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Thrity Umrigar
By Nitish S. Rele

Her first novel, "Bombay Time," was a about the individual struggles of longtime Parsi residents of an apartment building in the city of their birth.

In her second and recently released novel, "The Space Between Us," Thrity Umrigar once again uses the backdrop of Bombay to sketch a portrait of a woman and her maid.

The Cleveland, Ohio resident also is author of a memoir, "first darling of the Morning: Selected Memories of an Indian Childhood." A journalist for 17 years, the Bombay born has written for "Washington Post, "Cleveland Plain Dealer" and other national newspapers and regularly writes for "The Boston Globe" and regularly writes for the Globe's book pages.

Here is a tête-à-tête with Umrigar:

Q: So far, how has the response been to your new novel, "The Space Between Us?" Also, will the book be published in India?

A: The book is doing nicely in the U.S. It was the No. 1 pick in February for BookSense, which is the largest association of independent booksellers. The book has been released in India and has already gone into a second printing. It is apparently on the bestseller's list in India.

Q: What inspired you to write "The Space Between Us?"

A: When I was growing up in India, I was always fascinated by the closeness shared between mistresses of households and the servants who worked for them. It seemed like a very rich, emotionally complicated relationship -- women who were linked by working side-by-side daily, often sharing the bonds of gender but whose lives were also divided by issues of class. As an adult, this was a book I wanted to read but it seemed that, at least among Indian writers living in the West and writing in English, nobody was tackling this subject matter. So, I decided to write this novel about a situation that's so common in middle-class Indian life that we fail to even see it.

Q: How are your two novels "Bombay Time" and "The Space Between Us?" different? I have noticed that both novels do have Parsi characters. Is it because of your being a Parsi?

A: The two novels are quite different. "Bombay Time" is more episodic, in that each chapter deals with the life story of an individual character. "Space" has a more conventional narrative. I also think "Space's" scope and canvas is broader, in that it talks about issues of class etc. "Bombay Time" is more intimate, more inward-looking, telling the story of this one community on the brink of extinction.

Q: What are your most vivid memories of Bombay?

A: There are so many . . . As a kid, I loved the monsoons. When the streets would get flooded, I loved how the city came together, with everybody pitching in, people helping strangers. I loved that same sense of camaraderie during cricket test matches, when strangers walked up to one another and asked the score. And I still miss those amazing twilight Bombay skies, when the whole city was bathed in orange and golden light. Lastly, I loved going to the seaside in the evenings. It seemed like all of Bombay turned out there for some much-needed interaction with nature. In fact, I write about this in The Space Between Us -- how the sea restores the spirits of Bombayites, how it feeds their souls.

Q: What next for Thrity Umrigar? Another novel already in the works? If so, what will it be about?

A: I'm almost done with another book. It's set in suburban Ohio and it is the story of a middle-aged Indian woman.

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