India is becoming America. Imagine the squiggly border lines turning and twisting. No, imagine its spirit shape shifting to reach out and become another country. Every day, little things that I turned my nose up at in America turns up to taunt and mock me here. “Doors are always open in India,”  I used to tell Tom when we would go for our walks in Berkeley and Kensington. I would count the closed doors as idle past-time. There, no one sitting on their porches, no grand-parents playing with children, no friendly neighbors stopping to say hi and catch up on gossip and news and impromptu discussions over chai, no faces at all there actually on those walks, solitariness amidst rows of houses, surreal amidst fogs and mists rising from the bay. Plenty of faces here on the roads, plenty of impromptu tete a tetes over chai, but now no open doors, not at least where I live, an upscale neighborhood with bungalows and security guards. Doors decorated with artificial garlands of marigolds, myriad colored chains with images of deities and inscriptions hanging around wooden frames and sometimes the deities themselves lording over from atop and center of the closed doors; all shimmering and faded in the dust and smoke from cars and burning garbage.

A Birthday. It took me a while in America to get used to the concept that siblings were often not invited. “What? Why? Splutter. Mean. Rotten. Inhospitable.”  I never bit my words then, and now I have to unfortunately swallow them. ” S.. would like to have this birthday only among her friends,” wrote a mom in one of my daughter’s classes in reply to my husband’s question if we could bring her siblings, especially as this event was particularly far from our house. But, but… this is not supposed to happen in India. Athiti devo Bhavo, the guest is God, even India tourism uses the line now to entice foreign visitors who have presumably never been treated as a God. This is how we do it in the West, we do not accommodate beyond our perceived limits. This is how we used to do it in India, no one is turned away. Apparently not any more.

What do I do now with this new India, in this new India? One can never run away. To belong no where is the plight of the castaway who left child-hood homes, got lost in waters and stranded then in new lands, islands with unknown names, strange inhabitants, customs and habits, continents you try to call home, lands where you even build a habitat, where you pretend to belong until the pretension seeps your life force out slowly, gently, surely through your ears, through your nostrils, through your toes and the tips of your fingers until finally through your heart, you can feel life and love gently seeping out like… death and that is when you know you must leave. This happened in America for me. Such curiosity now for India, this land that was mine and now no more, for this country so old, so new, for myself who belonged and now perhaps no more?

Guns in America- An Opinion

On the treadmill in my gym every morning, American news comes trickling in on Indian news channels, on little news flashes appearing at the bottom of the screen. Sikh Indian mistaken for a Taliban and assaulted, boy who brings home-made clock to school is suspected of bringing a bomb and then yesterday nine killed in a school shooting- again.

Do I miss the news from other parts of the world or is it really only in America that this happens again and again and again? I remember even when I was new to America I was scared of who would have a gun and who would shoot you because of — nothing. It is what distinguishes America from almost every other country in the world. Gun violence.

How does this work? This whole freedom of gun thing, how does it work along with freedom of speech and freedom for religion and all other freedoms? How is it that a country so advanced in every field allows a young man to even own more than half a dozen guns and there is no red alert as to why he should have so many guns;  but a man with the name of Ahmed or Khan or Khalil can not go through  security checks without being pulled aside for additional “random” checks, even if he has no history of ever owning a gun? How many children and students have to die from crazy or depressed or “Satan” loving lonely men, and mark you mostly men, who decide to kill as many as he can before ending his own life or being killed.

I had a friend whose family member was a victim of gun violence. The girl had worked hard to get through nursing school. She was killed in the Oikos University Shooting in 2012. And just like that a life was over. America, the land of dreams, the land of guns. Freedom to own guns is in the constitution. How outdated is this constitution then? “America has 4.4 percent of the world’s population, but almost half of the civilian-owned guns around the world — enough to arm every adult in the country.” Researchers point out that owning more guns leads to more gun violence even after taking into account socio-economic factors.

Meanwhile President Obama asks for support from Congress, newspapers and television channels bring flashes of the faces and lives of the most recent victims and families struggle to continue to try and continue with their lives. So much senseless violence in a troubled world. This morning there was a dead cat in the middle of the road I was crossing. I went near to see if there was any hope. There wasn’t. Probably hit by a speeding vehicle. Lying in the middle of a road. A small pool of blood. Nothing to do. Move on. In America repeated deaths in schools by gun violence has become like that. Come close. Inspect. Ruminate. Decry. Move on.