Monday, November 8, 2010

More focus

I think that I want to revamp my blog and make it more focused. I started out writing so I could keep my family informed of my travels, and things have changed so much since those wanderlust days. For one thing, I got married to an India, had a baby and raising it in India, and in that I think I have enough material to be able to write for a lifetime.

I have so much stuff to talk about and to write about and I have decided that I want to do this more seriously, as I know there are a lot of blogs out there with gori girls writing about their desi lifestyle. To translate (basically it's western or fair skinned girls, married to South Asians).

I want to be more open without being offensive, and really talk about life here in India, life married to an Indian, raising a baby in not only a different culture but in a different religion (and even that is up in the air...what religion to raise Yasmine). Of course my husband wants her raised Muslim, and I am willing to do that with many stipulations. But more on that in another post.

The topics i really want to focus on are:
  • arranged marriages and "love" marriages
  • Islam and living as a non-Muslim in a Muslim family
  • Parenting in India (through my eyes)
  • day to day living; simple things made very difficult in a time challenged disorganized country
  • communication and cultural differences in a bi-cultural marriage (I feel like I can shed a lot of light here)
  • Food and trying to incorporate two food cultures in one marriage
The the list can go on and on....

But to do that I feel like I need to revamp my blog and change the title. I may be a wanderlust, but there is no more time or as much money to travel these days. I also am thinking about moving it to Word Press, I have heard it is much easier to use and easier to make it ready friendly.

Any suggestions from my well blogged friends? Any title suggestions?

I will stay tuned for more information as to how I plan to go about this. I may just completely revamp this blog....but I want it more focused, with more of a goal in mind.

I feel like I have a terrific opportunity to educate and keep people informed. I know that many people in Canada (and the US) have these pre-conceived notions about Muslims and India, and I want to shed light on certain things that hopefully will help people gain a better understanding. The media use so many scare tactics and paint very different pictures. But here I am in a position to educate and I want to take this amazing, scary, exciting and difficult experience and turn it into a chance to make a difference.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

My mother-in-laws birthday and my first dinner party

It definitely was not planned, but I had my first family dinner party on Saturday night for my mother-in-laws birthday. Junayd and I were originally planning to buy fresh prawns and stay in with Yasmine and cook something fun. I have never cooked and cleaned fresh prawns before so this sounded like a challenge.

Our plans went out the window on Friday when my FIL reminded me that it was Junayd's mom's birthday the next day and that we should go over there for supper. Wow such a nice guy, inviting all us to his place, so his wife, whose birthday it is, can cook us dinner. LOL.
Junayd and I decided it would be better and easier to come to our place and we (I) will cook dinner. We also decided to invite close family friends of Junayd's who have 3 children ages 10, 8 and 4 (2 boys and a girl).

So Junayd bought 3 pounds of Prawns, and 2 pounds of beef and I set to cooking one Indian dish, and one Thai dish. I was so nervous, here I was cooking for 3 matriarchs (my MIL, our friend and her MIL) who have grown up cooking Indian food and I only just started. It was a pretty big feat.

Cleaning the prawns took the longest... I had never de-veined a prawn before, so it was interesting. Luckily Junayd did help me and after about 40 minutes we managed to clean all of them.
I made a beef dish that is cooked with this green leafy vegetable, and I never ever remember the name of it. It's like spinach, but not. We don't have it in Canada, but it is so tasty. Then I made spicy prawns in coconut milk.
I had told my guests to arrive at 630pm, knowing full well that they wouldn't arrive until about 730-8pm. The time thing here drives me crazy. My MIL and FIL arrived first and she was dressed so beautifully in a saree that I had bought her for Christmas. She just looked so happy to be honoured for her birthday and to be with her family.

The food turned out amazing! With the food I served fresh roti's and basmati rice to go with the prawns, and of course we had a small chocolate cake that was bought for my MIL. I got praised over and over again for the food, and not a drop of the Thai dish was left. Most Indians don't eat a lot of variety (international cuisines) so it was nice to introduce them to a new dish, although the spices were not too far off from Indian ones.

The best compliment of all was when my mother-in-law asked me for the recipe. Success!!

It was a really nice night and it was great to be with my other family. I think before I had really come to terms with living in India, I I never enjoyed being with my in-laws because I missed my own family so much, and felt almost guilty for enjoying being with them. However, it does not have to be one way or the other. I have my family and always will, but now I have an extended family and it's great to be able to have a support group here who loves me and Yasmine. I think I truly am lucky to have not only an Indian family but a Muslim one as well, who has accepted me and my beliefs and my culture so well. Sure there have been a few hiccups, and bumps and bruises on the way to this kind of relationship that we have now, but now it is comfortable and easy, and I am truly grateful for all the love I have in my life.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The moment I knew

You hear all these stories about women having their babies and feeling that mother's instinct right away, having that bond only a mother and child could ever have. I know what that feels like, but it didn't happen right away, it didn't happen the moment I looked into her eyes. I loved her, definitely, I wanted to protect her, always. But that bond, that undeniable, sacred bond, I didn't feel for about 2 days after she was born.

