Saturday, March 29, 2014

The Indian aunty detective


Last week, I went to go pick up take-out dinner at a restaurant that I go to sometimes. There is an Indian aunty cashier who always says my daughter is so cute. So, when I went in, she decided to strike up a conversation with me (...or an interrogation?)

Here are the questions that she asked me (within a 2 minute time frame):

- What is your daughters name?
- Where is your husband?
- Where is he from?
- Where is he working?
- What position is he working?
- Do you live near here?
- Have you been to India?
- How many times?
- Do you like India?
- Do you like Indian food?
- Have you taken your daughter to India?
- Is your husband a Hindu?
- What is his name?
- What caste is he?

And then....she passes me my food and says...."Okay, have a good night!"

By the end of the whole conversation interrogation, I was practically stuttering! I wonder...WHY did this Indian aunty need to know all these details about me? For example, why would she want to know the caste of my husband (whom she has never met)? Was it just curiosity...? Was she just bored? Was that her way of just trying to get to know me? Or did she just want to gossip to her friends?

I am currently reading the book Vish Puri: The Case of the Deadly Butter Chicken, by Tarquin Hall - in which the character of "mummy-ji" does detective work. I started to wonder, is this lady really working here or is she a detective working undercover for CBI?

Next time I go to that place, I will surely go with husband-ji so he can handle the aunty's interrogation, while I act like a "demure" wifey....(HAHAHA!)

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What about you, dear readers? Care to share some nosy Indian aunty stories?


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Friday, March 28, 2014

The UNIBROW lover

(Our picture got 13,000+ likes!)

We had some exciting news last week ... one of my favorite pages on Facebook that celebrates international love had shared our picture that I submitted and we got over 13,000 LIKES and 315 shares! Wow...we sure are popular! The page usually focuses on Black & White love, so I was hoping they would showcase our picture to represent us fellow Masala couples.

It was fantastic to see how many people liked our picture, took the time to share it, and commented with loving words. I did not share a picture of our daughter, but many people had commented that the thought our daughter would be gorgeous (and she definitely is!) We had a few other Masala couples comment on it and it was great to interact with them (y'all know me...always searching for other Masala couples like us!) A lot of people loved our wedding outfits too.

One of the things that surprised me was that many people negatively commented on husband-ji's unibrow. Apparently, people had a big problem with that (of all things) Among the comments were, "they look great but he needs to pluck that unibrow", "can you please have him wax his eyebrow", and "he must have a lot of money".

The page is based out of the U.S. - and of course, Americans are absolutely obsessed with hair removal! Sorry...but I LIKE a hairy man. I think a man with body hair is sexy! Of course, I sure found the right man since husband-ji is 90% body hair!

It is so strange to me that a unibrow is seen negatively in American culture. Like, what's wrong with it exactly? WHY should you get it waxed?

I'm not going to say "I don't notice the unibrow", because I do notice it...and I think he happens to look very handsome WITH it...

And by the way, asking my spouse to change something about his physical appearance is just plain WRONG. Who am I to tell him what to do with his body and/or appearance? If he told me to change something about my looks, then I'd have an absolute fit of rage!

I remember when husband-ji and I were living in New York City, when I was working there - and it really is the epicentre of feminine-looking men. Every man that walked by had over-plucked his eyebrows to the point where they looked constantly surprised and quite ridiculous. I saw many men there who also shaved their legs and often wondered if they were cross-dressers because some looked sooooo feminine. Husband-ji and I would often secretly laugh at these guys by looking at each other and doing our secret signal of "surprised eyebrows" look!

One time as we were walking down Fifth Avenue in New York, we passed a man who was holding a sandwich board advertising men's waxing services. He put his hand out and stopped husband-ji, and said, "OH MAN, you've got to do something about THAT caterpillar eyebrow!" Husband-ji laughed in his face - he truly thought it was hilarious. I was more protective of husband-ji and I shouted at the sandwich man, "No he doesn't! He is handsome and don't you dare touch him, you stupid asshole!"

You see, in India...having a unibrow is considered to be a symbol of luck. Husband-ji is the only one in his family who has it and he was brought up to believe that he was special and lucky because possessed this trait. He has never felt like it was something to be ashamed of - he loves it, and so do I...

Plus, as many Bollywood fans know, the beloved actress Kajol has always rocked the unibrow and it certainly has not hindered her beauty or movie roles.
And as for the other comments...

