The Joy of Distinguished Companionship

There is a curious sense of satisfaction to be derived from the company of the elderly.  Perhaps it’s the novelty of hearing about figments of the past that find no existence in the present, or mere enjoyment of the simple (but long lost) act of story-telling. There is also the unmistakeable appeal of old world innocence, of a time when life was not necessarily easy, but somehow less complicated. But really, I think what really attracts us to elderly interactions boils down to listening to the wisened perspective of someone;

a) Who is at ease with who they are and is utterly and totally unapologetic about it

b) Who has the authority to tell you not to sweat the small stuff and to tell you about the truly important things in life because they’ve been there and done that. All with an added gentle touch of course,  because life has taught them to be kind.

Plus, I think we can all agree that sitting down next to our Paatis* while munching on homemade murukkus* as they narrate tales of their yesteryear adventures (and misadventures) rates highly on the spectrum of comforting things.  As someone who has had the privilege of growing up in the presence of both my grandmothers, I’ve heard my fair share of vintage tales  (i.e. the classic “Never Saw Your Grandfather’s Face Till Our Wedding Day” or  “I Went To School By Walking Over Mountains And Rivers” and even the “I Never Wore The Diamond Earrings My Mum Gave Me As Dowry To Get Back At My Mother-In-Law For Asking For A Stupid Dowry In The First Place”).  Recently though, Amma told us all to get our house ready because Kanthi Maami was coming over for the weekend and I knew my collection of vintage tales was about to expand exponentially.

Lovingly known as Kanthi Maami to all and cherished for her gentle nature, Maami was in her eighties and looked like any other grandma would. It only took me a few minutes once she was settled in though, to realise that she was no ordinary grandma. She started her narration with the story of how she got married, titled “Have you ever heard of a ponnu parkaal* where the bride travels to the groom’s house because the groom refuses to get married?”.  Her eyes, widened with a combination of annoyance and disbelief, coupled with her intonations as she explained that she was made to sing, not once but twice for her prospective in-laws (two of whom were Kalakshetra* trained vocalists) was incredibly cute, to say the least.

She had lived through an era of early British Colonialism in India, something I had only really seen depicted in Bollywood movies before. Her father was one of the esteemed lecturers at Oxford and Stanford which was impressive enough in itself I suppose, but what really intrigued me was that Maami herself was one of the few women of her time to complete post-graduate studies before she got married in the 1940’s. Her command over the English language was impeccable and her grasp of modern day general knowledge could put most of us to shame. The most inspiring thing about Maami however, had nothing to do with her access to education,  or a privileged lifestyle embellished with the wealth of culture and tradition. It was her love and unbreakable spirit that shone through and left an indelible impression on us all. She still travelled the world to do service despite her ongoing battle with cancer and chose always to rise above life circumstances that she could easily play victim to.

As the weekend came to an end, I wondered what a person of Maami’s age would want. What can a person who has been through all the stages of life and survived the test of time possibly need? In the words of Maami herself , “In the end, Love is all that we look for. It’s the only thing we need in this life”.

What are the most cherished memories that you have of your grandparents? Leave a comment below!

Glossary:  Paati (grand-mother), Murukku (savoury snack), Maami ( married Brahmin woman), Kalakshetra  ( highly reputed institution for the study and performance of fine arts), Ponnu Parkaal ( a pre-wedding ceremony where the groom’s family meets the bride officially for the first time and asks for her hand in marriage. It is usually held in the bride’s house.) 

I am a 24 year old tradition lover living in Australia. As I have never lived in India, I am no expert in Indian culture. Still, my love affair with this beautiful culture has been running strong for many years and I hope to share my passion with everyone this blog reaches:) Parts of this blog are fictional, while others are based on my own experiences. Happy reading! – Divya


Things I Learnt from Staying in an Indian Village

As much as I’d love to say that I hail from a quaint little village in India, I can’t. I mean the closest my friends and I even get to saying the word village is when we are referring to “Village Cinemas”, so I think it’s pretty safe to say that rural life is right up there in my list of unknowns. Anyway, it had always been a dream of mine to visit a traditional Indian village and I was EXTREMELY excited when we were invited to one by a family friend. And so, after twelve hours of road tripping, five instances of carsickness, multiple complaints of vertigo from the elders and encounters with roads that were really rock filled mud tracks, we arrived in the village slightly bruised and battered.  It was all worth it though, because this trip ended up being one of the best experiences of my life. Here’s a few things that I found pretty awesome.

