Friday, December 18, 2009

Santa Does Exist - Book Launch in December

So, you haven’t heard from me in a while. No philosophical opinions have hit your inboxes in the past few weeks. I have had few people ask me the reason for my delayed blog posts. Nope, it’s not end-of-year exhaustion. If anything, I am an Energizer Bunny in December. :-) This month has been rather busy at work and holiday parties have taken over my life. I am not complaining about the festivities because more human contact translates to even more opinions and blog ideas, so watch out in January.:-)

Every thing seems magical in the holiday season – the decorations, carols, promises, and even the air. So much so that, every year around this time, I get hooked on to hot chocolate with marshmallows. For those of you who know me, I can’t stand hot chocolate otherwise. I might not care much for the freezing temperatures in NYC or trudging through tainted snow, but there is no other place I’d rather be around the holidays. Even wading through hoards of tourists near the Empire State Building (I work in that area) doesn’t bother me. I think, humans smile a lot more in December.

Anyway, for the first time, I wish I were in Bangalore this holiday season. Maybe because my Christmas wish has come true. See, I have always desired, for my poetic contributions, to find a home in India as well. And it’s finally happening. This coming Sunday, December 20, 2009, marks the launch of one of my poetry anthologies. The book titled, “I, Me, Myself,” featuring the work of 20 poets (including humbly yours), will be launched at Reliance Time Out, Cunningham Road, between 3.00 p.m. - 5.00 p.m. in Bangalore. On the same evening, the publishers of the anthology are planning to organize a poetry reading session at the Bangalore Club from 6.00 p.m. onwards.

So, if you are in the neighborhood and in the mood to share some love, please grace the launch with your presence. I have pasted the invite. I am honored that my high school peeps, in Bangalore, have promised to represent me. The saying is true: Old friendship goes a long way.

Meanwhile, for those of you believers in hope, Recovering The Self: A Journal of Hope and Healing (a quarterly journal which explores the themes of recovery and healing through poetry, memoir, essays, fiction, humor, media reviews and psycho-education, Vol. II, No.1, Paperback) is out. One of my poems titled, “Convalescence,” features in this issue.

Have a wonderful weekend everyone! Enjoy the holidays and stay safe!

More until next time,

Copyright © 12.18.09

“Poetry is finer and more philosophical than history; for poetry expresses the universal, and history only the particular” - Aristotle

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Should mum be the word?

With age, hopefully, we all mature. So do our convictions. As I grow older, I feel more and more cemented in my belief system. I am a passionate woman with opinions and do not shy away from expressing them.

Years ago, my husband said to me, “When people ask for your honest opinion, they don’t really expect you to be candid with them.” I was baffled by the human hypocrisy. Why ask for the truth when you don’t have the appetite for it? Why begin a sentence with “I want your frank opinion,” when basically what you want to hear is an echo of your own ideologies. Is it for the purposes of validation? To me, that’s a sign of immaturity.

Should I concede that not everyone in the world sees the world as black and white? Majority of the adult population chooses to experience the world as shades of grey. In a nutshell, being a straight shooter might not always be the best bet. Hmmm. Is that right? Then the option, if you aren’t into unnecessary lying, is to seal your lips. If truth isn’t allowed to flow out from the mouth, lies shouldn’t be permitted either. Mum should be the word.

But how feasible is the mum option? The world is a strange place. People like to dig out certain information out of you. Notice how often religion, politics, and social issues form the topic of discussion at parties. I avoid them like the plague (In case you haven’t figured it out, I am a passionate, artistic woman with strong opinions.) because I don't want to lie about what I feel. And my viewpoints might be too shocking and uninhibited for some. I demonstrate my point with a few examples:

Religion: I like to believe that there is an almighty. The concept of the omnipresent makes me feel safe and secure. I diligently celebrate most Hindu festivals with a lot of enthusiasm, unless it’s one of the sexist traditions which don’t fall under my belief system. I, often, break my karva chauth fast with butter chicken and hot naan. There is something magical about the tomato-and-cream gravy hitting the empty stomach. By the way, I equally relish chicken biryani over Eid and roasted chicken for Christmas. Am I a fundamentalist? A food fundamentalist for sure. I prefer Pakistani samosas to the Indian ones because I don’t appreciate masala in my food. The Paki samosa is surprisingly milder on the system. And so is their biryani. I don’t eat or cook beef. But I don’t judge or condemn folks who eat it.

Social issues: I believe everyone has the right to freedom. People should be allowed to spend their lives with whomever they choose. So yup, I am all for gay rights and inter-cultural marriages. Whatever keeps you in a happy, stable relationship. I have seen some revolting heterosexual marriages, which make me wonder why the two people are together – annihilating each other with their toxic words.

I take offense with patriarchal setups and gender inequalities. Don’t tell me I can’t do something just because I am a woman. Neither am I feeble nor am I dependent, so you have to come up with something better than that. Know your duties as a human being because that’s what counts.

Politics: Do I even need to clarify? I am thrilled a young man is the president of America today. I adore Michelle Obama – real and grounded. Similarly, I wish Rahul Gandhi or Priyanka Gandhi or one of the other younger politicians would come to power in India after Manmohan Singh’s term. It’s time we got some fresh blood and untainted ideas to govern the country. I don’t believe in wars and hate crimes.

My opinions – as you can see – certainly do not straddle the fence of grey. I definitely tilt completely onto one side of the issue. These are my beliefs, and I am proud to stand by them. I also know that expressing them in strong terms – as I am prone to do – does have the effect of riling people on the other side of the debate. Hence, I am always intrigued by the number of personal emails I receive, as positive comments, after people read my blogs or other published pieces. For instance, after reading my newly published article in India Currents (Titled, "An Unchaste Brown"), a friend said, "As always, you write from your heart. Good piece."

I wonder if truth is underrated.

More until next time


Copyright © 11.29.09

“What is uttered from the heart alone, Will win the hearts of others to your own.” - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Book Launch - I wish I were in Toronto

I have said to a few of my friends that I loathe November 2009 with a passion. Well, I have my reasons and let’s not get into them right now. Anyways, I am glad the awful month is coming to an end. Tomorrow marks the beginning of the last week of the eleventh month of the year. And guess what happens tomorrow?

Earlier this year, one of my stories got selected in an anthology titled, “Her Mother’s Ashes 3.” The publisher is an exciting, reputable Canadian company called TSAR Publications. I am not masking the publishing house’s name with fat layers of positive adjectives just because I have a book coming out with them. When I mentioned TSAR Publications to one of my friends, who is an eminent Canadian author, she hurled a river of good things about the publishing house. So, anyways, the TSAR Fall Book Launch is scheduled for November 23, 2009 at the Gladstone Hotel, Toronto, TSAR Publications. If you are in the area, please check it out. If the books catch your fancy, don’t be shy to pick up a copy.

As far as “Her Mother’s Ashes 3” goes, this collection brings together more first-rate stories by South Asian women that—whether set in their home countries or those of their adoption—explore with profound and sensitive insight the inner tenor of women’s lives caught between places, cultures, and generations.

ISBN: 9781894770545
Paper $24.95; 200 pages

Reviews of the previous volume:

". . . an intense, pleasurable, and instructive experience, making me reflect on the ideas of home, homelessness, fragmented cultures, and cultures in conflict and dialogue."
—Books in Canada

"Interesting and evocative fiction that provides illuminating
—and often troubling—insights into the North American life 
of the South Asians."
World Literature Today

More until next time


Copyright © 11.22.09

"A bad book is as much of a labor to write as a good one; it comes as sincerely from the author's soul" - Aldous Huxley

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Do you ever get over it?

