Vinayaka Chaviti 2021

Vinayaka Chaviti or Ganesh Chaturthi has been more significant this year than previous for a few reasons. My mother made ‘undrallu’, steamed, coarsely ground rice-flour balls for the first time in the United States and I made a nearly healthy version of ‘payasam’ with coconut sugar to enable guilt free food festivities. And felt countless instilled moments of veneration, honor and devoutness for being a Hindu. My parents raised me inclusive of other religions and inculcated tolerance, the ability to never discriminate customs, and be a good human being.

After twinning with my mom, the customary puja, I stepped and in all my excitement ended up doing what has been a mythical offense. I never knew the anecdote but was always told not to look at the moon on this exact night. And not only did I glance at the moon but I must have done it several times although inadvertently. Much to my horror, my over-educated mom only reminded me of the consequences instead of telling me it is useless sentiment. Regardless, I was able to take some remedial action.

Ganesha was returning rather late one night, after a mighty feast. He had eaten too many of his much loved sweet dumplings and his ride, the mouse, was carrying his master in the air in a gamely routine. It was a full moon night and the moon was out in all his magnificence. Suddenly a snake traversed their trail and startled by it the mouse made a dash, displacing Ganesha. Ganesha fell to the ground, his belly broke open, and all the ‘modakas’ he ate rolled on to the ground.

He hastily stuffed all the ‘modakas’ back, grabbed the snake and tied it round his tummy to keep the ‘modakas’ in. When he looked around to see if he could spot his mouse when he heard a silvery laugh. The moon, having seen him fall, was laughing at him. In a fit of fury, Ganesha broke off one of his tusks and flung it at the moon, making a direct hit, and cursed that the moon would never be as glorious again.

Which is why the moon has a crater which we can see from the Earth. Hence, according to this, it is believed that one should not sight the moon on Ganesh Chaturthi. If a person sees the moon on Ganesh Chaturthi, they’ll be cursed. I was amazed how progressive the faith itself is for its teachings where someone who was made fun of was empowered to curse so the one making it would never repeat it on anyone one. I am sure if we use our powers right, we have the ability to teach anyone that intimidates, body shames and abuses, a mighty good lesson.

September 11th, the day after the festival, carries a deep significance in my heart. I was the happiest to see some people walk in the door that morning. Being new to the United States, I didn’t grasp very quickly that it was a terrorist attack. I thought it was a shoot for the ‘Pearl Harbor’ sequel until it really hit me what was happening. To this day, I am indebted for being protected by many from the hate crimes that followed, although some industries completely shut down the sponsorship program for international work visas. Getting jobs was so hard that many of my peers ended up getting multiple graduate degrees until they got a decent job. Perhaps, it was destiny that 9/11 compelled me into technology.

Both these days, I went from being the eternal optimist to feeling lost on why certain things happen just to me. But as the saying goes, “The world is so unpredictable. Things happen suddenly, unexpectedly. We want to feel we are in control of our own existence. In some ways we are, in some ways we’re not. We are ruled by the forces of chance and coincidence,” I’ve learned to maneuver to the best I can, enjoy the opportunities, respect failures, enable myself to stand for the right thing, and do good by those around me. Such is life and I am grateful for it.

12th Death Anniversary

My dad was my first teacher. He spent all his life helping his extended family members. I don’t resent it. Perhaps, that was what contributed to my mother and I become the women we are. I don’t ever wish the troubles my dad went through in his life on any one. Even more I don’t wish the abuse of his corpse even for my enemies. The same people who he supported betrayed him in his after life. Nevertheless, I am grateful for my existence because of him (and my mom), the wonderful times, the emotional rollercoasters, our disagreements and debates, and the legacy he passed down to me.

