Friday, November 28, 2014

Picking out our Christmas Card

One of my favorite activities for Christmas season is picking out our annual Christmas card. I usually like to do a special photoshoot (since Maya grows so fast, I want her picture to be recent), but this year we were lazy we had way too much going on.

I decided to use some of the pictures from our Venice trip, since they were just so fabulous. My dad was secretly thrilled to be the photographer!

My top sites for Christmas cards are Minted, Tiny Prints, and Pinhole Press - they have gorgeous layouts. I picked three different ones, but we ended up going with this one:

This year, I ordered 100 cards and completely ran out. I could have used 125! I like to send my Christmas card to every friggin' body...LOL...

These ones were also nice but they didn't make the cut:

(from Tiny Prints)

(from Tiny prints)

With an active toddler, it is so hard to get a picture where everyone is looking at the camera!


Monday, November 24, 2014

Recipe: Spicy Masala Chai

My day isn't complete without a nice spicy cup of Masala Chai in the afternoon. I literally look forward to it ALL day! This type of Masala Chai is only served in the Northern Indian region. The Southern Indian Chai is typically simpler. I like to make this with whole milk to give it more of a rich taste, but it can also be done with half milk, half water. In Ayurvedic studies, drinking a daily cup of Masala Chai has many known health benefits. It helps fight fatigue, boosts metabolism, and is good for digestion. In fact, it is said that many Olympic athletes have a cup after a grueling training session (Quick...somebody open a chai stall at the next Olympics!)

Madh Mama's Spicy Masala Chai

(Serves 1)


- 1.5 cups of whole milk
- 1.5 tbsp loose Indian tea powder (I like Taj Mahal brand)
- 2 cardamom (crushed)
- 2 peppercorn (crushed)
- 1 inch ginger (crushed)
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 2 cloves
- sugar to taste (usually 1 tsp/person)


- small pot
- mortar & pestle
- tea strainer


Measure out the milk in the mugs that you will use.

Turn the heat on high in the pan and pour in the milk.

Crush the cardamom, peppercorns, and ginger in a mortar & pestle.

Add ALL the ingredients & crushed spices to the milk.

Watch the milk boil and brown until the milk turns a medium beige color.

Strain the tea into your cup....and voila!


Friday, November 21, 2014

Being the "invisibly visible" Bahu

Being married into an Indian family & being married to the culture has lots of ups and downs. Part of the dichotomy that many foreign women experience is being extremely VISIBLE and extremely INVISIBLE, simultaneously. There is no in between.

At times, it is nice to be the foreigner. You have the added perspective of seeing things from the outside in. You learn so much about a different country and it's many cultures within. An added bonus is that you get to opt out of certain traditions as well as ridiculous family drama by playing "the foreigner card".

At other times, it is harder. When you don't understand certain things and there is a lot that is not properly explained to you, when there is SO much expected of you. It is hard when nobody speaks directly to you, instead they speak to the Indian who brought you into the family. It is hard when people constantly pick you apart and talk about you when you're right in front of them. When they comment on your dress, appearance, your movements, what you're eating, and your facial expressions. At times, I feel as if I'm the lone fish in an aquarium. Sometimes I wish I could shed my skin color completely, because so many people can't see past it. Either I am haggled, exoticised, or treated like a breakable porcelain doll.

In my experience with my husband's family & the process of attempting to blend into such a strong and dominant culture, I often find myself feeling either very visible or completely invisible. (In true Indian fashion, it is either/or!)

Sometimes, I stick out like a sore thumb. Sometimes every move I make or every freckle on my face is dissected or put under a microscope. The younger women in the family are very aware of this and make it worse by teasing me or openly criticizing me.

Other times, I am completely invisible. I am not spoken to for hours at a time. I am left out of conversations. Nobody bothers to translate anything for me, so I am left to eavesdrop and many of the conversations are about me. My opinion (because I'm foreign I am apparently not allowed to have any insights) does not matter. Not only being a woman, but a foreign woman. 

