Tag Archives: India

Happy Blood day !

This piece is in response to a writing101 course’s Day 10 prompt : Tell us something about your favourite childhood meal. Tell the story in your own distinct voice.

The one food that was always a treat and comforted me and has deep roots in my memory is: Blood. I loved the spongy texture of blood almost like Jello except for that …er… bloody taste. The dark brown, almost black dish cooked with finely chopped onions and garlic and chillies adding the spicy flavour …with crunchy split chick pea  seasoning with mustard adding the textural contrast. To this the smell of the curry leaves and a dash of coriander leaves …ah… Heaven!

Now , this was not an everyday meal. Although I wouldn’t have complained if it was. But you can’t go about killing everyday. Maybe the once a year ritual of this dish added to the charm. And maybe I would have gotten tired of it if we  managed to make it an everyday item, like rice.  You never know….

My grandfather talked about his father (my great grandfather) proudly , how he killed with one clean sweep of the long knife, severing the head from the body in one single stroke. I have always imagined that scene in my mind but never watched it live. We are a violent clan….I feel that in my blood sometimes (dear husband, Beware!)…and I carve ,occasionally ,for that coppery, irony tang on my tongue with that hint of garlic.

We are not vampires obviously….the garlic thing must have told you that much. Just plain old village folk from a remote village in southern India, who believe that our god/goddesses like mutton…like us ..after all Man made God in his own image or is the other way around? I always get confused….  So anyway, we fatten up a goat and save it for that one day – when the whole village and the immediate family living in cities all gather together – to chop or rather sacrifice at the altar the aforementioned goat (with one clean sweep if the ‘chopper’ was as good as my great grandfather )…a  goat that we first decorate with a  flower garland and add a make-up of vermilion and turmeric….Seriously ..we really know how to dress our food.

We called this day : ‘Jatara’ . It was like a wedding celebration combined with Diwali and Pongal because it was celebrated with the whole family and all the families in the village. We were all one community. I got to see all the cousins ..and almost everyone who I could possibly share a strand of DNA…my blood. Maybe that’s what made the ‘Goat blood poriyal’ so tasty….being surrounded by my own flesh and blood.

This is one food that takes me back to the deepest roots of my being…back to that so very unique and vibrant agrarian culture …. back to that sense of belonging to millions of others…all pulsating together as one … back to the simple times when superstition reigned supreme unquestioned by reason….where right or wrong we got together each year to taste some blood!

P.S. The  government banned animal sacrifices in temples.  I haven’t been to  my village Jatara in more than 25 years….It’s been a while and sometimes when I watch vampire movies I wonder…..

Chennai High Court – Do you know how to spell DEMOCRACY ?

A bunch of people , men and women of various ages, who subscribe to a political ideology in a democratic nation (Chennai, India) decide to perform a symbolic act , the removal of the mangalsutra/Thali, to support the emancipation of women in a patriarchal society . No one was hurt or could possibly be hurt in that event.

What’s the big deal? Let this tiny fraction of the society do what they want to do and go home. You watch their event on TV or don’t watch it. You agree with them or don’t agree with them. You do what you want to do. Maybe organize an event to counter that symbolic gesture to promote your culture. Simple..Right? That’s how democracy works. Right?

Apparently not. Well, another group of people’s sentiments were hurt…that is a big deal. You see this “sensitive group of people” , the guardians of ‘Indian Hindu Culture’ as they call themselves , can’t tolerate freedom of someone else’s expression.

I understand such zealous-fanatical-about-culture entities  exist in our society….but the High Court? What were the Justices thinking? Or rather were they thinking?

Here’s some news coverage on this issue:
The Times of India articles says:

At a special sitting that began at 8.15am, the Madras HC reversed an earlier order and stayed DK’s programme. A bench comprising Justice Satish K Agnihotri and Justice M Venugopal said fundamental rights, freedom of speech and expression along with freedom to assemble peacefully could not be exercised if it destroyed the fabric and ethos of Indian culture, and caused law and order problems. The sitting was held in Justice Agnihotri’s residence. The bench gave its order at around 9am.”

