Monthly Archives: December 2012

One

“Love is a temple, Love a higher law
Love is a temple, Love the higher law
You ask me to enter, But then you make me crawl
And I can’t be holding on, To what you got
When all you got is hurt
– U2, “One”

 

I am not the most religious person. I believe in something. I just don’t always know what that is.

I believe in God. I believe there was a great man named Jesus. I look at the people I admire most in life like Mother Teresa, Mahatma Gandhi, Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama and their grace, dignity and presence have left me no choice but to accept that there is something divine inspiring them.

I will admit that I don’t know what form God takes. Some people believe they do. People have died over what that image might be.

I don’t claim to know. I don’t think that makes me less worthy.

Although I am sure there are those who disagree. To be more clear, I KNOW that there are those who disagree.

I was born Hindu. It is a religion, like most others, which when practiced with good intent and true faith, espouses love, acceptance and forgiveness. I believe that there are flaws, as there are with most organized religions.

But being Hindu has been a part of my identity that I can not shake, just as I can not shake the tan skin that betrays the Indian heritage of my family.

I can’t wash it off – just as I can’t change the tone of my flesh. It is immersed in my culture, the seams which make up the fabric of my family.

It was and has been a part of my identity, though you can probably question how “legit” I am in terms of actual practice.

I recall having questions about religion early on. I attended an epic number of “pujas” or religious ceremonies, that my parents and family seemed to hold each weekend – sometimes multiples on one weekend.

That’s a lot of praying.

It’s especially a lot of praying for a child who could not understand the Sanskrit readings of our family priests, yet had to sit for hours, laboriously feigning interest in something I could not interpret – while shamelessly daydreaming about my crushes at school or how I might get the curls to lay flatter against my head.

My mind was elsewhere.

I recall hearing from a friend in high school that I was going to hell. We were reading the Divine Comedy – more specifically – “Dante’s Inferno” – in AP English. I was having trouble grasping some of the levels at which Dante Alighieri had allocated some of the true despots, heathens and unworthy to their specific levels, or circles of Hell.

I described the trouble I had understanding the idea of “Limbo” – which was the first circle of Hell as described by Dante. This is where all the unbaptized and the virtuous pagans, who had not sinned, but did not accept Christ, were actively punished.

Having been fairly sheltered thus far from such ideas, at the age of 17, I was startled when my friend said, “That’s ridiculous!”

I was not startled by the fact that she said, “That’s ridiculous!” because I too was thinking, “This Dante is talking some ridiculous shit!” I was more startled by what she said next  . . .

“Everyone knows there is no such thing as limbo for people like you. You are just going straight to the deepest levels of Hell.”

Silence.

But you know me. I don’t usually stay silent for long.

“Really? So if I rape and if I steal and if I murder but I repent and accept Christ – I would be in better shape than I am today?” I asked.

She looked at me as if I was crazy and said the words that left a very lasting impression on me.

“Well, that’s just the way it works. Everyone knows it.”

OH. EVERYONE..

My thoughts ran through my muddled mind, searching for lucidity.

“But this is how I was born. Why would God punish me for that?”


“Even if I convert, would God punish the rest of my family? What kind of idea of Heaven is that for me if I don’t have my family with me? Even if I convince my family here – what about my family in India? What about the ones who are already gone?”

“So many parts of the world have never been exposed to Christianity. Was God’s intent to banish them directly to that circle?”

(And no, I am not talking about the world today, where internet technology, global cell phones, international video conference calls and ever-expanding missionary efforts are taking place – but the world we lived in for much longer, where in fact, Christianity was centrally focused in Europe).

Even then, you must assume in the deepest villages, Christianitynwill not make it to many children who live by candlelight at night and work in fields during the day.

“Did that mean God did not want (for at least a few centuries) – non-Europeans to be granted access to Heaven?”

I have had friends who have discussed conversion with me. In a safe, approachable way. And I have considered it. I think there are two quotes by Gandhi (who per this definition, would also be confined to that first circle of Hell, a thought which completely boggles my mind) that really define how I feel about the matter.

In regards to conversion, Gandhi said at his famous speech at Harijan in 1935:

I believe that there is no such thing as conversion from one faith to another in the accepted sense of the word. It is a highly personal matter for the individual and his God. I may not have any design upon my neighbor as to his faith, which I must honor even as I honor my own. Having reverently studied the scriptures of the world I could no more think of asking a Christian or a Musalman, or a Parsi or a Jew to change his faith than I would think of changing my own.”

So, while sometimes I remain confused and sometimes I believe that I am just a “little bit of everything” for now, that works for me. And I find my own truth and faith in that and I am content.

Because, similar to Gandhi, I also believe that when you take the best parts of religion and evaluate them and leave the noise behind, that there is truth in all of them:

“I came to the conclusion long ago … that all religions were true and also that all had some error in them, and whilst I hold by my own, I should hold others as dear as Hinduism. So we can only pray, if we are Hindus, not that a Christian should become a Hindu … But our innermost prayer should be a Hindu should be a better Hindu, a Muslim a better Muslim, a Christian a better Christian.”

Gandhi, (Young India: January 19, 1928)

You don’t have to agree with me. I am not seeking validation of where I stand. I am far from fundamental so I can handle a little discussion.

What I can’t handle are absolutes that don’t address the true nature of the reality. Our world is not that black and white.

Hoping you all are close to your own truth.

Namaste,
Kiran

“One love, One blood
One life, You got to do what you should
One life, With each other
Sisters, Brothers
One life, But we’re not the same
We get to, Carry each other
Carry each other.
ONE.”

One.

NOTE: This blog was originally posted in early 2010 on masalachica.blogspot.com.

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Small Things With Great Love

This has been a confusing weekend. An emotional one. In the wake of Friday’s tragedy, I think many Americans are living in a mixed state of grief, pain, shock, anger and fear. As more stories emerge that give us a small glimpse into what unfolded for the children and teachers inside the school walls, each new detail has been like another shard of glass piercing our collective hearts.

