A Moment in Music.

Project 52 2012: 45/52 Record Player

Music has always been a big part of my life, and (good) Indian music has and will always stop me in my tracks & warm my heart. Earlier this month, my friend Paresh of the Curry Smugglers told me that I would probably enjoy a couple songs in particular on their latest release, “Chill 6.” I tuned into their Chill episode, knowing I was in for a couple hours of soothing tunes, both old & new. As Paresh predicted (dammit), an old song at the end of the Chill set took me back to a special time with my grandmother. (Check out the latest Chill episode here.)

And so, here I share with you a little glimpse into my life.

One of my earliest memories is waking up on Saturday mornings to the strains of Hindi music. My father has always loved music, and he would put on LP after LP of songs from his favorite Indian movies after he woke on the weekends. Everyone should have an alarm clock as pleasant.

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This particular song, “Teri Bindiyan” from the movie Abhimaan, was a particular favorite of my father’s, and in time, my own. The melody, and the furtive, loving glances I would see my parents exchange during the song, further cemented my love of it.

Fast forward to my late teens. After I graduated from high school, my family & I took the requisite trip to India for a couple months before I started college. We traveled, but I craved quality time with my nani (my mother’s mother). She & I would sit for hours, and as as she would play with my long, wavy locks, she would tell me stories of her childhood, her life as a young wife and mother.

One night, in particular, stands out bright as the sun. My parents were traveling, and I was enjoying spending some quiet time with my nani and a few other relatives. It was quiet, with no visitors. My nani said that she would teach me how to make roti. On the nights she cooked dinner, she would bring the wireless, battery-powered radio into the kitchen with her.

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Just as we started, the electricity went out. She lit a kerosene lamp without ceremony, but determined it wouldn’t be the best night to start a cooking lesson with me. We were chatting quietly, and then “Teri Bindyan” came on the radio. We were quiet, then both began singing along… I remember her eyes shining as we sang together. Later, I asked her if she was okay. She told me that the song made her think of my grandfather, who had passed away over 30 years prior… but that now she had a new, wonderful memory of the song. She hugged me, and we sat on the veranda eating the food she made, listening to the strains of “Tum Pukar Lo.”

While completely unexpected, I have never stopped treasuring that moment. Thanks for taking me back, guys.

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The Sikh Shooting in Milwaukee: Didn’t Know? Or Didn’t Care?

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There has been so much violence in our world lately: Aurora, Syria, Oak Creek, Texas A&M… I wonder & fear if we may be becoming immune to the violence, or if we pick & choose where our sympathies lay. I hope I’m wrong on both counts.  

On the morning of Sunday, August 5, I jumped onto Twitter to see what everyone was drinking with brunch, & instead saw tweets about a shooting at a Gurudwara in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. My blood ran cold. I turned on the TV, and flipped through channel after channel, desperately seeking coverage. CNN was the only station that was covering the tragedy, & the ‘facts’ they were spouting about Sikhism were so completely wrong, off-base, that my eyes filled with tears of frustration. Where was all the coverage? The local news covered it with 2 lines of copy, 20 minutes into that evening’s broadcast. My social media streams were silent, with the exception of my South Asian friends.

Why was it that the only people who were talking about the shooting on my Twitter & Facebook feeds were South Asian? Why did it seem like no one cared? Yes, they were Sikhs who were killed in their place of worship, but above all, they were innocent humans… innocent Americans. I’m not Sikh, nor Punjabi, but I am Indian. Do we not factor into the American consciousness?

My Twitter friend Paresh (@pareshg) wrote a post on Facebook that summed up my thoughts, my questions, about the seeming lack of concern & media coverage over the shooting. I asked him if I could share this on my blog, & he agreed. Please, read on. I would love to know your thoughts on the matter.

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Photo by my talented Twitter friend Karaminder Ghuman. Link: http://karaminderghuman.com/

I’ve been sitting on this because I don’t want to seem incendiary, knee jerking or instigate anything negatively but I’m disappointed in that nobody on my FB ‘friends’ list who is not of South Asian descent even mentioned the shootings in Milwaukee this weekend. Less than 3 weeks ago, I couldn’t get through a single FB Feed page without postings about Aurora where a movie theater got shot up by an idiot who thought he was in a movie. People kept posting “Pray for the victims! God help us all! What kind of a madman does this kind of thing?’ etc.  

However, when a place of worship that isn’t a church gets violated by a known alcoholic who got kicked out of the service, was involved with white supremacists & kills 6 people, there’s not a peep. This appalls me. Like the victims in Aurora, the victims in Milwaukee were people who believed in the right to practice their own religion in the safety and sanctity of their own religious building. If you can’t be safe when you pray, what’s the point?