The labour was pretty textbook as far as births go. My water broke around midnight September the 16th (2 and a half weeks before my original due date) after returning from the movie "The Time Travellers Wife," with my aunt and my cousin (ironically enough, the two people who coached me through the labour and birth). Despite what you might see in the movies, only 10% of women's water break by itself, so in that sense it wasn't textbook. I was admitted in the hospital and it wasn't until the next morning, after I was given Oxcitocin did true labour set in. My plan was not to have any drugs, no epidural, no Demerol, nothing. I know a lot of women go into labour with this plan, and depending on how the labour goes, decide to continue or abandon with this plan. Labour is pretty intense, and if it lasts long, I can totally see why needing an epidural is essential, you need to rest, because it is the most physically intense thing a woman will ever have to do in her life.

The first 2 hours, the labour increased from about a 2 on a scale of 1-10, to about a 7. When I found out that after 2 hours I was 7cm dilated, I knew I could continue without any drugs. The last 3 cm's and about 2 hours were a 10 on a scale of 10 in pain (maybe even a 12), and I was relieved when I could actually start pushing through the contractions.
After about 45 minutes of pushing and an episiotomy later, Yasmine Rose was born.

My first thoughts were that I was just so happy that the pain was over, my second thought was that "I had done it," I felt like superwoman! Then Yasmine was placed on my chest and she was covered in white goo, and her face was so swollen, and she had a head full of black hair. I was so shocked that she was mine, and I loved her instantly. But I did not feel that bond, quite yet. I am not sure if it was because of the physical exhaustion, or the mental exhaustion I had been through the previous 3 weeks of finding out my mother had cancer, flying half way across the world at 34 weeks pregnant, dealing with her being in the hospital and watching her die, and then planning her funeral. I had no time to recover from any of that trauma, before being admitted to the hospital myself, to give birth. I was numb, literally and metaphorically from everything I had been through.

The next day and half passed by like a dream, nurse her every 2 hours, try to sleep, etc... Then Yasmine had her hearing test on the Friday September the 18th.I didn't think anything of it, and I knew it was an important test, but also a formality. She failed the hearing test, but I was told it happens a lot, because of the mucous that still may be in her ears from the birth canal. The ear specialist told me she would come back on Saturday morning.

Saturday morning arrived and I was lying in bed, waiting for the ear specialist to give us the green light to go home. We had to stay until Saturday morning because this test needed to be completed before we left.

The specialist did the ear test, and Yasmine failed again. My heart almost stopped. How could this be happening? Was God trying to play some cruel joke on me. Taking my mother 13 days earlier then blessing me with a child who might be hearing impaired? Perhaps, most people wouldn't have thought this way, but after everything I had been through, that was the first thought that went through my mind.
The ear specialist told me that there was one more test, that was more accurate, but a little more invasive that she could do. She had to strap on electrodes to yasmine's head and behind her ears and it was attached to a program on her laptop. In all honesty I was not paying much attention. Her words sounded like slow motion and all I did was nod and agree for her to do the other test. She said it was more accurate, but she didn't do this test unless she had to.
My aunt Anita was in the room with me, and I could see her looking at me funnily, and afterwards she told me it was because I turned white as a ghost and I looked petrified.

As the specialist strapped the electrodes all over Yasmine's head, I have to admit it felt like an eternity, I could hear the clock loudly ticking on the wall as each second passed, and I reached for my aunt's hand and I held it firmly. What seemed like hours passed, when the hearing specialist slowly turned the laptop to face me and the words PASS were printed boldly on the screen.
In that moment, like a lightbulb had been turned on, those feelings, that motherly instinct just clicked on. I started to shake violently, and tears poured down my face. I remember saying over and over again "I've been through enough, I just wanted Yasmine to be ok!" I remember apologizing profusely to the specialist, because I think I may have freaked her out. My aunt calmly explained to her what I had been through, and how my mother had just died and my husband was in another country. The specialist, started to cry, and she held my hand and she said, "Your daughter is just perfect. Your mom would have been so proud"
I looked at my aunt and I asked her, "Can you please pass me my daughter." For the first time, the word "daughter" registered to me, and along with that word, came a whole new set of feelings. The need to protect her, love her unconditionally, always be there for her. It was the first time I truly felt this.

My aunt handed me Yasmine, and I held her to my chest and I hugged her and kissed her and I cried, and I cried. Now I knew. Not only did I know what that bond felt like, I knew how much my mother loved me, and how much she sacrificed for me.

That day was the beginning of my healing process..........

