4. November 2010
As most of you know, Diwali, the festival of lights, is upon us. I really love Diwali as a holiday – like Thanksgiving, it seems like a celebration we can all get something out of, regardless of our faiths or lack thereof. Focusing on light in our lives already in our lives, our thanks for the people who have helped us get to our current state of knowledge and happiness, and our wishes for increased light and good in a world is something I think everyone can get behind.Continue reading...
3. November 2010
My first international trip occurred when I was four – we took a ferry to Victoria, Canada from Seattle during a Christmas vacation. I have only three hazy memories from that trip: shivering on the ferry from winter weather so unlike balmy California, walking along some cobblestone streets, and marveling at the snow and woolly mammoths.
In retrospect, I believe the woolly mammoth was behind glass at the Royal British Columbia Museum, but for years I informed people that Canada had weird streets, snow, and woolly mammoths.
By the time I met Aditya I’d had the chance to live abroad in Germany and travel around Europe and Mexico, so I was about as well prepared for a trip to India as anyone can be. Before that first departure, I was remember reading books on travel and India fervently in an effort to make my trip there – and the Hindu wedding Aditya and I would have – more enjoyable and stress-free. Most of the advice I found was garbage, to be honest – Aditya and I had a lot of laughs at the expense of writers who seemed to think that India was entirely composed of only squalor and spirituality, instead of, you know, regular folks living their lives. However, one short quotation I came across prior to that trip still stands out to me – it was great travel advice, especially for someone on her way to her wedding:
A journey is like marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it. – John Steinbeck
Traveling anywhere means leaving the familiar where we’re comfortable and in control – to a large extent, that’s the purpose of travel. And so giving up control, and allowing India to be a shock to my (very Americanized) system ended up being half the fun.Continue reading...
28. October 2010
In the process of packing up and shipping all of my office files, notebooks, computer equipment and such from Virginia to San Francisco, I noticed that a few Indian accessories have crept into my desk knick-knacks over the years. In celebration of completely unpacking all of my office stuff (fist pump!), I thought I’d share some snaps of the various items with you guys. We have plenty of Indian accessories at home, too – you can expect a celebration post for finishing unpacking the house in maybe five or six months…Continue reading...
20. October 2010
Allow me to introduce you to my new favorite artist, Nidhi Chanani. I first stumbled on Nidhi’s work on etsy, which is an online community for buying and selling handmade items. I was immediately in love with her whimsical, joyful drawings. Once I found her personal website and bio I realized why the art brought such a smile to my face – while Nidhi was born in India, she grew up in California, is married interculturally – and infuses her art with the diversity of her life.Continue reading...
18. October 2010
This weekend a bunch of us “gori bloggers” were featured in an article in the Mid-Day Mumbai. It’s a fun little piece, with lots of different viewpoints featuring some of my favorite bloggers – the questions the editor at Mid-Day asked were pretty thought-provoking for what I thought was a tabloid! I’ve uploaded scanned versions of the article beneath the fold, along with the complete answers I sent in.Continue reading...
5. May 2010
Esther Duflo, a development economist at MIT, recently won the John Bates Clark Medal – which is basically means the economics field is saying “You’re brilliant, doing amazing work, but not quite wrinkly enough to win win the Nobel. Please stick around for 20 more years and Sweden will be calling.”
Duflo’s work is all about figuring out what sort of aid programs work and what don’t, so that our aid efforts end up actually helping the poor – basically, she’s taking development work out of the dark age, “we think using leeches to rebalance the humors will help” era of thinking and into an era where scientifically rigorous experiments will let us know what actually does work. In the video above (from the wonderful TED)she explains the sort of work she does, and the results from some of her studies – for instance, in one experiment in Udaipur, India she was able to figure out a way to increase full child immunization six fold for only pennies per child. It’s a very understandable and clear talk, and I highly encourage you to give it 15 minutes of your time.Continue reading...
4. May 2010
Ringing endorsement, eh? But let me explain…
Our recent trip to India was:
One thing India wasn’t, however, was hard. Let’s put that in bold:
And that fact really surprised me – so much that it’s taken over a month to write my first post on the trip as I try to figure out why traveling though India wasn’t the challenge that it was the first time.Continue reading...
2. December 2009
A commenter at this site, Lurker Frequent (aka LF), has once again asked a really interesting set of related questions in the comments section of a recent post that I’d like to address as a proper post, since I have plenty to say on the topic. Here’s his questions:
I am very curious to know about relationship dynamics in your Indian American Household, with regards to the cultural differences in customs in India and America.
