Washington: An Indian-American author of a new novel about a former spy-turned-politician has a piece of advice for Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump: “Veer to the centre, and pick a positive, uplifting message.”
“Fear-mongering can only take you so far,” says T. Dasu, by day a research scientist working on problems in statistics, stream mining, and machine learning, and author of “The Perfect Candidate”, the second in her “Spy, Interrupted” trilogy.
“Also, pick a smart woman as a running mate,” she says on behalf of the campaign team of her novel’s hero, a former CIA operative with an Indian-American wife, running for a US Senate seat.
“No, not Carly Fiorina. Nikki Haley?” she asks, referring to former HP CEO, who has quit the presidential race, and the Indian-American governor of South Carolina.
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“Intolerance of any kind should be rejected forcefully, particularly when it is institutionalized and turned on those least able to fight it,” Dasu told IANS in an email interview.
“Politicians will say and do anything to get elected,” she said when asked about the intolerance debate in India and the kind of rhetoric heard on the US presidential campaign trail.
“And very often the media fans the fire by amplifying and repeating the most obnoxious and heinous words,” Dasu said.
“That’s why it was important to me that the hero, Stephen James, should have no part in it; his intolerance is turned towards people’s behaviour – for example, terrorist acts.”
In Dasu’s opinion, “there is no perfect candidate in the presidential race at the moment, not counting her fictional hero Stephen James, who “is principled, fearless and wants to save the world”.
Among the Democrats, Bernie Sanders “is impractical and too focussed on one issue, (Hillary) Clinton has a credibility problem, and the Republicans all want to take us back to medieval times”.
She, however, believes that Hillary Clinton is the most qualified and capable candidate in the field.
Dasu said she was inspired to write spy novels as “I have always been a fan of literary espionage, starting with Graham Greene’s ‘Our Man in Havana’, and the early works of John le Carre, particularly the Karla trilogy”.
“The focus is on characters and their motivation rather than pure plot developments,” she said. “And being a spy is such a rich and complex human condition – to deceive in order to defend.”
Dasu said her novels had more romance and social drama than spy craft because “I am curious about the lives of spies rather than their deeds or craft”.
“How do they relate to the people around them? How do their significant others ever trust them? What do they need to do in order to keep their professional habits from seeping into their personal interactions?”
“I wanted to write about the spy as seen through the eyes of the people close to them,” Dasu said. “And, I have to admit, I love Jane Austen as much as I love literary espionage.”
“So, romance and social drama and other situations faced by every thinking woman naturally creep into my writing.”
But she disagreed “strongly that the South Asian characters in the book are stereotypical”.
“First of all, most South Asian characters and writing focus on immigrant angst and adjustment issues – Jhumpa Lahiri, Chitra Divakaruni – the whole culture clash between Western and Indian values.”
Most of the South Asian characters in her book, she acknowledged, are “very well adjusted and happy, to the point of perfection”.
But the last book in her trilogy “is very different from the first two books,” she said. “It has a unique setting and an unusual story arc.”