The lure of Bollywood is strong–paved with rhythmic dance beats, glimmering clothes, and fairy tale romance, Bollywood has been making inroads into the West for some time. And yet, I didn’t realize quite how popular Bollywood was amongst non-Indians until a couple of months ago, when I attended a packed dance class at a local gym.Despite my innate awkwardness or because of it I’ve taken a lot of dance classes. I enjoy them because they’re fast paced and, contrary to expectation, don’t require a lot of coordination–they’re about getting fit, having fun, and learning something new. And Bollywood dancing is known for its calorie-torching cardio–most dances have enough booty-shaking to keep even the most dedicated chocolate fiend svelte.
There are so, so many things that are difficult about raising a kid–it’s more than snuggles and reading, more than copious numbers of demon stink-filled diapers (thank goodness). The hardest part for me, I think (aside from sleep-deprivation, that is), is that while I’m helping Mir discover who he is, I’m still not sure of who I am. Some time ago, I wrote about trying to figure out our Indianness for The NRI–and my worries about cultural misappropriation.
I grew up in a Muslim-Catholic household. We celebrate Easter, Christmas, Eid-ul-Fitr, Eid-ul-Adha, and Ramadan (though only my father fasts). At Christmas, my parents literally deck their halls–tinsel and ornaments overrun the house, half a dozen animatronic Santas carol in the living room, and a Christmas train chugs through a snowy wonderland on the dining room table. We’re a marvelously mixed-up family, and I love it. But my father’s family, the Indian side, has only two Hindus, both of whom married into the family. Our Indianness is a Muslim-Indianness; I have little knowledge of Hinduism beyond recognizing pictures and statuary of Kali, Shiva, Ganesh, Krishna, and Brahma.
Hindu Gods do hold a certain fascination for me. I’ve always been interested in polytheistic religions, and I’ve read widely about the Greek, Roman, and Norse traditions. I’ve read many myths to Mir; we even have a few mythology picture books. But Hinduism is a living religion. If I read stories about Krishna to Mir, am I simply reading him a story, or am I stealing someone else’s belief system…
This Christmas past, I had a Christmas post at The NRI, which I completely forgot to blog about! Christmas is a busy time of year for us – three celebrations in three days – and things unrelated to shopping, cooking, and Joe’s birthday often slip my mind. But, better late than never…
For my family, Christmas is a season in the true sense of the word: in mid-November, my mother enters Merry Magic Xmas Mode, liberating boxes of ornaments, lights, and statuary from a Christmas storage locker a dozen suburbs away, buying more ornaments, and stocking up on all the small necessities of hosting friends and family. Come December, my dad sets up a Christmas village and train set, and puts up the (artificial) tree. When I lived at home, we’d spend hours detangling lights, stringing tinsel, hanging glass balls, and oohing and aahhing over baubles we’d grown up with…
Late last year, I saw Salman Rushdie promoting his new book, Luka and the God of Fire, at, irony of ironies, a church in Cambridge (the same church in Harvard Square once hosted Richard Dawkins). A lady in the audience asked him about the Rohinton Mistry/Mumbai university debacle, which, at that point, I hadn’t heard of. It’s quite a story, depressing and hopeful in turns, complete with politics and charismatic leaders. Here’s the blurb for the newsy piece I wrote for The NRI last month.
In October of this year, Rohinton Mistry’s prize-winning debut novel, Such a Long Journey, was pulled from Mumbai University’s syllabus. Following Gustad Noble, a bank clerk and Parsi family man drawn into the intrigue and corruption of the Indira Gandhi years, the novel was added to the English syllabus four years ago.
The novel, writes The Guardian’s Nina Martyris, is evocative of “a Bombay of mutton samosas, prostitutes and convent schools, spies who use lines from Othello to pass on messages and public walls which need god-photos to keep them clean.” It’s a dark, grimy portrait of 70s Bombay, one which takes on Indira Gandhi, the then US and Pakistani governments, and conservative political party Shiv Sena. And therein lies the rub…
Even now, Indian clothes are pretty, but intimidating. Perhaps it’s that my immediate family only wears them to weddings. Perhaps I’m just self-conscious. I’m not sure–but I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately, and have written a little about it for The NRI. Here’s the blurb:
I have a secret: It’s black, gold-beaded, and hanging in my wardrobe. A small blouse and skirt set I picked up in an Indian mall in Australia, it’s a smart-casual Indian outfit, neat enough to wear to an interview but not a wedding, yet still dressed down enough for a trip to the grocery store.
Until I fell in love with this particular outfit, my Indian wardrobe consisted of wedding clothes: shalwar kameez, sari, and other skirt and blouse sets I’d either worn to a wedding, or as part of a wedding. These clothes, gorgeous as they are, are studded with enough bling to keep even the most inordinate rap artists and entourages happy. And I’ve been happy with that; the more formal the clothes, the less I can wear them in public.
read more over @ The NRIRead More
I have a short piece about how to be Indian over @ The NRI.
Writing about being Indian is hard. It’s hard because it’s something we take for granted–being Indian is not an existential exercise. There’s no check list or recipe for how to be Indian, just as there’s no recipe for how to be a woman, or a mom, or a wife. And yet there are so many ways to be Indian–clothing, cooking, language, literature–that it’s easier to feel less Indian than it is to order pakoras from the takeaway down the street.
Perhaps it’s silly, but I try to do one Indian thing with Mir per day. It’s our special thing, mommy time that no one–except perhaps my brother, Ben–can share, because Mir, Ben, and I are the only mixed kids in our family. In fact, until I moved to the US, Ben and I were the only mixed race kids I knew…
read more @ The NRI…Read More