#1 Atithi Devo Bhava- Guest is God

This saying prescribes a dynamic of the host-guest relationship in Indian culture and is taken from the Taittriya Upanishad which claims Matrudevo bhava, pitrudevo bhava, acharyadevo bhava, atithidevo bhava ( be one for whom the Mother is God, be one for whom the Father is God, be one for whom the Teacher is God, be one for whom the guest is God). I’ve heard of this concept many times before but this trip was the first time I saw it actually being lived out in real life.

I’ll never forget the number of times our hosts called our taxi driver to make sure we were ok on our journey to their place (approx. 28 times), or the amount of food they packed into tiffin carriers for us to take on our drive back. Nor will I forget the time the lady of the house literally jumped up and ran outside to pluck me some flowers when she saw my flower-less braid ( when I exclaimed at how gorgeous the flower she chose was, she winked and said “just like you “)! To top it all off, the members of the house were quick to offer us ANYTHING if we so much as mentioned that something was nice.

One of the most unforgettable moments of my life was how the family took us to their prayer room just before we left, and made the elders sit on a chair. The husband and wife of the household then proceeded to fall at the feet of each elder to take their blessings and then gave us all sarees and gifts. By this point we were all in tears, incredibly touched by the love in the room and extremely heavy-hearted at the thought of leaving. Every time I wear the saree given to me, I get a warm, fuzzy feeling as I fondly recall the love I felt that day.



#2 Keep it Simple!

The most endearing thing about the villagers was how genuine and simple they were. There were no airs and graces to be seen within a 50 mile radius of the place, that’s for sure! The women giggled shyly as if they were newly married brides whenever we praised them for their amazing culinary skills and the men were incredibly modest about their ability to harvest fruits, oils and vegetables across acres and acres of land through manual labour ( “I’m only an agriculturist” said a successful farmer, with his hands folded). Although talented in various arts, the children were softly spoken and very humble about the extent of their talents.  One boy claimed that he played “a little tabla” and we soon found out he was a student of a highly esteemed Indian musician after further enquiry. Their humility was definitely something to aspire to.


#3 Men are Treated Like Kings but then, Women are Treated Like Queens. 

In recent times especially, there’s been a whole lot of talk about feminism and differences in the way that men and women are treated in Indian Culture. Undeniably, there’s been an abuse of power by many individuals in creating a structure that is patriarchal and abusive to women, but fundamentally, Indian culture sees a man and woman as equal halves. One of the first things that struck me during my trip was that the men in the household were treated like Gods. The women refused to eat until their husbands had eaten and spoke to their husbands with much respect, serving them at every and any point possible. But equally, the men treated their wives with dignity and love, made sure that their wives were not straining themselves too much with the household chores and took care of the household finances. The result? The women were essentially untouched by the stresses of the outside world, which made them emotionally available to take on a nurturing role within the household. The men took on the role of a provider and made sacrifices to keep the household running. I’d say that the real winners in this arrangement are ultimately, the kids brought up in these households who have every opportunity to form secure attachment styles to build their lives upon.

This visit almost seems like a dream now that I’m miles away in Australia, but I’m SO incredibly grateful to the universe and all the Gods that fulfilled my wish to spend a few days in an Indian Village!

 I am a 23 year old tradition lover living in Australia. As I have never lived in India, I am no expert in Indian culture. However, my love affair with this beautiful culture has been running strong for many years and I hope to share my passion with everyone this blog reaches:) Parts of this blog are fictional, while others are based on my own experiences. Happy reading! – Divya





A Date with The Gods

She woke up earlier than usual that morning. Pangs of excitement left no place for the slightest traces of slumber. Shower? Check. Saree ? Check. Hair braiding? Check. Breakfast? There was no time for that. She smoothed her hair into place and made sure her pleats were neat. As she adorned herself with bangles and earrings, flowers and perfume, she hummed a sweet song of joy. She would dress in nothing but the best to meet her beloved Lord, who after all, had given her everything that she called her own.

The mere sight of the Gopuram* induced waves of happiness and unsurprisingly so, the temple was deliberately built where the earth’s magnetic field gave off high positive energy in abundance. Discarding her slippers and worries at the door, she stepped into the temple. She loved the feel of the marble on the soles of her feet and with every step, she absorbed positive energy from vibrations bouncing off the temple floors. A large bell was struck, the sound ringing loud and clear, dispelling any negativity that might have been lingering in the environment.

