Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Where Are You From?

It depends.

Sometimes, the answer is an “excuse me?” Sometimes, it’s a stiff spine and stiffer upper lip and responding to that narrow question in the narrowest possible way--so the answer might be “Summit,” or “out of town.” If the questioner continues to talk, you may have to coldly suffer through their declarations of love for “Yogh-er” or Beef Vindaloo or the brown-ness of your skin.

Other times, the answer is a widened beam, excitedly bobbing your head, and furnishing an answer that is, technically speaking, accurate only in the nostalgic past. Then you learn about how their best friends in Fiji or Malawi or Yugoslavia or Jamaica or Russia were Indian and how they used to get home-made rotis with butter and sugar or mango chutney and--just you wait--how they’ll surely beat us at the next Cricket match. You get compared to sisters, cousins, nieces, you get tips on places to visit, you get the phone numbers of their aunts and mothers scribbled on scraps of hastily recycled paper.

The answer to “Where are You From?“ is never hyphenated. Unless it’s written. Of course. All bets are off then.


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