Category Archives: ethnic

Aloha and Mahalo to our 50th State – Hawaii

IMG_8468We had an amazing opportunity to travel southwest to our 50th State and visit paradise – Hawai’i.  The Hawaiian Islands are beautiful, tropical, and just a quick trip away from Denver.  The beauty is beyond anything I have experienced anywhere on the mainland – even California, with all its beauty, mountains and ocean, doesn’t compare.

Diamondhead
Diamondhead – at Waikiki

The clear blue waters and sky of Hawaii have a beauty unlike any other State in the union.  Here, I share some tips, some places to stay near, and what to do but keep in mind in our 5 days, and 5 nights there, we only stayed on the island of Oahu.

Flying in and out of Honolulu (HNL) was just fine – it is cheaper than flying elsewhere, and renting a car at HNL is cheaper because of the competition.  I still think CostcoTravel has the cheapest rental cars if you are an executive member.  The only non-stop flights from Denver are with United Airlines direct into HNL.  All other airlines connect but if you don’t mind the extra travel time, you can get airline rates as cheap as $549-ish on US IMG_8485Airways or United connecting in Phoenix, SFO, LAX, or other such places.  You can book Hawaiian Airlines out of Seattle or LAX as low as $450 but will have to get there from Denver.  The direct, non-stop flights run from $680 to $750 depends on when you buy and when you go.   The return flights are tougher because you either have to depart first thing in the morning out of HNL or take the red-eye back to Denver.  Red-eye flights look great on paper, but in reality, are horrible.  Kids do sleep but they kick you, each other, and generally, it is uncomfortable for you, not the kiddos.

Sunset at Waikiki
Sunset at Waikiki

On Oahu, these are the must see/do things:  Waikiki Beach- First, you simply must hang out on Waikiki Beach.  It is a commercial, tourist trap with expensive shops and the look and feel of Newport Beach but it is not.  The waters are so clear you can snorkel right near the shore and still see fish!  It is clear blue water, perfect sand, and you can grab a bite to eat for a reasonable fare along the coast.  We stayed at the Hale Koa Hotel but only eligible military may stay here.  The Hilton Hawaiian Village right next door on the beach to the Hale Koa is a

Picture of Waikiki from atop Diamond Head crater
Picture of Waikiki from atop Diamond Head crater

perfect alternative- check prices and using points or miles here will be a high rate.  Hilton Waikiki is right up the road too!  Check hotel prices, but staying close to the beach is so worth it!  KOA services on the beach is great for renting umbrellas, paddleboards, snorkel gear, and fun boats.  Military get half price on almost all of these rentals.  It is a great deal so bring your ID card.  At Waikiki, you can get great pics of Diamond Head, and the sunset.  Waikiki Beach is on the South Shore and the sunsets over the Pacific here.  We had an oceanfront view at the Hale Koa, and were able to get some great pictures of the sunset.

IMG_8564Diamond Head State Park-   You simply must hike up the Diamond Head.  You can see the views of the entire island from here.  Diamond Head is a crater, and when you get to the top you can see the crater, and the shores of the east coast, and all of Waikiki Beach and Pearl Harbor.  It is simply the most breath-taking view you can imagine!  The hike up is treacherous, but get a trail map because a year ago, they opened a ramp so you can avoid the 99 steps and only have to climb about 10 of them.  Know where to detour for this, so you can avoid the insane steps.

Sunrise over Pacific from Diamond Head
Sunrise over Pacific from Diamond Head

It’s an alternate route up but the entire hike is about 1.2 miles up, and takes 30 minutes to the top, and one hour round-trip.  The sun rising over the Pacific is a sight to see because you can never see that from the mainland.  My husband ran from Diamond Head (the base) to the hotel in Waikiki and it is about 5.5 miles so be aware of that, but a beautiful, scenic run along the beach and shore.  Parking is $5.00 at the beginning of the trail head and worth it.  There is no other entry fee.  For food, and drink, a food truck is parked at the base, and they sell yummy fresh pineapple, water, and snow cones and it is good stuff!  You will need it after the long round-trip, or on the way up.  Also, restrooms are at the base, but nothing at the top or along the way.

