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CHAPTER-1
I never thought things would ever come to such a pass. And so soon? My relationship with Catherine dwindled into a muddle, and all those promises we made to each other, and those intimacies we nurtured, suddenly seemed to have taken a beating. Has the roulette of cultural divide started its sinister operation? Stubborn and unyielding as Cathy is, she perhaps brooks no compromises; much less accept my plans for any mutually convincing reconciliation. She is neither inclined to forget nor forgive anything if it ran counter to her perceived values .Of course, I blame myself for having precipitated the breaking up of the agreement we reached earlier .Why should Cathy be so irascible and so unreasonable? Had she been truer to me and a whit circumspect, everything would have gone on predictable lines, but she kept to herself all her secrets, and never divulged to me the facts concerning her past. It’s so cruel f her, particularly when I believed her so fully and my love for her was so total .She knows it as well, but why this predilection for self-deception? I received an email from my dad that reads: “ We would like to visit Boston and spend some time with you. Will it be fine if we schedule our visit sometime in the first week of August? I await your response. (Dad).” I called up Cathy to show her the email my dad had sent I found her surprisingly happy about my parent’ impending visit to the US. “Oh! I’m so delighted, Sudhir, I’ve to make all preparations to see that they are comfortable as long as they are in the US.” “August’s fine. Shall I confirm?” “ O yeah! Sure “she said as though it was her way of affirming my decisions. . The excitement of receiving my parents to America and introducing my American wife and daughter to the most disarmingly un -cynical and conservative parents whose acceptance of Cathy into my family was almost a de rigor became paramount to me My parents wouldn’t be averse to forgive my venturing to uncharted waters- to commit the culpa of living with Cathy out of marriage. I think it’s my three- year- old daughter who must bring a change in my parents’ , in their prejudged perceptions about me. Somehow, everything was going to be fine, I thought, and I must use this god -send opportunity to clear the clouds of misunderstanding. It’s in deed a godsend opportunity, I thought, to correct all that initially seemed so incorrigible. Could they afford to lose their only son? Could they be so insufferably irrational as to be harsh and cynical about my life? I went to receive my parents from the airport at Newark that was nearly a fourhour drive from Boston. Precisely at half past six my dad and mom emerged from the baggage center .I went close to them to accord a grand welcome to them, and after the exchange of a few words, we went to a near by cafeteria where my parents had some snacks and steaming American coffee.

The Inclusive Truth “ I hope, this will keep you fit to put up with another four-hour drive from here. You could take some rest in the car, if you need to” I said. “How are Cathy and Neil doing?” . mom asked me. “ They are doing okay,” I told mom to reassure her that all is quite on the western front. Mom perhaps was jet- lagged and fell asleep after exchanging a few pleasantries, while dad kept me company by inquisitively enquiring about many things, including my life in America in general, and my research work, in particular. He had been an academic himself for about thirty odd years and he knew what was what about a major research project, particularly if it’s in one of the America’s prestigious universities like Harvard. “ O, yes, I’m fine-tuning everything, dad And of course ,there are a few distractions but I’m sure I’ll overcome them.” “It doesn’t matter. Take your own time” “. Well, dad ,Cathy is extremely cooperative”, I was trying to be more friendly and reasonable at the same time .He must have read between the lines but he started talking vaguely. “ Yes, I’m well aware of your hazards but you have chosen to live with them.” It was nearly midnight when we reached Woburn, one of the finest suburbs of Boston. Cathy came out to receive us, and Neil I thought, must be asleep.” “ How was your journey? Was it too tiresome?” Cathy enquired. “ It was. But our enthusiasm to see you both kept us aloft,” said mom “How are you getting on, Cathy” dad asked. “Yes, we are getting adjusted .No hiccups. Thank you so much. For your concern for me”, said Cathy “ We don’t want dinner and it’s already past midnight. We’ll just have some milk”, dad said. “That’s fine. I’ll mix some coffee for you both, if you so want.” Please rest, you look so tired.”

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Cathy isn’t an early riser. I was up by six and found my dad and mom already had their morning coffee. ‘’ Sudhir, do you want me to mix some coffee for you too?’’ ‘’ It’s okay, mom. I’ll be back right away’”. I brushed and took my showers and was ready for the coffee. I just looked into the balcony only to find my dad reading his favorite “New York Times “. While mom was busy in playing hide- and- seek with Neil. Dad enquired about my research work. He said rather peremptorily. ‘’ I’ve reconciled to the fact that you did a right thing in choosing your partner. And I wish your choice doesn’t cast a shadow of doubt upon your life.’’

The Inclusive Truth ‘’ It’s okay, dad, I’m so happy that you’ve a complete understanding of the predicament I’m in.. I must thank you both for this finest gesture. Cathy and I were apprehensive, at the beginning, about your consent for our marriage, you know. Your disapproval would have cast aspersions on the arrangement we both made .I’m so happy about it. Things are moving in a positive direction.’’

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Neil was dressed up in Punjabi ‘kurta’ and’ pyjama,’, and she looked so cute that my dad was all praise for her. ‘ ‘We will take her to India and put her in some renowned corporate school. Do you like my idea?” dad asked Cathy. “O, No. I’ll miss her very much and life without her is unbearable.’’ ‘’I was sure you’d never allow us to wrench her away from you. I was only kidding.’’ ‘’ This is the sweetest baby who deserves to be in the US. She’ll be a famous surgeon, one day. Take it from me.’’ mom assured Cathy. My parents forgot about everything- their initial revulsion of my living with Cathy out of marriage, and all that goes with an outlandish alliance. It’s Neil who seemed to have brought in a fresh lease of freedom into the family, as it were, for it’s she who fortified our relationships. Cathy too had lost all her hopes about her acceptance into my family but when she observed the inklings of a change in my parents’ attitude and their love for their granddaughter, she was forced to alter her perceptions about my parents. This happy turn of events must have emboldened Cathy in cementing her ties with my parents, and she nearly forgot the count of time in trying to move close to them She behaved as though my mom and dad were her own and this has brought in both cohesion and meaning into her existence which she otherwise would have missed. They must surely have been embarrassed by the initial shock of letting their only son live in America with an American wife. The very prospect of losing me to Cathy must have troubled them, but there has been a change in their attitude Their understanding of the American society and culture which they thought were too elusive has slowly been expanded thanks to Cathy. My dad was more concerned with my academic progress while my mom was overly concerned with my life with an American wife who dismally failed to measure up to her expectations. But never did they mention about their apprehensions. They must have come to a tacit understanding between them not to rake up any potential controversies which may put me in the spot and embarrass Cathy This was a good sign, I thought, and I must owe my life- long gratitude to them for their sympathetic understanding of my plight. I promised my parents to take them to the downtown, at the weekend. Boston is the gem of a city, exuding its old-world charm that fascinates everyone with the mighty Atlantic ocean bordering the town, it retains its typical New England character-the red brick houses neatly dovetailed with the archaic character of the town’s people typifies the England of the bygone era. There are several streets with old English names, and several cultural centers with the veneer of England. The sprawling Science Center and the vast, almost colonial shipyard, reminisce you the inherent charms of New England. The town saw the emergence of many literary writers, poets and novelists who must have got their creative afflatus from the coffee houses where Bostonians still spend much of their evening time gossiping about politics and the new generation ideas.. Even their homes

