The Inspiration Behind The Golden Son


In India, there is a long tradition of settling disputes between individuals and families within a community. In its original form, the panchayat — the assembly (ayat) of five (panch) respected elders — was the inspiration for the name of the fictional village in this novel, Panchanagar. In less formal ways, I have witnessed the same practice of navigating disputes, in my own and other families, usually by an elder male in the family. As a child, I was not often privy to these conversations, so my imagination took over.

When I was young, I was fascinated by this practice of sorting out troubles at the kitchen table rather than the courtroom or by a formal authority figure. I became further intrigued as an adult, once I realized that grown-ups don’t have all the answers and in fact, often there is no clear answer to be had. I began to consider the burden of that responsibility on an individual, and how different people might react to the role of being the arbiter.

For the purpose of this narrative, I chose a single person, the eldest son of the clan, to be the arbiter; in reality, the practice of informal dispute resolution can happen in as many different ways as there are families. While historical experience provided the inspiration for my story, all the details of specific cases in this book are purely fictional, as are the village of Dharmala, India and the town of Ashwood, Texas.

This novel follows a young man through the three years of his internal medicine residency program at an urban American hospital in the early 2000’s. During my research process, I had the generous help of many people, including patients, hospital staff, physicians, nurses, current and former interns and residents at several medical centers across the country.

The fictional Parkview Hospital in this book is not modeled after any one hospital, nor is Anil’s experience a perfect representation of any single residency program. Rather, it is a composite based on my research. While I have tried to remain true to the spirit of the medical residency experience, which has changed over the past two decades, I have also taken creative license to change some of the details and compress timelines to suit the narrative. There are undoubtedly errors in this kind of interpretation, and those belong solely to me. I am humbled by the nobility of the medical profession; I only hope I did it justice.

Learning how pottery is made in rural India

Visit to the Cardiac Catheterization Lab at UC-San Diego