Monday, March 30, 2009
The ground appears to be barely able to contain the man caught in the act of trying to claw out of the earth. A foot, a palm, an arm and a leg are bursting out of the mud, while the face is contorted - a combination of anger, fierce determination and effort twisting the facial muscles into an evil grimace.
Speaking of Hains Point, a dull, dreary and wet Saturday morning found my son, Altoid (a fellow blogger and now friend!) and I making the rounds of the Tidal Basin on foot.
It's easy to miss seeing Washington, D.C. - really seeing it - when you are driving on its congested roads, navigating the countless traffic lights, road blocks and pot holes, when you don't have a choice but to drive in the city for business you need to take care of.
But in the quiet of the morning, with nearly deserted streets, the rain washed monuments standing sentinel over their city and waiting for its denizens to rise, the car riding on slick streets with a whisper of a swish, the street lights casting a halo around themselves and lighting up the misty rain as it fell softly on the ground, in the quiet of that morning, the city was downright handsome, in the tall, dark kind of way.
I leave you with some photographs from the Tidal Basin this past weekend.
This is part of my world. For other My World posts, visit My World Tuesday.
All text and photographs are copyrighted. Please do not copy or use without written permission.
Friday, March 27, 2009
Not only do you celebrate the ones in your own home, but you participate in the ones in relatives' and friends' houses as well - 'participate' meaning you dress up in nice clothes, put on all your jewellery, talk nineteen to the dozen with the gathering of friends and relatives, feast to your heart's content on festival food and go back home deliciously tired. Yes, rituals in other people's houses are almost always more fun. Someone else is doing all the work, you see.
There are some rituals, though, particularly the ones to do with children that somehow we've managed to keep our sights on. When the future is in plain sight is perhaps when you look carefully at your past, at your roots. So we've been eager beavers when it comes to making sure our kids are up to date on the rituals meant for them. There's the little ritual when the baby comes home for the first time from the hospital; a visit to the temple is the baby's first outing; there's the naming ceremony; there's the ceremony for when the baby graduates from milk to solid foods; a ceremony to make an offering of the child's hair to the family deity (in India, hair would be shaved off completely from the children's heads, whereas here the priest held a few blades of dried grass right next to our son's hair and air-snipped as a stand-in); and there's the ritual before children begin their formal education.
This last one, the ritual for when children are about to start school is a personal favorite. Going off to school is one of the big milestones in the life of a child, his or her first real step as a social being, deserving of proper marking and celebration. The Aksharaabhyaasa is simple, sweet and profound in import, all at the same time.
So this past January, the day before D was to start pre-school, we set up time at the temple to have a priest perform the ceremony for us. The temple's website helpfully provided the list of items we needed to take - flowers, fruits, about a pound of rice, honey, milk, yogurt, ghee, turmeric, kumkum (vermillion), betel nuts, betel nut leaves, a piece of cloth, a book and a pencil, etc., etc. That Sunday, we dressed up D in her long skirt (langa) and blouse that my sister-in-law and brother-in-law had given her as a gift during C's thread ceremony (the Upanayanam, which I wrote about here), C wore his jubba and pyjama and off we went to the temple.
After the initial iteration of our family's antecedents and a small prayer to invoke the goddess of education, Saraswati, the priest had D sit on her father's lap and with his hand guiding hers, her finger serving as a writing implement, she traced the first few alphabets of the Kannada script on a rice-filled plate. Then followed a few letters of the English alphabet and then the numbers. Right on cue, good-natured ribbing followed - are you sure you remember your alphabets, the priest teased the husband; he can't even read my letters anymore, chimed in my mother-in-law. And then it was done.
The next day, Monday, I woke her up gently, telling her she had to go to school. She got up with a start, yelled, "I can hear the school bell. I'm late!" (a dialogue from a Dora book that she found the right moment to apply) and tumbled out of bed. She picked out her outfit - leggings, shirt, frock and boots - slung her backpack over her shoulders (yes, she had filled it with the stuff she wanted to take the night before), said goodbye to her grand-parents and dad, sat in the car with her brother and was off to school.
The next two days were tough. The novelty of the first day wore off mighty quick. She cried on Tuesday and Wednesday. Then Thursday was library day and park day at her school. There has been no looking back since then. Every day she walks in with a wide grin, big arms and a "Hi friends!" for her classmates. I'm not kidding. A couple of them come running and they have a group hug while I stand there taking in all the drama. Oh, yeah. There's plenty of that!
P.S. We'd had C's ceremony at the same temple when he was about three. My in-laws were visiting us then too. We had gone to the Bombay Club across from the White House for dinner then. We decided to replay the episode fully and went to the Bombay Club again. When we got there we found that the entire street and all the streets around the Hay Adams Hotel were cordoned off because then President-elect Obama and his family happened to be housed at that hotel in the days before the inauguration (remember the episode about the Blair House not being available because Bush had the former PM of Australia staying there?).
So we had to park the car a couple of blocks away and we, in our fashionable but flimsy Indian clothes froze by the time we got to the restaurant. We had not expected to stop anywhere after the temple and we were unprepared. Then, the next day we read in the papers that just as we were chowing down on some delicious but bland Indian food, Obama and his family were at the Lincoln Memorial, just a few blocks away, paying homage to the man whose train journey Obama was all set to replicate in a couple of days. One of those so-near-yet-so-far moments that I'm sure will be repeated many times.
The temple does not allow photography within its premises. The one above is from the Aksharaabhyaasa ceremony for my niece in Bangalore a couple of years ago.
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
The reason for the photographs this time around in the video below, instead of C's fingers flying over the keys, is that this is a two-minute piece and he was not going to let me hover over him for that long. Plus he thinks that the small digital camera's primitive sound doesn't do justice to the song.
So C recorded the song and I tried to download it. The piano (Roland HP-207) records fine, I was able to download the song into a storage device and the song played fine on the computer, but it's not in a format that can be used in a video. I know way more than I want to about this stuff but the lowdown is this - the piano stores the music in MIDI format and it cannot be converted to a WAV or WMA format. So I sent the file to C's piano teacher who played it on his computer, hooked it up to an instrument, had that instrument play it and then saved the result in WAV format.
I used the file that he sent to make a movie using some pictures in my folder. Unfortunately neither the sound nor the pictures retained their original clarity. I wish they had come through better. I'm going to continue to try different ways to download C's performances in a usable format. In the meantime, here's C playing Bach's Prelude.
Updating to add links to related posts:
C playing Beach Buggy Boogie, Mazurka and The Entertainer.
The least desirable component of any long flight has got to be the layover. I am not a huge fan of long layovers, but when presented with one I know there are myriad ways in which to occupy myself and the kids. I am reminded of one particular layover a few years ago when C was about five and a half years old and D wasn't born yet.
