Tag Archives: Visiting

What to Do?

“What to do?” is Mamu’s unofficial catchphrase. I think it’s really cute. She uses it as a catch all statement, an exasperation, a declaration, and a filler. “Sigh, what to do?”

My favorite “What to do?” was from their 2008 visit. We took Mamu to one of the local temples (not where we got married, but a South Indian temple east of us), and she was bringing me around to the different altars telling me the names of each god. We got to one god and Mamu didn’t recognize the name so she asked one of the pandits who the god was. He said, “Shiva’s third son.”

“But Shiva have two son.” She said.

“No, Shiva has three sons.” The pandit insisted.

“No, two only.” She insisted back. The pandit shrugged his shoulders and walked away. She turned to me and said, “In Kathmandu Shiva have two son. In America Shiva have three son. What to do?”

Anyway… “What to do?” seems to be the question P and I have on our minds as of late. Now that the wedding is over, the extra relatives are gone, and wedding related tasks are finished, we don’t know “what to do?” with his parents. I’m worried that they are bored out of their minds.

P has been largely working from home, but hasn’t been getting a lot of research done, so he will have to start going back to his office soon. I leave for work every morning at 7:45 and don’t come back until 4:30. We have computers and internet, so P generally tries to find Nepali and Hindi serials online for his parents to watch, but we don’t have a proper tv for them to flip through the channels, and Mamu doesn’t understand enough English to follow American serials very closely (too much English tends to make her fall asleep).

Mamu spends some time each day cooking, and P’s parents have gladly volunteered for the job of taking our dog out for walks around the park in the morning and afternoon, but most of the day they are at home, and especially in the recent heat wave, I think they spend much of the day sleeping.

“P, what can we do with them? Do they have any hobbies? Can we get them active in a local community group? Should we teach them to use the bus system so they can go around the city? I feel bad that there is so little for them to preoccupy their time during the day. What do they generally do at home?”

“At home the day is usually spent just making it through the day—doing stuff that requires electricity during the brief time it is available, stocking up on water during the brief time that it is available, taking care of my grandfather, cleaning, washing clothes by hand, cooking, it all takes extra time, and then the day is over. Otherwise they socialize with neighbors, drink tea on the roof. That’s about it.”

During two of the heat wave days this week P dropped them off at a local mall so they could enjoy air conditioning and poke around stores while he was at work, but there are only so many days one can do this before even shopping becomes boring.

We try to take them out of town on the weekends– day trips or overnight trips to visit new places or people, but that is only two days out of seven.

About a month ago Gori Wife Life had a post asking for suggestions on how to keep her father-in-law busy during his recent visit. She had the idea of getting him involved in the activities surrounding a local mosque. That sounded like a great idea, but unfortunately the local temples are at least a 20 minute drive east or west and not easy for them to get to, plus I’m not sure how much community activity currently surrounds either.

But I’m happy to solicit for suggestions. Any help for “What to do?”

On the Move

During the next week and a half the American-Nepali household will be shifting locations. Not the website but our actual household. We aren’t moving very far, just to a bigger place down the road with off-street parking and a nice view.

However I’m a little sad to move, we have been in our current apartment for three years, much longer than I expected when we first moved in–and the apartment has been good to us. While the local neighborhood wasn’t always the safest, most of our friends lived only a short walk from our place, and we often had visitors popping in to say hello, have a cup of tea and/or a plate of food. Actually within half an hour of P and I driving up in the U-Haul delivery truck from New York we met three Nepali neighbors walking down the street who dropped everything to help us carry boxes. It was a warm and helpful “welcome to the neighborhood” and a nice surprise. Our new place is in the same apartment complex as our friend D, so rest assured there will still be guests (and much early Saturday morning soccer watching for P), but the people from our old neighborhood, most of whom do not have cars, might visit a little less frequently.

I have to admit that having guests pop in unexpectedly was something I had to get used to. The house I grew up in was in the woods. Our road was about two miles long and I could count the number of neighbors we had on one hand. We had guests from time to time, family or friends who would stop in for the day, but those visits were usually scheduled. I never experience the suburban lifestyle of neighbors knocking on my door for a cup of sugar, and I think we only had two trick-or-treaters at our door for Halloween.

It might not always be convenient to have people ring the doorbell randomly, but it’s nice to know that people care, that they genuinely want to say hi, see how you are doing, and talk about how the day went. It’s nice to feel connected to a community. As more of our friends start to graduate from their masters and phd programs and filter away, our community will grow smaller and eventually even we will have to either stay more permanently or move away as well. I hope wherever we do wind up we have another great community surrounding us.

But for now, our move is not so far. So I hope we still get visitors for tea and dinner! That means you too Neeti!

Letting Go (or) How to “Chill” the Control Freak…

I was having a conversation in the comment section of a Gori Girl post with another (I’m assuming male Indian) reader who was asking how non-South Asian “significant others” are able to adapt to various common South Asian cultural quirks. The conversation started like this:

I am very curious to know about relationship dynamics in your [Gori Girl] Indian American Household, with regards to the cultural differences in customs in India and America. More specifically, in India, people invite each other over and unexpectedly drop in and hang out and do things together. In the US its more planned, and “khatirdari” is less common in this DIY land. How does it work in your family? How do you handle all the social obligations of an Indian wife?

