the circumstances? He’d left Afghanistan when he was just a baby. He’s spent his whole life in the refugee camp. He went to school, he had his friends and family. It was his older brother who was skulking around in the background (with a haunted look on his face) that turned out to be the inspiration for that book.

It’s not like Afghans are an inherently sad people.

And yet think! Do you know of any happy stories emanating from Afghanistan???

I don’t.

When I started the sequel, of course I hadn’t heard Uma say that bit about having more than one story for a culture.

It’s just that when she said that, something echoed deep within me and immediately I recognized the truth in the words.

Now, I didn’t begin the sequel to serve some larger cultural purpose of diversifying the stories that represent a culture.

I started the sequel because I adore Jameela and all the other characters that peopled Wanting Mor, and I wanted to know what else happened to them.

I didn’t trust that stepmother, not one little bit! And it turned out I had good reason.

And I strongly felt that Jameela’s story is not finished. She’s not *whole* at the end of the book. That story is done and resolved, but she is not and one aspect of her is particularly troubling.

Basically I wanted her to have a *real* happy ending.

We’ll see. I’m halfway through it and just enjoying how the story is unfolding.

And after writing that deep dark book set in Pakistan that I just finished, I’m finding this sequel a breath of light-hearted and even downright funny at times, fresh air.