Living your dream through simple living

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When we visited Costa Rica a couple of years back, we met some extraordinary people. An example was this Belgian couple who had a sailboat cruise enterprise. I was amazed to learn that they decided to leave their home country, sell all their posessions, buy a sailboat and literally make the boat their home. Yes, they cooked and slept on the boat. They were very particular on conservation – especially water in the tiny bathrooms. In fact, they had the sink faucets turned off and would open them only when someone visited the bathroom so they could impress upon the passengers how important it was to not waste water. They served snacks of fruit on real plates with silverware (that the lady later washed herself). I could not help but ask her why they decided to live on a boat. She explained that they had a great life – a house, cars, big TVs, good jobs. But they realized at some point that their life had become about keeping up with the Joneses and buying all of that stuff ended up leaving a big void. So they decided to uproot them selves and cruise around the world on their boat – earning what they needed by operating cruises. She also explained how they had to conserve food and water – they could only buy food that would not spoil over long periods as they could not shop frequently while on cruises between countries. That they had to be very careful with water and electricity – they pretty much went to bed at dusk and got up at dawn to save battery power. Their story blew me away – I couldn’t help but feel that although they had so many constraints – as I saw them – they were truly free – unfettered by all the “stuff” that most of us are slaves to.
While I certainly can’t imagine a lifestyle like this for myself and my family, their story left a lasting impression on me. This was simple living in action – they were pursuing their dream, earned only what they needed, consumed what they needed, were not mired in all kinds of stuff. That appeals to me a lot. Since then I have been trying to simplify my own life in a small way – by not being a slave to stuff.

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How much stuff we had was driven home when we moved houses a year ago. I went insane getting every last thing out of the house – there were stray lego peices, hair accessories, buttons, pens, batteries, receipts, and such annoying random things in every room – although they were neatly contained in baskets. Not to mention unopened mail, purses, tons crap that the kids had gotten as return gifts at birthday parties. It was very unpleasant – especially because I did not have time to take care of all this during the move. I vowed then that I would not allow stuff to rule my life.

But it is a lot of work. I have two growing girls who need their wardrobes replenished every six months. They love nail polish, putting cute accessories in their hair, one of them is obsessed with jewelry, one loves shoes. THey have all of this stuff – a lot of which is gifted. If I’m not careful (or anal) their hair clips and what-not will appear in the food we eat. I have to work on keeping the stuff contained every day.
Another source of stuff is all the work they bring from school. I quickly realized that it was going to be nightmare to keep all the stuff they got home. So I ruthlessly purged – starting with my own stuff. I threw all my Ph. D. scholarly notebooks – yes. I had not looked at them in years and it was unlikely I would ever look at them again – angular momentum of electrons – really? I sat with my daughter, gacve her a folder and asked her to fill it – everything else was going to tossed. She agreed. We use that one folder year after year. I framed a fraction of her art and tossed the rest.

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And then, there were the toys. I had a toy chest for my older one – and realized it ended up a useless chaotic jumble most days. Then I went and got plastic boxes to hold the little stuff. After I filled six of these, I decided to stop buying toys. The kids have more fun cutting paper, playing in the yard, riding their bikes, fighting with each other, banging the piano etc. than with a million pieces of junk anyways.

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I used to like shopping once – during fits of organizing all the stuff I had, I had accumulated a handsome number of bins and baskets. I recently realized that having a bunch of cute baskets was only pushing the junk under the carpet – or in the basket. As I continue my mission of purging my house of junk, I am accumulating empty baskets. I am getting immense satisfaction from seeing empty baskets – soon I’ll be purging my home of baskets and bins.

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I am still chained by my house, but I am glad I have grown to love it. Getting rid of a lot of stuff has been cathartic and I have come a long way. We moved in to what seemed then a compromise house – a bathroom was too small, a bedroom was more like a closet, the living area was disproportionately too big, not enough storage. The first thing we talked about was extending the bedrooms, installing a bunch of cabinets in the garage. After meeting the couple who had made a boat their home, I felt ridiculous about being dissatisfied about the small bathroom and bedroom. I now realize that I was prey to the American supersize, super consumer culture. Now we have decided to not make our home supersize by expanding – my daughter loves her tiny room too much anyways. We decided not to install cabinets in the garage just yet so as not to store more junk.

