Wedding Musings

Those who did not attend missed the huge decorated welcome sign at the entrance. The band in their red uniform played different tunes each time to welcome each and every guest – they missed that. The beautiful ladies all decked up walking you to the welcome drink counter and seating you comfortably in the air conditioned hall was a big miss. Once seated, your eyes would be drawn to the stage arrangements with fresh flowers and tassels. Both sides of the stage was decorated with all kinds of shiny things -what the bride will be taking with her to her new home to start her new life. Those who did not attend missed this feast for eyes. The beautiful ladies will appear again and lead you into the dining hall. Had you attended, you would have fainted at the dining hall just by looking at the sheer amount of food varieties being served. Free meals and unlimited buffet with this much variety – you missed it. The two day event was planned so impeccably and attention to details was irrefutable. If you had attended the event on second day also, you would have realized that the stage decor was changed every time the bride changed and matched her wear.

Damn, they missed the whole affair!

Those who attended were awe struck at the scale of the event itself. They congratulated the organisers in person for such an enjoyable event after repeatedly congratulating them many times in their minds. Guests took multiple servings of food, force fed their kids, suggested their preferences to their friends. The dozens of photographers and videographers capturing every moment did not bother anyone. The musical night was enjoyed by one and all. Most of the people took to the opportunity and danced with the peppy tunes. Many guests noted down the details to incorporate that for their upcoming events. Some of them literally cried out of pain that they couldn’t conduct an event like this. Some of the guests pulled the bride aside and took selfies – they really liked the neck design of the blouse and the pattern of long chain she was wearing. What a neat way to capture that for future reference. Many guests who had not planned initially to attend the second day made some adjustments to their schedule and decided to take part in the festivities.

Its totally worth it!

Those who attended enjoyed everything that was arranged for them dutifully and did not miss much. Oh well…… maybe love, warmth, affection and hospitality of the hosts. But…. who cares? The hosts will have to wade through their albums and videos to see if a particular guest attended the event, because there was no personal interaction. The most important people on the stage dressed up in all gear looked gloomy, uninterested, bored and sleepy. They had arranged beautiful ladies to attend to all your needs. What more can you ask for?

Raising a citizen!

Ten year old daughter discussing her Geography with mother.

“Amma, what is AP?”

“Andhra Pradesh”

“What is UP?”

“Uttar Pradesh, MP is Madhya Pradesh”

“What is Telengana?”

“Oh that……You see dear, the state of Andhra Pradesh was divided into two states. The new state formed is Telengana.”

“Why did they split AP? Doesn’t India already have too many states? Don’t they all still speak the same language?”

“Yes, they speak same language of Telugu. But the dialects maybe different and also the state was split due to infighting for territory and thereby wealth.”

“But the Government has to agree, right?”

“Yes, it was done with the approval of the Government.”

“Really? Why would the Government agree to do this? Don’t they know that more states is more difficult to manage?”

Mother paused, stopped folding the laundry and started thinking about how to answer the question.

“You know what amma –  We need a good Government. That’s what we really need.”

Mother happy about the citizen with awareness that is growing up in front of her eyes and also of course that she didn’t have to answer many more such questions!!!!!

 

 

Subjected!

Recently, I had a friend and his family visit us at our house.  He came with his wife, children and his mother-in-law.  Usually, when someone mentions that the mother-in-law is also accompanying, the “drinks” go missing and the hosts become extra nice to please the old lady. But we had a different experience.

Auntie was really nice and started chatting with me. We talked about the kitchen settings, equipments, children etc.  She mentioned that she is a writer and has published some novels.  She gave me company in the kitchen to make rotis. Later, she mentioned about her blog and her pen name for her blogs. Suddenly, it struck me – I have been following her blogs and was a regular reader!!! I used to devour her blogs which were  narratives of everyday incidents merged with some of the author’s viewpoints on them. I certainly did not agree with auntie on all her viewpoints. As I understood from her stories, she had single-handedly raised her children and was very proud of it.

