Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween!

Just a quick note to wish my readers a Happy Halloween with their families!
More updates tomorrow...

Madh Mama & family


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Jumping over the hurdle - stress & recovery

After the doctor told me it was going to be 6 weeks of recovery, I took the news pretty hard. I was really stressed out. Hearing that news made me really angry - it brought up all these questions again, of "why did this happen to me?" I felt the unluckiness again, of having caught such a thing. That week was really difficult for me - as everything is in the beginning - because in those first steps, the journey ahead feels so long. You think, how can you possibly make it that far....? I came out of the hospital, feeling relieved, and thinking that I was never going to get stressed about little things, ever again. Of course, the first thing I did when I got the news from the doctor was get stressed out!. Again, a reminder - that I'm not in control of my body, or my recovery (rather, my body is in control of me)

About two weeks after I left the hospital, I realized that SIL had never phoned me during the whole process. I don't know why, but it royally pissed me off. I started to think that she couldn't care if I was dead or alive. Wasn't I supposed to be like a sister to her? I felt betrayed. I always wanted to be close to her, but she always kept me at an arm's length. I really don't know much about her at all. I don't even know if anybody does. She knows everything about me...and I know nothing about her. I don't even know what's her favorite food or movie. As an only child, I wanted this connection a lot. I thought SIL would feel closer to me after I got married, became "official" in the eyes of the family. Or even now that we both have kids. But nothing changed. But alas, that is life lesson #482: have no expectations from others...

Meanwhile, we were trying to get my MIL to come from Zurich - which in itself was difficult because I don't like to ask for help. I felt like I was giving up my independence to merely ASK for help, especially at an inconvenient time. We were trying to figure out all the logistics of it, as SIL was depending on MIL to take care of her child. It seemed that the most simplest of solutions was turning into this complicated Indian melodrama / tug-of-war, with all these other factors that kept springing up, for example, SIL "doesn't speak German"; "there are no daycares in Zurich"; "there are no Indian daycares"; "there are no English daycares"; "daycares are too costly"; SIL "doesn't understand your meningitis"; "what will happen to her child" name it. It made me feel extremely inconvenient for asking for help when I really needed it. I had really had enough. In addition to all that, it brought up past resentment, that I had with SIL in this process. You see, I can't really function the "Indian way" - a.k.a. when you have an issue with somebody, you pretend it's not there and brush it under the rug. I'm used to talking through things with people and being honest, or else it all comes bubbling up for me.

Anyways, we ended up having a our first big fight, all the while not even talking to each other - having MIL in the middle (what grown ups we where I called SIL "the most selfish person on Earth" (so dramatic, I know...) which was the first time I ever said anything like that to her in 8 years. Little did I know, that "selfish" has a completely different meaning in their culture. To them, "selfish" means "greedy, asking for material things"; and to me, it means "self-absorbed, only caring for oneself". For her, it probably came out of the blue. But for me, there was a lot of little things that bothered me before, so I just exploded. I doubt SIL will ever talk to me again. But she never really talked to me openly in the first place, so am I really losing anything? Not really. Who knows?  I'm sure she'll never forget it, if she's anywhere near as stubborn as her dear brother is! I feel bad that I hurt her feelings. I didn't know she was going to get so affected by it. Maybe, she does care and she doesn't know how to express it? Whatever it is, I'm not used to it, and I can't figure it out!

Well, at least I have husband-ji, and my MIL who is like my best friend, and our cousins-wife, who is like a SIL to me, and a loyal friend. Instead of getting mad, or getting disappointed, I should just concentrate on the people who love me and who are there for me - instead of resenting the people who aren't.

After all that drama, I was stressed to the core. And it really screwed with my recovery. I couldn't rest, I couldn't relax, I just felt worse. And then I came to an epiphany...getting stressed out doesn't do anything for me. It doesn't serve me at all. It doesn't help me get better faster. Getting stressed is an absolute waste of time. And what about that vow that I made myself, after leaving the hospital - that nothing would stress me out again? I broke that promise to myself within that first week. What the hell. After that, I started to center myself again, back to my meditative state of concentrating on getting better, aligning myself with my body's needs again - with a little help from "The Book of Awakening" from Mark Nepo. A big thing for me in this recovery process, is setting limits for myself. Not pushing myself - and immediately when I get tired, I stop what I'm doing. I think these practices will serve me really well in the long run, since before I was having a hard time balancing everything.

And then, my MIL arrived. My best friend. It has just been heaven having her here - having a companion in the house. So far, it's been smooth sailing. She's loving watching the horror movies on TV that have been playing for Halloween, and is requesting we watch 2 per day - one mystery, and one ghost story. She is cooking all these delicious foods, and both husband-ji and Maya are loving it. Every morning husband-ji eats 9 mini-dosas for breakfast!!! Sandhya's breakfast special! 

Last week, the doctor gave me the go-ahead to start going for walks outside (total Canadian doctor, eh? We believe getting "fresh air" will cure anything!). Getting that news was absolutely exhilarating. The first day, we went for a walk - the air was so crisp, the leaves were was beautiful. I felt free... On that day it was exactly one month since I was in the hospital. Having my first walk outside was another small victory....

And now, I am halfway through the recovery process. Being patient, listening to my body, and all these little victories bring me that much closer to being back to my normal self...this recovery process has taught me a lot.

To be continued....


What do you think, dear readers? How do you cope with stress? Do you think my fight with SIL was cultural? How do you get over fights with family members?


Monday, October 28, 2013

Common superstitions in South India

Many Indians are extremely superstitious. It is a big part of the culture - astrology, vaastu shastra, drishti - all are mainstream beliefs. A superstition is "a belief or notion, not based on reason or knowledge, in or of the ominous significance of a particular thing, circumstance, occurrence, proceeding, or the like." In India, there is a huge belief in supernatural occurrences, bad omens, and there Hindu rituals to remove these bad omens. I think Hinduism is one of the more superstitious religions - as even marriages are fixed as per auspicious stars; and many politicians also use astrology.