The natural and the artificial

Last week was spring break for the older kid. I was planning to take the week off and decided that taking a little trip would be better than my original plan of pottering around the house with my daughter. Due to the astronomical price of airline tickets these days many destinations were ruled out. We finally decided to visit the Grand Canyon and hubby as usual planned out a great itenerary. He managed to find incredibly cheap airline tickets to Las Vegas – the Grand Canyon is about a 5 hour drive from there.
Before we left, I got all excited at the prospect of photographing the Canyon. I feverishly tried to do some research on the internet. All the pros talked about how challenging it was to photograph the canyon but of course, I was still determined to try. So off I went, bought some filters and such and packed my big camera bag. I patiently waited out a night in Vegas and a day of driving to get to the Gand Canyon National Park, amazed that there was not even a hint Canyon landscape for the entire drive.

Hubby and I decided to wake up early next morning to catch the sunrise. I hardly slept from the anticipation of seeing the canyon and promplty woke up with the alarm and headed out. The temperature outside was in the 20’s – but that did not put a damper on my enthusiasm. We drove to a view point and then came the moment I’d been waiting for – my first view of the Canyon. The minute I saw it, I knew what the pros were talking about photographing the canyon. The vastness of what lay before me was beyond anything capturable. You have to experience it.

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We watched the sun come up slowly and – it was magical. This is a place where you are completely awed by the beauty and deadliness of nature. A place where you have to wonder how it all came about – how did the teeny Colorado river carve out such a gargantuan gorge?

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What causes all those colors in the mountains? Whay is the sky red during sunrise? I thought my kids would be bored looking at big mountains all day, but we talked about all of this and my almost four year old was also quite fascinated despite not understanding much about gorges, and minerals, and scattering of light by earth’s atmosphere.

We all went back for sunset and I was glad the kiddos enjoyed it despite being cold. I had given the older kid a camera and she was very happy to shoot pictures. We got to see a bunch of elk and that was quite exciting for the kids – older one because she could take pictures and younger one because they had weird looking bottoms.

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We stayed at the Best Western about 7 miles outside the park. This hotel is fantastic for kids – they had a bowling alley and an arcade with some games – kiddos were super excited to bowl and play games.

The next day, we drove back to smoky, glitzy Vegas. We stayed at a newer hotel called the Cosmopolitan. Hubby wanted to splurge a bit on a fancy room and we had one up on the 57th floor. Having an almost nine year old girl caused all my antennae for inappropriate stuff to be up. For the first time, I noticed Vegas for what it is – a sad, wasteful place where people try too hard to have a good time. A place that was perhaps created for people to indulge their basest desires is now like a confused child. The city now bustles with conferences and has even had half-hearted attempts at making it remotely appealing to kids (amidst the all pervasive sexually suggestive images and behavior). We went to a show called The Tournament of the Kings at the Excalibur. The show is for kids. But when you enter the hotel, the first thing you see are a couple of shirtless men who’s job is to lure women into taking pictures with them. If I did not have kids, I would have laughed, especially at some of the poses I saw. I might have even ventured to pose with the men but having the older kid around had me cringing with anxiety at how she would interpret all of this. Not until this trip did I observe how desperate people are to drown themselves in alcohol and tobacco fumes. It was positively nauseating to be breathing in tobacco fumes all the time.

Whilte the Grand Canyon was all about nature, conservation, and recycling, here was a city consuming millions of kiloWatts of electricity in the middle of a desert inviting people to indulge their lowest, basest, darkest side – even taking advantage of this. Looking up at the powerful lights that are shot up into the sky from the Luxor every single night just because, I couldn’t help but feel the whole place was rather ridiculous.
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Older kiddo thoroughly enjoyed the show and wants to go back to Vegas to see this and other shows every year. I told her sorry, but no more Vegas till she’s an adult. She did not protest much – so I think she understands the weirdness of the place in some way.

Happiness is …

… lovely spring days and trees bursting with blooms.
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Beautiful children loving life.
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Being aware and drinking in nature’s amazing artistry every time I step out.

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Conversations with my kids. They amaze me and crack me up.
Here’s an example. During the process of reading Richard Dawkins’ The Magic of Reality to my older one, we talked about what is a species – humans, dogs, cats, etc. Dawkins explains that a species is a group of animals that can breed. He goes on to say that sometimes members of different species can breed – like the horse and donkey – but in that case the offspring (the mule in this case) ends up being infertile. I explained that infertile means that the mule can have no babies of its own. Obviously this was a bit for an 8 year old to digest. After a few minutes she asked – A (someone she knows) has a “xyz” mom and “abc” dad (parents are of different nationality). Does this mean that A can’t have any kids?
I hastened to put her worry to rest.

