Ahmad's debut novel, a thriller called "The Caretaker" that is the first in a trilogy, will be released on May 21. Ahmad was raised in India and now lives in the District and teaches at the Writer's Center in Bethesda.
Could you summarize the basic setup of your novel?
It's about an ex-Indian army captain who leaves India in disgrace and ends up being a caretaker for rich people's houses on Martha's Vineyard, and he looks after an African-American senator's house one winter and then gets kind of sucked into a political plot through that.
You were raised in India, so how much of your own experience worked into the character or the book as a whole?
I think the character has my nostalgia for India, so all throughout the book there are flashbacks of not only his army career in India, but growing up in India ... So a lot of that is really from personal experience ... I came here when I was 17. I think it's the experience of an immigrant to live in a dual world. You're here, but you were formed elsewhere.
The book specifically explores the experience of a Sikh immigrant in the U.S. after 9/11. What about that experience was important to you to write about?
I was living in Boston at the time, and there were a lot of Sikhs who worked at my local supermarket. And I walked in a couple of days after 9/11, and one of these guys had a big American flag stuck to the front of his turban, and I thought, wow. These are people who have nothing to do with what happened, but they're so visible ... And as somebody with a Muslim name and a beard, I get stopped going through immigration all the time, and so I wanted to use the format of a thriller to just look at this other side of being a highly visible immigrant here.
-- April Burbank