Someone very dear to me said, "Unless you go through it (meaning, face a personal loss), you can't fathom the pain." I think I know what they mean. To me, the impact of loss is directly proportional to your equation with the person who has passed away.

Every adage indicates that time is the best healer. That people forget their worst nightmare and painful experiences, as time passes. Life takes over and fills dark holes with healing water. But what if these adages are a myth? What if that certain relationship is irreplacble?

Close your eyes for a moment and think of that one place where you can still feel like a child irrespective of your age. The one house where the stress of adulthood doesn't touch your sleep. The one place where sweet corn chicken soup is served on a tray because you sneezed. What image did you conjure up? Wasn't it your parents' place?

Very recently, my family witnessed a personal loss. I was in California this past weekend to express my condolences and cherish the relationships I still have. Despite all the love, warmth, smiles, and hospitality, I saw unhealed hearts. I constantly felt the presence of the person whose demise we all mourned. The passing away of this one person has taken a toll on the people I care about. I sense anguish in every conversation I have with my mother. I am not sure I will get over it ever either.

The journey from coast to coast got me thinking. Every loss is difficult and emotionally draining; the degree of pain might differ. But is one loss more draining than the other? I have heard friends say that if something happened to their spouse or children, they would die. I don't question their sentiments. I am not saying any loss is easy to deal with, but if someone loses a child, they can have another one. If someone loses their spouse, they could eventually meet someone else. Again, no one can take the place of the one who has moved on, but life goes on and people find emotional anchors. But how do you replace a parent? That one relationship where you feel like an orphan just thinking about the loss. The pain arising from any loss is ruthless, but one that takes away your parent is unbearable.


More until next time.



Copyright © 11.14.2009


When someone you love becomes a memory, the memory becomes a treasure.  ~Author Unknown

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Do you know what you are doing?

Someone dear to me once confessed that, for them, reading my blogs was the easiest way to find out what was on my mind that week. Touché.  At parties, I have had random people walk up to me and tell me that they read my blog and/or forward it to their friends and family overseas. I am grateful to everyone who takes out the time to indulge my “Rants of the week,” but it also makes me conscious of what I post. Not the honesty in my tone but some of the topics I discuss. I concede that I can’t control who reads what and how they interpret my words, but I can control what I post. Normally, as a writer, I wouldn’t care about people’s opinions on my thoughts; but as a marketer, if it affects my professional life, I can’t afford to be apathetic. For instance, I might blog about my disenchantment with the heartlessness of corporate America, from a social and philosophical point of view, but I would never divulge details about my own workplace. That’s asking for trouble.

Talking about sharing. I have always wondered about people who friend their coworkers, on Facebook, and permit them to see every ounce of information on their profile. Unless you implicitly trust these coworkers, all I want to ask is “Really?” Because not all coworkers are friends. Everyone has a paycheck to earn and a butt to save, so why would they think twice before outing you? Someone I know had called in sick the other day. Their so called dear friend (colleague) showed me this person’s status update on Facebook. Guess what? This “sick” person was vacationing on sandy beaches in Mexico and not lying in bed, at home, with a fever. Funnily, the tattle tale couldn’t resist the urge to comment on their “sick” friend’s status update or fill me with details. So much for friendship. 

I know of people who were asked to delete their Myspace page and Facebook accounts, by their employers, because they didn’t have the maturity to channel the flow of information from their brain to their fingertips. Be it posting about their company’s new product, before the launch, or their drunk-at-4a.m-with-a stranger-in-a-bar pictures, they lacked the maturity of who saw what. Seriously, there are “privacy settings” options that Facebook allows. Embrace it. It’s free. Your boss doesn’t need to know about your weekend escapades.

Another element of social networking that boggles my mind is the dissipating boundaries between generations. At least for South Asians, we grew up with a culture of discreetness and boundaries. There are certain deeds South Asian elders won’t commit in front of their younger generation and vice-versa. I don’t think there is anything wrong with it. That’s the essence of what we are about. But all of a sudden, with the liberated social media, the human eye is inflicted with an overdose of personal information. It’s progressive to have an intellectual debate or respectfully joke with people from the older or younger generation, but sharing your inappropriate Halloween pictures doesn’t put you in the suave category! Aunts and uncles and parents witnessing their kids’ semi-nude photos and commenting on them is revolting. One can be friendly with the younger or older generation and vice-versa but not become best friends with them because it is weird and unhealthy. Go out and socialize with people your own age. Get a life!

Quite frankly, I like people’s ability to possess multiple personalities: One for work, one for your friends, and one for your family. These are different facets of you that cater to different aspects of your life. I am not about lying, but I don’t think everyone in my life needs to know how I spend every moment of my day. Every relationship has its own special place and information can be channelized accordingly. And for those emulating and blaming the west, grow up. Cultured and educated people, universally, know the art of communication and perils of information over-share.

More until next time.



Copyright © 11.05.2009

“Breathe. Know that the Internet has no eraser.” - Liz Strauss

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Do dreams have to vanish when you open your eyes?

As I settle back into reality, which hasn't been a piece of cake after two blissful weeks in the company of my true self, like-mindedness, dreams, peace, gourmet food, and words, my brain is teased with thoughts and unanswered questions. I spent the first few days, upon my return, in trance. The noise surrounding me was like the drums playing in the background - persistent yet rhythmic, but I was unfettered. But last night, after a long day at work, when I got into the subway, I felt my New York-nerves tighten around my neck. As I ran to get through the semi - open doors, survival instincts kicked. My patience and pleasantness became the subway-rodents' feast. The vulture in my eyes hunted for seats. I heard my conscience murmur, cautiously, to me: The “beeatch” is back.

In my defense, the philosopher in me was bludgeoned by a wailing child and an indignant vendor selling candy on the subway. But here is the thing: Fifteen days ago, the same behavior wouldn’t have bothered me as much. I secretly wouldn't have wanted to call the cops on “untraditional” commuters or roll my eyes at human cacophony. So, what was it? Can a change in place alter human responses to such an extreme degree? Or was it time for a reality check on what keeps me happy?

A friend, who is originally from Pittsburgh, said that NYC has made her mean. She can feel it. So, one day, she would like to get in touch with her true self but that would require relinquishing the hub nub of the Big Apple. Sadly, she knows that the move is a distant dream and might always remain one. I understand where she comes from. On the other hand, I know a few dear ones (Sending tons of best wishes their way. I am so proud of them!) who have decided to take the risk. They will take the plunge and follow their dream because we live just once. They are fortunate to have recognized their true desires and have the guts to abandon the monotony of “required-to-do.” I admire their attitude: If it all works out, great; if it doesn’t, they’ll go back to where they came from, metaphorically speaking.

In the end, does it help to know what works best for you even when you know that you probably can't follow through with it or does ignorance work better? What you don't know can't hurt, right? And if you do know what you want to do with the rest of your life (or at least give it a shot, temporarily) but pragmatism becomes your prison-anklet and doesn’t permit you to follow your dreams, can you ever live happily? Will the regret of knowing but never trying, whether your dreams would have worked, ever stop gnawing at you?

More until next time.

Copyright © 10.22.2009

“A dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world.” Oscar Wilde

Thursday, October 15, 2009

All good things come to an end

Wise people say, when you are having fun, time flies by. That’s exactly what happened. Sigh! My two-week writer’s residency finishes today. It was like yesterday that I almost threw up my breakfast on an eight-seat propeller plane, thanks to fear-stricken fellow passengers, who continued to read the safety manuals loudly—in case our plane crashed into the water. Ironically, sometimes, death could be a better option than neurotic travelers. You can tell it’s time to be in New York; the cynic in me is back.

