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Room to Fly A Transcultural Memoir

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Key Words: Space, place, internal /external landscapes, language, memoir, meditation, travel, feminism, South Asian women, postcolonialism, cross- cultural perceptions, spiritual journey, intimate geography, migration, history, cultural anthropology, sociology, philosophy, aesthetics, education, India.

Room to Fly takes its shape and direction from a tenet of Japanese Sumi painting: If you depict a bird, give it space to fly. The author explores the human spaces surrounding different aspects of experience across cultures. Her themes include language, landscapes, literacy and illiteracy, intelligence, music, dance, legend, the cadence of an ancient craft, metaphors of migration, and the ceaselessly unfolding layers of family relationships. Part autobiography, part travelogue, part meditation, the structural format of this book represents a new genre with an old diction. It uses lyricism, humor and intellectual rigor to move from Bombay to the Bahamas, from Japan to New England, the Greek Isles to New Mexico: tracing the elusive contours of cultural perceptions East and West, and taking the reader into the intimate geography of individual lives.

Note on the format: The subheads -- of locations like "New York," "Delhi," etc. -- are the equivalent of journalistic deadlines. If it weren't for this precise context, a particular event or insight may not have come to birth. The purpose of the format is to acknowledge and bridge these internal/external landscapes. Sections beneath the subheads continue the inner/outer theme by being flexible in expression. Narrative, essay, reflection, poetry, and vignette take their turn, since life doesn't come in symmetrical packages, and our experiences vary correspondingly in kind, length and intensity. For above all, Room to Fly honors the quick of experience: recording, as a matter of spiritual survival, the movement of a life across changing times and contexts.

In the opening chapters the author maintains a fidelity to her own experiences. In the middle section on landscapes, the accent is on what she has witnessed in lives and countries not her own. Coming a full circle, the final chapters deal with four specific individuals whose lives are seen in their own contexts during different decades of India's more recent history.