American Born Confused Indian#Limerick

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To wear a long skirt that stays or to flaunt a mini skirt that sways

To eat homemade rice or to get restaurant takeaways

To speak in English or to falter in mother tongue

Unable to decide, between two cultures, she hung

This ‘American Born Confused Desi’ is bewildered always.

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“India” within the “United States”

It was quarter to 9:00 am in the morning and as usual, I was standing at the bus stop.  Cold breeze was sending shivers down my spine. I pulled the hood on my jacket tighter and snuggled my daughter closer.  November, December, January, February, March . I let out a deep sigh as I realized that we have to struggle in this cold climate for 5 more months).  Children and their parents were gathering slowly.Some children  were oblivious to this weather and they were chatting, laughing and playing. Some, like my daughter, were standing close to their parents. There were around 30 children with their parents waiting for the school bus.

I was able to hear bits and pieces of conversation in my native language(Telugu which is one of the Indian languages) amidst the chaos.

“Chaalaa chaligaa undi. Cap pettuko “ ( It’s cold. Put on your cap).

“Nannna, Bye” (Daddy, bye)

“Nenu ivala Work from home chestunna (I’m working from home today).

Most of the parents were Moms who just finished their early morning marathon race of getting kids ready to school. Almost of the ladies were dressed in Salwar kameez (Indian traditional dress) with thick winter jackets.   Few Dads who came to drop their children at bus stop were all set to go to work and were waiting for the school bus to send their children off to school. As the bus arrived, the children got into the bus one by one and the parents waved good bye to their children.

This scene where the parents give send off to their children at the bus stop is same everywhere. What makes this one so peculiar is that I recently moved to a community in the United States where there are around 300 apartments, 99% of which are occupied by Indian families. Out of those Indian families, around 200 families are from my native state. So, whenever I go to the bus stop to drop and pick my daughter, I am overwhelmed  by seeing so many people from my native state. It’s like I’m back in my homeland except for the climate. Here in this city, it’s extremely cold in winter whereas in my homeland, it’s always hot. I have been in the United States for a couple of years but I never stayed in a place where there were so many Indians. So, I feel as if I’m in “Mini India”.  In one way, it’s good to be part of this huge Indian Community but in the other way, I miss blending with the native people in the United States.

Indianizing the American food #humor

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Do you have a love story?

Well, I have one.

I’m an ardent, an unwavering and a loyal lover of food. Sometimes I think the only thing worthwhile is cooking a nice tasty meal and to eating it to my heart’s content.

One year back, when I moved to the United States, my passion for food reached new heights. I am a vegetarian and not all the restaurants in the United States have exotic vegetarian entrees. My first opportunity to enjoy American food was at IHOP.I had heard they served a good pancake breakfast something I had not had before. Therefore, one fine morning, I went to IHOP for their “Strawberry Banana Pancakes”. Continue reading

‘Follow every rainbow’ : A must read book for Indian women

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There are certain books which we read again and again because, every time we read them, we get a new insight. One of my favorite books, which I read often is”Follow every rainbow”. This is a nonfiction book written by Rashmi Bansal (The author of the best sellers ‘Stay Hungry stay Foolish’ and ‘Connect the Dots’).As the subtitle suggests, this book consists of inspiring stories of 25 women entrepreneurs. However, this book is not only relevant to the women entrepreneurs but also for every woman who want to achieve something in life.

You may be wondering what’s so special about ‘Woman’ entrepreneurs. It is because, in India, the society is not so favorable for an ambitious woman. For example, if a middle-aged professional man wants to do an MBA, he can leave the job, ignore the family, go to  seclusion, prepare for the exam, secure a seat in top MBA college, do his MBA and then he can return back to his family life once he reaches a position he dreamed of. Suppose if a woman has the same dream, she has to get acceptance from her family,if she has kids, she has to ensure that they will be taken good care of and she should take care of herself without succumbing to stress. No matter what the dream is, for a woman to achieve her dream, she has to overcome a lot of hurdles in her way.

Author Rashmi Bansal aptly describes this in the ‘Author’s Note’ at the beginning of the book:

“For a woman is like a delicate flower and needs just the right weather to bloom and come into her own.She wilts under the heat of disapproval.She freezes in the ice of resentment.A woman will simply sacrifice herself and her ambition if the ‘cost’ is too high.And the family will approve of that – for at the heart of our modern heads lies the age-old belief: a woman’s place is at this side.The revolution is coming, but there will be no bloodshed. Because women will do it their way”.

This book is about 25 powerful women who have achieved their dreams in spite of their humble backgrounds. These tough women have fought against all the odds in their life to fulfill their dreams. Being an ambitious person, a mom, and a dreamer, I can relate to most of the stories in the book.