I was talking to a very dear friend of mine the other day, and she asked me why I hadn’t blogged about my stay in Martha’s Vineyard yet. I asked her if she was a masochist. Wasn’t My Facebook presence already inundating her life?J Jokes aside, I have some good news. I pitched the idea, of my experience in Martha’s Vineyard, to a publication. Guess what? Just a few days ago, they accepted my piece, and it will be published in the first quarter of 2010. Though I can’t, legally, write anything much about my experience on this beautiful island, but I will make a suggestion: Plan a trip to this place. Words don’t do justice to what Martha’s Vineyard has to offer. People here look content. If Martha’s Vineyard was its own country, and if a survey, to determine patriotism levels, was conducted, I am a hundred percent sure, this island would win by a landslide. Smitten, like a cult, is the term that comes to mind when you think of the Vineyarders.

It’s the only small town/island where I didn’t miss a big city. Maybe there is magic in the water. Who knows! Well, there is impressive amount of money here for sure. And legacies. And mansions. And a pot that brews creativity.

After today, as we all move on with our lives (I get into the Diwali-party mode), I wonder what we take back with us. I can’t speak for others, but I know the friendships, the memories, the recipes, the sharing, the caring, and the weight gain will remain me with forever. Hopefully, not the weight gain bit.:-)

So, stay tuned! I will post the link, of our video interview, on my blog once I have it. Attached are a copy of the write-up and event announcement in the local newspapers.

More when real life takes over as I reach New York City. Happy Diwali to those of you celebrating!


More until next time.


Copyright © 10.15.2009


“Experience is one thing you can't get for nothing” – Oscar Wilde


Thursday, October 1, 2009

Reincarnation: Traveling with “Masala Chai” and “Maggi Noodles”

Some of you know that I got accepted, at a writers' residency program, in New England. I am going away for two weeks. My husband teases me every time we talk about the opportunity and calls it my "vacation." Hello, not worrying about work deadlines or cleaning for two weeks or guiltlessly drinking wine mid-week or writing endlessly doesn't qualify this defined period of time as “vacation.” Or maybe it does. We’ll find out!

I am looking forward to the residency. I have to say I was a little skeptical about taking two weeks off from work and life in NYC. But my husband very generously said, “You deserve this break more than anyone else I know.” For once, the planetary arrangements worked in my favor and I was able to make this commitment.

Anyways, he thinks by Sunday of this week I will be whining: “I want to go home.” I wouldn't be surprised if my dad and brother along with my husband have placed dibs on the Sweta-missing- home-deadline:-) Well, they all know me too well. Firstly, I loathe bucolic life. No kidding. The peace and quiet makes me nauseous. If you want to scare me, say “Hills.” I have never been able to appreciate houses, for more than a weekend, on five acres of land and no passer bys. Secondly, I am a homebody who is rather resistant to change. I need my family, friends, and wine, and I am all set.

And traveling has its own challenges. I spent last afternoon exchanging emails with my friends and asking them about travel essentials. See, I am flying to New England, which means I have to obey airline weight restrictions - twenty pounds (I believe). That's what I am allowed or at least that’s the weight my back can endure. As a kid, my brother lugged my luggage (I just opened a can of worms here. Let’s not even get into what all I would travel with as a child) and as an adult, my husband does the good deed. In fact, when we travel together, the forty pound weight limit is distributed rather intelligently: I use up 35 lbs and he happily makes do with 5 lbs. I know, “happily” is over-rated, but he’s smart enough to know that a “Happy wife” is the key to every successful marriage. :-)

I digress; back to packing. So, according to my friends, boots fall under "high-priority" essentials. I concur with them. Ask any woman. Okay, any woman with good (or even remote) fashion sense. Fine. Ask any of my girlfriends, and I swear they will tell you that life, for a woman, is barren without knee-length boots. The whole point of autumn is to bring out the hidden fashionista in you. Boots, scarves, good hair days etc. All in all, sweet! Sure, the winter lurking around the corners is not an attraction, but who cares when you can strut yourself in shoes that hug tightly around your calves and ankles and arm your hands with steaming cappuccino. The magic of autumn. So, last night, my boots found a home in those 20 lbs.

Now those wardrobe essentials are taken care of, onto food. Until a few years ago, I could eat every meal out. In fact, I would look forward to it, but with age, I have started appreciating home cooked meals. I still LOVE to eat out (I am a foodie!), but with the desire of trying out a new place or cuisine and not because there is no food at home. A confession: I need Asian food once a week, at least. Not Indian, anything Asian would do (especially Thai & Chinese). My palate goes into withdrawal-symptom-mode otherwise.

I don’t know much about the place I am traveling to—in terms of “grocery” availability, which would have been immaterial a few years ago. I would have happily gorged onto local goodies and eaten every meal at a restaurant. But when my friend asked last afternoon if I had packed any “soul food,” I got thinking. I totally bought her suggestion of carrying some comfort food with me – “Maggi noodles,” “Knorr desi soups,” and “Murku.” Funnily, these items will never be found in my pantry, but I bought them because I know they will make me less homesick. I have been a boarder majority of my life, and I know the magic items.

Growing up, I wondered about people who traveled with food. My husband and brother have constantly made fun of the “Food-travelers-with-dabbas.” But today, I am one of them. I’d never imagined turning into one, but I have. People change and age is a change enabler. With age, we all need things that soothe our soul. So, instead of getting my nails done after work and grabbing a nice meal with my husband at a restaurant last night, I bought chicken biryani for lunch (I am quite indifferent to lunch otherwise); drank “masala chai” at a very dear friend’s place after work; and, cooked a lavish dinner at home (tons of food for my husband when I am away).

So, please send me your good wishes and aashirwaad and love, so I can put these two weeks to good use along with the”Masala chai” sachets I am carrying with me. And I’ll remember to not snicker at the smell of “theplaas” at airports.

More until next time.


Copyright © 10.01.2009

"We live in an age when unnecessary things are our only necessities" - Oscar Wilde

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Small-mindedness: One of life’s biggest tragedies

Last week’s blog post evoked an interesting, variety of responses - a revealing ride into human mindsets. We all know that it takes all sorts to make the world. And I feel that everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion. My parents have always said, “Personal experiences and conscience influence how people express themselves in any situation.” I couldn’t agree more.

Constructive criticism is key to growth. To be honest, my “curious” gray cells would perish, if I didn’t get alternative viewpoints, in a civil fashion. No one knows everything and nobody in the world can always be right. Only a schmuck can afford to believe that they know best. And, as clichéd as it may sound, there are two sides to a coin—meaning two perspectives, at a minimum, on any given issue. To remain grounded and to evolve, we all need intelligent and honest people around us, who can expose us to an angle different from what’s integral to our own belief system.

That said, as a writer, what I took away most, from my blog last week, was a revelation: How fortunate am I to be blessed with a family that is open-minded – on both my side and my husband’s side. These are people who have nurtured astuteness and encouraged inquisitiveness. My family has always been cognizant of the knowledge-hungry, philosophical, sociological, and human rights activist side of me. I, almost never, accept what’s presented to me unless it’s backed with logic and reasoning. At the same time, I have been taught to NEVER discard the garb of respect while expressing my curiosity.

