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.


The Lessons of Ganesha

 Authenticity, South Asian culture  Comments Off on The Lessons of Ganesha
Jun 192010

“It Felt Love. How did the rose ever open its heart and give to this world all its beauty? It felt the encouragement of light against its being. Otherwise, we all remain too frightened. –Hafiz

In Hindu mythology, Ganesha, Lord of Overcoming Obstacles, is the god with the elephant head and human-like body. He is the son of Shiva and Parvati. Ganesha is wise and jovial, often impulsive and sometimes careless, but always filling the world around him with laughter and joy. He loves to dance, eat sweets and he rides a tiny mouse, Mushika. Problems and obstacles disappear when he is near. Often depicted with four or more arms he carries a combination of these tools:

* a goad–a type of handheld spur used by elephant drivers that symbolizes good judgment that leads to good action.
* a noose to snare obstacles and sweep them out of the path of people”
* a sweet dumpling or modaka that is a symbol of joy
* an assortment of weapons: swords, bows and axes
* a broken tusk which represents sacrifice
* different fruits such as mangoes and pomegranates that represent abundance and prosperity.

Traditionally people ask for Ganesha’s blessing before a journey, a new job or venture. Known as the master of dance, Ganesha’s gesture of blessing, the abhaya mudra, means “Be not afraid.” In one story where Ganesha is called for help, he meets a demon that is about to take over the world. Ganesha tells the demon, “You are taking up far too much space on this mountain.” Then he swallows the demon, bringing the world back to balance and harmony.

Our own demons and obstacles can have the same impact on our lives. When we are focused on our problems and feeling closed down, there is not space for feelings of joy, appreciation and gratitude for the good things in our lives.

Sharon Salzberg writes in her book Loving-kindness, “The difference between misery and happiness depends on what we do with our attention.”

As in Ganesha’s world, our problems and obstacles can be overcome as we direct our attention to aspects in our lives that bring us joy and inspiration and to the practices that connect us to our own ability to love ourselves and others. It comes down to our ability to focus inward, listen and put our intentions into action. This takes discipline, courage and the desire to move towards what keeps our hearts and minds open.”

I have thought about the image of Ganesha when I felt there were issues to overcome. Visualizing him or looking at a symbol of him allowed me to harness the ability to overcome. Perhaps he is a symbol you can incorporate in your life as well.

Source: Eastern Sun Yoga


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


A Bi-cultural Heritage

 Adaptation, Authenticity, Cultural integration  Comments Off on A Bi-cultural Heritage
Feb 112010

Since having moved to the US when I was seven, I’ve gone through various phases of adjusting and adapting to a new culture and figuring out what parts of two cultures I wanted to integrate. Some of this has been conscious, some not. There were swings of loyalty. On a study abroad trip to Rishikesh, India in 1990 when I was 22, students could visually see these swings in the attire I wore. One day I would wear a sari and the next jeans. I started the days at the ashram early with a candlelight, reading the Bhagavadgita, which we were studying, and listening to bhajans, with the sound of the Ganges nearby. I had never felt more at peace.

Over the years, I’ve come to realize that there are many factors that play into how people respond to a different culture and to the extent that they adapt. South Asians from India have come to label people as “FOB” (fresh off the boat) or “ABCD” (American Born Confused Desi). I’m realizing that there are many grey areas between these labels where most people from India fit. There are people in India that could be labeled “ABCD,” even though they may never have lived or visited the US.

By the same token, I know Indians that were born in the US that could be labeled “FOB,” and may have just taken a few trips back to the “motherland.” This has much to do with the culture they find themselves in at the time and how this resonates for them at a personal, individual level. As the world becomes more global, there are increasing numbers of Indians in India that live in a very Western world within India, although it may be a stereotype of a Western world. Some of these changes can be seen in portrayals in Indian cinema, at least in terms of what appears to be “cool,” even if many may not live those lifestyles.