The book is organized into 25 chapters, each one containing the author’s interview with the entrepreneur. The interviews are crafted into seamless stories which make them easy to read.  At the end of each story, there is a section named “Advice to women entrepreneurs” which has the message given by the entrepreneur to the readers.

My favorite inspirational stories are the following:

1. Premalata Agarwal (Mountaineer):

In May 2011, this 48-year-old housewife became the oldest Indian Woman to climb Mount Everest. An astonishing   fact is that she is a housewife who got married at the age of 18 and came to know about mountaineering at the age of  36, when she accompanied her daughter to tennis lessons!

2. Patricia Narayan(Caterer):

Married at 19 to a man who turned into an alcoholic and wife beater, Patricia started a food stall in Marina Beach, Chennai, to support her two young children. With her grit and determination, she expanded her business and started a food court chain. In 2010, she was awarded ‘Woman Entrepreneur of the Year’.

3.Sudeshna Banerjee(PS.Digitech HR):

When Sudeshna’s love marriage failed and resulted in a terrible divorce, she left her low-paying job as a school teacher and entered the world of engineering services. She became the Managing director and Chairperson of PS Digitech.

In addition to these amazing stories, Rashmi Bansal also provided the email id’s of the entrepreneurs and that made the book all the more special.

Hats off to the women entrepreneurs!  Kudos to Rashmi Bansal for compiling such a wonderful book!

Here is the link from good reads:

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17618528-follow-every-rainbow

Those extraordinary women have proved that if we commit to our dreams with our passion, nothing is impossible. So, what are we waiting for? Let’s follow our dreams!

‘Bound By Life’ : An emotional read

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On a rainy day, when I was craving for an emotional read, I came across Arpita Pramanick’s ‘Bound by life’. It’s subtitle ‘Short stories from India’ attracted me because I am an Indian and I wanted to see how the author portrayed our country. When I started reading that book, I just couldn’t put it down.

The book is a collection of 10 simple, heart-warming stories which linger with you even after you close the book. In this book, the flavors of India are handpicked and woven into tales that engage you thoroughly. The stories aptly reflect various aspects of India: the bond between the family members, the taboos in the society, the generation gap, and women empowerment. The narration is simple, straightforward and brilliant. What I loved most is that the protagonist in each story comes out as a strong, independent person leaving the reader a subtle message. Though the stories are based on everyday situations in India, a powerful ending to each story makes it a compelling read. Ordinary stories with extraordinary endings ; that’s what makes this book special.

Here is a glimpse of my personal favorites in this book:

  1.  ‘The silent victim’ depicts a troubled college girl who has a history of childhood abuse.
  2.  ‘I am Mala’ is the story of a rural woman who takes her revenge on the guy who betrayed her.
  3. In ‘A Mother’s plight’, I felt as if I was reading the story about me and Mom. It is the agony faced by a Mom when her kids leave home to study in a city far away.

Overall, I loved all the stories and it is a book which I will recommend to my friends.

Although this is the author’s debut book, the storyline, narration and the transitions look so mature and elegant.  I wish Arpita a grand success with her book and a bright future in her writing journey.

You can purchase the book at Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00X6VG3B0/

You can know more about Arpita at

https://arpitaapramanick.wordpress.com/

Learning Indian Yoga in America!

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courtesy: pixabay.com

How do you feel when you have to learn your native language from a foreigner in a foreign country? Overwhelmed? You may also feel a bit jealous about the other person who knows the language which you should have known in the first place. Isn’t it?

That’s how I felt when I, an Indian, went to Yoga classes in America. Occasionally, I used to do Sun salutations in India, but I never learned it in any specific course. I just practiced it seeing my dad and some of my relatives doing Yoga regularly. When I moved to United States, I got some free time and that’s when I thought I would enroll in a Yoga class which was taught in a nearby fitness center.

It was the first day of the class.  I arrived at the classroom 10 minutes before the scheduled time. Already there were a lot of people waiting in front of the room where Yoga was taught. The door was closed which meant the previous class wasn’t yet over. As I stood in the line, I studied the people. It was a diverse group. Some were in their early 20’s and some were in their early 60’s, some were very slim as if they can bend any part their body and some were so overweight that I wondered how they would be able to do the Yoga poses. Seeing them, I got confidence. If they can do it, I can easily do it.

