The Relation

  • We are still standing in the doorway, chatting our way out, aiyo. Typical desis. (h/t @dhume01)

I thought I’d saunter away to the musical stylings of a well-known white man with connections to the mafia. ’Cause that makes sense for this desi blog.

Just kidding. I thought I’d go out myyyyyyyy way. With a point, or attempting to make one. I aim for rallying cry rather than dirge, in keeping with my bullheaded desire to cultivate optimism and seek action.

So here are some things that are related to each other (and the optimism is coming just a ways down the pike, I swear, because most of this list of connected things is comprised of news that devastates):

  • George Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin recently, in Florida. I hope you already know this by now, that Martin’s name is etched in your memory, but if you don’t, here. Go you and read it. And then please sign it, and come back.

Trayvon Martin was a child, a black teenager, and he carried Skittles and iced tea and no weapon. He could have been my classmate, my relative, my friend, my colleague, my teacher, my student. He wore a hoodie. I think of my beard-sporting, turban-wearing friends. I think of the black men and black communities who have supported ­me.

Watch this brilliant and moving response from a set of Howard University guys:

I think of laws that need changing.

I think of Muslim friends, profiled. I think of Tamil friends, profiled. I think of minorities… profiled.

O, failures to acknowledge and mourn the dead, how you haunt me. 

And good God, I think of my own job: I am a fiction writer.

And the last item on this list (which clearly could have included a great deal more)—

Yes, I’m the Sri Lankan chick who went to Harvard, but I’m glad to say I know lots of people who cheered for him with no “connection,” with no self-interest. Because he impressed, and they admired. Without reservation.

Not all of these things are explicitly connected to anything desi. But they are related. We are related. As the collective work of Sepia Mutiny has asked others to not only know but also imagine South Asian(-Americans), the incredible variety our lives contain, I want to exit the bunker and imagine how we might be in solidarity with other people. Other Others, if you will. How can I know their lives? What do we have in common? How can I throw my lot in with those who think imagination, emotion, compassion, and respect don’t default to white, to straight, to male, to able-bodied? How can I do this rigorously, thoughtfully, with humor and humility?

I think that now, to change things, we have to go outside ourselves. Maybe Twitter killed SM; maybe Facebook slayed us. Still, I just wanted to say, I hope this isn’t just an end. I want it to be a turn, a growing. I think it will be. And of course much of this work has already begun.

Poittu Varan / I go only to return / catch you later

And so you may have noticed that I didn’t say goodbye. BECAUSE THERE ARE THINGS TO DO!

I’ve had good times here. I learned an enormous amount. I was a lurker, then a commenter, then a guest, then a regular. I felt a certain solidarity with my bunkermates, even when I disagreed with them. This feeling of being backed-up and valued counted for a lot; it made it possible for me to say things that felt difficult to say. Thanks, bunkermates. I e-mailed you, called you, chatted you and relied on you even when we hadn’t met… and you always treated me as though we had.

SM readers, in their turn, offered thought-provoking, funny, nasty, reasonable, and deeply kind responses to what I wrote. Thanks to them too. Some became real-life friends. We met in New York, Ann Arbor, other cities, other countries. They kept me honest and tested my patience. I cut my argumentative teeth on SM’s threads, made mistakes, corrected, learned, revised, edited, and hopefully improved. Those threads taught me that I didn’t need to have the last word to win an argument, and that sometimes the best response was no response. (Don’t feed the trolls!) I learned to bide my time and hold my temper. Funny thing to learn from the Internet. And hella useful.

And the Interwebs taught me about generosity, too. I particularly remember one insightful, positive, compassionate comment made about two years ago. I wasn’t familiar with the handle; I have no idea who it was. But I have returned to that comment multiple times, to remind myself that people actually did sometimes get what I was saying, that I was allowed to be human, and sometimes even to do it in public. To the readers who took the time to comment when they liked something… that mattered, and thanks so much.

So I will see you again out there again, you know, and I won’t say goodbye. I’ll say—until next time, see you soon, somewhere else, somewhere new.

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