Tuesday, 30 April 2013

When Life Isn't So Damn Daily

My dad was riding along the crazy, overcrowded, polluted streets yesterday, trying not to die from a heat stroke or an accident.

Suddenly he was flagged down by an overweight cop.

"Follow that bike!" shouted the cop (in Hindi, I assume).

My dad is always up for a challenge. So off he sped. Unfortunately the two wheeler my dad rides is not used to carrying two grown men, one of whom had the archetypal Bollywood Indian cop belly. So maybe 'sped' is an exaggeration. Still, it went.

My dad missed his turn, still chasing the bad guy. (We'll go with the assumption that the cop was the good guy.) How often does a guy get to be a part of a highway chase?

Finally they caught up. The cop jumped off, and caught his guy.

My dad returned to life as usual. He had no idea what the bad guy's crime was. 'His not to reason why/His but to do and die.'


I got a call a few days ago. Wait, this is actually unusual. Either due to my introvert personality or my inability to process audio information, I hate talking on the phone. Texting or face to face conversations work much better. Most people know this, so they don't call. I wouldn't be able to tell you what my ringtone sounds like.

Anyway, back to the unusual occurrence of my phone ringing. I subdued my initial urge to ignore it.


"Hi, this is Blank."

"Blank who?"

"(Nervous laughter) Blank Blankity, of course."

"Sorry, I know so many Blanks... What's up?"

"Nothing... I just wanted to talk to you about something. Could we meet? It'll just take fifteen minutes."

I hardly knew Blank at all. He was in fact a guy from my sister's past (past being the operative word here), and we had just bumped into each other after Mass the previous week.

Mystified, I agreed.

He turned up that evening, and handed me a fancy looking bag which contained a box of Ferrero Rochers. (I just had to look up that spelling, and found out that it's Italian chocolate.)

He sat in my living room for a while, while I talked too much. He said he was interested in supporting the volunteer work that I do for the church, since 'things were going well' for him. After he left, I reviewed. Random guy turns up, gives me chocolate and offers me a donation.

I do have an interesting life.

Of course, my suspicions were confirmed about his motives when he called my sister the next day to try to meet her, and after being deflected, TURNED UP AT OUR DOORSTEP.... WITH HIS MOTHER.

Fine, my sister's life is more interesting than mine. But at least I got the Ferrero Rochers.

(I need to exercise.)

Friday, 26 April 2013

Seven Quick Takes 3: Beauty and Good Stories


So I have come to the conclusion that my blog lacks beauty. I originally decided I didn't want to post pictures, because it's so much easier to post pictures than actually write. I know how tempting it is to post a cheery 'Here you go- A thousand words' to disguise my real message of  'I'm too lazy or sleepy to gather my thoughts and write a real blog post'. But then Grace said she doesn't read blogs without pictures, so I gave up my high-minded principles. Here's beauty (Free haiku included):

Outside my window 
Who would guess
Chaos lies below?


Something I usually enjoy getting from blogs I read are links to interesting or well-written articles... with a good description that gives me a reson to click on the link. Jennifer Fulwiler often does it, and even has another website completely devoted to links. 

So every now and again, I think I will do the same. Here's the first one- My $3 Lesson in Christianity.

Matthew Archbold doesn't usually write a lot of personal stories. This is an encounter he had with real Christian love at a train station in the South (of America). It's the kind of story you can't stop yourself from describing as 'heartwarming'. A real story, real people, real Christianity. This is where theology stops being something you read about, and something you start living. I wish more Catholics would write like this. I wish I did.


Speaking of telling good stories, nothing beats reading aloud to a bunch of wide-eyed, fascinated kids. Yup, it was story time with our crazy slum summer club children. I think I would like to be a professional storyteller. It's a little bit like weaving magic spells (you know, the good non-evil type of magic) and drawing children into another world. I love watching their expressions as they unconsciously mimic mine.

Notice all the brown-skinned characters I put in? Why do all our storybooks and fairies and princesses have white skin? Even 'skin colour' in crayon boxes is peach! Not MY skin colour!


Here's another great story- Stone Soup from Abigail's Alcove.

What do you do when you are out of food, and you're willing to be creative (and humble)? Throw a Stone Soup party, of course! This is an easily readable real life parable, and with a message so apt for people trying to follow Jesus: "I used to think that I had to put on my best thoughts and feelings before I talked to Jesus. Sort of like putting on a nice dress to go to church. I didn't dare talk to Jesus when I was angry, bitter, put out or feeling stepped on...."

"I gave Jesus my smallest, meanest prayer to have a better relationship with Person X," I said. "The poorer the prayer the more He responds with grace and spiritual gifts!"

I'm the queen of small, mean prayers, so I know exactly what she's talking about.


Okay, more beauty.

This is where I'm heading with my family to escape the summer heat. It's every bit as cool and refreshing and green as it looks. Oh yeah.


Here's an old favourite- The Story of a Friendship by Jennifer Fulwiler.

Another story about Christianity in real life with a helping of small, mean prayers- and 'the fingerprints of God are all over this situation'. Annoying kids who ring the doorbell as a prank to annoy tired mother. Who'd have thunk God could forge a beautiful friendship out of that?


What, we aren't done yet? Looks like I'm going to have start using my camera a little more often. Okay, number 7 is for you.

Do you have any favourite stories out there on the world wide web? The ones I've used are stories I saved years ago, and pulled out of my dusty 'Good Reads' folder just for you. Do you have any I can add?

