Monday, December 21, 2009

To Dig Roots or To Take Flight

I resume writing after almost a month and half. Have been busy with the 'idea' of moving continents and all things related. We are finishing the do-able, must-sees ...all very touristy I must say. That is the easy and the fun part. The not so fun part is emotionally and mentally preparing ourselves to say good-bye to a place we called home for the last seven years. It becomes even more difficult because I came here a girl and am leaving a woman. I became a housewife, a mother here. I also re-discovered my faith and evolved some more and faster.

We prepare ourselves to cut off those ties that bind us to this place, to go back to the ties that tug at us. I prepare myself to say adieu to all those whom I reluctantly be-friended and more reluctantly leave behind. The smells, the sounds (or rather the lack of it as it is in typical suburban America versus India), the food will be missed. I will miss the old Indian gentleman whom I would chat with in the laundry who would pine for his village and his friends. I will miss the African American woman who smoked like a chimney and whom we lovingly and secretly called 'Chimney'. How similar and yet how different we were. I will never forget the way she stuck up to us after an argument with a particularly racist white man for some petty reason. She told me "Do not take that nonsense" and told me stories of her childhood in rural Mississippi.

I will miss all those who stood by and even those who did not because they all taught me a lesson or two. I thank the technological advancements for once, knowing it will allow me to stay in touch more easily than ever before.

But yet as I prepared myself to fly back home, I was jolted by the news that I might be going somewhere else. Hubby dearest might have to go to UK for a couple of years. I still am not sure if that will happen and will not be till I am actually there. But the surprise did lead to a lot of sighing and thinking and feeling blue. I am a tad bit tired of living as if I might have to move in the next 2 months. I have lived without fancy curtain or cookware and cutlery. I have learnt to be happy and have at times gotten my way and hung up elaborate Madhubani paitings not caring if I lived here for a day or a year. I have sometimes given in to the practical problems of baggage and shipping etc. And sometimes thrown all caution to the wind. I do have some regrets and mostly that I would have be-friended some people earlier than I did for they are such wonderful people and I would have loved to know them longer.

But yet another move, to yet another country. I gave up on my professional aspirations the minute I became a mom and I have never regretted it. But the resolve to follow my husband around and be a family sometimes has had me floundering. I just saw Julie and Julia and loved it. I loved the story, Merryl Streep and Amy Adams. I could relate to their stories (not the cooking necessarily) and loved their married life. Great husbands, great families with lots of love to go around. I could also echo the question Merryl asks in the movie "Where is home?" and am trying to understand the answer her husband gives "Wherever we are"
One thing that I learnt from the movie was that a lack of a sense of purpose and a sense of joy could arise with or without the kind of nomadic lifestyle I live. It could arise with or without the lack of a rewarding career. As long as we were togther and happy and in love with ourselves, each other , life and God we could figure it out.

The power to make a situation sunny and positive lay within me. The movie taught me that. My husband says it more often than I would like to hear. My scriptures say it. I am a part of the supreme whole and hence I am whole...complete and powerful.
So why be in doldrums at all. My sense of purpose is for me to define. Why challenge the master plan. Maybe I was born to roam.
Travel, absorb, learn, integrate, assimilate........there is so much to be seen and there is so much to be learnt. I am eager to return to my land, my people and most importantly give back. And I pray that I will do that soon. In the meantime I will give back to my family, and communities wherever I am. Period.

Hence pine I will no more. Or at least try very hard not to. Digging roots at the moment is very attractive and safe but I shall not tremble at the idea of taking flight and soaring to new heights. God grant me the courage and show me the way.

Friday, October 30, 2009

But You are a Mommy !!!

This is for all those self glorified/magnified/inflicted moments spent in doubt, dilemma, and misery. The moments wasted wallowing in self-pity. Moments used for making others lives around me painful too. Those moments throughout the years at various stages in life wondering....who am I, what is my purpose in life right now, what am I supposed to do or rather what is the right thing for me to do, what role do I play right now. Moments feeling unfulfilled and dis-satisfied.

And not so surprisingly the varied roles I have identified for myself have been determined by how its going to be seen and rated by the society around me. Most of the times my gut feeling and my true inner voice is muffled, strangled into silence, by all the noise outside.

I increasingly have been thinking that life would have been simpler was I born in times when the 4 ashrams were the order of the day. No room for confusion whatsoever. Each one has their Dharma/duty to fulfill according to their age. Brahmacharya ...a student's focus would only be in inculcating good values and learning, not worrying if their course will result in an accepted, well paying career. As a Grihasth, the family being the primary focus removes all debates about whether we should live in separate cities so that the pursuit of material and monetary success which we have fooled ourselves into thinking is much more than that....self esteem, independence, a sense of usefulness etc etc.
It also removes the self justified 'practical' reasons for which we choose a certain way of life at the cost of our people and parents.
Vaanprastha and the clearly defined roles would result in peace at home. In laws and parents would realize that undue interference is not what they should be indulging in at this stage of life, Instead the quest for true knowledge which anyways should have been a continuous effort in life, should pick up speed now. It is the time when reins should be handed over to the generation next.
Sanyaas prepares us for the inevitable...death. Gradually loosening the ties which bind us and cause us grief at the thought of leaving this particular human form.

Since I am not born into such times, I am your typical person, beset with confusion and self inflicted pain over what is my role and purpose in times. It gets only better as I know and hear more of our brilliant texts. But it is slow though a steady process.
In the meantime my innocent 3 year old who is sans these issues in life is a big help. Only recently I was telling my 5 year old how mommy wanted to become a Doctor once upon a time. My 3 year old, upon hearing this immediately said "You cannot be a Doctor". My suspicious mind thought there was some gender stereotyping going on here and I explained to her that "Girls can be doctors, I could be a Doctor". Adamantly and emphatically she declared "NO!, But you are a Mommy".

Thanks my little one for reminding me of my primary role as of now and its supreme importance. For her I am a Mommy, and the rest is inconsequential.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

For The 'Mother' in the Motherland

How filmi is the 'Mother' in the 'Motherland'? I would say its a lot. When we find the suffix Mata overly dramatic, Janamabhoomi just plain rhetoric, its time for some hard, cold honesty.

As the time approaches for us to return to our home country, I think I have heard it all. From plain selfishness, to hurtful statements meant to make the speaker feel better about their own decision to outright denial. This particular onslaught has left me hopping mad, frustrated and really, really scared for the future of good solid, plain old fashioned, value system.

Of course I am not expecting the pick-up-the-mud-and-rub-it-on-your-forehead-teary-eyed type of fervour. But some feelings which surpass the "my vote is for whoever gives me better roti-kapda-aur makaan" is asking for too much, is it?
Shifting your loyalties and allegiance because you expect a better deal in terms of lifestyle, education, money, success material and otherwise is a little surprising to me (to put it mildly).

I am aware of political asylum seekers, people who have been forced to migrate to avoid abject poverty. Victims of natural disasters, war and terrorism. But the profiles of those who I have been talking to or rather who have been talking to me about this issue are very different. Yes they definitely feel they have done better for themselves by adopting the new country and maybe they have.

But I still do not have the heart in me to congratulate them the day they acquire their precious new citizenship. That day they raised their hand and solemnly swore that they will have loyalty to only one country...not the country of their birth but the country of their choice. The have promised to stand by their new country in times of war etc. Many have described guilt r-idden, sleepless nights before this event and many have said they did not really say the difficult 'bits' of the oath. But then that's even worse. You could not remain loyal to the country of origin and you could also not be faithful to the adopted country. Today I choose to call a spade a spade and yes if patriotism is a sin I am guilty.

I have respect for those who say their philosophy does not match with their country of birth and have sincerely sworn their allegiance to their new country. Those who identify themselves first as Americans and then as Indians by race.
Just the way one cannot have Friends solely for profit or pleasure, one cannot have Nations for profit or pleasure. You made a choice stand by it. If there is a war between the US and India tomorrow (God Forbid! Now with the Nobel Peace Prize and all maybe US will give up their attack first-think later policy ), You, the new citizens have the courage and the strength of character to stand by your new country. Honor your commitments for once.

I too would prefer a world without borders. One Nation, One World. But till that happens I am an Indian and my loyalties remain fixed with my 'mother'land. Despite our differences, and even the secret guilty longing for a different mother especially as an angst ridden teenager I would want to 'change' her but never 'replace' her.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Another Reason Why I Believe in God

Amother Reason Why I Believe in God...........

Not that I personally need any reminding and reasons to believe in God. I thought that in a world where agnosticism is in vogue maybe the above pictures may bring about a change of heart in a die hard non-believer or two :)
For me the fact that I get up every morning and still remember who I am, the fact that the entire mechanism of eating, digesting, filtering out toxins happens, the fact that my Gynaecologist admitted that there are only so many things they know for sure about conception and delivery is enough to reiterate my faith in a Supreme Being. P.S there are many more better reasons too, but this will have to do for the time being :)

The changing seasons only add to my awe of the creator.I have just come back from a trip to the New England region of USA and I have been suitably spell bound by the work of the Master Artist. The yellows, burned orange, reds are the colors favored by God this month. I thanked god and praised his artistry as I breathed in the crisp, chilly air and took in the splashes of color on the once green landscape. I am no poet and it will probably take poetry to describe what I saw. I am no Pandit Jagannath who in 'Gangalahiri' took poetry to new heights and did justice to the beauty and meaning of the River Ganga.

