This collection of short stories is massive and fascinating; succeeding in its goal (in my opinion) of presenting life at the edge of multiple culture...moreThis collection of short stories is massive and fascinating; succeeding in its goal (in my opinion) of presenting life at the edge of multiple cultures as lived by folks of South Asian ethnicity. First, about the name. The word 'wallah' in South Asia means some or all of the following: vendor of, craftsman of, expert in. It is a very common term there, and carries connotations of abundant supply of all that is good. In the introduction the editor, Shyam Selvadurai, describes his journey and struggle of self-identification as he went from Sri Lanka to Canada (moved at 19). He uses the term diaspora over immigrant to include weight to each person's (sometimes secret) history, and also to include the struggles of each person in reshaping their identity in relation to both their old and new home. Those areas are some of the main essential contents of this collection. While these themes are very specific, the truth of them reaches the universal. For instance, in Anita Desai's 'Winterscape,' the space between people who are in intimate relationships is explored with ringing clarity. Anita clearly creates four characters: a man who moved to the West, the white woman he married, and the man's two mothers who remained in India. And the moment captured is his wife's defining as 'other' the man's two moms, in their reaction to snow. He feels bewildered and somewhat hurt by her reaction. In that is contained so much of the human experience: and thinking about ok/not ok; good/ bad fascinates me. Another universal (and particular) aspect of life included in this collection is religious extremism, which is cut wide open in Zulfikar Ghose's 'The Marble Dome,' which explores Pakistani society and is another of my favorites. In editing this collection, Shyam includes aspects of his own being. One of those aspects is that he is gay which - in many South Asian cultures - continues to be outside the definition of normal. I realized when I was reading some of the stories that I was reacting as myself, a straight-but-not-narrow US resident who's been aware and supporting of lgbtq culture for over 20 years; and that the cultures involved in these diasporas were very different. In those contexts, the sub-set of these stories with lgbtq content are ground-breaking, brave and probably difficult for many in the intended audience. Two in particular are especially poignant. The first, by Shyam Selvadurai himself, is called 'Pigs Can't Fly,' and tells the story of gender definitions being imposed on a person who had been happily living outside the norm to that point. His mother, answering the question of 'Why?' would say: "Because the sky is so high and pigs can't fly, that's why." Seems as valid a support for normalcy as anything I've ever come across! The second, Sandip Roy’s ‘Auld Lang Syne’ has lingered on my mind. It is about the reunion of two men who had been lovers, on the return of one from San Francisco to India. And mentions a third man, a mutual friend of these two, who has committed suicide. It shows the three choices available to people outside their culture's norms: escape away, suicide, stay and pretend and be internally dead. That later choice is in place for millions of course, in every community almost, required by a variety of conditions. Brings 'Angels in America' and 'Brokeback Mountain' to mind, which show that the pain and damage of that choice is not restricted to the individual, but is shared by their spouse and others. Other themes in this ambitious collection include cultural differences related to historical and cultural variations. He discusses in the introduction some of these primary divisions: the first wave of movement in the 1830's, when South Asians were brought in to many British colonies (in particular) to replace slaves; the second movement beginning in the mid-1950's, in which people moved to major metropolitan centers of the West. One fascinating tidbit about British motives in encouraging businesses to import South Asian populations: 'The aim was to get people in as guest workers who, even after they acquired citizenship, would continue to function as "passive citizens" as opposed to "active citizens" who participated and represented the nation-state of Britain." That is fascinating to me, but not referenced, and the stories (those few set in England) don't really get into that sort of political question at all. I'd love to learn more about that. Anyway, additional variances among the writers he describes include relationship to South Asia - some were born elsewhere and have never visited, most travel back intermittently, regularly or frequently. Some are 1st generation, others are 2nd, 3rd, even 4th generation. While this anthology is in English, the language is a huge variability, as native vernacular is used in quite a few stories (mainly those by writers of that earlier migration): and for me that was a big challenge. In a longer work incorporating native voice, one gets used to it. In this collection, each time it's a transition to master, and each vernacular is significantly