Monday, November 27, 2023

The experience of moving away from the homeland—how different it is now

 A friend's buaji (aunt) is thriving in her 80s and is in the process of cleaning up her belongings. I was fortunate enough to receive two sarees from her treasure. She moved to Houston after getting married, perhaps in the early 60s, transitioning from a young India. I wonder on what she must have gone through—a new life in a new country, culture, environment, and, above all, being so far away from everything familiar, including family and friends.

I observe the contrast in the last 27 years of my life away from the motherland. It initially felt like an opportunity, but at that time, I couldn't envision eventually becoming a mother, managing my household, raising my children independently, navigating life on our own, and not having the support of extended family during challenging times. I didn't know how to plan or think differently because I lacked guidelines—what to look for, save for, and plan for—everything was unknown. So when I think of Buaji, I wonder about the kind of transformation she had to undergo. She didn't have the luxury of the internet, Facebook, WhatsApp, or any easy means of connection to understand what to expect.

Yesterday, our taxi driver in Dubai was from Pakistan. He initially came for a two-year stint to earn money. Fourteen years later, he continues to live frugally, works excessively, saves most of his earnings, and goes home every year for two months to be with his wife and now 7-year-old son.

I couldn't help but wonder how his life is any different from Buaji's or mine. Though we've traversed different decades, aren't the three of us somewhat similar? The feeling of not fitting in, of not belonging, or simply living in the present while keeping the fear of the unknown at bay?

What's your story? What were you thinking? What would you do differently?

A saree from Buaji’s closet, chosen for a festive get-together. Many women, sharing a similar state of mind, come together to celebrate festivals, keeping India close to their hearts.

Saturday, November 25, 2023

What shapes the essence of "you" – your upbringing, opportunities, resources, or money?

 As individuals, we all evolve, but can you change the real you? Do you learn and grow, or do you merely adjust according to place and time? Do you believe it makes a difference how you were raised or the kind of exposure and resources available to you? If so, why do siblings often have different philosophies? If education and knowledge influence change, then shouldn't so-called educated people behave in the same fashion? Does your philosophy change with age, job, and financial status?

I grew up in a small town in the central part of India, in a middle-class family, with limited exposure to many real-life experiences. However, one constant was exposure to books, magazines, and literature. We didn't travel much for vacations but had a house full of guests.My sisters ventured beyond our town for education, worked in larger cities before marriage, and had a broader range of experiences than I did.

I raised my children all alone , away from family in different country and culture and navigated life on my own terms. I believe I underwent significant change as I grew with my children. What do you think about your experiences? Are you happy with how life turned out for you? What would you change?

A simple cotton for one of the celebrations. Non-resident Indians sure know how to celebrate – Diwali parties every weekend in November.

A simple cotton for one of the get together.

Asato ma sadgamaya (From ignorance, lead me to truth) Tamaso ma jyotirgamaya ( From darkness, lead me to light)

The festivals hold significance in everyone’s life, even for those who don’t believe or practice religion; the celebration of customs and rituals plays a crucial role.

Our family is one that is not religious but is all about celebration. Diwali is one such festival for us. When we moved to a very English Irish town, unaware of much, we prioritized a good school district and affordable housing. Little did we know that raising children in a non-diverse town would be challenging. Although a few Indian families moved in, we still struggled with the feeling of "not belonging."

During one Diwali season, I decided to invite my non-Indian neighbors and my son’s teachers.

 I became an introduction to everything Indian, from food and language to sarees, customs, and culture. Beyond the rituals and religious aspects, we focused on the glamorous part – the food, fun, small firecrackers, sparklers, sweets, decorations, and clothing. The guests embraced the traditions year after year, with some even starting to wear Indian attire.

Now, our town is different. Many more Indian families have moved in. The town council and library celebrate Diwali, and schools undertake projects and presentations about it.

I still celebrate Diwali and absolutely love it.

How do you connect your family and friends to your culture?

Friday, November 17, 2023

"One Life in This Lifetime: Chandu Bhai—How Would You Like to Be Remembered?"

Last week, Boston lost one of its kind. He wore so many hats that we forgot who he truly was. He turned into something you wanted him to be. He was a businessman, poet, producer, director, artist, writer, organizer, playwright, filmmaker, and above all, an amazing human being—Chandu Shah.

The memorial service was one of a kind, even with the busy festival weekend; it was busy. A lot of people spoke about his involvement in various groups, events, and organizations, and his human side. I saw people of all ages. Not only his circle of friends who were in their 60s and 70s, but also a lot of younger crowds were there to pay their tribute to a man who was there for everyone.

His life was worth celebrating, and that brings up a very interesting topic. How would you like to be remembered? Do you think about your life beyond? Have you made a list of things to do before you go? Do you have a bucket list?

A Geecha Silk Saree for the memorial.

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

The Next Chapter - What are you looking forward to ?

Years ago Some of the parents got together to find a better way to  provide their children appreciate care and life. that was a humble beginning of Advocate and as of today this organization staffs 2200 and supports 45,000 children, adults and families, one can imagine its impact on the community.

From the Advocates website - Advocates is committed to helping people with autism, brain injuries, mental health challenges, intellectual disabilities, or substance use issues live healthy, happy lives in the community.

We partner with individuals, families, and communities to shape creative solutions to even the greatest life challenges.

I was honored to be part of it celebration gala as one of the board member. A chili evening in the city, a long drive turned into something amazing. As I walked in the enchanted forest theme I was caught into its spell. 

That evening some of the moms from the Desi moms Network got together to have their own celebration of festival season. Gathered in one home, getting Henna done, being together and celebrating their village. I spent an hour with them before I started for Boston to be part of the gala. I dont have enough words, I will let the pictures do the talking.

How important is it to have a village, Do you feel you have one of your own? Where you belong? Your child or family belong?

A simple blue Kanjivaram for the evening. A brown women in a saree, I sure was one of a kind that evening.


Friday, November 10, 2023

Do you seek help? Why or why not?

 Our family is a mixed bag of fun, excitement, arguments, love, food, laughter, and frustration. I would like to think that it’s not an easy ride for us, or some days I feel we have it all. I am sure everyone feels the same way one day or another. Whatever the case, any given day, I look forward to another day.

I went to visit a facility run by an organization of which I am a board member. I am still learning about the incredible work they are doing. A visit to their Community Behavioral Health Center was an eye-opener. How the mental health crisis is so relevant and often ignored until it’s too late.

While talking to a friend, who is a social worker and mental health clinician, our conversation turned into the "shyness" of the Desi community and the delicate balance of mental health. She is one of those rare Desi social workers. We both wondered if our community is truly as well-sorted as it appears. I totally understand that Indians are called a model minority for a reason (it’s a myth, but that conversation is for some other day). While everyone seems to be doing well and living happily, is this reality?

I strongly believe in the importance of mental health support.. Desi Moms Network is based on that very need. Years ago I needed someone who could understand what I was going through as Anand’s mom, and that piece was missing. Desi Moms Network is the result of that need.

When faced with challenges, do you actively seek help? Do you think you can handle whatever comes your way on your own? Do you feel overwhelmed? What about your children? are you attuned to their reality?

A black gold Chanderi for a music meet. This was another mental health remedy for me. 

The garba in my town, so many people happily dancing and enjoying their time. What is going on in their homes no one knows but at least that evening everyone was just having fun. Dance and music and the whole village - that was just enough for that evening.

My colleagues came for dinner and Anand sat on the table and ate with everyone, even with his video on , this was a big deal for me.

Oct 2012 I was looking for my village and couldn't find any so build one. Here we are 11 years later I can say these 300+ mothers are very lucky.