Where does a book tour begin?

And where does it end? 

I have been packing my bags to head out on a book tour organized by Random House India in four Indian cities. I leave on a plane tomorrow morning and the first event is in Bombay on July 3rd. But, I have a feeling that my book already began its tour last night. This is how most things have happened in my life - sideways, with stealth and surprise, like the mischievous friend who taps you on one shoulder but shows up on your other side. I have no problem with that. This mischief always makes me smile.

So, I smiled a lot last night, as friends turned out to listen to me read from my book 'Foreign' as one of the featured writers at the Words on Water Literary Festival, organized by those fine people such as Sarah Loudon of Seattle Asian Art Museum's Gardner Center, Elliott Bay Book Company, Tasveer, and a number of Seattle patrons of the arts. I realized that my book tour began last night, among friends and family and strangers in Seattle, which is home, before I take the book and launch it where it is already home.

The lovely and eloquent Cyan James interviewing me last night at the Words on Water Festival

The lovely and eloquent Cyan James interviewing me last night at the Words on Water Festival

What am I talking about? Well, my book isn't out in the U.S. yet (my fabulous New York agent, Carol Mann, says it's just a matter of time), but it's out in India. It's in bookstores there, it's online, and, most importantly, it's in readers' hands. Many readers, some of whom are friends and several others who are total strangers, have written to me or tweeted or reviewed the book. Friends have sent me pictures of the book standing on display at, gasp, Goa's airport bookstore. So, 'Foreign' is already in its home, far away from where I am right now, living and breathing its own life. I'm just going there to catch up with it and shake its hand.

But here, in Seattle, thanks to Rick Simonson, that fine magician of a book buyer at Elliott Bay Book Company, who shipped copies of 'Foreign' over to Seattle from India so that readers here could buy copies and I could sign them during the festival, my book was in the hands of those who have seen it take shape. Friends like those from the Hedgebrook Writers' Residency, where I finished my first draft as a writer-in-residence, or friends like Cyan James, a writer herself and a sharp reader of my final draft, who interviewed me with such beauty and eloquence last night, giving the audience so much more to think about than I could have done myself. And, then, there was my son Sahir, and friends with whom I share so many pieces of my writing life and, better still,  my procrastinating life. Friends like Sofia Herbst.

Now, I will gather up all that love from last night and I will go meet 'Foreign' in India, where I have family and friends I haven't met in 20 years, and Random House editors and publicists, and booksellers and readers . Such is the journey of books. Serves me right for going and naming it 'Foreign.' What did I expect?  

Speaking of expectations, I can't help but think of what writer Sudeep Chakrvarti, who also spoke at the festival last night, said to me over dinner, about book tours: "Expect nothing. And enjoy everything." I'm taking a deep breath. And I'm packing into my suitcase this 'foreign' copy of 'Foreign' I am holding in my hands. If you have a copy of it, smell the jacket cover - it smells of India.