Friday, October 02, 2009

passively resistant.

why the Google is still pretty awesome, besides being a benevolent dictator of my information and all.

i'm definitely not a very nationalistic Indian (given the fact that i'm American, and barely understand my Indian heritage), but my parents DID make me dress up as Gandhi one year for a social studies fair in the performance competition (their way of ensuring i win out in an oft-ignored category and goto the national level...this is less braggery and more self confession of my cringing geek past). although, in hindsight, this is probably why in science fairs i was often in the "math" category ("which 3-dimensional geometric shape can support the most weight", after all, is a question that plagues most of us).

but this is about India, not me. i often find it funny that the one place in the world feel the most American is India. and this is also not a swelling of national pride, but rather yet another confession of my lack of Indian-ness. i stand out like a sore thumb there (i too, am force to pay the exorbant "tourist" rate at the Taj Mahal despite my garbled Hindi). though it should be noted that in SOUTH India, i can pass as a mentally challenged north Indian student (i'm of North Indian descent) - again this is no sleight to the mentally disabled, but rather an admission of my lack of Hindi language skills (when the ticket guy asks where you're from - to see if he can charge you the higher non-Indian rate - just say in mumbly Indian accent "Delhi" and you're good to go.

but again, this is about India, not me. i had a quick chat with an Indian-Indian (born in India, not the US, UK, Canada, etc) co-worker yesterday, about her fears for her 9 year old son in this country (she thinks he will likely become like me...not sure if that was a sleight or complement), and it brought to mind the many books that i have read on the Indian experience. starting from what i know, the easiest launch pad is the works of Jhumpa Lahiri. her short story compilation, Interpreter of Maladies won the Pulitzer years ago, to which she followed up with the Namesake, which is in my top10 novels of all time, as it tells the tale of an "Indian" (Bengali) American growing up in the US, from boy to manhood (though the soon-following film of the same name w/ Kal Penn as the title character did not do the book justice, though it did portray the story from the father's end, which made me feel extremely guilty for being a jerk to my parents growing up). Lahiri most recently followed up with Unaccustomed Earth, another compilation of short stories, this one a bit more dark and depressing. just my cup of chai.

other books that have shaped my view of the "indian experience" - ALL of Rohinton Mistry's novels, which are almost Dickensonian in their detail of India in the 60s/70s - almost an alternate reality for me, as i had no knowledge of the societal upheaval at play (after all, my dad had already left, and my mother grew up indian, but in Africa/England, so those stories never made their way to me). going even further back in time is Ashok Banker's Ramayan series, a contemporary prose novelization of the great Hindu epic (one of our "Bibles") - which really helped me piece together all the religious/cultural knowledge fragments i had of the religion i was raised with - only previously learned thru Diwali skits, Indian/British tela-novellas, and of course Amar Chitra Katha comics (which probably explains some of my doubtful views on religion in general; after all, i was reading about the exploits of Krishna, Arjun, alongside the adventures of Green Lantern & Spider-Man - an imaginary team-up was inevitable).

most recently, the novels i've read/am reading, are a bit more real to me.

the first was Rakesh Satyal's Blue Boy. Rakesh is the younger brother of some close friends of mine, and tells the semi-autobiographical story of a confused young boy growing up in southwest Ohio, who, assumes (naturally) he must be a reincarnation of the god Krishna, because he can't make sense of why he's different. he's not fitting in for a variety of reasons, which is not related to just being Indian, but also, more importantly not being able to "fit in" with either his peers that are Indian-American like him (but more "cool" - read "popular"), or the "regular" American's at school. this rang true to many of my own "being uncool" themes growing up (sure it's the trendy thing to say you were "uncool" growing up, but i was took the cake here). on top of all that, the title character is gay (probably the one thing i did not share with novel, but nevertheless a very compelling insight into what so many go through in our conservatively open-seeming society). a longer post/review here IS pending.

the final two are non-fiction. first was Fareed Zakaria's the Post-American world (i've already partially posted on this), which features a great chapter on what the rise of India can mean for the world (and subsequently, one on China's). the second, which i just started, is Imagining India by Nandan Nilekani, famed Indan entrepeneur (and now governmental game-changer
), who i had only heard about, but was soon compelled to read his thoughts after his Daily Show book-stop.

so as usual, there is hardly a point to this post (and it wound up being about me), but rather a gathering of reflections/datapoints on a particular theme: this one on (me) being "Indian" (sort of)

Happy birthday Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (known to his buds as "Mahatma").

now if only i could find all my old Amar Chitra Kathas...

1 comment:

  1. i am sure that mom has them somewhere, or else has given them away to some other 'uncool' kid.


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