Archive for the Diaspora Category

A Case of Exploding Mangoes by Mohammed Hanif

Posted in Action / Thriller, Current Affairs, Debut, Diaspora, Dictators, Espionage, Farce, Historical/Biographical, Humor, Military, Mystery, Nobel Prize, Pakistan, Presidents, Satire, South Asian, Terrorism, World with tags , on August 3, 2008 by Ishrath Farhana

A Case of Exploding Mangoes
Category: Contemporary Fiction
Format: Hardcover, 336 pages
Publisher: Random House
Price: $29.95

Many people compare A Case of Exploding Mangoes by Mohammed Hanif to Catch 22, but I don’t recall enjoying Heller as much as Hanif. There are far too many pages where I was snorting and cackling and laughing till my sides ached. To desi readers, the cultural perspective lends exquisite piquancy to this tale of Who killed President Zia ul Haq? Twenty years to the date, it is still anyone’s guess why Pak One fell from the sky that summer, and Hanif steps forward with a multi-starring cast of possible assassins, with their own reasons to hate the dictator.

Underofficer Ali Shigri, the son of the revered and much-decorated, late Colonel Shigri, is our main narrator. He doesn’t believe that the colonel, found hanging by his bedsheet from the ceiling fan, has committed suicide. But he is in worse trouble when his roomate and best friend, Obaidullah goes missing, and he is hauled into interrogation into a Mughal dungeon by Major Kiyani of the dreaded ISI.

The most  engaging parts of the book are undoubtedly those that depict Zia, whose years of power have left him “fattened, chubby-cheeked and marinating in his own paranoia.” His piety is a chilling contrast with his violence, much like the opposing directions of his slightly cockeyed gaze. The man who breaks down during his prayers is the same despot whose prisons are full of dissenters. His frequent consultations of the Quran for meaning doesn’t mean he won’t order the stoning of a blind rape victim for adultery.  Was he a pious Muslim controlling what he saw as Pakistan’s moral decay, or an opportunistic leader who manipulated Islam to remain in power?

However Hanif also presents Zia sympathetically. There is something childlike about his need for attention from the First Lady, and his dependence on his ambitious and treacherous inner circle. His security chief “has done such a good job of conducting him  through the milling crowds, General Zia had started to think of himself as a man of the people.” America had made him into a hero in their proxy war against the Soviets, one of the 10 men standing as a bulwark between Communist expansion and the free world, so that he fancies himself as a receipient for the Nobel Peace Prize.

It is hard not to feel sympathy for the slightly henpecked husband, squabbling with his wife. And how can you really hate a President who is forced to prop his chin on the national flag while having a taciturn doctor giving him a rectal exam?

Hanif makes brilliant sketches of the coterie surrounding General Zia. The information minister is “a devious bastard with a fake MBA, making his fortune by ordering useless books that never arrive for military libraries.” Military officers are the kind of men “who pick up a phone and a bomb goes off in a crowded bazaar.” And famously, The only person who voiced his thoughts was General Akhtar, a former middle-weight boxer, a clean shaven man of tribal origins, who was packed with so much dignity that he could have been born in any country in any of the five continents and he still would have become a general. His ability to carry himself with martial grace and his talent for sucking up to superiors was so legendary that according to a joke popular in the trenches, he could wipe out a whole enemy unit by kissing their asses.”

Mohammed Hanif exploded on the literary scene suddenly, putting Pakistan on the map, and the deceased dictator firmly into our collective consciousness. By now we have all heard about how he trained as an Air Force pilot, pounded the beat as a journalist, then moved to London to become the head of BBC’s Urdu Service. However, nothing one can say about Mohammed Hanif beats what Hanif has to say about himself, “Once upon a time, when I was 18…

If a book can make a wave, A Case of Exploding Mangoes has been creating turbulence ever since it arrived. It is not being published in Pakistan, where it may have ruffled a few feathers. Of course, there are omnious parallels with the present situation in the country – the war in Afghanistan, Americans running all over the place and another General as President. The powers-that-be do not like to be reminded of their blatant hypocrisy or deep-rooted insecurities. It has also made it to the Man Bookers Longlist this year, and I am rooting for this book.

