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!!”

“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!”
“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”

Rendezvous

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

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…. An unhappy marriage; a boyfriend, and a husband… a conflict and the Creator himself – a short story.

“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”

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?”

The Vaisakhi Abroad

In the lands far away, the Punjabi’s bond together under the umbrella of this age-old tradition. The Vaisakhi festival rejuvenate the desi communities. In a foreign land, the day brings to life a scene from the original Punjab!

April 13 – The Vaisakhi Day! The Baisakhi Day! Call what you like! 🙂
The Vaisakhi is one of the most popular festivals of North India.

For centuries, Vaisakhi has marked the time when farmers get ready to put their sickles to the harvest and celebrate a new year. Those old sickles have been replaced by the modern automated machinery; the farmers have outsourced the labor to the migrant workers but the Vaisakhi festival continued to be celebrated with same vigor, with same fanfare.

The festival bears even greater significance for the Sikhs – the Sikh Religion foundation was laid on this day in 1699.

The Vaisakhi festival is equally popular among the Punjabi communities abroad. Throughout the world wherever Punjabi’s are settled, the festival is a key part of their social and religious customs. Desi communities all over the world have their own ways of honoring this tradition of Vaisakhi Mela. Continue reading “The Vaisakhi Abroad”

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”

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”

The Life Abroad – I

He shared the apartment with 3 other Indian students. 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, the ‘langar’, the common kitchen…

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”

The fading hue

The bright yellow saree with flowery pattern clings to her tall slender body, almost exposing her. She wears it with grace – her walk measured, her stance determined. Her lips are wide; her smile is big – like a Bollywood movie actress, but less assuming. She speaks with politeness, yet determination of a teacher…a short story..

The bright yellow saree with flowery pattern clings to her tall slender body, almost exposing her to the imaginative eyes. She wears it, the saree, with grace – her walk measured, her stance determined. Her lips are wide; her smile big – like a Bollywood movie actress, only less assuming. She speaks with politeness, yet determination of a teacher. Her animated hand gestures and a fair complexion mislead you to think that she could be Italian. Her attire, the controlled manners, and the lowered eyes give away the secret however, that she is Indian. As she walks from guests to guests, she leaves behind a trace of French perfume; she leave behind many turned heads.. Saying that she is pretty does not do a complete justice.
On her right shoulder she has a flower tattoo – not a real tattoo, no! Her mother would not allow that. It is a kind of tattoo that some kids and teenagers make out of sticky and shiny glitters. She is no teenager, not by any measures except some traces of childish youth left in her heart. She has her own kids aged 3 and 6, a boy and a girl, left for the evening at her mother’s house.
It is a January, a wintry cold weekend. They are gathered for a social evening at her friend’s house, a mansion actually. The big house stands on the outskirts of Surrey, British Columbia. The sunlight from the west filters through the huge windows accenting the silky curtains that seem to never end, not even when they touch the marble tiles of matching floor. Continue reading “The fading hue”

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”

911 – The Emergency Call

The firm knock on the door made her jump. Even though she was expecting this knock, the police arrived much faster than she had imagined….She looked at her husband; he was pacing nervously in the far corner of the living room…..A short story

The firm knock on the door made her jump. Even though she was expecting this knock, the police arrived much faster than she had imagined.

She looked at her husband; he was pacing nervously in the far corner of the living room. They exchanged a brief glance – both of them nervous,… beyond nervous.

The officer knocked again, this time much harder. Unwillingly, she walked to the door and turned the knob without making a noise.

A tall RCMP officer in full uniform was standing at the door, with his hand cautiously placed on the gun holster.

“Mrs. Sharma?” The officer inquired.

“Yes… Yes!” She said twice; her voice barely audible..

The officer peeked inside the house before actually stepping in. He spotted her husband standing motionless in the far end of the living room.

“Ma’am, I am Officer Wilson; we are responding to the 911 call…the emergency call” He said; he turned his head and looked around the house, inspecting the premises while still standing at the door.

She did not say anything in response.

“Is that your husband? Mr. Sharma?” He looked at her husband with a piercing gaze.

She just nodded, without saying anything again.

“Anybody else in the house? Any kids?” Continue reading “911 – The Emergency Call”

Her first job in America

Hira spoke,finally, “Well, she can come over this week-end and I can train her! She needs to learn the American ways, you know! I think she has not left your house since she came from India, so this is going to be a big change!”
“I know, this is not easy for me either. My wife does not even know about it!”

“Are you going to bring the girl with you?” Hira asked right away.
There was a long silence at the other end.
“I was not planning on it.” Rajiv replied.
“Okay” Hira said after a pause.
“I was going to come over by myself this morning….if that’s okay with you.”
“Come on over, we can talk!” Hire said and put down the phone.

Hira Patel got up slowly. Rubbing his eyes, he dragging himself out of the large wooden chair. His dark brown shirt was tucked inside the khaki rumpled pants, over his protruding belly. The receding hairline made him look much older than his age of 45. Warm air from a small electric heater next to the chair made him sleepy; he did not realize he was dozing off.
He looked out of the window into the deserted parking lot. Then, he checked the the coffee pot next to the reception desk and walked back to the chair.

“It is so chilly outside, and it is not even December yet!” Rajiv said as he pushed open the door and walked in.
“Yes, the winter is coming! How are you, Desai Sahib?”
“I am good, not bad. How is the business?” Rajiv walked over, they shook hands.
“Slow, very slow! Nobody is spending like good old days!”
Rajiv looked around.
“Have a seat,” Hira gestured to the empty wooden chair that Rajiv was already walking towards. “Do you want some coffee? It is freshly made.”
“No, no!” Rajiv replied looking at the big coffee pot with white plastic cups and a sugar jar next to it. Continue reading “Her first job in America”