Is the High Court bipolar? Give approval for the event one day. Revoke it the next day!

So if a criminal, with enough proof to be sentenced to death, has a bunch of goons who can cause law and order problems if they don’t like the verdict , will he or she be sentenced to prison one day and set free the next day?

Do they really understand what true Indian culture is ? Know that Hinduism is a tolerant religion ?

Someone please submit a petition to the High Court, that Indian men in Tamil Nadu are hurting  Hindu/Indian sentiments and destroying the fabric and ethos of Indian culture by walking around in western wear…by not wearing the traditional Indian dress of Dhoti. By not wearing the Metti. By not wearing the thilak/namam on their forehead. Will the high court then order all men to dress as per Indian tradition?Overriding their personal freedom to wear what they want?

No more of this western ‘Hindu/culture eroding’ dress:
Only this Outfit embracing true “Hindu/Indian culture”

Justices and people of India, please remember India is a ‘DEMOCRACY’ not  ‘ D  E M O C R A Z Y’.

Happy Whatever Day!

Today I woke up to posts in Facebook and Whatsapp wishing ‘Happy Siblings’ day.  Now, this is something I had never heard of before. Maybe I have been living in a cave typing blog posts..

Globalization is becoming a problem back home in India. Already mothers in India are complaining about Valentine’s day (which focuses on lovers/spouses) having more importance and are canvassing for more attention for Mother’s day. It is to be noted that the same mother’s though are not canvassing their husbands to celebrate valentine’s day. Some of these mothers shun Valentine’s day saying that it’s against Indian culture yet embrace a similarly western tradition of Mothers day. Now on top of this comes ‘sibling day.’ I can see the matriarchs thinking ….what’s in it for them/what’s not in it for them.

So to keep this simple,I think Indians who worry about preserving ‘Indian Culture’ should stick to their own ‘Happy’ days, especially those who believe that it’s the best culture and more especially those who ask me “why can’t you wear an Indian dress when you go to work in America?” while their ‘traditional’ men go around wearing “westernised” pants/shirts in India.

As it is we have a plethora of ‘days’ to celebrate in a given year just for Hindus. The list below has about 75. Add in Christian and Muslim ‘day’s  and we would easily have 100 special days to remember. Oops I forgot our Jain /Buddhist/Sikh /Parsi and other friends. Let’s add all their special days too.  I’m sure we will end up with half the year being ‘Happy something or the other day’. Add to this birthday’s and anniversaries(death and marriage –  some men joke that there is not much difference between the two).

Do we really need Sibling day on top of all this?  Maybe we should  declare everyday to be a “Happy day”.

By the way “Belated Happy Varaha Jayanthi” to all my Hindu friends.

Here’s the list of all “Special” Hindu days in 2015.

01-Jan-2015 Vaikunda Ekadesi

05-Jan-2015 Aaruthra Darisanam

14-Jan-2015 Boghi

15-Jan-2015 Pongal Festival

20-Jan-2015 Thai Amavasai

24-Jan-2015 Vasant Panchami

26-Jan-2015 Ratha Sapthami

28-Jan-2015 Thai Krithigai

03-Feb-2015 Thai Poosam

17-Feb-2015 Maha Shivaratri
04-Mar-2015 Masi Maham

05-Mar-2015 Holi

21-Mar-2015 Ugadi (Telugu New Year)

