I am an American, not an Asian-American. My rejection of hyphenation has been called race treachery, but it is really a demand that America deliver the promises of its dream to all its citizens equally.
I flew into a small airport surrounded by cornfields and pastures, ready to carry out the two commands my father had written out for me the night before I left Calcutta: Spend two years studying creative writing at the Iowa Writers' Workshop, then come back home and marry the bridegroom he selected for me from our caste and class.
In Hindu societies, especially overprotected patriarchal families like mine, daughters are not at all desirable. They are trouble. And a mother who, as mine did, has three daughters, no sons, is supposed to go and hang herself, kill herself, because it is such an unlucky kind of motherhood to have.
In India, there are real consequences to inattention; drivers who jeopardize pedestrians can be lynched on the spot.
Bengalis love to celebrate their language, their culture, their politics, their fierce attachment to a city that has been famously dying for more than a century. They resent with equal ferocity the reflex stereotyping that labels any civic dysfunction anywhere in the world 'another Calcutta.'
As a bookish child in Calcutta, I used to thrill to the adventures of bad girls whose pursuit of happiness swept them outside the bounds of social decency. Tess of the d'Urbervilles, Emma Bovary and Anna Karenina lived large in my imagination. The naughty girls of Hollywood films flirted and knew how to drive.