Recently, both of my parents under went major health issues and crisis of sorts. Each of them had their own separate issues- all scary, all sudden. All of what transpired opened our eyes to what is to come- age of our folks, health issues for all of us, fragility of life and the ultimate reality that we are all mortal.
Each time I have traveled out to be with them mainly because I cannot sleep, eat or think straight when I am so far away. Here’s a laughing matter: I am only 1780 miles away but imagine this and I know some of you don’t have to imagine because you live it day in and day out but imagine being 10,100 miles away from your parents or more. Imagine now that you get a call in the middle of the night, “come now if you can – he or she is very sick, these are his/her final days.” Well for my parents, it was a reality. They received calls like that or calls informing them that their parents were no longer on this earth. I cannot imagine because I do not have to – I do not have to because my parents moved here and made some amazing sacrifices so I could have a better life; so that my brother and I could have a good education, a good life, and a great future- so that they could be part of this American dream as well. But in all honesty, leaving everything they knew behind – their comfort zone, their families, their aging parents to build a new life, 10,000+ miles away in the 1960s is no small sacrifice. My in-laws did this as well. I can’t imagine- I guess I do not have to.
I remember 1987 well because that was when my dad received the call that his father was ill and possibly could die. My father, with us as little kids, had to keep his wits about him, and in the 80s when technology was not all that, had to make international travel reservations for all of us. First, he would go because we were all in school and in the middle of a semester in school. Then, we’d all meet him there and we all prayed my grandfather would hold on that long. Sadly, he did not. My father made it in time but can you imagine, pulling it together to make reservations, then pack a bag, then get your passport and visa and head out the door for a 30+ hour journey internationally when you had no idea what was waiting for on the other end? No Internet, the phones sucked too, not to mention cost an arm and leg to dial internationally, and of course, there was no text messaging. Wow! I can’t imagine because recently I made journeys of only 6-8 hours including airport time and I didn’t think I’d make it.
On the other hand, my mom didn’t even get to see her folks before they passed away. It was sudden, and in their sleep. She couldn’t even fly out for the funeral because in India, bodies are not preserved more than 24 hours. I can’t imagine. I do not have to because my parents sacrificed it all for me. Because of them, and because they stayed here to make a new life for us, I don’t have to know what all of this is like. Because they sacrificed so much for me, I will keep doing what I can to help them. The reality is they are aging, they are stubborn and set in their ways, and they want to be independent. I don’t blame them. After all, I am like them. I inherited their perseverance, their strong will, and their ability to adapt and overcome. I wish I had inherited their strength… their enormous strength to bear so much. I don’t have to because of them. In these trying times, I see them, I hear them, I listen… I shut up because I know how much they have given up for a better life for us. I only pray I can be even half the child to them that they were to their parents. I pray for the strength that they taught me to have. I am not there yet and these times have been tough for us but I know their strength lives within me — and I may not have to sacrifice what they did nor do I wish to but I know if I had to for my kids, I suppose I could.
Two things I have learned very recent in my life come to mind as I reflect. Two simple words, two simple concepts but so tough to execute for so many- “gratitude” and “grace”. What do these concepts, what do these words mean to me? It’s simple, really. And it’s not that you cannot vent about things that are bugging you to your friends or best of friends, and I’m not saying you cannot judge, but, these two concepts, these two words– it’s about what you keep inside. It’s about how you treat your soul that matters.
Gratitude is defined as “a feeling of thankfulness and appreciation.” I think it’s so much more than that. I think it’s more than waking up and feeling gratitude for all you have. It’s more than just saying, “oh that was so kind of you… I really appreciate it.” It is about feeling it. When you truly feel gratitude, when you truly think about the good in people and forgive their trespass, your soul feels the side effects of gratitude. Again, is it okay to be frustrated when someone invites you to a party the night before the party? Sure, it’s okay and you should vent and move on. But the key is to move on – to feel the other side of that invitation; the kindness, the gratitude that you were even invited. This gratitude is what keeps your soul free from demise. But you see, gratitude alone is not enough. It goes with grace. I think of gratitude as the “Thank You” before the graceful “You’re Welcome.”
