Meena Kumar reflects on the earliest memories she can recall. She lists what she describes as her most obvious ones: the emotional moment when her parents landed in Britain after leaving their village in India, their early struggles in England, and her mother’s pregnancy. After reflecting on these events, Meena then reveals that these are not actually her earliest memories. Rather, she only uses these anecdotes to impress white boys who find her exotic.
Meena’s fake memories depict archetypal experiences of immigration. By using them to impress people who understand little about the complexity of her identity, Meena suggests that stereotypical assumptions about immigrants are inadequate to fully embody her experience. This introduces a central tension in Meena’s life between how people perceive immigrants and how she truly is.
Meena admits that her first memory involves understanding an actor’s pun on television. Her mother says that she laughed so hard that she ultimately threw up. Meena explains that she has always loved double entendre because it creates ambiguity. She notes that she is not a liar but that she believes that people without a history of their own need to compensate by creating a mythology for themselves.
Meena immediately ties lying to intelligence and amusement (understanding an actor’s pun) instead of immorality and deception. She argues that, while lying might not be socially acceptable, she uses it for deeply personal reasons: to give herself an identity of her own. The idea that lying can be used for both good and bad reasons is central to the development of Anita and Me.