Monday, October 25, 2010

A part time job with major benefits

Today I spent about 3 hours in the car (about an hour and half each way) to meet with a company that would like me to be a consultant for them. I would get to work from home for a few hours a week and help them build their business.

Although the drive was long and tedious and the sun was hot (thank God for air conditioning), it was a nice drive, and the company was in or nearby the military zone, which was nice and quiet with a small but pretty lake (unfortunately most lakes in India are polluted). The guy I met with said he went kayaking in the lake once and wouldn't go back because it was "dirty"." Nonetheless, it was a much better view than a whole bunch of traffic and much more serene than incessant honking.

This little part time job, although it doesn't pay a whole lot of money, is perfect for me, for right now. It allows me to make my own hours, stay at home and continue to be with Yasmine during the day, but still make a little pocket change for odds and ends.

Instead of looking at the negatives, I am trying to see all the positives that this opportunity can bring me, such as being with Yasmine, making some good employment connections here in Hyderabad, all while keeping myself busy while Yasmine naps or goes to bed for the night.

I am very thankful to be able to spend this time with Yasmine, as I know how important it is to the both of us. Being at home and raising her has proven to be the most important and rewarding job I have ever had. There are no breaks, and no days off, but I can never get this time back with her. I hope it truly makes a difference in her life, because it definitely is making a difference in mine.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

"The secret"

I know that everyone pretty much already knows the "secret" in the book "the secret," and really it wasn't really that much of a secret, although I think even though we all know what the secret is, we mostly don't tend to follow it.

The secret to life, supposedly is, that positive out, equals positive in. Meaning that the more positive you are about life, the more optimistic you are, the more you believe in yourself and look at the bright side, means that these things will happen to you, or that you'll create a positive outcome.

I mean this does make sense. But if it makes sense why don't more people do this? I am a classic example of this. I have done so much complaining this last year that no wonder there haven't been very many good things that have happened for me. I mean if you're too busy being negative, then how can you create positive change in your life, or bring positive people into it?

Which is why I am going to give myself a challenge. I am going to write something positive and be positive everyday for 2 weeks and see what happens.

Now you have to be realistic about your goals, you can't say I AM GOING to win the lottery everyday and expect to win it. But you can say, in 2 years i will make a lot of money (this is relative to everyone and very subjective) by writing a book. And then everyday doing something positive and continuing to be positive about this goal. This is just a broad example.

Here are some things I can be positive about that are realistic and hopefully change the lives of the people I love and me.
  • Being positive and finding the positives about living in India
  • Being positive about my husbands career and helping him to achieve his goals through positive reinforcement
  • Being positive in my own career aspirations and making them a reality
I think this is a great start...and let's see at the end of 2 weeks if I feel differently or if it has brought about positive changes in my life.
It takes way more energy to be negative and I know a few people that I have actually seen positive behaviour work in their favour.
My best friend A, went through a tough time with her hubby when he got sick with cancer. And she was ALWAYS positive, she always knew he would beat the odds, she didn't let negativity take over her thoughts. I truly believe this is what gave her the strength to be there for her husband. And now he is cancer free! Did her positive behaviour cure his cancer?
No. I'm not an idiot. But through positive thinking she allowed herself to be there for him, and it allowed him the strength to fight. I do believe our mind controls way more than we could ever know. Thanks for being someone to look up to A! Your positive attitude is infectious, which is why people, including me love being around you.

I also have another friend who was the epitome of negative. She was so negative, being around her was difficult and depressing. She constantly complained about her dating life, how men weren't interested in her, she never let you talk to her about your own dating experiences because hse hated that good things might be happening to other people. She complained about her job, etc.... And she wondered why no man wanted to be with her, why no employer wanted to hire her. She was portraying this attitude that was so evident in her body language, and it showed through in her confidence.

Then something changed, she decided to change, she opened her mind up to new things, stopped bitching about how things weren't working for her, and decided, who needs a man, who needs a different job, and she just focused on herself.
Then it all happened for her. New boyfriend (she has been with for a while), new job, house, etc.

So let's see how this can work for our benefit. I challenge all of you to be as positive as you can everyday, follow along with me, and find something to focus on and find the best in for the next 2 weeks with me and let's see if we can re-wire our minds!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

An apology...

My mother always said, if you don't have anything nice to say don't say it all. So that is what I have done. The past year has been such a roller coaster for me, grieving the loss of my mom, being a new mom, and living in India while dealing with all these emotions. Now I feel like I can finally share my feelings, thoughts and life with everyone.

