Sunday, August 24, 2014

"Dhwani" of Life.

Semester has begun again. New semester, new classrooms, new students and of course, new perspective. Why else would one look forward going to school or work everyday unless they get something new :) I have titled this topic as "Dhwani" of life. Well, "Dhwani" means sound or the "echo". Everything we do in life teaches us back something, it is like a new music that we learn to sing  or dance as we please. I titled this topic because of a couple of reasons. The first one is about an article I read yesterday.

It is about a 99 year old lady named Lillian Weber. It was such an inspiring article. She, at the age of 99, stitches and makes one dress/clothing a day for children in need. This is for a project called Little dresses for Africa. She starts her morning stitching a new dress for a child and completes it by afternoon. What was beautiful about it is that, the lady wants to complete 1000 dresses and she has now done 800 odd dresses. I was also surprised and inspired to see that a group of women all aged over 80 started doing this in 2011. What a soul! Her life's "dhwani" is that she gives back something to her society even at an age, that most of us would wonder - how can we fend even oneself ? I wish I can contribute something like that as long as I live and help echo my music in a positive way to the world.

Why else have I titled this as "Dhwani"? It is because I finally participated in the local India Fest, that is usually organized by the Knoxville Indian community. This was my first time. When a friend (Manasi) suggested that we sing and perform for a group song, I agreed. Of course, the idea was to get a chance to interact and meet more often and also not miss an opportunity to sing on a stage once again (It has been a while). The meetings, the differences, the similarities, the text messages, emails, the food, laughter and of course, the hard work paid off yesterday. We got some great compliments by the "generous" and kind audience. I wished my hubby was home and in town yesterday, for he would have also performed something and yeah, been there to hear us live. This would not have been possible without the help from our partners (three of us in our team are married) - 2 A's and a B, along with the help of few  of our friends who helped us find the karaoke tracks.  We sang the patriotic medley of Telugu song, Tamil and a hindi song. We sang, "Sreelu pongina" from "Leader" Telugu movie which was followed by the pallavi and charanam of "Ninnai Charanadainthaein", a song from Bharathi movie composed by the great Isaignani Illayaraja sir and written by Bharathiyar :). The last song was the charanam from the "Maa tujhe salaam" version composed by all time special favorite ARR ji. I have to thank my team mates-  Manasi, Keerthana, and Preethi for being a great team and making "Dhwani" a success. Yes, "Dhwani" was our team name! That name aptly suits the idea of our group- music. It was nice to be a part of this, as I got to meet some new friends  and learn something too.

Dhwani-Posing for the picture after the performance. © Copyright Meena Arvind 2014. Picture courtesy Preethi Aravind

This event made me realize how much we cherish our past and the heritage when we are away. Things that seem very trivial are appreciated and celebrated. The joy of small things :) With changing times and burgeoning technology, the borders erode, people unite, we come closer but the culture prevails. Sometimes it is the old one and sometimes the new. Nobody wants to leave their culture behind. They continue it and cherish it. If they leave theirs, then they choose to adopt another. It is sometimes like a melange of colors. When an artist paints, the wall brightens up with colors that form a new image, a new idea, a new thought, and sometimes a new paradigm.

The event also helped me realize how much I missed my friends and family every time I turned around. Just like those colors on an wall, every friend adds a dimension to your life. It is not just give- and- take but it is more like a bond that never breaks (or never should break). Why am I saying this now? Well, I remembered every close friend of mine, whom I have met so far when I walked around the event grounds. I smiled when I realized that the new ones I meet today are already forming bonds that will last for a long time to come (hopefully and at least for me). I really missed my hubby and also missed one of my dear friend (Ramya) who left Knoxville last year and moved to a much bigger city (Houston). I wished she were here today and may be she would have been a part of some dance show too! I was also glad that a couple of my friends at university - LaVerne and Ivonne decided to come in and spend some time too. I should have emailed a lot of them but was busy and missed it!

And about the event, even though, I did not stay back for long as our performance was during the first part of the first slot - 4:00-5:15, I enjoyed the ones that I watched before our performance. Also met fellow Knoxvillian and Indian, Gayatri Mahadevan who creatively choreographed a very simple but excellent kids dance that showed the diversity and the unity of India (I loved her enthusiasm and spirit!). She runs a dance school in Knoxville (Nrithya Masala). There was also a Bharathnatyam performance by Nupura dance school (I presume) students.  It was beautiful to watch these little ones enjoy their performance as much as we enjoyed theirs.

These beautify the sense of community and collective ability of people to create wonders. Despite all the differences, ego, attitudes, challenges and all things that are complex, life teaches us the simplest truth that collective unity is much stronger than anything. Of course, an individual can be the reason why something starts, but then that individual would need a group who follows and help make him/her a success.