It insults my intelligence and my feminism that I would only marry a man with a unibrow "for money", as if I am some kind of escort that can be bought!!! As many of my readers know, I met husband-ji in college when we were both struggling students, with loans and all. 

All these so-called physical "flaws" that are measured by society are so superficial and skin-deep. People need to stop focusing on these trivial details and instead focus on the things that really matter in finding a mate - love, compatibility, chemistry, values, morality, commitment, respect, kindness, and a mutually supportive partnership. To me, that is more important than some BODY HAIR.

I'm glad husband-ji is confident in his own skin and doesn't think having a unibrow is anything to be ashamed of. And I commend my inlaws for raising him in a household where they instilled confidence him him.

What if we were all raised in a family where a so-called physical "flaw" was considered lucky? Imagine how confident and comfortable we would be with our appearances...!!!


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Thursday, March 27, 2014

Now featured on...


My blog is now featured on Internations.org as a recommended blog about my time spent in India!

Internations is a global website that connects expats in different cities across the world. They have a big India section with many different tips on living in India / working in India, and many resources like recommended restaurants and schools. It is a great find for people who are living abroad.

Click HERE to read my interview!

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Some great news

(Ziggy, Maya, Grandpa storytime)

All week we were dreading today....my dad's appointment with the oncologist regarding his cancer treatment/possible chemotherapy - and we have received some excellent news....

My dad is cancer-free and he does NOT have to have chemotherapy!!! We are feeling so blessed, and so grateful....we can have our life back now! He has a second chance!

For the past couple of weeks I have been spending a lot of time with my father by taking care of him. Preparing his meals, making sure he eats regularly, doing errands for him and some odds and ends around the house. It has been really nice taking care of him - I have loved every minute. 

Of course, the doctors will be monitoring him closely this year....but we are so happy to have our life back! YAY!!!

Moving forward.....my dad has decided to retire and work from home, he wants to become a vegetarian, and we are all working with him to maintain a healthier lifestyle (he even loved my blueberry kale smoothie I made him the other day - recipe coming soon!) Once he fully recovers from his surgery, he wants to go to Venice to celebrate, and we all may even make it to India this year!

Stay tuned!

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Sunday, March 23, 2014

A quick trip to Hyderabad

As many of my readers know, husband-ji recently got back from a quick trip to Hyderabad. Well, actually...it was not so quick. To me, it felt like forever (3 weeks!!) but since he was busy with thatha's funeral, it didn't feel like much of a vacation to him. Nevertheless, he did manage to capture a few pics in passing...

The last time husband-ji went to Hyderabad was for his best friend's wedding in 2012. At the time I was pregnant with Maya and unable to fly. In true India-style, A LOT has happened in the city since then. Andhra Pradesh split, and the riots and political unrest continue...everything is being built UP....luxury apartments for crores....and tons of Westernization. Husband-ji's little cousin-sisters specifically asked him to escort them to McDonalds for an outing. When I first went to Hyderabad, the first McDonalds had just opened and it was packed! Now husband-ji says there are tons of them, even in his area (in Secunderabad). I don't know if I will even recognize the city when we go back....oh well...at least the Hussein Sagar Lake is unchanged (so far!)

Husband-ji stayed at the very ritzy Park Hotel, overlooking the lake. Since we booked the hotel last minute we were able to get a fantastic deal. We booked it on Trivago.com. At the hotel, he met a fellow Canadian family from Calgary, who had come to India for surrogacy (apparently it is very popular). Their whole family was staying at the hotel and they had their beautiful newborn there, who was a Caucasian, but was born by an Indian woman who carried her. They were apparently staying at the hotel for weeks and months because they had to get all their papers sorted out so they could take the baby home to Canada.

(Park hotel lobby)

(Patio, pool and view of Hussein Sagar lake)

I think the thing husband-ji loved most about his trip was the food. He definitely got his fair share of non-stop idly and dosa, like a true South Indian boy...

(Morning idly stall)


(Stuffed potato)

And Husband-ji was so thoughtful to bring back some gifts for me, his wife-ji!

(My newest saree!)

(The priciest anarkali that hubby ever saw - at Neeru's)

(Maya's first anarkali)

The best thing he brought back was definitely my beloved and scrumptious Kaju Katli from Dadu's Sweets....ohhhh how I missed them! Truly, the flavour is unmatched...


