Wednesday, July 22, 2009

I have always been a good listener.

Growing up as the middle child teaches you certain skills. How to get yourself noticed when you're being ignored (making people laugh.) How to make yourself blend into the wall (listening to others talk.)

Every story I hear fascinates me. I want to know more. About the old and the sexy, about the dirt and the hurt. I have always suffered from wanting to know. Still, stories used to make me happy.

When did stories start breaking my heart?

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This Is Not A Meat Market  

Monday, December 22, 2008

I have hit 25. In Indian girl world, this means that I am now of "marriageable" age. The rishtas (proposals) are going to start trickling in. Soon I will be deluged with requests. They will come from far and wide - from a network of concerned relatives, gossipy old ladies, and boys who cant get dates - all of whom have set their clocks to the exact time of when I enter the marriage market. They will be appropriately vetted by my parents before being passed on to me. I will be resistant at first, but I will soon oblige. The Indian marriage machinery is a formidable opponent.

The first proposal is already here. I am to meet a boy who will be visiting Manhattan to meet his sister. The three of us will go out on a date together. Me, the boy and his sister. Charming. I can totally imagine marrying this one.

When I told my mother that it was absurd to have his sister as a chaperone, she agreed. Emboldened, I suggested that I should take my sister too (she's just a year older and she's on the market too. Every night we swap war stories and cry.) My mother's horrified gasp traveled across the seven seas.

Ma (sternly): You cannot take an unmarried girl with you.
Me (wheedling): But why?
Ma (getting progressively sterner): What if he falls in love with her?
Me (triumphant): Perfect!
Ma (positively shaking with sternness): This is not a meat market. He cannot choose which one he wants. And comb your hair before meeting him.

This is going to be just dandy. I'll report back.

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Finding My Religion  

Friday, November 14, 2008

In a dusty, sleepy little Rajasthani town is a wondrous temple built long ago. I stumbled upon a group of women doing their morning puja and rediscovered what it means to be Hindu.

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Slap And Tell  

Monday, September 8, 2008

This video has changed my life is so many immeasurable ways. I'm not the only one who's life it's affected.

This is a conversation I had with my Italian friend today.

That slap video is sublime
isnt it?
its my whole reason for being
you cannot slap girls in india
i like how he slaps her and then says but "how did she slap?"
i love the part when he cries at the end
part of me touched the sky
lets start a circus and teach our kids tricks
ill teach kamasutra
you can teach them how to carve a pig, lather it in oil and eat it
eat? devour
our house will reak of patchouli and onions

Sigh. Game show contestants in bad clothes. Bringing two cultures closer together.

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The Enigma of the Engagement  

Monday, August 25, 2008

I have family in Virginia. I went to visit them last weekend because my cousin was getting engaged. Now, people in my family have been getting engaged since I was born (I'm Indian, we have large families.) I've never thought that this was the least bit strange. However, when I told my officemate about my weekend plans, she gave me an odd look.

It turns out, in the rest of the world, you actually don't get engaged with the entire family watching. It's supposed to be a private affair between the boy and girl. The Indian family engagement is a much more, um, public affair. Everyone gets dressed in uncomfortable clothes. The couple try to exchange rings without actually touching each other. The girl's mother hovers anxiously, trying to please everyone on the boy's side. Lavish gifts are exchanged. You get a gift for just existing. Too much food is eaten. Unruly children are slapped. Just like a wedding except it's an engagement. Only 50 very important people have been invited. It's a who-do-they-love-more sweepstakes. (Of course I won.)

I'm not complaining. I can now buy an iphone without spending any of my own money.

Hmmm. Maybe we do have it right after all.

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How Exotic Am I?  

Monday, June 30, 2008

If you're an Indian living in America, you are bound to hear this at least a few times. "You're Indian? Ooooh, how exxxoticccc!" I generally deflect this by nodding my head in agreement and looking mysterious. Hopefully that means I'm too exotic to indulge in this conversation.

I'm also asked - "You're from India? Do you know the Kamasutra?" To which I say, with a look of complete seriousness, "Yes, they teach us that in grade school. It's a required course."

Once, I wanted to know what the image of India was amongst Americans, so I conducted an informal poll. I asked people what they thought of when they think of India. Answers ranged from elephants and spices to cow-dung and outsourcing. I even got maharajas and poverty.

I do my part to keep up the image Americans have of India. It's just too exhausting to explain otherwise, when I can barely make sense of the contradictions that make India. For people who like things in neat little packages, India seems too messy and uncontained. How do I explain that its the vagaries of India that define it?

And for all those people, who think I'm exotic? Im really not, or at least I don't feel that way. I guess I'm about as exotic as a billion other people. Just ask my pet elephant.

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Great Expectations  

Saturday, June 21, 2008

What is it about parents thrusting their hopes and dreams on their children? This is especially the case with Indian parents. Indian children are not only supposed to do well for themselves, but for their families, neighbors, relatives, community, and country.

I seem to have a good job and a settled life. It's not enough. It never is. It is not enough to do PR when one could have been a doctor. Wouldn't it have been better if I had taken Biology in the 10th grade instead of History? What if I had studied a bit more and in a better college? If, if. When one is Indian, life is all about the choices you've made that brought you to where you are and rarely about the direction your life is going to take from now on. It is all a series of mistakes that are compounded together to make the one big gigantic mistake that you are now.

One day perhaps I will have my life made. Maybe I will be a bestselling author who is so rich that people are afraid to argue with me for fear of upsetting me. It will never be good enough though. I will never be the doctor I could have been if I had taken Biology in the 10th grade. This is a symptom of the malaise that has overtaken my country. We are a people who can barely move ahead because we are so busy bemoaning the past.

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