IMG_8554Hanauma Bay Snorkeling- You simply must head to Hanauma Bay and see the beautiful coral reef, the beautiful clear blue waters, and snorkel (you can even snorkel near the shore) and see the fish, turtles, and other wild life.   The coral is beautiful to see too.  The water is clear (not foggy at all).  In fact, my kids who were with us saw fish without snorkeling gear.  You do not need it at all.  Walk slowly, and keep still and you can see your own feet and all the sea creatures you wish for.  Hanauma Bay is very kid-friendly, and the water is calm and clear.  It is hot and sunny here so do get a shaded spot if you can, or bring an umbrella.  IMG_8543Don’t forget sunblock and a hat.  Also, military get in free with their active I.D. but all dependents need their IDs as well so remember that.  They are not kind to military dependents who forgot their ID, even if the active member vouches for their spouses.  The parking is $1.00 and the entry fee is $7.50 and kids under 10 are free.  You have to watch a video to enter, and sign your name on the list so you can return without watching it again.

IMG_8679Polynesian Cultural Center- I thought we’d get a Lei off the plane but they don’t do that anymore, and the Leis will cost you now.  So, if you want to see some Hawaiian or Polynesian Culture, head northeast to the Polynesian Cultural Center, to see some dancing, ukulele playing, and you can take lessons too!  There are workshops and shows to attend, and kids activities.  You can spend at least 3-4 hours here if not more.  The tickets are cheapest if you get them from ITT/MWR (for military- available at all the local bases), or try to find a deal on-line if you are not military.  Regular admission tickets are $39.00 and that does not include the shows or the luau at night.  That generally will run you $94 per person for the entire package deal. The canoe parade with all the festive colors, dancing, and cultural explanations are beyond

Canoe Parade
Canoe Parade

ITT or MWR on bases sell the Polynesian Cultural Center tickets for $15 per person (over age 5- kids under 6 are free).  This is a screaming deal!  Honestly, if you want to do a Luau, try the one at the Hale Koa on Waikiki- I have heard great things.  Kids under 12 are free, and adults are $49.50 all inclusive.  We did not do a luau because I do not eat meat or fish, and luaus are set menus.  But I hear the experience is worth it.  Honestly, after visiting the Polynesian Cultural Center, I feel I received a lot of culture and experienced it all in one place.  IMG_8670All in all, I didn’t feel I was experiencing any island culture until we hit the Polynesian Cultural Center.

Dole plantation & North Shore Beaches– Dole plantation is a tourist trap, overpriced, and ridiculous but you still have to go there and do it but just be aware of what NOT to do whilst there.  So, there is a corn maze, a train ride, and a plantation tour that you have to pay for.  I recommend picking one.  It is expensive even with the military discount.  The train ride is bogus- we did it for the kids and wish we could get that hour of our lives back.  Sadly, we cannot. IMG_8591 I recommend heading there, eating the dole whip (not the one with topping) and the corn (outside the visitor’s center) which is the yummiest thing ever, watching the pineapple cutting demonstration, walking the grounds, and then heading out to the north shore for food and beach fun.  The corn maze, I hear, is fun for kids, but again, I recommend only doing one paid activity.  The kids really enjoyed the dole whip as did we.  IMG_8582Sometimes they run specials on the souvenir cup with dole whip so I recommend doing that buy one, get one half off deal to get a cheap souvenir.  Enjoy walking the grounds and seeing the pineapple demonstrations (get to try some free pineapple too), and then head off north 10 mins to the north shore.  We stopped at Waimea Beach on the north shore but you can go further east on the north shore to see surfers at Turtle Bay and Sunset Beach- GORGEOUS!

Waimea Bay & Beach NORTH SHORE
Waimea Bay & Beach NORTH SHORE

The waves are higher on the north shore in the winter so it is not safe for kids, but it is fun to jump and hop over waves.  There are some great restaurants along the north shore as well – near Sunset Beach, but we had to head back towards Waikiki to meet friends for dinner.  It is about a one-hour drive south back to the Waikiki/HNL area, and with traffic it can turn into 1 hour 15 mins.  Keep in mind that traffic INTO Waikiki and Honolulu (the city) on

Sunset at the North Shore
Sunset at the North Shore

the H1 is bad, and leaving the city in the evenings, so when you make your plans, try to go against traffic.  We got lucky each time, going in the opposite direction of the traffic.

