Complacent Model Minorities: South Asians, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, and Ferguson

“But we do make a contribution towards structural racism, since our weak bad faith ‘expresses itself in systems of beliefs manifested by people in their everyday activities, their folkways and mores, and because such a system’s maintenance and perpetuation depend on a collectivity of choices that may or may not be efforts to hide from responsibility.’ Desis are faced with a situation, as ‘latecomers’ (in the language of Irving Kristol) wherein ‘reality’ and ‘the way things are’ are held up as guide toward how they must act. ‘You cannot change anything’ desis are told in effect, ‘since you are a foreigner, and besides can you show that you have not benefited from the system (you in your fancy car and your college degree)?’ Faced with these congealed values, ‘reality’ takes on cosmological significance and migrants are tempted not to touch it lest they trigger a debacle of enormous proportions” – p. 179 Karma of Brown Folk, Vijay Prashad (2000)

If you ignore the mainstream media, one of the [very] few relieving (?) byproducts of Michael Brown’s death earlier this month, has been the incendiary response from Ferguson community members, writers, activists, and otherwise unaffiliated Americans who acknowledge that Brown’s shooting is not anomalous, but part and parcel of a larger racial and socioeconomic picture in this country. Indeed, the variety of liberal/radical/progressive media that turns up on my Facebook wall is not likely to be a representative barometer of national/popular sentiment, but while I sit at my desk in suburban North Carolina, I feel that such media—such as (to name only a few) Black Girl Dangerous’ Things To Stop Being Distracted By When A Black Person Gets Murdered By Police; John Oliver’s recent segment on Last Week Tonight; or The Onion’s Tips for Being an Unarmed Black Teen—are the only solace I can find.

The most recent piece to make the rounds on my news feed is a blog post by a mother under the penname Manic Pixie Dream Mama, who writes about a white mother’s “burden of white privilege.” A cursory glance at the title left me skeptical of this mother’s message, but if you read the piece all the way to the end, her conclusion is surprising. Rather victimizing herself, or being an apologist for white male privilege, Manic Pixie Dream Mama writes, “My boys will carry a burden of privilege with them always. They will be golden boys, inoculated by a lack of melanin and all its social trapping against the problems faced by Black America. For a mother, white privilege means your heart doesn’t hit your throat when your kids walk out the door. It means you don’t worry that the cops will shoot your sons. It carries another burden instead. White privilege means that if you don’t school your sons about it, if you don’t insist on its reality and call out oppression, your sons may become something terrifying. Your sons may become the shooters.” However small of a gesture it might be–and it is a small one, indeed, because three days ago I met a white girl who had no idea about Michael Brown’s death, much less the subsequent uprising—I find hope in Manic Pixie Dream Mama’s (and others’) recognition of the fact that as long we are complacent we are complicit.

In all of these blog posts, satirical news segments, articles, and thought pieces what was already clear becomes clearer: that the responsibility to curtail the persecution of Black youth by [majority] white police forces, and to improve the plight of our country’s Black citizens lies does not lie within the Black community, but with the majority of white [mostly male] legislators, criminal justice professionals, businessmen, etc. who [effectively] continue to run our country after centuries of civil rights battles.

But what is missing from this narrative is a substantive conversation from other minority communities about what our responsibilities are in the aftermath of recent instances of police brutality. It shouldn’t be taken lightly that the Washington Post op-ed piece, “I’m a cop. If you don’t want to get hurt, don’t challenge me” was written, not by a white police officer, but by a man named Sunil Dutta, a professor at Colorado Technical University, and a cop with the Los Angeles Police Department, who is of South Asian descent. Of course, nowhere does Dutta mention race. Rather, he takes a rather objectivist approach, when he requests community members not to “make our job more difficult than it already is.” Indeed, in an ideal world, community members and cops would treat each other with mutual respect. The reporting that has emerged from Ferguson does not deny that the people who live in that community could benefit from more policeman, but it also acknowledges the fact that black communities across the country are in desperate want of cops they can trust, and who, reciprocally, trust them.

