The Hindi-Bindi Club

The Hindi-Bindi Club

4.7 19
by Monica Pradhan
     
 

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For decades they have remained close, sharing treasured recipes, honored customs, and the challenges of women shaped by ancient ways yet living modern lives. They are the Hindi-Bindi Club, a nickname given by their American daughters to the mothers who left India to start anew—daughters now grown and facing struggles of their own.

For Kiran, Preity, and

Overview

For decades they have remained close, sharing treasured recipes, honored customs, and the challenges of women shaped by ancient ways yet living modern lives. They are the Hindi-Bindi Club, a nickname given by their American daughters to the mothers who left India to start anew—daughters now grown and facing struggles of their own.

For Kiran, Preity, and Rani, adulthood bears the indelible stamp of their upbringing, from the ways they tweak their mothers’ cooking to suit their Western lifestyles to the ways they reject their mothers’ most fervent beliefs. Now, bearing the disappointments and successes of their chosen paths, these daughters are drawn inexorably home.

Kiran, divorced, will seek a new beginning—this time requesting the aid of an ancient tradition she once dismissed. Preity will confront an old heartbreak—and a hidden shame. And Rani will face her demons as an artist and a wife. All will question whether they have the courage of the Hindi-Bindi Club, to hold on to their dreams—or to create new ones.

An elegant tapestry of East and West, peppered with food and ceremony, wisdom and sensuality, this luminous novel breathes new life into timeless themes.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

The age-old intergenerational struggle between mothers and daughters gets a curried twist in Pradhan's debut, in which the subcontinent meets the modern West. As children, first-generation Americans Kiran Deshpande, Preity Chawla Lindstrom and Rani McGuiness Tomashot gently mocked their Indian mothers, collectively nicknamed "The Hindi-Bindi Club" for their Old World leanings. Though the three are now successful adults, they aren't necessarily seen as such by their parents. For starters, none married Indian men. But now, Kiran's parents may get their chance to "semi-arrange" a marriage for their divorced daughter as she considers the possibility that there may be something to the old ways. Preity, mostly happily married to business school beau Eric, carries a small torch for a long-lost love—a Muslim her parents didn't approve of—and considers seeking him out. Meanwhile, rocket scientist Rani's passion for art starts to pay off as she becomes spiritually listless. Pradhan's debut is breezy (there are enough recipes dotting the narrative to fill a cookbook), though it touches on not-so sunny issues—prejudice, breast cancer, infidelity. The prose isn't dynamite and the characters are stock, but the novel easily fulfills its ready-made requirements. (May)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780553384529
Publisher:
Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
05/01/2007
Pages:
448
Sales rank:
305,237
Product dimensions:
5.17(w) x 8.22(h) x 0.91(d)
Age Range:
14 - 18 Years

Read an Excerpt

Kiran Deshpande: Where Are You From? I have lanced many boils, but none pained like my own. INDIAN ADAGE

I’m never sure what people want to know when they ask me: “Where are you from?”

The question doesn’t offend me, as I’m curious about people myself. I’m fascinated by the origins of family trees, the land and seas over which seeds migrate, cross-pollinate, and germinate anew.

In my thirty-two years, I’ve traveled to all fifty United States, lived in ten of them, in every American time zone, most since I left home for college at seventeen and never moved back. A modern gypsy, I’ve developed an ear for accents. I’m charmed by different cadences. It’s a game for me to place them, to listen for the fish out of water.

“Is that Texas I hear?” I ask with a smile—always a smile, the universal ambassador of goodwill—of a lady in Juno, Alaska.

I never ask that slippery little devil, you know the one: “Where are you from?”

Sometimes, I envy people who can answer this deceptively simple question in two words or less. “Jersey” or “Chicago,” “New Orleans” or “Southern Cal.” People who’ve lived most of their lives in a single state, sometimes even a single town. People whose physical appearance or last name is unremarkable.

I don’t fall into any of these categories.

When I get this question—not an everyday occurrence, but I get it more than most—I’m never certain what information the person seeks. Is it the origin of my own mid-Atlantic accent? My heritage? My married name (read off a credit card, a check, or a name tag)?

