Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Blogging Break

Wednesday, May 19th, 2010

Yup! I am going on a vacation and will be back in June.

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One Voice

Friday, March 5th, 2010

What’s in the name? Wonder what I am talking about? I get emails about this every day asking who is Ruchika if it is not my name. When I thought of starting a blog few months ago, I could not decide on a name and N suggested it out of the blue. Little did I know that few weeks after that, the Indian Media would make the name Ruchika and her story reach everyone and join them together to fight for justice.

If you still don’t know, Ruchika was a happy go lucky teenager, till she was molested and her family was harassed by a Police Official leading to her Suicide. This incident happened nearly 19 years ago and only now the case is with the court.

Every time I hear such a story, I feel hurt and wonder why women are targeted from birth to death. This post is something I have been wanting to share and I wrote it ahead of International Women’s day -March 8th. I was born in Tamilnadu and one of the towns in that state Usulampatti was very famous for female infanticide when I was growing up. It still happens in a lot of places in India. Personally I have seen girl child being considered as a burden. It is just the two of us in my family, my elder sister and I, and I have seen so many friends or relatives gloating about their sons when they talk to my parents. But I feel proud that my parents gave us everything they could, Good education, Willpower and Freedom to make our own decisions. Now, seeing us sisters moving up the ladder in the professional sector and being responsible, the same people feel that they should have had a daughter instead of a son :)

But the story is not the same at all places. Once a girl leaves her home to live in another house, the life she faces could be totally different. Almost always the girl has to adjust with everybody and accept people the way they are and still put up a happy face and move on like nothing has happened. Even in this century, women are still seen as an object of fascination, a domestic help and as a source of income. If a girl is highly educated she would be the first preference as a bride but once she is married, she will be compared against her spouse on all aspects. There are still people who can’t appreciate their spouse’s achievements or accept it if she moves up professionally. Even today there are women who are well educated but sit at home as a homemaker, not having many friends or but not entirely by their choice.

All of this looks normal if the girl stays at home without any connection with anybody in their country as she will be surrounded by parents and relatives with whom she can speak to. If a girl leaves home to join her husband on a foreign land carrying so many dreams with her, the path may not be rosy always.

One of the most happening things in a South Asian family, that everyone knows, but still is a secret, a word that is hardly spoken and treated as taboo is verbal or physical abuse. The girl has to endure what every is said or done because that is the way life has been for married women for centuries. She may be the head of the family but she won’t get any respect. Neither can she talk back as that would lead to another verbal abuse or blackmail of throwing her out of the house and creating insult to her family. Most often the woman stays back accepting all of this, either the sake of her children or because she is financially unable to support herself and her children or for not wishing to be a burden on her parents.

You must be thinking I am in the 1960’s writing a family drama for sentimental audience? NO. I thought of writing this post after I had a chance to speak with one of the staff members of a Non Profit Organization for Women in Houston. I was shocked to hear her talk about the domestic violence against women, especially South Asian dependents in this country. Per day, she said the organization handles 15-20 cases of domestic violence calls, offering help and support.

Amber Riaz, is the community development coordinator at “Daya- Serving South Asian Families– and I am glad to give her this place today to talk about the organization and the help it offers to women.

What is Daya:

In 1996, a group of Indian American women established Daya (meaning ‘compassion’ in Sanskrit) as a helpline to serve South Asian survivors of family violence, a crippling problem that remained un-acknowledged in the community. Daya’s primary mission is to promote healthy family relationships in the South Asian community by providing services that include counseling, referrals, legal advocacy, education and job training and financial assistance to women and children affected by family violence. At Daya we believe that every human being has the right to live a life free of violence. We have geared our services towards achieving that goal and strive to make a positive impact on the lives we touch.

What kind of issues does Daya Handle?

The range of problems Daya helps with includes family violence, sexual assault, child abuse, mental health problems, immigration issues and bi-cultural conflicts. Although the larger issue for which women approach Daya has to do with marital abuse, the actual problems women face encompass many of the following: Physical, sexual and psychological abuse; In-law abuse; Living in fear of abuse; Fraudulent marriage; Abandonment; Control due to immigration status; Economic control; Divorce/custody issues; and Loneliness and depression.

Daya provides a structured culturally-sensitive avenue for South Asian families in the Houston area to face and cope with these issues. Being the only organization dedicated to serving the South Asian community, Daya is integral to the city of Houston that has the fourth largest (over 100,000) South Asian population in the U.S. Daya serves all parts of Houston as well as communities outside Houston that do not have a specialized avenue of help for South Asians.

Who is behind Daya:

Daya is run by a volunteer board and an advisory board. After operating as an all-volunteer organization for eight years, Daya hired its first full-time employee in 2004. Currently, Daya has three full-time staff: a social worker, a community outreach coordinator, and a transitional home coordinator. Daya also has an active volunteer pool of one hundred, most of whom speak several regional South Asian languages. They act as translators and interpreters in court; some provide pro-bono legal, medical and counseling services.

Daya’s services, provided free of charge, include individual and group counseling, translation & interpretation services, a legal clinic, computer literacy and job skills classes, referrals and financial assistance towards rent, food, utilities, childcare, legal fees and education and job training. Daya also conducts educational seminars and awareness events for the community.

