Tuesday, March 31, 2009

A Wedding To Go To

Let’s just get this out in the open – We love Indian Weddings!!!

What else would help explain the fact that we take great pains to make it so colorful and have it drag on for days. We were born to Sing, Dance and Party.

Since traditional Indian weddings in North America are far and few in between, we were thrilled when an invitation arrived in the mail the other day. If you knew anything about Indian weddings, you too would have also been hooting and hollering just as my daughters did when they saw it. However, their glee soon dampened when they got a glimpse of a particular line on the RSVP card.

Numbers attending....(2)!!!

What a shock to their childish, happy-go-lucky minds. They were not invited.

It was more of a shock to them since they have been talking about this shindig for the past two months. As most pre-teens girls do, mine have been chit chatting with their friends as to which Lehenga they will be wearing, what songs they will be dancing to and who will be sitting next to
whom. No more! Well, all those plans went flying out of several Indian windows within the past 3 days.

Indian weddings, in general, have always been considered to be a family affair. Kids laugh and Run around. Grandmothers cast knowing glances as well as unnecessary remarks about the overabundance of the bride’s jewelry, or lack of. Mothers wish (or offering up pujas) that their daughters were next in line. Fathers and grandfathers, oblivious to the wedding at hand, just stand in a corner and wait to make good use of the happy hour. Former grooms try to catch a glimpse of what they can no longer have while former brides try to subliminally pass on an Important wedding day message to the new bride..."DON'T DO IT".

You've seen it. It's the same basic chaos that goes on with most weddings. But hey, what’s an wedding without a bit of chaos?

So, now that the number of attendees has been answered for us, let’s move
on to the next question. What do we do with the kids while we’re partying
it up? Since most of the Indian community has been invited, the finding of
a babysitter has become the proverbial needle in the proverbial haystack.
A majority of the parents are racking their brains in trying to find a
solution to this conundrum. Maybe we can herd all the kids in one house,
throw some non-perishables in through the window and escape before they
realize what has just happened.

You think it will work?
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For the love of History....or Ghosts

History has always fascinated me, especially England’s history. Yes, I know the story behind India being raided and conquered and for the lack of a better word, used by the Brits. I’m sure that my first statement alone would be considered as treason in some parts of India. But, hey I’m being honest here. That should account for something, right?

I think my love for this subject has more to do with the country’s seaside castles, its inhabitants and their rich stories more than the mere remembrance of dates and locations of wars and beheadings. Even their stories of ghost sightings are reason enough to fall in love with the land. Granted India has her fair share of ghosts and America even has a date to honor her ghosts (and goblins). But there is something about a British ghost that leaves you in awe. Even being dead for centuries does not create a dent in their nobility.

Are all castles in England haunted? Well, from the stories I’ve read, yep – they are! Although, I do have my doubts on this. Yes, I do believe in the supernatural but how do explain the fact that all of these castles are inhabited with such spirits? Here’s my theory….long ago a particular Lord of one of the castles was having a dull day, you know – no neighboring castles to raid, no pilfering of local villages – just a humdrum kind of day. Now this Lord always wanted to become a story teller but since he was so high up on the totem pole it would be frowned upon if he ever let his deep desire be known. So, he had to resort to telling these stories to his pet dog (All Lords have a dog. Don’t ask me why, but they do). So, one day as the Master was telling his pet terrier a ghost story, one of the fools (court jester, if you will) walked by and stopped to listen in part of the tale. Now this jester was a little on the odd side.…as most of them are….and only overheard the Lord saying, “…as the ghost wanders the halls at night and….”, AND the jester had enough!! Down the turret stairs he ran and told the page boy, who revealed it to the cook, who confessed it to the priest, who informed the knight, who whispered it into the ear of a milkmaid, who had the gift of gab and hence blessed the whole countryside with the idea that the Lord’s castle had a ghost. Now, this was a slap in the face for the other Lords and Dukes, you see. “How hath this simpleton of a Lord have ghosts and not I? Tis’ I who hath more seniority does he.” These were some of the thoughts that ran through their Elizabethan minds. Well, as the story goes, these guys all got together and started telling their friends and families about the apparitions that they have seen floating around within their fortresses. Since these Lords and Dukes had the power to behead people at will, I don’t think they came up against any opposition. As the centuries went on, and the hierarchy crumbled, commoners started with their ghost stories. And there you have it ladies and gentlemen; this is the story of how England got her abundance of ghosts. Ok, so maybe its not accurate….but it was still a good story ;)

So you see, history can be fun and spiritual….(yes, pun intended)!
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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Adaptable English Language

As a little kid, our weekends always included the hour long drive to Flushing, NY which was considered to be a westernized version of India. There, you were surrounded by oodles of Indian “aunties” and “uncles” (which, by the way, I am not related to) speaking English with such spicy flavor that even the most learned would envy.

Most people have considered English to be a universally consistent language. Centuries ago this language was forced upon several nations, India being one of them. Now, I have to warn you that India is a country that has fought back, albeit passively, but still fought back. Even when foreigners tried to instill the English language in our schools, we still fought back.