Then there is that intriguing first line, “there is an ancient saying that when lovers fall out, a plane goes down.” I was reminded of Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s words about Pakistan’s souring love affair with America. They have  been  rendered immortally by Noor Jahan here:

Unccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri

Posted in Diaspora, India / Indian, Literary fiction, Short Stories, South Asian, Women on April 29, 2008 by Ishrath Farhana

 

With this book, we become conscious that Jhumpa Lahiri is not an immigrant. She is a child of immigrants. In Unaccustomed Earth, she writes with simple grace about the burdens of these children – the weight of their ethnicity, and the weight of their immigrant parents’ dreams and expectations.

In “Only Goodness”, a stroy about a family trying to deal with their son’s alcoholism:

That’s the problem with this country,” her mother said. “Too many freedoms. Too much having fun. When we were young, life wasn’t always aout fun.”

Sudha pitied her mother, pitied her refusal to accomodate such an unpleasant and alien fact, her need to blame Amerca and its laws instead of her son… Her parents had been blind to the things that plagued their children: being teased at school for the color of their skin or for the funny things their mother occasionally put into their lunch boxes, potato curry sandwiches that tinted Wonderbread green. What could there possibly be to be unhappy about? her parents would have thought. “Depression” was a foeign word to them, an American thing. In their opinion their children were immune from the hardships and injustices they had left behind in India, as ifthe innoculations the pediatrician had given Sudha and Rahul when they were babies guaranteed them an existence free of suffering.

This is a book that will wind up on everyone’s summer reading list. Lahiri’s characters are familiar and endearing, and their stories will tug at your heartstrings.

Lahiri sometimes gets criticized for choosing the same milieu and the same class of Ivy League privileged Bengali families in the US. She responds to criticism about her Bengali-American centered subject matter:

 ‘Is that all you’ve got in there?’ I get asked the question all the time. It baffles me. Does John Updike get asked this question? Does Alice Munro? It’s the ethnic thing, that’s what it is. And my answer is always, yes, I will continue to write about this world, because it inspires me to write, and there’s nothing more important than that.

           Jhumpa Lahiri, reading for International Readings at Harbourfront, Toronto.

She read marvellously from “Hell-Heaven”, the 2nd story, and arguably the best one, from this beautiful collection. 

The Toss of a Lemon by Padma Vishwanathan

Posted in Brahmin, Canada eh?, Caste Relations, Current Affairs, Debut, Diaspora, Historical/Biographical, India, India / Indian, Prejudice, Racism, Southeast Asia, Untouchability, Women, World with tags , on April 11, 2008 by Ishrath Farhana

Hardcover, 640 pages

Random House Canada

Price: $34.95

In her debut novel, Vishwanathan tells the tale of Sivakami, a child bride in the 1950’s, and her early widowhood. She is married to Hanumanthrathnam – an astrologer with a reputation for healing, with an unconventional friendship with siddhas. Hanumantharathnam dies promptly on the date he predicted, leaving Sivakami to care for a daughter, Thangam, and their son, Vairum.  

Sivakami’s oddessey extends into several generations of children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

One expects The Toss of a Lemon to seize the issue of caste relations in its teeth, because there is simply so much to say about the recognition of caste injustice in Tamil Nadu, the formation of a Dravidian consciousness, the backlash against Brahmins. However,  Vishwanathan prefers the minute day to day activities of a Brahmin household and describes everything with rigorous and relentless domestic detail, and glides over the larger issues of the day, quite a feat in 600 odd pages.  

With Bapsi Sidhwa’s Water, we are sensitized to the plight of the widows, but one finds it extremely hard to feel sympathy for Sivakami because of her extreme orthodoxy. It is difficult to look upon her as a victim, because her caste and her harsh observance of its tenets gives her a sense of inviolable superiority over everyone.

From an anthropological point of view, this is a detailed day to day chronicle of Brahmin life. The most uncomfortable aspect is the whole idea of how every other thing “pollutes” you, how touching even her children during daylight hours pollutes Sivakami’s madi state, sipping chai from a cup will pollute you, putting lips to tumbler is polluting, the shadow of a lower caste person will pollute you, and if someone throws somethng as unchaste as a slipper at a Brahmin, he is positively uncasted.  

One does not know what a reader who is not from India will take away fom this book, but an Indian will struggle for  objectivity. A non Brahmin, and possibly Brahmins from our generation will have to contend with the distaste that the apparent racism-as-a-way-of-life that this book generates. Perhaps one will be forced to recall old indignites at Brahmin friends’ homes, where an aunt or a granny may have barred one from the kitchen.