My MIL is extremely superstitious, like any other typical traditional Indian aunty. She is always removing drishti (evil eye) and is generally a big scaredy-cat. Many of the Indian elders are like this that I've met - one time, we were leaving our friends' house in Hyderabad, the aunty handed me a small stone to put in our car. It was because traveling in 3's is bad luck, so you have to bring an object to put in the car to represent "a fourth entity" so nothing happens to you. As a Westerner, all this is new to me! Our superstitions in Canada are extremely limited - few and far between.

As my MIL is here now, we have been watching all the horror films on TV, with Halloween coming up. I decided to ask her what are some common superstitions in India - particularly in South India - in our Tamil / Telugu Brahmin communities - that she has heard. Here are some that she recalled:

Common superstitions in South India

- sleeping with the legs facing south is a bad omen (dead bodies are buried facing this way)

- midnight on the night of the new moon (amarvasya) is said to be the night of ghosts


- black cats in the path in front of you are seen as a bad omen, and are seen as carriers of witchcraft

- if you sneeze whilst you are leaving the house, you must stop for 15-20 mins before going 

- it is bad luck to see a widow (stranger, not family) the first thing in the morning

- if any idol of a god, mirror or glass breaks, it needs to be immediately thrown out due to bad luck

- it is bad luck to travel in groups of 3's - either use an object to act as a 4th person; or 2 people leave the house first, and the 3rd person leaves 5mins after

- if you go to a special occasion (birthday, marriage celebration - where there are lots of people) and you come back with a headache, vomiting, excessive yawning - then someone has given you the evil eye. To remove the drishti, an elder must take salt, dried red chillies and camphor in your right palm and circle it around your head (3, 5, or 7 times according to severity of the misfortune) and throw it out


- a string of lemon and chillies can ward off the evil eye at entrance ways to homes

- if you are having health problems, to remove the bad drishti you the elder must take lime and dried chillies tied together with a string, and rice; circle it around your head and then throw it on the road. It is said that the person who steps on the lime will take away your misfortune and take it onto themselves (people avoid stepping on lime and chillies on the road)

- if you bite your tongue, someone is cursing you

- if you choke on your food, someone is thinking about you seriously

- if you are giving a gift of money, it must always be in odd numbers (51 INR, 101 INR)

- After sunset on Saturdays, Tuesdays or Fridays, you must not cut your hair or nails

Peepal tree (via)

- trees such as Marichettu (banyan), Peepal, Tamarind, and Kumkurukai are to be avoided as evil spirits are said to reside there

- after childbirth, you should not go to the temple for 11 days

- after a death in the family, you should only go to the temple after the 13th day

- - if there is a death in the family, no festivals should be celebrated for one year. Also, boys of the family (who carry on the family name) should not get married for one year. Girls, however, can get married and it is seen as lucky if they do.

- if someone offers you food while you are leaving the house, it is a bad omen to say no. Also if someone asks you `Where are you going?`` while you are leaving, your work will not be fulfilled

- wearing black is seen as unlucky; where as in North India, white is unlucky, as that is what widows wear


- solar and lunar eclipses are also seen as unlucky times. Temples will be closed, and you should not eat or cook food during that time. Pregnant women are also supposed to stay indoors as it is said to have a bad effect on the fetus. Childbirth is also considered to be unlucky during these eclipses.

- if the family has a series of misfortunes due to a bad nakshatra (bad star), then it is common for the house you are staying in to be completely vacated for several months, and after several pooja's are performed to calm the bad spirits of the house down

- if a woman has her period, she should not cook or enter the kitchen. She should avoid touching anyone, and stay in a separate room. She should not go to the temple or attend marriages (even a woman's marriage date will be fixed around her period)

- symbols that are associated with witchcraft: graveyard, midnight on amarvasya (new moon), tamarind tree, black cats, lemon, blood, hair

- the cow is a sacred animal, and his tail is the most holy part (cows are seen as "mother")

- cows, elephants, snakes, and peacocks are seen as good luck

- owls, crows, or bats should not enter the house - bad omens

- if a crow hits your head, death is on the way

- it is bad luck to sweep the house at night (sweeping away prosperity)

- in the olden days, taking photographs of children was avoided as it was seen as exposing them more to the evil eye (hence husband-ji`s lack of baby pics!)

- penciling a black dot on the body with kajol prevents the evil eye (even if the black dot is hidden on the leg) In marriages, you will often see a black dot on the couple`s cheeks

- vaastu is often followed in houses to bring good fortune (similar to feng shui)

- left hand is inauspicious - you should not give or take anything with the left hand, especially food, gifts or money


Yea, I know, right? Such a huge list! I personally do not believe in superstitions, although I am scared of ghosts and things like that. I think the only superstitions we share in Canadian culture is the fear of the black cat. But, I think things only have meaning when you give them the power of having a meaning. After all, as an intercultural couple, we have gotten the evil eye since day 1 - so it`s really nothing new to me! However, I do have the Greek evil eye in my house (thanks to my Greek aunties!) just as a precaution :)


Related articles:
BURI NAZAR & BABIES, by Chardi Kala Life

What about you, dear readers? Do you believe in the evil eye and bad omens? What superstitions do you have in your cultures and which ones do you follow?


Saturday, October 26, 2013

Hilarious parody! (telling the Indian parents)

What happens when an Indian girl tells her parents about her white boyfriend....

So funny!!!

Friday, October 25, 2013

15 & 16 months

A little late, but better late than never!

She's such a little girl now!


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Common stereotypes of Western women in Indian society

(Img via)

Every ethnic group has certain stereotypes against them - especially women. Stereotypes are most rampant in the media, where you get a one-sided view of a particular character - for example, in Bollywood - there is the "hero" or the "villain"; and women especially are categorized as the "virginal bride" or the "tart".

