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2005 Writers' Forum
Bharti Kirchner

Bharti Kirchner has published four critically acclaimed novels: Shiva Dancing, Darjeeling, Sharmila’s Book, and her latest, Pastries: A Novel of Desserts and Discoveries. Her first novel, Shiva Dancing, was chosen by Seattle Weekly to be among the top 18 books by Seattle authors in the last 25 years. Kirchner’s novels have been translated into German, Dutch, Spanish, Thai and other foreign languages. She has won two Seattle Arts Commission literature grants and an Artist Trust GAP grant. An award-winning cook, Kirchner is also the author of four popular cookbooks, including The Bold Vegetarian. Her first, The Healthy Cuisine of India, was named by Food Arts magazine as one of the best cookbooks of 1992. Her second, Indian Inspired, was selected as one of the top ten cookbooks of 1993 by USA Today. Kirchner has also written numerous articles and essays for magazines and anthologies and book reviews for major newspapers. Prior to becoming a writer, Kirchner worked as a systems engineer for IBM and as a systems manager for Bank of America, San Francisco. She has also worked in Europe and other parts of the world as a computer systems consultant. She holds advanced degrees in Mathematics. Bharti Kirchner photo
photo credit:
dean wong
Listen to an excerpt of Bharti's reading (MP3)
Read and listen to excerpts from a discussion between Bharti Kirhner and 2005 curator John Mifsud.
Best of Friends (Chapter One)

This novel with its theme of bonding brings an immigrant community into focus. When a domestic violence counselor goes missing, her husband becomes the primary suspect. Her best friend goes on a search, but finds a lack of cooperation, even from the police.

The jangling of the telephone startles me.

Not fair, this intrusion. The sheet tucked under my arms like a strapless gown, I extend a limp arm toward the handset. Long hair drowns my vision. This is what a plant must feel like when it’s uprooted. If Kareena is on the line, I’ll whisper: Met a cool Deutsch last night…I’m still in bed. I know, I know, but this one is…Look, I’ll call you back later, okay?

"Mitra speaking," I murmur into the mouthpiece.

"Ms. Basu, this is Nobuo Yoshihama from the Seattle Police Department." The man with a humorless voice is approaching middle-age; the absence of an accent indicates he is a Nisei.

Why would the police be calling me? The life I lead, green and shiny, on Seattle’s north side moves to a gentle rhythm; my plants won’t have it any other way.

Plants are my refuge, my salvation and, happily, my vocation. Usually I rise at dawn, slip into my greenhouse, and swell with new hope as I appraise the overnight progress of the seedlings. This morning is different. Snuggling against a warm man, savoring the musky sweetness of his skin, I lie curled in the sheets later than usual.

"What is it?"

"We need to ask you some questions."

It must be a car prowl, a petty crime that has become depressingly common even in a good neighborhood such as this. Only a week ago, two tires disappeared from a neighbor’s SUV. Fortunately, my Honda stays in the garage overnight.

"Do you know Kareena Sinha?"

I sit up and grip the phone. "Yes, I do know her. Why?"

"Is she a friend or business associate?"

"A friend." That doesn’t describe her, not completely. Although we’re not related, Kareena is my only family in this area, not to mention the closest confidante I’ve had since leaving home. A word from my youth, shoee, lifeline of a friend, comes to mind.

"When did you last talk to her?"

"Seven or eight days back."

"No contact since?"

"None, why? Did something happen to her?"

"She’s been reported missing by her husband. I’m the detective assigned to the case."

"She’s missing?"

"I’m afraid so."

That’s impossible. Kareena, such a people person, so well liked in our community for her helping hand, can’t vanish like that. From the evening I met her at a party, the light shining off her brilliance, and all through the days and nights and springs and summers of our friendship, I've known she was special. Despite such hopeful rumination, a woody uneasiness constricts my throat. I can’t speak

"I’d like to stop by, say, in half an hour, if that’s okay with you," the detective says. "You live at Forty-two Seventy-seven Corliss Avenue North? The cross street is Forty-second?"

"Correct." He even knows where I live. Though chilled, I reply evenly, "All right. Half an hour."

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