Commemorating Teachers’ Day on September 5th (in India) and his 12th death anniversary, I want to share 12 things he taught me.
1. Never regret making decisions
2. Diplomacy should be one’s middle name
3. Confrontational skills are key for survival
4. Never discredit your instinct
5. Don’t hurt others and don’t let others hurt you
6. Money can ruin relationships
7. Health is wealth
8. Focus on character not reputation
9. Practice what you preach
10. Silence is the best weapon with fools
11. Make sensible boundaries in relationships
12. Secrets must die with us

Few words to all those who go through a lot in life and fail to overcome or sublimate — I hope you try and find your calling. Those who worry about perceptions, trust me when I say, they don’t matter. And for those who have no problem writing regardless of what people might think, more power to you. I got my poetic fervour from my mom but the writing is my dad. And, because of him I’ll never stop doing what I do best. Rest is in your mind.

Telugu Language Day

Infographic courtesy: http://www.telanganatoday.com

Today and every year on August 29th, Telugu Language Day memorializing a “Day of the Telugu Language” is celebrated across the world amongst those that speak Telugu and that are of Telugu origin. This date was picked to correspond with the birthday of a Telugu poet Gidugu Venkata Ramamurthy. And despite the multiple dialects, this is one of the rare occasions where Telugu societies are wishing each other in harmony despite their innermost inconsistencies. As always, there were conjectural deliberations in our household because of the subconscious hurt and antipathy that spans eight decades for my mother and half for me. Just because we disagreed on the polar opposite sentiments that we share.

When my husband and a best friend sent ‘Happy Telugu Language Day’ wishes, ‘Amma’ (mother) started her early morning ‘suprabhatam’ (literally auspicious dawn hymn) on how ill-informed and unqualified Telugus are, in trying to reform it under the excuse of modernization of spoken dialects, and how the current leaderships (Telangana and Andhra Pradesh) are promoting a pseudo-culture that antagonizes printed etymological cohesion. And shame on me for not respecting her thoughts. I believe that before we attempt social service, our homes must be in order. Which in this case, I awkwardly pointed out how worthless it truly was that we want to do big. It was a war of words after that.

Almost in the middle of our duel we recognized that her focus was on the future of the language, mine was on the support she and I never received being Telugu women from within our families, barring the few compliments here and there, which we are very grateful. She had moved on to superior ethos while I willinglylurched in mistreatment of language towards us. No matter how much I try, my moral compass continuously seems to stop at one thought. How is one supposed to fabricate admiration and regard towards a language or its folks when experiences contradict every occurrence in life. One might say, the language should not be blamed for its misappropriation by those speaking it.

My mother’s sting is unparalleled these days as she grasps the pitiful condition of Telugu textbooks in both the Telugu speaking states. After having worked 40+ years for quality education and preservation of the language, she is now witness to moronic schemes to remove alphabets, emphatic symbols, changing inscriptions based on colloquial semantics, and founding of proceeds centered organizations whose only agenda is personal. Despite being thousands of miles away, she writes relentlessly to whoever is able to gloss her writing or hear her out. She knows too that her yeoman service will be unreservedly squandered for the two faced conducts of contemporary community.

Divergent to hers, my predispositions are my own. I admit that I have a long way to go to be enlightened like her and the rest of you who are on the path of transcendence or have achieved it already. Telugu could be called the “Italian of the East” for virtue of being mellifluous, or “Desa bhashalandu Telugu Lessa” which means “Among the nation’s languages, Telugu is the best,” by even non-Telugu poets such as Rabindranath Tagore but if the native speakers continue to abuse, bully, shame, stimulate bigotry, and making it defunct by rebuking each other’s tongues, proliferating amoeba of disparate social group based coalitions, and allowing sophisticated expatriate lingos creep into our intimacies, but if we don’t indoctrinate shared wisdom to care for it, one of world’s ancient vernaculars will end up being a fossil in our memory.

