ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Distance Is Measured in Time

Diasporic distance is measured in time—the number of hours spent devouring news from India, the months spent imagining a near future of reunions.

It is a typical Monday in June 2021. I am in Chicago, where the summer is making a delightful return after many months of the bitter, wintry, windy cold. I wake up and see the buttery yellow sunshine fall on my windowsill. The colour of optimism, of hope, of worries melting away. I cannot help feeling a sense of warmth from within. Instinctively, my hand finds my phone from under the pillow. I call my parents back home in India. The conversation takes a predictable path: they talk about their “new normal”—living lives under lockdown while recovering from COVID-19—and the inevitability of a third wave. Then, they ask me the dreaded question: What have you been up to?

I tell them about my weekend. How I went to meet several groups of friends around the city; how I took the city bus after more than a year; how I went to my favourite pub and ate my favourite pizza. I tell them how the streets in Chicago are bursting with colour and joy and I tell them how one can walk into any pharmacy and get vaccinated. Sheepishly, I say something about the arrogance of the United States: partying while the world burns. My father scoffs. And then says that he is glad I moved away to the “first world” when I could. He adds that he finally understands why his brother moved to New Zealand three decades ago. As someone who is a fish out of water in any city that is not Visakhapatnam, him saying this makes my heart break a little. “The value for life in India is zero,” he concludes grimly. I think about how this has been true for so many marginalised (by caste, class, religion, gender, sexuality) Indians for a long, long time now. I say nothing. We will talk again, in a couple of days. The conversation will hardly be any different. It has been the same for about two months now. It has been the same for over a year now.

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Updated On : 2nd Aug, 2021

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