In my journey within Indian society - as an untypical foreigner - I've discovered that there are many stereotypes of Western women. This is all fueled by the way Western women are portrayed in both Bollywood and Hollywood. However, I don't blame Indian society entirely for the reason why these stereotypes exist - foreigners are also equally responsible. The problem also lies in the fact that whenever foreigners visit India - the majority go from their hotel to the tourist sites, and maybe for some shopping. Rarely do they have deep interactions with locals and local families, so many are only seen from afar, in a shallow way.

That reason is combined with the fact that Indian culture is notoriously non-mixing. As an Indo-intercultural couple, we are one of the rarest mixes. A foreigner would face just as much opposition coming into the family as an Indian who is of a different community (different caste, religion, or region). Times are changing, but it is still a rarity...

As the only foreigner in my Indian family, I've had to squash a lot of stereotypes. It has been one of the main barriers in getting to know my family members - because many (elders especially) have certain ideas of Western woman's character, based solely on lack of exposure. Namely, that Western women are "immoral" in every sense of the word. A bunch of my Indian family members had never even seen/spoken to a foreigner before me. Once people made the effort to get to know me, they realized that most of these stereotypes are untrue, and the ones that are true do not necessarily mean I'm a "bad person".

For the foreigners who wish to marry into an exclusively Indian family, you may have to deal with squashing many of these stereotypes as you form relationships with your new family. I wouldn't take offense to it - and don't let it stand in the way of building your relationships. Just know that it may or may not be there. The only thing you can really do to squash stereotypes is to stand the test of time and continually make an effort.

I have heard all the stereotypes of Western women before, and nothing really surprises me... "You're just a prostitute and he'll never marry you"; "He couldn't find an Indian girl / She couldn't find a white guy"; "She'll just divorce him when she gets bored"; "White women are easy"; "She's trying to be Indian"; "If she has too much freedom, she will run wild"; "She will break up the family"; "She talks to men, she is a loose woman"; "He will never have another home cooked meal again"...blah blah. I honestly laugh at all these things. It's pretty hilarious. Whenever one of these stereotypes come up, it's as if I'm being compared to the Basic Instinct lady or Samantha from Sex & the City (and I'm not even!)

(Samantha character from Sex & the City - img via)

I was curious to hear if any of the other Whindian wives had faced any stereotypes, so I spent months asking them and compiling a list:

Common Stereotypes of Western women in Indian society

divorce; not taking marriage seriously and if we get bored we will up and leave; quick to divorce (everybody gets divorced as seen on Western TV)

- unchaste; easy women that sleep around; has the moral values of a prostitute; porn star in bed; will sleep with any man on the road; don't have to marry women to have sex with them; will have affairs after marriage


- not family focused; no family values; can't take care of kids or inlaws because we are too individualistic ("too much freedom")

- can't cook; all we eat is junk food in the West because all our food is packaged and dumped in the microwave; no family dinners

constantly being asked "have you ever had Indian food?" or "does your husband eat bread all the time now?"; or shocked to know that many wives are vegetarian

- won't adjust to Indian culture and religion (surprised that we enjoy celebrating Indian holidays/attending pooja)

- won't live with inlaws; "stealing the son away from his family"; break the family up (separating the family); forcing the man to put the wife as the first priority above the parents

- the suspicion of cheating (needing alone time / simply speaking to other men that are not your husband = unfaithful)

- stuck up and high maintenance (because all Americans are rich and bored)

- we are all Christian 

- we are all American

So yes, there are many stereotypes of Western women. From the above list, Western wives are apparently lazy, unhealthy, porn star/sex addict, who don't value marriage or family, selfish, rich....which is the stereotype that many of us wives have to deal with. So much SEX, SEX, SEX, and DIVORCE everywhere!!! AND the big one...the concept that Western women have an inability to adjust because we are too individualistic and have too much freedom.


My own experience with Western women stereotypes:

My MIL's biggest fear about me (STILL!) is that I will get a divorce from her son, and then she will get blamed for the whole thing from Indian society. She specifically tells husband-ji not to piss me off, and to treat me nicely (which totally works in my favor! lol...thanks MIL!) I don't believe in divorce; I believe that once you're married you have to try everything to make it work 100% of the time; nobody in my family is divorced; BUT I don't believe in living in misery either...and if people are unwilling to fix their marriage then they should get a divorce. Even though I'm not religious, I believe marriage is sacred - mostly because I found my true soul mate and I work on my marriage every single day, and I'm just glad he works on it with me.

Another stereotype I've had to deal with from the extended Indian family is that they are surprised to know that I can cook (at all), I can cook Indian food (to the point where Indians think it is cooked by an Indian), I love spicy food, and we live in a vegetarian household (meaning no meats cooked).

Probably the most annoying stereotype for me, is the "unchaste" label. When one of my favorite Indian family members found out we were living together before marriage, apparently that made me appear as though I have the moral values of a prostitute. And apparently that made me reflect badly on the whole family - "she has spoiled us!!!"...blah blah. (So, maybe because we seem to have the best marriage out of all the family members, people should take some advice from us and try living together before marriage...ya think?) And just because I had boyfriends before my husband (and openly admit that), apparently makes me the type of person "who will just sleep with any man on the road" (even though we have been in a committed, monogamous relationship since the day we met). Actually, my prior relationship experience made me more confident to marry Madhavan because I knew he was my soul mate. So, NO, I'm not about to run off with other men...because I KNOW I've got the best man already. And that is why I married him. And that is why I will STAY faithfully married to him until I die.


On another spectrum, Western women also get a bad rep for "exoticising India". (Whatever that So the minute you dress in saree/salwar kameez, or learn how to cook Indian food, we are apparently "trying soooooo hard to be Indian". What the heck. Um, it's called liking Indian dress or Indian food....nothing less, nothing more. Funny how nobody says that about any Indian girl if they want to wear jeans. (OMG...she is exoticising Western culture!!) OR funny how when I feel like eating sushi, nobody says, "you're trying sooooo hard to be Japanese!!". Ya. Exactly. Ridiculous, I tell you!

