Saturday, November 30, 2013

The importance of "date nights"

(Just the two of us!)

Having a regular date night is so essential for any couple - married or not. One of my top marriage tips is to never stop dating, no matter how many years you have been together. Date nights are so essential to reconnect with your partner and to have some alone time - just the two of you. It may sound unromantic, but you really do have to schedule them and put it on the calendar - making a plan to go have dinner together, or to see that new movie - and looking forward to it is really exciting (a hot date with husband-ji on Thursday night! Woo hoo!)

After having kids it gets really tricky to keep doing "date nights", but your relationship needs it more than ever - to just focus on each other. After having kids, you also won't have such a flexible time frame (we either have to complete our date before Maya's bedtime at 9pm, or go out after she's asleep - but usually we're too tired for that!) With my parents here, and my MIL also here, I started to remember that I should take advantage of that and try to do a date night with husband-ji at least once a week. After all, I've been having such a great time with my MIL that I find myself ignoring him all the time! (Yes, I know, I'm such a bad wifey sometimes...LOL!) I mean, MIL and I have just been too busy chit-chatting and hijacking the TV with our horror movies, so much that poor husband-ji has to go into another room to watch his beloved cooking competitions! Seriously though, it has been like a non-stop "kitty party" - husband-ji is totally outnumbered in our female household! Oh well, at least MIL is making him all his favorite foods!

As a full-time mother, it has been hard for me to think about anything other than my daughter's needs 24/7. Having Meningitis made me think about my health and my personal goals, but what about poor husband-ji? I needed to make our relationship a priority too and give him some one-on-one attention! 

(Img via)

So, the other day, my mum wanted to babysit Maya for the day, so I thought it would be nice to do a date night with husband-ji after our visit to the Chiropractor (our backs are totally f***ed from lifting the baby!) We went to a nearby restaurant that we had never tried before - and the food was delicious! 
Husband-ji complained for half the night (LOL!) but I was just happy to be out without the baby and eat food at a slow and leisurely pace! Literally tasting, chewing, and slowly swallowing the food - is that how I used to eat before kids? (After kids, we are mostly gulping it down!)

It is so easy to get stuck in routines - since husband-ji is such a picky eater, we find ourselves always going to the same restaurants, which can get really boring. I feel bad if he doesn't like his food and then he has to come home and eat his rice and mango pickle. But the other night for our date, we tried a Caribbean restaurant called "The Reef" which is very popular in Vancouver. They had a lot of vegetarian items on the menu - and so many Indo-Caribbean dishes too! It also brought back memories of husband-ji's trip to Jamaica and trying the food there. He ordered Doubles, which is basically chana masala with bara (like poori); and he also had a mixed vegetable curry. As we were eating out, I always jump at the chance to eat my non-veg delicacies (inside our house is vegetarian-only), so I ordered the most delicious Tilapia fish tacos that were melt-in-your-mouth delicious, as well as yam fries. They also had a lot of non-alcoholic drinks (we both don't drink) and I had the most zingy made-in-house ginger ale. It was totally exciting going to a new restaurant (I know, we are such a boring old married couple!)

(Doubles; yam fries)

(Mixed vegetable curry; Tilapia fish tacos)

Another thing we discussed was our upcoming 8 year anniversary in January. I was like, Whooooaaa....eight years, almost a decade! Shit, we are old! I thought we should do something special, because last year we only went out for dinner. Husband-ji has a lot of time off work during the holidays, so we decided to book a special trip for our anniversary. By that time, MIL/FIL will no longer be here, and my parents will also be on vacation, so we will have to take Maya with us. But I'm actually looking forward to traveling with her again because she is a bit older and more mature since our last trip (by more mature, I mean she can sit quietly and watch her cartoons for at least 30 mins!) and we can do fun touristy stuff (and shopping, OF course!)

So, until then, my mission - before my inlaws leave is to do a date night once (or twice!) a week! Maybe we will catch a movie next time (husband-ji is also picky about movies too!)

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Dear readers, what are your favorite ways to do dates with your partners? Do you think doing dates are important for your relationship?


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Friday, November 29, 2013

My first blog nomination/award!

Yesterday was Thanksgiving in the U.S., and although we do not celebrate it, I made sure to wish my beloved American friends a Happy Thanksgiving. Two of my friends had their children right before Thanksgiving - what a blessing! As many of my readers know, we celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving in early October. But still, I have many fond memories of spending American Thanksgiving in the U.S. with my friends and their families. For that reason, it has a special place in my heart! I hope all my lovely American readers had a great day with their families...



Today I received a nomination for my bloggy as "Versatile Blogger Award" from fellow blogger Shankhnaand. What a compliment! My goal for this blog has been to write anything and everything that touches our life - anything that I feel like writing about, I write. It has been great to see how it has organically grown...

This post is kinda chain letter-y, but since it's my first gold cup - I have to do it, no matter how kitschy it is! And I also wanted to show some love to my fellow *active* bloggers...


The rules for accepting this award are:

- Display the Award Certificate on your blog
- Write a post and link back to the blogger who nominated you
- Nominate 15 other bloggers
- Inform them of their nomination via comment in their blog
- Post 7 interesting things about yourself

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7 Interesting things about myself:

1) My favorite childhood Halloween costume was my bunny costume! My mum made it and it was so comfortable that I refused to take it off until I grew out of it! (Maybe that's why I wanted to dress Maya as a bunny this year!)

2) The first CD I ever bought was "Spice Girls"....yeaaaa! Girl Power!!! (early feminist in the making?)

3) I am a tall girl (5'10) and whenever I see celebrities in person I'm always shocked at how freakin' short they are!

4) My first job in college was working at the library. I thought I'd love it because I'm a total book-lover, but it was seriously tedious!

5) My favorite TV shows right now are Scandal and Homeland.

6) I talk a lot about intercultural relationship topics on my blog, but I always forget that husband-ji is Indian. He's just "Maddy" to me...