I’m also finding that nobody gave two craps about the mosque arson in Joplin, MO the next day aside from the South Asians who are in my circles. Also note that this mosque was used by the EMS to stage relief efforts when the tornadoes ripped that town to shreds. The Imam volunteered that building as part of the community the congregation lived in. So what is this? Lack of exposure? Lack of empathy? Or a simple matter of – “well, they’re not White or Christian or [insert stereotype here] so it’s not important.”

Interesting social dynamic don’t you think?   

CNN – not the most shining beacon of reporting in the world – was the only channel that carried the Milwaukee shootings live on Sunday (poorly). Fox didn’t even bother to flip out except for a ticker. However, ALL channels went live during Aurora and the mass hysteria & overload of emotions in the social networks was apparent & palpable.  

So is it that people don’t care? People don’t know? Or people don’t care to know because it’s outside their comfort zone & realm of understanding to appreciate other cultures and religions. But what do I know right? It’s only in the First Amendment of the Constitution of a country I’m yet to be naturalized into. If that’s the case, it’s xenophobic, ethnocentric & feel free to remove me from your friends list. 

For the record – my opinion is that it’s not that people have to be White, Black, Brown, Christian, Hindu, or Muslim or any other faith – NOBODY deserves to get shot at (close range, point blank or in the face) by anyone in a civilian setting. Period.    

 

UPDATED about an HOUR LATER – I understand that this will be shared and people will comment. I also understand that this is a very broad looking statement. I’m not one to point fingers because a friend rightly pointed that this crap happens the world over – everyday. And while that makes me feel powerless to do anything, I can control one thing:   The ability to question MY social circle. The people I’ve encountered, worked with, hung out with, broken bread with and spent time with. All I want to do with this post is understand how and why people – normal every day people – can prioritize one tragedy over another based on demographical markers.  

 

UPDATED: 8/13/2012 

First of all, thank you for the shares/likes on Facebook (that are visible to me) and the discussion this has created. I want to come out & admit that it’s humbling that I was able to reach a lot of people who don’t know me. But I also had to edit this post to add some color/context based on positive & negative feedback I received in terms of comments + private messaging since this was posted. It’s been a week since the shootings so I wanted to let the original piece breathe & then add the following, so here goes –   

1)   I am not a Sikh. I do not practice Sikhism. I am not Punjabi. I’m a mutt of some Gujarati, Sindhi something that has roots in the Jaisalmer area of Rajasthan pre-partition and from the mid 1800s. I’m a Hindu of convenience which means I’ll do the poojas at Diwali but hardly ever go to the temple. 

2)   No. I’m not bandwagon jumping to show outrage for ‘my fellow desis’ [Which is justified by the way]. My outrage is at the general apathy situations like these (minority targeted crimes) have been shown in the United States. I cannot speak for Canada, Mexico or any other country simply because I do not live there.  

3)   Yes. I fully acknowledge that things like this happen every day, all across the world. No doubt. So while the original post is me standing on a soap box; I stood on it in front of my social network. I never expected it to be shared as much it has been which is why I added the ‘broad statement’ line on the original writing as an addendum. 

4)   Of course, The Atlantic came out with a very interesting take on this shooting: http://bit.ly/OUHj9M – that ends with a very telling thought. Since the shooter was white – normal white folk didn’t know what to do because it flew in the face of the conditioned messaging since 9/11 of ‘Anyone but white folk could be terrorists’ & then they looked away. Totally unsure as to what to do with themselves. 

5)   Is that a racist statement? You tell me. Because I sure as hell don’t know simply because I’m confused as to exactly what is going in this country anymore. 

6)   Is the media to blame for uneven coverage? Yes. Absolutely. It’s an election year. We can’t have too much controversy. 

7)   Did I write this post to call out the white people in MY social circle? You bet I did. But I also should point out that I’m calling out the media and everybody else too. This is a HUMAN tragedy. Regardless of the victim set, the crux of my post was to point out the disparity in a) coverage and b) general lack of reaction from non South Asians 

8)   Some people, very intelligently I must say, added that it’s a question of relatability. That somehow imagining oneself in a movie theater just hits home with more people than a victim set practicing a foreign religion & being in its house of worship. To which I say – fair enough. I’m not sold on this idea but I do see the logic there so I’ll acknowledge it. 

9)   Other people right fully said that people are desensitized to violence. If that’s the case, we REALLY need to sort out our priorities. 

10) One bright spark said people should be allowed to own guns to protect themselves and that if someone was armed in the Gurdwara, this would have been averted. Let that sink in for a second… Come on man. For real? 

