Since both authors (Ranjani Rao and Nandini Patwardhan) live outside India, the discussion revolved around ideas of home, identity, and parenting in a new land. There was talk of challenges, but also of hope and opportunity.
2019-07-22 Review of “Women’s Work” by Megan Stack
Megan Stack is a foreign correspondent and has reported on war, terrorism, and political Islam from twenty-two countries. She and her husband Tom, who is also a foreign correspondent, were living in Beijing when their first baby was born. They later move to India where Stack had her second baby. Continue reading “Review of Women’s Work by Megan Stack”
I had a strange experience yesterday. I am not sure what, if anything, to make of it. It feels significant somehow.
I was at the UU Fellowship yesterday morning. Before the service, I lit some candles, as I do on most Sundays, setting intentions for the well-being of my loved ones. A friend (Anne) sat beside me and casually mentioned that it is always interesting to read the little plaques on the backs of the chairs in the row in front of us. The plaques typically commemorate a bygone supporter of the Fellowship.
So, for the first time I paid attention to the plaque. It mentioned a husband-wife duo with the last name of Wiser. Since I was not familiar with the couple, I didn’t really give it much thought.
Following the service, another friend (Jane) came by and sat next to me. After exchanging a few pleasantries, she asked if I knew the Wisers. “No,” I said. “Why do you ask?” Turns out the Wisers went to India in the 1930s and spent a few years working in a remote village. Jane could not recall whether they went to India as missionaries or as teachers. What she recalled is that they lived in a village that had no electricity or running water. “Then they went back again in the 1960s and stayed with one of the families that they had come to know 30 years earlier.”
Why did Anne mention the plaques that day? Why did I read the name “Wisers”? Why did Jane mention the same couple barely an hour later?
The rational scientific side of me rejects the tendency to see anything more than a random coincidence in these random events. But, the side of me that is more agnostic rather than atheist, doesn’t want to let it go.
I am agnostic in the sense that I don’t know for sure that such things don’t happen. I am not an atheist in the sense of firmly rejecting the possibility of any meaning behind such coincidences.
The change in my thinking and temperament occurred over the course of writing and researching the biography of Dr. Anandi-bai Joshee. My research uncovered the fact that just such a coincidence was what inspired an American woman to write to an Indian girl-woman in far-off India and offer help as well as encouragement.
Have you had any such interesting, thought-provoking, and wild experiences?!
This is a review of “Not Native: Short Stories of Immigrant Life in an In-Between World” by Murali Kamma. Five stars!
What I found refreshing about the stories is that they are not about nostalgia and they are not ruminations on identity. Rather, the stories illuminate aspects of everyday lives, ranging from reconnecting with long-ago friends or acquaintances to coming to a new understanding of the old Indian society and the new American one.
“Holi Day in America” is a heartwarming story that portrays a low-key yet deep friendship between Rohan, a young newly arrived man, and David a casual friend of his who, knowing about the Holi festival, offers to celebrate it with him. An exchange between Rohan and David, about their differing views of America’s promise of opportunity, is a gem. Only too aware of America’s underbelly, David is jaded. But Rohan’s can-do spirit is a distillation of the hope with which millions continue to dream of America.
… Being a recent immigrant, the path is more challenging for me, David. I have to pay my dues — at least, that’s how I see it. I made a conscious decision to come here, so I accept that. I was willing to give up certain advantages, because I knew there would be other advantages.
“Fragments of Glass” is a notable story as it delves into India’s caste system and the progress that is possible when individuals take it upon themselves to act with intention to challenge the system. Finally, “Brahms in the Land of Brahma” is about a relationship that develops between an American working in a high-tech city and his Indian host.
In summary, the stories in Not Native are quiet and gentle. But, they are far from weightless. I think immigrants of all stripes will relate to these stories. So will others who are curious to understand the inner lives of the immigrants who live unobtrusively among them with their stories tucked quietly inside.
Today (September 5) is Women in Medicine Day. The entire month of September has been designated as Women in Medicine Month. #WIMMonth.
I am honoring Dr. Anandi-bai Joshee, the first woman from India who became a doctor. My book about her, titled Radical Spirits, is due out at the end of 2019.
Here is a brief summary of the story that my book tells:
In 1883, an unschooled Indian teenager named Anandi Joshee sailed from Calcutta to New York. This was a time when there were no schools for girls in India. Also, doctors (who were all male) could not treat female patients. Having witnessed the suffering of women, Joshee decided to become a doctor so she might provide medical care to her “country-sisters.” Through her achievement, she hoped to help create a culture that saw women as deserving, and capable of, equality with men.
Anandi faced critics in India and skeptics in America. Her two champions were her husband Gopal who had tutored her and fostered her ambition, and Theodocia Carpenter, a New Jersey housewife who had initiated a correspondence three years before, offering “all possible help.” With her determination and grace Anandi won the support of all—American, British and Indian alike—who crossed her path. Three thousand people attended her 1886 graduation from the Woman’s Medical College in Philadelphia, and Queen Victoria sent congratulations from London.
Based on original letters, diary entries, archives and newspaper accounts, the book draws a textured portrait of British India and post Civil War America and the rich relationships that thoughtful Indian, British and American individuals managed to forge by bridging cultural, political and class boundaries.
Who are some of the women in medicine that you want to honor today?
Nandini Patwardhan, co-founder of Story Artisan Press and co-author of the new essay collection, Train Friends – Bombay Roots, Parallel Tracks. Shared Journeys, talks about her inspiration for writing this book.
What is the value of an object? Is it the price you pay for it? Or is it the significance in the greater scheme of things? Ranjani Rao, co-founder of Story Artisan Press shares the story of her first wrist watch bought in Mumbai and why it holds a special place in her heart. Here is a free peek into the soon to be launched essay collection – Train Friends.