Saturday, March 31, 2007
"For being a foreigner, Ashima is beginning to realize, is a sort of lifelong pregnancy — a perpetual wait, a constant burden, a continuous feeling out of sorts. It is an ongoing responsibility, a parenthesis in what had once been ordinary life, only to discover that previous life has vanished, replaced by something more complicated and demanding. Like pregnancy, being a foreigner, Ashima believes, is something that elicits the same curiosity from strangers, the same combination of pity and respect." - The Namesake
The year 1968 - Ashoke and Ashima Ganguli, bound together in an arranged marriage depart from their tradition-bound life in Calcutta to America. Packed with them are dreams, ambitions and cultural bonds which they never wish to let go. America to them is strange- it is not "Desh" and they try hard to make peace with their divided loyalties to India and America. The Ganguli’s fit readily into an academic community where they eventually find a group of other Bengalis, establishing a network of friends who gather for holidays and special occasions common to Bengali traditions. The book unfolds into a totally belivebale and relatable saga of a first generation immigrant family. Settling into a new life in a new land, soon they start a family of their own. And here's introducing Gogol Ganguli. That’s the name Ashoke and Ashima fill out in the forms for their firstborn when a letter from their grandmother that was supposed to inform the Gangulis of their newborn’s name, as per the Bengali tradition of the elders choosing a "good name" for the baby doesn't arrive in time. As the children grow up Ashima and Ashoke realise that raising their children, Gogol and Sonia in a different culture turns to be more challenging than they initially thought. As a child, Gogol loves the name his father gave him, preferring it to his formal name Nikhil. But as a gangly teenager growing into a suave architect, he starts to dislike it. His initial discomfort comes from the discovery of his namesake Russian author- Nikolai Gogol's idiosyncrasies. Later he wants to go by his formal name, Nikhil, to claim his own identity outside of his family's shadow. Just as he struggles with his name, Gogol wrestles with the worlds inside and outside his parents' home. But with his fathers sudden death, he begins on a journey of rediscovering his roots. But the journey goes much beyond a simple reclaiming of Gogol’s cultural heritage...
I have never been mesmerized by a book before this. Never ever! Maybe I can relate to it because I have been living in a foregin land for the past two years now, and India to me is still home. And yes, thats just how it will stay forever. I dislike people saying I'm of Indian origin, because it makes me feel like a hybrid, living in a foreign country. And thank you very much, but not only am I of Indian origin, but every part of me is Indian- the origin and my thoughts and all my actions! And it's not easy to live abroad. The book potrays just that. There is an intense pressure to be a part of two worlds. One which by all means is your world, a world that you were raised in, whose values and cultural roots your ground by; yet the other is the one you live in now. Both are dimensions of a life which have nothing to do with each other , yet are part of one person- YOU.
Today I am strangely aware of the things I live for- the family bonds, the friends who thought exactly like me, the culture that I'm growing to miss as the days go by, the Bollywood songs that still play on my car system. And then again, here I am in a foreign land, entering a world that I have little or no control over. A world that recognises me as just another foreigner. It's scary. And though I know that world tries very hard to take over my Indian mind, it hasn't suceeded just yet. My Indian roots are still thriving and green, and thats just how I intend to keep them. They will not shrivel and die because I won't let them. Ever. A bi-cultural life is rich but highly imperfect. After reading the book, I can safely conclude that while my life in a foreign country is highly rewarding for my career, it is founded on departure and deprivation. And that today brings to me the greatest sense of loss.
The fear Ashima feels everytime the phone rings in the middle of the night, like a siren of bad news from home. I can relate to that fear. Of being thousand of miles away, of not being able to be there when your needed most. I can relate to the helplessness when my friends call in the wee hours of the morning crying on the phone about break ups. There is just plain nothing I can do. I'm sitting miles away, in a country where nobody understands my fears or my ties.
Friends have become family. Which in a way is a great feeling, a feeling of belonging. But here I am in a country where family ties have no value. Just like Ashima, when I first moved out of home, I remember forming a large Indian group, meeting everyday, eating at each others houses- just to avoid eating alone at a table by yourself, spending entire weekends doing things together, watching Indian movies, cooking Indian food, going to buy Indian groceries, celebrating Indian festivals, the full clock works of being Indian. Today, I think I'm a little more relaxed on those terms, I have grown to befriend people of foreign origins, not agreeing to everything they say, but accepting it as a different culture. I would never embrace their culture, because that to me is alien. And as open minded as I get, some things will just always be out of bounds, because I do belive that I would rather be an Indian than an immigrant in terms of culture.
