Tag Archives: America

Uh-Oh……

I just received this email from a reader – one I know through the blog-o-sphere and through a mutual friend – one who has been complimentary in the past and is (or at least was) a loyal reader. So I am sharing it with you just in case you have the same concerns.

Hi A Reason to Write
Hope you are well. Just read another post by you.

I hope I am not the only one saying this but I feel your posts have changed a bit lately ever since you have come back to the the States. I miss the humor in your posts and I feel that there is a tongue in cheek attitude in your posts. I know you have mentioned in your previous posts somewhere that you are not trying to demean or belittle life in India. But why do I always feel that you are doing just that? I may be wrong and want to give it the benefit of the doubt. India is India and US is US..there is no comparison, period! You called India a third world country once. India is no more a third world country! In one of your posts, not too long ago, one of the things was people leaving their kids alone on the streets…are these things not happening in the US? India is still a very young country as compared to the US and the progress it has made in this short time is remarkable. I do not think it is  fair to compare these two countries. We should compare apples to apples!

I shared my views with a few like minded people who read your blog on my request. It made me sad to read what was being projected to people who are not familiar with life in India and its rich culture.

Please know that I am not upset. I am just sharing my thoughts with you. Pinky swear! 🙂

Where to begin. Yikes. First of all, thanks for sharing your thoughts and ending with humor – at least I know you aren’t ready to form a picket line in front of my blog – just yet. 😉
Then I would add, that my blog should never be judged just on simply one post. No blog should be. As you say, India has a rich culture and history and I tout that often in my posts.

Then I would like to suggest that maybe, just maybe, this post warrants a re-read.
I will readily admit to being sarcastic. I am and it’s extremely likely that I will continue to be.

And this post is just that.

But it is in no way a criticism of India.

I have always contended that there is no right and wrong – simply differences. Shopping and cooking and driving in India and the U.S. are hardly similar in any way. I benefited from having staff in India because it saved me a lot of time. And I am grateful that there are so many conveniences in the U.S. that equally make my life easier but we might have taken it too far when we sell shredded cheese and premade peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Do I use them? Sure – happily. Do I need them? I would argue no – not even for a second. I even said in my post that my American readers should continue reading just to be reminded of what we take for granted on a daily basis.

Basically what I will say is that this post is more about the excesses in America than any deficiencies I saw in India. I think it is ludicrous that we have 18 different ways to buy cheddar cheese – although I am grateful we do – it’s a tad bit excessive. I don’t ever argue that America is perfect – of course it isn’t. Neither is India broken. There are just things that do not make complete sense through my western eyes.  A continuous thread throughout all of my posts is all that I learned in India and how grateful I am for the experience for me and for my family. I did not love everything about India – but I loved most of it. We have been blessed beyond measure to see that the world is so different and that every place offers tremendous stories and experiences.

As far as India being a third world country. This is truly, truly a fascinating debate to me. Once before, someone adamantly argued that India is not a third world country. Certainly many people in India live well. There is no doubt about that. And there is a lot of opulence in India. However, the majority of India’s citizens don’t have real and guaranteed access to water, permanent shelter, education, and some level of health care. Throw in some pretty high infant mortality rates and you have got some development issues. But don’t just listen to my big fat opinion –

Wikipedia says this:
“The term ‘Third World’ arose during the Cold War to define countries that remained non-aligned or not moving at all with either capitalism and NATO (which along with its allies represented the First World) or communism and the Soviet Union (which along with its allies represented the Second World). This definition provided a way of broadly categorizing the nations of the Earth into three groups based on social, political, and economic divisions. The term continues to be used colloquially to describe the poorest countries in the world.”

Many people will say that India is a “developing” third world country. That’s probably more fair and I will start using that term from now on. And you make a good point. India’s government is still young – there is a lot of growing to do. But the elephant in the room is the waste and abuse that happens in the Indian government that often results in the unnecessary suffering of so many people. Again, is America perfect? Absolutely not. Of course not. We have our own wastes and abuses and not everyone is getting an equal share of the pot.

Part of what has been so hard for me in returning to America is leaving the images of India behind. I too often allow myself to forget that people are suffering – all over the world. How do I throw away bread crusts when children are starving (and yes, not just in India, in America too)? Now I put my crusts and stale bread out for the birds and squirrels. I know it won’t change a thing in the world but at least I am wasting less. That feels better.

