Looking me in the eye, he said… and I wondered why

October 7, 2013

This Friday noon, seated in my living room, on my sofa, looking me in my naked eye, an elderly cousin said, “I didn’t inform you of the event…because you are allergic to Malayalam…”

A loose comment by an elderly, who’ve spent donkey’s years and more away from his homeland, should be termed just that, I told myself in order to continue drooling in the weekend groove.
But I have a dear friend, who holds me back during such moments by lending me what I call customized-to-my-feelings  books, which knock me on the scalp screaming ‘dare you become an escapist’!
This time, it is Jhumpa Lahiri’s ‘Unaccustomed Earth’, which has an answer for me.
Here it goes…
In his desperation at justifying abandoning his homeland to secure riches for his progeny, while nurturing attachments to the land he is not tied by blood or birth, and yet unable to strike roots in his adopted land, it’s his torn cultural beliefs, if any, that make him [and scores of others like him] take pot shots at me [and scores of others like me] who doesn’t fit into his overly-touchy self-defined ‘native’ description.
Well, I’m not writing this to mark myself on my love-for-my-parental-tongue index nor profess my patriotism as much for saying what marvelous piece of art I’m reading. It’s all about the immigrant populations’ Indian ethos, cultural shocks, mucked up personal identities, suppressed emotions, addictions… relationships. Yes HUMAN RELATIONSHIPS!
As a starter, here’s a teaser…
A Indian widower refuses to settle down with his married daughter in the US saying he doesn’t want to ‘burden’ her, when in reality he has found a new love at a ripe old age. But before he leaves he plants his wife’s favourite plant in his daughter’s garden and asks her to take care of it.  Why?
The reason is left to the reader’s ethics, if I may say so. Because she is not talking morals. It’s only emotions. You peel layers and layers of emotions through each story until you are left holding only more of it. An undefinable, unexplainable mix of feelings, which is right and wrong at the same time.
Watch this space for the review…I’ve just meandered half-way through the book yet. 
PS: I wish my ‘allegator’ reads this book.

Nisha Sanjeev

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