Joel Stein’s controversial article in Time magazine talked of his hometown being swamped by us weird samosa-eating, dot-wearing Indians worshipping gods with multiple arms and elephant noses. In response, here’s a letter to Joel-ji:
I have recently arrived in Manhattan. Things here are so strange, so different from back home. Elephants, camels and tigers do not roam the streets freely, although the roads are full of a wide variety of chariots. But unlike ours, these are elephant-less carriages, kept in motion by magic.
Arising from my bed of nails every morning and after performing my Rope Trick, when I look down at the streets below I am reminded of the ravines of my beloved Chambal. But it is odd that you people keep your magic chariots confined to the ground — I haven’t seen a single flying carpet.
I have enrolled at the local gurukul — you call it a college. I have paid my respects to my guru-ji but we had some unpleasantness the first day when I gave him a sack of cow-dung to plaster on the walls of his house as guru-dakshina. I am sorry to say he was blasphemous about cow-dung. You are so different from us. We have now become friends, however, after he learnt that I was both a maharajah and a snake charmer. I now teach him samosa-making and fire-walking while he teaches me free market economics. But I must say Central Park was a disappointment, it is not like our jungles and I couldn’t find Bagheera or Sher Khan there.
I am also amazed at the poverty here, I mean the spiritual poverty. You have only one God and people are astounded when I tell them we have 330 million. Your choices are so limited I feel sorry for you. Worse, your god seems to have a limited number of limbs. Bizarre!
You have churches instead of temples, but for some reason they put up a plus sign on every church. At first I thought Americans worshipped mathematics. But I found out they only use the plus sign — I have yet to see a minus sign in churches, let alone the symbols for multiplication and division. No wonder we have to do all your computer work for you.
How come nobody here has a third eye? I was worried about how you managed to cook your food, until I heard you use a microwave.
Some things are like home though. I lost my wallet the first day because a guy in the street levitated it out of my back pocket. I have met lots of nautch girls at the place you call a disco. And some of the Latinas are reincarnated Indians.
I have read and liked your article about your home town called Edison in New Jersey where all the women wear bindis and gods have elephant noses and multiple arms and it’s just like home. Joelji, I am worried I might lose my identity. Did you know I spent a night demonstrating Kama Sutra positions to a girl but couldn’t speak to her? We hadn’t been introduced, you see. That’s a bit of British culture I imbibed during my stopover at Heathrow. So imagine what could happen to me over here — only the other day I found I couldn’t do out-of-body astral travel any more. So please tell me how to go to Edison.
Your fan, Bunty
PS: Can I bring along my cousins Dharma and Karma and sisters Maya and Leela?
Manas Chakravarty is Consulting Editor, Mint The views expressed by the author are personal