For instance, in “Pyaar Ke Side Effects,” dating appears to be common, along with premarital sex (being accepted) and women living on their own. The attire is almost entirely Western, and there is even open kissing! The theme is a typical Western theme, of a non-committal guy and a woman ready to get married after dating a long time, and who is also a “runaway bride.”

It seems counterproductive to try to label others or ourselves on some range of FOB to ABCD. With increasing globalization, it will become irrelevant. We are just people that resonate with different aspects of different cultures we are exposed to at different levels based on our different temperaments and personalities, some of which we are born with and some we develop from our experiences.


35 and Life Begins Anew

 Authenticity, Memoir: 2003 - 2005  Comments Off on 35 and Life Begins Anew
Feb 062010

On my thirty-fifth birthday, in June of 2003, I received my divorce – the best present ever. I had started a brief relationship at work that instilled some sense of my attractiveness. By that Fall, I began casually dating others and getting to know my preferences. I mostly went on one-date coffee dates, and didn’t necessarily feel the need to see them again. I felt like I was experiencing a phase I was supposed to have lived at eighteen. I was getting know myself and most importantly, to feel comfortable being with myself and in my skin. Although there was a weekend I squeezed in eight dates (to maximize my child-less alternating weekends), I also enjoyed not scheduling any dates and relishing the peaceful solitude.

Three was about the maximum number of dates I went on with any one person. A male friend teased me about this – my normal “one date” policy. I teased him for having a pattern of four-month “relationships” with women and then breaking their hearts. I didn’t feel ready for a relationship and passed up some great guys that were eligible and would have potentially made great mates.

I focused on my getting myself financially stable so that I could take good care of my son. I felt that I was all he had and could not count on anyone else, including his father. I worked a lot of over-time, taking my son in to work with me on weekends occasionally. I also got an MBA, on-line. I stayed very busy for a few years after 2003.

By the following summer, in 2004, I managed to move my son and I into a different and better home. It was empowering to feel like I could do anything and create the life I wanted. There was stability in my life and my son thrived within the structure. I kept him at a great school nearby, making sure my new home was nearby and driving two hours to work. I felt proud that I managed to keep him at the same school since kindergarten, as I had grown up moving every two years.

By the fall of 2005, met a man through church and decided to give love another chance. We married two years later, on 7/7/07 (along with many others). We have survived bumps and I am blessed to have had a daughter in February of 2009 who I didn’t expect to have.

I am hopeful for my future and my children’s. I look forward to seeing them growing up and learning from my past to be a better parent. There have been many lessons (and continue to be more) that I will keep reflecting on. I want to make the most of the life that I have.

Feb 042010

Once I actually married the wrong man after living with him for three years and experiencing every red flag, I was surprised to not be immediately inducted into the “you’re now an acceptable Indian girl” club. But I was no longer being a “bad” Indian girl by living with him! Look, I married him. So that made me a bigger moron and then I was married to one, too…

Since I am persevering (I actually got “the most persistent account executive” award in college), I stayed with the wrong man for eleven years. Still, no award….Maybe the “you’re acceptable committee” lost my address???

Being a “babe in the woods” (as one therapist referred to me as) is a rough road for many South Asian women, an option that is intimidating and maybe encourages many to stay in the wrong situation for too long. There are a lot of scary things in the woods, that we haven’t seen before. However, if given the chance, we discover that the woods are just beautiful. They are majestic, proud, and allow for stillness and sweet solitude. Yes, sweet solitude, not being “alone.” It is the same concept, but a very different view.

It’s a view that allowed me to finally be the “happiest divorced woman in the world.” Dr. Phil says you must “earn your way out” of a marriage. Boy did I take that seriously. He probably would have told me to leave much sooner and to not have taken the marriage pledge in the first place. I filed almost four times. I took prescriptions for apparently being bipolar, but it was actually to deal with an emotionally unavailable and unresponsive man, and insomnia. I was first misdiagnosed with the illness after my breakdown at 18, though I was not informed until a breakdown and end of my first marriage. I started prescriptions and took them for ten years, until 2002, when a doctor confirmed I did not have the illness, that my issues were related to my destructive relationships. Right before the breakdowns, I had also not slept for several days, which can trigger episodes that mimic the illness, just as truck drivers who don’t sleep can experience hallucinations.