She reveled in the sight of the Gods, bedecked in layers of silk and jewels. She adored the temple air that possessed the most heavenly smell one could dream of: an oddly satisfying combination of camphor, ghee, flowers, sandalwood and incense. The sonorous recitation of ancient Vedic texts amidst the strains of nadaswaram* made her soul so, so happy. She circumambulated the Ganesh idol first. The sound of the prayer she chanted fervently in her mind competed with the overt chanting of the priest in the inner sanctorum. With every arathi* and abhishekam* the priest conducted in there, vibrations of all things good increased. All she was doing by going around the idol again and again was sharing in the vibrations already created, free to anyone that cared to tap into it.

An elderly couple walked past, their faces resplendent with the light of wisdom. The experiences of decades were etched into fine lines that appeared at the corners of their eyes. In the background, peels of laughter emanated from a group of children who were engaged in playful banter. The melody of old Carnatic compositions could be heard as some middle-aged women sang their hearts out with much sincerity. People from every stage of life were at the temple, it seemed, reminding her of her past, hinting at her future.

She made her way to the Navagraha *and payed obeisance to the planets who had the potential to rule her destiny, if only she allowed it. Deep down inside though, she knew that with God’s Anugraha *, the Navagraha could do absolutely nothing to the course her life took. Her surrender to God’s grace was not absolutely perfect though, so she still circled the panel of planets, just to be safe 😛

Her rounds now all complete, she sat down quietly for a few moments to enjoy the glorious atmosphere. Fully satiated with her temple run, she rose to exit through the grand temple doors. Not without a handful of prasadam* though, which happened to be yoghurt rice on this particular day. She smiled to herself. It was God’s nature to give, no one visiting His home would be allowed to leave empty-handed. Her heart and stomach were both full. It was time to go home.

Do you have any cherished memories of temple visits? Leave a comment down below!

Glossary: Gopuram (a large pyramidal tower over the entrance gate to a temple precinct), nadaswaram (double reed wind instrument), arthi (ritual of worship in which light from wicks soaked in ghee (purified butter) or camphor is offered to deities), abhishekam ( Hindu ritual of pouring water or other sacred substances on a statue of a deity while also chanting mantras), navagraha (nine ruling planets of astrology), anugraha (grace), prasadam (a devotional offering made to a god, typically consisting of food that is later shared among devotees).

 I am a 22 year old tradition lover living in Australia. As I have never lived in India, I am no expert in Indian culture. However, my love affair with this beautiful culture has been running strong for many years and I hope to share my passion with everyone this blog reaches:) Parts of this blog are fictional, while others are based on my own experiences. Happy reading! – Divya

Finding “The One” and Other Family Activities

So you’ve been brought up in a traditional family, you haven’t really been doing the “going out” and socialising thing and you’ve spent the majority of your life as a home body. Your life is inextricably linked with that of your parents. You go wherever your parents go and family is your world. One day, you are under strict instruction to not mix too much with boys and the next, you start receiving questions about whether you have found “The One” aka your future husband. Obviously, your first reaction is “Eh?! Remind me how this is possible again?”.  Was I supposed to be on some kind of treasure hunt where an aha! moment would alert me to the fact that The One was found? Nope. No chance. And so, you subtly remind your parents that thanks to your orthodox upbringing, this whole love marriage thing is not a very likely option. “Appa and amma, you choose, you know best.” you graciously say. Knowing fully well that the list of requirements you have specified is next to impossible to find in someone of this generation, you take some solace in the fact that this whole finding The One business could take years altogether and you have plenty of time to enjoy being a pampered daughter.

This does not stop the incessant stream of preparatory advice pouring through from everyone from your grandmother to random maamis* who have travelled to your western country all the way from the other side of the world, of course. ” Make sure you shower as soon as you wake up. Don’t touch anyone or anything, especially anything in the kitchen unless you have showered. Make sure you pray first thing in the morning. Cook in the orthodox way, your in-laws might be very orthodox” And so on, and so forth. Pretty much every action or reaction of yours is an opportunity for the imparting of future marriage advice.