When my brother and I were kids, he would tease me that I should wear a chain around my neck with either a mini dictionary or an encyclopedia as a pendant. That way I could find answers, to my umpteen questions, in moments. ☺ I remember, even as a pre-teenager, this one time, I was extremely upset to find out that one of my widowed aunts had to give up non-veg after her husband passed away. Not because she wanted to but because the society expected her to. Really? Like eating meat would translate to her mourning any less? It seemed iniquitous, so I discussed it with my parents. My father patiently answered my questions and conceded that the system was insipid, but in the same breadth he explained the expectations of the Indian society and why this ritual was carried out. By the way, respect was never lost in this communication. Neither did my parents think, that as a person from the younger generation, I had no right (or mental capacity) to question the norm nor did I express my disagreement, with the societal rules, in a discourteous fashion.

To me, the world would be a mundane place, if there was no desire to know more. How do you progress if people were mentally content with what was presented to them? Homo sapiens are where we are today because few of our ancestors weren’t satisfied with what they had. And thank you for not accepting what you had and thinking progressively! If Steve Jobs hadn’t thought of revolutionizing the available technology and inventing chic Apple products, the world would have never known what an iPod or MacBook Air feel like (As an ardent Apple devotee, the one fact I can tell you is that they are divine!)

I am deeply indebted to my family for cultivating a non-judgmental and sound outlook. It helps me remain objective through a lot of situations. I know that intimidation and fear can’t earn you respect and neither can, “Do it because I told you so.” When my ten and seven-year old nieces say something, I hear them out and don’t dismiss their stance just because they are decades younger than I am. In fact, I learn a lot from them because their side represents their generations’ viewpoint. It nudges me to think beyond what I know or have experienced. My father has always taught me that everyone has something to share so hear him or her out. Age, gender, race, and class shouldn’t be used as a discriminating factor against opinion.

More until next time.


Copyright © 09.17.2009

“I am not young enough to know every thing”
- Oscar Wilde

Thursday, September 10, 2009

How can we feel guilty when you started it?

When I was working on my master’s thesis at Columbia University, I did extensive research on the dynamics of “empty-nest syndrome,” amongst Indian parents whose children live abroad. Empty-nest syndrome is the name given to a psychological condition that can affect a woman around the time that one or more of her children leave home. [1] For women in their 50s and above in India, the syndrome affects a little more adversely because majority of women from my parents’ generation were housewives. They were trained to take care of their homes and families. Most of them took a great deal of pride in what they cooked for their families or the crochet pieces they made for their furniture or the blooming roses in their garden. 

But time flies. Children grow up and husbands get more involved with their career. With husbands still busy and kids away, the same women begin to feel redundant. The basic duties and acts that made them feel important their entire lives, in some ways, diminish with age. The children don’t need their moms in the ways their mothers would like to be needed. All of a sudden, the women have too much time on their hands and an underutilized brain. And this is when things begin to go downhill. The expectations begin.

Every family is different, and I feel blessed for not facing certain pressures, but I have very dear friends who are constantly emotionally blackmailed about living away from India. Every phone call to India translates into, “You should move back now.” Again, this pressure has nothing to do with parental health issues or any tragedies back home (THANK GOD!); it’s about the women in the older generation feeling forlorn. But weren’t you the ones who sent your children abroad? So why do you call your own children selfish? Why did you teach them to dream or aspire if you wanted to dictate their date of departure and return? Is the guilt of creating “nuclear families” catching up with you now that you are at the receiving end?

I am honestly baffled. In some ways, isn’t all this solitude self-invited? Wasn’t it my parents generation that adapted the concept of “nuclear families” and held it close to their heart like the sacred testament? Didn’t their generation popularize “Hum Do Hamaare Do?” In their youth, they left their families behind in small towns and villages and moved to bigger cities and sometimes countries to find opportunities. Why? Because every generation wants to provide the generation after theirs with the best. They wanted to make a better life for themselves and desired to give the best to their children. And we all express our gratitude for it.

I cannot emphasize enough that I am not blaming anyone here. I am trying to understand the altered outlook of the people, who started the trend of moving away, in search of a break. Why is my age group expected to feel culpable for following in the footsteps of their elders? Aren’t we doing what we saw growing up - working towards a good life, so we can provide for the family back home and for our children?  The deed remains unchanged, so don’t call us avaricious and yourself as the sacrificial goat. If anything, my generation keeps the parents more involved than they ever could with their own families.

At the time when our parents were starting their lives, technology wasn’t on their side, so they weren’t able to communicate with their families back home for weeks and sometimes months. Lot of people didn’t even have telephones at homes while my generation, irrespective of their family's location, talks to them a few times a week. Technology allows being able to see each other too! And enables the ability of being involved in each other’s day-to-day activities.

Today, the only difference is that geographic boundaries have dissipated so instead of moving from Bareilly to Mumbai, the move might be from New Delhi to California or London.  It’s the same action; just a different generation. Don’t call it abandonment when we do it and sacrifice when you did it.

More until next time.

Copyright © 09.10.2009

“Children begin by loving their parents; as they grow older they judge them; sometimes, they forgive them.” Oscar Wilde quotes


Thursday, September 3, 2009

Are we killing our parents?

No culture is perfect. It’s up to us, as individuals, to pick and choose the best elements representative of the east and the west. For instance, I respect most of the values of the east and cherish the feeling of familial-bondage. In the same breath, I also admire how age isn’t a deterrent for any dreams in the west, and I am beginning to appreciate what the west teaches you about dependency.

I am reading a book by Daniel Gilbert called “Stumbling on Happiness.” The author mentions an interesting study in which elderly folks, at a local nursing home, were given a houseplant and divided into two groups. Half the residents were told that they were in control of the plant’s care and feeding (high-control group), and they told the remaining residents that a staff would be responsible for their plant (low-control group).

End result: Six months later, 30% of the residents in the group with lower control died compared with only 15% of their counterparts with high control much sooner than their counterparts in the low-control group. According to the study described by the author: “Human beings come in to this world with a passion for control, they go out of the world the same way, and research suggests that if they lose their ability to control thing at any point between their entrance and exit, they become unhappy, helpless, hopeless, and depressed.”

I don’t get why kids treat their parents and their parents’ generation as old. Sometimes I understand the feelings behind their emotions, but I still don’t get it. People start giving their parents permissions and disallowing them certain acts because they think it’s not safe for them. And why, because they feel they are getting old. Caring is one thing but overdoing it by treating them like invalids, even if unintentionally, is another. Respecting your elders doesn’t mean you have to map their lifestyle for them. It bothers me when my generation decides when they can start telling their parents what’s best for them. Or constantly obsess about how they need attention and their health is failing. And most of us don’t even live with them. Who gave us that right? A friendly reminder: Our parents are older than us and like it or not, they are entitled to their decisions. And the repercussions of those decisions.

A substantial number of my husband’s aunts and uncles live in the west. Knock on wood; they are all agile and so in tune with the world. They understand and participate in what their children are doing. They have an opinion on what Iran’s policies are or whether Obama was the right choice for the presidency. And shouldn’t it be that way? Their children don’t treat them like old or constantly remind them that they are dependent. Society expects them to chip in with their bit and reminds them age is a state of mind. They are sixty plus people working jobs, managing homes, social lives, and family and all with minimum support. I swear, they look ten years younger than their relatives, of the same age or younger, back in India. They know they are important and age has nothing to do with their desires or dreams.

And how do you define old? To me, anything below 75-80, isn’t old. In our Indian culture, when we make people dependent on ourselves, aren’t we insinuating they aren’t self –sufficient? Why keep suggesting they need to relax and calm down? It’s their life and if they want to go parasailing at seventy, who are we to stop them?

