Wednesday, August 12, 2020

A missing person

The small-talk chit-chat began seven years ago.  A few months in, we were on first name basis.  That was a huge deal given that all our interactions were for a couple of minutes as she scanned my purchases and rang up the total at the grocery store.

She has been gone for a month or so.

Absence of a person during these Covid times makes one worry a lot.  At least, I do.  I did.

Covid has taken the fun out of life.  Over the past months, we stopped trading horrible jokes and puns.  Like, "What is the one food that has caused the greatest grief and misery to humans?"  We barely had the time and the energy to inquire about each other's physical and mental health.  The coronavirus has the last laugh, it seems like.

So, when she has been gone for a month, I worried that it was because of Covid.  I decided to ask about her.

The checkout clerk was familiar with me after these years.  But, we are not on first name basis though.

As she scanned, I asked her, "hey, whatever happened to W? I haven't seen her like for more than a month"

I hesitated to ask even that much.  I didn't want a bureaucratic response like, "you have to ask the manager."  Or worse, for my intentions to be misunderstood.  But, with this clerk, I knew I would not be misunderstood, and that I would get a straight response.

"She had a fracture at home for which she needed to have a surgery.  It might take her another 2 weeks or so. I haven't texted her recently."

I told her to convey my regards.

She will tell me all about it when she returns.

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Dosais for breakfast in the People's House in 2021

I am absolutely delighted that Kamala Harris is Joe Biden's running mate.

A year ago, as the Democratic wannabes were positioning themselves, and when it seemed like Haris was a formidable front runner, The New Yorker profiled this daughter of immigrants--Jamaican father and Indian (Tamil) mother.


Harris' mother was from Chennai.
Harris’s mother, Shyamala Gopalan, the Brahman daughter of a diplomat from Chennai, graduated from the University of Delhi at nineteen, and, avoiding an arranged marriage, went to Berkeley to study nutrition and endocrinology. There, she met another graduate student, Donald Harris, from Jamaica, who was pursuing a Ph.D. in economics. The student civil-rights movement, centered on the Berkeley campus, gave the two young immigrants a shared context. “They both identified as people of color and people who were oppressed by a white-male-dominated world,” Meena Harris, Kamala’s niece, told me. “Their fields were science and economics—there were not many Indian women or black men.” They were married while still in graduate school, and Kamala was born in 1964; another daughter, Maya, came two years after that.
A wonderful immigrant story.  Only in America can a brown-skinned woman come to study advanced science, marry another brown-skinned immigrant doing advanced studies in economics, and have a daughter who grows up to be the attorney general of the biggest state, and then its senator, and now a VP candidate.  This itself gives me so much hope for the country that I adopted as mine.

It is awesome that she embraced the Black identity of hers right from when she was young, which is why she chose to study at Howard.
In her late teens, Harris fell in with a group of friends who were bound for historically black colleges. “We all went to private school, we all were educated, we all were very much parented, but we knew kids that weren’t,” Derreck Johnson, a restaurateur in Oakland, told me. He attended the same Catholic school as Maya, before going to Fisk University, and remains close to the family. “The idea of the struggle was embedded in us from our mothers, who told their stories,” he said. Kamala went to Howard and returned to San Francisco for law school. By then, Maya, who had given birth to Meena at seventeen, was in college, so Kamala and her mother often took Meena for overnights and weekends. The matriarchy was intact.
Kamala is not a Tamil word though.  As is the case with most Brahmin names, it is from the Sanskrit, and it means lotus.

This lively, warm, and absolutely human video of Kamala Harris and Mindy Kaling (also with Tamil roots) will remind you of the kind of empathetic and joyful leadership that we used to take for granted.  It is time to make America great again ... and this time with dosai ;)