Josna Rege

247. Gauri Deshpande: A Distinctive Voice

In Stories on March 3, 2023 at 6:15 am

Re-posting this on the 20th anniversary of Gauri Deshpande’s death, in remembrance and respect. What a loss.

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Gauri Deshpande (1942-2003) Gauri Deshpande (1942-2003)

In Marathi or in English, in person or in print, the prolific poet, fiction-writer, and translator Gauri Deshpande (1942-2003) has a distinctive voice: strongly feminist, wryly humorous—usually at her own expense, confident yet self-critical, irreverent yet steeped in tradition, cosmopolitan yet grounded in her love for language and place. No matter who or where her audience is, she is bound to challenge their assumptions, producing both discomfort and delight.

In 1993, as a postgraduate student preparing with trepidation for our first meeting at the University of Poona’s English Department where she was teaching at the time, I carefully donned a traditional Pune sari to meet the daughter of the illustrious anthropologist Iravati Karve and the granddaughter of the illustrious social reformer D.K. Karve. To my embarrassed surprise, a tall, lanky, imperious-looking woman dressed in torn trousers came striding toward me and grasped my hand in a…

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525. Back to India

In Books, Britain, Immigration, India, Inter/Transnational, Stories, travel on January 20, 2023 at 2:26 pm

  luggage tag of yesteryear

Andrew and I are going to India again after a very long time—too long. For Andrew, it will have been 30 years—a whole generation—and for me, eight and a half. As we work through a seemingly never-ending To Do list, I try to calm, to name, and to claim the complicated feelings coursing through me, preventing me from concentrating on anything and keeping me in a constant state of anticipation. Eager or anxious anticipation? Probably both. But when all the items on the list have been checked off, when the bags are packed and, duly masked and seat-belted, we have finally taken off, the worries will start to slip away. And when we touch ground in Mumbai (for me always evocative of Saleem Sinai’s joyous “Back to BOM” in Midnight’s Children) and emerge from the glittering new Chhatrapati Shivaji Airport onto the streets of the city, the reality of actually being in India will hit me at last, and I will be overcome with a tremendous sense of relief.

First there will be another homecoming of sorts in the form of a nine-and-a-half-hour stopover at Heathrow Airport. As always, all sorts of emotions are bound to crowd in as the plane dips below the cloud cover and the familiar patchwork of English fields first comes into view. Nine and a half hours is a tantalizingly long time to sit at the airport. It’s long enough to tempt me to attempt traveling into London to have a quick lunch with one of my cousins, but not realistically long enough to enable us make our way through customs, check our carry-ons at Left Luggage, buy a one-day Travelcard, and race into London and back only to go through airport security all over again. Instead, I will have to content myself with browsing through shops like Boots the chemists and Marks & Spencer, buying the latest copies of The Guardian and the New Statesman, stocking up on Quality Street chocolates and my favorite English sweets (Jelly Babies, Wine Gums, Fruit Pastilles, Crunchie bars), and finding a place to eat a full English breakfast where I can read the papers at leisure, tackle the cryptic crossword, and wash it all down with copious amounts of tea.

From now until we leave, spurts of frantic energy in which I check item after item off that To Do list will be succeeded by hours of total lethargy in which I cannot make myself do anything but drink tea and wait for the date of departure. And when, Inshallah, Andrew and I arrive at last, and are assaulted by the sounds and smells of India and the sights and smiles that tell me I’m home, I know from experience that all impetus to act will be replaced with a contentment, simply, to be.

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Chronological Table of Contents

223. Darn It!

In Stories on January 9, 2023 at 9:54 am

Thinking of Mum, who was good at darning, and taught me. I have a hole in my favorite woolen hat and in too many of my socks to count; maybe it’s time to try my hand at it again.

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(from (from

The first pair of tights (pantyhose) I ever owned were pretty heavy—they must have been at least 40 denier—and a ghastly putty colour to boot, but at not-quite-fifteen I felt slinky and sophisticated in them. So you can imagine my consternation when I looked down after less than a week and saw the beginnings of a ladder (run) in one of the toes. I knew that I wouldn’t be getting another pair anytime soon and was desperate to do anything I could to extend their life. Fortunately a friend saved me with some clear nail polish, which  stops a run dead in its tracks. For a time, anyway; until it can be darned.

how to fix a run in your tights (from how to fix a run in your tights (from

And darn it I did; we all did in those days. It was unthinkable to throw away a perfectly good pair of tights…

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