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Emily St. John Mandel: IMG Powell’s Q&A: Emily St. John Mandel

Describe your latest book. My new novel is called Station Eleven. It's about a traveling Shakespearean theatre company in a post-apocalyptic North... Continue »
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    Station Eleven

    Emily St. John Mandel 9780385353304

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The Hindi-Bindi Club


The Hindi-Bindi Club Cover




Kiran Deshpande: Where Are You From? I have lanced many boils, but none pained like my own. INDIAN ADAGE

Im never sure what people want to know when they ask me: “Where are you from?”

The question doesnt offend me, as Im curious about people myself. Im fascinated by the origins of family trees, the land and seas over which seeds migrate, cross-pollinate, and germinate anew.

In my thirty-two years, Ive traveled to all fifty United States, lived in ten of them, in every American time zone, most since I left home for college at seventeen and never moved back. A modern gypsy, Ive developed an ear for accents. Im charmed by different cadences. Its a game for me to place them, to listen for the fish out of water.

“Is that Texas I hear?” I ask with a smile—always a smile, the universal ambassador of goodwill—of a lady in Juno, Alaska.

I never ask that slippery little devil, you know the one: “Where are you from?”

Sometimes, I envy people who can answer this deceptively simple question in two words or less. “Jersey” or “Chicago,” “New Orleans” or “Southern Cal.” People whove lived most of their lives in a single state, sometimes even a single town. People whose physical appearance or last name is unremarkable.

I dont fall into any of these categories.

When I get this question—not an everyday occurrence, but I get it more than most—Im never certain what information the person seeks. Is it the origin of my own mid-Atlantic accent? My heritage? My married name (read off a credit card, a check, or a name tag)?

To cover the bases, I supply all three. Probably overkill, but I figure the desired answers somewhere in here: “My parents emigrated from India in the 1960s when my father went to medical school at Harvard. I was born in Cambridge but grew up outside of Washington, D.C. My husbands last name is Italian.”

If I answer with a genuine smile, I almost always receive one in response, which strengthens my belief in karma.

A guy once told me I looked like Disneys Princess Jasmine, except my boobs werent big enough. For the first four years of our marriage, I assumed he exaggerated on both counts.

Princess Jasmine is prettier than I am, but she isnt bigger than a B-cup, thankyouverymuch.

In retrospect, as I reflect on his statement (something I do less as time goes on), I wonder if he meant my boobs werent big enough for him. This would be a logical con- clusion after coming home early to find his face sand- wiched between a pair of D-cups. Silicon D-cups, which is my professional opinion as a practicing physician, not just another ex-wife whose husband screwed around on her.

I am wondering about this today as I appreciate the latest and greatest “water bra” in the Victorias Secret dressing room. Its the first week of December, and Im almost finished with my holiday shopping, so Im splurging on a few things for myself. The water bra has a lovely effect, I must admit as I turn from side to side. I take it off and decide I look great, with or without the bra. Im young. Im healthy. My body is well toned. Nothing sags.

So why am I crying?

A tissue box sits on a ledge, as if my meltdown is not an isolated phenomenon in these dressing rooms. I thank whomever for the forethought and mop my face.

Why are you crying? I ask the woman in the mirror. You have everything going for you.

Yes, but where will it go from here? the woman replies. And with whom?

I turn my back because I cant bear to look at her anymore, but I cant leave either. Not like this. Once I was stuck in a stairwell after I lost a patient. I couldnt come out until I regained control, couldnt risk the family seeing me that way. They count on me to be strong when theyre weak. But whos strong for me when Im weak?

The woman in the mirror mocks me because she still looks so young, yet for the first time, I feel the acceleration of time. It doesnt seem so long ago I turned twenty-two, med school and marriage my dreams. Now here I am a decade later, a doctor, married and divorced. Ive crossed thirty, and Im afraid if I blink, Ill be staring at forty, looking back on today.

“It seems like just yesterday I fell apart in the Victorias Secret dressing room,” Ill say as I recollect the days when I had perky breasts.

Stark reality presses against me, a cold stethoscope on my bare skin. I cringe and shiver, hug my arms, rub my goose bumps. The truth is I am terrified. Of squandering my precious time on this earth. Of wasting whats left of my youth. Of turning the big Four-O and looking back with regrets.

Im a family doctor. Every day, I see families. I want a family, too.

Im healthy and vibrant now, but with each passing year, my eggs age. Im tired of wandering. Tired of my gypsy existence as a traveling doc, temporarily filling in where theres a need. Tired of running away from the fact my foolish heart betrayed me as much as Anthonys cheating.

I yank two more tissues from the box and discover theyre the last ones. Isnt that life? One day the tissues run out.

So whats your strategy with the tissues you have, Kiran?

I dont want to freeze my eggs. I dont want to visit a sperm bank. I dont want to be a single parent, if I have any choice in the matter. I want a nuclear family. I want to put down roots, to let my seeds germinate, to watch them bloom and flourish. Not one day, if and when I ever fall in love again, but now. While I still have my youth, damn it.

