How common is the knowledge that every sixth human being in the world today is Indian? Here in the United States, the Asian Indian population, one of the fastest growing ethnic groups, is increasing at a rate of 69%. This is what compels me to give voice through my stories to the East Indian diaspora in the context of twenty-first century America.
Born and raised in New Delhi, I now reside in California, where I am an award-winning author, TV presenter, and lifestyle blogger. I am also the host of Escapades with Anoop on WomenNow TV, which has an audience of over 8 million people. My first book was a “Dummies”-style guide to breaking into law, put out by a publishing house in New Delhi (I hold a law degree from John F. Kennedy University.)
My novel The Rummy Club (self-published, 2014) was my first attempt to fictionalize the experiences of Indians abroad. The novel won the 2015 Beverly Hills Book Awards in the Chick-Lit category and received Honorable Mentions in the 2014 London Book Festival and in the 2014 Writer’s Digest Book Awards. In the four years since the novel was published, I have built a steady and loyal following in the United States and in India. My author website and blog, which usually attracts 6,000 visitors every two weeks, offers a more complete picture of my biography and outreach efforts: www.anoopjudge.com.
A COCKROACH IN MY BED
This story is about a slimy, six-legged cockroach crawling up my smooth twelve-year-old forearm, breaking a path through the long, moist tendrils of an unshaven brown, armpit and proceeding to hike through the unlined crevices of my neck. It is a blisteringly hot summer night in my non-air-conditioned bedroom at J-22 Jangpura Extension, New Delhi, India. The evening moon floats like a thin cucumber slice in a lemonade sky.
I can hear the sounds filtering in through the open window—stray dogs barking in competition from neighborhood to neighborhood, the occasional truck rumbling by, someone singing lustily from the embrace of the night—a drunkard or a laborer returning home late—the drone of an airplane, the rustle of a mouse scurrying across the tiled floor of the lavatory, the sound of a door opening or closing here or there on the middle floor of the three-storied flat we lived in. The Hindu wedding season has not really begun yet. When it does, there will be a cacophony of Bollywood music and vulgar, sexually suggestive pop songs followed by random bursts of complaints from Mrs. Gupta on the ground floor. Mrs. Gupta can watch without complaint film stars gyrating their hips and thrusting their pelvis at each other in a manner that leaves little to the imagination, but the slightest bit of nudity or verbal obscenity is guaranteed to incense her.
Or perhaps this story is about my mother not believing me when I go crying to her the next morning.
“Mummy, there was a cockroach that crawled up my neck last night.”
She clicks her tongue in annoyance and reproaches me with a scowl. “There are no cockroaches in our home, Anuradha. You’re always making things up.”
She starts to leave my bedroom, but then she sees me scrunching up my face, ready to dissolve into tears and surprisingly, she offers me an olive branch.
“Okay, I’ll sleep in your bedroom tonight, and we’ll see if there’s any such cockroach.”
This story might be in part about the immense pleasure I feel in proving my mother wrong. The way she looks as if someone has made her bite into a lemon when she sees that slimy, six-legged monster as I wake her up in the middle of the night. Her nostrils quiver like an overwrought buffalo’s when she notices it crawling stealthily on my neck. I scream, she screams. My Dad comes running in from the room next door and turns on all the lights.
“What’s wrong? What’s wrong?” he shouts, until he too sees the slimy, six-legged monster on the bed and throws his shoe at it in an attempt, to slice its head off.
This too might be about my Dad and in that moment, how he turns into my savior against creepy-crawly nocturnal creatures and unnameable apprehension. How when I disappoint my mother time and again in my growing-up years and when her anger erupts in tears and tantrums, it is he who bridges the silences between us and gets us to make up.
Inevitably, though, as I set out to tell you what happened, this telling is not only about the dark hole called blame, but also about using a compassionate lens in looking at the past. My mother didn’t believe me, yes, but it was mostly because she didn’t want to admit that we were living in a small rented flat with barred windows above a squatter’s colony where cockroaches and vermin lurked in the terror of the night.
She didn’t want to believe me because she didn’t want to admit that had she not fallen in love with my father and married beneath her station, she too could have been sipping high tea at the Taj Compton Hotel in Chanakyapuri In New Delhi every Wednesday afternoon. Just like her cousin Diya, her aunts Honey Mamiji and Dimple Chachi, her Uncles Teddy Mamaji and Bunty Chacha and everyone else she’d grown up with did, as they gossiped over the latest in politics, the squabbles of relatives living abroad and all sorts of delicious stuff between bites of chocolate éclairs and slurps of Darjeeling tea.