Being Creative

Almost every Indian can tell you that when you were growing up, you were encouraged to find a career in something stable. The idea was that if you were a doctor, engineer, or accountant, you wouldn’t have to struggle in your life. You were set and financially stable. It makes sense for that message to be passed down. A lot of our parents left their homes to find that stable, successful career. They gave up a lot to make sure their children wouldn’t ever feel like they couldn’t have everything.

But what about that creative side of us? What about those of us who are writers, dancers, artists, and musicians? Do we lock that side of us away?

And what about our souls? If all we do is focus on our left brain jobs, then what happens to our right brain?

I once had a job interview for an accounting position with a company. When I was offered the opportunity to ask the interviewer (who would have been my boss) questions, I asked her what she likes to do in her spare time. I asked her if she had any activities that she was passionate about outside of work. She actually said that she just did accounting and nothing else. Seriously??? I knew right then and there that this wasn’t the place for me. My previous boss supported my passion for dance and the show that we organized. She knew how much it meant to me and that it was good for me emotionally and mentally. Would this new boss have supported this part of me?

I’ve found that if I ignore my creative side for a little bit, it does affect me. There’s a happiness, a positive energy that comes out when I do use my creativity. I need it to balance out the rational, logical side of me. I do thrive on schedules and lists but I need the free-flowing side to make me whole. I’ve found that to be a consistent trait in the people I know. They have their stable jobs and then they are creative on the side. They get the best of both worlds.

What about you? What is your creative outlet?

Just Give It A Chance

Have you ever felt insecure about trying something new? I remember when I was younger I’d even have the fear of talking to someone because of this irrational idea that they were judging me. Now, I have to meet new parents all the time if I want my kids to be involved in activities. It forces me to step outside my little safe box every single day of their lives.

It’s not just insecurity about talking to new people but also of doing new things. I remember when I started a new dance class at the age of 29. I was terrified. I had to talk myself into it and convince myself that it will be okay and that I just needed to try it. I had to push myself not to just stay home because it was the easier thing to do. I ended up loving the class and took it for 2 more years and am still friends with the teacher.

It’s easy to avoid doing things just because it’s the easy path to take. I know that there are a few other things I want to try but the fear of rejection makes it easy to push it off. But I won’t accomplish anything if I don’t at least give it a chance. It will take work and it will take some courage.

The insecurity is still there. I still have to convince myself to try things that may or may not be worth it. Sometimes, I don’t have a choice and have to force myself to speak to someone new or try something new. In the end, it’s a good thing. It pushes me out of my safe bubble and opens my life up to so many new people and experiences. I wouldn’t have become friends with half of the people I am now if I hadn’t given them a chance. I wouldn’t have accomplished all the things I have so far if I hadn’t just taken a step to try.

Yes, I still have to talk myself into doing certain things and convince myself that no one is judging me and that if it doesn’t work out, it’s not the end of the world. But I’m more willing to not let me fears get the best of me.

The Good Indian Girl

As an Indian girl, I’ve been taught by society to always be “perfect”. We are required to fit a whole host of stereotypes. We are supposed to know how to cook, clean, raise children, and even hold down a job now. On top of it, no matter how modern we are, we are supposed to hold our heads down when it comes to speaking with our elders or voicing our own opinions. Sharing your thoughts or having a different point of view makes us the not so good Indian girl.

But seriously, how long can we do this for? I can’t. This past weekend, at the wedding I was attending, I ran into a man who decided to say that the groom was on his last night of freedom. And me being me decided to reply “freedom from what?” I didn’t understand that statement. The groom was just as lucky as the bride in entering this marriage. If he thought that he was losing his freedom, he should not be getting married. It wasn’t the most thoughtful statement to make and I wanted to let that man know that it was unacceptable.

Should I have just let him say whatever we wanted even if it was insulting to the whole institution of marriage? Should I have just kept quiet while he put down the bride in the sense that she was taking away the groom’s freedom?

Lately, I’ve been dealing with a barrage of opinions on how I am raising my kid. Now, her doctor has said that she is in perfect health. So, the opinions are just that….opinions. There is nothing wrong with my kid.. But regardless, I continuously hear these opinions over and over again. As a stay-at-home mom, that means that the people who share these opinions believe I am failing at my job.

So am I supposed to be the “good Indian girl” and not say anything back? Am I supposed to just keep my head down and let people insult me? Am I never supposed to stand up for myself as a parent?

It’s time that people realize that this stereotype needs to change. And those of us who adhere to this stereotype needs to start standing up for ourselves. If we keep trying to fit the mold, how can we expect anyone else to change their view of us?

I am tired of being the good Indian girl. I just want to be real.

Why Do We Stop Trusting Doctors When It Comes To Vaccinating?

Today, I’m done. I keep reading arguments back and forth about vaccinations and I can’t handle it anymore. I can’t read another argument on why a parent should not vaccinate.

