There She Is, Miss America

Miss America Nina Davuluri talent performance (via The Stewardship Report)

(This is a two-part article – I’m breaking this post up into two parts in the interest of avoiding infodump. I’m planning to segue to India’s obsession with fair skin in Part II).

It’s a week now since she was chosen, but the current Miss America, Nina Davuluri, is of Indian-American origin. Aaaand her choice was accompanied – as many of might have heard – many many ignorant, and even racist comments. There’s a whole assortment to be found on Public Shaming on Tumblr, but comments range from calling her a terrorist, an arab and/or muslim, Miss Foreign Country or Miss 7-11.

Honestly, I just have to roll my eyes at the ignorance displayed. The ones that made me laugh were the ones that equaled the “disaster” of her win with the loss of their favorite sports team. Really? If someone you think someone is a terrorist, a loss of the Yankees, Cowboys, or whatever favorite sports team is as bad or worse? I mean, really????

Miss America’s response has been thoughtful and level-headed, which I would imagine is a necessary quality for her role. I’m pretty excited that she was chosen, since Indian-Americans are a part of the melting pot that is America. Oh, and Nina Davuluri wasn’t the only Indian American in the running for Miss America – there was also Bindhu Parmathi, Miss DC. I do know first hand how frustrating and painful racism and ignorance can be. I feel especially bad for Sikh friends who so often are automatically thought of to be terrorist. Does dark skin, dark hair or a turban automatically mean that you’re a terrorist? Plus, who looks at a beauty pageant and thinks terrorism?

Stephen Colbert really says it best:

By the way, if you’re interested in more non-intelligent Twitter rants, check out some of the comments on Kenichi Ebina’s win of America’s Got Talent, which includes comparisons to Pearl Harbor, and racial slurs like chink and jap. I don’t follow that show at all, and had no idea that a winner had been chosen, but I love checking out Public Shaming to reassure my faith in the human race – and then I’m reminded that some people seem to be terminally ignorant. Well, they could always expand their horizon. But that kind of idiocy is one of the reason I’m rarely on Twitter…

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Source: via anji on Pinterest

Sheesh. It’s already Wednesday? And it’s almost February? Where does the time go????? I know I’m late in putting up my Yarn Along post, but that’s because I haven’t been in the mood to blog today. Shocking, right? I mean, I’m a blogger, that must mean that I want to blog, right???? And yet, I’ve been in the mood to knit today. Knit, knit, knit. Typing = blergh.

And yet, yarning along means that you’re writing about knitting, so there. I’m just fulfilling my mandate. And apart from that, I’ve been on a blog posting spree over the last few days. I actually though of joining up with the WordPress 2013 Post a Day, but I know there are a few things on the horizon where I just won’t manage to to post every day. Plus I want to keep the blogging fun for me – and you! – and I don’t want to turn it into an obligation kind of thing. I have enough of those going on.

Preparing the armhole steek

Preparing the armhole steek (sorry for the blurry photo!)

But back to the actual topic, the knitting – I’m still working on last week’s project. And I’m actually making a good amount of progress on my Hurricane vest. I’m actually at the armhole part, so I’ve set up my steeking sections. I can see how it’s supposed to work, but the actual steeking will be an adventure… Next up is finishing the armhole shaping and creating the V-neck steeking. Then shoulder grafting, cutting the steeks, and creating the armhole & V-neck ribbing and voila!

Source: via anji on Pinterest

Instead of talking about reading, I want to add another note (especially since I actually haven’t read much of anything over the past week). If you’re generally interested in the whole “On This Day…” kind of thing, you might have noticed that today’s the anniversary of a number of important historical events. The one I want to highlight is that today, in 1948, Mahatma Gandhi, the Indian freedom fighter and proponent of nonviolence, was assassinated at point blank range. Gandhi was a key figure in India’s move to independence, and I’ve been thinking back a lot on India’s development since its modern day origin as an independent state. The whole Delhi rape case has brought a lot of the social and societal issues forward, a lot of them unresolved from the time pre-Independence, but also a lot of economic developments have additional tension in India. Gender issues and ensuring that its poor partake in the economic growth are topics India will have to tackle. I’m planning to write a follow-up on the Delhi rape case, so look for more information and discussion there.

Now for the blog hop part: I’m linking up with this week’s Yarn Along, this week’s Tami’s Amis WIP Wednesday, through Ambassador Crochet’s Wip Wednesday and Frontier Dreams’ Keep Calm and Craft on (KCCO) blog-a-long. Check out some of the other awesome wip posts.