I believe it is true that the universe tries to give us messages, and we have to train ourselves to be receptive. In my situation, the messages had to get louder and more obvious. In 2001, there were very messy divorce proceedings, when my son was three. I struggled with the idea of failure of my marriage (again) and its impact on my son. 911 happened, which fed my reluctance to end my marriage. I should have pushed through these fears and completed the hard-won process.

However, I told my attorney that I wanted to cancel the proceedings. I allowed my husband back in my life and the bricks from the universe began being hurled at me in full force. There were monthly catastrophes. A pregnancy in February that ended, a roll-over in April that I escaped without a scratch, a bankruptcy in June…etc….etc….By my thirty-fourth birthday in June, I realized that if I didn’t end my marriage for me, I needed to do it for my son. I realized I would not want him to be in a marriage that made him miserable, and yet that is what I was role-modeling. We began living “separated” in our home, with my husband living in the lower-level. It was impractical and emotionally-damaging. By September, I had my husband legally removed (he had been unwilling to leave on his own).


Marrying the Wrong Man

 Authenticity, Cultural Confusion, Memoir, Memoir - 1991  Comments Off on Marrying the Wrong Man
Feb 032010

To be a good Indian girl (the Indian paternal voice in my head said), I needed to be married, to anyone, rather than be unmarried. I didn’t have a maternal force in my life to help make the right decisions in the area of romantic love. I was just to say “yes” to whoever my parents decided and that whole area was done! There was nothing to consider beyond this. No direction in understanding the opposite gender and creating a meaningful relationship.

How was I to know the type of guy that was right for me? I thought I was being noble and not “money-oriented” by not worrying about the fact that he didn’t have a car and didn’t seem achievement-oriented at all. Compassion somehow meant committing my life to someone! After all, when I had told my mother I was not interested in marrying the man selected for me, I was told to not be rude to our “guest.” Did that mean I was to marry him?? Having a sense of self-worth instilled was missing from parental objectives. If I had a decent sense of myself and valued that, I imagine that I may have wanted more for my life than what this man-child seemed to offer.

I let myself be abandoned to the moment and optimism that everything would work out. Misguided optimism has gotten me into a lot of trouble! It ends up meaning recklessness when events that require serious consideration are not given that. It is about not taking one’s life very seriously or valuing it much, and acting impulsively. I didn’t get the message from my environment to think things through clearly and make sure it matches what you want. When I tried, I was shut down. So when evaluating the guy I had met accidentally at a club and dated too long (after the first night), I thought “surely he would get his act together.” He would get an education. Why wouldn’t he? It was the reasonable thing to do and everybody was reasonable, right? So what if he was having a delayed start by not having started college while I was done? Pria, Pria, Pria!!!

If I were my daughter, I would say to her, yes, you should look at what has been done till now. If you could manage a goal by now, why shouldn’t you expect your prospective mate to have achieved that by now? If you have the values that you do at your age, perhaps you should expect the same from your mate at his age. People’s values and character don’t change very much. If you start out ambitious, you stay that way to an extent. Doesn’t that matter for a marital candidate?


My Journey

 Authenticity  Comments Off on My Journey
Oct 132009

Santa Cruz, CAI have been compelled to write about an aspect of my life that has been mostly hidden and certainly not given the attention that it deserves. It is an aspect that has not gotten attention in the lives of many others, I assume.

This part of my life I am referring to has to do with my cultural background and the impacts on my life, some of which have been positive and some so difficult that I believe I have been suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

I feel that by writing about my experience, one post at a time, there can be some healing and growth for me, along with the lives of some of my readers. The experience will at least be cathartic. I feel a need to speak my truth and potentially speak for people who feel unable to. Life is too short for secrets and shame. Join my journey to authenticity.

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