Unbeknownst to you, your horoscope will be exchanged and examined ( received by unsuspecting looking aunties who will only receive the horoscope outside the Rahu Kaalam* time-frame). Several proposals will be received and turned down by your parents, others will be brought to you for your approval. Again and again, the cycle will continue, till The One is found. You will question whether marriage is even necessary seeing as your life is going pretty great so far. You will be told by your mother that this line of questioning is not an option( *read in dramatic voice* ” my salvation is dependent on me giving away your hand in marriage”). Your mother will further be prodded along by several maamis that will alert her to the fact that “a girl should be married before the end of her 24th year according to the scriptures”. Your father will roll his eyes. Your brother will add his own requirements to your already long list ( “as long as my future brother-in-law is a musician and has a Xbox, he can marry akka”). You will widen your eyes at the happenings and continue about your daily routine as if none of this is happening.

And this is how the arranged marriage system continues to exist in the 21st century, even amongst those of you who have been brought up in the West.

Have you had any interesting experiences with arranged marriages? Leave a comment below! I’d love to hear it:)

Glossary: Maami (married aunty), Rahu Kaalam(inauspicious timing).




More Indian than Most Indians

Is it just me or are NRIs more Indian than most Indians living in India? I mean while my fellow NRIs are busy enrolling themselves in carnatic vocal, violin, mandolin AND keyboard lessons (because where I’m from, pursuit of one art only is simply unsatisfactory, you see), our metropolitan Indian counterparts are busy enrolling themselves in salsa, western drums and electric guitar lessons. While we look forward  to any Indian festivity that will allow us to wear sarees and kurtas, our Indian counterparts embrace any opportunity to wear sundresses and crop tops ( bindis and salwars are reserved for “ethnic days” only people!). We travel all the way to Chennai from the other side of the world for music season, while our Indian counterparts would much rather go for a Coldplay concert in America. And so, the list goes on.

Of course, I am not denying the fact that there are traditional, orthodox families still existing in India who epitomise “Indianness”, nor am I denying the fact that some NRIs are more Western than the Westerners, but for the most part, Indians today are more modernised than ever before! I suspect that the “grass is greener on the other side” adage is contributing to this fascinating socio-cultural phenomenon and while I can’t speak for the lifestyles of metropolitan Indians, I can fully understand why NRIs cling on to culture with their dear lives.

Our parents are often the first generation of the familial line to call a foreign country home and in a multiplicity of unknowns, culture and tradition are the only known knowns.  They are so scared that we will lose touch with our traditional roots, all of which are steeped in immense spirituality, that they will go to any length to keep the spark of culture burning brightly within our hearts. And so, they spend hours of their week driving us to bharatanatyam classes, exposing us to temple-going culture and celebrating all Indian festivals at home to make sure that we know what our culture is about. They make sure that we spend time with our grandparents so that we may tap into the wealth of their knowledge and learn about the beauty of our traditions from people who have been practising them for decades. They constantly remind us that the “God first, others next and myself last” checklist should drive our lifestyle choices always, always, always!

Plus, as they say, distance makes the heart grow fonder. Living further away from India makes us appreciate even the smallest aspects of Indian culture. Seeing a kolam on every doorstep, for instance, or buying a million pairs of earrings from a street vendor for a grand total of 100 rupees. The sight of a temple gopuram every 10 kilometres, or the sound of temple bells. Echoes of the Venkateshwara suprabhatam ringing out from homes in the morning, or watching ladies engaging in all sorts of strenuous physical activities in sarees. Listening to the spell-binding singing of the apartment doorman who you would have sworn was Ustad Rashid Khan if your eyes were closed, or the go with the flow attitude of every single person you speak to on the street. The lack of road traffic rules and the lectures of the local taxi uncle ( “In India, driving is all about mutual understanding mam” said he as he drove onto oncoming traffic. On a one way street).

So, if we appear like country bumpkins in our braids, bindis and salwars rather than  glamorous, bollywood actresses to everyone out there, we do not mind in the least. Our highs are driven by incense and bhajans and our lives are simple and straight-forward. Such peace, much wow. We are the way we are, and we are very happy with that 😛

What are your most favourite aspects of Indian culture? Leave a comment below! 

Glossary: NRI (non-resident Indian), bharatanatyam (indian dance form), kolam (rice flour art), gopuram (temple arches), bhajan (devotional singing). 

The Curious Tale of The Wandering Tube-light

Here lies a tale of an effeminate soul, older than the body it called home. Dropped from the heavens above, it found refuge in the womb of a woman it would soon call “amma”. It knew not where it came from, nor where it was going . All that it knew, was that it did not want to be born again. As it floated around the confines of it’s temporary home, it asked itself “Who am I?”. Asking thus, the new born babe made its dramatic entrance into the world, with firm resolve of answering this question by the end of its earthly sojourn.

