WATCHING TELEVISION FOOTAGE OF REFUGEES streaming west by their thousands, along the highways of Hungary toward the Austrian border, my first thoughts are about my mother. She made a similar trek, 69 years ago almost to the day, when she was only six. I see her in the girl raised by her father above the fray at the Bicske railway station in Budapest, or holding tight onto her mother’s hand in the throngs filling a nighttime road, led by men using their cellphone GPS to find the way. She too was fleeing war — or more exactly, walking through the heart of it, as what had been the Indian Raj was violently split into India and Pakistan.
Read the full article over at the Los Angeles Review of Books.
Happy to report, the fine people at F-Stop Magazine have published several of my “Samrari, India” photographs in their current group exhibition. The issue is dedicated to black and white photography. Check them out here — and check out the other fantastic work too.
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.
With adeptly drawn characters, Sidhu demonstrates a dexterous grasp of the human psyche, while the prevalence of dark twists displays his love of the fatalistic. This propensity for the morose will be of-putting for some but is sure to please those with a taste for black humor and shades of the diabolical.
Booklist (link here – paywall)
Those very words. I could still feel the grip of his fingers where he had held my child’s arm, his hand, large, engulfing it, fingers touching at the tips. A line of grey already infected his beard, though a young man, yet even then retired, a national name. His beard tied back into a second, scruffy chin, a pink turban, his eyes on me, Watch the ball, not me, and again his voice, Watch the ball! But I always looked back into his eyes. Why was he here, why wasn’t he out there, where the newspapermen attacked each other for his photograph, where the radio sang his praises, where all India looked to the holy dirt his feet walked on? It’s only a game, he shouted. They said he had walked with Gandhiji to the sea. They said that he never, not even as a baby, wore anything but homespun. They said that on every corner he passed, an assassin waited – why? – but that divine forces protected him. I launched the cricket ball into the air, and it fell thudding in the hot dirt only a few feet away, a red, undistinguished ball, and he looked at me as though I, personally, had lost Pakistan.”
— from the story “The Order of Things” in Good Indian Girls. Pre-order your copy here.