11) Someone commented that I shouldn’t be questioning people on social networks. Are you kidding me? I find out about births, deaths, pregnancies, marriages, divorces, re-marriages, circumscions and hysterectomies, earthquakes & tornadoes etc on Facebook and Twitter. This is our world now. I can’t exactly gather 450+ plus people on a Skype call & tell them all what I think now can I? These mediums use the word SOCIAL – which automatically implies that I want to see social interaction about things. If you choose to not comment on anything of this sort on your social networks, then fine. But if you’re picking and choosing tragedies to talk about and rage over, let’s rethink that stance a bit.  

12) To the people who said I made a good point, or that the original post was a good read – Thank you. 

Look. I’m not a civil rights authority. I’m not even actively involved in the desi scene in my own city. Hell, I’m not EVEN going to pretend that I’m sort of righteous holier than thou desi because, quite honestly, I’m kind of an asshole. And a pretty big one at that. 

So what is my problem? My problem is this:  

We are the most evolved species on this planet. We are all, each of us, genetically marked to be human. Our genetic mutations allow each of us to evolve with differing skin tones, eye color, bodies etc. Our ability to communicate with words, art, music & the languages makes us far superior than 99.99% of all species here on this rock. So we’re evolved right? And here we are in 2012 – A random dude who has no business owning a gun kills 6 other random strangers when they were getting ready to perform a service to the community they lived in. Why? Simply because they weren’t White/ Caucasian.

Then what did most people do? Quietly acknowledge it in their heads, feel a moment of sadness & then moved on. Because ‘Well. I don’t know anybody who died there. And since the victims were not Caucasian, it’s not that important. And I really don’t get why they wear those turbans? Isn’t the turban what the Taliban wears? Didn’t the Taliban try to bomb us and kill us all multiple times?’ That’s the example we want to set for our kids, our siblings, and the people around us? Look the other way because the reality of the situation does not conform to our prejudices & social comfort zones? 

That’s the best the human race can do? 

Shame on us. All of us. 

Incomplete (Part I)

I’m fast approaching the mid-thirties mark, and finding myself bewildered & anxious as the new number becomes clearer in the distance. Where has the time gone?

I have plenty of milestones to look upon–degrees, graduate degrees, getting my own place, moving cross-country to change my life & career path. I’m proud of all of my accomplishments and have worked hard to achieve the things that I have. I have messed up, I have failed–but I have done my best to learn from each and every thing that has crossed my path, whether blissful or wildly unpleasant. I have discovered new friendships, lost more than I can count (& mourned them all), I have found love, I have enjoyed lust, I have reveled in the pleasures of the tongue & the flesh. I have travelled the world, danced the night away in Spain, immersed myself in the flavors of Italy.

And yet… I feel incomplete.

I recently had a conversation with my father–the closest we’ll probably ever come to a heart-to-heart. He’s a good man, a good father. But at his core, he is a simple man, who wants the best for his only daughter, the girl that has been the apple of his eye since…forever. He loves me and is proud of everything I have accomplished, as well as the things I strive to accomplish every day. The conversation has made me think hard–with an open mind and an open heart. My defenses? Nonexistent.

My father told me about a family friend, whose daughter is a surgical nurse. She is one of the best nurses in her hospital–hard-working, compassionate, and always willing to spend time to help a patient or a colleague–and dedicated to her family. I’m proud to know this girl. My father beamed as he told me about the purchase she recently made for her mother, and I smiled at his evident joy.

“We have wonderful daughters who have accomplished so much. I’m proud of you, I just want…” He stumbled, his eyes searched my face. He was waiting for my defensive reaction to his poorly disguised reference to the fact that his darling daughter, quickly approaching the next big number, is still single. I had nothing to say… My brain was a blank slate. I chose to smile.

“I know, Dad. I know what you mean,” I said quietly, trying to keep my voice from breaking. He smiled back, visibly relieved. I held the smile as long as possible, my heart heavy. I refused to let myself think about it… but here it is, in my face.

No matter what I am able to accomplish in my life, my parents will never truly be happy unless I find someone to love, to love me as I deserve to be loved. They don’t want me to settle for a warm body (with a good biodata) by my side–they want me to find a good man that will love & care for me the same way I would for him. Someone who would complement who I am as a person, just as I would for him.

You know what? I want that, too. I just have no idea how to find that kind of love, and no idea why I have been unable to find it for so long… even though I’ve never stopped looking.

 

(It looks like this will be a series of posts, as I explore this. I’m opening myself up in a way I’m not necessarily comfortable with, but I think it’s important… I know I’m not the only person to have experienced some of these emotions.)

WTF, America? You’re Saying It Wrong.

I love being unique.

I am a person. I am of Eastern Indian descent. My parents gave me a traditional, Eastern Indian name. It’s a simple, beautiful name. Five letters long. The meaning suits me well.

The problem? People who don’t want to take a moment to read my name or try to pronounce it correctly. Seriously, people. It’s MY F-CKING NAME. No, you can’t shorten it (it’s five letters long, for chrissake!). No, you can’t call me (insert Anglo name here). I find it highly unprofessional/disrespectful/ignorant/pathetic when people tell me my name is too hard to pronounce.