I think I honestly felt like I hated India, that perhaps I didn't want to be married if I had to do it in India (not that I didn't love my husband), that life just basically stunk because of India. But now I KNOW that was grief and depression. I always thought I was so strong, and I am, but I know now that I am also human, and that your mind can only take so much. I thought this past year that I have dealt with my mom's death really well, and that it didn't affect me as much as it should have. But I was wrong, I was so so wrong. It affected me more than I ever imagined, but also the added pressure of having a new baby and the happiness and joy that came with it as well, masked the feelings I was carrying around with me.

I heard a saying once, that applies to me in this situation, and that, you never know you are depressed until you are happy.

I'm happy. I'm finally happy after a year of anger fits, and crying battles, and hate towards India and everything associated with India, including my husband and his family. Not that India is an easy place to live. But being with the ones you love should be all that matters, location shouldn't make you THAT unhappy.
I harbored severe resentment against my in-laws, mostly because I felt it was unfair for them to be able to have a relationship with Yasmine and my mom would never have that, and my dad was in another country and couldn't have that either. And I know now that it was not right, and Yasmine deserves all the love she can get, and that means her other grandparents as well.

Let's just put it this way, I blamed, and I complained, and I made life miserable for everyone around me, because I wanted them to feel the same pain I felt. And the pain I felt was almost unbearable. And I know this now, it's so funny what you can see in the past when the present is finally so clear.

So this blog post is an apology, not only to the people I hurt, like my husband, my in-laws, my daughter, my dad, my sister but also to myself. I deserved the right to be sad and hurt and angry, and I never let myself feel those things, because I felt like I had to be strong for everyone else around me.

Realizing this has not only made life happy for me again, but it has allowed me to be a better mother, wife, daughter, daughter-in-law and sister.

I finally see life with possibilities, rather than a door that has been shut. I will always miss my mom, and the hurt will never go away, I just know how to better deal with it. And I know my mom would want this for me. She would want me to be happy, and to be good to myself, so that I can in turn be good to all the loved ones in my life.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A vacation or was it?

So I decided on a whim to go away for a few days just to escape the heat, although there really is no escaping it as most of India is extremely hot. There are hill stations that one can go to, that are quite cool, but traveling there is long and tedious. Since I only had a few days I wanted the travel to be fairly quick and painless.
A few of my girlfriends also were looking to get away so we decided to go to Goa, India's answer to the Caribbean (kind of). It's a cute state, that is really lush, lots of palm trees and gorgeous resorts and oceans.
The weather in Hyderabad had hit an all time high of 46 degrees, and we were getting 3-4 hours of power cuts a day. It was enough to make me crazy. I decided to take Yasmine along as well, as it would be nice for her too.
It was only a few short days but it was really a nice time, although hot and humid. We spent most of our time by the pool, and usually around 11am it was just too hot to sit outside anymore, so I would take Yasmine up to the room for her one of two or three naps a day. She was a real trooper! This is the off season, so flights were much cheaper and only an hour and half long and we got a good price on the resort. It was a nice Spanish styled place with a large pool and nice rooms with jacuzzi tubs (bathrooms in India generally don't have bathtubs, so a nice plus).

What I did realize is that India in general is just not kid friendly or wheelchair friendly or a chivalrous culture, and it's funny because India boasts itself as being very family oriented. What I mean is that, there were hardly any ramps for the stroller, and I had to carry the darn thing up and down so many flights of stairs. Even at the airport, even though they took the stroller on the airplane, when I was getting on the transit bus to take us to the airplane, the steps didn't go down to accommodate the stroller (or a wheelchair), and people just starred at me as I lifted the stroller myself (or with the help of my girlfriends) to get on the three big steps of the bus. No one rushed to help us, or let me sit if I was carrying Yasmine either. Secondly, 90% of restaurants don't have high chairs for babies, so I had to take the stroller everywhere so she would have somewhere to sit at a restaurant. She is too big and busy now to sit on me, and she would have her hand and face in my food if she did.
So yes, even though it was a vacation, and I had a nice time, Yasmine and I were both pretty darn exhausted when we got back.

Sometimes India just kicks me in the ass!

We only spent an hour at the beach (too darn hot)

The ONLY high chair we came across, and not the best one at that....but at least there was one)!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Mother's day

It's taken me 8 months to be able to write about my mother, but I think this is the perfect time to honour her memory and share my feelings about my mom, her death and the birth of my daughter and being a mom. Please know, this is one of the most difficult things for me to do, but I want to share my feelings with you.

Tomorrow will be both bitter and sweet for me because as I celebrate my first mother's day, it is also my first mother's day without my own mother.
It will be hard for me not to have a mother to call and wish happy mother's day, it will be hard not having my own mother call me up and happily wish me and my sister a happy mother's day. I know she was looking forward to seeing what her daughters were like as mothers and she deserved that more than anyone else I know.

