Soniah Kamal

Writer. Editor. Speaker.

Karma Gone Bad by Jenny Feldon

Karma Gone Bad

Or How I Learned To Love Mangos, Bollywood and Water Buffaloes
Cover Karma Gone BadFor an immigrant such as myself, who moved from a big city in a developing nation to battle the loneliness of living in the United States, I was eager to read Jenny Feldon’s reverse experience. In the mid-2000s, Feldon and her husband Jay, both twenty-seven years old, have been married less than a year and reside in Manhattan, where Feldon’s life is quite fulfilled with Starbucks, her dog, yoga, her blog, and her novel-in-progress. Then Jay’s company transfers him to Hyderabad, India for two years. Feldon has misgivings from the get-go. Despite the chance to, as she says, “ride elephants and visit the Taj Mahal,” she admits zero interest in traveling outside America. She also refuses to be practical. Although an expat guidebook advises taking only essentials on the plane, Feldon insists on packing designer shoes and cocktail dresses.

When the couple arrives in Hyderabad, a man tries to steal Feldon’s white YSL handbag; the drive to their apartment is an equally unnerving experience. By the end of their first day in the city, Jay falls ill with the strange chikungunya fever. He recovers soon enough and begins to settle down, but Feldon falls apart.

One could easily commiserate with Feldon’s misery and confusion. When I moved to the United States, I also felt unmoored—I had thought all of the US was some version of New York City and San Francisco combined. In much the same way, Feldon expected a glamorous expat lifestyle only to realize that India is not a brown version of Sex and the City (though I wonder if she would have adjusted any easier had she been able to let go of her preconceptions).

Many of Feldon’s complaints will strike the reader as all too valid—constant food poisoning, or being constantly pawed and photographed in public because she’s white and blue-eyed. India is dirty, dusty, and hot, with mosquitoes, stray dogs, and buffalo wandering city streets. Feldon, a coffee addict, can’t find a decent cup of coffee anywhere, not even at Café Coffee Day (a Starbucks-type place), and the plastic to-go lids melt. She tries to be part of the expat social scene but, just like the Indians, most of the other expats stare at her out-of-place designer dresses and shoes.

It is only after a serious threat to her marriage, and only after Jay reminds her they have six months left in India, that Feldon perks up enough to be curious about the country. It’s a pity that this turnaround happens in the last fifty pages because those experiences are interesting: she hires servants; she takes an interest in her driver Venkat’s sweet love story; she meets a savvy local, Anjali, and Feldon’s world opens up; she starts practicing yoga again; she gets some “retail therapy” at an old spice bazaar; she braves a local grocery in order to make Jay chicken soup; she visits a local orphanage.

That said, Feldon’s exotification of third-world poverty is disturbing. She sees beauty in the world after meeting a slum family, interacting with an orphan girl, and seeing a little barefoot errand boy. Does Feldon experience the same beauty when witnessing poverty in the US? In many instances, I was unsure of what to make of her tone. In the following passage, she goes to the cinema to watch a Bollywood film, but is she being funny or flippant?

The final credits of Dhoom 2 rolled, and I stood up, wiping a tear away with the back of my hand. I’d loved it. Well, loved it . . . but didn’t really get it. Why was everyone so happy and dance-y when life in India could be so unspeakably hard? . . . Here was something Indian I could get on board with: glitz and glamour and fairy-tale romance.

Can Feldon truly not see that Dhoom 2 is as much an escapist fantasy for her as it is for any Indian? That an American and an Indian share a common humanity? Ironically, Feldon decides she wants to be a Bollywood superstar, and to that end, starts taking Hindi lessons.

