Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Facebook DO NOT

I am on Facebook to promote my book.

I used to be on it years ago to find friends who had been lost to me for years. At first it seemed like such fun to find people I had lost touch with. (as an aside, I still think its the best place to locate people you cannot find otherwise.) 

However, it quickly became apparent that the old long lost friends had no real interest in staying in touch beyond "Friending" me on FB. I could seldom get them to meet or speak one on one. They had been lost for a reason. Many of those relationships had petered off...

In terms of my book, the marketing gurus say a fledgling author ought to have a Facebook presence so I revived my dormant personal account and launched my book page last year. I only post on it if there is something about my book that needs to be said.

For some odd reason though, or maybe because Zuck sends these radio signals to people on FB, I feel the need to check it everyday. I only stay on for five minutes and scroll the newsfeed. It's an addictive place that. Everyone has something to post right and it keeps adding more stuff. Videos, pictures, forwarded news things.

And like one possessed I keep scrolling.

Until I shut the laptop with a bang. Shudder, shake off the effect of the signal and go about my day.

The other day I went on as usual pushed by that strong unseen force from Silicon Valley and saw the feed. FB magically has given me over 400 friends. I know them all in some way I suppose, people from my past, old friends, colleagues, cousins what have you.

That day what affected me the most were the joyous pictures of groups of friends hanging out. I see them everyday and usually they wash over me or I feel happy for them etc and keep scrolling on.

But this day was different.

Unfortunately this time this Facebooking session had caught me at a bad time.

I was staring at those pictures questioning my ability to make new friends. I am picky. Granted. And all my old pals live miles away. The ones who get me, whom I get, those with whom there is an ease that only comes from years of knowing one another.

And I realized for the umpteenth that I really don't have a group of women with whom I can hang out for a drink. That with two kids and an uber busy husband with whom I get precious little time anyway, this kind of hanging out would be hard or the fact that I don't care for bars and such I didn't consider.

There were then the pictures of my Indian friends at these Indian functions and things with friends, all smiling cheerfully as if the sun was shining only for them. I don't do temple and Indian functions there as a rule. It doesn't come naturally to us as a family, it's not how we grew up and what doesn't come naturally, we don't do.

We have made these choices and yet I felt bloody awful. Like an absolute failure. To not even be able to conjure up a handful of pals to be cheery with is a sign of bloody failure.

I let myself feel down in the dumps for a while. Cursed FB and shut it down.

Why oh bloody why did I do I check this evil thing? Its not a FOMO per se. Or maybe it is another symptom of just that.

FB I have come to realize is like fashion mags which I totally banned from my life years ago.

It makes you feel bad about yourself. Looking at air brushed pictures of Twiggies of all ages made me feel bad about myself so I stopped looking at them magazines.

Looking at "friends" who always seem to be surrounded by their loving pals makes me feel bad about myself.

And therefore, I am going to stop looking.

So strong is the force of that Zuck signal that when I decided to write this post, instead of going to the blog site, I went to FaceBook. Blast and dang.

Sod it Zuck, I am done. From now I am not bloody looking.



Tuesday, August 9, 2016

The value of a second language

My sons know this house rule well.

Only speak your mother and father tongue at home. English outside and when people who only speak English are present (this one is more abstract since they can not speak English if its a private thought they want to express like I need to poop now! No one needs to hear that.)

The question of language.

A second language for all.

My kids speak three. My mother tongue, my husband's mother tongue and English.

They aren't geniuses. It's just that they have been exposed and they have had practice.

Yes culturally it is important. Which makes me so sad because so few second generation Indian kids speak their mother tongues. I have had friends who have told me with relish how their kid doesn't even understand their own mother tongue but goes to French or Spanish immersion school and speaks fluent French or Spanish. Ok so they have the second language. Kudos. But why the relish regarding this blatant ignorance of your mother tongue? Are they ashamed of their own language? Think it is unimportant that if their offsprings carry names like Kamlesh Vaswani or Radhika Ramanathan, have a head full of black hair and brown skin that they will never feel the need to understand their origins or have some fleeting knowledge at least of their rich cultural past?

Makes my blood boil. These kids will in their late teens, when identity becomes an issue a subject of discussion, suffer as a result of this highly avoidable ignorance and lack of pride.

Now I believe it is harder for immigrants. To keep your feet on both boats as it were. But it is important. Keeping some link to your heritage so later on when racial identity is an issue, you are able to embrace your ethnic roots and your American-ness with equal ease and have the best of both worlds.

But what do I know. I stand on my soap box and preach.