It is a tough book to read, and bitter to swallow. However in the way it deals with such issues it is a book that simply does not live up to its promise. The promise of a fresh and exciting new voice to the firmament of Indian fiction. The promise of sinking one’s teeth into the touchy subject and pernicious continuity of caste injustice in India.

The Hungry Tide by Amitav Ghosh

Posted in Amitav Ghosh, Current Affairs, Diaspora, India, India / Indian, Literary fiction, Southeast Asia, World on February 13, 2008 by Ishrath Farhana

Ganga flows, tamed by Shiva’s locks, across northen India. Where Shiva’s jata ends, Ganga erupts out of the fringes and empties into the Bay of Bengal. 

The river delta creates a vast archipelago of islands, the Sundarbans, where mangrove jungles grow quickly on land not reclaimed by the tide. The tidal surge from the sea can cover three hundred kilometers, constantly reshaping or devouring islands, with just the tops of the jungles often visible at high tide.

It is home to the Bengal tiger, huge crocodiles, sharks, snakes, impenetrable forests – and a few people trying to scratch out a living. I did not know much about the Tide Country, but after having read The Hungry Tide, I find it imposible to forget. It is a compelling story, full of ideas and no easy answers. 

Piyali Roy is an American scientist who has come to study the rare Irrawaddy dolphin which lives in the rivers of the tide country. Kanai is the owner of a successful translation business in Delhi and comes to the island of Lusibari. He is being summoned by his aunt, Nilima because of a package left to Kanai by her late husband, Nirmal, which has just been found some 20 years after his death.

Nirmal and Nilima came to the Sundarbans when his revolutionary ideas became too dangerous in Calcutta. Nilima founded a cooperative which brought help, medicine, and ultimately a hospital to Lusibari, while Nirmal spent his career as headmaster of the local school.

For a short time while Kanai was visiting his aunt and uncle as a youngster, a young woman named Kusum passed through their lives. The package now left to Kanai contains an account of the events at the end of Nirmal’s life, which revolved around Kusum, her son Fokir, and the catastrophic struggle of the dispossessed to form a new society on the island of Morichjhãpi.

Of Morichjhapi, Lotus Reads says,

Morijhapi forms the most powerful backdrop to events and issues addressed in the novel. Morijhapi was declared a protected area by the Union government as part of Project Tiger launched in 1973 to preserve and protect the dwindling number of tigers in Indian forests. In 1978, the island was taken over by a group of poor and defenceless Bangladeshi refugees, seeking to set up an egalitarian world, free of maladies of class, caste, religion and poverty that had plagued them till date. But it was not to be. Clashes ensued between the State and the settlers. The Left Front government of West Bengal was determined to evict the human inhabitants in favour of its animal populace, which finally resulted in a police shoot out that killed scores of these helpless settlers and forced the rest to flee the island. The memories and memoirs of Morijhapi form a haunting prelude to the novel.

Piya is a woman used to the solitude and rigors of the life of a scientist working in the field. Piya often works in areas where she knows neither the customs nor the language, and can survive for days on just energy bars and Ovaltine as she studies river dolphins, and here she falls into the company of Fokir, who is fishing for crabs with his son. Fokir brings Piya to Lusibari, where the paths of Piya, Kanai, and Fokir all merge.

Ghosh creates a setting where everyone is on an even footing. The hostile environment erases all societal strata because everyone is an equal in the struggle to survive. This is a life Kanai doesn’t understand. In the Sundarbans, his wealth, servants, and pride have no value. While he feels himself to be superior to Fokir, on the river he needs Fokir’s skills to provide for his survival. Piya, who feels closest to the animals she studies, needs Kanai’s translation skills and Fokir’s local knowledge of the river and wildlife for her to do her research.

At the center of all these relationships is Fokir, perhaps the truest soul in the novel. He’s an illiterate man, but possesses more knowledge of the river and its wildlife than all the outsiders who don’t understand him.

Piya feels an affinity for Fokir and his life which matches the rhythms of his environment. Kanai, attracted to Piya and envious of Fokir, decides to accompany them on a trip up the river to study the dolphins. The three of them embark on a trip into the heart of the tide country which will bring lasting change to all of their lives. 

