Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Brown mixes with White.

For this post, let's play a little game. What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear the word "beauty?"

In my mind, its the ancient adage; "beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder," followed by "beauty and the beast." It pretty much stops there and then depending on what the conversation is about, my brain starts thinking.  After writing this, I realized how boring my thought process is for a word that is so beautiful to begin with :) We all grow up with some standardized ideas about beauty, maybe the credit for this standardization goes to fairy tales or even Disney, but lets face it, on hearing the phrase "a beautiful girl" our mind conjurs up the image of a fair delicate damsel.  Should we blame ourselves or feel guilty for being so shallow minded. I don't think so. We have been trained to think in a certain way.
It takes years of living and maturity to throw this training away and accept beauty as in the person and not the appearance of that person. If this is true, then why are all of us so surprised at the reaction to Nina Davuluri's crowning as Ms. America? 

When we heard the news, we all said it differently, but in a sense we all said the same thing;  we are surprised that she became Ms. America. A brown girl as Ms. America! That's what its all about. 

As a self taught artist :), if I may say that, brown by itself is a pretty boring color, it's one of those blah colors that need a bright color to bring it alive. And if the contrast is wisely chosen, the color brown can make or break a statement. That is precisely what Nina did.  Her self confidence, her capability to hold a conversation intelligently, her dancing skills combined with an excelled physique and poise were the perfect contrast to her color, that helped the Ms. America pageant break away from the blah tradition into the 21st century.

Many are upset that Nina became Ms. America, and then many are upset that why are people upset about this, isn't the USA supposed to be a melting pot of different nationalities. The Indian community is happy and proud to be an Indian and are wondering too, as to why the color of her skin is such a big issue. 

Let's start with my fellow Indians. How many dark and dusky Ms. India's have we chosen? Yes, I know u'r going to give me examples of Lara Dutta, Priyanka Chopra and the like. But let's face it, even these beauties today appear to be a lot lighter skinned than what they were when they first came on the big screen. The advertisements for fairness creams in India only increases every year. Then why are we so surprised sitting here in the USA?  For the sake of argument, let us put Nina in the Ms. India pageant competing with equally smart girls, and the only difference being skin color, the truth is she would have not won.  Most of the Indian population even today considers fairness as one of the most important criteria of defining beauty. So when my fellow Indians wonder why America is upset, I am upset at them for having double standards. 

Now let us move to the US. Why is US upset about a brown girl becoming Ms. America? The tweets in the article above say she is not American enough. Ms. Texas is more American because she sports a tattoo and goes hunting. Are those qualities really essential to being American?  They say she is Arab, that's ignorance. They scoff at the idea of a girl with a 3rd world country heritage becoming Ms. America, without even realizing that if Columbus had not sought India, it would have probably been another few hundred years before US was even discovered. Yes, when Columbus found US, he actually set sail to find the land with riches galore, India and that is why native Americans are called Indians. But you already knew that. So let us move on. 

What is America and what does it mean to be American? I can't speak for all, but as a brown immigrant to this country, in my opinion, The USA is the only country where a girl of Indian descent could have won a national beauty pageant.  And the people of America should be very proud of that. As a country its very foundation is the assimilation of different cultures that has allowed it to widen its thinking and broaden its horizons. 

Assimilation or integrating in the US culture, does not mean forgetting ones heritage. It simply means accepting the best of both world and building upon their existing values. It is the values that keeps it together.  I have lived for 10 years in the heartland of American, the midwest.  I was the only brown girl in a tiny little town of Greensburg, IN.  Yes, they asked me questions about the "dot" Indians wear, the henna we apply and one elderly gentleman even asked me "why do Indian women walk behind men.?" Now it was up to me, to either feel offended and angry or use this opportunity to be the ambassador to my country and take away this ignorance. I chose the latter. I gave a brief cultural lesson and ended it by saying, India is one of the few countries in the world to have a women Prime Minister. Few weeks later, when I met him taking a stroll in our appartment complex, he told me, that he had borrowed  a book on India from the library and is enjoying reading it. For me, it was a proud moment.

In that tiny town where no one knew anything about India, I chose to wear my traditional outfits and went out for a Pizza. I didn't get any funny glances, only compliments.  The point is when we look for differentiation we find it. I was dressed differently, but I was emitting the same core values my American neighbors did. And that is what makes America the country it is.