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Paying it forward - Nominating 15 of my other favorite *current* bloggers:

- Little Black Yellow Seeds (Nepali girl-American guy love story)

- Indian Male Feminist (refreshing point of view from an Indian male feminist)

- The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker (one of my all-time faves - talks about serious issues in Indian society)

- Rockstar Diaries (Stylish family of 4 in NYC)

- Documenting Delight (Aussie mum documents her 3 kids with gorgeous photo series)

- Indian Love Story (British girl moving to India soon to be with her husband)

- Indian Feminist 101 (Indian feminist issues)

- Expat Liv (Greek-Norwegian expat living in Mumbai)

- Delhi Diary (expat's daily life in Delhi)

- Chai: A cup of life (Aussie expat in Delhi)

- Braja Sorensen's Lost & Found (author/expat in Mayapur)

- Boiling Wok (excellent topics on many women-centric issues)

- American Punjaban PI (former expat now settled in the US)

- A Desi girl's guide to relationship survival (Indian relationships decoded)

- Cyn's Adventures in India (Swiss expat in Mumbai)

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Plus, check out my whole list of other blogs I follow...

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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

"Your daughter has a nice tan"

(Maya - 17 months)

A few months ago, I was out and about running errands with Maya, and I went into the bank and one of the ladies was coo-cooing over her (as usual!) This happens everywhere we go, so I'm used to it. The lady went on to ask what's her name, age, and play with her a bit. Then she said, "Oh, she has such a nice tan!" Preoccupied, I said, "oh yeah, well...it was really hot this summer" and then my bank business was finished and I left.

As I left, I started to feel a bit weird. What was that lady talking about? How can she have a tan? I always kept her in the shade and I only took her to the beach in the evenings! I said to myself, with my mom-guilt/worry kicking in...(skin cancer runs in my family)

Then I realized that she was talking about her skin color. The lady didn't realize that Maya isn't fully Caucasian - she just thought she was some Caucasian baby with a summer tan!

Well, I can't exactly blame her...even the Indian ladies at the post office were shocked to find out Maya's half-Indian...

Indian post office lady: "Oh, how cute, what's her name?"
Me: "Her name is Maya"
Indian post office lady: "You know that's an Indian name, it means 'illusion'"
Me: "Yes, I know"
Indian post office lady: "Why did you pick an Indian name? Why not something like Katie or Sarah?"
Me: "Well, her father is Tamil"
Indian post office lady (looking shocked): "But she's so fair! (she yells to the back) Kalpana - come look at this baby! Father is Indian! Look how fair!"
(more coo-cooing)

So, I guess to Indians, she is "fair"; and for Westerners, she has that lovely "tan"....the best of both worlds! 

A big question about intercultural children is always about their looks - especially the more diverse the couple. People are always wondering what traits the child will inherit, or if they will look more like one culture than another. One of the things that bothers me is that there is so much discussion and emphasis on their looks - but I guess it is just curiosity. We are a rare mix, after all...(only 7.1% of India-born males marry white females - 2001 US census)

As every parent knows, a child exhibits likeness to everyone in the family...and what a diverse family we have! At any given moment, sometimes she looks like me, husband-ji, both our parents, her great-grandma Shambagavalli or great-grandma Mary Josephine....she looks like everyone! And my mum has said, she looks more Indian when she is with the Indian side, and she looks more European next to my side - like a total chameleon. In my opinion, she looks equally like both of us. For example, her smile is just like mine, and her grumpy face is just like husband-ji's (hee hee! But so true!)

(She looks like my dad too...)

I wonder, as she gets older - being racially ambiguous-looking - I wonder what her experience will be, fitting into both cultures...? So, looking equally as Indian as she does Western...I wonder if she can find acceptance in both cultures. Or rather than "finding acceptance" in both cultures, I hope she accepts parts of both cultures...

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Related articles:
10 Things you should never say to the parent of a mixed race child

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What do you think, dear readers? For those of you who have mixed kids, how much do their looks play into what others process them as? Have they accepted parts of both cultures - and if so, what parts?



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Monday, November 25, 2013

"How much has your husband adjusted?"

Usually in Indian culture, it is only the wife who is supposed to "adjust" to her husband's family, as well as within the marriage. There is more pressure on the women to do the changing, while the men typically have to do very less or none at all. In an intercultural relationship, it is different because there is a lot more adjusting to do - on all sides. Differences in cultures, language, food....the list goes on. An intercultural marriage has no chance of surviving unless both spouses adjust to each other equally - or if not equally, than as best as they can.


The other day I got an excellent question from one of my readers:

"it seems though only you have adjusted to indian culture like dress, puja's, giving your daughter an indian name etc... how much has your husband compromised?"

As I am the narrator of this blog, it probably seems like I have adjusted more. I think my adjustments are more on the outward side, and husband-ji's are more inward...

(He has a unique sense of style!)

Husband-ji was very Westernized before I met him. He is very different, very modern, and he couldn't care less what others think about him. He dressed differently, he talked differently, and he just carried himself in a different way. He definitely subscribed to the Western concept of individualism. In that way, I think he was made to marry a Western girl (or at least a more traditional one like me!) And the funny thing is, he had never been to the West before - I met him right after he came from India - although it seemed like he belonged in the West from the get-go. So, he really didn't have too much to adjust to, in terms of ideologies.

(My mum's Sicilian pasta is one of his faves)

The biggest adjustment for him was food. Husband-ji is a notoriously picky eater, and a strict vegetarian (no yogurt even!) so it has been a struggle to find things for him to eat when we go out. Before I met him, he had never had non-Indian food. I remember when we first started dating, we would go to a restaurant and he would only get french fries or mashed potatoes. Since then, it has been my mission in our relationship to find vegetarian foods from different cuisines that he will like. Since he is such a picky eater, it's either hit or miss! In our years together, I have encouraged him to experiment with non-Indian vegetarian foods, which in turn has helped him also find foods for his family when they visit us for long periods of time. He loves mexican food - vegetarian tacos, burrito bowls, guacamole (can be made spicy!); and traditional Italian food like pasta arrabiata, pesto pasta, burrata cheese and caprese salads. I have also got him addicted to veggie burgers, onion rings, and grilled cheese sandwiches, which are easy to find in diner-type places. He is also a big coffee addict, and he loves strong Italian coffees (at 49th parallel coffee shop or Nespresso)

(Decorating his first Christmas tree, 2008)

After we moved to Canada and by living close to my family, husband-ji also started celebrating our holidays. We celebrate Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Valentine's Day. When I first introduced husband-ji to our way of celebrating the holidays and decorating - little did I know that he was going to turn into a total holiday monster! I think this is because the festivals in India are celebrated with such grandeur - he wanted to celebrate it with the same enthusiasm! For Halloween and Christmas, he goes nutso decorating! He eagerly awaits them all year and starts setting up the decorations at least a month before! I think it is really sweet how he celebrates our holidays, and I am so happy that he has joined in our family traditions.