Anyway, the dinner went well and everyone seemed to have enjoyed.

One week later, I remembered to check Auntie’s blog again for new entries. Of course, there was a new post and it was about hygiene. I started reading and into the third paragraph……she was talking about one of her recent visits to a friends place. The host was making rotis just before dinner time. Just then their toddler started crying and wanted to help the mother. The mother allowed the toddler to play with the dough with dirty hands, let the toddler flatten the dough and pass it on to the mother to cook it. She found it absolutely gross and totally skipped the rotis during the meal.

It was an absolute shocker to me. She was talking to me non stop and had followed me into the kitchen. My daughter was bored, hungry and wanted to be fondled. She asked if she could help me with the rotis – so sweet of her – at the tender age of six. I made sure she washed her hands and didn’t spoil the dough. Also, I made the rotis in an electric roti maker to minimize cooking time (less ‘hand’ling also). At the dinner table, auntie had declared that her teeth are not strong enough to chew and digest the rotis. I was happy that I had planned other options also.

Never thought I would become such a contrived ‘subject’ of one of my favorite bloggers. Some of the common friends realized that auntie was describing the dinner at our place. I was so relieved when they asked me to let it go because they have also been ‘subjects’ before and tortured like me!!!!

 

 

Back to the self

I was not feeling well. The rigorous coughing started once I lied down. My hands and legs were getting weak as if there is no blood flow to these parts. It started hurting me. Must be the medicines I was taking for my severe cold and cough. I sat up from my bed often to cough to my hearts content and lied down again to sleep. Soon it was morning and I woke up to help the kids get ready for school. I decided to take a nap after having breakfast and morning dose of medicines.

By 10:30, I was back in the bed. Body was tired and wants to rest. The sun was shining through the windows and sneaking in through the curtains. The roads have gotten busy and the noise of vehicles passing became painful for the ears. The phone was notifying me of the messages and Facebook updates coming in. I decided to ignore it until this afternoon. Construction in nearby plots – seemed they are keen to finish the whole building by today. By this time our local hero also has arrived – fish vendor Sukumaran. He comes in a mini bike, armed with a horn that can be heard miles away. He is keener than the construction workers to sell all his fish in a record time. He can be seen blowing the horn in between serving his existing customers.

I am still in bed trying to take a nap. With closed eyes, straight posture I was listening to all these sounds. A few minutes later, the sun was not bothering me. The sounds of the vehicles seemed distant. Sukumaran and construction workers were still merciless. Few more minutes passed by. I couldn’t hear the fish horn anymore. Maybe today was his luck day and he sold all his fish to the first customer. Only the hammering, pounding and drilling sounds. Since I had my eyes closed for a while now, it felt like the construction was happening within me. I started imagining.

What if I am myself building a road that leads somewhere? I started clearing the mountainous path and making way. If its a small path, one can walk through. But vehicles cannot pass through. Maybe animals can walk through. I kept moving in that single lane and saw that there is an exotic place at the end of this road. Will need a tiny bridge at the end of the road. I hurriedly cleared the path to make a small road. Built a small bridge – didn’t work on the details – just jumped from the bridge to the exotic land. Lost myself.

Don’t know how long I was there. Was awakened by a phone call. The first thing I felt was jumping back into that road I built using the bridge. Looked back to see that the road and bridge are broken and closed again. Need to build them again to go to that exotic place. I don’t know what I saw or heard in that special place – but would like to go back there again.

The roads were busy again, construction going strong. Sun was getting hotter and shining with vengeance.

I realize I need to build permanent roads and bridges within myself to the exotic land which is also within myself so that I can come back into our worldly place whenever needed.

 

 

Random Indian thoughts – I

I have been away from my home country for around ten years now and I have gone back for visits almost eight times in this period of time. The tickets are expensive – you work hard year round just to make enough money to cover the tickets and other spending during the stay. When you are back to work, you start over from scratch again. But I have not regretted any of the trips we made so far.

