Just up on Salon.com, my new essay. If anyone is wondering, this is not a story — the account is purely factual. Check it out here.
It was the first days of the new year, and thrumming through the soles of my feet was that distinctive, hard-driving rhythm—the dhol drum singing out its bhangra beat. The dance floor was small, swallowed whole in a corner of the underground ballroom, but we were all crowded onto it, celebrating the closing night of the wedding. The speakers strained and gaudy lights painted our bodies in splashes of color and soon, after leaving the dance floor, I watched as a young Indian man newly arrived from a Midwestern city stammered across the ballroom toward a girl he claimed he loved with the simple plan of asking her to dance.He’d come here with friends, three young men looking to discover India, reconnect with their roots, learn something of the land their parents came from. In a minute, he’d be sprawled across the floor, his face streaming blood and I’d be racing toward his attacker, a relative of mine, who now hoisted a heavy steel chair high over his head and was about to bring it down with all his might and crush the foreigner’s skull.
Over at The Story Prize blog, I have a guest post up. Check it out here.
In presenting deeply conflicted characters, and sometimes unpleasant characters, I guess, in hindsight, I was looking for ways to broaden the emotional landscape of much of so-called contemporary Indian American fiction—though perhaps more accurately I was reacting to what felt like a strangled emotional territory. And also to make, in my own small way, a larger claim on the universality of experience, and that it doesn’t have to born out of exhausted tropes— the newly arrived immigrant, the clash of cultures, the relatively narrow emotional bandwidth of adapting to American middle class life.
At night, the junkies take over the square. They are almost vaporously thin, like the dead even before they shoot up. They have ruined most of their veins and bend forward to stick the needle in the backs of their knees or other parts of their legs. The happy ones are curled up fetally, oblivious to everything. A tall South Asian man with a tense, fierce face asks me several nights in a row if I want anything. “Hash? Junk? Anything?”
Read the whole story here.