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Festivities all around!

8149144784_c28eee8649_zDusserra’ was just round the corner, Halloween tricked us by, ‘Diwali’ is at a stone’s throw away and then, ‘Thanksgiving’ would march by. It is always overwhelming to celebrate so many festivals in the US. My kids enjoy all the festivals as much as I did when I was a kid.  Enjoying Thanksgiving and Christmas with friends is a very common sight in the US. Dressing up for Green hog day or for Halloween is part of life now. But, I feel that it is very important for our kids to know the significance of each of our Indian festivals too.
With the overwhelming festive season all around me, I thought that going with the flow would be exciting and so thought of sharing my thoughts about it. Festivals of any country reflect the culture and traditions of the people of that country. Every country has its own share of festivals and festivities. Come to think of it, we celebrate Halloween and we celebrate Diwali for two different reasons, but they are a little similar, the jack-o-lanterns replace the diyas. Isn’t it interesting to know that Halloween is celebrated to wade of the evil spirits in harvest season and we celebrate Diwali because we were rid of Narakasur, an evil demon?!!
Bringing up kids in a non- religious country like the USA is a difficult job, especially when we Indians are from a religious way of life. There is a certainty and clarity about birthdays everywhere. But, when it comes to festivals of India, most of the kids born and brought up in the USA don’t know much about them.  There are families who are religious and perform pujas religiously, but they fail to involve their kids. And there are yet some who don’t believe in rituals and so don’t celebrate any festivals. All they do is go to the temple once in a while and that too when the kids are at their dance class or at play dates.
Actually, there is always a feeling that people become more religious and follow rituals when they are out of their country or rather, in a foreign land. But it is not always true;this holds good only for a certain percentage of people, the ones that you see regularly in the temples. I strongly believe that wherever you are, kids need to know and follow the rituals of the house to some extent. My point is that if there is any festival celebration in the house, the kids should be involved. Let them know that Krishna was born on Janmastami, that Durga killed mahishasura on Durgastami, or why rakhi is celebrated and why Diwali is celebrated.
When we were kids, being brought up in the Orissa instead of Andhra Pradesh didn’t in any way hamper our celebrations of our festivals. Not only our Telugu festivals, but also we knew and celebrated the festivals of Orissa. ‘Sankranthi’, the harvest festival of Andhra was a big celebration for us in my house, as much as Jaganath Ratha Yatra was in the community. A festival called ‘rajjo’ which is celebrated for the girls of the house in Orissa was celebrated by my mom for me. It is said that Lakshmi , or Mother Earth, ‘comes to age’ on this day and so is celebrated by women  for 3 days. Obviously, being a curious girl, I always asked my mom specifically why any particular festival is celebrated. That very curiosity is missing in our kids today and as parents I believe that it is in my hands to arouse that curiosity or keep the knowledge of festivals intact in the kids’ minds.
The eating of sweets for festivals shouldn’t be the only thing in my kids’ minds, they need to know why modak is made on Ganesh puja, why neem and mango chutney is made on ‘Ugadhi’ which is Telugu New Year’s day. For me it is as important for them to know that I make nine varieties of sweetmeats on Sravan month’s Fridays , as they know that Turkey is cooked for Thanksgiving on a Thursday! And you bet, they do!
I remember when my older daughter was in Pre-school, I was volunteering for Easter there. I was surprised when a white lady, one of the kids’ parents asked me why ‘easter’ was celebrated. Thanking all my ‘Moral Science’ classes in school in India, I told her about it and she was as surprised to know about it from me as I was to know that she didn’t know!! I sure don’t want my kids to go back to India and ask people there why ‘Sankranthi’ is celebrated or why we play with colors on ‘Holi’.
My daughters don’t have a brother, but they know the importance of Rakhi and tie one to their cousins. My kids search the moon for me from amongst the Seattle clouds for my ‘Karvachauth’ as much as they search for Halloween costumes in the stores. They love going to the temple for Diwali to play with ‘sparklers’ as much as they love to watch the July 4thfireworks. Isn’t that what it is all about, mould ourselves to the country we are in, though keeping our country’s culture intact?!!

