Thursday, October 15, 2009

It's Diwali time.....Let the fun begins

We have been very busy for last couple of days getting ready for Diwali. It is one festival which is hugely celebrated in India by everyone. Diwali brings back all the fun childhood memories. The days of October/ November when we used to have cool mornings and strong 'October heat' in the afternoon. The making of special Diwali FaraL (special sweets and savories made on this occasion), the making of mud forts, school holidays, greeting relatives, having firecrackers and most importantly getting new outfit. I always looked forward to Diwali as I used to get new outfit on this occasion. It was one festival when everyone was in joyous and happy mood. No matter how stressed your life is otherwise, during Diwali season we celebrated what we had, we celebrated all the good things we have, we celebrated life. This year having aai-baba with us makes it more meaningful. It is them because of whom we are who we are. So, celebrating this special festival with them is very satisfying. Get togethers, calling relatives back home, eating sweets and being thankful for what we are is on cards.

On this special occasion, I wish you all a very happy Diwali. May this festive season bring the 'good' in all of us and may we embrace our lives with passion and happiness. Live like there is no tomorrow and dance like no one is watching. Happy Diwali !!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Fall is here….

It’s been a while that I wrote. Well, it’s more than a while – 2 months and no scrambling of words. That’s not good. As I said earlier, writing is extremely therapeutic for me. This passion of mine which started with Marathi writing at the age of 6 or 7 has been a constant source of joy and stress buster. Life happens, we meet people, we emote, we react, we exist – all of this I see it from a writer’s perspective and try to capture it using words. English writing or reading was never ‘my’ thing. I sucked at writing in English and ran away from reading English literature. But I am trying…for a change :)

Last 2 months went by very fast with aai-baba’s visit and seeing more of this beautiful country with them. This time they got to experience the whole family together after a long time. Sheetal and I are in the same city after almost 10 years or so. What more joy parents can have than to see their kids in the same city sharing the bond of love and affection (and at times fights too). I love having my sis in town. Time spent with your siblings is a special one. It brings back all the fun memories that you shared while growing up. The fights, the funny moments, the not so favorite aunts and uncles – everything. Last 2 months, we were engrossed in pure family fun. Taking a week long trip to west (LA and Vegas) was unforgettable moment. Mom loved Vegas glamour and dad thought million dollar houses in LA were worth visiting. Amit and I got to spend quality time with our love Dhruv, meet our friends Shailesh and Parind from LA and enjoy our favorite sin city again. :) Life was good. Last week we had my Aatya (dad’s sis) and her husband visiting us from Atlanta. It’s amazing how you start understanding your relatives to a completely different level as a grown up person vs. when you were a kid. You start understanding some of their decisions and the rationale behind those decisions. We took them to our favorite city - Chicago. Going to Chicago gives me same joy as I used to get as a kid after receiving a new outfit on Diwali - exclusively once a year affair and a complete bragging opportunity to friends. My Chicago trips are similar – although not too far from us, it only is a once a year affair and then when I come back from the deep dish Pizza city, I am bragging about the ‘coolness’ of it to everyone I know. Visit to Chicago makes me lighter, happier and sexier. I forget life’s stress when I am visiting this city of ‘Lake Michigan’. I see and experience life everywhere in this city. Strolling in downtown, shopping on Michigan Avenue, observing the trendy, hip people with their designer clothes and million dollar attitude, experiencing little India on Devon street – I take it all and love it all. It is a city with Midwestern roots that has achievements above the urban heights – figuratively and literally. If ‘Apple’ is the fruit of New York city, I think ‘Plum’ should be the fruit of Chicago – equally stylish but very earthy. In downtown Chicago, we made a quick stop to meet our friends Neha and Bhupi – a friendship that began with Amit but nurtured through facebook connection of me and Neha. I love facebook. It got me connected to so many new friends and helped me grow old friendships. This was only second time I met Neha, but we got instantly connected. I love this new generation of Indian women – they know what they want, they are ready to make sacrifices to achieve it and they are unapologetic about their cooking skills or any other stereotypical skill attached to women, especially Indian women. They will get tattoo on their navel with the same passion as they will have Mehendi (henna) on their hand. They might make nontraditional life choices and they are not afraid to talk about it. Within 10 minutes of our meeting, Neha told my parents and my aunt and uncle how theirs is an inter-cast marriage - she and her husband are from different castes. No shame, no guilt, no regrets or no pride – just the facts. You get what you see – there is no hidden agenda. Take it or leave it. I love that. For long, Indian women did not have the luxury of speaking their mind or making life choices of their preference. It was always determined by someone else – either society, their family or ‘men’ in the house. That evening while driving back from Chicago I got to think – didn’t women of my mom’s generation felt the same way or had same dreams and aspirations as women of today’s? I think they did. They felt same way but they did not have enough power to raise their voice. Their education, their career, their dreams was never a priority and there was no other option than sucking it all up. They were trained to believe that their role is to please a man – in all aspects and at any cost. Their role is to serve and cater to male ego, our very own ‘desi’ male ego. It starts with your father, brother, husband and then your son. It is refreshing to see that new generation of Indian women are getting out of that rut hole. They see their husband as equal partner, a good friend and a great confidante. They believe in their capabilities and are honest to talk about their dreams, feelings and frustrations. They make life choices on their own and are happy with it. Just the GDP growth can never be and should not be the sign of any society’s progress. Materialistic growth does not guarantee equal access of opportunities for all and honor for equal human rights. It is this change in mindset that define how progressive a society is- because only in such progressive mindsets we can have best and brightest minds working towards progress. It is only through such attitudes we can tap into talents of everyone and make real progress.

