Chapter 6

“So, what brings you to the US?”

That was an inevitable question, once people felt her warmth and wanted to get to know more. In any story of migration, the “why” seems to be a starting point to get to know more.

For a fraction of a second, Insia looked up and sharply into his eyes, and then looked away quickly. She was looking for information she needed to decide whether the question was more like the “how are you?” most New Yorkers asked immediately after, “Hi”. Or did her project leader actually want to know?

“Oh you know: work! Same as everyone else out here, right?”, she said, unblinkingly, with the same practice she would have said, “Great! And how are you doing?”.

He nodded and they went back to talking about issues with the latest deliverable.

Insia sat in the fire escape that evening and watched the cars go by on the FDR. She took a deep breath as she took apart her favorite $15 halal rotisserie chicken. She could, of course, afford a more elaborate meal. The days when she stitched her own her clothes to save money were long gone. The days when she rode the local train in Mumbai to avoid the rickshaw prices were also long gone. And the days when she needed her boyfriend to put in a word for her so she could get an apartment in Hindu-dominated Dadar were also (super-) long gone.

She didn’t know Gaurav was a Shiv Saini until Bal Thakare died in 2012. She palpably felt horror creep close in on her throat as she listed to him talk about his beloved Balasaheb with such revere — he was a true Marathi! He was a true Hindu! He wanted to solve problems caused by the UP and Bihari bhaiyyas migrating to Mumbai and killing the superior Marathi culture! He wanted to save Hindustan from the terrorist Muslims.

Was he really saying these things? Were all his friends really resonating? Were they really going to go join his funeral procession and shed tears?

How fantastic! She had spent the better part of 5 years with Gaurav. She had migrated from UP and she was a Muslim. But clearly, he saw right past her like she was invisible. This was never going to work. Perhaps it was doomed from the start. She was going to leave him. She was going to leave Mumbai. And she was going to leave India.



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