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:

SAVINGS.

A Diaspora’s Christmas

Taken on University and Elm, Toronto @ Novembe...

Santa is here...what now!

Christmas is here and it’s once again time to be cheerful. This year the Christmas lights seem grander and flashier in an attempt to outdo the previous year.  Last weekend was the Cary parade and it did not disappoint. It had more than 200 entrants. I counted 4 matching bands and several Santas on floats.  Even Elvis was there shimmying and pointing in his tight alabaster get-up.   Feet started hurting as the  50th group that went by. By the time the 60th group was coming, I had lost all my goodwill and pretty much decided I would be better off resting than waiting for the grand finale.  The erratic behavior of my son and his friends confirmed that perhaps this was as good a show as we could take. They had ceased all real and fake interest in watching the parade. The awe they had originally expressed with each passing float gave way to a chorus of repeated inquiries as to when we would leave. Then, resigned to their fate of having to enjoy the parade, they took to running in circles around a tree. I gave up after the 70th and rounded up my relieved passé.  We headed home glad to be embraced by the welcoming embrace of the soft couch in the living room.

Once home, my husband and I reminisced on long ago Christmases from another world.  A Diaspora world where the lights and show came from the glow of the fire as it slowly crisped the barbecue meat that we would all enjoy.  My husband and I laughed as we recalled our shared experiences of having a goat or chicken brought home as the family gift that would be enjoyed by all. I tried to picture my son’s face if I told him that instead of the latest gizmo he was currently fantasizing about getting, he would get to enjoy food with us on that day. Or that we would be getting him a new outfit that he could wear to school or special occasions.

For the Diaspora, Christmas takes on new meaning as the commercialized aspect of the holiday demands funds be sent  to their country of origin for  families to have a taste of the Western interpretation of the holiday. Gone are the days when simply traveling to spend the holiday break with relatives was enough. Gone are the pragmatic days when it was enough to get a new outfit or a pair of shoes that would be used in the coming year.

Capitalization of Christmas ultimately means that even this holiday designed to get families together to celebrate; a class system is bound to emerge complete with its own one percent of people giving and receiving lavish gifts and those who do not receive anything during this holiday. It’s no longer going to be ‘who did you spend your holiday with’ but rather, ‘what did you get for the Christmas?’

I can’t help but wonder what the impact of commercialization of Christmas is going to be on the Diaspora as they struggle to meet the rising demand for gifts during the holiday. Not only do they have to shoulder the responsibility of celebrating the holiday as it’s done in the west, but they have to meet the demands from their relatives back home.

10 Super Cheap Things to do In the Triangle

Super Cheap- Super EasyTHINGS TO DO WHEN RETIRED TO STAY ALERT AND AC...

Living in the Triangle has its moments. Proximity to Raleigh, Durham and Cary means that there are choices galore of things to do.  The choices however are easily narrowed down when one factor’s in cost. Cost is prohibitive, if like me money or lack thereof plays a role in determining your family entertainment.  Since I am determined to get out with my family, I have been working hard to find free family entertainment that is not cost prohibitive.  This week’s list of 10 things is based on all free activities that I found to attend with family and friends. Well, almost free but which is as close as one can get  in our great Capitalist society.

  1. Occupy Raleigh or Occupy Durham– We wanted to attend this free event, but stopped short when we realized that we didn’t really relish the idea of getting arrested and then having to ante up precious $$ to get out. So in the spirit of free speech and down with Corporate greed , I say “ Go Occupiers! Go Occupiers! If I wasn’t a jobless immigrant scared of getting arrested, I’d be out there with you!”  Watch this video as arrests are made in Raleigh http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d44nW5yQhaw
  2. State Fair– I am glad we went to this almost free event. I refuse to feel guilty about what I ate there. The funnel cakes were amazing…and that was only desert.  We lumbered down the maze of paths stopping frequently for an endless variety of entertainment. Great job NC State fair!
  3. Diwali Festival– We decided to be Indian for a day and went to the local Diwali Festival. The Indian culture was vibrant in this absolutely free festival that celebrated Indian New Year. Festivities included an Indian Dancing Group from Russia (huh?) who performed in authentic Indian costumes and kept the crowd enthralled with their fancy footwork and constant twirls.  I wonder……would anyone notice if I bought one of those outfits and wore them in the street? The event culminate with an amazing firework display.
  4. Halloween Festival in Cary– Cary did not disappoint. Friends and family came out for the Cary fest at the Herb Young Community Center. As with any free event of this magnitude, we (the parents) spent majority of our time lining up and administering veiled threats to keep kids in place. At least we were rewarded with a hayride through down town Cary.
  5. Trick or Treating at the Cary Town Mall– Greatest idea ever! All in one place. One stop shop. Although a wee bit too crowded, this was a wonderful idea considering it had been raining outside.  Some of the stores like ‘The Children’s Place’ managed to stay true to the economic times by tricking the kids and treating the parents. In true corporate fashion, they didn’t buy candy but opted for the lame discount coupons that they handed out with a sticker stapled on the back of it. I will never forget the  dismayed expression of my son who somehow managed  a hollow “thank you” and scuttled for other hopeful prospects.
  6. The trails in Apex- Apex Community Park has a gorgeous 50 acre lake surrounded with trails. All free for family entertainment.  Running in these trails puts you in a peaceful state of mind that sets the tone for your day. I highly recommend this free activity. Next stop fishing.
  7. Great for Picnicking Walnut Street ParkRecently upgraded the playground offers padded surfaces for little tykes to tumble safely and approximately 1 mile of mulched trail. It looks nice and new. Great for Picnicking while taking in the fall colors.
  8. MeetUp– Its getting colder and a great way to get of the house is to figure out what it is you are interested in and go meet others like you who have the same interest. The Triangle has a lot of meetup groups. It has so many in fact, that I have to find time to sort through the sheer volumes of spam that I now get as a result of joining them.  It looks like there are hundreds of people in the Triangle, wanting to meet and not go broke doing so.
  9. A Good Book never led you astray– The libraries in Wake County have been proving to be full of surprises. With lots of workshops, seminars and guest talks, we have found plenty to keep us busy on the odd evening when we just want to get out for an hour or so without too much prep work involved. I have my favorites but for different reasons. The Eva Perry Library is grand and gives that  libary’ish feel, the Cary Library is great for my son because all the kids books are in one area that is easily accessible and Cameron Village Library serves a dual purpose for when I should be working but want to buy coffee and people watch at the same time.
  10. Volunteering– I can’t say enough on this topic. I volunteer quite a bit and feel that the best way to be a critic of anything is to actually get involved in the process of changing the ‘thing’ that you want to see change in the first place. So get out and volunteer If you can. Make your mark in the world.

