Weekend Links

Friday, January 30, 2009
Some of what is deviing our babying this weekend:

Did you hear about this toddler who is taking the art world by storm? Apparently this little Australian tot is creating abstract art that gallery owners put on par with that of modern masters.

And I bet you've read about the woman who gave birth to octuplets this week--but did you know she plans to breastfeed all 8 babies?

My husband and I got to see Aziz Ansari perform live in San Francisco last week and we should all be so lucky. The kid is hilarious. Check out this clip with one of the funniest first sentences I have ever heard:




And this clip is good for a few laughs as well: Mike Meyers and Manu Narayan (from "The Love Guru," which about 2 1/2 people saw) with their rather sad Indo version of "More than Words" (or "More than Verds," as the translation may be).



Finally, Pooja from littleguruskool wanted to thank you for all your comments. Look out next week for my "In Focus" with Dr. Susan Taylor, who crafted a line of skincare specifically for brown skin. Here, Pooja's response:
Thanks everyone for your feedback & suggestions! I will certainly keep them in mind when producing future titles. Little GuruSkool books and DVDs are not available in bookstores yet but I'm working on it. Meanwhile, they can be purchased online at www.littleguruskool.com and www.amazon.com. A couple of you mentioned seeing other Indian children in the books - it's a great idea! The DVDs do feature Indian children so I hope your children will enjoy watching them. If any of you would like to be informed of new titles and new happenings at Little GuruSkool, please subscribe to our newsletter at www.littleguruskool.com - the link is on the homepage. Very encouraging to hear from you all - keep those comments coming!

Brown Girls: The Importance of Culture

Thursday, January 29, 2009


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Sign up HERE to get "Brown Girls" delivered to your inbox.

Starting in March, "Brown Girls" will be published bi-monthly in India Currents--be sure to check out the debut in the March 2009 issue of the magazine.

Some Good Sex News

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

My husband forwarded me this article , entitled "The Myth of Rampant Teenage Promiscuity," and told me that it made him "much more at ease" about the imminent arrival of our baby girl. I was intrigued...!

According to the piece, the notion that teenagers today are over-sexed and that casual sex is as common as teenage rebellion is a myth. Regardless of Tyra and Oprah telling us about an oral sex epidemic and the rising rates of teenage pregnancies, "the reality is that in many ways, today’s teenagers are more conservative about sex than previous generations."

Well color me happy! But wait...Can this possibly be true? Even as I was asking that to myself, I came upon the part of the article that was trying to explain people just like me:

Although the data is clear, health researchers say it is often hard to convince adults that most teenagers have healthy attitudes about sex.

“I give presentations nationwide where I’m showing people that the virginity rate in college is higher than you think and the number of partners is lower than you think and hooking up more often than not does not mean intercourse,” Dr. Bogle said. “But so many people think we’re morally in trouble, in a downward spiral and teens are out of control. It’s very difficult to convince people otherwise.”
They certainly pegged me. I want to believe this but part of me just doesn't. Why is that? If this article is accurate, why do so many of us have this idea that we are sending our children out into a world of rampant sexuality? Do we just create things to worry about?

Not So Fresh Feeling


Do you ever get that..."not so fresh feeling"??

Heh. No, I don't mean in a Summer's Eve kind of way--I mean creatively. I've been feeling a little uninspired this week, so I turned back to this great Jim Jarmusch quote which always gives me an inspirational kick in the pants.

When you are trying to be a great mom, a great friend, a great wife and also do some work that you find meaningful and thoughtful, you are bound to get tired once in a while--in a mental way in addition to the physical fatigue most of us wage war against pretty much every day. Creative tiredness is a different beast though, at least for me. It's this sort of boredom with myself. In my fiction writing (something I am trying to pick up again, on the side) I find myself yawning at my own banality, wondering if I am ever, ever going to have an original thought, something worth committing to the written page.

Writing is such an odd exercise, and such an arrogant one when you really think about it. Why should you or anybody else read anything I have to say? Here I am complaining about all the literary and sensory noise out there, but I am adding to it everyday! Anybody who has ever put pen to paper must perennially wonder "who the hell am I?" and "what can I possibly say that's new?"

So thank you Jim Jarmusch for always reminding me that the goal isn't necessarily newness, the goal is authenticity. It's worth remembering not only in writing, but in everything really.

Born Into Brothels (NSFW)

Tuesday, January 27, 2009



I came upon these photos of Indian brothels on Ultrabrown and they have just etched themselves onto my brain. I don't really have much to say--the pictures speak for themselves-- but, is it just me, or do you immediately wonder whether these women are mothers? I don't think my mind would have gone there pre-kids. See all of the haunting photos here.


Science Round Up


Two studies were released yesterday that have the parenthood set all abuzz.

The first adds to the mountain of evidence that supports the propriety of vaccinating your kids. I almost feel bad for the authors, having to brave the scary waters of this topic. I can't think of any other scientific subject that has caused so much fury and diatribe as of late, can you?

The second comes to the conclusion that school-aged kids need more unstructured playtime and less work.

The conclusions are both pretty retro, lassoing back to a time when recess meant four-square and tag, not time to study for an exam, and when vaccinations were performed as matter of course.

In the bigger picture, these studies make me even more wary of--well--taking studies too much to heart. We as a group (the group being parents) are quite reactionary. The second we became pregnant it seems we developed a third eye and ear, perpetually attuned to the "latest news" on baby dangers, the newest "survey" of toxins. But the rate at which we can get information these days--all the noise of forwarded emails, websites, blogs, newspapers, magazines, tv shows, celebrity opinions--is astonishing and we can probably find two studies concluding exactly opposite things with one simple google search.

So what's a mom to do except try to filter out some of the noise? Recently I've been trying to act with less information, instead of more, as counter-intuitive as that sounds. It goes against every fiber of my being--I was the girl that liked to cross-check World Book with Encyclopedia Brittanica. I suppose it's called trusting your gut. I know my gut couldn't author these two studies (can you imagine the peer review?) but it certainly agrees with them.

Padma Lakshmi: Jack of All Trades?

Monday, January 26, 2009

Padma Lakshmi is launching a new jewelry line, inspired by “seeds and pods, like cardamom, lentils, and cloves" as well as Lakshmi's "Indian heritage." Hope her baubles are better than her Top Chef hosting abilities. Wonder if Salman will be buying this stuff for future paramours.

Monday Musings: "Let's Turn Off the TV and Throw Stuff"

My 3 year old watches way too much t.v. I have tried to blame almost everybody for this ("obviously it's because of the mailman!") but it is quite clearly my fault. It began as a magic pill--my husband and I were psyched when D. would first sit quietly for a 30 minute stretch, enraptured by Fireman Sam, the Berenstein Bears, Cailou...whatever...we would have given him Freddie Crouger for that bit of free time. But, seemingly in the blink of an eye (okay, over the course of one year), it has turned into a full-blown disaster. Now, D "needs" t.v. to eat, demands a show before he goes to sleep, and throws dog-whistle-octave tantrums when he doesn't get his fill.

