Bangalore Club

A simple email I got some time ago.

On Oct 13, 2014, at 10:22 PM, Vikram Rajaram wrote:
Dear Shobha,
We have, in the past, been in touch re the possibility of getting you to speak at the Bangalore Club. Your father-in-law was unwell then and I did not feel it was opportune to push it.
Can we pick up the threads again?
Would a slot in the third week of November work for you?
Please let me know.
With kind regards,
Vikram Rajaram

So Vikram and I went back and forth. It ended in a talk
If you are in town and a member of the Bangalore Club, please come.
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Moevenpick

Yesterday, the chef at my reading at Moevenpick Hotel and Spa in Bangalore had done such a nice job with recipes from Monsoon Diary.

He had put a contemporary ‘five-star’ spin on the recipes from the book. My favorite was the poha-stuffed-in-papad and displayed by making holes in what looked like lavash bread. Very creative.
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Book Reading

My friend, Meena runs a book club that is affiliated with the Moevenpick Hotel and Spa in Bangalore.
Meena invited me to do a book reading at the hotel. Since there is a food element involved, I thought I would do something that I have not done in Bangalore– talk about and read from my first book, “Monsoon Diary: a memoir with recipes.” The hotel’s chef is making recipes from the book as well. Since someone asked, there is no fee for this. There will however be beautifully designed hardcover editions of Monsoon Diary for sale at a discounted price of Rs. 300. All proceeds of the sale will go to Unnati Bangalore, an NGO. The reason (besides the fact that they are consistently doing wonderful work) is because any donations that Unnati gets before March 31st will get a matching gift from a corporate. But hey, no obligation to buy the book. Come just to socialise.

Here is the invite. Please come. And if you are coming, please RSVP to Aarthi Kalyanaraman
Public Relations Manager. Aarthi.Kalyanaraman@moevenpick.com
They have limited seating so please let her know if you would.

Look forward to a spicy discussion (lame pun, I know 🙂

Invite for an evening of book reading -Moevenpick Hotel and Spa Bangalore

Here is the menu of the high tea that will accompany the event. The chef has come up with some creative scrumptious eats that I for one am looking forward to sampling.
Monsoon Dairy

Tagore and Return to India

A Tagore quote prompted this piece. The quote is included in the piece published in The National here and pasted below.

The National Conversation
After a return to India, life has become more interrupted
Shoba Narayan
Aug 14, 2013

Ever since my family and I moved back to India after nearly 20 years in the US, people often ask me what it is like to be back in my native country. My answer is always the same. As the movie title says, “It’s Complicated.”
If I could describe the difference between my life in New York City and my life here in Bangalore using one phrase, it would be this: friends versus family.
When you are an immigrant in a faraway land, you set down roots and make friends.
You choose people you like and nurture these relationships. They broaden your horizons and teach you new things.
I was raised a Hindu. In New York, I made friends with Jews, Christians and Muslims. My lunch partner was an orthodox Jewish woman who catered kosher meals. My PTA partner was a Muslim woman named Ameena. She grew up in London, wore a hijab and made the best guacamole ever. Her daughter Ayesha and mine were friends. Ameena’s husband, Mohammed, was a banker like mine. Over time, the men grew friendly towards each other.
We belonged to minority cultures and faiths and this brought us closer, particularly after the September 11 attacks.
Most of our neighbours were Christian and we celebrated Christmas with them – organising parties for the building staff and going to midnight mass at a church on Park Avenue.
Here in India, a web of family surrounds, envelops, and occasionally suffocates me.
My parents, brother, cousins, and assorted uncles and aunts all live nearby. They will drop everything to come at my behest at a moment’s notice. The trouble is that they expect the same from me. There are weddings to plan, family functions to attend, gifts to buy, and relationships to keep track of.
My life in India is fraught with interruptions, both delightful and frustrating. Cousins often drop in to see me and give me things. These are objects of love: a samosa that they made, delivered piping hot from their kitchen to mine; or mere objects: vessels that are returned; borrowed saris that are given back.
My relatives know what is going on in my life on a daily basis and I know what is going on in theirs.
When my uncle complains of a chest ache, I worry about it. I call the doctor. We talk for hours. He tells me about astrology: a passion of his. This never happened when I lived in New York.
During weekly phone calls to my parents, I would get news of the extended family. But it rarely touched or bothered me.
Sometimes I wish for the anonymity that I had in spades when I was an immigrant in a foreign land.
I don’t want to account for my choices to all these relatives who care deeply about me and therefore have a view as to whether what I choose to do is right or wrong.
I wish for the friends who knew what to say and when to say it. Friends are a choice. Family isn’t. It comes bundled with birth.
These bonds of blood are tight and embracing, but intrusive as well. On the flip side, families have a history that is hard to replicate.
Your cousin can push your buttons like no friend can. He can irritate you into exhibiting emotions that you didn’t believe existed. My brother and I speak in a shorthand that only we know. A look between us can cause us to collapse into giggles in the midst of a family wedding.
Since I cannot escape my family, I have decided to come to terms with it.
I want to find joy with my new life here in India – not resent the intrusions and opinions.
A line I read recently will help me in this quest. It comes from Rabindranath Tagore, the Nobel laureate poet of India.
He said, “Deliverance is not for me in renunciation. I feel the embrace of freedom in a thousand bonds of delight.”
That is exactly what I want to feel.