I included the excerpt from Vijay Prashad’s book The Karma of Brown Folk (2002) because I think it begins to capture the myths South Asians—and other “model minorities”—are told, and tell themselves, about race, culture, and class in America. I’m not saying anything new here, but what is missing in Dutta’s [too brief] op-ed is an explicit recognition of the historical relationship between white cops and black community members. And, I would argue that such a basic acknowledgement—recognized by so many—remains absent in the South Asian community at-large. While my own activism is dismal at best, one of the most infuriating aspects of being Indian-American is that the hubristic discourse of cultural superiority is paired with pervasive apathy about social/political/civic issues unrelated to economic concerns about taxation that might affect business owners, medical practioners with private clinics, or corporate professionals. In my own community, I have noticed that while most Indians attribute their success in the United States to a better work ethic and superior moral compass in comparison to other minority communities, they are unable to empathize with the systemic structural oppression faced by blacks, Hispanics, and other “less privileged” minority groups.

While the “model minority” narrative is not new, what I have noticed in the confluence of the ALS Ice Bucket phenomenon, Michael Brown’s death, and subsequent events in Ferguson is that it seems as if South Asian Americans seem increasingly less likely to see themselves as minorities in this country. Indeed, I too have been privy to this fallacy. During a conversation with a classmate last semester, I claimed that I had not participated in minority student organizations like the South Asian Students Organization in college because I did not identify with the experience of being a minority; and on more than one occasion friends have all but jokingly subsumed me into their jokes about “white people.” What I am realizing, and should have realized much sooner, as lists like 12 Things White People Can Do Now Because Ferguson or 10 Things White People Can Do About Ferguson Besides Tweet flourish, is that the “we are basically white” mentality is dangerous. And, that it takes the “model minority” myth and transforms it into a “we have made it” complacency.

Still, I am left without a conclusion. I cannot, and do not want to, enumerate a list of “things South Asian Americans can do about Ferguson.” In addition to protesting the “listification” phenomena spurred on by websites like Buzzfeed and Thought Catalog, I do not want to advocate for the notion that we can fight these pervasive injustices insularly. Today, I only have one small hope, and that is for my South Asian American peers to take as much interest in Ferguson, and perhaps the history of civil rights in America, as they in the ALS ice bucket challenge. You don’t have to give money to make a difference.

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Traveling Alone

“I want to go by myself,” I told my grandmother one night in early July. For nearly two years, I had been imagining a trip to the Himalayan region of Ladakh in northern Kashmir. Like many Indians, I first became enchanted with Ladakh–desert mountains paired with glacier springs and enchanting blue lakes–in 2011, after watching 3 Idiots, a Bollywood movie in which the protagonists race on curvy, treacherous mountain roads on a quest to find a long lost friend, and reunite him with the love of his life. Originally, I had planned to make the trip with a cousin, and when he told me he would be unable to travel with me, I found myself scrambling to find a travel partner.

I was all but explicitly (but basically) told that I would not/could not/should not travel to alone. Although relatively (read, really very) safe, Ladakh is considered to be one of India’s most remote regions. Leh, the biggest town/city in the region, rests at an altitude of almost 11,500 feet, there is limited cell phone service, and is primarily accessible by a road journey that can takes at least two days, and can take much longer depending on road conditions. Traveling alone would have meant that I would have, first, made the journey, traveling not only by air, but also possibly by bus, alone. And second, spent ten days in one of the most remote, high altitude regions of India, alone. ALONE! Can you fathom it? That a 24 year-old woman might travel ALL BY HERSELF for ten days? Unimaginable. Of course, the impossibility of my traveling alone was masked in a slurry of coded terms and phrases: “Do you have the disposition to travel alone? I don’t think you do, you are very hot-headed,” or “You will get lonely,” and “you need someone to talk about your day with.” BUT WHAT IF WE LET THOSE THINGS HAPPEN TO GIRLS? If we allowed them to be lonely, to get sick, to deal with people? BEWARE, it might end! it might end!

