Thursday, December 17, 2009
The mountains are made of red dirt and rocks. There was one lookout point we dubbed "Mars" because of the large red boulders. I rode on a horse years ago in high school. That's been it. So, getting on a horse now was a bit precarious for me, and walking on the rough roads made it a bit jarring experience. It took me some time to have faith in the horse and the guy leading the horse. And, having to turn off my imagination. There was one part where Annika's horse faltered a bit because he heard a noise. However, she wasn't scared at all and understood her horse was only 2 years old. She forgave him. We got quite comfortable with the horses quickly, especially Annika who wanted to ride it without a lead.
Monkeys are all over the place. We stayed at the Lord's resort, which had separate buildings for the rooms. During the day, windows and doors must be kept locked because monkeys know how to creep into the rooms. They're jumping on the roof in the morning! One morning, we were sitting under the tree having our tea, and a monkey snuck behind us. He made himself comfortable and sat on the table to eat the toast. He snatched some sugar packets and opened them under the tree. (Great, a monkey on a sugar high!). We all sat still because these guys are quite aggressive. The hotel staff is all equipped with slingshots (yes, super technology here!) They sling rocks at the monkeys, and the monkeys run from the sight of them. So the staff will hang around the poolside and tables. The kids loved the slingshots so much, they got their own.
Now the puppy story. My brother-in-law, nephew and I went for a walk in the late evening. We saw a small white puppy on the side and we stopped to pet it. First of all, there are lots of stray dogs everywhere and we usually just stay away from them. But, this puppy looked about 1 month old and was so adorable. We stopped to pet. My six-year-old nephew thought getting permission "to pet him" was the same as permission to "make him a pet". He planned how we should take him home and coddled him like his parents have never seen him do. We stopped at a small store and bought biscuits and borrowed warm milk from the store owner. We called everyone else out and at 11pm, we were standing on the street outside the hotel feeding the puppy biscuits dipped in milk. The kids named him Biscuit and Tiger. Annika pointed out he was shivering and I should give up my shawl. (No.) We convinced the kids to leave him on the side and that's where he belonged. He was gone in the morning. We know that puppy has not received this much love in his entire life and probably will never again.
The next morning the kids wanted to go out and look for a new puppy of the day. However, the hotel owner had a cocker spaniel Rusty, which entertained them. Rusty was helpful in keeping away the monkeys.
I loved the simplicity of the life we experienced for 3 days. It reminded me of going to my father's small town Rajpipla when I was young. You're allowed to get dirty. You're allowed to run around at night. You're allowed to interact with animals and random people. Our overprotective American parental instincts were going haywire!! Also, it's amazing to see these kids fight over slingshots. We're not talking about Wii or Playstation or whatever. Just a wooden slingshot with cheap rubber tied around it.
Oh, by the way, monkeys don't come out at night. Only the bats do.
Saturday, December 12, 2009
Delight: Seeing all the sidewalk stalls and picking up silk scarves for $1.50 each (easily $25 in US). The earrings and jewelry made my mouth drop.
Disappointment: my husband pulling me away.
Anger: Walking into the Taj Hotel and remembering how one year ago terrorists walked through its halls gunning down people as they wished. "26/11" is still on everyone's minds when you walk through the metal detectors and security.
Awe: Seeing Tulsi Pipe Road wall where people painted and expressed their pride and strength in the city in the Wall Project. It's not just one block of wall - it's a serious wall of length with intricate work. It raises street art and graffiti to the next level of community expression and pride. This is the voice of Mumbai - not anyone else's. By the way, I love the murals all over Philadelphia and it changes the way the city is perceived.
Pride: Speaking of art, we went into Jehangir Art gallery and strolled through Art Plaza. We love the Indian artists and we always pick up a few pieces. The Indian art market has been on the rise. Not only are the new artists getting recognized, but digging out the old artists from 1920's at Phillips Antiques. My husband priced the two 6" wooden sculptures of pink raging beasts that would guard a doorway at a mere 1.2 million rupees. We just don't have the space for it, you know.
Gut-wrenching pain: walking past a child sitting on the sidewalk with her arm extended, too weak to raise her head. How many children will go to sleep hungry tonight and wake up hungry - no one knows. We dropped a coin in her hand and we walked in silence.
Homesickness: Going into Cafe Mondegar. My husband was surprised I wanted to go there for coffee since it's a fairly dark pub/cafe. However, I heard the Black Eyed Peas and felt terribly homesick. We had a really good espresso and latte while listening to Def Leppard.
Knowing You're Not at Home: (Don't know what the opposite of homesick is): Looking out the window at Cafe Mondegar and seeing 5-6 motorcycles lined up for McDelivery for McDonalds. Yes, for those times when you need your Maharaja Mac or McVeggie in 30 minutes or less. I can't tell you enough about how much I love the delivery services in this country. You want ice cream or bottle of gin, you just make a phone call and someone brings it over.
Frustration: We needed to take an air conditioned bus back home. Sounds simple? We walked at least 20-30 min in circles trying to find the bus stop, calling family, asking strangers, policemen, and bus people. You just have to "know" these things. Fortunately, we finally found the stop and as we were walking towards it, the bus came. We ran for it!
Life Threatening Perilious Adventures: Also known as "crossing the street". (New post to come on that!!)
Wednesday, December 09, 2009
Last time we were in India in 2007, I maintained a log of our trip and experiences (see "India" on my links on the right). We're here this month and again, I'm waking up at 4:30 am with nothing to do, and the urge to write.
The last trip was memorable because it was my daughter's first trip to India. Everything was new and unexpected. Now, we're going 2 years later and she's 8 now. This trip is about rediscovery. She's looking for those things she remembers from someone's beaded curtain to the bathroom where she floated boats with her grandfather.