C and I were traveling from Bangalore to Prague. The husband had already gone ahead for a meeting. The flight from Bangalore to Frankfurt was uneventful. Once at the Frankfurt airport, though, we were faced with a six-hour layover. Apparently the Bangalore - Frankfurt - Prague route is not very popular. We got in early in the morning and had to wait until early afternoon for our flight, until the airline could pool enough Prague passengers to justify a flight. To their credit, I must say they succeeded in flying a full flight that day.
But back to the layover.
C and I did the usual things - we cleaned up, wandered around, walked into a few shops, pored over magazines, looked at toys and perfumes and chocolates. Around breakfast time we went into a restaurant with large windows offering an unhindered view of the planes taking off and landing. We had just ordered our food, C was waiting for his cup of hot chocolate to cool somewhat and I was sipping on my coffee when C's eyes suddenly widened.
"Mama, look! There, behind you!"
"What? What happened?" I turned my head to look, expecting a minor disaster.
"Don't you see? There's Bill Bryson, right there!"
I turned again, excitedly this time. Wow! Bill Bryson? But I couldn't see anyone even remotely resembling his mug shot on his books. I was about to ask C to point this time (although he's told regularly never to point at people while talking about them, this was obviously an exception) but I saw his hand hiding his face. He was trying to stifle a desperate giggle.
"Tricked you! Ha ha ha!"
The kid had my number.
No matter what the time of day, inside the Frankfurt Am Main airport, it's the shopping hour. The foot traffic is a mall's dream come true, never mind that the feet are tired, the eyes are glazing over and shoulders sagging under jet lag and carry on luggage. An unending stream of people coming and going from all directions. Just as one plane takes off, another lands, replenishing the airport with a fresh supply of potential customers. After a while the crowds got stifling, so when we chanced on an empty lounge near one of the departure/arrival gates, we found a corner and sprawled on the seats. C settled himself down on the floor, opened his backpack and took out his collection of animals and cars.
Soon another mother and her son, about C's age, walked through the gate into the lounge. From her dress, I guessed she was from the Middle East. They found a quiet space a few feet away from us and settled down just as we did.
For a time we stayed separate. Two little units. Two mothers and two boys. Coming from different places, possibly going to different places. Separated by language, culture, and custom. Connected by nothing but chance. For a short while we happened to be in the same boat, both waiting for when it was time to leave.
Soon, the prospect of having a playmate for however brief a time must have tempted the two boys. Both seemed to have the same idea. As both mothers watched, they exchanged sidelong glances, then looked fully at what the other was doing, laughing at each other's antics. Then, wordlessly, they inched closer. C said something to the other boy in English. He shook his head and looked at his mother. "No English," she said. The boys assessed the situation for the briefest of moments and continued right where they left off. Each one imitated the other, gesturing when one wanted the other to do something different.
Cars crashed into each other, animals flew, cars crashed into the animals, animals jumped over cars, cars chased animals, animals chased cars. Eventually they abandoned their toys and chased each other around the chairs and pillars.
The other mother and I looked at each other and smiled, grateful for this interlude for the boys. After a good while, people started filing into the gate. Ticketing agents lined up behind the counter. The lounge was empty no more.
Still mute, our words unable to bridge the gap between us, all four of us put our things back in, packed up and walked out the gate. As one. Now we shared a common purpose. We walked towards another empty lounge and set up shop. Just as before. Soon, we, the two mothers, engrossed ourselves in our magazines and the boys promptly turned another lounge into their playground.
You Really Should Not Read Bill Bryson in Public Places
Prague: A Little City with a Big Heart
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Monday, March 23, 2009
It's cherry blossom time in Washington, D.C. The forecast is for the blossoms to peak a tad earlier this year. Here are some pics from about this time last year I took for an article I wrote on the annual Cherry Blossom Festival. The focus of all attention - local and tourist alike - is the Tidal Basin, with its ring of cherry blossom trees. The buds are not in full bloom yet in these photographs, but you get a glimpse of what is yet to come.
A small paragraph about the history of the trees from the article (the entire article is here):
A gift from Mayor Yukio Ozaki of Tokyo to the people of the United States — following a few failed attempts by local residents to transplant and grow cherry trees in the Washington region — that first gesture paved the way for more exchanges between two countries intent on building and solidifying a relationship. World War II promptly put an end to the niceties, but the Festival returned to its rightful place on Washington’s social calendar in 1947. In a poignant twist to the story, Japanese horticulturists arrived in Washington in the early 1980s and returned home with precious cargo — cuttings from the trees that comprised their original gift — to replace their own trees that were lost to a flood.
Saturday, March 21, 2009
A few weeks ago D and I were cuddling in bed. I reached across, under her head, to hold my husband's hand. D grabbed it, pulled it right back to her and said, "That's my hand!" I said, "D, that's not your hand, that's Mama's hand." She replied, "I know it's your hand. But it's my hand." How do you quarrel with such logic?
When C was about 5 and he had just returned from school we were talking about friends and family. He summed up the conversation this way, "Familyship is more important than friendship."
D wanted some more yogurt. She had already eaten some of the plain variety, so I asked her if she wanted the strawberry yogurt. "No," she said, "pink yogurt is for boys."
Just before she fell asleep one night D said, "Mama, I love you." Then, very slowly, "You. are. my. best. spider. ever."
Two years after we got married, my husband and I still hadn't had children. We were too busy with school, work, play, trying to find our bearings in a new country. In the interim, we fielded numerous weekend calls from India, from parents and in-laws, all wanting to know if there was any "good news." One day, my dad finally scrunched up all his worry into a pithy one-liner and asked, "Is this a personal decision or is this by god's decree?" I had a good laugh before I assured him it was the former. They all had to wait a good six more years after that, which I must say they did admirably.
When he was about 3 C and I were driving back home in the middle of the afternoon. I asked him a question and I did not hear a reply. So I turned back to look and he was nodding off. I didn't want him to fall asleep in the car, so I called out his name and asked him what he was doing. "I'm thinking, Mama. I'm thinking."
I was putting D to sleep one day and she wanted a drink of water.
D: Mama, can I have some water?
Me: Sure, D (not moving to get her some, wanting to see what she would do).
A couple of seconds later.
D: Do we have water here?
Me: Yeah, we do.
D: Can I have some?
Me: Sure (still not moving).
A few more seconds.
D (exasperated): Right now!
D finishes about three-quarters of a rather ripe banana and says she doesn't want anymore because "it's too banany."
Friday, March 20, 2009
Ten years later, during which the boy's parents refused to give up their search for their son, they know exactly where their son is but can do nothing about it. Painstakingly recounted, bathed in empathy, Carney's essay makes for a harrowing tale.