Kabīrā jab ham paidā hue jaga hańse ham roye….. 

Saddened at leaving the heavenly abode from which it came, the infant cried. Around her, everyone smiled, eager to welcome the family’s newest member. As time passed, she began to smile too. After all, what was there to worry about? Before being born, she did not make arrangements for as to where her next meal was going to come from, nor where she would be sheltered. She did not choose the family that she was going to be born into and yet here she was, fully fed and clothed, with not a worry in the world. In this drama of life, with its pre-written script of pleasures and pains, triumphs and tribulations, she was merely a witness.

Of course, as she grew up, she sometimes forgot this reality, giving herself far more importance in her role of “planning her life” than she should have. She stressed over the outcomes of her efforts, walking around with the burden of her expectations lying heavily on her shoulders. She worried about bank account balances and future job prospects. She wondered where in the world life was going to take her. She cried over biochemistry and anatomy, over other mundane things of human reality, free-falling into the world of stress and worry.

prakrteh kriyamanani
gunaih karmani sarvasah
kartaham iti manyate

The confused soul, under the influence of the three modes of material nature, thinks itself to be the doer of activities, which are in actuality carried out by the Supreme.

Until one day,  she decided that she had had enough. “Who am I?” she asked. Who was I before all the stress, and who will I be after all the stress? That day, she chose the path of happiness. The kind that could not be shaken by the trials of life. That day, she chose the path of love. The kind that put God first, everyone else next and herself last. That day, she wore a smile that could not be wiped off under any circumstance. To the One who took care of her before she was born and the One that will continue to take care of her for time immemorial, she offered ultimate faith. She was no longer the doer.

She worried about nothing, she went with the flow and she took life as it came, one step at a time. Unfazed by calamity, she walked on her journey of life. Life was a game and she played it, laughing all the while. She knew she had God on her side. “Oh is this what we are doing now, life? Ok then! ” she chuckled as life took its own course. She still put in her best efforts into everything she undertook, but placed no expectations surrounding their outcomes. She stopped taking herself and life seriously. She was just a humble tube-light, floating her way about life. She was very happy and in the end, that’s all that mattered. Therein lied her satisfaction. Everything was perfect, just the way it was!

Purnam adah purnam idam purnat purnam udachyate purnasya purnamadaya purnam evavashishyate

The Personality of Godhead is perfect and complete. And because He is completely perfect, all emanations from Him, such as this phenomenal world, are perfectly equipped as a complete whole. Whatever is produced of the complete whole is also complete by itself. And so everything that happens, is perfect in His eyes.

What is your “quest for happiness story”? Leave a comment down below!

I am a 21 year old University student living in Australia. As I have never lived in India, I am no expert in Indian culture. However, my love affair with this beautiful culture has been running strong for many years and I hope to share my passion with everyone this blog reaches:) Happy reading! 



The Navarathri Survival Guide


A comprehensive summary of recurring themes that inevitably present themselves during this 10 day extravaganza.


Forget about embracing your inner Goddess. Weeks preceding the festival facilitate a need for you to embrace your inner architect. After hours spent thinking about which spot in the house would be perfect for the Golu of your dreams, there is then the business of designing the 3/5/7/9 step structure fit to bear the burden of both the idols, and the weight of your expectations. Of course after all the effort and time that you and your family members have put into the golu, mere completion of a frame that actually works brings about relief aplenty. To your eyes, the structure looks just as good as if it were designed by Vishwakarma ( the celestial architect) himself. Once the golu is set up,  there’s just a few more things that need to be addressed before the festival starts.

Step 1: Bring out all Sarees and Kurtas that have not seen the light of day since Deepavali of the preceding year

Step 2: Think about all bad qualities and habits that you’d like to give up

Step 3: Mentally prepare yourself for the consumption of copious amounts of Chickpeas

Day 1-3: Goddess Durga Special

The first three days of the festival are dedicated to Goddess Durga. Dynamic and powerful, She is the giver of all forms of energy – spiritual, mental and physical. She represents the first potency present in man, the power of purposeful action (Kriya Shakthi). As your tongue rolls its way around the lyrics of the Lalitha Sahasraanam and your body acclimatises to the Navarathri fasting regime, you will be more than grateful for all the energy that you are tapping into during the first few days of the festival.