So, I succumbed. I invited my 19 year-old cousin to come along, and set out to plan the journey. And, along the way submitted to all (okay, most of) the suggestions thrown my way: “two girls shouldn’t travel alone by bus, so PLEASE, PLEASE, for my sake travel by air,” and “you MUST, MUST have an itinerary set by the travel company or the hotel, to avoid getting stranded. It will be much easier.” After weeks of planning, the plane tickets had been booked, an itinerary set, and reservations made, and despite everyone’s shock that “the two girls are going alone?” my cousin and I set out for Leh with plans to spend ten days exploring monastaries, mountains, rivers, and lakes.

Unfortunately, just two days into our journey, my travel companion fell ill, and decided to head home for recovery. And I, the 24 year-old girl, found herself doing the unimagined: traveling alone. Recently, a Verizon commercial was praised for “reveal[ing] all the ways we hold girls back” by showing how, in the words of Amanda Marcotte, “we not only value beauty, but also prioritize neatness, quiet, and safety in girls while encouraging risk-taking and confidence in boys.”  All of my training has taught me to trouble and reject the notion that American/Western women are “liberated,” whereas women of the Global South are “oppressed,” but nowhere is this reality–that we train women to be neat, quite, and safe–impressed upon me as starkly as it has been during my multiple visits to Ahmedabad over the past several years. Although I have been traveling [alone] to Ahmedabad every year for three years, each time I am met with comments by extended family members about the kind of pluck I must have to come to India; to travel by auto-rickshaw alone;  to visit slums or other unknown territories. At the same time, they are impressed that I [apparently?] embrace “Indian culture” by speaking Gujarati well, by wearing Indian clothes, and by obligatorily serving visitors with water and snacks (males first, always). These same family members are also want to take an opportunity to comment on my body, to say, for example, that “my structure has become very fit” (WHAT DOES THAT EVEN MEAN), and are unlikely to ask me substantive questions about my work. But really, my intention is not only to rant about how deeply rooted is the notion that girls should be neat, docile, and safe in comparison to their adventurous and risk-taking male counterparts. My point is that in addition to all of those things, we also fail at teaching girls how to be alone: how to be bored; how to invent their own fun in the absence of others; how to be silent; how to take time just to ponder, and to imagine.

And three days into my trip, I was left to do just these very things, and to entertain myself, with my own devices, for a whole week. And funnily enough, not only was I an Indian woman traveling by herself, but I was an Indian woman traveling by herself in her very own taxi, an unheard of proposition. While many people traveling alone at my age, might have taken a more adventurous, cost-effective approach to traveling solo by staying at guest houses and joining on treks and expeditions ad hoc, my trip had been planned in a more touristic manner, and that included my very own [male] driver. Finally, I found myself doing the unfathomable: traveling alone in the middle nowhere, with no one to rescue me–except my driver; who would have, in the popular imagination, have had every opportunity to take advantage of me.

After it became clear that I would be spending a week traveling alone, I decided to cut off all contact: all relatives in Ahmedabad were told, explictly, that they were not to contact me until I returned to Delhi the following week. No longer would I be checking in at the end of every day to placate relatives losing sleep over my safety. After months of Facebook feminism, it was time to put my ideas into practice. And my first instinct, after elation that my dream of “traveling alone” had finally come to fruition, was to panic.

My first so excursion was to Nubra Valley–a landscape characterized by the confluence of both desert sand dunes and marshy river valley surrounded by the Himalayan mountains. From Leh, the journey to Nubra Valley took 6 hours, and involved traveling past the Khardungla Pass, the highest motorable road in the world, at an altitude of 17,582 feet. Although the road was unimaginably beautiful, the journey was also harrowing. The high altitudes combined with 6 hours of constant motion and a beating sun left me exhausted, and when I first arrived at my camp, I found myself paralyzed, unable to orient my lonely self; to decide what to do next. Before leaving Leh, the man who had organized my intinerary suggested that I find Tashi when I arrived in Nubra Valley, and after introducing myself [rather awkwardly] to Tashi, I tried [unsuccessfully] to take a nap; wandered aimlessly around the campgrounds; and eventually parked myself under a tree to read Moby Dick, all the while silently panicking about the seemingly endless loneliness I was bound to confront in the coming days.