Fall is here and so is Diwali – hugely celebrated Indian festival of lights. We all are getting excited to welcome Diwali with content mind and uplifting spirits. In this Fall season, let the biases and stereotypes we have amongst us fall behind and we move towards more just, more equal and more progressive mindset and thus society. Happy Fall….

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Pride, Birthday and Beyond....

Last two weeks have been crazily busy. Indianapolis Pride was fun as usual. This time Sheetal and company joined us in the parade and so it made it very meaningful. Dhruv, my nephew was the youngest member of the float and Amit and I were very happy about it. It's very empowering and liberating to see people who attend Pride festivals across the globe. It does not matter what your age, gender, sexual orientation or ethnicity is. What matters is you are walking in the parade with a pride of who you are. You are celebrating yourself, your identity and your self esteem. I always find walking with these amazing people very energetic and liberating. It's very important for each of us to know who we are and what we can do in life. Self confidence and Self esteem are big virtues in life and events like Pride help you boost those. Lot of Fortune companies as well as local businesses usually have their booths set up as part of the education and welcoming message to the attendees of the pride festival. I like to go to various booths and see what work they do and most importantly what freebies they have. I can always use more plastic clips :)

Aai-baba (mom and dad) arrived in Chicago after 7 hours of flight delay in Munich. They looked fresh and full of energy on the arrival, which always makes me happy. They have lot of interesting stories and pics. to share from their 2.5 weeks of Europe tour where they ventured nine different countries. Aai-Baba are people's people. They love to interact, talk, listen and understand other people. They are less of "me" attitude and more about "you". So, whenever they travel they always make lot of friends and fun memories.More to come on their trip...

This past weekend we celebrated Carla's B'day. Carla is a daughter of my host family Dick and Darlene. When I was a student at University of Cincinnati, I was assigned Dick and Darlene as my host family. We used to meet once in couple of months to share interesting perspectives about each other's cultures. This year has been 10 year anniversary of our friendship and with every year the bond has become stronger and stronger. I personally treasure this relationship very much. Dick and Darlene were my face of America when I was new in this country. They helped me understand this country, it's various aspects and facets of life here. It is at their house I celebrated my first Americal Thanksgiving and Christmas festivals. As a new immigrant to America at that point in time, the only picture of America that I had was from most of the American movies, and that wasn't too nice. Dick and Darlene played an important role in shaping my views and perspectives about this country. They showed me how family values, religion, importance on relationships and cultural heritage also matters to lot of Americans. They welcomed not only me but people associated with me to their home and their hearts. I felt instantly at home when I visited them first time. Darlene is a great host and has extremely loving and caring soul. I have gone to her on numerous occasions for advice and comfort. She is my American Mom, in the true sense. Celebrating their daughter Carla's B'day was a fun occasion. Italian food, wonderful conversations and a great company made the evening very special. I do believe it is these bonds of friendships, camaraderie and fun memories is life is all about. At times we worry too much and get ourselves entangled in unnecessary tensions, jealousies, and superficial pleasures that lead us to nowhere. I find birthday celebrations, family gatherings and get together as a great medicine on today's stressful life. With mercury heating up, I hope each of you find a way to relax and enjoy your loved ones' company and have fun. I, for sure am going to rock during this summer.