I think Americans allow ourselves to be self-absorbed and protect ourselves from the reality of the sufferings of others – and, to be fair, I can point that same self-absorbed finger at Indians too. We all put on our jewelry and drive our gas hogs and live in our houses that are unnecessarily big and melt our shredded cheese and simply allow ourselves to ignore that, for the most part, even on a bad day, others have it much, much worse.

I struggle with how to become a more global citizen and how to have more of an impact in helping others – and that struggle is a direct result of my life in India. I can no longer pretend that life in Northern Virginia is the norm. It’s certainly great but it is not the experience of most of the world. I struggle with how to do something everyday to make someone else’s life better. I am failing miserably in that regard but I am trying.

And I am afraid this blog will continue to contain comparisons between life in India and life in America. It’s all I know and I am not willing to add another experience to my repertoire – at least not yet.

Thank you again for sharing your thoughts. I never want to offend anyone – but unfortunately, the minute you hit publish on the internet, you are very much in danger of doing just that. And remember that I am mostly talking to myself – the fact that anyone is coming along for the journey continues to amaze me. I am at least glad you felt comfortable in sharing your disagreement and disappointment with me and my words. That is one thing that India and America do have in common. Democracy is a beautiful thing.

Raksha Bandhan………..

Today is the Indian holiday called Raksha Bandhan. It is a festival that is celebrated between brothers and sisters. Raksha means “protect”  and Bandhan means “bond”. The people who help us around the house got the day off and several markets are closed. It’s a big deal.

This is one more thing that is different about India and America. The family bonding. It is incredible. I am not suggesting that Americans don’t love their family – so please don’t think I am – but Indian families are simply much more intertwined in general. Family seems even more precious here.

Sisters visit their brothers and may make them their favorite dish or give them presents. Brothers promise to protect their sisters from hardships and will also give gifts. Sisters and brothers will participate in a puja (blessing ceremony) and sisters will tie a rakhi (holy thread) on the wrist of their brother.

It all sounds so lovely and makes me miss my family so much.

Bear, however, might be willing to move to India and temporarily separate from family, friends, and all that he loves in America. But he is not exactly embracing this day of loving and respecting his sisters. Especially when Angel mentioned that she thought Bear should get her drinks wait on her hand and foot all day long. Alas, some things are truly lost in translation.

I will say that I have no doubt though that he will always protect both of his sisters – no matter how crazy they might make him.

Call backs…………..

My youngest daughter crawled into bed with me last night. I snuggled next to her and brushed a few hairs away from her face. She looked so peaceful and I wondered if this was the day that our lives would change entirely. Forever.

I got  a call back on my mammogram. They wanted to see me again. Earlier this week, I went in for my yearly exam. I have been going since I was 35. A great grandmother, a great Aunt, and an Aunt with breast cancer will send you to the big squeeze a littler sooner than later. I have never been called back. I have always checked that box and moved quickly on. That was, until this week. Until the summer that I am moving across the globe away from my entire support network (only minus my husband and kids).

It seems there was some extra tissue showing up on my left breast. Not enough to increase my cup size – just enough for a follow-up squish. If they had said it was on my arse, I would have believed them immediately – but seriously, extra tissue there? Not exactly the phone call you want to get. Ever.

Of course, it was the scheduling receptionist who called me to let me know. She had no (helpful) answers. Just available time slots and locations. Next week. As in 6 days and a weekend later. As in no answers later.

Yeah, that is not going to work for me. Something about moving back out of the country soon (8,000 miles away) and hoping for answers sooner than later. Her final offer – call back tomorrow – maybe something will open up. Okay then. I will call back tomorrow.

Honestly, I almost forgot to call back. I was distracted with a day at the water park with my kids and our neighborhood swim team and my dad’s birthday and my aunt and my cousin visiting. Dinner out with my family. Fun. Full of life things. Luckily on Friday it all worked out and I got to go in (again) before the weekend.