The "too much freedom" concept irks me a bit. What exactly is wrong with having freedom, or "too much" of it??? It doesn't mean you're going to run off somewhere or NOT put your family first. The one thing that bothers me about conservative Indian society is the limitations they put on the women (sometimes unsaid limitations - on mobility, freedom of choice, duty/obligation, wife comes last on the totem pole) And this judgement surprisingly extends to Western women. Women are criticized in every society... but in Indian society, the moral policing is on steroids against women with all the "reputation/family honor" crap. It only highlights the gender inequalities - for example nobody ever said that any men "have too much freedom", are bad because they are "unchaste", or "can't cook" - there are NO expectations or judgement on them WHATSOEVER! Nobody simply cares! But oh, for the women! What a list!!

Alas, if this is the kind of judgement that many Western women have to can only imagine what Indian women have to deal with from their communities on a daily basis. Dressing a certain way, dating, speaking to the opposite sex, putting the family first above any of her own needs/desires, having to "adjust" to the inlaws...and what happens when a spouse knows that you'll never divorce him, no matter what he does to you...?

Related articles: 
"White Women in the Indian Imagination", by Alexandra Delaney


So, dear readers, what stereotypes have you personally faced? For those who are in intercultural relationships, what stereotypes have you had to deal with from your spouse's community? How did you squash these stereotypes?


*A special thank you to all the Whindian wives who helped contribute to this post. You know who you are!*

Monday, October 21, 2013

Telling your traditional Indian parents about your intercultural relationship

(Husband-ji & his parents)

One of the most challenging milestones in an Indo-intercultural relationship is the process of telling the Indian parents about your foreign girlfriend/boyfriend.

A lot of people don't realize how difficult and complicated this process is, until you are in a relationship with an Indian. It requires a LOT of sensitivity, and timing is also key. Many foreign partners do not understand this process and can get very impatient. It can be the source of a lot of stress in an intercultural relationship - especially for the Indian partner, most of all...

Indian parents are not your average parents. Many are basically helicopter parents - on steroids. Many are typically heavily involved in all their children's life choices - from career, to choice in spouse, and they even meddle in their children's hopes and aspirations. A lot of Indian families have a closeness that Western families do not have - whether it is by living together in joint families, or celebrating one of the many Indian holidays together - a sense of constant "togetherness". However, oftentimes, along with that closeness comes co-dependence and Indian parents can be so involved in their child's life that they can project their own hopes and dreams onto their child - and the child is raised to please, instead of make their own choices first. Duty and obligation to one's family is strived for in traditional Indian families.

With all of these factors, it is no surprise that most of our Indo-intercultural relationships blossom when the Indian partner is living abroad, away from their parents - and is able to be free, away from prying eyes, and able to make their own decisions. 

Lately, via email - I have gotten so many letters for advice from other Whindian couples about how to tell the parents. For this post, I also consulted dear husband-ji & my trusted traditional Telugu MIL. Here are their tips...

Tips for telling the traditional Indian parents:

Timing is key
There is a distinct order of events within traditional Indian families - sisters must be married first, eldest to youngest; then brothers, eldest to youngest (providing they are all of a marriageable age). A marriageable age for an Indian guy is different than an Indian girl. Most Indian girls can get married at any time - the younger, the better, it is thought traditionally. Indian guys are of a marriageable age once they have finished their education and have a steady job. Even if the wife intends to continue working, it is widely thought that the Indian guy must "stand on his own two feet" and be able to financially support his wife. So, before being deemed "marriageable", he'd have to at least be working for a year or so. If your Indian boyfriend is still in school, still financially relying on his family - then it's nearly impossible to tell the parents at that time. The waiting game during this time is hard - but you have no choice. There's a distinct order...

No "love talk"
It is taboo in many traditional Indian families to speak of love, lust, dating, or members of the opposite sex in front of your parents. Traditional Indian elders are very taboo about dating, sexuality, and public displays of affection - especially before marriage. Many elders are extremely uncomfortable with this and they think openly having a girlfriend is "lusty" and distracts the child away from their studies/job. Not openly discussing one's feelings means there is so much that is kept hidden, and secret. 

Secrets are commonplace
Unless something is absolutely certain to happen, people will usually keep it a secret. In Western culture, secrets are seen as being something to be embarrassed of. In traditional Indian culture, it's a norm, because there is so much that cannot be expressed openly. If your Indian boyfriend is keeping you a secret until he finishes his studies, do not feel embarrassed. It may be that he is protecting both you, and him from harassment for the time being. I know from experience - "girlfriend" status (as a foreigner) - can be treated by some as no better than dirt on the road!

Plant the seed first...
The best way to tell Indian parents is to first tell that you have "a foreign friend". That way the parents are alerted of your existence and have their radar up. That way, when you're finally ready to tell the parents that you intend to marry, you can say, "I've known this person for ___ long". Not only that, but it gives traditional parents time to get used to your existence in their child's life. To be kept absolutely secret is not a good thing. Give the parents time to get used to the idea. And FYI...even though many things are not spoken about openly...Indian parents know much more than they let on!

DO NOT just dump it on them
The worst thing you can do is say "I have a girlfriend" and leave it at that. Absolute hell will break out. Watch out for all the emotional blackmail coming your way ("You're the reason why I have high blood pressure" etc.) Once you're financially secure, tell them you "intend to marry" your foreign partner. For many traditional Indian parents, a "girlfriend" means "not committed". It is absolutely crucial with this introduction of a possible foreign spouse - to get off on the right foot. It is every traditional Indian parents worst nightmare to have their child come to them and say, "I'm eloping with my foreign girlfriend tomorrow - are you going to approve or not" Remember, slow and steady wins the race...

