One Sunday, my husband was reading the paper when he burst into laughter. “What? What?” I asked. He showed me a cartoon of two brothers and eight nephews drowning. “Well, that’s macabre.”
“No, that’s Hamilton’s Rule,” he told me, “which tells us under what conditions altruism is manifested. The man on the shore must determine how many nephews are worth one brother.” Just the scaffolding I needed for my NaNo novel, Rescuing Ranu! It would be interesting to put my protagonist, the headstrong mathematician Nela from Shiva's Arms, in a situation where she would be forced to go from selfish to selfless.
Other questions arose from that. How related do you have to be to make the cost-benefit ratio of saving someone favorable? And what of the relationships not based on blood? Since Nela had to undergo some kind of transformation, what could be the catalyst for such a change? A man? A child? Possibly. Love could soften the emotional scar tissue Nela had built up through years of straddling two cultures. The plight of immigrants, the lives they make elsewhere, and the families they leave behind, raised yet another question: how much can a person stand to lose? When confronted with dueling loyalties, which part of a divided self goes, and what stays? Suddenly I was in business. Here is my new draft in a nutshell:
After a power struggle at her university, math professor Nela Sambashivan returns to her native India to think. She is drawn, instead, into the lives of ten year old Ranu, the cunning motel-keeper who exploits her, and an unscrupulous Uncle who believes that everything is for sale. Nela’s transformation from abstract thinker to selfless guardian begins when she and her lover rescue Ranu from a forced marriage, but only when the child unexpectedly fails to thrive does Nela confront her miscalculations about sacrifice, survival, and the mysterious alchemy of love.