The book has been reviewed here by Qalandar at Mount Helicon.

The Song of Kahunsha

Posted in Diaspora, India / Indian, World on February 2, 2007 by Ishrath Farhana

The Song of Kahunsha
by Anosh Irani

Paperback, 308 pages, $19.95

Anchor Canada, Random House

When 10 year old Chamdi runs away from the orphanage, bits of glass from the spiked wall and the street get stuck in his feet. From that moment, I carried on with the shards stuck to my heart. We follow the idealistic Chamdi’s hopeless quest to find his father, and ending up starving on the streets of Bombay instead.

It is within a good writer’s power to bring to life what everyone has seen but no one has observed, and Anosh Irani is good. Extremes of social inquality and poverty are a sad and visible fact of urban life, and more so in the megapolis of Bombay. The Song of Kahunsha is a painful experience, and one that is guaranteed to refresh the conscience which has become inured to the plight of children forced to live and beg on the street.

Chamdi falls in with a young brother-sister duo who are planning a heist to escape from the poverty, filth, and the gangster Anand Bhai who controls a network of beggars by ruthlessly maiming them. Needless to say, the plan explodes in their faces, and Chamdi becomes embroiled in Anand Bhai’s part in the wave of communal violence that descends upon Bombay in the wake of the demolition of the Babri mosque.

The one thing that you cannot do with Irani’s offering is to hype it up. This is a text that does not lend itself to symbolism or mysterious interconnections. It is a realistic, straight-talking and incisive look at street children. The array of characters like the armless and legless Dabba, the fleabitten “Handsome” and the toy-boy Khilowna, and polio-ridden Sumdi himself are reminiscent of the Beggarmaster’s entourage in the incomparable Rohinton Mistry’s opus about Bombay, A Fine Balance.

Chamdi’s dreams are innocent and precious. He conjures Kahunsha – a place of magic and beauty, full of words that are positive, that can only soothe, never hurt, a place where people are of all colors…He will create a language that “does not have the word ‘No’ in it. Then his request for food will always have the desired outcome.” Who is to say to a boy who believes that imagination has the power to transform all things that his dreams are going to be squashed by the sordidness of reality?

UNICEF estimates that India has 11 million street children, the largest in the world. They are part of organized gangs, they beg and perform, clean trains, pick pockets, steal, or peddle drugs. They sell flowers or other small goods, work as ragpickers, at tea stalls, as porters, hawkers, for as long as 10 to 12 hours daily. There are ways to help them.

The Song of Kahunsha has been chosen as one of the five books that Canada Reads in 2007. Here is the author’s interview with the CBC. 


The Hero’s Walk

Posted in Diaspora, India / Indian on December 9, 2006 by Ishrath Farhana

In a few hours that heat would hang over the town in long, wet sheets, puddled behind peoples’ knees, in their armpits and in the hollows of their necks, and drip down their foreheads. Sweaty thighs would stick to chairs and make rude sucking sounds when contact was broken. Only idiots ventured out to work and, once there, sat stunned and idle at their desks because the power had gone off and the ceiling fans were still.

 

 

It is Anita Rau Badami’s second novel, the winner of the 2000 Commonwealth prize for fiction. Disappointment hangs over the characters like heat that chokes the small town of Toturpuram. It’s so oppressive that only something as brutal as a monsoon can free it. Sripathi Rao is 57, worked hard all his life to do his duty and has very little to show for it. He shares his deteriorating ancestral home with his wife Nirmala, his activist son Arun, his unmarried sister Putti, and cantankerous Ammayya, whose heart was “full of the rage she had accumulated over sixty of her eighty years of existence.”

Sripathi and Nirmala, over the many years of their co-habitation are dulled to mostly friendly bickering. Arun is a continual disappointment to his father, for at 28, rather than engaging in a profession and marrying well, he lives a “hermit-like” existence. Working on a doctorate while engaging in protests and other things that are entirely mysterious to his father.

“What are you involved in now? Henh? Some other saving-the-world project? Why are you wasting your time trying to be a big hero instead of getting a job? Here I am, head full of grey hair, going to work everyday like an ox, and my son sits at home dreaming useless dreams.”

Putti is sweet, loving and badly misused by her mother. At 42, she laments the many suitors that have approached her mother and her brother over the years only to be dismissed on one pretext or another by Ammayya, who wants only to keep her daughter with her until she dies.