28-Mar-2015 Sri Ramanavami

02-Apr-2015 Mahavir Jayanti

03-Apr-2015 Panguni Uttaram

07-Apr-2015 Angarak Sankatahara Chadurthi
09-Apr-2015 Varaha Jayanthi

14-Apr-2015 Tamil New Year – Manmatha

14-Apr-2015 Vishu

16-Apr-2015 Matsya Jayanthi

18-Apr-2015 Sani Amavasai

21-Apr-2015 Akshaya Tritiya

21-Apr-2015 Balarama Jayanthi

23-Apr-2015 Sri Sankara Jayanthi

24-Apr-2015 Ramanujar Jayanthi

28-Apr-2015 Vasavi Jayanthi

30-Apr-2015 Madurai Meenakshi Thiru Kalyanam

02-May-2015 Narasimha Jayanti

03-May-2015 Chitra Pournami

04-May-2015 Kallalagar crossing Vaigai river function

29-May-2015 Nirjala Ekadesi

01-Jun-2015 Vaikasi Visakam

13-Jun-2015 Koorma Jayanti

24-Jun-2015 Aani Thirumanjanam

05-Jul-2015 Guru Peyarchi

17-Jul-2015 Aadi Velli

03-Aug-2015 Aadi Peruku

08-Aug-2015 Aadi Krithigai

14-Aug-2015 Aadi Amavasai

16-Aug-2015 Aadi Pooram

19-Aug-2015 Garuda Panchami

19-Aug-2015 Naga Panchami

25-Aug-2015 Avani Moolam

28-Aug-2015 Varalakshmi Vratham

28-Aug-2015 Onam Festival

29-Aug-2015 Aavani Avitam

29-Aug-2015 Raksha Bandhan

30-Aug-2015 Gayatri Japam

01-Sep-2015 Angarak Sankatahara Chadurthi

01-Sep-2015 Maha Sankadahara chaturthi

05-Sep-2015 Krishna Jayanthi

06-Sep-2015 Sri Jayanthi

12-Sep-2015 Sani Amavasai

15-Sep-2015 Kalki Jayanthi

17-Sep-2015 Vinayaga Chaturthi

18-Sep-2015 Mahalakshmi Vratham

18-Sep-2015 Rishi Panchami

19-Sep-2015 Purataasi Saturday

25-Sep-2015 Vamana Jayanthi

10-Oct-2015 Sani Pradosham

12-Oct-2015 Mahalaya Amavasai

13-Oct-2015 Navaratri Begins

21-Oct-2015 Saraswati Pooja / Ayudha Pooja

22-Oct-2015 Vijayadasami

10-Nov-2015 Lakshmi Kubera Pooja

10-Nov-2015 Deepavali / Diwali

17-Nov-2015 Skanda Shashti

25-Nov-2015 Dattatreya Jayanthi

25-Nov-2015 Thiruvannamalai Deepam

03-Dec-2015 Kala Bhairavashtami

21-Dec-2015 Vaikunda Ekadesi

26-Dec-2015 Aaruthra Darisanam

27-Dec-2015 Parasurama Jayanthi

India is not alone

The blog, tweets and comments  defending Indian’s government ban on the BBC documentary ‘India’s daughter’ makes one claim: “The rest of the world , even so called developed nations, are no better when it comes to women’s right and safety. Solve your problems first before pointing fingers at me”.
It’s a very valid claim. If you google “TOP 10 countries with highest rape”, you will find that India is wedged between US and UK who lead and trail India respectively. If you take India’s huge population in comparison to the population of UK and US the statistics would paint a much brighter picture of India. But lets not forget that the incidence in India is less than the rest of the world due to a significant population  guarding its women like ‘flowers’ and under-reporting.
Rape and misogyny is not just an Indian problem. Governments, Feminists and gender equality proponents all have a huge challenge on their hands throughout the world as shown in this WHO info-graphic:
The supporters of the ban use the above statistics and are responding:
“I know my house is dirty….you don’t have a right to point it out because your house is equally dirty”
A mature response from the Indian government should be like one or more of the below, instead of a ban on a documentary:
1) A call for Collaboration:
“Thanks for pointing it. By the way you too seem to have the same issues. Why don’t we work together to solve this to make the whole world a better place”
2) A chance to lead the world:
“I’m going to do these following steps to fix the problem <list the steps>. You also may want to implement the same in your country’
3) Offer help:
“I thank you for your concern for the welfare of our society. Let us know how we can also help you”
Here’s a compilation of misogynistic pubic statements made by prominent US citizens that rival  our world famous Indian defence lawyers: ML Sharma and AK Singh
The fact remains that the US government did not ban the above post or any such videos in the media.
I commend the actions of the Indian bar council that has issued notices to the two defence lawyers for their misogynistic remarks in the documentary “India’s Daughter”.
It’s great to see a portion of India taking positive action! Its time to lead the world in meaningful change.