We stayed at a military installation towards the end of our journey and it had its own private beach and unique features too which really made our enjoy pleasant and enjoyable.  The Navy Exchange which is off-post near Pearl Harbor is amazing and huge, and open to all for the food court.  I recommend eating here, and if you are eligible, you can shop at the commissary and on-site Exchange.  The chocolates, dresses, shirts, and souvenirs are very cheap and great quality here.

IMG_8640Pearl Harbor, USS Arizona and War In the Pacific MemorialsFinally, on Oahu, you simply must visit at least one or all the Pacific Memorials for World War II.  It is not to be missed.  We visited the USS Arizona, and saw the film before hand.  If the film does not get you, walking into this memorial, and knowing what rests below will bring tears to your eyes, and the history is just all around you.  You can see all the sites, and visit the submarine, and take a boat to Ford Island to see the remaining ships and memorials.  I highly recommend going early (before 0930) and it will take you at least one hour per memorial.  IMG_8645There is also enough to do around here – walking around, reading all the placards, and seeing all the exhibits for free.  It will take at least 2-3 hours from start to finish so plan accordingly, and remember to show your respect. The December 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor was the costliest for the U.S. Navy and our military – EVER!  I had no idea over 2,100 sailors, soldiers and airmen lost their lives.  I thought the number was in the hundreds.  It is quite eye-opening.  Keep in mind that you will explain the film to young kids – there is a lot talk of death, war, and casualties, and young kids do not understand this quite yet. IMG_8649 Tickets to USS Arizona are free – it is a National Park Service and federally appropriated monument.  All others cost some concession fee and military in uniform are free to all exhibits.  Food on site is snacking only, and expensive, so drive a mile down the road to the Navy Exchange for an awesome food court open to all the public.

We also drove to the East shore, and it is beautiful.  If you can go to Kailua do so, but it was a small detour out of our way to and from the Polynesian Cultural Center.  You simply must take the LikeLike Highway from Waikiki area towards Kailua, and the Cultural Center.  This is a gorgeous drive through the mountains towards the east shore and just gorgeous!  IMG_8704The shore drive NORTH up the eastern shore towards Brigham Young Hawaii Campus and the Polynesian Cultural Center is narrow, winding, and only two-lane, but is gorgeous! You can stop on any of these clear, blue beaches and can’t go wrong.  The waves are a bit higher here, wateIMG_8487r saltier, and sand washes onto you along with the water, but hey, it’s beach!  Hawaii, our 50th State, a beautiful paradise, and an amazing destination to visit if you can.  You will not regret it.  We only visited Oahu, but hope to return soon to visit the other islands. Mahalo, Hawaii, and all its residents, til we meet again.

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A Century Ago…

downton2
Copyright PBS; Downton Abbey

… they didn’t let women inherit or own property, let alone vote.  Only a century ago, having a son meant so much more than having two or three beautiful daughters who had to marry well.  And a century ago being middle class was so uncool.  How interesting!

I watched the first 3 seasons of Downton Abbey, which airs on PBS here in the U.S.  I absolutely love this show but I think it is because like many of my girlfriends, I am addicted to this time period.  I love all things Jane Austen, and Downton Abbey is very popular because of all the charm of this particular century.  But, what is so interesting to me about this series as an Indian-American, is two-fold: (1) How few rights women, gays, and minorities really had back then, and (2) how culturally similar all of this is to Indian culture in post-British rule India.

Copyright PBS and Downton Abbey
Copyright PBS and Downton Abbey

The virtue of a woman is portrayed with as much similarity as it is in a Bollywood movie especially those movies of the 70s and 80s.  The woman was not to sleep around nor date.  She had to be, well… “proper.”  The guy – it did not matter- I suppose he could do whatever he wished.  But the woman could ruin the entire reputation of her household for four generations to come by just being seen in public with a man.  My, how times have changed!  Growing up, my parents were very traditional and conservative, so dressing appropriate was very important especially how a girl dressed.  And dating was out of the question.  Which is why I think so many first generation American kids like myself secretly dated.  “If you are from a good home, you dress appropriately and part of that is not showing much of your body.  And you can have friends but you cannot date.”  In some parts of Indian society, it is still this way.  How interesting!  Who knew British rule had this much influence on the Indian culture!   Indian women were not allowed to inherit or own property and a last will and testament had to state that a wife inherits or else, the male heirs got to split the property excluding any sisters in the picture.  How simply awful!  The laws have and are changing in India but this drama I watch reminds me of how ill-treated women were for the better half of the 20th century.  And even now, in some British colonies, and in some countries, women cannot even get an education much less vote, or speak out.  And, if they do, they can be killed right there in the streets with thousands watching- able to do nothing.  How dreadful!

