Inter-ethnic Marriages.

Can’t truthfully say I’ve finished The God of Small Things, but I have gotten far enough in the book that certain things are making me think.

Rahel, the female twin (correct me if I’m wrong because I keep thinking Rahel is Estha and Estha is Rahel because Rahel just sounds a little bit more like a boy’s name) was married to a Caucasian man named Larry McCaslin, which ended up not working out.

It made me think about how there is sort of hesitation, at least in my own cultural community, about marrying out of one’s ethnicity (exogamy), especially those of white-Caucasian backgrounds because they seem to have this stereotype or stigma on them for being only interested in sex, or just not reliable or dependable, or even not capable of making a sufficient amount of money to support a family. Of course it’s wrong and of course it offends me, but I do see where this sort of thinking stems from (and, of course, I don’t agree with it).

Growing up in a very strict culture-based society and then starting a family in the states and seeing people doing and practicing certain things that wouldn’t otherwise have been practiced back in their country of origin is a real shock (::breath:: sorry, big run-on sentence there). I think people tend to associate “good”, “bad”, “appropriate”, “inappropriate” with what they grew up with, no matter how strange and backwards it might seem. It’s not that they are wrong and we are right, it’s just different. Having that sort of they/us division just complicates things unnecessarily.

Yes, like Professor Jani said last week, I think there should be a line where there’s a finite “good” and a finite “bad”. But, all the same, if one group of people has lived with one set of morals and another group with another set of morals, both of these morals are equally different and equally as important to each group of people. If an understanding and change for the greater good must be reached, it must be reached with respect and gradual change on both sides.

Anyway, sorry for that tangent. Going back to my initial thought. The stigma on exogamous marriage is very ironic in my own situation. My fiance is a white American male serving in the United States Navy overseas in Japan. Breaking that relationship to my parents was hard to do, and to some degree, I think everyone in my family is still coping with it and trying to accept it. And it’s all the more difficult because there already has been a failed exogamous marriage in my family of the same kind.

So I guess I started to think about what Larry McCaslin stands for. Is he a symbol of how Caucasians and South Asians just don’t work? Or even how exogamy just doesn’t work? His story seems to be a bit brief to be reading into it, but I guess it caught my eye more because of my own relationship. Don’t get me wrong–I’m confident that my fiance and I will be alright in the end, but when I think about reactions to exogamous (interracial) marriages in my community, I wonder if we’ll be taken as seriously as, say, my parents, both of whom are South Asian.

Then again I also wonder what my betrothed’s family thinks about it all; their Caucasian son marrying a Pakistani Muslim girl who wears a headscarf (am I, as an individual, even taken seriously in mainstream society? Oh hi, Fox News.). So far, his family has taken to me. But not without questions and some occasional conflicts as well.

Yup. Back to reading. See ya in class!!

Oh and here’s some CNN for thought.

Nooo Reservationzzzzzzah

Has anyone seen Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations? I love this show. It’s one of my favorites to watch, especially for global good eats. But I have questions about it now, after learning about nationalism and orientalism. This guy’s pretty crazy with his adjectives and his smarty snooty comments about each country he visits, and he drapes each country, besides Europe, with this weird far-off exoticism and adventure.

I mean, ultimately, he’s just another Western hero looking for “the end of the road” (he says this in practically every episode) in the East.

So, what do you think? I still love the show and I do think Bourdain has a few good qualities and viewpoints, but do you guys see Anthony Bourdain the Orientalist or Anthony Bourdain the Curious Traveler?


Chughtai’s The Quilt — First Thoughts

So, after reading the short story “The Quilt”, I can say I’m pretty much in shock, a little scarred, and confused.

Chughtai’s story is obviously about Lesbianism in Islamic society. It’s very morbid in that it was seen through a 9 yr old girl’s eyes in the idea that homosexuality was an “illness”. Also, I’m not sure what kind of message it was trying to relay. A woman whose husband is implied to be pedophile, leaving her no option of love, deprived of beauty, and with an insatiable itch until her maidservant comes along and takes care of those problems…which was only created because of her husband’s pedophilia, and abandonment of his wife (Begum Jan). Does this act, within the story, as the reason for Begum Jan’s homosexuality?

Then while her niece is visiting, Begum Jan’s illness escalates. There is a scene of implied pedophilia between Begum Jan and the narrator, followed by a bout of Begum Jan’s illness. Begum Jan and Rabbo have no qualms about having sex while the child is in the same room, and the story ends with the little girl witnessing the act itself, after making many excuses for her aunt’s and Rabbo’s behavior.

I guess my main issue is that in the story lesbianism is implied to be some sort of illness born out of a problematic marriage in which the husband bears the fault. Is Chughtai commenting on the perception of homosexuality in Islamic society, or homosexuality itself? What really disturbed me was that a 9 yr old girl was made victim to the entire situation. Was it another way to comment on homosexuality in Islamic society? Or was it a parody of the perception of homosexuality?


Virtual Villagers 5. New Believers (Computer Game)

” Explore the center of Isola in this innovative new chapter in the Virtual Villagers series, while you reckon with a band of mysterious masked heathens, who do not believe in you! Guide your tribe as they attempt to convert the savages, by dismantling their precious totems and removing their scary masks! Make them believe!” via

Yep. This is real. I’m actually a fan of the Virtual Villagers games (through shockwave games), but this….this is really offensive. Basically what this game does is give you a band of little computer game characters, who learn skills over time. How to collect food, how to build structures, how to make babies (yup.), basically how to survive on the fictitious island of Isola.

In this chapter, you’re placed in the center of Isola and you’re surrounded by what the game calls “heathens”. Slowly, you have to demolish their idols, and convert them to your way of thinking. You even have to convert the kids.

You win the game once all of the idols have been demolished and all of the “heathens” have been converted. So yeah, I’m pretty disgusted with this game.

What do you guys think?

Untouchables and Gunga Din

Just briefly:

I thought it worthwhile to mention that I saw similarities between Bakha and Gunga Din in that they both idolized the British way of life. This was seen especially in Bakha’s British military clothing articles, and the way that Gunga Din tried to do the military drills along with the soldiers in the encampment.

Both Gunga Din (more so in the beginning) and Bakha are low in status. Bakha in Untouchables is the “lowest of the low”. The juxtaposition of Bakha and Gunga Din’s poverty and shiny British luxury is stark, especially when the latter adorns the other.

I wonder why Anand would allude to Kipling, but I like what srinidhik (the post before mine) is kind of implying (to me, atleast). Is there honor in being as low in status as Bakha, when his life is so hard and people are unjust towards him? What should he do? What should he aspire to? Should he find contentment in his own poverty, as Gandhi implies, since he’s already a “part of India”?

Just some thoughts.

Thoughts on Anderson’s Article

Anderson’s article “The Nation as Imagined Community” was an interesting read, although I agree with some points, I can’t say agree with all of what he says or understand Anderson entirely. The point I mostly agreed with is the idea of the nation being an imagined community. I don’t know every American citizen or resident that lives in this country, let alone in our small class. However, I do know that since you live in this country, you are part of one of many different communities of American citizens and residents. I don’t have to know you to respect you or to acknowledge you as a part of America.

