Archive for April 16th, 2014

Correspondence with an Indian-American Student

April 16, 2014 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

 

 

 

4th April, 2014

 

Dear Mr. Amitav Ghosh,

My name is Saloni Gupta and I was at a discussion held at the Asian American Cultural Center [at Rutgers University, New Jersey].  Unfortunately, I missed the chance of speaking to you after the discussion.  I personally found the discussion to be quite fascinating.  Compared to most of my other peers who were born in India and moved to the United States, I was born in the United States and have been brought up over here.  I still remain connected with my roots as I visit India every 2-3 years in the summer.  Despite the fact that I have been born and brought up over here, I faced an identity crisis similar to the rest of the students who were born in India.
I come from Edison, which happens to be a very diverse city and there is a huge population of Asians over there.  Ever since childhood, I have always been fascinated by Indian culture.  I loved watching Indian films and listening to Indian music- my favorite singers are the legendary singers Kishore Kumar and Mohammed Rafi.  Despite being so much in love with Indian culture and food, I remember it being so odd that none of my Indian friends shared the same passion that I did.  While I would love listening to Indian music on a daily basis, majority of my friends would listen to music that was popular in the United States and watched American films.  I used to and I still do find it so odd that none of them liked listening to Indian music or even bothered to talk about Bollywood films, as they thought it was too “Indian.”  From a young age, I saw that there was this need for Asians to “fit in” and assimilate with American culture.  And unfortunately, assimilation meant letting go of your own culture. I think this assumption of assimilation is very problematic and leads to numerous problems, one being the issue of self-identity and the need to categorize one into a particular ethnic, cultural group.
Similarly, I went through the same crisis.  Since majority of my friends didn’t connect with Indian culture whereas I did, I used to feel left out and felt that I was more “Indian” than my friends were.  However, when I went to India, I was categorized as “American”.  Even though I speak fluent Hindi, I was seen as the “girl from America” and even while visiting India so often, I never feel as if I belong there as I am different from most of the girls in India.
My cousins would often question me about American shows, films and music as they thought that I used to watch them and they would be surprised when I would tell them that I am more into Indian music and films.  This became and still is difficult for me as I would categorize myself in one way but I was categorized in another way in India.  I think the problem is that a person needs to stop being conscious of the need to define himself and project himself in a certain way.  A person should just be who they are.
I loved your piece, “Ghat of the Only World” and I am curious to know as to why you chose the title.  From my understanding, ghat are steps which lead to a body of water, and the term is particularly used when referencing the Ganges River.  From your piece, it seemed as if the ghat was used as a metaphor towards death.  I would love if you could explain a little but more about why you chose that title and which context you are referring to.  Which world are you referring to: the world afterlife or an ideological space where there are no nationalist boundaries?
It was definitely a pleasure hearing about your views on cosmopolitism and your concern about Asian Americans being sidelined in America.  I would like to thank you for taking your precious time to come and speak to us at Rutgers.  I will always cherish the discussion we had today and the insight you  provided us with.
Regards,
Saloni Gupta
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5th  April
Dear Saloni

Thanks very much for this thoughtful letter. It’s good to know that you love Kishore Kumar and Mohd Rafi – so do I!

I really enjoyed my meeting with your class. The title ‘Ghat of the Only World’ is taken from one of Shahid’s poems.

I don’t know if you’ve ever looked my blog. I often post letters from people who write to me. If you like I would be glad to post your letter (I can leave your name out if you prefer). Let me know.

Best wishes

Amitav Ghosh
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6th April
Dear Mr. Amitav Ghosh,

 
It was my pleasure reading your work and meeting with you on Friday.  
 
Thank you very much.  It would be an honor for me if you decide to post my letter on your blog.  You can keep my name.  
 
Regards,

Saloni Gupta

 



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