I've tried to reason with him but, shockingly, the notion that "too much t.v. is bad for you, D," doesn't resonate with him. I've tried lying but "the t.v. is broken" doesn't really work when your children can navigate plugs and remotes better than you. I've tried to call in the big guns: "D, the Berenstein Bears are on the phone! They just told me something! They said you should NOT watch any more t.v. YAY right?!?!?!" These attempts are met with the pitying glances they deserve.

But one thing does work. And I am realizing it works in many, many situations. Distraction.

So, here it is, a roster of indoor activities (because did I mention that it has started to rain all the time?) that I am hoping will wean my kid off his crack. Most are culled from late night frantic searches for "indoor activities with kids" and "oh god please help me"...! And of course there are a million other distraction techniques, but these are some that have worked for us.

Indoor Hopscotch

A twist on the traditional hopscotch, great for kids in the process of learning their ABC's and 123's. Start by making squares or rectangles with letters and numbers on them. Then lay them out all over the floor. Have your child start at one end of the room and see if they can cross the room jumping from square to square. They must identify the letter or number they are going to jump to next. You can also call out the number or letter for them and tell them to find it and jump on it next. Your kids can also call our letters and numbers for you to jump on. This helps the younger kids to learn their letters and numbers. Try it with shapes, colors, animals, favorite HBO shows, etc.

Be A Boat

I love this one because it allows you to go to bed at all times. While on a bed with your child/children, pretend you are on a sail boat. Locate marine life (jumping dolphins, sharks, whales) and search for land. Create stories with your kids about why you are on the boat and where you are going, even what you will see when you arrive. Occasionally, if you are feeling particularly adventurous, jump off for a swim around the bed to cool off. With us, this usually ends with us pretending I actually am a boat, but you don't have to go that far.

Going on a Bear Hunt

Did you guys ever sing the song 'We're Going on a Bear Hunt'? (If you can't remember the words, you can find them here www.dltk-kids.com/crafts/teddy/bearhunt.html). I can't even remember when I learned the song but it has served me well. I sing it with the kids and we go through the house, looking for bears through the "grass," in the "trees," at the end of the "river." I usually just tell D things like "Look, it's a river," while pointing at a chair but if you want, you can make some scenery with construction paper and the like.

Snowball Fight

I grew up in Michigan and I am sort of sad my kids' experience with snow will likely be confined to fancy schmancy Tahoe trips. Even those won't happen for a while so, to tide us over, we sometimes have snowball fights indoors. I tried to make real snowballs once. Not particularly safe or, um, smart. Our new variation is to roll up a bunch of white tube socks to create "snowballs." I tell the kids it's time for a snowball fight and let them throw things. And yes: Many, many of my distraction techniques involve allowing D to throw things.

Shoe Hunt

My kids love to try on and wear my husband's and my shoes. We have made up a few shoe games, some more successful than others. In one, we get several pairs of shoes and put them in a pile, then race D to the stack and try to see who can put on a matching pair first. I used to let him win but now he can actually beat me, I'm not kidding. In another, we hide shoes. And D. finds them. That's it. It works.

Playing Elevator

The inspiration here is that scene in Austin Powers where Mike Myers pretends he is on an elevator, a boat etc. We spread a towel on the ground for our 'elevator.' We step in and push the pretend button to travel to different floors. You can go all out and describe each step: 'The door is opening' (show with your hands). 'We're getting on the elevator' (step on the towel). 'We're pushing two' (push button). 'We're going up' (look up), etc. Get off at different floors and describe what you see at each one. Visit the whispering floor, the jumping/ flying floor, the eating ice cream floor, the walking backwards floor, the tiger floor, etc.

Pillow Maze

Take notes this one is complicated: Get a bunch of pillows and couch cushions and pile them in one room. Create mazes with them. Go nuts.

Kitchen Bowling

Get a bunch of plastic bottles and stand them up on the floor like bowling pins. Then have your kids stand an appropriate distance away, and take turns rolling a tennis ball towards the 'pins.' Funny shoes optional but highly recommended.

Paint the Tub

This one is not for the uber-clean, a group I often aspire to but never really am asked to join. Either purchase bath paints or make your own by mixing the same amounts soap and corn starch, and adding food coloring to it. Then let your kids go wild on your bathtub with a brush or with their fingers. D LOVES this...in part because I let him do it so rarely and I think he is just amazed that, for a period of time, I am not telling him to clean something up.

Squirrel at the Picnic

Lay out a blanket and five things that you would take to a picnic -- for example, a basket, napkins, plates, bottle of water, food container. Sit with your kid on the blanket and look at the items. Then tell your child to close their eyes and take one item away. Once your child opens his eyes see if he can tell which item was taken by the "squirrel at the picnic." I can't even believe how lame that looks written out, but D squeals with delight every time we play.

Sock Toss

Mark a line on the floor with string or masking tape or dirty clothes you find lying around. Set up an empty bucket or laundry basket or other receptacle a couple of feet beyond the line of tape. Take turns seeing if you can toss rolled-up socks into the bucket or basket.

Go Fishing

Create a fishing pond for your toddler. Cut out several paper fish from construction paper and attach a paper clip to each fish. Then tie a string to one of end of the fishing pole (yardstick or other rod) and a magnet to the other end of the string. Your child can lay out the fish on the floor and go fishing by trying to touch the magnet to the fish's paper clip. Kids love it when they 'catch' the fish. If you're a vegetarian, teach your kid to throw the fish back in afterwards...ha...

Ask An Indian Auntie

Friday, January 23, 2009
Indian Auntie is back! Check out her debut here. This week she is tackling two questions along the same lines:

Q: Dear Indian Auntie:

What do I do with MIL/FIL who are so sympathetic to their daughter cause she is "working so hard and their son in law does not support" but who easily turn around in their son's case when they complain that "their bahu should let their son work late cause now "he" is working hard! Daughter in law should now support! Why is it that a daughter in law is never as good as their son?


-Anonymous

Q: Dear Indian Auntie:

I want to second the question about the double standard between daughter and daughter in law, son and son in law. Where does it come from? And are we allowed to point it out to our in laws? My twist on it is that my husband's sister's husband can do NO wrong and yet I could serve tea and spring ten million male heirs from my head and I would never be "good enough"!!

-
JDutta

A: My dear Betis,

Yes, betis. It is too sad Indian parents are so backward how they are thinking about the daughter-in-laws.

On the day my son was married, I told my cute little new bahu Arundhati that she would be treated with the utmost of complete respect from me. Even during all the engagement hangama, I told Arundhati's parents that we did not believe in all the nonsense of dowry or inequality of girl's family, and that they should only give us what they felt was right in exchange for taking their daughter. No drama from this momma, I said to her, to be joking in a rhyming style! After the wedding ceremony when I told my Arundhati to make me some tea because I was feeling thirsty, I didn't make her change her outfit to wear something clean and understood that the tea ws really not that good because it was clear she hadn't really been raised properly and I knew because I am a modern mother in law that I would be able to teach her properly. When my friends told me that it was because she was so dark that her tea was so different I scolded them. Of course yes she is much darker than my beta and I don't know why I deserved that but if my beta is happy than I am happy, that is what I always say and she isn't as dark as poor Prabhu's betrothed, thank God.

