Thursday, October 31, 2013


COURTESY: The Internet. Saw it one of the image searches.
It's true.. every kid is special and precious.

Thursday, October 24, 2013


"A vacation is what you take, when you no longer can take what you have been taking." 

- Earl Wilson.

We all know vacations are important and yet we skimp on them. The United States known for its hard and efficient work ethics is also known for high stress and a working culture that does not insist on taking time off.  For some, its a financial situation, for others its now a habit. There are many who don't know what to do with free time.  The concept of "doing nothing" is now obsolete. Remember this quote "If you can spend an afternoon doing nothing, you have learnt how to life." In today's times, this seems crazy. How can one not do anything? It's just one life, how can we let it go waste?  Every minute should count, right? 

Live your life to the fullest. I agree with that. But every minute should be spent doing something. I disagree there. Like most, I too am guilty of planning every minute of my day, trying to multi-task and do it all.  I too have forgotten how to slow down.  But I am re-learning. 

Emerald Bay, Lake Tahoe, CA

We took an impromptu weekend off to Lake Tahoe, CA to get away from the routine, much to the dismayed faces of our kids, who wanted to know why are we taking a short vacation? They didn't understand the need to drive 4 hours and just "hang out" as a family. As parents we did what we do best, ignored the whims and cries and took off and hung out is all we did on the first day off. We ate Pizza, and it was good, walked around Heavenly, ate ice-cream, shopped for trinkets and called it a day. On retiring, some of us watched a movie, the others read a book and we all slept in time too.  Sounds pretty boring for a vacation, I know, but the point was to "do nothing" so we don't have to keep track of the minutes.  Next day, we all woke up with renewed energy and decided to trek at Emerald Bay. 

I like the idea of painting this :) 

The reactions from my kids and I quote. My son " WOW, this is so scenic. Mom look at that water, its so blue, its so clear. Are u taking pictures?" My daughter, "This is Epic. Next time, can I bring my colors so I can paint everything I see." For us as parents, it was mission accomplished. 

Vacations are often considered a luxury. They were in the olden days, but with everything else this paradigm is also shifting. Today vacations are a necessity. We no longer have the luxury of coming home at 5.00pm and spending some quality time with family. Parents and kids alike have a year full of events planned and every minute is accounted for. We as the citizens of Earth have made ourselves so busy, that we no longer laze around, we no longer take an afternoon nap, we no longer do nothing, we no longer break way from the routine. 

What we do today is; go to work, go for a work out or find a way to just work it out. 

I love this picture. Emerald Bay, CA. 

Many of us don't realize this but there are countless studies on why taking a break is important and good both for the mind and body.  My reasons to just breakaway from routine are simple. First it gives me a chance to have a conversation with my family on topics other than work and school. Second, it allows me to show my kids a world without electronics. Yes, I know, I use the computer everyday and am pretty good at it, but I am also the kind who belongs to victorian times. I love my tea parties and the casual gossip that comes with it. So if there is an opportunity to put the electronics away, I grab it. Last and most important, with every vacation we as a family are learning to slowdown and take a moment to re-learn the art of talking and observing. We are not googling or tweeting, we are talking. 

We need  to  breakaway from the routine, breakaway from the grind, breakaway just because! 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Halloween Fun!

There's so much happening around me, it's been tough choosing a topic to write about.  I asked myself, should I write about the politicians, who wearing the attire of a well wisher choose to behave like a pampered spoilt child or should I write about the daily grind of life and how a snear here and a smirk there by passers by continues to surprise me.  Maybe I should write about the Halloween bash I am planning for my kinder classroom, and then it struck me, its all about Halloween anyway. 

Courtesy: Indianapolis Star, Gary Varvel. 
When grown up adults who are under oath to do the best for their country decide to shutdown all work, simply because they cannot agree or rather don't want to try and find an agreement, it is nothing short of a sad comical situation. When the power to make or break the decisions lies in the hands of a few, and they choose to break, thats halloween scary. It takes a brilliant cartoonist to see the humor in every situation. I loved this cartoon from the Indianapolis Star. 

Halloween continues in our daily lives too.  Everyday we meet a disgruntled colleague, maybe a friend who loves stepping on your toes just because or a neighbor who cannot stop envying you,  either way its halloween fun.  

Let's be honest, do we wear ourselves everyday?  I know I am not wearing myself every day for sure.  Every so often we put on the costume we know will make the world proud of us.  We all have an alter ego. An alter ego that is not necessarily defying, the alter ego might simply be the a reminder of what you wanted to do, but could not. Maybe this halloween you want to wear a doctors coat, for you always wanted to go to medical school or maybe you want to be an angel, so you have an excuse to help the friend who is too independent to ask for help or maybe  you want to be a cop because you make sure your family is safe everyday. 

Don't be shy, be who you want to be. 

As for me, over years, I have realized I am the best at being a parent and also the worst at being the parent, so I think I am going to be the mom that I am, and according to some, that's a pretty scary :) 

The word Halloween conjures up images about witches, wizards, spiders, bats and pumpkins. All things dark and gory are sold during Halloween, but I think there's a nicer side to this festival. It's about ghouls and witches, true but it's so the demons don't scare us.  The dressing up is to confuse the demons so they would not mistake us as humans and think of us as one of them and in turn, spare us.  Sort of like the costume we wear often to confuse the world, so the world does not see the real us. 