Shoba Narayan is the author of Return to India: a memoir

Femina

A piece that came out in Femina a while ago about Return to India. Did I post it before. I did a search on ‘Femina’ in this blog and couldn’t find it. Here it is

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dear shoba
how are you? here we are getting on as usual. first let us congratulate you shoba for the article that has been written by you and published in FEMINA. have you been given a copy? the library man gave the issue only now and hence we are attaching it for you and the other family members to see in case nobody has seen it,keep up the good work shoba and may there be many more such achivements for you! with my love and fondest blessings to you all

NDTV

Some time ago, when my book was published, I sent the following email to NDTV.

From: Shoba Narayan
Subject: Immigrant angst, NRIs, diaspora
Date: October 7, 2012 11:13:23 AM GMT+05:30
To: newsdesk@Ndtv.com

Dear NDTV newsdesk:
I am sure you get a lot of requests from people wanting coverage on issues. Let me add one more.

In case any segment producer is doing a story on immigrants or NRIs, or the Indian diaspora, I would like to submit my second book, “Return to India: a memoir,” as a good fit.

I’d be delighted to send a copy of the book in case you’d like to see it.
Thanks and kind regards
Shoba

Details below.
http://www.dialabook.in/books/return-to-india_1_28191.html

It was an email to the proverbial “slush pile.” I didn’t think anything would come of it, because the feeling is that in India, you need “pull” to make things happen. As it turned out, some weeks later, a correspondent called Maya Sharma, who is Bangalore-based got in touch and did an interview. She tweeted about it too.
http://social.ndtv.com/mayasharma/permalink/112503

Sharma said that top/senior producers– including Radhika Roy– actually look through emails that come cold to that email address. So if you are an author that wants to publicize your book, might be worthwhile sending an email to news desk@NDTV.com

Yesterday, a couple of people told me that I was on TV. Here is the link. I haven’t watched it yet, because the vegetable lady just arrived downstairs and I need to go!!

For the record, I am a fan of NDTV. It really irritates me that even news-junkies like my father-in-law (who has no agenda) now watches the shrill Headlines Today these days. He watches all news channels for sure, but often it is Headlines Today. Why is that? Is the age of dignified news over?

Thank you, NDTV!

Oh, and if you haven’t watched the TV show, “Newshour,” it is a great show.

Review of book

Thank you Kari O’ Driscoll for the kind review here

Author: Shoba Narayan
ISBN: 978-0988415799

Shoba Narayan’s memoir is as much the story of an immigrant to a foreign country as it is the story of how becoming a mother changes one’s perspective in so many unanticipated ways.
Shoba was born and raised by a traditional East Indian family who observed their Hindu beliefs closely. While she was encouraged to pursue an education, she was also expected to marry someone her parents chose for her and stay in close proximity to her extended family. Unfortunately for Shoba’s parents, their daughter had a fierce desire to go to America.
In the first part of the memoir, Shoba describes her life in India with clarity and precision – evoking the scents and sounds as well as the cultural standards she lived with as a child and a young teen. She was determined to get to America somehow, despite the frantic pleading and often dramatic scenes her parents employed to convince her otherwise. And her determination paid off. Shoba left India for the United States to attend college and with the exception of a few visits back home, including the one in which she met and married the man her family chose for her, she remained in the US for decades.

Shoba and her husband lived a very comfortable, upper-middle class life in New York City, socializing and taking part in the active culture of the city and, by all accounts, Shoba was happy. The turning point came when the couple had their first baby.
Shoba writes about so many of the typical anxieties of a first-time mother – her constant self-assessment and questioning her own judgment. Living in such a culturally diverse community presents her with many different examples of how to raise her daughter and yet Shoba doesn’t seem to feel comfortable choosing any of them. As she navigates her own worries, she begins to reminisce more and more about her own childhood and wonders whether she would be better off raising her child as she was raised.
She leads the reader quite honestly through the discussions and arguments she has with her husband regarding a possible return to India, armed with the stark differences between the country she so desperately wanted to live in and the one where she grew up. Ultimately, Shoba decides that returning to her homeland is the best decision for her and her children and, while the final decision played out over the space of years, the end of the book finds her settled and at peace with this choice.
I found the book intriguing because it allowed me to see India in a way that I have not been able to experience it and because it gave me an entirely different perspective on my own country. Woven throughout the book are the angst and worry that I, as a mother, can identify with as I struggle to ensure that the choices I am making about raising my own daughters are in their best interest. I found the book to be as much about finding yourself in a different country as it was about growing up and realizing that what you once desired isn’t nearly as important anymore.

Follow Here To Purchase Return to India: an immigrant memoir