And of course, the supreme shoe addict (husband-ji) could not travel anywhere without buying some shoes. He totally went overboard, but I'll forgive him...only because we are the SAME shoe size....what's his is mine! Bwahahahahaha!!!!

("Daddy, what are these?")

(Our new shoes....yes, he has good taste!)


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Monday, March 17, 2014

Celebrating Holi in New Delhi


A few years ago we got the chance to celebrate the festival of Holi in New Delhi. We were in Delhi for business, so unfortunately we only got a chance to celebrate it on the hotel grounds of The Imperial
The Imperial is a very upscale historic hotel with beautiful rooms and gardens.


We had jet-lag we totally forgot it was Holi, but we realized it when the hotel staff had set up a Holi party in the gardens. It was quite prim and proper for a Holi party - they had white sheets on the ground (so as not to stain the grass), neat little tables set up with perfectly picked flower petals, and organic Holi powder (that didn't stain the skin). They also had some water guns and basic white kurtas that we were to wear so we wouldn't stain our clothes.

The hotel staff put on some music and were awkwardly standing there, waiting for the guests to come and celebrate Holi. The guests were sitting eating their breakfasts and speculating as to what the strange display was.

I had never celebrated Holi before but I knew what it was from watching Bollywood films. Also one of my favorite scenes from the pardesi film Outsourced celebrated Holi. So, knowing what Holi was and the dhoom dhakka in which it was celebrated, I was determined to get the party started....

My mother and I put on our white kurtas and started throwing powders at each other, and chasing each other with the water guns. Soon after, one by one, all the foreigners joined in and made it a big party. It was so much fun to see everyone letting loose!
(We got the party started!)

After it was all over, the hotel staff came up to us and thanked us for celebrating it with "such a jolly spirit". They said they loved seeing us celebrate Holi, Indian-style!

(Throwing petals with another mum-daughter guests)

(Chasing each other)

If it would have been outside the hotel, it would have been celebrated much more wilder, and with brighter colors. It is celebrated greatly up North, more than it is down South. Holi marks the first day of Spring, and it is also a religious festival that celebrates the love of the mischievous God Krishna and his gopi's. The festival is very fun, and light-hearted - and you are meant to throw colors on anyone and everyone. Celebrating Holi is also a great way to rejoice the end of Winter - hallelujah!


(Mum and me)

Holi scene from 'Outsourced'



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Dear readers, How did you celebrate Holi?

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Sunday, March 16, 2014

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Remembering thatha


It has been 20 days since thatha has passed away, and I still can't believe that he's gone.
Thatha was husband-ji's paternal grandfather, and they were very close, as husband-ji was the eldest son's eldest son, and his personal favorite. Husband-ji grew up in a joint family and he was very close to his grandfather. They looked so much alike too....I always used to joke with husband-ji that he'd be the spitting image of thatha in his old age.

Having lost both my grandparents, I considered thatha to be like a grandfather to me. He was gentle, kind, thoughtful and sweet....all the qualities that the best grandparent would have. Much like with husband-ji, I felt connected to thatha from the first moment I met him. There was something about him that felt familiar to me, maybe he was my grandparent in a past life or something.

The first time I met thatha was on my first trip to India (in 2006). I was extremely nervous, feeling the pressure from not only being in a foreign country, but meeting the family of the man who I intended to marry. I wanted to make a good impression, and I wanted them to know how much I loved Madhavan.
The day after we arrived, I was told that thatha would be coming over for his weekly breakfast, prepared by my MIL. Thatha - who was in his late 70s at the time, refused to travel in the car, against his family's wishes - and preferred to walk or take the bus. Eager to make a good impression, I put on a pink Salwar Kameez set. Coming through the door, was a short, skinny, bald man with no hair, a few teeth, wearing a white dhoti and a button-down blouse...and an incredible toothless smile. "MADHAVAAA!!" He said and hugged him, so excited to see his grandson. In fact, every time he saw husband-ji, he had the biggest smile on his face. It was the most public display of affection that I had ever seen in India, and it melted my heart.

Then Madhavan introduced us, and I (not knowing the Indian family protocol) made the typical foreign faux-pas of reaching out to shake his hand. Thatha awkwardly received my hand, probably wondering what the heck I was doing. After, he sat down to have his breakfast of idly, dosa, and chutney (he was a picky eater, due to his lack of teeth) After, he whispered to my SIL, "She's the fairest Indian I've ever seen!" ...and I knew we would be instant friends.