Mother's day was a big celebration in our home, and I remember those days like it was yesterday. My fondest memories are of when were young, we would make sure our mom stayed in bed, and we would go into her bedroom and take her breakfast order. She usually liked scrambled egg, bacon well cooked, with toast, juice and coffee. My sister and I would diligently take her order and run into the kitchen where my dad would be waiting to assist us in cooking my mom breakfast in bed. He let us do most of the cooking, and usually when we were done, we had what looked like scrambled eggs, burnt bacon, and undercooked toast. On her tray we included the breakfast, her coffee and juice, and in those days, her pack of cigarettes, and ALWAYS a vase of fresh flowers that my dad kept hidden in the basement.
We would then jump into bed with her and help her eat her breakfast, and no matter how badly we cooked the food, she never complained and ate the food happily as my sister and I both beamed at how happy we had just made her. We then proceeded to give her gifts we made from school for her, and of course one or two gifts our father helped us purchase for her.
This happened every year for as long as I can remember. Later in life as we grew up and left home, my mom usually enjoyed a nice game of golf with my dad or with her sisters and friends. Even though I didn't always spend every mother's day with her, I always knew she was there, and a phone call away.

I miss her more than anything, and I wish she was here to see her grandchildren. She would be so tickled pink by how Yasmine is the daintiest little girl and so chilled out. She would be so proud of her grandson Quinn who is so strong and so happy that he always has a smile on his face. But most of all she would be so proud of my sister and I.

My sister and I will be great mother's because she left a legacy for us to follow. She was one of a kind and she made everyone feel special. i just hope that I can follow in her footsteps and mean to my daughter what she has meant to me.
Happy Mother's Day MOM! Even though you are not with us anymore, you impact my life every day and you will continue to live on through your grandchildren!!

I want to wish my sister a Happy Mother's Day, and I want to tell her that she means the world to me, and how special it was to have our babies so close together and to be able to lean on each other through the hard times.
I want to thank my dad, who made sure that even as very young children we knew how important it was to honour our mother and respect her.

Happy mother's day to all the mother's I know and love. Now I know just how special it is to be a mom and how important a job it is.
I would give my life for my daughter, and I know my mother would have done the same for my sister and I.

Quinn Michael (taken at 6 months)

My mom and I right before I flew back to India. I was 18 weeks pregnant.

Yasmine Rose (taken at 7 months)

Thursday, March 18, 2010

If you were a bug on a wall, you might hear this....

Conversation 1:

Me to my mother-in-law: "Sister-in-law and I are just going out to buy Yasmine a play-pen. Can I leave Yasmine with you?"
MIL: Oh, Yes. I'd love that!
Father-in-Law: "Aren't you taking Yasmine?"
Me: "Ah, no, it will just be easier if we can run in and out"
FIL: "Well won't Yasmine be angry"
Me: VERY uncomfortable silence
MIL: "No, go leave her with me, please!"
Me: "I don't think Yasmine knows angry yet, plus she needs to know that mom goes away and mom comes back"
FIL: "Well I think she will cry and be very angry with you"
ME to MIL: "OK bye then, see you in about an hour"

NB: Yasmine was fine and didn't even know I was gone!!!

Conversation #2
Me to MIL: "We moved Yasmine into her own room. She sleeps better and so do we"
MIL: SHOCKED. "No you must not put her in her own room. She'll be lonely!"
Me: She's 5 months, she's ready"
MIL: SHOCKED "No, Shelley, No."
ME: "So what are we having for dinner?"

NB: Yasmine never even noticed she was in her own room and sleeps 100 times better now and so do we!

Conversation # 3
Me: "My sister and her hubby are going to Hawaii for 10 days in May"
MIL: "With their son?"
ME: "No, Quinn is staying with Grandad (my dad). Lucky boy!!"
MIL: SHOCKED "I could never leave my children"
Me: "It's good for my sis and hubby and good for Quinn, and great for my dad"
MIL: "10 days is too long Shelley"
ME: "So what's for dinner?"

NB: You rock sis!! You and hubby go and have fun! Quinn will have a blast with Grandad, and dad will LOVE IT! So will Quinn! He'll miss you but he'll be a better baby for it. I guarantee it! children here could use to be away from their parents more often. Believe me!!

I have 2 points here, first, is that kids are not taught to be independent here. They are taught to rely on their parents and never to be away from them. This is not my theory, I just read it in a cross cultural communication article my MIL gave me. She read it to understand my wacky western ways. I'm not even kidding. When we moved out, she was VERY upset. Irrational almost. But then she read this article written by an Indian, about how North Americans and Indians differ, and it even had a special section on children. How we westerners teach our children independence (their own room, how to make their own decisions, get the hell out at 18), you know.... and how they coddle and don't teach their children independence. The article has definitely helped her to understand some of the differences, or at least it has helped her to cope with the differences. I don't really think she'll ever truly get it. And that is OK. At least she is trying.
My second point, is that I am learning to shut the hell up! I don't argue, I don't try to make them understand. The culture is just too different. I say my peace, and if they don't like it, or oppose or give advice, I listen, and then I just do what I want, with my husband's support of course!! At first he didn't want Yasmine to have her own room, but after a little convincing and letting me try it out, he realized it made the MOST sense, for her and for us!

