We have a Dog!!

About a month ago, we went to the local Humane Society and adopted a dog.  Somehow, it was my idea.  I was really pushing Satya to go to the Humane Society and then once we were there, I decided that we’d like a closer look at this dog.  She was curled up at the back of her cage, but her information page said that she was 22 lbs and house trained.  Then, we took her for a little walk outside.  She walked nicely-not pulling the leash too badly and she shook paws with Satya!  Then, somehow I told the volunteer, “We’d like to fill out an application for her.”  After filling out an application and the Humane Society verifying that indeed yes our apartment complex does allow dogs (max. 2, must be under 50 lbs.) we walked out with Lego.  3 days later we returned to finalize her adoption and now she is ours.

Some things have been a pleasant surprise.  She is very well-behaved in the house-no shoes chewed yet or accidents (knock on wood).  She can sleep in her crate just fine.  One of my favorite parts of the day is in the evening when the 3 of us all go to the park together.  We play frisbee across the park and back with her and it is a lot of fun to see her jump up and catch the frisbee.  Other things aren’t so fun-I don’t like getting up at 6 am so she can toilet outside (better than her messing up the inside though).  We also discovered she has some separation anxiety.  At first, I couldn’t even leave her alone to take out the trash without her barking and whining.  Now, I can take out the trash and she will be quiet and calm, but I can’t leave her alone to check mail without the barking and whining.  We are going to try the advice in Patricia McConnell’s I’ll be Home Soon and if that doesn’t work we’ll call a local dog behaviorist.

I’ve never had a dog before. Growing up I had rabbits.  My grandfather grew up on a farm and thought that it was cruel to have a dog in the city, so he got my mom and aunt rabbits.  My dad agreed with my grandfather.  Dogs are much, much different from rabbits. Like a good ex-librarian, I’ve been trying to find out all I can from watching Cesar Millan’s  Dog Whisperer, to reading books like Tamar Geller’s 30 Days to a Well-Behaved Dog, to ordering Patricia McConnell’s books and pamphlets.  Some things we are doing right-Lego has to sit and wait to enter and exit the apartment, sit and wait for her food, etc.

Lego is a miniture Australian Shepherd.  At the Humane Society they warned us that her breed is very smart and very active.  Lego gets 2 walks a day-morning and evening for physical exercise.  For mental exercise, she has a purple treat dispenser, Busy Buddy’s Squirrel Dude (best toy ever!) and she goes to basic obedience class on Saturdays.  We also practice her obedience commands a bit throughout the day.

Why did we get Lego?  For me, it was for Satya.  He had a dog in India that he loved very, very much and he always talks about that dog.  Also, he is very stressed from work so I thought a dog would be a great way for him to relax and get some exercise after a long day in the office on the computer.  Originally, I’d wanted a labradoodle or barring that, a lazy couch potato dog like maybe a whippet.  Satya wanted a dog who “looks like a dog” which meant no toy dogs.

What have been the effects?  Well, Satya’s stress acne has gone down.  He says my skin as also improved and that my stomach has gotten smaller (I walk Lego by myself during the day and with Satya at night).  I think the two of us also feel more like a family now.  Lego does complicate things though-with her separation anxiety can’t do as much.  We either take her with us (one sitting outside with Lego while the other one grocery shops), or we take her to doggy day care.  Satya’s sister loves to see the dog on Skype which is sometimes sweet and sometimes annoying-like when the dog is asleep and she wants to see Lego play.

Differences between us having a dog now and Satya’s dog in India:

  • Here we have commercial dog food, in India Satya’s mom cooked the dog’s food which was the same vegetarian Lingayat food the family ate.  The dog’s mom brought him bones to chew herself.
  • In India, the dog would be let out to run around by himself during the day.  He was trusted to return on his own. Here, Lego is never off the leash unless we are in the apartment.  We have a long 16 ft. leash for her frisbee games in the park.
  • In India, the vet made house calls here we drive to the vet
  • In the U.S. lots of commercial dog toys vs. homemade ones in India
  • Dog trainers and obedience classes in the U.S. are plentiful in India in the ’90s there weren’t any in his city
  • A lot easier to get vaccines here.  In India in the ’90s Satya had to special order his dog’s rabies vaccine from Switzerland.