The parallels between that time period and what I still see in India when I visit hold true:  to have a male child is priceless.  Most people have begun to value daughters too but ah, to have a son!  Equality (among the sexes) is still not apparent, and women working outside the home is just now starting to take hold.   In our recent visit to India in 2011, I heard the following: “Once she is married, her husband will decide whether she works outside the home or not.”  WTF!?  But, if you are a Downton watcher, you get it.  The male-dominated culture of the British wore off on many colonies and countries they influenced.  First, the father decides what a daughter may or may not do; and then her husband.  Women were treated like property instead of equals.  Let’s not even talk about other discriminated classes during this time period – we won’t go there in this post but you can only imagine.

The other thing I find interesting about this time period is all the cultural norms.  The upper class had to act a certain way – had to behave in a specific manner or they would probably be viewed in a negative light and even lose their “status” in society.  All families had their issues of course, but how these issues could be shoved under the rug was the key.  There was a distinct class system:  Working class, middle class, and upper class (privileged few).  It reminds me of the caste system in India too.  This was not something created solely by Indians- I do believe British rule had a hand in perpetrating it.  And it goes without saying that health care was not what it is now.  A woman could die in child birth because most doctors  just did not have a clue.   Oh, and right – women could not be doctors just yet.  The technology was not there and people were still learning about the female body let alone treating things unique to it.

So why do we all find this time period interesting and exciting and honestly, simply mesmerizing?  I think it is the charm of the period- the beautiful estates, and homes, the dresses (however uncomfortable they really were to wear), and the sweet allure of romance and love without all the modern day nonsense that goes with it.  There was no dating per se.   If you liked someone you better propose so you could hang out and then get married.  You really were not supposed to have any pre-marital “fun” so to speak.  All of this has a certain innocence attached to it and what fascinates us to this otherwise horrible period in civil rights history is that sense of innocence, and romance and the richness of it.  What is not portrayed in Downton and other shows is how the poor lived – under British rule, under any socialist system like this the aristocrats tended to prosper, while the working class and poor got poorer.  The irony of today’s economic woes in America are not lost on me as I write this.  A healthy balance is required in any economy to survive but when one class dominates, the 99 percent suffer.

In any case, a century ago women could not do as much as they can and have done today and I am proud of the progress and evolution of the human race.  Let’s hope the evolution continues… in the proper direction.

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Easy Vegetable Pulao (Rice) or Biryani Dish

Rice Dish ready to eat- in a serving bowl

Pulao or Biryani are terms for an Indian rice dish.  In Punjab, Biryani is prepared differently than where my parents are from: Gujarat, where we call it Pulao.  All in all, rice dishes are central to Indian diets and any variations are fine.  I did not bake mine but one optional variation is to bake it after it cooks on the stove top.  The other option is to cook it in a skillet with no pre-cooking of rice or veggies.  Any variation is fine.

The one we made today was stove top and cooked separately before mixing.  Honestly, it turned out very good so I wanted to share the recipe here, and add in some variations to try as well.  Let me know how it goes by leaving a comment and definitely suggest alternatives if you try something different.

The starting point for my recipe today was a good recipe I found at this website: http://www.archanaskitchen.com/indian-recipes/rice/118-hyderabadi-vegetable-biriyani

Again, it was only a starting point because I tend to do my own thing and I don’t add a lot of the ingredients discussed above.  Ingredients:  Basmati Rice (1 cup), ginger (hubby hates it so I put very little finely cut and sauteed), Onion (I use very little b/c I do not like them but the flavor is priceless), Garlic (2 cloves), Parsley or Cilantro (for garnish) Carrots, Peas & green beans (I use a bag of frozen veggies), 1 potato (thinly sliced and diced), 5 small cauliflower florets, Spinach – fresh leafy (about 10-15 leaves), fresh Tomatoes (1-2), Olive Oil (that’s right folks, I use olive oil not ghee), Clove (about 2-3), Cinnamon sticks (1 large or 2 smaller sticks), turmeric (pinch), Mustard Seed (about 10 or so), red cayenne paper (depends on how spicy you like it- I put a teaspoon), Garam Masala (1 tsp- small), salt & pepper to taste.  OPTIONAL VARIATION:  You can use a pre-mixed Biryani Spice Mix from the Indian store instead of combining all the separate spices/ingredients above.  MORE VARIATIONS: You can add in green chili paste, “imlee” paste (For a darker color), and/or fresh green chiles.  We do not like it too spicy so we keep ours mild.