Five years after he was kidnapped, the police chanced upon a drunken brawl in a bar at which people were arguing about grabbing children off the streets and selling them to an adoption agency. The police found that the agency then placed these children in homes as far away as Australia, the US and Europe.
It was every parent's worst nightmare. Sivagama and her husband, Nageshwar Rao, a construction painter, spent the next five years scouring southern India for Subash. [...] To finance the search, Nageshwar Rao sold two small huts he'd inherited from his parents and moved the family into a one-room concrete house with a thatched roof in the shadow of a mosque. The couple also pulled their daughter out of school to save money; the ordeal plunged the family from the cusp of lower-middle-class mobility into solid poverty. And none of it brought them any closer to Subash.
The ingredients in this international adoption cocktail cannot but lead to skewed incentives - desperate, childless couples with the ability to bear the cost of international adoptions, abject poverty and millions of disenfranchised parents in developing countries, and most importantly, no rules for how much money can be demanded for placements.
"This is an industry to export children," says Sarah Crowe, unicef's media director for South Asia. "When adoption agencies focus first on profits and not child rights, they open up the door to gross abuses."The saddest part of this heartbreaking tale is where Subash's parents realize this has gone too far along, that they've lost their son. That even if they know exactly where he is, there is nothing they can do to bring his child back to his family.
When I tell Nageshwar Rao that I'll be traveling to the United States to make contact with the family, he touches my shoulder and eyes me intently. [...] With the few words of English at his disposal, he struggles to convey his hopes. Gesturing into the air, toward America, he says, "Family." He then points back at himself.Oh my god.
"Friends," he says.
All the father now wants is at least some contact with his own son, to be his 'friend'. And it looks like even that might be impossible. No matter which way you look at this, every one comes up a loser.
The entire article is a must-read. The Interpol is now involved in the case, trying, with blood samples, to establish and Subash was indeed stolen from his parents. Carney has a blog (Updating (03/23/09) to add a direct link to his blog - http://www.scottcarneyonline.com/blog/. The earlier link is to his main website.). I'm sure he'll be posting follow-ups to this story there.
At this point I don't even know what I'm praying for.
Nageshwar Rao's acceptance of what must be reminds me of one of the wise King Solomon tales.
Two women are fighting over a child, both claiming to be the mother. They go to King Solomon and present their case. The King says he'll hold a contest. He draws a line on the ground, tells the women to stand on either side. He gives the child to them, the hands to one woman and the feet to the other. He tells them to pull. Whoever succeeds in pulling the child to her is the mother.
The two women pull. The baby starts crying. Then, one of the women, unable to bear the child's cries, lets go. The other woman triumphantly turns to the King. King Solomon takes the child from the woman and hands it to the one who let go. Only a mother could do what she did, he says. Feel the child's pain.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Frankie has stories, the kind I like to read. And she has the wonderful ability to tell them in a way that is objective and loving at the same time.
So I was (and still am!) thrilled that she thought to pass on the Sisterhood Award to me along with four other bloggers. Thank you Frankie!
The award, though, comes with a catch - I must pass it on to five other women bloggers. A catch I'm only too happy to fulfill! So here goes.
Ra - Is a thinker. I admire her passion for social issues and her commitment to righting the wrongs she sees around her on a daily basis. If there were more Ras in this world, we could all rest a little easier. I only wish she would write more!
Curiously Strong - Writes about a wide range of topics, some will throw you for a loop, some will make you nod in recognition. A blogger with incredible heart and love of life. I wish some of that would rub off on me!
Winkie's Way - Mostly writes about the adventures of the growing-up years of her two darling boys. Her posts are bathed in spirituality and have the ability to make you feel connected to her, her boys, and no matter what your belief or faith, to the grand scheme of things.
ChoxBox - Chox and I have such a similar outlook on things - the stuff we do with our kids, our ideas on schooling, on how social issues affect our kids. It's great to be able to read her thoughts.
Last, but not least, Nino's Mum - No matter if she's writing about something very personal or about the goings-on around her, Nino's Mum's writing has that wonderful lyrical quality and a depth of feeling. I know I could never write like that, but it's just lovely to be able to read someone who does it so well.
I am the luckier for having these kindred spirits (and you too Frankie) in my circle. I know I've said this before but I don't mind repeating it - we have all had such different lives, growing up far away from each other in diverse cultures, but it is just so amazing that we recognize so much of ourselves in the other. At the end of the day it's a powerful feeling to know that we're all in the same boat, that none of us is alone. And for that I'm grateful. Thank you.
If you have a few minutes to pass the thought along, here's how to do it:
1. Put the logo on your blog or post.
2. Nominate at least 5 blogs which show great ATTITUDE and/or GRATITUDE.
3. Be sure to link to your nominees within your post.
4. Let them know that they have received this award by commenting on their blog.
5. Share the love and link this post to the person from whom you received your award.
Monday, March 16, 2009
A year and a half after He had left, two days after He had arrived, He sat at the dining table with his parents. Once their initial excitement at seeing him after so long and his craving for his mother's cooking had abated somewhat, the discussion turned to the topic of marriage. His parents did not know when He would be able to visit again so they saw this as a good opportunity to settle an alliance for him. His mother had painstakingly collected contacts for numerous prospective brides. They could arrange to have the families meet him and He them over the next few days...
"I want to marry that girl," he said, baldly.
They knew exactly what He was saying and who He was talking about. Only they were not prepared for it at all. They had fully expected it to be a problem of the past, something his long absence to have cured. The silence hung heavy as their minds raced, each of them worried in their own way, worried about the same problem but about the diametrically opposite solutions.
In that silence was planted a seed of a thought. What if? And there were many what ifs. What if they really had no idea of the depths of his determination? What if they hurt him so much that He was turned off? What if he really loved this girl? What if they gave it a shot and agreed to see this girl? What if it really turned out to be OK? So what if this was just not done in their orthodox family? Would it really be so bad? What would be so bad?
Of all the angles to this problem, they had been most worried about the relationship failing. They fretted that a relationship based on impetuous feelings, not one based on the tried and true method of two families coming together on the backs of tradition, would fail in the face of the next impetuous tide of emotions. If they did not have control of how the alliance came together then they would have no say over its disintegration.
But what if? What if they were wrong? What if He and She could really make the marriage work?
Perhaps it was the fleeting nature of his visit that helped crystallize every one's thoughts. But wanting to follow tradition and stick to known methods did not balance out a combination of not wanting to hurt and turn off their son and wanting to be practical in the face of how long this had dragged on apparently.
So that evening, when he came back from visiting his friends, they sat him down and told him to arrange for a meeting with her family.
I know. You feel like whooping and cheering. But hold your horses. Remember this is only one half of the equation.