Grace has many definitions and the word is also rooted in Christian philosophy. The two definitions of grace that I think apply for me are, “a disposition to kindness and compassion” and “a sense of propriety and consideration for others.” But again, I think it goes deeper than that. It is about composure, about how you handle a situation on the outside and inside. I think, that in any situation, depending on how you (not others around you) handle what is going on, you display grace which brings up this third definition of grace that I think is fitting: “Be beautiful to look at.” No matter how dissatisfied you may be with how you look on the outside, if you handle yourself with grace, you look beautiful. So true! For example, a few years ago, I finally learned about grace. A mom RSVPed very late (the night before) for my daughter’s birthday party. It chapped my hide. I did not handle it with grace. I basically replied back, “you replied too late. Sorry.” I learned about grace that day even if the other person never did. I can vent all I want and should vent about how disrespectful that mother was towards me but then the proper response is, “of course, we’d love to have JOE join the party. Thank you for your RSVP.” That is grace. That is kindness and compassion. Fast forward two years later, and a different mother, two hours before the party, called me to say, “RENEE is coming to the party and we are sorry to RSVP on the day of but I just saw the invitation.” Then, that same mother and her child came to the party an hour late. You know what? It’s okay. Does that mother know about grace? Maybe. Maybe not. Her disrespect is not my concern. If you have grace in you, peace with your soul, peace with the fact that others can be as rude as they want, you will nonetheless be gracious, and say, “of course, you are always very welcome.”
Now, I am not saying roll over, play dead, let others take advantage of you or mistreat you. I am saying that in small situations where it really doesn’t matter, be graceful. Move on. Fight where you need to fight and put your energy where it counts. Not everything requires a battle and you do not always have to be right.
Another example of grace is not being afraid to admit that you were wrong. Admit when you make mistakes and don’t try to cover them up by blaming external factors or others. Always look within first to see what you did to cause this and then handle it with grace. And most importantly, give others the benefit of the doubt. Life happens and people are not like you. So, how you handle the situations that life presents will dictate how joyous your soul can be…. how beautiful inside and out you not only appear to others, but how beautiful you truly ARE — for me, gratitude and grace go hand-in-hand. I may stumble along the way and I may vent to my friends, but I will always try to have gratitude and grace. And when I falter because I will, I will remind myself that I am human, look within at what I did wrong and strive to handle it all with … Grace!
Note: I am editing this post as of 8/25/2014, since I now have switched to an android and a family plan with unlimited text/talk. But I have had a few more situations to share where group messaging turned “On” have resulted in horrible situations where people were talked about and were on the said group text. I am urging you all to turn OFF your group messaging off. When in doubt, keep it OFF.
You thought “reply-all” was taboo and against good netiquette, just wait ’til you my read my latest experiences with group text messaging and the dangers that can bring. People love to send text messages… they love it. It’s trendy, it’s hip, it’s the “thing”, so much so that people have dispensed completely with talking. Here writes a friend of mine, “well, just text me okay- don’t call… we can discuss it over text.” My reply – “I can’t do that dear, I have limited texts per month. I will E-mail you”
Well, now add to text messaging a new layer of complication – the reply-all of the text message world, known as GROUP MESSAGING. This past Easter, I learned a lot – a whole heck of a lot. I got my FIRST, yup, my first GROUP MMS Text wishing me a “Happy Easter. “ Of course, I do not mind the gesture even though I do not celebrate Easter. It was nice. But then a few minutes I got another message from a phone number I did not recognize, and then another, and then… yes, it prompted me to take a look at what just happened. Wait?! What is going on? Why am I getting texts from all these numbers I do not recognize? Well, folks, welcome to a whole new layer of breach of privacy- the Group Message feature to send texts. What prompted me to write this post was not the text message itself because if I had consented to be part of a group, I would not mind a group text because I consented to it. But this one had a lot of numbers on it and mine was right there among it and when I tried to reply to just my friend, I could not- it replied all. I asked folks to please not do a reply-all if possible because I did not have unlimited text’ing at that time. In return, one person replied with a simple “FU.” Yeah, you read that right. It didn’t get better from there. When I tried to write her again to tell her what number did that and to remove me from her list, this same person wrote me back again “F— You (yes this time he spelled it out) you cheap A$!h0le”. Lovely, now I have two texts I was charged for that basically insult me, are obscene, and are at the tip of my fingertips everywhere I go. Thanks. It’s truly a Happy Easter. As I contemplated a little further, I wondered if the sender of those texts to me, on the holiest of Christian days, went to Church earlier that day and screamed “He Is Risen!” But in any case, instead of writing back or getting even, I decided to do a post warning people about the dangers (there are a lot) of Group MMS Messaging.
Warning #1 to the SENDER of GROUP MESSAGES – My first warning and the lesson I learned from this incident applies to the sender of this group message. Unless your friends have consented to having their cell phone numbers released to a bunch of other people they don’t know, it is total lack of situational awareness (SA) and respect to do so. You should not send group messages because everyone can see everyone’s number if they have their group settings turned “on” and that is just plain rude. SENDER, go check your phone’s settings. I get into detail in Warning #4 below if you have an Iphone how to check your settings. But, please be mindful of group messages. It can be considered poor taste and bad etiquette to do this unless all parties know each other and are okay with group messages being sent out. In sum, STOP SENDING GROUP MESSAGES! My favorite recent article is posted here: http://www.forbes.com/sites/kashmirhill/2013/03/20/modern-mobile-etiquette-group-text-message/
Seriously, if you hate me, keeping sending me those group messages. Merry Christmas to you too- Sheesh! It’s not really about the texting as much as the lack of respect you show for me when I am getting replies from your friends, most of whom are not friends of mine.
Warning #2 to the RECIPIENT OF GROUP MESSAGES- This one is for the recipient, please check your “To” line when you reply. If it states the sender’s name PLUS 19 other recipients, it goes to all 20 recipients (yes, even the one who said “FU”). For example, even though I was trying to message her directly, my messages were reverting back to the GROUP MESSAGE she sent so everyone could see my messages. Yeah, even THAT GUY! Check your settings on your Iphone or other device and turn GROUP MESSAGING OFF. This will prevent you replying to all. I have a friend today who brought up another point on this. What if your friend wrote 5 people in group messaging and one of those recipients is someone you dislike and you do a reply-all without looking at the TO line or figuring out that it is a group message? What if your reply is, “As long as Stacy does not attend, I am there.” What if Stacy receives this REPLY-ALL TEXT? Yeah, well, other than being awkward, there is no taking this back. Also keep in mind that someone may want to send a private message that only the sender would need to see like a very private matter or a health issue and now the entire list sees it. So, recipients, the responsibility is on you as well. A little SA goes a long way in ensuring your privacy as well. Recent situation I heard about:A mom’s group sent out a group text about a gathering and a recipient who did not have group messaging turned to the “OFF” position wrote the entire group a nasty comment about someone on the group. Ouch! That person was in the group and saw the text. Not cool! Turn it off.
Warning #3 CHANGE YOUR SETTINGS TO OFF- Finally, check your phone’s messaging settings. I know this prompted me to do so. For example, if you are an Iphone user and have IOS 5.0 or higher your settings are automatically set to send and receive group messages so go into your settings, go under messages, and change GROUP MESSAGING TO OFF. That should solve the problem of when you reply to FRIEND X who wrote everyone on her phone from sending to all those friends instead of just FRIEND X. But unless the sender and ALL the recipients on the other end have their GROUP MESSAGING turned off, sadly, you will get messages when they do their “reply all”. What a pain! So it really is everyone’s responsibility to maybe turn their group messaging feature OFF so they do not reply all and repeat the mistakes of WARNING #2 & #3.
