Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Indian Ambassador

Today I had decided to revisit my TISS, Mumbai days. The days when I was thrown into this world which had so much poverty, pain, and yes surprisingly triumph too. I must mention here that I did my Masters in Social Work, specializing in Criminology and Correctional Administration. So by the end of my stint at TISS I had visited 1 Government run children's home, 3 police Stations, 3 prisons,1 Police Academy, 2 Forensic Science Centers, National Human Rights Center, remand homes, baalwadis (govt. run creches for children), countless NGOs etc etc etc. And since by my second year I was heart and soul into human trafficking issues...I knew the red light districts of Grant Road and Kamathipura, Mumbai like the back of my hand. ( I promise I will spend many a blogs dedicated to my red light district "travels", including a 4 day trip to Sonagachhi in Kolkata, and a short conversation with a stripper from NYC)

Anyways I decided this must all wait in favor of the day I had today. My day started as normally as possible. I missed gym in the morning for which I have to get up at an unearthly hour , 5:15 a.m to be precise. This is yet another example of my bending over to accommodate everybody and everything. I am not a morning person people and sheer grit, determination, fear of my mom's ailments thanks to excess weight, a husband who looks like he is still in college (and is always asked to produce an id when he goes to buy beer) and yes yes I have to admit ...conceit( I love when people say "you look just the same, you do not look like a mother of 2 kids.....") gets me going.
I woke up at 8 am which is an hour late considering it was a school day for my 3 year old and I tried making oatmeal without panicking. We all had breakfast including my 17 month old daughter and though I was 5 Min's late we reached school safe and minus any meltdowns and the last minute, potty making my daughter specializes in which leads to further delay and definitely a maniacal, raving, mommy behind the wheel does not bode well for anyone.

Well as soon as I reached school I found out that it being the last day of school the parent is expected to give gifts to the teachers and the children. I thought I was done with gift giving during the staff appreciation week.The enormity of my blunder took time sinking in but sink in it did when I saw all the gori/white mothers bring in huge gift bags and gift cards. I started telling myself that I am an Indian, raised in India, will be going back to my country in 2 years time, I am ignorant of the traditions here and everybody should understand this. I am certainly not a penny pinching, obsessed with saving my precious dollars, desi mom. To make matters worse, the second and the only other desi kid in the class too came empty handed. Now it became even more complicated. The other desi mom who has an accent and has been here since she was 14 stuttered and stammered through her excuses. I felt better off since I have been here only for the last 4 years and haven't had a single gora/white friend and hence still clueless about many of the American traditions . I guess I am not invested enough for I know I will be going back to my beloved Bharat Mata.

But still this makes me even more conscious of the fact that I am an ambassador for my country. And for an India loving , patriotic me this was the call for battle. I would not allow stereotyping of all Indians as miserly people. I would make sure that the gori mothers, a couple of whom are rude and have looked through me , know India and Indians in all their glory. All this adrenaline rush and melodrama ( I was drowning in Veer ras by this time...being an actress and a theatre lover makes the histrionics only better) even though I had yet to have my dose of caffeine. I shudder to think of the consequences if I had time to drink my morning cuppa coffee.

I rushed to Target with vande maatram playing in my head and bought gifts for all the children and the 2 teachers. Well the middle class Indian in me did mind the more expensive than the gifts, gift bags, but my daughter was happily munching away crackers which she usually does not get to gorge on. (P.S children are born manipulators and blackmailers with razor sharp instincts telling them to make a demand when it will not and cannot be refused) and I could not risk disturbing this equilibrium. Admittedly a mental picture of my savings account balance page prevented me from going overboard. I hurried back to the school and very grandly handed over the loot to the teachers who thanked me politely. With my nations pride and honor restored, I mentally saluted the Indian flag and drove back home listening to Om Shanti Om remix numbers, with a daughter in the back seat wolfing down her 10Th cracker. Though my moments of joy and peace came crashing down when I realized I had left my cell phone in the shopping cart, which was somewhere in the Target Parking lot. But that's another story and all is well that ends well. I got my cell phone back, had a happily burping daughter who was high on crackers and junk food and most importantly I walked proud, when I finally went to pick up my son from school.


Piper .. said...

Hilarious!! Life does come at you fast!! :-))
Waiting to read more on the human trafficking stories.I bet you had interesting times huh?

Manu Khajuria said...

Thanks dear you reading my blogs, gives me th incentive to write at an hour when I am dying to and curl up and sleep. Yes the red light area is another world in itself. Will write about it soon.