Honestly, I’m sad. I’m sad that in this day and age, we take something so wonderful for granted. I’m the first generation born in America. This means that my parents came from India. My spouse also was born and raised in India. We have gone back there quite a few times and you can see the devastation of people who can’t afford the vaccines of all of these preventable diseases. Some of the things that have been wiped out in America (or have been until recently) are still around in developing countries like India.

Why do some people take these medicines for granted? This American medical and scientific community has done so much for the people of this country and there are those that sit there and accuse them of conspiracies and putting our health at risk. This is the same medical community that has helped my grandfather to keep going at the current age of 93 while living with bladder cancer. This is the same scientific community that has found a drug that helps control my seizures on a daily basis.

I’m not saying don’t do research on something. When I was pregnant and figuring out what the risks were to continue my medication to my child and also the risks of breastfeeding her as well, I researched. Yes, I Googled. But then, I did what everyone should be doing. I went and asked my doctors. I consulted 3 different doctors: my neurologist, my obgyn, and my baby’s future pediatrician. Basically, 3 different people that had medical degrees. 2 of them had over 30 years of experience practicing medicine. I trusted them.

I’m in a few mommy groups on Facebook. And I continuously hear stories of so many babies born early or the mother having some problem during pregnancy or the baby spending some time in the NICU due to problems at birth. Guess who was there for all of that? Doctors. They are the ones who protected and cared for your child. They are the ones we literally trust with our lives when we give birth. We have to trust our doctor especially during labor when things can change in a second.

I needed a blood transfusion 2 days after I gave birth. My blood count dropped 2 days in a row even though I didn’t show it (I was completely asymptomatic). I didn’t like the idea of it. I didn’t want it. But I got it. All because my obgyn who knew my history of epilepsy thought it would be safer for me to get my blood count up. She didn’t want me to risk having a seizure with a newborn in the house. She didn’t want me to go home and have to come back to the hospital. And even though it wasn’t my first option of solutions, I did it because she was the one with a medical degree and I trusted her.

So after we go through all of this, why do we suddenly start questioning everything when vaccination time comes around? Why do people need delayed vaccination schedules or even worse, want to opt out of them completely? Why do people suddenly believe that this wonderful medical community that has literally helped them bring a life into this world in the safest way possible is now trying to harm their child?

I feel sorry for all of the children of those people who don’t believe in vaccinations. They are not only at risk of catching completely preventable diseases but there’s a chance that they will be socially outcasted for a decision they have no control over. I don’t want my child around someone who could risk her health. At least, once she’s vaccinated, I don’t have to worry as much. But how are these children who aren’t vaccinated going to travel? How are they going to be as safe as mine is when these diseases do make an appearance from another country? We are a global community in a world that is only becoming smaller.

I just wish these people who don’t believe in vaccinations knew how lucky they are. A country like India could do so much with the vaccination doses that are refused here. It’s pathetic that, with so much medicine at their fingertips, they take it all for granted.

I’m done. The anti-vaccination arguments are ridiculous. I just hope people gain some common sense and appreciate what they have before it’s too late.

The Vaccination Debate Seems To Be A First-World Problem

Yesterday, as I was scrolling through yet another debate about vaccination versus no vaccination in one of my mommy groups on Facebook, it hit me that I keep reading about this debate only in this particular group. I’m in 2 mommy groups on Facebook. One is Indian mommies only and one is a general group of mommies from all cultures.

Now while I usually turn to the general group of mommies for advice because we are all raising children within the same environment and are exposed to the same things, it seems as though this is the one place I can’t take seriously when it comes to this debate. The group with Indian mommies only seems to discuss how to deal with the vaccinations but not whether to take them or not.

I don’t know numbers and I don’t know if this is a general truth. This is only what I’ve observed. But it seems to me that not vaccinating your children is a first world problem.

Is it because most of us Indian people are either first generation in America or first generation born in America? Is it because we are still aware of how many advantages we have with medicine living here?

It seems as though people are taking vaccines for granted here. Until whatever disease become so widespread and affects so many unvaccinated people, it seems as though we are going to sit in the middle of this debate. I hate the idea that children have to go through these sicknesses that could be preventable in order to make the point that vaccines work.

We only have to visit India once to see illness that we don’t see in America anymore. So when we have the option, why would we allow our child to be exposed to that risk? When we know all it takes is one shot to protect our child, why wouldn’t we get it done?

Is it that people in America now have too much information at their fingertips? That our celebrity culture influences us more than it should? That we look for scandal and conspiracy wherever we go? Why can’t we just trust in the medical and scientific community?

Or is it that people questioning the vaccines because they are so easily available? Maybe people would fight for the vaccines more if it were a limited resource.