As the saying goes, “charity begins at home,” both of us have vowed to make deliberate amends in our lives. To practice the spoken language without using English words for support, nurture the art of writing and reading, and overlook the targeted hurls. My dedication towards it has lessened over the years due to infrequent use, and guzzling of my Telangana pride to radiate incredulous sophistication. “Language is the roadmap of a culture. It tells you where its people come from and where they are going.” At this time, it is of paramount significance to stay course to honor Telugu forefathers and leave a legacy of this golden language for our descendants.

I’m not lost

This might be an unfair post. It is so because it has a lot of ifs. And a tribulation that hasn’t left my side for the last 15 months.

There are so many questions that are still unanswered. Call it an obsession or optimism, but every moment awaiting for good news feels forever.

Life still moves on and I mustered courage to watch some Bollywood movies to commemorate our the Indian Independence Day.

Shershah is that to Siddharth Malhotra what MS Dhoni perhaps was to Sushant Singh Rajput. But I couldn’t stop thinking what if SSR had done this role.

May be he’d act a certain way or if he’d look better reprising it or would look better as an army man. And strangely I was overcome by the same feeling when I watched Bell Bottom and Bhuj.

While Akshay Kumar and Ajay Devgan are seasoned, I was going through the faultless spiralling of desires — if only SSR had played these roles.

It is unfair that there were such other remarkable actors in these movies but they don’t get the credit they deserve. Especially Sahil Vaid.

How can we forget the hues that JP provided as support to Manny. SSR had the effective presence that many actors lack today

If only he were here, he would’ve brought a new meaning to self made success. And then I hear a voice, “I’m not lost, I’m very much alive.”

Winning the South Asian Vote

In an urge to be of service to my ‘karmabhoomi’, I have been finding my way to the grassroots. Thanks to the many opportunities provided by friends, the journey has been mind-boggling. No matter how anyone may look at the political inclinations of South Asians, bottom line is of quintessence. If those that are running for any office need a place in the hearts and homes of South Asians, in return for their votes, it is indeed a long road. And one may never know what may flip those labyrinthine intellects.

First know our names. If we could attempt to pronounce any name in any language correctly or nearly, it is paramount that one needing our support knows how to say our names. Whether be Mohammad, Haniya, Aadrik, Sunaina or Sukhbir it is not that hard since we’ve faithfully taken care of saying your proper nouns. And unlike our other Asian counterparts we refuse to anglicize. We also takegreat pride in why each of us was named so. There is every chance that there is mythological significance.

Our religions are not sorcery. We come from places which are an amalgamation of thousands of beliefs, regional stratification, languages and sentiments. Indians don’t speak Hindu, our lands are not filled with elephants and snake charmers, and we speak good English because we were taught in it. When we offer something in good faith, it doesn’t change who you are. And the best way to understand us is to respect our foundations and emotions. If you don’t put an effort, we will always remain a mystery.

There are certain intricacies that you must understand. The festivals we celebrate, the cricket (which is not the same as baseball) fervour, what critical race theory means to us, why we are invested in education more than sports, how we idolize the characters in our movies, and our political preferences are purely based on our liking for the person not the principles. Hence, it is very important that the future leaders are not just charismatic but also genuine. We dislike homophobes, chauvinists and racists even if we perpetuate such within our communities. And, curry is not our staple food. We cook more variety that you can ever imagine.

Women who are the backbone of our support system are even more hard to please. A lot of them have been through immense patriarchal pressures, made unparallel sacrifices, created successful households and professions. Their support is fiercely towards their own no matter which faction they may be. Sadly, those that end up breaking their trust will never be forgiven. Never assume their kindness and never underestimate their gift of gab. South Asian women have made undeniable histories and it only a matter of time.

It’s sacrilege to snub them on pretext of equality. If you want them on your side, assure them the equity they deserve by not taking opportunities from underneath them to serve another purpose. The only option here is to uplift those that work hard to raise the per capita income of the counties and country. They will never be below any red line because of the ecosystem they’ve built. Their joint family set-up, elder care without taking advantage of old age homes, and kids staying with their parents even after they are much older are criteria not captured in any survey. But that doesn’t mean they don’t need the support. They totally do!

