Cyber Grandpas: Staying in Touch Across the Miles

My niece’s grandpas are among her biggest fans.  I didn’t realize how much until they both sent me an invitation to join Facebook.  Satya’s dad sent me an invitation to join Facebook last week and yesterday it was my sister-in-law’s dad who sent out the invitation.  I thought it was pretty funny that my father in law in India is now urging me to join Facebook.  Very weird….


Skype was a whole new experience for me last summer.  Last summer Satya’s mom dressed me in an extra saree so I could be presented via Skype to Satya’s uncle (his father’s brother) in Scotland.  Satya’s uncle was visiting his son in Scotland to see a new grandson.  When Satya’s parents returned to India, Satya and I continued using Skype to talk with his parents.  I even bought a computer camera/microphone for my parents for Christmas so I that I could Skype with them.  My family is slower to catch on to the wonders of Skype….perhaps it is the lack of babies?

More Interracial Couples in the Future?

The New York Times just published an article about how there seems to be a bias for boys among some immigrant groups in the U.S.  The article in particular focused on the Chinese, Indians, and Koreans, as groups that seem to have this bias.  (The article also noted that Middle Easterners also have a bias towards boys, but did not mention which specific ethnic groups nor did it show the exact statistical numbers for Middle Easterners.)

 The article mentioned that among other groups in the U.S., people seem to have a preference for girls.  People in the U.S. will say things like, “Girls are less trouble than boys”.  Also, I think in the U.S. people also think that girls are more likely than boys to care for elderly parents.

Will there be more mixed couples in the future?  Maybe.  All those boys will have to marry somebody someday, right?

Hosting Indian Friends and Family

After hosting Satya’s parents, one of Satya’s college buddies and wife, and his sister I am slowly starting to understand that hospitality expectations are different.  IndianTies had a great post about this in May.  (If only I’d read her post before his sister came!)  I’d like to add a few things that I’ve learned.

Entertaining at Home is Key

For family, especially, they’d rather eat in your home and be entertained at home than at a fancy restaurant.  Family cares about knowing the “real you”.  IndianTies mentions using your best stuff and serving drinks on trays (things Satya conveniently forgot to tell me about).  Is this really necessary?  Perhaps at first.  People who make the effort to come and visit you want to spend time with you, at your house. 

Be Careful About What People Really Mean

For this, it is best to rely on your spouse.  If you really want to do something for somebody, make sure you keep offering 3 or 4 times.  If they deny it more than that, for the most part let it go.  Minnesota has its own version of this (usually called “Minnesota nice”), but the Indian version goes a step further. 


People Who Stay in Your House Expect to Help Out

Do not be surprised if all of a sudden you have more help with        chopping veggies or with washing dishes.  In Minnesota it is more common for the host and hostess to do all the work.  I think this makes sense though because in general, Indian guests will stay for longer periods of time than U.S. guests.  GoriGirl wrote a lot about this in one of her posts.


One traditional belief that was new to me from my sister-in-law’s visit is that after a beloved guest leaves, you are not supposed to take a shower or clean up.  For us, Satya’s sister left in the afternoon and that meant that he did not want me to take a shower that night.   At first this seemed weird to me because Satya is nothing if not clean.  He later explained that it is the reverse of funerals.  When somebody dies and you attend the funeral, when you return home you take a shower and immediately clean all the clothes you were wearing.  Logically, this is for hygienic reasons but also perhaps for some spiritual closure?  Or to put some distance between you and the dead?  When a guest leaves you are not supposed to take a shower immediately because somehow that would break a bond and/or mean you do not wish your guest to return.  Biblically, I guess it is akin to “shaking the dust off your sandals”.

Good Luck for Babies

Satya’s sister is with us this week.  So far, having her over has been a lot of fun (perhaps too much fun as we were up until the early morning a few times).  She finally saw her niece for the the first time yesterday. 

She shared some ways that babies traditionally are protected from evil in India.  One way is for the parents to put a small mark on the baby’s face.  This can be done with eyeliner or something similar.  To me, this sounds like what I’ve heard about some Muslim art and carpets–people are afraid of something being perfect and offending God so they create a small imperfection to keep humility.  The difference I guess is that here you’d be protecting the baby from demons and not from God thinking you have too much hubris.  Any thoughts?