And we're done! Head over to Jennifer's blog for more Quick Takes.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

What's In a Hug?

I'm not a very physical person. Most Indians aren't. Spontaneous hugs are pretty unusual. It's not a part of our culture. Or most Indian family cultures. (Ooh look, I DO have something in common with most Indians.) I still remember a friend casually draping her arm around me when I was 14... and how strange I found it. 'Free Hugs' would not be a good idea on an Indian street.

Indians not only avoid hugs, but often even handshakes. At Mass, we fold our hands and bow slightly, in the 'Namaste' posture at the sign of peace.

There are people who hug. But some huggers repel me- because their hugs are fake. They don't mean what they're supposed to mean. Sometimes they create a false sense of closeness. I can't hug you if I don't know you. Or they remind me of air kisses. I can't hug you if you're just hugging me because that's what your social convention tells you to do. The kind of hug says a lot about what's in your mind. If it's brief, controlled, tense... it's not a real hug. Just say hi instead.

And then there are the creepy guy-huggers, who use hugs to force intimacy on unwary girls. Ugh. Keep away from me. Hugs from people who are not used to hugging as a healthy way of expressing affection are creepy hugs. I'd rather get an awkward shoulder pat than a creepy hug.

The wrong kind of hugs make me want to stay away from hugs. But also, I'm just not a hugger.

But here's the thing. We NEED hugs. I need hugs.

Well, we need whatever a hug really is. What is a hug? What's happens when one person envelops another in their arms?

Contact. Physical affirmation that I'm not alone. Connection, Intimacy. Touch. One-ness. Being drawn out of 'me' into 'us'. Community. A taste of being loved- One of the most basic human needs. A glimpse of heaven.* Being drawn out of isolation. An unspoken 'I'm with you'.

After my two nieces came into my life, I learned a lot more about how important meaningful physical contact is... for them and for me.

My three year old niece is not a hugger. She's kind of like me- does her own thing, will only love on her own terms, when she feels like it, how she feels like it. When I beg for a hug, she runs away and flashes that mischievous grin at me. She doesn't cling, or beg to be carried all the time.

But after a while she comes to me.

"Now I'll be your baby. With a blanket."

At first, I wasn't sure what the game involved. She curled up in my arms, her body cradled against mine, a bed sheet wrapped around her. And that was it. She stayed there for fifteen minutes, occasionally cooing a little. And then she continued with life as usual. Every time we hang out, we have to play 'baby' for a while. She found a way to soak up the love, the closeness, the physical reminder of a deeper truth- she is loved.

I need to find a way to get that more often. And give that more often. Even if it's not my default impulse.

Betty Duffy recently wrote an blog post called 'Strength for loving':
Before my husband leaves for work, I have recently begun asking for a hug. My husband and I both are life-long touch-me-nots. We've often congratulated ourselves on this feature in our relationship–” Aren't you glad we don’t have to touch each other all the time? How do people get anything done?”
Lately, however, it has become essential for me to be wrapped in someone and something bigger than myself. I just want to get to the core of us, where the presence, God-willing, sometimes is.  
 At the Resurrection Christ told Mary Magdalene “Stop hanging onto me.” And my husband occasionally follows in the footsteps of the Lord. “How long is this going to take?” he wants to know. He’s holding a cup of coffee, which I take and set on the counter. At this point I have often not dressed or brushed my teeth. I’m still wearing my glasses, and I can see that this is a great sacrifice for him to be receptive to this outside object interfering with his forward motion. Inertia is the enemy of love.
“Ten seconds,” I say, as he submits, possibly counting inwardly. “It’s good for me. It’s probably good for you too.”

I am recalling the Irish brogue of a priest I once heard talking about men who have forgotten how “to use their strong arms for loving.”
Strength is for loving. And those ten seconds supply me with most of my needs for the day. I recall this sensation, when the little boy with the lego tractor has been following me around the room. Anywhere I sit down, he sits down too. 
“Don’t you want to play?” I ask him.
“No.” He weasels his feet under my thigh, which feels irritating to me. Toes pinch.
So I put down what I’m holding, whatever it is, and hug him for ten seconds. Unlike some of my other kids, he doesn't protest. Then he slips to the floor, tractor in hand, and pushes it out of the room. (Read the whole thing here.)

Go hug someone today.

*"Heaven is a hug that lasts forever." Says Family Circus.
**"We need 4 hugs a day for survival. We need 8 hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth." Says Virgina Satir, a psychotherapist

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Tolerance Vs. Love

Always something new to learn in India: One of my ex-students applying mehendi to my hand

Tolerance is the highest virtue in India. I know that it is a reaction to problems between religious communities, riots, etc. So we learn during our Value Education class in school that we should tolerate different religions, customs, cultures, etc. You do it your way, I do it mine. No one is better, no one is worse. Unity in diversity. All that stuff.

Tolerance is good if it means accepting difference, and not expecting everyone to be a clone of you. India is blessed with diversity. There is always something new to learn, a dish to taste, a celebration to enjoy, an insight to appreciate. If tolerance means accepting that 'different' is not always 'bad', then yay tolerance!

But is tolerance meaning 'who can say what's right or wrong, so let's all just get along' always right? (Yes, I see the problem with that question- IS there even a 'right' in most people's idea of tolerance?)