My own reaction when this happened was a deep and utter grief for the families who have been impacted by the tragedy. Because I know that the pain does not end with the passing of 26 citizens of this world. It does not end with the families, the friends and neighbors of those who have died. It does not end with the hundreds of children who were brought to safety and survived. It will not end with the children who were hidden in closets to protect them from the killer on the other side of the door.

My grief was replaced by a need to ask WHY? Like so many, I want to find answers. It’s clear from details that have emerged that the young man who did this, this irreversible thing, was just a baby himself at the age of 20. And that he was extremely troubled and battling his own demons with a history of mental illness.

Americans are a practical people. We want to look for solutions. We all like to be fixers, I think. The problem is that the solutions we all discuss are a part of something much more complex. The solutions we point to are often fairly one dimensional and alone, will not solve the problem. Some of us point to guns. Some of us point to a lack of mental illness programs for the individuals and families who live with the reality of it every day. We can point to an entertainment industry that glamorizes violence and a gun culture that perpetuates that Americans have a “God given right” to wield weapons that can kill with the ferocity we saw on Friday.

As if God would want us wielding semi-automatic weapons. God sure does “give” in mysterious ways.

I don’t know the whys and I don’t know the solution. I think many of us want to talk about it, NEED TO TALK ABOUT IT in our own way try to understand how to prevent this again, so there is not another school, mall or movie theater in the news next week.

Perhaps we don’t know the answer today. On our solutions, as a country we are strongly divided. We all want to protect our children but we have different views on how to achieve that and what “fixing this” means. Heck, we can’t even agree on what “this” is.

Nothing will bring back the children that died on Friday. Nothing we write on Facebook. Nothing we say in disagreements on Twitter. Nothing we discuss in heated voices by the water cooler. Hugging our children will give us comfort. But again, it doesn’t change the fact that there are parents who will never have that chance again.

Perhaps in our grief and our collective humanity, we can honor those who are gone with something more than anger. There has been too much anger.

The faces of those who died on Friday will be at the forefront of the American conscience for a while, as they should be. The images of the beautiful young children and heroic faculty that died will haunt us for some time.

But in the midst of the horror emerge stories that should remind us of the largest lesson here. Humanity.

The bravery of the school custodian who ran up and down the halls trying to warn the teachers.

The fearlessness of the school secretary who turned on the school intercom to warn everyone that there was a shooter in the building.

The teachers who hid their kids in bathrooms and closets and calmed them down with books, crayon and paper. One, protecting her students by physically placing herself in front of them, acting like a shield, when the gunman shot her.

The cafeteria workers who hid the kids out of sight and locked all the cafeteria doors.

The Principal who ran head on to confront the shooter.

The kid who offered to protect his class and lead them out of the school, because he “knew karate.

There are about 15 days left till the end of the year. I know this doesn’t count as “paying it forward” but it’s close. I think it’s time we honor and recognize that we are tied together and bound by something more important than our views on guns, solutions and our politics.

Humanity.

I plan to do it by participating in a movement to perform 26 acts of kindness to honor each of the victims from Sandy Hook Elementary that day. You can follow the movement on Twitter under the hashtags #20Acts (for those honoring the children) and #26Acts. I am going with 26. Because if the courageous staff had not responded the way they did that day, even more children would be dead.

Why do we need a movement to be kind? Shouldn’t we just naturally be kind? you might ask. Of course. YES. But I would like to perform these acts with each victim in my heart. It’s my way of honoring their spirit and lighting a candle with and for each of the sparks they have created.

So, who is in? If you are, consider sharing this post or just spread the word on Facebook.

Let’s do this thing.

Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”- Mother Teresa

Post script 12/18/2012: Since writing this post, I did discover that journalist, Ann Curry (@anncurry) had and was the inspiration for this movement. I just want to say thank you to her for having the grace and vision to start something like this. And I know this is a post about love and shit, but to the Executives at the Today show who decided she should not stay on? How do ya like them apples?

Kind of bitter, huh?

Oh and for anyone who is complaining about the movement saying people should be kind every day? Yes, we get it. But this helps with healing. I am inspired following that hashtag. Also, people are asking for ideas on some inexpensive ways to be kind. Here are a few that I picked up on the #26acts hashtag:

1) Give 26 unsuspecting people a flower with a tag on the bottom with each of the victim’s names. Or don’t put the names. Just do that in your heart.

2) If you are buying coffee, buy the coffee for the lady or man in front of you. Merry Christmas! Hope they like their Macchiato!

3) Tell people you love who you don’t normally “appreciate” the way you should why they rock.

4) Reach out to a teacher who you loved as a kid and send them a wish for the holidays and a thank you for what they did.

5) Tell your children’s teachers how much you appreciate them.

6) Send an email to the Today show and remind them why they should never have fired Ann Curry. Donkeys.

7) Make a nice dinner for a homeless person.

Anyway, just wanted to add this. If you have any inexpensive ideas, make sure to tweet them with the hashtag #26acts, or comment here and I will get them up.

Muchos besos.

Give a Little Bit

Never judge a book by it’s cover.

We all know the expression. The meaning is clear. A book which is beautifully bound, with a richly decorated exterior may be the one that grabs our attention. It may be the one we pick up and bring over to the cash register to buy.

Only to come home and find that the pages inside are hollow. The story and the characters are shallow and one dimensional. And you realize how much better off you might have been picking the other book that you had held in your hands for that short moment, but dismissed because it lacked the shinier, less sparkly cover.

I try not to judge my books that way. Most of my favorite books have nothing compelling on the cover. I have learned over the years how to follow my instincts in picking out what to read. Sometimes the barest of covers are the perfect hiding places for stories of substance.

Yet I somehow have not learned to do the same with people. While I pride myself on not being a very judgmental person, I still rely on first impressions too often.

It’s not so much about whether someone is pretty or not pretty. Glamorous or not.