"Electronically Yours"

I sat down one day with all work done and totally bored! I thought of catching up with friends and/or cousins, whoever is good enough to pick up my call! After half an hour of talking to every lady on the ‘voice mail’ of every phone I tried, I gave up! Looks like no human voices are available anymore to talk to, it is all electronics dear!
I see my teenager always playing with her fingers on her touch screen mobile and wonder what is it that she texts away. When the curiosity has killed the cat to a total pulp, I jump at her and ask her one day, “what’s it that you text every minute?” “Well mom, whatever we want to talk, we text.” “And why so?” I ask, not understanding the concept at all. “Oh, it is easier to text than talk and anyways, phones are so outdated mom!” She surprises me a lot these days!
It is very surprising for me to even think that people don’t want to talk with each other anymore. I see even spouses’ text each other sitting in the same room. Oh well, they are in a party and maybe want to share some ‘sweet nothings’, I console myself. But, this might not be the case always. Someday, when you peep into the mobile of the lady next to you in a party texting to her husband, you might be knocked out. “Did you put your clothes in the dryer before coming here?” or “where did you leave the salt container last night after your drink party, I didn’t find it in the morning when cooking?” could throw all your ‘lovable’ assumptions to the wind.
I know of people close to me too who love to write emails rather than talk. They would rather chat with you electronically than speak with you over the phone. Now-a-days, a lot of families, where husband and wife both work, they don’t even have a phone connection at home. They manage with their cell phones or tablets or iPads as all they want is to text with one hand and drive with the other. Or sit in the meeting and text under the table, even if they have to do it with one hand.
I vividly remember when I was a kid, and having telephone in the house was a rarity but we had one at home, and it was so special. I used to call up my friends for some doubts in homework and end up talking about all things irrelevant to our studies. It was fun sharing incidents, joking about school in general and boys in particular. Do kids today share this joy anymore? Wish they did!
It wouldn’t be exaggerating if I said that I have a lot of cousins and friends in this country and I haven’t heard their voice in ages now. I see their pictures on social networks, I get to know about their well being in emails, we wish each other on birthdays and anniversaries electronically. Now, they exist only electronically for me, no more any ‘human’ touch to them.
For me, spoken words are special. . I love to meet people and I love to talk; I love to listen to people talk too. How I wish we would go back to those days when talking over the phone long-distance was an achievement by itself. Now all I hear people saying is that “Phone is a bad way to reach us, try email or texting!” The phone is exclusively for the ‘telemarketers’ now, isn’t that so?
In spite of all this, I still call up my parents, my brothers and my close friends and talk for hours! And of course my husband is always a ‘phone call away’. We still sit and talk to each other and laugh our hearts out when we are together every day! I would love it to be this way for ages to come, so that ‘Electronics’ is some distance away from my family and ‘voices’ are heard always!



It is overwhelming at times when I think of ‘Thanksgiving’ and why it is celebrated in the US. The origin of Thanksgiving is generally seen as a celebration by the Pilgrims of their survival due to a good harvest mostly because of knowledge provided by the Native Americans who knew the lay of the land. But for me, it has always been something different, it was as if everyone was ‘thanking’ for being alive, or rather, for having a life! And, of course, when we talk about ‘Thanksgiving’, reminiscence is not left behind either!

Every Thanksgiving, everyone has to ‘Thank’ themselves for all the memories they have created down the road. In my opinion, memories are the only wealth that makes our lives rich! When we talk to the elderly people they tell you more about their childhood and youth than their life at present. They might lose their teeth, their eye sight, and might forget what they ate that morning, but their memories of days gone by them ages ago are always intact in their mind. Am I growing old too that I am talking of childhood memories?! Maybe I am! Maybe not! Maybe I’m just nostalgic and so I write…

It is not exaggerating to say that I remember the first time I experienced physical pain as if it was yesterday. Clichéd but true! I don’t remember the pain but the source and the situation are clear… my foot got into the front wheel of a bicycle as my dad’s man Friday drove me home from school. I was sitting on the ‘baby’ seat on the front of the bicycle and he was riding it pretty fast. I was carried home after we fell and my mom was in tears when she saw me bleeding! I was in kindergarten then! And I can never ‘Thank’ her enough for always ‘picking me up’ since then, whenever I fell…

It is funny how I taught my kids to ride a bicycle in a couple of hours, while I had taken two weeks to learn it. I was very particular that I learn it myself and my dad encouraged me. Even at an age where I was in the fifth grade, my thoughts were way different than others. I would sit on the carriage seat of the little red bicycle I had and try to balance. It was easier that way as my foot would reach the ground and the chances of my falling down were less. I ultimately learnt to balance, and ‘Thanks’ to my dad, he helped me on to the actual seat and gave me a push! Wee… I rode and rode and rode to school, and back, till my twelfth grade! Need I say that since then, my Dad has always given me that little ‘push’ to achieve anything!