I loathe conversations that center around treating parents as six-year olds. I am sorry, I refuse to. My parents will always be my parents. I will always argue with my father and get into cultural debates because I always have. What’s changed today? That he’s older than sixty? So I should watch what I say? Baloney! The day I stop being his child and start to act as his parent, it’ll perish him. Of course, as my parents get older, (so do I), I feel more compassionately towards them. Endearing maybe but not sympathetic because there is nothing to commiserate. Age is nothing to be mourned. Do we not realize that we stifle their existence by smothering them with our fear? Fear of losing them. In the process, we kill them even before they die. I know, even at my age, when I am sick and people nag me to do things, it aggravates me. Neither am I stupid nor am I ignorant. I understand my responsibility towards myself and the people in my life so don’t treat me like I don’t have a brain of my own. What makes you think our parents feel any differently?

More until next time.

Copyright © 09.03.2009

"Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it doesn't matter." ~Mark Twain

Thursday, August 27, 2009

What’s the four-letter word that impacts us the most?

I am sure; the answer to my question would differ from person to person. Needless to say, depending on the frame of your mind or the emotion consuming you at a given point, your response might fluctuate. I know mine does. It could be love, hate, glee, loss, gain etc. This week’s blog post is a journey through the four-letter word that shook up my world last week: loss. Again, loss can be emotional or materialistic or physical or just about anything that creates that black hole of deprivation. In my case, it was the death of a very close family member.

Irreplaceable. Unattainable. Unmatchable. Such was my mausi’s (My mom’s only sister’s) allure. She might not have been the world’s most loved person (ONLY because love is relative and biased and mood-dependent), but she definitely was the most adulated female. I do not exaggerate when I say women envied her beauty and emulated her; men were enamored by her elegance and hospitality. The common thing I heard from everyone last week was, “She was born a princess and lived and died like a queen.” So much so that her funeral was attended by as many people as a regular Indian wedding.

This past one week has been one of introspection. I am still trying to understand the “Battle with loss of loss.” Why do we humans remember some losses more than others? Think of anyone you’ve lost (I sincerely wish there is someone out there who hasn’t lost anyone dear to their heart, ever, but let’s get real!). Out of all the people who have passed away, how many of them do you remember clearly? Each moment spent with them. Or at least a few cherished memories? I, for one, have lost quite a few dear ones. But what pains me most is that my brain can only hang on to a few reminiscences of those gone. Everything else seems to get replaced with illusions manifested by desires. Sometimes, you can’t explain why you remember some people or instances more than the others. For instance, I vividly remember my dada (My father’s dad). He died when I was five, but I have memorized (unintentionally) every single incident associated with him. His last words. His last few actions. If I were an artist, I could sketch his tranquil face in a few seconds.

My dada, during his last days would write a request, for me, on a piece of paper. He would want me to sing this particular “bhajan” (religious song) to him. It was our little connective tissue. Every evening, in the hospital, I would hum for him, and he would shed tears of appreciation—his unique way of applauding my performance since he’d lost his voice. My mausi was the first woman from my parents’ generation to read Pabulum, my first book of poetry; get it autographed from me; and discuss every poem in it with me. I still remember that she’d cooked my favorite pasta entrée and delved into the journey of the book less than a year ago.

I have dug through every layer of unseen emotion to figure out why is it that I remember my dada or my mausi. Is it because we humans tend to gravitate towards people who showered that special love on us in their dying moments? Or the last time we interacted with them. I can’t speak for everyone, but I think in my quest for finding closure, I chanced upon my answer. My last communication with both my dada and mausi was when they made my ordinary moments extraordinary. Even if subconsciously, don't we humans seek that experience?

More until next time.

Copyright © 08.27.2009

"Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live”- Norman Cousins

Friday, August 14, 2009

Americanized Phraseology

Have you ever wondered about how, with time and place, ones usage of words and expressions transform? I didn’t until I became the butt of familial jokes. J My brother teases me when I say, “You might want to do this” or “If I were you, I wouldn’t eat that.” He pokes fun at the formalization and Americanization of my speech. My brother-in-law cracks up every time I say “No thanks; I am good.” He retorts back with, “I know you are good and not bad, but do you want more XYZ?”

I didn’t realize how and when “Dude” and “Jerk” slipped into my verbal-world and replaced “Guys” and “Idiot” until my niece, Sana, pointed out (when she was barely six then and was visiting us in New York), “Hey, why are you speaking American to the taxi driver?”J I was baffled. Even a kid was cognizant that English spoken in Singapore (where she lives) was altered in its American form.  Thanks to Disney and other channels (And my tendency to teach her wrong things. Don’t judge; that’s what aunts are for!), Sana says, “Talk to the Hand,” in a really colloquial way!

Separate story: I am working on this particular piece, which is centered on Pune, India in the 1990s—the time when I was in college. Anyways, I ended up using the phrase “She was weirded out” in one of the scenes/moments. On reading the piece, my editor raised an eyebrow: “Really? People in Pune said ‘weirded out’ in the 90s?” Of course, I used the line because I personally use the word, “weird,”a lot, now. But was the expression valid a decade ago? Hmmm. The query got me thinking. I remember repeating “sick” and “scary” but not “weird.”  I thought hard and conceded that my editor was right. We didn’t use the American lingo then because the world wasn’t as global. Come to think of it, every metro in the 90s had its own, unique, specific slang.

What’s interesting to me is how with time, the geographic boundaries have become irrelevant (Well, almost). American English has permeated cultures. I hear my friends in India use words like “Dude,” “Dawg”, and “ ‘Sup.” My ten-year old niece, Diya and her friend, Mehek (Both of them live in Singapore) have started a blog (Yup. Talk about the technologically-savvy generation), and their blog is called I don’t want to ruin the surprise by sharing too much but check it out when you have a moment. I mean, the blog, true to its name, delves into the pre-teen generation’s disparate use of jargons. Their blog focuses on the chosen word, “weird.” The writings sound like a conversation I overhear, on the subway, amongst adolescents. A snippet of the blog: “HE IS THE WIERDEST WIERDO IN THE HISTORY OF WIERDNESS !!!!!” COOL !!!!!!!!!!!!!"

More until next time.



Copyright © 08.14.2009

“We have really everything in common with America nowadays except, of course, language” – Oscar Wilde

Thursday, August 6, 2009


Today, Thursday, August 6th, I will be reading some of my new work at Kiva Cafe, in Tribeca, along with three other poets. I am excited, and I hope you'll be able to join me. It's an intimate (rather small) cafe, so if you decide to indulge me with your presence, you might want to get there early to grab a seat. The readings start at 8p.m. I am on second on the list and should be done by 8:30p.m. or so. There is no cover charge, and the cafe serves reasonably priced food and drinks!

kiva cafe
139 Reade Street
New York, NY 10013

Call: 212-587-1198

Friday, July 24, 2009

How is it the victim’s fault?

This morning I read a horrific story about an eight-year-old girl. She was brutally raped, by four boys in Arizona, for ten to fifteen minutes! The boys, ages 9, 10, 13 and 14, lured the girl to a vacant shed by offering her chewing gum. And the rest, as mature readers, I am sure you can infer.

But the girl’s parents, West African immigrants, accused her of bringing shame to their family. They alluded that the eight-year-old was responsible for the reprehensible act. And now the girl’s family doesn’t want anything to do with this child. Yes, child. She is a child for god sakes! It’s her age to play with Barbie and nurse-doctor and read fun books; not sit shunned in some governmental facility because of being ostracized by her own people! Because her culture believes that rape is the victim’s fault!  I wonder if this baby will ever heal fully.