For the two days since He had arrived, She had been walking on egg shells. How was She going to tell her parents? What would She say? What would it do to her parents? What had they done to deserve this can of worms? She longed for the simpler days when all She was was their daughter, a sister and a happy-go-lucky whirlwind of energy.
Her parents went about their activities, unaware of the storm brewing in their daughter's mind. They had been looking forward to a dinner with their friends for a while. So She decided She would talk to them once they were done with that engagement. She did not want to spoil their day out, She told herself. But perhaps She was trying to put it off.
Time marched on, relentless as usual. The dinner came and went. The next day dawned. Just before breakfast her mother heard the call of the vegetable vendor on the street and went out to get some tomatoes. This is it, She thought. She did not want to involve her mother in this discussion if She could help it. This was between her and her father. She did not want her mother to be a buffer any more.
She went into her parents' bedroom. Her father was shaving. Yes, She wore all the classic symptoms of panic - dry mouth, pounding heart, heavy tongue. She swallowed a few times and blurted it out, "Dad, I want to tell you something."
Her father turned to her, his razor raised mid-way and said, "Is this about your affair?"
She started open mouthed, confused. His face did not match the words. The words were supposed to come out stern and angry but he was smiling. She managed to nod, Yes. What he did next startled her even more. He put his razor down into his mug, with half his face still caked in foam, walked over to her where She stood quaking, put a finger on her cheek and said, "If you really want to marry him that much, go ahead. I'll arrange it."
The minute the words fell out of his mouth and She thought She understood what they meant, She wanted to pick them up and thrust them back. Through the fog of her swirling emotions She saw what was happening.
Her father was setting aside his most cherished convictions, his idea of what it meant to be a father, his notion of his responsibility to his daughter, his simple desire to do for his family what generations had done before him, and yes, his pride. Her father did not really know who He was, as a person or his family, but all he knew and believed in were traditionally arranged alliances. He had blinders on and was afraid of the unknown.
In those few minutes She saw these layers peeling away and She saw the core of him. She had come fully prepared for what She did not even know. But this was not it. What knocked her off her feet was that unlike in her mind's eye he really did not seem to be falling apart. There he was was, whole, happy and even excited about the whole mess, looking forward to the impending celebrations. "Call your mother. Where's she?"
Her mother came back in to find that nothing short of a paradigm shift had occurred in the ten minutes she'd gone out. Gears had creaked and moved and adjusted themselves and the cosmos had been rearranged, just that little bit. The air was different, the light was a little brighter. Her daughter was floating on cloud nine. Her husband looked a changed man. She swung wildly between awe at her daughter's gall in raking up the issue again, unfathomable relief at how it had all turned out, giddiness at the bushels-full of happiness that would visit the house again and just plain old joy.
Two days later He came to visit her house.
One day later her family went over to visit his. Every one laughed like giggly ten-year-olds, relief palpable in every look and word.
Two weeks later they were engaged.
Five months later they were married.
One year later they still could not believe they were married.
Six years later they grew their family and had children. Their families grew to have affection for each other and their parents took great joy in their grandkids.
In the meantime, they had spectacular fights, misunderstandings of galactic proportions, threw tantrums at the tiniest hint of disagreement. Of course. They were married, for heaven's sake! But in their minds and hearts lived those two young kids - the ones that had the courage of their convictions, had faith in each other and in their dreams of a future together, and had faith in the love of their families. And in the darkest times, it was the memory of those two kids that gave them heart. They were proud of the fact that they came through that period, their love and joy of life intact and knew, somewhere deep down inside, that nothing would chip away at them.
On the 10th anniversary of the day they met, He sent her flowers to her office. She was floored - that He remembered.
Twenty-one years later they still take pleasure in recalling and recounting the story of how they met.
Saturday, March 14, 2009
Then a few days after that, the Washington Post Sunday Magazine carried an article titled 'Fatal Distraction', a story about the parents who forget their children are in the car and go about their business. Over the past couple of years, particularly during the summer, I'd started noticing news items of such babies. The stories are prevalent in the summer because for a small child locked in a car parked outside, the combination of heat and humidity can prove to be fatal.
It is, as the article says, an 'incomprehensible, modern way' in which children die. Children are put in the back of the car and they are seated facing the back of the car for their safety, because that is the safest position for the mandatory car seats. So a parent getting down from the car and getting ready to go to work or to the grocery store or to the doctor cannot see the baby unless they go round to the back and look for the baby.
Of course, the first reaction to any story such as the ones profiled in the article is one of judgement: "How could they do that? How could they forget their own child? How could they be so careless? They must not care for the child. I would never do such a stupid thing as that. What could be so important in their lives that they forgot their baby?" You try, half-heartedly, to make sense of the how of it all, and are only too willing to give up.
Not so Gene Weingarten.
A humor columnist for the Washington Post, Weingarten turns a gentle, sympathetic, understanding eye toward these tortured souls. And in doing so, tells us our first reaction is to be expected, but that the parents really deserve better than that. They have punished themselves way more than any of us or our judicial system could ever do - they have put themselves under a life sentence of guilt; they have wanted to die themselves; they know what they've done and will live the rest of their lives fitfully reliving the events of that fateful day. And really, there go I but for the grace of god, right?
At one of the trials, the defendant's family took the witness stand in his defense:
From the witness stand, Harrison's mother defiantly declared that Miles had been a fine son and a perfect, loving father. Distraught but composed, Harrison's wife, Carol, described the phone call that her husband had made to her right after he'd discovered what he'd done, the phone call she'd fielded on a bus coming home from work. It was, she said, unintelligible screaming.The part of the story that resonated with me the most was this: present at the trial of one of the parents were two women not related to the defendant in any way - they were not friends or family or co-workers or part of the court. They were two women who had done the same terrible thing to their children. They did not need to be there, they had no role in the case; they did not want to be there. But they felt compelled to be there. Perhaps no one understood the defendant's state of mind better than those two women.
That is human connection at a level so raw, so fundamental and so refined - all at the same time.
Friday, March 13, 2009
It also made me want to watch this video at once - Suleiman Mirza and Madhu Singh channeling Michael Jackson.
The video has become unavailable. Here's a link to it instead.
Earlier Footloose Friday posts available by clicking on the label below. Enjoy!
Thursday, March 12, 2009
She sat on the steps near the entrance to her college building and wrote a long letter full of details of her day. Seemingly inconsequential details, such as the weather, such as the funny twirling motion in which the leaves fell all around her, such as how crappy the food was in the canteen, such as the hilarious accent one of her professors had.
Days later and thousands of miles away, all alone in a foreign land, He devoured its contents. They were his connection to the life he'd left behind, to the future he still hoped to have. As long as the letters came regularly and they brought to him words with warmth and a whiff of her silliness, He was OK.