Even before certain magnanimous events have turned tables, we were targeted. Our people are killed due to hate based thefts, are subjects to hit and run cases that are never solved, are randomly chosen for TSA checks, our background investigations for jobs take longer in some instances, and despite having respectable places in society we are subjected to mistaken identity. We are tired of being called terrorists, job snatchers, and some of us are accused for doing black magic just because we decorate our homes traditionally. Weirdly, we are also called the next white race.

A lot of affection does exist with our non-Asian friends and families but American politics are yet to find the right place. That topic still remains the most dreaded in any of our gatherings. Because we don’t know where we really belong. Some of us think we’ve nailed our alignment but heart of hearts we know we are kidding ourselves. We, our forefathers, and fathers came to United States to build a great nation just like its other ancestors. Yet, we seem to have been trapped under the veil of sophisticated idealogies until someone from amongst us or someone that understands our diaspora leads us with righteousness.

Between Winning and Success

As a child and through my young adulthood, winning was everything. A decade ago, by chance, I was thrilled knowing the difference between winning and success. When life unraveled itself, the distinction became clear and winning felt less important. Through trepidations and lessons learned, I was able to derive my own essence on the two most significant words, winning and success. That feeling was nothing less than illumination.

Winning is like being rich. Success is to have enough to be content.

Winning may give satisfaction but success gives happiness.

A job well done is winning. And to do it for benefit of others is success.

Being literate is like winning but to be educated is success.

Winning is like giving the highest donation and success comes with providing service.

To jump high is winning but rising after a fall is success.

Giving birth to a child is a win but to be able to raise them to be decent humans is success.

Solving a problem is like winning but building resiliency is success.

Winning is fun but success is fulfilling.

Having wealth is winning at life but to have good health and peace of mind is success.

Winning is good but success is great.

A brilliant idea is created when one wins but those that fail and then succeed have uncovered hundred ways of making that idea work.

Being alive is winning but to make something remarkable of it, is success.

To be popular in life is winning but to leave a legacy that is remembered for ages is success.

Undying

With each passing moment

The love that glowed fades

It’s slow but it eventually goes

And what once did, no longer does

For all those times we held

There was magic that lingered

Yet, it wasn’t meant to be

At least the way the world sees

There is never a goodbye

Just a deep understanding

Something that brings us close

Only that exists between us

Duty calls become the truth

Where tears would mean insult

Despite the heart ache that follows

From making an undying tale

#quotidianblessing

Empty Nesters

Circa 2002. Last picture with my empty nesters in India at Shirdi, Maharashtra.

To all the parents who are going to be empty nesters, partial or delayed empty nesters because your grace period is now truly up, grandparents who’d see less of their grandkids or the siblings, and friends who were not looking forward for this separation, I know the feeling. Not because I am sending one off to college but I’ve been the one who couldn’t wait to leave home but was so bummed at the airport that I regretted having that feeling.

My parents’ process of being empty nesters was done in two phases. And it was my deliberate attempt to prepare them for the long haul, viz my emigration to the United States. While I studied out of state it was still an easy process because they had this feeling that I was accessible within 12 hours. Moreover, my father could just hop on a train and come visit me whenever either of us had separation anxiety or I had the need for parental intervention to my teenage crisis.

Both times it was a weird experience, because the least anticipated happened. My mother and grandmother not just started sobbing in turns but they stopped eating their normal portions. My father didn’t exhibit any emotion and I later learned that he bawled his eyes out for days. But when he dropped me off at college, his focus was to ensure that I am settled in the new place. With three huge suitcases worth of books, clothes, kitchen utensils and provisions for few months, I was ready to move on. My parents were not.

