1

“ The Inclusive Truth ” 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 Mel is, she perhaps brooks no compromises; much less accept any of my plans for any mutually convincing reconciliation. She is neither inclined to forget nor forgive anything that runs counter to her judgmental values .Of course, I blame myself for having precipitated the violation of the agreement we reached. Why should Cathy be so irascible and so unreasonable? Had she been truer to me and circumspect, everything would have worked out on predictable lines but she kept her secrets to herself and never divulged to me the facts concerning her past. Particularly, when I believed her fully and my love was so total .She knows it as well But why this predilection for self-absorption? I received an email from my dad that reads: ‘ Your mom and I would like to visit Boston and spend some time with you. Will it be fine with you if we schedule our visit sometime in the first week of August? Affectionately.(Dad).’ I called up Cathy to show her the email my dad had sent She was surprisingly happy about my parent’ impending visit to the US. “ Oh! I’m so delighted. I’ve to make all preparations to make their visit comfortable.’ “ August is fine. Shall I email back to my dad to confirm?” “ O yeah! Sure. I’m so excited, Sudhir” she said. That was what I was precisely anticipating. The excitement of receiving my parents to America and introducing my American wife and daughter to the most disarmingly cynical and conservative parents whose acceptance of Cathy into the family was almost a de rigour. my parents wouldn’t be discomfited to forgive my venturing to uncharted watersto commit the culpa of living with Mel out of marriage. I think it’s my three- year- old daughter who must have mollify them and change their perceptions. Somehow, everything is 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 remedy all that initially seemed so incorrigible. Could they afford to lose their only son? Could they be so insufferably traditional?

2 I went to receive my parents from the airport in Newark that was nearly four hours 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 America. After exchanging a few words, we went to a near by cafeteria where my dad and mom had some snacks and steaming American coffee. “ I hope, this will keep you fit to put up with a four-hour journey from here. You could take some rest in the car if you like” I said. “How are Cathy and our pretty and granddaughter?” asked mom. “O, they are doing okay.” .

Mom was jet- lagged and fell asleep after exchanging a few pleasantries, while dad kept me company by inquisitively enquiring about a host of things, including my research work. He had been an academic for about thirty odd years and he knew what was what with a major research project, particularly if it’s in one of the America’s prestigious universities like Harvard. “ O, yes, I’m doing my best dad There are a few distractions and self- imposed restrains.. I’m finding it tough to cope.” “It doesn’t matter. Take your own time” “ Well dad, I think I’ll overcome some of these hazards. Cathy is extremely cooperative.” He must have read between the lines But he started talking vaguely without mentioning the specifics. “ Yes, I’m well aware of your difficulties. But you have chosen to live to live with them.” That’s a suggestive innuendo, I guessed. 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 both of you kept us aloft.” Said mom “How are you getting on Cathy” dad asked. “ Yes, we are getting on well. No hiccups. Thank you so much.” said Cathy “ We don’t want dinner and it’s already past midnight. We just have some coffee.” “That’s fine. I’ll mix some coffee for you both. Please rest, you look so tired.”

Cathy isn’t an early riser. I was up by six and found my dad and mom already had their morning coffee.

3 “ 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 the progress of my research work, and about my life with an American woman. “ We have reconciled to the fact that you did a right thing in choosing your partner. provided your choice doesn’t cast a shadow of doubt upon your life.” “ It’s okay, dad, I’m so happy that you’ve fully understood me. I than k you both for this finest gesture. I hope I’ll pull through with your blessing. Cathy and I were apprehensive at the beginning, you know. Your disapproval would have cast aspersions on the arrangement we both made .I’m so happy about it.” Neil was dressed in Punjabi ‘kurta’ and’ pyjama,’ and she looked so cute that my dad went close to her to hug. “We will take her to India and put her in some renowned corporate school. Do you want me to go in with such an arrangement?” 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 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 over- revulsion of and hyper reaction against my living with Cathy out of marriage, and all that goes with outlandish alliance. It’s Neil who seemed to have brought in a fresh lease of life 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 about my parents’ love for me and my daughter, and their eagerness to forget and forgive, she was forced to alter her perceptions about my parents. This happy turn of events must have emboldened Cathy to cementing her ties with my parents, and she nearly forgot the count of time in trying to placate 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 otherwise would have remained a drab affair 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 irked them, but there has been a change in their attitude Their understanding of the American society and culture which they thought were too elusive and diametrically opposed to the traditional Indian values 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 affection and sympathetic understanding of my plight.