Two months earlier He had left. It was a strange parting, deeply unsettling, their minds swirling with unknowable things. But when the time came, neither had the time or the inclination to be morose, wanting and choosing instead to feel hopeful. Neither of them knew the how of it. It is one of those things that you can only ascribe to youth - when you haven't lived life for too long, you think you have the power to shape it. It was this, perhaps, that prompted him to ask a friend if He could write letters to her address so He would have a way of keeping in touch with Her. (I know. 'Keeping in touch' is such a euphemism to describe what He was trying to accomplish but at a very basic level, that was what it was. A way of maintaining contact.)
The idea that this was morphing into a 'long-distance relationship' was not something that crossed their minds. Simply because it was not something they'd heard of before. And so they were not aware that distance not only made relationships more difficult but was also notorious for destroying them. As far as they were concerned, the parting was just an annoying wrinkle in the already complicated patchwork of their existence.
He wrote letters of his new life, of a full load of classes, of working hard to pay the bills, of rents and fees and food expenses so incongruous with the life he had known before. He wrote of his first winter with snow, of his roommates, of his delight in finally being able to afford a small music system for his room. She read every word and tried to imagine his brand new experiences, tried to live them as best She could in her mind, feeling slightly less bereft with each new letter.
In this age of instant messages and cell phones and e-mails, it is perhaps easy to imagine that writing letters by hand, waiting for days for it to reach the other person and waiting some more to receive a reply might have been, at best, arduous. But ignorance is bliss, as the saying goes. They just did not know any better.
One day, however, about six or seven months after He had left, when He was in the middle of his shift at work on campus, an insane thought seized him. He had to hear her voice. So, before the thought left him, he turned to a friend, told him he was in charge and ran the entire distance through the freezing cold from his workplace to his apartment. He nervously dialed her number, just imagining her face at the other end of the line, his mind not willing to countenance other possibilities.
The phone rang at the other end, He heard the sound of the receiver being picked up and a female voice said, "Hello".
His heart thumping, He said, "Hello. This is He. May I speak to She please?"
"She's not here."
"Oh. Could you just please tell her that I'd called to wish her a happy birthday?"
Feeling sick to his stomach He hung up the phone. Not only had He not talked to her, He may have gotten her into trouble.
When She got back home later that evening, her mother did tell her. Then they just looked at each other. All that was unsaid in the last so many months hung in the air between them. What was going on? Was She still seeing him? Why did He call? Was He not in town? Where was He?
She had not said anything when He had gone away. She had just had no inclination to bring up the topic if She didn't have to. She had gone along with the attempts to set up matches (as He did too from his parents, via long distance phone calls). She had posed for the photographs. She had prepared herself for the visits from families of prospective grooms. She politely answered questions. And She secretly reveled in the failure of the process - either the horoscopes didn't match, or the groom was too short or there was something else wrong that her parents were not told of before, or it stalled because it would take a while for the families to meet.
Finally, now, faced with the fact of the phone call, She told her mother about where He was. The relief on her mother's face was quickly banished by something else - sympathy. Her mother understood what She was going through. Her daughter had been reduced to a ghost of her former self, a haunted look on her face as She struggled, trapped between the consequences of her actions, wanting to be a 'good' daughter, and her firm conviction that She was in the right. But her mother also knew how tough the situation was. She just did not see a way out of this that would make her daughter happy. So she did the only thing she could have at that point - she took her daughter to the temple and told her to pray. And pray they both did.
Life settled back into this absurd normalcy for a few more months. And then it became clear. They could not go on like this forever. There had to be a resolution. For every body's sake. They had to make a final push to convince their parents. If it did not work...they dismissed the thoughts from their heads. They had to convince their parents because they were not willing to go any further without their parents by their side, without their blessings. He planned to visit his family for a few days. They would try their damnedest to make it work.
To be continued. Final installment coming up! Phew!
Updated March 16, 2009: continued here.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
As background, we had visited Arlington Cemetery in Virginia just a few days before he started writing. The tender ages of the soldiers buried there is just shocking. It apparently made an impression on C as well.
Formatting the essay was at the forefront of his mind when he started writing. He remembered what his teacher had told him about how to organize an essay ('tell them what you're going to tell them, tell them and tell them what you just told them'). He gave me a lecture about it first, then wrote down the format on a separate page and diligently tried to follow it. He may not have succeeded in adhering to it to the letter, but I was thrilled that he had thought about it at all.
Since he wrote it down in pencil, it's not as clear as I'd like it to be. I do hope you don't have too much trouble reading it.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
She just couldn't tell which of the emotions in her father's eyes got to her the most - the sadness, the disappointment, the anger, or the defeated look of a man who'd been blindsided. She just couldn't look at her mother's drawn, pinched face. This was not something her parents expected even in their wildest dreams. They thought She knew and understood never to put them in this predicament. They thought She knew that 'love marriages' were just not done in their family, that when the time was right, they expected her to meet prospective grooms - carefully screened, whose horoscopes would have been studied by the family priest, whose family background matched their own - agree to marry one of them and live happily ever after.
He looked at his parents and all He saw was determination. Determination that whatever this was, was not going to go any further. It simply would not do for their family. He was the eldest child, theirs was an orthodox family, given to traditions and adherence to rituals. The expectation was that when the time was right, they would find a suitable bride for him - through the traditional channels of friends and family connection - and that he would be married with the blessings of the family elders.
If, so far, I've used the word 'family' repeatedly, it is because family takes precedence over everything else. Marriages are a family affair, in every sense of the phrase. Grandparents, aunts, uncles and distant cousins tap into their formidable networks of family and friends and feed the parents of boys and girls of marriageable age with the names and contact details of prospective in-laws. After a preliminary consultation with the family priest who will tell the parents when according to the boy or girl's horoscope they should proceed with seeking alliances for their child, parents start calling the numbers on their list.
"So and so gave us your telephone number. We have a son/daughter who we want to get married. She/he is ___ years old and she/he has done [fill in area of study and degree]. We understand you have a son/daughter and you are also looking. If you want to go ahead, we can exchange horoscopes and may be a photo."
Soon the horoscopes and photos and 'bio-data' (containing details about height, complexion, interests, studies, work details) are exchanged, these days by e-mail. Then back to the priest to have him study the horoscopes and make sure that the traits of the boy and the girl match. I'm not really sure about this, but at least 16 out of the 64 traits in each horoscope are supposed to align. If not, the horoscope is summarily rejected.
It is mind-boggling how many potential alliances fall apart at this stage. Either the horoscopes don't match or the height difference between the two is too much or the photographs are not too pleasing. The reasons are many.