Sometimes you need a little intolerance. Evil should never be tolerated. Nobody says, "I don't agree with it personally, but everyone has to make their own choices" when they hear about rape.

So I suppose what it comes down to is what we consider 'evil'. But at least the tolerance-preachers should agree that even they don't tolerate some things. Illiteracy, poverty, inequality, injustice, dowry-deaths, female infanticide, domestic abuse, yeah, let's not tolerate those 'differences'.

The other question is- is tolerance always loving?

Christians are called to more than tolerance. Tolerance is the lowest level of coexistence. I can watch people make bad choices, hurt themselves, and 'tolerate' them. That's actually a LOT easier than love. In fact, as an introvert who hates initiating social contact, tolerance sounds awesome! It's none of my business, AND LOOK, I'M SO TOLERANT!

Many years ago when I was a child, we had a watchman who lived with his family in a small shack next to our apartment building. He had a drinking problem. One night we heard his drunken shouting and the terrified screams of his wife as he hit her.

Tolerance said "It's his family, his life. We shouldn't interfere."

Love said, in the voice of my mum to my dad, "Do something!"

Some of the men from my building went with my dad, and stopped him.

If I really love my neighbour, I want what is best for them. Of course, most people say that we don't know what's best for them. As Christians though, that's part of our faith. That Jesus IS best for them. That if Jesus is true for anyone anywhere, then Jesus is true for everyone everywhere.

So love forces me to move beyond tolerance: to gently propose the truths of Christianity to those who are open to listening, to offer to pray for those who struggle, to listen to the questioners, to guide the confused, to speak and defend the truth lovingly, even when it's easier to opt out. I do not impose, I merely propose. I may not win applause for my efforts. But love means that I'll do it anyway.

Love trumps tolerance.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Being Three

Hanging out with my three year old niece is always entertaining. We were ‘playing’ in her room, which consisted of me lying down, and being alternately tucked in by her, and being commanded to “Wake up! It’s morning!” Finally she lay down with me, and the following conversation ensued.

She: It’s your birthday party. I’ll call all your friends.

Me: How many friends?

She (thinks): Two.

Me: Just two?

She: Three!

Me: Just three?

And so on, till she got the go ahead with 100 invitees.

Me: What will we do at my birthday party?

She: Eat lunch!

Me: What else will we do at the party apart from eating lunch?

She: Sleep!

She knows me too well.

Me: What will we eat?

She: Noo-dulls! (Accent derived from play school friends)

Me: Just noodles? What else?

She (thinks): Chicken!

Me: I like it. What else?

She (getting louder and more emphatic): ONIONS!

Me: What about dessert?


Me: What will we drink?

She: BEER!!!


Friday, 19 April 2013

Seven Quick Takes #3

 -- 1 --

So now procrastination has become the latest thing, what with Grace following in Jen's footsteps and posting the 7QT links in reverse order. Good thing today was the day I was too busy with real life to have an early edition of 7QT all ready to post at 12 am. Now the real question is, is it worth it to wait till the end of the day (tomorrow morning for me) to link this, or just deal with getting lost in the middle of the MANY linked blog posts? Decisions, decisions. #firstworldproblemsinthirdworldcountries (<-- that's definitely going to be a post some time.)

 -- 2 --

Has anyone NOT heard about Gosnell by now? Is there anything new to say? People are asking good questions already. I think my primary feeling is that we need to be storming heaven, because this could be the moment that could change hearts... or make monsters. 'If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.' I wonder how many Germans in Nazi Germany had to face this moment- when they realized the horror of what was really happening behind the smooth propaganda, and had to make a choice to get out (and face the consequences) or compromise their souls forever. Like Peter Singer and others, whose philosophy justifies infanticide.

I do believe that most pro-choicers don't really know what they're supporting. But maybe they do now, what with breathing babies having their skulls crushed, spinal cords snipped with a pair of scissors, dead bodies blocking up toilets, severed limbs, and other nausea-inducing details. And of course the question is going to arise- what's the big difference to doing it to babies outside the womb or inside the womb?

I was curious about what the mainstream media was now saying about Gosnell, and I found this NYT opinion piece, It ends with:
To respond effectively to the doubts about abortion that fetal snipping summons up, pro-choice advocates would need arguments that (to rephrase Senior’s language) acknowledge and come to terms with the goriness of third-trimester abortions while simultaneously persuading the conflicted and uncommitted of their validity, and that somehow take ownership of the “violence” and “gruesomeness” of abortion (to borrow Harris’s words) without giving aid and comfort to the pro-life cause. And in the absence of such arguments, the pro-choice response to Gosnell feels either evasive and euphemistic, or else logically consistent in ways that tend to horrify the unconvinced — and in either case, inadequate to the challenge his case presents to the cause of abortion rights. But of course it’s possible that those arguments are absent because they simply don’t exist.
-- 3 --

Something the Gosnell trial brings to the front of my mind, once again, is that evil really does exist. Sin exists. They're nor just accidents, or mistakes, or bad choices. We don't know each person's culpability, but hard, cold facts like this sure force us to lose the rose-tinted glasses that make us think we're all basically good people, and we're doing fine.

-- 4 --

I'm going to stop talking about Gosnell. But not thinking. Or praying. Okay, that's a lie. I'm going to start praying. Once I take a nap.