Anyways so I took the easy way out and am letting the pictures do the talking. I see miracles everyday,around me.What you see in the pictures is what I consider a Miracle !!!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Entering the System

Tuesday Breakfast : Cottage cheese stuffed freshly baked kulcha w kechup n pineapple drink
Lunch: Kadhi Pakoda , Jeera aloo, Green peas pulao, Phulka dheeme aanch se, Fried masala papad, Green salad, Rice kheer thandi thandi
Evening Drink:Strawberry shake

Wednesday Breakfast : Fresh vegetable potato cutlet w steamed green peas n oven freah muffin, rose drink
Lunch : Ghia masala curry, Amritsari Chole,Bhuna piaz pulao, Tandoori naan, Boondi raita, Garden fresh greens roundal cut, Fresh fruits.
Evening Drink : Bournvita Milk

Thursday Breakfast: Grated vegetable stuffed parantha w fresh curd, mango drink Lunch: Kadhai paneer, Channa dal Ghia, Steamed rice, Chapati, Cucumber raita, Vinegar dipped onion w hari chutney, Jalebi.
Evening Drink: Mochha Milk

Friday Breakfast : Carrot peas freshly steamed idli w sambhar n coco chutney, fresh lime juice
Lunch : Subz bhaji w butter on top, Bombay pao, Pindi channa dry w paneer cubes on top, Stuffed bhatura, Piazi raita, Bhuna jeera rice, Kesari rasmalai.
Evening Drink: Mango Shake
Million Dollars to the one who guesses what the above is...or maybe just a "The Most Aware of Whats Happening Around You Award!"
I for one had a jaw droping moment when I read the above....the jaw hit the keyboard kinda moment.....for the above is not a Luxury Hotel/Resort's Menu Card but a weekly Menu Card of a School....a school where a 3.5 or 4 year old enters primarily for the purpose of acquiring life skills....oops sorry I meant livlihood skills. When did a center of training (I do not have the heart or the mind rather, to call them Centers of Learning, though some teachers do cross that line and make it a learning experience despite the stale 'how to make a good living' syllabus, but they are few and far in between).

If one thing I am sure of, it is a head full of premature grey hair by the end of the following 4 months. The end of the coming 4-6 months will also mean return to Janmabhoomi and hopefully a satisfying end to my school search for my children who will enter the Indian School System. My search and queries have lead me to frazzled , harassed parents who have told me horror stories which can keep any parent awake. Any queries sent to the 'Contact Us'link of school websites have (not surprisingly) yielded no results. I have been told the schools do not need 'us', we need 'them'. This power play and positioning means we will do whatever 'they' ask us to do. From paying money under fancy and necessary sounding heads that are actually nothing more than shameless greedy 'donations' to being treated poorly, we take it in our stride. We accept being forced to maintain a DIH (Double Income Household), sitting for parent interviews at school and ignoring the most glaringly unethical question in the school admissons form about the income of the parents.

As a parent one is ready to sweat it out to give the best to one's child. I will happily do cartwheels around the school campus if gauranteed the best education for my child. But after paying ridiculously high fees and putting up with all that will come my way from this greedy, money making, institution, am I ensured of what is truly the best for my child. I am not expecting lessons to live life well...I know that is something I will have to do myself...gone are the days of such Gurukuls and such Gurus.
But the rising trend of Day Boarding Schools and forced lunch at school is alarming to say the least. The first such school that came up in my hometown of Jammu has a dangerously high number of obese children. Can a person who bids and wins a contract and hopes to make a profit be in a position to feed your child nourishing, nutritious and wholesome food. I have been in the hostel for both my undergrad and post grad and during PG I remember that a certain,Mr. Shetty, the Canteen Contractor was rumored to use soda in Rice and other dishes so that the students ate less and yet felt full.
A child growing up on such a diet however fancy and delicious is bound to suffer in the long run. And what is it with the long hours? It can be suitable for working moms but no one can convince me that it is good for a child to be in a structured setting for such long hours. The only thing it does is prepare the child early on for long working hours at office or lead to a case of early burn out, both physically and mentally. I do not need that kind of "smooth transition" from school to office for my children.

All I dream of is a great school. Not very far away from home. Where lunch means exchanging home made parathas with some friends idlis. A school where one makes friends, explores and grows. A place where winning is not important but doing one's best is. Values are equally cherished as academic excellence. A place where a child may falter, make mistakes but never stops learning.

P.S : Any suggestions, advise, information are more than wlecome :)

Saturday, August 29, 2009


Lots of things happening....

Son 'A' turns 5 soon. Dad is leaving for Jammu, India, his 2.5 moths long visit winding to an end. A's birthday will be celebrated (nothing grand..his friends will come over) almost a week in advance since we want Nanaji to be a part of the celebration.
A is into Solar Systems and 'Mahabharat'(courtesy Nanaji) these days. And since his mom is artistically challenged I thought Solar System as a theme for the Birthday party is much more do-able. I have an exam coming up too. I am at my wits end and a little tierd with the range of emotions I am experiencing. So a break from blogging is becoming necessary.

Also the fact that my studies are not upto the mark and the exam of sorts is just a few more days away is making me unhappy.
I call it exam of sorts because, exams benefit us in some way or the other...Degree/Certification, a better job/opportunity or a higher salary etc etc etc. This exam will do nothing of that nature. But I cherish it more than the countless exams I have given before, because I do this only to gain knowledge. The concept of a Pareeksha is necessary for a mere mortal like me with 2 kids under the age of 5 and no help. I would never be able to finish a decent amount of literature/syllabus (if I can dare call it that) if the spectre of Exam did not loom overhead. Though I love to read, this is not an easy piece of reading. I am dealing with 4 Adhyayas of Geeta, The stories and concept of Dashavatar, 18 stories of great men like Kumaril Bhatt, Adi Shankracharya, Tiru Valluvar, Tulsidas....
The true meaning and significance behind many of our Hindu Festivals and rituals associated with them. And Pandurangashtakam ...written by Adi Shankracharya(meaning and memorizing. I admit ashamedly that I am not even attempting to learn the Sanskrit shlokhas. The rest is going to get my best shot.

Hence I am unable to read many of my favorite blogs and write posts as frequently but I will resurface with vigor post 9/13. See you soon.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Here Comes The Party Pooper

Disclaimer: All the incidents mentioned are true but the opinions expressed are the author's alone with the honest intention of hurting no one, especially Shiv/Ram/Balram Senas, Puja Oraganizers, Parents and Children.

Scene 1: Many years back growing up in Eastern India, I looked forward to Durga Pujo...The Pandals were a delight and the atmosphere positive and lively. Good food to eat, lots of Rabindra Sangeet, Conch Blowing Competitions, Aarti Competitions (they do it in a special way dancing to drums known as Dhaks). Later there would be plays by the local theatre groups.
You can view Dhunuchi Naach at

Scene 2: As years went by the noise increased thanks to loudspeakers blaring bhajans sung to the tune of popular Bollywood numbers.
As I grew older venturing to see the Moortis and the skills of the craftsmen became a an exercise in life/modesty saving skills...Maa's Darshan came with dollops of butt pinching, squeezing, inappropriate touching experiences.

Scene 3: Newly married, we were the coolest couple in the block. I was still a student at TISS (Hubby still looks like he is in college) and many in the area thought we were a pair living in sin. Having cleared our names and our honor we were asked to judge a dance competition during the Ganapati Festival in Mumbai (Andheri). The competition did not earn us brownie points with the mothers whose children did not win. But I still vividly remember sitting in the Pandal ..with the beginnings of a migraine.. thanks to the ear splitting loud music and a growing embarassment on having to witness pre-pubescent children moving vulgarly to the tunes of Bollywood numbers.
Love the Arti though.

Scene 4: I saw yet another clip last night of a dance competition organized for Ganapati and saw 8-9 year olds gyrating to "I am a Desi Girl.." and other such numbers. I thought the Ganapti Idol in the corner looked a little forlorn or maybe even embarrassed as these young girls...children heaved and twisted to these numbers.

Scene 5: I get invited to a friend's house for Ganapti and she says she is asking all the children invited to prepare a little something on Ganapti..Shloka, story, song...This way the children get to perform and learn at the same time. Our own little cultural program as we celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi. Fun redefined. God Bless Her !

If not for the beginning and the ending scene this would have been a sad story. But maybe it still is for many who think I am nothing more than a party Pooper who is taking away the fun element from these Puja Celebrations by frowning down upon the commercialization and heavy Bollywood influence.

The celebrations at a community level were introduced as a means to encourage a sense of unity...ekta and sangathan. Lokmanya Tilak popularized Ganapati Celebrations in Maharashtra. There should be entertainment undoubtedly. Festivals besides reiterating some good values are also a way to break the monotony of our lives and add some color. But what kind of entertainment do we seek, is an important question we should ask ourselves. Today sab chalta hai in the name of entertainment. An entertainment which is inappropriate does not add any value and in fact can be extremely damaging should be a matter of concern.

This should not be confused as my aversion to dance altogether. Besides the classical art forms I love to dance to music of any kind. But that is also because I have acquired the ability to filter the nonsense in the lyrics. I also know there is a different time and place for different things.

Personally I am worried. How do I bring up children in an environment like this? I do not want a 12 year old behaving like a 20 year old. I do not want them to accept entertainment and popularity as it is seen today. A very challenging task which is all consuming, especially since I see little help coming from any quarter. I can only do my best, hope to be surrounded by like-minded people and......pray.
I am not worried about disapproval and dissent. Zamana badal gaya hai and Vichaar bhi and I choose and prefer to walk the less travelled road. But yes, the road is long and hard.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Why Should Bikini be a Big Deal?

Why Should Bikini be a Big Deal? Says not I but a current Indian Beauty Queen contesting at an International Beauty Pageant. It got me thinking. I wear westerns and in many settings like a hot summer day, prefer them over traditional Indian wear.
But this particular statement accompanied by a picture of the Beauty Queen in a Bikini did not appeal to my rationality. Because the thought that popped into my head was that its not a big deal but totally unnecessary, definitely. Why should a Pageant which claims to evaluate one's 'inner'and 'outer' beauty within a couple of weeks and a couple or more of a round of questions even attempt to justify bikini clad women strutting in high heels as a test of physical beauty and inner strength.
The thought of a man or a woman trying to prove their over all appeal simply by shedding their clothes in front of millions is pitiable. A voyeuristic society lapping it all up and celebrating it is sad but not surprising.