Every time we went to visit him, he would bring us into his room and show us the new drawings that he had done. Every day, thatha would do a drawing with colored pencils or markers of a story from Hindu mythology. He would title and date each work, and put the story written below it. The house was covered in these beautiful little drawings. His artwork was even featured in the newspaper. As husband-ji and I are both artists, I felt we understood each other on a deeper level.

After we left, I decided to write him letters. I used to write him long letters about our life and how Madhavan was doing. Big letters addressed to "Mr. N. G. K. Chary" with the longest address that filled up the whole front of the envelope. I would always tape some money and coins into the letters because he said he wanted to see what Canadian coins looked like.

(thatha and Madhavan)

On our second trip to India, thatha was unwell and was in the hospital when we arrived, due to his anemia. We went and visited him on our first day. Even though 4 years had passed since my first trip, he said to me, "It feels like just yesterday you were here, you look exactly the same". Luckily, he got out of the hospital, and recovered by the date of my SIL's baby naming ceremony. This time, I wanted to greet him the right way. I decided to greet him with pranama (feet-touching) to show him how much I cared about him.

I was a little nervous. I had never done pranama before, not even on my inlaws. I walked into the function hall, and as soon as we arrived, everybody was staring at me - being the tattooed foreign girlfriend that Madhavan intended to marry. All eyes were on me. I slowly walked up to thatha first and he gave me a big smile and held out his hand. I bent over and touched his feet and took his blessing three times. He was taken aback, but so happy. Everybody in the hall had literally turned their entire bodies around to see the foreign girl in the red saree, performing pranama, like a true Indian at heart. All I could think about was, I hoped I did it right... 
Thatha was so happy and proud.


(After doing pranama)

Pranama - in Indian culture - is the equivalent of giving an elder flowers. To touch an elder's feet expresses affection and devotion. Every time I saw him after then, I did pranama to greet him. Even if we were just coming and going in the house.

(At our wedding reception)

(Thoughtfully explaining the pooja)

Our third trip to India was post-wedding, for our honeymoon and Hyderabad wedding reception. After we arrived, thatha wanted to perform a Satyanarayana pooja for our marriage. It was a three hour pooja, in which thatha thoughtfully explained every detail to me. This gesture made me feel included and welcomed into the family, not to mention - I learned so much. It was a beautiful pooja that honored Lord Vishnu and each of the nine planets. It was a very spiritual experience.

(thatha performing Satyanarayana pooja)

That was the last time I saw him. We intended to go to India by the end of this year, specifically so that Maya could meet him - her kolluthatha. But he didn't make it. In my mind, it is like he is still there waiting for us, and her...but he's not. I can picture him in his room right now, penciling in one of his drawings.

My biggest regret is that Maya never got to meet him...it isn't fair, really...and now the heavy task is on us, to tell her about him and show him her pictures. Although sometimes certain things about her remind me of him, daily. It's like she is an extension of him too...

It is a strange thing - to lose someone... You always think they're going to be there - and in a way, they are. They become part of you. After all, if I want to see him, I just pull on one of my memories and close my eyes and go back there and re-live the moment in my mind. There he is...he's still there...

And that is how they live on...they live on in our hearts. They live on in our memories. And every time we miss them, we pull on these memories to embrace us like a warm blanket in the dark.

There is a saying in the Bhagvad Gita that says, "Never is he (Soul) born, nor does he die at any time, he has never been brought into being, nor shall come hereafter; unborn, eternal, permanent and ancient (primeval). When the body is slain, he is not slain." (na jaayate' mriyate' vaa kadaachin naayam bhuthva bhavithaa na bhooyah: |ajo nithyah saasvato'yam puraano na hanyate' hanyamaane' sareere')

(Thatha`s 13th day pooja-funeral)

Rest in peace, thatha...you are always with us...our guardian angel...


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Monday, March 10, 2014

Miss Independent Mama

My beloved husband-ji comes back today and I'm so excited to see him! This marks the LONGEST amount of time that we have ever been apart, and the longest that he has been ever away from his baby girl (he's totally coming back to a different baby!) Having husband-ji gone for 3 weeks, I really don't know how I managed - especially with all our personal difficulties - but I did!

