16 June, 2021

Alphabet Soup

An NRI author's one big exercise in language: stretching ABCD

illustration by Jayachandran
Alphabet Soup

When Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni discovered that the American palate can be tickled by Indian condiments she hit pay-dirt. With books like Arranged Marriage and Mistress of Spices, she struck a rich vein running through the American subconscious—the longing for a lost homeland that characterises the ‘immigrant experience’—and she’s mining it for all it’s worth. In The Unknown Errors of Our Lives, she continues to delve into the mixed up psyche of the

America-Born-Confused-Desi, bringing up nuggets of wisdom about home and the world: Ghare baire with a distinctive West Coast twang: “Home. I turn the sound over on my tongue, trying to figure out the exact tenses in which such a word might exist. The smell of my children’s damp heads after they’ve come in from play? Sandeep’s aftershave, the way it lingered in our first bedsheets? A dim cement-floored alcove in Calcutta, the smell of frying bitter gourd, the marvel in a listening boy’s eyes? Is there ever a way back across the immigrant...

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