The Diaspora of Jon and Jhumpa

Maverick: In Which Jon and Jhumpa Give It To Those Ones?
by Farzana Versey
The Asian Age, Op-ed, May 1, 2007

Exile sounds sexy. Babubhai Katara wouldn’t know what the heck it is. Although he is involved in ‘human trafficking’, which means that he offloads our people to other shores, no one in the West cares about him. Can you imagine Jhumpa Lahiri saying about one of his ‘goods’, “I think that for immigrants, the challenges of exile, the loneliness, constant sense of alienation, knowledge of and longing for a lost world, are more explicit and distressing than for their children”?

For her even the likes of Anand Jon are a no-no. Jon might well have been just another FOB (fresh off the boat) immigrant. He did the unthinkable. He did not wallow in diaspora depression. Instead, he did what a small-town man in India does when he gets to the big city – lets it all hang out until someone notices.

He is not being merely held culpable for a crime – rape and lewd behaviour for which the courts have charged him – but for a sin in the rehashed morality that is overtaking America. Being surrounded by nubile girls and flashing what they now call his feeble credentials is not unusual. Paris Hilton, his client and friend, is certainly no babe-in-the-woods. Why are the accusations suddenly rushing out in spurts?

Yes, he was given the celebrity treatment in India. The boy from Kerala had made it. It wasn’t Kerala, though, that laid out the red carpet; it was the metro matrons. Today, they pretend they did not know anything about him.

Are my sympathies with the debauched guys? Not really. But that’s how the business seems to work in the entertainment industry. What about Charlie Chaplin’s obsession with young girls? Or Hugh Heffner? If Jon did indeed indulge in the acts he is being accused of, then were the girls little angels?

Were all those screeching “Sanjaya” fans merely interested in his singing abilities on American Idol? Just suppose he had won and gone around town with some of these teenagers, wasn’t there a likelihood of someone accusing him? And what about the American gay critic who went completely berserk in his fascination for the contestant, saying that he had a thing for pretty boys with big mouths? Why was the United States silent over this sexual innuendo directed at a youngster?

Sanjaya was their trump card until a trigger-happy South Korean took away their prime-time toy-boy. He could well be Gogol from The Namesake, striding two worlds, the one of the Bengali father and the other of the American Dream that gave him birth. Papa Malakar could drop those exiled tears any minute – trained classical singer trying to make it in phoren land and getting into roots mode.

The First World thrives on this. They love to watch angst-ridden sagas. Please note that all our diaspora writers and film-makers play the Western stereotype making full use of their origins. Most expats create their Gujarat and Punjab and Kerala and Jhumri Talaiyya wherever they go, and they formulate their political opinions sitting in these regional hovels. Is it any wonder that most of them have an immensely narrow vision?

These are the legitimised deserters who come home to a Pravasi Diwas. Does anyone bother to question them about the Katara-type immigrants who don’t quite make it? Does anyone ask them to prove their loyalty to the country of their birth even as they give their best to another land? When Dhiren Barot became the first person in Britain to be convicted for a terrorist conspiracy by a London court, the British Indian community was at pains to point out that Barot, a Muslim now, could not be described as Al Qaeda's “first Hindu operative” because he converted to Islam when he was an adult of 23. Yet, these same people will happily lap up Kiran Desai’s reminiscences about Gurkhas in Darjeeling who she saw when she was a child of five.

She can sell displacement easily. As she said: “I have an Indian passport and given what the political climate has been in the United States, I feel more and more Indian.”

With a Booker in her pocket not many of them will contest that, although they keep crying out loud about how the US is utopia and it is fair enough to keep your feet in two places. Even though Balti cuisine was started by a Bangladeshi, exiled Indians shrewdly claimed it as theirs because we were Britain’s largest colony.

Anand Jon, besides a few karma-print clothes, did not try hard enough to market his desi-ness. He shamelessly aped the Sunset Boulevard vaudeville. Keeping his alleged crime aside for now, he was at least upfront about his intentions. He did not expect his country of origin to be proud of him, while the pickle and papad blokes who convert these edibles into a huge business expect us to be grateful to them for making us into a household name.

Globalisation has to include people of all countries, not only those who have made their nests in the so-called developed world. It is good to see Indians doing well overseas in whatever field it be, but they are expatriates, NRIs, PIOs; they are most certainly not representative of India.

When they get moist-eyed about ‘home’, they should just go watch a Bollywood movie. These days we have many catering to their version of the country where the Vande Mataram soundtrack beats the hell out of the Manhattan skyline.


  1. blog
    (When they get moist-eyed about ‘home’, they should just go watch a Bollywood movie.)...LOL

    Poor immigrants are sick and tired of living abroad, missing their home sweet home...

    Lord FV, have mercy upon them...

  2. Mercy? You should see the emails I have been getting...they seem really pissed off.

    Theek hai, they can watch Jackie Chan...

  3. blogR
    (Theek hai, they can watch Jackie Chan...).....LOL

    UR hilarious...

    LOrd FV, thnkas for granting your permission...


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