Tell the sane practical parent first
In many families, there will be a more practical parent, and a more emotional parent (if you have two emotional parents - you're screwed!) Whichever is the more practical parent - tell them first. Why? Because the emotional parent may go bat-shit crazy and if you can get the practical parent on your side - it can subdue the other parent AND help convince them. Parents should be told one-on-one to prevent them from ganging up on you. Usually if you tell the practical parent first - they will do the difficult job of telling the emotional parent AND dealing with their dramatics. If you think you're going to have a difficult time, then you may need extra allies to help you out. If you have a close sibling or a cousin who is more modern-thinking, they may be able to help convince the parents and/or help diffuse the situation. Whatever you do, DO NOT tell the gossipy family members! If the parents find out from anyone other than you, there's going to be major trouble...

The power of convincing
Once you're ready to tell the parents, you have to be extremely strong and adamant in convincing them. It may even take years to convince them, and you must not give up, ever. Traditional Indian parents may resort to abusive techniques like emotional blackmail or disowning you, out of desperation. Be firm and stand your ground. It's your life, after all - and love is certainly worth fighting for. You have to learn how to convince like a district attorney in the highest courts! Learn what the parents' points of opposition are and work with that. For example, "Western culture has so many divorces" - you can say, "she doesn't believe in divorce", or "her parents have been married for 30 years", etc. 

* I would also add to this list that I have noticed a difference in the way guys / girls are treated. Indian girls are much more protected by their families (choices more controlled) and for some reason, when many tell their parents about their intercultural relationship - their parents think that they are acting out of lust and do not trust their decisions. It is much more difficult if you are an Indian girl, than an Indian guy (most guys can get away with almost anything - that's the way it goes in a patriarchal culture!)

There is not much the foreign partner can do in the initial stages - which can be frustrating. First, there's the waiting game (which feels endless), then there's the initial stages of the parents freaking out (in which you can do nothing but keep your mouth shut), and then slowly (usually after marriage, or with a wedding date set) you can start to build a relationship with the Indian parents. In those initial stages of the parents' being shocked, the only thing you can do is focus on your relationship with your Indian partner because they will be going through a lot with their family. Find comfort in each other during those difficult times and make your relationship stronger. During those initial stages - nothing will help you - not even learning the language, cooking, culture - that will only come in handy in the later stages. 


So, what about you, dear readers? How did you tell your Indian parents and how did it go? What tips can we add to this list for other Whindian couples?


Saturday, October 19, 2013

Mother-in-law to the rescue...!

(Img via)

Last week, I went for my first follow-up appointment at the doctor's post-meningitis. The news was not good. 

"It's going to take 6 weeks to get back to normal; to get your brain functioning again after all that swelling. Take it easy, get lots of rest, avoid too much mental stimulation. Just have no choice but to rest. Don't push it. You've had a brain injury," said the doctor.

Shit!!! 6 WEEKS??? OMG.....I assumed it would be maybe one to two weeks at the most! I mean, really...resting every single day...the days are very long for me...when you can't fill it up with all your normal daily activities.

And the second thing...avoid too much mental stimulation??? Oh effing crap! That's like my favorite thing ever! I am like the freakin' cookie monster of devouring knowledge and expressing myself!

It has been very difficult to read, write, and talk. My brain feels easily overwhelmed at times, out of the blue. I have been practicing my writing every day, but my reading is still slow, and my speaking has been hit the worst. I get easily confused and mixed up when I'm talking. It sort of feels as if my brain is a balloon floating above my head, all over the place. It's been really hard. I pride myself on being a quick witted, deep thinker...and now my brain feels so sluggish.

The news hit me very hard. After the whole hospital ordeal, I made a bucket list of all the things I wanted to do when I'm better - like cooking for husband-ji again, and going to yoga, reading more novels, taking Maya to the park more's all put on hold for now. I have no choice.

Well...I guess if I'm to avoid mental stimulation...I could just watch the Kardashians marathon to pass the time (since that doesn't require too much brain power! LOL!!!)

But...the hardest part of this whole thing - besides my own frustration with feeling "slow" in daily activities - is seeing how this whole ordeal in the hospital, and now in recovery, has affected my loved ones. Sometimes when a family member is having health issues, it is often harder on the loved ones than it is on them. Everyone is a mess. Husband-ji, my parents.....everyone is totally stressed out. It has been stressful on the whole family. It makes me feel bad.

So, what did I do? In tears I phoned up my trusted Indian MIL....and asked her to come and help us. I miss my beloved Amma. Much like myself, she is the emotional rock of my Indian family. She gives so much emotional support - to everyone - and I think all of us would benefit from her presence. And especially for husband-ji (whom my father swears is on the verge of a breakdown) needs his mother here for emotional support.

I wish I would have asked earlier, I remember speaking to MIL on the phone towards the end of the hospital stay, with her asking me if she can come. I said, no, no...I'll be better soon. How stupid of me! I should have asked right then and there, but I didn't want to inconvenience her...and I also didn't realize how long the recovery was going to take. I just thought I'd immediately feel better once I was out of the hospital...which didn't happen...

My MIL is currently in Switzerland helping out my SIL. It was complicated to get her here (to say the least), but we finally just booked the flight. We need the help and the support more than ever, and we have never asked for help before.

We need my beloved MIL... more than ever...

P.S. Expect more recipe posts to come! I'm going to photograph all her cooking & write everything down (as well as probably getting totally - and happily - chubbier!)


Thursday, October 17, 2013

An unfortunate experience with U.S. customs

(Bunny rabbit at the U.S./Canada border, 2010)

Last week, in the middle of my recovery, I realized that I had my appointment for a Nexus card. Unfortunately, I realized that I had the appointment less than a day ahead of time so I couldn't cancel it (in my recovery, I'm often easily confused and forgetful, with no sense of time) and the Nexus appointment was booked 6 months ago, waaaay back in May, before our trip to Venice.