Once these hurdles are crossed, then it's time for the boy and girl to meet, in either house, with usually entire families present. Everyone sits around while the boy and girl look everywhere but at each other. The atmosphere is oppressive as far as they are concerned. There's good-natured banter, teasing, cajoling the girl to sing, and finally, it is some one's turn to suggest that the boy and girl go to another room or to the garden to speak privately.
When the visitors leave, an impromptu summit takes place in which everyone pitches in with their opinion of the boy/girl and the family. The family then seeks the opinion of the boy/girl. If it's a 'yes' then they wait for a couple of days to call the other family and exchange notes. If it's a 'yes' from them too, then the families meet again, agree on a betrothal ceremony a couple of months down the road so the boy and the girl get a few more opportunities to meet and talk to each other (usually with chaperons) and then the planning begins in earnest for the actual wedding ceremony. If it's a 'no' from either the boy or the girl, then cue the whole process to begin anew with another prospective alliance.
All these events may not happen these days, but they are still prevalent enough to be called the norm. I'm telling you all this only to give you a view from the parents' perspective of the matter of the marriage of their children. How important it is for them to have the involvement of their own elders - older brothers, sisters, perhaps even their own parents. There is unfathomable joy in the intricacies of putting together an alliance. It is a happy occasion, one that every relative, far and near, has a hand in. There are umpteen rituals to plan, day long shopping sprees to go on, jewellery to be picked, gifts to be bought, gift bags to be stuffed, innumerable snacks to be prepared, a marriage hall to be hunted down, invitations to design, distribute and hand out personally to the important invitees. The marriage ceremony itself might last two or three days, but it feels like the festivities start much earlier and end much later than that.
Then there is that intangible feeling, an emotion you just cannot describe when you carry out a tradition that has been handed down from generation to generation. At a very base level, you revel in being part of a tribe. That sense of belonging is powerful. You follow what your ancestors have done for generations and you feel complete.
Sure, traditions are tweaked as each new generation adopts them to their time and place. But to have to give it up entirely? It just disturbed Her parents and His parents so deeply that they could not see a solution beyond having their children not continue down the path they had misguidedly started on.
If ever there was a mirror which reflected entirely opposite images to the parents and to the children but their reactions to those different images were exactly the same, then this was it. Everyone of them had expectations - of how their children would behave, expectations of how the parents would react. And every one of their expectations was unmet. So what?, was His and Her question. So everything, was their parents' response. If her parents were sad and disappointed, then She was equally so. She could not wrap her mind around the fact that her parents could not look beyond tradition and orthodoxy. If his parents were determined that He not continue down this path, He became was equally determined to continue seeing her.
The scene was set for a battle of wills of monstrous proportions.
The more He and She saw each other, the more they realized that a life together was a dream neither wanted to give up. Their minds could not grasp how or why their parents could not set aside tradition for their sake. There was nothing wrong with either of them. If the parents went through the regular channels of setting up alliances, they were convinced that their parents would have no reason to object to the relationship.
If you are familiar with that image they use in the movies to show passage of time, the one where you hold a thick calendar in your hand and flip the pages rapidly and days turn into weeks, weeks into months and months into years, this would be a good time to recall it.
Because that's what happened. Days turned into weeks and weeks into months and months into years during which essentially the same events transpired. The parents expected this budding relationship to have stopped growing, but knew, perhaps, in their heart of hearts, that that was not the case. Their children expected their parents to understand their agony and come around any minute, but knew deep down inside it would not happen. As you can imagine, this was not a good atmosphere for warm familial relationships. Hearts hardened. Each one got angrier by the day. And sadder and more determined.
Right about now is a great time for a twist in the tale. What do you think?
He, who had planned and prepared to go out of the country for continuing his studies, finally received his admission papers. So two years and five months and four days to the day they first met, in the middle of a crucial chapter in the story of their lives, time zones and distances only traverse-able by planes were all set to occupy the space between them.
To be continued ...
Updated March 12, 2009: continued here.
Monday, March 09, 2009
Tucked away in one corner of the Mall, just beyond the Lincoln Memorial, just below your line of sight, so un-ostentatious that you will miss it if you are not looking for it, is the Vietnam War Memorial.
It is one of the more popular tourist attractions in Washington, D.C. In fact it is the hordes of people that first give you an inkling that there is something worth looking at in that part of the Mall.
For many of the people milling around the monument, however, this is a pilgrimage, not a "must-see" stop on a tour.
On any given day, you will find children, wives, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, pencil and paper in hand, walking along the wall, squinting, trying to find that one name they've come from all corners of the country looking for. They also come with old black and white photographs, year books, flowers, war medals, anything that once belonged to a loved one whose name has now been etched onto that wall.
They make etchings of their own. They slide their fingers along the names, the feeling at the tips of their fingers more concrete, perhaps, than anything they've been able to recall in a long time. They take photographs. They bow their heads and lean against the cold of the granite. They stand and stare. Lost, I imagine, in the memories of a time long gone.
To check out more MyWorld posts, visit That's My World.
Related post: My essay on Washington, D.C., Power Point.
Sunday, March 08, 2009
Yes, a telephone conversation happened. Yes, a meeting happened soon after. You didn't expect anything else after all the trials and tribulations up until that point, did you?
The question is, was it worth it? Had that lone encounter from so long ago taken on a significance completely out of whack with reality? Had the sense of anticipation and the one step forward two steps backward nature of the interceding months imparted a blinding halo around their meeting? Then there was the further question - what next? So what if they met? What did either of them expect to happen a day after they met? A week after? A month after?
The cloud of uncertainty followed each of them through the daily grind. Anticipation, sure. But uneasiness and anxiety too.
What neither of them had accounted for was the awkwardness. Make that shyness. It was a strange situation for both of them. Talking nineteen to the dozen with other people around them was one thing. Being left to their own devices, that too after a gap of months in which their actions amounted to an acknowledgement of each one's interest in the other, quite another story.
But a bumpy beginning was just that - a beginning. After the initial period of broken phrases and nervous giggles, conversation flowed as before. The anxiety and uncertainty dissipated. What each of them remembered was not a mirage. What each of them had built up in their minds was genuine. Without actually saying it aloud, they knew they would meet again.
I know this seems too swift a resolution to the build up, but in the grand scheme of things, actually seeing each other again and figuring there was something to their relationship pales in comparison to the difficulty of finding each after that first time they met. And it is diddly squat compared to what was in store for them right around the corner.
This is a good juncture as any to say this - they stood now at the cusp of the old and the new; on the line that separated a child from an adult, the past from the future. The only thing is neither of them thought of it that way - neither of them actually thought about what consequences their feelings and actions might have for the larger units to which they belonged. Nary a concern that all the other pieces of their lives would not fall in place, that the line they were about to cross was, in fact, a rapidly widening crevasse.
