Chopped Wings

The H4 visa is a curse, an immigration deadlock that stops smart, successful women from having a fair shot at a great career. The Department of Homeland Security is ambling with solutions but the H4 crisis is wrecking lives especially with the Indian immigrant populace.

Here is the story in detail. Are you suffering from this immigration bottleneck? Do you need out of this situation?
Chopped wings – wasted potential

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East Vs West: Water Sense

Leonardo Di Caprio rarely takes a shower to conserve water and raise awareness on the water crisis. While many (especially his girlfriend) may argue that this is taking things too far, the water crisis is real and impending.

An average urban Indian consumes 15 gallons of water for his shower and an American uses 176 gallons per day. Do you know how much water an African requires for his daily ablutions? Guess?

Everywhere water sources are routinely diminishing and in some cases have vanished completely. Water may not be available forever if we don’t start conserving it today. Our children will live in a world of thirst because we did nothing to save water.

Want to learn more on how to save water? Read my article here. Act now and it will make a huge impact.

East vs West – The paper trail

The Alternative is an initiative that focuses on sustainable living and for a while I’ve been contributing to their site. But on my recent visit to India, I observed that many practices and everyday living that my parents followed rarely affected the environment. Infact it nurtured and protected it. In contradiction, the western lives that we led in the USA was causing a severe strain to the major players. Yet we were the ones making all the noise and hoopla about going green and protecting the environment. So who was really making a bigger mess and hence had to do a better clean up? This series East vs West is an extension of my introspection of the Indian and immigrant lifestyles.

The first post focuses on paper. Contrasting consumption, production and recycling techniques The Paper Trail urges us to recycle more. Would be very happy to hear your thoughts.

East Coast Temple Trail

east_coast_temple_trailThis was a different trip.

Worship laced with wanderlust, devotion blending with discovery, heritage mingled with a holiday. And that was how we set off on the temple trail from Massachusetts to Maryland. Have you ever been on a trip that covered only religious sites yet found it reveling?

Read my travelogue as I embark on the east coast Temple trail, written for India Currents – A reputed and highly popular magazine for the Indian diaspora.

Mango Mania

02mango190_1Photo courtesy: nytimes.com

The advent of summer was marked with the arrival of pickles. Succulent tender mangoes marinating in hot chili sauce, tangy and tart lemons infused with powdered spices and foul smelling sariba soaked in curd and turmeric. The pickles were packaged under the guarded eyes of my paternal grandmother and came with specific instructions. The lemon was stashed away and except for my father, the rest of us steered clear of the sariba. The war was always over the tender mangoes. The smaller ones were the most delicious, so copious quantities of curd rice were gobbled to cajole my mother into serving more of those mini-sized marvels.

One of the many treats that came with the sweltering heat of Indian summers was the ripe mango. They made the incessant sweating and scalp frying scorch almost bearable.

Continue reading here.

Magic of Margazhi

Margazhith Thingal mathi niraidha nannaalal

…starts the Thiruppavai verse rendered by Andal. Margazhi is the last month in the Tamil calendar starting on the 16th of December. This is the time when the otherwise sleepy streets rouse before the crack of dawn. Kolams, designs made with ground rice flour, adorn wet pavements, MS Subbulakshmi’s enchanting Suprabhatam wakes the God from his slumber, freshly ground filter coffee stirs the sleepy eyed human and fragrant jasmine adorns the pictures of God and oiled braids alike.

Kolam Design

(Copyright: Sridhar Rao Chaganti Flickr Stream)

Fond memories of Margazhi mornings hunched over kolam books waft before my eyes. My maternal grandmother was deft in drawing kolams and she would expertly sketch the most complicated designs without faltering on a single curve. She quickly took me under her arm and that was to be my first tryst with Margazhi. After the kolam, we would quickly bathe, deck up and walk up to the nearest Vishnu temple. My mother and granny would recite the Thiruppavai while we ran helter skelter all the while keeping an eagle eye on the prasadams.

Winter breaks during Margazhi were spent lying on my grandmother’s lap cushioned by her soft yet supple Sungundi saree. The scent of her sari’s starch, her face glowing from the daily application of turmeric and the diamonds glittering in her nose and ears were a thing of comfort. As we lay in a semi comatose state pushing our bellies that were belching from the heavy lunch, she would churn out her usual dose of mythological tales that were interspersed with events from her own life.   Her parents lived in the temple town of Pillayarpati which is famous for the Lord Pillayar temple. Her father was the temple accountant and every day after the morning offering, a huge box of kozhakattais would make their way home. My mother remembers reserving the sweet and savoury kozhakattais in case she had to run to the vaigai to fetch water. One kozhakattai was big enough to satiate their breakfast pangs. My grandmother’s vivid narration of the story of Andal during my teens still lingers on my mind. Her enthralling account of Kothai being discovered near the Tulsi plant, wearing the garland knotted for her God in an effort to become his bride and the Lord himself flanked by a thousand elephants arriving to seek her hand left an indomitable mark. Andal was born in the temple town of Sriviliputhoor and resides in the sanctum sanctorum of Sri Rangam after wedded bliss. Every time I witness a Vaishnavite wedding, my grandmother’s voice and her brilliant folklore rings in my ears.

Musical Trinity(Copyright:Kaleesuwari.com)

Margazhi also signifies the start of the music season. Artists from around the world descend in Chennai, equipped with rich knowledge to satiate the audience’s year long craving. Their renditions are a feast for the senses and food for the soul. Margazhi is when Kodambakkam plays gracious host to Mambalam. The rustle of silk, rhythm of instruments and the confluence of artists are legendary.   In the absence of the internet, we would turn to the television or Radio for the music to flow into our homes. But before we tuned in to the day’s performances, we had to freshen up. It did not matter that we were merely the passive audience. Right before six our tresses would be neatly braided, coconut oil dripping from every strand, faces scrubbed, kohl lined our eyes, a round bindi rested between our eyebrows and ash smeared above it to signal the completion of evening prayers. On Fridays, strands of jasmine were neatly pinned up to the oiled hair.   As we huddled around giggling indifferent to the ragas and renditions, she etched the story behind Jagodadharana penned by Purandaradasar in the Navaneetha Krishnan temple in Dodamallur. Tales of Saint Thygaraja’s unflinching devotion to Lord Rama and the Thiruvaiaru and Muthusami Dikshitar’s vision of Lord Muruga filled our drawing rooms.

As I stare outside my window into the snow filled emptiness, strains of Carnatic music makes its way through the miles to warm my senses. Margazhi for me is not just about the tales or the temples. Margazhi is the divine month when music and mythology intersect. The misty mornings, mellifluous music, mesmerizing rhythms and mythological Margazhi, all signify a slice of heaven. So if God decided to pick a time for a mortal dwelling, it would be during this magical month of Margazhi.

P.S: The author wishes to make a trip during one of the forthcoming Margazhis to all the temples that her grandmother filled her childhood with.

P.P.S: This piece was published in thealternative.in