I'm happy that we found an art studio nearby that offers arts and crafts for children. Since we'll be here for a few weeks, we'll have Annika take some workshops. We asked specifically for a class with girls her age so she'll have a chance to make friends.
For me, India is always about people. I wrote about this before where as someone who grew up with feet firmly planted in the US, I always felt that for me, India was a good place to visit, not live. I'm here now and still pretty sure I could not live in Mumbai. I'm not a city person at all. I need my rolling hills of Pennsylvania and the ability to drive to Target needed.
However, the other night I landed my brother-in-law gave me a hug and said "Welcome home!" That's a powerful statement for me. I'm daughter of immigrants and grew up with dual identities. I've long since reconciled who I am, so I don't want to go into the cliches that pepper Indian-American literature. However, I distinctly remember the moment when I decided I was American, and knew I wasn't an Indian. Yet I always describe myself as Indian-American because I'm not one or the other. It's gratifying to have to an "official" welcome such as this.
Wednesday, December 02, 2009
The benefits of not doing Kumon:
- we get back 30 to 45 minutes every evening
- restore peace and tranquility in our family
- chance to explore more creative methods of learning basic math skills. There are some great websites and I've found some fun workbooks.
- know that any other math workbook that I put in front of my daughter's nose will be welcomed because she's faced the worst.
The benefit of doing Kumon:
- she is a quicker with doing math calculations in her head. However, it's the result of consistent practice.
Separating Fantasy from Reality: So, we had the talk. She asked me while we were at the mall. I told her there was no Santa Claus.
"Oh, so it's you?"
"OHhhhh.. so I can tell YOU what I want for Christmas and don't have to wait?"
"OHHHhhh..Great! I want a DS!! a Wii!! Wait.. did you eat the cookies too?"
"Now..there's no Easter Bunny?"
"What about the leprachauns? Did you put the sprinkles?" (When she was in pre-K, she wrote a welcome note to the leprauchan for St Patrick's Day and the teacher put sprinkles on it. So, I really didn't put the sprinkles.)
Now she believes there is no Santa Claus or Bunny, but leprachauns are real.
I also told her not to tell little friends of ours, and let them believe. There's a bit of relief.
Thursday, November 26, 2009
We're at a tricky period of peer influences where her friend F is announcing "princesses are for babies". I know some girls quickly got bored of princesses at 3 or 4, but for my girl, this is a lifestyle. Her whole raison d'etre is to live the royal life, but she's appalled to carry Disney Princess paraphenalia in public. We resort to Hello Kitty now. I've told her that she's allowed to play with dolls as long as she wants. I was actually playing dolls until I was 10-11 years old; I would read books and act out the stories, fashion objects and scraps into houses and wardrobe changes. I definitely felt like doll play challenged my imagination.
Returning to my Santa Claus dilemma, I sought the classic response from the 1897 editorial known as "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus." Reading this now, I found it so poignant and so beautiful. It hits the deeper meaning of all these stories we tell our children. There are parents who don't propogate these stories, and tell the children like it is. Like Francis Church said, "You may tear apart the baby's rattle and see what makes the noise inside," but then we lose the charm of the rattle and it becomes a mere noisemaker. I will share this article with her and hopefully she'll recognize what Santa represents, if he is not real.
Honestly, if she gives up Santa this year, I'll be happy. I've been exhausted holding up pretenses as we shuttle between my house, my house and India, where did he leave gifts, and the whole cookie thing. I even got caught mid-year. I said to a sales person, "Oh, I had gotten her this last Christmas" and she piped up, "No you didn't give it to me. Santa gave it."
Oh. I forgot.
And, the fact that Virginia's father asked her to write to the newspaper proves that parents don't have the answers.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Sunday, November 08, 2009
Our primary topics right now are the 10 incarnations of the Hindu God Vishnu. (Nutshell: Hinduism has a trinity of Brahma the Creator, Vishnu the Protector/Preserver and Shiva the Destroyer. When the earth is in turmoil, Vishnu appears.) I've been a bit panicked because I don't know all 10 incarnations myself. So, I've been cramming before classes and researching online.
So, my research has brought me to this point - in great awe. When debates regarding Darwinism and Intelligent Design arose, I paused to think of what my religion says about this. I didn't give it much thought because there are so many myths and magical events, it didn't even make sense.
Now, looking at the Avatars of Vishnu, I see more here. If ancient Indian scientists determined that evolution of humans did exist, they needed a vehicle to carry forth their theories. Blanketing it in religion probably helped give the history its durability. We have the documented stories, but we also have oral traditions. Ram and Krishna stories are told in the cradle.
The Primordial Human Evolution
"No. Incarnation: Physical — Conscious evolution
1. Matsya-avtar or Fish: Water borne life — amoebae or primeval evolution.
2. Kurmavtar or Turtle: Water/Land borne life — amphibians.
3. Varahavtar or Boar: Land borne life — mammals.
4. Narshinghavtar or Human-lion: Semi-human — primates.
5. Vamanavtar or Dwarf: Homo erectus — primitive human.
6. Parshuram or Divine Seeker: Homo sapiens — conscious human.
7. Ram or Perfect Human: Homo sapiens — God conscious human; outer awareness.
8. Krishna or Supreme Yogi: Homo sapiens — Self-conscious human; inner awareness.
9. Buddha or Consciousness: Homo sapiens — Self-Realization; inner enlightenment.
10. Kalki (Christ) or Spirit Being: Homo spiritus — God-Realization; Resurrection (en masse spiritual evolution.)
For the actual story synopsis, here's one site. It's also fascinating how certain events seem to align with Bible stories, such as the story of the flood. I'm actually excited to learn all this because it hits one of the core points of Hinduism of tolerance. Rather than denouncing separating science from religion, it's actually bridging them. There was a reason and purpose behind every evolutionary advancement.
