Wednesday, November 17, 2004

A father without friends

I don't have any friends. I have been living in the US for 5 years now, and I don't have any friends. I wasn't even aware of this fact untill I saw the movie 'Little Man Tate', directed by Jodie Foster, and the kid asks his caretaker why she is so weird, nobody comes to visit her and she doesn't go anywhere. There is a very distinct possibility that my kids would feel the same. On top of all this, I asked my wife, what she thought of my being friendless, and she said that she feels embarressed and guilty about going out with her friends because I don't go anywhere.
Believe me, I wasn't like this, this is recent phenomenon. I had a lot of friends in India, too many in fact, and sometimes it was a struggle to balance everyone.
At the same time I chose not to maintain my friendship with people who I was friends with in India and refused to be friends with lots of people I met here. Why? It is hard to explain, I blame it on the freedom of individuality in this society. Let me give an example, this one guy was a good friend of mine in India and he lives in NY now, inspite of the proximity, I ignored him till he stopped calling me. He is a male chauvinist pig and a blatent racist, this did not bother me in India, but here it hurts even to talk to him. So I chose not to be friends with people whose values did not seem progressive enough. Similarly there are south asian activists in NYC I wanted to be friends with but did not succeed, they probably though I was conservative and mainstream with a wife and kid and the rich Indian history of fucked up values (which might relatively be true).
I am a PhD student and I can be friends with Americans in my program, but somehow it is not genuine, there is always the divide of "us and them". I once went out for drinks with them and an Indian girl in the group started explaining the concept of arranged marriage while the others listened with fascination, I wanted to get up and run into the huge mirror on the bar.
I have a couple of things to say about this, first, on a macro level, why do people who were acceptable in India suddenly loathsome in the US. As I said, the culture of collectivism in India to the culture of individuality in post-mordern societies influence this process. Thus the absolute hate for republicans by the democrats etc, the question then is, are we not losing something vital by not embracing (or atleast accepting) the difference in values? How can change occur if there is no dialogue or communication between different kinds of people?
Second, I am not bothered at all by the fact that I don't have friends, this bothers me more then not having friends as it implies that the future in all certainity is going to be friendless. So I should begin preparing answers for future questions by my kids and stop thinking about it.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

The dilemna of being an Immigrant father

Last week, my wife was parking her car (in Sunset Park, where we live), and this asshole white boy who was drinking on his porch started making comments about how immigrants don't know how to drive or park their car. My wife, she is a labor lawyer and a wanna-be radical and a south-asian, lives for such moments. Her curses in English and Punjabi can make a grown man wince with embaressment. Unfortunatelly, the white boy was drunk and he walked over to her and was threatening her when I ran out of the house.
In the argument that ensued, he called me a lot of things, including a terrorist, a hijacker and other such things such as bitch, chicken curry etc. He wanted me to hit him, and I really, really wanted to hit him. But I have a son, a brand new toddler, and we live on the same street, so I turned and walked away. He laughed and said I should go back from where I came and I just cannot forget these words.
Two things to consider here, first, how does my being a father influence my decision to confront a racist or any other asshole. Common sense and my wife say that I should walk away if the situation beomes dangerous, but is that what I should set as an example for my son? Shoudn't I be a pillar of uncompromising values and self-respect and other such bull-shit?
Second, it is true that this is not my country, I am from India though my wife and son are Indian-Americans and America is their country. I might become a citizen and shift loyalties, but the guilt will always stay, and so what kind of a father will a not-my-country/I-cannot-fight kind of a guy be?