Immigrants aside, it is my humble opinion that it would do the mainstream American child a world of good to learn a second language from the elementary years for obvious brain development and if not for more lofty reasons then at least so they learn not to butcher names and words in foreign tongues. I have found anyone who speaks another language, any language, pronounces our names and foreign words in general correctly for their tongue is exposed to different sounds. Sounds that do not exist in the English language.

That lack of knowledge accounts for all the people who say I-raak or Aaf-ghaa-nis-taan. Ugh.

Pet peeves I suppose but really, if you are relaying the news, learn how this is pronounced. Or to the average person, you have heard this word correctly numerous times. Please make an effort.

Levity aside, it would get the American kids on par with most of their world cousins, since most of them speak multiple languages.

Now for the practical aspects of a second language.

Kids say whatever in public. Just whatever. No filter right?

My friend who is from Europe took her son grocery shopping once. The child set eyes on a rather heavy set woman walking by and commented in a loud voice about her appearance. In English.

The woman was understandably distraught. And she started to cry. My friend was mortified. No sense blaming the kid. He was about three. My friend corrected him, apologized to the woman and left the store in a hurry.

I told her, if only her child had known his native tongue, well, she could have corrected him etc but there would've been no harm done.

I had my own chance several times to thank the language gods but the biggest one was when my older one was about four.

We were at a restaurant just the two of us waiting for our meal when a young girl, kid really, slip of a thing, walks by. She was, as many kids of that tween age tend to be--overdeveloped in the chest area. And seemed very aware of it. Poor child.

My son watched her for a while, turned to me and asked in a rather loud voice.

"Why are her breasts so huge?"

In his defense, we had discussed how breasts grow on girls when they are older. Understandably he saw a young un endowed with what should only belong on an older person. And hence a very scientific question. He was curious. Not being lewd. He was after all four.

She heard of course and walked on without a care.

And thank you language gods cause my son had asked me the question in Tamil.

Of course I shushed him, congratulated him for asking me that in Tamil. And I went on to impart more knowledge on the subject.

There are other ways an extra language comes in hand. We can gossip about strangers in public and we do. We wonder about them like the Simon and Garfunkle song except they won't know. We aren't obnoxious. Just able to be curious without worrying too much about it.

And no one is the wiser.

And also I can scold them. In public without worrying that someone will think I am Cruella Deville.

My threats tend to be dire and are not for the faint of heart. Luckily my sons are used to my rantings and take it without skipping a beat.

If some of those are translated, well...let's just say the authorities wouldn't be too pleased. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Mom

I have a friend.

A woman, a smart, educated woman, a beautiful woman, a kind woman. A sensitive, intelligent, hard working woman. She has two lovely children.

Her children have recently started going to school full time.

She had chosen to stay home to raise them, despite having a PhD in her chosen subject, despite having had a fulfilling career in front of her a decade ago when she had her first born.

Now this woman, this smart, kind, educated woman wants to pick up the threads of her own life once more, between the hours of 8:30 and 2, because she still wants to be around for her children. They remain her first priority.

And so she starts applying for jobs--part time research jobs, teaching jobs.

They're hard to find, given that she wants part time work. Given that she has been away from the paid workforce for so long.

And so, she decides to get her feet wet by volunteering for a health organization. She gets a call from a prestigious place.

She goes in and asks for her assignment.

For the next few hours or so, she sorts boxes of medicines. She thanks everyone at the end and drives back home in time to pick up her children from school.

On her way home, she fights back tears.

This is what it is going to take to get back to finding her own life. And while she is willing, for the most part to do what it takes, it still rankles a little. That the way ahead is going to be long. It is going to be hard.

Society has little time for stay at home mothers who have been "napping" for a decade or more. Even those with PhDs wanting to re-start their own personal engines are going to have to re-pay their dues.

They are going to have to re-do things in every way. From the beginning.

There is little by way of recognition for the work this woman and millions like her do. Little by way of allowing her to add that decade she spent with her children on her resume with any degree of pride.

Little by way of understanding that being a full time mother is a bloody hard job, especially if done well, with full commitment. Like she and millions of others have done.

And while she waits, while she scrambles to re-collect those strewn threads of her previous life, 'So what do you do while the kids are at school,' becomes a dreaded question she doesn't know how to answer.

She might be deemed unambitious, or worse lazy. Not driven enough.

The world has a long way to go to finding ways to utilize this and other brilliant talented women who have so very much to give, albeit within a non-traditional time setting, perhaps in a non-traditional manner.

She's not asking for much, really. Not too much money, or promotions or status.

Just a chance to be part of the society at large that she chose to step away from in order to do her best for the past ten years to provide with well brought up, kind and highly productive new members.

Her children.

Society's future.