MY HUNDRED-FOOT JOURNEY
In my novel, The Hundred-Foot Journey , there is a key moment when the book’s narrator, Hassan Haji, crosses the village street between his family’s restaurant, Maison Mumbai, and the two-star French restaurant, Le Saule Pleureur, across the way. “It was such a small journey, in feet, but it felt like I was striding from one end of the universe to the other, the light of the Alps illuminating my way.”
I took a hundred-foot journey once. I reveal it, if in disguised form, in my second novel, Buddhaland, Brooklyn . At the age of 16, this American born and raised to ex-pats in Europe, finally moved, to attend college, from Switzerland to the U.S. By age 18, I was a mess. I was lost and confused. I didn’t know where I belonged–in America or Europe–let alone who I was.
But that was when I met a kind young woman, who had long chestnut hair, wore hippy dresses, smoked a lot of pot, and had the most exquisite singing voice and infectious laugh. She would very sweetly give me a hug, or squeeze my hand, and, when she did that, I felt like everything would be all right. She helped this brooding and intense writer-wannabe chill out and have some fun. She also happened to be a Buddhist, and one day, in an awkward attempt to get closer, I asked her if I could pray with her.
The day I crossed that dorm hall between our rooms, to kneel with her in prayer, I made my hundred-foot journey. My interest in the young woman wasn’t amorous, as I thought, but spiritual in nature and I was forever changing the course of my life. Thirty-five years later I still pray daily, a brief trip across a hall that profoundly changed the timbre of my life.