I tend to look at how someone presents themselves and without realizing it, assign them to some non-formalized class system in my mind. Rich vs. poor. Privileged vs. unprivileged. Educated vs. uneducated. Easy life vs. tough life.

Over the years, I have learned that my first impressions are terribly… off. And that our covers don’t allow people to see a fraction of the many chapters that comprise our lives. I have mistaken shyness or reserve on a young woman as snobbery and elitism, only to now to now be able to count that woman is one of my best friends. I have mistaken over-friendliness as genuine warmth and friendship only to find a bitter coldness when it retreats.

I worked at a large technology company for many years. There was a young executive there who was a bit of a rock star. He was highly respected within the company and people knew his name. When I met him, he gave off an air of affluence to me and it was easy for me to compartmentalize him into those simplistic categories I mentioned above. It was clear to me that he must have grown up as a child of privilege. If not privilege, well… at least the middle class.

These are assumptions that are easy to make in the workplace and often times, we don’t know our colleagues well enough to go back more than the last few chapters. Rarely do we ask them to go back to earlier chapters and tell us how their story first started.

And so it just shows how much I know. And how faulty my impressions of people can be. Chris, the executive I mentioned, posted this story on Facebook the other day and I wanted to share it with the readers of Masala Chica.

In 1978, there was a family of 3 (single mom and two boys – 9 & 8) living in a small town in northern Arizona. Because of the grip that alcoholism had on the life of this family – the mother did not work and relied on family and the welfare system to care for her family. Often the money received from the government was used to feed her addiction – when you take money from an already tight budget to purchase alcohol – it makes a horrible situation simply unfathomable.

So here the family was on Christmas Eve – with the exception of a couple boxes of generic macaroni and cheese – there wasn’t anything else in the cupboard. There was no tree, no Christmas lights, not stockings hanging, no reading “Twas the Night Before Christmas”, no Christmas ham, no opening of a present before bed – just another night. The boys had learned throughout their life not to say anything or ask for anything because it would make their mother feel bad and that would only mean that the drinking would escalate and depression would often lead to much worse things. So the boys went to bed – with empty stomachs, empty dreams and an empty reality. That night the younger brother asked the older brother why Santa Claus wouldn’t visit them – the older brother did his best to comfort the younger brother and they finally went to sleep.

In normal homes, on Christmas morning the children are awake first thing in the morning often before the sun even rises to see what magic is ready for them underneath their Christmas tree. In this small trailer – these young boys slept on the floor because they had no beds and with the trailer being drafty and cold – they often slept in – huddled around an electric space heater. This Christmas morning, when they finally did get up – they walked out of their bedroom and something simply magical had taken place. In their small living room – there was a complete Christmas Tree – lights, decorations, tinsel, tree skirt, candy canes – the works. There were boxes wrapped with their names on it. There were stockings filled with treats and tooth brushes and combs and socks. They had clothes, shoes, coats. There were toy machine guns – you know the kind where you keep pulling the trigger to get the machine gun sound. The fridge and cupboards were full of food. There was two bicycles for the boys. Santa had indeed found this small family and had brought hope to a desperate reality. There was just a simple note that read – “Merry Christmas – Love Santa”. The reason that I know this story so well is that I was that older brother. To this day – I do not know who was responsible for this amazing gift of hope. But it did in fact change my life and has touched me every year as I think back.

I would encourage all of us to take time this holiday season to help provide some hope to those that are less fortunate than ourselves. It is hard to give to adults who you know are going to most likely use the money to feed an addiction – but we all need to remember that the children that are in these families did not choose this lifestyle and they have no options; they are where they are because of the poor decisions of the adults who are responsible for them. Please take some time and find opportunities to provide for these children and families this holiday season. Whether you take a few cans of food from your cupboard for a food drive, take a name from an Angel tree to buy needed gifts (shoes, bedding, clothing, etc), whether you become a secret Santa for a child who is in foster care (where you provide these children with necessities, sleeping bags, a sleeping cot, clothing, etc) (remember that the families that take children in for foster care are not given money to provide gifts – so they are very limited in what they can do for these children as well), whether you take some time to actually adopt an entire family this holiday season – please do something. It will bring the spirit of the holidays into your home and hearts like no Christmas Story, Christmas Carol, Sleigh Ride or Holiday Party can.

****

I want to thank Chris for sharing this story.

I did not know Chris’s journey. I did not know the beginnings of his story. I see a successful man today and I am sad to say that I made some assumptions about what his life must have been like. Privileged. Easy.

That can’t be farther from the truth.

The roads we all took to get to here, wherever HERE is in our lives, are all vastly different. We can look at each other and assume we know enough of each others’ stories, because we have read the synopsis and the reviews on the covers of the books. But there are stories that often remain untold, chapters that have been overlooked.

I feel like there is a growing lack of empathy towards people who are enduring true financial challenges – challenges like how will I feed my kids tomorrow? It extends not just to the poor, but to the homeless, with the most apathy directed towards the individuals on welfare in America. In the minds of many, most of these people have made their own beds and they are generally somebody else. But sometimes, somebody else looks a lot like you. Somebody else looks like me. Your neighbor.

We all have the power to help co-author the chapters of the lives of others. Not just on Christmas, though if this is one time where you heart is open to giving in a year, consider opening it fully now.

Based on the letter Chris shared, I believe that the kindness he received that day helped give him hope. Helped a nine year old boy get through some really hard times. It was by far not the only thing, but it did help inspire him as he became the American success story that he is today.

Help change someone’s tomorrow.

And make tomorrow amazing.

No one has ever become poor by giving.” – Anne Frank



A Girl With a Book

My daughter, Shaila, has been reading a lot lately. She is reading earlier than I was as a kid, just halfway through Kindergarten. I don’t remember doing much reading until the first grade. Watching her explore words and sounds and hearing her stumble over sentences as she turns the pages of her books brings back vivid memories of finally breaking that impenetrable code. You start out unsure, your steps a little timid as you first start stringing vowels and consonants together. Pretty soon, you are running. Before you know it, flying.

