Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Beyond Culture.

One of the biggest challenges in modern times is keeping the family values and traditions moving forward and appreciated. In some ways a sustainable development of its unique culture and heritage. 

As kids get wiser and smarter, we as parents are often faced with the question, what is our culture? While this question is more visible in immigrant families, I believe it holds true for natives too.   

The kid is learning about ancient civilizations now, and India is the last one they will study. Am I looking forward to it. Of course I am, its a legitimate opportunity for me to gloat about all that India has offered to the world from the zero to the science of Ayurveda to the modern Fin. I am however dreading the question, What is Indian culture? Most Indian parents start off by saying its about how the family sticks together and they prove this by restating the fact that Indians pay for the college, marriage, honeymoon, and if they can the first house too. And by doing so, most of us immigrant parents fulfill our moral duty of being Indian and taking care of our kids.   

Is that really what Indian Culture is?  Do any of us really know how to answer that question? I know I don't. Culture is yet another word that is often defined individually.  

Last Thursday, I missed the blogpost as I was busy being a mom and getting some kids ready for their performance at the school cultural show. It's an annual event of brilliant performances, good food and friendships. It's a happy fun evening for all.  On the face it looks simple, get a few kids, make them perform, order food, plan the seating and voila you have a cultural show, but like most beautiful moments in life, there are many small moments that go into making this gala event possible and for the school it was many volunteers and hours that made it happen.  

The International Samosa
For a few moments, I took the time to go outside and have a bite. As I sat eating, I saw the longest line at the Samosa counter, and then I counted, out of the fifteen people standing in line, only 3 were Indian. I kept looking and mumbled to myself; "Samosa is International." 

This trivial realization was the inspiration behind this blogpost.   

The two hour school cultural show silently brought forward elements beyond the singing and dancing. The school talent show for the kids and by the kids can teach us adults a lesson or two. I saw kids cheering for their class mates. They did not care if their act was selected or not. They were just happy to see their friends perform so well. They are creating a new culture. A culture that will adopt the  best of the world they live in. It is interesting how we as selfless little beings grow up to be adults that snear before cheer.  

Culture to the talent show and students was about the music and dance. For the parents it was  about the variety of food and bringing out their beautiful ethnic clothes.  The community on the other hand saw the sense of belonging. It was about crossing the geographical boundaries to truly adapt and adopt the world we live in. 

The eastern world claims to have a culture deep seated in spirituality and traditions and thus making it more stable and honorable.  The USA just like its counter eastern countries is an amalgamation of different cultures and traditions. Just as India was invaded by many, the natives in the USA did not have it easy either. They were invaded too.

The key difference between the eastern and western world is beyond culture. It is patience and humility that differentiates the cultures and like humans, it is about the age factor :) 

As we grow old, we learn to be more patient. We understand the value of humility and empathy. The younger generation is often blamed for being selfish, arrogant and yet brilliant for they have the power to define the future. The same is true for countries. As a country matures, it learns patience. It learns to understand the world and choose its friends wisely.  The youthful nature of USA is reflected in its capability to adapt and accept any culture.  Its continued inventive and creative thinking to improve the world we live in demonstrates its brilliance.

Today, as I wrap up the moments from the cultural show, I hope the "sense of belonging" to the school continues not only for the students but for the parents too.

Culture today is about accepting, being humble and sharing ideas, vision and resources towards the common goal of bringing out the best in our world. 

Friday, March 14, 2014

Holi Everyday.

A box of crayons is a joy for a child. Its the one place where nothing contradicts. It's always a contrast or complimenting color but never contradictory. 

It's no secret, I love colors; from the calming blues and passionate reds to the confident black and innocent white, I love them all. As a citizen of the world (I think) born in India, colors and Holi are synonyms to me. 

