Thursday, September 11, 2008

Let My Country Nap


I am greeted at work with an email from Sara Larsson, the woman organizing the arts event against communal violence. It says:

We read through the monologue and we don’t feel it will be appropriate towards
the theme of the evening.

We look forward to seeing you on Wednesday, we really appreciate your support for this event.

Thanks a lot for contributing and I am sorry we are not able to use it.

Not appropriate. Ouch. She didn’t even give me a chance to revise or write something else. Just a wholesale, round rejection. “We look forward to seeing you.” Right.

I try to be big about it, but my feelings are hurt. Getting called “inappropriate” stings. And it didn’t seem like she was being too picky about who gets to participate. I wonder if I’m the only loser who got left out.

Now I have to tell my coworkers who I invited to come see me that I won’t be performing, which will be embarrassing. I tell Jonaki, then Shabnum, then Amar that they found my writing inappropriate, so cancel your Wednesday night plans. Jonaki asks if I wrote about the necking couple on the bus. Of course I did. I also mentioned people peeing in public, but I could have easily edited that part out if given the chance, not that I wanted to.

I have a sense that it wasn’t any one little thing that got me kicked out of the “Let My Country Awake” show. It was probably the total effect of what I’d written. I don’t understand what they are looking for. They started out explaining that it’s a reaction to the violence in Orissa where Christians are being persecuted by Hindus, but then they said they don’t want the names of any specific places or communities mentioned. Then Sara told me in an email that she didn’t want to focus on hate or division. She wanted to be positive, focused on love and unity. I wrote a monologue, a personal story, about unity. But I guess it’s not unifying enough.

I wonder if it’s not Christian enough, because I actually have some Hindu philosophy in it. I wonder if she really did want to focus on the terrible events that are happening in Orissa even though she told me she didn’t. I take a few minutes and do some research on Orissa and find that it’s not so cut and dried. The Christians there have been trying to convert the Hindus, then there were several events that culminated in a Christian killing a Hindu swami. That’s when things really exploded. All of this is complicated and political. I don’t know enough about it to even have an informed opinion.

I notice when I look at the poster that the tag line for the event is, “To speak for those who cannot speak for themselves.” I don’t presume to be able to speak for anyone involved in these incidents. That’s why I chose to write something personal, something about how I feel unity can work in my own life. I hoped that would be a universal message, one that other people could use to examine themselves. I guess I was just not cut out for this event.

A few hours into the day, I get an email from the head of the newdirections program. She’d like a 300 word write up on the benefits of my assignment so far for the newdirections newsletter. I dash something up and send it off, only to be rejected again. She wants me to focus on business results. She wants to know how the people in this developing economy are benefitting from my knowledge and skills. I had included a list of projects I’d worked on, but this was apparently not sufficient.

I revise my newsletter submission and send it off again, but don’t hear back. I hope it’s just too late in London to get a response. I hope this second try is what they’re looking for. I’m concerned that it’s still not right.

Two rejections in one day. I’m really racking them up. Now I’m afraid that perhaps I’ve had the wrong focus the whole time in the job I’m doing for Pearson. I’m afraid that I haven’t achieved the purpose of the program. I’m afraid that I’ve taken this gigantic opportunity and fowled it all up. I’m afraid they’re going to be sorry they sent me here, or pull the plug or who knows what kind of retribution might be exacted? Big opportunities come with big responsibilities; I know that. I wanted to do such a good job. I wanted to live up to the expectations or exceed them. Now I’m afraid I’ve blown it somehow.

Driving home, I feel so alone. There is no one to share my concern with. I feel like a failure.

The car stops in a sea of traffic at the red light before the river where all the men hock their goods. They see me today and keep walking. This has never happened. Usually they bang and bang on my window insisting I buy bad translations of Paul Coelho and William Darymple, or dubious magazines packaged in plastic sleeves.

I must look terribly upset for them to leave me alone.

This makes me feel even worse. Tears stream down my cheeks as the car revs into gear and we pull away over the bridge.

I try to remind myself of the lessons I’ve learned while I’ve been here. I think of the quote from the Lotus Temple about not being affected by either good or bad events; they are all temporary. I see a beggar on the street and think how much more fortunate than him I am. But none of this consoles me. I’m just feeling rotten.

I feel even more rotten when I notice that the lights are all off as I walk up the marble stairs to my room. The power is out again. It is asthma attack hot in my room on the top floor of the guesthouse.

I was going to veg out in front of the television or work on getting my blog caught up, but these plans are thwarted for the time being. The only thing I can do is walk to the market to find somewhere cool.

Acha and Baby are out on the corner by Mister Kandhari’s house. I pet them and cry, missing my animals back home, knowing I don’t even get to talk to Scott tonight because he’s going out to lunch with a friend. I am alone for the evening. Most nights it’s fine, but tonight I feel desolate.

I think of the book “Chant and Be Happy,” and what it said about food bringing temporary happiness. I think I’ll take even temporary happiness over what I’m feeling at the moment, so I walk to the market to Liquid Kitchen.

But even Liquid Kitchen lets me down tonight. There is no kimchee and no Chinese pickles. The service is slow. The pasta, I guess, is still okay. I don’t even order one of their desserts. And they don’t even have me fill out a comment card. I guess they figure I am a regular customer now. They don’t need to impress me anymore. Too bad. I liked being impressed.

I go back to my room. Thankfully, the power is back on. I jog in place in front of the window air conditioner and watch Last Comic Standing. They are roasting the host. I hate roasts, but I still watch because it’s better than the BBC News which is obsessed with some terrorist trial in London that didn’t go well for the prosecution. Triumph the Insult Comic Dog is on the show. He makes me laugh. It’s good temporary happiness even if the permanent kind is elusive for me today.

Before bed, I check my email. Scott is trying to cash the check that Geico sent after the accident he had with my car, but the check is in my name. He doesn’t think the bank will cash it for him. I tell him I’ll just fix my car when I get home. Why not come home to a cracked up car? Just one more fun thought to top off my day.

I go to bed early, hoping to see things more clearly in the morning. I was so looking forward to this week, looking forward to performing. It’s not working out as I thought it would. But not everything does, and tomorrow is another day. I’m still in India, still having the most amazing time of my life. No one can take that away from me now, regardless of what happens in the future. I will carry these experiences with me for always.


aart hilal said...


I'm a big fan of Paulo Coelho! You will love this! He's the first best-selling
author to be distributing for free his works on his blog:

Have a nice day!


auntlinda said...

what? food brings temporary happiness? so let me get this right. if i eat ALL the time , i will be happy ALL THE TIME!!!!!!!!! I LOVE IT !!! bring on the sweets!!!

Vicki said...


So I don't need to buy the pirated copies in Indian traffic? Thanks for the website. Cool.

Yup, keep eating, Aunt Lin ;)