“Je suis India’s daughter” – Indian goverment stop defaming your daughter

India’s home minister has threatened action against the BBC, after it aired a film in the UK featuring an interview with an Indian rapist on death row.

The video that I managed to watch before it was taken down in Youtube shows the story of the victim’s meaningful life , the sorrow of her parents on losing her in this horrific way and the abject poverty and harsh environment that bred her killers. It shows the deep rooted bias against women ,in the psyche  of a portion the Indian society and passive acceptance of this bias in the remaining portion of the Indian society ,that facilitated this crime. It shows the massive response from another portion of the society – mainly women’s group and students – that banded together with unprecedented efficiency and demanded quick justice.

Here’s the link to the documentary..if its still working:

Now more than 2 years after this incident and uprising , when everyone has returned to their normal lives, without much meaningful change to prevent such incidents or stricter laws for rape (the frequency of which hasn’t abated), comes this documentary. And it gets banned in India. 6 men took Jyothi Singh’s (the victim)  right to her body , her intestines and her life. Now the Indian government has taken her right after death- the right to have her death become a meaningful one.

I will never understand the reasons that the Indian government has for this ban. I only know that the reasons, if any, are not pro-women. If they are concerned that this video will portray India and its criminal politicians in bad light, then they should focus on removing the bad elements ,not remove the spotlight.  The government cries that this documentary defames India. They are wrong; they are the ones defaming their daughter; our daughter; by banning this.

We need the debate that showing of this documentary will open up. We need the mirror that this documentary holds to a portion of our society so people can recognize themselves, the part they play and then…effect positive Change !

I keep emphasizing “a portion of our society” so that we all understand that there is another portion of the Indian society that is doing all the right things. But that ‘good’ portion needs to grow in size and infiltrate and influence the government.

There needs to be stricter laws, swifter justice for sexually based crimes against women in India to prevent these gang rapes in the short term.

For long term and lasting change, there needs to be education for boys and girls equally; education mandated and available easily to all children of all economic strata; with campaigns to remove the gender bias deeply rooted in the society.

The Indian government is working on ways it can ban this video outside India. My request to the international community is this… You all said “Je Suis Charlie”….Please now say “Je Suis India’s daughter”.