The door opened and the students from the previous class came out looking exhausted. Each of them was dumping 1 or 2 towels drenched in sweat, into the bin outside the door. Not a good sign. Should I turn back and go home? I was confused about what I should do. Just then, my Yoga instructor arrived and I had no choice except to go into the classroom. The room was dimly lit, giving the perfect ambiance for a relaxing session.  I immediately introduced myself to the instruction who was a slim, cheerful lady in her early 20’s. I mentioned her that I was coming to that class for the first time and asked her to help me out. She assured me that everything would be fine as long as I  did the poses which were comfortable to me without hurting myself. That sounded like a great advice. I could do whatever I was able to do.

The next one hour exceeded my expectations. I was able to do more than half of the poses comfortably, may be due to the practice that I had as a kid.  For the other half poses, I struggled because I was unsure of what the Instructor was saying. Obviously, she was an American and when she was describing the pose in a fast American accent, I was not able to follow her completely. I cursed myself for not  watching more Hollywood movies ( I heard it was one of the best ways to learn American accent).  I was the only Indian in a class of 30 students.  I felt ashamed of myself for having to learn an Indian practice from a foreigner. Alas, I couldn’t do anything. I shouldn’t be thinking about all those in the class because the crux of Yoga is to attain control over mind and body. So, I started concentrating on the poses, my breath, and the fast American accent.

After the last relaxation exercise (Savasana), when we all sat cross-legged, the instructor held her hands together and bowed saying ‘namaste’ . Wow.!! Namaste is an Indian word and it is customary greeting when people meet or depart. Immediately, I wanted to say that ‘You have a strong American Accent. Namaste should be told in a soft, smooth Indian accent’. I controlled my instinct and said ‘namaste’ with a smile. After all, the instructor deserved a salute for learning and teaching a practice which was foreign to her. Hats off to all the foreigners who practice Yoga!

Fifty Shades of ‘Jahnavi’

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A few days back, when I had a problem with the internet at my home, I called customer service. The conversation went like this.

“Hi,

Good Morning

I’m Jahnavi. My internet connection is not working. Can you please check the issue?

My last name is Chintakunta.”

“You want me to spell it. Ok.

C as in California

H  as in Hawaii

I as in Indiana

N as in New york

T as in Texas”

So on and so forth.

By the time, I spelled out my last name, I had listed 10 states in America.And by the time I spelled my complete name over the phone, I forgot why I had called the customer service in the first place.

Did you face a similar issue? Is your name too complex to pronounce? Is it too long to spell?

Well, I have some funny incidents about my name and here they are.

While I was growing up, my name was  so unique that even native people found it difficult to pronounce. The exact pronunciation of my name is Jahnavi (3 syllables; ‘h’ and ‘n’ overlap making a sound ‘hn’) and obviously, a lot of people faltered while pronouncing. People started creating their own versions of my name and the result: Fifty shades of my name.

At school, my teachers called me ‘janaavi’ or ‘janhavi’. My friends, unable to put even that effort, shortened my name to ‘Janu’. That name was so cute and so sweet, it felt very personal. So, except for my close friends, I didn’t like anyone to call me by that name.

I did my schooling and college in my native place. When I got a job, I moved to a different state. In India, people speak different languages in different states. So, my name was completely new to my colleagues. They found it too hard to pronounce. Generally, before uttering my name, they paused for few seconds to gather all the syllables in my name. I loved their respect for me, but I also felt pity for them. I wanted to help them, at the same time, I wanted to save my name from further disgrace. So I started introducing myself as ‘Janvi’ (2 syllables instead of the 3 syllables).  At that time, I was working in a software company where I had to interact with European clients. The experience was even more hilarious. One day, someone called  me Geneva (like the city in Switzerland), some other called me Jawani (which means youth in Indian language). Slowly I got so adjusted to my name abuse that in the meetings if anyone was struggling to pronounce a name starting with ‘J’, I would volunteer and ask “ Are you looking for Jahnavi?  It’s me “

After I moved to the United States, the issue with my name got bigger. For any inquiry over the phone or for scheduling any appointment, I have to spell my full name and it became a tedious process.

In those few moments of despair, I feel “ Darn! Why do I have such a complicated name?”

One day, I asked my Mom,  “Mom, Why did you give me such a difficult name? No one ever calls my name correctly”.

She replied in a cool manner “ Oh! That’s a character in a novel I had read when I was a teenager. I loved that name and so ..”

“So.. So you gave me that name.Moommm ! ”

“Baby, it is also the name of an Indian goddess. Actually, it is the other name of River Ganges”

“Oh!”

I figured out that there was no point in arguing with her now. I decided to find a solution for my name trouble. I wanted to shorten my name. But how? Will it be   ‘Jaan’ as in ‘January’  or ‘John’ as in ‘Johnny’ or Just Miss ‘J’ ?