I don’t know the answers to why people don’t just get their kids vaccinated. All I do know is that a lot of us younger generation Indian parents seem to have more faith in medicine than a lot of our non-Indian counterparts.

What Indian People Think

Sometimes, I read what other people write about being an Indian raised in another country. It’s scary to see what they think. I read a couple of articles written by these Indian people about how we are losing our culture if we are born and raised in America. We defy our parents, we ignore our traditions, we don’t want to participate in anything even remotely Indian.

I’ve written a few articles about this in various forms already. Just because I’m American does not mean I’m not Indian. Yes, there are things that have changed since the good old days where the daughter or daughter-in-law would just blindly do what her elders asked but that’s called progress. It’s called knowledge.

In exchange for me not being the world’s best cook or the Indian woman that cleans all day long, I am independent. I know how to financially support myself. I never needed to get married to someone in order to survive. Instead I chose to marry someone who supports my passions and interests and we have a relationship based on friendship and love. We are here because we want to be not because we have to be.

On that note, I chose my own life partner. I really got to know myself myself and having gone through previous relationships only helped me understand who the right person was for me to take this journey with. In exchange for that, I won’t resent having missed out any part of life. I won’t feel stuck in a relationship because it was my duty to be there. I will love myself and my partner because I have gotten the chance to chase my dreams.

Yes, I don’t agree with or listen to everything my elders say. In this day and age, with all of the information out there, the ideas that we had grown up with might not be the same or even accurate anymore. I also believe in making my own mistakes. But guess what? Neither of us, my elders or I, know everything. We all have to learn. It doesn’t matter if they had done something before us and we are in the process of doing it now. Times have changed! Things have changed!

It’s frustrating that those of us who were raised in a different country still get judged for it. The truth is that our parents left India to make a better life for us. Our parents wanted better opportunities for us. So then why do we get judged when we take advantage of these opportunities? You can’t expect us to move forward in one thing and still be behind in something else. I can’t be an educated woman and then be expected to sit at home, cooking and cleaning all day (unless it’s truly what I love to do). With knowledge comes change. With knowledge comes progress.

I think it’s time that the Indian people who keep thinking we are losing our culture and traditions realize that it’s not that we’re losing them. It’s that our culture and traditions are evolving. Things will change. They always have. Even if you believe that everything has been the same for thousands of years, I can promise you that it hasn’t. Even in India, things have changed over time.

So please stop judging us. Accept change. It’s the only way that you’ll really ensure that the things that are important to you stay around (unless you expect me to wait on you hand and foot because that’s not happening).

Where Will Our Traditions Go?

So here’s a question that has been on my mind for a while: who is going to perform the Hindu/Sikh/etc. weddings after all of the pandits (or corresponding religious leaders) in our area retire? The group I’ve grown up with has had this discussion before. Most of the people who perform weddings now have moved to America from India. And no one I know who is in my generation is practicing to become a pandit.

What happens to all of our cultural traditions in the future? Will there be someone who can help continue them?

I’ve been making sure that my parents and my husband’s parents talk to my kid in our respective languages so she learns that part of our culture. Unfortunately, it’s a second language for me as well and I tend to go to my first language when I speak to her. On occasion, when I do remember, I do speak to her in Gujarati. But it won’t be the way my parents spoke it to me. Language is still something easier to pass on than a few other aspects.

I grew up going to pujas, temples, parties that celebrated different festivals in India. When I got married, we had an event where our families and friends sang traditional songs in our respective languages. Will our generation be able to continue this? Who will be responsible so that our children learn all of this stuff? How do make sure that we don’t lose this part of us?

It’s a little bit scary. Is it okay that our traditions progress as the way we grow up changes? Did this happen to our parents or since they all were born in the same country, the traditions were able to be passed down much easier? I wonder if this really only affects us now because we are growing up here in America and raising our children here.

I want my child to know her cultures. I want her to be able to really understand where she comes from. I’m just not sure how I can make sure that happen in the future.

What Is Too Much When It Comes To Parenting?

Parenting has become such a big thing. I am constantly trying to schedule activities for my baby daily so that she’s stimulated and doesn’t become bored. At the same time, I keep wondering if this was the case 30 years ago. Did parents back then constantly entertain us? Or were we left to our own devices? Sometimes, I wonder if we’re doing too much.

I keep trying to figure out if all of this makes sense. I met someone recently that has flash cards with pictures and words for their 7 month old. It seemed a little overdone to me but considering my baby has recently started getting bored with the same old stuff, I wonder now if it’s something that we need to be doing to keep our children entertained. Did our parents do this?

Do we need to let our children kind of figure out how to entertain themselves? Or should we be planning every minute of their day? Is it bad if I let my child sit in her crib and babble to herself? I know I need time to just be on my own so would she need the same thing? Or should I be doing something with her as soon as she wakes up? What are the lines and boundaries? What is too little and what is too much?

