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I took some time off, as daddy and daughter were happily coexisting under one roof. We had a fabulous morning with D & her friends running all over our local park and playground and company of parents where we talked about parenting, politics, climate, college savings, and bollywood dancing. It was a beautiful day!

I did a dangerous thing. Alone without worrying about D, not that I have to, ventured into the library in search of a next read. She loves being there and is very cooperative in my browsing and looking for things as she expects the same in return when it's her turn. But it's even more risky when I am alone. I pick up so many books and so many that sound interesting!

So, I picked this up today, The Great Indian Phone Book by Assa Doron and Robin Jeffrey. I have been visiting home, India since 1991. Sometimes every year and some times with a gap of two or three years. The biggest and most obvious change is definitely the prevalence of cell phones. Initially in the 90s it was the prevalence of STD booths. No, not the sexually transmitted diseases but phone booths that allow for regional & ISD calls (international calls). Why? Because getting a fixed line takes forever! I remember my grandmother struggling to get a line in her home took years! So, mobile phones were really a great breakthrough.

Today the STD booths have turned into internet centers. But the cell phone has done wonders for so many. When I was staying with my parents in Bangalore, I even noticed parents' maid had TWO cell phones and their previous driver had a better phone than my parents did. It has been a technology that really has broken past barriers of caste, religion, and socio-economic status. It brought everyone to a leveling field. No other technology has permeated the way mobile phones have in India.

So, am looking forward to reading this book.

And I made myself to stick in the non-fiction section and still came home with a handful of books! I will have to return the others and have them join the queue.

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I don't know if I ever noted this down. Several months ago, our neighbor down the corridor had knocked on our door. He is a very friendly neighbour and had shared with us his story of visiting India (a Church missionary tour) and was looking forward to going back again.

He had knocked the door one evening to share that a friend of his who had hosted him during his trip to India is visiting him for a few days and would like us to meet (because we are also Indians). We were happy to oblige. I guess I was caught off-guard and invited him over but never mentioned anything about food...sorry, haven't lost all my Asian-ness.

So, I prepared some light meal (anyway, we had to have dinner!! :P).

It turned out to be a wonderful evening. D enjoyed Dave's company and the friend he brought along. It turns out he grew up under the bridge where my in-laws live in Mumbai. We of course, took that it was some house by the bridge, but no. He's an orphan to escaped Kochi orphanage and got on a train that happened to be heading to Mumbai! One of the million street children! He eventually returned to the orphanage and took some classes, and began to teach, and moved up in life. An inspiring story.

He picked the worse off place in India, with his wife has opened a school with shelter (hostel) and has now about 6-7 kids staying in the shelter.

During their visit, and coincidently during this conversation, it was D's bedtime. She declared she would go put herself to bed. We were going through one of those stages where she would lay in bed for half hour singing and playing away in bed. She would ask us to close the door and turn off the light.

He continued to share that any child taken in under 2 years of age, shares their home. And their bed. They don't do what is done here, own bed, own room, "independence". Dave asked why. N & I stayed quiet. Simply put, they as parents know their child is safe, but the child has no idea. No fancy gadgets, games, monitors, can fill the space of a parent (mother or father or any caring adult) to make the child feel safe. He remembers the scary nights all alone in a room at night where the orphanage was understaffed and no one would come to calm their fears at night. It was a safe place, but for them the monsters made it bad. Their imaginations ran wild. Sure as an adult those nights don't affect him but he feels no child should need to go through that at least not at home. The world is a scary place, as he has seen first hand.

I remember him every time I hear anyone so freely and casually dish out the advice of let the child cry-it-out. The ones that drive me up the wall are pediatricians. There's no research to back this up. And fine if you do recommend the advice, give a handout of how to properly do it. Or if you decide to give parenting advice, give the different methods for parents to choose from. But no, people just throw it around as if it's teaching your kid riding a bicycle and it's the only "responsible" way!

Someone the other day in my friend's group said those who don't do it are just spoiling the child and being lazy. wow... they really think feeling sleep deprived for 28 months is fun and taking the easy way out?! But the funny thing, even the parents who used CIO still complain about their kids getting up at night. So, exactly how is it working??

Anyhow, this has turned into a was not meant to be. I hope there are more inspiring stories as the man's. He has two children of his own and he has adopted one more. And I wish his school does well. It's only 2 years old and slowly growing.
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  • It seems my LJ friends are dropping off LJ one by one....  :( I myself have been losing the interest to post. Plus lack of easy access to computer doesn't help! How do you "meet" new LJ folks these days?
  • I have been hearing so many birth announcements around me. I myself look 6-7 months pregnant. But that's because I am eating all of D's leftovers, not doing any work/exercise and my body puts on weight around the tummy first! bleah... I'd rather be pregnant...or maybe not!
  • Bangalore stay has been a lot of fun! More family, more attention to D and so happy girl and happy mom!
  • Plus it means closer the day to N's arrival! Everyone's waiting in eager anticipation! D gets overjoyed seeing my sis come home (she lives elsewhere that's closer to her workplace and was coming home for the weekend)! So, we are anticipating her response to N's arrival! 
  • So many people to see, so little time!! You'd think 4 months would be enough to catch up!
  • I am glad the elections (in the US) are over!
  • I have bought a whole new wardrobe and this is no time to be putting on weight! yeeks...
smittenbyu: (B&W)
India must be some magical place especially for child development. Because anytime I share with family or some friends (when they ask) that D is not walking without support, let alone stand, nor is she saying any words yet (that we recognise), and occasionally she acts shy, the answer is unianimously always to "bring her to India" or "take her to India." "She will learn it all super-fast."


Anyhow, D could care less. She's busy organizing her first Toga party. She is completely infatuated with my shorts. She always wears it this way and goes on about her business!!


Anyhow I never did a 13 month update and she will be 14 months in few days...
  • She cruises comfortably. She turns anything that moves into a walker too. And if we hold her fingers/hands she comfortably walks.
  • She is an ultra-cautious girl. My is she careful with every move - which explains very few falls and bumps on her head the last 7 months
  • She is a gregarious child but is a quiet one in groups.
  • Mom has to be always be in line of sight
  • She hums various tunes she has heard over time. She plays music on whatever toys while she does other stuff.
  • She understand what we are saying to her.
  • She is eating much better these days!
  • She is happy child!
  • She stacks whatever she gets her hands on.
  • She feeds me too while she feeds herself
  • Her premolars are all out - well, broken skin.
  • Her naps are very good, she still bounces back and forth from one nap to two naps but her nightsleep is still poor.
  • oh and she waves to everyone and smiles at everyone!
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Enjoying the food! Seen pretty much all of Bangalore in the last two weeks! Since landing in Bangalore, we have driven down to Madanapalle and then to Puttaparthi and back!  That was just 600km covered in 36 hours. I can't believe the time here is coming to an end! :S Why does time fly?! Soon we will be heading down to Andhra Pradesh and travel another thousand kilometers. Take an overnight train journey again, this time with in-laws as well! This time we are equipped with card games et al.

Have some family coming to visit in a short while so can't write too much! I really have abandoned reading the paper and have no clue as to what's going on in the world.


Nov. 24th, 2008 09:29 am
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Enjoying Mumbai! :) The city welcomed me in with the usual Mumbai pollution and humidity! Coming here from Singapore or Malaysia, the humidity didn't feel all that much different. But coming from DC, whoa, it hits you in the face! I feel forever drenched! The heat as well doesn't help! It should be cooling down a bit soon!

I took the train in Mumbai, on sunday during the off-peak hours and today just as the rush set in and made it through in one piece!

Haven't read anyone's journals. No time to yet! Busy eating away good yummy food!


Jun. 6th, 2008 09:21 am
smittenbyu: (B&W)
Some people ask me if I drive. I say yes. Some people ask me do I drive when I go home. Once I establish they mean India, my answer is no, with a look of "are you mad?" Kuala Lumpur was crazy enough. In fact it was the driving abilities of Indian driving that gave me the courage and guts to drive on KL roads. It didn't seem half as bad. Occasionally here, well, at least once every half hour I find myself cursing at another driver, although it's my husband who is doing the driving. Why don't I drive here? Our car is a manual (which is okay), and it's built for taller people. It means sitting with the steering thinga-majic constantly prodding at my shin and feeling my elbows forever locked in, having to put all my strength to push down the clutch as my legs are not long enough, and with my head barely bobbling over the actual wheel. I really am not THAT short, dammit. sigh.

But in case you wish to drive on the roads of India, anywhere in India, here are a few tips from an unknown writer who so kindly took the time to write it up and is now floating around the cyberworld.

Driving in Bangalore / India
For the benefit of every Tom, Dick and Harry visiting India and daring to drive on Indian roads, I am offering a few hints for survival. They are applicable to every place in India except Bihar, where life outside a vehicle is only marginally safer..

Indian road rules broadly operate within the domain of karma where you do your best, and leave the results to your insurance company.The hints are as follows: Do we drive on the left or right of road? The answer is 'both'. Basically you start on the left of the road, unless it is occupied. In that case, go to the right, unless that is also occupied. Then proceed by occupying the next available gap, as in chess. Just trust your instincts, ascertain the direction, and proceed. Adherence to road rules leads to much misery and occasional fatality. Most drivers don't drive, but just aim their vehicles in the generally intended direction.

Don't you get discouraged or underestimate yourself except for a belief in reincarnation; the other drivers are not in any better position. Don't stop at pedestrian crossings just because some fool wants to cross the road. You may do so only if you enjoy being bumped in the back.

Pedestrians have been strictly instructed to cross only when traffic is moving slowly or has come to a dead stop because some minister is in town. Still some idiot may try to wade across, but then, let us not talk ill of the dead.

Blowing your horn is not a sign of protest as in some countries. We horn to express joy, resentment, frustration, romance and bare lust (two brisk blasts), or just mobilize a dozing cow in the middle of the bazaar. Keep informative books in the glove compartment. You may read them during traffic jams, while awaiting the chief minister's motorcade, or waiting for the rainwater to recede when over ground traffic meets underground drainage.

Occasionally you might see what looks like a UFO with blinking colored lights and weird sounds emanating from within. This is an illuminated bus, full of happy pilgrims singing bhajans. These pilgrims go at breakneck speed, seeking contact with the Almighty, often meeting with success.

Read more... )

It's sad actually but then when you feel helpless to change it, you laugh. I do hope that in time it does change for the sake of people's lives. I laugh for now.
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When my uncles & aunts were here from India and we went down to DC for a tour everyone laughed and were amused to see their beloved but disappearing mode of transportation here in DC. The rickshaw.

rickshaw in DC

Of course, the rickshaws in India don't look so attractive, the rickshaw itself and the driver as well! They often look like this.

rickshaw walla

So where are the younger guys? They drive the auto rickshaw. The three-wheeler that runs on a motor. That looks like this:
auto stand

They are noisy, tiny, engulfed in smoke and dust, but is the cheapest form of transportation in any city of India. And they made front page of the Wall Street Journal yesterday!

Is This a Can of Sardines, Or a Motorized Rickshaw?
By SUDEEP REDDY May 29, 2008; Page A1

full article )

I have never riden in crowded autos but then I have seen many of them around. It's madness at times and scary nonetheless.
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We learnt the national anthem from the moment we entered school doors. We somehow learnt it along with fellow classmates, listening to them sing it at the school assembly every morning. Unfortunately not all are born with a beautiful voice but we sang our hearts out, completely off key, off pitch, off-tone. There might have been a few who would have touched your heart and made you cry, but they were drowned out by the majority who just couldn't carry a tune. Sadly, this way the anthem became just another song, of which the end meant start of a gruelling school day.

It was only a few weeks ago, when my uncle shared the following video, that it made me tear up. It somehow showed that even in the midst of all the chaos, the hatred, the violence, the abuse, there is hope. A hope to gain courage to face the reality that India needs to face. On one end, there's great progress. You see more women working in the workforce, it's becoming common place, you see far fewer beggars on the street than you saw ten years ago (at least in Bangalore), you see Indians being able to afford to travel for leisure, not just to the state next door but overseas - which was once seen as a luxury or done out of necessity to improve life; you can see an immense economic boom that has helped many people. And yet on the other hand, there's poverty, poor reach of education to many, atrocious healthcare, female foeticide, violence against men & women for reasons that go beyond reason.

It's no easy task to mobilise a billion people over night. I hope that when it celebrates its 80th the picture looks much better. Not just for India, but for this planet, my home.

But for now, for today, enjoy the beautiful voices I grew up with, enjoy the beautiful instruments found in India, all congregated to pay tribute to an anthem that has been sung out of key for far too long!

Bharatbala Productions

To India, Happy 60th Independence Day!
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I enjoyed Mumbai this time around. I am not very sure why, but I did. The roads are better. The driving is a tad bit more organised (alright compared to Bangalore anyhow) and people actually wear seatbelts. Oh wait...the cars actually come with seatbelts now. But that's not why. It's the people. Maybe before in the comfort of being constantly insulated by family members at all times I hadn't taken notice or I just didn't want to see it. But really the people that I ran into and came in contact with were just amazingly wonderful. Mumbai is a huge cosmopolitan mess yet it has a small town feel. I could see myself enjoying it again. Although it hasn't come down to wanting to live there just yet.

trip to Mumbai )
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This day always reminds me of my primary school project. I might have been 10 years old. Our class divided into groups and we had to draw up India map showcasing something. My group chose the "easy one" - the political map of India. Others chose the rivers, the mountains, and so forth. But the political map was also the most popularly chosen ones. So, we weren't the only lazy ones! I still remember there were four of us: Ravi Khanna, Suraj, another guy, whose face I can see but the name I forget and I. We set forth during our geography class with large sheets of paper laid out and attempts were made to make the outline of India. We had by us colourful pencils to assist. It was an afternoon spent with plenty of laughter and hard work! Our map came up nearly life size - 4-5 feet!! But ours was special. Our India was fat but happy!

I still remember proudly posting it up as we were holding in with great difficulty our laughter! It was also the very first time I worked with a team who were not my friends who lived close by! Although Ravi lived on the same campus but in a different part of the campus and we only saw each other on the school bus! Either way, that was a big step for the shy little girl that I was. (yeah, keep laughing :P I live to entertain)


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