My first newspaper opinion piece--not any short letter to the editor--was when I was a few months away from wrapping up graduate schooling in Los Angeles, which was my port of entry to life in these United States. The op-ed was, in retrospect, a terrible piece. But, hey, if my writing and I are works in progress, you can easily imagine that I and my writing sucked big time more than two decades ago.
It was published in the Bakersfield Califiornian--by then I had transitioned to life in Bakersfield. Soon, it was a second opinion piece in that same paper, after I had managed to find gainful employment in the city. A day after that second opinion essay, when the phone rang at work, it turned out to be the beginning of a productive association and friendship.
The caller was a professor at the local university. He was pleased that the opinion author was from India and wanted to contact me right away. He was also from India, and chose to go with a short version of his multi-syllable Indian name. At the end of the brief phone conversation, he invited me and my family over to his home for dinner with him and his wife.
A few days later, we met in the real world. That was the first of the many dinners with Kris and Kirsten. He was only a few years younger than my father. Kirsten was from Denmark--they had met when he was a graduate student in Copenhagen.
Not too long after that, Kris invited us to join them at the local Danish association's potluck gathering. In his uniquely funny manner, Kris added that he was the president of the Danish Association. Only in America can an Indian be the president of a Danish association!
It was but a small gathering. Most of them were even older than Kris. They were all familiar with India as well. One of them, a much older woman, quizzed me about the Danish connection with India. She asked me if I knew about the Danish colonies there. I was so thankful that I knew about Tranquebar--it was not far from where we lived in India. The old woman was pleased that I knew. She then talked about how in their schooling they had learnt about the Danish East India Company, and the Nicobar Islands. She regretted not having been to India.
All the way from tiny Denmark a colony in the Nicobar Islands. Imagine that!
I was reminded of those old stories when I read this lengthy report in the New York Times, about the ethical and legal issues relating to a dead baby among one of India’s last intact Paleolithic tribes in the Andamans. Reading that will be well worth your time, I assure you.
So, why Indonesia in the title of this post? It is easy to forget that the Andaman and Nicobar Islands are way, way out there from the Indian mainland. So much out there that the southern end of this archipelago is less than a hundred miles away from the northern tip of Indonesia's Aceh Province.
It is a small world after all.
As for Kris, one evening he poured wine in two glasses for Kirtsen and for himself while she was making a pizza for dinner. Kris told his wife that he was going to lie down for a few minutes. He never woke up again--a massive heart attack ended his life.