Blog by Sumana Harihareswara, Changeset founder

14 Aug 2010, 4:53 a.m.

A New Brother-In-Law(-To-Be), and A New Joy

Hi, reader. I wrote this in 2010 and it's now more than five years old. So it may be very out of date; the world, and I, have changed a lot since I wrote it! I'm keeping this up for historical archive purposes, but the me of today may 100% disagree with what I said then. I rarely edit posts after publishing them, but if I do, I usually leave a note in italics to mark the edit and the reason. If this post is particularly offensive or breaches someone's privacy, please contact me.

My sister has just gotten engaged! Nineteen-second video by me, story by her. Her fella, Girish, is highly neat. He is kind, amiable, generous, funny, and industrious, and he reduces the net crazy of any situation he's in.

That's useful for many reasons, and one of them is that I am a big old weirdo. In any milieu, really. But here especially. My mother's house, my blood family, Mysore, Karnataka, India. I know that I feel alien, and my behavior and preferences rub roughly against the expectations, the assumptions of everyone around me (except, kinda, Indian-American teenagers who happen to stop by and need entertaining while their parents talk to my mom).*

But somehow it was only a few days ago, when we were all eating lunch together, that I really saw how they all fit. The joviality, the talking over each other, the casual touches, the food culture. Girish, Nandini, Mom, Nagaratna the housekeeper, every visitor and worker. It is all mundane to them. I'm the strange one, the one who can't stand having food lovingly pushed on her plate, the one who doesn't speak Kannada, the one who can't seem to make conversation about clothes or food or travel or remedies. I've always known I was alien, but it was as though I was seeing for the first time the good that I am alien to.

But Girish, in his matter-of-fact way, puts me at ease. He's laid-back in the best sense: not inattentive, not lazy, but calm and tolerant, as in an implementation of Postel's Law.

I am that annoying contrarian, often, like a cat running under the couch. Tell me a rule and I'll look for an exception. Tell me how to be, order me to change to emulate and work with you, and I'll radicalize and entrench my difference from you.

But Girish sidesteps that old minefield. He helps me feel accepted enough to take a fresh look at the traditions and community I'd so ignorantly rejected. It's funny how calm, not-trying, the ceasing of struggle, opens up such possibilities for change. When once I've been lulled to sleep, I can awake to life and freedom.

* Only as I write this do I realize that I've been retreating into English-language literature and erudition as a refuge, because I feel so inadequate swimming in Kannada. Hamlet, Narayan, Fitzgerald, Cather, and letting my diction loose:

Nandini, complaining about some fake flowers Mom plans to put in the puja room: "These don't even look real!"
Sumana: "Well, artifice is always going to involve an imperfect mimesis."
Nandini: [stare, laugh] "That was like, 'SAT word is always another SAT word!'"
Sumana: "GRE word, please. 'Artifice' is SAT, but 'mimesis' steps it up."


Thomas Thurman
14 Aug 2010, 18:40 p.m.

Congratulations to her and to all of you.

(Do you remember Crimes Against Mimesis and the resulting Sins Against Mimesis?)

Kevin Mark
16 Aug 2010, 1:18 a.m.

It was sad to see your name tag unused at Debconf but you are doing a much more important duty. These posts about your father and family, I am enjoying immensely, although I wish they were under better circumstances. There are many more of your kind lurking about, I called them aspies, I include myself in their ranks. We often feel alien unless we are with others of our kind. Debconf is a place where almost all are such creatures.

17 Aug 2010, 11:19 a.m.

Congratulations to Nandini, Girish, and all of you! He sounds like a wonderful fellow and a great addition to the family. Many happy years together to the both of them.