But, shall we talk more about this problem? I asked my daughter-in-law to help us also to discuss, because together we can give some good advice about the modern relationship of love and respect that we have together only. It is good to be having her perspectives also. She was already at my home today anyway as it is Friday and she is helping me with my poor feet. I need a pedicure - my feet are almost looking as bad as her mother's birdie toes!

You see, there is so much long history of bad treatment of daughter-in-laws in our cultures. So many, many years ago, maybe even twenty, all women in India were treated as a burden, as a stinky property. When someone married your daughter, thank God! It was so much relief. And, then her new family would have this burden. So, this is the history. And, it is so sad history.

Sorry, I lost my thinking for two moments. What I want to say is that everybody can change. Arundhati is lucky that I am modern but I wasn't always modern. Right now, for instance, she is hurting my pinky toe with her crude filing of it and when I was a little girl this may have been cause for her banishment but I understand times have changed and I just told her how hopeless she still is at things and how I don't understand why she doesn't practice more, or cook my beta proper meals. We have an "open communication," as you young people like to say. She is sensitive and she sometimes cries but I understand that she is probably just upset that she had disappointed in so many ways and I try to tell her that I will allow her to make it up to me. Even though my toes are ruined for the day. Will have to wear closed-toe shoes to the mehndi tonight. Array, bullshit!

So, for conclusions, I think it is terrible to be treating any children different or less special than any other childrens. All childrens are same I say! And we love all of them, even when they are crying in the bathroom about nothing. I tell Arundhati, I love you. Even though you are a dark fat balloon...still, I love you like you were my daughter.

Love you,
Your Indian Auntie

Send your questions to Indian Auntie at deviswithbabies@gmail.com, or leave them in the comments below.

Spirituality versus Religion

Thursday, January 22, 2009

How cool was it to hear President Obama reference Hindus and non-believers in his inaugural remarks? You know how many Presidents have done that before? That's right: zero.

I don't consider myself religious but I'm not sure I consider myself a non-believer either. I consider myself "still figuring it out." Lots of moms I know struggle not only with how to introduce religion to their children but also whether they should in the first place. It's become almost cliched to explain "I consider myself spiritual but not necessarily religious"--something I have been guilty of saying, regardless of the fact that I try not to say the word "spiritual" as a rule, if only because it conjures up this crystal I insisted on wearing in the eighth grade. My parents strove to expose me and my sister to all the religions of the world--a sort of Encyclopedic approach to the topic--which is the way I thought I would like to raise my kids. Neither my husband nor I consider ourselves particularly "religious," and, amongst the myriad things I have on my "Let's Worry About This" list, the place of religion in my kids life has never made a cameo. However, this new study makes the case that your children will actually be happier if you raise them with some concepts of spirituality. And who doesn't want happy kids?

The interesting thing about the study is that it makes a clear distinction between "religious practices" (think: going to temple, praying, meditating) and "spirituality." Religious practices, the study says, are not predictors of "happier" children. Spirituality is.

I was dubious. (It's that word--"spirituality"--it just conjures up too many hackey-sack playing wannabe Robert Thurmans I have met). And I wasn't really won over by the finding that "the study shows that children who feel that their lives have meaning and value and who develop deep, quality relationships — both measures of spirituality, the researchers claim — are happier." Sounds like proving your point with a bunch of platitudes to me--who says that feelings of meaningfulness and deep relationships are indicators of spirituality? Aren't there myriad secular ways to show your children meaningfulness, and to foster deep relationships?

But this got me thinking:


"Enhancing personal meaning may be a key factor in the relation between spirituality and happiness," the researchers stated. Strategies aimed at increasing personal meaning in children — such as expressing kindness towards others and recording these acts of kindness, as well as acts of altruism and volunteering — may help to make children happier, Holder suggests."

Again, it seems conclusory to label such practices as "spiritual." Then again, if you think of "spiritualism" as some sort of moral compass--something that guides us in our never-ending quest to make our children good people--then the construct starts to work for me.

What do you think? Are you raising your children "religiously"? "Spiritually"? Do you think there is a difference?

(Thanks to Dhrumil and his rawness for showing me this study)

Remembering the We in "Yes We Can"

Wednesday, January 21, 2009
My friend Veena just posted this amazing, eye-opening piece on the blog for the Asian Law Caucus, where she works. It tempers the enthusiasm so many of us feel with the pragmatism she says we need to embrace to actually facilitate promised change. It is one of the most articulate post-inaugural pieces of writing I have read so far and definitely worth your time.

Day 1: Power to the People – not just the President
Posted on January 21, 2009 by asianlawcaucus
By Veena Dubal

On a bus somewhere between Marrakech and Rabat, we were asked how we felt about Obama. “In Morocco, we are optimistic about the new American President . . .” said Zayed, our guide, unsure about our reactions and how it would impact his tip. Not wanting our multifarious politics to disrupt our family vacation, I quickly replied from the back of the bus before the arguing could begin, “We are of different views.”

My boyfriend is a Republican. My radical brother voted on the Green ticket. My dad and brother-in-law, moved by the possibility of having a black man as President, voted for the first time in their lives. When I cast my ballot in November, I felt both the pull of my familial ties and my political convictions.

Let me be clear: I was not voting for McCain (sorry, Ry). But I had trouble fathoming the Obama-mania that consumed this country. Sure, it was exciting to have a black man run for President. But the identity politics surrounding support for Obama irked me – particularly when it came from the South Asian, Arab, and Muslim communities. What did it matter if we had a black President if it would be more of the same disastrous U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East? More slaughtering, more strangling, more empire-building?

Just a year ago, Obama spoke of strengthening the military and protecting “national interests,” using the phrase in order to move ambiguously between the interest of stopping terrorism against American citizens and the interests of big capital. Although he has called for withdrawal in Iraq, he has also expressed desire for a continued military presence in the region and refuses to rule out military action against Iran. Obama was the first and only presidential candidate to suggest an all out war in Pakistan. He, like candidates before him, bowed to the power of the Israeli Lobby (AIPAC) instead of taking a firm stance against colonialism and genocide in Palestine.

As a South Asian American – a postcolonial subject now part of the colonizing world – I wanted to vote for change – not for symbolism. I was crestfallen every time I heard a fellow community organizer and activist jokingly lament that little work would be left for us if Obama won the Presidency. I couldn’t believe my ears – if Obama was elected did that mean that racism, classism, and xenophobia were things of the past? Did that mean that I wouldn’t be called a “home grown terrorist” in the streets, that the police would never again kill an Oscar Grant, and that family would be legally defined by choice instead of by heterosexuality?