Small things create big memories. What seems important for one would be a trivial thing for another. But, when you are a teenager, every look thrown in your direction makes you blush, everyone who praises you becomes your friend and every pat on the back enthralls you. And when all the three come from the same person, it turns into admiration. It was difficult to think then, whether it was the love for ‘English’ or for the one who taught it, that made me concentrate more in that particular class. Whatever it may have been, ‘Thanks’ to my English teacher in Middle School, I am what I am today, an English teacher!

Living life is one thing and enjoying life is another… ‘Bunking’ classes, ‘giggling’ for nothing, ‘teasing’ boys, ‘naming ‘the lecturers, skipping lunch to have ‘chat’…. I would have deprived myself of these, if I hadn’t stayed in a hostel for higher studies. Fun is a small word when the beaches are part of your landscape from your room, the sound of the waves is your alarm clock, and the smiles of your friends first thing in the morning are your meditation. I should ‘thank’ myself for getting to study in that University, where the hostel rooms faced the beach and the changing colors of the sky and sea were my constant companions.

A little flashback before getting into this University would be appropriate when I ‘thank’ my stars. It was for the entrance exam of this course and University that made me travel all by myself in the train. And lo and behold! I met my future there! Looking back, I strongly feel that fate and coincidences are not story-book fantasies, they happen in real life too. My future in-laws along with my future husband were my co-passengers and since then, they have been so. ‘Thanks’ to my husband who took pains to woo me with his incessant sweet banter, and for walking with me since then through thick and thin. A train led to a train of encounters, ‘colliding’ into love and traversing in the direction of wedlock.

When I look at a lot of couples who crave every day and are desperately waiting to get a ‘boon’ from Above to get to be known as parents, I feel so blessed and ‘thank’ God for it. Going to the edge of ‘no return’ and then, bouncing back and that too with a baby in hand, is amazing. Today, I feel all the pain, every critical situation was worth it, when I look at my beautifully growing kids.

Somewhere along the way, everybody has an ‘influence’ of a ‘Hero’, whom you emulate and follow with admiring looks. For me she was the sole inspiration and the ‘perfect heroine’ to learn from. For her age and generation, my Granny was very forward in thinking. ‘Thanks’ to her, I learnt a lot about life and also, believe it or not, Fashion! Even today, when I think that my being in the US has cost me by not being able to have a last glimpse of her before she walked away into the other world, my heart becomes heavy.

‘Thanking’ people and their role in your life is the real ‘giving’ respect to them. But there would be some moments too, which are to be appreciated in life. I’m sure everyone would have a moment in their life which makes them say, “This is it! “, a moment when you think, if life is taken away from you right then, you are fine! When I stepped onto the deck of the building from the elevator to see the Niagara Falls for the first time, I was awestruck! Staring at the grandeur, all I could think was “Thank God, I’m alive!”

Growing Kids in the US!

download (1)It is so difficult at times to tell our kids about India’s culture in one breathe, as it is so vast! Being from a conservative country as India, it is all the more difficult to get used to the ways and means of life in the US. I remember when my kid was stepping into the middle school and she had just learnt about ‘FLASH’ in 5th grade. ‘FLASH’ is sex education given to all students with the permission of the parents.

Parents are first asked to watch it themselves and then with the parents’ written permission the kids are shown the videos. Come to think of it, my daughter was just 10 when in 5th and I found it a little odd for her to know about menstruation, growing parts of the body and reproduction. But then, I found it logical that she too should know about it if her whole class is going to learn about it. It is all the more destructive to know such issues from friends instead of the proper source.

I knew that a few of her friends had ‘boyfriends’ in 5th grade itself!!! As I have been living in this country for 12 years now, this didn’t come as a shock to me. But realization dawned on me that I now had the need to tell my angel about the culture and traditions of India. I let her know in strong words that ‘We are Indians’ and ‘We are different from Americans’. Having boyfriends, dating is all taboo in India and such things wouldn’t be tolerated in our house. Though she is sensitive, she is smart too, and hence she understood my stand point.