Five thousand years later, I'm passing the same stories down to a new generation.
Saturday, October 24, 2009
Though the website is now defunct, the editor Nandini Pandya was able to lasso over 30 essays and short stories into a collection, Abroad at Home. It’s definitely an atypical collection because of the variance of work included. It begins with articles profiling Indian-Americans doing remarkable work, such as an active duty female soldier, a late-life artist and a Unitarian minister. There are personal essays covering topics from relationships with religion, parenting roles, as well as interactions with American society. There are some fictional stories and "Cab Driver" stands out in my mind.
Because some of these essays were originally online articles, they don’t have the polished type of writing one expects in such a collection. I enjoyed the stories, but I felt they could be stronger and more honed. On the other hand, the casual openness draws the reader, as if they were friends having a discussion. Some writers take a humorous view of certain situations. After reading a few stories, I was inclined to check out the authors’ websites, such as “Heartcrossings."
By the way, there is a different dimension to this publication effort. The articles started on the internet in an interactive forum. They were pulled together into a published book, the tangible form of the stories, which one carries. And, now the website promoting the book allows readers to comment on specific works in the books. Therefore, it's come full circle. Writing and reading are not solitary activities, but connected.
While this collection focuses on Indian immigrant experience, I've always felt the US immigrant experience is shared among ethnic communities. While the traditions and languages may be different, the culture shock and ideological struggles are always there. A thread of guilt runs through immigrants who feel as if they're giving up parts of themselves to become someone new. At what point do you feel you are you home?
It's also worth mentioning that the authors portray a more mature and more recent point of view of the immigrant experience. That extends it outreach, too. It's not just Indian parents who worry about their children becoming infatuated with designer labels. And, for the non immigrants, this would give them a different perspective on the Indian consultant in the corner cubicle.
Sunday, September 20, 2009
I was travelling this week and found two opportunities to give and received warm results. The first was in line for coffee. I was waiting for mine, and the cashier took the order of the guy behind me. They were two friends, probably out of college, with the back packs and all, and like everyone else, they were in a rush at the airport. He needed to give $.17 and he was fumbling around with change in his pocket. He actually dropped some of his change into the fruit basket on the counter. The two guys were going back and forth "Where is it? Do you have it?" One of them was counting pennies out, while other was looking in the fruit basket.
Another cashier handed me back my change, which I checked. I turned around and placed a nickel in the one guy's open palm. They were so surprised because it worked out. I asked, "Is that all?" and they said "Yes! Thank you!" They both actually gushed about it. It was just a nickel! But, it really saved them time and they could run to their gate.
My second random act was on the return flight. It was a full flight, we were told. I had an aisle seat and another man was in the window seat. Then, a man came down the aisle and said "I'm right there. Oh boy!" He was about 6' and pretty large, so I first got up and let him in. He could barely get his legs in there and looked quite squished next to the other man, who was fairly tall too. I asked him, "Would you like to switch?"
"Do you mind?" he replied.
"Not at all. We'll all be comfortable then."
So, since I'm 5'2, I could comfortably sit in the middle between them and he was able to stretch better with the aisle seat. He thanked me so many times, and I'm sure the window seat guy was happier not having elbows and knees jabbing into him too. Really, we're all just numbers to the airline. We get what they give us.
Just a reminder it only takes a small action to make a large impact. Please take some time to go the 29Gifts website and watch her video.
The art of acceptance is the art of making someone who has just done you a small favor wish that they might have done you a greater one. - Russell Lynes, editor/critic
Saturday, September 19, 2009
- Marilyn Monroe
I'm drawn to this phrase because I love being a woman, and don't want to be a man. Though there are times I've looked upon with envy as the guys just go out for a beer with nary a thought of others, while my girlfriends and I are wrought with guilt and disaster scenarios before we leave the house. But, I'm happier being the complicated woman rather than a simple minded man (*ducks*)
Tuesday, September 01, 2009
I understand good heroes and heroines need to have absent parents in order to come forward and have adventures (e.g., killed by Valdemort, mysteriously disappear, tragically die). Also, kids like seeing other kids be bad. Eloise set the foundation for Junie B. Jones and probably Zack & Cody.
Saturday, August 22, 2009
Max at Sea: newyorker.com is David Eggers' short story, which colors in the pictures drawn by Maurice Sendak in "Where the Wild Things Are." And, he colors outside the lines, which makes this more delightful to read.
By the way, I had mixed emotions about WTWTA when I was in kindergarten. I loved the creatures, the island, the boat.. I hated Max. I thought he was an obnoxious boy, who didn't listen and he talked back to his mother! How rude! When I was in my 20's I sought out the book to find that line that was so offensive. He had said to his mother "I'll eat you up!" That was it. In my mind, you never said something like that to an adult. And, I was sure that animal suit was smelly too.
So, now there's a film adaptation of the story. I just watched the trailer to this, and I'll have to say I'm intrigued because Max does not seem like the angry boy I described above, and as designed in Eggers' story. He seems like the lost dreamer who finds acceptance. The film looks beautiful and creatures are warm and cuddly, so my daughter will definitely enjoy this.
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Monday, August 17, 2009
In the big picture, these two actions were small. Loopholes were found, which seemed justifiable for not doing them. Yet both of them led to bigger events. Doesn't an avalanche begin with one rock?