Has anyone traveled with a dog to India?  Online I’ve read that Europe is very dog friendly and that it is not a big deal to bring your American dog along for a trip.

A very happy looking Lego!

How is it for India?  We plan on going to India again in the spring for 3-4 weeks.

Our House Search

For the past five or six years, I’ve wanted a house.  It is hard to say exactly why-more space, ability to paint walls or knock them down, ability to have a dog, more privacy-sure those are all great.  But those are all little things.  Maybe it is what it symbolizes-freedom, security, and maybe a bit of drawing a line in the sand and saying, “This is my space”.  True, in the past few years here in the U.S. the idea of house=security has been sorely tried and perhaps should be discarded.  But I  still have a fundamental yearning for a house. 


Satya does not share this desire for a house.  I think for him, financial stability comes before nearly all else.  That and to him apartment living is manageable-we have an open kitchen/living/dining room, 2 bedrooms, and a bathroom.  Cleaning takes just a few hours. When our washing machine inexplicably stopped working, we had a brand new washing machine installed the next day.  Our apartment complex took care of the whole thing, no questions asked. 


Then, there are our cultural differences.  In my family, people buy houses and people sell houses and move, no big deal.  Satya grew up living in family university quarters until he was about 10.  He and his parents fondly remember living in the university quarters-they were huge and there were lots of other kids to play with and friendly neighbors who helped out.  Then, his parents decided to build their house.  They already had the land, bought years earlier.  They just needed to buy materials and pay the laborers.  After years of careful savings, his parents were able to build their house and have it 100% paid off.  There wasn’t a mortgage because mortgages didn’t exist.  After the house was built, his parents have not moved.  Recently, they remodeled the house a tad-installing a toilet and in the shower room, retiling and adding a shower.  His dad adds gadgets-now they have an inverter so that the ceiling fans won’t go off during a power outage and some solar lights so they will have a light or two during an outage.  Unlike my parents, his parents are not searching for their “grandparent home” or their “downsized” home.


In India, people seem to build houses where their hearts are.  One of his dad’s colleagues, A., has rented part of another colleague’s home for years.  When A. retires, he will return to his village to live in the house he built there.  Then, there is Satya’s cousin who works in Bangalore.  He rents an apartment in Bangalore, but has a huge house and yard in the city in Northern Karnataka where he was born and raised and where his parents live today.  To me it seems weird-why not have a nice house where you spend most of your time now? 


So getting back to me and Satya, we moved out West last year.  It has been a huge change.  I thought we’d buy a house and live here for 5-7 years.  We’ve been looking at houses for a long time, but Satya just can’t get himself to commit to a house.  I think the real reason is that his heart just isn’t here.  I like the wide open skies, no traffic, safety.  He hates it here.  He has bad allergies from the tumbleweed, hates how people drive exactly the speed limit or 3 below, and isn’t sure he enjoys his job (perhaps the biggest reason).


My house dream will have to wait a bit longer it seems.  I see two possible scenarios-1) I get pregnant and Satya’s job satisfaction improves so we’d buy a house here.  2) We move to California or to NJ/NY where Satya has more connections and more opportunities career-wise.  Eventually, we’ll have a house somewhere.  Maybe it will be in India, since his parents have already bought land for him? 

Why I can’t be Catholic (or how to Insult Your Dinner Guests)

Satya and I finally jumped in and tried to find a local Catholic church to attend, but our experiment was a dismal failure.  It started optimistically enough-while I was in Minnesota helping my sick aunt I attended weekly Mass with her and my parents.  I mentioned to Satya there was a local church in our hometown I had been wanting to attend, so he started attending.  His first time, he got invited back to have dinner with an elderly priest.  Satya felt flattered and enjoyed the meal and kept attending Mass. 

I returned and the two of us went to Mass together.  After Mass, the elderly priest invited us to come to his house for dinner the next week.  We agreed, because how can you say no to an elderly priest?  The next week we attend Mass and then have dinner with the elderly priest, a woman from the parish, and the younger priest.  The elderly priest sits at the head of the table, I’m on his left, the other woman is on his right, Satya is next to me, and the younger priest is seated at the foot of the table next to Satya. 