Just like how each one of you who read my blog and comment and encourage me to continue, help this blog remain alive and make it special and wonderful for me to write more often! And on that note, I sign off with a promise that I will be more regular on this page and hopefully use this page as a pad to work during my qualifiers preparation. Good night! 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The addictive "wall"
Image taken from KoSong blogspot

Staring at the "wall" of her facebook page,
She felt she was not really "active" and "smart".

The profile picture did not gather likes and,
her so-called friends did not bother to talk.
Neither phone calls nor emails and no intention to chat,
And she did know she was just feeling lost.

All she could get was a "hi" when she buzzed,
most times it was only the "seen" labels and text.

Though she felt that the whole world was busy,
chatting and sharing many stories.
They posted the photos on all pretext,
and shared every bit of their life in a text. 

Her mind was blank and thoughts all wary,
Nothing to pen or paint on the "wall".
She wanted some peace and be at ease,
Just forget the mess and get DE-stressed.
She tried and she tried to stop staring at the "wall",
 and "unfollow" the ones she didn't know.

Alas, if only.....
it were that easy. 
She tried and she quit
for, the wall was something she did not want to miss.
She just sat looking at her empty white wall.

© Copyrights Reserved - Meena Arvind 2014.

This is a poem inspired from one of the many articles that I read about how Facebook actually depresses most folks (NPR 2013). I am only linking just one of the studies here. There have been many videos that have gone viral (ironically through FB) that shows how social media has actually changed the way people position themselves, feel about themselves and others. This is just a fun poem and being a woman it was easier to use the personal pronoun "she".

Saturday, June 07, 2014

Anniversary special !

Picture from Personal file -Meena Arvind photography
          Three years ago, this very same day, 8th of June changed a lot of things in my life.  It is the day, I finally got married.  I cannot believe how the time has just flown by. When i look back, I am not sure if I can even believe that so many years have just gone by so quickly. Through these years, we have grown and evolved as individuals and also as a couple. There is a lot to learn when we walk together. We have had our ups and downs as we walked this path, but isn't life all about editing and using it the right way? Just like we like to edit and crop our pictures to fit the profile portraits of our social media space? Isn't that the way we want people to remember us :) Just as was said by Goffman. Our brains have that capability to edit and tune only to what we want or like. So, all those ups and downs have actually made the journey beautiful. I would surely not want anything else.As the saying goes, "Life may not be the party we hoped for, but while we are here we might as well dance".

            3 has always been one of my favorite number. My best friend group- Gren, Dava and I have always planned on meeting on 3rd of March :) 3/3. Of course, we have never been able to meet. But that special day we make sure we exchange an email or a note or a call or may be just a text message! Somehow, for my anniversary, the 3rd also has a special place. Why? Well, only because, for the 1st, we were away in different places and for the 2nd, we were busy with different things and all that we did was just a dinner time. This year, we have the whole weekend to be around and nag and bother each other :D So, here is a thank you to my dear hubby who has had the patience to handle my blah-blah's, demands and sometimes total nonsense. On a lighter note, what more could he do :D  Lolz! On a serious note, just wanted to wish a wonderful anniversary! Happy Anniversary, honey. Thanks to the Almighty for all His blessings!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

On women (for the lack of a better title !)
Picture courtesy: © Google images

Bako Haram. Well, I am sure you must have seen this in all (atleast most) news media. Of course, the news has gained more popularity due to the protests by the women in Nigeria and also the power of social media in helping this gain some attention #Bringbackourgirls.

It is horrendous and terrifying that something like this has happened in today's world. It somehow seems likes everything around us is only going backwards and not getting better. Leaving all the natural calamities aside, the other things that could take mass lives are: man-made calamities! Battles and wars have been waged for long. Lots of human lives have been treated with contempt and have been enslaved, dishonored, ostracized and slaughtered. But the barbaric acts of society has evolved over time. There are a few things which are very very rare and probably difficult to even think would exist. However, the atrocities against the vulnerable has constantly remained. Vulnerable is a relative term. Who is vulnerable? Sometimes, it the gender based, sometimes color, sometimes age, and yet at times, race and nationality. On Mothers' day I think it is important that we understand women and their stance in society. The terrorists capturing young girls at gun point and that too over 250 of them in broad day light. The parents are even scared to voice out their protest for the fear of their daughter/s being singled out. The terrorist group's point is that women should get married and hence should not have any education. How nonsensical!