I have a saying posted on my monitor "Winners do what losers don't want to do." And, in these situation, I was listening to others who did not want to do something. I got this far by listening to my own voice, not others. They are not me. I am not them. I need to do what I know is right.
In our day to day activities, we'll always hit those moments when we have to decide what is right or wrong. I believe Bill Clinton said "Just because you can do something, doesn't mean you should." (I'm terrible at direct quotes). There will always be temptations and doing what you have to do is not always what you want to do. But, you're better for it in the long run.
Addendum: I found the best quote: Doing what's right is not easy.
Sunday, August 16, 2009
I plug into Stitcher.com and listen to my podcasts at work. I've written about this before, but I'm getting hooked onto Slate's political and culture gabfests. These are discussions between journalists/writers or whoever they are about the latest issues and news. They casually drop in "I read so and so's article in the Wall Street Journal about this.." I don't have time to read every single blog or article, so these are such wonderful people who filter it down for me.
I suppose this is the same type of familiarity anyone has with a celebrity, tv/radio hosts or anyone who enters your intimate space. You get a false sense of ownership and commradery.
Listening to my podcasts provides a nice relief within a hectic day. It allows me to gently escape from the stressful minutae of my world, and I'm reminded there is a world bigger than all that is on my plate.. I love the conflicting opinions and attitudes, which I can then share with my real world friends/family. Then I casually throw in the piece about the WSJ article.
Saturday, August 08, 2009
The opening shot of Paris in 1950's made me melt. It seems all the elements were perfectly captured - the costumes, the culture, the buildings. And, of course, Meryl as Julia was so colorful and captivating, you were always looking forward to those sections over the darker Queens, NY sections. First of all, we are so lucky to live in the age of Meryl Streep. There's no actor who could transform into such a spectrum of characters (the only other one that comes to mind is Johnny Depp). Meryl decided she was going to make herself 6'2 and she did. Julia Child wasn't exactly the most graceful of women, and she showed that when she plunged her nose into dishes. Amy Adams' character was great, but she was "us" - the audience. The typical American stuck in a rote job and looking for an outlet, a boost. She takes the subway, she watches SNL and does other real people things. Her eggs fell and that let the audience know this was not an expert.
I saw this movie with a fellow blogger and we both cheered when Julie received her first comment. We know the excitement. We also know the uncertainty of blogging - "is anyone actually reading this? do you really care?"
Saturday, July 11, 2009
Friday, July 10, 2009
So, Jennifer Aniston, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Jennifer Lopez, Renee Zellweger and myself have something in common. Memorable red-carpet fashion moments? It’s possible, but that’s not it. We all turn 40 this year.
I’m not one to hide my age. At the gym, I always entered my real age into the elliptical machine; weight, you can lie about, not age. Every year that I have accrued is worth remembering. I’ve always been mistaken for being younger than I am. I’m always happy to show my ID.
At the stroke of midnight on January 1st this year, I lost it. Now I realized that 40 is here. My friends keep reminding me “Age is a number. It’s what’s in your heart.” “Oh, 40 is the new 30”.
For me, I’ve always had 40 as the definitive marker. “When I’m 40, I’m going to do..” “When I’m 40, I’ll finally be able to..” It’s here. And, I’m not ready to or haven’t done all those things. I was upset because the finish line came and I’m not ready for it. I cringed when my friends asked me about the big “4-0”. I’m on the verge of tears on the treadmill punching in my real age. Since I was 10 years old, I always upgraded myself to the next year one month prior to my birthday. Now, I was telling people, “I still have 7 more days to be in my 30’s”. My daughter gave me extra time as a gift "It's only 1pm. You're not 40 yet because it's not 9 o'clock, when you were born. You're still 39."
June was a fabulous month for me as I definitely enjoyed celebrating with different friends and family through series of events. More assuring and powerful was the love and affection I received from everyone. If I look over my shoulder, I see 40 years of wonderful people behind me, and I’m blessed to have those stepping beside me and others leading me.
I also realize now I need to adjust my goals and not put an age on it. And, practically speaking, there have been some changes from where I was in January to where I am in June. My career and personal goals have been more refined, and become more attainable. Doors that were closed are being opened. It’s up to me how and when I enter.
Also, I realize I don’t want to be 30 again. I want to be the new 40.
When I tell you we’re doing Kumon this summer, you will have one of three reactions:
1) What took you so long? You should have had her enrolled before she started kindergarten!
2) Are you kidding? What do you want - a little robot? It’s repetition. Rinse, lather, repeat.
3) Kumon? What is that? Does it come with wasabi?
Usually the third response comes from people without children or non-Asians. Kumon is extremely popular among Asian parents because it reflects the method of teaching effective in Asian countries. Memorization and repetition is the way many people were taught. One million Asian engineers and techies can’t be wrong, right?
In our public schools, EveryDay Math is being taught. We were confused by subtraction methods this year, and asked the teacher about it. She pointed out they show children different ways to tackle a problem and one method may work better than another for the child. So many options! So many confused parents!
I resisted Kumon wave for some time because I didn’t think it was necessary to pay $100 a month for 1st grade math. If I have to sit with my daughter to make sure the work is done, we can just do worksheets. However, second grade moved quite quickly and the teacher emphasized the need for her to solidify her basic math skills. Her report card reflected this as a weak point. So I conceded. We want to make sure she stays at the right level, consistent and confident. If she gets discouraged now, it’ll be a hang up for always (actively raising my hand as someone who knows!) Plus, in 3rd grade, the standardized testing will start and she’ll need to perform well within a timed situation. She can’t daydream her way through this.
Other parents have told us how their child surpassed their peers thanks to Kumon. Others raved over the structure and discipline, which helped set the foundation.