Husband-ji typically helps me a lot with the baby, and we are very much a team in terms of our parenting. We take turns feeding her breakfast so that we can get ready in the morning. In the evening, we give her a bath together, and husband-ji gives her milk and puts her to sleep for the night, while I read a book.  So I really didn't know how I'd manage when he was gone to feed her and myself, take a shower, and get some sleep.

Husband-ji left during the worst phase of teething, wherein I had a few sleepless nights until I consulted some other mothers and discovered the wildly popular Hyland's teething tablets, a homeopathic medicine. It really was a lifesaver! 

The first two nights when I tried to put her down, she kept screaming for "Daddy! Daaaaaddy!" but then after that, she totally forgot about him! Then she proceeded to ignore him on the video chat, totally playing hard-to-get! (He's going to have to suck up to her when he gets back...)

I learned pretty quick to get as much extra sleep as possible - so when she has her nap - I also hit the sack. I needed the extra sleep to get through the rest of the day.

One thing I didn't do at all was cook (except for breakfast). I literally did not cook a single thing the ENTIRE time (cue my MIL saying "Aiyooo Rama!") I thought it would be costly, but it turned out to be less money than if I went grocery shopping. Of course, I still had to go grocery shopping for milk and fruits for Maya, but that bill was less than $10 per week. Luckily we live on a busy road with a million different restaurants within a 4 block radius, so we had different cuisines all day, every day. After 10 days I started to get tired of eating "outside food", and then I decided to cook one night and it turned out to be a disaster since I couldn't concentrate. And then, I was like, what the heck, let's just eat out again! Luckily Maya eats anything and everything so we had no problem. 

Maya was really easy to manage, all by myself - during our personal crises, I needed her too. She was as clingy to me, as I was to her...I enjoyed spending extra time with her by playing with her and reading stories to her. She was like my little buddy - I would always take her out to dinner every night and we would share a plate of pasta; and then a bowl of ice cream; as I would talk to her about our day.

The only thing that was hard though, was the lack of time for myself. I had a little time after she went to bed at night to read a book, but that was about it. I missed doing my writing, exercising, or just going out somewhere by myself. My health definitely took a back seat, but luckily I got sufficient sleep so it wasn't that bad. But the first thing I'm going to do when husband-ji gets back is go to a yoga class or go swim laps!!!

One of the things I did when husband-ji was gone was use the opportunity of his absence to work on a few things with Maya - mainly, her sleeping and eating habits. Husband-ji likes to spoil his little girl a lot, and as a result, she gets fussy sometimes. He doesn't let her be as independent as I think that she wants to be - I sense that she wants to do things herself now. For example - he prefers to spoon or hand feed her when she wants to learn how to use the fork and eat herself; and he likes to hold her until she's asleep before putting her down. In that way he is like a typical Indian parent - he loves to baby his baby!

It was like 3 weeks of mommy boot-camp - and now I have got Maya feeding herself with a fork and a spoon; and I have efficiently sleep-trained her to settle herself and put herself to sleep at night (no more rock-a-bye baby for 2 hours a night!) I think husband-ji will be very impressed at how independent she has become!

(Maya feeds herself now with a fork/spoon, neatly like a little lady)

Last week I was stressed to the max with my father in the hospital, but now he is finally home and I feel so grateful. My dad was feeling depressed in the hospital so we got our yoga teacher to come and speak to him and practice his deep breathing - which helped him a lot. Now my dad says that he wants to become a vegetarian "Just like Madhavan, because he is so healthy" and he wants to do yoga to improve his tension. Maybe we all will do a private family yoga class!

One thing I didn't fully realize was how close my dad and husband-ji were... Every day my dad was asking when husband-ji was coming back, and he really missed him. When I phoned husband-ji, he said he can't wait to get back to "help uncle practice walking". It was really sweet. My mother always boasts about husband-ji, about how he is "her son" - but my dad is more understated. He never boasts so I never knew how much he loved him until he was in the hospital.

Recovering from surgery, it is interesting to hear what the hospital recommended that he do. They wanted him to get lots of rest, and also get lots of exercise by walking and going up stairs. They said the more you rest and exercise - the more you'll heal. What an excellent prescription for life too, I thought. We all need to rest more and exercise more...