It is not a sin to wear what one 'likes' wear. But "Prasangochitam Vesham Kuryaat" The clothes we wear should respect the situation we are in.
I went to the temple the other day and there were many women in western outfits, which is not a problem at all. COmfortable and clean should be the Mantra. But as soon as I sat down in a corner to concentrate I was confronted by this awful vision.... a beige underwear clad behind peeping out of a low waist jeans. First I was horrified for myself and more for the person putting on that 'free show'. This was followed by embarrassment, pity and a little anger. As far as concentration goes...for a mere mortal like me it went Kaput!
Prasangochitam Vesham Kuryaat. Your clothes should do justice to the situation you are in.
In such clothes I would not achieve what I have come for, in the temple....hopefully to concentrate and reflect and feel at peace. As someone forced to witness such an exhibition, I would rather not see, if see it at all, in such a setting. Besides the fact that my 2 year old shouting loudly "nangu-nangu" in a Temple is distracting as well as dig-a-hole-and-bury-myself-in kinda embarrassing. Unnecessary, totally unnecessary.

What should one wear is not a struggle I hope to get into with a school going child. The Ashram Vyavstha is a Vedic way of Life and it allows one to concentrate and do full justice to each stage of life. A student who is wasting time and energy thinking about his appearance and its affect on others means a student who will certainly not be performing to his/her potential. The Clothing Industry and the Retail World are happy with Public Schools having no concept of Uniforms (in the US). But when you watch the school goers sauntering into the school you have to remind yourself that they are teenagers (or even younger) who have come to this esteemed institution of Learning for the sole purpose of educating themselves. What and how much are they learning I ask myself, as they discuss the latest fashions, adjust their low waisted jeans and form cliques based on best and worst dressed, all in between the classes?
A 13 year old looks best being a 13 year old. Carefree and above the concerns of outer appearances. His/her only Dharam being that of a Brahmacharya...a Vidyarthi(student) on a quest for knowledge. A 10 year old should not be thinking about nail paints and cell phones and sex. Somethings are natural but that is where we are different from animals. We should know better that there is an age and a way to do things. Modest and clean in terms of behavior and dressing will only aid the environment of learning.

We should not lose our ability to rationally view what helps us and others be their best at every age and situation. Freedom within rational boundaries is beneficial and beautiful. Unharnessed,it has the power to be damaging.

Prasangochitam Vesham Kuryaat

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Social Revolution and Shree Krishna

Happy Janamashtami to All.

Shree Krishna, the Avatar/Re-incarnation is a subject I am incapable of touching upon. I will just take some instances of his life to show what a great Social Reformer, Brilliant Politician, and a Teacher of Spirituality he was. [His life and its meaning are things I have learnt and am still learning].

There was a time when every body's motto was Eat, Drink and Be Merry. The Brahmins were not independent and were patrons of the ruling elite. The subjects taught did not include Life Lessons...did not explain ways to truly develop one's life. The Ruling Class was egoistic and running after sensual pleasures and material wealth. The same behaviour was mirrored by the society at large. Though the people were materially wealthy they lacked in character, integrity and were floundering through life. Clueless as to why professional and material success and fame did not bring peace.

During such a time was born Shree Krishna to show us the power of Social Cohesion and stress upon the act that power and money are not what are needed for a Sangathan/Collective Strength and Social Revolution. He came to protect the Righteous (Saadhu) and punish the wrong doers. To set things right.

He stopped the Indra Puja which was a way to worship Vaibhav/Material wealth. He advocated and started Govardhan Puja....Go meaning Upanishad and those who protected and spread the ideas of Upanishads...a spread of Naitik Mulya/ Moral Values.

He endeared the women and stirred up a women's movement by spending time with the Gopis and making them into Brahmins...a people who spread the thoughts of God and Godly behaviour. The famous Raas Lila is just that ...Lila...a romanticized version of a 7 year old Krishna's interaction with much, much older women. He knew that a woman is instrumental in bringing about change in her home, extended family and society.
"Grihe Grihe Gopvadhukadamba"...the revolutionary ideas were taken from door to door by these Gopis as they sold milk.

He accepted the title of "MaakhanChor" to bring about a change...starting from the children of Gokul. There was no dearth of milk and butter in Gokul but all of it was sold to Mathura. The children of Gokul were deprived of essential nutrients. Krishna who was not lacking in any way stole milk and butter and distributed it amongst his friends. Another perspective is that Maakhan symbolized Sad Vichaar or good thoughts. He took the good from each family in Gokul and passed it on to the children. He sent the message that both a healthy body and mind are needed to make these children able citizens of tomorrow. These very Gopal's along with Krishna changed the society.

And finally ShreemadBhagvad Geeta...not a religious text but Shree Krishna's gift to Humanity. It answers all possible questions one can have about life. All doubts will be cleared and dilemmas settled. But secular education does not allow for a study of spiritual texts. Shreemad Bhagvat Geeta: God's song which enables me to learn the true purpose of my life. How do I find my inner peace which stands so shallow today. We are a generation which is stumbling through a fog. Happiness does not last. We are full of angst and so full of ourselves. We are living in a false truth.
I fear for my child who will surely learn how to make a living but will grapple with the fundamental issues which will determine his course and his happiness.

The cycle of good and bad is eternal. The society 5000 years back was no different from the society of today. The Land where Krishna was born is dipping down to new depths. And the behaviour is being cloaked behind the Right and need to earn money and fame, the Right to practice proudly the Philosophy of I, Me, Myself....the new mantra of emancipation for all. The Right to Cowardly hide behind...'Kaliyug hai...kya kiya ja sakta hai'.
It is necessary to excel in University (definitely not a Center of 'Higher Learning' but a Center of 'Higher Earning') but not imperative to be a man/woman of character.

The greed to hoard is overwhelming. Enough is never enough. Hence the collapsing buildings, train derailments, loot, rape and murder. Live Life King size means 'Upbhog'(consumption) of the highest order. Retail therapy is fast replacing Spiritual therapy. Upgrade whenever boredom sets in. And how easily bored we are today.

A spineless government and a spineless and an even weaker society.

In such times the lessons given by Krishna hold good. Time has not stolen his lustre.
Knowledge and Devotion must be combined with Action. There are too many Bakasurs(Bak meaning False Pride), Aghasurs (Agh meaning Sin). Asurs are not the ugly monstrous,fictional, Indianized versions of Vampires but real immoral,corrupt,bloodsucking Rakshassucking away at the society and the Right Way of Life/Dharm.
He showed us the Middle Path between Consumption and Renunciation. He asked us to keep our personal obligations/promises and loyalties aside for the greater good.
He showed us that we can fill our lives with laughter and play and yet tackle the evil within and outside.

Janamashtami is not just about fasting and feasting but renewing our pledge to carry forward Shree Krishna's work and blaze the trail for a Social Revolution. Rise and Shine!

Yada Tada Yatha Tatha Tathaiv Krishnsatkatha...
Krishnam Vande Jagadgurum!!!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Ritual of Marriage and Misunderstandings

Hindu weddings have been glorified and romanticized by movies and tele-serials.
In smaller towns they are still an almost 10 day affair and loads of fun.
Some marriage rituals are hated and deemed abusive by the feminists and the Un/Mis-informed Hindus.
Kanyadaan being one.
It is also considered by the Ritualistic Hindu as a means to wash off one's sins.

I don't want to talk about the Ritualistic Hindu...who anyways could not care less about the meaning of any ritual he/she follows and only worsens by attaching superstition and 'sky-will-fall-down-upon-you-if-you-don't' consequences to it.
I want to talk about the Un/Mis-informed Hindus...the ones who don't really know. They are not completely responsible for not knowing because it was never taught anywhere. The things they have learnt from family is unfortunately all rituals and no substance. They have grown up hating what they have heard and not surprisingly so.

We are Hindus. We are 'secular' by nature. We do not favor Hindu versions of Madarsas or Sunday Bible Schools. Hindus attending any such Center of Learning face the risk of being labelled as Communal.
So where does the Uninformed Hindu go to check his facts on Hinduism? Probably the book - "Hinduism for Dummies". The book sadly has also been written by dummies. So after reading even one such book...the righteous and any self-respecting Un-informed Hindu especially woman will go red in the face screaming to the world at large that the rituals are demeaning and she would rather go to hell than practice the 'shameful' ritual. I was once that Mis-informed/Un-informed someone said I am now the Rediscovering Hindu :).

What surprises me is we take so much care before choosing our doctor, our child's school, our home, car etc etc etc And pick up any over the counter book on Hinduism and start to judge. The hand me down tit bits about the we care to double check the facts? Have we taken pains to find the truth behind the muck that has collected over the years by malpractice? I did not until very recently.
Re-education and Reform are vital.

Anyways coming back to the point.

Kanyadaan. Kanyadaan or Panigrahan or Hast-milaap is not derogatory to anyone least to the girl and her family. It is a common factor in all Hindu marriages irrespective of the region. Terminology and ritual might differ slightly.
The word Daan has to be understood in the Shastriya terms. Daan is not a sign of weakness but the greatest strength. It does not mean 'donation' which brings in a sense of unequal relationship between the giver and receiver. That is wherein lies the problem of language. You cannot replace the word Daan with Donation. If you do so, you misinterpret. I also wonder if the Christian practice of the Father of the Bride "Giving Away" his daughter has similar connotations. Have not heard many questions on that though. Our Rishis consider a husband and wife equals. There is no 'better half' because they are considered One. "Tdetat Ardh Dwidalam Bhavati"
Lets look at some of the marriage rituals:

When the institution of marriage was being set up by Rishi Manu the question arose who will go to whose house? The girl graciously offered to move to the boys house BUT only when the boy comes to get her.On his knees, on a horse, in car, a Moped, a Bullet....any means of transport of his the Baraat/the Grooms side goes to girl's house. Dancing themselves silly and high on alcohol is, I stress not mentioned in the Shastras.

