In a bitter resident association altercation in my building, the chairperson threw his last weapon at me, "You are a bloody whore." I was furious, and retorted, "Call your bloody wife a whore you pimp." Yet, later, I felt ashamed of using words like prostitute and whore with such nonchalance and ignorance. How was I different from the thieving chairperson when I behaved like him and abused his wife?
This year I will complete three years in the US. There is much to love about my new home. A nice suburban house with landscaped gardens, taps with running hot water, orderly traffic, trains on schedule... Yet, this week, Raja Menon's <em>Airlift</em> made me miss chaotic, mad India. When the Indian tricolour came up and the strains of "Vande Mataram" reverberated in the theatre, I wanted to be on the flight that took off for Sahar airport in Mumbai. I wanted to go home.
A mother shared with us that a friend of hers, a successful businessman, had helped window dress his son's resume. The father managed to get internship certificates from his cronies' companies; the resume boasted of meaningful community work, awards for playing the piano, excellent summer internship projects and recommendation letters from senior managers. While most of us were still processing these details, another mother spoke up, "Well, what is wrong with that? We have to help our children in the best possible way. Competition is so stiff these days."
RG was the most handsome guy in my German class. He was well dressed, intelligent and full of warmth and humour. He had finished his MBA and was working with a bank. RG was learning German because he wanted to move to Germany; he considered it <em>the</em> financial place to be! He wanted to taste all kinds of beers at an Oktoberfest, own a swanky Mercedes (he was Punjabi) and speed down the autobahn. He was the kind of guy you wanted as a boyfriend, and then a husband.
In India, a young bride is taught to make her husband's family her priority and to adjust to the customs of her new 'home'. I do genuinely believe that in-laws are not necessarily out to hurt their new daughters, but more often than not, women suffer silly issues with in-laws. Husbands are caught between their wives and parents, and usually literally beg their wives to please adjust!
For me real invisibility began the day a young man called me 'aunty'. He was almost as old as me and I was mortified. I thought he was being cheeky and my first instinct was to call him 'uncle' and slap his face.
If Prime Minister Modi does not deliver on development, nothing will stop the fury of Indians from turning on him. And he will be booted out of power. It will not matter then if he is a Hindu and if India is predominantly Hindu. We are deeply religious, yes, but we are also pragmatic.