Light the Night

Do you have childhood best friends? Like the type that you grew up with and is your  family even though you’re not actually related?

I grew up with a whole group of people like this thanks to our parents knowing each other since college and settling down in the same area.

One person, in particular, I had literally known since birth. His dad and my dad actually grew up in the same small town in India together so they had known each other their whole lives as well. He played the role of my brother in my wedding and I MC’d at his wedding. Needless to say, we had been through a lot of our ups and downs together.

One day, we found out he had lymphoma. He was in his 20s, just about to head into dental school. I remember that we had found out that he had felt something off in his lymph nodes and were waiting for the biopsy results. I remember coming out of the gym and getting a voicemail from my sister telling me the results were in. I remember calling her back and her telling me that it wasn’t good. I remember going home, changing, and heading straight to his house.

It was scary. It was something that we never thought about in our 20s.

He started chemo. It definitely took a toll. I wasn’t there for the every day but I do have one particular memory of him, I, and a third friend we had grown up with going to an Angels game together during this time. He was tired and he said he always had a metallic taste in his mouth. It honestly really sucked. But the mentality that we always had is that there was no other option and that he had to beat it.

And one day, he did. After that, he started organizing our family and friends together every year for a Light the Night walk. We are Team Unbreakable.

At Light The Night, it is our aim to bring light to the darkness of cancer through research and cures. Light The Night is a series of fundraising campaigns benefiting The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s (LLS) funding of research to find blood cancer cures. We bring hope instead of despair by working to ensure access to treatments for all blood cancer patients. We bring communities together to celebrate those who are fighting the disease and to honor those we have lost.

This year will be our 11th year walking together. It’s so amazing how something that was so hard has become such an inspiration. We hope this year, you’ll join us and donate to our team as well. We want to do everything we can in order to raise money to defeat cancer.

I hope you can find a way to help us out with our goal.

A Competitive Community

Indians are competitive. We are competitive in every possible thing that we can be.

As a child, I remember the competition to get the best grades. Later, it was SAT scores and colleges. After that, it was careers. Then came marriage and children.

It was also happening within the community outside of our Indian one but it was definitely amplified within it.

It didn’t matter if we were in the top 10 of our class in our school, we had to also to better than the people we were growing up with (or at least comparable).

I’m positive that there is always some talk about who is married and who has had kids and who is a stay at home mom and who is a working mom. There’s definitely competition in who has the best wedding and the most original wedding and the most expensive wedding.

This competition exists in whatever we do. I’ve experienced it heavily in different dance companies. The crazy thing to me is that I honestly believe we limit our potential as a culture if we compete.

We want to be able to share how wonderful the Indian culture is with the world. But how can we do that when we try to keep each other down? We want to involve and encourage as many people as possible.

So the question becomes why? Why should we encourage others in our community? What if they are our competition for schools and jobs? What if their business competes directly with ours? Won’t it hurt us?

In my opinion, no. I’ve seen the discouragement and disappointment of a competitive community and I’ve seen the amazing community that people can build if they have each other’s support. In the long run, everyone moves forward if we work together and lift each other up. Maybe, just maybe, India with its billion of people can have more of a presence world-wide. We could enter in the Olympics and have more than 4 people. We could be more than a side-note in the entertainment industry (especially since India makes the most movies in the world). We could build a great, progressive country that is respected.

I honestly believe this all starts at home. Build each other up. Encourage each other. Help each other move forward.

What Is Love? Baby, Don’t Hurt Me, No More.

What do you think marriage should look like?

I’m going to try my best to explain what I think it should look like. I believe that it should be a best friendship where there is love, respect, and trust with a lot of attraction mixed in. There should be understanding on an emotional level. There should be laughter and fun. There should be a belief that no matter what, you both are a team together.

So then why are there so many people out there making fun of their significant others? Why is joking about our marriage something that serves as way to bond with other people? Why is your spouse not held in the highest regard?

I understand that marriage isn’t always heaven. We show our worst to that person. Everything bad that happens in our lives will fall on the other person. They are our rock and our punching bag.

But isn’t degrading them in front of others disrespectful? Or is that just another way that people show their love towards their significant other? Maybe that is the bond between a couple, the ability to tease and make fun without resenting them. Maybe there are stronger people than I who can deal with this type of relationship.

For me, though, I can’t do it. I know that my husband and I will have to fight about things. I know that when the kids are exhausting, it takes a toll on us as a couple. As long as we can create some space to enjoy each other and continue to respect each other, I think we will be fine. But I don’t think I could survive being with someone who thinks putting me down is an acceptable form of affection. I might be too sensitive or I might just need something different.

I know we have all seen it throughout the generations and throughout different cultures. We have “husband” jokes and “wife” jokes. We hear this in wedding speeches all the time. There are stereotypes like the uptight wife or the messy husband that get reinforced over and over again. Can this change if we don’t agree with it? Why must this be the way to connect with others? Why can’t we use something positive instead?