Some of the rituals(may vary in degrees from state to state):

VarPooja/Dwaar Pooja: Is a ceremony where the groom is welcomed and considered Vishnu swaroop. This was a psychological move. To reduce the anxiety of the brides parents (they were naturally worried if the boy was good enough for their daughter). We can control somethings and not all. Hence the parents were to place trust in God and assume that the boy at their door seeking their daughters hand in marriage was Narayan. All the things used to welcome him are also symbolic and signify something.

VarMala: Symolizes the concept of Samarpan (surrender) and Union (Ekya)

Hastmilaap/Panigrahan/Kanyadaan: Is when the Father of the bride places the bride's hand in the groom's hand and he takes it saying "Dharme ch arthe ch kame ch aham natichrami"Meaning he promises that in dharm (in my way of life), kam(in my desires for worldly pleasures) and arth (financially) I will never harm you. Not only does he accept the girl as his wife but also becomes responsible for her happiness and well being.
The Father of the bride touches the Groom's knee/shoulder/whatever which is also known as Madhurpak puja is not a way of saying Please allow me to 'donate' my daughter to you (sick!) but he is sending the message that you are now Shreshta -the best (of course nothing but the Best for one's daughter) and if you are not you better become now :) The practice of holding a piece of cloth..Antarpat signifies the Groom's Last says if you are not capable of taking on this responsibility you better leave before its too late. In some states this is when you hear the cry of Saavdhaan Saavdhaan!!(your last chance to run if you are an incapable insecure chauvinistic fool) The blunt honesty blows me away:) I love my Dharm :)

SaptPadi or SaatPhere: Is the heart of the Hindu marriage. There is an exchange of 7 fundamental priniciples of an ideal marriage. The groom (the Pandit/Priest does the honors of course) tells her 7 principles and expects the wife to follow and vice-versa.

Mangalsutra/Sindoor: Is symbolic and reminds the woman of her husband's presence and his love. It is considered a sign of Saubhagya or Good Luck. Of course I feel unashamedly happy and lucky that I am married to man who loves me. At times though I also feel it is not me who needs the reminding so much as the brainless men who say "Will you be friends with me " (Creep!)
If the husband is not worthy...well then who needs reminding? Do away with the husband and the symbols, I guess.

Now, to be honest even I did not like the idea of leaving my parents house when getting married. The fact that we have not been living with either set of parents since our marriage is technical but a vital detail. It is understood that our parents will stay with us whenever they want or feel the need.It applies equally to both sets of parents.
Now coming to the heated debate and the billion dollar question which in today's age is merely symbolic, is : why should the girl go the grooms house?

Well for me now as I see it I amongst the two of us (husband and I) was better capable of going into another family, treating them like my own(most of the times:)) and loving them back with the same intensity. I was also more capable (something which is intrinsic to me as a woman not a learned behavior...may not apply to all for a variety of reasons)of aligning the two families and creating an unbreakable bond between them. I again had the emotional intelligence and practical as well to not let one family suffer at the cost of another. I could flit and fit in both households with ease. My husband barely manages to remember his own birthday or the important festivals. I don't even expect him to remember the names of second and third cousins wife and children's names on either side of the family. So I the "Samarpan ki Devi and Mamta ki Moorat" took pity on him and went to his house. :)

This is my strength. I now see it as a gift. A power!!!

P.S If one thinks the Husband is the better gifted one in this department...surely the order of things must be reversed :)

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

"The Land where the Sun Shines Mildly"...Kalhan

Kalhan,Kashyap,and Kalidas would not recognize (in the year 2009), the land they wrote so lovingly and beautifully about. A land torn with strife, wracked with pain and guilt, defenceless against death and violence. A land which was the birthplace of Shaivism and a favorite with the greatest Sanskrit scholars of the time is drooping with pessimism. A land famously known for it Sufi traditions, a rich fabric of interwoven faiths today would be shamed even by its own shadow.

A people exiled, a people at war, a people trying to find a voice of their own....the Kashmiri Pandits, Kashmiri Muslims, the Dogras and the Ladakhis.

The state and its people stand man's terrorist is the other man's freedom fighter. Wars have been waged at its frontiers, and the war within has gone on for too long.

Bharat Mata ki Jai clashes with Jeeve Jeeve Pakistan and Ragda Ragda ( a war cry that was invented by the separatist elements last year, to be shouted while stomping on the Tricolor). Is it the same state I ask where at the border 10 years back the cry of 'Dil Maange More' became famous? But then the Nation almost forgot that war too.

The cries of Muzzafarabad Chalo last year were deafening, as is the silence on that route today. No fruits being traded through that route. So what was the drama about?
The Poonch-Rawalkote trade route which is used more by the Dogra traders is also losing its pace because of a fear of money being blocked in the barter system of the trade.

The Shopian case caused a furore and rightly so but is the silence over the killing of a 3 year old by the terrorists not telling? Human Rights have been taken for a toss in some very obvious ways. Then there are lesser heard of stories which also speak of loss of rights and dignity.

We can always rely on the politicians to amp up the levels of disturbance when they seem to wane. Amarnath Issue was nothing more than a malicious gossip (to achieve a specific purpose) taken way out of proportion and given such a color that the country at large still is not sure what it was all about. When our claim to the Title of The Most Disturbed State seems threatened the politicians (State and National) pitch in to defend the title. After all considering the amount of money being poured into the state, a lot is at stake.

From the Jammu region the demand for a separate Assembly has arisen. The Jammuites are tired of the Bandhs and the lack of development in the sate which is driving their young away. The valley to them it seems has gotten used to the strikes and minimal working days. The state exchequer is burdened but the people are guilt free for drawing salaries for almost no work. The whispers for a separate State - Duggar Pradesh are also picking up volume.

When the Kashmir issue is discussed at any forum we wait with baited breath for a Solution. Sometime back I believed that the end was in sight. But as of today I know its not coming soon... if it all it is coming.

I have grown up hearing stories of valour and peace. I have grown up seeing the beauty of its people and its geography. Last year during the Amarnath issue I as a Dogra understood what it feels like to scream and yet not be heard.
I got to know many Kashmiri Pandits ...angry, hurting and seeking revenge.
I also got a chance to interact with many Kashmiri Muslim youth in particular I fought with, argued, and debated with for hours. I finally befriended him. He is like a brother today (the rakhee has been duly sent to Baramulla) and we discuss spirituality. We avoid discussing his much desired Azadi and my love for an integrated India. Much in common yet a fundamental difference.

What unites us is our mutual respect for faith,intertwining cultures,love for the people and the land and prayers for peace.

We have also agreed upon one thing...Victory to the Righteous...words not spoken but implied. I only wish that this 'game' ends before leading to another 'Dharmyuddh'.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Language and Legacy

Definition of Legacy : Something handed down from an ancestor or a predecessor or from the past
Definition of Heritage : Something immaterial, as a style or philosophy, that is passed from one generation to another

Is language just a means of communication or is it sometimes more?

Does it matter if things change if the things that are dying are the things which teach us life lessons and humility, tolerance and universal brotherhood?

If a beautiful animal, monument, climate are to be protected why should a language which teaches us co existence,reverence for all human beings and has solutions to ALL life questions be allowed to disappear?

Do we stop moving forward if something which is old but aids our movement, in the right direction is relied upon?

Do some basic instincts of nature and nurture and fundamental issues like peace, harmony, love, wisdom, healthy family and social life change with time?

Something of extreme value, which has been abused and perceived as defunct today(functionality unfortunately depends on the ability of 'X' to earn money and position today) should be thrown away without any second thought or reform?

I saw the Fatehpur Sikri and Taj Mahal and I wanted to preserve it.
I saw the Golden Temple and I was happy that it was restored after Operation Blue Star.
I saw the Bengal Tiger and I became a fan of the Save The Tiger Campaign
I visited the beautiful Goa churches and I hoped they would be well taken care of.
My favorite books are duly noted down in a list meant to be given to my children when they are of age.
I read/listened to a fraction of Geeta, Ved, Upanishads, the stories of our sages and I so badly want to pass it on to my children...all children...future generations of my country and the world.

Am I being silly? Am I fighting against the inevitable? I guess I am wishing for what many wished for and acted towards too. If not then, something which is as old as it is, would not have still been around. I am not talking about The National Language. I do not believe in having One National Language or some such title in a linguistically rich and diverse country. It is as symbolic and purposeless as having a National Bird/Animal/Flower, and this only ruffles many a feather and hurts many a fragile ego.

I am talking about preserving/protecting/promoting Sanskrit the language of our scriptures. (The understanding of the difference between forcing and promoting/preserving is assumed here.) The language which enshrines our intellectual and spiritual heritage. A language which is respected and revered by scholars world over and tragically garners diminishing interest within its own country of origin. Oh by the way did the 'practical' people tell what a waste of time and effort it was for the Jews to revive their dying language.(Hebrew has been revived as a literary language several times as a matter of fact)

I know many things die their natural death but don't we try to keep something alive as long as possible which is dear to us and nourishing. Case in point is seed banks. A beautiful tree or an essential food grain may die but we do save its seeds for our future generations. Do we not protect and make efforts to preserve Sanskrit and any other language which offers us valuable insight to our history, and which is responsible for our very essence? What we have taken for granted or for inherent 'Indianness' from Yoga and Ayurveda to the famous Indian Hospitality (Atithi Devobhava) is a legacy handed down to us. It makes us who we are. It should not be confused with the infamous and politically incorrect word 'Religion'. Its a Way of Life. An Indian way of life. And anything which is uniquely us, beautifully us, should be saved.

Every best-seller self-help books and those propounding some great philosophy contain ideas which are not new. It is a fraction of what is there in our scriptures. But then one ought to have seen and fallen in love with a Gulmohar Tree to want to save it somehow, for our children and grandchildren. We do our best to save our Grandmother's unique recipe and how easily we give up on these gems. For if you cannot read and understand how long will it be before it disappears? We are still lucky to have some great Teachers of Vedanta but for how long? If there is a general indifference and ridicule for the language, any language which is more than a means of functional communication it is the death of a culture, be it Bengali, Tamilian, Marathi, Indian Muslim. The smaller but essential arms of the Big Beautiful Indian Culture.