4 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 England’s veneer. The sprawling Science Center and the vast, almost colonial ship yard reminisces you the charms of 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 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 both Boston’s oldest university which is both its pride and possession.. Its tall, red-bricked buildings amidst the oak and maple trees and vast meadows make it one of the oldest of the universities in America. 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 too There are many Indians working as soft ware professionals. Its oldest Railway system is a special attraction to many, and it is a pleasure traveling by train, hustled into the compartments and meeting a conglomeration of humanity .To step into the portals of Harvard is like getting a new lease of life and of freedom, for it gives a luxurious feeling of greatness and strangeness. I became lyrical and told my dad:: “ Rich was it In that dawn to be alive/ To be a young was very heaven,” quoting Wordsworth. “ Dad, I’m so lucky and so happy to be one of its Harvard’s alumnus. I wish to be here as long as I stay put in America, for I cannot resist the temptation of the academic excellence that it provides.” “ Yes, 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 sauntering in the beach .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?” Mel asked her. “Grandma doesn’t need it. She can’t swim”. Neil said and laughed. The beach was full as it happened to be a weekend. Neil joined the small crowd of children and started playing with them, while I took my dad and mom to the oceanfront. 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 seemed to revel 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

5 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 could be a repository of happiness for my parents who never let lose a single opportunity to be close to her. Cathy seemed to be simply floored by my parents’ affections, for Neil that went beyond the seeming peripheries of cultures, and traditions. She is their grand daughter whether she is half-Indian and half- American. We later went into Charles’ Street and had cappuccino and chocolate coffee in the sprawling cafeteria while Cathy and Neil preferred ice cream We walked into the center of the town with its vast park lined with a variety of flower trees, and fascinating swimming pools. It was in deed a colorful cavalcade of beauty and elegance that seemed to have been woven into the tapestry of Boston life. Coupled with it is that unassailable American affability which is bound to fascinate the visitors. Here is no trace of artificiality in their life it is genuine, flowing and agglomerating. This typical American pride is what makes them a race of rare people who would never not genuflect even before the hardest tests they were forced to undergo in fighting terrorism let loose by the Islamic fundamentalists, I thought. I was a busy week with library work. I was to collect and collate a vast chunk of critical materials I found on Commonwealth writing to provide the basis for my dissertation that required both visceral analysis and erudite explication. My research supervisor, Prof. Hicks would never permit to write my dissertation until he is fully satisfied that I examined all relevant material I had. He asked to bring into my research genuineness and authenticity, and a certain catholicity of purpose that alone would buttress 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. The exacting standards of the Harvard will force you to sit up and think whether you are trying to achieve the near impossible. There were moments when I wanted to call it a day to and take up the teaching job in some college or university but for the constant encouragement that 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 avowed beliefs and valuations. They are merely a statement of man who suffered the carping sense of rootless-ness and this sense of non-belonging seemed to have haunted him all through. Naipaul turns 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 uncharted waters of 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

6 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 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. “ Yes, Prof.Hicks, I was precisely intending to take this line of argument. But I was rather discouraged in ferreting out some of the facts sui generis about the novelist who has the breadth and vision of Naipaul especially among other Commonwealth writers. I don’t know I would 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. I went into the cafeteria to be able to brace up to the task. Cathy and I had been to Dr Shantha’s home on the weekend .Dr Shantha is from Allahabad in UP while my parents preferred to stay back at home. She was a family doc and we had promised to 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. .

7 Cathy was watching “Autumn in New York” on the TV. The Neil was asleep. There was silence every where except for the music on the TV. Cathy seemed to have been lost completely in the spirit of 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 overtakes her at times when she is 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 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. I was sandwiched between two uncertainties, as it were. I can neither be helpful to my parents in India nor to Mel who entirely depended on me for a prop. My aging parents needed my full support as my father has already turned sixty- five. My mom is sixty and needs somebody around to support her. My staying put in the US as a green card holder 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 and all that. She would be form some respectable family, with a decent upbringing and habits .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.” “They are right here, in America.” “Mom, I don’t live for others.” “You could have at the most told us about your preferences.” Dad mildly reprimanded. “ We too did something for you. How could you take such a decision.” “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.” Dad was telling me. “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 going on in me ever since I 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

8 committed a culpa that weighed upon me too much? What should I do to overcome this predicament? Time alone will heal my lacerations. That I hadn’t been indiscreet in trying to live with a woman from another civilization that is antipodal to mine never bothered me. But what worries me most is 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 web. I even wanted get her poems into the book form, but she resisted my doing it for her. But stealthily, 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. “ They are strictly for private circulation, meant only for you., but you had gone too far to give it my poems both validity and legitimacy.” Said she with a glint in her eyes. “ Shall I give a copy to my to my dad “ “Oh, yes, I don’t mind doing this. I need your dad’s opinion” she said, almost punctiliously. I don’t know how I got into the habit of reading literature but I even became an avid bibliophile. I used to pick up the classics and read them in one go. This has helped me to sharpen my understanding of the English and American classics. I maintained a personal library and stalked my rack with all the recent publications.. Cathy used to take both my mom and dad to the Central library with Neil around. I used to ferret out those books that interested me, and read them in one go .I must have read “Catch22” umpteen times, for I was drawn to its weltanchuung and disarming humor. I quoted many of the passages to Cathy verbatim.. The powerful writing coupled with its risible humor made the book a modern classic so that every literate man knows the tricky catch22 situation. It has thus passed off into a catchy phrase that everybody uses to describe a piquant situation where one is caught unaware. This apart, I read many American poets out of curiosity, and my favorite is Emile Dickinson. Her terse but pithy phrases, and dexterously conceived images render her poetry a superb statements of love and frustration.. I read many of the poems of Robert Lowell, too, and I was floored by the opulence of his knowledge. Strangely though, these literary works put in fresh bouts of enthusiasm in me. I must have inherited this streak from my dad who taught English Literature for the Indian graduate students and retired. Even my mom; who is a postgraduate in Philosophy, read more literary works than books on philosophy under the benevolent influence of my dad. 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 literary heights, though I wanted her to be a surgeon and follow my professionalism and acumen. 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 gone on .I must be wary and must not be complacent to take the things on their face value. Could I ever alter my perspectives? Who knows what is in store for me.