So after I read the book, which is also now a movie- I spoke to a lot of my close friends who like me have moved to different parts of the world, and they all echoed my thoughts. Everyone had gooseflesh at the end of the book/ movie and there was only one recurring thought, we need to go back before we start a family. Because challenging a foreign culture or the lack of it is difficult enough for adults, but subjecting your children to it is suicidal. And no matter how hard you try, you will always be a foreigner outside India- unfortunately blending with the crowd in terms of attire does not make you part of the crowd! I can't put into word my feeling after I've read the book and I do plan to watch the movie next week...
Saturday, March 24, 2007
If I see the word SALE all hell breaks lose in my little cosumer girlish mind. I reason with myself that even if I don't really need another pair of shoes or a new bag, it's always good to buy it when it's on sale, it saves the extra bucks you would pay for it when it's not on sale. And so my story with the shops lives on. And let me tell you, you have no idea how helpful my shopping is to everyone, specially people who don't shop ever! As a result of the exquisite relationship I share with the malls, I have everything at home - everything and believe me that is so convenient on those days when you feel you want something, but just don't have the energy to go buy it.
I was browsing through the Louis Vuitton site today and came across these sandals that look like glass- so Cinderella! Now the day I can just go buy a pair of LV shoes, believe you me, thats the time in my life when I'll have no time to shop. I'll have grown old enough to ignore mood swings. You know thats why I think LV stuff looks nice only in pictures- because the people who wear it are most often reallly old and hard faced having worked their entire lives for this stage. Of course then there are ther fakes, and I HATE them I HATE people who use fakes. It drives me insane. If you cant use the original show some integrity and DO NOT buy the fake. Specially LV- I mean seriously, all those people who go through their whole life to buy LV and then carry it to the mall to see a totally original looking fake carried by some teeny bopper! How rude! And really if your below the age of 30, do not carry an LV, because really the whole world will scream it's fake and it does NOT talk high of your morals. And no, you cannot afford an original at 15 or even 20 and maybe you just will at 30! So till then, admire the pictures...
Baby Dior 2007 Pre - Walker Sandals for girls
Anyways, some people will never understand this. And to think that Sophie Kinsella actually has an entire series of books on a shopaholic! And needless to say, I own every one of them. That woman has really understood the shopaholic mind! Becky Bloomwood the main protagonist, is just a classic case of a shopaholic. The latest is Shopaholic and Baby and believe me for all those people who think buying a baby designer clothes is foolish, dont be a meanoid- you know why kids cringe when they see their baby pics years later- it's because of the untasteful clothes. And so I insist that all babies wear only designer gear. Just look at the Baby Dior Pre - Walker Sandals for girls- How cute!!
Monday, March 19, 2007
Sometimes I wonder what my greatest weakness is and after a lot of thinking and pondering on the thought, after a fair share of tears and near fatal heart failures, I have come to the conclusion that its just about being a woman. Just being myself, part of the large female species, is so tiresome and difficult. Learning to domesticate my thoughts is by far the most difficult process of my 24 years of existence. And what do I get at the end of all this? And I'm supposed to like this domestication because? I'm female? Honestly, I do have a life and a right to live it too, just like the men in this world. Why is it that every step of the way, I have to cry about being a woman?
Do I really want to be part of this society that relegates women at every step? Do I want to contribute to the injustice by not raising my voice against it? And if I do raise my voice will anybody listen to me? I have so many questions and not one answer. It's scary! Just when I thought my life had the right balance of independance and happiness, my worlds turned over once again. I wonder if men exist who want competent wives. This is the first time in my 24 year existence where I feel pity on being born a woman. I feel at a loss because of my gender- because I do not hold the right to a choice because a man will make it for me, and mind you I'm not conservative and neither is the society I belong to conservative, or at least they chose not be called conservative, but they do not give me a right to a choice. And thats how it's been for the past century and thats how it will be for the next century. Till a week ago, I felt extremely proud to be a woman. I felt proud that I could take important decisions, and still think with an emotional capacity. Today my feminity seems to be fighting my womanhood.But none of those decisions matter. Nothing matters. I've become less hopeful. I think finally I am going to succumb. I'll whine about it, but I will let go and say f*** it in the end. Because I'm sick of fighting.
I'm fed up of trying to be well dressed, wear heals and still walk as fast as men in flat boring shoes. My whole existence these days seems to be baffled by these stupid men. Im sick of juggling a practical discussion and still being sensitive and softpoken. The last few years a lot of my very close friends have been guys, and in a mixed group, I had begun to feel there really is no difference. The girls talked just like the guys , we had a similar take on relationships and it was just plain healthy. It never occured to me that the difference between us was so vast. But it is and there is just no level of equality. You know how they say all 'men' are born equal. They are so damn right! The women obviously did not feature then and they don't fetaure now. I'm petrified, because I know I will live to have no sense of identity. I'm going to slowly but steadly lose every bit of my soul, just so the society can be happy, and then when they're finished with me, they will go find another girl whose soul they can destroy. And this will go on forever. I wonder why God made the *female* child.