As fellow (American :)) blogger says "It saddens me that translations are taken to be the 100% pure meaning of the original text. :( Anytime something is translated, its original meaning is changed. That's why translators are listed after the author -- because they've colored the entire topic, intentionally or unintentionally."

Surely when things die, new ones will take their place. But the dying should leave a legacy, which the young are proud of. A heritage which nourishes them and humanity.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Pet Peeve Part II

This particular peeve is something I have been guilty of, not too long ago. I realized my mistake and now cannot stop feeling sorry for those who continue to commit this folly. Someone truly said that little knowledge is dangerous. This applies to people who enjoy bashing the ancient Indian scriptures without truly understanding them. The pseudo-secularists, the born again feminists, students and faculty from the top Indian colleges who take pride in their Gender Studies Cells,the writers cum activists, the I-am-in-love-with-everything-western-and-hate-everything-Indian and every Tom,Dick and Harry who can pen a few words is guilty of it.

If you ask them their source, it is always second-hand...Internet(Oh My God!!), western authors, and some by misinformed Indian authors too. And since religion bashing is fashionable these days, you will win substantial popular support if you defame Rig Veda or Ramayan.

I am deeply respectful of all religions. I love little Ibrahim who goes to the mosque everyday and reads the Quran. I am in awe of little Praveen Thomas who attends Sunday School. I am proud of 6 year old Gouri who attends a Baal Sanskara Kendra and is already learning about the Geeta, the Vedas and Upanishads.

I am hurt by the way some of these scriptures have been misrepresented by some authors both Indian and Western. Bloggers too in the name of feminism and pseudo-secularism are doing such disservice. I wish they would be honest about their research and do their home work well.They quote these authors or one of the unauthentic websites and cry wolf. Recently I skimmed through a book titled Infinite Hindu Wisdom by a Faculty of a Respected US University and found it sadly lacking. It clearly showed a lack of understanding of the culture and philosophy. And how easily we rely on such books and such 'experts' for their two bits on our scriptures.

Sanskrit has been misinterpreted and many books contain sorry translations. Also because many of our Puraans are very symbolic in nature you either need the brains or to say the least an excellent Sanskrit teacher and Vedic scholar to understand the true meaning and the deeper philosophy.I am not in a position to defend each and every accusation not because of lack of evidence but because of limited knowledge ( I am still learning). But I would like to give some examples. Dr. Moore has written in some book quoting from some Ved say that "Prajapati ran after his daughter and raped her" He goes on to say that the Vedas are full of such disgusting things and people find it titillating hence they read these scriptures.
The Story: goes that Prajapati got angry with his daughter and ran after her.
The Real Meaning:This story actually teaches a political lesson. A lesson in democratic practices in fact. The 'daughter' is a reference to the King's Council of Ministers..his Rajyasabha..his Rajyasabha/Rajsatta is also his duhita(Sanskrit for daughter). The bhavarth is a lesson in democracy. It says that the leader of the Rajyasabha should not be from the the Royal household but an ordinary subject of the state ..only then can he be fair and just in his duties. It is the job of the Rajyasabha/Rajsatta to serve the Praja.

Shameful is the way Dr. Moore has translated it. I know I have not done a good job explaining because though I am comfortable with English, I found it an extremely difficult task to translate from the Hindi explanation of this Sanskrit Shlok into English. It only highlights how things get contorted out of shape.
And translations by people who begin with an agenda and are unfamiliar with the language,culture,history and philosophy can end only disastrously.

Similary the shlok Ahilyayee jarah indrah has been translated as Indra raped Ahilya...whereas the shlok simply and beautifully describes something as natural as a Sunrise!!!.

What is sad is that there are few to oppose these awful translations. Many who are followers of Sanatan Dharm are steeped into mindless ritualism rather than knowledge, devotion and action. Sankrit being viewed as a 'dead' language means we are fast losing the tool with which to dig further and deeper,hence becoming alienated from our culture and our history in the process.

Someone I was chatting with the other day, was ridiculing the Veda and saying that somewhere it is written that if you have a cold you should chant .."I do not have a cold"...something to this effect. I do not know the exact reference and hence cannot correctly comment on this literal translation. But what I found sad is that when a Doctor from John Hopkins or Harvard Medical School talks about the powers of positive thinking/prayers/meditation it does not seem so quaint and silly.

I understand that my peers,the young today are put off by the ritualism they see around them and also by the various malpractices which have crept in. But what is important to remember is that what is needed is reform and a revival of a study of these scriptures not ill informed bashing. Are we waiting for some Westerner to show us the power and brilliance of our scriptures, our,ayurved,jyotish-shastra etc. etc. Will we believe in ourselves only then?

I wish those who consider themselves smarter than Adi Shankracharya,Ramkrishna,Swami Vivekanand,Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi,Pandurang Athvale Shatri...some of the great followers and teachers of Advait Vedant would be honest and wise enough and refrain from commenting on something they know very little about.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Pet Peeve Part 1

I decided in favor of writing about my Pet Peeve. There are two big ones presently, hence this will be a 2 part blog. Since its a peeve there are extreme emotions involved here, namely anger....which strips this blog off some rationality and adds some prejudice. So the disclaimer is, that these are my emotions... and anyone who reads can agree or disagree. I like the average American who is very friendly and approachable albeit a little dumb. Its not about them.

I imagine that love for one's country is not a strange emotion or does it depend on the country your are residing in or a national of. I am an Indian National temporarily residing in the US thanks to hubby's job. He works for an Indian IT company. I wanted to get this fact out of the way because I hope it leaves less room for the possibility of double standards.

Over the course of my stay here I have met and formed friendships with many Indians. Indians who are so, by their birth but not by their choice since they have either acquired a US Citizenship or are in the process of doing so (desperately). I am OK with this so far. After all we are born into our families, nations and religions and we may want to cut off those ties at any time for a variety of, lifestyle, lack of promising career opportunities....I repeat I am fine with all that. Each one to his own.

But what gets me a little red in the face not with embarrassment but with anger when I hear these Indians with American citizenship, people who have adopted a new country talk about India in such terms:

1. India is becoming just like US actually worse...the girls don't want to wear Indian dresses, they are disrespectful and 'fast'. They have forgotten their culture.

2. India mein kitnee gandgee hai ( India is very dirty). Don't know how people use the bathrooms when travelling in the trains.

3. Global warming is not a surprise. Have you seen what's happening in Nano cars will only add to the poisonous cheap, everybody will drive cars.

4. I want to go back but can never go back because my children fall sick in India.

5. I wanted to stay but the system stinks in India....corruption all around.

And so much more.........

My replies sometimes aloud and sometimes in my head only:

1. Yes things are changing and fast. But we still cannot compete against the likes of prom (high school grad party) culture here..where many parents actually give the money to book hotel rooms for post party revelry (read mostly sex,drugs and booze. We might follow suit but I fervently pray we don't. But such double standards I swear! I have seen people act in such impossibly cruel ways towards their children and aging parents all in the name of career,money or a piece of paper..GC or Citizenship. What kind of culture is that, may I ask? Oh yes it is TCBP... "The Culture of Being Practical"

2. Yes India bahut hi gandaa hai...the roads, the rivers...But hello! you live in a country which is the largest contributor of global warming however much it denies it and wants to pass this crown to China. Oh ! but you don't see it because they like to dump their trash in our oceans. And sell their toxic waste to our susceptible and greedy population. And of course abiding by the rules of 'Do Not Litter' is a new religion for you. A religion which takes back seat as you drive past the International airport in Mumbai and throw your boarding pass out of the car or spit with an abandonment on the road. And I find such discussions very offensive when my family and friends back home are travelling in those very trains you look down upon now.
And you are worried about the number of cars? Residing in a country which probably has more cars than people. Or are you feeling foolish that the upward mobility you left your country for is becoming the order of the day there. Not to worry,it will be a long time till we truly catch up.

4.. Children fall sick in India???????? Anybody would after travelling cross continent in a plane...a breeding ground for e-coli and stomach virus. And as if that was not enough the heat will certainly steal some of your American weather bred steam. And if all the life long allergies which are still unheard of, in hot and dirty India, do not faze you, why should a temporary bout of diarrhea leave you so frazzled.

5. System certainly stinks in India. Once it did not, many, many years ago. But then it does now, for the last many, many years.
In the US the system does not stink ( I am not sure the Iraqis, Afghans, Iranians and many not so obvious groups share the same high opinion though). But then systems were not free of reproach and left a bad taste in the mouth for the African slaves, for women who had no right to education and vote, for the native Americans who are now relegated to reservations. Things changed but not automatically. Someone or some people were willing to sweat and sacrifice.
Bana banaya pakwaan khaana bahut asaan hai. I hate so many things in India. But have I worked to change any of them? I am like so many others waiting for someone to do it for me. Then why complaint or complaint so much.

I am not blind to the chaos in my home but its my personal chaos.And once you choose another nation over lose some if not all of that right to criticize and publicly complaint.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

From Ulhasnagar to Dadar and Back

I am 'crazy happy busy' these days. Dad is here and I am a Daddy's girl. After a lot of cajoling he agreed to leave his painstakingly grown fruit trees, vegetable garden and numerous flowering shrubs behind and pay his only daughter a visit in the great US of A. Since these are my last few months in this country I was eager to show him around this Maha-Mayanagri of all Mayanagris. The weather is great and the weekends are flying by.We have visited the usual Desi 'Teerthsthaan'..Niagra.A trip to the beautiful wine country or also famously known as Finger Lakes region, and Lake George in upstate NY home to the Adirondack Mountains was a delight.

Just before my trip to Lake George I had hurriedly read my friend and classmate(from TISS) Ashwadhy's beautiful post on her experiences with a little boy inflicted with AIDS. This got me thinking about a weekend long time back. A weekend I will not forget and do not wish to. It has to do with another little boy. Such is the nature of our work, I guess. And here goes the story....