9 Dr Rahi, my uncle from Kentucky called me up to tell me about his proposed visit to Boston in some time by the weekend. Perhaps he wanted his visit to coincide with the visit of to Boston “I’m dying to see your parents .You know how much I care for them.”. His daughter was a sophomore in the local college, and he wanted to meet her too. “ 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 the place. But it was Sunita who wanted join the best college in Boston.” “ Then it is fine. I had initial suspicion whether she would 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 to be ruggedly independent so soon,” said dad. “I’m sure, she will surpass everybody here, you know”, mom prophesied. “ Oh, she’ll surely be a professor in the Harvard University, one day. I want my daughter to emulate Sunita, the sweetest girl I ever befriended” Cathy as if to certified as if she knew her since ages. “Of course, it doesn’t take any time to get used to a new environment. And she will surely make Boston her home if the need arises.”, I said. 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 places as possible. This weekend, we planned a trip to Concord that everybody was expectantly waiting for. Neil was all enthusiasm when visiting places.. She started troubling mom with a farrago 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 content of recapitulated experience. For my dad, our visit was a miniature pilgrimage, for he loved the American transcendentalists so much that he speaks highly of Emerson and Thoreau . He religiously

10 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 the car out of the road 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 the car off 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 the one-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 ,city life and still get a 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 materialistic pleasures when so much of comfort lies in the simple living.” said dad. “Then America would have remained a primitive hinterland if they closely followed Thoreau. Thank god, they simply took the fringe benefits of the author’s transcendentalism, and not the entire spirit..” “That’s true. but where does all your technology lead to?’ “Into chaos ultimately”, Cathy said as if she had correctly diagnosed the American dilemma. “ Yes, she has rightly pointed out the 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 went through .Cathy considers her a true friend and philosopher in the typical American linguistic outfit. She speaks English like a heavily accented Spanish. “Hello Rachelle how are you?” Cathy held Mary’s six-month old baby. “ How are you?” Mary said looking at my parents.

11 “Fine. Thank you. How do you do?” “I’m doing 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 ,at times ,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 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. “ 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

12 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, 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 go 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 to? 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.”

13 “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 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.” Prof. Hick is full of admiration for Naipaul, I thought, and it’s difficult not to believe him.” 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 like a school boy.

14 “ Yes, I’ll certainly do it” dad said promptly. He sounded ironical to me. 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 ?” “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. 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..”..

15 “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 via Pittsburgh. “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.” “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 your Highness!” “ 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.” “ O yeah, you are, for sure.”, I said. “I like your humaneness.” “O, I’m blessed again Thank you so much.’ “How long are you gonna stay here? Why don’t you come to my bachelor’s apartment?” “For a week I came to visit my sister This girl is her daughter.” Te next day, there she t the apartment at exactly seven in the evening. She was alone now, with a 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 you like to have?” “ Coffee will do for me.”, she said. “ Okay. This fairest lady would be served with coffee in the shortest possible time.”

16 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 need 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”. “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”. She immediately plunged into action and within an hour everything was in its right place. “Thank you sumptuously for your kind help .I now know how nice would everything look if they are diligently arranged.” “It needs a woman’s expertise, Mr.” She replied and broke into a loud laugh. She was with me for a couple of hours. And all of a sudden she realized that she over stayed. She 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. 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.

17 CHAPTER II ____________ I received a call from India, quite unexpectedly at two AM, the most ungodly hour, I thought.. It was mom who called me to inform that my dad had suffered a heart attack and he had been operated upon. “ He is doing 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? How are Cathy and Neil?” “Thy are doing okay. Dad, why didn’t you inform me when the matter was so urgent?” “ Everything had gone off well. Don’t worry overmuch about the past. Just be comfortable as long as you stay here.” dad said as if to reassure me that all was well. “Okay, dad, get well soon, I’ll stay back in India for a fortnight till you completely recuperate.”

18

.

19