Ever wondered, why people want to and come to America? There are so many of us who love fashion and art and dream of going to Paris, but have u ever said to yourself, I want to be a Parisian, OR there are so many of us who are intrigued by the history and richness of India, but how many people from around the globe run and come to India to make it their home. America is unique, simply because it was not found, it was made. It was made with the simple idea that all men are equal and they can dream without any fear.  This has been my key takeaway of living in this country for almost two decades now.  

US is changing, not because immigration laws are liberal, but because its a very young country compared to the rest of the world. Its capability to adapt and swiftly react to the changing environment is much faster than its peers. The country is agile. With agility comes speed, with speed comes the desire to move and explore, with exploration comes new ideas and ideas bring change. 

Nina's victory symbolizes this change.  As she has so aptly said, "Ms. America is about the girl next door and that girl next door is evolving."  She looks different, but embraces the same values as any other American;  be bold, be confident and follow your dreams.

As we move forward, the typical image of "a beautiful girl" is going to transition.  For some she will continue to be the fair Rapunzel, for others she might be the dusky Princess Tiana and for others she might be the brave Mulan.

The future will not be black and white, its going to be
bright and colorful.

The colors are finally blending to create a beautiful picture. What do you think? 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Blah day!

Ever had one of those days when it was all just blah. There were no problems, no arguments and yet it all felt monotonous.  One of those days, when you weren't angry at anyone or sad for any reason, yet it didn't feel right.  Today was one such day for me.

My original post was something totally different. It was supposed to be a beautiful post celebrating beauty itself, and even though I had taken a lot of time and effort to write it. It didn't seem right. Something was missing.  I decided to delete it all. That's how my mind works, editing some how doesn't work.. to re write something to me, is like trying to fluff over cooked rice. Strange analogy I know, but like I said its one of those blah days today.

Well, when I am in blah mood.. there are only two things that cheer me up, cooking or painting.  So I picked up a sketch book and some sketch pencils.. and this is what I made.

I call it "The Humdrum Lighthouse"

The Humdrum Lighthouse - my cure to the blahness. 

The lighthouse maybe humdrum, but I am happy now. There is something magical about art that just makes me happy. Not sure what it is or why because I am not a formally trained artist by any standards, but just having a pencil or a brush in my hand makes me feel alive again.

As I take a closer look at this painting, I do like how the stones turned out. The Lighthouse by itself is very amateur, but then its imperfectly perfect.

Moral of the story,  doing something for self is the quickest way to get rid of the blah and bring in the Aha!

What makes you alive? 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The m-Generation!

What do you think the "m" here stands for? Am I talking about the "Millennial Geneation," or "The Multi-tasking Generation," or maybe it's the "Mobile Generation." If you guessed mobile, you think like me. 

Generations change and with every change, there comes an improvement, or at least that's what we hope for. Let's take a quick trip back to the future and see how we have changed. The Generation X, those of us born between the 1950's and 1980's, were the ones who as children played on the streets and relished street food without worrying about the level of bacteria in it.  Our teenage saw the birth of Pac Man and enjoyed the intelligent humor from Looney Tunes to Tom and Jerry. As adults we had memorized the phone numbers of all our friends and knew how to read a map and find our way around without any satellites guiding us.  We had no video games, or iphones or ipods and yet had a very full filling and enriching life. A life that taught us to survive with the bare minimums. Today those Gen Xers are parents to what I call the m-generation or the "Mobile Generation." 

A 5 year old today may not know how to write the lower case letters or read fluently, but they know how to swipe a finger, enter a password, find the App store and download an app. An app, which in turn promises to teach them to read and make them smarter. If this blogpost was an Excel spreadsheet, it would give me an error message saying "circular reasoning." 

The rattles and baby blocks have been replaced.
I am not against the technology however I do have a problem with telling kids to master typing when they are still learning how to write cursive properly.  The logic in all this, "these kids are never going to write like the old times, by the time they grow up, it will all be voice activated."  I agree, it will be voice activated, but to me that's like telling a child, why learn how to ride a bike, when you're going to be driving a car anyway.  