Feldon sees everything through the dichotomous prism of “her own self” or that of the “other” in an irreconcilable way. This is a shame, given that she otherwise offers social commentary, such as her focus on the Indian obsession with skin color and the glass ceilings imposed by caste, which prevent Venkat from living the American dream of rising above one’s circumstances. Venkat, who is Hindu, dislikes Christians and Muslims and yet has close Muslim friends. Feldon takes note of his hypocrisy, but she does not question it. When Hyderabad is under terrorist attack, Feldon allows Venkat to have the last word: “Muslim peoples no good people . . . No more Muslim meaning no more problem,” without any discussion or debate regarding his point of view. Is Feldon’s silence because of her lack of understanding of the social dynamics, or does she simply not think Venkat’s views may have consequences?

Feldon demonstrates deeper introspection when she writes of America; her words are subtle and nuanced. She is most engaging when she writes about her parents, in particular her relationship with her father, a man who comes across as a solid, decent human being and a very wise parent.

It would have made for a stronger memoir if Feldon explored what India meant to her, for better or worse. The subtitle, How I Learned to Love Mangos, Bollywood, and Water Buffalo, is misleading. “Love” ought to have been replaced by “tolerate” or “accept.” Many threads are left unfinished; for example, I would like to know why Monsoon Wedding is her favorite film and how she finally figured out how to do the laundry. As it is, Karma Gone Bad is a quick read written in the same clean, simple style as Feldon’s blog, and so will certainly appeal to her existing fans. It portrays an India that is confusing but not really demystified.

