Thursday, April 30, 2020

Sopan Deb's "Missed Translations"

Sopan Deb is a writer for The New York Times, as well as a New York City-based stand up comedian. Before joining the Times, Deb was one of a handful of reporters who covered Donald Trump's presidential campaign from start to finish as a campaign embed for CBS News. He covered hundreds of rallies in more than 40 states for a year and a half and was named a “breakout media star” of the election by Politico.

Deb applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new memoir, Missed Translations: Meeting the Immigrant Parents Who Raised Me, and reported the following:
From page 99:
Shyamal's apartment had a small sunroom off the living room filled with an array of potted plants, with other greenery peering in through floor-to-ceiling windows, not unlike the porch at Bishakha's. Shyamal's had a livelier view, though. There was the constant stream of tuk-tuks, cyclists, and foot traffic, but the pitter-patter of the rain against the windows made it sound almost peaceful.
The test sort of works for my page 99. Missed Translations tracks a year of my life as I try to reconnect with my estranged South Asian parents, who had divorced after a three-decade long toxic arranged marriage. My father, Shyamal, as I found in the course of this journey, was living in Kolkata, while my mother, Bishakha, was in suburban New Jersey. My mother, whom I hadn't seen in four years, lived in an apartment seemingly bereft of life. There were no pictures on the walls, very little in terms of decorations. Without the existence of some rundown furniture, it would not have been clear someone lived in the apartment. My father, who had unexpectedly moved to India more than a decade prior, had rebuilt his life - and it showed in his apartment. Plants. Paintings all over. In many ways, Shyamal's reflected a livelier view - both metaphorically and physically.

But as I found in the course of this journey, whether my parents had decorations hanging on the walls or not, they were both fundamentally empty - alone on opposites of the globe. This journey was my attempt to change that. On some fronts, I was successful. In others, we are a work in progress.
Follow Sopan Deb on Twitter.

--Marshal Zeringue