Monday 27 February 2006

Reading and shivering

I've finished the first book, which was 'Madras on Rainy Days' by Samina Ali. Very well written and I've been reading most of the morning so I haven't got any work done. It's written in the first person by Layla, an Indian Muslim girl who has been brought up in Hyderabad and in Minneapolis, six months of each year in each. I have been to a couple of weddings in India, when relatives have returned home from all over the world for the celebrations. A marriage has been arranged for her in India and in defiance she sleeps with an American boy before submitting. She is overwhelmed by the warm and loving welcome she receives from her husband's family but there's a barrier between her and her husband that she doesn't understand fully until later. The author writes about the underlying discrimination shown to Muslim Indians and their (well-founded) fear when a riot broke out.

I was in Madras myself when there were riots a few years ago; a politician was arrested for corruption and her supporters were bussed in from all around to demonstrate. I was on an organised bus tour of the city that day and so didn't know anything about it, but my Indian friends were very anxious as buses can be targeted. In fact one was, students returning from the local agricultural college were stopped and ordered off the bus before the demonstrators set it on fire. But they didn't wait and two girls were trapped and died.

It must be an odd feeling to belong to two countries and yet entirely to neither. Layla says that she is called American in India and Indian in the US, and I can see that happening to an extent because she comes and goes for several months at a time. But surely this effect lessens as time goes by and we all become more cosmopolitan? I don't know how old the author is, but her experiences of even a few years ago might not be so true now.

Just watching the weather forecast. It looks as if the snow I wanted a few weeks ago is on the way. I think I'll go shopping, just in case we can't get down our drive in a day or two. It'll certainly be cold, so I'll have to make excuses to stay in the kitchen and cook big vats of soup and keep warm that way.

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