Happy Camping :)

Saturday, June 13, 2009

It’s party time

Last week has been crazy busy. Alan, one of Amit’s ex-colleague graduated from MBA program and so we attended his graduation party. I love graduation parties. There is so much hard work put in by most grads and it’s very satisfying and fulfilling to see them and their significant others in happy mood. Alan’s kids were especially happy as now they will get more free time from their papa . Julia, Alan’s better half is an amazing woman. She is a home maker and does it with pride and extra confidence. I love that. Julia is also very active in local volunteer group that does advocacy for gay/lesbian rights and awareness about sexual minorities. She had organized a great party and has invited lots of her friends. I have to admit when I started seeing the guests arriving I kept thinking, oh well, this is going to be one of those another parties where straight married people talk about their kids, their ‘straight’ life and the usual ‘married with kids’ dialogues. I have been to many such parties where if you are not married and with kids, you better have excellent communication skills and an ultra ego to hold your feet strong. But how wrong I was! We had an amazing time. We happened to meet these two extraordinary ladies who were interested in talking on topics like Indian culture, abortion, homosexuality, raising pets, American weddings and growing up in Midwest. Now, that’s what I call a complete conversation. Honestly, I suffocate when I am surrounded by very typical traditionalist type conversations where you can see their world is so narrow. But talking to these ladies, I felt it was very honest, heart to heart and healthy conversation. I admire these home makers. These are the ladies (and in some cases men), who are the real backbone and foundation of their family. They are the ones who act as a glue to keep every member of their family together. And they do it with smile and pride. They have this innate quest for more knowledge about everything in life. In our ‘corporate success’ obsessed culture these home makers are breath of fresh air. They hardly get credit or recognition for the amazing work they do but of course they do it irrespective of that. I often find, women (and men) like these are extremely intelligent, humble and know what they are talking about. You will find them without any pretense and they will be the first one to admit that they are not perfect in every sense. Can we have more of such personalities please? :)

Amit and I have been getting ready for my parents who arrive here next Sunday. Currently they are on a Europe tour and are having smashing time. During last week, they celebrated their 35th marriage anniversary in Switzerland. Sheetal (my sis) and I were extremely happy about that moment. We have come a long way from living in a humble 200 sq. feet home with bare essentials to wear and eat to where we are today. Our parent’s hard work and strong belief in good deeds and education is what made us who we are today. Thanks aai-baba (mom and dad) for everything and congrats for making 35 years of life together. I am sure life was not always rosy for you and you had ups and downs in your relationships but main thing is you believed in each other and made it this far together. It is a great milestone and it is something that we will work to achieve in our personal relationships.

It’s Indianapolis Pride today. So Amit and I are getting ready for the Pride parade. I feel so proud to represent my company and walk in the parade with my company’s float. Happy Pride everyone.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Free Hugs