Things like rape only seem to be increasing throughout the world, more than what was present earlier. Women are still considered to be those who have to go by what men tell them to. I am not writing here saying women have to fight for their stance, but the irony is that they are forced to! When we people talk or think of feminists, they think of those women who fight rules, probably stay single, or may be date you know "very open" men, work in bold careers, may be atheists, dress without any taste for fashion or what not! Well, not really, feminists are those who fight for equality. Why should someone fight for equality? It is only when it is not given. The fight for gay rights, the fight for rights of people of varied race, gender, everything is only because, the one in power overpowers the other. Stops the other from being able to go on with their life.

Even educated men and women have that mentality. Why can't they look at every human being as individuals who are capable of living their own life.Laws and rules should be there to help people not get hurt or in trouble because of each other. I have noticed that women are still told that after marriage, the only way to walk is their husband's! Well, nothing wrong as long as it is mutual, as they are a couple and they need to work together to lead a good life. As mothers, women tend to naturally take care of their children and husband, the always self-sacrificing altruistic nature of mothers make them look weak. Is that weakness?? Someone being nice about their thoughts on their children and family does not make them weak. I have a friend who has been asked by husband and her in-laws to not have financial independence. Well, of course, they want her to work but they want to hold the power to her credit and debit cards. How is that fair? Mind you, they are educated, working and people living in cities. It does not stop with that, she does not have any right to spend money on anything that she wants to! The choice of sharing a joint account in bank, the choice of sharing the expenses, the financials all comes with mutual respect and trust. If I do trust my husband, and of course, he does too, then us holding a joint account makes sense. When it is two of us working and having separate accounts, then, of course, it is a good thing to have independent accounts. Why would someone think that is not the way of an ideal and good wife! Unreasonable, I would say. To add to all that, women who take care of their own parents after their wedding is not a good daughter-in-law. How on earth is that even fair? The point I want to make here is not the daughter-in-law, mother-in-law fights or norms, but it is against these so called norms that actually tend to act as barriers in how women are treated. When these norms dictate the way one lives or is expected to live, then it becomes a problem. Hegemonic views leads to issues that do not allow another individual, irrespective of gender to grow. Now, yeah, one can argue saying, isn't that subjective? Not necessary, just because a country does not allow women to dress the way she wants or does allow a women to dress the way they want, does not make one better than the other. 

Just because, women makes a decision to either give up her career or probably not take up more promotions to help take care of family does not mean, she has to be told not to handle her life, her way. She has every right to lead her life as much as a man. Shouldn't it be a mutual way to help each other.  I make these comments based on what I have heard from a lot of them over time. It is a surprise that none of these change even after so many years. It probably is only on the rise. Now, going back to mothers' day, I want to wish every mother (or more so, every woman), a happy mothers' day for being that special, wonderful and beautiful being on earth, especially mine :) for bringing me (and my brother) up and handling me (and my brother)  and of course, loving me (and my brother) unconditionally.

Also, praying that the government of Nigeria is able to fight back the ghastly terrorists and save the girls from being sold off! # Bringbackourgirls.

Every individual deserves to lead a good life. What is good, is a decision that one has to make based on the rational and emotional needs one needs to satisfy. Unless that is leading to someone's death or is disturbing the peace in society or nature, the path one chooses is one's own.

Take care.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Memories ......

It has been a long time since i posted. Today is my blog's birthday. Yes, 8th birthday:) It has been 8 long years since I started writing on this page. Of course, I have not written much in last couple of years. Anyways, wishing my own blog a hap hap happy birthday!

So, what have I missed sharing? Well, nothing much a racing fast semester, missing India, missing my parents and family, well, nothing much other than that! As a birthday present, thought will write about something that I love...

My native :) I come from God's own country. I really miss my native a lot more after coming to the US. I stayed in Chennai for over 7 years but still, my state, the state of Kerala remains very close to my heart.. Growing up and living my early days in this state mostly in Trivandrum, the capital city, I have some wonderful memories. It starts with the  scent of coconut trees, jackfruit trees, the grass, hibiscus and what not. I remember the essence of beautiful earth when the first drop of rain hits the ground, the walks to temple, the zoos, the museum, Shangumugham beach, eating peanuts with dad, walking the whole distance with my dear dad on Onam and munching peanuts, the school, the wonderful smell of tiffin boxes when we opened during lunch time at school, the brown color "Chinmaya" uniform students walking around the small school campus, rushing out of the gates to meet my mother to walk back home, writing homeworks, hating it every time, playing "the times table" and other quiz contests during the load shedding time every day with dad and brother, the sound of the generator on the corridor of our apartment/flats, playing carroms, chess, little genius, book competition (who finishes reading a book first!) and what not.....