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have a typical architectural ambience. At the center of the town is a vast, lush green central park that attracts one’s attention The Harvard University is Boston’s oldest university which is both its prized possession and academic excellence. Its imposingly tall, red-bricked buildings amidst the oak and maple trees, and carpeted by green meadows, add up its profuse elegance. It’s incomparably the best university that boasts of producing a galaxy of litterateurs, scientists, economists, mathematicians Boston is also a hub of IT professionals, and there are many Indians working as soft ware professionals. Its oldest Railway system is a special fascination to any one who is interested to know how the railway system retained its pristine glory even now. With so much of technological advancement ,and it is a pleasure traveling by train, hustled into the cogently maintained compartments, and meeting a conglomeration of humanity .To step into the portals of Harvard is like getting a new-found heaven of freedom and elated importance, for it gives one the luxurious feeling of intellectual greatness and strangeness, and one tends to turn lyrical .I quoted Wordsworth to my dad: “ Rich was it In that dawn to be alive/ To be a young was very heaven,” looking at the opulent elegance of the whole place. ‘’ Dad, I’m so lucky and so happy to be one of its Harvard’s alumni. I wish to be here as long as I stay put in America, for I cannot resist the temptation of not being one to regale in the academic excellence that the university provides.” “o yeah, it’s true. And we’re proud of you because you are one with Harvard.” said dad with a broad smile lit on his face. At the weekend, we were off to the beach. Neil was already in her swim -suit, and was all enthusiasm to play on the wet cool beach that stretched miles and miles .She carried all her choice toys, and asked if we were ready to go. “ C’mon grandpa, where’s your swim suit? “ Neil was asking my dad. “ I don’t have any”, dad said. “Dad, why don’t you buy one for grandpa?” “ Oh, yes, sure baby. Your grandpa will have his swim suit soon”, I said. “What about your grandma?” Cathy asked her. “Grandma doesn’t need it. She can’t swim”. Neil said and laughed. The beach was full of people, as it happened to be weekend. Neil joined the small crowd of children and started playing with them, while I took my dad and mom to the oceanfront to have a close view of the galloping waves. We stood in knee-deep water and watched the sun sinking into the mighty ocean. It was awesomely glorious, the orange sun slowly plunging into the dark water at the far end of the Atlantic even the waves revelled in the ecstasy of the unusually calm but brilliant sunset that morphed the whole seascape into a lyric song of beauty. It’s this tug of the ocean and the old- world charm of Boston that tethered both Cathy and me bound to the town. . My dad had been savoring the lyric exuberance of the whole place-the city with the ocean forming its fascinating backdrop, and he enjoyed every moment of his stay in Boston. He took Neil to the waterfront, and started playing with water while mom enjoyed the moments when Neil sprinkled sea- water on her face. I never thought that a four-old

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could be a repository of happiness for my parents who never let lose any opportunity to be close to her. Cathy seemed to be simply floored by my parents’ affections, for it’s Neil who seems to have gone beyond the seeming peripheries of cultures, and traditions. She is their grand daughter, even if she’s half-Indian and half- American. We later went into Charles’ Street and had cappuccino in the sprawling cafeteria while Cathy and Neil preferred ice cream, and walked into the center of the town with its vast, lush green park lined with a variety of flower trees, and fascinating swimming pools adorning it. It was in deed a colorful cavalcade of beauty and elegance that is woven into the tapestry of Boston life. Coupled with it is that unassailable American affability which is bound to fascinate the new visitors to the country. There is no trace of artificiality in their life: it is genuine, flowing and agglomerating. This typical American pride is what that makes them wonderful people who are generous and kind to the last degree of perfection. I was searching for some relevant criticism on Commonwealth writing to buttress basis my dissertation that required both visceral analysis and erudite explication. My research supervisor, Prof. Hicks, would never permit me to write up my thesis until he was fully satisfied that I’d examined all relevant material. He asked me to bring into my research genuineness and a certain catholicity of purpose that alone would fortify my argument, and bring finality to my work. That is the way American professors exact their pound of flesh from the researchers who have had to flog to achieve perfection in whatever they do. The exacting standards of the Harvard will force you to sit up and think whether you are trying to achieve the nearly impossible. There were moments when I wanted to call it a day and take up teaching job in some college or university but for the constant encouragement I received from Cathy and my dad who would goad me and cajole me into pursuing my work. That seemed to have made me a workaholic. I wanted to connect Naipaul’s enigmas of “exile” with his artful “cunning “ and tie them up with his perceived beliefs and valuations Somehow, I felt that those were merely the statements of man who suffered the carping sense of rootless-ness and this sense of nonbelonging seemed to have haunted him all through. Naipaul turned merciless and cynical in exposing the sham of contemporary living against the background of numerous civilizations, races and religious traditions. That explains the prolixity and copiousness of his entire oeuvre. He wades through the most untrammeled cultures and religions-Islam, Hinduism, particularly-and holds them to be the exemplars in holding the individuals in perpetual fear and bondage .His non-fictional tomes like “India-A Wounded Civilization”, and “ A Million Mutinies” and his “Middle March” and “An Islamic Journey” are meant to be visceral exposures of the overweening pulls that truncated the progress of the human endeavors. His expose of the African culture as exemplified in fictional tome, “ A Bend in the River” could be a metaphor for human depravity and the putrefaction that had overtaken the African tradition. This was the line of argument I chose to interpret the Naipaul’s work that comes close to a contemporary myth. My research supervisor wanted me to be more specific about his non-fictional work as it throws more light on the sense of his estrangement and cynicism that pillories all empathy. He is especially more expressive about his disapprovals rather than affirmative concessions about the civilizations he takes up for his exposure .In consequence, the

The Inclusive Truth novelist turns more a trenchant ironist rather than a choric commentator of the traditions and customs of various cultures he seeks to redefine, and re-examine in the light of his changed valuations.