So, since I wasn't feeling well, I really shouldn't have gone...I'm still working on knowing my own limits and pacing myself in the recovery process (note to self: I'm supposed to be resting here!)

Anyone who has ever tried to cross the border to go to the U.S. for shopping knows that many of the officers are absolute dicks. Sorry to say...but it is true. The officers at the airports are reasonable, but the ones at the U.S./Canada border crossings (and apparently the Nexus officers) are total losers who act like being on a power-trip is their only job (and it is...)

Now, why do I want a Nexus card? Well, husband-ji already has one. And we'd like to go once and a while for shopping across the border (cheaper, better selection for baby items) and also visit our relatives in Seattle. We need a Nexus card because our 16 month old daughter can't wait at the border for hours at a time - and having a Nexus card lets you go immediately through in the fast-lane without waiting.

(Bored in the car for 5 hours as we try to cross the border, 2010)

Our previous experiences crossing the border have been nothing short of vile. One time, the officer asked us many unnecessary questions about our relationship and refused to believe that we were engaged at the time (as if I was transporting some "random man/terrorist" across the border). Another time, the border was under major construction, and after we were approved to go across the border, we asked an officer which way was the highway to Seattle - he pointed us in the wrong direction so we would go back to Canada and have to wait an additional 5 hours in line (even though we were already approved!!!). When we realized that he had put us on the wrong road, we started to reverse and try to get on the proper road. Husband-ji accidentally ran over some grass. Immediately, 5 officers surrounded us shouting and threatened us that we would have to re-seed the grass by ourselves - and sent us back into the customs office to personally apologize for damaging their 2 inches of grass.

Yes, ALL this trouble for a few hours of shopping...!!

So, me being practically brain-dead from my meningitis recovery, assumed that the Nexus appointment would be easy...big mistake!

It seemed to go well at first, but then the officer noticed that I had attended college in the U.S. and went in for the jugular...

He said, "It says here that you're still a student in the U.S."

I said, "I've been living in Canada for 5 years, I completed my degree. I'm not a student in the U.S."

He said, "You broke the rules of the I-20 because you didn't inform the INS that you are no longer a student"

I said, "My I-20 expired. Nobody ever told me that I had to inform the INS. I informed my college that I was leaving. Obviously if I moved back to Canada and have been living here - I am no longer a student in the U.S."

He said, "Having the Nexus card is a privilege and it is a privilege to visit the United States. You broke the rules of the I-20 and now there is a note on your file"

I said, "I have visited the U.S. several times since I moved back to Canada, and this is the first that I've ever heard of this."

He said, "I don't believe that no customs officer has ever NOT explained it to you"

And it went on and on like that for about 10 minutes, with the officer talking down to me in a condescending way about how it was too late to inform the INS, how he didn't believe that nobody ever informed me of this, and how it is my fault that I did not read the rules of the I-20.

My brain was hurting. I was feeling overwhelmed. I didn't know if I was being slow from post-meningitis, because this man was really not making any sense. To my dismay, I burst out crying.

I said, "Listen. I JUST want to go shopping!!! I have no desire to ever live in the U.S. again - trust me on that! And to be frank with you, the reason why I thought we had so many problems at the border is because my husband & I are in an interracial relationship!!!"

He looked at me with a blank stare. I couldn't believe I just said that. Shit!!!! I thought. I just opened a can of worms...

"You'll be getting your Nexus card in the mail in 2 weeks," he said calmly.

After I left, I realized the officer was just messing with me (a la Indian government and he intended to give me the card the entire time. 

But major if I want to immigrate to a country with an immature government shutdown (which cost the U.S. economy $24 BILLION) - a place where not even American citizens can afford to go to the doctor!!! AS IF!!! I just want to go shopping at Target for baby clothes, which just so happens to improve the American economy! These customs officers should be performing pranāma on our feet as we cross the border!!!! 


Click HERE to read "Why I will never, ever, go back to the United States" horror story article about problems at the U.S. border crossing.

What about you, dear readers? Have you ever had any unfortunate incidents with U.S. customs, or any other arrogant customs officers (in other countries)?


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Another Tamil Iyengar couple!

One of my Whindian friends shared this with me - and it made my day! It's another Tamil Iyengar couple! WOO HOO! (*happy dance*) Represent!!!
Check out their beautiful traditional Iyengar wedding in Bangalore & their love story!

Swooooon!!!! I'm such a sucker for love stories!!!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving, dear readers! We have so much to be thankful for!

(Thanksgiving 2012)

Look at this picture from last year...Maya baby was only 4 months old! She was so little! And now look at her...

(16 months)

All grown up, very much a little girl....time just flies!!


Saturday, October 12, 2013

The space of recovery

Recovery is a strange process...
It's somewhere in the middle, floating between what you used to be...and the new self that is forming.
It's crossing a river, and looking back...wondering who that person used to you set out on a new path ahead of you. It's the act of "crossing over", literally...

In some ways you are mourning the loss of the old self - like a grieving process - that self who was innocent, who was in control of her life, who had plans and goals - before all of this happened. Before I faced my own mortality, and never saw it coming.

And the new self...a girl who lives in the present moment, who appreciates the little things like a raindrop or a sunset...appreciating the miniscule everyday things, like having water run over my head and the ability to have a shower. Things have never tasted sweeter, but at the same time - life has never been so frightening and impermanent.

Every time I go to bed, I wonder if it's my last moment. What if I wake up again with that headache? What if I pass away, ever so quietly in my sleep? Life is that unpredictable...yes, it is...I am no longer entitled to my own life. The gratefulness of each breath I take weighs heavily on me, with transitory joy. Just to breathe, to stand, to hug my loved ones, to talk, to express a privilege. 

On one end, it's asking why - why me? And on the other end, it's a crippling gratefulness that leaves me on my knees, crying tears of joy for another chance...thanking God, believing in God...