So, if you were a bug on a wall, you'd get to hear these interesting conversations. They certainly make life interesting....

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

"Raising" a baby in India

Raising Yasmine in India could be a challenge, it could be difficult, it could be a lot of things, if I were an overly cautious parent, or want to put my daughter in a bubble.
Let's get one thing straight, India is one of the dirtiest countries in the world; it's dusty, it's polluted, cows roam around freely, yet they have a billion people and women have babies everyday and raise them successfully, so it can be done, even by "western" standards.

Now I do take many precautions, I use vinegar water and fresh lime juice that I made to clean Yasmine's room and the surfaces on which she might come in contact with. I use a mosquito net whenever I can, and I use bottled mineral water and boil it before I give it to her in her sippy cup or put it in her food. I wash her cloth toys a few times a week to ward off the dust and she is never around cigarette smoke. But I don't: boil her bath water, I use it from the tap and I know she gets some in her mouth, and when she bathes with me, she sucks the water off my shoulder. I don't tie her car seat in the belth buckles in the car (there are none)! She sits in a carrier and she is buckled in, but the cars aren't made to hold car seats. Our car is an older version and it's not even possible. My in-laws have never used carriers, even some of my western friends here don't use carriers, they just sit their baby on their laps (like we all did in Canada in the 70's and maybe even the 80's). You go at much slower speeds here, since there is so much traffic (40km/hr is the average I would say).
I don't stop too many people from holding her and I mean extended family (honestly here they just take her out of my arms before I have a chance to react). Total strangers want to hold her, people think it is OK to do that. But I've learned to chill out a bit. I would never let a total stranger hold my daughter, but when the maid comes over, she plays with Yasmine and today the maid brought her daughter and she hugged Yasmine about 5 times. Yasmine thought it was the funniest thing in the world too to have this little girl try to lift her up. I've even taken Yasmine in a auto rickshaw.

My point is, exposing Yasmine to some bacteria, and some of the water here is good for her. It will strengthen her immune system and allow her to fight off colds easier. Actually she caught a cold from her father, and she was barely sick for a day and fought it off quicker than she was actually sick. I also take some responsibility in her quickness to fight the cold. I was very healthy during my pregnancy, I never smoked, rarely drank caffeine, never drank alcohol and am nursing her so she gets all the antibodies to fight these little viruses that go around. Sometimes you need to give up a few things for a little while for the goodness of your child. Being a parent means being unselfish.
I have many western friends here all raising their children here for a little while and we all try to give our children a lot of the things that they would at home in our countries, but it is not always possible. But we do our best.
My in-laws think I am crazy I think. I come visit them with a portable playpen so Yasmine has a place to play and nap that is (clean to my standards) and so that she is not always in someone's arms. I am also feeding her carrots and green beans, and I think my MIL was probably feeding my husband curry and dal (lentil soup) at this point when he was a baby, or at least not taking such pains in preparing the food as I do. We just do things differently, one is not more right than the other, it's just different.
I am not saying I am perfect or better for raising my daughter this way, it's just different to how other's might raise their children. All that matters, to me, is that I see a healthy, happy, smiling baby every morning and every night when I put her to bed. And I'll continue to do the things I am doing and what I think is right, for her.
I think this small part of our lives in India will enrich us and will definitely put me more at ease when I am back in Canada. Everything will seem so mild in comparison, and I'll be that very easy going parent in the corner not freaking out when her daughter puts something in her mouth, while a lot of the other parents will be running around with their hand sanitizer disinfecting everything in sight. My daughter will probably be the one with less colds and a stronger immune system too. Believe me, you're kid can't fight colds if you never let it build up an immunity to the bacteria that is out there.
Raising a baby in India is not always the easiest thing in the world, but it is manageable, you just have to sometimes go with the flow and chill out!

Monday, February 15, 2010

The politics of moving

You'd think moving to a new house would be easy, you look at listings, find a place that is available for rent, check out the place and make a decision. It's just not so easy, at least not in India, when you're married to an Indian and when you already live in the apartment above their house.

Last week we had to go downstairs (my in-laws live in the apartment below us-it's a 2 story apartment complex) in an arranged meeting kind of way and break the news to them. It was not easy, because I knew my husband hated hurting his parents, and he knew this kind of news would do that. We're only planning to move 2 to 3 km's away from them, and when we told them so, they insisted it was too far. They want us to live in the same colony (means the same as neighborhood) in walking distance. In my opinion I think that is unrealistic. Especially since the area we currently live in is very busy, very loud and very dusty. It's not fun to finally get Yasmine settled down for her nap, only to have her woken up by loud blaring horns, a huge transport like truck or just the man on the street selling onions, or whatever fare there is that day, screaming at the top of his lungs.

