I wanted to bring someone's courage to life through Without Shame. It wasn't a Muslim girl, or a woman from a small Bengali village, or a naive English teacher determined to fix the things he doesn't understand - those details came from my curiosity about these lives and a desire to walk in their shoes. But I wanted to bring to paper what I know about pain, loss, and the things that can hinder or feed the human spirit. That includes what I believe about colonialism, and the things we continue to colonize. Of course, writers are also afraid of our work getting misinterpreted or read literally, but I can't influence my intended neocolonial interpretation indefinitely.
First, I must trust that I have made it to this point through diligent work. I deleted more than I wrote. I sculpted carefully while I shaped my own worldview - the process of writing was a process of growth, of forming my own ideas. I reached out to Bengalis. I spent endless hours in libraries, getting lost in personal accounts by Peace Corps volunteers. How else do I have these strange facts floating in my mind, that I needed to use the word thana for "village" because the story takes place before the 1980s, before the word for "village" changed to upazila. These things you have to ask questions about when you write on a different era that you didn't live through.
But secondly, as I await the launch of Without Shame, I must return to the poem that propelled me. When I lost direction, I returned to the words of Rabindranath Tagore. The poem below inspired and informed my themes and the truths I wanted to convey. It is inspiration for how I want to live life, and how I want my country to be. I found this poem after I began my novel, but it instantly sparked my purpose in writing it. You'll find these words in the front pages...
Where knowledge is free
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
By narrow domestic walls
Where words come out from the depth of truth
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit
Where the mind is led forward by thee
Into ever-widening thought and action
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.