I was fresh out of boat...the boat being a protected environment of a strict all- girls-Grad-school-residence-hall of the top arts college in India. A small town girl I was suffering from panic attacks in a teeming and fast-paced city like Mumbai.I was there to do my post-graduation. I was tortured by the non-stop Mumbai rains. I was failing miserably in mastering the art of boarding and disembarking the Ambernath local safely and at the right station and at the right times. As a student in TISS I was expected to do 2 days of field work ..Mondays and Tuesdays every week. I had been assigned to a Government home for Boys in Ambernath. This home housed boys from the ages of 6 to 16 ...orphans, economically deprived and juvenile delinquents. And interacting with these boys was killing me.

My problem was that I was falling in love with so many of them. I could not fathom a life inside the dark and depressing confines of the Govt. Home.It broke my heart when after some months a 13 year old begged me to take him home. He whispered to me that he would cook,clean,mop.....anything that allowed him to stay with me. I was his road to the other side. And I knew I would fail him like so many others. And then I got assigned a task which the other 2 students accompanying me refused because it meant having to give up our precious weekend. I was supposed to escort a boy to a similar Govt. Home but for girls in Dadar. I was told he needed to meet someone there.

This boy was little in every sense ...9 years old or was he 8 ...he looked 6. That fateful Saturday I asked my then best friend and now husband a hard core IT guy, to accompany me...just because I have a pathetic sense of direction and wanted to prevent a search and rescue mission for me and the little boy who I was responsible for.
When I picked up the Little Boy(LB) he was freshly bathed, oiled and had taken a more than a casual effort to comb and dress up in his Govt. provided uniform. Minutes into our walk from the Govt home he asked to stop at a local Patel shop. He with the little money that he had bought some balloons(the unblown variety) and a few toffees. He did not have sufficient money for the little he bought and I paid the required amount. He was embarrassed about this and spent the rest of journey either in silence or thanking me profusely. All for Rs.10.

I had been told to keep a watchful eye on the LB and I too was suitably scared of either losing my ward or of him running away under my watch. He kept to himself throughout the journey and I wondered what occupied his little mind. Upon reaching Dadar his excitement was obvious. He walked ahead of us. And we had to almost run to keep up pace with him. When we reached the Home a formidable looking institution he seemed to be full of nervousness and an uneasy excitement. After completing all the required paperwork we waited patiently on a typical Govt. issued wooden bench. The LB was completely dwarfed sitting on it.

And then I knew 'she' was there. He jumped up and almost skipped, hopped and ran to 'her'. 'Her' being a Little Girl...smaller than the LB. Dressed in a white and blue uniform. Her hair oiled and in two high pigtails. My lips quivered and my throat hurt when I saw them hug....both refusing to let go.
'She' was his little sister. He handed the balloons and the toffees to her with so much love and tenderness, that I had to remind myself of how little the LB really was.As I tried to blink away my tears I smiled at the LG and told the LB that we would step out and be back when his allotted time was over. We walked out in silence. The silence unbroken as we aimlessly wandered, our minds trying to wrap around the cruel reality we had witnessed. From the corner of my eye I saw my best friend wipe away tears. How I willed for time to stop that day. How I prayed for a miracle. I begged God to not let me do this. I hated myself and everybody for having to go inside and tell this LB and the LG that their time was 'up'. I willed my mind to go numb and not see how the LB and and the LG kept turning back to look at each other. I wished to go blind when he went running to her as she started to cry assuring her of ...I don't know what. As we walked out I thought my heart would break...I do not dare think what the LB must have been feeling.

He was stoic in his silence. A LB with glassy eyes...eyes brimming with unshed tears. His hands clenching and unclenching.His brows creasing into a determined furrow. His jaw set in steely determination. I knew he was telling himself that one day he would be re-united with his only living family.His Little Sister.
Or was he fighting with his God?

That evening I begged (long-distance) my mom to take me away and marry me off to the first willing suitor. I begged God to take away my power to think and feel. I was mad at myself and at the world. At the injustice and the cruelty of it all. I cried myself to sleep that night and many more nights to come. I can still cry today when I think of them. My heart hurts and I worry about them.

I say a prayer tonight for them and hope that, so will you.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

A Thank You Note

Ever since I started blogging inspired by schoolmate and a brilliant writer Piper and the state of turmoil my home state J&K was this time around last year...its been a joy ride. I enjoy writing and see it as a release.I love to write about what really touches me the most. As I have said earlier it is also my way of leaving a legacy behind for my kids ...a way for them to know their mom better.

In the weekly lectures I attend, I am learning about the meaning of shloks from Ishavasya Upanishad. The particular mantra that is being dealt with talks about people who do 'sat karya and karm after gyaan without any desire for material or spiritual gains. They simply do it. Easier said than done. So me a mere mortal has my reasons for blogging, none of them for the Blog awards doing the rounds in blogosphere. BUT hey! its always a pleasure receiving them. My first was from Piper...not surprising since she has always been very encouraging and my only reader for many months :)
And today D has bestowed upon me besides a host of others and very generously so a few more of the not expected but always welcome awards.One for just being on her blogroll I Love Your no sweat at all for this one. Another for commenting Lovely Blogger but then I have an opinion on everything and its a pleasure to read her posts. These 2 are more love than awards and "back at ya" D :)
The award is for Blogging With a Purpose. And I appreciate it. Purpose or no Purpose the child in me delights at these pretty little attachments on the left side column of my blog.

I also must mention Bianca here who wrote a sweet note of appreciation. She is a mommy and the post on To Work or Not to Work struck a chord with her. Feed backs and personal stories make it more thank you Bianca.

For me, Blogging has lead to a lot of gain and some pain. Also it has given me another sense of purpose. Not undermining the sense of purpose behind being a wife and mom...the hubby and the babies might not say it but I know I am an indispensable asset around here :)
I blog when the house sleeps (read the babies) which is waaaaaay past midnight and hence have to drag myself out of the bed early in the morning when my over energetic twosome make it their mission to wake me up.Getting up late lead to many missed sessions in the Gym which leads to the Gain-Pain saga...

1. GAIN: 10 lbs. and the exalted company of fellow bloggers and some blogosphere awards... so much more welcome than the excess pounds.

2. PAIN : The berry+flaxseed smoothie I gulp down now every night instead of baingan ka bharta and roti to lose the pounds I gained :(

I would love to pass on these awards but as hard pressed I am for time being a full time mommy with no help(America! my friends can be a lot of pain) I am not able to read as many blogs as I would like to.
I cannot dare give awards to Manju ji, Vinod ji, Poonam ji and Shantanu ji whose blogs I love. Piper was my inspiration so needless to say love the way she writes. I immensely enjoy reading D, Indyeah, IHM, Smitha, Rang Decor and all those on my blogroll. Feedbacks from all of you mean a lot to me especially Amrita,Sara, Renu ji, Manju ji, Vinod ji, Anrosh, Kislay, Ashwadhy,Destination Infinity,Nisha,Rupa.

I would like to give the Award of Blogging with a Purpose to Kislay and Child of Adam.They really make me think and I love the way they write. Please copy paste the award from my blog and put it up on yours if you care enough. Either which way is fine...I think both of you are brilliant though would like to see more from you Child of Adam.

Thanks D for the pat on the back. Thanks... all you people mentioned and missed( forgive an overworked-underpaid no make that unpaid mommy) much.

Monday, June 15, 2009

To Work or Not to Work

Kuputro Jayet kvachidapi Kumata na Bhavati
(A son might be bad but a mother never is)

I know of no mother who has not the best interest of her child at heart. How she goes about it could vary and sometimes be far from perfect. But her intentions can never be suspect.

I touch upon a taboo topic.I was afraid to do this post. I do not want to hurt anyone. I sincerely hope I won't. It is after all a very touchy topic of the New Age - To Work or Not To Work. For the mothers of course. Any kind of opinion can turn controversial and loved or hated by the two opposing thoughts.
Anyways this 'issue' came up (though its a in your face problem of modernism) when one of my friends put this on her status update on a popular social networking site....

" Y travelled on the school bus this morning and then in the noon again to check out the bus route...felt so envious as she watched Mommy's pick up kids from the bus and hug them tight... wish I was there for 'X' too when he gets off the bus each day..sweaty, tired, half asleep and full of stories... :-("

The comments that followed were definitely in nature of are not alone, don't beat yourself about it, you are the best mom, you are doing a great job. All very true and well deserved. Out of the 12 comments only 2 dared to write that they dropped everything to do just 'that'..see their little ones talk and say their first word. Then there were 2 comments which got my goat.

One said " its not half as glamorous as it seems...... the hot sun, standing for like ages...... when you can do something more useful...... the kids also are not so happy everyday...... they would be grumpy & dump their bags on us...... believe me, its not as great as it looks!!!!!!

And another said "its the quality not the quantity of time you spend with your kids"

I am not here to judge either the working or the non working mother. I believe that just as we are our own best competition, we are our own best judge. But having said that I find the debate of glamorous vs. unglamorous and quantity vs. quality ridiculous.Its like saying I had the best meal ( read quality) in the world and yet since it was way too little I remained hungry. Or I had plenty to eat (read quantity) but the food was almost inedible. I will still remain hungry. How can we talk of either quantity or quality in isolation???? Isn't motherhood about BOTH!!! It is then for us to work out the right balance for ourselves and then live with our decision.
I spend the whole day with my kid. But all I do is put him in front of the idiot box or beat and abuse him...But hey!! I am a stay at home mom and I give the kid quantity.
And on the other hand as a working mom I spend 2 beautiful, productive hours everyday with my kid or a week in his 2 month long summer vacation and I am giving him quality. The kid is hungry in both the case scenarios. So how can it be either or or?? Go Figure for yourself I say!!

Glamour?? Looking for glamour (as we see around ourselves) in motherhood is like looking for the Masai Tribe in Iceland. Motherhood is about living in sweats, covered in baby spit, bad hair days, sleepless nights, dark circles and an increased pulse rate due to anxiety. A few extra pounds with little time to work on those once upon a time surfboard abs.It is about forgetting that there is a pretty woman behind the mother of all messes and chaos. Its about sweaty dirty fingers, wet kisses, meltdowns and more. You are on call for 24/7 all year around and for a lifetime.

