My Desi World

February 3, 2010
“The chocolates are going to melt!”

I reached into a half-opened cardboard box and picked up a heart-shaped box of truffles.

“I think you’re right. Father can put them in his carry-on instead,” my mother said thoughtfully before grabbing the chocolates from me and dropping them in a duffle bag.

I rummaged further in the massive box and unearthed a plastic bag filled with sugar-free toffees.

“Will these melt, Mom?” I asked waving the bag back and forth in the air.

“No, I don’t think so. Toffees don’t melt do they, Raj?” my mother asked turning around in her seat.

My father looked up from the pile of clothes he was folding and shook his head. As I watched him, he proceeded to wrap the clothes in a sheet of newspaper and placed them gently in the cardboard box. His forehead was beaded with sweat and he sat back on the carpeted floor gazing resignedly at the mess spread out around him.

“How are we ever going to fit everything into this one box?” my father asked as he gestured wildly to the tower of cookies, coloring books, and I Love New York t-shirts that cluttered the small living room that had recently been cleared for the major packing session.

It was a big day in the Kumar household. The day when my father would pack up his tiny suitcase crammed with his life necessities and jet off to India without any stress or worries. If only it was that easy. In the few days leading up to my father’s flight, both of my parents had turned into fanatical shopping addicts, steering their shopping carts wildly in the aisles of Wal-Mart and rummaging through the closets of our house for gifts to give to our relatives and friends back home. My parents called it a tradition. I called it a nightmare.

“Priya, hand me that snow globe,” my mother screamed from across the room. I sighed loudly and crouched down to pick up a weathered snow globe that I had thrown into the back of my closet years ago. The paint was chipped on the edges and a faded “Welcome to Vermont!” was written on the bottom in red marker. As I handed it to my mother, the fake snow in the glass swirled down from the top of the globe and landed gracefully near the miniature fir trees.

“Mother, has Uncle Gupta ever seen snow before?” I asked.

“Why do you ask?” My mother looked up from the baby bib she was wrapping in tissue paper.

“I don’t know. It just seems kind of pointless to give Uncle Gupta a snow globe when he has never seen snow before.” I said matter-of-factly.

My mother remained quiet for a few minutes and then said curtly, “That’s not the reason why we’re giving him the snow globe,” and turned her back to me.

That was how all our conversations went. Me asking a question. Her replying tersely. Me walking away. If I could count the number of times I had looked to her for a meaningful answer and never received one, it would stretch from the earth to the sun and back.

I stretched my legs against the paneled wood wall and slid down to the floor. Looking across the room at the piles of miscellaneous objects that my parents had collected in less than a week, my heart began thumping in anticipation for what next year would have in store for us. It was like this every year.

For example, two years ago, my mother had decided to go to India by herself because my father was swamped with work at his office. That had to have been one of the most frantic summers of my life. My mother, the psychopath that she was, had marauded every garage sale around town for the best deals, rampaged grocery stores for sugar-free desserts for my aunt, and still managed to work overtime to pay off her round-trip ticket. As usual, she had dragged me along with her, and by the end of that hectic summer, she left me passed out in a sea of Hello Kitty pajama pants and teddy bears barely clinging on to my life let alone my sanity.

Waking up from that unpleasant reverie by the sound of my cell phone vibrating in my pocket, I glanced up at my parents who were both engrossed in wrapping the last of the presents. Quickly dusting off the ripped pieces of newspaper that were glued to my shorts, I flipped my phone open and walked upstairs to my room.

“Hey Amber!” I shrieked as I cannon-balled onto my tidily made bed. My mother, the obsessive compulsive neat freak, considered turning my room into a backdrop for a Tide commercial the highlight of her day.

“Are you going to the party tomorrow?” Amber shrieked back in my ear.

“What party?” I lied. A cold sweat began dripping down my back as I thought about tomorrow and the party that would make or break my social status at Pritchard High School. It sounds so cliché, but I’m not kidding: this was seriously the single most important party in the history of parties.

“Are you kidding me, Pri?” Amber gasped in my ear. “I couldn’t get you to stop talking about Heather’s party for like ever and now you forget all about it? There has to be something going on. Spill the beans!”

I didn’t answer and kept my eyes on the yellowing fan that was rotating above my bed.

“Answer me, young lady!” Amber yelled in her best school teacher impression.

“Fine, I’ll tell you. I can’t go.” I whispered into the receiver, tears already welling up in my eyes.

I didn’t hear anything on the other end for a few minutes and I knew that I had shocked Amber into silence, a rare feat in itself. After waiting for what seemed like an hour, I continued on, “My father is going to India tomorrow and my mother is making me go to the airport.”

I heard a few exasperated grunts from Amber before she finally muttered, “Why do you have to go to the airport every year? It’s not like you’re ever going to go to India anyway. Besides this is the biggest party of the year and you told me you wouldn’t miss it for the world!”

Groaning slightly, I rolled over onto my stomach and buried my face in a down feather pillow that my mother had plumped before she had left for work this morning. Everything that Amber said was so true. I had never once visited India in the entire course of my sixteen year existence on Earth. I had never once gone to the airport out of my own volition. Most importantly, I had never thought that I would miss Heather Miller’s keg-filled, boy crowded, beginning of summer bonanza which is why I began breaking down into chest-heaving sobs that shook the foundation of the house and sent me toppling over my bed and onto a plush rug on the floor.

“Priya Kumar, answer me this instant, or I’m going to hang up on you!” Amber threatened on the other end.

I curled up into the fetal position on the sheepskin rug and pretended to not have heard her.

“Come one, Pri!”

I looked around and grabbed an inflatable sword that I had received as a gift from the medieval fair from my side table.

“Last warning, dude.”

I muttered my final good-byes and plunged the sword into my chest.


I officially committed social suicide.

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