My Mother Called Me Unni: A Doctor's Tale of Migration
It is often said that geography is destiny. 'My Mother Called Me UNNI' is the story of one man who left his homeland and his family in the 1960s, to find his own destiny in the melting pot of the United States. The book was written by Dr. Venugopal Menon and published by Outskirts Press.
Beginning in the late 1960s, hundreds of thousands of people migrated to the U.S. from India, including thousands of physicians. Today, Indian Americans are the wealthiest and most educated minority group in the country. What drove them to leave their homeland? What values and experiences did they bring with them? And how are they transforming America?
Out of enigmatic experiences comes this surprising yet uplifting portrait of life, narrated by Dr. Venugopal Menon, who draws upon his cherished childhood in India and the teachings of his ancient heritage to question, understand, and ultimately assimilate into his new country, an exhilarating realization of the American Dream. This book is essential reading for every migrant who left the land of their birth in search of a different destiny, and for those who are curious to know what that’s like.
Venugopal Menon was born into a large, middle-class traditional Hindu Nair family in Kerala, India. Raised during the pre-independence years of British India, he witnessed the country gaining its freedom and the establishment of a Democratic Republic. Even with limited economic resources during the global depression, the hardship in his life was easily overshadowed by the abundance of love he received. His memoir details his happy childhood, with all its colorful festivals and traditional rituals.
The author, receiving his first pair of shoes in the sixth grade and having to use kerosene lamps before electricity came to his house, moved on to America and became the president of a nationally reputable medical clinic and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Physicians, London. As he settled in a life of luxury and prosperity, he also played a significant role in creating a standing for the Indian community in society. The narration covers the discrimination he faced in the USA, as well as amusing stories of getting familiar with the local customs and trying to become Americanized.
Venugopal established his status as a highly regarded physician, became part owner of a thriving practice, lived in a luxurious, custom-built home in a desirable neighborhood, and his children excelling in education. Then he decided to forsake all such affluence to move back to India, to be of service to the needy patients and put his foreign training to use.
The story gets complex as he earns a national standing in a newly established, eminent hospital system in India, with patients coming to see him from all over the country and his parents and large spread of family members close at hand. But due to extenuating circumstances, he is once again forced to abandon all those gains and go back to the place he thought he had left for good. And fortunately his old practice embraces him with open arms.
The book continues with his re-establishment in America, tying up all loose and lost ends, getting elected as president of the clinic for eight years before he retires. During his second inning, he becomes intimately involved in numerous social, cultural, religious, and philanthropic endeavors of the Indian community as well as of the mainstream.
The conclusion elaborates on his seven decades in different continents, about his professional, family, and social obligations, and how his life may have affected others. In his introduction, he laments his decision to leave India: “And it took several decades and intense introspection before the impact sunk in, of my role and responsibility in that act, of tearing away from our centuries-old genetic bond and its implied immensity.” But he concludes with a gracious note: “As an individual, I have remained eternally grateful to receive a life that has rewarded me with a sumptuous treat. I am convinced that I cannot ask for more or expect more, as I stay ultimately comfortable with the assurance. I am content. I am blessed.”
“A fascinating and admirable history. The detailed and descriptive chapters in this book create entire cultural worlds for readers to learn from, enjoy, and remember.” —Chitra Divakaruni, international award-winning and bestselling author, Houston, TX
“An inspiring story, a wonderful saga of a migrant in America.” —Tom Reid, Mayor of Pearland, TX
At 328 pages, My Mother Called Me Unni is available online through Outskirts Press at www.outskirtspress.com/bookstore. The book is sold through Amazon and Barnes and Noble for a maximum trade discount in quantities of 10 or more, and is being aggressively promoted to appropriate markets with a focus on the memoir category.
ISBN: 978-1-4787-6171-6\t Format: 6 x 9 economy color paperback\tRetail: $18.95
Genre: BIOGRAPHY & AUTOBIOGRAPHY / Personal Memoirs
For more information, visit the author’s web page at http://outskirtspress.com/mymothercalledmeunni
About the Author: Dr. Venugopal Menon, the eldest of seven from a middle-class family in pre-independent India, was raised with time-tested traditions. After earning his medical degree, he served as a doctor in the army and then left his centuries-old culture in search of the American dream. Dr. Menon established himself as a successful physician, became president of a reputable clinic, was inducted as a Fellow of the prestigious Royal Society of Medicine, London, and was involved in several professional, cultural, religious, and philanthropic endeavors. He and his wife raised three children who are successfully settled and involved in a variety of social causes while maintaining ties with India and their relatives. Dr. Menon has been married to Devi for fifty years, and they live in a Kerala-style home in Pearland, Texas, visiting their six grandchildren when they can break away from their social involvements.
Amazon purchaser reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Menon's tale has rich academic value, May 11, 2016
This review is from: My Mother Called Me Unni: A Doctor's Tale of Migration (Paperback)
Migration is a mixed blessing, as Menon’s life teaches us. The process takes us on a journey that reveals the true meaning of a home. To some, home is a temporal reality, but it can also remain a spatial one, for as long as our home is where our hearts are. As a migrant myself, reading this story mirrors my life in ever so many ways. Except for names and dates, the numerous characters, personalities, the flora and fauna, the terrains, and all those enriching social interactions come close to our own realities because they are more than mere bodies or objects; they are symbols of a shared world, so meaningful and pulsating.
The work is at once a contribution to the literature on migration studies and ethnographic studies. Menon’s descriptions of matrilineal joint family structure, statuses, and roles within are vivid. They are also insightful to students of social sciences for the purpose of understanding formative dynamics in human growth and life span. Perhaps, from a theoretical standpoint, the outstanding substantive value of this life history lies in its potential to counter essentialism found in western feminist or gender studies which fallaciously asserts universality of gendering in all spheres of human engagement. It may be inconceivable to the western academia – the idea that love and care-giving are not gendered. The rigid and mutually exclusive dichotomy of masculinity and femininity may not lend itself well to interpreting human relationships.
This life history is abundantly punctuated, as are many personal memoirs. They recall quite naturally every turning point in one’s journey. What makes Menon’s account compelling is a series of glimpses of diabolical events that altered Kerala’s social milieu. I yearned for more as I got glimpses of those events of a bygone era. Perhaps, Menon could even consider attempting another narrative on what his homeland was and what it is today. The narratives evoke nostalgia in the mind of the reader. Menon’s tale has great academic value as it offers several insights into a socio-cultural system. In other words, a life history takes one beyond seeing just the trees. It offers us a glimpse of the forest. Indeed, this book is worthy of being handed down to a whole generation of Indian descent born away from the land of their origin.
Professor Sarath Menon