let the title on the cover confuse you. Tanuja Desai Hidier's
'BORN CONFUSED' really elucidates clarity! Even though the
title breathes the chic terminology which raged in campuses
across North America in various forms, celebrating the specimen
of sorts, the widely known 'confused desi'! The book traces
the dilemmas of a cute American born Indian teenager Dimple
Interspersed with loads of humor BORN CONFUSED encapsulates
Dimple's travails and anguishes; her thoughts and dreams;
her desires and realizations, right from the day when Dimple
turns seventeen stepping towards the summer of a lifetime.
Her life includes two dear comrades a glamorous supertwin
friend Gwyn and Chica Tikka her camera and constant companion.
Both form an inseparable bond in her life even greater than
the one she shares with her parents. Starting off with a
slightly wild birthday party where Dimple returns home drunk
and has to face the wrath of the very Gods who adorn the
kitchen (on the morning after) while her mother makes kheer
and her father prays silently both ignoring her completely.
To break the silence means vowing by the very name of Harish
Chandra, the epitome of truth. Tiny details and the "Indian"
images of the Lala household are both endearing and sprinkled
with the spice of love. Yet Dimple is displaced, unsure
of her own identity.
An avid photographer she never likes being the focus of
the lens eye. "The less evidence of my ungraceful plummet
into adolescence, the better for posterity," she observes.
The story follows a tug of war between her own sense of
American-ness and a lack of Indian-ness. The parent's concern
on the lack of cultural bondage is apparent as her mother
says, "But I know it is not just your fault It
is this America - you cannot escape it, like those golden
arches everywhere you turn. It is hard to resist it. But
if I'd known the price we'd have to pay for this land of
opportunity was our own daughter, I might have never left."
Mrs. Lala perhaps speaks out loud for each immigrant parent
in the west.
But for Dimple, she was born different "I didn't
know how to tell them: Of course I had to be like them.
But how was I ever going to be like them? That was more
than half the problem. I was born different - it started
from the skin and seeped all the way in, till nothing matched."
The book captures a lilting melody in the choicest of words.
May it be devoted to the escapades of Gwyn or the poise
and grace of Dimple's cousin Kavita or simply moments with
the Chica Tikka, her beloved camera. Things however take
a topsy-turvy turn as the parents set out to introduce Mr.
Right into Dimple's life. She describes the first meeting
as a sinking titanic. Yet her best friend Gywn is all ready
to save the sinking ship and plunges right in donning an
Indian garb to grab the man who enters Dimple's life.
The effect is turbulent, of course. Dimple struggles with
her own friendship, her feelings and her own identity. It
takes her back to her own roots. The book also captures
with dexterity the underground desi music scene, same sex
love issues and basically moments of growing up. The awakening
comes from a very interesting character in the novel who
sums it all up "Believe it or not, Dimple - and
I would believe it. I am just a regular person who has decided
to be who I am in life. That' all. That's how you make your
life magical - you take yourself into your own hands and
rub a little. You activate your identity. And that's the
only way to make as they say, the world a better place,
after all, what good are you to anyone without yourself?"
CONFUSED is Tanuja Desai Hidier's first novel. The book
was the Larry King pick of the week and was at number 5
on the independent bookstores Bestsellers list for fiction
in all of Canada in the last week of May. It is an American
Library Association BBYA book of the year, a New York Public
Library 2003 Book for the Teen Age, a Chicago Public Library
Best of the Best book of the year.