Indian names but English nicknames?

Perhaps as a part of the globalization, India and Indians are also starting to take on English or Americanized nicknames. It is even more popular amongst the desi generation living overseas. A brainwash, or adaptation to the demands of the society?

Overseas Living: The Trend of Americanized/European nicknames instead of desi names!
At a desi wedding parties or other similar functions abroad, you are bound to run into some guests with interesting names; I mean the English version of Indian names. If someone introduce himself as Gary Singh, you know right away that his parents did not name him Gary. Now, is his real name Gurdip, Gurjit, Gurdev….? That could be a good guessing game if you get bored of the party!

Nicknames are very common amongst American and European people, but those are often predictable. Jim is generally short for James, Tony is nickname for Anthony, Bob is probably Robert and so on…. White people are used to the nicknames. However, when Indians use nicknames, they are often questioned. “You are forgetting your root”, you grandma will probably remind you. Others will call you ABCD – ‘American born confused desi’, or even worse!

Also, if you introduce yourself with Americanized/westernized nickname, some people may get confused, or they want to know more. “So, what is your real name? You don’t look like ‘Gary’!” Now, don’t take it the wrong way, that could be a sincere question. They just want to know more about you; many people use such conversation as ice breakers.

The general question that many have: should we be using Americanized nicknames? Does that make you hypocrite or shallow amongst your hardcore Indian circle?
Continue reading “Indian names but English nicknames?”

Happy New Year!

Happy 2016! Another year full of new possibilities….Take a look around, slow-down and take a break once in a while…enjoy the journey of life…. into another year!

Best wishes for a Happy 2016!!
Wishing everyone a good health, happiness, prosperity and good Karma, though we are still looking for ‘him’!
2015, another year gone by, a part of the past now. Most of it will fade away into distant memories.
Looking ahead, a new year -2016, with new potentials. So, time for some new resolutions, even though most of our new year’s resolutions are about the same as before… not much changes in our wishes and expectations. Except, the time moves on!
The life’s journey is random in nature – beautiful, exciting, surprising, boring, disappointing…. all combined in unpredictable steady moments of time. There are ups, there are downs. But, if you look around, there is always something to live for, to cherish, to enjoy….
So, here is another year, a brand new 2016, full of new possibilities… Explore it, enjoy it !
Life happens, moment-by-moment, day by day, year by year…
So live it! Let us be grateful for another chapter in our lives.
Look around; admire the nature, the surroundings…, admire the goodness of humanity. Be a part of ‘all that is good in the universe’.
But, above all, slow down once in while, take a break. Break the fast pace of the daily grinds and look around every now and then;enjoy the journey! The life, the living, happens in the present!
Happy Journey!
Happy New year!!

Old Hindi songs and the subtle Punjabi touch

The old Hindi film songs are known for the use of Urdu words and a subtle touch of Punjabi. Listen to the Hindi songs from 1950s, 1960s and 1970s and you will feel this bias. However, this influence has slowly faded away over the recent years…

Listen to old songs from Indian Hindi movies (now called Bollywood movies), you will notice two things:
1. A lot of songs are written in pure Urdu,
2. There is a clear influence of Punjabi language/wording on a lot of old Hindi (or Urdu) songs.
To understand this influence, you have look at the history of Indian Cinema in early 1900s. Before the Indian Partition in 1947, even though the movie production was concentrated in Bombay, north India was a prime spot for shooting the actual film scenes. Lahore and Delhi were commonly used for urban settings; the Kashmir valley and the Himalayan foothills were the key spots for natural scenery and natural beauty.
The political and religious unrest in Punjab in 1940s played into the Punjabi infusion into Hindi cinema. Many Lahore based actors, directors and singers moved to Bombay to avoid living amongst the riots and the social divisions. The likes of B.R. Chopra, Mohammed Rafi, Sahir Ludhianvi, Verma Malik… were impacted by the Punjab Partition and all of them made their name in Bombay film industry sooner or later. Pran, our favorite ‘Villain of the Millennium’, started in Lahore in Punjabi cinema in 19040, his first film was Yamla Jat. After acting in several movies in Lahore, he moved to Bombay after 1947 partition of India.
In early 1900s, Punjab was one of the most prosperous region of India and Punjabi actors were preferred for the lead/main roles because of their fair complexion and taller/stronger stature. Starting with Prithviraj Kapoor (Kapoor family), Rajesh Khanna, Sunil Dutt, Dharmendra… Punjabi dominance in Bombay film industry was very noticeable and they brought Punjabi culture with them. Even more is true about poets and song writers.
For example, if you listen to ‘Roti Kapda Aurr Makaan’ movie’s songs, there is a clear Punjabi influence. The song ‘Mehangai Maar Gayi’ starts with a mixture Urdu and Punjabi:
‘Usne kahaa tu kaun hain, maine kahaa ulfat teri
usne kahaa takta hai kya, maine kahaa surat teri
usne puchhaa chaahata hai kya, maine kahaa chaahat teri
maine kahaa samjhaa nahi, usne kahaa kismat teri…’ Continue reading “Old Hindi songs and the subtle Punjabi touch”

TED Talk: A Saudi, an Indian and an Iranian in a Qatari bar

Even the most serious and touchy topics can be better addressed when followed with a laugh! Iranian-American comedian Maz Jobrani takes to the TED audience…

The Iranian-American comedian Maz Jobrani delivers a comic piece to the TED audience in Doha, Qatar. This is an interesting take on some the most serious issues and perceptions surrounding Muslims and the Middle East.
Oh, and also included are some pieces of common advice to the people with brown skin when boarding an airplane in America!

Most of the time, as we can see from this comedy, even the most serious and touchy topics can be better addressed when wrapped in laughter!
Instead of politicians and religious leaders, we need more comedians talking about the cultural and religious differences! Continue reading “TED Talk: A Saudi, an Indian and an Iranian in a Qatari bar”

TED Talk: East vs. West — the myths that mystify

When we look at the people from a different culture, we look through the lens of our own values, our own morality. Devdutt Pattanaik has an interesting take on the myths of India and those of the West… and how we misunderstand one another.

We often compare our Indian culture, values and traditions with the West. We always look at a culture through the values and the lenses of our own culture, our own definition of values and morality. There is no surprise, that we are often biased in our observations. This bias can be conscious or subconscious, our views are seldom neutral.
In this interesting TED talk, Devdutt Pattanaik takes an eye-opening look at the myths of India and the West. The speaker explains how these two fundamentally different sets of beliefs about God, death and heaven help us consistently misunderstand one another.

The speaker links the the business aspect to our culture and our myths. How we look at our business and operation is through the eyes of our own culture. The best ways to deal with dynamic and diverse markets is through the culture of our customers.
So, what is the ‘right’ or ‘suitable’ way to approach a situation or a business problem? It depends. It depends on the situation and it depends on the ‘eyes’ of the culture and mythology. Continue reading “TED Talk: East vs. West — the myths that mystify”

‘I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings’ by Maya Angelou

The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill….
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom…

A tribute to Maya Angelou – a life well lived.

The free bird leaps
on the back of the wind
and floats downstream
till the current ends
and dips his wings
in the orange sun rays
and dares to claim the sky.

But a bird that stalks
down his narrow cage
can seldom see through
his bars of rage
his wings are clipped and
his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings
with fearful trill
of the things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom Continue reading “‘I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings’ by Maya Angelou”

Indian Elections and the Change – Not so fast

The Indian election brings new slogans, new leaders with same old promises of better life for everyone. But for a common man, nothing changes. The corruption and other political evils are deep rooted; this culture cannot be changed overnight. Not the color of a party’s flag but the color of money drives India; and, lots of that money is still black….

They say, time changes everything. Now, how fast or how slow? – It depends on the time or the force of change!

The Indian elections bring one of the biggest change in the political scenery. The Congress Party – the ruling party for decades, has been voted out. The Gandhi dynasty is gone, for now. The Indian public have spoken, They wanted a change, and the change they got; at least that’s what they think!

However, lets be clear; BJP is the winner by default not by merit. People wanted congress gone, no matter who the opposition is. The change is more driven by the fact that Congress was dissed by the masses, not because BJP is embraced by everyone. In other words, the common man on the street was more interest in ousting the Congress party. As a result, BJP came out a winner in big way.

This is a major change in Indian politics after a long time. The majority of Indians are happy about the results. But, are they more hopeful for a better future, for a better India? Not necessarily, not if you look around. Nothing is changing in a hurry; there is nothing new on the horizon!

For example, take the case of common corruption. The corruption runs deep in India, it is an accepted way of life. When it comes to corruption and the common ailments of Indian society, the boundaries of political parties don’t matter. No matter who sits in the high office, the middle management is still the same. An honest police chief will be always honest no matter if congress ruled or BJP. A corrupt office will still be corrupt, even if there is s change in the political party. So, the things have hardly changed for the common man even though there is a major political change.

So what gives! The BJP promise of better days ahead – is it false? It may not be false, but it is not so true either. There is not going to a change overnight, let us be realistic. The web of Indian corruption and other political evils has deep roots, it cannot be eliminated by taking out the current ruling party. It is not so simple. It is not the color of a party’s flag but the color of money that drives India and the Indian infrastructure. And lots of that money is still black, no matter which party rules the high offices.

For an average man, there is hardly any change – nothing, nada, zero!!

So, are the better days ahead? Not in the near future, not for a common man. Continue reading “Indian Elections and the Change – Not so fast”

The ban on Affirmative Action – a new trend

Positive discrimination; employment equity, ‘reservation’….affirmative action comes in different shapes and with different names. However, inequality in society goes beyond socially defined boundaries and the color of the skin…

Affirmative action has many names in different parts of the world. Some call it positive discrimination; Canada touts it as employment equity; it is ‘reservation’ in India and positive action in the UK. Affirmative action is the policy of providing special opportunities for a disadvantaged group of society who suffer from discrimination. It is an effort to ‘equal the playing field’ by favoring a weaker/minority group.

The nature of positive discrimination policies varies from country to country. Some countries, such as India, use a quota system, whereby a certain percentage of jobs or school vacancies must be set aside for members of a certain group. In some other regions, specific quotas do not exist; instead, members of minorities are given preference in selection processes. The US public colleges and Universities often consider race and ethnicity during admission process.

The Affirmative action is intended to promote the opportunities for the minority groups – to give them equal access to that of the privileged/majority population.

Now, there has been ongoing argument that the affirmative action is an unfair system and prefers certain groups during a selection process. The Michigan state has been in the news for many years now as the argument (for and against affirmative action) started in a school, leading all the way to the Supreme court. Here is a quick summary:

October 1997: Two students (Jennifer Gratz and Patrick Hamacher) sue the University of Michigan regarding the affirmative action policy used in undergraduate admissions after not getting into the College of Literature Science and Arts.

December 1997: Barbara Grutter sues the university regarding the Law School’s use of admissions, which considers race in reviewing applicants.

June 2003: The U.S. Supreme Court held in the Grutter case that diversity is a compelling interest in higher education, and that race is one of a number of factors that can be taken into account during the admissions process. The Court upheld the holistic review used in the Law School’s admissions policy. Continue reading “The ban on Affirmative Action – a new trend”

The cat and the cage

Her grandma had a cat; a cat she found wandering around in her farm when she was a little girl. That was a long time ago. The life on the farm was simple back then. The day her grandma got married, they caged the cat under a big wooden box. Perhaps, they did not want Tufaan to run through all the sweets and the decorations….

metal_cage1Her grandma had a cat; a cat she found wandering around in her farm when she was a little girl. That was a long time ago, even long before India’s partition in 1947. The life on the farm was simple back then.

The little cat loved to run through the farm and all over the house, always on the run. Grandma named her Tufaan, which meant storm.

The day her grandma got married, they caged the cat under a big wooden box. Perhaps, they did not want Tufaan to run through all the sweets and the decorations. The grandma remembered it vividly – the cat scratching the box, begging to be freed. They had to put extra weight on the perforated box to keep her from escaping.

The wedding went smoothly, grandma lived a long and happy life.

“Let me tell you Aman,” Grandma would love to talk about her cat, ” Tufaan was my good luck. Our family’s prosperity is tied to that cat! She was my best fried!!”

Twenty years later, when Aman’s mother got married, grandma told the servants to arrange for a cage. For two days, during the ceremonies, grandma made sure that the cat stayed in the cage.

She repeated the same ritual when he other daughters got married!

“I am not very superstitious, only when it is logical,” Grandma would say if anybody asked about her cat being restrained in the cage during the ceremonies. Nobody questioned her; they did not question their elders back then.

And then, many years later, Aman came to Canada for studies. After her graduation, she got a good job in Toronto and decided to stay in Canada.

For last two years, she was in her first serious relation. She was happy, for a while. Earlier this year, she decided to back out; things were not working out.

Last month she went ahead and bought a large animal cage from the local pet store.

Now, all she needs is a man, and a cat.

Did I tell you – she is not very superstitious, only when it is logical!

Other Short Stories Continue reading “The cat and the cage”

Moving Out

“Can’t you stay?” He pleaded, standing at the bedroom door.
She looked at him, smiled and continue to pack-up her things.
“You don’t have to go. You can stay!” he repeated, this time in a more ‘begging’ tone… a short stoty.

“Can’t you stay?” He pleaded, standing at the bedroom door that was only half way open.
She looked at him, smiled and then continued to pack her things.
“You don’t have to go. You can stay!” he repeated, this time in a more ‘begging’ tone as he gently pushed on the door to open it wider.
She stopped stuffing her clothes into an already full suitcase. Then, she walked over and gave him a big hug.
“You gonna be okay!…Believe me!” She said in an reassuring tone.
He did not say anything, he did not know what else to say.
She returned to her suitcase, started to re-arranged the jeans, trying to make some room for more stuff.
“It is pretty late; aren’t you sleepy?” She said, knowing that he is still there, standing at the door.
He did not reply. he stood there for a few more seconds and then walked off.

He woke-up early next morning, earlier than his normal daily routine. He lay there, in the bed, stretching. The bright light filtered through the customer-made roman shade on the window.
Normally, he would lay there, for ten-fifteen minutes, let his body ‘wake-up’ before getting out of the bed, but not today. He dragged himself out of the bed right away.
He was still tired; he did not sleep well last night.
Rubbing his eyes, he slowly walked over to her room. The door was locked with lights on; he could tell by looking at the gap underneath the door. Obviously, she was awake. He stood there for a few seconds and then decided to walk away. He did not want to bother her again this early.

He brushed his teeth, washed up, and started to get dressed. He put on the blue jeans and the red t-shirt – the clothes she had helped him choose at the Gap store last week.

Lethargically, as if no energy in his ever-active legs, he came downstairs. He slumped in the sofa in the living room and turned on the TV, his usual morning routine. But this morning, he was not paying any attention to the TV; he did not even bother to change the news channel.

Her door opened and she started to bring her luggage downstairs, putting everything by the front door. The big suitcase, the laptop bag, a plastic bag full of shoes, another plastic bag, her favorite pillow, the books… looks like she had packed up the whole room.

He walked over, towards the front door and sat down on the bottom of the staircase, without saying anything.
“come on, lets have some breakfast!” She tried to cheer him up.
Half-heartedly, he followed her to the kitchen. She grabbed two bowls from the overhead cabinet and poured equal amount of Honey Nut Cheerios and milk in each bowl.
“You don’t have to go, you know!” He reiterated his wish as they sat eating in the dining room.
“No, I have to,” she spoke in a convincing tone, like a teacher would talk to a student.
“No, you don’t!”
“You gonna be okay! I will call you; and, you can call me any time! You know my number, right?”
He did not say anything, as if giving up his fight to make her stay. Continue reading “Moving Out”

Weight-Loss Intervention

“it is very noticeable, especially on your tummy!”
“Extra weight doesn’t look good on you!”
“yes, do something. You need to lose some weight!”…. a short story

“it is very noticeable, especially on your tummy!”

“Extra weight doesn’t look good on you!”

“Everybody is asking if something is wrong with you.”

“We have a wedding next month, your own brother-in-law!”

“yes, our own family celebrations!”

“Sari does not look good with tummy sticking out!”

“We love you, that’s why we are asking you.”

“yes, do something. You need to lose some weight!”

Her mother-in-law and the two aunts continue the bombardment. Everyone else is quiet, as if silent witnesses to the ugly situation. Continue reading “Weight-Loss Intervention”

What do foreigners find most annoying about Indians overseas?

Every culture, every race, every lineage, every ethnic group has some quirks that irk the outsiders.Here are some of the desi traits about people from India that foreigners find annoying or not-so-pleasant:

Every culture, every race, every lineage, every ethnic group has some quirks that irk the outsiders.Here are some of the desi traits about the people from India that foreigners find annoying or not-so-pleasant:

1. Self-isolation and slow to adapt: Indians are known for their reserve nature. They don’t mingle well unless you are part of their social circle; and the social circle is mostly Indian friends. Sometimes this behavior is mistaken for aloofness and showing general disdain, and others may find it annoying. Socializing is a skill that Indians need to acquire more and improve.

2. Parental overshadow (momma’s boy syndrome): Many westerns (Western meaning Americans and Europeans, not cowboys and cowgirls) avoid dating Indians because most of them don’t move out of their parents houses even after the college is done. And, parents try their best to hold on to their kids and ‘baby’ them even when the ‘kids’ are in their 20s or beyond. Annoying? – probably not, but lack of independent living? – yes.

3. Big houses and cheap clothes: The Indians love the concept of mortgage – saving every penny for down-payment and then spending everything on a big house, bigger than their cousins’ or brothers’ houses nearby. And in the process, if you have to penny pinch from everywhere else – that’s okay.

4. Body odor and dental hygiene: Some Indians (and then the perception becomes for all the Indians) do have the problem of body odor, bad smell from the mouth and the dental hygiene. This problem is not-so-common among the younger generation, but a perception is there. Continue reading “What do foreigners find most annoying about Indians overseas?”

Happy Spring!

The seasons come and seasons go, just like the ups and downs of any life. A new season, a new hope – the new possibilities.
Here is a salute to another ‘up’, to another spring. Happy spring!

Time – infinite moments put together. Time – so unpredictable. No one knows what tomorrow brings,  if tomorrow comes.

Yet, time – always predictable if you step back and look at the bigger picture. The beauty of time – the spring always follows winter.

Another dawn, another beautiful day. The mild temperature of a sunny afternoon;  a welcome change.

The wintery chill is finally fading; the days growing longer, the nights shrinking. The morning frost is short lived. The winter attire and warm clothes are a thing of the yesterday. Strolling down the street in a spring jackets – it feels much lighter, much nicer…you can finally breathe the freshness of new air. Yes, a welcome change.

Another day, another season; it is finally starting to feel like spring again!

The small green buds are starting to peep from the naked tree branches. The green hue is returning to the brown dead grass. The ponds are no longer frozen; a pair of white swimming swans declare that the spring is finally here – the proof if you still need one. The outdoors are inviting again, with open arms. Continue reading “Happy Spring!”

Indian values or right values?

It does not matter if you raise an Indian kid, or ‘not so Indian’ kid as long as he or she grow up to be a good kid – a good human being. Perhaps, more than Indian or global values, it is important to instill the right values.

Learning the mother tongue…
The Sunday classes in the temple or Gurudwara…
Attending religious recitals even if you don’t understand what the priest is saying….

Growing-up abroad is a challenge in itself, not that we realize it when we are kids. Being a minority has its own offshoot effects that you cannot control.You cannot change your skin tone, unless you are Michael Jackson – not so easy, and you are still the same person inside! 🙂

Being an Indian overseas comes with its own demands. You not only have to worry about the the bigots and the racist idiots on the street, but your parents and elders are paranoid to the point of obsession; the obsession with raising the kids with ‘Indian values’.

Growing up in India – you are amongst your own kind; you are immersed in your own culture. As a child in India, the social values are spoon-fed over the years; you are surrounded by your own kind; you are the majority. No confusion, no duplicity.

Living abroad however, our culture at home is often different than the culture on the street. We are dealing with a multicultural society. Our social settings are totally different and multidimensional. As a kid growing up, we adapt to the surroundings, to the society we grow-up in.

Growing up in American or any other Western society, the Indian American families tend to hold on to the inherited culture and Indian social values much more closely. The parents cling to the carried-over traditions from India, holding on to the Indian roots very dearly. The Indian families make a very conscious effort to instill the Indian values into their kids. Continue reading “Indian values or right values?”

Protect the kids, protect the future, not the guns!

Guns are a part of American life. Gun ownership is a part of the culture. But, how good is a past tradition if it is ruining the future? It is about time to change the gun ownership tradition. We owe this to our future; we owe this to our children.

Strict Gun Laws – we owe this to our children

The guns kill, there is no doubt about it. The guns are made to kill – animals, people, anything you aim at. The guns are the means to kill and assault. Yet, it is a sad fact that guns are so easily available, so accessible to everyone and anyone with little effort.

Guns are an integral part of American life, and American culture. There is a history of gun ownership in USA; it is a part of growing up – a hobby, a habit.

But, how good is a past tradition if it is ruining the future? Be it an old habit or an age-old tradition, some bad habits need to go, so do the flawed traditions. It is about time, about time to change the gun ownership tradition in America. In fact, it is already too late, too late for many affected families.

In the recent years, we have witnessed more and mover mass killings, more and more gun violence on a large scale. Shooting little kids in the schools, killing innocent students in the university campuses, gunning down peaceful worshipers for no reason…..too many killings on daily basis, too much gun violence.

It is a shame that powerful NRA, the National Rifle Association, is single handedly controlling the gun laws in this country. Disguising itself as the defender of Second Amendment rights, NRA is spending lots of money advertising the pro-gun agenda and lobbying the congress to support pro-gun stance. What the NRA does is simply disgusting and down right dirty.

NRA is very vocal against any gun controls including the right to own semi-automatic weapons, the guns that can spit out 100s bullets per minute. Why anyone need these assault weapons is beyond any common logic, beyond any rationale. Continue reading “Protect the kids, protect the future, not the guns!”