-- 5 --

I was reading an article about Pope Francis and there was a quote from 2011 that I found quite interesting-
In a revealing interview in 2011 with the news agency AICA, then-Cardinal Bergoglio was asked about the Catholic laity in Argentina, and he answered with these words: “We priests tend to clericalize the laity.We do not realize it, but it is as if we infect them with our own disease.And the laity — not all, but many — ask us on their knees to clericalize them, because it is more comfortable to be an altar server than the protagonist of a lay path. We cannot fall into that trap —it is a sinful complicity.”
Of course, he wasn't saying that altar servers are not doing something good and useful, but as one commenter put it, 'I understand His Holiness to be saying that it's easy to be an altar server, extraordinary minister of the Eucharist, Lector, Cantor, chorister (as am I - in fact I have been most of these) instead of proclaiming the Gospel in the workplace, our favorite bar/restaurant/social club, family friends and society in general. I think he's challenging me to not see the more or less "internal" ministries if you will, as sufficient. I might do all those things, but, I still fall short of my vocation as a layperson if I do not then, "go in peace to love and serve the Lord" outside the confines of my parish building - outside the relatively safe environs of the comfortable community, even while being a real evangelizing force even there, where so much complacency and dissent still prevails. My true vocation is less proclaiming the Word in the Church and far more to proclaim and live it everywhere else.'

I agree. Mission and service is more than reading at Mass. Especially in India, we tend to stay in our little in-group, and think we're doing good. Mission means 'being sent OUT'!

-- 6 --

Speaking about mission, I'm super excited about a short summer programme I'm organizing in a slum close to my home. In spite of cramped quarters, paint everywhere, crazy kids and an opportunity for everyone to laugh at my pathetic Hindi skills, it's been going well. You know how people say that Jesus came for the poor and the rich, that we should reach out to the rich too? Well, my theory is that you go to the rich... and take them to the poor. Both will be changed.

-- 7 --

I want to do more exercises in creativity with kids. In most Indian schools, uniformity is far more important than creativity. So 'art class' meant the teacher drew a picture on the blackboard, and everyone copied it as best they could. I kid you not. That was my experience through my entire school life. You ask most Indian kids to draw a picture, and guess what they'll draw? The SAME picture- hills in the background, sun peeping out, trees in the middle and river in the front. And blue clouds. (Why doesn't anyone look upwards and nptice the blue SKY and white CLOUDS??) Thankfully, we didn't get that today during our t shirt painting activity. We did however get two Angry Birds, one 'I love Michel Jackson' and another 'I love Miachael'. They know who Michael Jackson is? I guess I should be surprised I didn't get any Bieber fans.

Well, I guess those 'quick' takes didn't exactly live up to the name. Oh well, next time.

Grace once again is the enthusiastic hostess of Seven Quick Takes this week. 

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Reason #1001 to Learn Hindi

So I don't tell the painter working in our house to close the windows.... because the fish might come in.

Machhar = Fish
Machli = Mosquito


Wednesday, 17 April 2013


A few days ago my mum asked me if I prayed before I wrote.

Ah, here she goes trying to find some standard I haven't lived up to, some arbitrary rule that I haven't obeyed, my defensive subconscious grumbled.

I launched into an answer justification defence. "I don't need to pray specifically before I write. I pray in the morning, and then everything I do is influenced by that. I don't pray before every action I do, I just do them. That doesn't mean I'm not allowing the Holy Spirit to inspire me."

I'm sure other awesome bloggers don't pray before they write. They just wait around for an awesome idea to strike... and then they type away. Or they wait until a deadline is on them. And they write. Right?

Yesterday I was listening to an old EWTN Life on the Rock podcast with Jennifer Fulwiler. Right at the beginning, she is asked,

"Do you pray before you write?"

"I do, I try to. (....) I really try to, because if it's coming from me and not the Holy Spirit, then you know, that's not what I'm trying to do here."

You know?

Of course, when I think about the wide scope of blogs, the many (countless as the sand on the sea shore*) thoughts in my mind, my inability to focus, and the tendency of every human (especially human bloggers and human FB status-writers) to think our every random observation ("I've noticed that my left toenails grow fractionally slower than my right ones**") is in some way phenomenally important to the human race, then it seems pretty obvious that I need a little guidance about what aspects of my 'reality' I write about. A brief "Come, Holy Spirit" doesn't cost me much. Except my pride.

Sue eats humble pie.

* I love misquoting bible verses.
** That's not really true, fascinating and phenomenally important as such an observation  might be.

Monday, 15 April 2013

Summer Solutions

It is the height of summer in India. It hit 40° today. That's 104° F in Americanese. The kind of heat that drains you, weakens you, takes away your appetite, and shortens your temper. The kind of heat that makes 5 pm feel like noon. We don't have an air conditioner. If it's hot outside, it's hot inside. Not as hot as the slum-dwellers with their tin roofs, but still pretty hot.

Our philosophy for the summer is: just wait it out. Of course my dad loved to say things like, "It's all in the mind! You're only hot because you think you're hot. Think cool!" especially when we were kids complaining about the heat. You can imagine how much THAT cooled us down.

These are some of our other summer solutions:

Drink a lot, eat a little. This summer Tang has become our new favourite drink, thanks to a sale at the local supermarket. But my mother wins our hearts every summer with the cool concoctions she comes up with. Panna, a sweet and sour drink made from raw mango pulp, boiled with sugar, cooled and mixed with milk.
Lassi is curd (yogurt) mixed with sugar and ice.
Limboo-pani is lime juice. Or literally, lime-water.

