Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Getting Caught Up and Happy Thanksgiving

I can't believe its been more than 10 days since my last post and I have to admit that I've not caught up with all my other blog readings, either. It has been a full blown cold/flu season for me. I took my flu shot as soon as they offered it at work, thinking that I will be healthy through the cold season this year, but alas, how mistaken could I have been- For I have been falling sick since the week after. A combination of nasal allergies that turned out to be a cold and a horrible sore throat to the point of losing my voice to a croak, it has been a miserable time the past few weeks. The Tylenol Colds, warm water gargling and nasal puffs can take you only so far. But, I am thankful for feeling better this week, though haven't got rid of the symptoms completely.

Only now, do I realise how much important it is to be hale and healthy. A healthy body does wonders to maintain a normal temperament and keeps life going smoothly. Another awakening moment came when I felt that I could not afford to get sick here in US, with being allowed to take only so many sick days off at work and having to manage at the homefront too. In India, falling sick was not a big deal at all, cutting classes at college and staying home to be fussed by mom's cooking and dad's care and a visit to the family doctor nearby who loaded me with antibiotics and injection, I would feel better in 4 days and not fall sick for a while, unless I did something out of the ordinary like getting drenched in the rain and eating ice cream etc. Here, I take extra care to dress warm, cover myself with layers from head to toe when I go out and also when I am at home, inspite of which the cold bug gets to me. And I think it really is attached to me, for it lingers for a while and even when it feels like its gone, it is only coming back to me.

Anyways, enough already about my health, but, with thanksgiving break coming up, it is a good time to relax, enjoy the break, eat pumpkin pies, squash, cranberries, stuffing and mashed poatoes with gravy (yes, that is going to be my vegetarian thanksgiving meal tomorrow, if I feel much better). And of course, shop till you drop down on Black Friday to make the most out of the top deals.

Happy Thanksgiving and more blogging to follow next week.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Bicultural Children- India and California

Video: Courtesy of San Jose Mercury News

Earlier this month, San Jose Mercury News had an article exclusively based on the kids who had returned from the Bay Area to Bangalore, India. Reading the article, gave me a better insight into the lives of children who are now, more than ever, exposed to and are living in two different cultures.

Global careers and economic opportunities lure several NRI folks back to India to settle down and as a result the children are also forced to tug along to a place that seems as foreign as it was to their parents when they first arrived in this country as graduate school students. The number of Indians going back, especially from Bay Area, given its Indian population is still on the rise with every passing year. As a result of this, several young Silicon valley children are trying to adjust themselves to the school environment, community and plain simple, just living in India.

Statistics show that per the National Association of Software Service Companies, atleast 22,000 NRI's have returned to India and more than half of it is from Bay area. Companies like Cisco, Hewlett-Packard, Intel and Oracle are some of the major corporations that the parents are employed in and when they go back to posh, expat style, gated-community living in Bangalore where their neighbours are colleagues and friends from US, life is much more secure. Little do they realize, that just outside the walls of those posh residences, there exists profound poverty, which is the first glimpse of reality that their US returned children get to see.

While, attending International Schools may not be that much of a shift in cultures, nevertheless, the differences are still striking. The article has excerpts from what a few of the kids who were unhappy with their Indian classroom experiences said-

1. Students at school must stand up any time an adult enters the classroom
2. Students are required to address instructors as "Sir" or "Miss" and of course wear uniforms, somtimes with ties.
3. More than that, they have to wear a name tag/badge. One of the girls asks,"How many California schools make you wear a dog tag?"
4. Have to endure teasing from Indian classmates about their American accent.
5. Girls are not allowed to wear make up to school or even let their hair down, which is very much an active ingredient of teen school life in US
6. Last, but the most important difference is that the kids find that their teachers don't encourage creativity in the schools. Neither do the teachers encourage asking questions (in fact, many times the teacher tells you to shut up and listen to her talking), sometimes the teacher's response is "You don't need to know that." In the US, school and education is more about helping you grow as an individual and being creative and applying your learnings to real life examples.

A few other students who had adapted more easily to their new surroundings and environment had the following to say-

1. Coming to India breaks your mental block of America being everything in the world to you.
2. There is a lot more to the Indian community and you experience something very different and enriching.
3. Mingling with other religious students and learning about India's ways makes us more flexible with adjusting our ways and hence we have no fear of the unknown.
4. While there are no high school proms and dating activities, we do lot of things within our community as a group of friends.
5. Life here is much more slower and relaxing than being in US.
6. We have different people to cater to our needs, like a driver to take us out, a maid to clean and a cook for our meals and of course access to cousins and grandparents is always there.

While the census is that some kids are more adaptable than others, it is still a safe haven of living in a posh neighbourhood inside a world that is cut off from the poverty and other aspects of day to day Indian living, though a drive in the car and while waiting at the signal, you'll never miss begging children rapping on your air conditioned glass windows.

But, some of these kids still keep in touch with their Bay area friends, especially the ones who miss their silicon valley lives the most. They are up at night chatting with their friends who live here and look forward to the summer when they can be back in the Bay Area to attend summer school and do other activities that aren't there in India. And of course, like most other expat kids, they will be back in the US for their undergraduate education.

While, both returning parents and children come to terms with living in a global culture, sometimes, it just feels down right confusing for the kids, while the parents keep telling them that your old silicon valley life has not gone away, you've just grown an extra one and will go back to your old one once you are in college.