I know many of you will scoff at this ideology and that's okay. We all are entitled to our opinions, and I continue to believe that basics cannot be replaced. It's old school thinking, but holds merit. Learning to write or ride a bike is not only about learning the basics, but also about developing the fine motor skills. The human body adapts itself very quickly to the changing environment. Our brain cells learn to fire the signals differently, so as we get more technology enslaved, there will be a shift in how the neurons interact.  

Very often the proponents of technology tell us that we can shut down technology whenever we want to. True we can, but what they don't know is that the use of technology also trains our brain to think differently.  The smart phones today have the power to enslave us. We don't control technology, it control us.   If you disagree with this statement, you either don't have a smart phone or are in denial. There are very few of us, who have the will power to shut it down and let it stay shut. 

The mobile generation today allows the cell phone to be the command central of their lives. The ratings on yelp decide the restaurants, the likes on Facebook make or break their day and the video on Khan academy is a more trusted source than the traditional math book.  This generation is also a generation of undisciplined thinking and one that needs instant gratification. With internet browsing getting faster and more efficient every day, the need for patience is diminishing and the desire to multi-task is increasing, with not much improvement in productivity. 

Do I have technology in my own home? You bet, I do.  However, I am the odd parent who still insists on penmanship with my kids. It's a balance I think. One has to draw the line some where. 
We can today watch a movie, chat with friends, order our textbooks all at the same time and by a small 4-inch held device called a smart phone. How we use our smart phones today has become an extension of one's personality.  

While researching on the topic recently, I came across an interesting article Mobile Revolution Killing British Manners. We all are familiar with the formal British manners, the art of greeting, meeting is now being replaced by the art of tweeting and texting. Though I don't think its a problem unique to British. It's happening everywhere. Only difference, cultural differences make it more acceptable in the USA. Britain on the other hand has always prided in its formal etiquettes so the incapability of the m-generation to do so draws attention.  

As I write this post, I say to myself, is the situation really that gloomy? Are mobiles really that bad? The answer is no, they are not. The mobile in itself is a very useful tool. The introduction of the iPhone has been nothing short of a revolution, the problem is us. We the people have chosen to let the mobile dominate? Why do we need to check our Facebook messages even before we get out of bed? Why does a like on Facebook bring a smile on our face?  Why do we have to watch that episode on YouTube, so what if you missed an episode or two of your favorite show.

The addiction is in us and not the phone. Yes, mobile addiction cases exist and have opened up a whole new field of specialization :). Internet withdrawal symptoms is a reality today. 

The singular mobile has infinite possibilities and has created a seismic shift in how we think, work and socialize.  It has allowed for flexible working, has made radical changes and improvements in healthcare, has removed redundancies in finance, eliminated the geographical boundaries and thus allowing for global business models. On  personal level, it has connected us to the world like never before. 

The smarter Gen X are recognizing the trend and joining the band wagon. They are today up to speed with technology, use it effectively at work and to monitor their kids too. Yes, you can do that. But you have to be a step ahead of the game like this parent was How I used Samsung phone spy software to track my teenager?  Would you do it?  Be honest! 

The mobile is here to stay. It's not going anywhere. In fact with every passing year it will only get smarter and more capable of controlling us.  Don't be afraid. Man made mobile, so it cannot be smarter than the human brain. All you have to do is, shut it down every once in a while.  

And mark my words, the day is not far, when one smart entrepreneur will reinvent the art of writing and make millions by doing so. 
The feel of crisp paper and the joy of writing with a fine instrument cannot be replaced by a few keys . 

Thursday, September 5, 2013

A rarity.

Husbands are a rare breed.  As wives we make them go through the emotional roller coaster that they have never sat on. They are often sandwiched between the wife and the inlaws with no choice but to smile through it all.  It is often the woman who gets all the laurels for being the care giver, teacher, laundry person, cleaner and the do it all of the family. But let's not forget the power of the dad. The dad who teaches his kids to ride a bike, shoot a hoop, stand up after a fall and also take his princess to the ballet classes. Men are different from women, she knew that. When she met him, they chatted about nothing in particular. They both knew they were exact opposites, and yet they agreed to marry. When she asked him, he smiled and said, who wants to fall in love with a mirror image. At that point she knew he was different.  And so started their journey of spending a lifetime and beyond of togetherness and happiness. 