All they saw was the shiny outline of a future they wanted to grab a hold of. A promise of a certain way of life.
Yes, you can tell this in the span of a few hours - over a shared meal, in the space of a few conversations, in the demeanor and carriage of a person, in a glance so open and honest it lets you peek way into the past and into the realm of the possible, in the ready laugh, in the pathetic jokes, in the keen mind that can keep a banter going no matter the topic, in the sage eyes that tell you they are listening.
So, happy in the strength of their instincts, relieved that their minds had not played tricks on them, secure in the knowledge that the hereafter had just taken on a pleasing shape, they went home and told their parents.
If certain phrases in the story so far had implanted in you a sense of foreboding, I must reluctantly say it was for good reason.
Because - pardon the expression - the shit hit the fan.
To be continued.
Updated March 10, 2009: Continued here.
Saturday, March 07, 2009
Exceptions abound, of course, but do girls naturally gravitate towards dolls and kitchen play sets or do we, as a society, subtly influence their preferences by plying them with the toys we think girls will/should like? Are boys hardwired to like trucks and cricket (or baseball) and motor car racing and science and math or do we expose them to these activities because they're boys?
Now that I am the mother of a son and a daughter, I'm observing my own little experiment take shape. Every day provides ample data to test either hypothesis - is it nature over nurture or is it nurture over nature?
Just the fact that they are two different people accounts for a lot of differences to begin with. Those of you with children of the same gender could attest to this too, I'm sure. Although I never fail to be amazed by it - how can children of the same two people be so different from each other?
But of late, I've been watching D, my two and a half year old daughter, doing things that I cannot attribute to anything other than gender. We have not bought her dolls, we have not bought her cooking sets. We don't buy her overly frilly clothes.
First, there's the need to comfort all manner of objects around the house. The huge wall mirror in the dining room is sad. Why? Because he's missing his mommy mirror and wants to see his mommy. So she goes and stands next to the mirror and pats it in an attempt to make it feel better. A few minutes later, "He's feeling better, mommy! I made him feel all better!" It's the same story with her blankie, her Clifford toy, a book. They're all missing their mommies and feeling sad.
Then there's the babying. She has a toy walk-along dog that one day I found her putting baby lotion on. She squeezed little bits on to her palm and smeared it all over the toy. Then she laid him on her lap and tried to pat him to sleep. With a lullaby.
When she's trying to make me feel better, she's fully involved, unlike my son who feels terrible and awkward at the same time. I can see him wishing I'd feel better already. D, on the other hand, acts like she's found her calling. She sidles up to me, holds my hand, says "awwww, feel better, Mommy," and proceeds to ask me how I'm feeling in a gentle voice. And she's a great - and constant - assessor of facial expressions. She wants to know if I'm sad, angry, happy, feeling better, all from looking at my face. And goes off in a huff and sulks, "You're angry. I don't like you anymore." My son just says, "Mom, stop being angry with me," fully meaning it and expecting me to stop being angry that minute.
I haven't started applying more make up since D was born nor do I spend any more time grooming myself, but she's fascinated by every little detail. She must apply chap stick before heading out (I have to remind my son every single time and sometimes do it by force); she stands patiently while I apply baby lotion; she loves hair clips and walks around with hair bands for bracelets; she loves my bangles and will play with them for hours; the look of absolute delight on her face when I wear traditional Indian clothes is to die for; she gravitates towards frocks (one day after she put on a pant and a turtleneck - the hallmark of a winter wardrobe - she looked at herself in the mirror and declared, "I look like a man. I want my frock."); she's partial to soft material; she loves her flowery shoes; I can tell she cannot wait for the day she can start using eye-liner and perfume and deodorant spray (she stands next to me and lifts her arm and pretend sprays into her armpit, in unison with me); she has strong opinions on what she'd like to wear on any particular day, taking her time to assess the possibilities and finally picking one.
My son, on the other hand, will wear the clothes in the topmost layer of his drawer. If he puts something back into his drawer after using it for a short while one day, the next day he appears in the same set of clothes.
As you might have guessed, I am gravitating towards the opinion that nature trumps nurture. But we're not complaining. My husband is the eldest of four brothers and I was not too much into make up and dressing up when I was young, so it is delightful as it is fascinating for both of us to watch D. We're not in any hurry to nurture her natural instincts out of her any time soon. Very likely never.
Update (October 12, 2009): Emily Bazelon reviews Lise Eliot's Pink Brain Blue Brain:
"Sex differences in the brain are sexy," Eliot writes. And so we tend to notice them everywhere. "But there's enormous danger," she says, in our exaggeration. It leads us to see gender, beginning at an early age, only in terms of what we expect to see, and to assume that sex differences are innate and immutable. We forget that the differences within each sex -- among girls and among boys -- are usually greater than the gaps between the two.
... Eliot's trump card is the brain's plasticity. Our brains are works in progress. They change based on experience, especially in early childhood. So a child's environment matters in terms of the skills and interests he or she develops. That doesn't mean pushing trucks on the 3-year-old girl who wants dolls -- we've all seen that experiment fail. But how about giving her a Lego set, sidewalk chalk or even a doll stroller, to encourage her to move around and think in spatial terms?
1. WAS YOUR FIRST PREGNANCY PLANNED?
2. WERE YOU MARRIED AT THE TIME?
3. WHAT WERE YOUR REACTIONS?
Delight and relief!
4. WAS ABORTION AN OPTION FOR YOU?
5. HOW OLD WERE YOU?
6. HOW DID YOU FIND OUT YOU WERE PREGNANT?
I had a very strong inkling at work. Even though we'd been disappointed many times before, I left work early to get home and do the test.
7. WHO DID YOU TELL FIRST?
The husband, my partner in crime.
8. DUE DATE?
9. DID YOU HAVE MORNING SICKNESS?
10. WHAT DID YOU CRAVE?
11. WHO/WHAT IRRITATED YOU THE MOST?
Nothing, really. Except may be for the heartburn towards the end when the baby was pushing up into my lungs.
12. WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST CHILD'S SEX?
13. DID YOU WISH YOU HAD THE OPPOSITE SEX OF WHAT YOU WERE GETTING?
The first time it really did not matter. All we wanted was a healthy baby.
14. HOW MANY POUNDS DID YOU GAIN THROUGHOUT THE PREGNANCY?
15. DID YOU HAVE A BABY SHOWER?
Yes! It was a delightful affair. We had so much fun with all sorts of games my friends had planned.
16. WAS IT A SURPRISE OR DID YOU KNOW?
I knew. I went armed with idlis and chutney for a friend who wanted some.