Like magic. But better.

As she reads to me right now, I know she is in those early phases. She stops frequently and looks at me and says, “Mommy, am I doing good?” To which I reply with a proud nod and a small kiss on the forehead, sometimes too overcome with emotion to even say the words.

But I do that a lot too. “Wow! You’re doing so well!” I say, watching her trying to hide her proud smile so it becomes a little smirk instead. It reaches her eyes and I can see it. She takes a second to find her spot again before she moves forward. A little more confident this time.

These are exciting times for her. I can kind of tell that of my two kids, she is going to be the one who is going to find that incredible joy in learning. I think Nico will too, but I think he will define success with a different sort of metric – how many kids he made laugh that day or how well he can burp or fart on command.

The big things.

I am an incredibly lucky person. These are not things I take for granted in life. Throughout my life, I have been encouraged to learn, to push, to succeed, to learn from my falls, to beat the boys and to kick ass and take some names on the way there. My Indian parents may have been traditional in a lot of ways, but they never lead me to believe that there were boundaries around my mind. Around where it could take me.

What a gift?

Really.

I look at my daughter sometimes and wonder if and when she will understand the opportunities she has in this life. When she storms off from the kitchen yelling, “This is no fair. YOU are no fair!” because she didn’t get another piece of Starburst, I wonder if she knows how different life could be.

I know she doesn’t. And to a certain extent, I don’t think she will ever get it. I don’t know how many of us really get it. I have seen how different my own life could be in my own world travels. I know how startlingly different my own opportunities could have been. If I had been born into another family, another religion, another country or another government. Despite these things, I often find myself not contemplating how lucky I am, but focusing instead on all the areas my life is lacking.

The other night at dinner, I was talking to John about a young woman who I find myself thinking about a lot lately. Malala Yousafzai. I found myself losing sight of where I was and forgetting that Shaila could spell for a minute.

“I mean, can you believe it? Taking on the T-A-L-I-B-A-N like that? She was only 11! She must have been so S-C-A-R-E-D. 11! Knowing that the T-A-L-I-B-A-N wanted her D-E-A-D,” I marveled at John.

“Mommy, who is dead?” Shaila asked.

John looked at me and shook his head. I guess now that she can spell, this isn’t table talk anymore.

But I wanted to answer Shaila. Because as I watch Shaila learn every day, I think more and more about what a young woman like Malala means in this world.

I think about her heart, I think about her recovery, I think about her bravery.

And I pray for her. And her family.

Malala looks a LOT like my niece, Haley, in this picture. My niece is 16. She loves the band One Direction. She is surrounded by friends and is a badass Volleyball player. She is a sensitive soul, and she is a good kid. A strong kid. I know she will do well in this life.

Her life is very different from Malala’s. As was mine. As will be my daughter’s.

When Malala was 11 years old, she started writing a blog where she exposed her views on living under Taliban rule and actively spoke about promoting education for girls in countries under Taliban rule. She was encouraged by her father to do this for BBC Urdu after another girl backed out. The girl’s family was rightfully scared of what the Taliban might do if they learned her identity.

Malala agreed to take on the task, the burden, the duty. Eleven years old. In Pakistan. This was in 2009.

Between 2009 and 2011, Malala stopped hiding her identity. She became a much more prominent activist and she, along with her father, spoke loudly against terrorism, knowing full well the potential for consequences. Death threats abounded. The Taliban made no secret that the girl was considered a threat to their view of Islam.

On her way home from school one day in 2012, Malala was shot in the head by the Taliban. The gunman boarded her bus and asked for her by name. When he shot her, he left her for dead. The bullet went through her head, neck and ended at her shoulder. Had he known she was not dead, he surely would have shot her several more times.

This man. This man with a gun. Shooting an unarmed fourteen year old girl. Sometimes I wonder what has happened to this man. I wonder if he is able to sleep at night. But then I realize that after his mistake, the Taliban probably did not let him regret his misstep for long.

People the world over know Malala’s story. Most of you know Malala’s story. But for those of you who don’t, know this. In another show of this amazing girl’s strength, she managed to live. To survive.

How?

I don’t know all the details of her surgery, but her doctors were able to save her. I don’t know how, but I DO know that she was meant to live. That she has more chapters to write. This girl, who had the audacity to uphold her right to an education in the face of the Taliban and survive. She is not done yet.

And it’s in moments like this that I feel an overwhelming sense of clarity. I don’t always know how he works or why, but I do believe in God.

I believe in God when I see him clearly through the god like actions of his children.

This child.

Malala.

**

“Mommy? MOMMY?!”

I look up and Shaila is looking at me. We are still at dinner. My thoughts have wandered.

“Who is dead, Mommy? D-E-A-D. That spells dead,” she looks at me, no longer eating. I look over at John. He shakes his head. She is only five.

“Nobody, honey. I didn’t spell d-e-a-d. It was something else,” I say, changing the topic, while she looks on confused, both sad that she didn’t spell a word right while knowing that I am not being honest with her. And I am such a liar, such a fraud for saying this to her.

Shaila is five. Only six years younger than Malala was when she started this incredible journey.

Shaila is five years old, but she deserves the truth. My answer to my daughter is riddled with untruth. Malala may NOT be dead. Thank goodness she is not dead. But it’s not “nobody” that is dead. Many like her have been killed. Many like her will continue to die and live in fear if our children are not taught to embrace what they have. To recognize what children around this world are fighting for.

Dying for.

Tonight, Shaila will want to read me a story. Maybe it will be Cinderella. Maybe it will be The Little Mermaid.

But before she reads me that story tonight, I think that there is another one that maybe she should hear first. It starts out like this:

“Once upon a time, there was a girl.  A girl with a book.”

 

If you want to help further the cause of education for ALL of the children of this world, consider voting for Malala for Time’s Person of the Year award, which will be announced on Friday, December 14th. You can vote here.