The problem is, here in India, the son, especially once he is married usually moves in with the parents. But we are not a regular couple, we are half of a western couple. And where I come from, my parents were practically packing my bags at 19 to get me off to University. As hard as I know it was on my mom and dad, they knew in the end it would make me stronger, more mature and into a responsible human being. I see grown men here, still being treated like children by their mother's, and I just think it only hinders them. Daughters are taught to cook, clean, sew, take care of the house so that they are prepared to leave the nest, such as the saying goes that having daughter's in India is like watering someone else's plant. They are even educated women, and many choose not to work once married. I have met some many women quit their jobs because they were getting married. Which is terrible, and now that I have a daughter I am much more vigilant of this kind of attitude and behaviour. I will not have my daughter grow up to serve her father and brother (should she have one), and I will not prepare her for a life of taking care of her husband either.

My father-in law, is ready to "get his daughter" married, and she is all of 20 years old. They have no problem with her leaving the nest, but they have a huge issue with their son moving a few km's down the street.

Now that we have made the decision to move, my husband's mother is hurt and makes comments like, "you're all going and leaving me," "you don't care about me," and so on and so forth. It's really hard to hear her say these things, because I do care deeply about my mother-in-law and I hate that she think this is about leaving her. Secondly, I know this is hurting my husband, but he has agreed to this because he knows it is what is best for "our" family. Trying to get my MIL to understand that this is not about her and it is not personal is really difficult.

We are moving because we would like a nicer place, that is safer, cleaner and a little less busy for our daughter, and she has to come first from now on in our lives. We found a place that is a gated community which means there are security guards and a gate around the apartment complex. It is brand new, and they are even building an outdoor swimming pool and a park. It has also has a third bedroom, which is important since I will start working from home shortly (more on that in another post).

It's been difficult getting past all of these little idiosyncrasies, but we know in the end it will be the best decision for our family. And I know my MIL and FIL will come to see that it is the best decision, especially for their son, who will be able to take responsibility for his family and not rely on his parents anymore. We'll have to make a concerted effort to visit often and to show them we aren't gone away, but the effort has to be two-fold, and they need to make an effort as well to come and see us. It is more difficult for me to pack up all of Yasmine's things and to constantly move back and forth with her, especially now since I have her on a pretty good schedule.

This has just been another learning experience for me and I am a better person for having gone through it. I just take for granted sometimes, the things that seem so easy in Canada and so straightforward. In India nothing is that straight-forward and there is always someone else to think about.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Video: Speed boat ride

Yasmine and I went to the zoo with a few girlfriends and we went on a speed boat ride. Here is the video of Yasmine's first boat ride! We had a blast!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Yasmine eating rice cereal for the first time!

I went to visit the pediatrician today and we got the green light to introduce solids. Yasmine eats frequently and so he thinks it is time for a little more food.
So we started her off with a tsp of rice cereal and 2 tsps of breast milk. We weren't sure how she'd like it, but boy did she ever love it!!! She cried when she ate all the cereal and she was using her own hand to help feed her.
We took 2 videos, one of Junayd and I feeding her and the other of aunty Ayesha feeding her.


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

A question of belief

The question I have is: Should I compromise my beliefs in order to make someone else comfortable, or am I just being stubborn?

I posted this question on my facebook status because I am asked to do things in India that I don't always agree with. I know that a lot of the time it would just keep the peace and doing it would probably make everyone else happy (except me).

Here is the most recent example and the reason why this question even came up in the first place.

Disclaimer: This is just my opinion, and since it is my blog I will write about my own feelings and beliefs without feeling guilty about it.

I dress like a westerner, jeans, t-shirts, sweaters (you know the attire) and most Indians dress in India wear, salwar kameez (click to see image), now when you look at the picture there is a scarf around the girls arms this is called a dupatta, typically this is worn in front to cover the shape of the breasts. Muslims especially wear this and cover themselves. My mother-in-law and SIL both wear this attire and dupatta, at all times. My MIL has specifically asked my husband to have me wear more Indian clothes and to wear a dupatta even if i am wearing western clothes she would prefer me to wear a dupatta over my breasts to cover my shape. My husband has told her no, and that no one was asking her to wear jeans and t-shirt so it was unfair to ask me to wear Indian clothes.

Ok, problem solved right....wrong. Every time there are visitors my MIL asks me to wear a dupatta over myself, so to essentially take a pashmina and wrap it in front over my breasts. Firstly, it is really hot and putting on more clothes makes me so uncomfortable, but I'm not that petty, it's the reason behind the covering myself up that bothers me. Which brings me to my question of beliefs.