Earlier this weekend Amit and I went to Indy downtown for some authentic mexican food. Weather was nice and breezy and so were our moods. Going to Indy downtown on such nice day felt like heaven. Living in Columbus Indiana we don't find
much fun things to do. I always said, Columbus is a perfect town for people who are married with kids. This town absorbs you like anything if you fit in that bucket. Different events, activities that goes on in this town
are catered for this demographic. If you do not fit in that bucket, then good luck. You are on your own. So you will find Amit and me taking these mini trips to Indianapolis or Louisville or for that metter even to Cincinnati more often than what we wanted.We need a break and means to enjoy life :)
Acapulco Joe's is my all time favorite mexican reastaurant. Your taste buds start salivating right from the moment you eat their salsa. It's so delicious.It has perfect combination of chilies and tomatoes. It's hot with a nice twist to
it - your mouth doesn't get burnt with the hotness but you feel enough heat to crave for more. Their chimichanga is to die for. After a heavy meal at Acapulco's we took a stroll in downtown Indy. People were flocking to downtown to breath fresh air and get the glimpse of all the fun things going on in downtown. It's a
graduation time for most high school students and so we saw lots of 'kids' going around and doing all the 'aaha-s and ooh-s'. I was telling Amit how that age is such a wonderful age. 17-18 years. You are not mature enough to be seriously thinking about world issues and life tensions but you are not a kid as well to not understand the 'grown up thingies'. At the central monument We saw these two teenage girls carrying a big banner that says "Free Hugs". Initially I had no clue what exactly they meant. While we were sitting by the fountain watching people, traffic and passerby's we realized what 'Free HUgs' was. It's exactly what it says. Anyone can come and give hugs to these girls. And mind you these hugs were friendly, affectionate hugs. When I approached these girls, I asked them what this was. In a very cheering and happy tone one of the girl explained to me that they do this
out of fun and to make people smile and laugh. They believed this world is so full of tensions, hate and rivalry that loving another human being is becoming a rare thing. And isn't that so true. Finding someone to give a hug and just say "I see you, I trust you and I care for you" feels so great. There is a sense of belonging somewhere and at times we need that. Inspite of being surrounded by hundreds of people, we feel lonely and depressed. I believe these acts of kindness and love are much more needed in today's world. With more and more materialistic possessions and technological advancements, people are going away from each other. In these times
free hugs are going to be much needed and appreciated. I and Amit very happily gave a warm hug to these wonderful women and wished them very best for their future. I was amazed with the matured thought process they had at that age. Simply amazing. So, next time when you feel lonely or depressed, give someone a big warm hug and see how comforting you will feel by the touch of another human being.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Celebrating Men’s Men

Celebrating Men’s Men

Things have been crazy for last 2-3 weeks. With work, b’days and social engagements life seems to be hurried and extremely hectic. But, oh well…that’s the world of today for you. Last weekend, one of my friend Shailesh from CA called and told me that he is visiting India as his sister was expecting any time. After that, every two days he updated his facebook profile with latest happenings re: sister and the baby. In his recent facebook update this is what he wrote:

"Shailesh is experiencing what little kids mean.... keeping awake at nights, changing nappies, singing funny songs, talking stupid things and smiling at the middle of night as the little one wakes you up.... its tiring, but soooo fulfilling and satisfying.... there is a sweet happiness in it. It just makes me smile and feel thankful!!!"

Shailesh is one guy who knows how to express his emotions. It was very heartwarming to see his love and affection for his sister and her baby. Men have always been characterized as these tough, emotionless creatures but when I see people like Shailesh who knows how to express their emotions, who are there for their sisters in their most important phase of life, it’s very touching.

John, one of my coworker recently had a babyboy. This is their first child and John is extremely excited about the new arrival. Last week, he talked about how he is waking up every 2-3 hours in the night to take care of the baby so that his wife can get some rest after going through the delivery process. Inspite of being tired and sleepy at work, he thinks it is only fair to take care of the baby in the night in order to give rest to his wife. When he said that, I was like “wow”. This guy not only loves and cares for his wife, but he shows that love through his actions. He understands it.And that’s VERY important.