Link to the original article:

Happy Children's Day and Thank God its Friday!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Prop 8 in California: YES or NO

Pictures: Courtesy of Google Images

If you live in the Bay Area and tune into your radio while driving your car or listen to the local news or see slogans propped outside homes, the term Prop 8 is perhaps the most spoken word around here. While, the Yes and No for support or not in favor of Prop 8 keeps shifting and to me is down right confusing, I thought that writing a post about it might help get some clarity.

Proposition 8 is one of the electoral ballot propositions that was entirely devoted to the State of California. The ballot title of Prop 8 was "Eliminates Right of Same-Sex Couples to Marry". Before, it was passed, same-sex marriage was a constitutionally protected right in California. In other words, Prop 8 would amend the state of California to restrict the definition of marriage to a union between a man and a woman.

VOTING YES ON PROP 8 means- you will define MARRIAGE in California to mean only the union between one man and one woman.

VOTING NO ON PROP 8 means- you will define MARRIAGE in California to mean the union between any two people regardless of gender, which includes same-sex couples.
(No change to the original state constitution right).

The electoral campaigns both For and Against Prop 8 raised several millions of dollars. While Democrats are the liberals who would argue that treating one group of people differently is unfair and wrong, conservative republicans might dig into their stance that failure to change the constitution for heteresexual marriage would require changing school curriculum etc. Of course, just like Obama, many liberals may not be that clear in their stance or vote Yes for Prop 8.

Nevertheless, just thinking about this topic that has been debated at all levels at nauseum, it makes one ponder about what their core beliefs, values etc. are. For the immigrant folks like me, where we hail from a culture that still has a higher percent of arranged marriages happening, it is indeed a shift in paradigm to think about same-sex couples getting married.

While, I've often felt that it is okay to accept a person if he/she is attracted to the same sex and try not to treat them differently, and also come to terms with them living together as a couple, calling their union as a Marriage is what bothers me somehow. Can't it just be named as a Union or something along those lines, instead of calling it Marriage. Because, the union between a man and a woman is a marriage, since they can give birth to kids etc. Yes, agreed that two women living as a couple can adopt a child, but, how would that child be raised. Who would it look up to as Mother and Father roles, would its thinking get impaired are all questions that I ponder, but have no answers to.

Anyways, this is a topic that is indeed controversial at its core and is still debated about widely here in Bay Area and had to make a post about this one.

Happy Monday!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Obama: A Force to Reckon With

Pictures: Courtesy of Yahoo Photos

November 4th, 2008 was election day in America, a day that is awaited by millions across the country and world, in anticipation and eagerness. The day did not disappoint America, for indeed, history has been made with the election of Barack Obama as the 44th president and the first ever African American president of the United States. The victory was a landslide with Obama claiming 349 of the electoral votes (required 270) defeating his opponent John McCain who got 142 electoral votes, though the popularity votes were close enough.

Chicago celebrated, New York and California rejoiced as did Kenya and other nations across the worlds who watched America elevate its stance in the international arena by proving that democracy is the still the strongest power in today's global world.

As a permanent resident in this country, who has another couple of years towards getting citizenship, I couldn't vote in this historic election. But, as an immigrant and just like any other minority group, the moment of seeing Obama deliver his victory speech, makes me emotional. I saw thousands of African American people, both men and women, crying, for many would not have dreamt that they could be alive to see the day when a black man would get elected to the white house in this country, indeed, CHANGE is here, big time. It gives hope for millions of colored people, be it from an Asian, Hispanic, Latino or any other community the hope to dream big and the belief that anything is possible in this land of opportunities.

Now, that I've raved about how one can hope in this country etc. I want to delve more into how Obama made this happen. Just being an African American senator from Illinois, didn't give Obama an edge over the others, but he had to work ten times harder than your average politician over the years to get to this point. And, of course, he has all the right elements in perfect combination to make him who he is.

A few reasons why I think Obama won, based on my readings, observations and of course getting the facts right from the internet and news-

1. A member of the democratic minority, representing a swath of Chicago's south side, he had done what he could so as one of the most liberal senators in a Republican goverment and was ready for a change.
2. His community organizer background gave him the ablity to appeal to people, listen to their concerns and deliver speeches that enthralled his audience.
3. Obama has the right educational background, a law degree from Harvard and the mantle of first black president of the Harvard Law Review.
4. His personality that has been subjected to close scrutiny throughout this race, depicting him as a cool headed, intelligent politician. His rare talent is to mask his hard inner core and unyielding ambition to make something extraordinatry of himself and promote his ideals.
5. Lastly, his campaign, I've heard is run so methodically and strategically that the organization functioned like clock-work and paved the way for his victory. Obama's steady, corporate campaign management is another depiction of how timing, planning and action are all crucial to attaining a high goal, such as this.

At his victory speech in Chicago's Grant Park in front of more than 100,000 people, Obama after thanking his supporters (he didn't mention Hillary and Bill Clinton, was a bit surprised at this and wondered if the omission was intentional or otherwise)went on to say how the challenges of tomorrow, one of them being the worst financial crisis of the century and the other being planet in peril will be faced.

While, change comes with this election, let us wait and watch to see what Obama does in his first term after taking oath into the Oval office in January. But, for now, Obama's success story is that of a young man, whose search for the identity of his own roots and his quest for change makes him a unique and a prominent president in the global arena.