More specifically, in India, people invite each other over and unexpectedly drop in and hang out and do things together. In the US it’s more planned, and “khatirdari” is less common in this DIY land. How does it work in your family? How do you handle all the social obligations of an Indian wife?
… the Indian bahu is “supposed” to do a bunch of stuff like cook, clean, wash, entertain the guests, manage social life etc. etc etc. It’s all voluntary though, no pressures in modern day families. How’s your “Bahurani” experience been like? Do you guys do all of that?
I think I’ll shelve the “chores” section of the question for a later date to focus on the hospitality portion of LF‘s question. So what follows here are my thoughts on hospitality generally in intercultural households, the interculturalness (or lack thereof) of our household hosting , and some general tips that might be of use to others.Continue reading...
11. November 2009
If you want to help Indian children, please don’t give to child beggars.
Of all of the advice I might give to individuals traveling to India – or most of the developing world – the most important one would be
I realize this sounds cruel and callous. It feels cruel and callous to me, even when I know it’s the best choice – especially when I’m sitting in an air-conditioned car in India, idling at a red light, and people who are clearly poor, clearly in need come to the window begging for a small handout. Just a few rupees, which, to an American or other Western traveler, is next to nothing. Change I probably wouldn’t bother to pickup off the ground if I saw it. Can you ignore such clear need without guilt creeping up on you?
I can’t. I feel guilty for my Western extravagance when I see the numerous beggars in India. Very guilty. But I still don’t give them any money. The reason is because I know – from a few simple economic principles – that giving to beggars is not a particularly noble deed. In fact, I’d say that giving to beggars in a poor, developing country – like India – is a bad act. It certainly doesn’t seem that way – and I don’t think givers give with bad intentions – but it’s still a problem. Let me explain…Continue reading...
6. November 2009
One of the things I’m looking forward to on our upcoming late winter trip to India (mid-February through early March) is being able to sample the regional food in the areas we’ll be traveling through. Aditya and I will be in India for about three weeks and in that time we’ll go through Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Maharashtra and West Bengal – so there will be lots of different types of local delicacies to try! A friend sent me this map she found to help me prepare for this culinary delight (and to make me salivate), and I thought I’d share it with you allContinue reading...
5. November 2009
This is Part Seven - the last of a continuing series on my Indian wedding adventure. If you’re new to Gori Girl, try checking out Part One, where the story starts.
When we left off (oh so long ago) on the story of Aditya’s and my Hindu wedding in Part Six, I mentioned we had just finished performing the Laja Homa, in which puffed rice is offered as a sacrifice to the fire.
After the Laja Homa, Aditya and I sat down again to exchange our marriage vows. Now, um, this is a bit embarrassing but, you guys? I totally let down all Americans in this part of the ceremony. I kinda sorta gave the impression to all the guests that adult, well-educated Americans (as represented by yours truly) don’t know where the heart is located. You know, the whole “dumb Americans” stereotype in living color.Continue reading...
1. November 2009
Checking the new postcards at PostSecret is one of my favorite Sunday morning traditions. As wikipedia explains PostSecret is “an ongoing community mail art project, created by Frank Warren, in which people mail their secrets anonymously on one side of a homemade postcard.” As I see it, it’s just one more example of the amazing connections and sharing of common human experiences the internet can lead to. When I saw today’s card, I knew I had to share it here.
The author of the postcard wrote in this morning to share the missing word, and translate her words:
I’m studying Hindi, so that when I meet your parents, I can tell them I love you.
27. October 2009
Most of my American friends live in horror of being that American tourist when traveling abroad. We’ve all heard the horror stories of the rude American traveler who behaved in a completely culturally insensitive way while traveling, working, or living abroad. The person who tromps into a Japanese house wearing his shoes. Or complains loudly about the stupidity of grocery stores being closed in Germany on a Sunday. No one wants to be that person, right? In an effort to not be that person, friends have told me they try their darnedest to follow that age old maxim: when in Rome, do as the Romans do – i.e. follow the customs of the land and culture that you find yourself in, even if they aren’t your customs. Nothing wrong with trying to be respectful in all ways possible of other cultures, right?
Well, no – there are some things wrong with that old rule about following other culture’s customs as much as possible. My main complaint with the “when in Rome” adage is that it simplifies a topic that defies simplification. Tossing the rule out in a conversation as a simple, true fact (as happened recently in the comments section at another blog that inspired this post) strikes me as similar to slapping a bandage on what is, in fact, a thorny issue. Sometimes it’s a good idea to follow the customs and traditions of another society while you’re visiting (or living in) it. But sometimes it’s a really bad idea.Continue reading...