What would she know about anything? 

In India itself, it is more noticeable and extreme. Every eye is following my every move, yet I am not spoken to. Any question is asked about me to my husband, who is practically my gatekeeper. What would SHE like to drink? How is SHE doing?

Being simultaneously visible and invisible creates a strange isolating experience that acts like a glass shell around you. It can take years to break out of this shell with no opening.


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The mixed Indian husband

One of the things that my readers may not know about us is that husband-ji has a mixed Indian heritage. Although my tagline for this blog is about being a Tamil Iyengar wife (based on the religious customs that we do) - husband-ji is actually Tamil AND Telugu.

Even now in India, inter-caste and inter-state marriages are a rarity. It is starting to happen more and more nowadays, but it is still a minority. The majority of Indians prefer that their children marry people from the same region and caste, since each are all wildly different in their customs. So, back in the 1970s when my inlaws met, it was still very much taboo.

It all started when a young handsome Tamil man moved to Guntur, Andhra Pradesh for work. He lived next to a big house in which the family had 4 daughters. The eldest of those daughters was a gorgeous and smart girl - my MIL - who surely caught his eye...

In true Indian fashion, everything is STILL shrouded in secrecy. When I ask my MIL how she fell in love, she barks "no details!!!!", and "I can't remember!!!", although she has told me the story - more or less - in fragments...

From what I gather they dated for about 6 months before deciding to get married. My FIL then went to ask for her hand in marriage and her parents threw all kinds of typical emotional blackmail. Her mother threatened to kill herself. Her father told her never to come back to their house. Meanwhile, her grandmother (clearly being the wise woman) loved my FIL. However, her family refused to attend the wedding and pretended she was dead. Later, they came around, but always kept their distance. Then, my Telugu MIL had to go and stay with her new inlaws after marriage, who were Tamil and she couldn't understand their language or any of their customs. She was under enormous pressure to make her inlaws like her because she was not the DIL they had wanted, to which they constantly reminded her of. She was told she was "too dark" constantly. There are people on both sides of their respective families who STILL don't approve of their match, who whisper and gossip about how others should never do what they did. 35 years later, still...

(My inlaws on their wedding day)

Husband-ji grew up caught in the middle of two families, being a true symbol of two South Indian states united, yet found comfort in neither. He was too Telugu for the Tamilians; too Tamil for the Telugus. And of course, husband-ji chose to marry completely outside of his culture by marrying me...a Firangi. And again, my inlaws were blamed for what they did, how they started "the cycle" (of freedom??) while all the others were kept on an even tighter leash, as if we were tigers devouring each one of them with our "bad influence".

Hence, husband-ji is a mixed Indian man. He is both Tamil and Telugu. Although he was raised in a Tamil house, he was raised by a Telugu mother. I have often assumed that husband-ji identifies as Tamil more, but he says he is both equally, not one more than the other.

One of the things I am truly confident about in raising a mixed child is that my husband is also of mixed heritage. Just like we celebrate Christmas and Diwali, he celebrated Ugadi and Puthandu growing up. With him being a mixed Indian, he obtained a social freedom wherein he mingled with many different groups of people. Not just Tamils or Telugus; but Punjabi's, Pakistanis, Malayalees, Bengalis, Gujarati's....etc. He has so many friends from different states that he is able to speak 7 different Indian languages. He fits in wherever he goes...

And that is exactly what I hope for our daughter. I hope that just like him, she can be friends with all kinds of people....


Dear readers, do you know people who are mixed Indian with the heritage of 2 states?


Sunday, November 16, 2014

Ask Firangi Bahu: "Will moving in with my Indian boyfriend hurt my chances of being accepted?"

Sharing a letter from a reader...


I stumbled on your blog as a westerner dating a Muslim Desi man. We are both late 20's. We have been in a long distance relationship for nearly a year. Marriage has been brought up. We are both very much in love. 

