Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Who am I

This does not seem obligatory, but I'll shoot off anyway, just to make my agendas (evil or otherwise) transparent and save a lot of heartburn for those cats whose curiosity is their poison. And it would give an idea of what's to come, so a handy reference for those who want to either bookmark or block this blog. I was born in Delhi, India and grew up as a fairly law-abiding Indian citizen. In fact so law-abiding that I'm probably one of the few Indians who can claim to have never offered (or received for that matter) any bribes to get service that is their right as citizens and consumers anyway. But to be fair, only once did someone demand a bribe off me, and my experiences with the great Indian bureaucracy have been spectacularly good so far.

So I grew up in Delhi with Bengali parents for whom the move to Delhi from Bengal was no less than an exile. It was voluntary, both my parents come from West Bengali families that were not forced to migrate by the Partition. In fact, socially and culturally we remained isolated from the Bengali enclaves in Delhi that mostly had migrants from Eastern Bengal, which became East Pakistan and subsequently Bangladesh. My father had moved to Delhi for work and we travelled annually to Bengal for vacations. But my parents were living the diaspora experience.......I digress, more about this later.

Suffice to say that I grew up negotiating many different cultural threads, and I would like to believe only more enriched because of it. I regret my linguistic limitations though. I am fluent in Bengali, Hindi and English (uniformly), and speak (and read and write) passable Urdu. I can understand a bit of urban Punjabi, which I found out was utterly useless for making your way through Punjab. Being friends with impressive polyglots, I regret I didn't take up German when I wanted to. I am trying to rectify by learning modern Greek, and there would be Farsi and Spanish lessons later. In any case I had access to a wonderful array of cultural production in Bengali, Hindi and English, and I made some use of it. For most of my life I was trilingual, effortlessly switching between the three languages, though predominantly using Hindi and Bengali in everyday life. That hasn't been the case in the last four years in Los Angeles, where Bengali has been reduced to weekly conversations with parents and Hindi sporadic encounters with a friend.

Speaking about my passage through school and university is tedious, so I'll skip that. I did the needful, the bachelors degree followed immediately by a masters. Worked for three years and absolutely loved my workplace and colleagues. Would have vegetated there for the rest of my life, but then folks at work hatched a conspiracy to throw me out. Started saying what a pity it was that I was throwing my life away as a lowly research assistant when I was destined for greater things. Show me a sucker who doesn't fall for that! But four years down the line, I am so glad and grateful that they gave me a strong enough kick in the butt to make me land half-way across the world in Los Angeles. So ha ha, take that! You thought you were getting mystery woman, and I turn out to be your average below poverty doctoral student.


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