Archive | April, 2011

Dear William & Catherine

29 Apr

It is finally today. I will not hazard a guess about your feelings, but sincerely wish they are mostly positive. Be it for royalty or commoners, a legal union (and often a religiously binding one) is an event of significance. For you, this event is not, and never can be, yours alone. Your marriage has innumerable stakeholders, but only two worker bees. And no matter how grand or humble the wedding itself, after the finery is off and the meals digested, it’s all about the marriage.

There are as many kinds of marriages as there are people, this I know. But I hope there is love. And a purpose. And kind spirits who will shelter you.

As a bride of 5 months’ experience, I will say this:  Keep it real. Laugh. Be a team.

God bless. I’ll be watching. With a pebble on my finger from a man who made his naysayer partner discover that the institution can be rather nice after all.

Best wishes,

An Indian girl in North America with a fascination for all things English

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A Portrait of Us

25 Apr

My wonderfully talented friend and fellow blogger Lavanya gave us (her version of) a portrait of the Boy and me as a wedding present.

I love her artistic ability. I love how painstakingly she has detailed the picture, adding the little silver evening bag she and I shopped for together. I love how the Boy looks like Rohinton Mistry in this version (he doesn’t really, but I think  I prefer him on paper).  I love how pictures speak louder than words and this one screams ” OJ IS SKINNYYYYYYYY!” like nobody and nothing else will.

So here’s us, now hope over to her page and tell her I said hello. Ooooh, will ya look at that teeny-tiny waist? :mrgreen:

Chocolate for Brekkie, Starlight for Din

18 Apr

Language can be a beautiful thing. You can stack up phrases and bite into them like a sandwich of plump shrimp. You can twirl sentences like I curl hair around my fingers, gazing absently at its tensile brownness against my skin. You can dip into it like the soothing jasmine green tea I have recently discovered. It bubbles and warbles in a kettle and the words spill over as you lie on your back, high on the sound they make. Language is the quiet of California rain. The cacophony of Bhendi Bazaar. The little shiver that tingles down your back when he looks at you that way.

Language is a new chaise lounge from Ikea. I’ve been curled up on it and refuse to vacate. Language makes me reach for grey skies and wrap them snugly around the shoulders. Eat a doughy chocolate cookie for breakfast and warm tortillas for lunch. Language makes me unrecognizable to him. I prefer you, he says simply. And OJ bristles. Shifts uncomfortably on her cushion for a while, then goes back to watching steam fog up the window. The landscape shuts itself out and she turns inward again.

Sunlight & Snoozin’

11 Apr

[Credits: OJ and the Boy’s  Olympus E-520 DSLR. And cooperative Kitty.]

April for Abuse Awareness

8 Apr

All through April, Indian bloggers from several countries have come together to raise awareness about child sexual abuse on the blogosphere; sharing survivor stories, debunking myths, listing red flags, answering questions and providing guidance from parents and individuals/organizations who work in the fields of mental health, child development and media.  

Since we began 9 days ago, many, many stories and insights have been shared, along with pointers on how to shield future victims. If you hop over to the CSA-Awareness blog  (and I strongly encourage you to do so), you’ll notice a large chunk of the material consists of survivor stories. CSA, you see, isn’t just about children who were/are abused. It is as much about children who grow into adults, carrying the scars and trauma with them for a lifetime. There’s guilt, there is anger, confusion, pain, vulnerability and shame. Some move past it and cope the best they can, others struggle with their emotions every day. But everyone, with the exception of those who have entirely repressed the experience or those not old enough to consciously remember, can recollect the denuding of themselves in meticulous detail. And I say this not as a victim/survivor, (for I am blessed to have been spared that horror), but as a therapist who has worked with sexually abused children. Therapy can help retrospectively, but prevention, without a doubt, is the option we’re looking to exercise.

Here are a few home truths that can help us all:

When it comes to child sexual abuse, there is no stereotype. Not for victims, not for perpetrators. You cannot look at a person and know. Destiny experienced vaginal penetration at 9 months from her mother’s then boyfriend. Christina at age 3, from her own mother, who in turn had been shared by her father’s friends at 13. A much-loved uncle groped his 12-year-old niece at family lunches every Sunday. A teenage cousin experimenting with his sexuality, the household help who saw his wife annually, the mother of an affluent classmate. It is true, however, that in a majority of CSA cases, the child/adolescent knows and trusts the perpetrator.

Abolish the culture of shame surrounding the victim. If a friend’s home were burgled, would you be ashamed and think s/he should hide the fact? Admittedly, sex is more complex than robbery. Which is why the sense of violation is that much deeper. This is a crime, a very serious one, and it’s terrible enough that a child has to be at the receiving end of it without having to process additional feelings of shame, mortification and blame. No child invites sexual abuse, no child asks for it, no matter how “well-developed” or “mature” s/he looks. I will interject with a disclaimer here: it is not unnatural for children to express curiosity about their bodies and feel flattered when showered with the physical attentions of an older person they like. That still does not justify touching their bodies inappropriately or making gestures, suggestions and/or remarks that are graphic and sexually inappropriate.

