Ranjani Iyer Mohanty

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When I’m driving from the “Millennium City” of Gurgaon (exploding with residential and I.T. office high-rises) to the megacity of Delhi (already exploded with a population of 18 million) on the Mehrauli-Gurgaon Road, I see a small grave under a tree.

Years ago, tree and grave rested to one side of this once eerily quiet two-lane (one going north, one going south) avenue. Now that it’s a busy expressway with four lanes in each direction, the tree and grave — both placed on a platform about a meter high — are stranded in the midst of traffic.

Most times, like most Delhiites, I simply go around it without thinking and continue on my way.…  Seguir leyendo »

I was scrawny as a baby, scrawny as a toddler and scrawny as a youth.

As a young girl, you could see the outline of my clavicle; my elbows stuck out and my wrist bones protruded. Throughout my school years, I was self-conscious of my spindly legs.

There was much speculation about my skinniness, particularly from outsiders. Was my Mom not feeding me enough? (She was a wonderful cook.) Was my father not earning enough? (He was a highly educated engineer with a very good job.) Was there something wrong with me? I seemed bright, happy, healthy, and yet ...

For a long time in India, fat has meant good.…  Seguir leyendo »

While I was pregnant, we moved from one area to another within New Delhi. After having my baby, I went back to visit my old neighborhood.

As I was pushing the stroller up the driveway, my erstwhile upstairs neighbor waved to me from her balcony. She was a sweet old lady who lived with her daughter. I used to sometimes stop in and have tea with her.

“Is it a boy or girl?” she asked excitedly.

“A girl,” I shouted back, expecting coos and an “isn’t-that-sweet.” I wasn’t prepared for her response.

“Oh well, don’t worry, you can have another one.”…  Seguir leyendo »

Gone are the days when women would come up to my mother on the streets of Edmonton, Canada, and ask her how she managed to keep such a long and lovely piece of cloth from falling off. Since the 1970s, the sari has become fashionable in the West, but in India — where a woman’s identity is often wrapped up in this simple, traditional attire — its popularity is starting to unravel.

Like most Indian girls, my grandmother, who began her life in Suchindram, a tiny village in South India near Kanya Kumari, began to wear a sari when she reached puberty.…  Seguir leyendo »

The dahlias and roses in the garden have long since shriveled away. The markets have seen the last of the strawberries and the broccoli. Just looking at a sweater makes my skin crawl. Opening the door of the house is like opening the door of an oven.

Dust coats all objects, inanimate and animate. Stray dogs look dirtier. The street urchins’ hair looks browner. The leaves are a duller shade of green. And to top it all off, there is the sporadic Loo, the hot wind from the northwest that brings with it a brief but brisk sandstorm.

From the top of my bookshelf, Alexander Frater’s “Chasing the Monsoon” mocks me, but even its pages are dry and faded.…  Seguir leyendo »