Muslims believe (and it states in the Quran) that all men are lustful and can't control their urges, and that the only man who should be able to look at a woman is her husband, father, and son. Which is why a lot of women chose to wear the burqua when outside their home. Now not ALL Muslim women choose to do this, my MIL and SIL don't, but my FIL's (father-in-law) side of the family almost all wear this.

My grievance is that basically if a man looks at a women like me in western clothes and gets lustful thoughts, then it is my fault because it is my responsibility to cover up. He can't help it, he was born to be lustful and it was my fault since I was showing "my curves." I have even heard the argument that there is way more rape in western cultures than in Islamic countries or in India because women cover themselves. Now this is a whole other blog entry, but I have three things to say about that, first, it is never a woman's fault, she can be walking around naked for all I care (although I do not advise this), a man still does not have the right to rape her. Secondly, rape probably happens much more than people think in those countries, but the incidences are never reported. Women could get stoned to death or lose their honour if this would happen. Thirdly, rape is rarely ever about the sex itself rather than the power that comes with raping, so the woman could be wearing snowsuit and still get raped.

So this brings me to tonight. My husband called me on his way to work and I could tell by the sound of his voice he was about to tell me or ask me something I would not like to hear. My in-laws were having visitors over, my MIL's aunt and her son. Now my MIL is pretty modern and her side of the family usually is as well. Getting back to my husband, well he knows me so well and he knows about my convictions. He said, "mom pulled me aside and told me to ask you to cover yourself up tonight when you come down to greet the guests" Without hesitation I replied "no!"
"But Shelley, my aunt is really religious and I know you don't like to wear one."
"Well then your aunt can wear a dupatta, if she is religious then she should wear one. Why should I have to go against my beliefs to make her comfortable? I dress pretty conservatively, and the top i am wearing buttons up to my neck for crying out loud and it's so loose you'd think my body was lost in here"
He was pretty pissed off with me, and I guess I can understand why, he doesn't really see the big deal since he was raised to see all his family dress like that, but I know he understands how I feel, we have spoken about it many many times. I think he feels caught in the middle sometimes. But his aunt's son lives in the United States and she has visited the US several times. I am not the first westerner she has seen!
But the words my mother told me rang in my ears, she said to me after I married him to "never lose who I am or to change anything for anyone because it makes them uncomfortable." She also told me I was an amazing girl and that she knew I would do the right thing, but to never compromise who I am.

I know this might seem petty to a lot of people, and I know a lot of you are probably thinking, just put the damn scarf on and keep the peace. Let me tell you, I have done it so many times for his family even though I didn't want to. And I still do it, I wear Saree's to functions to keep everyone happy and I even wear dupatta's when I am going to other people's homes who are more conservative. But since I became a mother, I want to teach my daughter to stand up for herself, and also that she should not ever have to dress in a tent. There is a difference between flaunting your tatas and ass to the entire world and wearing nice form fitting classy clothes. I want her to know that if a man looks at her, it is not HER fault, it is his fault, and honestly, whoever said that having a guy admiring you for being pretty or having a nice shape is a BAD thing? In Islam it is a bad thing, because the only person who should be admiring you or looking at you is your husband. I mean how archaic does that sound? Women in the west don't get married at 20 and 21 like a lot of the women here, so that would mean a loooong time of no one being able to look at you!
People and sometimes these are strangers, are always asking and telling my husband to "make me wear a dupatta" and i think a lot of the men think he can't control his wife. I will not be controlled. One time while waiting to see the doctor for Yasmine, a Muslim women told my husband in Urdu that he should really get me to wear Indian clothes and speak the language. My husband told me this while laughing, but I know it annoys him too. He has told me several times he loves the way I dress and he wouldn't ask me to change a thing!

I just don't agree with covering yourself up to appease someone is the right thing to do. People stare at me on a daily basis here, a lot of it is curiosity, some of it might be lust, but I think if you repress a society as soon as they see something different (a white girl in shorts or a knee length skirt) they are going to stare. But if more people dressed less conservatively eventually with time it will become accepted and less people will stare. Again I reiterate when I say dress less conservatively I mean showing your arms and legs not walking around half naked.

So I guess my question is, am I being too stubborn??? Should I just do it to make everyone else happy?

NB: People have said on my facebook wall to find a compromise.....and I have. I dress in very loose shirts and always wear a tank top under my tops in order to cover any of my cleavage even though it's 45 degrees here in the summer, when I normally would never do this. I have definitely changed the way i dress in India because it is a different culture. I feel like I have compromised and I am trying to take the culture into consideration. I just hate that I am always being asked to change or do something different because others have an issue with it!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Video: Yasmine rolling over

Here is Yasmine rolling over from her stomach to her back! I am surprised I was able to catch it on video, it took some time, but it finally happened!