Before she could question me, I told her that my husband and I dated when both of us had an education and got married after having a job. I’m sure she got my point very well. Having said that, I have trust in her and I have never behaved like a suspicious mom ever. I always feel that kids need to be given that space and they need to learn from the small mistakes that they make. Of course, if the mistakes are big, they would for sure, always have us to support them as parents. But prevention always is better than any kind of cure and so I had to give her a piece of my mind for sure!

A lot of my Indian friends feel that their kids shouldn’t have ‘sex’ education at school at such an early age. Their argument that in India we learn this in 9th or 10th grade is relevant only to India. Our tradition is different, or rather I would use the word ‘was’, as I see a great change in India and its kids today. Here in America, for Americans having boyfriends or girlfriends, dating, bringing them home, all happens pretty early. Teen pregnancies are on the increase. And so the schools find it appropriate for kids to know everything before they step into middle school which is from the 6th grade.

Not that these problems are not prevalent in other countries, India for one, but we turn a blind eye to it. We don’t want to acknowledge the fact that dating and teen pregnancies are getting their foot in India too. Is it because we are scared that out traditions are being tainted? Or is it because we think that by acknowledging it, we are paving a way for our kids to follow? I would not understand this. That way, we have to agree that Americans are more practical thinkers than we even know.

Another important aspect is that the growth of American kids is way more for their age. And so, it is but natural that they know the contours of their body, their hormonal changes early. Minimum menstruation age for the American girls is 11- 12 years. Hormonal changes lead to sexual attraction to the opposite sex. No wonder teen pregnancies are on the high! Not kidding, seriously, they are!

At any given point of time, of course, being the odd kid out in school, depriving them of knowledge which their ‘white’ counterparts know, is not advisable. I would say that in Rome, we need to do what Romans do or at the least know what Romans do, in order to survive with them!

Broken Relationships

images (3)“A relationship is like a china cup, once broken can be mended, but a crack is always there.”

I read this when I was a teenager, an age when you collect quotes and poems, with a feeling of butterflies in your stomach. I still remember it like yesterday because it didn’t make sense to me then, but it does now.
Broken hearts may be easy to mend, but broken marriages leave a scar on the heart and the soul. A bad marriage of years going array is different and has a lot of reasons. But a new marriage going stale or snapped in the bud, is a heart wrenching thing, with no fault whatsoever of the victim.

Recently one of my friend’s cousin’s two year old marriage was broken. It was sad and shocking because the girl left him for another girl. No offence to anyone, but it was shocking as she behaved perfectly normal with her husband and even lamented many-a-times that she couldn’t conceive. The boy blames her for using him to come out of the ‘closet’ and the girl is beyond distance to comment on this. He is looking out for a girl to remarry, but is so cautious that he doesn’t trust any girl easily now.

Another of my cousin’s friend had a divorce because he was not interested in worldly affairs of the heart or body! Simply put, he married so his mom could have a daughter-in-law. He was into spiritual and religious activities and was not interested in a married life. The girl bore with this for a year and didn’t even let her parents know. But ultimately, when the boy couldn’t bear with the girl’s desires of the body and heart, he took a decision, a right decision I would say, to tell his parents about it. The girl’s parents are thinking of a remarriage for her, but at the back of their mind, there is always a doubt about their daughter’s future.

One of my first cousin’s marriage was broken before it even took place. After the engagement, my cousin was back to the US from India, as they were to be married after 3 months, on the request of the girl’s parents. They spoke on the phone, exchanged emails and worse, he knew a bachelor’s party too. It was then, in the course of their discussion, my cousin asked for her passport details so he could arrange a visa for her to come to the US after marriage. It was then that she told him the truth that she loves someone else and now her parents have agreed to it which they never did before. My uncle had sent out the invitation cards too and it was an embarrassment for everyone, and sad too, that the wedding didn’t take place.

I know a girl who got married, flew to the US and eloped with her boyfriend residing in the US. The boy was grief-stricken and embarrassed too. He was left trying to answer his parents’ and relatives and friends’ questions, while the girl was being wooed by her boyfriend. I also know a girl, who got married, came to the US and found out that the husband is already married to an American. He was a pervert to even think that he could live with both of them under the same roof and enjoy. But the girl ran back home to her parents. She is happy now though single, staying with her brother’s family. I know, we all must have watched movies with these plots, but believe me, I have seen them happening around me.