Needless to say, I didn’t sleep great last night – except for snuggling with an Angel – it was not that peaceful of a night. I try to be good and not worry about something until I know what to worry about – but it is hard impossible not to imagine the possibilities. I saw my daughter sleeping next to me and wondered what she was dreaming about – I wondered if I would see her high school graduation, her wedding. A little dramatic, sure. But a possibility. Ick. I also thought about not being sick. And prayed for strength whatever happened.

Anymammo, I was given an “overbook” appointment which meant there was a. very. very. good. chance. I would have to wait for a. very. long. time. It turned out that I didn’t have to wait that long. The technician was great. She informed me that I would absolutely talk to a doctor before I left. I would leave with answers. I still don’t know if that made me feel better or worse. I have done this too many times to know that needing to see the doctor is not a great sign. While she was doing my exam, I saw my original film up on the light board. With a big circle around it at the top of my boob. That made me feel worse. It wasn’t that they did not get a good image and just needed to redo it – there was really something there. Circled nonetheless. With my name on it.

And the picture confirmed that my boobs are sagging. Well at least my left boob is. Just as an aside – really – if you are little bitty – you should not also have to sag. I am just saying – really, it’s not that fair. Yeah, yeah, yeah – I know, life ain’t fair.

When the technician was done, she told me again that I would see the doctor. Before I left. Today. I might also need a sonogram. I was torn between asking her a litany of questions and not wanting to know one more detail. Luckily for me, I have a couple of friends who have made it to the sonogram phase of a mammogram screening and still managed to walk out of the door minus a diagnosis of cancer. So, I did not completely panic. I was sent back to the waiting room. And waited.

And waited some more. With a lot of other women in gowns that opened in the front. I think we were all pretending and trying to be totally engrossed in our reading waiting material while our stomachs churned and our minds wandered and wondered.

I mean seriously, there is a room full of women – statistics are sure to say that at least some of us were in danger – who’s to say who it would be? We looked and did not look at each other and flipped empty pages.

Meanwhile, my husband called me with questions about what was happening at my appointment. When I did not have any answers yet, he moved on to questions about coming here to be with me and questions about school and questions about moving within India and questions about renting our house in America and holy crap – too many questions – I know he was nervous. Unfortunately, he was talking to the newly appointed President of the Nervous Club – the mammogram chapter. He was also probably trying to distract me. But distraction would not come easily today. They called my name and I hung up on him. Gotta go honey. Sometimes life needs to just happen one question at a time. Today I needed one question at a time.

The nurse walking me back simply said – you are getting a sonogram. You will see the radiologist. This way please. She did not look at me. That did not help.

I waited in the dark room by myself for about 10 minutes. And came up with a whole new set of possibilities. Some good. Some not so great. The radiologist walked in and introduced herself. She was lovely. Very soft spoken. Very gentle. Very aware that I had by passed nervous about 2 days ago and moved straight on to wondering what the possibilities really were.

She said something about not being worried. About me? Yes, about you. I started breathing again. Out loud. Deeply. In sync with myself. Finally. Whew.

Apparently, I had a spot on the original mammogram. (Oh yes, I might have seen something about that in the other room – you mean the one with the. big. circle. around. it – and MY. name. on. it? I was a little distracted by this machine squishing me and by me not sure I wanted to know all the scoop – can you fill me in on the details, please?) That’s what was in the circle. A suspicious spot. But that spot did not show up today. Something about compression. She did the sonogram just to be sure. I am now clear for another year.

I am not unaffected though. I am reminded that life can change in an instant. It can come and go so quickly. Without notice.

Last night I was careful not to pray for selfish things like health. I did not want to be unrealistic. A prayer would not change what might already be. So, I just asked for strength. Whatever happened. Strength. I found it, and was blessed with a side dish of health, and I am grateful for it. Every ounce of it.

This is where it all began……….

As you might remember, we went to Philadelphia recently.

It was amazing to stand in the room where the creators of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution actually formed these documents. Absolutely amazing. This Independence Hall. The place where it all began.

DSC00537

This is the actual room where the discussions, debates, and negotiations took place among the representatives of the 13 original colonies – the National Park Service has good reason to believe that the chair at the front of the room is the chair that George Washington really sat in.

DSC00565

Happy Fourth of July – I hope you all have the opportunity to enjoy and appreciate freedom and good health.