(Daddy & Maddy: besties!)

Besides not caring what others' think, he is also extremely close to my parents. This is quite different than the typical traditional Indian male, who usually gives priority to his parents only. He is always helping my parents out with their business, fixing things in their house and running errands for them. I come from a very chatty family, and his communication skills and expressive language has really improved by conversing with us.

(Bonding with baby)

The biggest way he has adjusted though, has been on his journey in becoming a father. In traditional India, baby care (diapers, bathing, feeding, etc) is not seen as the man's responsibility; and still there are no dads allowed in the room while the wife is giving birth (I personally think this is a huge disservice to fathers). As a parent, he is definitely more Westernized in terms of being extremely involved in the entire process. He attended every single prenatal doctors appointment with me, he attended every prenatal class (which helps prepare the dads for playing an active role in the birthing process), and he was there the entire time, right by my side, during my birth. He also took off work for a month after we had our baby, and has helped as an equal partner with all the baby care. In Canadian culture, the father is conditioned as an equal partner right from the beginning of the pregnancy and is encouraged to be fully involved during the process. In fact, husband-ji was so involved, that he even gave me advice on breastfeeding! (LOL! That was totally annoying though!)

In many ways, I am more Indian than husband-ji and he is more Westernized than me. His adjustments have mostly been internal, while mine have been more external.

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What do you think, dear readers? If you are in an intercultural relationship, how have you adjusted to your partner's culture? And how has your partner adjusted to yours?


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Saturday, November 23, 2013

The natural beauty of Alaska

Back in June, after Maya's birthday, husband-ji took his parents on an Alaskan cruise. I had already been before as a teenager, and was too tired from the Venice trip to go. I thought it would be a lovely trip for husband-ji to do with his parents, for them to bond together.

The only way to get to Alaska is by cruise from Vancouver. Then you can see Alaska's magnificent coastline and visit all the small historic towns. Alaska cruises are held from late Spring to early Fall, and the best time to go is right in the middle of Summer. My inlaws loved the scenery and the rugged beauty along the coastline. They took the Holland America cruise. My MIL had a difficult time with the food since she is used to having dosa for breakfast, and there was no Indian food on the cruise. Husband-ji said there were tons of NRI Indians on the cruise from the U.S. Overall, they had a lovely vacation and a wonderful time together.

As many of my readers know, I have a background in photography - but I am not the only photographer in the family. Husband-ji is also a fantastic photographer, as you can see...










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Thursday, November 21, 2013

The MIL / DIL health challenge

The biggest goal for me coming out of my recovery is getting my heath back on track. There's nothing like staying in the hospital among all those sick people...to make you wanna get back in to shape! After my discharge, the only thing I was thinking was, I hope to God I never come back... so my health was my absolute top priority. But then I was put on bed rest for a month, AND my MIL came...

For those of you who don't know, my MIL and I have one huge thing in common - we are both total foodies! It's like a domino effect....if I see her eating something, I get hungry and have to have a bite too...and vice versa! Husband-ji was so happy that his mum came, so he made sure to get her all her favorite snacks. Every single time he went to the grocery store (which is every day...LOL) he would get more snacks. So basically, MIL and I were sitting on the couch together for a month watching horror films and eating a shitload of jalapeno cheese puffs, nacho's, ice cream....on top of all her delicious cooking! It was like a non-stop unhealthy snack-a-thon! We were total piglets!

But surely enough, after a month of indulging ourselves and us getting totally fat, MIL's health issues started to flare up again. I wondered...are we a bad influence on each other? Then I realized, if we can be a bad influence on each other....then we can be a good influence on each other too. We had to make some healthy changes in our Madh-house!

(MIL / DIL addiction!)
(Img via)

Since then, we've instructed husband-ji NOT to get our beloved jalapeno cheese puffs....and instead get us fruit. Every morning I make us a delicious fruit smoothie. We also dusted off the elliptical machine and have both been doing intense workouts on it, as well as walks outside with Maya in the stroller. It's crazy that a workout actually gives you more energy. And every afternoon I make us a killer salad packed with mixed greens, bell pepper, cucumber, avocado, chickpeas, roasted beets, shredded carrots, slivered almonds and goat cheese. 

As many of my Indian readers know, salads in India consist of a raw onion with lemon juice and salt and pepper on it. It is hard to get a conservative Telugu lady to eat a Western-style salad - it probably looks like rabbit food to her! But I finally got MIL to try my salad and she absolutely loved it - and she was amazed that she felt full after (mostly amazed that she can be full with something other than rice!) Of course, the only way I could get her to eat it was to guilt-trip her ("aunty I eat all your food all day! Just try one bite!") and then she ate the whole thing....score! And then, of course, she went in to her whole rant about "what will others think".....I don't think she'd ever imagined that she'd one day be sitting in Canada with her firangi bahu, eating salad every day and working out on an elliptical machine! She seems really happy though, I would actually say this is the happiest I have ever seen her!

(My killer mid-afternoon salad)

And then I wondered, besides "enjoying life too much", is taking care of your health (as a woman) a Western concept? After all, the woman's needs are always last on the priority list in a conservative Indian household (after inlaws, children, husband, houusehold). Or maybe MIL is having an identity crisis of sorts - by trying all of these different ways, does she think that makes her less of an Indian? Or does it just make her a different kind of Indian? And what constitutes being an Indian? Somebody that only does Indians-only things? Why is the mere concept of being different so scary and bad? Or doing something that's purely for yourself and your well-being?