This debate is becoming a reason for women to resent each other. The underlying seething emotion is palpable. Its like two warriors of the opposing camps sizing each other before going in for the kill. The working mom is fed up with the 'holier-than-thou' attitude of the stay-at-home mom. And the stay-at-home-mom considers the working mother selfish and self centric, a slave to objective happiness.

Who is right and who is wrong is not the point of my discussion today. I think the final loser is the woman herself be it from either club. I will not get started on what it does to the children and the family structure at large. Seriously, how does a woman who is juggling both a demanding career and family and another who is at home but questions her decision constantly do any good to anyone.

I have seen working moms riddled with immense guilt. They are physically and emotionally exhausted. Every mis-step their child may take, or his/her every failure as deemed by the society will rest upon her fragile shoulders. They will love her now since she brings in the moolah but will not hesitate to peck her at the faintest sniff of trouble. She dreams of giving it all up. Playing house, being a mom, being a woman with no strings attached. She cannot most of the times..for she might really need that extra money, or they have become used to the fringe benefits of a double income household. And also because it is certainly most difficult to give up on the dream of a career,and success as has been taught to her all through her growing years. When she was growing up all they told her was to study and work hard and get a respectable job which gets a good salary. They said her self esteem depended on it. Its not easy to break free. And yes, it does break her heart when she catches her child say a prayer to God "Please make my Mamma not go to work today".

I have seen stay-at-home moms emotionally and physically high-strung. She is of course doing the most challenging and important work ever. But no one tells her so. This work does not pay after all. She is often asked "Do you work?" She does not know whether to laugh or cry at this question. She is the anchor but still feels adrift. She is indispensable at what she does but no one makes her feel so. It is after all becoming the most taken-for-granted roles ever. She is either dismissed as a wannabe loser who never made it so stayed at home or someone who wasted her potential. She cannot shake off the sense of incompleteness. She feels depressed when people pity her or compare her to successful and earning counterparts.It breaks her when people say to her "Kuchh kaam kyun nahin kartee/ why don't you work?"

I have a sneaking suspicion that this is feminism in regression. We are in an illusion that we have more freedom than ever before. Maybe some of us do. But many still don't. And those who think they have it, are unaware or have forgotten what true freedom tastes like. It comes with no extra baggage. It brings peace. Not a sense of burden,doubt and guilt. It does not tire but rejuvenates.It spreads joy. It is not transient but stands the test of time.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Why is Modernization confused with Westernization?

Why oh why? I have been plagued with this question for quite sometime now and reading Fareed Zakaria's book "POST AMERICAN WORLD" (wonder if that will ever be a reality in my lifetime) has me obsessing over this trend which is on the rise.

What we call modern is sometimes just western. This has spilled over in both the public and private spheres. From the way we think, to how we dress, and what we drink or eat. I am no loony irrational rightist. I love some of the old western values. But today when the western world is being governed by a bunch of evil bankers, it(or the part we interact with politically and economically and culturally) has been reduced to a born again East India Company.

We are becoming the mirror images of each other. And that other is a culture being forced onto us from Wall Street and Corporate Boardrooms. Its not a mass pop culture. I prefer to call it mass hypnosis.

Gone are the days of Rooh-Awzah,Dabur drinks,panna,etc.Its always much easier and cooler to slug down a Pepsi or Coke. Coca-Cola is single-handedly depleting our groundwater resources. In Plachimada and Mehdiganj it tried selling its solid and extremely toxic waste to the farmers as fertilizers. But oh its so not cool to drink the local nimbu soda. Hum modern hain bhai!!

I dread the time, we will have Walmarts in all our cities. Reliance Fresh is anyways a kick in the stomach for the local sabzi wala..a once upon a time proud and independent small businessman. But so desperate to copy our NRI cousins, we would rather take a cart and shop in a climate controlled superstore, than be found carrying a 'jhola'(a bio degradable commodity our parents happily reused) and sweating it out in a sabzi market. Each one has their own justified reasons. Ignorance and lack of foresight being amongst them. We think its rustic and not done to drink tea from a 'kulhad'(an earthenware tumbler which again is bio-degradable and supports small artisans. We prefer to clog our drains and poison our earth with plastic cups/bottles because the Gora Man does it. DOwn with the 'suraahi'.

We are having to fight patenting of our very own basmati seeds and turmeric. Thank God for the fact that atleast some of us are fighting it. God Bless their souls. If the New Age East India Company would have its way, we would lose the right over indigenously grown herbs,crops etc. Do we know or rather do we care? We just go on singing the song of globalization without understanding its full implications and oblivious to the real hand who controls it.
Rice Tec’s claim on Basmati rice is said to be the most audacious instance of ‘bio piracy’ by Western transnational corporations (TNCs).The Indian government has successfully contested in the United States the grant of a patent on the commercial use of the traditional medicinal properties of turmeric.Another well-known example of bio piracy is the patent on the herbicidal properties of the ‘neem’ tree. Reference:
But heck, how does it matter if we have KFC,MacDonalds,Pizza Huts, in exchange of all this. Right? All in the name of modern and global?

The Saree industry is hit hard due to recession as well for other reasons for sometime now. The cheap Chinese imitations being one of them. Indian women still love sarees though wear it on some special occasions only...understandably so. But when we would rather wear a gown/or what have you, than drape a saree around us even when the moment demands it,(weddings,pujas) its baffling(to me). I am not sashaying in a saree all the time. But this growing trend of (celebrities in both national and international events) donning gowns is something I do not understand. Are we trying to prove something here? Are we saying that we become equals only when we talk,eat,dress,think alike? Personally I think Indian women look better in a saree versus a gown.What say you? Today evening I saw a 6 year old boy cycling,wearing the Muslim skull cap. He was just back from the mosque and he looked beautiful. He was who he is without having to conform to an accepted and popular but false ideal.

Hypnosis is leading us to imitate culture and the way we think. So I guess our school farewells will soon be called proms. The teenage parties will have condoms instead of candies. Oral sex will not be considered sex.The average age of sexual activity will be 14. Feminism too has become colored. I hate to dig skeletons out of the grave, but what was the Pink Chaddi Campaign all about? I have many friends who supported and celebrated the event but they could never defend their actions completely. I hate and condone what the Shiv Sena did but sending chaddis their way?? Its like a 2 year old spits at me and in anger and despite being an adult I spit back at him. Doesn't the illogicality of the approach and strategy of that campaign hit anyone? Are we copying the bra-burning movement of the 1960s which took place in America(which many historians say is a myth and no such thing ever took place. I am sure we gave some cheap thrills by sending pink chaddis, to whoever we sent them to. Calling ourselves pub-hopping,footloose and fancy free is a way of showing our emancipation?

We are 'The Modern Mother' who prides in the fact that our child does not say namaste or does the 'ancient'feet-touching-as-a-mark-of-respect-to-elders thing. I have taught him to say Hi or Hello and address elders by their last names like the 'Jones' do. "Hi Mr. Sharma, how are you today?" is more like it. We might change our mind though, if the Americans think namaste and touching feet, is the 'in' thing like Yoga and Indian Zoomba.

We prefer Eckhart Toole over Ishavasya Upanishad or Geeta(easier to read and who will bother with Sanskrit and the authentic translations when there is French and Spanish to master).Ballet sounds better than Bharatnatyam.Old age homes in the name of a fast changing and modern world. Spaghetti straps over dupattas. Grimm's fairy Tales is good but why give up Panchatantra completely? I come from an ethnic group which has lost its script. I know what that kind of loss feels like. Integration and assimilation is good but does it have to come at the cost of indigenous knowledge and skills and a certain way of life.How difficult is it to be modern and yet Indian?

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Earn More and Give Back More

Ambition, the desire to acquire wealth and material goodies and issues as these were on mind after reading Smitha's post titled "Thinking Big with Honesty". This post is about, some of what our scriptures say about wealth and material acquisition. Before I go ahead, I want to say that all my understanding (which is still very little) of Vedant comes from my Teacher.

I am aware, that Hinduism or Sanatan Dharma is probably one of the few philosophies or teachings where wealth is celebrated. We worship Lakshmi,the Goddess of wealth. Shree Suktam is one of the most beautiful and lyrical hymns where one invokes Lakshmi and asks for wealth. Our scriptures ask us not to hate the rich, be friends with our equals and have compassion for the poor.

So is Sanatan Dharm or Hinduism which is traced back to some 4000-5000 years ago blatantly pro-capitalist in nature? We do Lakshmi Puja during Diwali, but might be unaware of the fact that Vedic philosophy does not stop at approving the wealth generation but also lays down the code of conduct after acquiring that wealth. We have conveniently hung on to invoking God for ever increasing personal wealth, but have overlooked the qualities one should inculcate after amassing all that wealth. Therein lies the source of troubles that ail the society today. Hence it is not surprising that there are many in the world who live in abject poverty.

Ambition and a desire for the worldly goods takes on a darker color when we become a slave to our worldly possessions and also when we sacrifice the core values and barter our souls in exchange for money,power,fame,career.......Our scriptures say that wealth if used correctly can be a tremendous social force. I guess the same applies for power and fame amongst other things.

Our Scriptures have distinguished between ,Alakshmi,Vitt,Dhanlakshmi,Mahalakshmi.

Alakshmi: To simply put, wealth spent for wrong things.

Vitt: Wealth spent on oneself.

Dhanlakshmi: Wealth spent on someone else.

Mahalakshmi: Wealth spent for God's work.( This does not mean money spent in building ostentatious temples though. More like helping a needy family, but minus the unequal equation between giver(superior)-receiver(inferior).

It is said that when wealth is spent on God's work or given back to the society generously, the money stays in the family for generations. One example is the Raghuvansh Dynasty.


Tam M aavah jatvedo lakshmimanapgaminim
Yasyam Hiranyam Vindeyam Gamashvam Purushanham

Roughly and Literally Translated: Hey Jatvedas, I want to own a golden cow, horse and great friends, so grant me indestructible wealth.

