Friday, 17 February 2017

Consumerism

There has been more than one culture clash in my life recently. Attitudes to money would be the main reason for that, in my humble opinion.

My husband grew up in an era when one rupee (that's the Indian currency) had some value. Money was hard-earned and didn't come easily. When money had to be spent on items other than food, it was spent on items that were expected to last. That was the era of the lifetime guarantee. It would have been similar in some ways for me, although things had begun to change in the western world by the time I was growing up.


Life has totally changed. I remember when I bought my first mobile phone ten years ago. It was a solid little phone, no bigger than a bar of chocolate. It could make phone calls and had a little calendar in it. I loved it. But one day, when I'd had the phone about three years, it broke down. I brought it to a repair shop to get an estimate for the repair. The repair cost was the price of the phone itself. I knew it was time to get another phone. My next phone had a similar 'candy bar' design, but amazingly, it had Internet. The Internet recharges were reasonably priced and it felt great to have a mobile Internet connection, even if the screen was tiny. But no mobile phone of mine has ever lasted as long as my original one.
You'll still find the steet vendors here

Years ago, when people bought goods like clocks and tables, they were made to last a lifetime. Now, a 'lifetime' means three years. It's incredible. If I have a phone I love, I would see no reason to change it. But no-one seems to have interest in something after it's a year old. I know that sounds a bit extreme, but things have gone that way. And it's quite a culture shock for people of my husband's generation, many of whom are grandparents now. They would see themselves as working hard for whatever money they can get and when one of the grandchilren needs a new mobile, the older people would see the  money as simply being wasted. It's hard to explain. I suppose things have moved along pretty fast during the last few years.

A fabulous Asian mall
The older people in India have a habit of saving money, which was inculcated into them as youngsters. But when I mentioned this to a relative living in Ireland, I was told that nowadays, people live a credit card lifestyle. Apparently, the habit of saving is obsolete. No one has savings. No one holds on to old stuff. It's all update, update, update.

What's really complicated about Indian life is that there are several layers of society here. There's a layer of affluent, English educated elite who enjoy a consumer lifestyle, with all its benefits. At the same time, they enjoy some of the benefits of living in an economy where there are a lot of poor people.  So you have families where the kids eat pizza and chat on 4G mobiles while there is a servant (maybe even a child servant, though that's against the current law) washing the floor in front of them.

Because Indians follow traditions of giving their daughters and sons-in-law a lot of gifts at the time of marriage, this puts tremendous pressure on parents of girls about to be married. One doesn't wish to send one's daughter away to her marital home with household goods which are not of a high standard. Everything has to be up-to-date and state-of-the-art. Even if there is no demand for these items from the boy's side, the pressure remains. So one has to have plenty of savings to fall back on while keeping up with the consumer society. Talk about having the worst of both worlds!
Despite modern trends, traditional vendors are still around

Nowadays in India, you can buy your vegetables in a modern supermarket. But you can still buy them off a barrow on the road or in a roadside vegetable market, if you prefer. Recently, while shopping for clothes for my nephew's marriage, I enjoyed a trip in Lucknow's Aminabad market, buying bangles to match whatever saris I was planning to wear at the various wedding functions. My friend Babita is an expert shopper in these traditional markets. An Irish friend, Aine, who was coming to the wedding, was with us. Babita told Aine and me to just select whatever bangles we wanted. Then, when the shopkeeper tried to charge an exorbitant price, Babita argued him down the right rate, with a skill that comes from years of practice. This wasn't only shopping. It was entertainment. 
Outdoor vegetable market

As for me, I like nice stuff. Nice phones, nice computers, nice clothes. But I tend to use all my possessions until they fall apart. I do not care who is impressed or who isn't. And even if anyone gossips about my 'cheap lifestyle' I'm not strong in Hindi, so I can't understand them anyway.

Some of the wisdom of the East seems to have influenced me. One should be less materialistic and more spiritual in order to maximize one's satisfaction in life. Well, that's my story and I'm sticking to it!


I have recently resumed blogging with the Loose Bloggers Consortium, a group of bloggers who post on the same topic/prompt every Friday. I'm an old member of this friendly group and delighted to be back. The current blogging members of this group are: RamanaChuck and Pravin. Thanks to Rummuser for the topic/prompt 'Consumerism".