I glance over my shoulder at the puffy-eyed woman in the mirror. Slowly, I turn and face her. There is a solution, if shes willing to keep an open mind, to think with her head this time, instead of her heart. I take a deep breath, hold it, and nod. And right there in the Victorias Secret dressing room, in my yuppie-chick equivalent of a midlife crisis, I allow myself to contemplate something I always deemed impossible, dismissed as cold, archaic, backward. The mate-seeking process that served my parents, most of their Indian-immigrant friends, and generations of ancestors for centuries.

An arranged marriage.

Leaving the shopping carnival of Georgetown Park, I stand at the intersection of M Street and Wisconsin Avenue and wait for the walk signal. Youd think Id be done with malls, but no. When I got my drivers license at sixteen, Georgetown was the place to hang out, and for me, its never lost its appeal. I love the shops and restaurants, the inter- national and academic atmosphere, the colonial architecture. Whenever Im back in town, I make a pit stop here on my way home. It grounds me.

I walk up the brick sidewalk to 33rd and Q. Its been five years since my last visit, but my rituals unchanged. If I can get a space, I parallel park near my dream house, a Tudor that resembles a gingerbread house, its fence and gate laced with a jungle of ivy, trimmed to reveal the pointed tips of cast-iron rungs as straight as spears. When I graduated from high school, in addition to throwing a penny in the mall fountain and making a wish, I put a note in the mailbox on Q Street asking the owners to please call me when they wanted to sell the house. I hoped by the time they were ready, I would be, too. Im still waiting.

With my purchases—a red poinsettia in green foil and white roses with sprigs of fern—ensconced in the passenger seat of my Saab, I take Key Bridge across the muddy Potomac and cruise down the G.W. Parkway toward the burbs. Im tempted to stop—and stall some more—at one of the scenic overlooks (make-out hot spots). Instead, I crack the windows, crank the heat, blare the Goo Goo Dolls to calm my nerves, and force myself to keep going.

Im so not looking forward to this. As if it isnt hard enough coming home with my tail between my legs, the thought of approaching my parents with my brainstorm makes it that much worse. I already know whats in store. The Mother of All Lectures. The Granddaddy of I-told-you-sos. A lifetime of smugness. Vindication they were right and I was wrong in my decision to marry Anthony . . . If only Id listened to them . . . Blah blah blah . . .

No matter how old I get or how much respect I garner from the rest of the world, to my parents, Im still an exasperating, recalcitrant child whose ear requires constant twisting. And in their world, I feel reduced to one. Which is why I avoid them as much as possible, and why I feel like a runaway coming home.

In my hometown of Potomac, Maryland, I almost run a stop sign that wasnt there five years ago. I slam on the brakes. The seatbelt pins me. I lunge my right arm out to catch the poinsettia before it takes a header. Too late. The plant sails off the seat, smashes into the glove compartment, and skitters under the dash, dumping black soil all over the cream floor mat and filling the air with the scent of damp earth.

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Deborah Fochler, November 2, 2007 (view all comments by Deborah Fochler)
An unusual and heartwarming look at the relationship between a mother and daughter and an extended family. Mixed with food, holidays, disappointment, extended family and friends and most of all - love - unconditional yet complicated. I loved this book - it gave me great insight into another culture though in the end we are all the same. We love our families but cant live with them or without them.
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Laurie Blum, May 7, 2007 (view all comments by Laurie Blum)
An elegant tapestry of East and West, peppered with food and ceremony, wisdom and sensuality, this luminous novel breathes new life into timeless themes...and an excellent book review novel for women's clubs, many discussable issues. As a mother, daughter, sister, grandmother, wife & friend, I could identify with the universal struggles plus with a scheduled trip to India late this year, I loved the descriptions, language, customs & more!
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Product Details

Pradhan, Monica
Bantam Books
Mothers and daughters
Intergenerational relations
General Fiction
Literature-A to Z
Family saga
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
8.27x5.29x1.00 in. .78 lbs.

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Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z

The Hindi-Bindi Club New Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$15.00 In Stock
Product details 448 pages Bantam Books - English 9780553384529 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "The age-old intergenerational struggle between mothers and daughters gets a curried twist in Pradhan's debut, in which the subcontinent meets the modern West. As children, first-generation Americans Kiran Deshpande, Preity Chawla Lindstrom and Rani McGuiness Tomashot gently mocked their Indian mothers, collectively nicknamed 'The Hindi-Bindi Club' for their Old World leanings. Though the three are now successful adults, they aren't necessarily seen as such by their parents. For starters, none married Indian men. But now, Kiran's parents may get their chance to 'semi-arrange' a marriage for their divorced daughter as she considers the possibility that there may be something to the old ways. Preity, mostly happily married to business school beau Eric, carries a small torch for a long-lost love — a Muslim her parents didn't approve of — and considers seeking him out. Meanwhile, rocket scientist Rani's passion for art starts to pay off as she becomes spiritually listless. Pradhan's debut is breezy (there are enough recipes dotting the narrative to fill a cookbook), though it touches on not-so sunny issues — prejudice, breast cancer, infidelity. The prose isn't dynamite and the characters are stock, but the novel easily fulfills its ready-made requirements." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Synopsis" by , US
"Synopsis" by , An elegant tapestry of East and West, peppered with food and ceremony, wisdomand sensuality, this luminous novel breathes new life into timeless themes offamily and place.
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