Weeks after I cast my ballot and just days after I silenced the broiling family debate in North Africa (a debate that aptly arose in a place that would be more affected by the new American President than I would be), I listened to Obama give his inaugural speech among fellow San Franciscans in front of City Hall. I – like many in the crowd – was blown away. He spoke to the need for multi-lateralism and increased social services; he pledged to work alongside the developing world and to stop this country from using the world’s resources. He promised to work with “old foes” and rejected “as false the choice between our safety and our ideals.” The roar of the crowd and my own rising hopes confirmed my suspicions: never has an elected official been so loved by people who are so innately critical.

Today, the morning after the inauguration, I sit at work and nurse the hangover of withered optimism. The speech was beautiful, but words are easy. If we the people don’t maintain a critical eye – a skill that became second nature during the Bush regime – the light of hope that Obama’s inaugural words put in each of us will flicker and die. We must remember the “we” in “Yes, we can.” As Americans, as Natives, as Immigrants, as Workers, we must step out from beneath the shadow of this man and once again embody our own convictions. We must remember how to be critics, how to protest, how to boycott, how to hold this President and this Empire accountable to the people of this country and the world.

In Focus: Pooja Pittie, Little GuruSkool

There are so many amazing South Asian women doing so many amazing things. I want to try to showcase some of them on this blog with this new feature: "In Focus."

My first interview is with Pooja Pittie, a mother of a 6 year old who lives in Chicago, loves to eat out, read and paint, sometimes dreams of going back to art school, and has authored and designed a series of beautifully illustrated books for Indian children. When Pooja couldn't find books and DVDs to introduce Indian culture to her son, she took the matter into her own hands and decided to make her own. Hence, Little GuruSkool was born. Heralded by many as "Baby Einstein for Indians," the 3 books and 3 DVDs currently available teach children about colors, music, and animals, in English and in Hindi, with an Indian backdrop of culture and music. The book on animals, for instance, takes children on a journey from the jungle to the farm to the ocean, highlighting the names of the animals in English and in Hindi. The book on musical instruments introduces kids to the strings of a sitar, the beats of a dholak and the melodies of a flute. And the accompanying DVDs visually and musically compliment the books.

I recently had the opportunity to talk with Pooja about Little Guru Skool, how she got it off the ground, and where she sees it going. She and her books have recently been splashed around in the press and she has some great insight on the constant "balance" we all crave in parenting our children. Plus she's just a rockstar. LittleGuruSkool books and DVDs are available at LittleGuruSkool.com, as well as Amazon.com. Also, you can preview the DVDS or sample songs from the CDs at Pooja's site. Readers, meet Pooja:

Tell us about your inspiration to start Little GuruSkool.

Well, I am a first-generation Indian and I wanted to make sure my son was learning about India. I used to be very hesitant about letting him watch videos but then I came upon the "Baby Einstein" series and I really came to admire it. The reality is that, in this day and age, both parents are busy and kids are going to watch t.v. This is of course a deviation from the Indian mindset that somebody should always be taking care of a child so I had my own issues with it. But I found Baby Einstein to be interactive and definitely educational. When I tried to find something like the Baby Einstein series that was focused on Indians, I was surprised to see there really was nothing out there.

Why were you surprised?

You just never think that you have had the "big idea" so when I found myself really thinking that if I was going to find content I was going to have to write it myself, I found that surprising. Everything I found, here and in India, just didn't appeal to me in terms of quality, or wasn't age-appropriate. And when I started asking other Indian parents if they had had any luck in finding good, entertaining, educational books or DVDS about India, I was amazed by how eager they were to find the same sort of thing.

Lots of our readers grapple with the conundrum of exposing our kids to Indian culture. How do your books and DVDs do this?

I like to think the books and DVDs provide a good balance of Western and Indian culture. Which is really how I wanted my son to grow up. The material isn't "too ethnic" and the sensibility in terms of content and illustration is modern. It's different from other "Indian" products--it isn't designed to be any sort of language immersion. Instead, I hope the books and other materials subtly expose children to portions of what makes Indian culture great--the sights, the sounds, the music, the language.


What are the other ways you inject Indian culture into your lives?

Simple things. By traveling to India with my son as frequently as possible. He's 6 years old now and has been there about 6 times - I know it's difficult to travel there often, but children never forget that early exposure. Even at 5 years of age, Aarav talked about places and people he interacted with on his last trip when he was just 4!

By cooking Indian food for my son, teaching him the Hindi words as we go along, telling him anecdotes about my childhood &and food that I liked to eat when growing up.

By listening to Hindi music with him - I haven't exposed him to Bollywood movies but many songs--from old movies & new ones--are a great way to get children familiar with the sounds of Indian instruments and languages. And Aarav finds the big dance sequences highly amusing.

Do you worry about your son not being "Indian" enough?

You know, maybe I should but I don't. I moved here when I was 21 years old and see so much greatness in the Western culture. I think I would be doing my son an injustice to "make" him more Indian. I myself don't feel overly American and at the same time I don't feel overly Indian. I don't want to make my son feel out of place in this place that is his home. Of course I want him to be aware of his roots and be comfortable with his identity. But I think it should be done without too much force.

What were you doing before you launched Little GuruSkool?

I got my MBA from the University of Chicago Class of 2005 and upon graduation, I worked at Unilever on the Dove Hair brand in the U.S. for 1.5 yrs. Last year, I left Unilever to pursue Little GuruSkool full-time

Do you write the books and videos yourself?

I create all the concepts for the videos and books. I work with a film production studio in Bombay of course, but nothing goes forward without my input or approval. Based on the videos, I create the storyboard and illustrations for the books myself, but I have the illustrations professionally rendered afterwards.

Take us through "a day in the life" of Pooja...

A "day in the life" in terms of business could be - waking up at 4 am to talk to my web developers in India, creating a storyboard for one of the book titles, working with the graphics designer on the DVD packaging, meeting an Indian mom for coffee to get some ideas, spending an hour on the phone with customer service at Amex to make sure my website accepts their cards and at the end of the day, always evaluating my written plan and writing up a to-do list for the next day!

"Busy" doesn't do you justice--so tell us, what are your tips for the perpetual juggling we all do--of kids, family, work, pleasure?

I am not too rigid and disciplined about my work schedule - quite impulsive in fact and I think this allows me to juggle things better. I know that sounds contradictory, but since "pleasure" and "family" are part of the balancing act, it helps to be impulsive and flexible. It allows me to enjoy life a lot more. I'm good at taking breaks!

I've realized that I'm ambitious in all these areas of my life and wouldn't sacrifice one for the other, and so for me, it's all about balance. I am trying to accept that everything cannot be perfect and I shouldn't be too hard on myself! Starting a business in an area like this has been all-consuming but I try to have weekends where I take time off from even "thinking" about work. And, with my son, I try to involve him in as many things as I can - especially things that I enjoy doing - painting, cooking, listening to music

What are some of the other parenting sites/books/products you like?