Our friends’ daughter works at the local Kumon center as a teaching aide. This would be one positive aspect for my daughter feeling comfortable there. The deal with Kumon is that there is homework every night and center visits twice a week. There’s no vacation from it. There’s always homework, which takes about 15-20 minutes.
The reality is that it’s really tough. The homework is annoying – 4+6, 5+6, 8+6. There are 10 pages of the same problems. So, obviously she complains she’s tired of 6’s. They start the child at a lower level so they can build their confidence.
She hates Kumon. She’s whined, cried, stalled for time, offered to help me pull weeds instead. Yes, just about every trick possible. I’m trying to use some of our positive motivations from Suzuki violin. I don’t want the “Just do it because you have to do it.” I don’t want her to feel like this is a punishment.
Some things that have worked:
- chocolate cake, ice cream or a dessert at the completion
- reciting the answers aloud (she does different accents)
- using the timer on my iPhone (I would surprise her with different ringtones at intervals)
- sitting with her and doing the same problems and comparing answers
- doing the homework into different rooms, changing up the environment.
I don’t see this as a long term commitment as I’m taking one session at a time. Let’s get through the summer and maybe a month or two in the fall. Yes, she doesn't like it and I probably sound like a mean parent. But, seriously, I used to have to sit with my father at night to review fractions and math problems, all the way until high school calculus. I hated it, but I needed it. I do want her to find the drive herself to want to do it.
I’ve been greatly disappointed that I haven’t found any resources online for Kumon parents. If you have suggestions, please let me know.
Thursday, July 02, 2009
Monday, June 15, 2009
After going to a number of readings and discussions where "must read" books were mentioned, I'll highlight a few of the books I want to read. (This will serve as my wish list for later)
"Cracking India" by Bapsi Sidwa - So I lied. I read this already. But, it's one that I highly recommend in order to get a better understanding of the India-Pakistan Partition. I'll always remember the profound impact of this book because I was reading it Sept 2001. Even though I had seen the movie "Earth", I suddenly understood how Lenny's world turned upside down in one day and everyone is suspect. As a side note, Bapsi Sidwa is still elegant and poised at her age. And, you have to admire a woman of her generation who talks about reading books on her Kindle!
"The Match" and "Monkfish Moon" by Romesh Gunesekera - He read excerpts from these two books; I'm not familiar with his work, but his writing has a certain charm.
"House for Mr Biswas" by VS Naipaul - Amitava Kumar and Bapsi Sidwa both discussed Naipaul's writing and I know Shashi Tharoor has written a lot about the man. I'm moving Naipaul up a notch on my "to read" list.
"Haunting Bombay" by Shilpa Agarwal - Her story steps away from the typical stories with a twist with ghosts, encompassing the historical and legends.
"Leaving Home" by Minal Hatrajwala - This is a personal account of three generations of her family's journey out of India and into various parts of the world including Fiji, New Zealand, and the US.
"Disobedient Girl" by Ru Freeman - Her book is coming out this summer! I missed my friend Ru's reading, but know this story will bring in the flavors and energy of Sri Lanka in so many contexts.
"Love Marriage" by VV Ganeshananthan - This book also dives into Sri Lanka and focuses on families, making the war more personal and recognizable to the readers.
Poetry by Amit Chaudhuri - Amitava Kumar read some of these poems. I'm pretty sure we have some of his stories on my shelf so I have to make my way to them.
"Meatless Days" by Sara Suleri - Another book that was recommended, and I remember my friend Julie talking about Sara Suleri years ago.
"White Tiger" by Aravind Adiga - OK, I'm not sure what to do about this book. Do I read it because it's been so notable and acclaimed? But some people who have read it have issues with it, so do I read it and end up frustrated? What's the point then? Should I just go read Amitav Ghosh's critique of this book instead?
"Pickwick Papers" by Charles Dickens. Of course we should the classical British writers too.
"Ask Me About My Divorce" anthology by Seal Press. I came across this book today on the web and it includes "Sita's Eyes" by R M Hora (I googled more and confirmed it's Reenita Malhotra Hora). Seems like a powerful collection in general.
Other sites to make note of:Sita Sings the Blues
(I didn't get to watch this fully, but when I do, y'all will hear about it! It's absolutely creative and beautifully put together!)
On a personal note, I had a great time interacting with other writers and readers. It was refreshing to meet someone and be asked "So, what do you write?" And, then maybe 10 minutes later or even 2 days later, he or she asks "By the way, what do you do for a living?"
I can't remember the last time I was in a bar discussing literature and politics or talking about book covers and writing process over dinner. I found such energy and enthusiasm for the arts. I have two action items from this event. First one is to organize and create a literary community close to home. The "real housewives and husbands" in the 'burbs like to read too! My other take away from this event is that I will focus and finish my short stories. I've been writing poetry because that's what comes to me, and I've been refining my manuscript. It's time to leap out of my comfort zone and write that South Asian vampire cowgirl story that needs to be told.
Thursday, June 04, 2009
President Obama (six months later, I still feel like it's not real) stepped into Saudi Arabia, and is not being afraid to recognize its Islamic importance as a country. His speech in Cairo is definitely an important event.
I was listening to his speech at work, and this jarred me. I found a complementary quote, which is just as profound
It's a story with a simple truth: violence is a dead end...That is not how moral authority is claimed; that is how it is surrendered
- President Obama
Moral authority is never retained by any attempt to hold on to it. It comes without seeking and is retained without effort.
- Mahatma Gandhi
I also found the closing of his speech beautiful and balanced. As a religious minority in the US, I'm always conscious of Judeo-Christian references. So, this was remarkable.