different. Fascinating, but I hadn't been ready for that. I personally found it challenging as well to determine the setting of each story, the time period, and details like that. Comes with the short-story territory; and I am disadvantaged with not having the background to catch the significance of the information that is given much of the time. What it all adds up to is that this collection of short stories both demands and rewards active reading. Prior to reading each story, there is information available about the writer and their context that is of use to contextualize their work; the content then is rich and varied on all these multiple axis. And be warned: Shyam is apparently among those who believe that Indian Diaspora in inextricably linked with India’s extreme poverty: the last story in the collection - 'Chokra', by Numair Choudhury - is a short, brutal instance of that shocking misery. This would be a great book to include for any number of classes on culture, history, identity, population, work, many different topics. I personally would encourage the reader to take your time and read according to what you are seeking and/or slowly, one at a time. Rushing through would only dilute the essence and dull the fine points of this breathtaking collection.(less)
This is a book of great photographs paired to quotes. Printed in 1970, it is clearly constructed from the mindset of 'men do, women are seen & fel...moreThis is a book of great photographs paired to quotes. Printed in 1970, it is clearly constructed from the mindset of 'men do, women are seen & felt & experienced.. then they become mothers and thereby sacred' - the dichotomies are actually quite severe (both between women and men and between mothers and non-mothers. I think it was something I always just understood to be 'before' the Women's Movement.
Ok, now here are some actual quotes:
'Men always want to be a women's first love; women have a more subtle instinct: what they like is to be a man's last romance.' Oscar Wilde
'Flirting: Attention with Intention.' Max O'Reill
'Not to go to the theater is like making one's toilet without a mirror.' Arthur Schopenhauer
'History is philosophy teaching by examples.' Dionysius of Halicarnassus
'There's only one pretty child in the world, and every mother has it.' Chinese proverb (with *great* photo, perfect for that)
'There mustn't be any more war. It disturbs too many people.' 1917 - An old French peasant woman to Aristide Briand.
'Suppose you go to war, you cannot fight always; and when, after much loss on both sides, and no gain on either, you cease fighting, the identical old questions as to terms of intercourse are again upon you.' Abraham Lincoln.
'Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear.' -Mark Twain (with a photo of a women holding a candle and forging bravely into the darkness, so that's something).
'There are no fools so troubling as those who have wit.' La Rochefoucauld (and the photo is great, the feet of someone sitting cross-legged, and the uppermost foot has a loafer-type shoe, where the sole is separated from the rest of the shoe in front... and the front part (the gap between the two) has a nice row of paper teeth inserted.. looks like the shoe is laughing.)(less)
This book made a big impression on me when I was assigned it, during my Women's Studies period. The central idea - that people in the majority culture...moreThis book made a big impression on me when I was assigned it, during my Women's Studies period. The central idea - that people in the majority culture are responsible for their own education regarding people in other cultures - has stayed with me. The inherent anger, or something like anger, maybe simply self-assertion? - of it has also remained. I kind of assign that same stance to people I come across, without it necessarily being valid. I also haven't read it all, probably just one or two selections (as assigned).. so at this point, reading it will be a rich and essential experience!
But enough about me..
The foreward to the 2nd edition, dated 1983, ends with an allusion to each of us as bridges for each other, and the words of Donna Kate Rushin: "Stretch.. or die."
The writers in this book come from all over the world.
The sections are as follows:
Children Passing in the Streets - the Roots of our Radicalism Entering the Lives of Others - Theory in the Flesh And When You Leave, Take Your Pictures With You - Racism in the Women's Movement Between The Lines - On Culture, Class and Homophobia Speaking in Tongues - The Third World Women Writer El Mundo Zurdo - The Vision(less)
Back growing up, I remember the tv shows 'Circle of Fear' and wasn't the other one called 'Sixth Sense'? Good, spooky stuff - and it was in the spirit...moreBack growing up, I remember the tv shows 'Circle of Fear' and wasn't the other one called 'Sixth Sense'? Good, spooky stuff - and it was in the spirit of that sort of suspenseful interesting fun that I picked this up long ago. They are suspenseful, but endings are often more curdling than I would have preferred. But I seem to have re-read it a number of times even so..(less)
Blood - Urvashi Butalia (1997): India & Pak, a family torn by the Partition; very moving.