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It is so delicious to soak up the sun and spend time with my people.

Grateful

Written on March 4
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I am exhausted and emotionally battered. Yes, that’s what a child can do to you. My little one is prone to constipation and this past week my baby did not laugh or play as usual because she was waging a losing war against her excreta. Potty became synonymous with pain and she refused to go making things worse. So much so we had to drag her to the doctor’s office this morning without brushing her teeth, and without an appointment. Yes, I was told that the hospital did not do walk-ins. But the amazing folks saw our stress, took pity on us, and gave us an appointment with a doctor 30 mins later. This doctor saved me from insanity. We were already giving her fiber rich food, lots of fluids, stool softener. She immediately got that this was a chronic issue and advised us to start her on a multi pronged approach. And it finally worked tonight. I thought I’d quit obsessing about poo once my children were past age one – I was deadly wrong.
My baby was in so much pain and discomfort these past few days that I couldn’t stand it. As I described the situation to the doctor, I found myself sobbimg. It was just such a relief that she understood what both my child and I were going through. Her words were comforting and reassuring and for that I am so grateful today. My baby was confused – she asked why I had water in my eyes. The strategy worked and now my baby is back – happy and playing – for now. So thankful for that.

In the midst of the stress of dealing with this issue this weekend, we managed to have a little bit of fun. The girls are kicked about helping with gardening so we started a bunch of seeds indoors and the seedlings have sprouted.
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The girls had picked up broccoli, tomato, carrots, watermelon, beans, wildflowers, morning glory, etc. A week ago they helped plant them and are having fun watching the seedlings sprout.

It’s springtime (feels like it anyway) and the garden is beginning to look really pretty.
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Messing around the garden with the kiddos is so relaxing – grateful for this too.

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What do you do when half your family is sick with the flu on a gorgeous long weekend? Hubby and the little one are sick. Little kid’s cranky and crying a lot, older one’s a bit cranky too cos everyone’s fussing over the little one and ignoring her cough. We are stuck inside and it’s 70 degrees outside (well it was yesterday when I wrote this – now it’s cloudy and 50 something – boo). We (the girls) went to the sunroom and crafted.

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Sometimes I do some random shopping. I went to buy the girls some notebooks a few weeks back and ended up getting some cheap scrapbook paper. I had some canvases lying around. Given that little kid loves to paint and loves pink, I had an idea that couldnot go wrong. I gave her a canvas, a lot of pink paint and asked her to go to town. Two coats of pink for good measure. That kept her busy for a while and she did a great job. Then I cut some scrapbook paper into little leaf shaped patterns and we stuck them on the painted canvas. Instant (pretty much) gratification.

In the meantime, older kid was busy painting a tote bag.

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She wanted me to draw this picture (as illustrated on the cover of the tote). I tried my best and she had fun with fabric paint (with a little help from me on the bird and letters). Again, a quick project and almost instant gratification.

It’s February and the weather’s been sublime in Northern California. My quince trees are bursting with beautiful pink blooms.

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I have an obsession for things floral. So I cut a few branches and brought them indoors.

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I also got some Iceland poppies (one of my random shopping incidents this weekend) and broke one of the flower stems while planting them. So we stuck it in a bottle and I had my excuse to whip out my camera and take some pictures. I put my scrapbook paper to good use again. I love how the petals seem to flow like silk.

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I have an idea for the bare twigs in the bottle on the right – and yes, it involves scrapbook paper.

In the exhausting battle of dealing with a sick, cranky, fighting kid, a few moments of prettiness to soothe the soul.

Musings on religion and science

DSC_1261One of my readers recently asked me about my thoughts on Hindu rituals and their relevance in today’s world. She expressed concern that age old Hindu practices that had withstood the ravages of many foreign invasions would be made extinct by modern Hindu youth whose respect for these practices seem to be dwindling by the generation. Here are my thoughts. Opinions welcome.

Let’s start with what are Hindu rituals. I will stick to Tamil Brahmin rituals as those are what I know. The most important ones are Seemandham – rites performed for an expectant mother, Naamakaranam – the baby is given a name on the 11th day after birth, Annapraasanam – first time the baby eats solid food, Upanayanam – marking the entry into formal education for boys, wedding rituals when a couple is married, and finally, death rituals. There are several variations of these rituals which could be either because interpretations vary or the original meaning is being gradually lost or a combination of both.

Now coming to the question – why do we perform religious rituals? There are probably as many answers as there are Hindu people. But generally speaking, most people from my parents’ generation believed it was good to perform rituals – you increased your chance of well being if you performed them. They were what you did because your parents did them and so on. No one questioned their power or meaning but simply accepted them on faith. And that’s the key – faith.