Anyways, I'm so glad to be back in mind, body and spirit....and so happy that I have my dear companion, MIL (BFFs forever!) - to join me on our healthy living quest! With all these changes - getting more sleep, eating healthier, exercising....it really makes a difference! And MIL's health issue is totally better since we started doing it - in mere days it improved.

(Img via)

My main goal for changing my lifestyle is just to be healthy, and to never be in the hospital again. Instead of purchasing material things, I'm going to purchase a yoga class, or a chiropractic session, or a massage. I'm going to invest in my health for the long run - because that's what really matters. AND also, in the back of my mind, I'd like to get rid of my postpartum anemia once and for all, and get a bit fitter before we have our next child (still a few years away). And of course, if I lose any weight that's the icing on the cake!

As I start out on this healthy lifestyle journey, I wonder what else will change...? Will being more healthy effect my attitude as well? Will it make me more focused? It will be interesting to see...it's all connected, after all...

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What do you think, dear readers? What do you guys do to invest in your health? How do you incorporate healthy living into your daily life?

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Monday, November 18, 2013

The invaluable reflections of recovery

Last week marks the completion of my 6 weeks of recovering from Meningitis. Woo hoo! I made it y'all! As I look back, this period of recovery and rest has been invaluable to me. Boy, did I really need it...

At the beginning of my recovery - I didn't want to rest. I just wanted to get back to normal life, and was anxious to do things that I had always wanted to do. I made a bucket list - including: cooking more often for husband-ji, exercising, doing yoga, taking Maya to the park, and finding a better balance in terms of juggling my responsibilities to myself, as a wife, and as a mother. However, the doctor basically put me on bed rest for 4 of those weeks - which really stressed me out. I still felt like I wasn't in control. I still had the debris of the meningitis illness - with my speech and reading effected. The doctor said I had to rest more to recover faster, or else if I didn't rest, recovering could be postponed to months or even years. I had no choice.

And then, I had an "Aha!" moment. I realized that to obtain the balanced life that I so dearly craved - I was going to have to take it easy. My body needed rest and I needed to find peace in resting. I had a new mission - to make the best of these 6 weeks by using it as a time to take a much needed rest, reflection, and inventory of my life. Besides, the hustle and bustle of normal life would return back to normal in no time!

How was I going to learn how to balance my life if I was so busy trying to do everything at once? So instead, I took it day by day. I only did what I felt like doing, or that my body was capable of doing. The minute I got tired, I would stop and rest. I learned not to push it. I learned to be easier on myself - to not have such high expectations of myself in terms of getting things done. I learned to be more present in my daily life, which in turn made me even more reflective. I felt like by quieting my mind, I heard more...

(Maya & me)

Motherhood has been a non-stop journey, sort of like a rollercoaster. There is always something that needs to get done, laundry to do, food to be cooked, play to be done, toys to be put away...in a nutshell - it is non-stop! As Maya got older and was getting more active, I was having a tough time juggling everything. I felt like maybe I couldn't do it all. But then, being forced to rest in recovery, I realized that the only thing my daughter needs is me. She doesn't care whether I take her out to all these activities. She doesn't think I'm a bad mother for wanting to stay home on some days. She just needs ME. And when I realized that, I calmed down and was more present. And in turn, she calmed down a lot. You see, the pressure that I was putting on myself to be my version of a "good mother" was also effecting my daughter negatively. And I didn't realize that until I stopped doing it. All of a sudden, she went back into the calm baby she used to be..."oh, there you are," I thought. When it was really a reflection of myself....

During my recovery, I totally cut down on my social life. No more play-dates, no more seeing friends - I just didn't have the energy. Towards the end of my recovery, I saw maybe 1-2 friends per week. Before Meningitis, I was also going through a transition time in my friendships, as a lot of my non-mom friends were increasingly dropping off the map. I felt like these friendships were leaving my life, but I kept holding on out of a fear of loneliness. Not surprisingly, none of these so-called friends reached out to me during my Meningitis or recovery - and I didn't reach out either. I realized that instead of hanging on to these friendships, I just needed to let it go - and that maybe it wasn't right for my life right now. Another thing I realized - is that the friends I have been hanging out with - they're not so hard to get a hold of! The friendships that I have now are so easygoing, and they are not hard to maintain at all. It doesn't take so much work to be friends with them. It's simple, as it should be...quality, over quantity. I don't need tons of friends, I just need a few really good ones.

(Family)

By cutting down on my social life, I faced the fear of being lonely without my friends. Only, I didn't feel lonely. I kinda liked hanging out with my self! I started to really concentrate on my self - my health, my daughter, my husband, my family, my writing and self-reflection. Being in recovery really brought my focus back to centre - as it should be. It brought my focus back to what's important. I realized that before, I was focused too much on other people's lives - on helping others, giving advice to friends, worrying about others' lives - which distracted me on what was really important - my health, my child, and my husband. Those three things need to be my main focus every single day, and everything else is secondary.

6 weeks ago, I was asking myself, "Why me?" Why am I so unlucky?" But, oh how my perception has changed... Life is funny like that. Now, I am so thankful that I got Meningitis. I am so thankful that I was forced to rest and reflect on my life. Being in recovery helped me learn how to pace myself, find balance, enjoy life more on a daily basis, and take the pressure off myself of doing everything at once. It was an invaluable time...

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So, what do you think, dear readers? Do you think periods of resting and reflection are important to your life? Have you guys ever gone through any important reflection periods?

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Saturday, November 16, 2013

17 months :)


Playing with Pati's bangles...


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Thursday, November 14, 2013

YES, (Western) WOMEN should wear the saree!!!

(Img via)

UGH. I came across this utterly annoying article the other day on Facebook - "Can Western women carry off the sari - and should they even try?" (Ahem...vomit...compose oneself...

