The world of India, both modern and traditional, offers unlimited stories--about people and places and gods. I never have to think up a story. The challenge for me is to keep up with the onslaught of ideas that billow out of an image I encounter in a museum or an article I glance at while turning the pages of a newspaper. The story at the heart of When Krishna Calls is one such idea mixing modern and traditional worlds in India.
One of the first things I learned when I arrived in India in late 1975 was that everyone below the westernized middle class was in debt. This is not the debt of student loans, or a mortgage that makes newlyweds "house poor." Nor is it the kind of debt some investors carry with the expectation that in the end they'll reap great rewards.
In traditional India, among lower-income caste groups, debt is essential to the economy. Money circulates in different ways in different strata of society, but at the lowest level, the point of debt is to keep money moving among people. Debts are repaid because no one wants to be shut out of the economy. The interest rate might be high, sometimes up to ten percent a month, but the total amounts borrowed are small and the spending can be significant in filtering through several businesses. The moneylender is usually someone well known to the borrower, the owner of a local vegetable stand or the employer of a maidservant or gardener. Whoever it is, it is rarely a bank.
And then there is the modern version of this loan business, and this is where things change. Large amounts of money change hands, much of it hidden in sham ownership deals, and all of it beyond the reach of the government. And the men who make the loans are not anything like the friendly vegetable seller. And you can guess which one has the greater influence.
This is the story behind When Krishna Calls. An employee of Hotel Delite goes missing, suspected of killing her husband, and is taken captive by a known loan shark. But he isn't interested in her. He's interested in something else.
Anita Ray, always ready to help, wants to find Nisha, someone she likes and admires. But when she finds out her Auntie Meena is involved, Anita realizes much more is on the line, perhaps more than she's ever had to deal with.
Once again, traditional and modern India clash before they blend. And Anita is pushed to the brink when she tries to rescue both Nisha and Auntie Meena.
When Krishna Calls is the last of the Anita Ray mysteries to be published by Five Star/Gale, Cengage. It will appear in August 2016. But I know there will be more adventures for Anita Ray.
Available for preorder now.