As  I was still searching for a perfect nickname for myself. one day I had to book a doctor’s appointment for my daughter. I called the hospital. The conversation went like this.

“Good Morning. I would like to book an appointment for my daughter. Her name is Yasaswini. I’ll spell it out for you.

Y as in Yellow

A  as in Africa

S as in Seattle.

..”

Wait, Isn’t it Deja vu? Didn’t I do this before? Oh! this was similar to my struggle to spell my full name. Then, I realized my mistake. I was so attracted to the meaning of my daughter’s name  that I forgot I was passing on my legacy: complex name. Yasaswini means a successful woman and I always want my daughter to be successful., Oops! I hadn’t given  much thought about pronunciation. As of now, my kid is just 5 years old. But I think, in few years, she will ask me ‘Mom, Why did you give me such a tough name’.

What should I do? How will I answer my kid’s question about her complicated name?

As I was thinking about this,  I came across words of wisdom from the famous play ‘Romeo and Juliet “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Wow. That’s it. I got a solution to my question. I need not shorten my name and neither my daughter.

Thanks to the legendary writer, Shakespeare who helped me settle my anxiety over my name. Now I can say “What’s in my name. ‘Jahnavi’ , ‘Jaanvi’ or ‘Janhavi’, It will always be me.”

In fact, I’m proud that I have “Fifty Shades of ‘Jahnavi’”.

Make it Extra Hot ..Please!!

“Make it Extra Hot ..Please”  That’s how I start when I order my food at a restaurant.

I’m an Indian and currently staying in the United States. We Indians generally prefer spicy food.Even in India, in the place I come from, we make food so hot that the people from other parts of the country would think twice before eating.

Obviously wherever I go in US, I find the food too bland for my taste.  No offense meant to anyone.

Now, here is what I generally order

Subway sandwich with chipotle sauce + hot sauce

Chipotle bowl with hot sauce

Pizza with crushed red pepper

Pasta (I can’t get a spicy pasta at restaurant) so I order it ‘to go’ and add red chilli powder, pepper powder, salt !!

This craving for spiciness is shown hilariously in one of the recent Bollywood Movies (Movie is ‘Queen’ ), where the leading lady in that movie, goes to an Italian restaurant and orders food. The owner of the restaurant brings her food and asks her opinion. She, in her innocent sweet voice, tells him that the dish will taste good if you add the spices : chilli,pepper,salt,lemon.  The restaurant owner feels offended and says ‘You Indians put chilli in everything.’ !! I can relate so much to that and often I am reminded of that movie whenever I’m eating outside.

At home, I keep a stock of  wide range of spices and I love cooking my own food rather than eating at restaurant .  If you are wondering how we can eat so spicy food, I think may be it’s the way our body was designed and the way I grew up. Back in those days, my great grandparents, my grand parents and even my parents used to have porridge with onion and chilli for breakfast !!! Not pancakes!! I guess that explains our craving for spiciness.

It’s time to go back to my kitchen and see if I have enough chilies to prepare my lunch 🙂

P.S: https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/ring-of-fire/

United States through my eyes

Time flies so fast. It’s already one year since I moved to United States from India.

Whenever my friends in India ask me “How is the United States”, I hear myself replying “It’s Awesome”.

When I think what I really like about US and how I started adjusting here, some amusing experiences cross my mind. Here they are:

  1. Silence:
  2. Traffic
  3. Cold

 1.Silence

It was the first time I was alone at home, my husband had gone to work, and then I felt an awkward silence.  I strained my ears to hear anything but all I could hear was chirping of the birds in the distance. I stay in a building with 8 apartments. And still no noise heard.  It was strange.!!

Unable to bear the silence, I walked to the park in my community hoping to get some company. The park was located on a hilly area and from there I can get a complete view of the community. There were tall trees, beautiful houses and lot of cars in the parking lot but not a single person in sight. It was as if I was the only one surviving on this planet. The place was secluded and eerie. I couldn’t stay longer and went back home.

Later I realized it was so strange, because, back in my homeland, the streets were always bustling with people. Every when you are at home, you hear some or the other noise. Either a neighbor turns up the TV’s volume or a vendor is selling fruits on the street or kids are shouting and playing or an overfriendly neighbor pops  up to say “hello” . And of course, at that time, I was struggling hard to get some peaceful time for myself and here I was trying to hear some noise.

Slowly as I was getting accustomed to this place, I had a task at hand. I had to take the driving test.

2. Traffic

When I first saw the driver’s manual, I thought “Seriously, Do you need to follow all these rules while driving”?” After I read the penalties for each violation, I understood how serious the rules were.