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“ Yes, Prof.Hicks, I was precisely intending to take this line of argument. But I was rather discouraged in my attempts to ferret out and proximate some of the facts sui generis about the novelists from other discipline who had the same breadth and vision as Naipaul had. I don’t know if I could be stretching my net afar if I imported parallelisms with writers from other countries” “ You better restrict your field of enquiry only to the Commonwealth writing. We’ll explore the other areas once we pin down to specifics.” said Prof Hicks with a sage-like admonition. “Thank you so much”, I said. I came out of his sprawling office into the green pastures of the Harvard that was brisling with scholastic radiance and briskly walked up to the cafeteria to have some coffee. We had been to Dr Shantha at the weekend,while my parents preferred to stay back at home. .Dr Shantha is from Allahabad . She was a family doc and we had promised to pay a visit her. She married a Philippine I once asked her as to what impelled her to marry the man from a strange land not her own who doesn’t do anything for living” “ He is a caretaker of my two gorgeous kids’ she said and laughed. He isn’t at home now. Oh! What a lucky hubby.” I thought. “Cathy could as well place you in my hubby’s role. Is it okay, Cathy ” “‘Oh, no, the present arrangement suits me well.” She protested. Dr Shantha has cooked some delicious Indian “gulab jamuns’ which are liked by Neil more than anybody else. I don’t know how she fancied eating gulab jamuns when she never had an occasion to. I think she’s more Indian than I’m. Make her to return to her roots. She should disinherit everything that’s American. My parents were even prepared to take her to India and put her in a good English medium school. My dad had been an ardent lover of things Indian and wanted his grand daughter to be brought up in the typical Indian tradition. The child too developed a revealing closeness with her grand parents, and I wondered how genealogy connects each to each. Therefore, I chose for her Indian name so that she wouldn’t for get her forbears and her roots. I want her to be a surgeon and reach the heights of professional excellence as no one else in my family fold has reached. . Cathy was watching “Autumn in New York” on the TV. The Neil was asleep. There was silence everywhere except for the play of some soft music on the TV. Cathy seemed to have been lost completely in the spirit of the Fall and the bare- boned quality of the season replicating the vast stretches of silence in her own life. At times she is so grave and mute that it becomes difficult for me to delve into the abysmal desperation that overtook her at times when she was alone. Is she under-rating my ability to pull through? The fragile arrangement we entered into out of dire necessity? Has the cultural divide again resurfaced to show up the glaring disparities in us? I don’t thing her love for me has already started showing up the cleavages. The arrangement we made will

The Inclusive Truth somehow pass the test of time, and I wished that the presence of my parents would close up the bridge that would have separated us, a prospect that would have unnerved both Mel and me. I must stop ruminating.

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I was sandwiched between two uncertainties, as it were. I can neither be helpful to my parents in India nor to Cathy who entirely depends on me for a prop. My aging parents too need my full support as my father has already turned seventy. My mom is sixty plus and needs somebody around her. My staying put in the US must have irritated them. And to cap it all, my preference for an American woman must have unnerved them. They perhaps thought of a suitable bride for me back home in India, rich, educated and beautiful. She would be from some respectable family, with a decent upbringing and with exemplary qualities of head and heart. It doesn’t matter even if I stayed back in America after the marriage. They perhaps thought of visiting my Indian wife and me periodically, and if possible stay put with me when they turn old and decrepit .I must have upset all their plans by preferring to live with Cathy out of marriage. “What would your uncles think of such an arrangement?” mom asked me, and continued. “They are right in America.” “Mom, I don’t live for others.” “You could have at the most told us about your preferences.” Dad mildly reprimanded. .”How could you take such a decision”, he continued “I’ve done no wrong, dad. I’ll explain to you the circumstances which led to this arrangement with Cathy.” I said to convince my parents. “ We have nothing to worry about. But would you be happy with her?” Mom asked. “ Why don’t you just marry her and give this so-called arrangement of living, as you prefer to call it, a legitimacy.” “Oh! Let me wait for sometime. I’m in no hurry since the present arrangement suits both of us.” “ It’s okay. But be careful- you don’t take any decision in haste ”mom said. This was the psycho- drama that was being enacted in me ever since I had found that I over- stepped my peripheries. The freedom of choice has its own perils. Discretion, as the adage goes, is the better part of valor. But did I exercise my discretion well? Have I not committed a culpa that weighed heavily upon me? What should I do to overcome this predicament? Time alone will heal my inner lacerations. That I hadn’t been indiscreet in trying to live with a woman from another civilization that was antipodal to mine never bothered me. But what worried me most was my inability to meet the challenges I had unwittingly undertaken this dual risk, and I must live up to the expectations of both-my parents and Cathy who entirely believes me. I posted a bunch of Cathy’s poems on the Internet. I even wanted get her poems into book form, but she resisted my attempts to take them to print. But secretively, I copied some of her poems on CD and sent it to a publishing house in Maryland that eventually brought out the whole bunch of her poems in an attractive book form. This was her first overseas publication, and Cathy would not have dreamed that her poems would receive rave reviews.

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“ They are strictly for private circulation, but you had gone too far to give my poems both validity to my felt experiences. You are surely a trespasser” said she with a glint in her eyes. “ Would you mind if I gave a copy to my dad?” “With pleasure,” she said almost firmly, as if to allow me to do just what she wanted. I don’t know how I got into the habit of reading literature but I became a voracious reader too. I picked up the classics and read them at leisurely. This perhaps has helped me to sharpen my understanding of the English and American classics. I maintained personal library and stalked my racks with all recent publications.. Cathy used to take both my mom and dad to the Central library with Neil around. I used to dish out books that interested me, and read them in one go .I must have read “Catch22” several times over, for I was drawn to its weltanchauung and disarming humor. I was happy to see Neil imperceptibly cultivating the habit of reading books of her interest. I thought she would carry my family tradition farther to reach greater heights of fame though I wanted her to be a surgeon and follow my kind of passion and acumen with her Would she be with me till the end? Or would she closely follow her mom’s tradition and become a psychologist? It’s too early to predict, I thought. But what worried me most was the prospect of staying back in America. Where do all my outlandish connections take me? It was perhaps a forewarning to me not be too complacent with what hitherto had transpired. .I must be wary and must not take the things on their face value. Could I ever alter my perspectives? Who knows what is in store for me. My uncle from Kentucky called me up to tell me about his proposed visit to Boston at the weekend. He works as a neurologist in one of the hospitals in Kentucky Perhaps he wanted his visit to coincide with a visit to his daughter who happens to be in one of the colleges in Boston doing her MS “I’m dying to see your parents, you know, how much I care for them.”, he said. I went to receive both my uncle and aunt from the airport. They were just waiting for me at the after they had collected their baggage. It took nearly an hour before we reached home. “ Why did you bring your daughter this far? Does Boston suit Sunita?” mom asked my uncle. “ I wasn’t very particular about the choice of a place. But it was Sunita who chose Boston university” “ Then it’s fine. I had initial suspicion whether she wouldn’t adjust herself into the peculiar atmosphere here.” “ She had a couple of Indian friends as room- mates. She is slowly learning to cook her own food and getting into the spirit of her class mates.” “Okay .I am happy that Sunita has really grown up and so soon,” said dad. “I’m sure, she will surpass everybody here, you know”, mom prophesied.

The Inclusive Truth “ Oh, she’ll surely be a professor at Harvard. I want my daughter to emulate Sunita, the sweetest girl I ever befriended” Cathy said as if she knew her since ages. “Of course, it doesn’t take much time to get used to a new location. And she’ll surely make Boston her home, if the need arose.”, I said.