The dinner did not go well, but like all uncomfortable things seemed to go on forever-nearly two hours in fact.  Younger priest asks, “Were you married in the church?”  No, we replied.  “Was your marriage blessed by a priest?”  Yes, we replied and then explained the blessing ceremony we had at my grandma’s nursing home.  “Did you sign papers?”  No we replied.  “Then it wasn’t officially blessed,” he said. He went on to mention that since the marriage was not officially blessed, I am not supposed to receive communion.  I did not know that before and am still processing that news.  I suppose I’ll have to research what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says exactly and go from there.

Then, he launches into a long speech about how the troubled world needs to be unified and saved.  The only way this is possible?  For everyone to become Catholic because Catholicism has 1 person in charge, the pope, and agreed upon truths.  Here my alarm bells were going off in my head.  Satya and I had long agreed that neither would convert for the other. 

Then, the younger priest talked about how science is destroying society.  Satya felt extremely insulted at that because he takes great pride in being a scientist.  Then, the priest also mocked reincarnation and vegetarianism. 

What did Satya do during these monologues?  He smiled and nodded in hopes of speeding the meal along. What would you have done?

I don’t know what the priest’s motives were.  To present arguments about why we should officially join his church?  To speed our decision along-are we going to join or not so we’d quit wasting his time? 

We left the meal exhausted.  We have decided we are going to move on.  All I wanted was to be able to attend Mass with my husband. Next, we are going to try an Episcopalian church with a female pastor.  We shall see. 

I do like the rituals and music of church and the saints, but the rest I’m not so sure of.  Satya and I also did not enjoy listening about how birth control, health insurance, and gay marriage (I have a gay brother) are going to destroy society. 

In other news, I am reading Being Different: An Indian Challenge to Western Universalism by Rajiv Malhotra.  Anyone else read this one?  So far, it is very interesting.  I really like what he says about mutual respect of religions rather than tolerance of religions.  I completely agree. 

To anyone else, how has your interreligous marriage changed your religious beliefs and practices? 

Best Book For Learning Kannada (so far…)

When Satya and I were in India we went to the “Russian Book Exhibition” which is where Satya remembers selecting his books as a child.  He remembers getting beautifully illustrated Russian books that had been translated into English.  Times have changed, however, and this time we didn’t see any Russian illustrated books (lush colors, very detailed, with folklore themes).   There were many books in English and many in Kannada.  I selected a book of rangoli patterns because I think rangoli is so beautiful (and tricky!).

On the last table were dictionaries and language learning books.  Then, I saw the prize….”Conversational Kannada: A Micro-Wave Approach”.  It even comes with a CD!  The book is written by N.D. Krishnamurthy and Dr. U.P. Upadhyaya. The authors wrote the book after years of helping U.S. Peace Corps volunteers learn Kannada.   The lessons cover typical beginning conversations and include notes on the culture and on grammar.  One thing to note is that the conversations are written out using the English alphabet, not the Kannada alphabet.  This could be a plus because it enables the learner to get right to the words.  Or it could be a minus because I remember reading about one blogger’s experience with Hindi-those who never mastered the Hindi letters and relied on transcribing them to English letters never learned the finer points of Hindi sounds. In the rear of the book the conversations of each lesson are written out in Kannada script so it is up to the learner how much they want to interact with the Kannada script.

The ISBN for the book is 978-81-7286-580-1 and it is published by Prism Books.

Now I just have to use the book!

India, 2.0

Our plan worked sort of.  We spent April in Karnataka with Satya’s parents and moved to our new place in early May.  Some things were definitely easier this time around, but other things were more challenging.  This trip was more about reality, I think.  Our first trip, Jan. ’10, was more of a celebration.  Not that this trip did not have its amazing moments, but it was much more real for me.  Perhaps it was the longer time period-2 weeks vs. 5 weeks.  I really thought of it all like, “Could I live here for real?  What would that be like?”  It was also a bit humbling.  At the beginning of the trip our attitude I think was, “We’ve done this before, we can handle anything.”  I think we both realized we are more American than we expected.