But SURPRISE, I survived, and had a wonderful time too. Indeed, the loneliness was sometimes daunting. Mostly because I often found myself unsure of how to pass the hours until bedtime. But it was during those those seemingly endless stretches of time that I found myself relishing the loneliness. For example:

I rode a two-humped camel through sand dunes at sunset:

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I went swimming in this stream, with this view:

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I dozed in the afternoon sun, and read Moby Dick on the banks of this lake:

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And, despite my fear of extreme loneliness, and of having to spend seven days with little else except my book, my camera, and my own conscience, over the course of one week, I also found myself confronted with plenty of opportunities to meet new people, make friends, and find companionship in other travelers. While I did spend what felt like endless hours alone-. With my empty SUV, I was able to offer free rides to fellow travelers headed in the same direction. In Nubra Valley, I was introduced to Lea, a university student from Bordeaux, France; I shared the ride to and from Pangong Lake with an Indian from Dubai who ran his own import-export business; and on the way back from Tso Moriri I offered a ride to a hippie French couple with dreadlocks, who had done Masters in Philosophy at the Sorbonne.

For me, traveling alone was not some “eye opening experience” during which I “met the most beautiful local people,” or confronted the realities of development and poverty in any sincere way. But, it was a lesson–more broadly–in thinking about the limits of my own existence. As cliche as it sounds, when you are traveling alone, you are your own weakest link. Whether or not you decide to do something, go somewhere, or talk to someone is left entirely up to you. Perhaps contrary to instinct, being alone while traveling makes you more approachable. It means an Israeli couple will ask you to join them for beer and pot; that you can sit on a terrace with two bankers from Dubai who talk about the experience of being South Asian, and rights-less in the Arab Gulf; or that you can spend a seven hour car ride with a couple of French hippies simultaneously marveling over the landscape while discussing language, politics, and everything in between. Too often, and especially in India, I opt out from exploring unknown places and approaching unknown people because I have allowed the anxieties of others to infiltrate my own psyche, but while traveling alone, I was forced to confront the fact that at any given moment, I was the only person holding myself my back.

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Vignettes

little stories from the field:

Front page of the Ahmedabad Mirror on one of my first days in Ahmedabad: IMMOVABLE ASS-ET “Braying Donkeys tied to a white Jaguar XF caused much brouhaha among Alsali locals who were seen snapping them on their phones on Monday evening. The animated scene outside Cargo Motors service station was arranged by Rahul Thakar, owner of the Rs. 53 lakh car which he calls ‘bekaar (useless)’. After recurring problems with the one-year-old vehicle, the 28-year-old Ghatlodia resident decided to hold what he calls a ‘symbolic protest.'” (To which I can only ask, “To whom doth symbolically protest, Rahul Thaker?”)

A man, whom I had never before met, came to deliver the results of the blood tests my grandmother had given the day before. Very excited by her good health, he instructed me “get married late so she’ll have to be alive for your wedding,” and then invites himself to my (distant future) nuptials, promising that he’ll even come all the way to America. My grandmother has promised to make sheero.

A haiku:
Hairy chested men
My one piece is most skimpy
Boozeless lacuna

A fair, complete with a ferris wheel and over-sized slide,  is erected along the Sabarmati Riverfront, two blocks away from my apartment building. I notice the changed landscape upon returning from a holiday in Delhi. My inquiries about the construction are met with looks and comments filled disgust. Translation: “It’s going to be filled with Musalmans. It’s Ramzan. Upon nightfall, they will eat, and then they will head out to party.”

July 15, 2014: The Minister for Art, Culture, and Youth Affairs in Bihari is reported to have said: “People who eat more non-vegetarian food like chicken and fish are more inclined towards carrying out molestation and rape.”

I met a Brazilian who is in Ahmedabad doing an internship selling floor tiles. I tell him I have been to India 4 times in the past three years, but have been few places outside of my narrow Ahmedabad-Mumbai-Delhi circuit. He says definitively, “that’s not the real India.”