Seriously, just stop for a minute………

Those of you who follow this blog know I don’t normally cuss, but it irritates the S.H.I.T. out of me when people don’t stop for the National Anthem. Even if you aren’t American, you can stop what you are doing for a minute. So just stop already. Take off your hat, stop walking across the parking lot, put your cell phone away, stop brushing your hair, put your hand over your heart for God’s sake, put your drink down, and tell your children to shut the hell up. Remember, people die everyday defending our right to play that song – respectfully give them a minute of your time.

Oh yeah, Happy 4th of July! 🙂

Rolling Thunder…..

One thing I really miss in India is listening to WTOP radio. It’s the low-caf version of NPR.

On Sunday morning, I turned on the radio and was reminded that Sunday was the day for Rolling Thunder. It’s a precursor to Memorial Day in America. Tens of thousands of motorcyclists gather in Washington, DC and roll through town. Many of them are military veterans. All of them are honoring the service of those who have served in the United States military. They mourn those who lost their lives and celebrate those who survived. It is a tribute like no other. They literally rumble through the streets. Motorcycles in America are not at all like scooters in India. They are loud and so many together – well, it shakes sky.

They were interviewing a man who had come from Minnesota (which is quite far away) to participate in Rolling Thunder. This is what he said, “Sure, I would rather be eating burgers with my family and having a cook out back home. My grandchildren will be running through the sprinkler and I will be here. But, as long as we have POWs and MIAs, I will be here honoring their service. They will not be forgotten. We want them all back home.”

Indeed!

rollingthunderap(this picture is from here )

It turns out my mother-in-law rode in the parade – yes, she has always been cooler than me! 😉

Here is her picture…

rolling thunder carol

You’ve lost that lovin’ feeling……..

Today, with no one but me to do laundry, I actually folded some clothes. I opened my daughters’ dresser drawer to put away a shirt – I shifted some things around to make room – and I was almost knocked over by the softest, gentlest breeze of fresh air I have ever felt and smelled. I swear it whisked my bangs away from my eyes. My head tilted back. My eyes closed. My imagination took me across oceans. There might have even been angels singing. Oh heaven. The commercials are true! Fabric softener does make your clothes smell like a spring breeze.I might just buy stock in Downy.

There must have been something in that drawer that my daughters have decided is not India worthy. It has been left unworn, untainted at the bottom of their drawer. And it is the only thing we have left that still smells like home. (Well, to be fair, the cat litter still smells the same – but somehow it just doesn’t compare.)

Our bath towels have long ago lost the softness and smell of home – their loving feeling. Now I get my loofa scrub when I get out of the shower and dry off with a towel that has been hung out to dry.

So I stood at the drawer for a minute and I thought. Think. Think. Think. There must be something I can do. So I decided to conduct a little experiment.

My blog friend at Mr. Smith Goes to Delhi had told me that dryer sheets were hard to find here. But what she didn’t say was dryers were harder to find. So, I did bring some dryer sheets with me. But, alas, we don’t have a dryer – well, unless you call God sneezing a dryer, but at least we don’t have a dryer that utilizes dryer sheets. So, they have sat unused on top of our washer. Until today. I put two in the washer with my towels. They did come out smelling nicer than they have been smelling. They are drying now and I will let you know how it goes.

P.S. I know some of you are thinking – they have fabric softener in Delhi – just buy some of that. Here is where you have to have lived somewhere that has a Tide laundry detergent/Downy fabric softener combination available to use with your laundry. And you have to have been somewhere where dryers aren’t uncommon. And you have to have smelled clothes that come out of the dryer toasty warm smelling of that combination. It’s similar to fresh bread coming out of the oven – except it’s fresh bread that you can wrap around your body. Soft, warm, spongy fresh bread with melted butter on it. And your doctor just insisted that you must stop the ridiculous dieting right now and gain 5 pounds already. See what I mean? Heaven!

And, yes, I have seen Tide here. But it comes in very small packages and it is expensive. So, please remember, I have three children who would like to go to college at some point. India has convinced them that being homeless is not the career path they hope to follow. So they might have to suffer through scratchy clothes in order for us to pay tuition. If I decide they aren’t actually college material, bring on the Tide – but that is yet to be determined.