Also, if you believe in this cause and the advancement of standing with these girls, these young women, consider liking this Facebook page and Blog – #Girlwithabook. The founders of this site have done an amazing job of bringing awareness to this cause and creating a community of people passionate about ending the battle.

The battle against our world’s children.

Literacy is not a luxury, it is a right and a responsibility. If our world is to meet the challenges of the twenty-first century we must harness the energy and creativity of all our citizens.” – U.S. President Bill Clinton, International Literacy Day 09/08/1994

 

My First Movie

When I was 6 years old, my parents thought it would be a great idea to bring me to the movie theater to watch this movie they knew I was absolutely dying to see.

Gandhi.

Yeah, I know. 3+ hours of Bollywood song and dance that would leave any kid tapping their toes and wanting to dance in the aisles.

Well, not exactly. But I am pretty sure that’s what they lead me to believe.

You rock, Ma and Papa. Really.

If you’ve seen the movie, you know that it starts with Ben Kingsley, an amazingly convincing Gandhi, being shot three times at point blank. At the time, I had no real idea of who this bald, little Indian man was, but I knew that I felt incredibly sad. There was something about his eyes that I will always remember, and no matter what roles Kingsley plays – a part of me will never be able to see past him as anything other than Gandhi.

Ben Kingsley

Interesting trivia: Did you know that Kingsley was actually born as Krishna Pandit Bhanji? I didn’t realize that he was half-Indian until a few years ago, but it kind of makes sense when you think how effortlessly he can play so many different roles. His looks are kind of borderless, if that makes sense.

Ben Kingsley as Gandhi

Anyway, I was sad. I was sad that this man, who I really knew nothing about, had died before the movie had even started. Great. So now I knew the ending. As the movie went on, I got even more sad when I discovered there were no songs.

What. The. Fudge? (I was only 6. I didn’t curse as much as I do now back then).

At intermission (another weird thing. Does anyone remember how long movies used to have intermissions? I am totally dating myself), my older brother, Sudhu Bhaiya, went off to get some snacks. This, now this, I was excited for.

Until he comes back with those nasty ass black Twizzlers. For fudging real? I burst into tears when I realized my parents weren’t going to let me get the red ones instead. Did anyone like black licorice when they were 6? And that there were two more freaking hours left of this sad, sad movie. I didn’t understand much but I knew that the white people were being really mean to all the brown ones. All in all, kind of depressing for a 6 year old brown kid.

I don’t think even Gandhi would eat these

So I went to sleep and pretty much wrote the night off as an epic fail.

I obviously grew up. Gandhi came out in 1982, and there has been a lot of time for me to come to appreciate who Gandhi was, what a pivotal performance Kingsley gave in the role and how quickly the movie actually can go by when you appreciate the history and the magnitude of this small man. And if you are anything like me, you wonder how this small man could contain such an enormous heart and intellect.

It’s also amazing to think that he would go on to influence great leaders like Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King, Jr., his influence reaching not only his own countryman, but the world. Through some pretty fucking important shit, like the American Civil Rights Movement and the anti-Apartheid movement in South Africa. That’s a pretty big footprint for a man who often walked barefoot and who rarely went out with anything more than chappals (flip-flops) on his feet.

I know people throw out Gandhi quotes all the time on Facebook and Twitter and all that. I do that too, especially when I haven’t tweeted in a while and I need to feel like I said something smart that day (HINT: you usually can’t go wrong with a little Gandhi or Khalil Gibran. Throw in some Mother Teresa from time to time too). When I read his philosophies, I am blown away by how simple some of his statements are yet how powerful they can be. I also think about the controversy some of them must have stirred at the time and might continue to stir. Especially if taken out of the context of his own life and experience.

On Religion:

“God has no religion.”

“I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

“Seven Deadly Sins

Wealth without work
Pleasure without conscience
Science without humanity
Knowledge without character
Politics without principle
Commerce without morality
Worship without sacrifice.”

“Hate the sin, love the sinner.”

“I call him religious who understands the suffering of others.”

“I came to the conclusion long ago that all religions were true and that also that all had some error in them, and while I hold by my own religion, I should hold other religions as dear as Hinduism. So we can only pray, if we were Hindus, not that a Christian should become a Hindu; but our innermost prayer should be that a Hindu should become a better Hindu, a Muslim a better Muslim, and a Christian a better Christian.”

On Life:

“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”

“You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is like an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.”

“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”

“You can chain me, you can torture me, you can even destroy this body, but you will never imprison my mind.”

On Violence:

“Poverty is the worst form of violence.”

“They may torture my body, break my bones, even kill me. Then they will have my dead body, but not my obedience.”

“You cannot shake hands with a clenched fist.”

I don’t know. There are just too freaking many. I don’t know how this became a post about how fucking brilliant I think Gandhi was and how important I think it is that people still hear his words today. Do you want to know what this post was supposed to be about? Probably not, but if you have made it this far, you might as well know. It was supposed to be about whether I would be torturing my daughter Shaila (5) or not by bringing her to see Les Miserables on the big screen. But as I started writing it, the memory of that movie I saw so long ago popped into my head and I had to go with it. So I will get to Shaila and whether she can handle a little too much of John Valjean tomorrow.

Picture from veodesign.com

Is Gandhi someone whose life you have admired? What’s your favorite Gandhi quote? Who DOES inspire you?

 

On Loyalty

This post is a departure from my normal shit. Sometimes I need to get serious. Curses have been kept to a minimum (don’t worry, I will still find a way to insert them). Oh and hoo hoo = vagina. Enjoy.

When our son, Nico, was born, John’s best friend, Craig, and his family bought Nico several gifts the day we returned home from the hospital. One of those gifts was a beautiful, plush blue dog blanket that looked so lush I wanted to rub it against my own cheek and fall asleep. What can I say? I was tired. Pushing a baby out of your hoo hoo can be exhausting.