“The efforts of the AMC have made a cultural impact on community at large. Mention of heritage walk in ‘Lonely Planet’ is a credit to Ahmedabad Municipality” -City Development Strategy for Ahmedabad, 2003

Yesterday, I pick up an auto (rickshaw) at the end of my street. I want to go to Sarkhej Roza, I tell him. He agrees, and as soon as I sit in the auto he begins asking me questions. He wants to know if I want to go to the monument itself, or if I have some business in the vicinity. I start out speaking Hindi, rather than Gujarati, so he assumes I am an outsider. Along the ride, he enumerates the various sites in Ahmedabad, listing them all. He tells me that the rickshaw drivers know about them, so they can show where they are. He tells me he will wait for me at Sarkhej Roza, that if I try to pick up an auto from there, the drivers will charge me double, three times the price. I tell him it will take some time. I want to see the monuments, but I also want to roam around a bit. As we approach Sarkhej Roza, he drives past the park, where you can get a panoramic view of the monuments, “there is nothing to see there,” he tells me. He stops outside of the main mosque, and assumes a waiting position. Again, I said, “it will take some time. I want to see the monument but I also want to walk around a bit.” He insists, “There is nothing to see here, this is a Mohammedan area.” I tell him that’s fine, and ask to pay. I spend some time in the area. I pick up a rickshaw to go home. The [Muslim] driver does not rip me off.

At Sarkhej Roza, I walk into the library. The men sitting at the desk take an immediate interest in me–they ask where I am from, what I am doing.  They hand me an informational booklet, and only later do I learn I am supposed to pay Rs. 100 for it. I tell them I am a student and that I am studying Ahmedabad. The secretary sits me down to give me a history lesson, about Sarkhej Roza and about Ahmedabad. As I am leaving, he asks for my name. I respond with my first name, Anar, but he is not satisfied. He pauses a minute and then asks again, “what is your surname?” “Parikh,” I tell him. He asks if I am a Brahmin, and I don’t understand the question, so he has to ask again. “No,” I respond. He presses on, “then what.” Reluctantly, I tell him that I am/my family is Bania. He continues to ask for more specifics, to which I don’t know the answer. The conversation ends when asks, “what does your father do?” and I tell him “he works at a bank.” He is satisfied.

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The Trouble With Being Southern

Last September, John Warner published an article in Inside Higher Ed titled “Apparently, Geniuses Don’t Work in the South” questioning why so many MacArthur grantees hail from New York and California–the linchpins of American intellectualisms–and so few from the American South. According to Warner, only three, THREE, MacArthur Genius grantees in the past four years are currently working in the south–largely from Atlanta and the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill, hardly The South by some accounts.  As a Southerner pursuing a graduate education at one of those “prestigious” universities in the Northeast, I am constantly confronted with this reality. It is not only that there are few to none MacArthur Geniuses who live and work in the South, what i would call “the southern question” is much bigger than that. Earlier this week, Slate ran an article about the North Carolina State Legislature’s assault on public school teachers, and I see Warner’s inquiry about the geographic distribution of MacArthur grants, and the current plight of public education in North Carolina as part-and-parcel of the same bigger issue. In his article, Warner speaks for his southern peers and colleagues–expressing their frustration “that the cultural movers and shakers don’t even care to know what’s going on here.” As an aspiring academic/intellectual who was born-and-bred in the suburbs of the American South, I would argue that the educational and cultural milieu do little, if anything at all, to foster an environment which might breed the next generation of great American thinkers. While the most prestigious public and private schools in New York and Boston are preparing their students to be politicians and thinkers, students in the American South are being inculcated in the spirit of football and corporate leadership. Indeed, this is an exaggeration. Many of my Southern peers are incredibly bright and ambitious, but as a rule I would argue that most of us feel compelled to leave the South to pursue politics, scholarships, and other “big world” ambitions. Arguably, Duke, Emory, and Vanderbilt are world-class institutions for medicine, law, and academic scholarship. But here, the question is not only whether or not academics working in the South are being considered for prestigious, nation-wide grants and scholarships, but also whether or not the South is growing its own class of world-class thinkers and doers. There’s also the question of being proud of where you come from. Regardless of how critical or uncritical I am of the community in which I was raised, people in intellectual communities simply don’t take the South, as a legitimate site for the production of knowledge and practice, seriously. Nearly every time I have told someone at Bard and Brown that I am from the South, they invariably make a face and go on to ask me how I feel about such a backward and parochial face. It’s almost as if there is no option other than to be ashamed of where we come from.

