Manhattan broke down my identity; in south India I was more or less confident that I could accomplish anything I set my mind on. I was popular, well-known in certain circles, and could have launched myself into a lucrative creative career had I wished to. Instead I suffered a deep dread of never leaving home and so I finagled my exit to a foreign country that I admired for many reasons. Yes, I loathed the deep-rooted misogyny, caste and class system I was surrounded by and longed for the freedom I hoped to find in America. But I was unprepared for the shocks to my system in the land of the brave and the free. Indeed, nothing was as I had expected it to be and I had to literally reinvent myself, alone, since my husband and in-laws were no help, and instead actively wanted to shove me into a box, lock me up, and throw away the key. You see, they had not expected an Indian woman to be feisty, independent and outspoken about her rights, and so they lashed out in me in a variety of inventive ways until I was deeply miserable despite abundant material comforts. My husband had promised that I could study creative writing and film at NYU, but now he ruthlessly nixed that idea and I found myself temping on Wall Street and in posh law firms, making a lot of money but still a prisoner of my new family and my husband in particular, who insisted on controlling our finances as well as the trajectory of our lives. Continue reading
Food apart, what about other critical issues? You probably had access to an excellent education, Jasmine, but did you know that nearly a billion people entered the 21st century unable to read? Here are other shocking stats: less than one per cent of the global expense on arms could educate the world’s children — but few humans, least of all the super-wealthy who could make a difference, give a good goddamn.
Forty million live with HIV/AIDS; every year one million die of malaria; half of humanity suffers due to bad water and lousy sanitation; millions of women spend hours every day just collecting water; 1 billion live in slums, and 2.5 billion rely on wood, charcoal and animal dung to cook their meager food. As for money — the love of which the good book says is the root of all evil — would it have surprised you to learn that roughly less than one percent of the world’s population controls a quarter of the world’s financial assets? Continue reading