We have the power to make the world we seek, but only if we have the courage to make a new beginning, keeping in mind what has been written.
The Holy Koran tells us: "O mankind! We have created you male and a female; and we have made you into nations and tribes so that you may know one another."
The Talmud tells us: "The whole of the Torah is for the purpose of promoting peace."
The Holy Bible tells us: "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God." (Applause.)
The people of the world can live together in peace. We know that is God's vision. Now that must be our work here on Earth.
Side note to scriptwriters: Couldn't we have thrown in something about love and peace from the Hindu scriptures? I know, I know, we were recognized during the Inaugural speech.
I was listening to Geoffrey Nunberg on NPR's Fresh Air yesterday. They were discussing the importance of words as defining eras. 1960's were war, peace, love.. 1970s were spiritual and disco. The first decade of this century will be defined by politics, and how words are transformed, distorted and used until the original meaning has been shaken out. He pointed out that Obama used words like "hope" and "change" which don't have a distinct definition - thus their endurance and power.
Saturday, May 30, 2009
The best reason to come is to meet me!
Ok.. there will be other writers there too. For those following my side passion for writing, I'm extremely excited to be a panelist at this conference. I've attended many writing conferences over the years, and this is the first time I'll be on the other side of the table.
I'm also looking forward to meeting some extremely talented South Asian writers.
Monday, May 25, 2009
And by the rhythm of the rails, reading all his mother's mail from a city boy in a jungle town postmarked Saigon.
in it one less name?
black granite wall toward the other monuments so white and clean.
Thursday, May 07, 2009
So, she was looking in the mirror making faces, pulling her cheeks up and down. I told her, "Stop doing that."
"Because your face will get stuck that way?"
"No, because you'll stretch out your skin." (I don't like to lie and would rather teach good habits early)
"Oh, your skin will become droopy? Like yours?"
"We have a bus to catch! Let's go!"
So, it's April, sun is shining, bees are busy, blossoms in bloom and pollen is thriving. Once year, I get a big allergy attack. My eyes get swollen, possible hives.. and other things that qualify as TMI. I made it through dinner, barely through homework and then just gave up. I took a wet napkin and put it on my eyes and lay on the couch in my agony.
Annika picked up the phone and went to the fridge. "Mommy's lying down. She needs cucumbers for her eyes. We don't have cucumbers. Mommy, do you want salad?"
When my husband came home, I forced myself to lie in my darkened bedroom. My little nurse came upstairs.
"Here's your phone. In case someone calls you from work." (Please, if someone calls me, I can't even open my eyes, let alone talk!)
"Here's a bowl of carrots. Carrots are good for your eyes." Excellent logic!
We still needed to practice violin, so she played it for me. Since I couldn't open my eyes, I let her play on. I could hear where she had missed notes, but I couldn't say anything. She struggled, but she kept at it. After the concert she said she really liked it because I didn't interrupt her.
My daughter has been a fashionista since she was 2. I remember buying stacks of purple clothes because that's all she wanted to wear when she was two and I was tired of arguing. I walked into her room when she was 3 and saw her with a pair of scissors and the bag of new summer clothes. She was cutting off the tags. Dressing for school has always been a struggle as we try to find middle ground on clothes. There have been tears, tantrums and explosions.. and sometimes she gets upset too.
There was a 50's day at school and she wanted a poodle skirt. I told her we can't get a poodle skirt, but fortunately we have enough poofy skirts and dresses (thanks to a steady supply from my mom and her sisters). She looked adorable with her hair in a scarfed ponytail and pink dress that had stiff petticoats underneath.
There was a Health Day at school with dentalcare presentation and she instructed me to pack a healthy lunch. First, she asked for a salad. I convinced her a turkey sandwich was equally healthy (when do 2nd graders eat salad only for lunch?) Then, she asked what should she wear for health day. Come again? I told her to wear green because it sounded like a "healthy" look. She liked that idea and wore a green top.
She's also my personal stylist. My sister always guided me on clothes. Then, my husband guided me on shoes. And, now I have my 4' child picking out my jewelery and outfits. I've seen other shoppers smile at us, when they hear this child announcing "Oh, this would go with your blue shirt." Sometimes she's right. She told me I dress drab and boring with my darks and neutrals. I need more pink and sparkle in my life.
Yes, I look at this girl and wonder where she came from at times. In one way, the less she can be like me the better - I love her surprising individuality and enthusiasm for everything.
Sunday, April 26, 2009
I see a puppy upon a summers day
A puppy dog at play
My heart is filled with envy
My heart is yearning to pass the time away
Like that pup
cause Im all fed up
And tho its wrong to be
I long to be
I want to be lazy
I want to be out in the sun
With no work to be done
Under that awning
They call the sky
Stretching and yawning
And let the world go drifting by
I want to peep
Through the deep
til I sleep
Like a child would
With a great big valise full
Of books to read where its peaceful
Life is short
And getting shorter with each day that goes by
And how the time does fly
Before you know, its over
Thats why I'm
In such a hurry to pack my things and fly
To a spot
Where its nice and hot
And hear the birdies sing
While Im being
How much do we need to multitask? At work a few weeks ago, I found myself with 3 phones in front of me. It's become the sad norm in my office to think we can IM someone who is on a conf call. If I booked your time to be on a call, be on the call with me.
Sure it seems like we do get a lot more done, but that's because we're expected to do more.
We are losing our ability to silently focus on tasks. We're disrespecting others, as well as ourselves. My personality changes the minute I read work/project related emails on my phone. The stress creeps in and surges through my veins. And, it spews through my words to my loved ones.