All right, maybe we didn’t actually fight back so much since we now have more than a 100 million Indians speaking the language. However...we have definitely morphed it to our little brown heart’s content. We've created our own unique phrases, mispronunciations, slang, euphemisms and politically incorrect idioms. And by gosh, we're darn proud of it! Jai Hind!! or should I say Jai Ho!!

As a whole, the world has to agree that we are a very creative bunch. Our creativity being mostly evident in our own special version of English. For example, we are very fond of adding English suffixes to our Indian words. Take for instance the use of the suffix “–ism”. Add that to any Indian word, mostly Hindi and you have the makings of a new expression like “gundaism”. For those of you who are not as scholarly as I am with English, gundaism describes an anti-social behavior of a person. These suffixes are great when you want to create new usages for Indian terms. We also make ample use of prefixes. Take the “post” out “postpone” and replace it with a “pre” and create the new word “prepone”. This newfangled word can be used in many settings; such as describing a party, which has been moved up in time.

Something must be said for our love of plurals. Indians love to pluralize. No, I’m not taking about our census again. We’re still on the topic of words. We take delight in adding an “s” to the end of words that don’t really need it, only to come up with words such as "furnitures", "deers" and "woods". Unfortunately, that love is not constant because we leave the “s” behind in words such as pant. “I can’t find my blue pant”.

Another literary talent we have is in creating compound words. Unlike our American counterparts, we don’t have plain-Jane cousins. Instead, we have the super-duper cousin-brothers and cousin-sisters. This is great because any regular non-Indian would have a terrible time trying to differentiate the sex of a person by the mere mention of a name. Take my name for instance. “Ammu” is clearly a girl’s name. Any Indian….well, South Indian anyway….wouldn’t dare think that level headed parents would name their son such a girlie name. But tell this to any non-Indian and they would think that you are trying your best to imitate a cow….ammoooooooo. Because we feel your pain (Indians are also a caring bunch), we created these words to make it easier for you to recognize whether our cousins are male or female. Oh, that’s ok……You’re welcome!

Aside from making words longer than necessary, we also took it upon ourselves to shorten others. While many consider Obama to be a really enthusiastic guy. We think he is a real enthu guy. Yep, you got it! Enthusiasm is now called enthu. As a result of such morphing, it can be used in new and exciting ways.

I can hear your heart pounding with excitement right now.

Enthu” can be used as an adjective, as I just did, or as noun. “That guy has a lot of enthu!” In normal English, you would have to use two different words, whereas in Indian-English (my own compound word) you get two for the price of one. You see the advantage here, people?

Hus”, “desp” and “senti” are also words that were shortened. Can you guess what their original form was? No? Try “husband”, “desperate” and “sentimental”. Yep, may sound a little silly in the beginning but try typing them over and over and you’ll see how many key strokes you can save by using the simplified version.

So you see, morphing is not a bad idea. As long as you respect the language and have the interest to learn a good part of it, you’re well off. And don’t worry, Indians are not the only ones to play around with this language. Americans, Europeans Asians and everyone else in between have taken this form of communication and instantaneously adapted it to suit the local circumstances.

Go ahead and create your own slang and euphemisms. It just might catch on!
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Monday, March 23, 2009

Green Engineer

My husband is green!!

No, no…not to worry, he’s not sick. Nor has he turned into the green-eyed monster of jealousy. The green he has become is more of the pro-environmental, anti-global warming kind. This is really a brightly colored feather in his cap, especially when you take a look around and almost everyone has started to become more “Green”. But how is it like to actually live with a green Engineer?

Life is great,if you like living under the watchful eye of the world’s self-proclaimed protector. One of the unspoken rules of our house is that if there is any sign of daylight out there, there is no need for us to turn on any of those dinosaur-aged incandescent light bulbs and waste those watts. But then, if we don’t use them up, how will they burn out in order for us to replace them with the newer, better, energy-efficient CFLs? So, you see, we are definitely caught in one of those Catch 22s.

You know, when you really sit down and think about it, the benefits of using CFL’s are tremendous. These cute little curlicues of the light bulb family will reduce 90% of the energy released and wasted as heat in our dinosaur bulbs. Our electricity bill will also be reduced by about 65%. CFLs are four times more efficient and last up to 10 times longer than incandescent.

Remember burning your tender digits when you had to change one of those burned out bulbs? Yeah, well you won’t have to worry about that here. Another plus is that CFL’s come in different tints such as soft or warm white that more or less matches the glow of the ILB.

But…yes, there is always a “but”. Along with the sweet, there is also some salt. CFL’s contain a tiny bit of mercury (no, I haven’t measured it) which we know to be a substance that we should not play with. You shouldn’t worry about it though, as long as you don’t drop it. If that should happen, don’t panic. You would have had more trouble underfoot if you dropped a regular household thermometer.

