Monday, October 21, 2013

Lapsed Bengali

Recently, my father was lamenting my disconnection from all things Bengali to the point that I had even missed Durga Puja this year. How would J ever know what it means to be Indian and Bengali he asked me ? Did I not consider part of my job as a parent to create connections to her roots ? A person without roots is destined to be forever lost he warns me. 

Our opinions on the subject are too far apart to hope for reconciliation. I have made peace with the fact that he will vent sometimes and that I will need to absorb it gracefully. 

Reading Hell-Heaven by Jhumpa Lahiri was like drinking a perfectly brewed cup of Darjeeling tea - a thing that many Bengalis of my parents' vintage feel quite passionately about. Though one could argue (and rightly so) who cares about stupid Darjeeling tea or whatever other holy cows of Bengal. The same cast of characters, in their familiar locale - we see them in different avatars in all of her writing but her story telling seems to get better and better with time. 

It would be great to see similar growth in the substance of her narrative - in what is left unsaid for the reader to discover.This story to me felt like John Updike meeting Alice Munro but still missing something. A vignette from the life of a Bengali family reproduced with amazing fidelity - no detail too small to omit. Add life-spark to this and it would be a thing of remarkable beauty.

I thought I would share it with J so she learns something about the culture and a way of life I am not familiarizing her with but more importantly about the fine art of word-smithing.

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