I am human, and I think nothing human is alien to me.

There was a comment below which I am now reflecting on…that this “This blog pertains to South Asians.” The comment was sincerely made, and I take no deep issue with it.

Rather, I wonder what the purview of pertaining to South Asians is for each of us. Do we all see the same sky above us? Or does where we stand alter the constellations above? Both?

There are so many faces to this question. Some might echo Naipul and suggest that those of us from Muslim backgrounds are shorn from our Indian roots, that we are a people without a spirit. Others might assert a racial component, which in the Western context becomes cloying and exceedingly restrictive. Liminal populations are matters of dispute.

And yet I reflect on my own life, my own orientation, my own upbringing. I spent long enough in Bangladesh as a small child to remember the taste of jackfruit in my mouth…but below are the climatic conditions I grew up with as an elementary and secondary school child and teenager.

I wasn’t born in the cold and ice. But I was raised in it. I was moulded by it. I do not miss the seasons. I do not miss the ice. But the ice is part of who I am.

The cold of winter is deep in my experience, and that is almost one reason that I shudder to think of the cold, and I positively avoid it now that I have a choice as an adult.

And yet this is not typical of the South Asian, Indian, subcontinental, background. It is not part of our deep cultural memory, it is particular to many of us who grew up in the 1970s and 1980s, young children of hopeful immigrants fleeing countries of grinding poverty and deep sclerosis, embedding themselves in frozen landscapes where they traded warmth for hope.

Readers of my other weblog (which as of this current writing is undergoing some maintenance by yours truly) sometimes ask me when I choose to post here, and when I choose to the post there. To be honest that distinction is harder to make for the non-science content.

If there is an election in India. If there are tensions on the border between Pakistan and India. If someone wants to engage in a troll-fest on the Kashmir question. This blog will be a space where those issues are mooted.

But there are more things in heaven and earth, Harjeet, than are dreamt of in your Darśana. 

I think a reasonable position may be “this is a South Asian weblog, this is why we are talking about this.” But, I am very wary of the proposition, “this is a South Asian weblog, this is why we should not be talking about this.”

Seek illumination even if you have to go as far as China, for seeking knowledge is a duty on every human.

10 thoughts on “I am human, and I think nothing human is alien to me.”

  1. I love winter.
    This past winter parts of Panjab experienced heavy snowfall. I remember as I was shoveling freshly fallen snowfall from the front yard and driveway before sunrise, I realized morning snow shoveling was to be my karma that week whether I had been in Panjab or here in Canada. It was a strange feeling that I would be engaged in the same activity of snow shoveling whether here in Canada or Panjab.

    1. Sure, the last time I got to witness the bone-chilling snowstorm in Amritsar I thought to myself how am I going to survive this winter…

      Thankfully due to wahey guru di mehr I somehow managed to escape to the sunnier climes of Lakshadweep archipelago on a dingy boat floating over the molten ice through the barren dunes of Thar, the dead expanse of the Rann and shark infested Pakistanian Sea. Pakistan having conquered Saudi Arabia, had renamed the sea as I later found out.


  2. I was born and raised in the American Midwest. There are elements of your background that I don’t understand, but you geek out over fantasy shows/novels, talk about your atheism, and go into deep dives on quantitative genetics that I wish I understood. All considered, you seem less foreign to me than most Americans.

    1. Well said, Jay.

      I was born and raised on the West Coast in a mostly White society. I’ve had varying views on Whites throughout my life, finally settling down on maintaining my distance from them. But there is no question that in many ways, I am a lot closer to them than I am to people of my land of origin.

      I can’t even speak Hindi without an accent that makes my Hindi/Urdu speaking faculty fall off their chairs in laughter (this almost literally happened once.)

  3. Missed this great piece!

    “…embedding themselves in frozen landscapes where they traded warmth for hope.”

    This brought back those scenes from Mira Nair’s “Namesake”, where Tabu is freshly arrived in New York following in footsteps of her husband (Irrfan Khan), and her first winter.

    The abrupt transition from a humid, lively Calcutta to the severe cold…and its demoralizing, claustrophobic effect on the new immigrant is hauntingly captured. The silence, the metal radiators, the dripping taps and snow out the windows…the goddamn silence.

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