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Image of 'Young Woman Talking On The Phone While Shopping For Clothes' by 'nenetus', courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net
All other images courtesy of Pixabay


Monday, 13 February 2017

Impatience

Many years ago, when I lived in Dublin, I met someone nice and started dating. I wasn't serious, I just thought we could have nice interesting discussions about India, which I found absolutely fascinating, as I was working in the Embassy of India back then. I had no intention of getting attached with a foreigner, with all the attendant cultural problems. I was happy living in Ireland and the idea of marriage couldn't have been further from my mind.

We both thought we could just keep things in control. One day, after a lot of emotional turmoil and denial, it hit us both that we were in love. Truly. Madly. Irrevocably. To the point where we couldn't live without each other. I'd known about the Indian system of arranged marriages and when it occurred to me that he would probably be married off by his family as soon as he returned to India, I felt physically ill at the thought. We are both tenacious and patient people. We realised that bringing our two worlds together would not be easy. There is no need to go into why we couldn't get married right away, but it finally happened. By the time we tied the knot in 1994, we had been in a relationship for more than seven years, most of it long distance. 

Even now, I find it difficult to believe we held on to the relationship for so long. Bear in mind that this was back in the days when there was no Facebook, no WhatsApp and certainly, no Skype. We got to see each other roughly ever two years at one stage. Sometimes, the letters we sent (I wrote practically daily, he wrote a lot less then that) didn't reach. But somehow, we made it. I'm in a Facebook group of women who are partners in inter-cultural relationships, many of them still in the long distance phase. It's very hard to explain sometimes that when we were at that stage, even a very short phone call was a very big deal.

We finally beat the odds and got married. We now have four kids, two already adults. We've been married over 22 years now. I often wonder how come we lasted so long.

The answer is simple. We were both patient. And we had enough faith in each other. My husband was born and grew up in an India where nothing came without waiting patiently. Even though I grew up in a country which was very different to India, I'd seen some difficulties in my early years and I had also learned that if we want something good to happen, you have to wait and not give up too soon.

I notice a huge difference in our children. They have grown up in an age where almost anything is possible. They have instant photos on the camera and can speak to their Irish relatives at the flick of a button. I can't imagine any of our kids having the patience we had to wait it out as we did when we were waiting to be with each other.

While I feel very proud of the fact that he and I had the patience and the tenacity to wait for each other for seven years, I have to say that the very patience which helped us get together has also let us down in a lot of ways. We started off living in my in-laws' house. Since the very beginning of my marriage, I have dreamed of my family having a home of our own. That never happened until now and maybe never will. My over-protective in-laws didn't want us moving out of the family home. Well, the elders didn't. They were afraid that people would fool me and that I would end up coming to grief in some way. So I learned to keep my thoughts to myself and just make the best of things.

I feel sad that I've never had a home of my own to enjoy. Even a slight difference opinion between my spouse and I and everyone knows about it. The rooms allotted to our side of the family are former common family rooms and right behind the front door of the house. So people into whose rooms we wouldn't dare trespass even by accident roam in and out of our section, without a care in the world for our comfort and privacy.
   
I try not to think too much about this, but when I do,  I really wish I hadn't been so patient and adjusting. Impatience would have worked much better for me in this case.

I have recently resumed blogging with the Loose Bloggers Consortium, a group of bloggers who post on the same topic/prompt every Friday. I'm an old member of this friendly group and delighted to be back. The current blogging members of this group are: RamanaChuck and Pravin. Thanks to Pravin for the topic/prompt 'The Supernatural'. Sorry I'm  late with this week's post, guys.    

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Friday, 10 February 2017

The Supernatural

The supernatural...

Do I believe in the supernatural? Yes, I do. My husband and I were both raised in homes where faith and religion were given the utmost importance. Although the religions were different, certain basic beliefs were the same. We both learned, in childhood, that this natural world is in a certain dimension, but there are other dimensions which cannot be easily seen or sensed in this one. We believe we have come to this life for a certain purpose and that there is a higher power, known as God, to whom we must answer when the time comes for us to cross over into the next dimension after our death in this world.

Common knowledge and belief

What's so unusual about that? Millions believe the same thing, in some form or another. Even the most primitive human communities live in constant awareness of the supernatural dimension. In fact, they're even more aware of it, living, as many of them do, at the mercy of nature. 