17. DID YOU HAVE ANY COMPLICATIONS DURING YOUR PREGNANCY?
18. WHERE DID YOU GIVE BIRTH?
At a hospital. I loved the birthing room. It was spacious and did not at all feel like a hospital.
19. HOW MANY HOURS WERE YOU IN LABOR?
20. WHO DROVE YOU TO THE HOSPITAL/BIRTH CENTER?
The husband. My mom came along, but she went back home after a couple of hours.
21. WHO WATCHED YOU GIVE BIRTH?
The husband, the doc and a nurse. We went back a few weeks later to give the nurse a box of chocolates, but unfortunately she'd left the hospital. Her presence was very soothing. I held on to her hand for dear life, my nails bearing down and gashing her skin. But she never told me to let go.
22. WAS IT NATURAL OR C-SECTION?
23. DID YOU TAKE MEDICINE TO EASE THE PAIN?
24. HOW MUCH DID YOUR CHILD WEIGH?
8 lbs 4 oz.
25. WHEN WAS YOUR CHILD ACTUALLY BORN?
A few days after his due date.
26. WHAT WAS YOUR REACTION WHEN THE DOCTOR ANNOUNCED THE SEX OF THE BABY?
We already knew it would be a boy.
27. WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST REACTION ON SEEING THE BABY?
Couldn't wait to meet this ...thing... that had been inside me for 9 months! I knew everything - the shape of his head, nose, mouth, the poke of his knees, his elbows, his tush, the sugar rush he got every time I ate cake. But I really didn't know him at all.
28. DID YOU CRY?
Nope. The husband did, as he cut the umbilical cord.
29. WHAT DID YOU NAME HIM?
30. HOW OLD IS YOUR FIRST BORN TODAY
8 going on 9.
Updating to change the title to the one in the tag.
Updating to add a link to a relevant post: Labor of Love.
If you refocus your eyes to the front of the pic, you can see the icicles hanging on the window frame from last week's winter storm. Each time one fell, it made a terrible racket. I wondered what would happen if it fell on someone. This thought reminded me of an Agatha Christie (?) mystery in which the murder weapon is an icicle.
Thursday, March 05, 2009
There's something very soothing about this picture. The burden and awesomeness of the job tempered by the sweet ordinariness of being the father of two young children. More power to the man (and his wife) who find comfort in this ordinariness and are not shy about seeking it.
Tuesday, March 03, 2009
There is just no comparison, however, between DC and Chicago when it comes to extreme winter weather. We may get a handful of winter storms a year - just enough to keep the kids happy, and the parents and schools from pulling their hair out. So this area just does not see the wisdom in spending millions of dollars on preemptive management of snow storms.
Perhaps that criticism, however undeserved, stung - DC schools decided to open late rather than shut down completely yesterday. Schools in the suburbs felt no such compunction. The snow day alert went out to the parents even before the first snow flake floated down to the ground.
By the time morning rolled around, that decision certainly appeared wise. The Washington area had its first real winter storm of the season. Thick, powdery snow hung heavily on the evergreens and formed neat beds on the deck, patio, railings and steps.
The sun came out a little while later. While it made no dent in the piles of snow all around, it did make interesting patterns.
Dipped in spicy chutney, they are delicious. The problem with these, unlike the regular dosas, is that you lose count of how many you eat!
If you live in the US and don't have one of those pans, kitchen equipment stores sell pans for making sweet pancake puffs. From what I've seen, it seems like you could use that pan to make guntapanganalus. Now I've taken to making pancake puffs in my own non-stick pan too. They turn out great and the kids have a blast pouring syrup over the puffs.
All in all, a good snow day.
To check out more MyWorld posts, visit That's My World.
Monday, March 02, 2009
A few months away from blogging and the landscape changed on me. Now it's not enough to blogroll, you must follow.
I must admit that following is easy. You just click on the 'Follow' button and the blog automatically shows up on a list on your blog. And if the blog being followed chooses to do so, your profile pic shows up in their sidebar, making it easy for them to keep track and read their followers' blogs if they are so inclined.
For weeks I resisted following. I had my list and tweaked it every now and then, adding blogs I'd left out while I changed my template and I saw no reason to change.
Then this past weekend, I went on a bloghopping binge. I threw my sights far and wide and came upon blog after blog that I wanted to read and ... er .... follow. So I clicked away with abandon, feeling like a kid in a candy store. It was so much easier to do it right there, rather than keep track of where I'd been, come back to my blog, and then go through all the steps to add to my blogroll.
So now I have my blogroll, which I fully intend to keep (as of today, anyway) and I have a list of blogs I follow.
If you'd like to follow this blog (and I hope you do!), click away! The box is up on the side bar. Very convenient, eh?*
The weekend bloghopping journey was an eye-opener in more ways than one. A long time ago, my father shared with me a letter that his oldest brother had written to him from Egypt back in the 50s. In that letter, my uncle narrated his experiences and ended with the thought that human nature was the same everywhere, that people are essentially the same no matter where they live.
The stories I read this past weekend bore testimonial to that statement. We, who live in the far corners of the world and are separated not just by distance, but by age, race, culture, upbringing, gender and experiences, are more alike than we can fathom. Of all the posts I read about the anxieties and the joy and pain about being a mother, about aunts and uncles and family dynamics, about being a grandparent, about love and loss, about local communities and about the amazing perspectives we human beings bring to life and its hardships, the two that astounded me were the ones written by two women, one in California, the other in Mumbai. Go read for yourself and be amazed!
* Thank you to all those already in the box!
I've been feeling terrible ever since I saw photographs of Azhar, one of the younger actors in Slumdog, being smacked around by his father (via Solilo's blog). Then this morning I found that Amrita had written about this as well and her thoughts echoed many of mine. Her wonderfully thorough, analytical post is definitely worth a read.
Lesson Every Poor Must Learn: bitching about white filmmaker establishing trust funds for your kid, okay; disciplining your kid the way you’ve always disciplined him, big no-no!
Out went the old, poverty-stricken, living in a shack, Azhar’s TB-ridden dad who needs justice now - in came horrible, physically abusive, illiterate, Muslim, third-world Azhar’s dad who wants to make a fast buck off his little kid because he’s too lazy to go out there and get a job for himself.
Far be it from me to shield a man who beats his child, but maybe the lesson to be learned from this is to leave the kids alone. They’ve had a rollercoaster ride of it, they’ve seen things and experienced events that most kids their age, whatever their family’s circumstances, would never undergo in a million years, and now they’ve got to get back to life as it’s usually lived.
There are people who think taking kids like Azhar and Rubina to L.A. was a cruel thing to do, exposing them to a world so far removed from their own, one that they have very little hope of touching ever again - I think it was a wonderful thing to do.
The whole thing here.