Husband-ji also completed the 13 day Iyengar funeral ceremony for thatha and it went on very nicely. He got to see a lot of his family and they got to celebrate thatha's life together. All the petty family drama from the week before disappeared and everyone just enjoyed being with each other, he said. And a huge breakthrough - they all had a good cry together. They were all holding their tears in, and when I would phone his family and cry for thatha, they would all say curtly "control yourself" and quickly cut the phone. So I am glad that they let their emotions out. Funerals are always stressful, and they bring up so much from the past. I'm so glad that husband-ji went...

So, after my stressful few weeks, it feels that it has turned a corner. Which reminds me that tough times are only a season in your life and they always pass...life goes on...sometimes the only way to get through the pain is to bravely walk through it, until it passes...

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Sunday, March 9, 2014

"12 years as a Slave" & witnessing racism in the Southeastern U.S.

One of my favorite pastimes is seeing movies, and even now that we have a baby (and have less time in general) I still make sure to satisfy my movie-cravings either by going to the cinema, watching movies online, or watching my Netflix.

Last weekend, 12 Years as a Slave won "Best Picture" at the Oscars - and I was thrilled. Earlier this year, I went to see the movie with husband-ji on one of our date nights, and I was extremely moved by this film. It was easily one of the most powerful films that I have seen since I was a teenager when I watched Schindler's List. (side note: why are there so many films about the Holocaust, but hardly any about Slavery? Food for thought...)

As a Canadian woman, I have little-to-none knowledge about American History in general, and the enslavement of the African-Americans. In school, we were taught only Canadian History and the Canadian involvement in World War 1 & 2. Husband-ji also had no idea about slavery in the United States, being an Indian citizen. Similarly, he also had no knowledge about World War 1 or 2, since India was not involved in it (My MIL didn't know what "holocaust" was). 

However, since I attended college in the Southeastern United States, I got to know witness some debris from those times. For those of you who don't know, the Southeastern United States was rampant with slavery and a lot of racism still exists against Blacks there, unfortunately. This type of racism is passed down in people's families, keeping these beliefs alive. For example: I had a bunch of girlfriends who were African-American, and one time we decided to go to a showcase for Black History month. I thought it would be really interesting to go because I didn't know much about Black History. So, when I was heading out the door to meet my friends to attend the showcase, my Southern white roommate casually asked me where I was going. When I told her, she freaked out and said "WHY would you wanna do that?! You know you'll be the only white person there!" and it really shocked me that she said that. Lo, and behold, I was the only Caucasian person there, but it didn't bother me at all. The showcase turned out to be fantastic, and plus - who cares?

As I got to know my roommate, she turned out to be extremely racist, in which ultimately I had to move apartments. One time she said that her little girl cousin was friends with a boy who was African-American. She said her family had to step in and tell her not to be friends with them. (See what I mean about racism being learned from the family?) During the time that I lived with her, I also started dating my first boyfriend, who just happened to be African American. As you can imagine, my roommate thought it was the end of the world for me (LMAO!!!) She said that "no white guy is ever going to date you", to which I replied, "I'm not interested in WHITE guys", and her jaw dropped to the floor! At times, I felt sorry for her. She also had some black friends that she was perfectly normal with, but never allowed herself to get close to - I suppose remembering the racism that her family taught her.

Even with this firsthand experience, I still have little knowledge about Black History in the U.S. - and especially since now I'm an Indian wifey, all my reading is focused more around India & Indian culture, as we are living in it.

Seeing 12 Years as a Slave was extremely shocking as to what the African American community had endured. The movie was very violent, featuring rapes, beatings, murders, degradation, and domestic violence. This was not for shock value - rather it was an accurate depiction of the horrible things that really happened during those times (it was a true story).

Oftentimes during the movie, I wondered why did the slaves not help each other and rise up against the plantation owners? The slave-owners were outnumbered. But then I realized that even if they did rise up - where would they escape to? There was nowhere for them to go...at every turn the slave owners were murdering them and hanging them from trees, over nothing.

A few things struck me from the story....

1) When you start thinking of another person as "property", you dehumanize them
The biggest fault of the slave-owners is that they viewed the slaves not as people, but as pieces of property, and treated them worse than animals. When you dehumanize a person, you can't have EMPATHY for them.

2) Women need to support other women
During the movie, one of the most shocking scenes for me was when the slave-owners wife threw a jug at a female slave because her husband was raping her (the slave). This shocked me to the core. Instead of throwing the jug at her abusive husband - she threw it at a fellow woman who was also getting abused by him. This goes back to dehumanizing as well, because the slave owner's wife did not even see the slave as a human being.

