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Blessings of a Bipolar Life

July 2006
Blessings of a Bipolar Life

I wish to share and celebrate a personal landmark that I feel is also a comment on our hyphenated lives as Indian-Americans. This year marks twenty years of my living in the U.S.—exactly as many as I had lived in India before migrating here.

Of the many things that this move has meant to my life, what strikes me as most valuable is a gradual maturation of a world view and a personal perspective that appreciates the dualities, the paradoxes, and the gray areas of life. I cherish this bipolar exposure of having lived in two cultures that are worlds apart in more ways than one.

On an early morning drive back from a vacation, I have been moved by a Garth Brooks country song ("Thunder rolls") just as I have shed tears on A. R. Rehman's "Vande Mataram." I have been touched by soul and gospel singers as much as I have by Anup Jalota's bhajans. I have cherished the experience of a jazz concert at the legendary Preservation Hall in New Orleans, as much as I have enjoyed live performances by Masters of Indian classical music, such as Zakir Hussain and Ravi Shankar.

I have argued for America with Indian critics just as I have shared appreciation for my roots with Americans. I can carry on a conversation with a rural Southerner as most certainly I can with the ‘desiest' of our desis. I have experienced personal growth from American thinkers and speakers as varied as Napoleon Hill and Dr. Wayne Dyer, as I have from spiritual heads such as Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev of the internationally renowned Isha Foundation and Swami Jyotirmayananda of the Yoga Research Foundation in Miami, FL.

This duality, while at times a bit confounding, is an experience that, in the aggregate, I would trade for nothing. An appreciation of differences and a deeper perspective on the human condition are just a couple of the benefits of my hyphenated life. The wisdom of "Thou shall not judge" is no longer restricted to theory, but becomes a living experience. I see how appearances can be deceiving; more so appearances of distant peoples and places. How incredibly unwise it is for a citizen of the East to demonize America as a soulless and wanton place of excess. And how incredibly disturbing and damaging it is when know-it-all talking heads on the radio here dispense fiery judgments and ultimatums about distant peoples and nations to which they have absolutely no direct exposure. Oh, the crimes against humanity!

To have lived in and appreciated both the East and the West is to know that the measure of a person or a nation is not in mere outward appearances. One can't judge a person's civility (or lack of it) solely by whether she is wearing a burka or a bikini. Clich�s about nations are just that. The very idea that a country, any country, can be contained in mere clich�s is infantile.

Let's hope that with the rising momentum of the phenomenon of the "global village," more and more citizens of the world will enjoy such bipolar and multi-faceted lives.

- Parthiv N. Parekh

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