First, go ahead and wash and rinse 1 cup of the Basmati rice and boil it for about 4 minutes in olive oil and salt.  Keep it crunchy.  OPTIONAL VARIATION:  You can cook the basmati rice in veggie broth to give your Pulao or Biryani some flavor but not necessary if you have all the spices above.  Set the semi-cooked rice aside and off the heat to prevent overcooking.

Now, chop all veggies you’d like in your vegetarian Pulao or Biryani (except the Spinach – do not boil this yet), and boil them to where they are not soft or cooked but al dente (so to speak).

All is mixed and ready to simmer

Third, go ahead and start your skillet or large enough stove top pan with a tablespoon of olive oil/corn oil etc… while on medium to low heat, add in onions, garlic cloves (minced or crushed or however you like it), with tomato paste, or tomatoes (I used 2 fresh tomatoes- chopped), cinnamon sticks, mustard seeds, turmeric, and garam masala.  Try to brown the onions slightly and then throw in the semi-cooked veggies first with warm/boiling water; let it simmer with the spice mix for 2 mins or so on medium heat.  Then, add in the semi-cooked rice.  Make sure all your ingredients are in now… add the Spinach in last with any remaining salt, pepper, or spices.  You can add the parsley or cilantro at this time too. Stir it all up, and let it simmer at MEDIUM TO LOW heat, covered for about 15 minutes.  A lid with a small hole in it is the best for rice but it is fine to be covered too.

Vegetable Pulao or Biryani

Check to see if the water is gone- all water should be gone and not visible.  It should look like a rice dish. Remove from heat, garnish further if you need and then serve.  You can see the finished the dish to the left here.  Another VARIATION:  You can not cook the rice or veggies at all and then put it all together as described above but then you will need more water.  If you pre-cooked, use less water.  I felt I used too much water and took too long.  If you are going to bake it after this, put it in a dish and bake further for crispier texture.

Enjoy- you can garnish with yogurt, or raita and add mixed pickle to taste as well.

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Gender Gap in India- Troubling Statistics from the Mother Land

photo courtesy of media.photobucket.com

As a working Indian-American mother of two daughters, and after a recent trip to India, I get concerned when I see statistics out of India like this:  “India is placed 129th among 146 countries in terms of GII, or gender inequality index, far behind neighbouring Sri Lanka at 74 and lagging most other countries in the region.”(1)   It is a bit disconcerting to learn that India is doing so well economically in the world and progressing in other industries, but yet ranking behind countries like China, Philippines, Sri Lanka and Botswana- yep, Botswana ranks higher than India when it comes to a gender gap report. (2) The World Economic Forum does a survey in which it ranks almost 128 countries on “proportion of resources and opportunities made available to women on educational, economic, political and health parities.”(3)  Thanks to Mrs. Indira Gandhi who was prime minister of India, India ranked high in the area of political empowerment of women.

So, the largest democracy in the world (pure democracy) and where women are some of the most politically empowered makes me wonder why women are still receiving such disparate treatment.  Well, to find an answer you would not have to look far.  Visiting India and staying with family, the answer is even clearer.  Even today, in the most educated, affluent, and influential households in India, the feudal and patriarchal system including “the joint family” concept still dominates.  And, even in bigger cities, daughters live with their parents (in almost all cases) until they marry when they become part of yet another family and oftentimes, these are joint families.  The joint family is one in which families live together.  The sons stay in the house with their parents, daughters marry into this and in turn, everyone lives together presumably in one big “happy” family.  The head of the household is always (I am not generalizing here) male and in that household there may be up to three generations of males running the place — Granddad, Dad, and now, the son this daughter has married.  That new household gains a daughter but also appears to dictate whether that daughter can continue to work, and what role she will assume in the family. In villages as compared to bigger cities, the roles may be even more traditional.