Perhaps I didn’t see it, but the french quote by Renan was not translated. Here’s the quote in french: “l’essence d’une nation est que tous les individus aient beaucoup de choses en commun, et aussi que tous aient oublié bien des choses.” Translated, it reads: “the essence of a nation is that all individuals have many things in common, and also that they have forgotten many things” (via

I agree. I seem to relate everything in this class to my Irish Folklore class last quarter, but anyway, what I learned in that folklore class was that, according to Henry Glassie who wrote The Stars of Ballymenone (read it.), technology brings comfort to the body, but it also brings moral and social decay. What I take this to mean is (and this is based off of Glassie’s ethnography) that once technology and modern appliances are introduced into a nation or a community, people stop interacting with each other. Community is based on certain values: a hard work ethic, reciprocation, generosity. You feed your hungry neighbor so that when you are hungry, your neighbor feeds you, whether you like him/her or not. In the evening you have your neighbors over so they can rest their tired feet, and have a hot mug of tea, and talk about your days. When people have a TV, tons of food in the fridge, a computer, social interaction sort of takes a backseat, unless it is consciously striven for.

Of course, this is hard to find. When everyone is concerned about making the most money and looking the best, personal success becomes more important than social solidarity. I know the only time I ever see my neighbors is when I’m going to get the mail and they are too. The question I wonder about is, are communities more tight knit when there is poverty and/or less technology? I think this might be the case. When my father was growing up in impoverished Pakistan, there was only one house that had a television in his neighborhood. All of the kids in the neighborhood would go to this person’s house and watch TV. The rest of the time, they would be jumping off the roof of their houses, playing soccer, interacting with one another.

There’s also an implication of this in Attenborough’s Gandhi. There’s a part where Gandhi says that it is impossible to represent India unless you’ve known and seen the people who do hard labor, such as working in the fields, harvesting crops, spinning cotton. There’s a reason why Gandhi dresses the way he does. He doesn’t dress in lavish clothing. He wears a loin cloth and makes his own clothes in order to humble himself and really be a part of India and her community.

Going back to the article, I think that a nation is made up of many different communities. I don’t think it represents one community. These communities have one major thing in common: they are part of the same country. But, these communities have different ideas of what it means to be part of the country. Not every community in India in Gandhi’s time agreed with Gandhi and/or Jinnah. Gandhi himself wanted unification, while Jinnah wanted separation. They were both Indian. So, who decides the nation’s values? Those who live in luxury or those who live without it? Those who agree with a pivotal figure or those who don’t? The majority’s views push the minority’s views into a subaltern state, but who says a subaltern society’s views are wrong, or backwards?

I don’t want to go on about my thoughts about Nation vs Community issues, but I just want to add one thing. In Anderson’s article he states: “The nation is imagined as limited because even the largest of them encompassing perhaps a billion living human beings, has finite, if elastic boundaries, beyond which lie other nations. No nation imagines itself coterminous with mankind. The most messianic nationalists do not dream of a day when all the members of the human race will join their nation in the way that it was possible, in certain epochs, for, say, Christians to dream of a wholly Christian planet”

What I got from this is that nationalism is not akin to religion because nobody dreams of global “conversion” of citizenship to another country. Not in the religious sense anyway. I do think however, from what we’ve read of Kipling and learned of history, that empires do want to dominate the earth. The West has had a history of imperialism and colonialism. What is that if not forced, brutal, political-nationalistic conversion? The difference, perhaps, is that in that era, being white meant everything, if you weren’t white, you weren’t right. But domination of land, spreading Western ideals, forcing people to give up cultural values, i think that’s definitely forced conversion of a kind, and i think it does conflict with the above quote.

Sorry about the babbling. I have a lot of thoughts. Sorry if I was unclear in anything, hopefully I can clear it up for you!


Gandhi Movie for those who are unable to get it

Hey guys, I’ve found the movie on youtube in 16 parts by a user named “AHappyTanpopo”.

here’s the link to part 1, just look to the column on the right side to find the other parts by this user.

It’s a real tearjerker, and Professor Jani was right about Jinnah looking like Dracula. I’m looking forward to discussion on Pakistan and India next class, this movie definitely brought up some questions, and also, there’s very little mention of Gandhi’s participation in the war as was mentioned in class on Wednesday.

Another interesting thing is that the actor who portrays Gandhi is Ben Kingsley. His father was Indian and his mother was English/European.