Wednesday, Apr 30, 2008 4:35 PM UTC

A girl’s nose ring and Indian death metal

"In the other room, I could hear Charlie growling a few times to warm up his throat. 'Ghraagh,' he said. 'Bregkk.'"

If, like me, you find yourself worn down by the daily struggle to grapple with simultaneous food, energy, financial and environmental global crises, then perhaps you need a diversion: A wonderful essay about a death metal band in India. (Found via Sepia Mutiny.)

It was near midnight on the eve of India’s independence [day], and I was at a concert called Freedom Jam, held at a club on the outskirts of Bangalore called only The Club. Watching the band perform from beside the stage, I noticed a girl with a nose ring. My grandmother’s nose was pierced when she married at thirteen; her nose ring was a sign that she adhered to a certain traditional image of Indian womanhood. For this girl, however, the ring indicated that she was not just westernized (such girls simply chose not to get their noses pierced) but a member of an alternative community that existed outside the mainstream of westernized Indian youth.

Just there, in that opening paragraph, with its extraordinarily evocative image of an Indian girl whose nose ring signifies a very special kind of outsider status, you can find grist for a thousand dissertations on postmodern identity and culture. But Akshay Ahuja’s “Death Metal and the Indian Identity,” published in the April issue of Guernica, never succumbs to the fatal flaw of over-analysis. It is simply closely observed, thoughtful and exquisitely written.

Array