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We had a sumptuous Indian dinner that night .My uncle left for Kentucky by the evening flight, next day. Days rolled on happily and we were so busy we couldn’t find time to sit up and think what was going on around us. And at each weekend, we moved out to important places, and visited as many of them as possible. This weekend, we planned a trip to Concord that everybody was curiously waiting for. Neil was all enthusiasm when it came to visiting places.. She started troubling mom with a cascade of questions. “ Grandma, could you tell me what this place is famous for? Why is dad so particular about the place.” “ It has a large pond where you could swim”, mom told her. “Can I go for a walk with you?” “O yeah, my sweet girl, we can’t move an inch without you around”. The mention of Walden Pond surrounded by a dense forest must have ignited her precocious imagination. She told her grandma all kinds of stories she knew about the place not knowing that my mom has already read Thoreau’s celebrated book, “Walden Pond.” that contained some of the gems of the author’s recapitulated experiences. For my dad, the visit was a miniature pilgrimage, for he loved the American transcendentalists so much that he speaks highly of Emerson and Thoreau .He religiously collected some small pebbles as relics from Thoreau’s now dilapidated home. As for me, the extreme serenity of the place, and the gorgeous sunset over the hills, are enough to send me into a rapture.. It’s in deed a captivating sight that no one would ever like to miss. We sped close to the pond by ten in the morning and took barely a couple of hours for us to reach Concord, a small place that lies suspended between the earth an heaven, as it were. “ What an ideal place to live in “, dad muttered. “ I now know how fascinating the place must have been for Thoreau to experiment with the life.” said mom, moved by the whole spectacle of the thick forest sand the shadowy serenity of the whole place. “Sudhir, will you please pull off the car off for a while. I want to take the picture of the pond from a distance so that whole pond is captured in the picture.” I pulled off the car into the side way to enable Cathy to take more pictures of the place. She also took some snaps of my mom and dad while they were intensely caught in the mood of contemplation.. The pond is relatively bigger surrounded as it is with tall teak an maple trees. Neil and Cathy preferred to stay back close to the waterfront when I readied to take my mom and dad for a long trek of the mountains. We climbed a small distance and arrived at a single room home where Thoreau lived happily for two years to show the fellow Americans how one could lead a simple life without the ostentations of the modern

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city life and still get the satisfaction of having lived a full, productive life, Thoreau read messages in trees and each cycle of seasons, and his Walden Pond experiments constituted the sum total of the transcendental philosophy he espoused and propagated in his writings. “ I wonder why most of the Americans turned to materialism when so much of happiness lies in simple living.” said dad. “Then America would have remained a primitive hinterland if they had closely followed what Thoreau envisaged. Thank god, they simply took the fringe benefits of the author’s beliefs if not the true spirit..” “That’s true. But where does technology take you to?’ “Into chaos, ultimately”, Cathy said as if she had correctly diagnosed the American malady. “ Yes, she has rightly pinpointed spiritual deracination that America is going through.. Isn’t your country suspended between the two stools, Cathy?” dad asked her. We were interrupted by a familiar voice. It’s Mary who called on us. She had been Cathy’s closest friend who went through all the turbulent times Cathy had gone through. Cathy considers her a true friend . She speaks English like a Spaniard. “Hello Rachelle how are you?” Cathy held Mary’s six-month old baby. “ How are you?” Mary said looking at my parents. “Fine. Thank you. How do you do?” “I’m okay except that I don’t get enough rest when this kid is around. He is too demanding, you know’ she wailed as if her freedom to roam freely is imperiled once for all. “Oh! What a sweet baby!” mom said. “ What’s George doing?” I enquired. “ He’s as busy as a taxi and very addicted to his business, you know.” “ Naturally. How else should the world go?” dad said matter- of- factly. “ George is with the IBM and it all shows how diligent he’s” I said. Neil played with Rachelle all the time, touching his face and his tiny hands and legs. ”He’s so cute” she said. “ Mom, can I keep Rachelle with me?” “ Certainly, darling, if only her mom allows you to. “ Cathy had been very kind to me all the time .I don’t know whether this sweetness flows from her innate goodness or empathic sociability. Ever since I knew her from the days when I started wooing her till I got her hooked to my plan as live- in couple, she never exhibited any tantrums or created disorderly behavior. She has received all my suggestions with remarkable ease though my decisions were a whit embarrassing to her prejudged proclivities. She is a perfect humane person, pliable and resilient, and thoroughly gregarious. This endeared her to my parents, particularly my mom , who saw in her the perfect example of a daughter in law, more in the tradition of an Indian than a

The Inclusive Truth typically detached American. My mom had even brought for her a bride’s sari and a diamond necklace considering that our togetherness would last forever with or without our being conventionally wedded.

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“ I like your parents, Sudhir they are so kind and so generous. They are incredible. I some times have an uneasy suspicion that they are the kindest parents one would wish to have. I would like to stay put with them even if you deserted me.” “Thank you for the unsolicited complements”, I said. “ My parents must have found in you the qualities of a good house wife It’s good if you loved them The same bonhomie should continue to make relationships lasting.” But this didn’t go well. Cathy started distancing from my dad but still loved mom who, she must have felt, was more pliable than my dad. When I told her that mom’s birth day falls on October 27, she plunged headlong into turning the occasion fitting.. She went to the mal and purchased colorful ribbons and balloons and brought a cake to be cut. Neil was all too ready to make the occasion grand. Cathy got up early and Nell too was already awake. They were busy with preparations for the birthday. I found them too busy. “What’s going on? What is the occasion for all these arrangements? Oh my goodness, is it for mom’s birth day” “Oh, yeah, I want to see that the B Day bash is lasting.. I’m going invite a few of my closest friends,” she told me. “ Mom, are you ready. Everything is arranged”. “ Oh! Why all this pomp Cathy? Why not make the occasion simple.” “No, mom. It should be a fitting occasion. Further Neil likes all these festivities. We celebrated Ganesh festival, you know?” What do you do in India on the birth day?” “ Oh, leave it. We will celebrate it with no pomp. Just the distribution of a few sweets among friends, and sumptuous lunch to go with it.” “This is different in here. Isn’t it Sudhir?” “I hope so” I said. My dad was all too happy to participate in the birthday bash. There were ribbons colorfully decorating the whole area. And some beautiful roses added splendor to the whole scene. Neil and Cathy were dressed up in their best. Both Mary and Maria descended on us at the exact time . “ Many happy returns of the day ”, said Maria. “”Thank you so much” said mom. And Neil was ready with the cake. When it is cut, the whole apartment boomed with “ Birth Day songs, sung with the typical American accent which neither my parents nor me fully understood. Even Neil’s accent is different from ours.. When dad asked her about the Remote she displaced, She said: “It must be right up there”. It was music to my ears,