The article was a criticism of the British Prime Minister's wife, Samantha Cameron, for looking "dowdy" in a saree. It goes on to say that she seemed to try too hard "to fit in"; she was "mimic[ing] other cultures"; and that as a Western woman she had a "superficial" knowledge about the saree. And then the writer goes on to say how she would have preferred her to wear some kind of Indian-looking Western clothes. So, apparently there is such thing as the snooty "Fashion Police" at the temple for Diwali (told ya, moral poling on steroids!

Okay, so it wasn't the best color on Samantha Cameron - but seriously? Blaming it on being a Western woman rather than a bad color choice? Seriously...? This wasn't just any dress-up party....this was DIWALI!!! AT A TEMPLE!!! Of course she should wear a saree!!! I would have been offended if she had NOT worn a saree to such an important religious function, in the presence of God - not to mention honoring the culture of which she was celebrating.

The article is eerily reminiscent of equally crappy article, "Western women should not wear the Indian sari", written by a totally senile male, who equates Western women who like the Indian saree to be "playing games", and like "trick or treaters" (I personally think this man is envious that he doesn't get to wear the saree!!! Or maybe he does after wifey goes to bed!) He goes on to say "You can wear the sari only if you are willing to fully embrace Indian culture, even the parts that you as a white Westerner would normally find offensive or even appalling." So, it is Jai Hind, or bust then? Fully embrace and convert yaaar! So that means just because you like to wear the saree - you should also embrace EVERY SINGLE thing - or else you are NOT allowed to wear it....? By EVERY single thing, I guess he means.... sati, dowry, honor killings, caste system, arranged marriage, being disappointed if you are "cursed" with a girl child, joint families, not using the left hand for anything, letting husband eat first, pranama, 5 hour pooja, vaastu shastra, don't enter kitchen while menstruating, only eat Indian food but no "outside food", "kitty parties", and if she is to dance then she should only do Bharat Natyam. Yes, apparently just to wear this garment, a Western woman has to entirely give up her culture, just to appreciate another...??? Because it is ONLY either/or - for this writer. Can you imagine if somebody said that to a woman of Indian origin? That if an Indian girl wears jeans, then she had better only celebrate Christmas and eat cereal for breakfast - otherwise she should not dare wear it? And that the girls are being "superficial", or "not understanding" of the rich cultural origins of jeans? Last time I checked, nobody cared. Why? Because it is an utterly ridiculous thing to say!!!

So much talk about what women are wearing, and of course none about the men. Whether they choose to wear a dhoti or a suit - no criticism of them at all! (Is criticism limited only to women's appearances? Is policing only reserved for women?

First of all, women - or anybody, for that matter - are free to wear whatever they want, whenever they want. What others choose to wear or not wear is none of anyone's business. Fashion is an expression of one's individuality.

Secondly, I find "Can Western women carry off the saree" question to be totally racist, and profiling Western women as these gawky, "dowdy", uncultured, unfashionable people who don't know their hemline from their ass. Why is it that to some people everything that Western women do is equated to triviality, flaunting, superficiality etc? We are not superficial  people (only on TV it looks like that). We are not Playboy models with fake breasts, gobs of makeup, and no brain cells. To think that every Western woman is like that ("The West" being 60+ countries) is complete ignorance.

The fact is, ALL WOMEN should wear the saree, at least once in a lifetime. Why? Because it is timeless, elegant, and looks good on all body types. The saree never goes out of style. It looks good on everyone - every shape, every skin tone...and the reason why it has survived and STILL remains in trend is that it has a timeless design. You can wrap it so many different ways, you can choose how much to reveal, you can wear it in any weather, in any fabric - it's flexibility knows no measures. And it covers your legs, bum and boobs - and still manages to look sexy!

Honestly, I find it a bit disturbing that these writers think it is unacceptable to appreciate other cultures - "should they even try?" I guess you're damned if you do, or damned if you don't! What about jaisa des vaisa bhes? It is certainly not ignorant or superficial to be interested in another culture - and dress is a part of culture. You know what IS ignorant and superficial? Thinking that just because a woman has a certain skin color - that she doesn't know anything about other cultures!!! What if Samantha Cameron had an Indian boyfriend back in the day? We don't know if she did or she didn't! What if she has one now? (LOL!) What if she has a genuine love and in-depth knowledge for Indian culture?

(Like a boss...)

Noting all of the above - clearly, the author has not seen Mrs. Madh Mama rocking the saree, And oh, do I rock it like no other! Not only that, but I get tons of compliments from both Indians and Westerners alike. And if somebody thinks my dressing style is offensive, then they can shove it! I don't wear clothes for other people. I wear clothes for myself, and it just so happens that Indian clothes are the most comfortable on the planet (that, and it covers my big bum!)

I honestly took offense to this article because I wear salwar kameez all the time, and I wear a saree to every important event. Not because I'm the wife of an Indian citizen, but because I love it. And it's as simple as that!!!

(And some more, couldn't resist!)


P.S. To the writers of the articles: there are bigger issues than what women are wearing.
Get over it!

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Dear readers, what did you think of those two articles? Do you think women have a right to wear whatever they want? Do you think it is bad to honor other cultures' in personal fashion? Who else rocks the saree?

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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The misery of internet trolls

(Img via)

One of the things that comes along with building a successful blog is that there are bound to be a few internet trolls. For those of you who don't know, the term "trolls" is used for abusive internet users who spew hateful, offensive, derogatory, misogynist and racist comments. I'm not talking about people who disagree with the opinions on certain posts - I'm talking about people who disagree with your very existence on Earth.

These trolls see themselves as vigilantes - they specifically abuse the internet because their own lives are so miserable that they cannot bear to focus on themselves. Make no mistake though, these trolls are actually your biggest fans in disguise! They eagerly await new posts and new information about your life so that they can spew more hate. The only difference is that these types of people are so mentally unstable that they cannot dare NOT spew hate - probably due to the lack of mental health resources that are available on a global scale. These trolls seem to feel secure in the anonymity of the internet (or so they think they are anonymous...) To be frank, they are very troubled people.

There is a huge problem on the internet with women getting cyber-bullied - especially by misogynists. Of course, I didn't realize that until I started my blog. The mere fact of a woman giving herself a voice is threatening to a lot of people - more than you would ever think. A woman writing about culture, current events, her family, her life, her opinions....is extremely threatening to the types of people who prefer women "to sit down and shut up" or "to be seen but not heard". 

