Friday, 30 May 2014

Guess What I've Been Doing?

(In between many other things)

Yes, my copy of 'Something Other Than God' got here, and

I would read it on a train
I would read it in the rain
On a hill
In a tent
On a bench
On a couch
On a bed
On a bus
I would read it here or there
I would read it ANYWHERE!

And I did! And it was great! I promise to write more about it later. Now who wants to borrow it?

Monday, 19 May 2014

More Awkwardness

On Answering the Phone

This is me, when my phone rings.


Like Jordan in the video, "Oh no! My day is ruined! It was going so well before you called me and brought out all my insecurities and now I feel like an idiot! THANK you!" (Well, maybe not that bad, but close.)

Ignore it for a while, and hopes that it stops, and that the person on the other end changed their mind.

Try to think of good reasons why I don't need to answer.

Put phone on silent and leaves it lying around, so I won't even know when it rings.

If it's a number I don't know, I assume it's a wrong number, and also that if it's important enough, the person will text me. (What, isn't that normal?)

When I DO have to answer it, I use my perfected method of keeping to business, and smoothly ending the conversation ASAP!

"So, yeah, anyway, got to go, see ya, bye." Hang up with a giant sigh of relief.

On Hugging

When I have the choice, and I don't know the person well, I just don't. No hug is better than fake hug.

It's not that I don't like hugs. I just prefer REAL hugs. So if I don't know the person well enough for a real hug, but they expect me to hug them anyway... I fake it. And following the phone rule, get out of it ASAP.

Actually, this is my rule for all awkward situations: FAKE IT TILL YOU MAKE IT. (Says Sue of 'Keeping It Real' fame.)

Sending the Text to the Wrong Person

Thank the LORD this has not happened to me. However, it HAS happened to my brother more than once. And my over sensitive awkwardness phobia meter goes off the charts every time I even think of what happened, and I'M the one going "NO PLEASE GOD NO PLEASE BRING IT BACK NO NO NO WHYYYYY?"

I have often speculated on how horrible it would be to play a nasty prank on someone you know well where you got into their phone, and switched the numbers of their closest friend with the person they had a crush on. OHMYGOSH THE POTENTIAL AWKWARDNESS! I even stop a moment before I send texts like that, to contemplate how horrible it would be if it went to the wrong person.

Having to Ask What Someone Said the Second Time

I have mastered the art of noncommittally agreeing the second or third time I need someone to repeat something. I listen to the tone of their voice, judge whether it seemed like something I NEEDED to know, guess what they most likely said, and then "Mm- hmm" at them. I have occasionally had to be honest and admit I didn't hear, but usually it's just not worth it to keep asking. "What?" "Huh?" "What was that?" "You did what?" This only does not work if the person said completely unexpected things in a matter of fact tone, and you find yourself agreeing to something that you did NOT plan to.

Actually, I'm usually the mumbler, getting frustrated that people keep asking me "What? What?" As I keep mumbling answers back at them, I'm yelling 'WHAT ARE YOU, DEAF?' in my head. Yeah, this usually happens when I'm really tired.

Thankfully Indians don't have the toilet paper awkwardness situation. We do however have the same problem with the absence of running water, a mug and soap. This is why I don't use bathrooms outside my home. :-)

Actually, over the years I have learned how to deal with most potentially awkward situations where they don't rattle me anymore. However, sometimes horribly awkward situations just come out of nowhere and hit me over the head when I least expect it. One of them happened last week. I was at a wedding reception of a couple I didn't know well, with a family and culture very different from mine. The reception hall was basically a dim room with disco lights and deafening club music playing. I was also with the only white people in the room sitting on a sofa, and being stared at by all the other guests. No, that wasn't the awkward part.

The awkward part happened when the groom decided that there should be some 'couple dancing'... and when no one was getting up, shouted my name on the mic, forcing me to get up and dance with one of my American friends. COUPLE DANCE. TO CLUB MUSIC. (My rhythmic soul screamed 'Kill me now!') While multiple guests TOOK PHOTOS AND VIDEOS of my humiliation.

Oh awkwardness, my arch enemy. You won that round.

Misconceptions: Marriage is Just a Piece of Paper

I've often read such contemptuous opinions of the institution of marriage. In a lot of the books I have read, in many articles and often in movies (but not the rom-coms), it is assumed that believing in lifelong marriage is something only naive, clueless, very protected, or maybe brainwashed people believe. To be modern thinking, one must eschew this patriarchal, outdated institution.