Maze Builders – An allegory of sorts

                                       maze1
The maze builders were constantly busy. The maze walls built over the centuries were crumbling under the onslaught of time. It needed constant repair. They also needed to innovate ; chart  twisted paths that led nowhere; build circular loops that bought one to the starting point again and again and design dead-ends that could be mistaken as safe havens. They were skilled men and it was no challenge to them. They built mazes that paralleled their twisted minds.Together they made a network of mazes and they marvelled at the power of their collective accomplishment.
They lived in the maze all their lives; that was what they knew. That was how their ancestors had lived. That was what their ancestors commanded them to be. Some commands were written down centuries ago and these were venerated.  Some were not written yet passed on through the generations as tradition. Some commands were encoded in their DNA. No one knew why or how these commands came about. The maze builders didn’t care to ask  “why?”. They interpreted the commands the way it suited their individual purposes. And they knew the way in and out, so they had the power.
Some maze builders decided to give up and live  under open skies with no walls. They were called bad names and sneered at. “Not man enough”, the maze builders declared. Though some secretly wished their daughters and grand daughters live a life out there without walls with these “pussies”.
Now and then a daughter got lost in the maze.These same men, the fathers and brothers uncles and nephews ,those who contributed the bricks and the brawn ;Those who helped built the maze ;Those who helped sustain it, Wondered how to find her. They scratched their bald heads in bewilderment. They cried. They stood helpless. Powerless in spite of their intellect.
“Woman, How can I find my sister? How can I get her out of that maze? Where is the way in and where is the way out?”, a maze builder asked of the one who was always there for him. He opened his heart and showed how it bled for his sister trapped in someone else’s maze. She looked at him from where she was sitting, with her back against the wall, with compassion. Her heart bled too for his sister and all such lost. But she was too weary to think. There was no words of hope she could offer.  No solution that she could think of. No action that she could do to at least save his sister, if not all. All she could do was to make comforting noises. His big tears dropped into the cement , which his hands kept mixing by habit. There was no need to add water….so much was his tears. He continued to work as he brainstormed a solution, picking up the bricks and building by rote. Soon his work was close to completion , but the solution was not.
He laid the last brick with the skill of a master’s hand that could work without any input from the brain. Thoughtlessly, you could say as his thoughts were elsewhere, with his lost sister. The blue print of the dead-end he designed fluttered in the wind. The woman, the one who listened to his worries, the one who comforted him , the one who was someone else’s daughter, sister , would now forever be trapped in the dead-end, with her back against the wall. His work was done.
As darkness descended over her as the last brick was laid; as she huddled to rest her weary legs after the run in the circular maze, a question arose in her foggy mind. “Why didn’t she, his sister,  ask for help?”.
 ————-end of Allegory —————
The above is an allegory of the hypocrisy of men that still persists in our “society”, especially the Indian society. These men wish and encourage their daughters/grand daughters to be brave as “Jhansi Rani – a fearless queen who lead her country to battle”  yet treat their life partners as lesser humans. They expect  the women to fear them; worship them. With no thought to the example that they are setting and how their actions shapes the society that their own daughters end up living in.
I have witnessed personally these “powerful” men stand helplessly in front of a equally aggressive male, less than half their age, who is abusing their daughter/sister/niece. With all their alleged intellect and power they have been unable to even dream of a solution that doesn’t involve heartache for all the involved parties or some form of destruction. They continue with their aggressive behaviours towards women like animals ,that are incapable of change or evolution , if they are not pleased with the smallest innocuous thing. Yet they  never take that tone with this aggressive male on larger issues and walk on egg-shells around him.
But what confounds me even more is the inability of these abused women to ask for help. I blame the  ‘take whatever shit comes your way with patience and a smile  only then your are an “ideal woman” ‘ mentality of this society where women are worshipped (and whipped) for their high tolerance to non-sense and patience.
The solution in the case of the maze-builders is simple, men: rip down the walls; women: scream for help. In real life, men: treat women as you want your daughters/sisters/nieces to be treated. Let all learn from your actions. And women , ask for help and do not tolerate non-sense… If not for you, for the future of your daughters.

KISSism – A new religion

Diwali

It’s Diwali 2014….the ‘festival of lights’ for Hindus. The ‘light’ symbolizes, among many things, victory of good over evil; knowledge over ignorance.

For years I have scrambled, like many of my fellow Indian Immigrants in the US, to recreate the Diwali of our Indian childhood days, before and/or after working hours and all after-school sports activities. My efforts have always fallen short of expectations that others have that I should uphold the traditions of our culture. Traditions that dictate that on a school/work day I wake up early than usual to prepare specific set of “labor intensive and high fat/sugar delicacies” to offer the God(s)as ‘prasadam’  and somehow assemble the family bathed and dressed at 6:45 am for a  two minute “mini pooja” before they disperse to catch the school bus. To me, my religion has been a source of stress, resentment and pain. Sometimes, just a meaningless chore.

The basic “chore” portion of the tradition of Diwali is to light lamps inside and outside the house.  Make special delicacies to mark the occasion and share it with family and friends. These symbolic gestures usually satisfy the “tradition police” and they think this concludes their religious duties. The “fun” portion of the tradition is that we wear new clothes and burst fire-works. No one seems to go beyond the ‘chore’ and ‘fun’ into the ‘core’. The true meaning of Diwali – to reflect on the Almighty and  illuminate our minds, and share that inner light with the world to light up someone’s way home and give back to society- is either lost or not enforced.

