Something Special

“So where are we going exactly?” My husband was asking.

“To a Gurudwara.” I couldn’t explain further because it was my first time going there. Secondly I didn’t know what a Gurudwara really was but I also knew that it would be interesting to find out.

As a result of my son’s friendship with a boy in his school, and a subsequent play date, we had been invited to a Sikh temple for lunch. My husband, who I bet couldn’t comprehend why he had to come along, was curious but also knew better than to push the issue. It wouldn’t be the first time  he had ended up somewhere he didn’t expect, thanks to my insistence that we always discover and appreciate new places.

Where all are equal

The Sikh Gurudwara (temple)  was nestled in an assuming street on 3214 E. Banner Street in Durham. Walking in, I was greeted enthusiastically by my son’s friend’s mom who was going to be preparing our lunch today. Hunger inducing aromas wafted from the communal kitchen but I was shuttled off to the temple which was where the sermon would be taking place. My son’s delighted eyes, confirmed that he too was looking forward to partaking of whatever it was that was cooking in the kitchen.

In the temple, I sat cross-legged on the carpeted floor of the temple on the women’s side and my husband was on the men’s side. Both groups sat at equal distance from the podium as a sign of equality between all. The sermon had a  melodious tilt to it  with intermittent responses from the audience guaranteed to keep the attention of the audience. Ignoring the dull ache of my knees that were not used to being bent for extensive periods, I concentrated on the sermon. The Grandhi (priest) sat on the podium reading from the Holy book which I now understand to be the Grandh (book of wisdom). It was the only thing in the room that seemed to command attention. There were no other symbols, or idols adorning the room.

At some point, at the end of the sermon, we ate some prashad , a sweet dessert that everyone shared. It became clear that community was a key part of the teachings of the Sikh. Not only did  eat together but once the service was concluded and much to the delight of my son, we snaked our way to the langar  which was the community kitchen. Sitting cross-legged on the mats, men ladled vegetarian delicacies for all to eat. My son was quickly wolfed down a chapati while a friend of his alternated between ice cream, rice and chick peas.Even though I knew that was a stomach ache waiting to happen, I let them enjoy their lunch because I was delighted that it was the men serving the women in the lunch room.

This too was part of the communal foundation of the Sikh practice. It was explained to me that being part of the community meant being of service to the community. The communal kitchen was open every Sunday as well as during the week to the homeless and to everyone of any background. All were equal here. Each family had a turn to make a meal from scratch for the community as a show of service to the community. I couldn’t help but imagine what the world would be like if everyone tried to be of service and regarded everyone as equals.  Seva (Serving) is a big part of the Sikh belief. 10 percent of financial income is required to be donated and can take the form of serving the community. I shuddered as I  imagined public reaction if this were mandatory for everyone in the world.
I also imagined the possibility of ending world hunger if we all had to give to the world as much as we took from it.

It was a little surreal to be sitting in the middle of Durham and discovering this world of dignity and love. Were it not for my son’s friendship and subsequent play date, I would have never discovered something special in Durham, North Carolina.


A Spanish Affair in Raleigh

nopal salad, mexican food

nopal salad, mexican food

Sliced Mango with pepper in one hand, baby corn with pepper, butter and cheese in the other hand. I looked around and couldn’t help but marvel at the vast array of colors around me.

I was standing in the Spanish open flea market on a sultry Saturday afternoon in Raleigh,  trying to make a decision on which one to dig into first. A cacophonous medley of sound provided the backdrop to the bright hues of the wares being sold. In the middle of the market, stood a  tent with rows of fresh produced at unbelievable bargain prices waited to picked.

The market I am referring to is officially referred to as the

cornmeal products such as tortillas and taco s...

Spanish Delicacies one can enjoy in the Market

Raleigh Flea Market Mall 1924 Capital Boulevard, Raleigh, NC 27604 and before you get to thinking you have speak Spanish to enjoy this experience, think again. This is purely a pleasure for anyone wanting to experience something new and is not afraid to be surrounded by Spanish speaking dialects.

If you can say, ” How much? ” in Spanish, you are good. The first time I went there, I spent my first hour asking, “Cuanto?” and later realized the prices were taped underneath the vegetables. Two weeks worth of vegetables cost me $14 add in a $1 bounce till you get tired-bounce house where my son spent jiggling and bouncing until he couldn’t take the fun anymore, a $6 lunch from one of the Spanish fusion food trucks for the whole family, and I was sure I had happened on the a gem right smack in the middle of Raleigh.

From googling (yes, it’s a term), I found that it used to be the old location for IBM and later the building was converted to a flea market. I ventured inside to take a good look and found a hodgepodge of stores selling everything from fake sports paraphernalia to used furniture. The inside flea market was lackluster and didn’t hold come close to being as exciting as the outside.

The dominant clientele is Spanish but it was encouraging to see a smattering of  ethnicities who had braved this Spanish world.The market not only offered vegetables, but a car wash and all manner of household goods.

There is one word though, I am sure everyone would understand and might help you get any reservations  about making your way to this gem of a Spanish market with its Spanish themed food trucks, and its:


Non-English Speakers look foward to fewer Rights in North Carolina

In the United States, a person who is going to...

Title VI of the Civil Rights Act demands that a person may not be discriminated against.

At least that’s what it looks like.

North Carolina has been violating Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, the U.S. Department of Justice determined. 

In a puzzling series of  negligent policy decision making  by law makers of which the result may have even been longer sentences for  non-English speakers,  which of course overburdened Carolinians have to pay for  in the  long run in form of taxes. A nominal cost  (on 0.3% of the $463.8 million budget) of offering translators would have been an easy solution.