His parents have no idea that he's dating anyone. This slightly bothers me because it does make me feel like he's ashamed of me but I know from your blog and elsewhere, that it's mostly cultural. He does not have a stable job yet. I know it would not go over well. He's trying to better himself and I'm trying to move passed the secrecy and am not pressuring him to announce me (even though it does make me sad). I am trying to think long term. 

This said, he has asked me to move in with him. I would love to. My question is this though: how much do you think this will hurt my future chances to be an accepted DIL? I'd prefer not to hide anytime they come to visit, which is not often currently but still. I am thinking to tell him that I will relocate to his city but out of respect for his family that I will live alone until he is ready to tell them. Or does that sound like an ultimatum, which I am truly not trying to impose upon him. Monetarily it would make most sense for me to live with him but I really don't want to start off on the wrong foot if it would be irreparable..."

What advice can we give to our fellow masala reader?
Did you live with your Indian partner before marriage?
 Did it help/hurt your relationship with your future inlaws?

Please comment below....


Friday, November 14, 2014

My artwork - Hindu God series

In my early days of discovering husband-ji's culture and getting to know more of Hinduism, I was heavily influenced by (Hindu) religious art work. I love to read the epic myths of the Mahabharata & the Upanishads, but even more than that - I love the visual depictions of these tales.

During this time of in between trips to India, I had developed an obsession for Hindu iconography, which I did a series of in one of my final painting classes. One of the things I was inspired by was husband-ji's thatha painted one of these every single day. So, I in turn was inspired.... 

I explored doing miniature portraits of Hindu Gods, which turned out to be quite a difficult project. I had never done something so incredibly detailed before and it made me have an even greater respect for such artists.

As always, seeing Maya do her artwork has been a big inspiration for me, so much so that I hope to continue to do more illustrations after the New Year.

Here is some from my series:




Krishna & the Snake

Prayer to Shiva

These are currently available for sale on my Society6 page as art prints, stationary cards, and smartphone covers.


Dear readers, which one is your favorite?


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Tips for traveling with a toddler on an airplane

Every parent wants to be able to travel to exotic destinations with their child to show them the world - but many times it is not so easy. Traveling with a child, no matter how small or big, means you'll be on alert for the entire ride. You'll have more baggage, and more stress since you're on the child's schedule. And if the child has a tough flight, so will you! If the child has jet lag, so will you! As a parent, air travel can be extremely stressful because you have no idea how it will go. 

This Summer, we got a chance to travel with Maya for a long stretch of time (12-14 hours) on our trip to Venice, Italy. This was our first big trip in a whole year, since our previous trip to Italy when Maya was 11 months old (which was an absolute nightmare). This year she was much easier to travel with because she is using the toilet, had her own seat, eating our food, and is addicted to cartoons (thank god!!!) Plus, she was more aware of everything and speaks kiddie English now!

Here are some helpful tips to make your air travel with toddlers stress free:

What would parents do without it? Load a variety of cartoons and games on it to keep your little one occupied. My daughter was thrilled to finally be able to watch a Dora marathon for 6 hours! (Note: bring an extra battery charger)

Extra diapers and wipes
Wipes are handy for everything - washing hands on the go, wiping mouths, cleaning spills - bring extra. Also bring extra of diapers, since you usually can't get them at the gate. Better to be safe than sorry!

Plastic/paper bag
On one of the flights, Maya vomited after eating too many french fries. Good thing I had packed a small all-purpose bag! 

Snacks at the gate
One of the things we did was purchased snacks she likes at a convenience store in front of the gate, so that way we just brought it on the flight in a plastic bag and didn't have to lug it through security.

A few small books
I am always searching for travel size books, and the Ant & Bee series' is perfect for that. They are miniature but the stories are quite long. If you do story time before bed, it is a good bet.