Spring Resolution - Unplug more often. Pursue delayed gratification - should be more delectable.
4:16 - Listened to voice mail and had urgent message from my client about an error. Checked my email and saw VP was copied on the note. Jumped into action to fix it, needed to get a hold of people in TX & OR to alerted them.
5:15 - Finally, I fired off final email explanation to my VP. Shut down everything and run to the car.
5:16 - Run back into the office to pick up directions to the rehearsal off the printer.
5:25 - Got my Starbucks coffee & kid's hot chocolate with whipped cream.
5:30 - Got my child. Was told "I'll never believe you again when you say you're going to pick me up early." (heart breaks)
5:50 - was lost going to the school and ended up high school, not junior high. Had to ask a kid for directions who ended it with the standard, "You can't miss it!" But we did.
6:09 - walked in late to the rehearsal and my daughter's class JUST finished their dance.. but I threw her on stage to stand with her group for rest of play.Got looks from another mom for being late. Coordinator ignored me. (Note to self: improve networking skills with other moms)
6:22 - checked emails on my phone and got a note from VP thanking me for my responsiveness Client says they will deal with this on Monday. (deep breathe out)
6:25 - someone handed me the final brochure I spent last few weeks designing, and the color looks amazing, print came out well, advertisers and parents will be happy.
7:30 - bought daughter a Happy Meal. Even she knew it was a bad thing and said she felt like having carrots at home.
8:30 - had a rum and Diet Coke with lime; friend came over with his daughters so girls were playing.
9:00 - gave my husband an earful when he questioned me when I refilled my glass.
Thursday, April 23, 2009
So, today, I was browing through my Shakespeare app on my iPhone and decided to read "Romeo & Juliet" (It was a long meeting, I figured I'd have time).
Act II, Capulet's Orchard
But, soft! what light through yonder window breaks?
It is the east, and Juliet is the sun.
Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon,
Who is already sick and pale with grief,
That thou her maid art far more fair than she:
Be not her maid, since she is envious;
Her vestal livery is but sick and green
And none but fools do wear it; cast it off.
It is my lady, O, it is my love!
O, that she knew she were!
She speaks yet she says nothing: what of that?
Her eye discourses; I will answer it.
I am too bold, 'tis not to me she speaks:
Two of the fairest stars in all the heaven,
Having some business, do entreat her eyes
To twinkle in their spheres till they return.
What if her eyes were there, they in her head?
The brightness of her cheek would shame those stars,
As daylight doth a lamp; her eyes in heaven
Would through the airy region stream so bright
That birds would sing and think it were not night.
See, how she leans her cheek upon her hand!
O, that I were a glove upon that hand,
That I might touch that cheek!
The last line highlighted is one that I came across in Bartlett's Book of Quotations when I was in high school. It seemed so majestic and pure. I suppose at that age when all I could hope for was to secure a glance from a boy, it was thrilling. The proximity of a the glove on the hand that rests upon the cheek is enough.
The first highlighted phrase is something I noticed today and it grabbed me. Here we go again with Shakespeare. How often do we hear this verse, yet it creates a pause because there's something different.
To carry the moon image further, there's another reference to it.
Lady, by yonder blessed moon I swear
That tips with silver all these fruit-tree tops--
O, swear not by the moon, the inconstant moon,
That monthly changes in her circled orb,
Lest that thy love prove likewise variable
What shall I swear by?
Do not swear at all;
Or, if thou wilt, swear by thy gracious self,
Which is the god of my idolatry,
And I'll believe thee.
To tie the references together, if Juliet is the Sun, then Romeo is Apollo.
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Inspite of all the scolding, she does "get" it. She hears a song and knows where she needs to be. She has a strong musical ear, but needs the body to work with it. Like anything, you have to practice.
So we were alternating between new song and an old song. Watching her learn the new song is tough. So, when she pauses between notes, I tell her the next note.
She says, "Mommy, don't tell me." However, I know she doesn't know this part, so I tell her.
"No, don't tell me!" she says emphatically. She places her bow on the string and tries a few notes on her own. But it's not right. She pauses.
"Ok, what is it?"
I start to tell her and she says, "No, no! I know it now."
But she still doesn't. So I show her the book and point it out since what I say is not valid. She acknowledges it and picks up her violin to try again.
She asked me not to tell her the notes, but to wait til the end of the song. However, I reminded her I need to stop her in the middle because she'll forget by the end of the song where she was.
She finally agreed to pause after ever measure and I would say aye or nay to it.
This is just a glimpse of the future, isn't it?
Wednesday, April 08, 2009
The Moth is a storytelling organization and their podcasts are all types of people telling their stories. They make me laugh and have even brought me to tears because they're so heartfelt and open. If this is just the podcast, I can only imagine how riveting it must be live.
This American Life is one of my favorite NPR shows. I need to tell Ira Glass a funny, yet insignificant incident from my childhood and have it set to music as a narrative. On my local channel, it's on 10pm on Wednesdays and 12 pm Sundays (or is it 1pm?). Needless to say, I usual miss it. But now.. (Drum roll flourish).. it's on my phone! So, it's great to listen to it whenever I want.
Recently there was a great episode "Scenes from a Recession," where they spoke to real people behind the headlines - housing foreclosures, shutting down a bank and retail stores closing. I saw this episode was referenced in Newsweek as a great way to break down the financial situation into comprehensible terms.
Then, there's Meitte's Bedtime Stories. For the first two stories, I didn't absorb anything about the stories - I just listened to her speak. She's got an extremely sexy, soothing voice that embraces you as she beckons you to sit next to her as she reads short stories. I'm at work, but I'm so ready to be tucked into bed. Some of the writers are well known, while other may be new, but deserve to be read (or at least voiced with a kittenish English accent.)