To cover the bases, I supply all three. Probably overkill, but I figure the desired answer’s somewhere in here: “My parents emigrated from India in the 1960s when my father went to medical school at Harvard. I was born in Cambridge but grew up outside of Washington, D.C. My husband’s last name is Italian.”

If I answer with a genuine smile, I almost always receive one in response, which strengthens my belief in karma.

A guy once told me I looked like Disney’s Princess Jasmine, except my boobs weren’t big enough. For the first four years of our marriage, I assumed he exaggerated on both counts.

Princess Jasmine is prettier than I am, but she isn’t bigger than a B-cup, thankyouverymuch.

In retrospect, as I reflect on his statement (something I do less as time goes on), I wonder if he meant my boobs weren’t big enough for him. This would be a logical con- clusion after coming home early to find his face sand- wiched between a pair of D-cups. Silicon D-cups, which is my professional opinion as a practicing physician, not just another ex-wife whose husband screwed around on her.

I am wondering about this today as I appreciate the latest and greatest “water bra” in the Victoria’s Secret dressing room. It’s the first week of December, and I’m almost finished with my holiday shopping, so I’m splurging on a few things for myself. The water bra has a lovely effect, I must admit as I turn from side to side. I take it off and decide I look great, with or without the bra. I’m young. I’m healthy. My body is well toned. Nothing sags.

So why am I crying?

A tissue box sits on a ledge, as if my meltdown is not an isolated phenomenon in these dressing rooms. I thank whomever for the forethought and mop my face.

Why are you crying? I ask the woman in the mirror. You have everything going for you.

Yes, but where will it go from here? the woman replies. And with whom?

I turn my back because I can’t bear to look at her anymore, but I can’t leave either. Not like this. Once I was stuck in a stairwell after I lost a patient. I couldn’t come out until I regained control, couldn’t risk the family seeing me that way. They count on me to be strong when they’re weak. But who’s strong for me when I’m weak?

The woman in the mirror mocks me because she still looks so young, yet for the first time, I feel the acceleration of time. It doesn’t seem so long ago I turned twenty-two, med school and marriage my dreams. Now here I am a decade later, a doctor, married and divorced. I’ve crossed thirty, and I’m afraid if I blink, I’ll be staring at forty, looking back on today.

“It seems like just yesterday I fell apart in the Victoria’s Secret dressing room,” I’ll say as I recollect the days when I had perky breasts.

Stark reality presses against me, a cold stethoscope on my bare skin. I cringe and shiver, hug my arms, rub my goose bumps. The truth is I am terrified. Of squandering my precious time on this earth. Of wasting what’s left of my youth. Of turning the big Four-O and looking back with regrets.

I’m a family doctor. Every day, I see families. I want a family, too.

I’m healthy and vibrant now, but with each passing year, my eggs age. I’m tired of wandering. Tired of my gypsy existence as a traveling doc, temporarily filling in where there’s a need. Tired of running away from the fact my foolish heart betrayed me as much as Anthony’s cheating.

I yank two more tissues from the box and discover they’re the last ones. Isn’t that life? One day the tissues run out.

So what’s your strategy with the tissues you have, Kiran?

I don’t want to freeze my eggs. I don’t want to visit a sperm bank. I don’t want to be a single parent, if I have any choice in the matter. I want a nuclear family. I want to put down roots, to let my seeds germinate, to watch them bloom and flourish. Not one day, if and when I ever fall in love again, but now. While I still have my youth, damn it.

I glance over my shoulder at the puffy-eyed woman in the mirror. Slowly, I turn and face her. There is a solution, if she’s willing to keep an open mind, to think with her head this time, instead of her heart. I take a deep breath, hold it, and nod. And right there in the Victoria’s Secret dressing room, in my yuppie-chick equivalent of a midlife crisis, I allow myself to contemplate something I always deemed impossible, dismissed as cold, archaic, backward. The mate-seeking process that served my parents, most of their Indian-immigrant friends, and generations of ancestors for centuries.

An arranged marriage.

