The picture of Mother Teresa that I remember from my childhood is of a short, sari-wearing woman scurrying down a red gravel path between manicured lawns. She would have in tow one or two slower-footed, sari-clad young Indian nuns. We thought her a freak. Probably wed picked up on unvoiced opinions of our Loreto nuns.— Bharati Mukherjee
The most irresistibly Bharati Mukherjee quotes that are simple and will have a huge impact on you
You see for me, America is an idea. It is a stage for transformation. I felt when I came to Iowa City from Calcutta that suddenly I could be a new person . . . What America offers me is romanticism and hope . . . Suddenly, I found myself in a country where
I am an American, not an Asian-American.
My rejection of hyphenation has been called race treachery, but it is really a demand that America deliver the promises of its dream to all its citizens equally.
There was no audience for my books. The Indians didn't regard me as an Indian and North Americans couldn't conceive of me of a North American writer, not being white and brought up on wheat germ. My fiction got lost.
I had a 2-week courtship with a fellow student in the fiction workshop in Iowa and a 5-minute wedding in a lawyer's office above the coffee shop where we'd been having lunch that day. And so I sent a cable to my father saying, 'By the time you get this, Daddy, I'll already be Mrs. Blaise!'
I have to put down roots where I decide to stay.
It wasn't enough for me to be an expatriate Indian in Canada. If I can't feel that I can make social, political and emotional commitments to a place, I have to find another place.
One of the early tip-offs to me about the enormous changes that were going on with being in a Bangalore house, home, where the young woman from a nearby village, who had been hired to baby sit newborn twins, suddenly said after two weeks of work: 'I'm sorry, this is too much work, I'm going to try applying for call center jobs. The pay is better.'
I flew into a small airport surrounded by cornfields and pastures, ready to carry out the two commands my father had written out for me the night before I left Calcutta: Spend two years studying creative writing at the Iowa Writers Workshop, then come back home and marry the bridegroom he selected for me from our caste and class.
In Hindu societies, especially overprotected patriarchal families like mine, daughters are not at all desirable. They are trouble. And a mother who, as mine did, has three daughters, no sons, is supposed to go and hang herself, kill herself, because it is such an unlucky kind of motherhood to have.
But, Christ, there's a difference between exotic and foreign, isn't there? Exotic means you know how to use your foreignness, or you make yourself a little foreign in order to appear exotic. Real foreign is a little scary, believe me.
Growing up in an old-fashioned Bengali Hindu family and going to a convent school run by stern Irish nuns, I was brought up to revere rules. Without rules, there was only anarchy.
I had never walked on the street alone when I was growing up in Calcutta, up to age 20. I had never handled money. You know, there was always a couple of bodyguards behind me, who took care if I wanted... I needed pencils for school, I needed a notebook, they were the ones who were taking out the money. I was constantly guarded.
Mother Teresas detractors have accused her of overemphasizing Calcuttans destitution and of coercing conversion from the defenseless. In the context of lost causes, Mother Teresa took on battles she knew she could win. Taken together, it seems to me, the criticisms of her work do not undermine or topple her overall achievement.
My life has gotten a little more complicated than my ability to describe it.
That used to be the definition of madness, now it's just continuous overload.
Dullness is a kind of luxury.
In traditional Hindu families like ours, men provided and women were provided for. My father was a patriarch and I a pliant daughter. The neighborhood I'd grown up in was homogeneously Hindu, Bengali-speaking, and middle-class. I didn't expect myself to ever disobey or disappoint my father by setting my own goals and taking charge of my future.
I am aware of myself as a four-hundred-year-old woman, born in the captivity of a colonial, pre-industrial oral culture and living now as a contemporary New Yorker.
What was the function of poetry if not to improve the petty, cautious minds of evasive children?
Ancestral habits of mind can be constricting; they also confer one's individuality.
My first novel, 'The Tiger's Daughter,' embodies the loneliness I felt but could not acknowledge, even to myself, as I negotiated the no man's land between the country of my past and the continent of my present.
What was the duty of the teacher if not to inspire?
I feel empowered to be a different kind of writer.
The longer I stay here, the more light filters into my work. I feel very American. I belong.
A farmer is dependent on too many things outside his control; it makes for modesty.
Bengalis love to celebrate their language, their culture, their politics, their fierce attachment to a city that has been famously dying for more than a century. They resent with equal ferocity the reflex stereotyping that labels any civic dysfunction anywhere in the world 'another Calcutta.'
[On her writing agenda:] Make the familiar exotic; the exotic familiar.
The traveler feels at home everywhere, because she is never at home anywhere.
We do things when it is our time to do them.
They do not occur to us until it is time; they cannot be resisted, once their time has come. It's a question of time, not motive.
I am a naturalized U.S. citizen, which means that, unlike native-born citizens, I had to prove to the U.S. government that I merited citizenship.
Through my fiction, I make mainstream readers see the new Americans as complex human beings, not as just The Other.
In other words, my literary agenda begins by acknowledging that America has transformed me. It does not end until I show how I (and the hundreds of thousands like me) have transformed America.