Now, in come these smarty pants kids with things like Big Bang Theory, Evolution, and Supernovae rolling off their tongues. You expect me to actually believe that walking around a fire seven times is going to guarantee me a happy marriage for life – they ask. Or that Upanayanam at age 11 marks my entry into formal education when you started me in pre-school at two and a half? You spent all that money on my education and expect me to throw rationality to the winds and do stuff that makes no sense? Why, why, why?

Why indeed? There is really no good answer. Because you can never rationally convince or argue based on faith. Inherently, the effect of rituals, just like Astrology, can never be proven using the Scientific method. Someone’s beilef that they are good to follow is just that – their personal belief.

On the other hand, here is a question to the smarty pants – are your actions always a reflection of what you believe? What about the time you got drunk and got arrested for drunk driving? Did you do it because you believed this to be a good thing or the right thing? It was probably because you were not thinking at all. Or the time you experimented with cigarettes, or lied to your parents about your grades … the fact is we all do stupid things without a thought to our values or beliefs. We cave in to peer pressure, accept other people’s beliefs on what it means to be happy, successful, beautiful, etc. Yet when it comes to rituals, that is a huge problem because it is our parents’ beliefs that are forced on us – it appears that humans need to choose even what they want to be mindless about.

I do not believe in rituals because I am a person who believes in the scientific method (I know that people like to say that science does not have all the answers, but I believe that this method works well to help us understand the universe). Some of my family members (including my husband) believe that a religious method to knowing “the truth” exists. They believe rituals are part of this method. I respect their belief for I cannot prove that my method is better than theirs. Also, to a large extent, scientific “knowledge” is also based on belief – belief in the scientist who came up with the theory. I can certainly never admit to have tested the theories myself. I believe in Darwin’s theory of evolution – that all the evidence cited by him and other evolutionists is real. I participate in performing rituals for one and only one reason – that I love the people to whom they mean a lot. In my book, it is not humane to hurt my parents or my spouse by not participating in things they believe in (even though I don’t). What does it cost me? Some time and effort but then I’m not productive all the time anyway. I am not evolved enough to base all my actions on things I believe in and if my participation makes them happy, I’m cool with that.

Musings on photography

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Happy Monday lovely people! I love California. It was a gorgeous Sunday and I finally picked up my camera and took some shots of the lovely Quince blooms in my backyard.

I had never heard of quince until I moved to my current house. I noticed a tree in the backyard with weird, hard fruit. I took a picture of it and showed it to my mentor at work. He told me it was quince and that it would produce blooms of great beauty in the winter. Boy, was he right!

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I am really pleased with these shots – I had an idea of what I wanted my shots to look like and using my trusty 50mm lens and external flash, was able to get these. However, strange as it may sound, knowing what I want my pictures to look like has taken a very long time – like over 5 years. I would get really disappointed that I could not capture what impressed me about a certain object, scene, or face. So I started reading.
I turned to the legend of photography – Ansel Adams (my God, my memory is so rotten I don’t even remember the name of the book). One thing that did stick was his philosophy of photography. Photography is an expression of art – a photographer knows what s/he wants the photo to convey. However, this takes years of study and practice. Much as I would try to practice this, I often drew a blank as to what I wanted a photo to say.

Photography is a fascinating art. It requires artistic imagination and technical knowledge of optics and the interplay of light with the subject. When hubby gifted me my SLR camera, I spent some time reading about apertures, shutter speeds, ISO, depth-of-field and what have you. During my quest for knowledge, I came across Ken Rockwell’s website on photography that put my motives to shame. Ken Rockwell contends that to take good photos one need not have a fancy camera. What is required is artistic vision and good light. One can take good photos with a point-and-shoot just as well as with a fancy-shmancy SLR camera. Imagine my chagrin reading this just after my good husband had invested about $1500 on state-of-the-art camera and lens
technology (OK it’s not state-of-the-art but after you spend this kind of money on a camera, you need to use your imagination to rationalize the purchase). I could virtually hear Mr. Rockwell laughing at me – you pathetic scientists and engineers – all you know to do is buy toys based upon useless technical data. I bet you analyzed the MTF curves of the lens, lost nights of sleep on deciding whether to get a camera with a CCD or CMOS sensor, contemplated getting a Ph. D. in optics … Let me tell you something, some of the photos I took were straight out of a cell phone. If you do have a camera (like an SLR) you seldom need to go beyond the auto setting to get a great photo. All you need is a vision and patience to wait for the good light”. (Mr. Rockwell has taken some fabulous photos and specializes in landscapes, if I dare say anything about his work).