Shut out the heat. As soon as it's close to noon, we shut all the windows, draw the curtains and wait for the house to cool down a little. You wouldn't have thought that shutting air out would make a house cooler, but when the air is scorching, hot air....

Wet the curtains.When I was younger and more energetic, I would get mugs of water from the bathroom and douse the curtains, hoping that the water evaporating would cool the room down. It did, a little.

When it got really bad, we would even sprinkle our beds with water. Or sponge ourselves with wet cloths. We'd cool down for a few minutes until the water evaporated.

My sister occasionally would brave the mosquitoes, and sleep in the balcony, where it was a little cooler. Heat versus mosquitoes seems to be a recurrent theme in my life. Or she would sleep on the tile floors, which really are cooler than our beds.

By May, we've had enough. We take off for the hills, spending a couple of weeks at a little cottage perched on a cliff, owned by my great-uncle. It is cool there, and you almost forget the heat of the city.

By the time we get back, we just have to wait a few more weeks before the welcome, sweet rain of the monsoons descends and washes the dust and heat away.

Oh, India.

Friday, 12 April 2013

Seven Quick Takes the Second


It's kind of funny that last week I was all revved up about 7QT. I had just started my blog and was rubbing my hands together with satisfaction, because I knew I could easily be among the first few posters on Jennifer's links (because midnight in the US is 10.30 am in India), and would thus win many visitors to my blog AND BECOME A WORLDWIDE BLOGGING SENSATION.

And then... she figures out how to reverse the order of links, and declares it Procrastinator's Week! What! I'm a procrastinator! It's not fair!

I'm sure there's a lesson in there somewhere.


Have you ever heard of Mrs. George de Horne Vaizey? (Heavens, what a name!  Why wouldn't she have chosen 'Jessie Bell'- her REAL name?)

She's an author my sister recently discovered who writes a lot like Louisa May Alcott and Georgette Heyer. Her books are by no means high literature, they are very similar to each other, and you forget the plot pretty soon after reading the book.

And yet... her books seem so familiar, like crawling into your own bed on a cold night. (Don't ask me why I'm writing about cold nights when the temperatures in India are soaring.) She writes about girls, and big families. Maybe the heart of a girl hasn't significantly changed over the past 100 years. She talks about God and right and wrong and girls' faults in a very unsubtle way, and yet, at the end of her books I am inspired to be a better person. Such an unusual experience. :-)


I think Jen came up with 7QT for people with minuscule attention spans. I feel the need to start each one with  'On a related note, ' or 'Speaking of...'. But I can't, because my mind has skipped on, merrily forgetting about what I was just talking about.

I know that short attention spans are the curse of the modern age, and are definitely related to the easy access of too much information at one time via the Internet. The thing is, I don't want to do away with the Internet. Plus, I can't really. Unless I was a superhero/super-villain who's mission was 'to destroy the internet'. Which would make a good movie, no?

So, readers, do you have any helpful hints about how to build focus and grow attention spans? It seems like a losing battle sometimes. And I don't even have the excuse of being a mother.


So I was going to share some of my favourite (<---British spelling) blogs with you... and then I realized I had already put them in my sidebar. Do people actually notice those things? In case they don't, here's a really good writer who doesn't seem to update her blog very often, maybe because she's too busy living her life... and writing a book! Meet kassie. And read this blog post- Soup and Selling Out. Been there so many times.  By the grace of God, have responded differently... some of those times. Also, this one- Breakups and Bagels: The Day I Became a Feminist. I actually read it aloud to my sister the day I found her blog.


Did you like Kassie's short and sweet and uncluttered blog name: kassie.? Coming up with a blog name is hard. You tend to think about other people's blog names, plus your own indecisiveness about the theme or focus of the blog, and come up with something like: 'Sipping Masala Chai and Ruminating about Life.' 'My Thoughts on Everything'. 'Random Musings about My Life'. 'A Little Bit of Everything'.

Here's a secret- I most likely wouldn't read a blog with any of those names. No offence to anyone whose blog names are eerily similar to my rejected options. I sympathize... but it doesn't work. Unless of course you don't care about people reading your blog. In which case, why don't you just have a REAL (offline,  made of real paper, pretty, cloth-bound) journal?


You know, I often get annoyed when people say things like "God loves me! I got a parking spot just when I needed it!" Does that mean if you hadn't got the parking lot, God didn't love you? (And yes I know I get annoyed way too easily, and seem to be looking for a fight if I can take offence at such an innocent statement.) Yes, God gives us exactly what we want sometimes.... and sometimes He doesn't. Sometimes He says "Ah hah! What an awesome opportunity this is to grow my little girl's patience, not to mention allow her to lovingly offer up this small inconvenience for someone else's intentions.* I love her so much!"
Yup, God hasn't forgotten you, or gotten busy. Nor is He punishing you because He's in a vindictive mood. Sometimes He allows irritating people, inconvenient occurrences, bad weather, mosquitoes keeping you (me) up all night.... BECAUSE He loves you. We're supposed to say 'Thank You, Lord!' regardless.


Prayer request: Please pray for Jennifer Fulwiler's baby boy. He has breathing trouble, and they can't release him from the hospital yet. Please pray that he can be re-united to his Mama (and the rest of his family) soon.

I love seeing how Jennifer's blog has formed a community- people who encourage each other, pray for each other, and even send practical help in the form of donations when Jennifer was struggling the most.

