Archive for the 'American culture' Category


mountain day!

Dorm rooms and hallways were filled with speculation about Mountain Day as September drew to a close.  Would tomorrow be the morning we woke to hear the chapel bells chiming, signaling our day of recreation?  

According to Mount Holyoke College legend*, Mountain Day was started by a few students who woke one morning to an absolutely dazzling day.  They just simply couldn’t bear to attend classes when the sunshine was so spectacular and weather so pleasant.  They skipped school that day to hike to the top of Skinner Mountain, basking in the glory of nature.  The following year they did it again, and this time they were joined by more students.  The tradition continued until the college was forced to recognize it as a holiday because the classrooms were nearly empty.  So Mountain day was born, the day when classes are cancelled, exams re-scheduled, and the campus virtually shuts down until sunset. 

Every year, we watched the weather reports, knowing the college president wouldn’t dare to pick an overcast or rainy day.  And it had to be before the start of hunting season because it just wouldn’t be safe to send a legion of young women into the wilds of Skinner State Park during hunting season.  We debated about how much work we should do for the next day, bargained how late we could go to bed, and eagerly made plans for our day of freedom.  Rising early to hike or catching up on much-needed sleep, paper bag lunch from the kitchen or ladies’ day in Northampton, shelving textbooks or getting (further) ahead on assignments.  Whatever students decided, one thing was always included in the day’s plans- cider and donuts at Atkins Farm.     

There always came a point when Mountain Day dominated dining hall conversation.  Finally, when it seemed that maybe the college president wouldn’t actually announce Mountain Day that year, the chapel bells would chime.    


* Click here to read the true legend of Mountain Day at Mount Holyoke College.

Dedicated to all my MoHo sisters.  Happy Mountain Day!



A family friend asked me what I think are the biggest misconceptions Americans have about Indians. Good question, I told him. No one had asked me this before and I drew a blank. I really didn’t know how to respond. Sometimes in the course of conversation people reveal their biases or preconceptions, but they are often veiled. So I asked my husband and other family & friends to answer this question. What are the biggest misconceptions Americans have about Indians?

1. Indians don’t speak English. My husband identifies English as his mother tongue, and many of our other relatives are most comfortable speaking English.
2. All Indians do yoga. Just not true.
3. Indians live in villages with little exposure to western culture. According to some estimates, there are 20 million people in Bombay alone. We enjoy many amenities and modern conveniences available in the West. Of course, many people have limited access because of education, finances, or social status.
4. All Indians are vegetarians. Most Hindus and Jains do not eat meat. Muslims and Jews avoid pork, but will often eat other meat. Christians generally eat anything.

first thing in the morning.

I know I’ve lived all my life in the US; I’ve been in India for only eight months. But this morning I woke up at my parents’ house in New Jersey, and was faced with some strange realities.
1.) I have to iron my own clothes. You will have to forgive me if my clothes appear crumpled. Since moving to India, I have ironed exactly one top. We have an istriwala who comes to the house to collect the day’s ironing and return the clothes from the previous day. Each item costs 2 rupees, so I even send out Sam’s undershirts and hankies.
2.) I took a shower with water intentionally made hot. With 90-degree weather in Bombay, all water that flows from the tap is at least warm, if not hot.
3.) It’s raining. This is the first rainy morning I’ve seen since last autumn. Which makes me glad I remembered (at the last minute) to pack sneakers, because…
4.) I have to wear closed shoes. I only wear sandals or flip-flops in Bombay. Every day.