Indian names but English nicknames?

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 Diwali – A celebration abroad…without fireworks

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”

The Ant and the Grasshopper – The Indian Version

An old story:ant_grasshopper

The Ant works hard in the withering heat all summer building its house and laying up supplies for the winter. The Grasshopper thinks the Ant is a fool and laughs & dances & plays the summer away. Come winter, the Ant is warm and well fed. The Grasshopper has no food or shelter so he dies out in the cold.

The Indian Version:

The Ant works hard in the withering heat all summer building its house and laying up supplies for the winter. The Grasshopper thinks the Ant’s a fool and laughs & dances & plays the summer away. Come winter, the shivering Grasshopper calls a press conference and demands to know why the Ant should be allowed to be warm and well fed while others are cold and starving. NDTV, BBC, CNN and other media outlets show up to provide pictures of the shivering Grasshopper next to a video of the Ant in his comfortable home with a table filled with food. The World is stunned by the sharp contrast – ‘How can this be that this poor Grasshopper is allowed to suffer! What an injustice!!’
So, Arundhati Roy stages a demonstration in front of the Ant’s house. Medha Patkar goes on a fast along with other Grasshoppers demanding that Grasshoppers be relocated to warmer climates during winter . Mayawati states this as `injustice’ done on Minorities.

Amnesty International and United Nations criticize the Indian Government for not upholding the fundamental rights of the Grasshopper. The Internet is flooded with online petitions seeking support to the Grasshopper, many promising Heaven and Everlasting Peace for prompt support as against the wrath of God for non-compliance.
Opposition MPs stage a walkout. Left parties call for ‘Bengal Bandh’ in West Bengal and Kerala demanding a Judicial Enquiry. CPM in Kerala immediately passes a law preventing Ants from working hard in the heat so as to bring about equality of poverty among Ants and Grasshoppers. Lalu Prasad allocates one free coach to Grasshoppers on all Indian Railway Trains, aptly named as the ‘Grasshopper Rath’. Continue reading “The Ant and the Grasshopper – The Indian Version”

Happy Diwali – Drink, Dine and Dance!

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!”

The whispers and the shouts

“You have to go! I am done with you! This marriage is over!!”
She said nothing.
“Wait till I show these pictures to your family!”
“Please listen…” she stopped mid sentence, not sure what to say next, or how to explain it.
“Sleeping with a married man! Shame on you!!…” Panting and puffing in anger, he paused to catch up his breath…., “You are disgraced all over Surrey! I will make sure!!”
Tears dribbled down her big brown eyes, scrolling down to the flustered cheeks, and to the sides of her big red lips. Her dark brown hair all ruffled up, she periodically wiped her forehead with the back of the right hand. With each and every nervous motion, in the nightlights of the front hallway, her tall and slender frame looked very fragile
It was late night, long after dinner time, long after the bed-time. He had already opened the door, asking her many times to ‘get the hell out of my house’. She resisted, she pleaded. Her futile efforts were useless. He grabbed her by the shoulder, almost pinching her with a firm grip. Turning her around, he pushed her out of the door.
She cried, this time much louder, but the door was already shut and locked behind her.
Standing at the front porch, she looked around. The upscale neighborhood was deserted. Other than a couple strolling down the side-street towards the pond on the far end, there was no one around. She was relieved that nobody saw her being thrown out of her own house.
The relief lasted only a few moments, only a few seconds. She looked around again; she looked down. She was bare feet. Scantily dressed in her summer Indian clothes, she was already starting to feel the chill of September night. The British Columbia weather and a full night ahead – she was scared. Very scared.
She turned around and knocked on the door, gently at first. No response. Then she banged on it, much harder. She could hear his footsteps on the other side of the door, getting closer and closer. She waited.
“Go away! Go call your boyfriend!” Her husband shouted from inside the house.
“Please open the door, Raj!” Her voice trembling, barely audible.
No response. She started to panic. They have had fights before; they have had long arguments that lasted beyond midnights. Being thrown out of the house, this was the first time.
A car drove by. She turned around, facing towards the door; pretending, as if unlocking the door. The front porch was dimly lit. The solar lights alongside the hydrangea bushes lit up the well-manicured front yard. The half moon was up in the middle of the sky; the stars were already out. For any other day, this would have been a perfect night to be outdoor, to admire the nature. Not tonight. Beyond the lights, moon and stars, she was more focused on the dark – a long night ahead.
Another car drove by, slowing down as passing by, perhaps to look at the house with woman standing at the door.
“Open the door!” She banged the door again. Continue reading “The whispers and the shouts”

Weight-Loss Intervention

“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”

Rendezvous

Love is supposed to make you glow, make you happy. But in her case, it was the other way around. Maybe it was cursed, she wondered. Perhaps, because it was forbidden.

“God damn it!” She murmurs, as another customer leaves her shop without any purchase.
“I really need money! I really need something to support myself.”