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for she spoke in such a mellifluous voice, I was simply wondering as to how this little kid could master the linguistic subtleties so soon. That’s her mother tongue, I thought. My dad suddenly turned nostalgic about India,, and wanted to get back. “ I cannot stand this atmosphere in this country. I miss the people over there in India, and the noise and stench I’m accustomed to”. “Where would I get all these in America? There is only reverberating silence everywhere. Most of the Americans live in malls and restaurants, and those who are employed who dwell in comforts of the offices. Hats off to America’s great technological advancement and economic boom, its richness of culture and skyscrapers, and the buxom maidens; its material prosperity and fecund literature. Where does it all lead me ? A sense of vacuity still exists in the typical American consciousness. Did you observe this Sudhir?” dad asked me with an air of peremptoriness. “I don’t know how to answer your question. I’m simply carried away by the American opulence and the infinite opportunities the country provided to me. What do you want? I’m happy with what I’ve now. I don’t foresee anything wrong with the American way of life. It’ll be on the top. Do you think that the Third World would ever witness any material change? Don’t tell me anything about its bullshit spiritualism that has neither substance nor meaning. I’m sorry, dad, for being too practical. “ No wonder you are bound to defend as any American would.” “Oh, dad, you still cling to the clichés. The world is rapidly changing for the better, and America is in the lead position. The reset of the world has to emulate the American models and change their cultural and social attitudes and permutations to catch up with America. “ No. It doesn’t help show American nationalism as superior.”, dad concluded. Prof. Hicks had called me one fine evening. He wanted to know the progress of my research work. “I only wanted to see for myself how you are bracing up . Did you get ample critical material? I wanted you to place Naipaul in the main stream of Commonwealth writing where you get plenty of opportunity to bring in juxtapositions with the other cultures. Your dissertation will then be the first-hand explication.” “ I am highly obliged to you, Sir. Thank you for your interest in my work. I am sure I shall leave no stone unturned to make my analysis of Naipaul’s work diligently delightful.” “ You have to untangle some of the critical misconceptions about his non-fiction where Naipaul takes sides. This is a dangerous proclivity on the part of a creative writer according to some critics. You have to dispel this misplaced perceptions about the novelist who is not only fecund but also quintessentially cynical in his comments on the various civilizations and religions-both Hindu and Islamic. He chooses albeit a “middle passage” to outpour his sardonic humor and lacerating irony. I think he is the only writer who deserves a sumptuous commendation.”

The Inclusive Truth Prof. Hick is full of admiration for Naipaul, I thought, and it’s difficult not to believe him.”

13

I wanted to get back home, rather early. I took the train from Cambridge railway station and arrived at downtown, Boston central park, pulled my car out and slowly sped to Washington Square .It was almost four in the evening. I found door was locked. Cathy must have taken my parents and Neil to a near- by mall, I thought. She must have gone to a library. My mom is fond of reading all types of novels, and dad invariably laid his hands on poetry and modern fiction. That was the way they spend their time whenever they happen to come to USA. It’s their fourth visit to the US, if I’m not wrong. Cathy’s Chrysler showed up after sometime. She came down with heavy paper bags, and smiled at me. “O, you were on a shopping spree?” I said. “Did you buy anything special?” “O yeah, I wanted to buy some warm clothes for your mom and dad. Neil picked up this sweater for her. She bought quite a few toys, and some picture- books that fascinated her. I don’t ever know how curious this girl is about reading books at this age. One day, she’ll be an asset to you, Sudhir.” “I’ll get her horoscope done in India. Dad” I asked my dad school boyishly.

Cathy wanted to go to Kentucky to see her parents for the “Thanks Giving Day”, It’s the one festival the Americans celebrate with much élan. It’s the one way of thanking the parents annually. I’ve no idea whether such a tradition exists in India, but I find it interesting as it symbolically prefigures the cementing the bonds of love in time. Cathy is from the lower rung of the American family that survives on hard work. Her dad had been a physical instructor while her mother a teacher of English in a local American school. The family had been living comfortably though, if not luxuriantly. I met Cathy in one of my visits to the Kentucky University where I went as a visiting professor to teach a course in Commonwealth Lit to the graduate students. Cathy attended quite a few of my lectures on Naipaul and Patrick White. “ I’m simply swept off by your erudition. I wish you dwelt more on the revolutionary aspect of his writing, Wole Soyinka whom I consider an equally interesting playwright. “Yeah, certainly, if my schedule permits.” “ I came especially to listen to your analysis of Commonwealth writing that I opted for. It’s indeed a rewarding experience,” she blushed. “O, I’m delighted to have such an understanding disciple as good and participative as you are”. “ Instead of psychology, I went for Lit. Isn’t it weird ?”

The Inclusive Truth “Oh ! I don’t know about your preferences It’s good that you study psychology before you do English the honors as you shower now”, I joked.

14

That was the beginning of our friendship. She came to attend the complete lecture series. I don’t know whether it was out of curiosity to listen to me that drove her to the lecture room but the fact that we met very frequently was very real. I started evincing some interest in her rather disarming innocence writ large on her face. Is she interested in me? I thought. The idea is not bad. Am I being dragged into a relationship ?I don’t have any clue, right now I was still there to spend my weekend. I met her in the mall. She carried a bouquet and a bunch of books. “ Oh, what a pleasant surprise. Has the world shrunk into a ball. .It’s such a small place, you know. You are here again. Who is to be honored with this bouquet?” I asked. “ O sure. It’s for you.” she said and handed the bouquet over to me. “ O, was only kidding”, I said.” “It’s for you I’ve brought, Sir,”, she said politely Her friend Margaret too was with her. “ Yeah, we are serious..”.. “I’m sorry to leave you at this point. Any way, thanks for the bouquet.” I rushed back to my apartment in the downtown. There she was at my apartment the next day. I packed my suitcase and books .I was about to catch my flight to Boston. “Oh, what made you to be here, my fair lady? “Nothing special. just wanted to see you off at the airport.” “ Okay. It’s a fine gesture. I appreciate it with a kiss”. “Oh, it’s okay. But do you know that there’s some selfish motive behind all this façade of civility?” “ Then it, very bad.” I told her and loudly laughed. I came back to Boston with a fusillade of unresolved questions. Though I fell back into the routine, I was not completely oblivious of whatever that had happened at Kentucky. On one fine evening, when I was on the Atlantic beach, I was astonished to find Cathy with a kid. “ O my God! What a coincidence. You are here again Princess Catherine” “At your service, my lord” she said, and smiled.

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“ I expected this chance meeting to take place, you know. It’s good it happened to me so soon.” Cathy told me excitedly. “I’ll be happy to be with you all my life if it needs be” “ O yeah, you are, for sure It’s good that you made up your mind” “I like your generosity” “O, I’m blessed again Thank you so much. “How long are you going to stay here? Why don’t you come to my bachelor’s apartment?” “For a week, perhaps. I came to visit my sister.” Te next day, there she was at my apartment at exactly seven in the evening. She was in the green tea- shirt and blue jeans and a broad smile smudged on her face. A plump figure with a typical maidenly appearance, she showed up, I thought when I opened the door, “Welcome to my humble abode. Please feel comfortable. What would my princess like to like to have?” “ Coffee will do for me”, she said. “ Okay. This fairest lady would be served with coffee in the shortest possible time.” She started carefully looking at every object that caught her attention- the picture of dad and mom, the laptop and the TV. It was truly a bachelor’s apartment. Things badly needed to be rearranged. “ You know, I scarcely get time to organize each and everything. This is what I prefer to live by- a disorganized life with no scent of a woman around.” “It doesn’t matter. I’ll neatly arrange everything, if you don’t mind my doing it in my way.” “O, sure .It is a pleasure to see you doing my job,” I said, and stealthily looked at her well- shaped contours of her body. She immediately plunged into action and within an hour everything was in the right place. “Thank you sumptuously for your kind help .I now know how nice would everything look if they are diligently arranged with feminine touch”. “It needs a woman’s expertise, Mr.”, she replied and broke into a loud laughter.. She was with me all through the night. We were lost in the slumber of darkness, and don’t know how many times I made love to her. She slumped into a sweet dream, as it were, and this unexpected bonanza must have brought her close into epiphany she was expecting all through our intimate relationship.

