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…
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…