I responded:

I hope you don’t mind me jumping in, this happens all the time at my house. Not as much as it used to because a lot of our friends are more established now in the community and don’t feel the need to drop by as often, but when we first moved I used to have people at my house 6 out of 7 days a week. It could get really exhausting. Most visits aren’t really planned, and I know there have been times when someone has rung our doorbell and I really didn’t want to answer, but they could tell we were home because the lights were on or something. I remember once or twice I stalled as long as possible before offering tea to a guest (almost to the point of being rude) because I knew if they had tea they would stay longer rather than just dropping in, saying hi and leaving, but eventually I had to offer (that’s what the guest was looking for) or I’d look like a jerk.

I don’t mind the visits in general, and 85-90% of the time it’s totally fine and even welcome, but every now and then I wish we lived in the middle of the woods where it would be hard to find our doorbell ;)

Likewise, I take full advantage of this, and feel no shame in dropping in on others who would do it to us. Even people in different states if I am driving by! I’ll call and give a 5 min heads up and say, “hey, are you home? I’ll come and have some tea!” Usually it’s really fun, and if I knew someone was driving through and didn’t stop by I’d probably be a little sad.

I’d like to add that, I’ve become so used to this habit of “dropping in” or “going out of your way for a friend” which is common amongst our South Asian friends, that I can’t help but feel a little bad when this isn’t reciprocated in my own (extended) family. You can’t really just “drop in” unannounced, and you can’t really ask for a favor that is “going out of the way” (at least with most people). I can’t help but now feel this attitude is a bit “cold” even if unintentional.

Anyway, the reader responded with:

Please do jump in. Again, Indians usually find it insulting if their boundaries have NOT been violated obscenely in the name of togetherness and community. (:D)… It’s good to know that you enjoy Indian visitation habits and have started adapting to them as well… Are you able to relate to the quintessential South Asian “Chaltha Hai” attitude (Let’s wing it/everything goes!)?

So I wanted to take a few minutes to talk about this.

For those of you who might have known me when I was younger (middle school/high school) you might remember that I was a bit anal retentive. Yes, I’ll be the first to admit it. I was definitely one of those students that had to have my hand in absolutely everything (this committee, that committee, this team, that club, all the honors classes… even math, which I totally suck at, and whose classes have scarred me for life!), with a schedule packed solid 99% of the time. As part of this I was the queen of organization, and completely anal about my stuff… everything had a place, had a system… even lending out books or movies I owned… I’d keep a list with dates, like a librarian or something.

When I moved on to college I tried to keep this up. I regimented a lot of things: I had a day when I did the laundry, a day when I cleaned my room, I scheduled my on-campus jobs at times when I knew I needed an excuse to be motivated and productive, like the first morning shift in the library so I’d be forced to get up early. But it was also in college that I had to start relinquishing some of the control in my life. It wasn’t a bad thing… it was more of a “chilling out” process and it happened for two reasons.

One: I studied abroad.

Two: I became very active with the international students, and realized, not everything and everyone in the world can be regimented. (sounds like a history lesson from the British empire…)

I got a brief taste of “relinquishing control” in France, but it wasn’t until I was in Kenya and India that “white girl with control issues” really slapped me in the face. For anyone who has ever heard of “African time” or “Indian time” you know exactly what I am talking about… stuff happens at a different pace. You can’t always accomplish everything you set your mind to in the time frame you set for yourself. I realized quickly that by “letting go” of my control I could enjoy myself more and be less frustrated and cynical. I watched other students for whom this realization came too late, or never came at all, and I saw them struggle. It was a painful process coming face to face with uncontrollable obstacles all the time and having to bang your head against the wall about it. This became even more pronounced when I later worked in South Africa with American students but South African staff. There were two different ways of thinking about and doing things, and being stuck in between and interpreting the other’s side for each was a bit maddening, but definitely a learning experience. (I’m of the opinion that you could pack up and send anyone overseas to a fundamentally different place and they would come back a changed person…)

plain cheap ubiquitous bic pens

Secondly, P later told me a story from one of the first few times we sat studying together. He asked to borrow a pen, so I gave him an extra pen. When we were done I nonchalantly asked for my pen back. He later told me he was really surprised by this. It wasn’t a special pen, it was probably one of those “dime-a-dozen” plain bic pens. It wouldn’t have been a big deal if he kept it and used it, but I asked for it back. It seemed kind of rude, as if I didn’t have twenty other pens exactly the same back in my room. I don’t remember the interaction specifically, but I’m sure I thought, “hey, he asked to borrow it not to have it, it’s mine, I have x number of pens in my desk, so I’d like it back. If everyone took my pen when they borrowed it, I’d have none!” That interaction initially made P think I was either kind of selfish or a control freak. (He also really likes pens. He has about a million of them.)

Yet as the years went on, I became less of a “control freak” and more laid back. I realized that “stuff” wasn’t all that important, but that people and relationships were. Helping someone out or lending someone something wasn’t that big of a deal—so what if I lost a few pens or a novel or two. And the world would not end if the laundry wasn’t done on laundry day, and dust bunnies collected under my bed.

I’m still a bit of a control freak about certain things. I love to organize, I like schedules, I am a “list person” (you should see all the sticky notes stuck to my computer monitor at work!) but I’m also more adaptable now then I was before. Someone ringing the doorbell randomly doesn’t throw me off for the rest of the night… so good thing we made three cups of rice instead of 2! Or finding out at lunch time that we will have a dinner party tonight for 8 people… no problem… I’ll just pop by the grocery store after work.

It’s nice to have things in moderation, a fine balance between organized and free spirited. Does that count for “chaltha hai” attitude? I think so, at least a little bit ;)

I’d pop in the video for the Bollywood song “Just Chill” but I don’t like the dance scene, or Salman Khan… but this just proves that there seems to be a  Bollywood song for every occasion!

Instead I’ll let you listen to Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry Be Happy” because that’s how I roll :)