Like I've said, I've admired and used a lot of Disney's Baby Einstein products. I think they've done an excellent job in developing a range of complementary products for pre-school children.

Believe it or not, I've never read a "parenting guide" really - I rely on my mum's anecdotes from our childhood to be my guide!

In terms of toys, I've found Magna tiles & Legos to be very effective in engaging my son for hours and at the same time, helping him think about building things

Last book you loved? Movie? TV show?

I love reading - last couple of books that I liked were "Shantaram"--was struck by an outsider's account of the city being something I could agree with!--and "Time Traveler's Wife." I'm reading "Three Cups of Tea" right now which is so inspiring

The last movie I loved? "Sex & the City"! Also liked "Sarkar." I know that's old but I'm not the biggest movie buff!

As for TV - I love Dragons' Den on BBC America.

Tell us the funny things your son is doing these days.

He's really into playing guessing games with people - whether it's humming a tune and having them guess the song or drawing out a house with a paper flap for a door and having people guess what's inside the house!

What are the weirdest/funniest/strangest reactions you've had to starting Little GuruSkool?

My family and friends were surprised that I was starting a media company without any prior media experience--my background is in Finance and Accounting!

Some people have asked if I was setting up an actual "school" for children because of the name. And a lot of people tease me about the spelling of "skool" - I chose that spelling because it's a play on the word "gurukul" and "kool" sounded a lot closer to that word.

Any advice for budding-entrepreneurs reading this?

I want to say "go for it" but with one caveat. You need to have a very clear vision of what you want to do before you just take the plunge. Without the vision, you will get side-tracked. For instance, with my books, I had to fight nearly daily for the sort of "less is more" illustration style. If I didn't stay firm in what I wanted it to be, my vision for the books would have gotten lost. But, I cannot even describe how happy I am that I left my old job to do this full time. If you are lucky enough to find something you really love and that really inspires you, take the plunge!

What's up next for Little GuruSkool?

I want Little GuruSkool to be a cultural "gurukul" for parents and children around the world. I plan to introduce new topics every few months and new products like toys, flash cards & coloring books. This is my plan but in the end, I am looking to all the parents out there who care about this to give me ideas and suggestions on how I could help them introduce their children to this vibrant culture.

Pooja would love to know what you guys think of her books, and what sorts of titles you would like to see. Please feel free to leave Pooja questions and comments here, or to email her directly at pooja.goel@littleguruskool.com.

Check out more of the books and DVDs here and here.

...So That Our Kids Can Fly...

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Brown Girls: On This Most Auspicious Day

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The Big Day

Monday, January 19, 2009

Looking for a last minute service-project to do today? There are myriad options on my.mlkday.gov and USAservice.org, both of which will provide you with lists of activities close to your home.

And tomorrow is the Big Day! Hail to the Change! Celebrate with your kids this evening with the Disney Channel, which is hosting the Kids Inaugural, featuring the first kids Sasha and Malia's favorite bands.

For fun facts to teach your kids about inaugurations past, and this particular inauguraiton, too, peruse “Our White House Inauguaration Celebration Kit!” created by the National Children’s Book and Literacy Alliance. And if you are having an inauguration party with children in attendance, check out some of these great craft and party ideas to get the kids into the spirit of things.

Monday Musings: "You are my WIFE...GOODBYE City Life!"


According to this article, city-life may actually impair your mental processes. After spending a few minutes on a crowded city street, the brain is apparently less able to hold things in memory, and suffers from reduced self-control. Ironically, though, the same aspects of city-life that dampen your ability to think clearly and live a healthy life are strongly correlated with innovation and creativity. Do we have to choose?

When i moved to Chicago from New York, it would annoy me to no end that most dinner parties would include some comparison of the two cities. Why was it a good thing that the new Moroccan restaurant seemed "so New York" and that the Picasso exhibit at the Institute of Art was "just as good" as the MOMA exhibit a few years back? I chalked it up to a "second city" inferiority complex and was happy to dismiss it and focus on all the amazing sites and sounds Chicago had to offer. When I left Chicago for San Francisco, I was faced with a different facet of the same conversation: The never-ending "East Coast/West Coast debate." San Francisco is so hippie. New York is so dirty. San Francisco has natural beauty. New York has actual culture. People--myself included, much as I would try to stay away from it--could and did and do discuss the merits of SF versus New York ad nauseam, with the passion and fury of the sort of lover's quarrel that exhibits the sliver thin line between agony and ecstasy, love and hate.

We love our cities like we love people.

The newest wrinkle of the "Great City" debate occurred when my husband and I left San Francisco for Berkeley. Technically a suburb of San Francisco, Berkeley is a far-cry from the suburban life I grew up with. Locals and transplants (my husband considers himself part of the latter group while I still feel like an interloper) wax profound about the University atmosphere, the amazing food, the colorful people. And all of these things are true. But this litany of pro-Berkeley propaganda often ends with the phrase "and it's so close to the city." Because, despite everything Berkeley has going for it--and I really do love living here--it just is not San Francisco.

I was thinking about it this weekend. City life. Why so many of us are so mesmerized by it, we so many of us sought it out as soon as we were allowed to be out past 10pm. The newest iteration of the "city conversation" at the parties I frequent no longer compares metropolises in which we have lived, but involves starry-eyed couples dreaming and scheming ways to return to the cities. Some of the couples have little babies and are duking it out with the stroller brigades in places like Noe Valley, vowing to stay in the city almost as if discussing a duty they hold...as long as they find "acceptable schools." 99% of these people will leave San Francisco in the next year. The majority of the dreamers are couples like me and my husband, who left San Francisco (or New York, or Chicago) soon after having kids, pulled by the age-old, pregnancy-triggered need for greenery and space. (According to the article, one of the main reasons city-dwellers experience diminished intellectual ability is the "stark lack of nature, which is surprisingly beneficial for the brain. Studies have demonstrated, for instance, that hospital patients recover more quickly when they can see trees from their windows, and that women living in public housing are better able to focus when their apartment overlooks a grassy courtyard.") Then of course there are the nay-sayers. The couples who proclaim that they miss nothing about city-life and breath sighs of relief as they pass by the urban jungle in their "baby on board"ed cars, en route to their bucolic oasis 15 miles away. But you know what? I only know one couple like this. And they are liars.

The article dances around what I and so many people find so amorphous and yet miss so much: The palpable energy city-life offers. When you dissect it, it doesn't make any sense. I don't really need to see the make-shift jazz band on the corner of Powell and Geary after seeing John Guare's revival of "Rich and Famous." I don't feel a void in my life due to the fact that, when I walk around in Berkeley in the evenings, the streets are not buzzing with the animation of packs of teenagers, and homeless people declaring "My Mickey balloon had a few Coronas." (That happened on Friday night). And, as a parent, I don't envy the kids fighting for spots on the swings, the moms jockeying for slots in the "coveted" preschools.

And yet...