The Inclusive Truth She woke up at six in the morning and said:” I’ve got to go. I’m already late. Will you drop me at my sister’s house which is not far away from here.” “With pleasure”, I said.. I sped close to Charles’ street, left her at her sister’s house and bid god bye.

16

She came to see me again on the weekend. I took her for dinner on Sunday. She preferred Indian vegetarian food. “Oh, no. I would prefer Indy food. And when you are here with me around, my choice for the Indy food is not unnatural, I suppose.” “I’m blessed, my lady. What do you have?’ “Rice and palak”. “Okay. These are like Greek and Latin to me.” We sat in the Taj restaurant for a long time, talking of many more things-about India in general, about my family antecedents, my sisters and their husbands, of the murky American politics and the Presidential faux pas in Iraq. “ Mr Bush has badly burned his fingers .He shouldn’t have gone in for the regime change in Iraq. That has cost America dearly”. “The war on terror has morphed into a war on Islam. Mr Bush has irritated the entire Islamic world. The war on Iraq was a practical blunder that America has committed.” I continued. I dropped her at her sister’s home and sped back to my apartment. It was ten in the night when I reached Washington Square.o a deep slumber thinking of Cathy and her friendship. Could I enter into a relationship with her. What about our cultures that are astringent? Would my parents accept Cathy into my family? There were several questions that had no easy answers.

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The Inclusive Truth CHAPTER II ____________

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I received a call from India, quite unexpectedly at the most ungodly hour of two a.m. It was mom who called me to inform that my dad had suffered a heart attack and he had been operated upon. “ He is okay. It was all done in a hurry, for we couldn’t leave anything to chance. Both of Mira and Sushi were of immense help to me. Hadn’t your sisters extended their help to me, I would have troubled you. We never wanted to disturb you.” She went on reassuring me that everything was fine. “ You could call up your dad in the morning “, she said. I was shocked and petrified. How could my mom keep everything in secrecy? If anything adverse happened to dad, I would have guilty forever. “Oh, mom, why did you maintain silence? Didn’t you feel that it was your duty to keep me informed of whatever that goes on in the family? It means you have no faith in me.” “That’s not true, my son. .It was your dad who wanted me not to disturb you., and I was only following his instructions.” “ Okay, mom, I’ll get the earliest flight to India. I’ll be there within the next forty -eight hours. Please ask dad not to be worried.” I called on Prof Hicks and informed him of everything, and took leave of him. I was ready to take my flight to India, the land of Mahatma Gandhi and the land of my forbears. The Air India touched down the Rajiv Gandhi Airport exactly at twelve-thirty AM. My eldest sister’s son, Sundar, came to the airport to receive me. He spotted me from the baggage collection center and smiled at me. And when I reached him, I took some of my baggage, and walked towards the parking area from where he hired a cab. He gave the cab driver some directions and it was almost one-thirty in the morning when we reached home. Dad was still recuperating in the Apollo Hospital.. I went to see him at the hospital and I was the earliest caller, it appeared .I found dad browsing the newspaper He saw me and feebly laughed. “ When did you come? Hope everything is okay with you?” “Thy are doing okay. Dad, why didn’t you inform me when you were to undergo major surgery.” “ Everything had gone off well. Don’t you worry. Try to be comfortable as long as you stay here.” dad said as if to reassure me that all was well.

The Inclusive Truth “Okay, dad, get well soon, I’ll stay back here for till you are completely recuperated.”

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As I had very little time, I was left with no option than to visit a few places of importance in Hyderabad. I took a cab and went for a stroll on the Necklace Road that borders the Hussain Sagar. The imposing Buddha statue looked cool and serene in the night with florescent lights lighting up the face of the Buddha. The lake itself was a pool of light. The road was broadly lit as if it stood ready for some festivity. I walked down the whole distance covering up NTR Gardens, The Times giant sign board and returned on the same route till I reached the imposing gate to the Tank Bund. This is the area that’s bound to attract the attention of the walkers who would prefer to jog It’s almost walkers paradise. At the other end of the road, there’s an Imax theater and Macdonald’s food joint. It’’s a new addition, I thought. I had French Fries and steaming coffee. I went into a Orient Longman’s to find out if it had fresh additions of new fiction. I saw the whole bunch of novels written by Jhumpa Lahri, Kiran Desai, Chetan Bhagavat, Robin Sharma, Salman Rushdie and V S Naipaul. And a few novels of Henry James, an odd assortment, I thought. As I was left with very little time, I rushed to Lad Bazzaar that’s close to Charminar. The imposing structure built about four hundred years ago, Charminar has still retained its pristine glory The four minarets, tall and imposing, stood as architectural marvels .The wide space down in the middle of the four pillars was designed to invite air and light from four sides, and the traditional designs and carvings on the pillars go to show the their impressive power on the Nizams of Hyderabad who ruled it for several years apace. Charminar has a pride of place in Hyderabad, and in fact the twin cities of Hyderabad and Secondrerabad are identified with this pervasive symbol of Charminar that explains the very raise de tre of its cultural moorings. I wanted to buy some bangles to both Catherine and Neil to show them how much I still care for the Indian traditions though I keep up my post-modernity in my outlook. Even Catherine knows that I’m not given to pretensions, and almost wear my heart on my sleeve. “Am I not straight in my attitude and judgmental valuations, Cathy?” I asked her once. “ Yeah! You are. I’m happy about it.” she said rather lackadaisically. That’s way back when I first met with her in Kentucky. My dad was back to the normal in a fortnight. And I was all set to be back in Boston via England and France. In fact, I had a plan to have a brief stop over in both London and France but for my protracted vacation .I had to rush back to catch up with my academic routine. I missed both Cathy and Neil and I couldn’t drive them into the limbo of forgetfulness though I was preoccupied with dad’s post-operative care. Neil lingered in my memory, for she’s such a sweet baby that deserves all parental love and affections. Cathy spoke to me twice to inquire about dad’s health and recovery. “ Don’t worry about me and Neil. Take care of your dad, and see that he recovers speedily” ,she said,.

