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Khushboo Sharma

IWB Blogger

Huma Abedin And Mindy Kaling Bond Over Their Indian Ties, Motherhood, And More

  • IWB Post
  •  July 12, 2018

Huma Abedin is a name well known in American politics. Having served as the vice chair of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign for President, the woman certainly knows her political moves.

Mindy Kaling has immersed herself in art and entertainment. An actress, comedian, and writer, she knows the intricacies of showbiz like the back of her hand.

Clearly, the two women are worlds apart. Huma is all power, passion, and politics. Mindy is all art, creativity, and showbiz. There, however, is a common thread that unites the two power players i.e. their Indian roots.

The two women recently engaged in a conversation for Elle India, and the results were certainly what we expected and more. Here are the excerpts:

On identity

The question of identity is a question that has haunted the human intellect since time immemorial. It, however, becomes all the more pronounced for people of the diaspora. Huma and Mindy’s conversation opened on the same note.

Dwelling on the idea, Huma said, “My upbringing was culturally very mixed: Europeans, Americans, South Africans, Africans, Arabs. We were American, we were Muslim; those formed the very core of our identities.”

Mindy raised a question in reply, “The lines can be quite distinct, can’t they?” She added, “Hindu-Muslim, India-Pakistan. For me, all South Asians going through the Hollywood machine are brothers and sisters. And I am always surprised when people seek out the divide.”

On the choice of careers

More often than not, in South Asia, becoming a doctor or engineer is treated as the ultimate salvation. It redeems you, rather makes you invincible in the eyes of your family and society. Thus, it certainly takes something more than courage to go against the flow and choose a career path that is not ‘mainstream’ in the eyes of your South Asian parents.

“For South Asians, I feel like when we were growing up, to be successful, culturally there was a sense that we had to be doctors, lawyers or engineers,” said Huma resonating every South Asian parent ever.

Mindy agreed with Huma as she said, “Nothing would’ve made my parents — mum was a doctor and dad was an architect — happier than if I had said, “All I want to do is be a mechanical engineer and get married at 24 to a Hindu-American man and have all my children by 30.” But, yeah, here I am, a 38-year-old single mum, who is an actor. I’m not sure that fits in with what their number one hope for me had been, but I’d say that growing up, I had the fortune and ingenuity to be good at what I did. So, they were okay.”

On the art of embracing the American life, while sticking to native roots

Appreciating the art of maintaining the fine balance between the American life and native traditions, Huma said, “I think my parents were successful, and in that, they immersed themselves into all aspects of American life, but they also kept their own traditions.”

Mindy responded, “That right there is why I resonate with Jhumpa Lahiri. She is Bengali and her parents emigrated to Boston. That kind of cultural, academic professional background…and moving to the east coast…and the parka over the sari, the combination does something to my heart.”

On organising a trip to India 

The conversation between the two lively women quickly flowed dynamically as they switched from one topic to the other till they reached the most pervading topic of the Indian diaspora: India and Indianness.  “You know, I think we need to organise an India trip,” suggested Huma.

Getting all excited, Mindy replied, “Oh my God, that would be amazing. I haven’t been since I was 15.” Huma comes up with an idea, “And I feel like we’ve got to figure out how to get invited to an Indian wedding, so we can wear beautiful clothes for five days in a row and eat amazing food!

“And we could have a great itinerary, where we could do some glamorous feel-good things, but also have a nice cultural and philosophical aspect to our trip,” Mindy added.

On the rhetoric of ‘What if’

Salman Rushdie has resonated with it, Amitav Ghosh has resonated with it, Mira Nair has resonated with it. To cut it short, every citizen of the diaspora, at some point or the other, has dwelled upon the idea of life sans the displacement. The topic thus slid in most naturally in the conversation.

“You know, I often wonder what our life would have been like if our parents hadn’t come here. I read an article in The New York Times, about this South Asian man who went back to capture images of what his life would have been like if his parents never emigrated. It really stayed with me; that whole concept of “home”,” said Huma.

Mindy replied, “I do too. My life here is only because my parents decided to emigrate. ”

On Motherhood

As of now, Huma and Mindy, both happen to be single parents and thus the topic of raising a kid in the current times came up inevitably.

Huma initiated the topic and said, “It’s an exciting time to raise a child — exciting and scary at the same time, actually — but doesn’t it feel as though in the end, it’s the most important thing you’ve done?”

“It’s definitely the most emotionally gratifying. While there are accomplishments to be had, spending time with my daughter and seeing her smile can evoke immediate joy. I’m not naturally a cheerful person, I’m pretty anxious all the time, but I’ve realised lately that happiness to me, as an adult with a child, is relief. Relief is my only form of happiness,” Mindy replied.

H/T: Elle India


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