Going through what I did...recognizing my own strength is like meeting a part of my self I didn't even know was there...I didn't know I was that strong. I didn't know that I had the capability of using this unknown reservoir of mental strength to get me through the pain. Like the part of the moon that remains hidden in the darkness, a side that is only called on when you are pushed to a point of no return. Strength becomes prominent when it's your only choice, when having it or not having it is the difference between surviving and you call on it, ever so desperately, like a wolf calls to the moon. And it arrives, like some guardian angel coming down and possessing your body with some otherworldly power. A kind of personal power that is almost beyond human.

Not much can shake me after going through that. Not much can unnerve this quiet strength that has grown inside me, like a small bud sprouting out of the ground...ever so peacefully...without notice to the busy world that swirls all around me.

Yes, recovery is a strange's a space of rebuilding, a space of transition, a space of creation with the skeleton of the old self. It is a passage to another space...and the journey makes all the difference. Passing through - you're not the same person as when you entered...

This is my life, I the mere soul of me, gets remapped and put some wild, organic way. No plans, no stress...just me, standing on the Earth...just recovery...and wondering what kind of person I'll transition to, after all the pieces of me get pulled back together.


Friday, October 11, 2013

Day of the Girl

Today is the International Day of the Girl and it is a very important day for me. I come from a long line of empowered, strong women who live their lives fearlessly and march to the beat of their own drum. We are not victims because we were born women and refuse to behave like one. We do everything a man can do... but ten times better. We are also encouraged by strong male partners who enhance our strength by standing behind us & encouraging our voices, not silencing it. It is very important to instill strength in girls because they will soon grow into strong, empowered women. In my opinion, there can never be enough strong women in this world.

I am privileged to be born a girl. I think it is a great blessing. I am thrilled to have a daughter - and I wish to be blessed with more daughters. I can't wait to send my strong daughters out into the world - fearlessly - and see how they will thrive...

Lately, I have been really inspired by Malala. She is a Pakistani girl who was shot in the head by the Taliban because she spoke out and wanted girls to get an education. She started writing a blog at the age of 11, documenting her life under Taliban rule for BBC and her struggle to promote education for girls. Her father has been her main supporter, as he has encouraged her to be fearless. She is the youngest person to be nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

(Img via)

Malala's amazing interview on Jon Stewart

It is not a woman's job to sit down and shut up. It is a woman's job to create the life she wants for herself & her future generations. Each woman is the all-powerful Durga maa. It is up to us to lead the way and set the tone...for our families and our communities...

Inspiring quotes for women/girls

"A girl should be two things: who and what she wants" - Coco Chanel

“A woman is the full circle. Within her is the power to create, nurture and transform.” - Diane Mariechild

“Woman must not accept; she must challenge. She must not be awed by that which has been built up around her; she must reverence that woman in her which struggles for expression.” - Margaret Sanger

 "Whatever women do they must do twice as well as men to be thought half as good. Luckily, this is not difficult." - Charlotte Whitton

 "I, with a deeper instinct, choose a man who compels my strength, who makes enormous demands on me, who does not doubt my courage or my toughness, who does not believe me naive or innocent, who has the courage to treat me like a woman." - Anaïs Nin

 "I am an example of what is possible when girls from the very beginning of their lives are loved and nurtured by people around them. I was surrounded by extraordinary women in my life who taught me about quiet strength and dignity." - Michelle Obama:

“When we speak we are afraid our words will not be heard or welcomed. But when we are silent, we are still afraid. So it is better to speak.” ~Audre Lorde 

"You are a child of god. Your playing small doesn't serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you." - Marianne Williamson

"As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others." - Marianne Williamson.


Sunday, October 6, 2013

A wonderful birthday

The day after I returned from the hospital, it was my birthday, my 28th birthday. My only birthday wish was to be at home with my family, and out of the I felt lucky. I was still in recovery and feeling weak, so it was a quiet day. I really did not want any gifts at all - because the best gift is the gift of life, health, and being surrounded by loved ones. The best gift is to celebrate life...

That morning, husband-ji woke me up as Maya jumped on our bed. They both gave me big hugs. He surprised me with the most wonderful card and a beautiful bouquet of red roses. The roses were so beautiful, so grand, and smelled so sweet. Each bud so delicate and amazing. He was so happy that I was home. Madhavan always likes to surprise me, and I love it...him looking at me, so proud that he surprised me, with that twinkle in his eye...

Last year for our 7th anniversary I told him to stop getting me gifts - that the only gift I will accept is flowers. Luckily, he never forgot...and I think it is the most wonderful gesture. I don't know what it is about flowers, but it works like a charm with women (men, take note for your wives/girlfriends!)

In his card for my birthday, he said the most meaningful words, which was that I was a good wife and mother. That is my main mission on Earth - as simple as it may be - to be good to my loved ones. To love them as deep as they love me...that is my main goal, and whatever I accomplish other than that is just icing on the cake.

This past year, I had thought 28 seemed so old...until last week in the hospital. Now, I feel like it is so young... Even though I felt weak on my birthday, I felt alive. I felt better than the day before. I got out of the hospital. I survived. I felt hopeful...and grateful for each moment.

And so grateful that my love story with my beloved husband-ji is full steam ahead....


Friday, October 4, 2013

Where have I been?

(Day 6 in the hospital, September 2013)

"You could have died," said the doctor.

My whole world stopped.


Did he actually just say that? But...I'm 27 years old...I have a young daughter...there are things I want to do...I've been making an effort to take care of myself more...I'm a stay at home mother!

HOW could this have happened? WHY did this happen? Why me???

"You're very unlucky to have caught this," the doctor said. "But you're also very lucky to have survived"...

My heart felt heavy with gratefulness...I hated that it happened to me, but I also felt glad to have a second chance. A double-edged sword...

It's funny how life happens, sometimes. Just when you think you've got it all figured blindsides you and knocks you over. For no apparent reason, other than "everything happens for a reason"... although what is that reason, really?

Could I have predicted this? No.

Could I have prevented this? No.