Since streaming audio was banned by my office firewall, I feel as if I have a new world has opened up to me. Having this on my phone is great because I listen to these stories while I'm shopping, working outside or driving. Definitely have a new freedom to enjoy these since I'm not tied to a PC.
Monday, March 16, 2009
The night before the battle, Henry roams through the camp in disguise to talk to his men. He then prays.
O God of battles! steel my soldiers' hearts;Possess them not with fear; take from them nowThe sense of reckoning, if the opposed numbersPluck their hearts from them. Not to-day, O Lord,O, not to-day, think not upon the faultMy father made in compassing the crown!
After the English are declared the victors, Henry leads his men.
Come, go we in procession to the village.
And be it death proclaimed through our host
To boast of this or take the praise from God
Which is his only.
Monday, March 09, 2009
I've read and seen a number of his Shakespearean plays, but I love "Henry V" for its diverse content. When it begins, King Henry is just young Prince Harry who hangs out at the pub with the rowdy bunch, not interested in being King. His father's not sure what to make of him. He's sent to lead the English army into France. At the Battle of Agincourt, the English army is depleted and weary. Henry makes the most invigorating inspirational speech to strengthen the men's spirits. There's another act written in French between Katherine and her maid, who tries to teach her English. The final act is the most romantic scene ever as Henry woos her in clumsy French and English.
We watched this movie bring the war alive. This was 1989, and we hadn't really seen any actual blood and guts scenes on film like this before. Now we have "Braveheart", "Saving Private Ryan," and "Lord of the Rings" for comparison for battle scenes, and the slurpy sound of a sword plunging into a gut has become de rigeur for war films.
There are two absolutely memorable scene for me. The first is the St Crispin's Day speech. My God, a King comes down to his men right before a battle, and says that he who stands beside me will be my brother. Do you realize how huge that is? He says that we're all going to be legends, and and people will remember everyone's name. He refers to himself as "Harry the King," as if that's just a job to him. He reminds them of the importance of their mission and the value of their lives. He gives them hope that they will survive and grow to be old and talk about this day. (Do our leaders today do that?)
Branagh channels a truel leader as King Harry addressing his weak army; the way the music swells gives me chills to this day. Here's a site to watch the speech and read the full speech .
The second scene I love is the final scene between Katherine and Henry (Link1, Link2). He starts off being humble "Fair Katharine, and most fair, Will you vouchsafe to teach a soldier terms Such as will enter at a lady's ear And plead his love-suit to her gentle heart?" Then he starts referring to her as Kate, releasing any formality. He acknowledges the language barrier with his broken French.
I love his argument when she says no to his request for a kiss because it is not proper for a French lady. He reminds her "Dear Kate, you and I cannot be confined within the weak list of a country's fashion: we are the makers of manners, Kate." Had I dated royalty in college, would he have used this line?
This movie is sweaty, grimey, romantic, alive and explosive. And, it's Shakespeare on top of that!
Wednesday, March 04, 2009
Thursday, February 26, 2009
I was first apprehensive this was going to be dark and gloomy, and possibly graphic. It reveals just enough. This movie deserved all the awards and recognition it's received.
Sunday, February 15, 2009
But, here's what we did and what worked.
Theme: Afternoon sleepover.
Guests were instructed to wear their PJ's, bring sleeping bag and stuffed animal. Annika wore a red & gold chinese silk outfit - perfect for the occasion (red and glam!). Had extra sleeping bags out just in case someone didn't have one, which happened. We had Miley Cyrus CD playing in the background. ("it's a girls night, it's alright..")
Food: popcorn, chips, cookies, pizza, cupcake tree (instead of one cake), ice cream sundaes in waffle cups. Cranberry gingerale was a hit as was the hot chocolate & apple juice. I kept a pitcher of it and the girls curled up in front of the fireplace (i.e., electric heater) and they still wanted hot chocolate with ice cream.
This is the Generation A (A for Allergy). We made everything totally peanut/nut free, chocolate is optional and alternatives for dairy (no ice cream, but fruit popsicles). Annika has peanut allergy and she wanted to make sure that everyone was treated equally, not segregated as she has been in the past.
Games: Stuffed animal search (all the animals in a pile, few more thrown in for confusion and girls were blindfolded and had to find), sleeping bag relay, story time (tucked in sleeping bags, one girl starts a story and the next one adds to it around the room. It was nice because it gave the quiet girls a chance to speak up), stuffed animal toss (if you get it in, you move on to next level)
Decorate pillowcases - I got cases from Ross, fabric markers from Michael's. I got Fabric crayons to do iron ons, but that didn't work out so well - you have to press really hard and if you write words, you have to write them backwards! Tricky for 2nd graders!
Dress Stuffed Animals - I got these cute animals from Michael's, got baby socks, hair accessories and bear dresses from dollar store, and made some tutus at home with chiffon. Also gave them ribbons. I got these animals for them instead of a "goodie" bag filled with cheap toys. I did fill little Valentine boxes with M&M's
High School Musical II : we set the big screen projector and girls had pizza, cake, ice cream while singing along to "Fabulous"
My friend's 13 yr old daughter helped me a lot with coordinating the games, serving the food, and overall noise control. You cannot do a party like this singlehandedly. Daddy was sent on a mission to get pizza for the kids & Starbucks for Mommy.
By the way, the first 10-15 minutes, the girls literally ran around in circles screaming. They would scream for no reason - just make high pitched squeals.
Annika loved all her gifts and there was a nice variety.
Mommy had 2 glasses of Italian red wine and pizza and went to bed at 9:30.