Sunday, March 18, 2007
Anyways, I had a long talk with a very close friend on Friday and thats when I realised that it's harder to act all grown up, than it is to be a child...why do we have to grow up at all?? I do kind of know why, but then on the flip side, I would just bask my whole life away in the glory of being a child! What fun! Who really needs all this nonsense trouble in life? All the responsibiities and being so politically correct always? I just want to say what I feel and not have anyone take offence, and since thats stopped happening since the world has decided that I've grown up, but really people it's my take on things and you don't have to agree, but if you disagree, can you just let me be? rather than make my life miserable by making me agree with your view on the subject. It's so annoying when people do that. I mean we all have a right to an opinion and I'm not forcing mine on you, so why do you have to try and sell your point to me?
Saturday, March 10, 2007
When people discuss marriage they talk of compromise- why can't we talk about a beautiful committment? Thats what a marriage will mean to me. And if you have to compromise just to get by the relationship, why be in it? Why put yourself through the grief? I know all these questions probably come to my mind because I am a fiercely independent person. I do need people, but not to get by, I need them because I love them and every single relationship- be it family or friends is special to me. I share a unique bond with every person, and I would like to believe that none of those relationships are based on a compromise. So why should marriage be based on a compromise? If two people are choosing to live their lives together, then thats no compromise, thats by choice. And if you've reached a stage where you've decided to live together, I'm sure you've worked the logistics out before you reach that decision? So where does the compromise fit in?
My best friends always tell me that when I'm in a situation where I have to choose between the man I love and the other insignificant things I have to give up to be with him, I'll will compromise. But my point is, what is this compromise nonsense? And why can't we all be practical? I believe we all need to make adjustments. When I left home for the first time, it was a hell of an adjustment, to find your feet in a new country, to do every little thing and most importantly look after yourself. But that wasn't a compromise- that was an adjustment, to a different culture. So when I get married it will be an adjustment which me and my partner will make and thats fine. But none of us will compromise, because you can't live life on a compromise. I despise the very word!
Every marriage is beautiful, and if only we can all believe that, we'll get through life as a bliss. Relationships can be complicated, but they are fulfilling. And coming from a country where the institution of marriage still holds a great amount of value, I would love to believe that it will be the best committment life will ahve to offer. From my perspective, marriage is about understanding and not compromising, its about emotion and not ego, its about all those lovely things that every girl dreams of and most importantly it is about that one prince!
Friday, March 09, 2007
Another year and just another day, which goes unnoticed in so many of our lives. And for this I am rather happy. What disappoints me is that we still need an International Woman's Day! More than a hundred years and are we seriously fighting for the same cause- Gender Equality?? This morning when I was driving to work, I saw posters all over the billboards defining the place of women in society- and believe me all I had in my mind was when this stupid day will finish.This is the very cause of not acheiving equality for those who have not. Whats the drama about Woman's lib? Specially in a country where I see no gender discrimination? We have been liberated- eons ago- and those who have not (I'm sorry to say and this may sound rather scornful) will never be liberated because they choose not to be. They choose to be part of a system that has ceased to exist. They choose to live under the shadow of sympathy, and if thats a personal choice, I DO NOT think we need a special day in the year to acknowledge their situation or the lack of it. Women in developed countries are fighting for a different casue today- the basis of their arguments to me seems futile waste of energy. In developed nations this is not a fight for gender survival, but a fight for superiority and I do not acknowledge that man or woman is superior over the other.We can have 10 days a year dedicated to awareness about Breast Cancer in developed countries- because those women are fighters, they do not mope about their situation and the disease can be dealt with.
Women's Day should be about Women like Mukhtar Mai- who have fought the system in their countries and are still fighting. It should applaud the women who have survived the tribulations of their gender, in countires where a gender bias exists, not women who have winged about their state. There is no need for awareness that women are disrespected in some parts of the world- We all know that- Thank you very much! But there is a constant need to fix the problem and unfortunately, awareness about a problem internationally does not fix it. To fix it, you have to be part of the system, a system that none of us are a part of. And I don't want to sound hypocriticial when I say that women are suffering in Taliban- because there is nothing in my power I can do to change it- so to raise awareness and leave the world feeling sorry for those women is nothing short of mockery of their current state- and I am sorry but I choose NOT to be a part of this hypocrisy.
Welcome to the 21st Century. Women are liberated in most parts of the world. Where they are not, it has more to do with cultural and religious differences which lead to gender inequality. We well and truly need to fix these problems but awareness in countries 10000 miles away will not fix the problem. I wonder if Afghanistan and Iraq had posters about International Women's Day? Did those women even acknowledge their own problems or just go with the system? They'll work it out, I'm sure, because there is honestly no other choice around it. And they will survive and thats when I'll celebrate Women's Day- because thats when the women who need liberation will be liberated. Not you and me- we are doing just fine...