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“While I take care of your little daughter. Everything will pass off smoothly, and don’t be worried about us.”. That’s Cathy, bold and spirited. She’s a true American who has the courage of conviction to withstand the tumultuous ups and downs. I knew she would never lose her calm. She has a capacious heart to empathize with and heal the sorrows of others. And I’m really proud of her genuineness of spirit and sympathetic understanding. That’s what the quality that pulled me towards her, and that made me very obsessive about her. Had there been no Catherine, I would not have been what I’m now, for she’s a constant source of strength and inspiration to me. “ Cathy, I’ll be back soon “, I said. “I’ll be with you in a couple of days”. “Oh, really? You’re welcome back to Boston, Sudhir’, she spoke rather lengthily about her feeling of aloneness and about her time spent with friends and her umpteen visits to the library with Neil around. Of course, I know that Neil is both strength and reason for her joi de vivre. Cathy and Neil came to the airport to receive me. She hugged and kissed me as soon as she reached me.. Neil gave me a peck on the cheek and cooed; ”Welcome back to Boston, dad.” “Thank you. My darling baby”, I said and laughed. For the first time, I felt that my life would be empty without Cathy and Neil, for they gave me the reason for me to be in the business of life. “Ah! Cathy I missed both of you. Do you know how vacant I was all the time? O God! Never separate me from Cathy an Neil.” I said loudly, unable to control me emotions. Cathy laughed, and said: “ I know how much you care for us. Don’t be sentimental, Sudhir, every thing will pass off “ “I’m contented”, I said like a man crying from the rafters. Days rolled into weeks and weeks into months. I fell into the routine, and Cathy was as busy as a taxi. She used to take Neil to the school and drive her back in her brown Chrysler. And picked up a few things for me from the grocery shop. It was she who had to do all the shopping .She used to prepare an elaborate list of items to be fetched from the Sam’s Club, a few clothes from Sears. We used to visit a nearby mall to spend time and do some shopping. And I never said” No “ to Cathy when she demanded that I should take her to a place of her choice. That’s the proximity we used to enjoy in the initial years of our coming togetherness. It all was like an extended dream- a dream of satiety and fulfillment Gods must be crazy if they ever chose to disturb us.

The Inclusive Truth

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Then came fall and winter in quick succession in Boston. Though Bostonians are used to the quirks of winter, they weren’t ready as yet to take the bull by the horns. here that many facets of reality were woven into the multivalent life. Cathy became nostalgic whenever we take a trip into memory lanes. It was the month of August, way back in 2003 when I landed in Boston as a Research Scholar. It took several months for me to get acclimatized to the new place, and new environments. Fortunately for me, there were many Indians who lent me their unstinted support, and turned me into a hard- core Bostonian with same gut feeling as most of the new comers to Boston should get into, if only they would like to shine in this part of the earth. One has to understand the New England culture specific and perceptively move into its weltanchauung. And it’s Boston that made me what I am to day, a bold and adventurous guy from another culture transplanted into a different civilization. My proclivity to live with a woman from the culture other than mine has raised quite a few questions that remained unanswered till the end. For my parents, it remained an enigma, and for Americans it was simply a fetish. I had to strike a balance between these antithetical perceptions, and move confidently into the future. Obviously, it wasn’t as easy task as one would have surmised. For Catherine and me Boston was almost idyllic, for the seemingly large city became a launch pad for all my dreams and vision of the ambrosial future. It’s here our love blossomed and became fossilized into mutual trust. There were no hiccups, no ups and downs. Cathy had been a devoted friend; a devout acolyte and she had gained enough confidence to brace the future eventualities. She had very often visited the university, and I don’t know why she developed a peculiar fascination for Cambridge. The large university campus must have attracted her. Or else there must be some compelling motive to belong to the university alumni. Of course, it’s natural for a woman of her caliber to cultivate such a desire to be a part of the academic community. “Cathy, I sometimes feel that you could have been my link to Harvard’s large community. I don’t how you missed it.” I said. “ I had a strong desire to continue my studies at Harvard. But I fortunately chose a different way- the way to a fructifying experience of falling headlong in love with you. Isn’t it an achievement? I want to go nothing farther than this. For me, love is an epiphany, a satiety close to the dream realized.” She came close to me hugged me passionately as if to endorse her feeling. “ Oh, me? Of all the creatures. I’m beholden to you, my prices” I said and kissed her. The night was rather inordinately long. How I wished that it continued till eternity. Cathy has a peculiar flair for partying. She often throws lavish parties to her friends on every important occasion, birthday bashes included. She attends parties

The Inclusive Truth without fail, and if the party is by an Indian, she makes it sure that Neil is dressed up suitably in some Punjabi dress or the typical Indian silks.

21

“That’s the way to come closer to Indians. My accent may not be palatable to them, but they understand my concern for them. Isn’t it the surest way to make my presence felt?” she said rather unselfconsciously.. “I’m sure your methods are impeccable. And so your deportment. I don’t ever understand why you begin to identify yourself with conglomerate cultural groups.ld easily fit into their cultural ambiences without exhibiting your American hubris. Does your compassion overtake your assertive Americanness?” I asked her. “Ha! Whichever way you interpret. I simply would like to identify with people from divergent cultural background. It gives me some vicarious pleasure, you know, Sudhir. How I wished to be reborn as an Indian, or a Mexican. Thse cultural tags are painful to me. Remove them, and you are a mere a homo sapien. Bravo, I thought. She seems to have inherited the syncretism from her mom, and rugged individuality from her rather assertive dad. She’s a thinking woman, I thought, and wouldn’t stand any indoctrination from any end. She’s difficult, and I cannot cozy her up. What a stupendous loss would it have been had I not roped her in. We went to George, a doc who worked in the Veteran hospital as a cardiologist .He is abrasively suave and gentle, and is not given to any superior airs. That’s the quality that makes him the gem of a man, and he has cornered all the hosannas from both fellow Americans and Indians as well.. “Hello, Sudhir, how are you? “, and he looked at Cathy and said:.” What a fine couple you both make .I envy you, my friend” he said. “That’s what you are, George.” I received his compliments with gusto while Cathy simply paid no attention as though George’s remarks were inconsequential. “ Hello Cathy, how are you doing? Oh, Neil, you are so cute”. “ I just wanted to see for myself how both of you spend your spare time. What’s up, Mary?” “Fine. Everything is in order. George has vouched he would spend this weekend with me and Rachelle”, “That’s nice. After all, he’s a responsible hubby, you know. Aren’t you George?” Cathy said. “ Thank you so much for your timely suggestion. Now I know that Mary has someone to confide in.” “Oh, why don’t you make yourself comfortable. Shall we have some drinks, Sudhir?” “That’s fine. I’ll have some beer.” “That’s fine. How is your research work progressing ? “ “ A snail’s progression. I’ve been to India fortnight to see my dad and mom that took away all my euphoria. Of course, my dad is now doing okay.”

The Inclusive Truth “That will pass off. Don’t worry everything falls in its place,” George reassured me. “Let us have our dinner’, Mary said. It’s only six thirty in the evening.