There is plenty of inexpensive things to do.  I know that members of the Diaspora have tremendous challenges to face while trying to adjust in the society they have found themselves and I hope  that will list of 10 Super Cheap Things to do, you too can find a way to get out into the community and be part of it without feeling like there is a financial barrier.

Doing Good for Others by Doing Good for Yourself

Mohandas K. Gandhi (1869-1948), political and ...

Mahatma Gandhi led India towards receiving Independence from Britain through peaceful protests

“You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.” Mahatma Gandhi

 

I moved to North Carolina in the summer. Once settled,  my mission was to  get involved in the community. I had done some volunteer work in Minneapolis and experienced the intrinsic value of getting up and being involved (albeit in a small way) in affecting change in the community. Once in North Carolina, I pulled up a list of non-profits in the area. A deliberate investigation into the philosophies of each of the non-profits educated me in the needs of the community and re-affirmed causes that I would like to get involved in.

Restorative Justice, Reentry efforts  are two such topics. Topics that address the needs of the Diaspora (and hence the birth of this blog). Women’s advocacy issues are also of interest to me. So many great causes, and little  o’l me. I knew I had to pick one and so I did.

“Be the change you want to see in the world” Mahatma Gandhi

 

I picked Restorative Justice. Crime has a way of indiscriminately affecting not just the individual but the family (women included) and the community at large. This is how I ended up at the doorstep of Community Success Initiative in Raleigh. It was not normal for someone to call out of the blue to volunteer because when I first called, the receptionist said they didn’t think there was anything they had for me to do there. I insisted that I be put through to the President of the organization and was not a little  surprised when I was. A short time later I found myself starting the journey towards volunteering.

Man becomes great exactly in the degree in which he works for the welfare of his fellow-men.” Mahatma Gandhi

Someone once said that, most of us want to do good but we have no clear  idea how to get started. Getting started begins with just going somewhere and actually doing good. Thinking about doing good eats up the time you could actually be out there doing it.

In the Spirit of Doing Good, I have included a brochure to an event that I intend to go to and possibly blog about later. Proceeds from this event will be used by organizations in Raleigh to continue to help the community such as the youth.  See you there.

 

Do Good by Doing Some Good for Yourself

Diaspora Rumblings……10 Things in the Triangle

Fayetteville St Raleigh, NC

Fayetteville Street, Raleigh, NC

So now I am living in North Carolina and have taken to driving around occasionally to know the area. As I herd my car in the general direction of where most cars are headed I can’t help but notice the following 10 things thus far:

  1. There lots and lots of churches in North Carolina… Driving for a period of 15 minutes I counted 5 churches. Possible business idea?
  2. Lots of Lots of BB&T Bank terminals. Just one more try… you might get lucky and get some more money out.
  3. The heat in the summer tested my seasoned  Minnesota niceness. Time to move a little slower and take my time.
  4. Who in the world is planning the sidewalks? While running on the sidewalk,  I suddenly ran into a wall of trees, with nothing but highway to consider as an option. There was nowhere to go but back home.
  5. Why couldn’t the streets just be numbered? How am I supposed to remember all these names?
  6. Trees! Trees! Trees!  It’s so green! Oh wait what does that building say? Dangit, A tree is blocking the building name.
  7.  Taking a serene walk in the park, I ran into signs nailed to trees warning me of possible Copperheads in the area……Looks like my home is serene after all.
  8. Went to an African Festival in Raleigh last month. It was great! The Kenyan Group performing gymnastics was awesome. The African Children’s choir was inspiring too. Nothing but pleasure here.
  9. Had to go to court for some…uuheemm..personal business.. Not a lot of Diaspora here but a puzzling air of festivity…I learned so much in 40 minutes…mmhh!!
  10. Went to an Indian Restaurant  in Cary, and right in the middle of a meal, a Caucasian girl came out and belly danced awkwardly for the clientage for 30 minutes. Talk about a Jack in the Box moment!!

Looking forward to more exploration in my Diaspora adventures.