India or USA, March is the season of spring everywhere. After a freezing winter, as the warmth of the sun emanates the Earth. It's when every seed frees itself and bursts out to celebrate life. As Robin Williams once said "Spring is nature's way of saying "Let's party." Party is what India does during spring; celebrated on the full moon during the month of Phalgun, usually the month of March, spring creates a beautiful mess like no other fesitval :) 

Imagine playing with colors with all your friends and neighbor-hood, what you get is a sky full of colors.  The question is why do Indians celebrate Holi? Well like everything else, there is a mythological angle to this to. So long time ago, there was a king Hrianyakashyap. In return for his unshakeable faith and worship to Lord Brahma, he was granted the boon of immortality. What would happen to a man who was granted immortality? Like they show in the Hollywood fictions, yes he did start thinking of himself as the god and created trouble for all.  Fortunately for the world and mankind, his son Prahlad, was not like him. Prahlad, was a good soul who did not agree with his father's evil intentions.  Angered at his son's  opposition and after many failed attempts to kill him, Hrianyakashyap orders his son to be set on fire with his sister Holika, a demon who was thought to have immunity from fire.  The gods came together and saved Prahlad and the evil was burnt in the fire.  So Holi in one part celebrates the victory of good over evil.  

There's another romantic angle to the story too. Lord Krishna is worshipped my many Hindu's. Historically, the hindus worshipped Krishna by putting red color on his idol, friends and family. It is believed that Krishna used this opportunity to have a little fun with his beloved Radha and the rest of us mortals just followed :)  

This symbolism of devotion today is the fun filled crazy color flinging fun,  we know as Holi. 

Growing up in India, Holi instantly brings back memories of getting up early, wearing that specially selected pure white outfit and teaming up with friends to roam the street aimlessly and fling color at each other and passers by. Yes passers by, that's the beauty of the festival, one can throw color at anyone and there is never a yell or scream that comes back. The only reaction is a smile.

Today, Holi for me continues to be a favorite festival, but the crazy runs to neighbors and friends afar has been replaced by a family affair in the backyard where in my son loves taking the hose pipe and drenching his mom with it. It's the one day he can do this and not get yelled at :)  This is the play part of Holi. 

In reality as I look at Holi today, I see and realize it is a part of my every day life. Holi symbolizes much more than the mythological victory of gods or the love of Krishna, it's about embracing the different colors of life.  Life is like a box of crayons. It's filled with bright vibrant reds to melancholy yet calming blues.   

You don't need to actually play Holi to celebrate or believe in it. I don't play every year, but I know I celebrate Holi everyday because I love colors in my wardrobe, I love colors in my cooking and I love colors in my paintings.  There are days when nothing seems to go correct, on those days it's the vibrant yellows blend effortlessly with the blues to create the life giving greens. 

Colors are beautiful; while the red is passionate and exotic, and green brings life, black is a beautiful color too that stands tall with its distinct personality and yet absorbs all that is thrown at it, White on the other hand teaches us to ignore the minor differences and blend in as one human race.    

Colors silently teach us to compliment and not oppose.  

Wishing you and yours a very Happy Holi. 

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Am I the Mean One?

Thank you for the encouragement and responses to last weeks guest blogpost. You made an eleven year old very happy.

Today, I am very excited to have got permission form another budding artist, poet and writer. This is also a guest blogpost by a young twelve year old. She is a voracious reader who takes inspirations from her reads and writes short stories and plots for her future novels. She 'scribbles' poetry every now and then and thinks that she is a bad Poet. :) 

She compliments her writing with her own illustrations and loves to draw and color/shade. Manga Art is her favorite. Juggling her hobbies and school, she also finds time to practice gymnastics and swimming. Like all tweens, her friends are her life!  
At such a young age, her writing and art reflects human emotions. It is special when a twelve year old is sensitive to the feelings of others. Her work has been commended by her seniors and peers. One of her poems won Reflections' Award in Lawson middle school in 2013. Also, her poem was part of Young American poetry digest.

Her poem "Am I the Mean One" is her perspective on bullying; a growing problem in schools today.


When people pick on me
I cry because I am mad
So I get even with them 
And then I am glad

But then I am sad
because I am not always mean

But they make me feel like a small bean

So does that make me mean?

I am not mean or Am I?

- By Rujul

Art  By Rujul : Reflecting the feeling in the Poem "Am I the Mean One?"
I think its a brilliant illustration. Love the questioning sad expression in the eyes and how she is cuddling herself.

Her poem was also chosen by Project Cornerstone as an illustration of how kids feel when bullied. Below is a snapshot of their Facebook page. 

Please join me in wishing this budding writer, poet and artist success in all her future endeavors. I look forward to reading her publications.