I thought it would be bad form to steal one of Nico’s first gifts, especially since he was only three days old. Let him develop his motor skills first, I reasoned, so he at least has a fighting chance of defending his belongings.

The truth is, we were incredibly touched by the gift. Craig’s own son had the same blanket since he was a baby. He and that blanket were inseparable. In a moment of creative inspiration, his son called the blanket “Blue Dog.” Craig’s son and Blue Dog went everywhere together. Blue Dog slowly became worn down and in a cruel twist of fate, was decapitated. Realizing that a headless Dog might be somewhat disturbing to their child, his parents quickly bought a new Blue Dog to replace the old one.

But as you probably know, nothing could replace the original Blue Dog.

Nico quickly became attached to his blanket. So inspired by the name our friends had used, we decided to keep the tradition alive and dubbed him Blue Dog as well. At night we would hear Nico gurgling to the dog nonsensically, chattering away about the things that are generally on a child’s mind. When we would check on him, we would find the blanket nestled in his arms. If we ever tried to take it away, Nico would hold onto it, not letting it go even in his sleep.

Nico and Blue Dog in happier times

But as can be expected and as we saw before with Craig’s son, when your child becomes so attached to something, you can be sure it will take a beating. Recalling the horror of the original Blue Dog’s untimely decapitation, I thought that I would be proactive. So for Christmas, I bought Nico a new Blue Dog. I thought I would beat it up a little so I jumped on it a few times and threw it against the wall to give it more of a worn look.

When Nico was sleeping one night, I managed to get the old Blue Dog out of his Kung-Fu grip and replaced it with the new, slightly stomped on dog.

But when he woke up in the morning and saw the new dog, the first thing he said was, “Blue Doggy have no more boo boos?” He marveled at the silky paws and the smooth tummy on the new dog. I told him we brought Blue Dog to the Doggy Hospital and they fixed him, but he knew something was up. He eyed Blue Dog suspiciously. He kept holding the blanket in his hand, looking the doggy in the eyes, “Blue Dog? Blue Dog?” He kept asking the dog to confirm its identity as if he was asking, “Is it really you? Talk to me, Buddy.”

I couldn’t keep up the lie anymore. I went and got the mangled Blue Dog out and gave it to Nico. I explained that now he had two dogs and that one was just newer than the other. I was sure he would drop the old, slightly eviscerated dog in favor of the new, shiny 2.0 model.

But kids are funny like that. Nico quickly became possessive of both dogs and would hold one under each arm. Now at night, instead of just having one-sided conversations with one inanimate object, he has one-sided conversations with TWO inanimate objects. AWESOME.

He calls the old dog, Strong Doggy. The other Blue Doggy is just “Blue.”

I don’t know if it says anything about my son and his character, but I’m glad that he recognizes that the old dog is strong. That it might be battered and bruised and a little bit worse for the wear. Perhaps not as trendy or as cool or as popular as the new dog. Not as good looking. Maybe in need of a little more love and attention.

Strong doggy.

Strong Doggy.

As you probably guessed, somewhere in this post this became less about a beat up plush dog and a little bit more about how we treat people. We all know how things were in high school as we navigated the slippery turf of the social jungle. In our youth, we saw friendships shift, old friends forgotten as the other found themselves more desired and better positioned on the social ladder. We have all balanced on the see-saw of insecurity, finding ourselves and recognizing what true friendship means.

I think I have done some fucked up shit in my life when I look back at some friendships and I wasn’t even really that bad. But yes, the allure of being on the most desired part of the social spectrum always tugged at me a little.

Even as an adult, I find that some friends can pull away when they find the glossy, slick upgraded version of me. It has made me sad to realize that I can be replaced, but that’s life. As one of my new friends, Sabina would say, “That is some fucked up shit right there.”

I agree, Sabina. Some fucked up shit, indeed.

Some people may turn away from the Strong Dogs of their life. But I am grateful that my son holds his a little tighter, plays with him a little more, chooses him to have his more serious one-sided conversations with.

He is very fortunate to have Strong Doggy in his life.

Anyone who is blessed with both old friends and new, is fortunate too.

I think if I’ve learned anything about friendship, it’s to hang in, stay connected, fight for them, and let them fight for you. Don’t walk away, don’t be distracted, don’t be too busy or tired, don’t take them for granted. Friends are part of the glue that holds life and faith together. Powerful stuff.”- Jon Katz

Spice, Spice Baby

Photo – Shutterstock

It seems that I am fortunate enough to have a lot of new readers and friends at Masala Chica. I just wanted to be the first to welcome you here. These aren’t fancy digs, but the people around here are intelligent, open-minded, and supportive. There really aren’t any rules. This is a place to comment and express your views. I will not be upset with you unless you call me mean names, make fun of my hair or insult my children (in that order). The same goes with my Facebook page – if you have something to share that you think will be interesting to Masala Chica readers, please feel free to contribute. Remember, no comment is stupid, unless of course it’s really stupid.

I’ve been getting a lot of “Hey Masala!” or “Great post, Masala!” or even “Fuck off, Masala!” This has made me realize that people may not realize that the title of this blog is in no way related to my name.

My real name is Kiran. It’s pronounced kee-rin. There is a Japanese beer pronounced the same way except the spelling is different (Kirin). It’s a common name in India – used for both genders. It’s also an Irish name. (Kieran)

When I was younger, I hated my name. If you grew up in the United States during the 80’s, the idea of customizable things didn’t exist. I would go to the store with Papa and look at pencils, mini license plates for my bike and keychains that I so desperately wanted and search and search for my name. The closest I ever found was Karen or Kristin. None of my teachers could pronounce my name and of course, I would be the one embarrassed (duh). Ky-ran (rhymes with I-ran), that was the best I usually got.

It’s a good thing my parents didn’t name me Venkateshwari or something. That would have sucked.

By the way, no offense if that’s your name. Still, I count it as a blessing.

So back to Masala. When I started this blog, I wanted it to be a place where I wrote mainly about being Indian-American and the experiences I have had growing up in the thick of two cultures.

