I’m “Asian”

 Cultural Confusion, Cultural integration  Comments Off on I’m “Asian”
Jul 182012

An on-going light-hearted “debate” I’ve had with my
“North American” spouse is over the word “Asian” to describe anyone from Asia. I told him that if I, as someone native to the country of India, is “Asian,” than he, as a native to the country of the US, should be referred to as “North American.”

Yes, that would include those from Canada and Mexico. Make sense? No? Then how does “Asian” make sense at all??! It seems like a lazy descriptive (not quite) way for “non-Asians” to describe anyone from the continent of Asia. It means they don’t have to bother with learning geography and finding out where we’re really from. I’m sure anyone from the continent of Asia would prefer that we’re referred to by the country we’re from, rather than continent, just like those North Americans.

There is a huge cultural difference between someone from India and China, for instance, even though the countries are fairly close together. The word “oriental” is not much clearer and is generally used to refer to cuisine and as an adjective for procedures.

How about bothering to learn the country one is from and use that as a reference point or just not use one? If we want to be completely fair (and lazy), we could just refer to all of us as from one planet and not worry about what country we’re from. If we use countries as reference points, then we may need to distinguish ourselves further by states and cities (and even what part of a city).


Curried Quinoa

 Cultural integration, Indian Cooking, Recipes  Comments Off on Curried Quinoa
Aug 092011

Curried Quinoa

I’m trying to find interesting ways to use healthy grains like quinoa. I was inspired by a dish last weekend made by a fellow camper that seemed to be like Southwestern taboule. It had black beans, chives, cilantro and tanginess from possibly lemon. I was going to try to replicate it from taste and sight, but didn’t have black beans on hand. I did have chickpeas, so thought of chole and combining it with quinoa.

I sauteed some red onion and a little chili pepper in coconut oil with cumin seeds, asafoetida, turmeric, and chopped ginger. I added a can of diced tomatoes and chickpeas. I threw in some chopped spinach from the yard for more nutrition. I let this cook and added it to the cooked quinoa, which I had made in the rice cooker just like rice – 2 parts water to 1 part quinoa.

It satisfied my family, and most importantly, my picky toddler.

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.

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:
TANVIR ISLAM – Lead/Rhythm Guitar
ANG SINGHARATH – Lead/Rhythm Guitar
MASHFIQUE IQBAL – Bass Guitar/Vocals

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

May 122010

Recently, I worked out to “Masala Bhangra” on Fit TV. The Indian folk dance work-out routine was created by Sarina Jain, combining Bhangra and Bollywood moves. It is a good cardiovascular work-out, allowing one to lose weight easily while having fun. Sarina is considered to be the “Jane Fonda of India.”

It’s great to see an integration of traditional Indian dance with the Western culture. Indian dances are fun and I enjoyed doing plenty of folk dances for my community while growing up. It’s nice that there is a work-out like Masala Bhangra to still get a taste of that love, along with the familiar, up-beat music.

Source: Masala Bhangra Workout

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.


Earth Day and India

 Ayurveda, Cultural integration, Development  Comments Off on Earth Day and India
Apr 222010

Rajasthani mustard field

A mustard field in Rajasthan

Today is Earth Day. In India, one can argue that every day is Earth Day for many people. Caring for the Earth has been an integral part of the South Asian culture. Take Ayurveda as an example. One can not separate nature from the practice; it is an integral part. I have seen examples of environmentally-conscious practices in India that are probably taken for granted. An example is seeing a housewife in Jaipur use a solar cooker on her flat roof-top to take advantage of the sun to cook mangoes in order to make mango pickle.

Of course, there are exceptions to caring for the Earth in modern-day India as resources are continually being sacrificed to support a growing population and demand as the country develops at an astounding rate. India is in the position to learn from the mistakes of developed countries regarding growing sustainably.

India can choose to integrate its green heritage to develop further in environmentally-conscious ways. Traditional sustainable practices can be balanced with current green technologies. Developed and undeveloped countries can learn from one another in this regard.

In appreciation of Earth Day, it would be great for Indians and other nationals to reflect on their heritage and its focus on nature and the planet. This heritage can remind us to live greener and to teach one another ways from our heritage we can do that more.

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