All in all, it was a troubling situation and I was concerned. For years now, I have been troubled when someone sends family pictures or newsletters and my E-mail address is in the “TO” LINE along with 50 others. I think, wow, this is not a group I consented to and frankly my email address should be in the “Bcc” line but I just assume delete the email and delete the billion REPLY-ALLs that occur and move on. But, now my cell phone number is being shared with random people I do not know and I am supposed to be okay with that? I am supposed to sit back and let someone I do not know send me obscene text messages and be okay with it? I am not okay with it. I wrote this article because of the personal experience I had and I feel very strongly that people should exercise good, sound judgment and netiquette not just on the internet, or E-mail but also with text messaging. Because once you hit “send”, they can see you ….they can ALL see it, and you just never know when it can destroy a relationship, a good friendship or you could lose a job over it so please, please heed these warnings and readers, please add your own netiquette and warnings below. I would love to hear from you
The Musical- Chess, A Musical has amazing music- really good songs with the highlight being Act II opening with “One Night in Bangkok”. It was a feast for the eyes and ears with all the colors, dancing, and of course, the song is a fun song anyway. There are scores that you will recognize from the 80s and 90s and although I cannot figure out the decade that it is set in, I am assuming it was 80s (before the fall of the iron curtain and the USSR) but then in Act II, you see one of the characters using a cell phone so it could easily be 90s as well. The story, to my surprise, is a love story with all the twists and turns of a giant Chess game and world politics as told through a chess board. It is a good story and was done well in this production that is playing at the Arvada Center (Denver) through April 15. Tickets to the Arvada Center productions are extremely reasonable during normal production dates but here’s a secret on what we did to make it even cheaper since we are not avid theatre goers. We got discount tickets because we went to a dress rehearsal. So the tickets were over half price off. And even for a dress rehearsal, there was not an empty seat in the venue! And, if you buy your tickets at the center instead of on-line, you can avoid all handling charges. But should you decide to catch the normal shows as well, the prices are very reasonable and much cheaper than the Performing Arts prices for downtown venues. And there ain’t a bad seat in the house – check out my venue review below. We sat front row but honestly, you are better off sitting half way up in either the center or prime sections (see seating Chart- Arvada Center) for a great view of all the action!
The Venue– “I can’t believe we have never been here,” I said to my husband as we bought tickets earlier in the day at the box office, located inside the Arvada Center. What a great venue! I cannot say enough great things about this venue and I may be biased because I live near it but there are so many great things about this place. You may know how I feel about venues like the Wells Fargo Center, the Pepsi Center, and the Denver Center for Performing Arts. Yeah, it ain’t good. I am just not a big fan of downtown Denver venues that charge you an exorbitant fee for parking miles away, takes hours to get in and out of the venues, and takes forever to get to/from due to downtown traffic and the maze of one-way roads that frustrate me. I have to say, the Arvada Center is a gem convenient to the cities of Arvada, Wheat Ridge, Westminster, Broomfield, Lakewood, and Golden. Located on Wadsworth Blvd off of I-70, it is easy to get in and out of and at 7pm on a Saturday, even Wadsworth is easy to navigate. Parking is free, ample, and very close to the venue no matter where you park. The venue is cozy and small and only fits about 400 people so there is a a hassle-free fun experience even at intermission and no lines in the ladies’ bathroom (BONUS). There is not a bad seat in the house- you can see the stage from every seat and there will not be a head or two in your way. There are no lines for concessions or snacks either. And get this – the concessions are even cheaper than at the movies. For $4.25 we got two giant cookies, and teas and I saw the alcohol and soda prices so you can see how reasonable they are: $4.00 for beer, $5.00 for wine, and $2.00 for a soda. Teas, cocoa, and coffee were only $1.75. I remember my friend paying $8.00 for a wine at the Pepsi Center for a concert. The lines are short, and there is no concessionaire peddling CDs, posters, and other such items either. The entire affair is class through and through. Even before the show and during intermission, you wait in the art center and there are exhibits to look at including beautiful paintings.
Additionally, did you know the Arvada Center offers summer camps and programs for kids throughout the year? You can also rent out their venue for weddings, and other occasions. Outside the Center, there is a play area for kids to climb a giant dragon and sculptures and a little rock garden. Just a beautiful venue for shows, events, and if you choose to enroll your kids at their various classes you should look at and download their entire catalog from this link.
We had a great time exploring another gem of our city yesterday and seeing a great musical to boot. You won’t want to miss this and the other productions coming this season to the Arvada Center.
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.
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.
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.
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.