According to statistics, disgustingly, India isn’t lagging behind—just behind America and South Africa! The National Crime Records Bureau shows that almost 2.37 rapes happen every hour in India! And even in South Asian culture, rape is considered the sufferer’s liability. ‘She dresses like that,’ or ‘She is a fast girl,’ or ‘Why did she hang out with boys?’ Forget supporting, victims are treated as damaged goods and often asked to end their lives or leave their families and fend for themselves. Why? Because we are a pretentious and shame-conscious culture.  It also seems like the perpetrator’s manhood is celebrated when he commits the unforgiveable act. But shouldn’t the doer be ashamed of their gruesome thoughts and acts? Made to feel responsible? Why should the injured party apologize? Does a victim of theft or robbery act contrite after being robbed? As Freda Atler said, “Rape is the only crime in which the victim becomes the accused.”

It bothers me when people quote culture to suit their convenience. I mean, how can any culture hold the victim responsible but not the rapist? And women mutely accept inhumane verdict from their so-called dear ones because they don’t know any different. They haven’t been empowered.

In the third world, at least, the one emotion women are taught to constantly feel is guilt. If you are of marriageable age but can’t find an alliance, you are made to feel culpable; if you can’t bear sons, you are held responsible even thought the Y chromosome comes from the man; if you don’t want to get tied down to being a wife and a mother, you are made to feel negligent; if you are assaulted, you are accused of bringing it upon yourself.  

Often, rape cases aren’t reported in developing and under-developed countries because women fear the repercussions. The attitudes need to change, and it has to come from families. If parents focused on humanizing their sons instead of blaming their daughters and holding them to ridiculous standards, the world would be a lot saner!

More until next time.



Copyright © 07.24.2009

"Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one's definition of your life, but define yourself." Harvey S. Firestone

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Are they bitchier?

Let me cut to the point and add a disclaimer, if I may, before you begin to read this post. I am not trying to be a feminist, a human rights activist, or a gender-equality opportunist; a humorist, yes maybe that. That's what I am trying to be.

Incessant channel flipping the other night made me pause on one television show - Desperate Housewives. I used to watch the show at one point, but like most other shows that get stretched over seasons (Grey's Anatomy-another example), Desperate Housewives got tedious, at least for me. But watching the rerun of one of the episodes got me thinking about the preconceived notions attached to housewives or women in general. Here is the deal: Society is harsher on women. Period. Again, read my disclaimer before you ascertain the direction of this post. So, where was I? As a woman, if you aspire to have a career, you're derided for being an ambitious, self-centered home wrecker; but, if you decide to be a homemaker, you're ridiculed, misrepresented and called an unconfident dimwit. Hell, you have quite a few reality shows too based on housewives (Real Housewives of Orange County, New York, New Jersey, and so forth). It’s a lose-lose situation.

See, my mantra is equality, so I don’t think it’s fair to deprive men of microscopic surveillance when we take an unreasonable amount of time to categorize women. Right? According to one of the radio stations, the number of men staying at home and taking care of the family is twice than the number from two years ago. I say kudos to them but how come there is no television show on them? I have always wondered what it would be like to see househusbands on the idiot box. I mean, media represents the stereotypes best.

If working women are portrayed as aggressive hounds when they try to prove themselves equal to their male counterparts by choosing the path of intellectuality over sexuality in their workplace, then shouldn’t househusbands be typecast as a bitchier version of their female equivalents? Homemakers with testosterone and aprons? After all, they are trying to fit in a female dominated world, right? Traditionally, men didn’t belong in the nurturing world, so to prove their competence, will they do whatever it takes to succeed? Will they be folks who can nag, bicker, and complain more than five emotional women put together? Throw tantrums and turn the house upside down for reasons unknown? Will they be categorized and chastised, like housewives, and asked to prove their mettle, over and over again, like working women? I don't know why, but even without statistical data and facts, I have a sense of how it'll all pan out.

More until next time.

Copyright © 07.23.2009

"An ideal wife is any woman who has an ideal husband"- Booth Tarkington

Sunday, July 19, 2009

When can you do it?

Apologies, I have been a tad irregular with my posts off late. I am working on a big deadline, and I just haven’t had the time or energy to pen my thoughts in the ‘Pandora’s section.’ One fine day, I recognized my over-commitment, and decided to give myself a pamper-session -- in a girlie sort of way. I decided to go to a nail salon and indulge in an invigorating manicure/pedicure. Ironically, I was editing some material while getting a pedicure. Talk about tragedies.

Anyways, enough about me. At the salon, I saw a mother-daughter duo waiting their turn. From the conversations, I found out that the girl was about eight years old, and the mother was a business executive. I assumed the kid was accompanying her mom and updating her on stuff at school. But apparently that wasn’t it. The mother had brought her daughter, to the salon, for a manicure and pedicure. The hoity-toity daughter picked out nail polishes for herself – a different color for her feet and hands. It didn’t end there. I almost died when the mom told the manicurist that she’d like to pay for a thirty-minute massage session for her daughter. I told myself that the aforementioned case was probably an aberration and not the norm.  But I was wrong. The salon owner shared that she has several female clients, who prefer to spend their Saturdays, with their young daughters, getting a French manicure and massages. What? What? What? What stress does an eight-year old have? What muscles could she have injured? What toxins does a kid, on three-month summer break, need to release?

I have heard of spas for children. But then I have seen spas for dogs near my office. I always figured degenerates with too much time and unaccountable wealth use such facilities. Not regular people. I remember watching this documentary once that delved into how in some parts of bucolic America, moms celebrate their pre-teen daughter's’ birthdays at child friendly spas. They take their own kid and the daughters’ friends for a session of manicure and pedicure. And maybe throw in few extra frills with special massages or chocolate covered pedicure etc. etc. I saw a kid lick the gooey decadence from her own face once. Ummm. What else do you expect from someone who hasn’t even hit biology books at school yet?

What happened to good ol’ baking and reading a book together to strengthen the maternal bond? Or throwing a theme-based birthday party or taking your kid’s friends to the movies? I understand mothers today are busier than my mother’s generation (given most women from my generation work and lead an individual life and manage homes and don’t stop being a person etc. etc.), but that’s no reason to compromise on how you spend time with your family. It’s like taking your six-year old to an adult Saturday night party and giving her a beer because you are drinking wine and trying to make the most of your time—with friends and family. How bizarre is that?

At eight, I was a chubby kid, who wore a frock my Mom had picked out for me. I had food and extra curricular activities on my mind and not boys. And part of the reason was that I wasn’t ever introduced to mantras like ‘beauty’ and ‘pretty.’ I appreciated my ignorance. Why should a child feel conscious of their looks? Having a say in what they wear is one thing; but I feel what’s happening now, is scary. It boggles my mind that parents think it’s okay to familiarize their daughters with vanity at such a young age. These pre-teens have their entire lives to beautify themselves and look attractive, but isn’t eight a little too soon? But then again, what is the apt age? Are we taking Oscar Wilde’s words too seriously: “To me, Beauty is the wonder of wonders...It is only shallow people who do not judge by appearances.”

More until next time.


Copyright © 07.19.2009

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Can a legend ever die?