Leaving the shopping carnival of Georgetown Park, I stand at the intersection of M Street and Wisconsin Avenue and wait for the walk signal. You’d think I’d be done with malls, but no. When I got my driver’s license at sixteen, Georgetown was the place to hang out, and for me, it’s never lost its appeal. I love the shops and restaurants, the inter- national and academic atmosphere, the colonial architecture. Whenever I’m back in town, I make a pit stop here on my way home. It grounds me.

I walk up the brick sidewalk to 33rd and Q. It’s been five years since my last visit, but my ritual’s unchanged. If I can get a space, I parallel park near my dream house, a Tudor that resembles a gingerbread house, its fence and gate laced with a jungle of ivy, trimmed to reveal the pointed tips of cast-iron rungs as straight as spears. When I graduated from high school, in addition to throwing a penny in the mall fountain and making a wish, I put a note in the mailbox on Q Street asking the owners to please call me when they wanted to sell the house. I hoped by the time they were ready, I would be, too. I’m still waiting.

With my purchases—a red poinsettia in green foil and white roses with sprigs of fern—ensconced in the passenger seat of my Saab, I take Key Bridge across the muddy Potomac and cruise down the G.W. Parkway toward the ’burbs. I’m tempted to stop—and stall some more—at one of the scenic overlooks (make-out hot spots). Instead, I crack the windows, crank the heat, blare the Goo Goo Dolls to calm my nerves, and force myself to keep going.

I’m so not looking forward to this. As if it isn’t hard enough coming home with my tail between my legs, the thought of approaching my parents with my brainstorm makes it that much worse. I already know what’s in store. The Mother of All Lectures. The Granddaddy of I-told-you-sos. A lifetime of smugness. Vindication they were right and I was wrong in my decision to marry Anthony . . . If only I’d listened to them . . . Blah blah blah . . .

No matter how old I get or how much respect I garner from the rest of the world, to my parents, I’m still an exasperating, recalcitrant child whose ear requires constant twisting. And in their world, I feel reduced to one. Which is why I avoid them as much as possible, and why I feel like a runaway coming home.

In my hometown of Potomac, Maryland, I almost run a stop sign that wasn’t there five years ago. I slam on the brakes. The seatbelt pins me. I lunge my right arm out to catch the poinsettia before it takes a header. Too late. The plant sails off the seat, smashes into the glove compartment, and skitters under the dash, dumping black soil all over the cream floor mat and filling the air with the scent of damp earth.

Meet the Author

Monica Pradhan's parents immigrated to the United States from Mumbai, India, in the 1960s. She was born in Pittsburgh, PA, and grew up outside Washington, DC. and now lives in Minnesota and Toronto with her husband.