Ok, here’s where it hits home. You have to understand that I’m a girl….fine, an older version of a “girl”….who likes to at least look a bit decent before heading out the door. Did you know CFL's, when first turned on, look a bit dim? They take about 2 to3 minutes to warm up and should be left on for at least 15 minutes. I have to admit that I have been spoiled when it comes to light bulbs. Ever since I could remember when I turned on the switch, there was…..WOW – there was light….not candlelight! Ever tried putting on mascara in candlelight? Not pretty….not at all pretty…not to mention dangerous. Oh, don’t forget the cost. But wait, although they are a bit more expensive than their counterpart, you save money in the long run because. That’s probably because CFLs use 1/3 of the electricity and last up to 10 times as long as ILB’s. So, I guess that’s not really a flaw, huh?

But all things considered, the benefits do outweigh the negatives. Ok, ok so my husband makes his point in conserving energy and being socially responsible. So, let’s recap – CFL’s are efficient, less expensive, pollution is reduced and it’s versatile. I guess, we owe it to Mother Earth to do whatever little part we can in helping her survive.

Don’t forget to dispose of the old and broken CFL’s through your community hazardous waste program!

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Monday, March 16, 2009

Kids and St. Patrick

Saint Patrick’s Day is coming up in less than 24 hours, which makes me contemplate as to how we Indians ever became so engrossed in this holiday? Ok, maybe not the adults – but the kids have gone a wee bit overboard!

This past weekend my daughters were ransacking the house to find every little green thing that we own. To be quite honest I have never really liked the color green. When I was little my mother used to make me eat – or is it drink?? – her ghastly version of a very GREEN pea soup, YUCK! Her passive aggressive look only made me shudder and eventually clean my bowl. Hey, if you knew my mother, you knew that no one messed with her “look”. Eventually I would make myself sick enough that I would puke all over the bathroom floor in the color of…..what else…green pea soup. Hence my affection for all things considered green came to an abrupt ending.

But the kids, oh the kids! Sunday night the plan was laid out before our very eyes, green pants, green tops, socks, even underwear all in green. This morning as I was fixing my youngest daughter’s hair into a ponytail, she reminds me, “Amma, don’t forget to use the green hair bands tomorrow…It’s St. Patrick’s Day, remember!” Yes dear, I know. I’ve known that this day was coming since the beginning of March.

I figure this, as with most holidays, is just a passage in the wonderful world of childhood. Eventually they will grow out of it. When that happens, the days that rake in cash (like Birthdays, Vishu, and Christmas) will be the only ones that really matter. Hey, I guess since this isn’t costing me much, except for the green hair paint for the middle schooler, I should be happy.


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Thursday, March 12, 2009

The best bedtime story......NOT to tell

Bedtime stories have been a ritual since the beginning of time. But, for the newest of storytellers there are some paths that should not be taken when spinning your own creation. Stories that contain witches, damsels and princes are always cool and sure to grab the attention of the little listeners. On the other hand, stories of mothers eating their young is a path that should be less traveled….better yet, just don’t go there at all.

I don’t think my mother-in-law was made aware of the unspoken rule. For years she has been telling her grandchildren the story of a mother bird that ate her young because the baby bird was caught lying to its mother. Now, granted the moral of the story is all good – DON’T TELL A LIE. But to tell a three year old that she faces the danger of mom gobbling her up if she should ever succumb to such an offense is literally a nightmare waiting to happen. And that is exactly what happened after my daughter experienced her first bedtime story from her dear granny.

So, if there are any future storytellers out there, heed this little warning unless of course you want to spend the rest of the night trying to convince your overwrought little one that you do not intend to eat her.

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Will it ever warm up?

How is it that the weather in northeastern New York even leaves the weathermen guessing? Two days ago, it was so warm and sunny outside that the girls were out with their bikes and hailing down the other neighborhood kids. Capris, shorts and t-shirts were flying everywhere. This morning, the two were bundled up in scarves, hats and gloves and trudged reluctantly into the wind towards the school bus.

Will it ever warm up here? Only Mother Nature knows. Sometimes I’m not even sure about her ability. Global warming, or climate change - to be more politically correct, is even keeping her guessing. Read more!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

One down....hopefully no more to go!

How is it that kids never fail to get sick at the most inappropriate times? This week my oldest daughter’s school is hosting the New York State Math Test. Sunday night, she complains of a sore throat. Of course, why not, testing begins in the morning….why not come down with something?...you’re a kid….its your job to get sick, right? RIGHT!!! Monday morning she wakes up with the highest fever of the season.

How did this come about? Let’s see, Saturday she went to a birthday party at some indoor mini golf arena. Sunday was her own ice skating birthday party. What is it with all the birthdays in March? Anyway, long story made short, I should have known better. Every time one of the kids goes to such children infested places, one of them drops like a fly the next day. What a horrible, terrible mother am I to force my children to play with others of her kind?

With that being said, do you think I’ve learned my lesson? Don’t think so. Her sister has RSPV’d to a birthday party this coming weekend. This one is at some jumping around place with a costumed host. Well, at least she doesn’t have any state tests scheduled for the week after!! :) Read more!