A story I read after the Women’s March struck me and inspired this post. It was a story about a Muslim woman in a restaurant near the Washington, DC area who was antagonistically approached by a man. The man fired “questions” at her about her hijab and her faith. The striking thing about this story is that there was a group of women at a nearby table, presumably fresh from the Women’s March as some were donning pussy hats, who observed what was going on – but remained silent.
So what was the point of the March? [Note: I fully support the March.]
This got me thinking about my own behaviours, and I came up with a list of 7 Calls to Action for myself – ways to model my behaviour. I share these with you today:
1. Speak Up. If you see someone being harassed or intimidated, don’t be a silent bystander. Speak up. The best way to do this is not to confront the bully, but to focus on the victim. In the restaurant scenario described above, the nearby women could have, perhaps, approached the Muslim woman and started to engage her in conversation – this would have effectively taken her adversary out of the equation. Also, don’t feel shy about voicing your perspective. I was once at a birthday party at which a parent was lamenting about too much Spanish being spoken in their local public school, and other parents in our conversation circle were nodding in agreement. I could have remained silent, but instead I piped in with a short, “I’d love my kids to learn more Spanish.” Sometimes, I feel, it helps to let it be known that not everyone in a group feels the same way.
2. Read. The best thing you can do for yourself and your children in our current environment is to READ. For yourself, read about history, perspectives, science – whatever interests you. Read books with your children about historical figures, injustices of the past, and stories of courage. Arm your family with knowledge so they have the power to handle themselves and to speak up for others.
3. Speak Your Language. As a follow-up to #1 above, don’t be afraid to speak your native language in public. Now is the time, more than ever, to demonstrate the diversity of the United States. A while back, at a dropoff for a class, a fellow mom (she was white) noticed I was speaking [Telugu] to my daughter and came up to me to say how she thought it was wonderful that I maintained my culture. People notice.
4. Wear Your Sari. Or your salwar, turban, bindi or other cultural attire or mark – at least more than twice a year. It’s easier to accept diversity when it’s seen. You are also modeling positive cultural practices for your children.
5. 20 Minutes a Day. In this politically charged climate, I struggle to restrain myself. As a politically-active attorney, it’s very difficult for me not to be consumed about the news. In times like these, I have to remind myself about dharma – right action – and that right now, it would be wrong of me to neglect my kids and my family. So I promised myself that I would limit my “political work” to 20 minutes a day. These 20 minutes are enough to call/message/write to Senators or Representatives, educate myself on certain calls to action, or to do a quick social media post. Conversely, if being politically active is new to you, now is a good time to put your Senators’ and Representative’s phone numbers in your contacts list and to make some calls.
6. Say Hello. It’s important to maintain civility and to promote friendliness at times like these. A simple friendly “hello” can open windows to perspective.
7. Smile. Because in the end, the light of truth will (eventually) prevail over darkness.
Image: “Rise above it” Fine Art Print by Amanda Cass. Available here…
Happy Republic Day! While August 15 is celebrated as India’s Independence Day, January 26 is the day India’s Constitution officially came into effect.
Vande Mataram is the National Song of India. Here is a beautiful rendition by The Voice India Kids:
The lyrics are a mix of Bengali and Sanskrit. Here are the lyrics of what is sung in the video:
And the translation (by Sri Aurobindo):
Mother, I bow to thee!
Kids: Let’s get down to business today. Can you name the 4 Vedas? The names of the 4 Vedas are definitely something you should know if Hinduism is a part of your life.
The Vedas are the most sacred scriptures of Hinduism. It is believed that they originated from Lord Brahma himself. They contain knowledge and insight by ancient sages as to many deep philosophical questions – such as Who are we? and Why are we here? – that humans have been wondering since the dawn of mankind.
No one knows exactly how old the Vedas are. For many, many years the Vedas existed as shruti (oral literature) – so they were passed down orally. Experts believe that, starting with the Rig Veda, the Vedas began to be written down (in Sanskrit) by about 1200 BCE – making the Rig Veda one of the oldest texts in any Indo-European language!
There is a lot to learn about the Vedas, but today we’ll just focus on knowing the names of the 4 Vedas and being able to describe a little about each of the Vedas.