3) It only takes ONE person to make a difference in society
My favorite part of the movie was when a Canadian abolitionist helped the protagonist escape from slavery return back to his family. The abolitionist risked his life to do the right thing, and he went against the grain of what society was telling him to do, and instead he did what he felt was right. If it were not for him, taking a stand on behalf of another person, then we would have never heard the story that is 12 Years as a Slave. It truly showed the power of the good samaritan, and a helping hand.

4) The importance of knowing your history
Even though it wasn't MY history per se, it was an important to learn. Why? Because there are so many lessons to be learned from it - and the most important thing - is that history never repeats itself. And this history was relatively recent, too.

5) The power of storytelling
This movie was made from a book which was a TRUE story. If Solomon Northup had never written this novel, then nobody would have ever heard his story. And now it has been made into a movie and this story has affected so many people all around the world. It really makes me respect the POWER of storytelling and telling what has happened to you. It moves people...

6) Everyone deserves to LIVE
As the director said in his Oscars acceptance speech, "everyone deserves a chance to not just survive, but live" and make a life for oneself.

If you haven't already seen the movie, please do. It is one of the most powerful movies I have seen in a very long time.



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Dear readers, have you seen 12 Years as a Slave? What did you think about the movie? Have you ever witnessed racism against African Americans?


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Friday, March 7, 2014

Worlds apart

(Dad's view)

As many of my readers know, husband-ji is currently in India attending his grandfather's funeral, which lasts for 13 days. And I am here, caring for my father, who is recovering from surgery on a tumor in his colon.
It feels like we are worlds apart....husband-ji is mourning the death of his grandfather, and I am trying to bring my dad back to life.

Husband-ji is going to bed when I wake up, and his day is starting when mine is ending....the time difference is just so much...

It's snowing here, and it's 40 degrees there....

There's silence here, and he says it's loud and turbulent there....

It feels like we are just worlds apart right now...and we are, in a sense. How can two places be so different, not only in geography, but in what we are doing too...a funeral, and a life-saving surgery...on different sides of the globe. Like night and day.

I haven't really had a proper conversation with husband-ji on the phone since he left. There are always so many people in the background talking so loudly, it sounds as if there are ten people in the room, each screaming at the top of their lungs. Every time he goes into another room for some privacy, he says someone comes in and demands him back into the other room. Oh, the pressure...

Speaking of family pressure, husband-ji almost lost his shit at his uncle, because apparently they were complaining that he wasn't staying with them...going on and on about it for days. Meanwhile ignoring the fact that he was the only one of his generation who even bothered to come to India. Even dear FIL started to pressure him too, saying "it looks bad".... (to whom??? I wonder...) and then husband-ji finally said "I don't give a shit how it looks, I came for thatha and nobody else". And after all this - losing thatha, the race-against-time to get on the flight, missing the chance to say goodbye to him, the heaviness of it all - the family's main concern is that husband-ji is not staying with them because "it looks bad", never mind husband-ji's comfort or the fact that he is also mourning...

"I have no privacy here"; " it's so chaotic here"; "I've had enough, after a week of being here"; "I can't take the heat", husband-ji says, disgruntled. The Telangana state has just been formed and there are city-wide shut downs, petrol strikes, and mass power outages for 4 hours at a time. The city is a deranged mess.

It has been hard not have a proper talk with him - a heart-to-heart with my best friend, after all we have both been through. When he calls me before he goes to bed, I'm rushing out the door to see my dad; when I call him after I put the baby to sleep, he's rushing off to a pooja...We literally talk for 5 minutes at a time. Then, after hardly speaking for days, I call him, and then he says that certain people are complaining that he is "on the phone ALL the time with me"...(excuse me, aren't I his WIFE?!) We are both so frustrated.

He was always the odd man out. He was always the black sheep. The same world that molded him somehow also continually found a way to repel him. "They just want me in the house but they are not including me in anything". Sounds familiar...sounds like he is a firangi too...

My dad misses husband-ji a lot. He keeps asking what day he is coming back - being in a hospital bed, he has no sense of time.

It is strange to visit him at the same hospital that I was in only 6 months ago. It is all too familiar - the sounds of the IV machine, the nurses scurrying around, and the identical city view. The clock, that moves so slowly...and then the intercom jolting the floor awake, saying "Code red, 5th floor", the sound of someone going into cardiac arrest.