Some will argue that the world-at-large is not the end-all-be-all of thinking and doing, that working minutely and locally is equally important. And i don’t disagree with that argument. There are SO MANY people here in Charlotte doing REALLY good work, and it should be acknowledged as being nothing less than meaningful and impressive. But on Monday, as I read that Slate article about the North Carolina legislature’s full-frontal attack on public education–and public everything, really–I was faced with a dilemma. I am one of those people who has left North Carolina, and keeps leaving. Not only did I leave for college, but I also left for graduate school with few prospects of returning for the long-haul. From my selfish perspective, there is nothing for me in North Carolina and the South. Of course there are this Duke, Emory, UNC-Chapel Hill, Vanderbilt, and a whole slew of other “world-class institutions,” but I can’t help but feel that there is a definitive lack of opportunity for me: an anthropologist studying culture and politics in contemporary South Asia. But the selfless part of me, the part that has a calling to serve–to contribute towards making the world a better place in whatever small and probably insignificant way that I can–I can’t help but feel troubled by the fact that I have so comfortably removed myself from the thinking and doing that goes on here, in my quest for “bigger and better things.” In the “local is global” movement that seems to be in fashion right now, the question is about working towards improving the here rather than the there, or about contributing to cities and communities right here in America rather than those far-off, exotic places across the world. Indeed, this is incredibly important. In our mid-twentieth century obsession–that really has carried over into the twenty-first century–with serving those places lesser-off than we are, the endemic problems that plague the American economic, education, and political systems have been largely ignored by the public at-large. The “local is global” movement in its various manifestations–at schools, in colleges, on farms–aims to address this lacuna in scholarship, and indeed goes a long way towards encouraging people to serve in their own communities. But what programs like Americorps City Year don’t do, is encourage people–at least not actively, publicly–to return to their own communities, especially not in the South. And this return is not only about serving. It is about settling here, and about committing to the economic, cultural, and importantly the intellectual life of a place that has far too long been dismissed as an intellectual and cultural abyss. I have no definitive answers about this, and I certainly can’t promise that I’ll return South when I become an assistant professor, or whatever else I become. But a lot people ask me how I like the South, and alternatively how I like New England. Often these questions have to do with my preferences about the climate, the bitter New England cold compared to the mild, spring-like winters of the South. But it would be naive to say that it doesn’t go father than that, that people aren’t also curious about how I feel about the fundamental differences that separate the South–and even the Midwest, and rural America at-large–from the “progressive,” urban, and intellectual centers of this country. 

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Gypsy Caravan

In a desperate–though expectedly futile–attempt to find Bard-folk in the vicinity, I searched “Charlotte” on the Bard alumni website. Thee results were largely dismal, though they did turn up a number of alumni by the same name. However, Charlotte,NC did turn up in the January 2010 alumni newsletter with this anecdote:

“Recently I was contacted by a man who, in the late 80’s, met three Bard students on their way back from a Grateful Dead concert in Charlotte. Apparently they stayed in his gypsy caravan on Ocracoke Island on the Outer Banks of North Carolina and he has never forgotten them – well, actually he has forgotten their names. He has written a story about it and is wondering where they were now. Was that you? Or do you know who it was? If this rings a bell at all, please contact us. I know it wasn’t me…. I think?”

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This Life

Keeping a blog is difficult; the non-stop hustle of daily life and the constant pressure to keep your writing compelling and witty for the masses. I can’t take it, I can’t take it I tell you. But in earnest, my apologies for the delays. Sometimes I get too busy, too lazy, or too self-conscious to keep this blog up. A million other excuses.

