I drink coconut water and I giggle.

During a class on the literature of Kannada, I find myself thinking of Camus' The Plague. Except I've never read the plague. Really, I'm just thinking about something that some guy wrote that mentioned The Plague. The professor drones on about how existentialism effected the writers of the modern period. I contemplate smacking the mosquito that just landed on my arm.

Writing and rewriting words that no one will ever read.

We take auto-rickshaws places and we pass walls covered in movie posters. Bollywood, Hollywood, some in Kannada language. Posters on top of Posters on top of posters.

We talk about Kashmir. We talk about partition. We talk about Gandhi and tolerance and the Hindu-Muslim divide. Oh, do we talk about the divide.

We chase things in circles.

You're not Hindu, you can never understand.

Do you think you live in the only place in the world where there is religious strife? Oh, I think I can understand.

But you're not Hindu. You don't live through it. You don't know.

I can empathize. And at least that's a place to begin.

We stare at each other.

So let's begin.

Bats fly through the courtyard and eat the insects right out of the air at night. Some of us stand still when we see them, and others hit the floor. And then we all laugh.

I remember back to the semester I was Spanish/Latin American studies Major. We were reading about El Salvador, or maybe it was Nicaragua and one of the articles said, The persistence of culture is a form of resistance. I wait for the bus and I think of sati. Arranged Marriage. Saris. Puja. Ganapati festivals in the streets. And then I think of the Pillsbury doughboy painted on the sides of buildings. And I can't decide, do Americans really have a culture, or are we spreading a disease? It almost makes me want to cry until I think of dinner at my Aunt's house when I was a kid.

What's that?
Eat it. It's dinner.

And that's when I hear the call home. I want the words of my family around me. I want to write them all down. I want family christmas. The songs nonna used to sing. I want the highland dancing that the cousins are old enough to remember but I'm not. And I want soil between my toes. The soil of places where my forefathers once dwelled.

We talk about worldview. We talk about the typical hero in the American novel. We debate Holden Caulfield. We talk about disquiet and introspection. How our literary heroes reflect our drive towards perfection. Our quests to find ourselves. Our sense that something is wrong, and the thought that the something is us. It's ennui. It's existential angst. Or it's opposite. It's No-logo. It's getting so sick of the corruption around you that you renounce all that is familiar. It's exiling yourself from your friends and family to a foreign country so you can find yourself.


We look at each other for answers, feeling that the other will be wrong.

Over Gin and tonic or Rum and thums up I quote The Wizard of Oz.if I ever go looking for my heart's desire again, I won't look any further than my own back yard. Because if it isn't there, I never really lost it to begin with! .

I recieve blank stares. What? I say. It's good advice. We're not in Kansas anymore. And we all have to laugh at how corny a statement that is. And, how true.

We mime.

I'm trapped in a box.

And my walls are my americanness. My white skin. The opportunities in my future. Everything I take for granted. Eyes follow me when I walk down the street, and I have to wonder what they're thinking. The rickshaw drivers check out my tits while they try to jack me on the fare.

We talk like Burroughs. Whitman. Keats. Our words take on Anglo-Saxon rhyme scheme. We all look at the same thing, but we all see something different. It's a work of art to one of us and a rock to another and Shiva-ji to the next. But we all talk about it in the same terms. We make jokes about Masala. Somewhere between Ashoka and Tolkien I find myself in focus for a moment, but only a moment, and I have to smile because I know who I am. My neighbor asks for matches so he can light a mosquito coil. We talk about the mold growing in the bathroom.

We play Uno. Lots of Uno, and we watch the geckos scurry across the walls.

We talk about dalits. Shankara. The White Revolution.

I exhale and think about how much I have to learn.

We are hungry for books. Hungry for madness. Hungry for life. We scream through books and papers and we wonder if it will ever be enough. If there will ever be a time when there will be no more questions. But we all know better, for we love the questions. The questions drive us forward as we count the days.

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