So I decided to break free from those invisible chain of disapproving words and looks to start a new tradition. If there is no room for my new tradition in my religion, I plan to start my own religion(a sub-sect maybe). That’s how serious I am. Have a cool name picked up: KISSism. Where KISS stands for ‘Keep it Simple Sweetheart’.  In “KISSism” the only tradition will be that we demonstrate love, compassion, empathy, acceptance, gratitude and most importantly common sense every day. And on special occasions, like Diwali, take the time to collectively come together to reflect and replenish the soul, over food that is easily available, tasty and healthy. Have fun if possible. Also to spread cheer in the society we live in by giving back.

On Diwali day, we are going to wear our new clothes and go about our daily routine of school and work. In the evening after soccer practice and homework, when we are all relaxed and our minds open to contemplation, we are going to offer freshly baked vegan brownies to the God(s), along with fresh flowers from our garden as our ‘prasadam’. We are then going to sit down as a family and share our reflections on “light”, list the things we are grateful for and list the things we can do to better ourselves. This Saturday, we are going to drop off some food for at a local food drive for needy families. My Diwali plans are all set! My soul feels light  with these achievable and meaningful goals!

Wish you all a stress free, pragmatic and light filled Diwali !

Blog- Arambham (Arambham is a Tamil word for beginning)

saraswati-g

Today is Saraswati pooja. The day Hindus worship Saraswati , the goddess of knowledge, music, art and culture. It’s an auspicuous day where children, in India, are initiated into learning and write their first word.  The ritual is called “Vidya- Arambham” roughly translated to mean “beginning of knowledge”.   I pick this day dedicated to learning, sharing of knowledge and appreciation of fine arts to launch my blog. My “Blog- Arambham” day!

Words! Words have endured across millenniums as religious texts and classics, have taken us on time travels; Recreating realities or imagination , transporting us into the hearts and minds of those who lived way before us; and those who may live after us; a feat  that technology has only been able to achieve in Science fiction novels. To this massive swirl of words circling the universe, today, I add my own, hoping that they too will endure the passage of time and emerge meaningful and positive.

I have always wanted to write. At age 8 it was to write the next in the series of ‘ Noddy goes to School”. At 10 it was the next adventure of the “Famous Five” (inspired by Enid Blyton).  It was a dream with no urgency to act.  The urgency came, when I lost my 52 year young father before I got to know him as a person, someone other than ‘Daddy’. And later when I stood wondering , at a ferry terminal in New York city as the ashes from the world trade center swirled around me,  if I will see my 2 year old son again and if he will ever get to know me.

I urge people to write, if not to the world, at least to their loved ones; preferably handwritten. I’m glad I wrote, letters to my parents ,at one stage in my life; When I had just moved to the United states from India (in my early twenties) and phone calls to India where almost a dollar a minute. I missed them terribly, having lived with them all my life up to that point. So, I wrote how much I missed them, how much I loved them. I don’t remember all that I wrote, although the emotions that I was trying to convey are vivid in my mind. My father became terminally ill within a year of my moving and he passed away, when I was least expecting it. I didn’t get to talk to him much the last few months of his life and for many years carried the regret that I never got to tell him how much he meant to me and that I couldn’t be there with him. One day, going through old letters, I remembered my mother tellling me how my dad, in his final days, used to make her reread my letters; over and over again. It gave me some peace and closure to know that even though I was not able to be there physically with him, my words were there. While I’m not sure I was successful in translating all my feelings for him into words, I’m sure he felt those that I had not written in between those written lines. That realization turned my “want to write” to “need to write”.

As I pick that which is mightier than the sword, I pray there no casualties. I pray that only love inspires me. I pray that my words portray even the heinous of villains with empathy and understanding of the all ways we humans can fail.  I pray that my guardian angels continue to guide me in this new path.