Masala means spice. Indians are known for their spices and their spicy food. I really likes spicy food. Flaming HOT spicy food. If it doesn’t make me cry and sweat when I eat it, then it’s just not spicy enough. From there, I tried to find Masala Girl, but it wasn’t available. Since my husband is half-Puerto Rican, I justified using Chica (Spanish for girl) in the title.

I had this cute little description. Take a ride on the spicy side. Ughh. I know. I know.

I used to get really offended when people said they didn’t like Indian food. It made me want to throw samosas at them. I have since simmered down and understand if people don’t like curry. I am no longer militant about it and hey, if you don’t like gulab jamun – that’s your prerogative.

What I have found as this blog has evolved is that some of the stories I wanted to write about my family’s experience here, no matter how unique, are probably off limits unless I want to be disowned completely. I still write about my experiences as an Indian-American, but I have found that many of the themes I write about are not exclusively “Indian-American.” Many of the cross-cultural stories I share are something that people across different ethnic backgrounds can relate to. Then of course I also write about the basic day to day stuff  like how my husband pissed me off, or how my kids are driving me crazy, even how my parents think I curse too goddamn much.

You know, stuff people relate to. Unless they are much more normal than me.

But I did want to set the record straight before you fall in love with me too much. Inevitable, I’m afraid.

I curse. A LOT. In fact, most people are shocked to see this petite Indian girl write as if I was a truck driver. I never curse AT people. I just pointlessly interject bad words a lot. If you are offended by that, I apologize, but I just can’t change that.

Not fucking soon, anyway.

I love gay people. I have written several posts about hypothetical situations about my son being gay. I don’t know if it’s because I want him to be gay because I really just want a great shopping buddy, or because I just want to let people know that my kids have my support if they go down that challenging path.

I have a bleeding heart. I will write about injustice, rail against prejudice, fume over ignorance. Loudly. Most of the time, nobody is listening, but that just makes me TALK LOUDER. If that happens, tell me to simmer down and I usually will.

I want this blog to be a place where people from all cultures, all backgrounds and all religions feel comfortable. I will try not to offend you, I promise. That’s the best I can do though. But it’s hard. I probably offended ten people just talking about my name.

I can’t make everybody happy. But I try.

If you like the blog, spread the word by sharing it with your friends, family, your nosy neighbor across the street, her aunt and the aunt’s new puppy, Honey Boo-Boo.

Namaste to all of you.

Knocking, but Nobody Answers

This is a hard post to write. It’s about something that has bothered me for a while. It’s been in my head, but I haven’t unlocked the door on my thoughts to fully get the words out here until now. I get upset every time I go there. My heart hurts, I get a little achy, my throat gets choked up and the tears well up in my eyes. OH. FUCK. I’m losing it already. See what you made me do? Now I have boogers all over me. I never cry pretty. Where are the damn tissues?

Got ‘em. Anyway, at this point, I will vacillate between drinking and crying, so I decide to make it easy on myself. Do a little bit of both. If I am lucky, I won’t write a dumb ass Facebook status that makes no sense to me (or anybody else, for that matter) in the morning (See Rule #4 of Facebook Rules.)

I think I am ready to write this though. Will you grab a drink and pull up a chair? Maybe pat me on the back awkwardly if I look like I need it? Don’t get too touchy though. That might be weird.

Ok, here goes.

I have a friend.

Yes, I know. Earth-shattering news. OK, I take that back. I could see why that could surprise you, given some of the shit I say on this blog. But yes, I have friend(s) actually.

Plural (ish).

I need to stop making jokes.

Just write this. FACE THIS. Get ‘er DONE, Kiran.

Ok. Where was I? Oh yeah, so this friend is someone I considered to be a good friend. Someone whose children I always loved to spoil. Someone who was one of the first to visit our family when both of our children were born. Someone to whom I have turned to on rainy days or when I had an idea in my head that was getting ready to explode. Someone I thought was part of our extended family.

The thing I realize is that I don’t think she ever considered me to be much of a friend. Or perhaps she DID, but stopped somewhere along the way.

Over the past year, my emails go unanswered. Calls and messages have been ignored. Not only has there been no action to reach out to me on her part, but she has completely stopped communicating at all. It makes me feel that I misunderstood our friendship or have done something terrible that I am unaware of. For all I know, it may not even be like that. In her mind, it may not even be a case of my friendship not meaning much, her being upset with me or anything like that at all.

She just moved on. To other friends. Different friends.

It’s weird feeling like… Like you have been completely forgotten.

ERASED.

It started slowly. We’d make dates to meet up, but there was always a reason why she couldn’t meet.

Pretty soon I noticed how long it would take to get a response back on emails. Over time, there were no responses.

Over time, I would berate myself for even thinking anything was off. YET, there was still this nagging feeling. An instinct.

You think, is it in my head? Is this just me being my normal crazy? Cuz I know I am helluva crazy.

But then you realize that this person who used to “like” every picture of your kids on Facebook, who used to have comments on all the pictures you used to share has been conspicuously absent on anything involving any of your family.

But she is not conspicuously absent from Facebook. In fact, she is there a LOT.

You might say “Who GIVES a rat’s ass? Let it go, Kiran. Focus on people who care back.”

I can and DO focus on people who care for me and whom I love. Maybe not as well as I always should, but I still do. That doesn’t still mean that I don’t hurt or mourn the loss of this friendship.

You might think – what if your friend reads this? Won’t she know? Isn’t it easier to just talk to her? The answer is no, I don’t think she will recognize who I am speaking about, I don’t think she will read this post and I have already tried to talk too many times. Besides, this email is not an “outing.” Not at all.

I just have to accept and get rid of this feeling. The best analogy I can come up with is I keep knocking on a door and can hear people inside, the loud voices of a party, but nobody answers the door. I knock again, certain that I hear my friend’s laughter. But still. No answer.

