My home coming!
Home coming, my homecoming! Even my thought of it sends my parents into a tizzy. They think I am tipsy when I tell them I want to return home. Return to a land of one billion people. To land where the per capita income in $430 (I make 167.44 times more here - scribbling stories and throwing awful manuscripts out of my second floor office window), where a total of 6.1 million cognizable cases were registered in one single year and where the female-male ratio is tumbling to a disastrous level.
Ma thinks I am tipsy. Why else would I want to leave US
and walk into a pile of cow dung? Ma has not been here,
she has just heard stories of the filthy lucre that people
stack over the years, how heartening the dollar-rupee exchange
rate is, how food and gas is so much cheaper in that country,
how you can bring home a Mercedes with measly payments every
They remind me that India ranked 132nd in the world in human development index. That women are killed for dowry and married off even before they attain puberty. And raped at leisure.
I know, I know the agonizing statistics. So! I look brazenly into their eyes. I lived there all my thirty years - I survived, didn't I? I did what I wanted, despite hostilities I chose my profession and my husband, both extremely unconventional, my in-laws did not douse me in kerosene and turned me into fireworks of their choice. They actually respect me for who I am.
But ma is scared. She thinks I am tipsy. Why else would I want to leave US and walk into a pile of cow dung? Ma has not been here, she has just heard stories of the filthy lucre that people stack over the years, how heartening the dollar-rupee exchange rate is, how food and gas is so much cheaper in that country, how you can bring home a Mercedes with measly payments every month.
Maybe she is right. The facts are all on her side. But Ma does not understand that I hate coming back to an empty house every day. That I have nowhere to go. That I am tired of eating the same lettuce stuffed hamburger for lunch. I want to tell her that I am dead beat looking at the apple pie in every grocery store and marl grey t-shirts in every mall. I want to tell her that at times I dislike the sanitized, synthetic way of life. That I long for chaos. I don't mind getting my Gucci sloshed in a fresh pile of cow dung, at least it would break the monotony that is digging too deep into me.
I came to the US three years ago - tagged along with my husband who switched from journalism to software. I stuck to journalism, could not find a job here (nobody believed that I - with my famous brown skin - could write/speak English) and went back to India. At the airport I was welcomed with a frown, a disbelief. I could almost see fingers pointing at me - Look here's a girl who walked out of an El Dorado empty-handed. I was made to feel silly, stupid, moron, thick, dim-witted, dense. Just any synonym of a moron that they could find. So much for my home coming!
I, of course, returned. Not because I was burdened with all the adjectives that I could not stomach. I found a job, simply. Packed my bags and returned to the land of burgers and rivers of pop.
They also told me that San Francisco is a great place to be. Look at the personal column in local newspapers and you would know why. I peered into the personal column and this is what I found - a man seeking a pregnant woman to have sex with, that was his idea of a great evening, a SWF looking for a SBM who loved kinky stuff, a 55-year old man desperate for adventure and a 17 year old looking for sugar daddy.
Who do I tell that that is not my idea of fun or a great evening? I am married and happy. No matter what the physical endowments, no man of any hue makes my pulse run or my hormones go amok. I'd rather put my feet up and read Robert Fulgham than hunt around for available men or dine in diamonds and Dior.
So! I look at the personal ad again and return to my empty home. There's solace there. There's nobody lurking around, nobody ogles and nobody is drooling. Thank god for these no-attention-from-men moments. I would not barter it for anything.
Do I tell ma all this? Probably not. She knows I have saved enough in three years that I could not have saved in two decades there - scribbling stories and throwing manuscripts out of the window.
Instead I wanted throw some facts at Ma.
India has the world's largest irrigated area and the world's largest producer of tea, butter and ghee, the second largest producer of rice, wheat, milk and sugar, and the world's third largest producer of tobacco.
India accounts for 21.7 per cent of the world's output of rice, 11.2 per cent for wheat and 14.9 per cent for cotton (lint). India is fourth in the production of tractors.
The nation of one billion had 5,860 listed companies, compared to only 853 in China.
The fall in violent crime in India is somewhat analogous to the situation in the United States and is well brought out in a recent book (The Crime Drop in America, Cambridge University Press, 2000) by Prof. Alfred Blumstein of Carnegie Mellon University. The homicide rate (that is, offences per 100,000 of the population) in the U.S. stood at 10.2 in 1980. It came down to 6.3 in 1998 after certain fluctuations in between.
In India, incidents of total violent crime came down from about 246,000 in 1991 to about 238,000 in 1999. In terms of rate per 100,000 of the population, homicide stood at a constant 3.8 per cent during the past 10 years. (It is cool comfort that the rate is nearly twice as much in the U.S.)
If New Delhi is unsafe for a woman, the downtowns here are no Garden of Eden. Little girls are picked up, young women are sexually assaulted and men mugged and battered. So what is the big lure?
Okay, it is a little lazy, a little poor and a little difficult country to be in. This land is not perfect either. India is imperfect in its own ways. So why am I made to lap up one famed imperfect country over another much-maligned imperfect world?
I know all that and choose my favorite flawed corner of the world.
It is better than going back to an empty house everyday. And sniffling on my own shoulder when loneliness gets too hard to endure.
I do not want to look at my bank statement and chirp.
I'd rather go home and dip my Gucci in cow dung.
Are you still in a daze Ma? Do you still think I am tipsy?