Having siad that Shlok I must add that great wealth and power come with great responsibility. Owning upto the responsibility is what our scriptures ask of us. We maybe forgiven for our sins but we are always responsible for our actions. Wealth sans responsibility cannot become a positive social force.

I ask for wealth for all those who will spend it wisely and judiciously and worship it and treat it as Dhanlakshmi and Mahalakshmi.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Goodbyes and Heartaches

I am depressed. I am woebegone. I am moping and also convinced I will be rendered -unable to function. All this and more once my neighbor and friend leaves for India (for good) in 6 days.

I have been blessed with great neighbors and great friends. I have already said my farewell to two really close friends and now this one. She is my next door neighbor. My support system in a foreign land. My Two year old thinks, she is her second mommy or something close. Without an extended family to fall back upon and grandmas and aunts to fuss over you, not surprising. Six long months of winter (when being inside the apartment is not a choice but a compulsion) were never so tedious after all, thanks to the 'padosis'. We carved a 'Little India' in our corner of the apartment building, with kids running around and playing house during the long winter months. From babysitting each others kids to a 24/7 supply of onion/tomato/sugar/flour, its been a great journey. We have sneaked in the occasional movie or dinner with the hubby thanks to taking turns to look after each other's kids. Such bonding makes for a hell of a joyride but becomes a sea of pain when the time comes to bid adeiu.

So I walk around with a heavy heart and nothing anyone says or does seems to make a difference right now. My two year old senses something and is already prone to unexplainable temper tantrums and long crying spells. The four year old will have a somewhat lonely summer without one of his best friends. My only consolation being that I am to follow suit and head back home in some more months. But undeniably it is the end of a journey for now.

Cheers to such neighbors and friends !!(to the 2 special ones too, who left already). My friend is a Mumbaikar (Maharashtrian) and I as North Indian as they come (hailing from Jammu and Kashmir) here's to the Shiv Sena Brigade and the Regional Fanatics : Eat Your Hearts Out!!!!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Day the Americans wanted to know us Better

I had mentioned earlier in my Post titled "Uthishta Bharata" that I was due to give a presentation in my son's pre-school about India and the Indian culture. This was a part of an exercise by the Director of the school to bridge the cultural gap and equip themselves with skills to better deal with children of the Indian origin. I was asked to do the honors and I was more than happy, public speaking being something I love and India and the Indian culture being one of my favorite topics.

Some of the questions that came up were:

1. Americans:What is the meaning of the mark on the forhead?
Me: To myself: I think I know the answer thanks to the spiritual literature I am reading.
To Them : The mark is applied by the Indians who follow Hinduism (a name given by the Western scholars)or Sanatan Dharma ( Eternal Law/Eternal teachings). It is done for aesthetic purposes too. But the religious and cultural connotation being that it celebrates the power of the mind. It is our mind which explores all that is good in us and stifles the evil. Immense power lies within it and hence after we worship the creator we worship that mind which will lead us to him.
Honestly, followed by (mostly) blank looks.

2. Why do many people of the Indian origin eat with their hands?
Me: To Myself: I would rather not eat, than eat Rajma Chawal with a spoon and I am sure my South Indian sister feels the same for Dosa-chutney...
To Them: An elaborate process of cleaning up which includes hands and sometimes feet and face too(remember:"haath munh dho kar khane baitho")precedes our eating. Our food is such that we cannot possibly eat with a spoon/fork/knife. You would not think of eating a Pizza or a Burger with a a fork or spoon
Followed by laughter!

3.Are there any foods you do not eat and why?
Me: To Myself: Beef.Gai Humari Maata hai!!Why else?
To Them: Many Indian Hindus are vegetarians (they do not believe in killing animals for food) and almost all of them do not eat beef. We consider the cow a sacred animal (amongst a host of other things) since it is the source of the most nourishing food(which is actually for its young one)and hence we have given the animal an elevated status and no Hindu will be found killing or eating a cow. I understand the Indian Muslims do not eat Pork.
Followed by "you are crazy to give up steak and ham " kind of looks!!!

4.Why do Indians celebrate birthday parties with the cake first?
Me:To Myself: Another example of aping the west. Why, oh why the tradition of offering prayers, seeking blessings from elders etc is replaced by one upmanship birthday parties. The kids sometimes more concerned with the gifts they receive and the return gifts they will take back home.
To Them: Cutting the cake is not part of our culture, we adopted it from the west and took the liberty of changing it to suit our needs. We eat sweets on any special or joyous occassions hence we eat the cake first???? Maybe?
Followed by Hmmmmmmmmms!!

5. In childcare we the satff strive to make the children independent and self- sufficient. Does this conflict with your cultural beliefs?
Me: To Myself: You will be doing us a favor.
To them: Exactly that.."You would be doing us a favor" we appreciate the efforts you take to make our children independent. Gone are the days of extended families and extended childhoods... being pampered by grandparents and aunts and uncles. In a situation where nuclear families and working moms are the norm, the children need to grow up fast and be independent. So the culture is changing and hence needs to be follwed by relevant practices too.
Follwed by smug satisfied looks.

6. Do extended family live with you?
Me : To Myself: I know so many who are scared to move back because of their extended families and so many, who want to move back for the very same reason.
To Them: Extended families was the way we were. It is fast changing because of the economy. People have to move away from their towns and cities and country in pursuit of career/money/what have you... But when the parents get too old or sick to take care of themselves it is understood that they will move in with their children. This is the usual practice and one cannot easily get away with something otherwise. This accounts for less old age homes and less societal acceptance of such instituions. (Thank God!)
Followed by Admiration and "I wish I could say the same for our family value system"(especially by the elderly staff)kinda looks

7.If a child is able to walk- why do you carry them?
Me: To Myself: Hmmm why do we do that? Is it just that we are a very loving people and amotionally expressive? Not really when you come to think of it.
To Them: Not sure about this one. Maybe because the Day-Care thing is a relatively new concept for us and the Indian mother is still struggling with a lot of guilt about it.Guilt and motherhood go hand in hand.
Followed by "we can so relate " response.

8. Please explain jewllery and its traditions - e.g. a gold chain around the waist of a little boy. Also there was aboy who wore ear-rings for just a few weeks and then didn'twear them again.
Me: To Myself: We today do many things merely as rituals , not knowing or bothering to find out why we do it. But everyhting had a reason which may have been contorted beyond recognition.
To Them: This is my understanding in the Indian culture which dates back to pre-historic times emphasizes upon the connection between metals/peircings(which is related to accupressure) and good health or healing. We also are believers of Astrology and the influence of various stones on our well being. Many things like threads around our waist and vermillion on our hair-parting are symbolic in nature.
Follwed by very interested queries. Many wanted to know wether they shoud wear a moonstone or a topaz....I was like Whoa!!! wait a minute I can't help you need to see some expert.Having said that the image of crude ads of Bangali Baba as seen from the trains flooded my mind. :)

9. Please explain "oils"that are used in the children's hair.
Me: To Myself: LOL I am sure the mustard/sesame/coconut oil fumes must be making them dizzy.
To Them: We believe in natural organic products (this organic word sells like hot cakes here)The oils have been proven to be good for healthy lustrous hair besides having a cooling/warming effect. I personally have kept friday nights as the 'oiling night' when I liberally oil my children's hair and shampoo it the next morning. Is it a wonder that India is the biggest exporter of natural hair and the US the biggest importer. The Indian hair is considered the best in the world and is used for wigs.
Followed by laughter and questions on natural beauty care products.

10. What is the discipline used for children?
Me: To Myself:You really don't want to know. We think of innovative ways to threaten,scare, coerce and traumatize(unknowingly) our children. We ourselves are products of childhood 'pitai'..the occassional thrashings and many a spankings.We have masterd the art of covertly pinching our children in public places where we fear recrimination esp. in the US. God forgive me for the blatant lies I told that day.
To them:We do the usual thing like 'time-outs' and taking away priveleges or TV time etc. We also resort to the occassional spanking.
Followed by approving looks.

11. As raising a girl versus raising a marriage...
Me: To Myself: Girls are over-protected and boys over-coveted. Though I thoroughly dislike the over exposure in the US which leads to sexual maturity and sexual activity at an obscenely young age followed by increasing percentage of teen pregnancies.
To Them: We are generally more protective of our girls.Marriages mostly arranged and the love marriages are also mostly eventually arranged and paid for by the parents. Marriage is between two families rather than between two individuals.Dating is a big no-no for teenagers and anything of that sort will have to be done in clandestine.Divorce rates are low inspite of these practices or maybe because of these practices.
Followed by queries on the state of happiness of the women.

12. What do the children like playing with?
Me: To Myself: Are you kidding me?
To Them: Are you serious? They love the same things as an American child would. Blocks, puzzles, cars, dolls,legos,balls......
Followed by sheepish looks.

13. Is it ok to shake hands with the Indians?
Me: To Myself: I am ok with shaking hands but distinctly uncomfortable with the peck on the cheek. I could happily do without it.
To Them: Namste with folded hands is our traditional way to greet each other. Though we may not refuse a proferred hand, many women ( esp. those not working)might be uncomfortable shaking hands with a man.(actually I am more ill at ease while shaking hands with an Indian Man..I am like why does he need to do that?)
I added that it was a better way to greet consdiering the times we are living in ..swine flu, bird flu etc etc etc.
Followed by the very very germophobic Americans' whole hearted agreement. They left the room practicing the Namaste.

All in all it was a great evening. They loved my collection of bangles and my baluchari saree. They liked the fact that my family does the evening prayer together. They tsked-tsked about the undue academic pressure on the Indian children, as did I, though appreciated the parental involvement.Their jaws dropped at the number of languages we have and the thousands of unaccounted for dialects. The many religions and the regional variations.They enjoyed the samosas, the kadhai paneer and the chicken tikka(we had an Indian dinner). I came home happy with a pot of daisies and sent them pleased with a hand painted clay diya.