My native Ireland is full of supernatural stories. Stories about banshees, women of a supernatural race who would wail loudly when the death of a member of certain families was imminent. A particularly popular myth in the southern part of the country concerned 'changelings'. A family with a particularly beautiful child had to be careful not to brag about it. For if the 'faerie folk' came to know, they'd kidnap the beautiful infant and leave an ugly one in its place. 

Could it be that those changeling stories resulted from the replacement of dead children in wealthier families by babies from poorer homes because servants were trying to avoid blame? There was a custom of children of noble families being fostered out to families of a similar status who lived in different regions of the country, in order to foster kinship. Who knows how many changelings resulted from such situations? Two times of the year when a lot of supernatural activities occurred in Ireland were spring and autumn, when the world slips into a different season. 



Common Ireland/India traits

Pre-Christian Ireland had a mythology of its own, with gods, goddesses and festivals aplenty. Hindu India was no different, having a plethora of spiritual deities and as many religious festivals as anyone could want. And strangely enough, a lot of supernatural activity went on around the spring and autumn seasons in India too.

The supernatural and faith

I consider myself to be a faithful Christian, but I've always had a bit of a fascination with the supernatural. I sat up late many a Saturday night in Dublin, watching horror movies about vampires and mummies, although they're not really in my comfort zone. I once listened to a song about a bunch of kids getting excited about telling ghost stories late into the night. There was a line which said: 'It's kind of fun getting scared when you know it's not for real'. That is certainly true.

In the Book of Genesis, the Bible tells us that God was tired of being ignored by the human race, which had turned away from Him and started to worship other spiritual entities. So he communicated with Abraham the patriarch and made Himself known as the eternal Father God. He took Abraham's descendants  (those which came from Abraham's especially promised and very blessed son Isaac and his younger son, Israel) as his own people and kept them separate from the world, until there was a conducive atmosphere for Jesus Christ, God's only-begotten Son, to be born as a Man. Once Jesus Christ performed His work of redeeming the human race from the clutches of death with His own Blood sacrifice, He returned to His Father. But when the Father was preparing the great grandsons of Abraham and their descendants to be the people from which God the Son would be born, he was very careful to instruct them to stay away from any kind of unauthorized supernatural activity. The Israelites were forbidden to practice mediumship and also forbidden to indulge in the local religious festivals of the land of Canaan, in which they were to settle. They were also forbidden to cut their skin or even to have tattoos applied. Apparently, the Canaanites carved religious symbols of their own into their skin. The sooner the Children of Israel lived a life pleasing to the Father, the quicker the Will of God could be done. The Israelites disobeyed numerous times and it took about a thousand years for the Father's Will to be carried out in Israel and ultimately, the world. If we want to please the Father, we have to steer clear of idolatry and superstition and concentrate on reading the Scriptures He has given us. The Father desires to be worshiped 'in spirit and in truth' (NT John 4:24).

The Supernatural - personal experience?

I don't have much personal experience of the supernatural, but one recent experience comes to mind. I used to bring my dog, Duggu, for a walk down a certain road every morning. I noticed that when we walked on a certain stretch of the road, the dog became very aggressive and disturbed, jumping around, pulling on his lead and even seizing my arm in an aggressive manner. Duggu is a big dog, so that was a scary experience.  When I talked to a couple of friends about this, someone pointed out that the stretch of road where Duggu went crazy was beside the cemetery of a particular community. I hadn't been aware of the fact because there are no headstones, just flat soil and lots of overhanging trees. Obviously, Duggu could see things that I simply couldn't. Despite not possessing human intelligence, it appears that dogs can see into the other dimension to some extent. Scary, eh?

Who knows what Duggu saw in those overhanging trees? I avoided the cemetery road after that discussion and the situation immediately improved. As God taught the Israelites in Biblical times, it's better to stay within the set boundaries and not move over the edge of this dimension. I truly believe that.

I have recently resumed blogging with the Loose Bloggers Consortium, a group of bloggers who post on the same topic/prompt every Friday. I'm an old member of this friendly group and delighted to be back. The current blogging members of this group are: RamanaChuck and Pravin. Thanks to my Shackman for the topic/prompt 'The Supernatural'. Sorry I'm a week late with the post, guys. I'll do an extra post this week to catch up!

