Nov 182010
 

Diwali worship
The South Asian Festival of lights, “Diwali,” is celebrated at this time. It is one of the biggest celebrations in India and is seen as the beginning of the new calendar or financial year in some parts. Diwali is traditionally celebrated for five days with each day having a specific myth and belief.

Diwali is also a fun holiday for all ages. Houses are decorated with tiny lights inside and out. Children and adults enjoy presents, fireworks and great food, particularly delicious sweets.

An issue that South Asians growing up in the US grapple with is the coordination of holidays from their heritage and of their adopted country.

At this time, Thanksgiving is around the corner, just a week away, as is Diwali (I admit I don’t know the exact date). I know that Diwali is around Halloween, and formal celebrations normally take place sometime in November. I will look out for a Diwali event to take my family to. In the past, I have managed to make some sweets and some prayers with my family, who have sometimes looked at me with some awkwardness.

I am starting to determine what vegetarian Thanksgiving items I will make, and that my family will help me with. Once I have the recipes located, I will then go to the grocery store and hopefully get everything I need by this weekend, to avoid the last minute chaos at the stores.

I like to make pies from scratch, which my son enjoys helping with. When I was expecting my daughter two years ago, we used extra crust to decorate the pies with an “M” for “Maya” on them. It is gratifying to have her with us and be able to actually eat what we make this time.

This year, we are planning on a quiet celebration. We are not going on a trip and will celebrate at home just with our immediate family. My relaxing fantasy is that I am scrap-booking while my husband watches football, now with my son. Of course that leaves out my toddler, who will of course probably not allow such a relaxing occasion.

While trying to manage her, I hope I am able to find some peaceful moments, in-between the cooking, cleaning, and getting ready for the mother of all holidays here, Christmas. Not being able to call myself Christian, I still love the holiday and will probably shed some tears again while listening to Bing Crosby singing about a “White Christmas,” while very likely there are snowflakes falling here in Denver.

I’ve lately thought of Christmas as a beloved bully when going to stores in September and seeing Christmas items on one side, and Halloween on the other. I thought that poor Halloween didn’t even have a chance! Forget about Thanksgiving, which is sort of just the “intro” to Christmas.

Since I have a craft fair to prepare for in early December, Christmas will likely arrive earlier than normal in my home as well. I recall that last year, I ended up trying to get ready for Christmas after the show, which seemed like hardly any time to celebrate such a beautiful holiday.

As a South Asian, I don’t feel guilty for feeling emotional attachments to Western holidays. I know that this is a consequence of living here in the US. I’m certain that if I was living in India, I would feel the same for holidays there.

In general, it seems like a good idea to celebrate for any reason and to have any excuse to feel joyful, at peace and connect with our spirituality.

I wish everyone a very happy Diwali, Thanksgiving and any other occasion you choose to celebrate at this time.

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May 202010
 

PRAAG is Denver’s first South Asian rock band. The band was formed two years ago in Denver with music enthusiasts around the city with South Asian origin. Drummer Rashid states “we are the first ever South Asian Rock Band in Colorado and our songs encompass several South Asian languages in addition to English, such as Hindi, Urdu, Bangla as well as Thai and Laotian. Our aim is to bring the sentiments of Asian roots and blend them with the rhythm and melody of rock style of music.

We are currently working on our original music project which we will bring to the stage soon. An original album is also in the works. We also cover popular songs from artists and bands from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Thailand and Laos who have gained international fame. For now we want to take PRAAG out to the diverse ethnic population as well as the local Coloradans with live shows around Denver and surrounding cities.”

PRAAG’s current line up is as follows:
SANDEEP KULKARNI – Lead Vocals
TANVIR ISLAM – Lead/Rhythm Guitar
ANG SINGHARATH – Lead/Rhythm Guitar
MASHFIQUE IQBAL – Bass Guitar/Vocals
RASHID ALAM – Drums

The group recently presented a show April 25 at the Auraria Campus for free. The next event is on June 19th at South Middle School, 12310 East Parkway Drive, Aurora, CO 80011. It’s part of a cultural event that starts at 2 p.m. and PRAAG starts at 4:00 p.m. They will be performing as part of a larger cultural event organized by the West Bengal community of Denver called MILONI.

Check out this innovative and unique band! For more information, email the group at praagband@gmail.com. They can also be found on Facebook and MySpace as “PRAAG.” An official band website is also in the works.

Sources: Yelp, Rashid Alam

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Apr 272010
 

I spent several hours last night reading my current novel, “Secret Daughter” by Shilpi Somaya Gowda, which I finished. It was compelling and easy to read, making the time fly by. I was intrigued and wanted to find out more. I kept wondering what was going to happen next. Some parts were difficult to read, particularly the specific references to incidents at the slum community called “Dharavi” in Mumbai.

It was also difficult to read the beginning reference to female infanticide and later blatant promotion in a village of gender selection ultrasounds. The references were made more difficult as a new mother to a daughter. I pushed through the challenging and moving descriptions to discover a story about family connections, love, overcoming obstacles, and hope.

Gowda’s debut novel is impressive in its descriptions, imagery, and character development. You begin to feel you personally know the characters, sympathize with them, and rejoice with them. The novel made difficult and endearing statements about South Asian culture.

Above all, “Secret Daughter” is about the love and connection between a mother and her daughter, making it a perfect novel to read in commemoration of Mother’s Day.

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Fitting in as an immigrant

 Adaptation, Authenticity, Cultural integration  Comments Off on Fitting in as an immigrant
Apr 082010
 

I recently wrote an article for ABCDlady Magazine entitled “Fitting In.” It touches on an aspect of immigration that does not get much attention. I’m certain there are many people that upon moving to another country, particularly the US, have seen dynamics in their family change. Some children may have experienced their formative years in their originating country (India in my case), whereas the younger siblings experience their formative years in the new country. This can contribute to a divide between the siblings down the road, particularly if not managed well by the parents.

I was encouraged to speak English at home, rather than my native Rajasthani dialect. As would be expected, I was eventually not able to effectively speak the dialect, although I can still understand it. Eventually, that contributed in creating a divide as I was the only one speaking in English. I’ve learned about languages that not all words and concepts can be easily translated. There are emotionally-evocative Hindi songs that would lose much in an attempt to translate the words and meaning. From this perspective, I want my children to know Hindi at least. Expecting it of my white spouse is probably a tall order.

It can be alienating and isolating for second-generation South Asians who manage to find some integration in their new country, but are not able to connect with their family of origin anymore. Their family can feel like a club they are not welcome in. As we age and are not able to have the ideal family dynamics we imagined, all is not lost. Rather than focusing on what we have missed out on and do not have, we can create the relationships we seek with others. There are people in the world that want to be paternal or like siblings. We can create our own families biologically and through the formation of our own community.

I intend to be the mother I wanted to have. I’ve thought specifically of the maternal characteristics I would have wanted to see and experience in my life and plan to give that to my children. I can be someone who is engaged, present, nurturing, and involved. I can be the type of sibling I would have liked to have with friends: supportive, caring, interesting, and funny. We don’t control others and their choices; we can only try to control ourselves.

Pria and Maya

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