Attachment item
Maya is very attached to her stuffed animals, so I made sure to bring two miniature sized animals for my bag (just in case one got lost). I also put another in my suitcase so she had something from home.

Concentration Toy
It is very difficult to get toddlers to concentrate - they totally have ADD! I like to pack a small complicated toy that they can work hard at figuring out - it bides you time when you need it! I love these Melissa & Doug Lace & Trace Pets. (Note: Don't bring too many toys!)

(Img via)

Sticker book
If the concentration toy fails, you need a back up for those tricky take-off and landing times. I love sticker/coloring books from Usborne Publishing. I whip it out any time I need to keep my daughter occupied for 45 minutes, and a break from screen time.

A scarf/blanket
For overnight flights I like to bring a extra large cashmere shawl that can double as a scarf or a child's blanket. They are just so warm!

Usually flights will give your child under age 2 a free ticket if they sit on your lap. This is not a good idea, since there is literally no room beside you and the front seat. Airlines will sell you a separate seat for a reduced fare - and trust me, it is worth it!

Bring the stroller
Airports have A LOT of walking and long halls - which is great for when your child is awake and you can tire them out. But if they're sleeping, it is absolute torture for you to carry them as well as your bags. At toddler age, they are not exactly little anymore! Forget the baby carrier and bring the stroller! 30lbs + is way too much to carry...

So many parents avoid traveling with their children, but it really is worth a try - at least for adventure's sake! And the memories you bring back will be really fun, and so worth it!


Monday, November 10, 2014

Recipe: Garlic Dal Tadka

This is one of my favorite dal recipes because it has a great kick of garlic and spice. This is a very healthy recipe that uses minimum oil and maximum flavor. The lentils give it a huge protein kick, and garlic has so many hidden nutritional benefits. I particularly love this recipe when I am sick - it's like an Indian comfort food that is good for the body and soul. Eating garlic regularly can help reduce colds by 63%, and if you are already sick, it minimizes the severity of the common cold. Not to mention - much like turmeric - garlic can help prevent Alzheimer's disease.

Madh Mama's Garlic Dal Tadka

Serves 4-6 people


- 1 cup toor dal
- 1 head of garlic, crushed
- 1 red onion
- 3 tbsp sunflower oil
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
- 1 tbsp mustard seeds
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 sprig of fresh curry leaves
- 2 red chillies (ripped up)
- 1/2 cup fresh coriander (to garnish)

- garlic crusher
- pressure cooker
- large saute pan


Wash the dal and put it in the pressure cooker with 2 cups of water, salt and turmeric.

Pressure cook it for 3-5 long whistles.

Take the pressure cooker off the heat and keep it aside so it cools down (about 20 mins).

Chop the onion and keep aside. Crush the garlic and keep aside.

After the pressure cooker has cooled down, open it up and place it on medium heat and add 2 cups of water and stir. Mash the dal and let it boil.

Take another pan and heat up the oil for the seasoning on medium heat.

Throw in the mustard seeds, and when they start to crackle, add the red chillies and cumin.

When the cumin starts to brown, add the chopped onions.

Let the onions cook halfway and then add the crushed garlic and curry leaves. Be careful that the garlic does not burn.

After a few minutes, add this mixture to the boiling dal. Keep it boiling for an additional 5 minutes.

Before serving, stir in fresh coriander.

And voila!

This dal goes well with roti/rice, and it goes along beautifully with Aloo Jeera.


Friday, November 7, 2014

Sarees look better with curves

One of the things I keep coming across in the Firangi Bahu community is "EEKS! My body is not saree ready!!! I don't like showing my stomach!" to which {insert eyeroll} I am continually flabbergasted. 



1) The great thing about the saree is it's versatility. You can choose how much to reveal. You can reveal your whole stomach, or nothing at all. I personally never reveal my stomach and love wearing the saree. There is no "one way" to wear the saree!