When we were in SF Friday night (after seeing the new John Guare revival and stopping to listen to the make-shift jazz band on the corner for a second), I found the words spilling from my mouth for the millionth time: "Let's move back here," I said, holding my husband's hand, almost imagining him whisking me away to a small and absolutely family-unfriendly apartment in the sky.

But I recognize I am of two minds. The city article gives a new explanation to the calm and serenity that envelopes me as I make the 5 minute drive up the hill to my house in Berkeley. Maybe the trees and foliage and green are doing their work, I don't know. I never expected to be the sort of person whose actual demeanor changes as I almost automatically go through the banal motions that take me back home. But something happens as I leave my city job and my city life for the bigger part of my world, perched on top of that hill, in my house in the Berkeley hills. Something transformative. I shed the desire and the want and the searching that is so much a part of my life at the bottom of the hill (and that, make no mistake, will be waiting for me, like a hitchhiker, in the morning). I drive the windy roads, still audibly gasping at times at the vistas that unfold in front of me. I feel myself slowing down. And I climb and climb, incapable of preventing the smile that automatically starts to spread, anxious to see the faces waiting for me behind my decidedly un-hip, suburban door.


(Thanks Ayesha for the article!)

Weekend Links

Friday, January 16, 2009

Happy Friday! Some weekend reading:

Check out this guy's case for why "Slumdog" is over-rated, and his indictment of his own profession (movie reviewing). Or, if you can't get enough of Jamal and Latika, watch them do a little dance on Ellen.

If you missed it--take a minute to read Obama's open letter to his daughters, and to all the children of America.

Weigh in on the Washington Post's question: Are dads less prone to whining than moms?

Read this list of the most disturbing "children's" movies of all time before renting any DVDs this weekend.

Scratch your head over this: Krispy Kreme tries to give away free donuts to celebrate Obama's inauguration...and incurs the wrath of pro-lifers.

And, get inspiration from one of my favorite sites, OhDeeDoh, which showcases "the lazy mama's method of memory keeping"--yes lazy, perhaps, but also super-cool and unique. And worth checking out.

(In case you are wondering: Indian Auntie is inundated with titillating questions on etiquette and manners--check back in to see what she says, and who she offends, next Friday.)

Brown Girls: Death to "Recessionista Chic"

Thursday, January 15, 2009

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Rajasthani Fashionistas



Now here are some dolls I wish I could procure for my daughter-to-be. One of my current blog-obsessions, Masala Chai, recently posted this piece about Marie Claire India's Rajasthani puppet project:

The Rajasthani puppet - a symbol of storytelling, vintage India-style - got a
Marie Claire makeover when, to celebrate our second anniversary, designers were
invited to drape two-feet-high puppets in their signature styles. The unique
fashion installation at the anniversary parties in Delhi and Mumbai -- in
everything from Swarovski slippers with chiffon dresses to leather gowns,
block-printed tunics to finely pleated mulmul ghaghras with intricate zardozi -
became a new form of storytelling in fashion. The hugely popular puppets now
take the pride of place on our fashion awards logo as well as form the signature
art emblem of MC's Made in India series.

Some of India's most prominent designers--including Manish Arora, Varun Bahl, and Gurpreet Pia--participated in the project, resulting in some breath-taking, cutting-edge design draping the traditional dolls. The juxtaposition is awesome--if only American Girl Place could take some cues!


Two Things I'm Not Going to Buy

Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Did you (secretly or not-so-secretly) watch the Real Housewives of New York City? I did. Sometimes secretly. Sometimes in the open. It was a trainwreck, bejeweled and with great shoes. The true "star" of the show, in terms of trainwreck magnitude, was Alex McCord, who (1) unapologetically explained that she and her creepily- feminine husband, Simon, went to events in New York city in order to meet "socially important" people; (2) pretentiously insisted that her children speak French at all times, for no good reason; and (3) sat by with the calm of a Valium-addict and watched her children throw tantrums of epic proportion...and then insisted that her kids were the most well-behaved children she has ever encountered. Apparently being a social-climbing, affected mother with bad hair and a penchance for ill-fitting, extremely expensive clothing is what makes a "parenting expert" these days: Alex and Simon are co-authoring a parenting book based on their experiences with their children. For a bit more flavor, keep in mind that these are the same people who woefully explained on television that their kindergardener only got into his "15th choice" school and then immediately set on the path of finding the "right" people to get him into a better school. In between looking for photos of themselves in the paper.

Then there is this new "toy" that Janie T in Ohio emailed me about: Kidsling, a toddler-sized version of baby carrier sling. First of all, can't our kids just use the huge pile of baby crap we already have in our homes if they really want to copy us? Secondly, is it just me, or is there something a little creepy about seeing children pretending to hold babies and stroller them around in those mini-strollers? I know this is probably not a popular thing to say and I know it's natural for kids to mimic their parents, but something about it feels funny to me. Like our kids are these mini-adults. Or, to go further, what about our kids wanting to mimic us nursing a baby while the baby is in the sling. Is this as "cute" and "adorable" as some people find the notion of kids toting around their stuffed animals?

Then again, I suppose every little kid has a doll of some sort so maybe I'm the crazy one.

Speaking of dolls: Have you seen the new "American Girl" doll Sonali? She is only the third non-white doll the ridiculously popular AG outfit has put out (check this out if you are unfamiliar with the AG phenom) and, according to the official AG literature, she is "at least part South Asian" and "she is also quite smart." She is also depicted as one of the "mean girls" of the AG pack, which I hope doesn't influence the legions of little Brown Girls who will buy her too much. Thanks to Parul in Chicago for the tip!

Did You Hear: Vicks May Make Kids Sicker

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Wanted to point out this news story since I know many of us (and many of our parents) use Vicks on our kids at the first sign of a cold. According to this article, using Vicks products, and particularly putting Vicks ointment under childrens' nostrils, may actually increase mucus production and cause serious respiratory issues. As with all "scientific studies," there is ample back-and-forth on what this conclusion really means but the medical community is in agreement that it is best to avoid using Vicks on children under 2. Who knew?

Culturally-Appropriate Sleep Training?


A reader, Priya, emailed me a few days ago with a question that has had me thinking ever since:

As a new mom of a 4.5 month old girl, I have been grappling with sleep issues. She used to sleep well at night. Now she, well, doesn't. It sucks; I'm tired. And I'm also getting advice left and right. But somehow it's turned into a bit of a cultural issue in my head. The more "American" way to deal with it is to Ferberize. The more desi way to deal with it is to go with the flow, let her sleep when she needs to and in our bed if necessary (a la my mother and mother in law).

I'm of two minds.

Are there other baby care issues that can come down on cultural lines?

