The Style of the Subcontinent

A look at Desi Style

Category: Literary

Parul Sehgal

One of the good things about starting a blog, hibernating and then starting up again is there is so much stuff that I had mentally filed away that I am downloading now as posts. I’m sure I’ll run out soon and then go on another multi year hiatus. For example I loved this interview/conversation between Parul Sehgal and Durga Chew Bose, partly because she mentions that her family were refugees from Pakistan to India during the partition. I love knowing these details about desi people, it feels important to me.

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Anyway, I was reminded of this piece because she was on a podcast on Slate, called I Have to Ask by Isaac Chotiner. Both the pieces are interesting on what it means to be a critic but only the first even touches on what it means to be desi, even though she does mention her grandmother in both pieces.

 

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Rupi Kaur

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For the longest time, I didn’t connect the period pictures on Instagram with the often snarky posts about the Instagram poet and you know I don’t know s*** about whether her poetry is good or not but she is beautiful and striking and I want her to win and keep winning, childish as that may seem to you.

Jhumpa Lahiri

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Jhumpa Lahiri is one of my favorite authors. I was googling around, hoping to find when her next book is coming out but I couldn’t really find anything more recent than an article in the NYTimes about the craft of writing in 2012. However wikipedia led me to this article in the New Yorker about how she began to be a writer and I love it as much as any of her short stories.

Bengali was my first language, what I spoke and heard at home. But the books of my childhood were in English, and their subjects were, for the most part, either English or American lives. I was aware of a feeling of trespassing. I was aware that I did not belong to the worlds I was reading about: that my family’s life was different, that different food graced our table, that different holidays were celebrated, that my family cared and fretted about different things. And yet when a book was in my possession, and as I read it, this didn’t matter. I entered into a pure relationship with the story and its characters, encountering fictional worlds as if physically, inhabiting them fully, at once immersed and invisible.

I’ve always enjoyed her writing but I find that since coming to the U.S., her particular point of view as the child of immigrants more poignant and relevant than I would have otherwise. I know that my daughters experience as the child of immigrants, just as my experience as an immigrant seems to be very different from her parents, will be very different from the characters in her stories and from her life but perhaps one day both of us will enjoy these books and see something of ourselves in them. How wonderful is that?

Photograph from her FB page.

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