The traveling part was easier this time.  We flew Air France from NYC to Paris, then 2 hr. layover, then Paris to Bangalore.  This was much, much easier than having an 8 hr. layover in Frankfurt, which is what we did last time.  We got to Bangalore and were picked up from the airport by a hotel driver-very smooth and not stressful, just expensive.  Our hotel was more comfortable than last time-quieter, bottled water on request, etc.  We woke up with lots of enthusiasm and confidence.  We went down and ate a huge, delicious breakfast-vada, sambhar, chutneys, and lots of other tasty things.  An hour later our stomachs were a bit unhappy, but we just rested and drank lots of water.  In the afternoon we decided to venture out.  This is where things went a bit sour.  Our rickshaw drivers were not honest and the second one forced us to go to a ridiculous souvenir store and buy something.  After that, things were pretty much ruined for that day.  We retreated back to the hotel and then we decided it was best to head out of Bangalore.  We went back and booked a direct flight to his parent’s place for the next morning because we were feeling lost and overwhelmed in Bangalore.

In the evening, things looked up again when an old classmate of Satya’s visited our hotel with his wife.  They were very nice and very down to earth.  Both are computer engineers and work crazy hours.  Tbey work 9-6 in the office then come home and have to be on call until 10 or 11 pm at night.  Fortunately, we were in Bangalore on the weekend so they could visit.  Hearing about their struggles was sobering.  I think before that, we thought that life would be less stressful in India.  We no longer believe that.

We went to UB City which was another overwhelming experience-crowded, loud music, lots of fancy lights and fancy faux architecture.  It kinda reminded me of Atlantic City, only much newer and more wholesome.

Anyway, we ended up going to a very nice restaurant called South Indies and all of us ended up eating a very mild kind of dosa.  Called a water dosa maybe?? Not very tasty, but then our stomachs at that point due to jet lag and indigestion couldn’t handle much else. The decor of the restaurant was very nice.  I liked how there was a wall that had a fountain that made it look like we were sitting inside during a rainstorm.  I think it was supposed to look like a fancy, old South Indian home.

Then it was back to the hotel for sleep because of the next day’s flight.

The flight out of Bangalore to Satya’s hometown.  That flight was one of our best decisions……


Things are changing once again…..this time we may finally move!  Yipee!  Well, we will move it is just a matter of when and where.

At the moment it could be to the West Coast!!  I’m hoping it will be more relaxed.  We may be moving to a place that has one temple and just one small Indian grocery store.  Satya visited there and noticed lots of mixed couples (in his words), but I wonder how it will be.  Will I have to worry about people yelling at my in laws when they visit?  (In fairness to people in small places, this happened to them in NJ where there are lots of Indians).  Lots of little anxieties-what if we don’t like the one little temple that is there??

I’m hoping we will feel at home and will be able to settle in and maybe buy a house.  I’m hoping we will not feel stuck. Overall though I think I’m ready and willing to trade East Coast aggressiveness, lack of space, and good food for West Coast relaxation, friendliness, and bad restaurant food (we’ll just cook more at home).  Yes, I know that the West Coast has lots of great restaurants-this place though will have few.  Maybe our focus will change-less on art museum stuff and more towards outdoorsy things like hiking, biking, and running.

Anyone else in a mixed relationship living in a small city with one temple and one grocery store?

If this all goes through, it means we’ll be in India in April.  Bright sides-we will be there for the Kannada New Year, Ugadi, and will be there for the house blessing of the home of Satya’s cousin.  Bad news-hot, hot, hot.  I will have to stock up on cotton salwars then.  How do you cope with India’s warm temperatures?  Dress in light, loose clothes and drink lots of water and stay out of the sun?

In terms of reading, I’m reading now Monsoon Summer by Mitali Perkins.  It is a teen novel.  The protagonist, Jazz (short for Jasmine) is in Pune with her family for the summer.  She hates having to leave her business and her best friend Steve in California while having to accompany her family to India while her mom works at an orphanage.  In India she feels out of place because she is pale like her white father and huge (she was a shot putter at her California high school).  It is ok, but sometimes I want to shake the main character and tell her to be brave (send those letters to Steve!) and to quit whining about her appearance (but then, who hasn’t been there when they were a teen?).  I thought it was weird how caste comes into the book.  Jazz or her brother asked, How do you know someone is of a low caste?  The answer was because of darker skin tone, smaller, lighter build, and flat nose.  Really?  That was disturbing a bit.  Some of those characteristics are just those of Southern India-not of caste necessarily.  But, as my husband reminds me and as I see everyday working in an inner city library, the U.S. is not colorblind nor class-blind either and has its own struggles-1 in 4 children in the U.S. at risk of hunger and in the city we live in a high school graduation rate of 50%.  Anyway, will have to find out if Jazz’s mother ever does find her mother and whether she did come from a lower caste.  If so, how will Perkins handle that?