"Why keep sex for marriage? If you love someone, go for it. After all, marriage is just a piece of paper."

"What changes before or after you sign a piece of paper? You are the same two people with the same relationship."

"We're getting married for the family."

But you know what? I know where they're coming from. They've probably seen terrible examples of marriage, and they KNOW this is not what it's about.

When girls are forced into marriage, just because they've crossed a certain age, when a wife and mother is seen as nothing but a household slave, when a marriage is about keeping up appearances, when emotional or physical abuse is seen as normal, when dowry or age dominate the conversation about marriage, when marriage is to prevent 'what people might say', when marriage is nothing but a legal agreement that can be ended... what's the point? Better keep yourself free, right? Makes sense.

But then why do I think marriage is such a big deal?

Because marriage is supposed to be primarily about love.

"Love?" you say. "Ah ha, this is about love marriages versus arranged marriages, right?"

Not exactly.

Because "Love is not merely a feeling, it is an ACT OF WILL that consists in preferring in a constant manner the good of the other over the good of oneself." Said Pope Saint John Paul II. So love could exist in so called 'love marriages' or 'arranged marriages'. Or neither.

So why sex for marriage? Why marriage at all?

Because marriage in its truest form is COMMITMENT. It is a safe environment to give yourself away* (And the best place and way to raise children). You don't have to keep trying to protect yourself, because as you give yourself to someone, he gives himself to you- Totally. Freely. Faithfully. And fruitfully.

Marriage isn't a piece of paper. It's two people freely choosing to make a promise to be there no matter what. If either party enters the marriage without that understanding, or willingness for forever, then yeah, marriage is pretty pointless.

If you're too scared to tie yourself to one person forever, then maybe you're scared to love at all. You are never freer when you live out your calling to love. We Catholics believe in lifelong marriage, because we believe our vows count for something, that when you promise to love and honour each other all the days of your lives, you mean it, and God joins you together in an bond that no human can break. Even when one or both totally mess up.

And sex? Why do we archaic Christians keep telling kids to save sex for marriage? Because why would you give yourself so intimately to someone who is not sure whether he or she wants to stick around? Sex is SO awesome that you want to do it right. With the right person, in the right context, at the right time.

There is nothing more beautiful than the witness of an older married couple, even more beautiful than the glow and the promise of a young couple earnestly promising forever on their wedding day. Marriage is worth promoting, worth sacrificing for, worth believing in, because COMMITTED LOVE is worth promoting, worth sacrificing for and worth believing in.


'The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.' G.K. Chesterton

* Although there is always an element of vulnerability when you give yourself away- there are no guarantees that the other person will not change or stop believing what you both started off believing. And still it is worth it.

Monday, 12 May 2014

7QT: Seven Reasons You Should Read 'Something Other Than God'

T and I are equally excited! She's the one whose giving me a copy of SOTG
(In the absence of real copies of the book, this will have to do)

So you remember how excited I was when Jennifer Fulwiler said she FINALLY finished the book she was writing? The good news is... it's out! People all over the world are reading and writing about it.
The bad news is, I'm not. Not because I haven't ordered the book- I used two offers of gifts to buy two copies of the book.

But friends from the US are bringing my copies down next Sunday, so I'll have to wait for a whole week to join the #SOTG party. Which means I miss out on almost all the fun contests that Jen is holding. I mean, who doesn't want a chance to win a banana suit?

Anyway, without further ado, here's seven reasons I am recommending Something Other Than God, a book I have never read, and yet bought two copies of, and hope that as many people as possible buy and read. (Talk about blind faith.)


Jennifer Fulwiler is a GREAT writer. I used to read a LOT. In recent months, I've stopped reading as many books, mostly because I don't seem to have enough time or attention. Still, I have pretty high standards for what I do read, when I read. And in the past six years or so that I've been reading her blog, Jennifer's writing has never failed to make me think, laugh, say "Ah-ha!", post on FB, reblog or want to share with others. She's simple, clear, insightful and thank the Lord, funny too.


As I'm sure you've noticed on this blog, from the very subtle clue in my blog name, I'm all about authenticity and keeping it real. I don't have time or attention for anything that smells even a little bit fake, or clichéed, or too well-polished. Jennifer manages to present enough about the reality of her messy, awkward, scorpion-ridden life for us to know that she's real, and so is her story.