Day 4-6: Goddess Lakshmi Special

She is the Goddess of wealth galore; the wealth of character, intellect and health! She manifests herself as will power or Ichchaa Sakthi in you. Her worship thus serves as a reminder of the importance of accumulating the wealth of character, firm faith and steadfastness in your spiritual journey. Praying for iPhone 7s and Sephora gift cards are not recommended. Chanting the  Mahalakshmi ashtakam is suggested instead(better long term gains, you see).

Day 7-9: Goddess Saraswathi Special

This period is when you will witness the devout outpourings of fellow students in prayer rooms across the globe. With hands folded together in prostration, they pray earnestly. The phrasing might be slightly different, but in essence they are all praying for one thing. Maa Saraswati Gyaan do (Divine mother, please grant me enough knowledge to pass my exams). Goddess Saraswati bestows intelligence, the capacity for intellectual inquiry, and the power of discrimination . She manifests herself as the power of discrimination or Jnaana Shakthi. Ayudha pooja (worship of all educational tools) is conducted to pay respects to the instruments that help you in your worldly work. From a spiritual perspective, the weapons to be worshipped are the divine powers in man that enable spiritual progress.

Day 10: Vijayadashami

A day of great joy and jubilation, this day represents the triumph of good over evil. It is also a celebration of the conversion of ;

  1. Your will power (ichchaa shakthi) into a yearning for God
  2. Your purposeful action (kriya sakthi) into a force for doing Divine actions
  3. Your power of discernment (jnana sakthi) into the Divine Itself.

The entire festival is thus an elaborate construction of man designed for you to  contemplate on God for ten days and cleanse yourself of all impurities to experience the divinity within. So enjoy visiting other people’s golu’s, basking in the glory of Her worship and chanting Her many names this Navarathri! You might get sick of sundal and all the fasting you’re going to have to do, but you will always be glad for the inner peace you derive from celebrating this festival!

What are some of your cherished Navarathri memories? Leave a comment down below:)


Nava= nine, Rathri= night. Navarathri= nine nights devoted to the worship of the feminine principle. Various goddesses are revered throughout the course of the festival- culminating with Vijayadashmi on the tenth day. The festival symbolises the victory of good over evil and the awakening of Divinity within us.

Prayer Room Memoirs

Leaning on the door frame, she stared into the room that bore witness to some of the most precious moments of her life. The memories were so vivid, stored as pristinely preserved images in her mind’s eye.  She still remembered the day she first moved into the house as a new bride, happy but slightly overwhelmed by the prospects of a new family . “With one match, light the wick ma. May you bring as much brightness and prosperity into our family as this sacred lamp does” said her mother-in- law a few seconds after she had stepped into her new home. She chuckled at the remembrance of how young she had been, still untouched by the world or weights of responsibility. Eager to please, brows furried in concentration, she had prayed to the Gods above that she wouldn’t drop the matches or do anything untoward, something quite likely considering her naturally clumsy disposition. As the flame burnt brightly, she had breathed a huge sigh of relief and then, the rest of her life began to unfold.

The room acted as the backdrop for the infamous Thala Deepavali* couple shot ( which everyone had oohed and aaahed over for days together…lakshanam/tejas* filled,smiling faces + new saree/veshti combination always resulted in newsfeed domination!). It acted as the recipient for every single food item she prepared with lots of love on festival days. many kolams* had been drawn in that blessed room. How many job applications, home loan agreements, first salaries and exam results had been placed at the altar for blessings of the Almighty! How many times had they taken blessings there from the elders before embarking on important journeys, before making important life decisions? It was where the days of each and every member of the family started, and ended, for what was life without frequent reminders of our higher purpose?

As her offspring made a dramatic entrance into their lives, slowly but surely, the room began to take on a whole new dimension. It was no longer just the place where she could spend hours in blissful meditation. It was no longer merely a place of prayer. It was now a room where she would ponder about how best to maintain her inner peace amidst the spiralling chaos created by her adorable little toddlers, who seemed to be running on pools of limitless energy. It was now a room with an added disciplinary element, a naughty corner of sorts.”Vaishnavi, go and sit in front of Bhagawan* and think about what you have done. Once you feel truly sorry about your mistake, you can come out” she would chide, trying her best to maintain a serious expression. Of course, she would peep into the room on the sly to watch what her little brat was up to. The cute conversation between the child(now extremely sorry about her mischief)and the Krishna statue was not to be missed. In fact, there had been times when she had run to call her husband to come watch!