I’d like to know what your thoughts are. I know that all marriages are different and have different bonds. I’d like to hear about what keeps your marriage strong. I’d like to also hear about what things you’ve heard between a couple that really irks you.

The Other Part of Me

It’s been 2.5 years since we had our first child. It’s been 1 month since we had our second. We have started doing the normal, everyday domestic things like managing our own house, cooking, and cleaning. We have to have a regular schedule throughout the week now since our first child does go to school and classes on a weekly basis. Even when I have a break, I just want to sit and binge watch some laid-back Netflix show. The only other things I think about doing during a break is catching up on sleep.

Let’s put it this way: it’s been a long time since I’ve thought about me. And I don’t mean in the way that I want to do something and haven’t had a chance. I mean in the way where I think about where I am in life.

Suddenly, my days were just about getting things done and taking care of my family. Everything started to become a routine. I was just trying to get somewhere on time, cook dinner, get laundry done, and get the kids to sleep so I could spend some time with my husband (that is, if one of us hadn’t already passed out from pure exhaustion). My entire goal for the day is to just get through it.

What about me though? I danced, I read, I wrote, I analyzed my life and tried to be grateful for everything that I’ve been fortunate to have. I stopped doing all of that. When I had a spare moment, I went on Facebook and just read the articles that popped up there. I occasionally danced for a friend’s wedding. I completely stopped writing. And I haven’t even thought about keeping a positive mindset or about what I am grateful for.

With all of the things going on in this world, I decided I needed to take a break and read something else rather than the articles on Facebook. I picked up the Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Power of Positive from my bookshelf and am currently trying to read a couple of stories of it when I have a few spare moments.

It has made me realize that I haven’t thought about myself. My passions have taken a backseat currently. It’s not that I’m not enjoying the things I am doing now. It’s just that there is so much more to me than just being a mom and wife. There are things that make me feel alive in a different kind of way. I don’t want to resent not nurturing my passions. I want to feel more. I want to be aware of more.

Writing this post is a promise that I am making to myself to bring this part of me back to life.

Dowry

So, yes, it still exists in India. One of the drivers we met in India told us that he was working as hard as he was because he had three daughters that still needed to get married. That means that not only does he have to pay for the cost of the wedding (which will be over-extravagant and way beyond the family’s means) but he has to give the groom’s family a variety of gifts.

The official definition of dowry according to Google is the property or money brought by a bride to her husband on their marriage. In India, as far as I know (and you can correct me if I’m wrong), the groom’s side asks for a bunch of things from the bride’s family as part of the requirement to marry her. Yup, that’s right. The bride’s family is required to give him all sorts of stuff in order to marry her. Now you tell me how that makes you feel if you’re a woman.

My mother-in-law told me the other day that the ratio of men to women in India is now 6:1. That means there are so many more men than women there. Women are valuable and in high demand. So why and how the dowry system still exist? And I know it does because I’ve heard accounts of people dealing with a situation where the demands of the groom’s family are getting out of hand.

My big question is what if that driver invested the money he was saving for his daughters’ weddings into their education instead? Wouldn’t that then provide these girls of a way to become independent and financially support themselves? They wouldn’t need to marry unless they wanted to. They wouldn’t need a husband to take care of them. They could choose a partner based on mutual respect and equality.

Is that even a possibility? Could you imagine what would happen if so many more women were able to take care of themselves?

If these women could get an education and financially support themselves, would they have the confidence to refuse to marry someone who was asking for a dowry?

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.

Are They Really Happy?

So I was watching this wedding video the other day and as I watched, I noticed that not at any point did the bride and groom look at each other and smile or interact. The first time they even looked like they were married to each other was during their slow dance at the reception. And then it ended. 

What’s the deal, man? Is it possible that a couple is so shy that they just don’t interact at all? Is it just me or does it seem somewhat off to you that the couple doesn’t even acknowledge each other’s presence on what is considered to be one of the more important days of their lives? Where do you even see that there is love present in this relationship? 

When I say this, I honestly mean the little moments. The one where the first time the bride comes into the room, the groom smiles or his eyes light up. The one where you can see one of them talking to the other about whatever is going on in their day. The one where you can see some inside joke or thought pass between them. 

Are we supposed to act distant and proper when we’re getting married? Because if that’s the case, I totally messed it up. 

It always makes me wonder if the couple was more interested in becoming an official couple rather than spending their lives with someone they really love. I don’t want to judge a couple that I don’t really know. I know it’s possible that this is their dynamic. Maybe it’s what makes them happy. I see couples that don’t spend that much time together in general. I wouldn’t think that was a happy relationship on both ends but then again, I want more than to just be a wife in name and in duty. 

I guess it’s all a matter of perspective. 

If anyone can explain this situation to me, I’d like to learn and understand why certain couples look like they’d rather be anywhere but with each other. Or that they are indifferent to being next to their significant other. Because I still don’t understand it. 

Looking forward to your thoughts.