What has not been mentioned is what now?

Now that North Carolina has been found to be violating Title VI, what consequences will the agency have to experience?

A little known fact is that Title VI continues to state that

If an agency is found in violation of Title VI, that agency may lose its federal funding.

Now as upsetting as this all is, I would hate to imagine that  cushy $463.8 million being taken away.

If our law makers cannot abide by the law when enforcing  the law, exactly who is getting served by the law in question?



North Carolina Corruption Report Card Is Here

North Carolina Welcome Sign.

North Carolina Welcome Sign. (Photo credit: J. Stephen Conn)

A nationwide study on the level of corruption in states was released today. North Carolina received an overall grade of C- and ranked 18th on the list.

North Carolina outperformed cities such as Minnesota, New York and even Alaska. The grades were based on ethical decisions made by leaders and how people felt about the impact of policies affecting the populace of the state.

North Carolina received an F for public access to information and as a new transplant to North Carolina, I know this to be true. You cannot find information consolidated anywhere and the entire state is rife with different organizations all doing somewhat the same thing but none which seem to have a common link.

Perhaps there is hope yet for North Carolina.





Celebrate Your Otherness

African Americans Allowed to Vote

The word Diaspora comes from a Greek word that means to “sow or scatter seeds.” A group of Diaspora has the special characteristic of attempting to preserve their culture and religious beliefs.

It’s this “otherness” within us that constantly attempts to recreate experiences validating pieces of ourselves carried from the past.  When I traverse North Carolina experiencing different cultural events I can’t help but marvel at the rich tapestry of varying cultural experiences responsible for the unique qualities making up North Carolina.

The amazing experience of seeing the Black Mambazo group in Clayton,NC  was surreal at best. Here was lil O’l me,  far away from my birth country experiencing a performance that was a symbol of hope. The group started spreading  the message of love when apartheid was the order of the day in South Africa. Now 52 years later and a bunch of Grammy awards  under their belt, the group still continues delivering  beaming smiles, lively songs interspersed with gravity defying leaps left everyone awash with gratitude at this once in a lifetime experiences.

Black Mambazo In Clayton, NC

An Immigrant’s Allegory of Running

The morning chill threatens to frost my lungs as I cut a  steady path through the tree line. Defiantly, I ignore the plea from my feet as they will themselves to stop.  I am reminded of how many challenges I have had to overcome to be where I am today. Like when I left my birth country 12 years ago  to go to school and didn’t know what I would find on the other side of the world. How I had to remind myself all would be well even if I didn’t know when I would see my parents next.

kenyans. beating ass.

No that's not me.. Its what I wish I looked like when I run

Looking around when I run, I am reminded I am just a piece in the puzzle of the big picture of life.  Awed by the raw beauty of tall pines towering over me, I find myself marveling at just how small I am and how much I really don’t have control over things. I know as I run that there is a bigger hand at work.

The pitter patter of my rubber soles as they have a personal conversation with the paved trail drum a rhythm on the blacktop. The ebb and flow of the rhythm is a direct reflection of the highs and lows of my life. Times when I have been pleased with how things are going like when I finally went back to see my parents after 10 years and lows like when I lost my job or that late night..uhh…. ‘conversation’ I once had with the boys in blue.

Excruciating pain from complaining muscles cut through my senses and for a moment all I can do is be with the pain until it is gone. Just like I had to somehow exist within the uncertainty that is life as an immigrant. When I didn’t know how I would pay for my rent, or school fees. When the fast talking accents of the deep south seemed to spew out a garbled array of sound that passed for English. As I forced my tongue to lighten and my mouth to ‘enunciate’ so I could be heard.  Struggling at first, and accepting finally that the different me would ultimately have to do. In the pain of running, I am reminded every time- that everything passes. Instead of resisting, I embrace it. I know it’s here for a while and it too shall pass. So I push on and after a while it’s gone and I am back to the place when I began, where I was hopeful yet uncertain. I am back to the beginning when I was full of dreams and I am convinced that I will continue trying and pushing on.

When I run, I am reminded of how human I am. It’s my way of getting in touch with my weaknesses and my strengths. Through running, I am reminded that I am on a journey. I am only a small piece of a bigger picture. That as everything comes to pass, I too will be gone one day and I can only participate as much or as little as I can.


North Carolina House Meeting on Immigration Reform: Making Room for Change

A special House meeting was held on Wednesday January 25th, 2012 on how to deal with the ‘immigration problem’ in North Carolina. Discussions hovered around how to get to the heart of the problem which seemed to be illegal employment. It seems the problem is how to go about enforcing immigration reforms which won’t hurt the North Carolina Economy as is the case with the Arizona reforms.

Illegal Immigrant rights protest in the US/Mex...

Latino Protesters

Immigration reforms trigger ‘immigrant flight’.   Distribution of immigrants across North Carolina is somewhat blurred but it is obvious that Hispanic Immigrants (the largest immigrant population) favor rural areas. Immigration reforms will most certainly impact the agricultural sector.  Prompted by economic opportunities and policy mandates, ‘Immigrant flight’ has not to do with choice but more to do with survival. As more stringent immigration policies are considered and passed, immigrants will be forced to move to friendlier territories where they can enjoy economic opportunities.

After the meeting, a group of people held a rally outside the Legislative building protesting the immigration reforms being considered. It will be interesting to see how North Carolina approaches the immigrant question. Sweeping reforms could lead to a mass exodus of immigrants the impact of which might be severe on the North Carolina economy. For now it seems, North Carolina is carefully watching what happens in Arizona before jumping in and adopting similar reforms.