Sunday, August 12, 2007

Four Birthdays And A Lesson - Part 1

In response to my comment that I prefer to stay away from the mainstream desi because they don't know how to mind their own business, a friend forwarded me this speech by Narayan Murthy, highlighting a quote : A westerner can be friendly without being intimate while an easterner tends to be intimate without being friendly. This speech is essential reading for any desi who wonders what ails desidom at large. As for the Kipling quote that Murthy refers to and corroborates by his own experience, I could not agree more. I should know having been at the receiving end of much unsolicited intimacy from desis both here and in India.

I was working in Bangalore at the time, my parents with me to take care of J. I had bailed out of my marriage with a four month old and was back home trying to start life over. That was easier said than done. There was not a moment's respite for me or my family from reminders of what I did not have - namely a marriage and a husband. The vegetable seller was just as curious about my state of affairs as was my boss at work. Considering that the former was illiterate and the later attended business school at INSEAD, it was amazing how alike they were in their mentality vis a vis my situation. I had to believe it had to do with the only thing they had in common - being Desi.

J was turning one and I wanted a nice birthday party for her. I was new in the neighborhood and did not know a lot of people. There were some acquaintances from my old days in Bangalore. They knew me when I was single and were genuinely saddened by what had become of my marriage. It was a small, intimate gathering of old friends and my family and a garishly colored birthday cake (the baker had pulled out out all stops knowing it was the first birthday and completely ignored my request for icing to be baby pink and white).

My attempts at making new friendships with parents who had young kids had been entirely unsuccessful. As such, J was the only child on her first birthday. We took her to the temple. I remember being overcome by sadness on the way home. Her world had shrunk indescribably because of my decision to leave my husband. I feared that we would in time become an island inhabited only by the two of us, the sea of humanity around would barely touch us. This was not the life I had hoped or prepared for upon my homecoming.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

my 2 cents.. US is the place to be where single parenting is such a usual thing.. in india they still make a big deal about it.. As far as mingling with other desis.. no loss.
I always relate desi mindset to the frog in the exhibition joke...

Sharda

ggop said...

HC,
I can only imagine everyone's curiosity. An acquaintance moved back to India after spending almost two decades in the US. He is single. Everyone under the Sun asks him the same question, wonder aloud (how rude is that!)
gg

Anonymous said...

indian society has this conformist view abt life.Good decison to relocate to USA.

Just be happy that u have a good non-desi frnnz

Some good posts reg the desi outlook in the states past n present

cheers
S

Anonymous said...

I don't think Americans are any less conformist than Indians. Single parenthood is normal here, and so nobody raises an eyebrow. But even in US, there is so much stigma attached to gays. Also, there is so much discussion about evolution and abortion, things which nobody cares about in India. I personally think US is just a different society, and not necessarily the better one. It may however be a better fit for some people than others.

Suchi said...

I understand in many ways. I'm sorry you had to feel that way.
The reaction to my childfree state is like: "No kids? And you haven't become a manager either? What are you doing with your life?"