I was immediately reminded of the first couple times we went to visit my in-laws in L.A. after D was born. They were of course excited to show off their first grandson to their friends, and wanted to take him to weddings, parties, people's homes. I was an insecure new mom who, at the time, needed a schedule the way others need things like air and water. I knew what time D needed to eat, sleep, bathe--and I believe he thrived on the routine we kept. So I forced my husband to put his foot down (which is the subject of another whole line of posts) and insist that we wouldn't take D out after 8:00. D goes to sleep at 8, I would recite as mantra-slash-automated-cult-programming. After initial protest, my in-laws tried to be understanding of my rigidity, but I would still hear many stories from various people in the community about how when my husband and his childhood friends were babies, they were out partying till 3 a.m. on a regular basis, and how J over in Diamond Bar takes her kids to every sangeet and mehndi on the social calendar. And you know how those stories can affect you when the source is in-law-related and when you are still unsure of Every. Single. Thing. you are doing as a mom.

Fast forward to now. While I am no longer pathologically attached to my schedules, I still do believe in routine--maybe even more for me than my children. I suppose it isn't very "desi." But it is what keeps me "sane." I will take some sanity over homage to my cultural heritage in this round.

As for Priya's question: What do you guys think? Have you/do you sleep-train your kids and do you meet resistance from your family for doing so? Do you have other examples of care-taking that are frought with cultural implications?


Monday Musings: Careful What You Wish For

Monday, January 12, 2009

On Friday morning, I woke up to the sound of my 3 year old screaming at the top of his lungs "No Nana! I want Mommy! No Nana No Nana No Nana!!!!!"

Nana is our nanny. She has been a part of our world since D was 3 months old and now feels like a part of our family. A testament to this? D came up with the name "Nana" himself. We still call her "Auntie" and we introduced her to D as "Auntie," but he knew unconditional familial love when he saw it and donned her his "Nana."

As a new mom, almost exactly 3 years ago, I had many misgivings about letting this older Indian woman into our homes and world. First there was the requisite guilt any new mom feels about getting help to take care of her children. We've all heard the folklore and mythology of our parents doing everything by themselves and how many stories have we burned to memory about our moms or mother-in-laws doing insane things like traveling to India, solo, with multiple children, no carseats, no DVD players (uphill both ways etc etc. ha.)? So the idea that I was paying for help in my comfortable little life, with only one child and a generous maternity leave on my plate--Let's just say guilt came out of my pores.

Long story short: I got over it. What was more difficult to overcome was the presence of this caretaker--this Indian grandmother-figure--in my space and in my thoughts. Was I her boss or her surrogate daughter? Sometimes the line became blurred, as she alternated between asking me if I wanted tea prepared in the morning to giving me advice on when to introduce water to my newborn. It irked me to no end that this nanny thought she could tell me what to do. And, in retrospect, I think it irked me to see her so natural with my little baby, who, at that point, was a complete mystery to me, as familiar as Greek (meaning: not familiar at all). She also would tell me seriously misguided things, such as "In the last family I worked for, all the kids wanted me more than they wanted their own mother." Great I thought. You just articulated my worst nightmare.

She didn't mean to say hurtful things. She just wanted to convey to me how much she loved my son, a fact that became obvious to anybody as the months rolled by. She didn't mind that he took forever to fall asleep, would demand whole new meals after she presented him with something homemade that took her hours to make, would scratch her face to the point that she would bleed while they were playing. She loved and loves him like her own grandson. And, in terms of my life--she afforded me the opportunity to temper the fog of new motherhood by having time to engage in the real world. I could get out of the house without much planning, completely secure in the knowledge that my new baby was safe and as taken care of as he would be by family. The luxury she affords me and husband now is almost embarrassing. We sometimes tend to keep it a secret that--in all honestly--we go out, see movies, try new restaurants, hang out with friends, and have time for ourselves more often than we ever thought would be possible post-children. Now, pregnant with my third monster, I truly don't know what we would do without Nana.

Of course I still find reason to complain. Nana is messy. Nana is impossibly unpredictable in terms of when she arrives on Monday morning. Nana believes you don't need to flush the toilet every time you go to the bathroom (I know). But these thoughts quickly segue into recognizing: Nana is the reason we could go to Mexico. Nana held a washcloth to my second son's forehead for 4 hours straight when he had a fever and I was stuck in a meeting at work. The only photo Nana carries in her purse is one of my children.

So, Friday morning, at 6 a.m., listening to D screaming at the top of his lungs to be away from his Nana, I felt as much a need to comfort her as I did to comfort him.

Congratulations to "Slumdog Millionaire"!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

What a coup! "Slumdog" was 4 for 4 at the Golden Globes tonight, including the big prize--Best Picture. And my LORD Freida looked hot...! For much more on the movie's historic GG wins, see here and here. I thought it was cool that Freida called the film a source of pride for India...but what was up with Shah Rukh Khan offering a "pelvic dance" at the podium?!?

Introducing: Ask An Indian Auntie

Friday, January 9, 2009
It's no secret that we worry about what people think. It's become the stuff of cliche that Indians are more concerned with what the Jones' are saying about them, than keeping up with (or surpassing, as the case may be) them. Our generation makes fun of our parents for their constant refrain of "what would people think" and yet--who among us doesn't have some amount of that instinct? The social and cultural landscape of second generation Indian women is hairy (in more ways than one...!) Especially during those times when, try as you might, you just cannot understand where your mom, mother-in-law, uncle, auntie, cousin, is coming from, in terms of protocol, etiquette, or life in general. Add to it the host of issues that motherhood poses and there are a lot of questions that go through our heads...

Indian Aunty is here to help! "Indian Aunty" is a collection of some of the funniest, wisest, most proper and most wonderfully improper Indian Aunties I have met--she will morph and change but what remains the same will be this: She will tell you what Saroj Auntie and Kamala Auntie are saying about you behind your back, she will not mince words and she will let you know when she thinks you're--well--completely wrong. And knowledge is power, no?

Welcome to Ask An Indian Auntie. Send your questions to deviswithbabies@gmail.com or leave them in the comments section here.

Q: Dear Indian Auntie,

I caught my husband looking at Indian porn. For some reason it bothered me more that it was Indian but that's not my main issue. My main issue is this: He always has claimed to be, and seems to be, pretty "traditional." Doesn't looking at porn fly in the face of traditional Indian values? And should I care? I think it's kind of disgusting but he isn't hurting anybody, he's a good husband, a great father, we are happy. Has this always happen?

-Paused by the Porn, San Francisco, California

A: Dear Paused by the Porn Beti,

Thank you for your writing! This very thing happened to me when I was a young 21 year old bride. I was making the dinner when I noticed that my husband was not sitting at the table, like he always was. He would sit there, smiling, impatiently yearning for his dinner. But tonight, he was missing!

So, I walked upstairs and realized he was in the bathroom, with the door closed. He never closed the bathroom door! I thought something was going on. I'll never forget the moment, when I knew what was going on. I could even smell it.

"Why are you eating chicken tikka masala in the bathroom!', I shouted. "I have only been working all day, cooking that very dish for your dinner!"

Later, I talked to other women and realized I was not alone. All men want to sample the cooking of other women sometimes.

In these modern days, the type of pornography may have changed, but men and their yearnings have not. So I wonder, what if, on that day, he was eating eggplant parmesan? Cheeseburger and fries? Cous-Cous?