Also, at my library I found the book Does Anyone Else Look Like Me? A Parent’s Guide to Raising Multiracial Children by Donna Jackson Nakazawa.  Has anyone read it?  Do you think it is useful?  Am just trying to look ahead for when Satya and I have children of our own.

Thoughts on “Nine Lives”

Yesterday I finished reading Nine Lives: In Search of the Sacred in Modern India by William Dalrymple.  I highly recommend this book.  It is readable and insightful.  Even though all the people Dalrymple profiles are extreme he does humanize them and makes them understandable.  He has a wide geographical range-from Sindh in Pakistan, to Bengal, to Karnataka, to Tibet, to Kerala, and a wide range of religions (although some may argue they are all aspects of Hinduism) Jains, Buddhists, Sufis, and various sects of Hinduism.

The first chapter is about a Jain nun in Karnataka who is slowly starving herself to death.  I was not looking forward to reading this chapter at all.  Jainism had always sounded so bleak to me and pointless.  It is a testament to Dalrymple and the remarkable nun he interviewed that the chapter turned out to be beautiful.  Her decision to leave her family while a teenager and to undergo extreme privations (like having her hair pulled out strand by strand) made sense.  The description of the tightly controlled ritual starvation also seemed beautiful-the person undergoing the ritual is never left alone-people are there to recite religious texts and to provide company.  If the person wants to stop the ritual at any point, they have that choice.  Her decision made sense because it was what she had prepared for her whole life and because she looked on death as an eagerly awaited adventure.

The third chapter was most troubling.  I didn’t think it contained much beauty at all.  Instead it seemed pathetic and hopeless. In the past, people dedicated to Yellamma had high positions in society-they were educated, wealthy, etc.  Now they are like common prostitutes except they wear silk sarees, and sometimes are invited to important rituals to give blessings.  The woman in the chapter was dedicated as a child against her will to pay off her family’s debts, but ended up also forcing her daughters into the same thing (her daughters ended up dying as teens from AIDS).  The woman hoped to save up enough money to get out of prostitution, but that is highly unlikely as it is revealed that the woman herself is infected.  The Indian government is trying to stop the practice, but Dalrymple writes that their efforts and the efforts of earlier British reformers has worsened the situation by driving it more underground and by marginalizing the position of those dedicated to Yellamma.

Some of the chapters focused on people whose way of worship may disappear soon because of the modernizing of Indian society-the man from the Rajasthani desert who with his wife and family performs epic poems, the man who creates idols, the man who embodies the gods when he dances.  Others represent traditions that are in danger due to politics and violence-the monk from Tibet, the woman from the Sufi site in Sindh.  I asked Satya what his view of this was, and he said that nothing in India truly dies, it just changes.  People still are interested in the age old traditions.  I’m not so sure.  He gives the example of the wealthy middle-aged bankers whose hobby is Yakshagana.

The importance of marriage and family in Indian culture was reinforced for me.  The chapter about the epic singer of Rajasthan wasn’t just about him.  Dalrymple writes about how one cannot be an epic singer without a wife who is equally talented as a singer.  At the end of the chapter, Dalrymple describes a performance where even the four year old grandson of the singer was included-he danced alongside his father and grandparents.  That was a very beautiful passage as well.  Even the chapter about the Tantra practicioners focused on how important family is.  Despite the view in the West of Tantrics being wild “anything goes” types, in reality the Tantrics need to get married to have a partner with whom to do the rites. Again, Dalrymple was able to go beyond stereotypes.

Overall, the book was enjoyable and fascinating.  I very much recommend the book.  I don’t think it helped much wiht clarifying how everyday Indians experience Hinduism or what they believe.  If you have any suggestions for a book about that, I’m open to suggestions.

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