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Monday, 30 January 2017

The Missing Bride: Loyalty - A Different Perspective


Recently, I connected with Nabeel, a young man of a particular community through a mutual interest in comparative religion. This happened as a result of our meeting through a WhatsApp chat group. This young man is of Indian origin and extremely erudite. He is very well-versed not only in the Holy Qu'ran, the scripture followed by the various Muslim communities, but he has also read and studied the Holy Bible (King James Version). It isn't difficult to track down people once you know certain contact details about them and I soon discovered my invisible friend's Facebook account. I took a good long look at his photographs, both past and recent. It appears that through the maturity which comes with age, my distant friend, who resembled a Bollywood hero just a few short years ago, has now 'got religion' in a big way. His appearance fairly screams his religious affiliation in a way that it didn't just less than three years ago, when he took unto himself a wife, as the Bible would say. I found the wedding album on Facebook.

There's nothing as nice to look at as a handsome bridal couple, I always say. Well I looked and I looked. The groom was all present and correct, as they say. Absolutely perfect, not a thing wrong with him. But something was missing. Something integral. Can you guess what it is? There was no bride to be seen anywhere. No women either, in any of the wedding pictures. I was quite shocked, I can tell you. 

So I got on FB Messenger and asked the gentleman about the missing bride. The answer I eventually received was a revelation. He told me that his wife considered that her beauty was for him alone and not for everyone to feast on.  I replied that that was absolutely fine as long as it was her choice. I respect people's choices. But seriously, no criticism intended, what's a wedding without a beautiful bride? In India, well, usually in India. as well as Ireland, the bride is the centre of the whole party. There can't be a wedding without one. 

But it got me thinking. An attitude like that comes from a mindset which is totally alien to the thinking where I grew up. Okay, I'm an old girl now, although I still scrub up well when the need arises. Like, on a good day, when I've had my sleep, my vitamins, the required amount of water and a little makeup to repair the damage, I can pass for being in my (late) thirties if the light is good. But even when I was young and a bit better than average looking (so I've been told), it wouldn't have occurred to me that my "beauty" was for "himself" alone. I met him when I was 23, so I guess you can say I managed to 'trap' him when I was the best-looking I've ever been. Yes, I even had blonde highlights back then, long gone because I'm unable to maintain them in India owing to the scarcity of blonde hair dye in my city. But I digress......

A few years ago, I switched on the television and found myself watching a religious discourse. They're on the television here around the clock and probably everywhere else too, owing to satellite. An earnest gentleman, with a wispy looking beard and a skull cap, was pontificating on the place of women in society. He was defending the fact that men in his community were allowed to have more than one wife. He explained that in a society where men are scarce, he would rather see his sister as the second wife of a devout man than as a single lady. Because according to him, no single lady can be virtuous, she is simply a 'public property', particularly in the western world. What an assumption! We don't wear veils and we speak freely with people whether they are male or female, so we western women are, if unmarried, 'public property'. If I'd had something heavy nearby, I'd have thrown it at the television screen. Such nonsense! That person should understand that women from western countries, whether or not they prefer to wait until marriage to enjoy intimate relations with someone (their choice), have standards and don't just go with anyone.

I have a close friend, Nasreen, who has helped me in so many ways. Nasreen, for me, is an ideal woman. She's beautiful, dignified and although she belongs to the community in which many women cover up, she never covers her face. But the truth is, Nas doesn't need a veil to cover herself. Women who have dignity and self-respect have a virtual veil in any case. Nobody can just move into their personal space and start treating them like public property.

Nabeel's wife may, because of the social customs in her community, feel that not showing her looks to the world is a special gift, a way of showing loyalty to her husband. But it's entirely different for most modern women, as the mindset is different. Limiting our interaction with the outside world means that we can't contribute to society as effectively as we'd like to do and from that, our husbands would gain absolutely nothing. We don't need to wear a veil to prove our loyalty to our marriages. But in societies where the ethos is different, it's another story. And it's sad that many people who live in cultures where veiling is the norm judge women from other cultures so negatively. Well, some do.

As Nabeel himself very reasonably says, everyone has their own thinking.

As for hiding our beauty? Personal choice of course, but we should not be too proud of our looks. Physical beauty is temporary in human life, inner beauty is forever. I love this verse from Proverbs 31:30 (NIV translation)

Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.