Why does a marriage break? There may be numerous reasons. But, the actual facts being that people don’t enquire enough about the other party before they get their girl married or fix their marriage. And the main glaring reason is also that parents don’t know much about their own children before they decide to get them married. The kids don’t feel close enough to the parents to tell them their secrets, because some parents are too strict to be friends with the kids. Who is to blame? Nobody? Or both?!!

Wake up papa and mamma; talk to your kid first, marriage comes later!
Wake up kiddos, talk to your parents first, before you walk out on them!

Parents, Eat and Let Eat!

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Don’t blame the kids, blame the parents! I know, a lot of parents’ eyes would be glaring at this with anger or would have stopped reading this by now. But wait a moment! Read through this before you form any opinion. I was just talking about the eating habits of kids!

It is a very common complaint of parents all over the world that their kids don’t eat certain vegetables or any vegetables at all, varying from house to house and kid to kid! But if we delve deeper, we get to see that the parents of these kids don’t do justice to their vegetables too.

Let’s begin at the beginning….It is scientifically proven that what we eat during pregnancy, those tastes travel through the amniotic fluids to the baby in the womb. Babies develop taste buds while in there too. Doctors believe that if the moms who eat all varieties of vegetables and fruits during pregnancy, then these babies would later eat their fruits and vegetables without putting up a fight. The baby’s exposure to variety of food while in the womb would have less chances of the baby being a fussy eater later in life.

In most of our houses now, neither of the parents or either of the parents is a very bad eater of vegetables and fruits.  And so is the kid! No surprises here as to why it is so. Some parents don’t cook vegetables or dishes they themselves don’t like. Some parents are clever enough to understand the situation and try to steal in vegetables into the kid’s food that they themselves would have never even sighted upon when they were kids! If this is done very early in their childhood, like for month’s babies, then it would probably work. But not after the kid grows up enough to understand that he/she is being fed what his/her parents don’t like to eat. That’s a gone case then!

My friend is very possessive about her one and only son. She is at his beck and call always and cooks only what he likes. She cooks as if only the son’s favorites are edible on the entire planet. You guessed it right!-Her husband gets the same food almost every day as the kid’s glossary of vegetables and fruits is very limited to two or three for that matter! A day came when they had to hospitalize the kid for being anaemic due to lack of proper nutrients in the body. It is absolutely fine to pamper your only kid, but not at the cost of the kid’s health.

Leaving modesty aside, I must mention here that I am envied amongst my cousins and friends! Even my mother-in-law always has a good word for me regarding my kids’ eating habits! I have always liked all vegetables if cooked in the proper way, and fruits have always been my secret snacks. No wonder my kids eat all vegetables and fruits! Touchwood! If they don’t like some vegetable they sure let me know but they eat it anyways, because I never give them a choice! Not that I force them, but I just let them know the time and effort I put into cooking them! Viola, they clean their plates! Come on, that’s not being mean, but just being persuasive.

I remember when growing up, my mom used the same trick for us kids. We ate everything my mom cooked as we knew the love and effort she put in cooking for us. And of course, my dad was strict enough to support her efforts by saying that ‘what’s on your plate has to be eaten, no matter what’! You bet my parents are proud of me now when they see my kids following that!

When I stepped into my in-laws’ house, incidentally, I saw that at least this was one thing that is very common with my family’s values. They too never got a chance to say ‘no’ to any food on their plate. When I had kids, I was sure glad that both my husband and I had the same values as far as parenting goes!

Fruits and vegetables are in abundance in the US. There are a lot of varieties of vegetables here; in addition to the American vegetables, we get Mexican vegetables and Indian vegetables too. My house has seen broccoli, asparagus, zucchini, and tomatillos playing with the okras and bitter gourds. I try my best to cook each vegetable in hundred and one ways, and the kids usually take to at the least a couple of varieties. I have tried and learnt different cuisines and so Indian, Italian, Mexican, all foods co-exist in my kitchen. My father-in-law in good humor says that I should have done my PhD in cooking, not English. Yes, I love food, and my husband likes different cuisines, the result being that I learnt all kinds. And, of course, it goes without saying that I love cooking! This has helped me extensively in winning my kids’ palates.

Eat, and eat everything is the motto in my house! And you bet, it worked and it still works!!! Touchwood!

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!!

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?!

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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