She looks in the wall-size mirror behind the counter. He skin pale; the big beautiful eyes don’t hold the same old shine – the glow of a rising sun they once had. Her mom had picked her name – Aruna, literary meaning sun rise.
Even with all the make-up, the dark circles underneath her eyes eclipse her beauty of yester years.

Her father owns the Taj Fashions – an Indian clothing store in Brampton. The well-lit shop in a small shopping plaza is deserted. If the business dies, her income dies – she knows it.
Selling Indian fashion and designers’ clothes is all she has done since she came to Canada. She needs the store to flourish. She needs the business to survive.No customers.
Another ominous sign in two days.

The love brought her stress and misery. It was very hard to hide, to hide from her parents and everyone around her.
Brave and undeterred, she met him every chance she got. He was an addiction, a drug that she needed the most to function.

He made promises, big promises – about them being together, about their future. She trusted him with everything, she trusted him with herself. Like a newly wed bride, she dressed up for him; she did everything for him – everything.

And, all this time, carefully, she hid him from her family, from everyone. Her biggest secret to date. Or, so she thought.

Time changed, it always does.
People. Nosy people. They always find out. The rendezvous, just like an odor, are impossible to hide. Her boyfriend crumbled under the weight of the society. He showed his true colors; he deserted her. He decided to stay with his wife.
Her faith faltered, the rosy future quickly got covered under a dark cloud, just like the dark circles under her pretty eyes. Continue reading “Rendezvous”

A boyfriend, a husband and the God

“Oh God, what should I do!!” She asked

‘What do you mean?” The God replied.

“I mean what should I do?”

Silence. There was no response from the Almighty.

“Seriously, I am in pain. Please help me!”

“Pain? Are you sure? Why?”

“You are supposed to answer my prayers, not ask question after question!”

“That is what you think!” He paused. “Why would you be still in pain?” the God asked again.

“My husband hates me, and my boyfriend doesn’t want me anymore?”

” A boyfriend and a husband –  looks like you have one of each. That is non-traditional. Most women have them both covered in one person!” The God chuckled.

“I know, I am torn! That is a sin, right?”

“It depends on you!”

“For my child, I have decided to stay with my husband. Not an easy choice, you know.”

“I know!”

“But he is mad at me everyday!”

“Oh!”

“He found out about my boyfriend!”

“Love is hard to hide, especially the forbidden one!”

“Forbidden, I know, but I could not help it. My boyfriend gave me love that my husband could not!”

“Looks like a bad husband.”

“He never loved me!”

“Did you love him?”

“I tried, yes, since the day I met him.” She paused, “We rushed into the marriage.”

“Why?”

“My parents liked him because he lived in Canada; I did not think twice!”

“Arranged marriages – very common in India.”

“i did not know what I was getting into!”

“That is normal….And, your boyfriend?” Continue reading “A boyfriend, a husband and the God”

The best countries to live abroad

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”

You Know You’re Indian If (funny):

Some fun-facts, interesting observations and comic beliefs about Indians living abroad!  🙂
U r desi if:

  • Your parents drink 6 cups of tea a day.
  • When you are unwell/sick, everyone turns into a doctor advising what to do.
  • You have a 40 lb. bag of rice in your pantry.
  • Your parents lecture you in English “No English; you should speak in your mother tongue at home!”
  • “You want an iPhone? When I was your age, I didn’t even have shoes!!” Parents quip.
  • You have to call just about all your parent’s friends ‘Auntie’/’Uncle.’
  • You arrive an hours (or two) late to a party and think it’s normal.
  • Your dad is either some type of engineer or a doctor or a taxi-driver… or owns a convenience store.
  • Your parents blame everything bad on bad Karma from previous lives.
  • Everything you eat is savored in garlic, onion and tomatoes
  • Your parents talk for an hour at the front door when leaving someone’s house.
  • Continue reading “You Know You’re Indian If (funny):”

The green door

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”

A baby’s cry

“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

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”

The Life Abroad – I

Life. Life is a sequence of seasons – winter waiting for spring, summer-heat longing for autumn. Life is a picnic in the playground, with bread crumbs scattered all around, attracting the pigeons and crows alike. Life is daydreaming and being satisfied with the resulting illusions.
Life. Days spent surfing the net, wandering in the shopping malls, driving to the country side, watching an old tv show re-run, to relive the past – life is what we never thought it would be.

He was 23 when he migrated to Canada – big dreams, bigger illusions. University of Toronto campus was his home for next 2 years – long sessions in the engineering labs, studying for exams until 4AM… working on the gas-station during week-end… His father, a small farmer in Punjab, sent over money regularly, but that could barely support his tuition.
He shared the apartment with 3 other Indian students – it was cheaper that way, more economical for student life. A few times a week, they went to the Dixie Gurdwara; not because they were religious, – half of them were not even Sikhs, – you just cannot beat the free food from the ‘langar’ – the ‘common kitchen’. Continue reading “The Life Abroad – I”