Breaching the gap

South Asia is hot these days— Bombay, 77 degrees, Lahore,  84— and it’s a hot topic in Charlottesville, too. It seems as though all over the University of Virginia events related to South Asia are places to go.
A few weeks ago, the Indian Students’ Association celebrated India Day with an electrifying festival of dance. From festive country dances to a sophisticated fashion show, Indian students and their friends displayed impressive talent and artistry.
City and county public school teachers are midway through a mini course on the historical and cultural background of Afghanistan and Pakistan sponsored by the Center for South Asian Studies, a national resource center funded by the U.S. Department of Education. The programs of this Center are designed to foster understanding of a part of the world often mysterious and, at this point in history, perhaps, forbidding to many Americans.
    To further advance the cause of understanding and cooperation, on Friday, April 19, UVA’s program in comparative literature presents a reading by Meena Alexander, distinguished professor of English at New York’s Hunter College. Alexander, who was born in Allahabad, India, has published numerous books, including two novels, Manhattan Music and Nampally Road, and The Shock of Arrival: Reflections on Post colonial Experience, a book of poems and prose pieces. Her memoir, Fault Lines, received critical acclaim and was chosen as one of Publishers Weekly's Best Books of 1993.
    Tomorrow afternoon in UVA’s Minor Hall, Alexander reads from Illiterate Heart, a recent book of poetry celebrating her heritage, her experience of exile, and her connections to both India and America. Drawing for her poetry on the images and languages of her dual life, Alexander evokes contradictory geographies, thoughts, and feelings to great power and effect.
    All efforts toward global understanding and peace are salutary, but at this critical time, efforts to breach the gulf of ignorance between cultures are especially critical. Listening to one woman’s experiences might be a first step toward such understanding.

Meena Alexander reads from her recent book of poetry, Illiterate Heart, Friday,April 19, at 3pm in 225 Minor Hall at UVA. Free and open to the public, sponsored by the Center for South Asian Studies. 924-8815

Read more on: meena alexander