Back then they were giving people really strong sleeping pills to keep them from waking throughout the night. Before he left, John gave them to me and said that I should keep them somewhere safe, just in case.
When you’re married long enough, it’s hard to hide things. [pause]
I found him the next morning.
“I’m tired. I just got off a flight, actually. I’m not sure why mom scheduled all this,” Kris paused and waved his hand towards the temple, “on the day I arrived.”
“Any day is a good day for a puja. Any day is a good day for God.”
“I guess,” Kris said, pausing to stifle a frown. “I mean, of course.”
But what would they cook? What would they serve their Indian customers? What they invented anew was always tinged with the past. They had just come from plantations where their memories were turned into meals that fueled them through long days of cutting and milling cane. In the years after indenture, these meals took on elements of the old world and the new. The sons and daughters of girmitiyas created a new style of cooking, one that was both Indian and not. This was the food that would speak to their ancestors, their lives, and their new homes.
Land, race, ethnicity, power, politics. The Indian Division of the Methodist Church seemed to me to reflect all the divisions that could take root in a society built on the separation of people. I had hoped that this wasn’t the case. I had hoped to find from each parishioner proof of something larger, something that could rise above the crude lines of ethnic nationalism. I wasn’t wrong.
At every point in India’s past, there have been travelers who have either instigated or recorded their sliver of history. Some were lucky enough to do both. Indeed, through four travelers it was possible to trace nearly seven hundred years of the subcontinent’s past. In a way, each traveler built upon the voyages and history that came before him. That is perhaps the nature of traveling: to explore all that is new that has been seen for generations.
For someone who had an abiding interest in the world, writing from what I knew was not an option. I needed a bit of faith; I needed to take a flying leap into the unknown world just beyond my vision.
The case opened with a question: “Is a high-caste Hindu, of full Indian blood, born at Amritsar, Punjab, India, a white person?”
But nothing is more satisfying then that moment of Existential Googling and pressing enter. Emotion, search, relief.
This, for some reason, endlessly frustrates me. Not that Gmail cannot undelete a set of emails and chats from five years prior, but that I was allowed the option to obliterate them in the first place. I am angered by the idea that technology would acquiesce to such humanness so quickly, so easily.
In my searches, I found anything but a concrete image. In its place was the fragment: illusory, transient, incomplete.
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It’s an act of mourning for a culture that’s been denied to me. I’ve felt that pain from very early on. When it seizes me, it’s a crippling pain. My father, as much as he turned his back on his past, was fundamentally Mexican. That’s what I feel I lost.
This is perhaps Murata at her most subversive. Labor in the first-world archipelago has more or less bifurcated into either precarious office work or precarious service work. While the digital marketer can embark on a personal branding journey, what is left for the cashier or barista in an age of zero-hour contracts and gig work? The answer comes from another aspect of branding: the store brand.
Academics tend to call these types of silences lacunae. The term literally refers to missing or blank portions in a manuscript. It’s a fitting word. It comes from the Latin for “hole” or “pit.” In any case, only a deft writer and historian can resist the call to madness and navigate an archive filled with blank spaces. We can be thankful to have found her in Gaiutra Bahadur.
“… partly because I came from a world—a Mitteleuropa world, a World of Yesterday as Stefen Zweig speaks about. It’s a world in which the more interests you had the more interesting you were. The more scope or horizon you had, the more importantly you could contribute to the world in an interesting way.”