19. October 2009
Ah, Diwali. Fesitval of lights. A celebration of good triumphing over evil. A time to bemuse your boss and win free dessert from your local Indian buffet. Right?
As I’ve mentioned previously, I happen to work in a very diverse office – and with a recent switch in teams, I now report to a South Indian manager. He’s a great boss, but, occasionally, well, I can’t help myself – I’ll mention a Hindu tradition or a Bollywood film just to see his reaction. You see, despite the fact that he knows I’m married to an Indian, he’s always so surprised when I show any knowledge of Indian culture. Shocked, almost.
So, of course, to celebrate Diwali this year I decided to wear a sari to work.Continue reading...
24. August 2009
Me: “Isn’t today a holiday?”
Aditya: “Well, it’s a Sunday…”
Me: “No, it’s some Hindu holiday… Ganesh Chaturthi, I think?”
Aditya: “I have no idea.”
Maa: “Oh, maybe. I haven’t been keeping track of the dates. Hmm.”Continue reading...
21. July 2009
This is Part Six of a continuing series on my Indian wedding adventure. If you’re new to Gori Girl, try checking out Part One, where the story starts.
After we started the fire (think Agni Pradipan, not Billy Joel), I fed Aditya some pre-made Laddu, which is a common Indian sweet used in pujas and other ceremonies. After this Aditya stood up and promised to provide for me for the rest of my life, so, really, I didn’t begrudge him the sweet. (Also: it was way too hot to do much but sweat beside that fire. Doesn’t look like it? Read on.)Continue reading...
13. July 2009
This is the second part of the interview I held with my husband Aditya’s parents (you can find Part One here). This part starts off with an interlude on Maa and Baba’s first meeting for their “semi-arranged” marriage, then continues on the topic of their first impressions of me. I finally got them to discuss some negatives: what they find difficult in having a non-Indian daughter-in-law and my (apparently) one fault. We also discussed some of the things they dislike about general American culture (as it relates to interpersonal relationships), and ended with some advice Maa and Baba have for intercultural couples, both generally and for those having some difficulty with Indian in-laws.Continue reading...
10. July 2009
I sat down with Aditya’s parents, Maa and Baba, a few nights ago with a list of eight questions to find out their views on American culture and intercultural relationships… and we ended up talking for over an hour, thus necessitating a Part One and a Part Two. Today’s portion focuses on the early days: their worries on sending their youngest son, Aditya, to a foreign country, thoughts on American culture, dating, and their first interactions with me.Continue reading...
7. July 2009
In a short few days the only hope I’ll have in the blearly mornings is that it might just be Bagel Monday in the office. When I crawl out of my sleep coma, you see, sophisticated details like which day of the week it is are completely beyond me – any day could be Bagel Monday. My primitave mind is only concerned with two things: getting our dogs, Kajol & Panda to shut up and stop wrestling on my larynx and/or bladder, and what sustenance awaits me that might be a good enough incentive to get out of bed.
This past month, though, Bagel Monday has diminished in significance, and glorious 20 Ounces of Ginger Tea Everyday (With Biscuits!) has replaced it as my main morning motivator.
I love it when my in-laws are staying with us.
Note that I didn’t say visiting us – that would imply that Aditya’s parents are house guests while they’re here, while, as Baba says, it’s their home too. Granted, our daily life changes some when Maa and Baba are here in Washington DC, the morning tea being just one example, but the changes are more minor than many people who hear my in-laws are in-town would expect. Since we’re coming to the close of Maa & Baba’s second extended stay out here (they were here last year in the late summer, and will be visiting once more this year), I thought that it’d be good time to write about the “typical day” in our household while Aditya’s parents are here.Continue reading...
10. June 2009
Me? Oh, well, I don’t have a faith. And, no, I’m not interested in getting one either.
That was my polite non-answer when asked about my religious beliefs by two Christians who stopped by Aditya’s and my doorstop to proselytize last weekend. And it was as true, as far as it goes – I’m not one much for simple faith in any context. When discussing my religious beliefs with friends & family, I’m most likely to to describe myself simply as an atheist. But when I’m feeling a little mischievous – or argumentative – I’ll sometimes put in that I’m an atheist – and a Hindu.
Yeah, it’s a bit of a complicated situation; I blame Aditya for it completely. Like many other things in my life, religion is something that has become more complicated since we set off on our intercultural marriage adventure.Continue reading...