2) The saree looks better on curvy women. If you have to hide your body, why not drape it in 6 yards of colorful, embroidered gorgeousness? DUH!!! There are lots of fat Indian aunties who wear the saree and look fabulous.

3) The saree is ONE SIZE. Instead of going to a depressing department store to find a dress in your size, why not opt for a saree? It is something you will have for life and it will adjust to your body as your size changes through the years. I think it is a better investment to purchase a saree than it is a fitted dress.


I have never been skinny. I have always had boobs and a bum. And now that I've had a child, I still look pregnant my tummy has been totally expanded and refuses to go down. And yet, I wear the saree and I feel my most confident when I have it on. I can't wait for the next chance to wear it. I personally think the way the saree is draped is incredibly flattering to a woman's body. In fact, I think it makes me look 10lbs thinner!

So ladies, your "bod" does not have to be "bikini ready" to look great in a saree! Take it from me! 
{pssst! It's all in your head! YOU LOOK GREAT!!!}


Thursday, November 6, 2014

My article on intercultural marriage (plus tips!)

Last month I was thrilled to announce that I was going to be featured in Complete Wellbeing magazine (India) in the October 2014 issue.

Now that I have gotten the issue in my hand, I am excited to share my article! It will also be available online soon, in the next few months. Getting the copy in my hand and seeing my photo in the author picture was a big OMG! moment!

Here it is...


Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Children take care of us

Recently I met up with an old friend from high school at a local cafe to catch up. I hadn't seen him in 11 years since we graduated. He is unmarried and traveling the world. Our conversation turned to parenting, and he marveled at how many people our age are starting to have kids. He was playing with Maya, when I remarked that he was good with kids and that he'd be a great dad someday. He said, "yea...but then I'd have to take care of them, that would suck..." I nodded, knowing all too well how hard parenthood is.

I thought about it later, and what he said stuck with me. As we all know, taking care of a child is no easy task. It is 24/7. From cleaning, to changing, to feeding, to playing, to sleeping, it is non-stop in a way that there is NO time for anything else. I mean, there isn't any time to use the washroom on any given day. Raising a child is not for the faint of heart. Raising them physically, emotionally and spiritually is a heavy task full of trials and errors. Parenting is a lifetime commitment to be there for your child - not just when they are little, but when they are adult too.

But then I thought, as much as we take care of our children....
they also take care of us...

Since we had our daughter, we have had numerous crises, involving personal health problems, familial turmoil, work stresses, average marital problems, my dads cancer, and the death of two most beloved relatives: a matriarch and a patriarch in both our respective families. And we survived intact solely because of our daughter. Everyday we had to wake up and take care of her, and in taking care of her, we were brought back to what's important. Her daily routine comforted us. No matter what was happening, we knew that she would eat at a certain time and go to bed at a certain time, what park to take her to, what stories she liked to hear. Her routine comforted us, enough to heal ourselves as two halves of a whole marriage. We healed much faster than if she wasn't there. We weren't allowed to fight too much, or fall into a depression, because we had a kid to raise. We literally didn't have TIME to be depressed, and we weren't going to make the time for it either. We are guided by the fact that we need to keep ourselves emotionally healthy because even the littlest thing effects her. Not only that, but seeing her grow up everyday - whether it was eating her first carrot, taking her first step, or saying her first word - filled us with a deep happiness that only a parent can delight in. This deep-seeded happiness we get from watching her grow up is like an invisible barrier that any negative thing bounces off.

The truth is, I wasn't entirely ready to have my daughter. Is anybody ever ready, anyway? But through parenting her, I was forced to step up to the plate in every area of my life out of the purity of love that I have for her. The experiences that I have with her make me feel like I am continually growing - that she is teaching me more about life than I ever learned in all the years before her.