Children need to be given a sense of personal boundaries, even in a casual, everyone-is-an-uncle/aunty culture such as ours. Talking about good touch-bad touch, naming body parts appropriately and keeping channels of communication open without showing embarrassment or disgust will go a long way in helping your child say no or tell you if someone is making him/her uncomfortable. If this means you need to get comfortable with your own body and learn to talk about touching and anatomy, please do that right away. You don’t have to launch into the how-precisely-you-were-born spiel. Keep it simple, age-appropriate and positive. Your child needs to know you’re willing to listen and that s/he is strong and important enough to say no and have his/her decision respected. In the event that the abuse has already occurred and you are in the know, don’t gloss over it, ignore it or disregard your child’s feelings. Some children will talk. Others will act out. Some will wet their bed and still others will show you through play. Don’t expect them to spell it out. It may be as subtle as “Can X drop me to music practice today instead of Y? Y laughs at me/is mean/doesn’t listen.”  

Pedophilia is typically not a one-off instance. People who use their power over children to gratify themselves sexually don’t do it just once for a lark. If it has happened to you or your child and even if you are absolutely certain you’ve done all you can to ensure your own/ child’s safety, remember the world has other vulnerable children and we’re responsible for each other to some degree. Raise an alarm, get help from appropriate authorities, but do not shove such an instance under the carpet no matter how much you want to forget about it and move on. Survivor stories frequently mention childhood victims confronting their abusers once they had children of their own to protect.

Know where your child is and with whom. If you feel more comfortable calling your child’s friends over rather than have him/her go to their home, go ahead and do that. Better paranoid than sorry in this case. Taking him/her with you is a better option if you don’t have a trusted person you can leave him/her home with. Even when your child is older (late childhood and adolescence), you still need to know the people in his/her orbit.  

The fact that you’re reading this online should tell you what’s coming next. Predators don’t just come in the guise of sweet neighbors and favorite teachers.  Monitor your child’s online activity and know what sites s/he is spending time on, the friends s/he is making via the internet and whether there is offline contact.

If you’re not sure, don’t ignore your doubts. Get professional help. Consult your pediatrician, ask for a referral to a therapist working with children, read up on the subject.  (If you want a culture-relevant book, try ‘My Personal Safety Workbook’ by Tulir Publications. It costs Rs. 25 and is interactive and informative.) Share your suspicions and information with your partner/family and remain watchful. Even if an episode of abuse has occurred, if you deal with it appropriately, it will not hamper your child from having a full, happy and healthy life.

Yes, this is a murky topic, but know that there are many well-meaning folks out there, committed to keeping a watchful eye and spreading awareness. It’s not all bad, there is much love in this world and may you and/or your child be at its receiving end.

***

If you wish to discuss this subject further, I will be taking questions from readers/parents/anyone interested at CSA-Awareness’ tweetchat site:   http://tweetchat.com/room/csaam   on Wednesday, April  13, 10.30—11.30 pm Pacific Standard Time, which is Thursday, April 14th, 11 am—12 noon Indian Standard Time.  You will need a twitter ID to log in. See you there.

Happy Hausfrau Series: Rosemary-infused Carrot Ginger Soup

6 Apr

Greetings from the home of the happy hausfrau! Don those aprons and follow me into the kitchen, chop chop.

Today, we’re making a healthy, hearty soup in just under 30 minutes *insert Julia Child-like warble*

Here’s what you’re going to need:

1. Cooking oil. I use Bertolli’s extra virgin olive oil, but you can use your regular brand as long as the aroma doesn’t overwhelm the other ingredients.

2. Rosemary. For how I feel about rosemary, refer here.

3. Salt. Don’t use the brand you see. It’s stupid and not my friend.

4.Black pepper. Optional, really.

5. Carrots (about 8 should do nicely)

6. A knob of ginger

7. Water or chicken broth, depending on your preference. I use the broth.

Knew you wouldn’t believe me.  So I took another picture. See?

Next up: Pour a little oil into a wok/saucepan/whatever you use to make soup. Let it heat before throwing in the rosemary.  Be generous, now.  And call her Your Royal Highness.

Take a moment. Inhale. Wave from the clouds. Then land in your kitchen. There’s ginger to be chopped.

Grate or finely chop roughly  a half cup of ginger. I’m doing a POOMA on the quantities, so don’t hold me accountable. If you want to know what a POOMA is, ask nicely in the comments section. Now, introduce ginger to rosemary and watch as they airkiss.

Let ’em sizzle a while and get down to grating/chopping the carrots. The finer the better. Lookit who does the dirty work for me. He rocks.

Next, toss the carrots in and if you’ve used a chopper, rinse it right away. Who knew carrots stain?

Mix the ingredients in the pan and add the last three: salt, pepper and chicken broth/water. Add enough liquid to cover the carrots and then some.  Let it all bubble and brew on a medium heat setting until the carrots are almost cooked. Stir if necessary, but don’t be compulsive. Children and carrots do just fine without overwhelming attention.

Pour the nearly-cooked soup into a processor and blend until the texture is smooth.  Pour it back into the pan, put a lid on and let simmer on low. Ooooh, I’m sounding all chef-like. :mrgreen:

Five more minutes and you’re done. Turn off the heat, let it rest while you take off your apron and get out the crockery. Pour into bowls. The Boy’s cousin gave us the bowl below and she reads this blog, so SAY NICE THINGS!

*ALL HAIL ORANGE!*

Now, dive in.

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Recipe credit: My dear friend Geems.

Addition of rosemary to recipe: Mine, all mine.