The way these misogynistic trolls spew hate against women is disgusting - but it is quite typical of the criticism women have to face on a daily basis when they dare to speak up. They like to classify women by their looks ("ugly", "fat"); by disrespecting her intelligence ("dumb", "useless"); by shutting down her opinions ("shut up", "beat your brains for talking"); by insulting her confidence ("full of it", "get over yourself"), by questioning her character ("you're faking it", "you're pretending"); and by defining her as a sexual object ("prostitute", "whore"). And on top of that, if you are an intercultural blogger - the racism element is added.

So, what is the goal of these internet trolls? WHY do they victimize over and over, with every new post? WHY do they even bother to victimize when you don't even read or publish their comments? It's simple... To shut you down. To force you into hiding. To make you feel unsafe. To always look over your shoulder. TO CONTROL YOU. Why? Because they can't deal with your life. They are addicted to your life, but can't emotionally deal with it at the same time. They want to be you. Their comments aren't creative at all - it's the same crap over and over. They literally add nothing to any discussion because they are so miserable!

I can't even write a recipe post without getting some sort of death threat, against me AND my 17 month old daughter (Husband-ji is noticeably immune). The comments range from "I hope your marriage gets ruined", "your daughter is a little slut in the making"; "too bad you didn't die in the hospital"; "hope your MIL faces shame in India for picking a foreign slut DIL"; "your husband couldn't find an Indian girl so he picked you up cuz you kept slobbering over him, you filthy elephant"; "don't be so confident, you're useless and stupid"; "you look like a cheap hooker"; you pretend you like Indian culture because you know you'll never be good enough"; "you're a delusional waste of flesh"; "you need your fat, ugly face beaten til your brains spill out"; "you deserve to die"  - all of this, mind you, is from ONE person!

Oh, the endless time they have...! As my dear MIL says - "do they have no other work?"

There are so many bloggers that I know - that have been essentially shut down by these trolls. Even incredibly successful bloggers. Because they just get to a point where they can't deal with it anymore. For some, each comment is like a dagger in their heart - bringing up repressed personal insecurities. Because - let's face it - life's pretty tough already - without the criticism...

And me? Well, I'm not going to do that. I'm not going to give these hateful people the satisfaction. Hell no. In fact, with every hateful comment, I feel stronger. So, dear trolls...your goals are actually working against you...so you'd better get another hobby! Because I sure as hell ain't backing down! People can attempt to victimize me, but I'm the heroine of my own story - and I'm the only person who can define myself. I'm going to live my life the way I want to, and no armchair asshole is going to force me into submission (I mean, what is this? Fifty shades of grey? LOL!)

I love to write. I feel a sense of freedom when I write. I feel like I have a voice when I write. I get to know myself through my writing. And I love the other interaction with other like-minded individuals. And no, I couldn't give a crap what others think. I'm honest, and I'm brave, and I'm real...and that affects people. Besides, for every one troll there are 20,000 supporters. Literally

As the one half of an intercultural couple, we have gotten so much hate and doubt from day one. So much drishti and evil eye - there ain't even enough chillies and lime to cover it! Everyone wished us ill. Nobody thought we would last. And guess what? We did. And all the negative comments only made us stronger. Each hateful comment threw us into each other's arms and find solace in each other - finding comfort in each other. It made us immune to everything going on around us. It made us appreciate what we have more. And as a Whindian couple - as an absolute minority in the intercultural couples spectrum - there is always A LOT going on around us.

The reason why I'm writing this post is to EXPOSE the amount of internet abuse that myself and my fellow women bloggers have to endure. Yes, this kind of vile crap is out there. And yes, just because you're a woman with a different skin color than your husband - you will be on the receiving end of some of this - that's the sick reality. But alas, if you can learn to ignore it, keep reporting it, compare notes with fellow bloggers, AND at least find some humor in it - then you can learn to not let it bother you, as hateful as it is. As a woman, the worst thing you can do is to let it control the way you live your life... to retreat into hiding and feel ashamed - this is what these people want. Misogyny does not like a woman who is fearless, and unapologetically herself. They do not like it when a woman is in control of her own life - when a woman in a public setting positively affects other women and men. It threatens them to the very core.

I encourage all writers to stand together in solidarity - to tell your story, to be fearless, to be honest and unfiltered - and to not let this dying breed of misogynistic, racist internet abusers sway you. They are powerless and cowardly hiding behind their computers, reveling in their own anonymity. The world is changing - they are a minority - and we, as outspoken women are past the point of "shutting up". We aren't going to shut up about our lives, our families, our triumphs or mistakes. We're not going anywhere, and the only thing we are going to be influenced by... is the strength and bravery in each other.



(A hilarious, upbeat video on bloggers fighting back against internet trolls)

Related articles:
Online abuse against women: "free speech" is no justification
How to bait and catch the anonymous person harassing you on the internet

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So, what do you think, dear readers? Have any of my fellow bloggers had to deal with internet trolls? Why do people waste their time spewing hate over the anonymity of the internet? Who is with me in NOT BACKING DOWN?


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Sunday, November 10, 2013

The reluctantly famous Indian Mother-in-law

(MIL & I, 2011)

Over the past couple of months, I've noticed my bloggy getting a TON of hits from Google searches, several times a day. So, what are people of the world searching for? INDIAN MOTHER IN LAW!!! Sometimes, it is "Indian mother in law problem", sometimes it is "how to get along with Indian mother in law", and other times it is "I hate my Indian mother in law". Yup, you got it....people of the world - from Dubai to Hong Kong to Finland - are searching for help with their good ole' Indian MIL!

Then, I thought....hmmmm....I wonder where my blog ranking is when people search for "Indian mother in law"? So I checked. And I nearly had a heart attack. My bloggy is #1 on google for "Indian mother in law"!!! It must be a mistake, I thought. Let me ask one of my blogger friends to check from Australia. Lo and behold, it is #1 there too! I couldn't sleep at all that night, I was so excited. Imagine, people taking advice from ME (?!?!) on how to understand your Indian MIL. Me?!?!?! A freakin' foreigner? Who would have thought? Yes, dear readers....I am officially the Indian MIL guru!

