Archive for the 'thoughts' Category

28
Nov
08

thanks-giving.

For the past two days Sam and I have been glued to the TV, watching the news of the hostage drama unfolding in south Bombay.  We have been so moved by the incredible suffering being experienced there- the hostages and their families, families mourning the loss of loved ones, and families that will learn of their losses in the coming hours.  But I must also remind myself of the suffering experienced by the hostage-takers and their families.  To dehumanize them is to perpetuate the isolation and ignorance that spawned their actions.  To advocate further violence against them does not fundamentally change what has occurred nor prevent similar activity in the future.  Violent retribution may provide a temporary release for our collective fear, vulnerability, powerlessness, insecurity, or sense of injustice.  But is does not relieve the true suffering.

So, what do we do?   

I say we because I do believe the solution lies in our collective efforts.  The world needs activists as well as scholars.  We need teachers and doctors, selfless service and financial commitment.  We need spiritual leaders who stand up and denounce terrorism and violence in its many forms.   

More than ever, we need compassion.

Yesterday Sam and I celebrated a non-traditional Thanksgiving with a quiet sushi dinner for two at a  local restaurant.  We needed a break from the constant news coverage, but sitting at  the dinner table we found we could think of nothing else.  We remembered everyone directly affected by the tragedy.  We speculated about a resolution to the stand-off.  We were grateful beyond words for the blessings in our own lives that are too numerous to count.  Our reflection certainly was a true Thanks-Giving.  

We also wondered aloud about our social responsibility.  What can we do to promote tolerance?  How can we work for social justice?  How can society be transformed?  Right now I have only questions, not answers.  I welcome your comments and suggestions.  How do you work for social justice?  What do you think needs to be changed?

 What is your vision for a better world?

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13
Oct
08

postcard from the himalayas.

The computer screen flickers awaiting my commands.  Voices from the street below distract me from the hastily scrawled notes in my journal.  The manager of the cyber cafe adds Hindi film music to soundtrack of my evening.  My muscles ache from thousands of steps up and down the hills of Sikkim, a state defined by the Himalayas in the northeast corner of India.  I’ve managed to steal a few moments from sightseeing to send a quick update on our travels.  When we return to Bombay next week, I’ll upload some of our photos but in the meantime I wanted to write a virtual postcard.

Our trip began in Chennai (Madras) where we visited Sam’s extended family.  Spending time with relatives was a highlight of our trip, as we were received with much love and enthusiasm!  We also celebrated with our cousin as he won the national championship in his division of car racing.

During the twenty-two hour train ride north, I stood in the doorway of the train compartment feeling the cool breeze rush past my face.  The contours of the lush landscape were visible as lightning flashed across the sky like bulbs on a Broadway marquee.     

The Sun Temple at Konark is carved with bas-reliefs of scenes from the Kama Sutra.  Our tour guide pointed out numerous scenes of “very sexy womens doing sexy acts” in the midnight dance.

We rode in a traditional fishing boat equipped with an outboard motor at Chillika Lake.  On a beach at the mouth of the Bay of Bengal we ate freshly-caught prawns (shrimp) cooked Bengali style with  mustard oil and masala.  Sandcrabs darted in and out of their lairs as we sipped fresh coconuts before returning to the boat.

No darshan ’til seven at the Kalighat Temple in Kolkata (Calcutta).  We walked shoeless through dirty gulleys marked with red paan spit, armed with prasad (sweets) to offer the goddess idol for the Durga Puja festival.  We pushed past the crowd of devotees with the intention of participating in one of the largest festivals in the state of West Bengal.  Upon reaching the gate, however, we were told we’d have to wait another hour to get in.  We left.

We have celebrated the last few mornings in Gangtok, Sikkim, with sunrise views of snow-covered Kanchengdzonga, the third highest mountain peak in the world.  The clouds begin to rise after the sun climbs higher, obscuring the peak for the rest of the day, so we woke early to marvel at its exquisite beauty.

Tomorrow we’re heading out to Darjeeling, the main tea producing region of India, where I intend to drink coffee shamelessly.  We’ll be back in Bombay next week, and I’ll post photos and more updates.  So check back in a few days!

love, mb

25
Sep
08

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!

24
Sep
08

housewife.

I still cringe when people describe me as a housewife.  I suppose managing the house is one thing I do, but I hesitate to list “housewife” as my occupation.   I entered India on a tourist visa with the intention of adjusting my status to Person of Indian Origin (PIO) through my marriage.  Long story short, it didn’t happen.  We ended up completing the paperwork on our visit to the US in June, but the PIO card did not arrive in time for me to bring it back to India.  So for the last year I haven’t earned a salary, maintained a bank account, or basically been recognized on any financial or legal documents.  In these ways I’ve been a very typical “housewife”. 

This change in status is something that has haunted me.  At first I felt I was living in an existential vacuum and grasped frantically at threads of identity.  I busied myself with unpacking boxes and arranging the life we transported across the oceans.  I was dismayed when I realized that my attempt to resuscitate my previous life was unsuccessful.

I found myself at ladies’ luncheons and coffee mornings, often feeling awkward and out of place.  I had to ask Sam for money when my wallet emptied.  I watched with discomfort as the maid who came daily washed my dishes and scrubbed the floors.  For many months I felt guilty about all my free time and leisure; I denied myself any activities that might be pleasurable.  

I wish I could say there is a neat and tiny resolution to this inner dialogue, but there isn’t one.  I began volunteering at a local orphanage and found fulfillment in being with the children there.  I also met some terrific women who have been really kind and supportive friends.  I found some peace in meditation.  I often walk along the sea face, watching the tide roll in and out along the rocky shore.  I imagine in those moments that each step brings me closer to understanding and accepting myself, no matter my job description.