Suba Subramanium in an e- conversation with Kavita Ramdya.
1) As you have mentioned, you are a second-generation Indian-American Hindu, how do you and your peers fit into the real American society – I mean you are still calling yourself an “Indian-American Hindu” and not an ‘American’?
Kavita : Growing up in the States, I called myself an Indian American. Since moving to England, I introduce myself as an American. When asked about my ethnic heritage, I explain that my parents emigrated from India. However, the hyphenated label is an American convention that doesn’t make much sense in London where I live.
2) You have an enviable Academic record and you have established yourself as a writer, how do you rate your book ‘Bollywood Weddings’? Any plans for your next book?
Kavita : Interesting question – I am very proud of “Bollywood Weddings”. It was a labor of love – I wanted to write a book that my parents would read and one dedicated to the Indian-American community. My idea for the book was spurred by my own history so I was able to “marry” the personal with the academic. In terms of my next book, I’m very superstitious so I’d rather not say!!
3) You seem to be into charitable work too, are there any specific areas you are targeting?
Kavita : I co-chair Women for Women International’s London Junior Leadership Circle, an organization which provides emotional and financial assistance to women survivors of war. We focus our efforts on assisting women in places such as the Middle East and Africa. Personally, I sponsor a Nigerian widow who is single-handedly raising a family on her own. I recognize the fact that random luck is what determines opportunity in life which is why I think it’s important to do philanthropic work.
4) Well, the title of your book says – IN HINDU AMERICA; are you justified in that term which may have a discriminatory undertone?
Kavita :The specificity of my book title is only meant to do just that: specify which religious community, in this case Hindus, is the focus of my book.
5) You have chosen 20 couples for your book – on what basis did you choose these 20?
Kavita : I chose couples where at least one individual was an Indian Hindu born and raised in the States or who moved to the States before the age of five. I belong to a number of South-Asian organizations so soon after putting out a call for participants, I was bombarded by couples interested in participating in my research study. Here was just one instance where I was reminded, yet again, of how fortunate I am to belong to the Indian-American community.
6) You have affirmed in your book that this sub community (Indian-American Hindu) flaunts all things Indian, don’t you think this is the cause for racial discrimination and racial violence, as is happening in Australia, should you not do in Rome what the Romans do?
Kavita :I don’t believe that flaunting one’s ethnicity or religious identity is the cause for racial discrimination and racial violence. The problem lies with the criminal, not the victim. No one “asks for” violence because they wear a turban or a sari. Wearing ethnic attire, having a traditional Hindu wedding, etc. are methods for self expression. If a person strongly identifies with his or her religious faith and/or cultural background, they have every right to express it.
7) A highly academic person like you – wouldn’t you call ‘Bollywood culture’ totally superfluous?
Kavita :I don’t consider myself a “highly academic person” – and, in fact, I love and often review pop culture in my weekly column in “News India Times”. So, no, Bollywood does not strike me as superfluous. To me, Bollywood movies are as significant as Orson Welles’ films. It would be a mistake to ignore the influence of popular culture in our lives; mass media is omnipresent and hugely influences what we think of our own identity and culture, not to mention shapes our ideas about love, romance, and interpersonal relationships.
8) Could you tell us something more about your own wedding?
Kavita :My wedding couldn’t be further from a Bollywood wedding. My husband and I had a justice of the peace officiate our ceremony where we recited our own vows. You can read more about it at my website: