Happy Diwali – A celebration abroad…without fireworks

Happy Diwali to all the Indians across the world! Live it, celebrate it, enjoy it….even if without fireworks and lights! You only live once…well, not according to the Hindu philosophy, but you got the idea!

Happy Diwali to ALL – Home and Abroad!

Happy Diwali
Happy Diwali

Over the years, while living overseas, the Diwali day has become just like any other other Indian festival day. You don’t really celebrate it, especially if it falls during a week-day when everybody is at work or school. So, what we do? We say ‘Happy Diwali’, just like we say Happy Holi, Happy Janmashtami, Happy Gurupurab…, but it doesn’t mean much. It is just like saying ‘Happy Holi’ instead of the exchange of the real colors during the Holi festival.
And sometimes, especially if it is on the week-end, we get together and celebrate with food and drinks. The fireworks are ‘optional’, mostly forgotten…

Everyone knows what Diwali symbolize; we say it all the times when we explain it to our ‘non-Indian’ colleagues and friends:
‘Diwali symbolize the victory of Good over Evil, Light over Dark…’ We have memorized it, just like little kids memorize the multiplication tables in the school, without paying any attention to the meaning.
The meaning of Diwali is not lost in translation; it is lost over time and over physical distance of countries far away from India! Continue reading “Happy Diwali – A celebration abroad…without fireworks”

Happy Diwali – Drink, Dine and Dance!

You have to be in India to understand the Diwali festival. A few candles and some firework – that’s nowhere close to the actual festival of Diwali. The thundering sound of the fireworks and the glow of night-lights gets lost somewhere in the translations, the translations from Indian culture to the life abroad! But, we are not in India! We have our own way of celebrating Diwali abroad.

Happy Diwali
Happy Diwali

Diwali – the festival of lights, the king of the all the Indian festivals. There is nothing more festive and more celebrated than Diwali in India.

You have to be in India to understand and experience this festival. A few candles and some firework – that’s nowhere c;lose to the actual Diwali. But, we are not in India; we have our own style of celebrating Diwali abroad.

All around the globe, Indians celebrate Diwali festival, but in our own way! The families and friends get together to drink and dine, to party and dance. Seems familiar? Well, that is how we celebrate almost everything abroad – by drinking, dining and dancing! Be it a wedding, a birthday party, even the Holi festival.. or anything in-between …. we never pass on an excuse to drink, dine and dance!!

‘Festival of Lights’ is an understatement to describe this celebration in India. But, then again, we are not in India. The euphoria of Diwali, the traditions of the day, the competing fireworks late into the nights are hard to describe, even if you try.   The feeling and enigma of Diwali is beyond what words can narrate. The thundering sound of the fireworks and the glow of night-lights gets lost somewhere in the translations, the translations from Indian culture to the life abroad! Continue reading “Happy Diwali – Drink, Dine and Dance!”

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”

The best countries to live abroad

A look at the best countries to live abroad, based on the expat surveys. The ranking is based on economic factors, living experiences and best places to raise kids. Some new leaders are emerging..

Which country is best for an immigrant?
It depends. It depends on what is most important to you and how you rank associated facilities and conveniences.

There are all kinds of surveys where expats are asked their opinion about their destination country and their personal experiences. . The surveys often provide an insight into the expat life abroad.

The main factors that are important to anyone living abroad are:
Economics: The jobs and occupations, employment, earning levels, spend­ing, saving and investing etc.
Living Experience: The quality of life, ease of relocation, social circle, friends and family etc.
Raising Children and family Abroad: The childcare, health benefits, family friendly environment  and education etc.

Based on a survey by the Expat Explorer, here are the results – best countries for an expat to live abroad.

Overall Ranking – Taking everything into account – the local economy, living experience and raising a family, here the top countries :

1. Hong Kong

2. Australia

3. Canada

4. Netherlands

5. United Arab Emirates

6. United States

7. Saudi Arabia

8. United Kingdom

9. Kuwait

10. Cayman Islands

11. Thailand

12. Spain Continue reading “The best countries to live abroad”

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?”

The green door

I followed her to the living room. There, in the middle of the fireplace mantel was a big picture of Parkash, smiling. It even had a garland of marigold flowers around it – just like in the movies…NRI story

I cannot believe he is dead!

He lived on the north side of my town, on Dorothy street. I used to pass by his house during my evening strolls. His house had an over-sized green door that did not seem to fit the neighborhood, just like him.

With a white beard and a grey turban; he was easy to spot from a distance. I always found him outside his house, gardening in the front-yard or just admiring the outdoor. As I would walk-by, I exchanged hello/hi with him. I was just being polite – out of respect for our elders. But over time, I made his acquaintance. He liked to talk, I found out pretty soon. Chatting with him became a part of my evening routines.
“Beautiful weather! Nice day for a walk!! Scattered clouds over there, look like a floating goat!!!” He would say random things with a chuckle. He laughed at his own jokes; that used to be a cue for me to laugh.

He was very fond – actually very proud, of India and all things Indian, I could tell. Not that I needed to know, but he often told me the virtues of Indian society, the pride of being Indian. He also reminded me how advanced Indian are, compared to the ‘white people’ as he would call them.

“I was the first Indian in this town” he mentioned one evening, “There were no Indian shops in this area!!”
“It must be hard back then”, I once asked; that was bad idea. For next 20-30 minutes, he told me all about the hardships of being an isolated Indian living amongst white folks.
“Many mornings I used to find eggs shells all over my new car in this driveway; these racist people, I tell you!….”

Sometimes, he complained, but he was not bitter. He told his past stories with the same braggadocio as a captain would shares his encounters with the rough stormy weather.

He was different. I enjoyed these brief daily encounters, and his stories from all over the places. He came across as a fanatic Indian; he never tried to hide his obvious bias for ‘the great India’. Without hesitation, he would share his thoughts about superior Indian culture, the sins of the western society…. But it was never monotonous; he always had new anecdotes.
I did not agree with many of his views, but I never argued with him either. When in serious mood, he spoke like a professor, like a preacher – as if never in doubt. I thought to myself – you cannot change the thinking of an old man, those outdated views….

I recall it was Friday; I did not see him outside his house that evening. It was strange, his absence. Then, even more disturbing, I did not see him for days, for weeks. I looked for him, I even waited and lingered around his house, but he was nowhere to be found. Continue reading “The green door”

Pride

Strong work ethics combined with education, ingenuity and creativeness, Indians continue to execute a proven formula for success all over the globe….Success is part of Indian culture….. As Indian Americans, there is a plenty be proud of, be proud of what we continue to accomplish.

No matter where we live, there are always things to complain about; plenty of people to blame. It is human nature. Different culture, different place, and different values – yes, things are different when you live abroad, different from back home.

No matter where we live, Indians are good at adjusting and adapting, and ultimately competing toe-to-toe in every aspect of life, in every corner of the world. The same applies to those settled in USA.

Success is a part of Indian culture. We strive to accomplish high goals; we fight to prove ourselves. It is in our blood.  Just look within US boundaries: two reigning governors in the highest state offices, countless Indians in NASA and other prestigious research facilities all over. The same is true for a large portion of highly skilled occupations – doctors, scientists, engineers…. the Indians are everywhere in America, in every walk of life.

There are plenty of things to complain about. But, there are plenty of reasons to be proud of, if we look around!

Indian American population in America is a growing and prosperous section of US society. If you get the chance to walk through the corridors of any leading US corporation – banks, medical offices, engineering firms….., you will notice that Indian Americans hold every level of positions including officer and executive jobs. Indians are contributing to the US socio-economic dynamics from every aspect. The numbers and ratios of Indians employed by the leading companies – the like of Google, Microsoft, Apple, Citibank…. continue to grow. Continue reading “Pride”

A baby’s cry

She was tired, she was drained, she was not ready to take care of her first born. They buckled the baby in the car-seat and drove home – to their apartment in Mississauga… an NRI story

“Mom, it is a baby girl…,” her voice barely audible, she called her mother in India.
“Are you okay? Is the baby okay?” Her mom inquired, her voice nervous, but excited.
Sonya was too tired to respond, but that did not stop her mother from asking more questions, “When was she born? Who she looks like? Have you named her?…”
“Mom”, Sonya interrupted, “the nurse is here, I am very sleepy; will call you later..”
“Are you okay, is the baby okay?”
“yes mom, we are okay,” she said before ending the call.

The hospital discharged her along with the baby two days later. The nurse gave her a handful of literature, each pamphlet with a different title – ‘How to care for a new born’, ‘what to expect after a natural birth’, ‘Newborn feeding techniques’….
She was tired, she was drained, she was not ready to take care of her first born. The Nurse helped buckle the baby in the new car-seat and Raj drove them home – to their apartment in Mississauga.

“How is the baby doing,” he mom phoned again next morning.
“Esha is okay, she is sleeping now.”
“Beautiful name”, she paused, “How are you doing?”
“I am okay mom, I am very tired. the baby was awake all night.”
“Oh, where is Raj?”
“He is at work, I am home alone with the baby and I am worried”
“Worried about what, Sonya?”
“If the baby wakes up..” Continue reading “A baby’s cry”

The gold pendant

After the tea, she opened her suitcase and took-out a gold pendant, with a small diamond in the middle. She had it custom made for Jessie. Handing her the expensive gift, she hugged her again… a short-short story…

She does not know her real date of birth; nobody does. By her own accounts, “I was 12 when India became free; when England split Punjab into two parts….” The date on her passport is as random as a weather forecast from a medicine man.
In her 70s, she has outlived all of her siblings, and one of her own sons. Her eyesight is fading. The arthritis in her hands bothers her only during winter chills, “a little pain here and there is good for you; reminds you that you are still alive!” Ups and downs of life don’t affect her much.
She is happy; she learned compromises over the years; she learned how to be content, how to adapt.

Her son greeted her at the Toronto Pearson airport. They hugged, for a long time. With moist eyes, she looked around.
“Where is Anita?” She inquired in Punjabi, the only language she can speak.
“She is still at work maa!” He replied in Punjabi.
“How about Jessie, my little angel?”
“At school, should be home by the time we drive there. “
She looked around – a brand new place, a brand new country.
“Let’s go home maa!” He interrupted her thoughts.
‘Home’, she said to herself, ‘I left my home in India…how many homes one can have!’ she chuckled at her own thoughts. And then, she said out loud, “We need to get two boxes of sweets on the way!”
“Maa, there are no Indian stores on the way! Plus, we don’t eat much sugar anyways”
‘Canada – Strange country’, she looked around, again….

They arrived home. Anita and Jessie, greeted his mother at the door. They hugged, for a long time. Her eyes filled with tears of joys at the sight of her 12 years old grand-kid. She hugged her, again. In a strange way, she felt at home!

After the tea and some rest, she opened her suitcase and took-out a gold pendant with a small diamond in the middle. She had it custom made for Jessie. Handing her the expensive gift, she embraced her her gently.
Jessie took the pendant, looked at it for a long time, as if mesmerized. She hesitated, paused, walked over to Anita sitting in the love-seat.
“I don’t want it, mom!” She handed over pendant to her mother. Continue reading “The gold pendant”

Naming a baby girl

“Yesterday, we were blessed with our second child”, he wrote an email to his friends and family member. “A beautiful baby girl – 7.25 lb, 16.5 inches, brown hair, brown eyes”….. “Cannot decide on the name, suggestions welcome!”

“Yesterday, we were blessed with our second child”, he wrote an email to his friends and family members. “A beautiful baby girl – 7.25 lb, 16.5 inches, brown hair, brown eyes,.. not sure who she looks like.” He ended the email with an open invitation to all, “Cannot decide on the name, suggestions welcome! :)”

Kiran, his wife, wanted to name her Navee; she had always liked that name.
“Umm… not sure about this one!” He quipped.
“It is a cool name, and easy to pronounce, even for Canadians!” she insisted

“What would you like to call your sister?” Kiran asked Sonia, her 6 years old daughter.
“I don’t know”, she was mesmerized by the little thing, “She is so cute! Name her princess!”
“Well, you are my princess!”
“Now you have two!” She giggled

His mother sat in the chair next to the hospital bed, holding the baby, rocking her gently every now and then. She wanted a son, but she was content with God’s will!
“Every child is born with a predetermined luck – a destiny!” She had said when the doctor first gave them the news. “We cannot change it, it is His decision!” She pointed up with her index finger. Continue reading “Naming a baby girl”

Misplaced Nostalgia

Eight years older, moustache missing and 25 pounds heavier, he arrived back in India. His town, however, was not the same as he had left behind. The side-streets where he wandered aimlessly, the school where he learned to day-dream, the grocery store around the corner, the peepul tree next to the pond, the pond itself…. were all gone…

With big dreams, with full imagination, and with an empty pocket, he left India.

“Success”, he told himself when he landed in USA; he was twenty-six.

Since he was a little kid, just like every other kid in his town, his ambition was to go overseas. That is how he was raised.

The culture, the people, the society, and the way everybody was …… everything was different, very different. The life in California was not what he had imagined.

But, he adapted.

It was a big adjustment over the years, many compromises at every turn. In spite of all that, he did not complain much; after all this was his own decision – going abroad.

All those days, all those years  in America, he felt homesick. He missed the life he had left behind. The childhood memories, the old friends, the open fields – he often day-dreamed the life that used to be.  At times, he felt empty inside. He wished he could go back; go back to his real home, his real life.

He worked hard. He made lots of money; a lot of money if you think in Indian Rupees.