Visit Grace's blog for this week's Quick Takes!

*Suffering is the currency of the Kingdom. Said someone. Google doesn't know, so how should I?

Thursday, 11 April 2013

How to Lose a Guy in 10 Minutes: The Christian Version

I love to tell people what is wrong with them, how to live their lives and how to achieve true happiness. In other words, be bossy, condescending and overall annoying. People say guys can’t listen to a problem without immediately jumping in and giving advice.

Well, I go a step further- I can’t listen to ANYTHING without jumping and giving advice. Now before you judge me, let me tell you that this is the old version of Sue. My younger siblings have done their bit to curb my annoying-ness, and with age and maturity (stop snickering), I believe I have gotten a little better.

But sometimes, just sometimes, being insensitive and pushy can be a very good thing. Yes, I’m talking about getting rid of unwanted admirers.

I recently saw a guy who I had written off a few years ago for various reasons including the fact that he had been hitting on my sister and me at the same time, had posted an inappropriate graphic to her FB page, and was generally dense and pretty annoying. Unfortunately he made a beeline for me, and I couldn't escape because my equally dense brother and cousin re-introduced me to him.

Now how to say, “I am really, really, really not interested in responding to your advances, which you should actually know from the fact that I dropped many unsubtle hints years ago” in a socially acceptable and Christian way? I do realize that annoying guys are people too. And I would even be willing to be ‘just friends’, or possibly ‘just casual acquaintances who are interested in each other’s lives in a totally non-romantic way’, if that were an option. With normal guys, they read the signs, and that’s how it works out. But not this guy.

Girls all over the world have had to develop their own techniques. My method was to have a normal conversation... and then let myself go. This is kind of how it went.

Blah, blah, inanities...

He: I go to Mass sometimes (I don’t know how this came up, maybe throwing that in because I’m so ‘religious’)

Me: Going to Mass sometimes is not enough. You have to put God first.

He: Yes, yes... I pray that God will keep me safe every time before I (do dangerous and cool things that are apparently a part of his job)

Me: That’s good, but it’s still not enough. What are you living your life for? People can use their life for all sorts of things, but what is the purpose of our life? God needs to be at the center. (Warming up) There’s this quote I once heard that a Christian martyr in Ecuador said: “People ask me why I am wasting my life. I tell them everyone is wasting their life on something and when the bubble of this earthly life bursts, WHAT WILL THEY HAVE LEFT OF ETERNAL SIGNIFICANCE?”


Even I would have run away from a guy who said that to me in a the first five minutes of a casual conversation at a church social event. Talk about coming on too strong. When I told my siblings, they were speechless with either disbelief or admiration.

 Yup, I lost him in ten minutes.

Disclaimer: I actually did believe what I was saying, but I was at least half aware that that was not the time or place. And I actually do love that quote, so I know I shouldn't have wasted it on chasing away guys. I guess my thoughts at that time were 50% chance this will make him start thinking about God and 50% chance it will make him go away. Win-win.

Monday, 8 April 2013

Social Awkwardness: The Confession Stories

My biggest phobia since I was pretty young was socially awkward situations. Some people aren't affected by awkwardness. They walk into the awkward situation... and embrace the awkwardness. Or shrug it off, one of the two. I used to feel embarrassed to the roots of my very being. It was like I was blushing from the inside out. (Indian skin doesn't show blushes very well. Which I would count as a very good thing.)

Over the years, I learned to cope a little better with possibly socially awkward situations... mostly by avoiding them. Or pushing them to the back of my mind, so I don't think about them for years. Another great way to deal with such situations is to blog about them. Also, it helps to throw in the word' awkward' as much as possible.

You, lucky reader, get to be embarrassed WITH me! Now, when I experience awkwardness, I think, "This would make a great story!"

One of the best opportunities for social awkwardness for Catholics are Confessions. I mean, saying your sins aloud to a stranger (even though he is the representative of Christ, who isn't a stranger at all) is awkward in itself, but then you thrown in a dose of ME, and it just gets.... horribly awkward.

A couple of years ago I was about to go for Confession in an unfamiliar church. I've hardly ever used confessionals, usually I seem to be sitting in a chair close to the priest. (On one occasion, I was in a car in the parking lot of an airport. )

Anyway, I saw the line of people waiting to go in, so I waited in a pew. From where I was, it looked like there were two doors, and I saw people going in through both doors, so I assumed there were two priests, which made sense with the number of people waiting. Finally I saw someone emerge from one door, and I entered, and knelt down.

I peered through the grill, but didn't see a thing. "Is this normal?" I wondered. It was kind of dim. And I couldn't hear anything. "Do I wait for him to say something, or should I just start?" I was already hot and uncomfortable. I think what makes me feel the worst is when I'm not sure WHAT I'm supposed to.

So... I just started.

"Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. I last made my Confession in ...."

Without the slightest acknowledgement from the priest, I kept talking. I could hear the murmur of the other priest and confessor from the other side. But not a peep out of mine.Why didn't I just stop? Well, I didn't know what to say. "Father, are you there? Can you hear me? Because it feels like I'm talking to myself." Yeah, no. I just couldn't.

You are wincing, waiting to hear the worst, aren't you?

I WAS talking to myself.

But not quite. It turned out that there was just. one. priest. He took it in turns to turn to first one side of the confessional, and then the other. I was basically doing a run through of my entire confession. Aloud. But what was really awkward was that it was quite possible that while I was talking, the priest COULD hear me... and so could the other confessor.