When you look at it from a North American perspective, you save all your vacation days and use them for your India trip. Your North American friends are jealous that you get one month of Vacation to the exotic land of India! Many of my Indian friends feel that they are stressed when they are in India and it is not actually a vacation. I do agree to this thought and it is true for most of the times I visited home. When my friends come back from one of these trips they swear that they are not going back for say, another 5 years.

Most of the time, average IT Indian families plan their trips around some event that is happening back home – like brother’s wedding, dad’s Birthday, sister having a baby. On some unlucky situations, they go back home because one of the family members is seriously ill or someone passed away. When you combine these events with visits to relatives houses etc. you do not have much room to build in your own agenda of a trip to your favorite hill resort. How can you consider this a vacation if your agenda is dictated like this?

There is a lot of complaining after coming back – oh, we didnt get to do all the things that we wanted to, it was too hot, the relatives were whiny and bad to me, India has changed so much, it is too crowded, all the shops do not take credit cards…..it goes on. What I have found out in all these years is that, even though you do not get to plan your time off, and there are a million other things that you do not enjoy there, there is an undeniably STRONG relationship between you and your homeland. It just cannot be explained in words. You go back so that you can be YOURSELF.

The feeling of belonging and being ones own self is something we forget very easily and conveniently. The last time I went, I had a very stressful trip owing to the fact that it was my children’s first visit and they got sick way too often. But that does not stop me from thinking about my next trip and I am already looking forward to my next one in August. Again, this time it is my Dad’s 60th birthday event that is dictating the dates and places, but hey, I would still take it.

Do let me know how your visits to your home land are like, when is your next visit and what you are looking forward to do in that trip, your thoughts on  my musings………..

Oh, by the way it is not like I never complained anything about my trips and vacations to India. I did do that when I was younger, naive and did not have the big perspective on life and dwelled on immediate pleasures and rewards of life. I have learnt to think of the big picture of life through my own experiences as well as from others.

Reading to Children

I love to read to my kids. Some of the books are really amazing and very illustrative. I could not believe the details that many of these books had. My favorite ones are Good Night Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann, Good Night Moon by Margaret Wise Brown, Dr.Seuss Series Clifford’s Christmas and all of Eric Carl’s creations. Most of these books are driven by the pictures and illustrations. Every time, we read these books we discover something new.  

It took us a few reads before we noticed the red balloon flying high in the Good Night Gorilla book. The balloon is flying towards the sky and is seen in almost all the pages. The mouse trying to drag the banana is a super hit with my daughter. She laughs hard when the Giraffe steps on the thread tied to the banana and the mouse is trying to get him off of the thread and pull the banana. When Mrs.Zookeeper says Good Night, she is expecting only one in return from her husband but she gets quite a few of them. My daughter loves to match the ‘good nights’ to the source. “…..this one is the Elephant because it is big! This is the mouse – see…..it’s small”. She also loves the surprised eyes of the lady in the dark and imitates that expression every time we read it. 

I love the Cat in the Hat book. The words rhyme, repeat…my daughter easily falls asleep reading that one. She has seen the movie too and enjoyed it – but I thought she had a different level of enjoyment than the reading of the book. She is not happy with everything the books offer her though – I started getting insights into her mind when one day she asked me – what is the name of the boy in the Cat in the Hat book – I said “He is Sally’s brother.” – That was not acceptable to her. Sally and her brother were sitting there when they heard a thump and they saw the Cat stepping on the mat – “Mommy………..Why do they say that? – Are we not allowed to step on the mat? “ I did not understand why she was confused about that – I thought maybe it is my tone while reading – I changed my tones when we get there, but the question did not go away. Why we are not allowed to step on the mat?? I am yet to figure out what she is thinking on this one. What would she tell her Mommy – she would tell that she made a mess and cleaned it up – very truthful! 

One day we reading Clifford’s Christmas right after Cat in the Hat. She found something very strange – in Cat in the Hat, the Cat pats Thing one and Thing two and it is illustrated in the picture. Santa came to Clifford’s house and fell down from the roof. Clifford helped Santa out and before leaving Santa pats Clifford. The patting of Clifford is in the text and not illustrated. So, my daughter swears that Santa did not pat Clifford – “Mommy, he doesn’t. See….He doesn’t.” That is when I realized how difficult it is to write for children, because their imagination and their world is many a time incomprehensible.  

Eric Carle is a great “Picture Writer” and we own most of his books. “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” is my favorite. I believe it is a multi dimensional book through which kids experience the life of a caterpillar, turning into a beautiful butterfly. The way the seven days of the caterpillar’s hungry life is illustrated is awesome. I was thrilled to see the ending to this story. The firefly book is another great one. Then there are the Polar Bear, Brown Bear books…..The one common thing about all his books that we own is that they are board books. They last forever. I read the Polar bear and brown bear books to her casually for a long time. Then one day as I was exploring the books I realized that all the animals pictured were endangered animals. What a neat way to get a message across!

Why Not?

I was listening to an energetic speaker Toni Newman in a dinner meeting yesterday. I thoruoughly enjoyed her presentation which could not be any simpler, but highly thought provocative. She succeeded in convincing the audience to make a difference in their lives and in the lives of the people they come into contact with.

According to Toni you either belong to “Why” or “Why Not” category. She presented a lot of her ideas through the examples of her real life situations which were humorous as well as challenging at times. Listening to Toni reiterated my belief that you always have the opportunity to make a difference. You can either chose to be the “Why” personality or the “Why not” and make a difference.

Toni has challenged all of us to do one “Why Not” thing in the next three weeks and be innovative. I have a new perception of the words “Different” and “Innovation”. I will definitely be looking for an opportunity where I can make a difference and be the “Why Not” person.

I will be very interested in hearing your experiences of being the “Why Not” and how you succeeded in such situations. What kind of innovations have you supported in your work or non-work life? What innovative ideas have you come up with?

Visit http://www.toninewman.com/ to learn more about Toni Newman and her ideas.

We did it…..We did it….Hooray!

As parents we all do it one time or another – we do not like to do it, but we still do it. I am talking about letting the television babysit our kids when we need that extra time to get a few things done. I let my daughter watch her favorite cartoons while I finish cooking the dinner and do the dishes. The little one cuddles up on the sofa with her snowman blanket and sometimes goes to sleep watching the television. I do feel guilty – I would really like to read to her and tell her a story before she goes to sleep, but sometimes it just is not possible to see through the pile of dishes and laundry.

Last week, I happened to stay at home for a couple of days since my little one got sick and was sent home from the daycare. Miraculously, the kids start feeling good and healthy the next day – that is another story for another time. Anyway, we are staying home on this snowy day to recuperate.  She wakes up pretty early, goes about doing her morning chores, waves good bye to her sister and father, sits down at the dining table and finishes off her breakfast promptly.

What do we do next? Can I watch Dora, mommy? Well, I need to check my mails at work to see if they dont need me for anything urgent today. Sure, go ahead – she puts the CD in and gets settled into the sofa. tu tu tu tu Dora………her face brightens up. I login to my work email and make sure that I am not leaving any important work (updating my facebook status, checking blog stats in wordpress) undone and not missing any deadlines. Fifteen minutes into it and then I am done.

Mommy….can I have a snack? Can you sit with me in the sofa? Too cute – I put the laptop away and sit down with snacks for both of us.

 Dora and Boots are going on an adventure today – helping the little blue bird get to its mommy who lives in the little blue tree. But they dont know how to get there – so they Consult the Map on how to get to the Little Blue Tree.  Map gives them a few landmarks for them to follow to get to their final destination. Then they begin their journey, sing and dance along, and have fun. Swiper the fox sneaks in and tries to spoil the fun and stop them from completing their adventure – but they deal with him – either by negotiating, or chanting “swiper no swiping, swiper no swiping, swiper no swiping” or by overcoming the hurdle thrown at them by swiper the sneaky fox. Nothing stops them – they continue their journey with the little blue bird. They sing and dance for it when the little bird is scared and crying to cheer him up.

Did I tell you that the little blue bird only speaks Spanish? Yes, so Dora and Boots communicate with the bird in Spanish. They go past the Bananas – they count the number of people, get bananas for all of them, promptly dispose the peels in the garbage cans and move forward. Well, in the episode you will barely notice them disposing the peels off into the garbage cans, but that is something the kids will easily pick up. Then they stop again to see where they should be going next and ascertain that they are in the right path towards their final destination. Dora will help the children jog their memory and figure out that corn field is the next landmark – all along making sure that their assignment is to get the blue bird to its mommy in the little blue tree.

They play with the scare crow as they enter the corn field, let the blue bird lead them through the corn field – they help the blue bird identify the blue path and cross the corn field. Next is the little blue tree. They find the blue bird’s mommy and every one is so happy. Mommy blue bird thanks Dora and Boots after giving the little blue a bird a hug and a special squeeze. Well, their adventure for the day is over and they have achieved their goals for the day. It is time for celebration – We did it, We did it…………

Wow – did you see that? I mean how Dora and Boots teach your kids the principle of life management, team building, mentoring, sharing and having fun at the same time? Dora and Boots never lose sight of their final destination, but always work on the immediate destination. We should work on the near future goals but never lose sight of the long term goal to achieve success. Dora has very good leadership skills – she always let Boots or other companions lead the way or try out things. Dora and Boots never hesitate to ask for help when they need it. Taking advice is not a bad thing at all – bring in the experts when you need that valuable information. Dora and Boots along with their friends work together toward their goal. The team building message in Dora is very strong – undeniable.

The characters always are engaged in adventures and have fun. Fun should always be included in your everyday life even when you are doing important things. For younger kids, there is a lot more to pick up from Dora. For example – associating things together – when Dora is going to the beach, boardwalk is one of the landmarks. Now, kids know what to expect when they are getting closer to the beach. Boots is Dora’s monkey friend – treating your friends for what they are even if they dont look like you. This cartoon teaches kids a lot of Spanish too which stresses the importance of Globalisation and the need for understanding of different cultures.

I am sure the makers of this cartoon are very smart and design the episodes with all these principles in their mind. The kids may not realise it, but they will grasp these principles and apply them in their lives – starting at the kinder garten. I was recently asked for directions to my workplace by a friend and I said follow the food court, go through the car rental, through the sliding doors and you will reach the bank of elevators. Say it with me – Food court, car rental, sliding doors and elevator bank. She later told me that she had no difficulty finding the place.

You now know you dont have to feel guilty about letting the television baby sitting your kids. Just know that they are learning very valuable and important lessons for their life.

Yoga, Spirituality in South India Series – Part IV

Criss-Cross Applesauce……………………

When I was growing up, we always sat down on the floor to have our meals. We bought a dining table in the late 90’s in my home so that guests and my grandma who was unable to sit on the floor could have their meals a bit more comfortably. We would sit on the floor like you would for your meditation (Padmasanam). In the olden days, people used banana leaf for a plate. Banana leaves were available in abundance in the backyard and you could always get a fresh one. It was also believed that if you serve your guests in the leaf, you are honoring them. If you think of it, banana leaves are eco-friendly too.

Indians eat their food mostly with their hands, preferrably right hand. This allows you to touch it and enjoy the feel of the food you are eating. The taller you get, it will get tougher to eat in the sit down position because you need to bend more – to let your mouth meet the food in your hand mid-way since you are not allowed to spill the food on the floor.  In most of the houses, men will eat first and the women will have their food later on. And also, men are not allowed to serve the food by themselves. Women will wait on them and serve them as necessary. Women are not equal to men and so they are not allowed to sit down with the men and serve them. They will be standing and serving with their hip bent.  This is a rigourous exercise and the intensity will depend upon the number of men in your household.