Life in Bombay is becoming strangely mundane. On any given day I wake up, go to work, and come home. In the middle of all of that, I [manage] to feed myself approximately three times a day, bathe, and make jokes with my co-workers. Occasionally I meet up with friends and family passing through the city. On weekends, I sometimes lock myself in the house and binge on entire seasons of The Wire, or become immersed in Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy or White Teeth by Zadie Smith. Sometimes, I manage to get myself out of the house in search of an art exhibit, play, or lecture. Perhaps this could be New York City.

But alas, I am reveling in this urban life. The unremarkable motions of a working life are supplemented with the sheer, simple joy of navigating my way through the train, and the self-inflicted insistence that I cover as much of the city on foot as possible. Early in my stay, I had a conversation about how suburban life inevitably makes you dumber, and I can vouch for this first hand. During my five months in Charlotte, there were days when I could feel my IQ points slowly falling away as I wasted hours watching Friends re-runs and perusing Facebook on my parents couch. Of course, there is no one to blame for my proclaimed lack of stimulation than myself; had I the prerogative, I could have scoured the whole of Charlotte for its vibrant cultural life and would have been sure to find friends, activities, and events suited to my interest, but I often felt debilitated by my surroundings, as if the mechanical drone of suburban life was actively suppressing my ability to take interest or initiative in anything. I concede that my experience lies somewhere at the intersection of those two things. The architecture of suburban life is designed to make your life easy in that way: go to work, come home, relax with little incentive for seeking out stimulating intellectual activity, but my parents aren’t wrong, it isn’t always where you are, but what you make of it.

I’m not sure if living in Bombay has made me smarter, as such, but it as made me keener. Despite the fact that I often find myself in bed until at least noon on Saturday mornings, I constantly find myself compelled to go outside, explore the city, and take in the wide range of sights, sounds, and smells I find even in my own neighborhood. Rather than pointing out the drastic differences between my life “here” and my life “there” I am finding myself compelled by local on-goings, politics, and culture. Trying to decipher the incredibly complex things we call “India” and “Mumbai.”

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Wit and Politics

Some things never change: I always seem to start writing when I’m either in bed. This doesn’t bode well for me because I always wake up the next morning and regret scribing my pre-slumber epiphanies. The other consequence is that my “entire body of work” is comprised of sentence fragments composed in the Notes application on my iPhone. It also means I suffer from hyper mental activity at the precise moment when all I want is to enter a peaceful sleep.

This happened to me last night and about four nights ago when I decided I wanted to start this blog up again. I’m using the term “again” loosely because you’ll notice that this is an inaugural post, of sorts. In truth, I’ve written several posts, but in retrospect, I loathe almost everything I write. So here I am starting a clean slate and joining the masses by starting my post-graduate blog.

You know what though, this blog business is tricky unless you have something really interesting to say. I mean here I am, 22 years old-living in my parents house-with no job. Also, I have several friends who are much more capable in the book review genre so I am going to leave that to them. Then what kind of insight could I possibly give you that you don’t already have or you aren’t likely to acquire by yourself?

My answer to that is “I’m not really sure” but I am going to give it a shot anyways. If for no other reason than the fact that this is like “practicing writing.” I’m recalling all of those first-days-of-school when you sit down to write after summer vacation and realize your handwriting is a little wonky. Well, I am HOPING to go to graduate school in next fall and as far as I can tell, there’s very little wiggle room for wonky handwriting.

This is a pretty existential activity, as is most writing. It takes so much discipline to craft stories and thoughts that have a the perfect triple cocktail of wit, poetics, and thoughtful insight. I don’t have a lot of practice doing that to-date, but I am going to give it a try.

This blog doesn’t have a creative take yet, mostly because I am not cool enough to home in on a single thing and stick to it. Hopefully I’ll take this space as an opportunity to test it all out with some anecdotes, reviews, rants, and musings. In the process, maybe I’ll read a little more, watch better movies, and expand my vocabulary. It’s really a selfish endeavor and I’m just going to drag you along for the ride. What I promise, though, is to avoid making this blog all about me, because really then its just a journal and I’m not really into that. But it might end up being a journal, in which case I apologize in advance.

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