So I spent a few weeks agonizing over my foolishness of insisting on needing an SLR camera to get any more fun out of my hobby. All my pride in shooting photos which were not fully wahed out or black (er, overexposed or underexposed if I may use the photography jargon) using manual settings for aperture and shutter speeds vanished. Finally I decided that since I do have a fancy camera, I had better use it.
I must say it’s been a great ride. Six years after getting my SLR camera, I have to say that while Mr. Rockwell may be right, I have had to rely on manual settings, flash, and photoshop as I do not have the luxury of “waiting for good light” ever. But I also have to agree that sometimes, crappy cellphones do pretty good if the light is good.

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A thing called curiosity

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Today’s kids are drowning in distractions. From smart phones and tablets with games a finger tap away, to video games, children no longer can tolerate a few minutes of doing nothing – to simply look around and wonder about the world around them. Such a pity in my opinion. New age techno chaos is a sure way to kill curiosity – the kind of curiosity that makes a philosopher or a scientist (they are the same at some level). I wonder how many kids are fascinated by the mysteries of space, the variety of plants and animals, how rainbows are formed, why the sky’s blue etc.
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Once in a while, my kids ask me questions like these, and I simply love sitting with them and trying to answer them. One of the main reasons why I love answering these kinds of questions is because when I was in elementary school, I did not have the fortune to have teachers who encouraged questioning. I was generally interested in the world around me and was not shy of asking questions at school. One particular incident left a deep impression on me. I witnessed a cat give birth at home without any intervention and was amazed by the experience. Now I had developed my completely fantastic theory about how humans gave birth – they went to a doctor and had their babies removed via surgery. Now after seeing this cat give birth, I was confounded – how come they can have babies without surgery? How on earth did the kittens come out of the cat? I decided to ask my biology teacher that question and was shocked at the disapproval with which my question was met. I was told that that was an inappropriate question to ask. I quickly realized that I’d have to look to other people and means to have my questions answered.
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Now, when my own daughters are growing up, it gives me great joy to be able to encourage their curiosity. No matter what the question, I answer it as accurately as possible. Some examples from my 3 year old:
How are rainbows formed? Of course I do not launch into the theory of refraction but explain that when you have the combination of rain and a little sunshine, you get beautiful colors in the sky.
A more difficult one: why do boys have tails? Was I a boy when I was a baby and did I have a tail? At this point I was laughing helplessly and thankfully she was distracted enough to not ask any more questions on anatomy.
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My 8 year old asks some pretty great questions. A few days ago she asked me “How did the first person come to be”? Oh Boy! How was I going to be able to explain the theory of Evolution to her? I told her that humans “evolved” from other species such as apes, that the first human did not just appear.
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I started to tell her about how billions of years ago, life started from a bunch of big molecules. These molecules came together to form very simple living things that gradually evolved into more complex beings over millions and millions of years. At this point, I started feeling really inadequate about how I was explaining this to her. It’s mind boggling to an 8 year old that the world started with some molecules and not with all the life she sees around her. We turned to Wikipedia for some help but the description of Darwin’s theory of Natural Selection is a bit too much for even some adults, let alone a kid. So I did some research on books on evolution written for kids and came across one of the best books ever – The Magic of Reality by Richard Dawkins. If you have a child, or for that matter, even if you don’t, you need to read this book. The language is simple and titles of chapters are questions. For instance, the second chapter is “Who was the first person?” Amazing! Dawkins clearly knows his stuff – only someone who does can answer these types of questions in such a wonderfully simple way.
Other chapters in the book – why are there so many different kinds of animals? What is a rainbow?
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Thank you Mr. Dawkins – I am learning things in a new light thanks to you.

Brave new India

I left India several years ago for the USA. I came here as a graduate student and never went back. Often, I am asked by family and friends why I have not moved back. India’s economy has been booming and I was told by many that the quality of life is much better now in India, better than the USA. Twenty years ago, yes, it was not so easy to get well paying jobs out of college. There were no big malls. Owning a car was a big deal. But now, India’s growing middle class has plenty of money at their disposal, thanks to the ever growing IT and service industry. You can afford to be waited head and foot by hiring domestic help, I was told. You get all the stuff that is available in the USA. Cars have become very affordable (of course having no room to drive them is another issue). You can live in nice gated communities equipped with all kinds of facilities (assuming you earn enough, read work in the IT industry). Indian people even take nice vacations now – something that was an alien concept twenty years ago. So why do you continue to live in the USA where you pay through your nose for demestic help, have to do all the housework yourself, have diminishing margins on your salary compared to what you could earn today in India (assuming you’re in IT) – thus I was interrogated. What excuse do you have now for being away from your family?