originally published in Jaggery Issue # 1

157 Comments

  1. Pingback: nanoo

  2. Pingback: wow gold online

  3. Pingback: hey there

  4. Pingback: hey there

  5. Pingback: 2014 pay

  6. Pingback: https://sites.google.com/site/pelisonlinee/

  7. Pingback: truth about cellulite ebook

  8. Pingback: cách vào ibet khi bị chặn mới nhất

  9. Pingback: web sbobet

  10. Pingback: low loft bunk beds for toddlers

  11. Pingback: pikavippi 2900

  12. Pingback: peter thomas roth oil free moisturizer reviews

  13. Pingback: lainat24h

  14. Pingback: k18v

  15. Pingback: LainaaHeti24.fi

  16. Pingback: ilman työpaikkaa

  17. Pingback: Data Recovery Software

  18. Pingback: muscle mass protein

  19. Pingback: deer antler muscle growth

  20. Pingback: Data Loss

  21. Pingback: deer antler bodybuilding

  22. Pingback: Verizon FIOS promo code

  23. Pingback: plantation shutters building cost per square metre

  24. Pingback: payday short term loan best source

  25. Pingback: payday short term loan USA lender

  26. Pingback: go to this web-site

  27. Pingback: dildos

  28. Pingback: sizegenetics review

  29. Pingback: drug addict

  30. Pingback: alcoholics

  31. Pingback: http://getforeverrecovery.com

  32. Pingback: http://www.getforeverrecovery.com/

  33. Pingback: click here

  34. Pingback: www.getforeverrecovery.com

  35. Pingback: world cup 2014

  36. Pingback: http://getforeverrecovery.com/

  37. Pingback: kulutusluotot

  38. Pingback: spencer diamonds

  39. Pingback: iphone

  40. Pingback: alcoholics

  41. Pingback: jewelry diamond bracelet

  42. Pingback: vimax pills

  43. Pingback: food addiction

  44. Pingback: word cup 14

  45. Pingback: get a forever recovery blog

  46. Pingback: recovery

  47. Pingback: lainaa heti

  48. Pingback: uverse coupons

  49. Pingback: CLICKING HERE

  50. Pingback: cheap wow gold

  51. Pingback: bong88.com ibet

  52. Pingback: http://www.toastysmart.com

  53. Pingback: att uverse code

  54. Pingback: bong88.net bong da

  55. Pingback: Check My Reference

  56. Pingback: pikalaina

  57. Pingback: top dating network

  58. Pingback: game bong88

  59. Pingback: Reverse Phone Lookup

  60. Pingback: source

  61. Pingback: learn stocks

  62. Pingback: Driving Lessons

  63. Pingback: bong88.net bong da

  64. Pingback: Plancast

  65. Pingback: app store

  66. Pingback: butik sepatu online

  67. Pingback: forex forex forex

  68. Pingback: made a post

  69. Pingback: respiro jaket

  70. Pingback: alcohol detoxification

  71. Pingback: stock news

  72. Pingback: dropship vitamins

  73. Pingback: design zippo

  74. Pingback: how to trade futures

  75. Pingback: koleksi kata mutiara pilihan

  76. Pingback: official website

  77. Pingback: kemitraan usaha adalah

  78. Pingback: Fake Oakley Sunglasses

  79. Pingback: party bus service

  80. Pingback: sytropin free trial

  81. Pingback: jualan baju

  82. Pingback: employee monitoring software at office network

  83. Pingback: ray ban aviator 3025

  84. Pingback: asthma nebulizer

  85. Pingback: activity discovery

  86. Pingback: Online Sportsbook

  87. Pingback: deer antler spray

  88. Pingback: alcohol abuse statistics

  89. Pingback: Football Picks

  90. Pingback: how to become a real estate agent

  91. Pingback: jcpenney coupon

  92. Pingback: konsep belajar matematika anak

  93. Pingback: kisi kisi skl un smp pdf

  94. Pingback: free forex charts

  95. Pingback: baju import

  96. Pingback: debt consolidation

  97. Pingback: find

  98. Pingback: mencegah jerawat

  99. Pingback: cheap 2013 ray ban sunglasses

  100. Pingback: replica dior delices bags

  101. Pingback: le bon coin

  102. Pingback: celine handbags 2014

  103. Pingback: lancel pas cher

  104. Pingback: 2011 01 04 schalke 04 wechselt huntelaar im tausch mit sissoko zu juventus turin

  105. Pingback: t-shirt printing

  106. Pingback: alzheimer association

  107. Pingback: become a real estate agent

  108. Pingback: livestream

  109. Pingback: gucci belt sale

  110. Pingback: allergy and asthma

  111. Pingback: distributor baju wanita online

  112. Pingback: beats for sale

  113. Pingback: grosir baju import

  114. Pingback: advice from a honey bee

  115. Pingback: boncoin

  116. Pingback: herbal jerawat

  117. Pingback: Ray Ban Polarized lunette Outlet RB2074

  118. Pingback: baju bayi

  119. Pingback: Christian Louboutin Pompe You You 100mm Noir

  120. Pingback: tas perempuan terbaru

  121. Pingback: jual ransel

  122. Pingback: international health

  123. Pingback: New Jordan Release 2014

  124. Pingback: houston web design

  125. Pingback: kim kardashian sex tape

  126. Pingback: tas ransel murah online

  127. Pingback: driving lesson indooroopilly

  128. Pingback: Ciri Awal kehamilan

  129. Pingback: rumah idaman

  130. Pingback: health & fitness

  131. Pingback: christian louboutin website

  132. Pingback: led high power

  133. Pingback: novoline

  134. Pingback: food combining diet

  135. Pingback: novoline

  136. Pingback: bachelorette party ideas

  137. Pingback: soleus portable air conditioner

  138. Pingback: Cheap Jordan Brazil Pack

  139. Pingback: green smoke

  140. Pingback: cheap jordans

  141. Pingback: model dipan tempat tidur

  142. Pingback: alviero martini borse prezzi

  143. Pingback: central air conditioning unit

  144. Pingback: colocation los angeles

  145. Pingback: miley cyrus sex tape

  146. Pingback: bachelorette party ideas

  147. Pingback: hollister sycomore short anse

  148. Pingback: Lagu Armada

  149. Pingback: tas wanita casual

  150. Pingback: tas wanita louis vuitton

  151. Pingback: go here

  152. Pingback: .

  153. Pingback: sparky lock screen v0 99 6 apk

  154. Pingback: los angeles colocation

  155. Pingback: Coach factory outlet

  156. Pingback: toms Norge

  157. Pingback: colocation los angeles

%d bloggers like this: