Category: Being Indian

Beliefs – yours and mine

Alert – If you are a religious person please STOP, don’t read any further.

A few months back a very close friend of ours invited us for a puja at their place. I got the call while I was at work and happily made my way to their place directly from work, Buzz in tow. Time for puja was set for 6:30 P.M. and we made it by 6:20. Only a lot of other people were still to come. The wait went on till 7:15 and then started the puja.

I know what followed is my fault and I should have planned in advance even when I did not get a lot of notice. But in my defense I was clueless on what was to happen, but I will not pass on the blame. It is mine to take. After having spent her day in daycare Buzz generally comes home hungry. I get her through bath time and the 20 or so minutes it takes me to cook by giving her some fruits and milk as soon as we come home. Even then 7:10 in dinner time.

On this particular day as is her way, especially since she did not get her fruit or milk, Buzz started asking for khaana (food) at her usual time. My friend told me to go get Buzz something to eat from the fridge when another guest at the puja stopped us.

Milk was part of the puja (since it was a Shivji puja) and so was water, fruits were also kept as part of the offering and the prasad made up of some vegetables, puri and halwa. This meant all food groups were covered, which further meant no one could eat till the puja was done.

No matter how much my friend tried to argue, ‘God comes before everyone’ stood firm. Anyways the puja started and went on for an hour. No shortcuts allowed.

For that one complete hour Buzz was heard crying for ‘khaana’ without a break while my friend looked on helplessly and I cursed myself (along with getting really mad) for not having fed Buzz before I came by.

I grew up in a house where prayers, a temple inside the house, pictures or idols of God, or even visiting a temple regularly were not part of life. I was taught to respect beliefs of others no matter the religion but more importantly having a clear conscious as I went about my life was the bigger thing than praying every single day. So I can except that I don’t get the customs that others follow. And as a Mom whose kid was screaming with hunger in this situation, I get that I don’t understand the entire point of marking all food as inconsumable till the puja is done. I somehow got Buzz and myself through that hour, fed Buzz and let things be.

A few days back, another invitation to another puja on another weekday. Having learned my lesson, on my way over I stopped at a grocery store, bought two bananas and some yogurt, feed them to Buzz knowing they would even do as dinner if need be. We got there to have a repeat performance. Wait for people..Puja starts late..A child cries out of hunger..Some lady with same ‘God comes before everyone’. The only difference was the child was a 6 weeks old baby and her mom was going to breastfeed her.

Well the other difference was a super mad me.

You want to deny a 6 weeks old baby.. SIX WEEKS..milk? Really? And this is breast milk.
Oh but milk is milk and milk is part of the puja.



How can they not be part of the puja. That is disrespect to the God.
And you think God will want the baby to go hungry, crying all the while?

Fed up with all the useless argument, my friend and I asked the new mom to step into another room and feed the baby. Turned our back on this lady and started the puja.

I got to hear a lot of snide remarks about having no concept of respect for God, look at the way I came dressed in Jeans and T-shirt, look at how I wore no mangalsutra or sindoor, look this, look that. And this is where I draw the line. I respect your customs and what you do. I don’t comment on things that don’t even make sense to me. Can’t I expect the same curtsy? But more importantly, I do have a practical side which thinks before blindly following when there is a kid screaming from hunger. Or for that matter when you/me/we are harming someone or something as we follow our beliefs. For example I got equally sad and mad when I read this even when most people went about liking it on FB.

I want to know, would God really want a kid to stay hungry in his name. Does wearing so-called ‘suhag ke nishaani’ make you more of a wife? Will polluting and in turn destroying a fragile natural habitat please the Gods or provide moksha to the dead? Is the main reason behind praying not to attain a few minutes of calm in our hectic lives? Were religion and customs not started to show us a way to lead a good life? When did we become so rigid in what have been handed down from one generation to another that we forgot the human aspect of it? When did we forget to use our brains to question right from wrong all in the name of God and will God really be pleased about this?

Again maybe I just don’t get it. Maybe because I don’t pray every day or can’t remember the last time I went to a temple, I should not be the one asking all these questions. All I know is my beliefs stand in stark contrast to a lot of super religious people (and here I am not saying all religious people. I know enough people who are religious but not rigid in their beliefs). And that it does not seem to upset me one bit, even when I am called names. And I would do the exact same thing if there were to be a next time.

Blessed

For the past month or so, getting Buzz dressed is getting increasingly difficult. Not because she has started picking out what to wear..YET (she does say ‘Yeah pehenna hei’ as I am dressing her up, pointing to the clothes I have set out for her), but because she has suddenly shot up and the trousers are a tad bit short, the T-shirts are a little bit of a struggle getting past her head. Every time I come across a dress or trouser or T-shirt that she has outgrown, I make a mental note to not dress her in those again. End result being the difficulty in dressing her up, since well there are not too many options left. Every week I promise myself to go shopping for her over the weekend, but come weekend I find myself caught between running errands and social obligation and trying to catch shut-eye. Shopping gets postponed for another 7 days. Well to be really honest with myself, I know there is a part of me who is not ready to pack up the now outgrown clothes. There are stories attached to every single one of those clothes, there is love in how each of them came to Buzz. I still am in shock that they no longer fit.

Back home, a new born baby is not dressed in new clothes. For the first 9 days of his/her life s/he is dressed in hand-me-down clothes. The thought behind this being that the clothes have been blessed by the baby who had worn them before and the good health and amazing growth is being passed on to the new born. On the 10th day a hawan is performed, the baby is dressed in green clothes (don’t ask me why green) and from then on they can be dressed in any clothes, new or hand-me-downs.

My SIL very lovingly send across my niece’s hand-me-downs. A very pregnant me sat and listen to every story my SIL  had to tell..she smiled for the first time when she was wearing this..she turned over for the first time when she was wearing this..see this mark.. I could not help but count my blessings.

D went to India on a business trip while I was pregnant. As I hugged him, happy to have him back, he opened the suitcase and started handing me clothes sent by family for the little one no one had seen yet, but loved no end. At the very end came a green shirt and pajama. Something my MIL had bought years and years ago for D’s future child-to-be when she first figured out she would not stay around to see the child. I have always been emotional about the 4 gold bangles that she had made for me, even without knowing I existed, but nothing can ever come close to my feelings on seeing that green dress.

Saturday afternoon I opened the front door to go out, only to find a box waiting. The from address told me it was from my SIL so I picked it up and walked back in. With great excitement I opened the box to find sweaters and clothes Maa had sent with them on their trip back home and hand-me-down clothes from my niece. I spent the weekend, reorganizing Buzz’s closet. Old clothes were kept aside. Clothes that just came in were washed and put in place. Now every time I open her closet, I have a smile on my face. There is so much thought and love in those clothes. 

Buzz has been blessed all over again.

A look on the other side

The blog world is full of rants about the in-laws in general and Mother-in-law in specific. Every time I read them, I shake my head and sympathies. The Indian system of living with the in-laws and if not living with the in-laws then having them a whole lot of say in your life is not for everyone and anyone who wants to write about the trauma is perfectly within their right to do so. But the more I read such posts, I want to write about the things I see happening on the other side. Things I see but never read about because people in that generation are not a whole lot in to technology and hence are not writing about the going ons. What I am writing is my experiences are from here, this land far away from India, where the ILs come for a visit, not for long stays and hence it is not like you are living with them day in day out all your life.

The scenario goes thus: Baby is on the way. Want to keep him/her home for as long as possible, because they get sick oh so much in daycare. So parents and ILs are lined up to come stay for as long as they can. When it comes to grandkids, grandparents are willing to bend backwards. So they come, take care of the baby while the new parents head to work. And since they are home, they take care of the cooking, cleaning, laundry along with the baby.

  • A friend got in to this huge fight with her MIL on the way she cooked food. It was too bland.
  • Another I know was constantly miffed with her MIL for not folding the clothes after washing the way she wanted them to.
  • One was upset that her MIL did not tell her things were about to get over because she likes her fridge and pantry always packed (which means things over just beyond the half way mark need to be bought and stock replenished)
  • I heard of someone who was irritated with the clothes the baby was made to wear at home.
  • Someone was in tears because no one helped her out with the baby at night.
  • Calmed a friend when she did not find something in the correct place in her kitchen.

And I always think to myself:

  • Our parents (and ILs) are set in their ways. Can’t we mold ourselves a little or let go a little. And if we can’t, how do you expect 60+ year olds to change themselves overnight?
  • Our parents (and ILs) are old. We are in our 20s and early 30s. When we come home, we want to sit in one place and have things served to us. All chores finished. A shiny happy baby handed over to us. How is that fair? When you can’t move your 30-year-old backside because you are tired after a long day of work, how do we expect the 60-year-old to keep going? And taking care of a baby all day is not easy. It is a lot of work and I am totally exhausted when I am home over the weekend. So why not move it a bit and do your part when you come home.
  • But most importantly our parents (and ILs) are here to help us out. They are not unpaid maids to cater to our every whim and fancy. They are here to help out while you go to work. They should get a break once you get home. So get up and take care of your house and your baby.

