The Book that Measured My Life and Growth

David and his nurse Peggoty. Drawing by Jessie Willcox Smith (1910)

My Happy Birthday! post for Charles Dickens, one of my all time favorite authors (who’d be 200 if he was alive today)! Given that my grandmother is edging close to a 100, it doesn’t feel that old really!

My love affair with Dickens began with my 10th birthday, when a bachelor friend of my parents’, who had been invited to my birthday party, handed me the first thing that came his way: an unabridged version of Dicken’s David Copperfield.  Recently, when I asked a 10 year old if he had read David Copperfield, he said, “No, but I’ve seen him on T.V. He’s cool!”  I realized he was talking about the magician!

But Dicken’s David Copperfield was really my childhood magician.  (more…)

Finding Myself Outside The Known

This for me has been one of the biggest questions in establishing a personal identity: which part of me is me, and which part is simply a product of family, societal and cultural conditioning?

And for me the most important part of recognizing an individual and independent identity has been in the discovery of those things that I had not been exposed to by others — my parents, the society, culture and country I was born into.  (more…)

Being A Woman In Two Cultures

The two countries that I’ve lived in for an extended period of time, and therefore feel I’m in a position to compare notes on, are India and the U.S.  I was born and raised all over India, and moved to the U.S. in my late teens.  I studied, lived and worked in the U.S. and returned to India when I was almost 30.

I have often been asked how life for me in India compares to living in the U.S. or vice-versa.  That’s a question with a whole complex dimension to it that I’m still working out for myself.

But the question that is increasingly significant for me personally, one that oddly I’ve never been asked, is: How does living as a woman in India compare with living as a woman in the U.S.?

I answer that question in the following article “Where Are All The Women?” This is not a social analysis of gender in the east and the west.  Rather it is my personal experience of what it has meant for me to live as a woman in these two countries.  How each of the cultures and societies impacted on me – on my personal sense of womanhood and feminine space.To read the article click here.


This is one of my early poems that was published under the pen name — Ilina Sen.   “Undressing” was first published in the U.K. journal of poetry Obsessed with PipeworkYou can read the whole poem here

Are Our Lives “Boxed” Identities?


Delineating human identity—be it national, state or cultural—by drawing lines on the face of the earth is perhaps one of the most illogical and peculiar activities that the human species engages in. Perhaps no other animal species feels such a compulsion to self-assort…

In reality, national boundaries are nonexistent.   They cannot be touched or seen. Their existence is on paper only and precariously dependent on human desires and conflicts. History shows us these lines shift often. New nations are born. And old ones disappear. And like there was a magic pen involved, the lines are erased and redrawn. The new lines enclose new identities—and this is what makes them particularly illogical and bizarre…

…while Eva could treat her new nationalism with light humor…the process for most people is often agonizing and disorienting.  As was seen in Yugoslavia, the restructuring of a nation’s borders is frequently accompanied by bloodshed and unmitigated violence of a manner that undermines humanity itself.  Those who survive it…still can’t overcome…Read the whole article here.

First published in Word Worth: World magazine of Ideas and Arts, October 2008, Vol 8, No.10

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