Into this quietly desperate family portrait, desolation is dropped. Maya, the beloved and brilliant daughter who went away to the United States, and her foreigner husband are killed in a car accident in distant Canada. In a desperate attempt to convince his daughter to abort what he sees as a social and spiritual suicide mission, Sripathi – in flashback – tells his daughter that if she insists on marrying the foreigner, she will never again be welcome in her father’s house. “If you persist on doing this foolish thing,” he shouts into the phone long distance, “never show your face in this house again. Never.” But never is a long time. Nine years later, Maya and her foreign husband are dead. Their 7-year-old daughter Nandana is alive and her grandfather takes her from Vancouver to a new life in India.

Although the story is compelling, Badami succeeds even more in her lush evocations of Indian life. She finds a wicked absurdity in the traditions of India, though the comedy masks larger, much more pervasive social conflicts. Relating the story of Sripathi’s birth and his parents’ high expectations of him, Badami tells of the visit of the astrologer whose predictions of grandeur Indian parents so desperately cling to

“He shuffled his feet and became ingratiating – a signal for his clients to pay him for his services. The priest found it demeaning to ask for money for himself … After all, he was a Brahmin, not a trader-caste fellow who had no shame asking for this and that.”

The India Badami describes is one in which anything can happen. A hospital stay results in missing organs. Apartment buildings won’t have an elevator because the power likely won’t be on when needed anyway. Politicians are hand in glove with the mafia, if not ex-gangsters. They commision 60-feet hoardings of themselves and will not pay the impoverished artist who paints them. Cows graze in people’s front yards. Old men show their genitals to passing children. Retrieving your bike from a parking space involves having to bribe a cop. There is humor in the descriptions and a clear ring of authenticity. India is vital, recognizable, sad, funny, dramatic and absorbing, without Bollywood melodrama or romanticized exoticism.

Badami has a good ear for local rhythms and dialectal variations. A personal laugh-out-loud favorite from the book is when Sripathi absconds from work and bumps into a colleague at the movies:

“Blood Pressure, eh?” smirked Shyamsundar. “And after watching this sex bomb going tingi-tingi, finished, your blood-pressure machine will burst itself!” He jabbed an elbow into Sripathi and continued. “And thunder-thighs Madhuri, giving all those kissies to hero with her wet sari sticking everywhere… Ayyo! Where will your blood-pressure be, saar?”

“The whole business of living, I think, is an act of heroism,” says Anita Rau Badami, and there are many acts of heroism. Nirmala’s helping Putti to marry Gopala, the milkman’s son. Arun’s social activism in the face of ridicule from his father and opposition from the authorities and the local goondas. Maya’s marriage to a foreigner, without a caste or station. Putti’s dutiful devotion to her mother. Nandana’s silent struggle to overcome her trauma, and struggle to adjust in an completely incomprehensible environment. Sripathi himself.  And even the hateful and termagent Ammaya’s pride is in the end, cast as heroic, when secret of the jewelry she has clung on to is revealed as fake.  in Ultimately, they find heroism in small gestures and in their own courage to move on, and let go of their regret.

 

 

Can You Hear the Nightbird Call?

Posted in Diaspora, India on October 30, 2006 by Ishrath Farhana

It has been one week since I finished reading Can You Hear the Nightbird Call? by Anita Rau Badami, and somehow I keep avoiding picking up another book. I am reluctant of diluting the experience, reluctant to bid adieu to Paaji and Bibiji, Leela, Nimmo. I am still mulling over how politics and history cut a swathe thorugh individual lives. I am looking with fresh curiosity at those of us who left Desh – that common denominator of immigrants from the Subcontinent.

In June 1985, Air India Flight 182 enroute from Toronto to Delhi exploded, killing all 329 passengers aboard. 15 years later in 2000, two Canadian Sikhs were charged with planting the bomb. Five years later, in 2005, they were aquitted due to lack of evidence. The release of this book coincided with the ongoing testimonies by family members of those on the doomed flight.

It has been suggested that Can You Hear the Nightbird Call? is a fictionalized account of the bombing of Flight 182 – it is not true. It is rather a story with the feel of a slice taken from the continuum of history. To begin somewhere, it begins in 1928 with Sharanjit Kaur’s childhood. Greedy, grasping, and endearing little Sharan, with more beauty than it is good to be blessed with for someone of her poor station. Sharanjit, who “steals her sister’s fate” by marrying the man who was intended for her, and moves to Vancouver.