Does this sound interesting and funny to you? You should try this at home and see how hard it is to serve people sitting down on the floor. We have hundreds of guests who turn up at weddings and other gatherings and they are all served their meal this way. To make it more interesting for the folks helping you with this exercise by sitting down, serve them soup on a banana leaf. South Indian meals consist of rice and curries that are runny and are fluids.

Now, you know that Criss-Cross Applesauce is the same as Padmasana. This posture is assumed when we do any kind of religious rituals including our Poojas and meditation. When you are meditating, you sit down criss-cross applesauce and keep your back straight. This helps your breath to travel easily and deeply. Your palms will rest on your knees and facing upwards. Keeping the palms open and facing upwards is symbolic of your readiness to recieve.

Times have changed and people do not sit down on the floor for their meals anymore. The middle class have gotten richer and everyone fancies classic furniture and style in their houses. More and more, people find it hard to sit down on the floor even for a special occasion let alone three times everyday for their meals.

Yoga, Spirituality in South India Series – Part III

Pooja, Chanting, Mantras, Prostrations……. 

Most homes would have a separate area or room in their home for placing the idols and pictures of the dieties. The prayers will also be offered in that area. In Hindu mythology, there are quite a few varieties and forms of Gods that you can pray to. There will be an oil lamp that will be decorated with red dots and flowers. The lighting of the lamp is symbolic of igniting the spiritual lamp inside you. Any Hindu home that does pooja in the morning would have the intense smell of incense sticks, flowers and sandalwood.

The person doing the pooja will chant and offer flowers to all the gods as they chant. The mantras that they will chant will be mostly in the Sanskrit language and will be in the praise of the Lord. When chanted clearly and loudly, each letter of the mantra will create a specific vibration in the environment which is bound to create positive energy. That is why the mantras are created and chanted.

Most Hindus will make a trip to the nearby temple in the morning. The men will visit the temple on their way to work or earlier in the morning. Children will visit the temple on their way to school and they will pray really hard when getting closer to the exams. The temple will have a sanctum sanctorum of the main diety of the temple where only the preists of the temple can enter. It is also symbolic of allowing only the purest forms to come into contact with your soul. One would make three rounds of the sanctum sanctorum of the temple and offer their respects by prostrating before the God. The priest will offer sandalwood paste and flowers to all the devotees. The sandalwood paste will be worn on the forehead and the flowers are promptly put in the hair by the women folk. A visit to the temple makes your soul at peace inspite of anything going on in your life at that time.

I want to talk a little bit about Prostration. You will bend your knee and sit down on your knees and bring your forehead to touch the floor to do this. This is how you would offer your respects to God or any elders in the family. In my house, this is something which will not be compromised. We have to offer our respects to our uncles and aunts when they arrive for a stay and also when they leave. It is believed that everything that happens to you in your life is for good and all the goodness in your life is because of the blessings of your ancestors and elders of the family. In the olden days, the whole big family lived under one roof. These days, it is very rare and people live isolated lives. But when the elders visit, you are supposed to offer your respects and thank them for their blessings. When they leave, you seek their continued well wishes until you meet next time. We would offer our respects to elders also on special occasions like birthdays, when you achieve something personally and professionally  and even when you wear your new clothes for the first time.

I would say the prostrations could be considered Yoga. Everyday, you would do this at least twice, in the morning and evening in front of the dieties at your house. A mother is considered to be the God you can see and hear. So, in many households, people offer their respects to their mother everyday. If you ever did the prostrations before a diety or anyone you would know that it is hard – not physically. It is just hard mentally – you would feel smaller than the other person. In essence, your Ego takes a hit. According to Sri Sri Ravishankar, EGO is Edging God Out – if you nurture your EGO, you are moving away from God. Prostrations make you surrender fully to the other person and leaves you hollow which is the essence of spirituality.

Check this out: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prostration

 Criss Cross Apple Sauce……………..in Part IV

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