Pictures of Vadakkumnathan temple- my aunt(the left corner) and my parents(the right corner) in front of Vadakkumnathan.
I also very much miss the travel to my native town of Trichur where my grandma lived, the train travel watching out through the window seats talking to my brother and reading story books that dad got for us during our trips,  the temple visits, the swing, walking around the house picking stones, leaves, small coconuts that fell from trees, helping dad with the garden, playing with bro and tailing my big sis... Well, there is something special about that connection. I miss Trichur even more. I miss my grandma too {she passed away 10 years ago :( }.  Not that I have very great memories of being with her when I was very young, but I do, about the time when I was much older and when she stayed with us for a long time. Today also happens to be my grandma's birthday. Interesting eh? Well, my mom's birthday is tomorrow :) MIL-DIL connection!

I miss the rhythm of my native language, the water from the well, the fights, going over the trunk full of dad's old books, looking at old black and white pictures, everything.... I am missing everything around, I think I belong to. I cannot rewind anything now, these are just memories. Sometimes sweet, yet at times, bitter but these memories make me who I am. I miss everything about my native. I long to be there many a times, it is a kind of yearning that I cannot define or express. Who is there now? What will I do? I don't know 1 Sometimes, I just want to rent a car and just drive around, walk around our old house, wish I can help my parents remodel and set up a new home for them to stay, well, these are just dreams, who is going to stop me from dreaming :). I do not have any friends there in that state, but there seems to be a strong connection that draws me to my place, the place where I really belong.

This post is dedicated to my grandma - Meenakshi thathi (my dad's mom), my native Trichur, my parents and bro for all good memories they have given me to cherish and of course, this blog as a gift on its 8th birthday!

And yeah, wishing my mom a wonderful and happy birthday in advance :)


Saturday, February 15, 2014

A day for my sweetheart!

Picture courtesy: Meenu Arvind © Copyrights Reserved 2013
V-Day! Well, every day has to be a V-day, why have just one day! Yeah, it is easy to say, but when there is a dedicated day, we tend to remember to do something special for the special someone or many in our lives. This Valentine's day, I could not do much for my dear valentine. Busy busy week and of course, a couple of days down with the snow storm, driving around was hard. However, tried my best to get at least one little gift for him. So, this post is a special dedication.

There are many valentines in my life - from my parents to brother to my best friends and now, a real valentine- my hubby! I am thankful for what he is and what he tries to achieve. Here is a note to my sweetheart!

You walked in to my life like a sudden breeze,
A little cold, yet warm enough.
It took a while to feel the warmth,
but then, the love grew as time passed.
Can I say, love grew?
or may be it did not have to!
it just needed a while to color our hearts!

Once it did, there is no looking back,
Little fights or angry taunts,
moody days and busy times.
All these just pass because,
there is only love around.

Thank you Lord
for helping us meet,
it may not be the perfect match
but there is something that makes it spark!

Vous aimer......

Yours truly,

© Copyrights Reserved- Meenu Arvind 

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Oh! Wait, here is my New Year wish!

UTK-View from my campus building:)

So a new year has just begun and new beginnings are always hopeful (at least that is what the world tries to tell us :). A happy new year to each one of you. Well, yeah, I guess I can continue wishing a happy new year for the entire month of January. Ah, i know some of you are wondering, how come she is writing this late, well, for me, it has taken this long to realize that the new year has begun and it's almost a month old :P. Here, the new year also means new semester and that means, more to the grind! I have a MUCH lesser load for coursework but whatever I am having is as good as or much more than the previous semester. With the amount of work load-  i hope i remain sane (oh, am i now?!).

Sometimes, I feel this journey of studying is very solitary. They say, you will surely have folks to walk along but sometimes, it is not so.. in fact, most times it is not so. It is bad. But the good part is that it helps me know more about myself. Having moved through different parts of India through my school days, meeting different folks at different points in my life, in fact not staying with any one for a longer time, even if i wished to do that, I felt I was strong and will be able to handle change, being alone, the pressure and what not. Sometimes, i think i am not there yet. Lolz! Don't think i will be soon enough be there too :D

Thanks to my dear hubby and a few good friends from both at work and otherwise, they keep me sane and yeah, it has also helped me know who will be there when you need them the most!

This semester, I am enjoying my teaching more than my coursework! The class is a super awesome set of students who are really nice and curious. They are also having it a little later than last sem's timing.  As for research front, all i can say is it is still a long way to go!

So, see ya with another post soon...

Let the white flurries keep painting the town but of course, let the cars all drive safe and clean:) Happy nights, morning, noon and yeah, for those on ET happy snowy white evenings!