‘Those who donot learn history are doomed to repeat it’. How true is this quote by George Santayana. I was reminded of it as I read this beautiful and timely book by Callie J. Trautmiller about a time in American history that has been forgotten. Perhaps because it is matter of collective shame. Still, it is important to talk about it especially now because of the circumstances we are living in. Because we humans are fond of creating barriers among ourselves. Despite being citizens of the same nation, some of us are considered to be less than others and are required to prove our loyalty.
Becoming American is about Executive order 9066 when in the wake of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and the hysteria that followed, tens of thousands of Japanese Americans were relocated to hastily set up camps in Western US. Entire communities were uprooted and their civil liberties were violated. This thoroughly researched novel has been written with tremendous sensitivity from the perspective of Allu Noguchi and her brother Robbie who are young and therefore unscathed with the scars and cynicism adults carry. Though categorized as Young Adult this book is a must read for all ages. Highly recommended!
It’s a Sunday. Not just any day. A day of so-called rest or restlessness. Let’s take a trip downtown. The weather is chilly, the sky is grey. The streets are deserted. Parking in the Whole Foods garage will cost you unless you spend $10 on groceries. Two boxes of cereal and some lemonade- $11 and change; not bad at all. Pick up some coffee at Starbucks (there is still no sitting inside) then wander along the streets.
The trees are finally springing leaves- makes for a nice contrast against the blue of the building across.
Walk through the Union Station which happens to the center of action to 17th street. A man wearing a purple cape slips into an alley covered with striking graffiti. Oxford Hotel, the oldest in Denver- had no clue.
As she turned the street corner, Ritu stopped to check her profile in the shop window. For a fraction of a second, not more. Guess I look okay, she thought and walked on after giving a brisk downward tug to the form fitting dress that ended just above her knees. It was a pretty dress with a cheery print of yellow and pink roses on an olive green background. “Perfect for the summer!” the salesgirl had assured her with a bright smile.
Ritu hadn’t just bought that two hundred dollar dress. She had splurged– in a way very uncharacteristic of her. She had acted on impulse. The print had caught her eye and the color looked really good on her or so she’d thought at the time. But she hadn’t got around to wearing it. Ever since that day it had hung in her closet to be perused periodically then passed over for something more ordinary and comfortable. Such as the dozen or so pants and blouses that fit her identity of sensible but bland Ritu. But today was different. She wanted to look her best.
The cafe was called Coffee, Tea and Me. The name had evoked a distant memory. It was the title of a book she had read a long time ago. She didn’t recall much of it but the gist had remained with her like some stories have a way of doing. It had something to do with a young woman. Or two young women who were stewardesses and their adventures. She had associated with the book as a young woman; launching herself into an exciting new career, of a stewardess, traveling to new places, meeting people, maybe some romance even. It felt silly now but at the time it had been wonderful. A different life.
I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Was it true or was I dreaming? I couldn’t wrench my eyes off the scene. In fact, I couldn’t have enough of it.
I checked the clock to be sure. Yes, it was half past eleven. Almost midnight. But outside my window, the world was bright. Like day, yet not quite. It felt like I had stepped into a painting, another universe– a place I’d never been to before.
The blizzard had run out of steam, or taken a pause so it seemed. The air was still. The naked trees were sporting a shiny new coat of snow. The sky was white, so was the earth. There was no sound, nothing moved, yet everything throbbed with life. I was in awe.
It was too fantastic to be true. Yet true it was. I had the proof outside my window.
Kash she was from the get go. And so she was meant to be. Kash–short for Kashish.
We knew she was coming. The question was not if but when. She had announced her arrival in our dreams. Therefore, when she finally did, it was like homecoming. I thought I was prepared. I was wrong.
It was a surreal experience.. Like watching a movie—a beautiful play from which I was excluded for the most part or shall I say reduced to the role of a bit player.
I was immersed in wonderment. A change had come over my wife. There was a sweetness in her smile I hadn’t yet perceived, a brightness in her eyes, an extraordinary gentleness in her movements. And it was all because of Kash, our sweet little gift. Our baby girl. Our bundle of joy. She and her mom– they were a unit. When they were together time stopped and nothing else mattered.
A blood curdling shriek good enough to put the best horror movie to shame echoed from somewhere within the Sharma residence. Ahaan’s mother exchanged a perturbed glance with her sister-in-law whose pencil thin eyebrows vanished inside her elaborately coiffed hairdo. Her crimson lips cranked open but were forced shut by yet another ear-splitting rendition.
Meanwhile inside the said room, a broad palm clamped down hard over the source of the cacophony; “it’s me Mili! Please don’t make a habit of this. Shut up if you care in the least for your husband’s reputation!”