I really should be chatting with my brother’s friends and other party guests, including some of my own friends. Instead I find myself completely fixated on Dad, wondering how he can function after suffering such a loss. Sure, I understand Dad had three sisters and three brothers and maybe they weren’t close. I mean how close can they be after living 10,000 miles apart for 40 years. I am sure to survive poverty and Partition relationships take tolls, even those of blood.
From across the room I sit and watch Dad make conversation with some desi family friends like nothing happened. True, he is not his usual gregarious self (Dad is 157% Punjabi minus the drinking problem; he is seriously one of few Punjabi Sikhs who does not drink). I think anyone unaware of the situation would just blame the jetlag. I mean shoot, Mom looks more forlorn than Dad.
Eventually the time to cut cake arrives, as does Desi Niece’s first frosted photo session. My brother, sister-in-law and niece gather around the cake, Happy Birthday is sung, and the candles are blown out. Immediately after that my parents join for a photo, then the desi friends, everyone who I am related to or remotely related to is asked to join in the photo session except me.
I don't know if they seem me sitting across the table from them or if everyone is caught up in the moment. I realize this is not about me, but I am, or at least I thought, I was a part of this family. And I was good enough to burden with the news of death, but not good enough to join in the celebration of life?
Oh well, what can you do. Just another reminder that I am not only an out-“caste” in Minnesota, and in India, and even in my own family. But it’s fine. New York accepts me as I am and tomorrow I go back to where I truly belong.