Tuesday, November 28, 2023

The festival season - is it Joy or stress for you?

This is the time of the year when Indian families are busy celebrating Indian festivals, and once this settles down, the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays come around. I have been talking to various families and know very well that this could be the most stressful time for families too. Celebrations could be hard as they miss out on the fun part because of the needs of their children.

Most festivities require the social interaction part, and that is tricky for many due to food restrictions, sensory overload, meltdowns, and overall experiences that deviate from routine. But sometimes it's a reminder of the difficult life we lead as special needs parents. Some of the young moms in the group bring a fresh perspective and energy.

I usually stay away from planning a big meat, but they really wanted it. Last year, we had two of those. This year, they wanted something even bigger and better. Who am I to say no to that request? It has been six years since the first dinner I hosted for Desi Moms Network on December 1st, 2017. So, "celebration of the village" was the theme.

On one sunny Sunday, the group met at the Watertown library, with 52 families registered, and around 47 of those showed up. The day was full of fun, laughter, a feeling of belonging, no judgment, care, love, hugs and smiles, meltdowns, and beautiful chaos. When I close my eyes, I remember the numerous hugs I got from kids and moms, people introducing each other, smiling, everyone dressed in their best outfits, including children. The children got to cut the cake, and that was the fun part for many of them.

I am grateful to the guests who wanted to see what "Desi Moms Network" really is. Their interaction with families was priceless. Kudos to the moms who organized it; I just got to be the face of their labor. What does the festival season mean to you?

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?