Atul, another friend of mine from Chicago, follows similar trajectory. He knows how to treat his woman – his wife, with equality, dignity and respect. Whenever I call him or talk to him, he is either taking his daughter to Piano or swimming classes, or getting them ready for school. He is extremely involved in his kids’ lives and works with his wife as an equal partner in everything. I have known Atul for almost more than 15 years and one thing I can say for sure is he knows how to treat his lady. And I tremendously respect him for that. He is one of those men, who give equal importance to their wives’ careers, dreams and ambitions in the true sense and is ready to make sacrifices. He knows how to handle and deal with his ‘male ego’. Unfortunately it’s not a common occurrence when it comes to men, at least Indian men. Recently Shobhaa De commented that Indian men still operate in mediaeval times and have very traditionalist expectations from their wives, whereas Indian women are very ‘today’. And that is so true. Indian women know how to wear pants and bindi at the same time –literally and figuratively. I see this everyday. Indian women are competing with global talent in Corporate suites and still managing to cook ‘daal-chawal’ after coming home. There is a big shift in today’s Indian women’s attitudes and life expectations than women from my parental generation. Unfortunately for men, for most part, things have been pretty much same. They are still stuck with their male egos, ‘Their’ career aspirations and what ‘THEY’ want from life. They still view women’s role as cooks, maids and caretakers in the house and completely shy away from their share of responsibility. It’s not at all a team effort for them – at least for most of them.

In such circumstances, men like Shailesh, John and Atul are breath of fresh air. You call them metrosexual, progressive, open minded or just plain ‘human’ – doesn’t matter -they are here –at least some of them. They give you hope, that centuries and centuries of gender inequality can be eradicated with more open and fresh attitudes. They get it. I call them Men’s Men. They are ready to wear a tie and an apron at the same time. They know how to express their emotions and truly value their sisters, their wives – women in their lives. I firmly believe, kids growing up in such progressive and liberal households will have very bright future, because their attitude towards life will be less biased and more inclusive - more open –a ‘must’ component for tomorrow’s citizens. These Men’s Men should be celebrated on woman’s day and mother’s day. They are the biggest aid for the feminist movement. So, if you know such men around you – let them know how much you value them and please tell them to work with their rest of the ‘tribe’ members so that life will be a real happy fairy tale for all women across the world.

Belated Happy Mother's Day to all the moms and also to those who have heart and responsibility of a Mom !!

Friday, April 17, 2009

My nephew Dhruv

It was a special occasion yesterday – my nephew turning 2. Such a joyous moment for all of us. It was 2 years back my wonderful little sis Sheetal gave birth to this little angel named Dhruv. Life has been so much fun since then. Amit and I have this little one to pamper and shower our love on. Dhruv took us back to our childhood and brought back all the good old memories. I have to confess though - I was never into kids. For me kids always were these little pricks making mess everywhere and creating more work for us 'adults'. Basically whenever I saw kids I always saw this big W ( for Work and may be for Worries) and I ran away from them. I thought, may be God didn't give me those parental instincts which are supposed to help you unconditionally love kids inspite of all the work and the tantrums they throw. But things changed after Dhruv. Of course, they didn't change immediately. They changed within last one year when he started expressing more, playing, laughing and reacting more. Yesterday on his b'day he fed me cheesecake and I was about to cry experiencing that moment. Basically, I hate sweets (I know I am in minority...again), so I was refraining myself from all the dessert section. He observed that and from nowhere he came running to me with cheesecake in his hand and fed it to me without even me noticing that I am actually eating the dessert. No convincing, no pleading - just pure innocence and love worked it's magic.

Dhruv is my nephew and I am his what we in marathi call 'mama' (mother's brother -uncle). I value this relationship because I believe it is a special one (and may be because I never got to experience the real one from my own mama's. Hey, what's wrong in calling a spade a spade). This one relationship is one in which kids have full right and access to their mama - they can ask or demand anything from their 'mama's' and still get away with it. It is a relationship filled with trust, friendship and unconditional love. It definitely has the 'friendship' angle more to it than any other cross generational relationships. It is a relationship that is endorsed by most of the regional songs from India ( I know in marathi we have a song 'mamachya gavala jau ya'). May be that's why I adore this relationship much more than anything else.

So, here is my and Amit's heartfelt wishes and immense love for you Dhruv. May you grow up as a fine human being who is loving, caring and wonderful to be around. May you get all the happiness and love this world has to offer. May you make your parents proud and make this place a better place to live. And finally may you always remain the angel of all of our eyes.