I was introduced to Michael Jackson's music by my brother. I can’t exactly remember how old I was, but I do remember that he and I were in school then. See, we both went to boarding schools, 28 kilometers away from each other, in the northern part of India. His was in a valley; mine was stuffed inside a hill station. My brother's really close friend, who lived in South Africa then, would download/ record the latest music releases on cassettes for my brother and bring them to school after vacation. Of course, I would listen to them on our next vacation when my brother brought those cassettes home. I pretty much lagged behind by a year. When people were dancing to George Michael’s FAITH, I was shaking it up to WHAM. Hey don't judge. India wasn't all that global then, and I was on a boarder’s budget. Plus, we went to Libya for our vacations since our parents lived there. In Libya, we got one TV channel—RAI TV, from Italy. I grew up watching Italian shows that I didn’t comprehend. I learnt *interesting* Italian gestures at a very young age. It wasn’t until I went to visit my brother in Milan (He was doing his MBA from SDA Boconi) that I realized how many “uh-oh” gestures I had learnt. So, unless there was an American concert happening in Italy, RAI TV didn’t think much about showing newly released American music videos. Or at least I don’t remember seeing it. Maybe my parents sneaked in “subtle-censorship?” Come to think of it, no country can play soccer 365 days of the year, and we always had soccer on that beloved channel.:-)

Anyhoo. Like most kids from my generation, I swooned over MJ. His music and posters were crazy popular in India towards the end of 80s and beginning 90s. Everyone who was cool knew the words to BAD. I remember a cousin of mine had this huge wall-size poster of MJ, from BAD, in his bedroom. The way the poster was positioned was a bit scary. That was the first thing you saw at the threshold of his room. The first time you entered his room, your heart would skip a beat. My aunt would always call MJ, “daraavna” (scary). I think it was one of the American publications that said, “It’s only in America that a poor, black man can turn into a rich, white woman.”

The music from BAD echoed with my generations’ heartbeat. He cried, we cried. He danced; we all tried making a fool of ourselves with decrepit steps. But we were all MJized the way my parents generation was ABBAized. I am still jealous of my husband because he got to watch MJ perform live in Bombay. How cool is that!

Until recently, I didn’t realize the impact MJ had on the generation after us. About ten days ago when I was talking to my ten-year old niece in Singapore, she brought up MJ. She genuinely sounded low when she said, “Bua, you know, Michael Jackson is dead.” She truly sounded devastated -- in a 10-year old sort of way. It’s not like she is into his music, but she knew him in a legendary sort of way. The way I know about bands that cater to her age (Jonas Brothers?) That was the moment when I truly accepted the aura of Michael Jackson.

My sentiments echo with Diddy - “Michael Jackson showed me that you can actually see the beat. He made the music come to life!! He made me believe in magic. I will miss him!”

More until next time.

Copyright © 07.09.2009

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Suppressing Voices!

In my poetry workshop the other night, a classmate asked if I was going to blog about Iran at all. I promised him that I would. The reason I haven’t so far is because the Iran-mayhem has evoked multitude of emotions.

My ex-boss, who I adore, is an Iranian Jew. He and his family fled Iran when the Islamic Revolution took place. They somehow managed to escape from the country and after spending years of nomadic life, across continents, they finally settled down in the US. I have mostly heard voices of trauma and bitterness in his stories. Can you blame him? Indians and Pakistanis, who were affected by partition, still have unhealed wounds from sixty years ago. This is a man, who had to abandon his identity overnight, without a land in sight.

I recently read Iranian author, Azar Nafisi’s memoir, “Things I Have Been Silent About”. In her book, Nafisi talks about life of opulence and decadence in Iran during the Shah’s times. I saw pictures of the author and her mother in elegant, off-shoulder French outfits, in a nation, where women today have to compulsorily wear head scarves. How can a culture be so retrogressive? Nafisi left Iran because she refused to wear a headscarf per the laws of the Islamic fundamentalist government.

It’s awful that Neda Agha-Soltan, a twenty-six year old bystander, was shot in the chest last week when she and her music instructor got out of the car to catch a breath of fresh air as it was hot in her car. Ironically, Neda wasn’t supporting either of the political parties in Iran. What angers me more is that Neda Agha-Soltan was on her way back from “underground” music classes as women in Iran are forbidden from public singing. How can any human or religion deny life’s simplest pleasures like music or dancing to another human being? Doesn’t that qualify for violation of human rights?

Last night I had the opportunity to meet and hear Taslima Nasrin and Ma Thida. Nasrin, a Bangladeshi ex-doctor turned author, has been living in exile since 1994. The Muslim fundamentalists blacklisted her because she is not scared to express her voice. Today, she is banned from both Bangladesh and India. She stands for freedom of thought and equality for women. How is that wrong? Nasrin shared stories of atrocities committed against women in Bangladesh—the ones she witnessed as a doctor. I could feel my blood curdle. Thida, a Burmese surgeon and a writer, was imprisoned for close to six years in Burma because her writings reflected a voice that the Burmese government wanted to suppress. Both these human rights activists might have found shelter in the United States, but they long to go home to fulfill their purpose.

I heard a man, from Swaziland, the other night; he told stories about how men in his country are allowed to keep as many wives as they want. Women aren’t allowed to say a word. Today, these women have all been infected with HIV and in some cases, AIDS. If I understood his woes correctly, these women don’t even know that they have a right to voice.

I am perturbed because, even today, women in several parts of the world are still treated as mute objects. There is no obvious critical mass of people to stop this carnage against them. Educating women is the first step to a better society but empowering women will lead to an equal society. How hard is that to follow?

More until next time.

Copyright © 06.25.2009

“Discrimination is a disease” - Roger Staubach

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Experience of a lifetime

“How was it?” “Tell me about it ASAP!” From friends to family members to a few coworkers, (who know about my writing commitments), everyone has been asking about my trip to Chicago. I was there from June 11-14, 2009 attending Kriti Festival. I was one of the panelists. In a nutshell, Kriti is a South Asian literary festival, which provides four days of non-stop literati adventure.

The festival commenced at the organizer, Mary Anne’s, residence. Scones with clotted crème, varieties of gourmet tea, and interesting group of writers perfectly complimented the gray, English afternoon. I felt I was part of the Jane Austen club. The evening took a South Asian turn at the University of Illinois at Chicago campus where a bunch of us read our works (Rapid Fire Reading) over delicious samosas and mithai. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday revolved around panel discussions, readings, dance and play performances, interaction with gurus in the field, ego boasting by newly acquired fans, further samosa binging, and bonding with peers. Humor, candidness, and experience flooded the rooms.

Listening to people, on panels whose topics I had initially dismissed as uninteresting, was an enriching experience. Lesson learnt: people make panels enjoyable; not topics. The keynote panel was like a jugalbandi between three literature legacies - Romesh Gunesekera, Amitava Kumar, and Bapsi Sidhwa. They each read from the writings of an author they admired and suggested books (My list of good summer read). The name, “V.S. Naipaul” did come up a few times, but the keynote panelists’ egos and personalities remained grounded.

Like a school girl, I felt I had earned my headmistress’s approval (flashback to boarding school days in Mussoorie) when Bapsi mentioned that she really liked my name. Ironically, one of the next essays that I am working on is based on the issues I have with my name.  It felt surreal when I got to discuss another one of my pieces with Amitava Kumar. Like Mary Anne mentioned, I too heard confessions of harmless, “Amitava-ogling.” J I am not familiar with Romesh Gunesekera’s work, so I can’t wait to read my autographed copy his first book, Reef.

Anyways, with tons of books, dreams, and memories, when I reached New York on Sunday evening, I was both sad and pleased. Sad because I had bid adieu to Chicago and the incredible bunch of people and pleased because over those four days, I found inspiration for two personal essays, a few poems, and this blog.