Sometimes, when I am deep in thought, my daughter comes up to me and grabs my face forcefully, looks me dead in the eye, and says "Look mommy..." Then she points up and says seriously, "the clouds are in the sky!" I smile at her and give her a kiss. For as much as I take care of her, she unknowingly takes care of me tenfold. No matter how hard the day has been, when I see her, it all just melts away. It is like reaching an elevated clearing. Everything is clearer in life. It is purer. I am more motivated. I feel like I can do anything. Everything is done with intention. I am careful with my time. I have become more patient and forgiving. And I know what's important: me and him and her. That's where it's at...

Someday when she grows up, I will tell her how much she took care of me, and how much she raised me...


Monday, November 3, 2014

Our Halloween 2014

This year, we had quite an unexpected Halloween that turned out to be quite fun!

We had originally planned to dress Maya as a lion, since that is what costume she picked out....but then my fickle two-year-old entered a phase where she refused to wear anything on her head. No hat, no hood - nothing on her beautiful hair! So we found out pretty fast that she was totally going to nix the lion costume since it had a big headdress. So I had to scramble to figure out what she was going to wear that did not involve a hat. Ironically, the majority of children's costumes have some kind of hat or head piece involved.

Last minute, I decided that she could be a black cat and that I could cut the ears from black construction paper and fasten them on with a hair clip (since she is okay with hair clips....totally picky, I tell you!) The black cat costume turned out to be very easy and simple. I dressed her in black pants and a black leotard - which she already had in her closet! I made the ears myself out of construction paper that I already had in the house, and the only thing that I had to purchase was the black face paint (which I actually could have used my own black kohl eyeliner!) And ta cat!

Maya woke up on Halloween morning in one of her moods (just like Daddy!) So we tried to dress her like stealth pilots so she wouldn't know that she was wearing a costume. But then, I had to do the face paint, which she did not like. I got one half done before she realized what I was doing and totally messed up the other half! Oh well...

We took a quick picture before I had to take her to her weekly dance class, which was basically like a costume party that day. At the dance building, I took her to the bathroom and showed herself in the mirror that she was wearing a costume. She saw herself in the mirror and was perplexed, and then felt really shy. Then, we joined our dance class and she saw that everyone was dressed up, and she got really into it. I was wondering if she understood that she was a cat, but then she started doing all these cat-like movements in the dance class.

After the class was over, she had a tantrum and said she "didn't want to be a black cat", so then I took the costume and face paint off. She fell asleep after lunch because she was tired from the dance class, and while she was sleeping, I quietly painted her cat face paint on again, perfectly!

In the evening, we went to my parents' house and went trick-or-treating around there. There were tons of kids in that area so it was really fun, and so many kids were wearing homemade costumes!

Once we got into the rhythm of trick-or-treating, Maya finally understood what Halloween was about. She would rush up to the houses and knock for the candy and she was so happy! Afterwards, we went back home and she donated all her candy to my mother, and then she rushed back to the front door and said that she wanted "to go get more candy!!!" So literally, we were out for about 4 hours and it was the most fun evening ever....

This year was really the first time that Maya understood what Halloween was and it just clicked. Not only Maya, but I felt that husband-ji understood Halloween better as well, from a child's point of view. We have always handed out candies every year, but he doesn't have the same memories I do of how fun it is to go to each house and basically run wild for the night. Husband-ji started off the night being his usual grumpy self and he only wanted to take Maya to one house. But then once he saw how much fun she was having, he got really into it! Literally we were the only parents chaperoning that were not dressed up at all! There was an Indian dad on our same route and he was wearing a chicken costume, so I poked fun at husband-ji and asked him what he was going to be next year....hahaha!

For me, Halloween brings back so many fun memories of when I was little. It is the one time of the year where the city's children own the streets and can run wild. It is very safe, as there are so many children and their parents' out, roaming about. And it also has a nice community feel where you actually get to go meet your neighbours! I also love the creativity about it - from decorating the house to the costume ideas. 

And plus, I can't wait until next year....maybe I'll even dress up! And...I totally want my MIL to come experience it! She would absolutely love it!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
© Madh Mama. All rights reserved.