Fall, its the perfect time of the year. The hot humid air is making way for some cooler and crisper winds that help ripen the leaves for some amazing fall colors. The longer days make way for longer nights giving us more time to be indoors and spend time with each other rather than running errands. Halloween is fun and its not all about the scary witches and ghouls. Its also about the pumpkin soup and the toasty bread. 

So chuck those ego's and smirks away and it's okay to be naughty but remember, it's October and Santa is watching.  

Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Indian Dolls.

India, the land of mystic, magic and myth.  It's perpetually impossible to talk about India and not have religion in the discussion. After all India is a country of 32 crore gods or maybe more. Crore, for my friends in the US is 10,000.  Does this mean that Hinduism the main religion in India, believes in 320,000 deities. Quite the contrary, Hinduism by itself is mono-theistic, which means it believes in a supreme power and the variety of gods is the imagination or manifestation of the lesser mortals and symbolic of  the different needs of our consciousness. 

The month of October in the US marks the excitement of Halloween, and in India it marks the beginning of the elaborate and extravagant festival season; Navratri, followed by Diwali.  Here's an interesting fact for you, the Indian calendar is a lunar calendar, and according to this calendar, the day before Diwali is called "kali chaudas," which in Hinduism is the day to abolish all evil. And it just happens to be very close to Halloween every year. See any parallels? 

The festival of Navratri marks the beginning of the celebrations.  I grew up celebrating this time of the year, but seven years ago, I decided to be part of it; and went the whole nine yards with fasting and the prayers. This year, the cosmic energies worked differently, they kept 'poking' me to understand the "why" behind it all, and so started this blog post.  When poked its best to log on to Facebook.  They chimed in. For some it was the celebration, for others it was the traditional stories handed down generations, while for others it was a time to view god in their family. All very genuine reasons to celebrate, for celebration is a personal expression of happiness, and is just as unique as the individual. 

What is religion? The standard definition is belief in god, but then we are conveniently excluding the atheist or the one who challenges and dares to question. Most discussions tend to state what religion makes us do; believe in god, follow rituals etc rather than answer the question "what is religion.?" I think it's faith. Faith so profound in something or someone, that it is often blind and illogical. And for that reason, faith begins where logic ends. 

The dilemma on my wall when asked the question was the same. Most stated what they do and enjoy doing during navratri, but not much light was shed on the why of navratri.  I started reading; the more I read, the less clear it was. Such is the nature of religion.  Let us start with the a simple introduction to the potpourri of cultures and religions India embraces. 

Navratri literally translates to "nine nights." Just as India has 32 crore gods, it has 22 nationally recognized languages and is home to 300+ languages. Most of these languages have either an Aryan or Dravidian origin, and interestingly they don't speak each other.  The same is true for religion.  Such is India. It is a 4500+ year old civilization that today is a potpourri of cultures and traditions handed via civilizations that were born there and civilizations that came to conquer it. India embraced them all.

Navratri is celebrated twice in a year, in spring and in the beginning of the winter. While both occasions celebrate Goddess Durga, the celebration in winter is more grandeur maybe because it is followed by a sequel of other festivals.

The mythological stories behind navratri are nothing short of amazing. Feel free to Google and read the different versions, I am going to state two of my favorites here. India has the holy trinity or as Hindu's cal it Trimurti. Brahma is the creator of the Universe, Vishnu is the preserver and Shiva is responsible for change, both as in the form of destroyer of evil or death and also as in the destroyer of ego.  It just so happened that long time ago, amongst all the good and bliss, there lived a demon called Mahishasur. He wanted to be eternal, so he started praying to Lord Shiva, did penance for years, and finally was granted the boon, that no man or god will ever be able to kill him. Upon receiving the boon, his cruelty knew no limits, he conquered Earth and in his blind arrogance then set his eyes on "Indralok," the home of the Gods. The Gods were now worried and as you can imagine were furious at Lord Shiva for granting him such a boon. Shiva is also the angry yogi, the one who meditates and when his mediation is broken, is awakened with rage that has no control.  From his rage came a bright light that merged with the rays from Vishnu and Brahma, to create this beautiful and absolutely amazing woman. Woman, yes, because remember the boon was "no man or god." The woman came to be called, Shakti meaning strength or power.  She possessed the power of all the deity's in the heavenly abode. She had one mission, to save the Universe and destroy Mahishasur and all demons.
Shakti kills the demon king Mahishasur. 

Did she succeed? You bet she did.  Peace was restored into the world.

As I read about this, it was interesting to see how the Gods, all men, created this woman to do the task that they could not. They gave her their strength to save the Earth and the Universe. In a sense, Shakti is the essence of the lords, it is the cosmic energy. She is merciful, knowledgeable, powerful, and bestows her disciples with materialistic grandeur and spiritual freedom.  She sits on a lion and has ten weapons.  Over time Shakti, took nine forms, and every day of Navratri celebrates each manifestation, with the most popular being Goddess Durga. Shakti got the name Durga after she destroyed the demon Durg. From this perspective, not much has changed on Earth, we had demons then, we have demons today. The only difference, Shakti got lost.