Collective awkward wince, everyone.

I'm going to count it as a victory that I kept my cool, swallowed my embarrassment, and made my entire (identical) confession to the same priest a few minutes later, after I realized my mistake, and the grill really went up.

This story has no moral. 

Friday, 5 April 2013

Seven Quick Takes- The Beginning


This is NOT my first Seven Quick Takes. But it is my first Seven Quick Takes on this (very new) blog. I've actually been reading Conversion Diary since it was Et Tu, and since I started reading blogs. That’s a long time- six or seven years, I think. Is it creepy for Jennifer Fulwiler that there’s this random girl in India who knows how she feels about scorpions, that her fourth child’s nickname is Joy and that she was once the number one Google link that came up for ‘socially awkward person’? This is why the Internet is scary. Or wonderful, whichever.

The other day I had to explain to a friend what a blog was. “So anybody can know what’s in your mind? Anyone can know details about you?” I explained that I don’t put details like my full name, address or anything that could endanger me. But yes, everyone can know what I’m thinking. That’s kind of the point. But just for a moment, I saw ‘blogs’ through the eyes of a very private, very cautious person. It does seem kinda crazy, especially in a country where a Facebook status-opinion can get you arrested. Good thing I don’t want to live my life scared.


Talking about creepy Indian trends- After the horrific Delhi rape case, local authorities are trying to do something. Guess what they’ve come up with so far? In order to ‘keep women safe’, we have women banned from wearing jeans, curfew zones,  etc. Here’s a novel idea—instead of trying to control women’s movements, how ‘bout we arrest the messed up men in the streets in the buses and on the trains ‘eve-teasing’ women going about their business? I’m all about modesty, but seriously, the way a woman dresses is NEVER EVER EVER an excuse for abuse. A woman never ‘asks for it’. The amount of ridiculous reasoning to excuse rape is terrifying. An entire mindset has to be changed. The government has even said that marital rape doesn’t count as rape. “If you’re married, that’s allowed.” OHMYFREAKINGGOODNESS! Seriously? It’s more than a little scary to be a woman in India—and I’m probably one of the minority who has my own vehicle, doesn’t need to travel by public transport or at night, lives in a family where I feel completely protected and safe, and has a choice about who I marry, and if, and when.


Okay, just so I stop freaking myself (and you) out, let’s have an abrupt change of topic. If you’re a mother, or have a mother, watch this. (I know, I know, 99 % of mothers on the Internet have seen this already, but this for the other 1%, because it’s worth it.)


 I like Joshua Radin. And Audrey Assad. And my new running shoes (that I haven’t used yet). I made tortillas for Easter. Yay Mexico. You may ask why I’m telling you these things. It’s because I deleted my Facebook, and I no longer can update my status with completely useless information every few hours. That’s my secret reason for starting the blog—it’s a Facebook replacement.


 Most people who do 7QT seem fried by the mental energy required to come up with SEVEN random things. How hard can it be, people? Your mind easily skips through seven random things at Mass when you’re supposed to be focussing on the homily. Maybe you’re over-thinking it. (And that was six. Phew.)


 So as you know this is a NEW (but very hopeful) blog. So go ahead and read the first three posts- Why ‘Keeping It Real’, Why ‘Not Very Indian’ and my post about my family's frugal ways... and do your good deed for the day and write a comment (or three). As a lurker and non-commenter of many years on many a blog, I realize I don’t deserve commenters. But grace! And mercy! And eradicating the pathetic-ness of a blogger who asks questions and doesn’t get any answers! Like talking to an empty room. Or to a full room of people with their arms folded and stony expressions on their faces. I know it’s not really like that, but that’s what it LOOKS like.

 Also, for more fascinating (but often random) Quick Takes, head over to the wise, witty and socially-awkward Jen at Conversion Diary.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Seven Ways We Made Frugality a Way of Life or Yes, My Family is Weird

So nowadays everybody's all about making good use of our resources, caring for the environment, not wasting stuff, reducing one's carbon footprint, reduce, reuse, recycle, etc. They think this is a new concept. They haven't met my family. While our family is usually known as the 'crazy Christian family with five kids', most people don't know that we are also the Original Recycling Family.

This might be because we didn't have a lot of extra money growing up, or maybe it's because my dad is a Packrat. I don't know what else contributed to it., but this is my life:

1. A spatula is essential when you are transferring leftover food into a smaller dish after a meal. Not a drop of curry, not a grain of rice must be left behind. It's like the few grains of rice at the bottom of the dish are crying out "Don't throw me away! Eat me! Eat me! There are starving children in India!" Even the thought of throwing away excess food would make one shudder.

2. Food that smells a a little funny will be eaten by my dad, who has an iron stomach. It goes against the grain to throw away even possibly spoiled food. If we absolutely HAVE to (more than three people have pronounced it bad and made gagging noises), you can see the look of pain on my parents' faces as they empty it into the trash.

3. Random leftovers will be recycled as omelettes or cutlets. Yes, I've had some pretty strange omelets, including pork vindaloo omelets, salad omelets, cauliflower and bean omelets. Yum.

4. Stale bread is dried out and saved in a special dabba, and eventually ground to use as breadcrumbs. Imagine my shock when I found that some people BUY breadcrumbs!!!