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“ Sudhir, I’ve a question to ask. Why doesn’t Cathy work somewhere? She is young and enthusiastic. I see no point in her sitting at home without any preoccupation.”, said George. “You’re right. I told Cathy to find some job now that Neil is four years. We can put her in some school.”, I said. “Oh, yeah, I’m ready to hunt for a job provided it allows me the flexible timings so that I can take care of Neil and office work,” said Cathy. “ Right now, there’s a vacancy for a psychologist in the rehab center of a hospital. Are you ready, Cathy?” asked George. “Yeah, if the hospital allows me the latitude I wanted.” “O, sure. You’ll grab it” , George concluded. That’s what the Georges are. A nice American couple who had a clear perspective and vision unlike the others. They are atypical Americans, I once said. They are far away from the usual gossip and rumor mills. These qualities endear them to anyone who comes close to them. I never forced Cathy into a job hunt, for I felt she needed to take care of Neil, and once she turns four years, things will sort themselves out. Thank god, the suggestion came from George, and not from me. Had I informed her of the necessity of her seeking a job, she would have misunderstood me. Cathy must have realized that staying at home all through the day is a colossal waste of time. How long could anyone sit back at home even if it meant absolute freedom? Anything in excess is reprehensible. Doesn’t Cathy know this? The next day, Cathy got Neil admission in Sycamore School that’s way from our apartment. She told me she would leave Neil at the school at 9 am and pick her back at 4 in the evening. And she got the flexible time from the hospital authorities to start with. “Let me wait and see if very thing falls into place,” she said. She sounded optimistic to me, and it’s a good to be optimistic. “I appreciate your resolutions. Please go ahead, and I stand by you,’ I told her to boost her morale. “I’m happy, Sudhir, George is right. It never occurred to me to be how lavishly I spent my time? O my god, I must recover the time I had spent vaingloriously. A part of the blame I must apportion it to you.” “ I know what you’re driving at. Okay. Let us look forward to an ambrosial future.” “ We haven’t lost anything. All that we need to do is to recover the lost ground,” she said philosophically.

The Inclusive Truth

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It all happened otherwise. There are bound to be umpteen future shocks that awaited me. Cathy no doubt got her economic freedom, but simultaneously I lost mine. I had to drop Neil at school and bring her back too, after school hours. Cathy’s flexible time offer by the hospital authorities had dropped off with a heavy thud, and she became more and more preoccupied. I had even to do some household chores as the occasion demanded. O my god, where did you take me to, Dante’s purgatory? That was perhaps a part of life-be ready for a few adjustments and a few sacrifices if it needs be. Are these manifestations of some deeper malady? Who knows whether Cathy is trying to put to some tolerance test? Hardcore American that she’s, she is bound to nurture some suspicion about me. And she must have some hesitancy in accepting my traditions, and my customs that may have sounded queer and quizzical at times. There can’t either be a total acceptance of the other culture or a total denial .A compromise perhaps would have better suited her, but how long does it last? I’ve every reason to be satisfied .I’m happy with whatever academic distinctions I won. I’m happy about my financial stability, for I get what ever I want within the confines of my scholarship .My commitments are limited only to Cathy and Neil in America, and I’ve nothing to worry about my dad and mom. They can take care of themselves. The only irritant in the otherwise my impeccable life is my preference to live with an American woman out of marriage that’s unthinkable to the conservative Indian parents who must have felt that I out did my brief. But never did they point out that belied their hopes. It was only my dad who once expressed his resentment of my living out of marriage which was bizarre and unethical as he pointed out. But when he landed in America, he seemed to have changed his perceptions since he started loving both Cathy and Neil. My mom instantly fell in love with both, for her love for me seemed to have far outweighed all other considerations. In simplistic terms, the cultural divergences make a significant difference both for Cathy and me, for it this cultural divide that either sunders or seals the relationships. Cathy is well aware of this even as I’m, but we pretend that we are unaware of this basic differentiation with the fond hope that things would sort themselves out in course of time, and once we get to know each other, and adjust to the changing situations, we would fall in line. This is the sanguine hope that united both of us, and nothing would stop us from going strong from one situation to the other. Cathy so far never ever took objection to my ways as I did to her perceptions. It is this mutual understanding of each other’s necessity that glued us together, and there’s no reason to fall apart unless either of us attempt to stall the agreement we reached or drift everything to a topsyturvidum. I’m an incorrigible optimist and so is Cathy, and neither of us is ready to upset the applecart. We were destined to come together, and no force on earth can upset the life- boat we were sailing in-no storm, and no temperamental incompatibility.

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We decided to visit Washington DC in the Spring break, and Neil was all enthusiasm when I told her of the plans. I thought I could take Neil around the museum, art gallery, the Washington monument and the Presidential palace. This trip would thus be useful for me to break the tedium and the academic routine. We booked a sprawling room in Hyatt as it was close to important places that we wanted to visit. The Union Station was an impressive architectural marvel, and we traveled in the underground train many times to gain intimacy with the place. Dupont Circle was the most attractive place for Neil, for she listened intently to the song of an American country sung by a bearded music lover who sang to the accompaniment of guitar. I don’t know why she took fascination for such a wayward song, and the deportment of the singer must have surely enthused her. The next day, I took Cathy and Neil to the modern Art Gallery. Neil was simply dumb found, for she understood very little of what it really meant except that she glued her attention to various colors and lines, and brush strokes that went into the shaping some of the celebrated works of the American and French and Italian painters. And it was the science museum that really held up Neil’s attention. The huge skeletal structures of the dinosaurs, the airplanes and the rockets held a beautiful spectacle for her. We went to the Washington monument in the night. From there we walked up to Lincoln statue. The long fountain that reflected the glory of the monument from one end and the huge statue on the other gave the whole place unmatched beauty. We were simply flummoxed by the white moon caught in the still water of the reflecting fountain. The sheer brilliance of the place goaded us to stay back in Washington for a couple of days more. Cathy was awfully tired. We went to Taj Hotel to have some spicy Indian food. Again we had to take the suburban train to Arlington, and when we came back, it was already ten. We fell on the bed like logs of wood, and I don’t know how long we slept. By the time we woke up in the morning, it’s almost twelve. The sun started whipping, and we thought it prudent to stay back in the hotel till it cooled down. “Cathy, something has happened,’ I said to elicit her response to my rather incurious query. “ Nothing serious has happened. It’s only the figment of your imagination that makes this small change so perceptible.” “ Is that so. But see a change in your attitudes and your perceptions of everything that concerns me, and India.” “Oh, don’t you worry over much about variations in my ideas. I feel they are rock solid. If there is any change, it’s only your protracted visit to India that must have brought about a revaluation of your American perceptions. Am I right?”, Cathy said. “ Maybe. I must clinically examine everything before I come to final decisions,” I said.

The Inclusive Truth

25

Time passed off. I fell into the routine. Cathy was as busy as I had been.. There was nothing that could bring us to a collision course as culturally dissimilar as we were. “East’s east and West ‘s West”, I thought. O my god, why did you put me in such a predicament where I can neither fit in nor wriggle out.I was rather insane to choose what’s not to be chosen. I committed a mistake in going ahead with my precocious perceptions about cohabiting with an American woman without ever trying to verify the consequences. What wrong has Cathy committed to be deserted and left alone to fend for herself? I was to be blamed if it all our relationship was ever to be snapped.. But history tells a different story. It’s nothing but foolhardy to talk about cultural assimilation without verifying the fact that two individuals with asymmetrical customs would never get into a meaningful relationship.