Thursday, January 08, 2009

The Bindi Club ??

Seems like a very strange title for a post, right ? Outside the Indian community, I am not sure how many people are aware of what a bindi is and what its significance is ...A short explanation seems to be in order then...A Bindi (from the Sanskrit word 'bindu' meaning a dot ) is a forehead decoration worn traditionally by women from India..It used to signify the married status for women, but nowadays its no longer relegated for that purpose alone...Bindis come in various colours, shapes, can be stuck to the forehead or can even be painted on ! Its no longer restricted to the Indian community, either !
Continuing from where I left off before I began the definition of the 'red dot', I recently read a book with the alluring title of 'The Hindi-Bindi Club'. Its written by American author Monica Pradhan, who is of Indian origin. I had to wait a long time before I could get my hands on a copy from the local library; there seemed to be quite a demand for it.. Not surprising...I loved the book ! ( Now don't worry, I am not going to review the book ! My (ahem..) talents don't run in that direction..I decided to write this post because that book struck a chord in me ..Read on and you'll know why !
The story is about a group of friends, three women , in fact who immigrated to the US about 30 years back and have made their lives there.
They come to know each other through mutual acquaintances and although they come from different states and backgrounds, they quickly form a bond and a friendship for life. At the time of the story, these women are about 60 years old, each of them has a daughter, each has a different kind of a relationship with her daughter. The story unfolds with some twists and turns. The reader is regaled with phrases in native languages ( Marathi, Punjabi and Bengali, to be precise ) and is also presented with numerous recipes (yes, actual working recipes) of different mouth watering native delicacies...(In case you are wondering, I have already tried a couple of the recipes and they turned out very well indeed..I cant wait to try out some more ! )
I could relate more to the "Aunties" in the book rather than the contemporary daughters ...Not surprising, perhaps, because even though seperated in time by almost 40 years, I am in the same position that the mothers were in, when they first left their home countries and came to the States..Granted that life for Indians is less traumatic now than it must have been four decades back, there is no dearth of Indian groceries or Indian entertainment. Scores of Indian families dot the communities, in case you want to make friends, most major American cities have temples for the religious minded. In fact, but for one fact, its almost as if you never left India at all !
That fact is the absence of close family, a support structure, a warm blanket of love and understanding and empathy that is not available anywhere else in the world at any cost.
It is to make up for this absence of family that the fictional Hindi Bindi club came into existence. Without divulging anything from the book, I will just reveal that the American daughters named the get-togethers of their mothers because they wore bindis and spoke in Hindi (The national language of India). The friends were able to create a surrogate support structure, one that they could rely on in times of strife and happiness, a kind of an extended family that might speak different languages but would still be able to relate to their individual experiences and opinions.
Drawing a parallel from the book, when I compared my life to that of the mothers in the book, I realized that I wanted to be a part of such a group as well. To belong in a group of people with whom I could share my anxieties, my fears, my joys. To be able to narrate an anecdote and have them understand. To be able to share in their celebrations. To console and be consoled when in pain. To be able to raise children together. To be able to create a surrogate family. To be able to enjoy life together.
It also struck me that I already have the makings of my own bindi club..I have a wonderful group of friends, who might not always agree with each other on every point, but are always willing to listen to the others' opinions. Friends who are willing to help under any circumstance and are also willing to ask for help, if needed. Friends who welcome us into their homes like family and are always willing to be a part of ours.
Here's to my very own Bindi club, may we have many more years of friendship bestowed upon us, may we only become closer in our relationships, may we become more open minded and understanding, may we dispel each others' fears and give each other hope,
may we travel together on our journey by clearing the thorns and sharing the blossoms !!!