As the kids grew up, the room resonated with the sound of the tanpura which was used to tune voices, tablas, harmoniums, mridangams and sitars. Countless hours of practice was completed in the confines of those four walls. “Happa! How many instruments do you want me to put manjal*, kumkumam* on? I can’t bend down for that long di” her grandmother had said during the Saraswathi puja*. They were a musical bunch, indeed. She smiled as she remembered the numerous times she had bribed the kids with promises of trips to the park and ice-cream if they promised to chant 108 Gayathri mantras in that very room,  daily. They would thank her for it later, hopefully.

Her thoughts were interrupted by her father and husband, who were carrying an assortment of tools and wood pieces into the room. Navarathri* was approaching and the Golu* was due to be put up. For reasons unknown to her, they had decided to go with an elaborate nine step structure. Time to make an exit, she thought. The construction ability of the men in the house was less than enviable, to say the least. There were bound to be a few mishaps. She rolled her eyes as they rejected her suggestion to perhaps, try and make a simpler version and wished them luck. They were going to need it.

What are some of your cherished prayer room memories? Leave a comment down below!

Glossary: Thala Deepavali( first festival of lights celebrated as a married couple), lakshanam/tejas (divine radiance), kolam( rice flour design), Bhagawan(god), manjal/kumkumam (turmeric, vermillion), Saraswathi Puja ( day where homage is paid to books/musical instruments ), Navarathri( nine day festival where the feminine principle is worshipped), Golu ( step-filled structure filled with various idols and dolls).

I am a 20 year old University student living in Australia. As I have never lived in India, I am no expert in Indian culture. However, my love affair with this beautiful culture has been running strong for many years and I hope to share my passion with everyone this blog reaches:) Happy reading! 



Dilemmas of the Fourth Generation NRI ( Non Resident Indian)

If like me, you belong to the fourth generation NRI category, an identity crisis is definitely on the cards at some point in your life. If you are the first generation in your family living outside India, then not so much. For you guys, things are nice and easy. For instance, when people ask about where you are from, you are able to give a short one line response (i.e. I’m from Mumbai and I currently live in the U.K.). When it comes to adaptability, you only have to deal with the fusion of two cultures( that too, you will still be 90% Indian with a 10% hint of global flavour). Essentially, you are still  Indian, with zero chances of an impending identity crisis. But for us fourth Gen NRIs on the other hand, oh boy, it’s a whole different story. Why, you ask?

#1 Queries about our place of origin are enough to make us doubt our own identity

Aunty: Where are you from?

Me: Australia

Aunty: Ahaan, but where are you really from?

Me: Oh, I was born in Malaysia but moved to Australia a while ago.

Aunty(now annoyed): Yes, but originally?  From Tamil Nadu or Kerala? Your features are very Indian.

Me: Well,I’m sure several generations ago my ancestors were from India, but everyone in my family including patti(grandma) and tata(granddad) were born in Malaysia. I have no idea which part of India we are from.

Aunty: Aah that’s what I’m telling na, you’re Indian.

Me: …… yeah, I guess.

#2 India is home, but India is not home

Making a trip to India brings about a mixed bag of feelings. Everything is so familiar; the sounds, the smells, the food, the people, the culture, but at the same time, there is no particular part of India that we can call home. There is no family or family home to go back to. And so, we experience India much like tourists would, living in hotels, eating in restaurants and getting around in taxis. It’s fine because India lends its charm to everyone, foreign or not, but it would be pretty cool to have an ancestral family home in a quaint town somewhere!( cue dream sequence vision of family members in sarees, hair laden with malli pu (jasmine) , anklets tinkling as we walk around a Kula Deivam Koil(ancestral temple). Sigh.)

#3 We understand our mother tongue, but aren’t confident speaking it

We love the sound of Tamil and are quite capable of understanding and formulating sentences if need be, but because everyone from our parents to grandparents speak in English, speaking in Tamil doesn’t come naturally to us. It’s so nice to observe families from India speaking in such beautiful Tamil to each other and we really should try to learn our mother tongue! There are some classically Tamil sentiments and expressions that English just can’t do justice to.