The other story is about the lord Prince Ram, who was sent to 14 years of exile in the forest. His wife Sita and brother Laxman followed him. Sita, a reincarnation of Goddess Laxmi was Shakti as in the chaste woman. Ravana a demon was captivated by her pious beauty and decides to kidnap her. He succeeds and so starts a war between Ram and Ravana. The war they say lasts nine days, and Ram prayed to Shakti for victory. Shakti grants him the wish and Navratri celebrates the nine days of war that led to the Dusshera, the day when Ravana was killed.  Dusshera is followed by Diwali which is celebration of Lord Ram returning home after the exile.

The assassination of Mahishasur happened eras before Ram came into the picture. In modern day calendar, same months and dates but they are centuries apart. Irrespective of the dates the point is, every time it was the woman who was worshipped.  So rightfully, Navratri has come to be as the celebration for women. It is mythological India's feminism. It celebrates all forms of Shakti, the beautiful one and the scary Kali too, thus telling us women that irrespective of what the world says, YOU are beautiful in your own special way. Every woman has a quality that the other does not have, and when we unite, we are a Shakti that can change the world.

The Nine forms of Shakti
As Bhavani, you give birth for if there was no "garbha" or womb, there would be no world.  As Parvati, you stand next to your consort through all times, as Annapurna you feed your family before feeding yourself, as Saraswati you teach your kids the value of knowledge, as Kali you fiercely protect all you love, as Laxmi you use the wealth wisely, as Sati and Sita you prove your loyalty in every era. 

The second element of Navratri is fasting. The women fast. As religions evolved so did the strictness of the fast, with the underlying element being developing good eating habits. Most Hindu fasts focus on fruits and nuts, thus emphasizing the importance of eating healthy.

Tomorrow or Friday, the 11th of October, 2013 is the seventh day of the fast.  The 8th day of navratri (Asthami) is my favorite. A very special and sweet ceremony called "kanya pooja" or Kanjak is performed.  Kanya translates to girl and Pooja to prayer. So its a day when we invite the little princesses and dolls to our humble homes for they are the purest forms of  Shakti. We welcome them by washing their feet, adorn them with a tilak and offer them food untouched by anyone. Its only after the "kanya's" eat, that the adults can eat. We then bid farewell to all the Shakti's with a gift symbolizing our gratefulness that the goddesses came to bless us.  In essence, the prayers of Kanjak are a way to remind us women to recognize the strength of our own being from the time we are born.  Having girl friends is very important :) ! 

This navratri, let the Indian dolls remember; 

"... to be the heroine of their life, and not the victim." Nora Ephron


I cannot end this post, without showing you a glimpse of the navratri celebrations in the Indian state of Gujarat.  Enjoy! The sheer numbers are nothing like you have seen in the US. It looks crazy, but trust me there is a beautiful method to the madness here.

A Glimpse of Navratri celebrations in Gujarat.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Me, My Wall and You!

A wall, in the pre-social media days was a brick and mortar division between different rooms of a house. Today it's where I meet you.  

I meet you everyday on this wall in the Facebook mansion.  We meet, we talk, we share ideas, we joke and we help each other get up during those difficult times.   

Social media is often criticized for changing the way we communicate. I am guilty of this crime too. I have not once, but many times complained of the m - generation forgetting the etiquettes and the capability to interact and communicate.  I was recently reminded that the change is here to stay. We either accept it with a smile or with a frown. The choice is ours. 
Today's post is very simple. I decided to pen down some very simple ways in which this wall is changing the way I live my life, so when an almost grown up adult asks me for an account, I can go back to this post and explain the power of the wall. 
  • My wall today teaches me to eat more healthy. Yes, it does. Every update from In fitness and In health, allows me to learn more about the do's and don'ts for living a healthier life. The fact that I can take pictures and post, gives me bragging rights too :)
  • My wall motivates me to cook more. Your pictures of the yummies you make gives me a reason to get up and take those long lost cook books out and make a gourmet dish for a perfectly ordinary day. 
  • My wall has connected me to friends I had lost, but not forgotten.  
  • The wall today is my one stop shop for all questions un answered. Any problem, post it on your wall and there will be a flood of answers to solve all your problems. 
  • The wall gave me an idea long time ago to start painting and I did.  
  • My wall also shows me the side that has been painted negatively, it is then this very wall that helps me paint over the negativity and make it beautiful again. 
There are many sub categories that these influences can be broken down into, with one thing in common; the wall motivates.  

The wall makes sure no doors are closed and there is always some one around to listen to you. But be cautious, for the power of the wall should not be underestimated. The 500 million + friends is not what makes your wall alive, it is how you paint the wall that makes the wall a sought after hang out space. Today, I ignored three friend invites I had, because according to me, virtual or real, it is important to choose friends wisely. Only those who I value can write on my wall. The others can wait.  

The wall by itself is not good or bad. Just like any other choice, it is us that make it good or bad.