God in Drag
Varanasi, India 1998
Varanasi is the City of Light. Created by the fiery Hindu god Shiva, Varanasi is so holy it wipes clean the karma of those who surrender to her embrace. Varanasi is also the last known location of Raj, the guru stepfather who abandoned Micah Connerly and his mother at a California commune twenty years ago.
Raj taught Micah two things before he left. First, everything is an illusion. Second, we choose our illusions. After his life falls apart, Micah flees to India to search out Raj and sort through the wreckage.
On his way to confront a recalcitrant ashram priest who holds the key to Raj’s whereabouts, Micah helps an injured man. This noble act imperils Micah’s life. In exchange for medical treatment, Micah volunteers at a Varanasi hospice and becomes embroiled in the lives of his fellow volunteers, including the enigmatic Kate, whose broken heart Micah longs to repair.
Micah’s ongoing search reawakens the philosophies Raj taught him as a child, even as it puts him on a collision course with a local thug. Through it all, Micah tangles with the conflicting faces of Shiva, a fickle god who might tear your arm off one moment and smother you with blessings the next. Shiva is ever on the lookout for selfless souls to assist, and he’s turned his benevolent eyes toward Micah.
Will it be enough?
The Story of God in Drag
I’ve traveled through books since I learned how to read. As a child, I loved to pull out a volume of the Encyclopedia Britannica, find an exotic locale, and imagine what life would be like if I lived there. I had an ongoing fantasy about living in with a caravan of Bedouin nomads, but the closest I got was a camel ride at the edge of the Sahara with a guide who claimed to be Bedouin.
In 1994-95, during an eight-month trek around India, Sri Lanka & Nepal, my husband and I volunteered for six weeks at Mother Teresa’s Home for the Dying in Calcutta.
It was among the toughest six weeks of my life mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and physically. The work was grueling and the heat intense, but it was the peaceful acquiescence to the pain, suffering, and impending death by the vast majority of the patients that made the most impact on me.
The members of the Missionaries of Charity who dedicated their entire lives to this work were some of the most loving and humble people I’ve ever met. A close second was the long-term volunteers from around the world who served the poor, sick, and dying for months and even years.
It was probably as a self-preservation strategy to distract myself from the work there that I began to imagine “what if…?” and sketched the outline of what eventually became this novel. I transplanted the setting to Varanasi because the narrow alleyways of the Old City and the ghat culture contained Micah in a way that the overwhelming sprawl of Calcutta never could.