5. Lights are switched off as soon as we leave a room. Lights are NEVER left on overnight. Even if you know you're returning to a room in five minutes, you still switch off the light. Night lights? Never heard of them.

6. Milk packets are washed, dried and stored, and later used to store portions of raw meat in the freezer. We don't throw away plastic bags unless they're greasy, torn or absolutely unusable.

7. As kids, one of the reasons my mum objected to us buying packets of chips (apart from not being able to afford it with our Rs 5 a week pocket money) was "All that plastic thrown away for just one potato?!!! I can make homemade potato chips without creating so much garbage!" (You notice the objection wasn't on health grounds.) Almost all our snacks were homemade. We still feel slightly guilty when we buy a bag of chips.

Of course it wasn't until I grew up, and spent time living away from home that I realized that these (and our zillion other little waste not-want not habits) are not a normal part every household. I'm pretty grateful though, because it means being environmentally-friendly takes that much less adjustment. It's already a mindset.

Did your family have any unusual (read: weird) frugal habits?

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Why 'Not Very Indian'?

Where do I even start with this one?

First of all, I really am Indian. I promise. I may have some Portuguese and French-Lebanese blood (don't ask), but I'm still mostly Indian. (Definitely not pure-blood though.) However, my excuse for the following is of course the fact that India was a British colony for about three hundred years. Somewhere in my ancestry, my family became more British than Indian, and my very strange family culture is the result.

1. My first and only language is English. We speak 'the Queen's English', minus the accent. (Which is sad because I don't think it's racist to suggest that British accents seem cooler than Indian ones. Though less wise.) I did study Hindi and Marathi in school, but as my teachers assumed that OBVIOUSLY every Indian child in Maharashtra already KNEW Hindi and Marathi, they didn't actually teach the language, and I spent my entire school life faking my way through those classes.

2. ... Which means that I can't communicate with (or eavesdrop on) the man on the street unless he speaks some English, or very, very simple Hindi. (Actually as a female in India, I shouldn't communicate with the man on the street, but that's another post.) Yes, it's embarrassing. However, I promise I am working on it. I just started studying Hindi with an online language learning website. (Yeah, I know, real dedication.)

3. The kind of clothes that I grew up in, and feel the most normal in are 'Western' clothes- jeans, t-shirts, skirts, dresses, etc. My grandmother wore a saree for the first time at the age of sixty-something at her son's marriage to a Hindu girl. I do wear salwar kameezes sometimes, and sarees for very special occasions, but it definitely doesn't come naturally.

4. We haven't had an arranged marriage in three generations (and maybe more). The first thing you ask a new married friend in India is "Love or arranged?" When we tell people that not only did our parents but even our grandparents have 'love marriages', and that we don't even know HOW to arrange marriages, they immediately know us for what we are- fake Indians.

5. I wouldn't be able to name more than two or three old Bollywood movies, let alone quote them. On the other hand, I can sing most of the songs from Sound of Music, My Fair Lady, Fiddler on the Roof and Mary Poppins.

Okay, I'm sure you're convinced.

It's taken a while for me to work through this identity crisis of being Indian, but not feeling Indian, of feeling like a foreigner, but not having a foreign land to belong to (apart from British India). There is a lot of hostility towards the 'westernization' of India, so there is also a fair amount of guilt. Not to mention, I'm pretty sure my ancestors were the elite who didn't take part in India's freedom struggle.

But I've reached the stage where I realize my culture is both an inheritance, and a choice. I have received many good things from my ancestors (including my Catholic faith), which I want to keep, but I can also choose how I want my life to look and how integrated I want to be with the rest of India.

So, yes to Hindi lessons. No to arranged marriages.
Yes to a community-oriented life. No to dowry.
Yes to an interest in the details of other people's culture and traditions. No to polytheism.
Yes to working with and loving people who don't belong to the little group 'like' me. No to joining in on their poojas or going to their babus.
Yes to modesty. No to the caste system.
Yes to openness to spirituality. No to horoscopes.

There's so much more, but I'm still working on it. I'm only 27. I have my life ahead of me. It's going to be interesting.

Have you ever felt that you didn't quite fit in with the prevalent culture you grew up in?

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Why 'Keeping It Real'?

Once upon a time when I used to write for another blog, I felt crippled by having to present a particular image of myself and what I stood for. I wrote, but when I re-read my posts, even I was bored.

They were stilted.

They were overly formal.

They always had an oversimplified moral at the end.

They weren't real.

I'm not a big fan of 'fake it till you make it'. (Although I realize that there are different ways of understanding and interpreting that slogan, some of them good.)

I can't stand fake.

Fake smiles for photos. That's why I so often look grumpy or just plain strange in pictures.
Fake kisses and greetings, where your concern doesn't reach your eyes.
Fake or shallow interactions. This is one of the reasons introverts want to go hide somewhere when they are forced into surface-level social interactions.
Fake teeth. Just kidding, I don't really hate those.


When I think of the blogs I love, I realize they have one thing in common—they are all authentic. They are about real people in the real world.

The world thirsts for authenticity.¹

So I'm hoping to be real in this blog—real about my struggles as a Catholic learning to love, real about what it means to know and follow God, real about my questions, thoughts and ideas, and real about all the funny and awkward and strange and sad and wonderful events and people and stories that make up my life.

¹ Pope Benedict XVI "I think in particular of our need to speak to the hearts of young people, who, despite their constant exposure to messages contrary to the Gospel, continue to thirst for authenticity, goodness and truth."