Image courtesy of pixabay.com
Banner courtesy of canva.com


I have recently resumed blogging with the Loose Bloggers Consortium, a group of bloggers who post on the same topic/prompt every Friday. I'm an old member of this friendly group and delighted to be back. The current blogging members of this group are: RamanaChuck and Pravin. Thanks to my dear brother Ramana for the topic/prompt 'Loyalty'. Sorry I'm late with the post this week, guys.





Friday, 20 January 2017

Global Lucknow Gathering

Global Lucknow


Lucknow's Glorious Past

Once upon a time, Lucknow, the capital city of Uttar Pradesh, was a cosmopolitan city with a distinct and renowned culture. A sort of 'Paris of the East'. In modern India, Lucknow doesn't get as much attention as it deserves. It has become just another state capital, appearing to lag behind the more prominent Indian cities such as Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata. But it really shouldn't be that way. A survey, jointly conducted by marketing company IMRB International and electronics company LG, found Lucknow to be one of the happiest cities in the country.

Global Lucknow - Registered Society

Bina Krishna and Sunita Aron of the GLC
With its graceful elegance (apparent in the manners of the city's inhabitants, as well as the  the heritage buildings), its Persian influence and its amazingly absorbing atmosphere, Lucknow has a fabled, glorious past. A few of Lucknow's citizens got together recently to set up the Global Lucknow Society, a registered body which is dedicated to promoting awareness of Lucknow's place in the diversity that is modern India. Lucknow's glory isn't just enshrined in the past. This lovely city continues to welcome people in the present day and visitors cannot fail to be moved by the unique atmosphere which prevails here.

Inter-cultural Gathering

Lilia and Igor from Moldova
On the 15th January, 2017, at La Martiniere Girls College in the city, the Global Lucknow Society hosted a function to bring together the small but varied expatriate community of the city. Lucknow's native and foreign inhabitants, from places as diverse as Chile in south America and the Pacific island of Vanuatu, mingled together for a few, precious hours, enjoying discussions, reminiscences, some singing, dancing and even a short yoga demonstration.

International Mingling

Rodrigo and Vanessa from Chile
For a very long time, Ireland has been represented at Lucknow gatherings by a small group of Loreto nuns from Ireland. However, Indian nuns make up that same community today, as the last of the Irish Loreto nuns in India are now staying in Kolkata. Ireland was represented on this day by me and my new friend Aine Browne (pronounced 'Awnya', Irish for 'Anne') who arrived in the city recently, along with her Italian husband and two young children. I was delighted to meet Adity Chakravarty, the wife of a former Indian Ambassador to Ireland, who was, for me at least, an honorary Irish woman. She told me that she still sometimes misses Dublin, so we have lots in common. I also met a Brazilian lady, Marcia, who, like me, is also married to an Indian and lives here in Lucknow. 

Highlights

Indian husband, Brazilian wife. Santosh and Marcia
Dr Amrita Dass of the Global Lucknow Committee (GLC), who is a leading career consultant, welcomed everyone to the function. Mrs. Sunita Aron, Editor of the Hindustan Times, Lucknow, introduced the various local and international members of the gathering, some of whom shared short, cultural performances, showcasing the culture of their native lands and some of whom shared their impressions of this city. Mrs. Bina Krishna, with a perfect choice of song, 'Those Were The Days' (a standard sing-along song at Irish weddings, I remember) lifted the mood of the gathering. Odette from Portugal, who is an able choreographer, got the entire crowd on its feet. Mr.Chander Prakash of the Universal Book Stores shared an interesting story about his surprise at being recognised as a Lucknowite in Scotland, of all places. Lilia from Moldova, accompanied by her husband Igor, sang a Moldovan song, which was sung in a very low key and conveyed a really hypnotic quality. Rodrigo and Vanessa from Chile entertained the gathering with an attractive dance performance.

Odette leads.....



....and others follow

Conclusion

This enjoyable evening came to an end way too soon, with some refreshments. I hope there'll be lots more gatherings like this in the future.

If anyone reading this post supports Global Lucknow's ideal of promoting awareness Lucknow's glorious heritage, as well as inter-cultural exchange, please like our Facebook Page. You can reach there at this link: Global Lucknow




Logo: courtesy of Global Lucknow Registered Society
Photos: Courtesy of Dr Amrita Dass