I think I would have felt the same sense of confusion and fear. You see, the problem is not the type of food. The problem is the appetite.

When my husband came home from work the next day, there was no dinner. I told him it was simple. If someone else is feeding him, my work is done, no?

Email to me when he stops. He will.

Love you Beti,
Your Indian Auntie
.

Brown Girls: Denial Thy Name is "Mommy"

Thursday, January 8, 2009
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"Sanjay, Sanjay, Why Have You Failed Us?"

"Dr." Aasif Mandvi ("on behalf of every single member of my community") on Sanjay Gupta--hilarious. My favorite line: "I'm an Indian-Americans, John, we are all born with a certain level of graduate school medical training." Heh. Don't our parents wish...!


File Under: What Were They Thinking?


Yesterday I had lunch with my friend V, and we were discussing how everyone we know is jumping on the "I can be an entrepreneur!" bandwagon. It seems like a smart thing to do, especially in this economy: Find something you like to do, set up your little cottage industry in your home, see where it takes you. I fully support these efforts. But sometimes enough is enough. In the ever-expanding commercial terrain known as the baby-industrial-complex, you have to wonder whether there are any limits to the products that will be pushed on us. For instance, many moms I know recognized their limit when mommy blogs and magazines alike started pimping these "delivery gowns"--nightgowns for us to purchase and use only once, during labor and delivery. I didn't and don't want to buy the delivery gown but I wasn't as angry about it as some other people--to each her own, I thought. However, I think I have now found my limit. Introducing: Morning Chicness Bags.

Yes. That's right. "Morning Chicness Bags." These "super cute" bags are designed--you guessed it--for you to vomit into. They are essentially pastel colored paper bags with a bit of pretty. Their tagline? "Morning sickness vomit bags for the chic expectant mother." I do not think I have ever seen the words "vomit" and "chic" in the same sentence before--for good reason. I am almost at a loss for words. (Isn't this picture hilarious??)

I feel a little guilty hating this product so much. After all, it's no skin off my back that the product's inventor has made it and is putting it out into the world. And maybe she is laughing/vomiting all the way to the bank, who knows (though: please, please tell me, who would buy this??). In fact, this wretched (ha) product proves as inspiration for us all: If designer vomit bags can find their way into the marketplace, so can that idea you have been mulling over for years. Get to it. Seriously. Need more inspiration? This guy got an entire "cookbook" published--about semen-based recipes...!

Hand me one of those vomit bags.

MAC Attack

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Are you a MAC girl? MAC Cosmetics does a great job of providing highly-pigmented lipsticks and eye makeup that tends to suit darker complexions. Their Studio-Fix foundation is a fixture in most make-up bags I have perused and it is a good "starter" makeup if you don't consider yourself a "makeup" person. Until tomorrow at midnight, save 25% off your entire purchase, and enjoy free shipping on purchases over $60.00 at MAC Cosmetics. Use the code MACFF9. I just bought this.















Want more beauty news and shopping deals? Check out Brown Girl Guide, launching soon.

One Indian Woman's Wish List

New Year, new wishes. All moms dream of things that would make life easier ("A robot that cooks and cleans...and breast-feeds"). Here, some of my wishes, specific to being an Indian mom. Somebody please look into these--many would be a post-it-note "why didn't I think of that!" moment I am sure...!

Beyond "Identity" Fiction

We get it. We, as Indians, sometimes feel torn between the east and the west. If we were born here, we are intrinsically "American" but, at the same time, we have values rooted in a decidedly un-American heritage. Thank you to all the literary trail-blazers who put "identity" fiction--and literature about South Asians in general--on the map. But let's get on with it already. How many times do we want to read about one foot in New York and one in Delhi? Eighteen times pretty much sufficed. Onward and upwards, let's see what else the glorious Indian women who roam the pages of fiction can do.

Netflix for Indian Clothes

I have learned the rules but they still don't make sense. That $1000 lengha? With the hand-done embroidery and gold spun by hand? You should wear it once and carry around a spotlight so everyone can see how gorgeous it is...but then you can never be caught dead in it again. Okay. I'll play by the rules. But why not let friends reap the rewards of that spun-gold and Swarovki glory. Or forget my friends, let a stranger wear it, why does it have to hang in sad confinement in my closet (read: lay in a sad pile under my bed). Somebody has got to get on this. Bindi Borrow or Steal. Or something.

A Turmeric-Sensitive Cleaner

Members of my family believe that turmeric is a magical panacea. When my kids are coughing up lungs and their noses are perpetually leaking, I would try voodoo so turmeric is completely fine with me. But it is a disater on my home. The faint yellow residue has left impressions on high chairs and fabric long after the colds have passed. There's got to be something to get this out and even my magical Folex has failed me.

While we're at it: How about something to get that "I just came back from india" smell out of your clothes. Don't even tell me you don't know what I mean. Febreeze doesn't cut it, it just makes it seem like you were hugged by an Indian airport that had a Febreeze free sample kiosk.

Luxe Lipsticks for Brown Ladies

I have found foundations, blushes, skincare and eye makeup that I think looks great on Indian women but, for some reason, most lipsticks still manage to make me look like a clown. It's not that hard is it? Listen up Chanel: We have money to spend (sometimes): Give us a reason to.

A Short Primer On Important Traditions


I need to be able to sift through which traditions are really important to my extended family and which ones are really just filler on the calendar. I am a mutt--half Gujarati, half South Indian--and my husband is Punjabi. In terms of tradition and culture, we may as well be from different countries, it seems at times. I need some Cliffs notes. AND, I would LOVE to know what the ritual and pomp and circumstance surrounding the many traditions I've never heard of actually mean. I am still trying to get to the bottom of the significance of the strainer at karva chauth. And are we allowed to steal shoes at all auspicious occasions? And is eating panjiri THAT important?? I wish the people behind these books would get on this.

More South Indian restaurants

Just saying the word "dosa" makes my mouth water. There's more to Indian cuisine than Tandoori chicken and yet, many people have no idea.

"Petticoats" that don't suck. And lenghas that don't attack you.

I have war-wounds from some of the Indian garb I have worn. Cat-claw-like scratches under my arms from bronze adornment on lengha blouses. Near-rug-burn on my waist from "petticoats" that need to be "so tight they hurt--if it doesn't hurt it isn't tight enough." And the "petticoats" (love writing such a silly word!) are often of this horrible synthetic, satiny material that feels horrible against my skin. I'm thinking it doesn't have to be like this. Somebody please show me the way.

Non-cheesy Indian-inspirted housewares

I don't need Ganesha on my plates and I would prefer not to have Lord Shiva on my accent pillows. But it would be great to be able to showcase Indian art in my home. We keep hearing about how thriving the Indian art scene is but it remains difficult to gain access to it from here. I would much rather throw some money at a modern Indian art emporium than Design Within Reach--if I knew how.

Got Any Indian-Inspired Wishes on Your Wish-List?