Friday, 20 March 2015

India Unplugged: What Really Happens When You Are Traveling, Living and Working in India

I recently had the pleasure of exchanging emails with Aurelia Zoss who has lived and studied in Austria, Canada and France. During her studies, she traveled across the Indian subcontinent once as a tourist and once as a researcher for several months. She has seen every corner of India: from the Himalayas to the Southern tip of India; from the Northeast to the coasts of Kerala – and every place in between. She has lived in Bangalore and Delhi and has now settled in Bangalore where she is working for an international organization.

She has written a book about her experiences called "India Unplugged."

From an book reviewer: 

"So many expats live in their air conditioned offices and enjoy being driven around by their drivers to fancy restaurants and clubs but have no clue what is really happening in 'their' country. Not so Aurelia. She immersed herself in this India experience like a naïve but curious girl. And her openness paid off: She was able to fill an entire book with crazy and funny stories about her travels and her life in India.

This is not a boring account about lame and uptight expat parties or hanging out on the beach. This is an expat memoir of a different kind.

Instead of bragging about her superior lifestyle, or lamenting about the 'tragic' deprivations she had to endure in India - as you can find in plenty other expat reports - Aurelia really took the plunge. She is telling us stories about REAL people: Bus drivers, coconut sellers on the street, Indian bosses, co-workers, dentists, tailors, and her hilarious interactions with them.

I was amazed at the humbleness with which she shares her stories in such an authentic and unassuming way. Lastly, I have to admit that I am impressed by her deep understanding of this complex country.

Totally worth a read."

Here's a link to the kindle edition on Amazon:

Friday, 6 March 2015

For India's Widows, A Riot Of Color, An Act Of Liberation

Indian Celebration of Holi and Widows.
(NPR. Susan Ireland)
I am posting a link to an article from National Public Radio (NPR) by Julie McCarthy about the Indian Festival of Holi.

McCarthy writes, "Holi is the festival of colors, culminating in the riotous tossing of powder and water balloons meant to herald the arrival of spring. Bonfires on the eve of this ancient celebration mark the triumph of good over evil and are seen as a chance to forgive. It's celebrated wherever there are people of Indian descent — Bangladesh, Nepal, Guyana, South Africa — but here the celebrations take on the hue of liberation.

Hindu tradition frowns on widows celebrating at such festivals. In some parts of the culture, the women are seen as the cause of their husband's death and relatives believe they should be cast out. The segregation of widows can be so extreme that in some places they are prevented from attending family gatherings, including weddings. Many poor widows are abandoned by their families and left to fend for themselves. According to census data, India is believed to have tens of millions of widows. Thousands live out their lives in the ashrams in the ancient temple-filled city of Vrindavan, popularly known as the City of Widows.
photo by S. Ireland for NPR

But when the widows of Vrindavan ignore the social taboo and join in the fun, Holi takes on a whole new dimension. Cavorting in the chaos of color, women young and old stand in showers of rose petals and marigolds and playfully smear each other with fuchsia, green and gold powder. With this act of joy, the women fight back against restrictions that have ostracized them.
A widow before and after Holi. photo by S. Ireland for NPR.
Photographer Susannah Ireland and I spent two days with the widows as they went through their morning rituals, nimbly preparing blossoms that perfumed the celebrations and shopping for new saris. Widows traditionally wear white, but breaking the mold, they go for a splash of color."

I absolutely loved this article and wanted to share it with you. Here's the link:

For India's Widows, A Riot Of Color, An Act Of Liberation

Widows celebrating Holi.(Susannah Ireland  photo)

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Winter in Tiruvannamalai, South India - Winter in Boulder, Colorado

Kutti, Beth and Kaveri. In the garden, Tiruvannamalai. 2014
This time last year, I was just finishing a month stay in Tiruvannamalai. My employer at the time had allowed me to work remotely since the company had a presence in India. I was able to connect with my manager at the time, a woman based in Bangalore, after many months of only conference calls. It was great to finally meet her in person when she and her family met me at Ramana Ashram one day.

This year, due to a number of family factors, I have not made the trip back to India. It is cold and snowy in Boulder, CO right now and friends in Tiruvannamalai tell me that it is beginning to warm up there as winter turns slowly to summer. The deluge of winter foreign tourists and ashram devotees will begin to leave and Tiruvannamalai will become quiet (and hot...) as the snow birds return to their cooler native places.

Right now, I am pulled to be in the USA for my family who lives in Boulder. I miss my friends Kutti and Kaveri, the Tamil women I have grown so close to over the past years. They are my strongest ties to Tiruvannamalai and I admire their strength as single mothers who raised extraordinary children under trying circumstances. We stay in touch and they understand my family commitments and me having to work right now.

Just an update from snowy Colorado...