I love conversion stories. I know, I know, some people think that it helps validate my faith, reinforce my worldview. But look at it from another angle. I'm already convinced. I'm not reading to prove the truth of my faith to me, but I am VERY interested in how people get from one worldview to the one I believe is true. How does a smart, well-to-do, educated atheist become a convicted Catholic mother of six kids (under the age of 10)? I'm especially interested because her personality type (INTP) is very close to mine (INTJ), and so she is VERY rational, and analytical, and VERY committed to the pursuit of truth. It wasn't just a 'When you know, you know' kind of conversion experience, or a touchy-feely experience of God at a retreat (we INTJs DESPISE feelings... JUST KIDDING JUST KIDDING). She anticipates the questions I would ask, and answers them. Well.


Most of the other Catholic bloggers that I respect have read the book already, and highly recommended it. When the highly critical Simcha Fisher recommends something, everyone pays attention.


Jen worked on it for four years, and re-wrote it several times. And SHE says it's good. She said that her target audience was anyone who enjoyed a good story. So it's not just a Christian book for Christians. It's a good book. It's the kind of book I know I'm going to want to give away to everyone (or at least lend, since it costs $18.50).


It's kinda cool that Catholics all over the world (well, especially the US) are all reading the same book. It's kinda like we're all part of the same family. Oh, wait.


This video:

So what are you waiting for? Go buy the book! 

P.S. Yes, I plan to actually write a review of the book once I actually READ it! Now I just need to plan the perfect moment to enjoy something I've been waiting for for so long. I think it might involve a quiet spot, some Bailey's, chocolate and zero interruptions from the world. Oh yeah.

If you're planning to buy it, have bought it, or have read it already (SO jealous), let me know in the comments.

Monday, 5 May 2014

Story Club in the Slum

So do you remember my 30 before 30 post? I almost forgot about it.* Until I actually crossed one of the dreams off the list last week!


5. Do a fun reading programme with kids from the slum.

Mission accomplished!

With generous donations of  money for the slum children from different people, R and I gleefully started ordering storybooks online over the past month. Then a few people donated books too, and we had a library ready to start with.

Most of our kids don't read for fun. Reading is a chore, a trap to make school harder than it is already. Not to mention, Reading = Boring textbooks. I wanted something more for our children.

All my siblings and I loved books. My parents had to ban books at exam time, and we would still find ways to get our book fix, including hiding them behind textbooks, sneaking them under our clothes into the bathroom for loong bathroom breaks. My parents caught on and would be waiting outside with hawk eyes for book shaped bulges under our clothes. So we hid them behind the flush tank, under buckets, on top of the water heater. One of my siblings tried to dig up a tile in the bathroom to make a foolproof hiding place. (Yeah, that didn't work.) Books gave us a taste of the bigness and the beauty and the magic of the world around us, something our slum kids have never had a chance to experience.

I knew we couldn't solve the problem in two weeks, but I wanted them to have a taste of how WONDERFUL books could be.

And they did!

Every morning for two weeks, we would head to the slums at 7.30 am (yes, I've been sleepy for two weeks). Friends who were free joined me. We'd sing a few songs, pray together, I'd read them a bible story in Hindi, and then we'd break up into groups and READ! I was blessed to find a place that sold storybooks with both Hindi and English, for the kids who didn't know English.

The two weeks got a little crazy as each day more and more kids turned up. But oh the joy of seeing the kids get sucked into the fun of reading. Two big hits were 'Are You My Mother' and 'Green Eggs and Ham'. So were the Hindi and Marathi books.

I know we have a long way to go- most of our children don't even know how to sound out letters, because so many schools don't teach phonetics. Their attention spans aren't very long. Since their English is so limited, I even had to explain the simplest books. And they go to English medium schools!


For the first time I saw them ENJOY books. They WANTED to read. Many of them had 'favourite' books by the end. I saw some who never really interact with the teachers, start smiling at the pictures and jokes in the books, and glancing shyly at us as we enjoyed the joke together. I saw one little girl re-read a book we had read together, and her even littler sister creeping closer to listen to her read. One of our 12 year olds devoured books one after the next.

We've started something. And we plan to continue. Who knows what it will lead to?

P.S. Can I just say that cool as story club was, I'm excited about not waking up at 6.30 am every morning?

* It's surprising how much one can change in just 11 months. I'm looking at some of the items on the list and wondering 'Why on earth did I put all that in there? Star Wars, really? Who cares?' Some haven't changed though.