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Hindi-Bindi Club 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 17 reviews.
LM02 More than 1 year ago
Being able to see the different view points of the previous and current generation is a plus and something both generations can appreciate and understand each other.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was wonderful and beautifully described both the cultural aspects of the Indians and the clash it makes with American societies (I would know being the child of Indian parents that immigrated to Alaska). I sat there in my parents bedroom reading it and throwing out quotes from the book, making them laugh, but while it has its comedic moments, it also has a depth and seriousness that compel you to keep reading until its done! Plus, it comes with some delicious recipes that are tempting enough for anyone to try!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
great blending of old school and new school. Loved it
pinklotus More than 1 year ago
A fantastic read! 'The Hindi-Bindi Club' was smartly written and engaging, and had the perfect balance of humor, emotion, and even spirituality. I enjoyed all of the plot threads, but I especially loved the chapters set in India. I am Indian-American, and I appreciated learning even more about my heritage. Monica Pradhan did an incredible job with this book! I thank her for sharing such a wonderful story with the world.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
You will be amazed by the parallels particularly if you are a NRI, non resident Indian or an American born Indian. Our parents and grandparents are amazingly wise in so many areas that are new and unknown to them. This book reveals this wisdom along with the strong cultural values in an inviting and understanding way. Once we are adults ourselves, we can fully appreciate and embrace their wisdom. What is the saying in America, 'hind sight is 20/20'
Guest More than 1 year ago
I like to read books about Indian women and culture and this book was outstanding. I thought that character's different perspectives were well-written. The recipes are all interesting as well and I can't wait to try them. I am looking forward to reading more books from this author.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Hindi-Bindi Club is an evocative story of three young first-generation Indian-American women who enjoy the freedom of American life but are also bound by their Indian heritage. This is a novel about identity, assimilation, cultural and family values. The author, Monica Pradhan is skillfully blending ancient Indian traditions of pronouncements from horoscopes, arranged marriages and family rituals with the modern American mythology that you make your own life and your own future. Busy professionals, Kiran, Preity and Rani go home to Washington D.C. for the holidays to their mothers, whom they lovingly refer to as the Hindi-Bindi Club. The young women are looking forward to a season of good food, laughter, arguments and gossip but they leave with so much more: reconciliation between generations and also between Indian traditions and the American dream. Kiran, Preity and Rani, who are childhood friends, break out of old Indian conventions in order to fulfil their ambitions and create the life they envision for themselves. However, when the crunch comes where else would they go for comfort and advice than back to their mothers? These young women live a hyphenated life, being Indian-American, exploring who they really are. They are successful by American standards but are considered a success by their Indian-born mothers? This question forms the core of the story and the resolutions to problems, which emerge in great numbers between the older and the younger generation of women, leave the protagonists and us, the readers with the fuzzy warm feeling of mutual understanding and respect between mothers and daughters. I enjoyed immersing myself in the rich cultural context and the warm spirituality of Indian women this debut novel offers. Fantastic recipes spice up the story, making The Hindi-Bindi Club the prefect book for body, mind and spirit. This is a well-written, intelligent, witty and funny, insightful and memorable novel. Monica Pradhan is a charismatic young writer I will definitely watch in the future. I can hardly wait to read her sequel The Bangle Bazaar to The Hindi-Bindi Club, which is scheduled for release in the summer of 2009.
Guest More than 1 year ago
After the first couple of chapters I wasn't sure I should continue the book--I didn't quite like the style in which the first generation's perspective was written, but I quickly became engrossed in this novel, touched by the delightful imagery that the words conjured up--memories described on paper of Partition, the sights and sounds of Kolkata, and a distant lover in Goa all came to life through Pradhan's novel. Haven't tried the recipes yet, I'm sure they'll be great though!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have to admit to being skeptical about this book: I'm a male Indo-American writer, and I usually don't reach for what could be considered women's fiction. But after seeing Monica Pradhan speak at a local South Asian literary festival, I bought a copy. And couldn't put it down. HBC is a very fast read with just the right balance of drama, humor, culture, and insight, like a spiced-right curry. Much of the characters' journeys is internal, but Pradhan's skill with words and her ability to juggle multiple intertwined storylines kept me engaged. As an added bonus, this was the first book I've read that includes Marathi, the language I grew up speaking. Side note: the recipes are tempting enough to make this total non-cook consider trying them. Good reading and good food. Can't go wrong with that combination.
harstan More than 1 year ago
Thirty-two years old family doctor Kiran Deshpande recently has had doubts about her American dream as a second generation from India. She divorced her non-Indian musician and returned to her parents¿ home in Potomac, Maryland wondering if her mother's way of meeting a spouse through an arrangement is better as they remain together while she who had choices is single. --- In the DC suburb Kiran sees her childhood friends Preity Chawla Lindstrom and Rani McGuiness Tomashot they form a freindship similar to that of their mothers, the original members of THE HINDI-BINDI CLUB, who emigrated from India in the 1960s to eventually live in this Maryland town. The younger trio begins sharing confidences while Kiran begins her plan for a traditional Indian arranged marriage. By becoming closer to each other, they actually get closer to their respective mothers as none of the threesome any longer scorns the first generation with their old country ideas. --- This interesting story line uses stereotypes (including the mothers and daughters) to tell the tale of dramatic change that occurs between the immigrant generation and the first American with a dash generation. The story line focuses on the changes in outlook of the younger trio as they turn from scorn to respect for their elders who struggled with racism. Readers who appreciate a deep spotlight on generational America will enjoy this look at Indian-Americans whose difference can be summed over the dash. --- Harriet Klausner