Madan jerked his head up and down in a gesture he hoped conveyed deference. His father’s lips twisted into what Madan took for a smile, but it was not one of reassurance or welcome. If his father could, he would pack the family back on the train to their village, continue to send them money intermittently and visit them only when he wanted. But now they were here, and his father was adjusting to this development as if he’d discovered that someone had taken a piss in his morning cup of tea. The smile hovered around his father’s lips but Madan didn’t bother returning it. He knew to fear the capriciousness of that smile, how it teased and promised many things yet was easily tempted away by a quarter liter of desi tahra.
He nodded again but his father, responding to the call of “Aaho!,” disappeared into the office.
Placing his back to the office wall, Madan looked out onto the factory floor. Men, black as the cawing crows above and shiny with sweat, worked in groups around large machines. They glanced curiously at him. He turned and faced the wall. It was yellow and chalky, with ridges and bumps, and when Madan rubbed his hands against it, they came off covered with a delicate white dust.
The door opened suddenly and his father’s hand reached out, catching him by the collar and pulling him to the other side of the wall.
He kept his head bowed. He dared not raise it. Through the opening at the bottom of the large desk he saw two monstrous feet, dried and cracked like parched earth. -Broad–strapped leather sandals, each with a big brass buckle in the center, glinted up at Madan.
“This is my boy,” his father said.
–Excerpted from Three Bargains: A Novel by Tania Malik. Copyright © 2014 by Tania Malik. With permission of the publisher, W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. All rights reserved.
Late Night Library: Summarize your book in 10 words or fewer.
Tania Malik: Man seeks child, preferably his own.
LNL: If this book were the lovechild of two others, who are its parents?
TM: I’d like to say Brad and Angelina because we’ve seen what a beautiful child that pairing makes. The book would join their brood and get to travel the world, be in their movies, and live fabulously ever after. But in the real world, I’d say The Godfather and Game of Thrones.
LNL: What ingredients go into the recipe of your writing style?
TM: Tension—write only when under pressure, and when you owe a few pages to your writing critique partners; Emotion—love, patience and perseverance in varying doses; Religion—sudden belief in every kind of God; Aspiration—hope that whatever writing you did that day sticks; and Libation—don’t skim on the Chianti.
LNL: Name one book you wish you could read again for the first time.
TM: A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry. I read this book when I was younger and I think age and experience would give me a deeper appreciation of its nuances. I remember being upset by the ending but reading it for the first time now would probably be a different reading experience.
LNL: Answer a question you wish people would ask you about writing.
TM: If your writing self were a superhero, which one would it be? I wish it could be the Black Widow. She always finds a way out of a nasty situation, can get a bunch of eccentric personalities to work together and save the world, and can clear a room of bad guys with her awesome moves. But I am more prone to roar “Hulk smash!” at my laptop screen at the end of the day.
Get a copy of Three Bargains at IndieBound.
Tania Malik was born in New Delhi and raised in India, Africa, and the Middle East. She divides her time between New Delhi and the Bay Area. Three Bargains is her first novel.