Togetherness that is often accompanied by fights. But wait, he doesn't call them fights, he calls them healthy discussions. Tears make him sad, but what annoys him more is silence. Communication he says is the key to any successful relationship.  Birthday planning; he says everyday is a celebration. Why make a big deal out of one day?  I say, but birthday's are special, we were born then and we should celebrate our coming into this world, especially this crazy world :) And he smiles.  The smile turns into a laughter. A laughter that is funnier than the situation. This laughter is the life of his home. 

It's a different philosophy to look at every day as a celebration and it takes an eternal optimist to do that. He is an optimist who has taught me to that it is okay to be emotional, but problems are solved by logic and not emotions.   

He taught me that relationships are about complementing each other and not supplementing. He is not an artsy person, and yet reminds me to research on 3D printers as an alternative art medium.  He is not the kind who surprises with flowers, but yes he did drive us for thousands of miles to fulfill a dream to see Yellowstone National Park. 

He enjoys ordinariness and fancy bothers him. In this world where it's all about out doing the other, he accepts the simpleton and makes him feel the genius we all are. He teaches me the importance of leadership by example and not force.  And most importantly, the teaches me to let go of expectations and learn to accept what comes and makes the best of it.   

Sometimes he is a friend, sometimes he is a guide, sometimes he is a teacher, sometimes he is a funny dad and sometimes a strict one, but every single day he is to me, my kids and the world around him, the wonderful person that he is.

One universe, nine planets, seven seas, I don't know how many countries or how many cities in this world and yet we had the chance to meet.  Now that's a rarity!  

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

I know, it's just so busy.

The warm summer winds are now making way for the cooler breeze. Days are getting shorter and the retail stores are stocking up on winter wear and high boots. They all remind us of the summer ending and making way for fall.  Two things happen when summer ends, first schools reopen and second our brain shifts gears and moves from first to fourth.  It's interesting how a simple change in seasons allows us to relax or not relax.

Parents often look forward to routine and schedule that "back to school" brings.  With routine and back to school also comes the race to do more, and I am not talking about homework. I am talking about all that extra activities we need to do. Why? Well, that's a good question and I am still looking for an answer. 

I see kinder students going for tuitions, and why not, after all it takes a lot of patience, time and perseverance to teach the little ones. Their attention span is little. They don't like being taught in a serious tone. All teaching at that age has to be fun, and who has time for fun in this modern 21st century. 

We as parents (including myself) don't have time. There I said it, and I apologize if I hurt anyone. Ever wonder, why is it so? Our parents also were doing exactly what we did. Our moms cooked, cleaned, washed dishes, ironed clothes, mopped the floors and yet they had time to sit with us in the evening and review our homework or just chat. Our dad's also worked hard and earned a good living in addition to just kicking the ball in the front yard. What happened? Where did all that time go? The clock still gives us the same 24 hours a day, but these 24 hours just don't seem enough anymore.  

Why? I wonder. 

Prioritize, Simplify life. 
Well there are a couple of things happening at the same time here. First, we have way too many options to explore. We want our kids to try out the piano, learn computers, be a whiz at math, a skilled writer and learn self defense too. All my parents wanted me to do was go out and jump rope. How boring, right ;) 

If these choices were not enough, we then have the need to stay connected to the world every time. Our communications have been reduced to LOL and JK. Our emotions are slaves to the little emoji faces. We don't write letters anymore, and to those who do, we say "Oh! you have way too much time."  

And most importantly, as humans we have this pressing need to out do the other? It doesn't matter what choices we make, we are all busy with our chosen roles. Then why do we add more to it?  It's a catch 22 situation. Our obsession of being busy is so strong that those who are not, often feel guilty.

We have time to Tweet, but not write. We have time to Facebook, but not call. We have time to Pinterest, but not invite. Are we really a generation that is busy or are we a generation that is simply buzy?

Today, it is cool to be busy and often comes with bragging rights. This is moving on to the kids too. The kids often judge themselves based on what their class mates are doing.  We as a society are creating a circular maze for ourselves. A maze in which we keep running in an effort to play catch up. The end result is complete exhaustion. Kids are exhausted with the constant need to excel and the grown ups are tired of being busy.  We need to stop glorifying
being busy.

Time is money and scarce too, I agree.  It is however about time that we prioritized our hours, minutes and seconds.