Friday, May 19, 2006

Cosmo Pseudo Feminists

Amitav Ghosh is just brilliant. I don't know what else to say, really. Went to a reading-discussion thing on the Upper Eastside tonight, primarily because he was going to be reading from his new book, Incendiary Circumstances, along with another writer. I am always star-struck around Amitav Ghosh (in Bangalore once, I chatted with him a little at some event about how I went to Brown and his son wanted to go there -- and couldn't stop thinking about that for a while!), so of course I thought it was all really interesting. Until the Q & A time.

I really think that if people don't have anything particularly intelligent to ask/say, they should just desist from talking. The first girl who asked a question had clearly never been to India (though she was of Indian origin) and her question was about whether the situation of women in India is better now than before. Which would have been an okay if unanswerable question (how do you lump all the women in India in one category??) on its own. But then she goes on to make a really ignorant comment. She says, "Oh, all urban women in India now are watching soap operas on Sony TV and reading Cosmopolitan magazine with the result that they've turned into 'Cosmo Pseudo Feminists'."

Ummm... excuse me? I was sitting with a couple of people I had just met, one of whom was a woman who lives in the Bay Area but is from India. She and I just looked at each other and she whispers to me.. "Wow, didn't know we were Cosmo pseudo feminists, did you?" I could swear Amitav Ghosh raised an eyebrow, though he and the other panelists tried to be polite.

Anyway, apart from that, the event was pretty good. Amitav Ghosh (yes, I do have to keep writing his full name. I can't do "Dr. Ghosh" and definitely not just "Ghosh") was so refreshingly honest and funny. He talked about how India is much better off in certain ways than post- 9/11 America, in terms of freedom of speech, etc these days. He told a facinating story about how he wrote a piece prior to the Iraq war about empires and why they ultimately fail. And the editor of the New Yorker -- you know who he is -- wanted to add a paragraph in the beginning with a disclaimer saying that America is not like the colonial empires of yore because it doesn't do things for its own self-interest. Yeah. I nearly fell off my chair, too. This from the New Yorker, a publication I hold in great esteem, it's so excrutiatingly disappointing.

He said a whole lot of other interesting things. Wish I had had a tape recorder or something. It is good to know that he hasn't lost his deep attachment to India, despite living over here for 13 years. I guess that is reflective in the fact that his writing is set primarily in and around India. He did also say "being in America is like being in an empty room" -- what he means is that America doesn't interest him as a subject, so he uses it as neutral ground from which to write about the places and people that do interest him. Quite fascinating.

Anyway, amazing what you can learn in one evening on the Upper Eastside. Most un-Cosmo pseudo feminist of me to be engaging in intellectual exchange on a Friday night. I should have been, mai tai in hand, practising the "10 Ways to a Fulfilling One-Night Stand."


At 10:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, I hate those ABCDs.

For a good laugh and some even some genuinely funny articles, check out


At 1:25 PM, Blogger rhea said...

i don't hate them! i lurve you, don't i?? :)

oh and hey, abcdlady.. my colleague at work is the production assistant! and i like her.
but seriously, some of those articles... did you read that thing about surviving a desi dinner??


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