photo courtesy of media.photobucket.com

Historically, the days of “Mogul” rule in India are quite influential regarding the treatment of women.  Keep in mind that Moguls were Muslim, and the concept of multiple wives prevailed in India during that time.  The ‘Ramayana’ influenced the present-day concept of Hindus marrying only one wife.  In the story of the ‘Ramayana’, King Rama (LORD RAMA) said he would only marry once and his wife, (who was also a Devi or Goddess) Sita, enchanted the hearts of Hindus and to this day, that is the story of why Hindu men only marry one woman instead of multiple wives.  However, no one can ignore how Islam still influences Indian culture and philosophy to this day.  While India is influenced by many religions depending on the part of India you are in- Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism, there is no doubt Islam played a huge role in Indian history and continues to prevail in modern-day India.  Hindus may have gods and goddesses, but the worship of female gods does not appear to vitiate cultural norms which dictate what women should and should not wear, what they should do, and how they should behave or act in society and in the home.  More importantly, the culture lends itself to a male-driven society.  Sure, western influence is alive and well and making strides towards more equality for women, but based on my personal experience and visits there since the 1970s, I have to say, it is moving at a slower pace than other progresses like technology and infrastructure. Where India is making strides in technology, industry, and manufacturing of goods and products, it is not making the same strides in social progress especially in terms of gender equality.  Overall, from conception, boys are still valued more than girls.  In household where there are no sons, some keep having children to see if they can have sons- after all, a son is valued more than a daughter.  On my side of the family, I have cousins who have only one kid — they will stop at one even if it is a daughter but you hope that she will be treated with the same respect that you treated her with growing up.  After all, once she marries she becomes part of another family right down to her middle and last name.  That’s right!  In India, when a daughter marries, she not only loses her last name, she is expected to take on her husband’s name as her middle name.  So, Reena Krishan Shah becomes Reena Harish Patel (assuming she married Harish Patel).  All kids, whether male or female inherit their dad’s first name as their middle name when they are born.  Do you see a trend here?  What happened to the mom who endured hours of labor?  Well, her kids will carry the values she imparts on them and that is about it.  I thought it interesting that people asked my husband in India (more than one person asked) whether he was happy with two daughters…”Don’t you want a son? Don’t you want to try again one more time for the prospect of a son?”

In poorer, less educated areas of India, it gets even worse.  Women who carry daughters are often tortured, and abortion rates are higher if the sex of the fetus is discovered to be female.  This is because of the tradition of dowry (something that is slowly being dispensed with in the upper classes) which is alive and well in small, rural, and poorer areas.  A dowry is what a family may have to pay (not necessarily money or cash) when marrying their daughter off.  Not only are parents of daughters expected to give their daughters “away” literally but also they are expected to “pay the piper” for taking on the burdens of her.  All of these trends lend to the surveys and the ranking of India which is low in the area of women’s rights and gender equality.  Not only is health care of women and women’s health ranked low in India, education is among the lowest as well especially in rural, poorer areas. Despite having female prime ministers, both India and Pakistan share the same fate and ranking in the arena of gender equality and this is nothing to be proud of even for Indian-Americans.

We visited the Taj Mahal in 2008- breathtaking

I like visiting India, not just to see family, but to do a lot of watching, thinking and studying. Culturally rich, India both inspires me and makes me feel sad at times.  The poverty and pollution issues aside, each time I visit, I am more and more thankful and grateful for the efforts of Gandhi for freeing India from British rule, President Johnson for opening the gates of immigration to Indians in 1965, and of course, my dad for taking a huge risk coming over to a new “foreign” country to make a new life for himself, my mother and eventually me and my brother.   But for one in the aforementioned chain of events, I would not be here where the sky is truly the limit for me.