The second way is to put a small bracelet of black beads on the baby’s wrist.  I will have to ask about the importance of the color black.  Why not blue?  Or red?  Colors are important in bracelets…green bangles=wedding, for example.  (It is also interesting to me that a wife’s mangalsutra also has black beads).

My sister in law also mentioned ear piercing.  So far, the baby’s ears remain unpierced.  My sister in law thinks it is more practical to get it done early, rather than have it be a traumatic experience when my niece is a teenager.  Myself, my parents had me wait until I was 13.  At 13 I could decide for myself.  No matter how much I begged, they wouldn’t move that date (not for 12, not for 12.5).  I remember feeling thrilled when I got my ears pierced, not traumatized.

I doubt our niece will actually wear any of these things, though.  Satya’s brother (the father) is not religious or traditional at all.  My other sister in law, (the mother )is Protestant and not Indian.  It will be interesting to see what kinds of decisions they make about raising their inter racial daughter.

For now, my niece is doing well, is meticulously cared for, and is tremendously loved so we are all grateful.

“Born to Run” Review

Love to run?  Often bothered by running injuries? Wonder how people can possible run distances of 50 or 100 miles over inhospitable terrain? This week I am reading “Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World has Never See” by Christopher McDougall.  The basic premise of the book is that most of what we think we know about running is wrong.  Sometimes less is more.  Are fancy, expensive shoes with custom orthotics the best for your feet?  According to the author and many in the book, the answer is no. 


The book does not have much to say about India.  The closest excerpt I’ve found thus far is

 Maybe the ancient Hindus were better crystal-ball-gazers than Hollywood when they predicted the world would end not with a bang, but with a big old yawn.  Shiva the Destroyer would snuff us out by doing…nothing.  Lazing out.  Withdrawing his hot-blooded force from our bodies.  Letting us become slugs.  (pg. 99)


Is that really how Hindus believe the world will end?  I don’t know.  I know Satya does believe that this time we live in is the “Kali Yug”, a time of more evil than good, but we don’t sit around waiting for the world to end around us.


I was also disappointed when the author was asking a training coach about how he can learn to run injury-free.  He asked about yoga.  The coach said something like “The runners I know that do yoga get injured.”  What do you think?  Unfortunately, the author skimmed over this observation and didn’t give reasons why the coach said that. 


The book also includes some more little bits of philosophy such as,” When you run on the earth and run with the earth, you can run forever.” (pg. 114) And,” You can’t hate the Beast (exhaustion, fatigue, pain) and expect to beat it; the only way to truly conquer something, as every great philosopher and geneticist will tell you, is to love it.”  (pg. 125)

The book ends with an account of a 50 mile race between some of the best ultra runners in North America and the Tarahumara Indians.  The Tarahumara call themselves the Running People and can run many miles on narrow, steep paths among desert canyons.  I will not say who won the race, but McDougall’s account is exciting and hard to put down.


I loved the eccentric, larger than life characters such as Barefoot Ted and Caballo.  I enjoyed learning about the Talahumara Indians of Mexico and some of their traditions (don’t just walk up to their door.  You have to sit a few meters off and look away and then wait for them to invite you inside.   If they don’t, then you leave quietly.)  The bits of science were intriguing too.  I never heard before that people were meant to run, and that running gave us an edge over the Neanderthals.  Another scientist believes that running and hunting gave human brains the push it needed to cross over from purely survival thinking into logic, humor, deduction, etc.  He lived with the Bushmen of the Kalahari and actually did run down an antelope with a group of hunters and actually did hunt by imagining the actions of animals.


So will you see me running miles upon miles barefoot?  Perhaps not, but this book did give some interesting and convincing arguments to rethink some common running beliefs I’ve had since high school such as “Always stretch before a run,” “Get running shoes with lots of support and replace them often”.  It also supported Satya’s belief that it is possible to live a healthy, strong life as a vegetarian and gave some reasons why he has seen so many bunions here in the U.S. and many fewer in India. 


Overall, I enjoyed reading this book and will recommend it to my sisters who love to run and to my aunt in Iowa who loves going barefoot.

For a link to a Time interview with McDougall click here.