In 2007, Daya opened a transitional home called ‘Harmony House’ where qualified clients can stay up to six months while they work on becoming emotionally and economically independent. Apart from food, shelter and safety, the occupants of Harmony House receive counseling, legal advocacy and job skills training that allow them to re-build their lives, independent and violence-free.

The demand for Daya’s services has increased phenomenally since its inception. In 2009, Daya responded to 3847 distress calls and served 215 clients, 90% of whom were of South Asian origin. This strongly confirms violence in South Asian homes and stresses that Daya’s work must continue.

How can we help:

Most victims of abuse stay either in the harmony home or in a transition home and once they get the education and professional help to support themselves, the women are given housing choices. Anything that we consider as essential for the home say furniture, appliances, stationary, household items, electronics items are also essential for the women who get help from Daya. If you feel you have too many of these mentioned items, you can help by donating such items to Daya.

But the best thing we can provide is support. If you are well educated and you feel you can share a couple of hours a day, you can volunteer as a tutor/teacher to a abuse victim, helping them with their course work or as a English Language Tutor. You can help them professionally also if you can train them in a certain field, say pharmacy technician or catering or front office work. If you can drive, you can take the girl to her school or to the hospital, as needed. After all, aren’t we all sisters?

Since I live in Texas, I wrote about Daya. But there are similar organizations in other states like Saheli, Sakhi, Raksha, Asha, Apna Ghar and you can get the list here.

Daya is also organizing a gala dinner and 14th anniversary celebrations on March 28th in Houston with live performances by Comedian Paul Varghese. If you are in town, do check it out. Students get a free guest admission for every ticket purchased.

If you think any one you know is going through abuse and you want to help, please make an effort and take the time to talk to the person. Being there and listening matters more than anything.

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A cozy cuppa

Sunday, February 14th, 2010

Nothing special to write about today, I am just going to share a cup of coffee.

Just before our wedding when I was busy wrapping up my thesis, I used to complain to N about the work load and everything in the world that was going wrong. Living in two continents was enough to start a load of complaints on its own if I had nothing else to complain.

On one such day, after finishing off my load of worries on N, I went to sleep. Those days, we used to give each other a wake up call each morning(yeah, the phone companies got richer and richer and our bills got bigger and bigger). N just sent me a simple message that morning, “Coffee Ready” with this picture.

It is nothing special, but it put up a smile on my face and I laughed out loud. I still have the photo in my mobile. Even after four years, nope I haven’t changed a bit-from my love for coffee and sleeping to complaining, I still do the same. And N has not changed a bit too, he still makes coffees for me every morning 😀

As soon as the alarm goes off, every morning, this is his standard dialogue to me, ” Why don’t you sleep for five more minutes, I’ll make the coffee and wake you up”. And everyday I feel guilty, but I humbly accept his offer.

Sometimes simple and understanding acts are special gifts ,more than anything else. For everyone who has shared their love for their sweet ones on their posts to people who believe that they say it best, when they say nothing at all, but speak with their eyes, wishing you all love filled sunday :)

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Kitchen Mishaps

Wednesday, December 16th, 2009

Sending out trays and trays of aromatic dishes from the kitchen is an art. And to get to that level of confidence  and comfortable cooking is a whole big story. And to rectify the mistakes you make in the kitchen and be able to present it as whatever it turned out to be and you can still smile..priceless :)

I’ve been there in the kitchen  couple of times..blinking, confused, wondering what to do and quickly thinking of how to cover up the disasters.

Since I grew up pampered  by mom and sis, I never bothered to learn cooking for a long time till I had to leave home to join University. I thought cooking was simple, stir fry, boil or bake. If only I knew how many technics are there in stir frying itself!

The first thing that comes to my mind about mishaps is when I made rava kesari(sheera) for my mom one day for her pooja. I assured her that I’d make it by the time she is home. I was in high school at that time and thought all  the sweets were made of  sugar syrup. I patiently made a sugar syrup, and poured all the rava into it. Two minutes later, I was not even able to pull out the ladle from the pan as it was stuck to the pan with fevicol strength :) We had to soak the pan with all the contents in hot water to get rid of the gooey-rava.

There are a couple of other stories like that too, but apart from cooking disasters, for me, the major issue is the instructions given and the language it is given.

My husband speaks a bit of kerala-tamil as he is originally from palagad of kerala and I am from tamilnadu. This incident happened just a  week after we moved to the US after our wedding.

We were invited to a get together and like  nice daughter in law I made this list of dishes I could prepare to take it along. Hubby glanced at the list and said to me ,” Why dont you make Varatti, that would be nice”.

I was literally shocked and I was speechless. For a minute I didnt know what to do. In tamil, varatti is literally cow-dung used as a bio fuel. Or was he indicating that my cooking was like that?

I immediately demanded an explanation and he was laughing like anything. To him , varatti is chakka varatti a traditional sweet made in kerala, almost like a jam and made out of jack fruit. And he did not know what varatti was in tamil.

Now, if and only if I had packed what I thought it was to serve for dinner, that would have been my ultimate kitchen disaster.

I am sharing this incident for  Malar’s Kitchen Mishaps-Share, Laugh and Learn event.

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