Thursday, March 08, 2007
So going back to friendships, its amazing to have people like this in my life, it gives me the sense of belonging, of just having people around, and that in itself in our high powered lives is a big thing these days. Just having people around when you need them. Thinking back to my days in junior college, those long drives (the initial excitement of learning to drive), hanging out, just driving around the city like petrol never mattered, those little suprises of birthday parties, 2am calls to winge about a broken relationship, little pranks to brighten up a dull day, bunking classes for just about no reason, covering up for each other, small gestures that have now turned into wonderful memories- these little things bring a smile to my face even today and I'm sure years later when I think back, I'll still have the same teenage smile and wicked smirk whenever these memories come back. Thats the beauty of this friendship.
I remember the pranks, every April Fools Day- It's a bit like a ritual between the group now. 1st April is literally incomplete for me unless I'm made a fool of, and though all our continent hopping around and fighting timezones, we still manage to get to each other somehow. It's the thought that binds such freindships, and yes we have different goals, we always have had different dreams, and it's amazing that we provide each other with the support to live our dreams. There hasnt been a single time I've felt alone to fight a problem with these guys around- they've slapped me out of painful relationships, lectured me out of mood swings, its the full clock works of a freindship...and am I lucky! Love them all!!
I distinctly recollect the day when my Std 12 results were declared. Everyone was hobnobbing around deciding what we would do now- I from my part had decided on pharmacy, the others had planned careers in medicine, engineering, accountancy, law and dentistry. We've all grown up since then. The sad part is, today we don't get the time we would have liked to spend with each other.We speak to answering machines and leave one line emails. But the bonds still here and it's definitely here to stay!
Tuesday, March 06, 2007
On my birthday, I actually had people wake up or stay awake depriving their nights sleep so they could wish me on my special day. And it sure did make me feel special. The feeling of being loved and remembered makes all of us feel special. So why do I forget? When I was back home, my friends used to actually ring me and remind me to wish another friend. Some of them still do! But I just want all my friends to know that because I don't wish them does not mean I don't love them or remember them. Of course I do. And I believe birthdays is not be the only time we speak, so they should not feel bad. I would love to blame this forgetfulness on my work related stress, but unfortunately, they know I forgot birthdays before I started working and I will probably forget them in the future as well.
A few days ago, I was going through photo albums from my student days- from teenage schoolgirl pics to crazy junior college pics to professional college photographs to my living away from home pictures. And I felt so warmed. I had photographs with cake splattered all over my face, to little bunny ears on some photos above my head, to pictures in sarees on traditonal day in college, sightseeing in a different country. I realised how many people were part of my life. And the assortment of friendships that has shaped my present. I've lost some of them over the years- some due to my negligence - some because of the growing up factor, some who I've left behind in the race , some who've left me behind- but even today the majority of them are still a part of my present. We all need a link to our past and I think these little memories provide that link of belonging, of our growing up crazy years- of our living away from home adventures.
So today, I'm going to make a resolution- yes another one which I hope to keep- I am going to appreciate each and every person who is part of my life- I will remember birthdays and anniversaries and make that call on the correct day to wish them and make them feel special- because thats what they are- and I want them to reflect on these wishes a few years later with fondness and memories they can cherish forever- just like the memories they create for me....
Monday, March 05, 2007
My life so far has been a wonderful journey, I have had the occasional low points and the eternal highs and yes, I do believe in love, destiny and tomorrow. I love people who express their opinions even if I don't believe in everything they say, I'm happy that they try to put a point forward. I dislike ( a few years ago I would have said hate- but now I understand the depth of the word and I do not use it unless absolutely require to- and I hope I don't need to use it on you ever!) people who give up on things just because the situation seems difficult.However, I would like to add that I am fed up of stubborn people and do not waste energy on selling my wonderful thoughts to them anymore.
My intention of blogging is not in any way plagued to name the people I dislike or to applaud the people I love on this public platform. While on one side my life is an open book, some things are better left unsaid. No matter in what perspective you have changed or affected my life, on this webspace you will be just a nameless character in my life. Because thats going to make it easier for all of us. I have some very positive emotions to recite and some very negative experience to crib about and I believe that lifes difficult enough without people adding to each others grief. And anyways, every one of us has a story. Behind the smiles and giggles we all are nursing some wound and the depth of the sorrow depends on the amount of regret we have for our actions. But life is still beautiful for every one of us. No matter what our past has been or what the future holds for us, our stories will always have a happy ending. Thats the beauty of destiny! So good luck to your journey and I hope you enjoy reading about mine!
Once again welcome!