After the Party

First published in The Ham Free Press


The lips of the bald man, as he speaks of the “Indians and Pakistanis” he sees at the tennis court, curves into a sly smile. My racism detector picks up the snigger that sneaks through his lament on the status of those work-visa immigrants whose kids get Canadian citizenship by virtue of their birth. After the party, I recall how he tried to herd folks from the subcontinent into “all those IT workers.”

As he keeps probing my husband on his career track, the soft September evening makes me gravitate towards the late-arriving “immigrant.” The Muslim lady from Delhi. We relay hometown bonhomie with hugs and she tells me about her Bengali family — the one from Noakhali she married into. Her geologist husband had shifted base to teach at Aligarh Muslim University. She followed his trail from Delhi to Dubai, where he worked. Later she would migrate to Ontario as a widow with her two children. After the party, I think how, like her husband, she, too learned to measure the worth of soil as she brought up her son and the daughter–now an engineer and a doctor–by cleaning and decorating the finger and toe nails of customers at a salon.

The evening lulls us with its whispers, broken only by the whistle of the kettle the hostess is boiling tea in. Most of the guests have left after ingesting the aromatic lamb curry and saffron rice. We are left, along with the mildly immigrant-allergic man and his wife–beekeepers outside their corporate lives. The over-milked, boiled-to-death tea arrives. The host talks about how the British left behind a legacy of high-tea in the Indian subcontinent. The beekeeper woman shares her knowledge of the same, gleaned off a British historical novel. Her husband asks me and my husband about the type of English we were taught in schools in India. I talk about how it was much different from the American English the internet would later expose me to. After the party, the incredulous, near horrified look on the woman’s face as I told her about a generation of Pakistani writers using the English language with a subcontinental flourish, flashes before me.


Call for submissions: “Here and There: The Diaspora Universe”


UPDATE: The special issue on diaspora living, Here and There: The Diaspora Universe is now up at Cafe Dissensus.

Note: This submission call is on behalf of Cafe Dissensus.

About five years ago, I came to embody the etymology of the word diaspora, which comes from the Greek diaspeirein, meaning to scatter about or disperse. Marriage brought me to Western shores – first in balmy California and later to the Canadian shield in southern Ontario.

I find it interesting that the concept of diaspora has its roots in the earthly act of scattering, because the process of migration is one of dispersal on more levels than merely the physical one.

The drift across different points on a map can’t happen without cross-pollination – of habits and habitats, mindsets and memories. One learns to imagine the koel’s morning call in a robin’s song and see the blaze of gulmohar flowers in crimson fall colours. Diaspora islands germinate amidst fast-paced and crowded world cities even as the islanders strain to tread the tightrope between integrating and preserving.

I will be guest editing a forthcoming issue of Café Dissensus focusing on diaspora living. We will seek to explore through fiction, creative non-fiction, and audio-visual expressions:

1) The reality versus illusion of boundaries with respect to identities.

2) Inter-generational conflicts and contradictions in diaspora universes.

3) The challenges of “settling” in a new territory – societal, cultural, emotional.

4) The rewards of diaspora living – embracing new cultural mores, wider exposure to issues facing other communities, interconnectedness.

5) Translations of fiction and non-fiction work on diaspora.

Along with the written pieces, we are also open to audio-visual content. If you would like to do a short interview (5-15 minutes) with an author, a scholar, a faculty etc., please feel free to send that to us. Please send us an edited copy.

We are also looking to include photographs and artwork that explore this issue’s theme.

Your submissions should not exceed 1500 words. Please email them to and Also, provide a brief bio at the end of your piece. This issue is planned for online publication on 1 July, 2014. Submissions will be accepted until June 25, 2014.

General guidelines are here.

Cafe Dissensus is an alternative magazine dealing in art, culture, literature, and politics. It’s based in New York City, USA.