Now, unless I a) want to try and blend in with the doormat b) have ten Papa John’s pizzas that need to get delivered or c) am a fucking stalker, I have to walk away from that door and stop knocking. Because my instincts are right. There is someone peering back at me through the peephole. They just choose not to answer.

Wait a minute. Is this what being on a Mormon mission feels like?

Ah, hell. That sucks. But just for the record, I ALWAYS answer, guys.

I have to accept that I may never get the closure I need. Maybe writing this post will help me. Sometimes life just works that way. You don’t always get a pretty ribbon to tie all the loose ends of your heart up. I need to put my big girl pants on and put a Little Mermaid band-aid over the part of my hand that is raw from all the knocking. I accept that it will heal.

Eventually.

In the meantime, I won’t lock my door. If she wants to knock on it, and come in,  she knows where to find me.

Have you ever found yourself in a situation like this?

How I Broke My Facebook Rules – Rule #9

“You’re doing it again,” John said accusingly when he got home from work on Friday night.

“Doing what again?” I asked.

“You’re getting into political debates on Facebook.” Oh, shit.

“Are you spying on me?” Marriages are built on trust, buddy.

THIS is exactly why I try to hide everything I do from him so we don’t lose that. Keeping a marriage alive is hard work, no shit.

“I can see it every time you responded to that stupid thread. When are you going to learn?” Um, NEVER.

Ok, so I’m busted. I knew exactly what he meant when he said, “that stupid thread.” After talking a good game in the post I wrote called Facebook Rules, the one where I expertly explain how to successfully navigate the muddy waters of Facebook without losing your mind (and your sanity), I have reverted back to old habits. As always, I am great at doling out the advice, but am not so good about following it myself.

The rule I primarily broke was, Rule #9 – Don’t get all political up in my Facebook grill, yo.

Now the premise of Rule #9 is that it’s important to not encourage or engage in aggressive behavior by writing inflammatory posts or comments regarding political parties and beliefs, etc. There is an implied aspect to Rule #9 as well, that if someone writes something which you find offensive, to walk away from it. That no good can come of it.

I know these things. I have written a primer on it. Yet, like a moth to a flame, a fraternity boy to a drunk sorority girl, Rihanna to Chris Brown – I get pulled towards these posts. Before I know it my fingers are click-clacking away at the keyboard and my jaw is clenched. I’m on fire. On a mission.

A mission to what, I do not know.

So what happened in that thread? I am going to simplify this as much as possible. A Facebook friend who does not support health care reform in the United States and openly opposes “Obamacare” posted some inflammatory things about it. Now, I don’t care if he opposes or believes in health care reform. What drew me to his post were two things.

1) The post was not true

2) He kept calling President Obama, “Hussein.” Which IS Obama’s middle name. But he repeatedly pointed it out – “Hey, from now on I am going to call him Hussein.” or “Watch me now – I can call him Hussein walking backwards!” or “Look, NO hands this time – Hussein!!!”

I didn’t want to add fuel to the fire so I just commented (politely, of course) with a link that explained what he was saying had been fabricated. He responded with another point, which again was not factual, so I once again sent him (yes, calmly. Gosh people) some links from respected news sources (Forbes.com is respected, right?), explaining how those points were NOT true either.

He then grudgingly acknowledged that what he shared was NOT true. However, his dislike for the plan and for the President justified why he felt comfortable sharing the link. He would not delete it because at the end of the day he still hates “Hussein” and liberals and his false post is therefore justified.

And then I said….

Well. Here’s the thing.

I know what I said. But I want to hear what you think I SHOULD have said.

Now, I don’t know care where you stand politically or on the policy in question. It’s not about who you voted for or why. Policy, Shmolicy.

Let’s pretend for a moment that NONE of that matters. Party lines don’t matter. Heck, maybe you are not even American as it seems many more of Masala Chica’s readers seem to be popping up around the globe.

Let go of all prejudices and political affiliations.

Breathe.

In and out.

Did you breathe? Seriously, I need you to be all Zen and shit when you comment.

How do you feel when people pass along fiction as fact? Especially knowingly? Do you think it’s different than when someone spreads misinformation because they haven’t done their research? In this day and age, is it acceptable to not do your homework with all of the information we have at our fingertips?

If fiction IS shared  to strengthen your OWN beliefs, do you support it? Do you see it as a necessity to push towards the greater goal of accomplishing what you believe in?

AND last, but certainly not least,

What do YOU hear when someone calls the President of the United States “Hussein”? 

If these questions sound simple, I ask you to still answer. I don’t think they are that simple but then again, I think my parents dropped me on my head a few times too many when I was a kid, so that’s not the best indicator.

Moving on Up? Or Laterally?


Oh – you don’t think I can? Oh because I never have matching socks? hmm. You are right. But can i STILL have a cape? I would really like a cape? Bueller? Mmmm, Bueller?

Not quite sure yet. What I do know is that if you “follow” Masala Chica through the wordpress.com “Follow” functionality, the nifty button that I used to look at with nary a glance and you still want to follow? Well – if you want to continue to follow the blog – can you manually add http://masalachica.com to your reader or subscribe through the feeds.

They say you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone. Hells, yeah. I miss you guys. Come back! I got this snazzy new site – seriously pimped it out hardcore – and nobody is showing up. It’s like having a party and sitting around and eating all the cake by yourself because nobody came. Then you go home and drink more because you feel fat which makes you feel fatter.

Nothing good comes of it except swollen ankles and a hangover in the morning.

Sad visual, right? Yeah, no shit.

Don’t make me have fat ankles. That’s just cruel.

Remember. YOU can change the world. Or just give me an ego boost. Which one is easier?

That’s what I thought.

Have a great weekend, peeps.

Kiran, OUT.

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MEET KIRAN

I'm Kiran, I'm a dreamer. A writer. A singer. A mother. An ugly crier. An Indian-American. Who loves Gandhi. My stories are full of truth that is sometimes hard for me to say out loud. This blog is where I overcome my fears and live (and love) out loud. Read More....

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