Hence here is what I think

  • If you don’t like how the food is cooked. Get up and cook something when you get home. And please don’t force your husband to choose which meal he wants to eat (am saying because the same friend got boiling angry when husband did not care which food he ate, the one his mom cooked or his wife. She wanted him to take her side).
  • If you don’t like the way how your clothes are washed, please do the laundry yourself, rather than telling them ‘Oh I am out of undergarments. Do the laundry today’, before walking out the door.
  • If you like your pantry always full, take 5 mins out over the weekend to look through the kitchen to see what needs to be replenished.
  • If you don’t like what your baby is wearing, take 2 mins out before you leave to take a dress out that you want the baby to wear for the day. 
  • If you want help at night with the baby, ask your husband. Don’t look at your parents (or ILs). They have done their part during the day.
  • If you like things a certain way then work on putting them back the way you like ever so often. The simple fact is the person who works in the house does more things around based on their convenience.

Let me talk about myself since that is easy to talk about: My parents were with us from a month after Buzz was born and the time Buzz was about 6 months till she turned a year old. The simple fact is that once you have lived on your own for a while, it is difficult to live with someone. Your sense of privacy and personal space in invaded by your parents. It is difficult to see things a different way than what you are used to (and these are my parents so I am used to them doing things the way they do and kind of do things the same as them just a little different). And after I come back from work, having been gone all day, it is not that I want to help (though I kind of don’t, I am tired and I see that work is getting done so why do I need to pitch in), I want to spend as much time as I can with Buzz. She is my baby, I love her, and I have been away all day, so ofcourse I want to spend all my remaining time with her. But my Mom is tired and needs to rest too. It is morning in India, so my Dad wants to get online and read the Indian newspapers and relax a bit. So we came with a strategy which worked for all of us. Where there was give and take and the final product worked. And every time I did not keep my end of the deal, Mom came up and told me straight up.

Now imagine a MIL doing the same. Telling a DIL that she was tired. Or saying she needed a hand. I have heard enough DILs crib and call their MILs insensitive, rude and a myriad of other things, to know how that goes down. I have seen MIL will dark circles under their eyes, exhausted with all the work that needs to be done, bending backwards since they are here to help and don’t want to be labeled that kind of MIL.

Leaving with a couple of other incidents:

  • A friend’s kids first Birthday party. All the food is being made at home. I volunteer to help, so head over to their place. Do my part of cutting, chopping, frying with Aunty while my friend flutters around counting plates and cups and who knows what else. One of the items on the menu is ‘Bhel Puri’ which aunty has no clue how to make and I am deemed the expert. So I get everything ready. Since the party is in the evening, and this is around 11:00 in the morning, chopping onions, potatoes, tomatoes are deemed too early (mostly by the my friend). When we get to the venue of the party in the evening, my friend asks me to mix the ‘Bhel Puri’ to get the proportion right. I start mixing everything, ask for the onion, tomatoes..there is none. My friend turns to aunty, gives her a nasty look and says ‘List banaani chaniye thi naa’. All I could think of was, what were you doing? Why did you not make the list and ensure that everything was there?
  • A friend gets a bulk load of stuff from her ILs via someone who was coming from India. She cribs non-stop about the fact that ‘X’ was not send when she specifically asked for it, while ‘Y’ was send. Followed by throwing ‘Y’ as not to be used. I look at her and say, “but ‘Y’ would be something you would buy since it is much to your taste, so why would she not use it”. Her reply: “Since my in-laws sent it”.

Again I am not saying that all the in-laws horror stories one reads are not true, or that everyone treat their ILs as above. Just saying that it is not always their fault. There are a lot of us who are less tolerant to our ILs and are of the mindset that whatever they do is wrong and with malice.

And this is not the post about the clash of modern and old-fashioned thinking. This is about work and its doing. Day to day stuff.

From my land

I was standing to get inside the Indian store, Buzz sitting in the shopping cart, waiting my turn. This Indian guy, in his late 20’s/early 30’s comes in from the other side and cuts in right in front of me and then precedes to almost bang the store door shut, hitting the shopping cart hard. While Buzz turns her head around in surprise at being jostled, I could not help get angry.

What is it with us Indian. Don’t we see each other? Do we not think that we need to show any kind of courtesy to another Desi? Do we think smiling at another Indian will lower our esteem in some way?