I remember when I was a kid, I did play a lot with my siblings or by myself. I didn’t constantly have someone trying to entertain me. We used our imagination and created things. Now, I don’t know if this was the case when I was just a baby. I want my kid to learn how to use her imagination and be able to play on her own. I want her to have patience and be independent.

In a time where so much is done with the focus on our kids, what exactly is the best thing to do for them?

My Child Is 3 Different Religions. Is That Even Possible?

Religion has been a hot topic in the world, well, pretty much since the beginning of man. Just recently, I talked to someone who was having trouble with her parents because she was dating someone of a different religion. I wanted to talk about this a little bit.

Traditionally, in Indian culture, a child takes his or her father’s religion as their own. Of course, this probably wasn’t an issue when everyone was still marrying inside their own religion. But now, in today’s world, we have a lot more mixed marriages. So how do you raise your child?

My father is Hindu and my mother is Jain. I know these aren’t religions that are extremely different from each other but they aren’t the same religion either. I knew that, according to tradition, I was considered Hindu. But I’ve always told people that I was half Hindu and half Jain. I’ve always considered being Jain a part of who I am even though I don’t practice either religion too strictly. I grew up in a household where my mom wasn’t really religious and my dad was. The beauty of my dad’s religious beliefs though is that he didn’t discriminate by religion. To him, God is God however and wherever you choose to practice that belief. He will just as easily go sit in a church, a gurudwara (Sikh temple), a mosque, as he will any mandir (Hindu temple). He actually has copies of and has read all of the religious books corresponding with each religion.

When we were growing up, my parents put us in a Christian elementary school and then a Catholic high school. They wanted us in private school and the only ones around us were religion-based. Their ultimate goal was for us to get a good education and, as long as we were getting that, they were fine with us learning about other religions in the process.

My husband is Sikh. The Sikh marriage ceremony differs from the Hindu one. I have seen a lot of people choose do two weddings, one in their religion and one in their spouse’s religion. While this works for some people, I could not imagine getting ready twice and sitting through two wedding ceremonies. So we decided to do the one that worked for us. My whole family loved the Sikh ceremony. It’s one of the most peaceful, beautiful ceremonies I’ve ever seen. And I have no regrets about celebrating our love and commitment that way because regardless of which religion we celebrated in, we meant those promises to each other.

Now we have a child who is half Sikh, 1/4 Hindu, and 1/4 Jain. So now what? So far, we have taken her to the gurudwara to get a blessing and soon, we will be taking her to a mandir as well. Does it matter than she is this mix of religions? How does it affect my child to grow up in a world where there are people fighting and using religion as an excuse to do so?

It doesn’t matter to us what religion she chooses to define her (if she even chooses one and not all three) as long as she respects the good values they all teach. We want to teach her to be proud of who she is and understand her culture (her Punjabi, Gujarati, and American background). In the end, we want to teach her how to be a good person. That’s all that matters.

Boundaries

Ahhh. The family life. Have many of you have heard that phrase “when you marry the person, you marry the family”? In the Indian culture, this is so true. There is no separation for the couple from the family. The couple becomes an extension of the family instead.

Now, this isn’t such a bad thing. I really like having a big family so having another group of relatives to hang out with is great.

But what happens when the family gets demanding on your time? What happens when they expect you to follow their rules of when, where, and what you should be doing? What happens when they call the shots without even considering what you need or are available for?

I’m pretty lucky in the sense that both sets of parents for me are really understanding about us having our own lives and knowing that we will make time for them as much as we can.

But I definitely am aware that, in this culture, this is rare. There are a lot of parents who expect a lot more than that from their children and their spouse. I don’t know if it’s worse if you are the son-in-law or the daughter-in-law. I think it probably depends on the situation and the relationship the child has with their parents to start with.

Let’s add one more complication. The expectation that we grow up with to be the perfect daughter-/son-in-law.

I think I was supposed to be able to cook everything, clean to perfection, have children, raise them, look perfect, have multiple talents, all while holding down a full time job after achieving a degree or two. I totally failed. I think I’ve accomplished maybe 2 or 3 of that long list. Maybe.

It weighs on me that I don’t fit the idea of perfection when it comes to being the daughter-in-law. But I know that I try my best and I keep going. And luckily, I don’t hear any problems about what I can or cannot do.

Unfortunately, some people do.

The solution to this is to set boundaries. It’s not easy by any means. It’s the only thing though that will keep you from going crazy. And if you have the support of your spouse, it will at least make it that much easier to be able to do this. Boundaries are meant to draw a line with regards to what is acceptable and what isn’t. If your parents or in-laws drop in whenever they want and expect you to drop everything to entertain them, then maybe you need to ask them about calling a day before they plan on coming over to check your schedule.

It won’t be easy. And honestly, it might be a battle on its own.

But, hopefully, in the end, it’s worth it.