#4 We belong neither here nor there, when it comes to pretty much everything

We aren’t typically Indian, nor are we Western. We have no idea which subsection of Indian familial classification we belong to ( a result of a long line of inter-cultural marriages once the family line left India). Our values are Indian, but we aren’t fussed about caste or creed. We aren’t as good as Indians at pronouncing Indian words, but we aren’t as bad as Westerners at pronouncing them either. Indians recognise us as foreigners(unless we look super traditional) and so do Westerners! Along the way, we have incorporated a little bit of the culture of each place we have lived in, resulting in an amusing blend of socio-cultural adaptations(i.e. yours truly, the South Indian looking, Hindustani music loving,  English speaking,  Malaysian food eating, Australian Tamil Girl!).

As confusing as it can be to be a fourth-generation NRI, we still manage to maintain our Indian heritage abroad and that in itself is an amazing feat.So to all my fellow NRIs, chin up and keep celebrating the glory of our beautiful culture! Let’s learn more about our traditions and culture so that they will be vibrant for many more years to come.

What are the dilemmas you face as a NRI? Leave a comment below:)

 I am a 20 year old University student living in Australia. As I have never lived in India, I am no expert in Indian culture. However, my love affair with this beautiful culture has been running strong for many years and I hope to share my passion with everyone this blog reaches:) Parts of this blog are fictional, while others are based on my own experiences. Happy reading! – Divya



The only caste I belong to is the caste of humanity

Nothing irritates me more than caste based discrimination. It is never okay to treat people as lesser beings based on their caste. It is never okay to think that we are better than other people just because we belong to a particular sect of society and above all, it is never okay to treat someone without love and respect.

There is no need to employ the usage of labels like “Shudra” or “Dalit” in our daily conversations, nor is there a need for us to mention caste at all, in light of the lifestyles we lead in the 21st century. Why  highlight something that divides people and creates conflict? To be honest, I think that caste based discrimination is an insult to Indian culture that is built upon the foundations of non-duality(i.e. seeing no difference between oneself and God, and seeing everything in the universe as a manifestation of God).

At the outset, we must realise that the Vedas assign people into castes based on their Gunas(qualities) and Karma(activities), NOT birth. If you take a look at verses from the Gita, you will notice that it says;

ekavarṇama idama pūrvam viśvama āsida yudhiśthira, karmakriyāviśesena caturvarṇyama pratiśthitama 

The whole world was originally of one class but was later divided into four divisions on account of specific duties.

chātur-varnyam mayā srishtaṁ guna-karma-vibhāgaśhahtasya kartāram api mām viddhyakartāram avyayam

The four categories of occupations were created  according to people’s qualities and activities.

In essence what this means is that the classes are based on innate temperament and role in society, not heredity! And really, this makes a lot of sense. I mean, you don’t become an engineer just because your father is an engineer. You can only become an engineer if you complete your degree and are qualified to take on the role right? Similarly, you can only assign yourself to a particular caste if your life reflects the activities that are associated with the caste.

So, let’s play a little game of “What Caste Do I Really Belong to?”

If Sattva(Divine) guna(quality) predominates your nature, and you live a life filled with acts performed in remembrance of God, then you are a Brahmin.

If your temperament is predominantly Rajasic(Passionate) with a tinge of Sattva guna and you are a brave warrior involved in upholding the safety of society, then you are a Kshatriya.

If your nature is predominantly Rajasic with a tinge of Tamas(inertia) and you are a trader or farmer, you are a Vaishya.

If Tamasic qualities predominate your character and Rajasic qualities are secondary and you are extremely efficient at serving others, you are a Shudra.

If you do not feel like you fit into any of the above categories, fear not! IT REALLY DOES NOT MATTER. Indian culture teaches us that divinity resides in the heart of ALL beings, and that we must respect and acknowledge this divinity in everyone (this is the significance of greeting people with Namaste). Love and respect is part of Indian culture, ignorance and hatred is not. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

And yes, we are all aware of the scriptural reference that describes Brahmins being born out God’s mouth and Shudras being born out of God’s feet, which creates much confusion in the minds of people who have misinterpreted this to mean that Brahmins belong at the top of a hierarchy and Shudras belong at the bottom. The reference is merely a METAPHOR. What it means is that all four classes have to work together for society to function efficiently, just like how all our body parts need to work together for us to operate!In all the fuss created around who belongs to what caste and what place each one should occupy in society, we seem to have forgotten what it means to be human.

Why do we forsake compassion for the sake of rigidity?It is time to let it go, it is time to be free. There is only one caste, the caste of humanity.