The village and the family that she left behind disappear quietly from the map that suddenly sprouts new borders, new divisions, new countries. It is the Partition of the Desh into violent and arbitrary borders and one of the most tragic uprooting and flight of peoples across the land – peoples who half a century later have not managed to assimilate completely into societies. Racked by guilt, finding Kanwar or any of her surviving children becomes Sharanjit’s holy grail. To find them, and somehow make it up for “stealing” Paaji and living the safe and prosperous life her sister was supposed to live in Canada.

Bibiji and Paaji’s house is “open house” for all new Punjabi immigrants, and there is a stream of them coming through and staying put until they find their feet. When Paaji buys her an extravagant new house, the Taj Mahal, Bibiji rents out her old house to the Bhats. Enter Leela Bhat, the half white – half high-caste Brahmin, wife of Balu Bhat, the Bhats from Bangalore. It is Leela who carries an address scrawled hurriedly by a Delhi cabbie, Satpal. You are going to Vancouver, madam. My wife has an aunt in Vancouver, and if you ever find her… and thus Bibiji is reunited with her neice, Nimmo.

The story sweeps along, twisting the individual strands of these three women into love, neighborliness, sacrifice and tragedy for more than half a century. Nimmo is a mass of unresolved, troubled memories. She thinks she remembers Kanwar hiding her in a bharoli of corn when the mobs come banging on the door in the middle of the night. Her most secret memory is of the terror in her hiding spot, of hearing her mother’s wail as she is raped, and the smell of lavender soap from her mother’s feet as she dangles at the end of a duptta. Soap that Sharan coveted as a child,  that she has presumably sent her sister all the way from distant Canada. The childless Bibiji lands into Nimmo’s life like a whirlwind, and when Nimmo has gotten used to her small kindnesses, used to being in her debt, asks to adopt a son. The brooding and sensitive older son Jasbeer is sent away “to a better life, better prospects” from the straitened circumstances of Satpal and Nimmo. “It’s like sending him to a posh boarding school,” the parents comfort each other.

From there, the conditions are fertile to drive the sullen young Jasbeer into rebelling against authority and later, to fall under the influence of Dr. Randhwa, a proponent of an independent Punjabi state of Khalistan, with tragic consequences. Paaji and Bibiji are caught smack in the middle of Operation Bluestar, where soldiers stormed the Golden Temple to capture the radical Sant Bhindranwale. In the brutal assault lasted the entire night, civilian losses were esitmated to be in the thousands. Soon after, Indira Gandhi is shot by two Sikh bodyguards, unleashing a mania of revenge killings of Sikhs in the following days. Badami has exposed a dark chapter of India’s history.

In an interview with CBC radio, Badami reveals a bit about the dedication that the novel carries “To the man on the bridge at Modinagar”. She recalls that when travelling with her husband by bus to Delhi, “we witnessed how growing outrage manifests against the Sikhs. We saw a man being thrown over a bridge into a dry riverbed; he had been set on fire. By the time we reached Delhi it was like a war zone where many Sikhs had been murdered.”

Badami fails to draw a convincing connection between the violence against Sikhs in India and the act of bombing of AI Flight 182, if there is indeed a clear connection. I also have a contention that she has failed at some level to capture the trauma of the Sikhs abroad at the regime’s suppression and reprisals. Paaji’s benevolent and pacifist mantra of “live and let live” and “separation is a bad thing” was not a popular attitude, but there could have been more empathy towards Dr. Randhwa’s point of view without dismissing it all as self-aggrandizing hot air.

However, she breathes compassion and humanity into all her characters. This novel is fluid, moving seamlessly from cause to effect, action to reaction, incident by incident, individual to individual. It encompasses the immigrant experience in Canada. Bibiji from poor roots, who manages to live the American dream because of her hard work and perspicacity. Leela from a rich background who gives up security, ancestral home, and sense of belonging to come to a place where she will be a salesperson at the Bay for the rest of her life. You will have often encountered Paaji – there is nothing quite like a proud Sardar with a turban, pot-belly and all, to remind you of home in Pardes.

This is a story that had to be told, and Badami tells it with extraordinary compassion and humor.