The second time, when I was coming to the United States was worse. My father started crying river and my mother was distraught. While it felt normal that my mother was in such shape, I realized that it was okay for men to cry. I felt so bad that I stopped breathing, turned my back to them and didn’t look back. It was not only a moment of realization on the void I was leaving for them but also one where I realized my greater responsibility of making them proud and start raising them in their old age.

My parents were older than most others because they were late in getting married and having me. After fulfilling their familial obligations, none of which they needed to, I was their culmination of love, hope and all desires. But when I was walking away at the airport, their heart was perhaps bleeding in ways that I could never imagine. And when I say I understand what parents might be going through dropping of their kids at college, I really do.

It is easy for anyone to advise empty nesters to look forward and spend more time on themselves not knowing the plethora of emotions they must be going through. As someone rightly said, “When mothers talk about the depression of the empty nest, they’re not mourning the passing of all those wet towels on the floor, or the music that numbs your teeth, or even the bottle of capless shampoo dribbling down the shower drain. They’re upset because they’ve gone from supervisor of a child’s life to a spectator. It’s like being the vice president of the United States.” So true.

Yet, there is always comfort in knowing that the the kids who’ve left their homes have a mission at hand to secure their future, our future and lead the way for many other who follow. Especially to turn nervousness of parents into pride and honor. They may fail along the way but they know it only leads to success. Just like the civilizations that preceded them. No matter how complicated and complex their lives were to become or how hard it must’ve been for their parents to keep them safe from life’s treachery, all will be well in the end.

Just like my parents paused, readjusted my absence, started looking forward to their own time and taking on new worries to get me married, I wish all those parents the best of new things. We all know it is not going to be easy but the birds must leave their nest and fly high. The hope is that all those going through this life promoting event, muster the strength, peace and love to transition. If a bewildered person like me could make her parents proud, I’m sure each of yours will make you magnanimously proud.

Anonymous

Because it wasn’t acceptable
Than anything else today
You turned your back to me
And threw our love away

There was a lot we’d share
Yet you put yours first
I was a muse that stirred
Quenching your inner thirst

When you no longer exist
Will I be the girl that loved you
Or the one that got snubbed
But never the love we knew

Your headstone will have all
Son, husband, father and friend
Not the beloved of my bane
Always anonymous in the end

Freedom

Nearly two decades ago when I came to this country, I was unprepared and unplanned. Consider my naivety of not knowing what it takes to travel to a foreign land or my enthusiasm to get out of a place that interferes into my personal matters on pretext of love, none to disgrace my failures for having deviated from the standard template of honorable education. I missed my parents and close friends sorely. First couple of months were a huge struggle, yet I got the opportunity to be grateful for the massive support, kind words and extraordinary help when I least expected, that too from unfamiliar persons.

There was a lot of chaos about the course, the campus, and the start date of the program I was permitted on the student visa. There so many that went out of their way to help, few of whom became my early mentors, friends for life and to whose presence in my life I am indebted for. My host families (also strangers at that time but took me in because I was practically homeless) had no obligation in my well-being but they ensured that I was adjusted in this new place.

There were times when I couldn’t keep up with the expenses and stood on the edge of the Hudson River contemplating if there were any options besides walking into it. I was so ashamed to ask my parents for more money knowing that they could not match the expenses in dollars. But some good sense prevailed, and I stepped back to keep chugging along. I wasn’t an immediate triumph, but my disappointments were never frowned upon. With the newly acquired freedom, I promised myself that I will make the best out of my life. And I did.

Sometimes, I am reminded that I am not patriotic towards my motherland, India. There is no other place I’d rather be born. While India gave me my name, I created my own identity in the United States. Love there was overwhelming but here I realized the meaning of it. I was petrified of making mistakes there but here accomplishments are nothing without them. I lived nearly two decades of my early life in fear of being wrong but here I taught myself the courage to do the right thing. I was brave enough there, but here I am applauded (mostly) for being me. “America is not just a country, but a way of life.” And I am very grateful for that freedom.

#America #USA #FourthofJuly