I did not expect the luxurious and sybaritic lifestyle that greeted me when I arrived in Tehran in 1976 to work as the CFO of a multinational energy company. Nor did I anticipate scrambling to evacuate from the country in the winter of 1978 as the Iranian Revolution closed in around me.
As I went about my business career, I carried with me the feeling that this story needed to be told. I began to think more often about events and circumstances that affected me personally, important experiences that were receding into the fog of memory:
…Being in the vanguard of young Indians finally separating from the psychological and aspirational limits imposed by the trauma of Partition, colonialism, World War II, and the Great Depression, for example–Indians reaching for their dreams and embracing an idea of personal agency, with America rather than Great Britain as a lodestar;
…Living through the cultural and political revolutions of the mid to late 70s: upending of social mores in the West, the guerilla movements in Europe, North Africa, Iran and India, and the fascinating intersections of these forces;
…Navigating the intrigues, anxiety, ambitions, and compromises of high stakes corporate life and international finance.
…Remembering the oral tradition of our large family and preserving the interesting memories of aging relatives and past generations.
It was the sale of my interest in a start-up and the accompanying non-compete that gave me the freedom to start writing on these themes.
As I was mulling over the form my writing would take and attending workshop sessions at Stanford University, the structure of a novel emerged.
Around this time, I happened to meet Deepak Chopra at a corporate event in Palo Alto, and he asked me what my novel was about. “A love story in a time of revolution,” I said quickly, because that was the state of play in the development of my book.
“Every good story is a love story,” Deepak said, with noticeable conviction.
The themes of love and revolution endured as my novel took shape. International intrigue, greed, choices and consequences propelled the narrative, and the result is my debut novel, Labyrinth of the Wind– a historical fiction thriller that was published for early reviews in January with an official launch date of February 1, 2021.
The protagonist of Labyrinth of the Wind: A Novel of Love and Nuclear Secrets in Tehran is Indian expat Ayan Pathak, the chief financial officer of Iran Power. He enjoys the finer things of life: high-end clubs, skiing in the sacred and dramatic Alborz mountains, and languid weekends on the Caspian Sea with his beautiful girlfriend, Gaby. She is an airline pilot who covertly sympathizes with radical leftists in her native Germany. The year is 1977 and the Iranian Revolution is about to overthrow the Shah’s pro-Western monarchy in favor of an Islamic theocracy led by Ayatollah Khomeini.
One evening, Ayan is approached by the CEO of his company, who pressures him to help smuggle uranium for a secret Iranian nuclear weapons program.
From there, Ayan faces difficult decisions. Should he cooperate with his boss in exchange for riches beyond imagination, or should he refuse and risk everything, including his life? Despite his better intentions, Ayan is sucked into the quicksand of love, lies, political intrigue, and deadly consequences. Can he be saved before it’s too late?
As Ayan is struggling with his dilemma, the country is roiling under the pressure of impending change. Hamid, Ayan’s driver and friend, is a fervent supporter of the Ayatollah Khomeini, who would remake Iran in his own image. Gaby, against the politics of privilege, pressures Ayan to also challenge the status quo.
And always lurking is Colonel Heydar Hosseini, the poetry-loving SAVAK secret police officer assigned to monitor the goings-on at Iran Power.
Labyrinth of the Wind focuses on love, choices and consequences at a time of political upheaval. It is set in Tehran, Delhi, and several European hotspots and follows the timeline of events during the dramatic, consequential years of 1977 and 1978.
The title comes from the poetry of W.B. Yeats, in which the metaphors of the labyrinth and the wind are recurring motifs representing love and yearning, ungovernable forces and flux, randomness, and the anarchy and violence accompanying political upheavals. The cover was adapted for use by permission of the noted Japanese artist, Motoi Yamamoto, “known for working with salt, often in the form of temporary, intricate, large-scale installations. Motoi forged a connection with the substance while mourning the death of his sister, and began to create art out of salt in an effort to preserve his memories of her.”
More information can be found at Madhav’s website at madhavmisra.com.
Madhav Misra graduated with an Honors degree in Economics from St. Stephen’s College, Delhi, where he led the University’s tennis team. He has an MBA from Columbia University, and worked as a strategy consultant with Booz, Allen & Hamilton, and as an M&A investment banker with Citigroup in Manhattan. He moved to Northern California in 1991 to launch a global alternative investment business for Citi in San Francisco, and then co-founded Allianz Hedge Fund Partners, serving as Chief Investment Officer.
Madhav and his wife now divide their time between California, Hawaii, and the Himalayan foothills. He enjoys participating in the civic life of San Francisco and working to strengthen US-India ties, and is co- chair the San Francisco-Bangalore Sister City Initiative that has taken former Mayor Gavin Newsom and the late Mayor Ed Lee to India to help further this cause.