Do I really have control over my own life? No. It is all an illusion...


(My view, on a rainy, stormy night)

Let's start from the beginning...

On Monday, September 23rd, I awoke at 6am with a splitting headache (and I don't get headaches). It felt like somebody was hammering the back of my neck. I couldn't sleep. I couldn't think. I took an Advil - it didn't work. Within hours, I couldn't move my neck, couldn't open my eyes, couldn't handle any sounds, felt nauseous, couldn't walk headache was raging on...more painful than natural childbirth. It literally felt like a baby was coming out of the back of my neck.

Husband-ji came home from work to take care of Maya. My mother drove me to the hospital. It was all a blur. I remember them asking me questions...What day is it? What month is it? I just cried...I didn't know... They poked and prodded me, jabbing me with the IV. Jabbing me to get blood. This is hard, the nurse said. Your veins are too small.

The doctor came. Students crowded around him. Meningitis...meningitis...they all whispered. A brain scan followed. The doctor said he had to do a "spinal tap". That's the only way we will know if it is Meningitis or not, he said. I cringed. I never even had an epidural during my childbirth. It sounded like it was going to hurt. The doctor bent me over. Don't move, he said. My head was hurting so much that I didn't even notice they were sticking a needle into my spine. They had to puncture my spine 5 times. The third sample they got was cloudy. Meningitis...they said.

They put me on antibiotics and morphine. It was all a blur. They transferred me to the larger hospital. We can't deal with this here, they said. She needs acute care...

Is this really happening....??? Is it all a bad dream?

For two days, I lay in a dark, windowless room, with the door always shut in the emergency ward. My head stopped hurting - after how many days I don't know, but there was a constant burning in my arm from the IV antibiotics. I had no sense of time. Nurses came in and out of the room wearing full body cloaks, masks, gloves. I didn't know who anybody was. I didn't know which one was a doctor or a nurse...they were all these faceless yellow figures... My back hurt from the spinal puncture. Don't move around too much...we punctured your spine... The walls were too thick, I couldn't get cell phone reception. I was in so much pain. I needed husband-ji to talk me through this...Is this hell?

After 48 hours of being on the antibiotics, they moved me up to Acute care on the 10th floor. My own room with a view...oh, how I missed the view. The nurses finally took off their gloves and masks...they left the door open. We had to make sure it wasn't airborne, they said. I finally got to see their faces. I just cried and cried. 

Seeing people's faces, having a window to the outside many things I took for granted. All the little things meant so much...small victories...

The doctor came. We got the results from your spinal tap, he said. It's bacterial meningitis. Two out of ten people die from this. You could have died had you not gone to the hospital. You have an unknown strain that we've never seen before. It looks like it wasn't contagious. You have to stay here until we finish the recommended dose of antibiotics. It has to kill the bacteria.

I looked out the window. I couldn't think. I was in shock...

The IV sites on my arms kept failing. They had to bring in special IV expert nurses, and even they had trouble finding the veins. They had to take blood from my foot every day because my arms were too messed up. The antibiotics were too strong. They diluted the antibiotics as much as possible, it still felt like a cigarette burn on my arm. I was given this painful (but life-saving) antibiotic 3 times a day, for 3 hours at a time. It hurt so much. I was overwhelmed with pain. Every drip seemed to last forever. 3 hours felt like 3 years. My brain just shut down...pain, pain, pain...I couldn't think.

My baby, I cried. I miss my baby. I can't do this. I can't be away from her. I miss her so much. I miss her. I miss her...

Husband-ji stayed home with her because he was the only one who knew how to take care of her all day (prior to this, my parents had only ever babysat her for 4 hours). My mother stayed with me at the hospital, sleeping on the floor next to me. 

After 4 days, I finally got to see him. He put the baby to bed and my mother went to our apartment to supervise. He embraced me. I just started to cry...the smell of his skin...reminded me of life before all this. He held me for 2 hours before he had to go back. It all felt so limited. Our time felt limited...we are still so young, I thought.

(My view of the city, the sunset...and the room my grandfather died in 5 years prior...)

They moved me up to the 14th floor one night. The dreaded 14th floor. My grandfather died on that floor. I had the same view as he had when he died. I saw his room from my window. That room which I spent 10 days in. The room where I last saw him alive, 5 years ago. The room where I saw his dead body. 

I had to share a room with a man. They said my mother couldn't spend the night anymore. I was petrified. How can I sleep with some strange man in the room? I cried and cried. I just looked out the window at the city lights.

Day by day, I felt weaker and weaker. The antibiotics were taking it's toll on my body. I learned to cope with the constant pain. Being away from my family was taking it's toll on my mental health. I was just crying, all the time. I didn't know how to process all of this...why did this happen? What does it all mean? How am I supposed to live going forward, knowing that my life was almost taken away from suddenly...and without warning? What will this change? How can I be normal after this?

It was so sudden, there was no is so impermanent...

(9 ships in English Bay)

All I did was look out the window at the city. The sun rising and setting. Lights turning on and off in the apartment buildings. The cars going over the bridge to downtown. The boats in the bay. The fog rolling down the mountains.

That's the world out there....I thought. It seems so calm out there... I thought of all the people driving with road rage. Getting mad about this and that. Stress. None of it all matters...they don't know how lucky they are...

I learned to meditate through the pain. I missed Maya so much, but I didn't want her to see me like that. And I missed him so much. Our love story's not can't be over...I'm supposed to grow old with him... When your life is almost taken from you, you learn how precious life actually is... I can't leave them...I love them...I have so much to teach Maya still...there are so many things I want to do...

I was on the last available vein in my arm. All the other sites had failed. I was just praying that it would last until my last dose of antibiotics. I know it was medicine, but it felt like poison going into my body. My arm was swelling. Both arms were bruised on back and front. I couldn't bend either arm.

After 7 days in the hospital, the doctor came and said, You can go home now...


To be continued....

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