More until next time.

Copyright © 06.18.2009

“The difference between literature and journalism is that journalism is unreadable and literature is not read” - Oscar Wilde


Sunday, June 14, 2009

Back from Heaven!

Sorry for no blog posts last Thursday  and thanks for the sweet notes saying you missed my rants. I was in Chicago, at a literary festival, as one of the panelists. I will blog about the event, in details, this coming week as a snippet wouldn't do justice to this spectacular event. In the meantime, if you'd like, browse through for the event details.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Mind Your Own Business

We live in an over communicated world where most people feel entitled to an opinion on just about anything. “Have mouth; must speak.” Nothing wrong with expressing what’s on your mind but in a civilized society, there have to be parameters. What happened to “Live and let live?” Two people don’t have to agree on the same issue or feel the exact same way to co-exist in this society. Mutual respect should be enough to tide us through life.

So, where is my sarcasm stemming from? Most of you must have read or heard about the California Supreme Court’s stance on same-sex marriages. Up until now, I haven’t really written about the “trials and triumphs” of the gay community because my blog posts are opinions based on my experiences. I wondered if I would do true justice to an issue that I truly have no real knowledge about. But the California incident made me upset, as a human, and gave me the reason to embrace malignant honestitis, grab my verbal megaphone, and rant.

A simple question: As humans, what is our problem? Why do we feel so threatened by anyone who is different from us? Someone said to me the other day, “But how can two men be together? Yuck! It’s unnatural.” I was baffled both by the candidness and the undertone of bigotry. So, it’s politically inappropriate to bring up “color” and “race” in social settings, but it’s okay to openly condemn same-sex marriage? Why the double standards?

Let’s get real: We all like to believe that marriages last forever, but statistics and real world stories show that a marriage between man and woman doesn’t always translate to “forever and ever.” As an example, look at the divorce rate in America. Research says that forty or fifty percent of marriages might end in divorce if the current trend continues. The divorce rates in India might be lower than America, but it's on the rise. Up until a few years ago, at least for Indians, divorce was something that happened to a friend’s friend’s acquaintance; but today, separations have penetrated our inner circle of friends. So, it’s okay for us heteros to get wedded and then annul the nuptials but not acceptable for same-sex couples to enter into matrimony? Hmm. Why don’t we work on our own lives and save our relationships before lashing out at someone else’s preferences?

According to the religious pundits and the constitution, “Marriage is the union between a man and a woman.” Maybe so, but I am unsure how and why the state or the church get involved in someone’s life choices. Do they tell us heterosexuals whom we can or can’t marry? Do these people, who serve God (in any religion), really hold everything written in the religious books sacred to their heart? If that were the case, we wouldn’t have pedophiles in places of worship. Or what about these cases of schoolteachers raping minors or sports coaches molesting malleable minds?

I have heard a lot of straight guys confess that they are paranoid about gay dudes hitting on them. Talk about being full of yourself. The whole thought process reeks of ignorance and absurdity--and maybe a little sanctimonious. Do these heterosexuals hit on every single member of the opposite sex? I hardly think so. If in the hetero world we are picky about whom we befriend, date, and marry, so why assume it’s any different in the gay community? They too are humans with standards.

If I have my numbers right, as of today, there are six states in America that recognize gay marriages. Is it fair that straight people are entitled to freedom of choice (in terms of matrimony) and the gay community isn’t? My plea is that you don’t have to “get” their choices; just let them be. There are enough aspects of life that we don’t understand (For example, I don’t get the art or charm of smoking) but we go about our day out of respect for humanity. Freedom is freedom and should be the same for all.

More until next time.


Copyright © 06.04.2009

“Tolerance is giving to every other human being every right that you claim for yourself.”- Robert Green Ingersoll

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Who am I?

When my brother and I were growing up, my mother always said, “With age, your roots call out to you.” Of course, as a teenager, I shrugged her postulation, but today, I concede. She was right. Over the years, I feel the Indian in me has become thirsty and wants to find out about my ancestry. I mean, I know what I was told, but there has to be more. For instance, a little while ago, I found out that Birbal, one of the gems in Mughal emperor Akbar’s court, was a Kayastha— the same core pedigree as mine. I couldn’t care less about the Hindu caste system or religious faith, but I was excited beyond human comprehension about this possible linkage. Birbal’s wit and intelligence is something that I have always been in awe of. I wanted to explore the idea of a possible link between Birbal and my family, if any. But, with no grandparents alive, who do I turn to for anecdotes or the truth behind the family tree?

A couple of weeks ago, I met a young writer, Sadia Shepard at a reading – an intimate group of attendees with a handful of impressive authors. It was one of those evenings that’s embossed permanently on my soul. As Sadia read through pages of her first book, The Girl from Foreign, I instantly knew I wanted to buy her work. Her eloquence had the audience spellbound. Like others present, I too felt a connection but to her quest and desire to seek answers about her heritage. Not to give away the core essence of the book, Sadia grew up with three parents and three religions—a Jewish Indian (by birth)/ Pakistani Muslim (by marriage) maternal grandmother, Nana, a Pakistani Muslim mother, and a white, Christian father. Post her grandmother's death, to honor her last wishes, Sadia, a Fullbright scholar, spent years in Bombay researching and documenting her Nana’s Bene Israeli heritage. I was impressed by her gesture and feelings towards her grandparent. In some ways, The Girl from Foreign, which I finished in less than two days and totally recommend, made me feel both guilty and jealous.

Guilty: My generation in India mostly grew up in nuclear families with just parents and siblings. Remember the slogan depicting a family of four—“Hum do hamaare do?” There were occasional visits from the grandparents, aunts, and uncles, but it wasn’t like everyone lived under one roof. Despite the changing societal structure, the culture taught you to respect your elders. Respect is one thing but can anyone teach you to feel attached to another human being? Respect and love isn’t one and the same thing. Even though I enjoyed having relatives over and am still close to my cousins, I don’t think I am emotionally dependent on any of them. In her last few years, my father’s mother, dadi , lived with my parents, but I saw her only when I came home for holidays. Even then, I loved her presence and the smell of tradition, but I think it was more respect and less adulation. I didn’t feel any nostalgia when she wasn’t around and even if I did, it was for a few moments. Life went on.

Sometimes I wonder if my emotions have a pragmatic equation because I grew up in hostels. I live by “It is what it is.” But then I spoke with other friends, who grew up at home, and it seems a significant number of people from my generation lack that devotion and fire that Sadia felt towards her grandmother.

Jealous: My husband’s attachment to his paternal grandparents, Baba and Dadi, is somewhat similar to Sadia Shephard’s to her Nana. My husband spent his formative years with his paternal grandparents. They taught him to walk, ride the bicycle, and solve math problems. I distinctly remember the first time we went back to India on vacation; we visited my husband’s Baba and Dadi before we flew to Bombay to meet his own parents. I was shocked yet enamored by his actions because I didn’t grow up with that passion like him or Sadia, for the extended family. Actually, both of them aren’t the norm but a pleasant minority.

When my grandparents were alive, I enjoyed their presence but didn’t do justice to their stories. As a writer, I feel guilty for not jotting down my grandparents’ anecdotes; as a human being, I am jealous of anyone, who shares that special bond with their grandparents. See, I don't have the dedication to make my grandparents’ wishes a cause for my life.

More until next time.

Copyright © 05.28.2009

"Cynic: a man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing" - Oscar Wilde