The recession came; he lost his job – the high paying engineering job he took for granted. He looked for another job, half-heartedly. No luck. Perhaps he was secretly wishing not to work in US anymore. Continue reading “Misplaced Nostalgia”

Just a job

He had big dream; after all, nobody dreams small. Once in US, he was very optimistic about his career at first… then…the compromise…he needed a job….just a job.. a short story

“You can easily find an Engineering job in your field in America… no problem for a smart guy like you…”
“There is no shortage of work for Indian Engineers…this is just the fact…”
“You will find something – something good, no problem….”
….. Back home in India, just like any typical Indian family, everybody was full of advice. Everyone had told him that it was very easy to get an engineering job in America.

“You can make lots of money in a few years”, His future father-in-law told him at the time of his engagement 3 years ago. A year after that, he was married to Anu.
He used to be very optimistic about his career in USA, so was the rest of his American family – his in-laws.

He had big dream. After all, nobody dreams small.

Once in US, he was greeted by his wife and her family and they welcome him into their home. His old classmates, now living within driving distance, came to visit him.
He was treated like a guest for many months. However, he soon realized, you cannot be a guest for too long. He had to figure out the next step – the job. With all the expenses and cost of living, he needed a job soon. His parents and siblings back home were already calling to check on him; to see when he might send them some money, like every other NRI does.

After a few months, the tone of the advice changed:
“You just need to try a bit harder, maybe try something in lower pay scale to gain some experience…”
“Find a way to get your foot in the door…”
“My cousin started as a technician; now he is the director of engineering…but they are not hiring…”
“You cannot give up…We never give up…”
“You will find something – may be not that good but something… something good….” Continue reading “Just a job”

Yes, Life is different here!

Yes, life is different here, very different!!
People follow so many different religions here….Some dress sparingly and reveal everything…different social circles…Greed and fear drive everyday life…

Living Abroad – Different strokes for different folks!

Yes, life is different here, very different!!

Here, people come from all over the places! They have different skin tones, different heights. They walk different, they talk different. Some have local accent; others are outsiders for sure. Some speak in a monotone while others are too dramatic in every expression. Some stand still and deliver their opinion in a quiet but firm voice, while others use their hands and gestures more than their tongue.

Some dress sparingly and reveal everything, very outdoorsy to say it modestly! Others are too covered, as if protecting themselves from a wintery chill, even in the summer months.

People speak so many different languages here. Just walk down the street and you will get an earful of gibberish dialects for sure; many of those you have never heard of!

Yes, life is different here, very different!!

The food choices are quite interesting, or strange. Some like it plain and others, spicy. Some eat only vegetables while others hunt for meat. Some can afford it all, while others live from hand to mouth. Some like it exotic and show off their feasts while others struggle to feed even two times a day. Continue reading “Yes, Life is different here!”

My new home…

Home is where I learned the meaning of pride,
Home is where I understood humility.
Home is where I needed no welcome mat,
Home is where I took things for granted….

Home, earliest memory of my childhood;
Where I learned to walk and run.
Home is where I was taught so much;
To stand by myself, to stand for others.

Home, where I took shelter;
After fighting with kids bigger than me.
Home is where I always ended up;
When I was tired, hungry or thirsty.

Home, where I learned the meaning of pride;
Home is where I understood humility.
Home, where I needed no welcome mat;
Home is where I took things for granted. Continue reading “My new home…”

Double Standard

She had big dreams, her ideology was based on truth, honesty and kindness. But that was a long time ago, that was before she saw the real world. In the name of the family, for the sake of the society, she has learned to compromise at every stage of life abroad…

She had big dreams, her ideology was based on truth, honesty and kindness. But that was a long time ago, that was when she was seventeen. She thought she was special; she was born to do great things; she was born to make a difference. But then again, that was was when she was in high school. She barely new the world out there. She never knew that the rules of kindness, love and truth apply differently beyond the walls of her house.

Somewhere along the way, somewhere in the process of growing up, she left her house to encounter the real world. She was no longer shielded by her family and her loved ones. It was part of her society, it was part of the traditions to move out. She got married; her family tied her knot to an educated man from Canada. Not because they knew him, or she loved him; they married her in the hope that life would be better in Canada. That is what everyone thought, and that is what they believed – she will be better off in Canada, far better off.

But then again, people are not what they appear to be. In the real world abroad, things are very different. The real world is far different than the one based on dreams; the real world where ideology is often talked about but seldom practiced. Most of the people talk big but do little, she soon learned.

In no time, she was exposed to the double standards as she left her father’s house. She saw hypocrisy first hand – day in and day out. The lies, the deceptions, the compromises – everything was at play on her new stage of life. Continue reading “Double Standard”