Now, I do not intend to paint a bad picture of India but this article is focused on the gender gap.  India is making great strides in many areas but gender equality appears to have a long way to go.  Granted, on a positive note, I have a lot of cousin sisters who are doing quite well for themselves both in India and abroad but I have always thought my family and extended family as the exception not the rule.  I have cousin sisters who are working outside the home as engineers, doctors, dentists, designers of clothing lines, running businesses, making jewelry and purses, and yet still balancing work, life, and family. Conversely, I have witnessed and over heard a lot of the opposite as well.  I have heard how a distant cousin once taught as a teacher and now that she is married, she is no longer permitted to do so.  I heard stories of abuse and mistreatment of a distant relative once she was married into a home that disliked her.  In a country where a woman is still segregated and not able to be touched during “that time of the month” for religious reasons, you wonder whether these obstacles can be overcome if they are fundamental – ie. rooted in religion and philosophy.  And yet during a time when individuals are worshiping to Goddesses like Durga and Mataji at wonderful times like Diwali, you would think that women would be revered.  Again, I re-emphasize that I believe the Mogul influence over India has left its mark.  Women who show their shoulders, legs, cleavage, or too much skin in general (short of wearing a burka), are not respected and looked down upon. Granted, cities like Mumbai and Delhi see a lot of progress in these areas, but nonetheless, it is considered that women from “good homes” will NOT wear such outfits and if they do, it is frowned upon and talked about in an ill manner by the elders. Decency and dress codes aside, India is making progress in many areas where it comes to women’s rights and equality.  More and more women are in the work force – banking, accounting, teaching, and even non-traditional roles- engineering, doctors, lawyers, and professionals working outside the home.  Of course, they have to seek permission from their husbands and husbands’ families after marriage but assuming all are progressive, they may get to achieve their dreams, but then again, if they have kids, the traditional role of the Indian female will most likely be at home. I have yet to see an Indian man in India at home raising kids while the wife runs out to be a bread winner for the family.  I think that man would rather commit suicide than face the humiliation of society and I am not making this up- few in India will disagree that no man will stay at home and raise kids while his wife heads out to earn the money to keep that house going.  Desperate times may call for desperate measures but these are far and few between and unless a health reason is involved, this would never be tolerated.

Indian Flag

Americans can learn a lot from India – respecting elders, taking care of our elders, not becoming a burden on the government, religious and moral convictions, and deep-rooted and unconditional love of family and friends.  But conversely, I hope Indians can learn something from us as well and close that gender gap.  Granted, America has yet to see a female President or Vice-President but in the cultural sense, I would love to visit an India one day which is at least 80% free of the evils I hear about towards women- dowry-related deaths and torture, abortions of fetuses or killings of live babies simply because of gender, and more reverence of daughters and daughters-in-law and the respect of their right to choose career or home.  I have a dream that I will visit an India one day with my two American-born daughters and be able to tell them — “this is your culture… you come from a culture that reveres you, that respects you; that daughters and sons are raised equally, valued equally, and have the same opportunities whether in education, health, politics, in the home, or the workplace.”

That is my one vision for the India that I call the Mother Land.

Continue reading Gender Gap in India- Troubling Statistics from the Mother Land

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Tiffin’s – Fast Food Indian Cafe in Boulder, Colorado

photo courtesy of yelp

We went to Boulder a couple weeks ago to try out a new Indian fast food cafe called Tiffin’s– this place is 100% family owned and operated and for me, a taste of my mom’s homemade cooking- no restaurant fluff here!  We know the owners but that did not influence me- I am a foodie at heart and do consumer reviews all the time.  And if you doubt me, check out reviews on yelp and just in case I was biased, I took a friend along who has an amazing Indian Food blog – all things indian food and she is @indianfoodrocks. She also wrote an amazing review on Yelp – check out all the reviews before you head in and decide for yourself. I think it’s time Boulder got a fast food, reasonably-priced cafe with home cooking like this- it has been a long time coming! So, put on your walking shoes, or ride a bike and if you live far away, feel free to drive on in to Buff country – the corner of Arapahoe and Folsom and check out Tiffin’s extensive menu.

Sev Usar (soup with noodle)

For Indians and all Indian-food lovers, I think it is great to get snack places like this one because they are far and few between .  You can get a variety of foods without being locked into heavy creams, or large portions of just one dish and buffets are just too much! The place is simple, cafeteria-like but you can get channa masala with whole wheat bread like mom makes & South Indian fare.  The daal soups are a must try and of course, kids’ favorite are idlis & dosas straight up! There are plenty of homemade dessert options too and mango lassi that will complement any meal and fill you up too! 

Masala Dosa - can you say CRUNCH?

Pav Bhaji and Bhel is traditional Indian street fare but there’s no need to travel to India when you can get your fix in Boulder, so, check out Tiffin’s and give the small, family-owned business a try – I love that you can get a variety here and leave wanting more….

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