a publication of
the forum of indian leftists

Volume 1: Number 2                 November 26, 1997

Letter to India Abroad

Amitava Kumar


Washington--Convinced she was about to win the National Spelling Bee,13 year-old Rebecca Sealfon from Brooklyn, N.Y., shouted each letter of her last word into the microphone "e-u-o-n-y-m" and raised her arms high. She beat out Prem Murthy Trivedi, 11, of Howell, N.J. Prem lost after he added an extra "l" to the word "cortile," a courtyard. Sudheer Potru, 13, of Beverly Hills, Mich., came third. (Associated Press)

I need to look up the word "euonym" in my d-i-c-t-i-o-n-a-r-y.
"Euonymous: Well or felicitously named, as in, The Peace Society and its euonymous president, Mr. Pease."
Prem Murthy Trivedi from Howell, N.J., and Sudheer Potru, of Beverly Hills, Mich.,
and there must be many others,
Deepa Rao, 12, from Jacksonville, Fl., and Renuka Ghosh-Michaels, 14, of San Diego, Calif.,
these are the born-again Indians of pages 45 or 47 of next week's India Abroad.

One Mr TV Raghavan from Houston will write that this is the best news he has heard
since Vishwanthan Anand beat the computers 4-2 in the Dutch tourney,
"including the one named Genius which had already beaten Kasparov previously in rapid chess."

There is Senator Jesse Helms on page 16 of my last India Abroad.
Sen. Helms responded to an invitation by the Indian American Forum for Political Education
  and its euonymous president-elect, Swadesh Chatterjee, to help celebrate India's
  50th anniversary of independence.
On way to the bold type, the exclamation marks, the box with the word URGENT screwed on it,
I reach at last the Classifieds, past the want ads for motel help, computer programmers, drivers,
tandoori cooks, curry cooks, live-in housekeepers, typists fluent in English, till I am
seeking with the rest of independent India one beautiful girl, convent educated, tall, slim, fair,
charming, caring, humble, from respectable family, open minded with traditional Indian values.
Two columns to the left of "Restaurant for Sale under $60,000" and right next to "Photo Lab Must Sell Due to Health" is one that reads:
  "24 and 29, handsome, tall, citizens with mixed blessing of eastern and western cultures are seeking women, 22-28. Contact:".

Dear Editor, Prem Murthy Trivedi, Sudheer Potru, Deepa Rao, Renuka Ghosh-Michaels, TV
  Raghavan, Swadesh Chatterjee, and citizens of mixed blessing a.k.a.

You have in your possession/words
to spell and to sell/tell me

how many "l's" are there in "loneliness?"
Why have these words become meaningless to me

Ma ghar aaunga
to tumhare liye kyaa launga?
When I come home
what will I bring for you, Ma?
You invite Jesse Helms, the euonymous head
of the Foreign Relations Committee,
to tell you about your independence
and he does
praising you for the opening of the market
of "the world's largest democracy" to the US
and you who print news-reports
of your sons and daughters winning quizzes
with the correct names of fossils and the T-Rex
why didn't you ask Jesse Helms if he knew the
between Bhagat Singh and Manmohan Singh?

What link do I have anyway to the world's
  largest democracy
that is ever worth more than a 49-cent-per
  minute calling card?

That is why
I sit here turning the pages of my India Abroad.


Tu kisi rail-si gujarti hai,
Main kisi pul-sa thurthurata hoon.
You pass-by like a train,
I shudder like some bridge.
   (Dushyant Kumar)

Like any other self-respecting
progeny of Bombay films
I cannot stop myself from incongruously
  bursting into song
with the nightingale of post-independence India,
  Lata Mangeshkar
fresh from a concert at the Royal Albert Hall:
Tum na jaane kis jahaan mein kho gaye,
Hum bhadi duniya mein tanaha ho gaye
You got lost in another world unknown,
I was left in this whole world alone....

In the textile strike that started in 1982
  in Bombay
there were 250,000 workers.
You got lost in another world unknown,
I was left in this one alone
with an obituary to a murdered trade unionist
in the pages of India Abroad.

This is not a song, nor is it an anthem.
This is only a letter.
This is a letter in search of the name
of the taxi driver from Queens
who calls each week to talk to his school-going
  daughter in Ambala.

This is a letter in search of the name
of the seventy year-old naani who strains her
  eyes through glasses
to stitch garments for hours in an apartment in
The students in Pittsburgh, burdened with their
own studies,
who printed pamphlets to fight those
who from this distance dream of destroying old

In search of the name
of the young bride
from Rajkot who searches silently for the names
of other women who will help her in New Jersey.

This is a letter in search of the names
of the ones who will teach the sons and daughters
of Indians now settled in San Francisco and Los
the poems of Nirala and Faiz.
Of the ones who hold literacy classes
  so that women can fill out forms
in English and ask a stranger for directions
to a train station when they need.

In search of the names
of the ones who did not write letters home
except to ask "how are you"
for fear that if they said more they would reveal
what had happened to their American dream.
Of the ones who wrote letters and then saved them
in the hopes of using them
to cover the cracks
that kept appearing in their mirrors when they
  looked at themselves.

(Amitava Kumar is the author of a book of poems, No Tears for the NRI.)

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