It is hard to see him like that, in pain, in the hospital bed, exhausted. He looks so elderly. Whenever I'm around him, I feel like a little kid - but I'm not - he's elderly, and I'm the adult now. I'm a parent now. Did I really grow up so fast? I'm the young one now, and I have to take care of him...I'm the one that has to help him walk...

I feel too fast for him, the way I glide around the room - as he struggles to sit up in the bed, and walk to the bathroom. As he slowly reaches for the water bottle. I feel my strength around him, or his lack of it...and wish that I could just magically give some of mine to him. Recovering, and healing...is a long process. 

But today was the worst day so far. He didn't want to get out of bed. He slumped over while eating, hardly looking at me. I felt like he was giving up - giving up on himself, giving up on us - the suffering was just too much. I was not able to uplift him, he didn't want to be uplifted. I just wanted to shake him, and say "Dad....the worst is over...the tumor is out...it's going to get better from here onwards". But how can I convince him when I am also trying to convince myself? "Dad," I say, "When this is all over, we'll all go to Venice to celebrate, okay? You have to make it to Venice..."

Half of my day, I spend at the hospital, taking care of my dad. The other half, I take care of my daughter, all the while processing the first half. I have no choice but to be strong. I have no one to really talk to. I can't cry or let my emotions out, because I have x number of hours before the baby wakes up again. My barrier of strength is built on matchsticks and is surviving on the mere idea of hope....I'm just gliding on a thin sheet of ice...


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Saturday, March 1, 2014

The Lowland, by Jhumpa Lahiri


In times of stress, I always retreat to my books...it really relaxes me and gets my mind off my worries before bed...because it helps me get lost in someone else's story!

The latest novel I have read is "The Lowland" by Jhumpa Lahiri. I have read all her books and love all of them. I can really relate to her tales of multiculturalism, identity, and transparency. 

"The Lowland" is different than Jhumpa's other books because it is not a short story collection. It is a multi-generational saga that spans continents and characters. The book is about how one tragic event touches the lives of everyone involved, and affects future generations who inherit certain personality patterns and family pathologies.

As an only child, one of the things that I am fascinated by are sibling relationships (duh, because I have none!) In this book, the main characters were twins, so it was extra interesting for me.

One of the recurring themes in Jhumpa's books is of immigration, starting over, and finding/making a home away from home. She always also has some character in her books who is in an intercultural relationship - which I can so relate to, of course!

One of the things that I learned about was that of the Naxalite movement in Calcutta. I didn't know much about it, other than the fact that I know there are Maoist terrorists in our home state of Andhra Pradesh, which we hear of from time to time in the news.

I loved this book - I totally got lost in it and had no sense of time as I was glued to the pages. I literally cried at the last page....

Here are some quotes from the book that moved me...

"But he was no longer in Tollygunge. He had stepped out of it as he had stepped so many mornings out of his dreams, its reality and its particular logic rendered meaningless in the light of day. The difference was so extreme that he could not accommodate the two places together in his mind. In this enormous new country, there seemed to be nowhere for the old to reside. There was nothing to link them; he was the sole link. Here life ceased to obstruct or assault him. Here was a place where humanity was not always pushing, rushing, running as if with a fire at its back" - p.34

"This was the woman Narasimhan had married, as opposed to whatever girl from Madras his family wanted for him. Subhash wondered how his family reacted to her. He wondered if she'd ever been to India. If she had, he wondered whether she'd liked it or hated it. He could not guess from looking at her." - p.37

"On weekdays, as soon as she picked Bela from the bus stop and brought her home, she went straight into the kitchen, washing up the morning dishes she'd ignored, then getting dinner started. She measured out the nightly cup of rice, letting it soak in a pan on the counter. She peeled onions and potatoes and picked through lentils and prepared another night's dinner, then fed Bela. She was never able to understand why this relatively unchallenging set of chores felt so relentless. When she was finished, she did not understand why they had depleted her." - p.163

"With children the clock is reset. We forget what came before." - p. 167

"She'd convinced herself that Subhash was her rival, and that she was in competition for him for Bela, a competition that felt insulting, unjust. But of course it had not been a competition, it had been her own squandering. Her own withdrawal, covert, ineluctable. With her own hand she'd painted herself into a corner, and then out of the picture altogether." - p. 232

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Dear readers, what book should I read next? And ADD ME on Good Reads!

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