It's okay to be different. Don't be ashamed of it.

But you know what makes it worse? Those fellow brown people who allow these ignorant morons to mispronounce their names to the point that they begin to introduce themselves to others brown people with the same affected tone. I met a great (brown) guy at a party one night–great personality, good-looking, etc., but I couldn’t get over the fact that he introduced himself to me as ‘Ka-PEEL’–not ‘Ka-pill’, as it’s meant to be pronounced. I had to walk away after I asked him why he mispronounces his own name–‘It’s easier for the Americans. My name isn’t normal, you know.’

Americans are striving to give their kids new and original names. Failing that, they try to spell them differently to set their kids apart (Madison becomes ‘Madysyn’ or some other BS like that). We can’t be proud of being different? Why can’t we be proud of having a heritage that values names & having a language & culture that dates back thousands of years? Just because it makes you uncomfortable when you have to correct people so they can say your name correctly?

Nothing wrong with being different.

When I meet people (& I get out there & meet a lot of people on a daily basis), my name often gets mispronounced. I know, it’s different. I patiently (& kindly) correct them. And you know what? People always make an effort if they know there is an expectation. Try it out sometime.

And remember… If you don’t respect yourself, no one else will.

Please Hold…

This Should NOT Be How You Live Your Life...

After seeing my timeline clogged, day after day, night after night, with young girls in their twenties tweeting about lost love, trying to find love, or why they don’t have husbands, I just couldn’t f-cking handle it any more. Why are you all sitting around pining?

I went on a rant on Twitter: “Makes me sad to see young girls desperately seeking a mate. Get out there & live ur damn life! Never know where/when you’ll meet ur mate!  Don’t wait to try that new restaurant, travel to that faraway land, or buy that flashy new car until ‘after I get married’. You’re not dead.  Go live your life! You’ll be happier, have more life experiences, & be a less boring & pathetic human being. That’s NEVER attractive.” And yes, indeed–it makes me STABBY.

I see tweets like “I thought we had something good. Where did he go?”; “Where is my husband?”; “When will I finally meet my husband?”; or ‘I wish I could find a husband so I could go to Paris/Venice/outside my house without permission.’ Really, ladies? Aren’t you alive and breathing right now? Get off your computer, remove yourself from your parents’ control, get out there and live your life–quit bitching about your lack of one online. You want your life to change? YOU have the power to make it change… Don’t give that power to a man who hasn’t even materialized yet.

Go out, do the things you dream of doing, LIVE YOUR LIFE. You won’t regret it, I promise. Who knows? You just might meet the man of your dreams while pursuing your dreams…

Yep. I went there...

WTF, America?

I am temporarily shelving my title of Angry Brown Girl… To be replaced with Disgusted and Saddened Brown Girl.

This should really exist.

Have you heard about the kid at Rutgers, Tyler Clementi, that killed himself? This happened last week, after his roommate & his roommate’s friend (Dharun Ravi, and fellow Rutgers freshman Molly Wei) broadcast a video of Clementi hooking up with a man. This story breaks my heart.

I’m not going to get into the hate crime aspect of it… Rather, I want to focus on WHY Ravi & Wei thought this would be okay. Ravi set up his computer to record and broadcast Tyler and his companion hooking up–WHY?? In what circumstance is this okay? Was Ravi bullying Tyler? Did he not like Tyler? I don’t know… But what made Ravi think that he should live-stream Tyler and his date? Was he proud of himself? That’s how I interpreted it, after reading some of his tweets leading up to the day of Tyler’s suicide.

The Today Show on NBC covered this story this morning, and it was said that the suspects were at home with their families, and that Ravi was ‘confused’ and ‘upset’. What is so ‘confusing’ and ‘upsetting’, Dharun Ravi? YOU chose to tweet (you can view DR’s last few tweets here) and then BROADCAST your roommate having sex with another man… TWICE. Your roommate, who may or may not have been open about his sexuality, then jumped off of the George Washington Bridge. You’re ‘CONFUSED’?! YOU BULLIED someone… And (I believe) your actions led to his SUICIDE. And you’re ‘confused’. Give me a f*cking break. Take responsibility for the fact that you acted like a sociopath.

You know what sucks? This insensitive prick, Dharun Ravi, is of Indian descent. I look to be proud of my kinspeople, and I am disgusted to have anything in common with you. And what does your family think? I hope that they can live with the fact that they have YOU as a son.

Otherwise… You have broken two families, Dharun Ravi. You disgust me as a human being, a ‘man’, and a person of Indian descent. I can only wonder how you have hurt people in the past.

Thank you for reading my rant… What do you think about this case? I would like to know your thoughts.