1. Rig Veda
The oldest of the Vedas, the Rig Veda is a Veda of praise. It contains several hymns that praise a number of Hindu gods. The all-important Gayatri Mantra is in the Rig Veda.
2. Sama Veda
Think of the Sama Veda as a partner of the Rig Veda: It is simply a collection of samans (chants). These chants are derived from a part of the Rig Veda. The Sama Veda contains strict instructions for priests as to how each chant is to be sung, with very detailed guides for pronunciation and sound of each word!
3. Yajur Veda
While the Sama Veda focuses on chants, the Yajur Veda focuses on rituals. It offers formulas to be said by a priest while a person is performing a ritual action before yagna (sacred fire).
4. Atharva Veda
The Atharva Veda is different from the other 3 Vedas. Its language is simpler, and its verses touch upon more diverse subjects. The Atharva Veda also contains knowledge on medicines. In fact, it is one of the first texts to record uses of antibiotics!
Ready to quiz yourself?
We’ve watched some phenomenal films over the past few weeks. These 3 movies are the best-of-the-best and are not be missed. If you are lucky, you may still be able to catch #1 and #2 at a theater near you.
1. Dangal – “Wrestling Competition” – (2016 – Hindi (available with English subtitles)
One of the best movies about women in sports. Period. Based on a true story, this movie stars Aamir Khan as Mahavir Singh Phogat – who challenged Indian societal rules to train his 2 daughters to become world-class wrestlers. Exceptionally inspirational:
2. Lion (2016 – English)
Another based-on-a-true-story drama – this time starring Dev Patel (of Slumdog Millionaire fame) as Saroo Brierly – who, as a young child, accidentally boards a departing train, only to end up in Calcutta to fend for himself. Saroo eventually ends up in an orphanage, gets adopted by an Australian couple, and, year later, tries to find his way back home.
3. Oopiri – “Breath” – (2016 – Telugu)
We watched this online, but hopefully this is available on DVD (with subtitles for those of you who don’t speek Telugu). It’s very much worth the trouble to get your hands on a copy of this gem. A quadriplegic billionaire hires an ex-convict to be his caretaker – and enrich each other’s lives for the better. It may sound slow (and definitely not your average Tollywood tale), but it’s deceptively uplifting, heart-warming, and hilarious. It had my kids re-watching scenes and reciting lines.
As we celebrate Makar Sankranti this Saturday, January 14, why not try your hand at making a beautiful rangoli kite bookmark?
We started with a 4″ x 4″ piece of cardstock, and decorated with markers and a gold paint pen. Squares are a bit easier to work with, but you can start with a more elongated diamond shape for a more traditional kite. Add a ribbon and you are done!
If you are inspired to make several kites, you can hang them as a banner, or even attach them to the ceiling with clear string.
Those brass temple bells – aren’t they a sight for the eyes? But did you know that they serve a specific purpose? Not surprisingly, the ancients came up with precise compositions of metals with the intent to produce a distinct sound – a sound that was to last for exactly 7 seconds to touch the 7 chakras of the body! Amazing!
Check out this video:
Symbolically, bells are a symbol of the gap between the sky and the earth. Hindus ring hanging bells prior to entering a shrine. They are essentially “announcing themselves” for worship.
A beautiful, modern home mandir with hanging bells:
Beautiful doors as entry to a prayer room:
Fun with idles – complete with carrot nose and all. Spinach bowties, almond hats, and peppercorns complete the outfit.
And they melt in your mouth!
Winter holidays means more time for food creations with my family. Here is my latest creation, packed with protein: Masala Eggs-in-Heart-Toast.
Ingredients (for 2 slices of toast):
2 slices whole-grain bread
1) Using the cookie cutter, cut shape out from each slice of bread. Set aside slices and cut-outs.
Iconic Indian fashion designer Sabyasachi Mukherjee has arrived with a bang in the USA! If you haven’t heard via mall or mail, his designs are gracing Pottery Barns everywhere. Check out the collection here…Here are a few of our favorites:
We are proud to announce that Kitaab World is one of our partners in our Gujarati Book Launch Giveaway. They are sponsoring Gandhi – A March to the Sea – one of the wonderful items in our Book Launch Trunk.
Also, be sure to read Avni Gandhi’s Guest Post for Kitaab World: 5 Reasons Why You Must Teach Your Child Your Mother Tongue and How You Can Do It.
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