Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Indian in your cupboard!

If you’re Indian born, at least some aspects of your lifestyle reflect your culture, wherever you may live- it may be religion, food or your mindset. You know it is an Indian living in the house, when you smell sambhar or channa masala as you pass by; It’s an Indian party when you find all the footwear outside the doorstep; It’s an Indian’s car when you see Lord Ganesh perched on the dashboard! In the same breadth, you know the tantrum kid at the store is most likely of an Indian origin or expect to see more Indians/ Asians in an after-school math program or probably guess that it’s an Indian behind the wheel who doesn’t stop for the pedestrian at the parking lot of a mall! Living in the US, you are sometimes faced with issues that bring out the “Indian’ in you!! To use a cliché “Phir bhi dil hain Hindustani” :-)

In books that I read to Abhay today, I could see that though it could be anybody’s story, the author has beautifully weaved in facets of Indian culture that guide the protagonists through their life in the US.

I first read “Closet Ghosts” by Uma Krishnaswami and illustrated by Shiraz Bhabha where a little girl finds it hard to fit into her new home and her new school. As she slowly gets accustomed to her new school, her new room proves to be a problem as as she finds ghosts hiding in her closet. When the Indian Monkey God “Hanuman” flies in to put the closet creatures at rest, she thinks all is well, only to realize it takes much more than simply appealing to Lord Hanuman!! If your little one complains of strange noises that only he can hear….this is your Hanuman!!

I next read “The Happiest Tree” by Uma Krishnaswami and illustrated by Ruth Jayaveeran. Meena is a young girl of Indian origin living in the US, who laments that she is too clumsy for a class play. Unable to stand still even for a moment, she fears she’ll only embarrass herself while playing the role of tree in Red Riding hood’s forest. On her usual trip to the Indian grocery with her mother, she is surprised to see a roomful of people with their feet high up in the air and held still in a class called Yoga. Encouraged by her mother, she signs up for children’s Yoga. Unsure at first, Meena finds her inflexible body often losing balance in the class. With a little guidance from Vohra aunty, she perseveres her way into mastering the art of breathing in and out and thereby gaining control over her mind and her body. This book chronicles a young girl’s journey of overcoming her inner fears and building self-control and confidence with the help of Yoga. Though a nice little book featuring the world renowned Indian discipline as seen from a child’s perspective, I felt Abhay will be able to appreciate this more when he’s older. The only thing he remarked after I read the book was that the people in the class seemed to be doing the same thing as his dad. Not bad.....even if his dad cant remember when he last did Yoga….his son remembers!!!