Back at my place, driving was more about steering through the crowds than about following the rules. The traffic is heterogeneous: Cars, bikes, three wheelers, buses, pedestrians, kids and even cattle share the same road and the same lane. So , the challenging part there is to drive without hitting anyone. Honking here is considered offensive but there it’s  a necessity. Someone comes in your way, you honk. It’s more like a reflex action. So, when I started driving here, I had to memorize all the rules and follow them very carefully.

3. Cold

As I started settling down, I knew I had to face my worst nightmare. Winter.. brr!! Was I ready for the winter? No way.

Back in my hometown, we had 3 types of weather:

  1. Hot
  2. Hotter
  3. Hottest

The temperature ranges from a low of 50 to a high of 120..

So for me cold for me is 50F.

Obviously, for most of the days in winter, I stayed indoors. But one day, after a series of cold, cloudy days the sky was blue and clear. The sun was shining brightly and the hot sun rays were beaming though the glass window.  After staying in the house for several days, I was tempted to take a stroll outside. In few minutes I got ready and stepped outside the house and then Brrr….It was bitter cold and I was freezing. I was just wearing of Tshirt and Jeans with no jacket , shoes or mittens . I ran inside the house immediately and checked the temperature. It was 20 F that day.    From that day onwards, I decided that I will never ever ever step out of the house without checking the temperature. Anyhow, by the end of winter, I had seen some beautiful snow and also I learnt to cope up with the cold.

After all these months, even now, the creepy silence, overwhelming traffic rules , the cold weather amuse me whenever I compare them to my ever crowded, hot native place. But I started loving the peaceful atmosphere, the hassle free commute and the heavenly snow in the winter. Now, I am thoroughly enjoying every moment of my stay here.

May be,that’s why, whenever someone asks me “How is the United states”, I  say  “It’s awesome”.

August blues : Then as a kid and now as a parent..!!

In response to daily post:http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/august-blues/ (As a kid, were you happy or anxious about going back to school? Now that you’re older, how has your attitude toward the end of the summer evolved?)

August Blues ?? I didn’t have any, when I was a kid. Actually, I was looking forward to go to school after long summer holidays. But now, after 25 years, when my 5 year daughter is going to school, I am terrified, worried and tensed when the school reopens. I guess almost all the parents will agree with me and here is why:

I have to wake two hours early than usual to get my kid ready to the school. Waking up my little one is one hell of an activity. I wonder how she knows, but she wouldn’t wakeup on her own on a weekday. Come weekend and she gets up early at 6:00am with lot of enthusiasm to enjoy the rest of the day. But on a weekday, even after nudging and pleading her several times, she stays asleep.  First question she asks after waking up is “Mommy, Do I have to go to school today?”.   Typically,the conversation between us will be like this:

 “Yes sweety, you have to go to school”.

“No.. Mommy”..

“Do you remember what your teacher told yesterday? You have a field trip today and it will be very exciting”.

“No Mommy..I will not go..The field trip is boring”

“You can meet your friends at school . They will be waiting for you”

“No Mommy. Yesterday, Katerina took my toy . I don’t want to meet her again today”

“You can wear the new dress we brought for you last weekend”

“No Mommy..I don’t want to wear that”

“I’ll give you icecream when you come back from school”

“No Mommy..Staying at home is better. You also don’t go to office”

……

……….

After several such pleading which generally ends up with my shouting at her , she finally agrees to go to school . By that time we would have only 15 minutes to get ready. So I hurry up and with lot of resistance from her side, I get her ready to school. I feel so sorry about all this but with no other option left,  I leave my kid at the school.

Hours pass by quickly and it’s time for me to pick her up from school. Again I feel anxious about the next big task of the day: homework. Schools give assignments to students but it’s often the parents who do those. And so, once we reach home,  I again persuade her to do her homework.  A typical conversation between us is :

“ Mommy, should I paint blue here? Oh..!! No, green will be better”

“No honey, you have to draw the picture of ‘Sun’ and ‘Sun’ is not green”

“ Mommy, I think teacher wants me to draw a triangle here”

“No sweety, You have to just draw a circle and color it yellow”

“Mommy, give me that glue and scissors, I have to cut the paper stick it here”  ..

“No baby , it’s not needed. You have to only paint the picture”

After the drawing room is filled with lot of mess and after wasting 2 hours of my precious time, we are still where we were with the assignment. It’s time for me to take the complete charge of assignment else we wouldn’t be going to bed tonight. So, I tell my daughter to allow me to do her work and we finish the assignment in 10 minutes. Hurray..!! we are done for the day. I go to bed, wondering how many days are still left for the weekend.       

PS: This is the day in the life of an Indian parent.