The truth, is I don’t have an excuse – none. I made a choice to make this country my home and the truth is I am too selfish to uproot myself at this stage. It’s harder to adapt to a new environment when you’re older and have a familiy of your own. Yes, I know at some point, I might have to consider moving back for family. But I am not sure about this whole quality of life improvement thing. I visit India about once every 18 months or so and was disturbed by a couple of things. These are entirely my experiences and views and I am sure that many people will judge me for them – so be it.
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A couple of years ago, an incident left me literally shaking with horror. It was the night of our departure from India back to the USA. We had hired a cab from a local company and were on the way to the arirport. It was a large vehicle, almost a mini bus and we were spread out on seats behind the driver. Suddenly, there was a loud sound as the bus lurched. My mother-in-law, who was closest to the driver, anxiously asked what happened. The driver said that a man had been carrying some large item made of glass on a bicycle and that the bus had grazed this protruding glass item resulting in a crash. My mother-in-law asked him to stop because she thought she had seen the man on the bicycle fall down. The driver insisted. nothing of that sort had happened and continued to drive. Within minutes, we had cops stop our bus. They yelled at the driver for his apathy at not stopping after hitting a man on the road. “He could die and you are responsible” they shouted at him. Then they asked us to wait in the bus and took the driver to what Appeared to be a police station. The driver was realeased after about 20 minutes and proceeded to take us to the airport. At the airport, the driver charged us about Rs 2000 more in the pretext of us having asked him to turn on the AC. So the guy hit a man, did not stop, likely bribed the cops and got us to pay for the bribe. I was sick to my stomach. Life is cheap – at best a few thousand rupees that goes in the pockets of a couple of pathetic loser cops.
Now, if you’re lucky enough not to have to deal with law enforcement in India, it might be great. But God help you if you are ever in trouble ‘cos sure as hell, the cops aren’t going to help you.
And neither will the public apparently, as evidenced in the horrific “incident” in Delhi on Dec. 16th. I keep pondering why no one stopped to help the woman and her friend for over 20 minutes. I can’t figure it out. Is it because we Indians as a race have “evolved” to compete against each other? We have fought so long and hard for basic necessities such as water that we distrust everyone? Why has life become so cheap that people are not motivated to help others in grave situations?

The other observation is that young girls and women are still subject to lewd behavior on India’s streets and public transportation. For all the economic growth and modernization that India has undergone, this remains to be a bane. I would never want my daughters to be subject to the lewdness, in words and action, that I had to witness when I was a teenager. For a country that has a mythology and history of great sexual freedom, it is amazing that it has bred one of the most sexually repressed societies over time. And sadly, women have been forced to develop thick hides to overcome the invasion of physical privacy that is commonplace. Any protest is sure to result in harm and law enforcement folks are more a problem than the solution. India is one of the largest democracies in the world, but her women are far from being free. I remember the numerous instances of humiliation and anger that I felt when I was the victim. I was never able to shrug it off. I remember feeling anger and disappointment that no one could protect me. Of course what I went through was nothing even remotely a fraction of what the Delhi woman was subjected to. But, the fact is, I do not feel safe. I had to take a long cab ride from the airport to my parents’ apartment when I visited my hometown. I was alone and had a disgruntled cab driver who took me through some pretty isolated stretches of the city. I was very uneasy about my safety.

So those are my views. I am Indian – that’s inextricably linked to my identity. I am a product of this amazing, crazy country’s culture. I am deeply hurt that a young woman with her whole life before her was violated in the most mind bogglingly brutal manner. I am even more hurt that India’s rising good name was raped by her own people – those that did nothing to help a gravely injured woman lying with no clothes, bleeding on the road. By her so called law enforcers, who showed the most abject apathy instead of protecting a citizen in grave danger. It took a long time for India to become “progressive”, and a day to lose all that respect. True progress is gauged by how a country’s people treat each other – not by it’s GDP.

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It’s great that the nation has risen to protest the gruesome incident and is demanding justice for the victim. But, there is a deeper issue here – people need to look at themselves for change. They need to learn to value and respect another person’s life – without that protests for change in law enforcement, lighting candles etc. is just fluff.