My Father's Raj - Mark Tully (1997); on the English psych...moreBlood - Urvashi Butalia (1997): India & Pak, a family torn by the Partition; very moving.
My Father's Raj - Mark Tully (1997); on the English psyche w.r.t. India over the past century in the family of the writer, also interesting.
Erotic Politicians and Mullahs - Hanif Kureishi (1985): Very full of content, not simply-enough-for-me written, will need to re-read, possibly multiple times. All about Pak, and Pakistanis in England, and England, and England-Pakistan. Does help fill in a bit my huge question-vessel in regard to Pak. More of this writer may well be of interest.
White Lies - Amit Chaudhari (2001); Very distinctly honest about the gently brutal interactions of people with different levels of power, the texture of such a relationship. In the same vein (at my level of familiarity anyway) as Thrity Umrigar's 'Space Between Us' and Rohan Mistry's 'Fine Balance.'
Mumbai - Suketa Mehta (1997): Some of the same content as 'Maximum Ciy', but thought would be petty to skip it since I have it in my hands etc.. Felt more afterward like maybe I'd read more..
6 March, 1989 - Salman Rushdie (1989) - poem about that period. Wow, like it! Maybe his books won't be so impossible for me to go in with.
Kabir Street - R. K. Narayan (1997): Excellent.. the sort of writing I love, a slice of life. I'd known I'd like him already, and have some whole books of his. Can't wait!
Unsteady People - Ian Jack (1989) : Fascinating sociological essay basically, about attitudes of the powerful toward the powerless in India, in brutal honesty. Then a comparison to the same in England - with the conclusion that is the same in England, only there they cover it over with make believe hoo-ha to make themselves feel better. And that in India it's all in the open atleast.
What Bengali Widows Cannot Eat - Chitrita Banerji (1995) - interesting about the writer's mother, and how fervently she wanted to keep to all the ritual laws regarding widows in that region, and her (the writer's) reaction to her mother's response. Need to read more of this writer!
Jihadis - Pankaj Mishra, 2002 - fascinating all about the rise of the Taliban and the situation in Pakistan and all sorts of related aspects.. Is the clearest account I've read from someone who actually sought to understand the Taliban and their rise. Not quite 'sympathetic' maybe, but very close - very useful to read to get a fuller-than-trivial glimpse. Also usefully clear about anti-US anger and its causes.
And actually I did already read the next one: Two Indians on America - Amit Chaudhuri & Ramachandra Guha (2002).
Pariah, narrated by Viramma over ten years to Josiane and Jean-Luc Racine. This is non-fiction, an account of her life as midwife and agricultural worker in Karani, a village near Pondicherry. In this account Viramma the obstacles faced by political organizers who visit; some of the details about her activities as midwife, some information about her children (many of whom have died, who she grieves deeply), and a lot about evil spirits and other entities that her belief system includes. The presence of this piece makes me reconsider the whole book to an extent.. wait - who pulled this together? What might the overall message be? Hmm...
Serendip, by Ian Jack, short and ok.. Still was wary.
The Tutor, Nell Freudenberger - quite long, extensive info about the main character; probably more than the writer actually knew. Liked some things about it, not all of it.
Dervishes, Rory Stewart - excerpt from 'The Places Inbetween' - fascinating about the struggles within Pakistan for what -kind- of Islam is approved and acceptable; vs. what -kind- has been in place since the beginning. Totally changed my attitude about his book, will look forward to reading it now.
Little Durga, Shampa Banerjee - all about the filming of Satyajit Ray's filming of Pather Panchali! She was in it, as a child! Fascinating and awesome.
My Hundredth Year, Nirad C. Chaudhuri - wonderful, all about aspects of his writing, how it was received, written as of his 100th birthday. 'The Autobiography of an Unknown Indian,' 19051 was his first published book.
So, as is clear at this point, this book has a really wide scope of work and subject and format and writing style etc.. I was never one much for compilations, but working my way through this I've become aware that they can serve a huge purpose.