  • While we go smiling and wishing a good day to all, the moment we see another Indian, why do you have to look down?
  • While we are all quite on all air journey, why does the flight to India become a fish market? Where toiler paper goes missing and there is water all over the restroom floor. Where the airhostess is mistreated and snickered at. And let’s not talk about the noise even when the light are off and people are trying to catch some shut-eye. 
  • While we bend down to pick a small piece of paper that has dropped from our fingers here, the first thing me do when we get to India is spit at the side-walk.
  • While we will bend backwards to be nice and help out someone else, we will ignore and walk away if someone from India tries walking towards us to ask for help.
  • While we expect customer service from everyone, we make the worst business owners with no concept of how to please our customers. Our aim is to make money quick, with no though given to future and repeat customers. Cutting corners at the smallest thing, leaving the worst impression ever.
  • While we are liberal and cut slack for anyone else behind in a task at work, we are over critical when it is an Indian who is behind. With comments like, how will s/he finish the task on time when there are tea breaks every hour.
  • While we will tip the 15% in all other restaurants, we won’t tip even 10% in an Indian restaurant.
  • And then of course what started this rant. While we hold doors and even let others pass in front of us, we don’t give it a second thought before cutting in front of another Indian and banging the door in their face. A kid might have gotten hurt in the process is not our problem at all. 

I struggle to understand why. Does it not hold to reason that being from the same country, we be happy to see someone from our land so far away from home? Even if we not bend backward to help out, we at least be happy about being able to help? If nothing else, we at the very least behave like decent human-beings?

PS: I am not saying we are all the same, but there are enough of us. I have either gone through the above personally or have seen it happen first hand. I am ashamed to say that I have indulged in a couple of above listed a time or two.

Kitnee aadmi they

Me got tagged by Nu. Rules wules so goes.

1. On your blog, provide a link to the Great Bong’s page, Dhanyawaad.

2. Then write down your top 10 Hindi movie lines or top 10 English movie lines (You can do both if you want. Only one set is required for the contest). If you cannot think of top 10, make it top 5. Cannot think of even 5? Make it top 3. No problem. Only restriction: no two lines from same movie. This is done to make it fair for other movies so that they don’t get swamped by Gunda or Loha or Sholay.

3. Tag your friends to do the same.

Phew that done (err..copied from Nu’s post and minor changes done to make it look different.. :D)

Now to the even more difficult part. Me no watch much movies. Me no remember much of what I see.. bohooo .. 😦

So here goes nothing (and if anyone laughs at me..or makes fun of my campy, crappy, cheesy lines..I am not talking to you ever again..and I mean ever) 

  1. Basanti..in kutoin ke saamne mat naachna – As if I have to tell anyone what movie this is from
  2. Kameene mein tera khuun pee jaaoinga – Err..who cares which movie..too many to count.. Garam Dharam jindabaad
  3. Mere pass bangla hei, gaadi hei, balance hei, kya hei tumhare pass..Mere pass Maa hei – AB and the cutest Kapoor
  4. Rishte mein to hum tumhaare baap hote hein..naam hein Shahenshah – AB again in..err..Shahenshah
  5. Dheere Dheere tum humaari saari kamiya jaan jaaoge..phir tum hum se bejaar ho jaaoge – Ever bubbly Juhi in tears talking to oh so sweet Aamir
  6. Eak dress aur bhi hei, kuch aisi..Pehen ke bataaoin? – Sallu dear in RED gives a gift, mouthing the first line..Bhagyashree all coy, eyes low utters the second..in MPK of course
  7. Bade Bade deshoin mein aisi chooti chooti baatein to hoti rehti hien – SRK to Simran err..Kajol in DDLJ
  8. Kya baat hei, aaj koyi special din hei??..Aaj pehli baar koyi ladki humaari car ke front seat pe bethi hei.. – Ms Dixit smiles while speaking the first line..Ever cheezy Sallu responds with the second
  9. Hum eak baar jeete hein..eak baar marte hein..shaadi bhi eak baar hoti hei..aur pyaar bhi eak he baar hota hei – King Khan..oh wee..too many times in KKHH
  10. Usne meri aatma ko chua hei Maa.. – Miss Rai talking about the shirtless Khan in HDDCS

OK now you guys go ahead and laugh at me. I am laughing at the crap I remember. I mean of everything I can remember all I can recall the most nauseating romantic line in a movie there are. 😛 😛

Finally can start breaking again..Yay  all done.. Your turn..err anyone who wants to take up the tag.. OK maybe I will tag Misty ’cause I have too many fond memories of movie songs and dialogs by her when were working on the Baby Shower. Besides that anyone anyone who wants to take up the tag please do.

Overheard

A 6 year old ABCD (American Born Cute..for now, will take a while to get to Confused..Desi) telling a 6 year old ABCD friend of hers:

My Mommy and Daddy speak in a weird accent

Her friend solemnly nods and says:

Mine too

That’s it. The writing is on the wall. The future is clear. Let me go and bury my head in the sand now.