Archive: August 2012

Profile photo of Anita Ayela A Helping Hand!

maid“Oh I have a daily maid too!” Shilpa said and she got a lot of ‘wows’ from her friends. This incident would sound odd for any Indian living in India. Maids are part and parcel of the any house, as simple as buying milk, buying vegetables; so you buy the services of a maid. But labor is very expensive in the US and so affording a daily maid is like affording five star hotel stay in India!!

I feel that working women find life easier in the US than in India. Why so? It’s not just the 50 times more money that they earn here than they would in India. It’s not just that for sure! The microwave to warm your food, the dish-washer to wash your dirty dishes without the scrubbing, the washer to do your laundry not hurting your smooth palms, the dryer drying your clothes without straining to hang them out, are also the culprits! The refrigerators are more powerful and so food stays fresh for a day or two more than it would in India. The four burners for cooking eases the time for cooking, and the oven keeps your cholesterol in check if you bake instead of deep-fry.

But then a maid is a maid and I miss a maid’s services almost every day. The laziness that comes with the dishes sitting in the sink rolls over to the clothes in the basket crying to be folded. Trying my best to keep the house clean makes me lethargic to the carpet cleaning. When in my most depressed moods , thanks to the gloomy weather of Seattle, I earnestly wish I had a helping hand even to cut my vegetables or empty the dish washer!

Of course, there are women like Shilpa who are able to afford maids even in the US. But then not everyone has a double income and mortgage free homes at such an early age. Living in the US is not always living in the US alone because most of us have responsibilities and liabilities back in India too and fulfilling those takes away half of their life!

Monotonous burdens are always there for almost everyone in their life but wish everyone had an extra ‘hand’ to share their burdens too!!

Profile photo of Anita Ayela Education in the USA

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People say that when you learn something in childhood you don’t forget it ever. How true that is, is debatable. How many of us remember the scientific names of all the flowers or the names of different clouds in the sky? Learning or rather ’mugging’ before the exams is what I remember doing. Isn’t that what all of us who studied in India did way back then?

When my daughter came home from school one day and recited the names of all the bones in her body, explaining their use or function in the body, I was awed. She was in her 6th grade. After 3 three years she still remembers them,”mom, my patella (knee bone) is hurting” or “she hit my scapula(shoulder bone)”, she shouts at the top of her voice when she has a fight with her sis. I fall in a dilemma then, whether to check the dictionary or run to her and physically see where it hurts.

It is impressive how things are taught to kids here in the US schools, unlike how we learnt in India. Pictorial teaching is very effective especially when it is science. They remember things for a long time. After every lesson, they are asked to present some project to the class on that chapter. It could be a diorama, a chart presentation or powerpoint, anything that is part of the chapter and is interesting to the student as well as the class.

My third grader made her year-end book report on France in the form of a diorama. For that, she looked up on the internet, information about France, in addition to the book she was reading. Facts like how the statue of liberty was presented to the USA by France fascinated me, enriching my knowledge too.Crafting the Eiffel tower along with my kid and the color chart paper engaged me for two best days of my life! And now I also know the difference between a baguette and a beret too, know them enough to eat one and wear the other!

Learning-by-rote, cramming, mugging, whatever you may call it, sure gets you grades but doesn’t retain knowledge; practical learning does. A lot of young parents, first-timers to the education system in the US, fear that there is not much competition in this way of studies in the US. But, believe me, I have taught students here as well as in India, and competition is there here in the US too. Getting ‘A’ grade is as important for students here as getting 95% and above is for students in India!!

What say, guys? Now, is that grammatically correct or not? You need to check it out, right guys?!

Profile photo of Anita Ayela My first cultural shock!

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After spending a cool three decades of your life in India, moving gear to a totally new country like the USA is sure a change of a lifetime! In addition, if you are struck in the face with a cultural shock, it is all the more difficult to cope with the transition.

Believe me, my cultural shock didn’t come in the form of Californians wearing bikini tops and shorts to the super market. I knew the culture of America, and thanks to my avid reading habit, I knew what to expect. But, the immigrant Indians trying to copy Americans was a shock to me. The beautiful bhindis didn’t adorn their faces anymore, the salwars gave way to shorts and their hair welcomed shocking colors.

A smile escaped my lips when I saw a seemingly newly-wed couple in the Wal-Mart. The girl obviously had never worn anything short, not even her hair. And here she was trying to adjust her short skirt now and then, looking around to make sure that nobody noticed her long legs. The husband was trying to teach her to overcome her fears and ‘act’ normal. Her hair was short to her ears, what I presumed could have touched her waist for all I know, when she was in India. That was sure the tradition in the south of India to wear a girl’s hair long.

A lot of people have always asked me then, and still do sometimes even today-What is the little dot that I have on my forehead, which surprisingly looks like a tattoo to them! I simply say, “This is my culture”, they smile, admire it and walk away. Some of them, especially the ‘Iskon temple followers’, do know about India’s culture so much that they put a lot of us to shame more often. They come forward and say, “Isn’t that dot on your forehead a symbol of you being married? “Or “How did the colorful ‘bindis’ replace the traditional red dot? “, “Why do South Indians have a dot on their forehead whereas the North Indians have it in their hair-parting?” I explain as much as I can, knowing very well that as  much as our knowledge of our basic traditions is losing out in India, it is gaining popularity outside the country.

Now, this brings me to say that Indians who come to the US, immediately remove their bhindis, their magulsutrams and their toe-rings in order to become Americans. Knowing very well that our Indianess is writ on our face, no matter how we dress up, every lady starts to feel that a bindi would give away her country of origin! Now, I would never understand what is wrong in being an Indian!! Jeans don’t go with sindoor, toe rings don’t go with stilettos and mangalsutra shows in a tee. Nice excuses, indeed!

Even today, Americans look up to India for its rich culture, and our immense traditional living. Indian girls who look and behave Indian are given more ‘looks’ than girls trying to eat burgers with forks and mouthing ‘you-know-what-I-mean’ for no reason. I know this because, when I wear a sari and walk to my car, all the Americans around my house give me admiring looks.

The totally unknown culture or a little knowledge of any culture always arouses curiosity in people. Cultural differences will always be there, but culture and traditions shouldn’t change for anyone for the sake of changing. After 12 years of living in this country, I don’t think I have changed much except for a little accent now. My tee shirts have matching color bhindis, my toe-rings cozily hug my toes, and my mangalsutram plays lovingly on my bosom. And I have the most American friends ever possible , partying at my house, eating ‘samosas’ along with Caesar salad ; dancing to ‘kaho na pyar hai’ and admiring my kurtis worn over the jeans!!

This is culture for me. This is how I want to be known as,an Indian!You know what I mean, don’t you?!!

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