Naturally, I couldn't wait to tell my dear MIL the next morning. As soon as I woke up, I wanted to share my exciting news.

"Sandhya," I said. "My blog is #1 on Google when you search for Indian MIL!!! Even above the Times of India articles! You're the most famous Indian MIL on Earth" (joking but serious....)

Oh, you should've seen the look on her face! She was soooooo freaked out. She had that same 'Indian-aunty stare of death' when Madhavan first brought me to her house in India as a surprise. LOL!!

"What's wrong?" I said.

"No. I don't want everyone to know what we're doing. Everyone is going to keep commenting on me," she said.

"Who cares what others think?" I said, puzzled. And then I said, "Who's going to comment about WHAT?

"I care. I care what others think. Everyone is going to tease me. You write about how much I'm enjoying eating tacos and watching Western movies....they WON'T STOP COMMENTING on me when I return to India!!! AIYOO RAMA!!! They are going to tease me that I'm enjoying too much and becoming too Westernized! They are going to call me a bad Brahmin for eating veg in a non-veg restaurant and not invite me to their functions!!!"

I was baffled. Okay, yes, I know I have a conservative Telugu MIL from the not-so-big city of Guntur, Andhra Pradesh. But seriously? After all this.....she had a love marriage, her son married a foreigner, and she has a half-foreign granddaughter, not to mention she is a huge supporter of my blog....and she's worried about what others think now? It's a bit late for that!

I said, "Sandhya....you're enjoying life here. You're relaxing for the first time in your life. Now is certainly not the time to care what others think."

She went on rambling, "They teased me so much for that New Year's picture where you did my make-up, they kept commenting on it and they looked up all the make-up and saw how expensive it was and teased me!" [MIL had asked me to do her make-up - the first time in 33 years since her wedding day]

I said, "Okay, so what...they teased you. You looked fantastic! Even FIL said you should do make-up more often!" (that was the first & last time I ever heard FIL giving MIL a compliment...lol)

And then I said, "Sorry, but you're a big part of my life! Besides, all my blog readers love you! One of them even said you were the coolest Indian MIL!"

She went on rambling about it for at least an hour. I was a bit concerned so I asked dear husband-ji when he got home. I told him about her freak-out and he started laughing. He said, "Oh, she's just freaking out because all her sisters are going to be jealous and they are going to tease her that she's enjoying life too much in 'America'!"

So, now everybody in the family...and in India... and worldwide know that Sandhya is "enjoying life too much"! Now everybody on Earth knows that she likes vegetarian tacos, loves Woody Allen movies and reads Swedish crime novels until midnight.

So....what's wrong with that? What's wrong with enjoying life? What's wrong with unapologetically living your own life - the way you want to?

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What do you think, dear readers? Why is MIL so concerned about what others' think? How should she deal with family members who make her feel bad for enjoying life? Have you ever had any similar situations?

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Saturday, November 9, 2013

The victim-blaming of Shweta Menon

Sometimes there are just those news stories that seriously light a fire under Madh Mama's ass....and the recent Shweta Menon case is one of them!

For those of you who don't know, Shweta Menon is a Malayalee actress who was recently at a public event (a boat race), where she was groped and molested by a sexual predator - who just happened to be Indian politician N Peethambara Kurup (Congress MP). Part of it was even caught on camera, where it is clearly noticeable that although it was a crowded place, this politician was forcibly rubbing himself on her from behind, and Shweta is startled and embarrassed. 

My first reaction was, "HELLO people! Somebody tell that pervert to back off!" Had nobody seen what he was doing? Or did they just "not want to get involved" (how oh-so-typically Indian...)


(Video of part of the assault on tape)

Alas, not even a video of the assault can deter misogynists from their conspiracy theories. Some said that Shweta was trying to pull a "publicity stunt" - really? Oh of course she was! Because a woman would TOTALLY want to risk her entire career to be victim-blamed, her credibility questioned, not to mention the social stigma. The press AND the public is literally crucifying her for being a victim of a sexual assault. And why is it...that nobody has accused the politician who had done it as a publicity stunt? He's the one that did it in the first place - she was just standing there (apparently as a "sexual object")  - why should he not get accused for causing a "publicity stunt"?

One thing that bothered me about this case, is that all eyes on on Shweta. Literally. All the news stories are about her reactions, her films - and not one story is shoving a camera in that politician's face. Where the heck is he? It seems he - the sexual predator - has just simply disappeared out of the equation! Shouldn't people be focusing on him for the crime that he has committed? This predator has already gotten away with the crime!

There is also a huge misconception in India that actresses (who are not from an oh-so privileged Bollywood-bloodline) are essentially like prostitutes and have to sleep with directors to get roles. This is actually a common thought - my husband even said the same thing when I asked him about Bollywood actresses. If they want to sleep with directors, that is their prerogative, to be honest. But that doesn't mean that their credibility should be questioned, or that they deserve to be molested by whomever or wherever. Just because she does a sexy dance on screen, does not mean that it's for you, predators!!! (she's just dancing!)

I was really proud that Shweta stood up and was brave enough to file a complaint to the police. BUT....then two days later, Shweta withdrew the complaint and refused to press charges.
Why? She forgave him for his age!!!!!

"He is a 73-year-old man"  
(Wow, same age bracket as Asaram Bapu who is also a sexual predator!)

(What about NOT taking the advice from anybody who tells you that you don't have basic human rights?)

"In the wake of Mr Peethambara Kurup's repeated public and personal apology..."
(If he wasn't guilty to begin with, then why so much apologizing?)

And instead, she blames the person who invited her to the function for not providing proper security. Really?!?!?! So, you excuse the sexual predator for essentially being an "elderly" pervert (duh...still a pervert!!!) and instead blame someone who had nothing to do with the assault. Since when do women need security to be protected from sexual predators? (Oops, I forgot this is India we are talking about here - where not even the presence of a male chaperone can't save you from getting raped with an iron rod) Furthermore, it implies this ridiculous (Indian) mindset, that you should respect your elders - no matter what they do to you. No matter their behaviour. Because they are simply elder to you - they are right...? (I'm not even going to begin on how much wiser children naturally are, than elders)

The excuse of being elderly is not better than the excuse of being "a man". Both are excuses that society makes, instead of holding the abuser accountable for his actions. Substitute the "elderly" excuse for "brahmin", "millionaire", or "my father" - still doesn't negate the fact that a predator is a predator - no matter what. There are NO excuses. And that is exactly what kind of society breeds lack of justice, victim-blaming and so-called "uncontrollable" predators, who are essentially given a free-pass every single time, all the while everybody gets affected by the abuse. Just because it's such a big deal to hold an abuser accountable for his actions...? You know what else is a big deal? All the people who suffer in silence and shame....forever.

You know what I would like to see a news story on? I'd like to see a story digging into this politician's past and every other sexual predator to expose them. There are so many Indian politicians with rape charges against them - and this is who you want in charge? This is who you elect??? (260 candidates are accused of crimes against women...go figure)

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Nevertheless, internet commenters surely don't disappoint. Among the illuminating, barf-inducing comments were:

"So now even touching can be a criminal offence. This lady should not travel or be in public places or she will have so many others touching her. Is she something more special then the other ladies or does she have something more special then the others" (link)

"Over reaction by a glamorous actress who suddenly turned in to Sita. It was just a small scratch of shoulders and the place was crowded. Nothing wrong." (Link)

"This is just a politics nothing else" (Link)

"After acting in thousand of Vulgar movies and scenes...she got Free Authentic good publicity now....And you are saying the MLA shud not look at her in Vulgairty and instead give her some bharat ratna to this maha devi ? (besides...she is too too hot!! )" (Link)


"Though it was bad on the part of Congress leader to misbehave with woman. But touching and hugging is becoming a routine now a days." (Link) ---> no discernation between what is appropriate touching/inappropriate touching - respect of personal space


"It is her business she got the enjoyment plus a very big sum of money." (Link) --> Enjoyment? Try humiliation!!!

"Isn't she the one who dances with guys for money??" (Link)

"I just googled shweta menon. And now I don't blame the MP anymore." (Link) --> So anybody who is remotely attractive deserves to be be assaulted?

"Everyone in the country knows that she is desperately trying hog the limelight with this petty issue. Most of the country don't even know who the 'devil' she is. It is time she gave her mouth some rest." (Link) --> Yes, sexual assault - such a petty issue, right?


"Keep away yourself from any public gathering. If you think just touching a molestion. Being a public figure, you must avoid all these petty things." (Link) --> The moral of the story is just to stay indoors, imprisoned!


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One of the repeated arguments that many of these commenters are saying, is stating that a sexual assault - which is a crime against a woman - is a "petty issue". I even had one internet troll come over to my blog the other day, stating that I should "focus more on the Indian economy than women's rights" (obviously they are too daft to notice that a stable economy goes hand in hand with women's rights - Kofi Annan: “No tool for development is more effective than the empowerment of women.”)

Another repeated argument is that "she should not go out to public places" - the solution is to imprison the woman inside her home, sort of like a house-plant! Because apparently she did something wrong just by stepping out of the house (ring a bell? Jyothi was told the same!), which is AGAIN blaming the victim and not the abuser. How about - the abusers should not go out? Since they are the ones committing the offenses - how about arresting them and throwing away the key?

I respect Shweta's decision to regretfully withdraw her complaint - but I wish she wouldn't have made excuses for him. And I wish the police would pursue this matter, regardless as to whether she has withdraw it or not. This type of sexual predator should NOT be in politics or in any position of authority, whatsoever.

So - with all of this - if a well-known, successful actress faces this much victim-blaming, you can only imagine how difficult it is for an average woman. All of this is literally the tip of the iceberg of what kind of hell an average woman would face....a sad reality.

Of course, as usual, I had to consult my trusted Indian MIL on her opinion on this matter. So, what did she say? "It is all quite natural....This is India, there are so many people like that" (then she makes a plugging-ear gesture...)

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So, what do you think, dear readers? What do you think of the "elderly" excuse? What do you think of these misogynistic politicians?


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Thursday, November 7, 2013

My Famous Kheer


One of the few Indian recipes that I can do absolutely flawlessly is my special Kheer. It is a delicately sweet and nutty dish of rice pudding - it is perfect after eating something spicy. This recipe is especially favored by our extended family, who were very impressed that it was made by a non-Indian (and that is HUGE!). I learned this recipe from an Indian Vegetarian cooking class that I took before marriage, and have perfected it. I like to make it for special occasions, as I recently made it for Diwali. It takes about 40 minutes to make.

Madh Mama's Famous Kheer 
Serves 12 people

Ingredients:
- 1/2 cup basmati rice, soaked overnight
- 4 cups half & half (found near milk in supermarket)
-4 cups whipping cream (liquid form)
-1 1/4 cups sugar
-1/4 tsp powdered nutmeg
-1/4 tsp cardamom (grinded finely)
-1/4 tsp saffron (I use Spanish saffron but you can also use Persian)
-1/4 cup almonds chopped
-1/4 cup pistachio chopped

Tools:
- large saucepan
- hand-held electric mixer/beater


Steps:

1. Soak rice overnight in warm water


2. Break up the rice into smaller grains with your hands


3. Put half & half in saucepan over high heat


4. Drain rice and pour into saucepan


5. Bring to a boil and reduce heat - stirring CONTINUOUSLY for 30 minutes (set timer)


6. ....Until the rice is cooked to this consistency


7. Beat it with a hand-held electric mixer


8. Pour in sugar, nutmeg, cardamom, saffron


9. Beat it again


10. Pour in half of the chopped almonds


11. Pour in all of the whipping cream and let it simmer for a few minutes


12. Beat it once more


13. Pour into a serving dish and decorate it with the rest of the almonds and pistachios

....TA DA!!!

It can be served warm or cold!

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Check out my other recipes from My Madh Kitchen.

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