Deja vu

Just before the 2009 Inauguration

Just before the 2009 Inauguration

Washington, DC. January 2009. Cold. Really really cold. Record-breaking cold. And yet, the entire city was in a, well, tizzy – the Inauguration was right around the corner. DC had been excited pretty much since the elections in November – DC votes strongly Democrat. The entire city was packed with visitors and tourists from all over. Traffic was a ginormous mess. Bars and restaurants were packed.

There were a number of events leading up to the Inauguration, the biggest public one being the “We are One” concert on the National Mall. And then, the actual Inauguration. We fortunately got two tickets to the Inauguration, otherwise we would have gathered in one of the sections open to the general public.  If you wanted to stand along the parade route, you had to be in place by early morning. The temperature reached a high of 28 Fahrenheit (-2.2 Celsius), so those people were dedicated. Brrrr. We were so glad we were dressed warmly: tights, two pairs of socks, warm boots, layers and layers of clothes, hat and hoodie and gloves. And still we were freezing.

There were maps that showed where you cold cross the parade route or the Mall, and til when they were open. You had assigned entry gates and you could enter your section only through that gate. Security was high. The line was so long, we thought we wouldn’t make it in. All the various segments were blocked off from each other with gates and there were cops and security personnel everywhere. People were excited, and there was a great spirit of community.

Going to the Inauguration was a very special thing. It was a moment where all these people from various backgrounds came together to see democracy in action. Regardless of your political orientation, I think it’s important to take advantage of the opportunities to participate in these democratic elements of our society. So many people do not live in countries without democracy, and I think it’s important to take advantage of our rights and responsibilities as citizens. I am glad I had the opportunity to be able to attend this Inauguration.

View from the ISS - Washington during the Inaugural Weekend


Well, I no longer live in DC, and it just wasn’t possible for me to attend this year’s Inauguration. I’ve been feeling nostalgic while watching the coverage from the Inauguration. And then I saw this amazing photograph by Com. Chris Hadfield who is an astronaut currently on the ISS. He has been taking wonderful photographs down from the ISS, but this photograph of Washington D.C. on Saturday night of the Inaugural Weekend is my favorite. You can see the parade route, and you can even see Dulles airport in the distance. What an amazing photograph to give you some perspective. My photographs are nowhere as amazing, but here are my snapshots from the 2009 Inauguration.

Delhi. The gang rape.

Hello my dears.

I know I should put up some form of Christmas greeting, and spread merriment and cheer, and so on. And yes, this has been an adventuresome year for me, and there’ll be more changes in the next year. I’m looking forward to 2013.

But this is a different kind of post from me. I’m not one to talk much about politics. Everybody has an opinion, and their own soapbox, and venturing into blogging about politics on the Internet, well, it can easily become very very messy. I have my own opinions, and while I talk about them with family and friends, I chose not to share them online. My policy is that I have my opinion, you have your opinion, and while we may or may not agree, I respect your right and your freedom to think differently than I do. It is not my right, nor my position to try and force anyone to think as I think. (I have plenty of friends and relatives who act differently).

Yet this is a story that has moved me deeply. As I’ve mentioned in past posts, I’m of Indian origin, although I haven’t grown up there. Over the past few days, I’ve very much gotten caught up in the story of the young 23-year old Indian woman, who was trapped, beaten, and gang-raped on a bus in New Delhi, and then thrown from the moving bus. There’s more detail available about the rape in plenty of the news media (it really is horrible, read at your own risk), but I’ll just leave it at that the rape was so terrible, they had to remove most of her intestine save for 5% of it (She wouldn’t have been able to eat solids for a very long time). She suffered severe brain damage, organ failure, heart attack and infections. They ultimately moved her to a hospital in Singapore, but her condition was too severe and she passed away on today (Saturday, local time).

Delhi protests. Image via soumyaroup

Kolkota candle march against the Delhi rape case. Image by soumyaroup via creative commons

The brutality of the rape is shocking. But the even more tragic thing is how often sexual violence occurs in India. The rape, particularly the brutal violence of it, has been the straw that broke the camel’s back and has led to wide-spread demonstrations by people across all segments of society and statements of support. The government has instituted special commissions. And yet, even now, in the aftermath of the rape, misogynistic comments are still flying around, especially by politicians. Yes, by the political leaders, those that are charged by creating laws and causing their implementation that should prevent just such mistreatment of women. Comments include the “she’s responsible by being out after dark” (it was 9:30pm when she boarded the bus with a friend), or “she should have submitted to the rape then she wouldn’t have lost her intestine.” And lest you think these comments are the exception, just spend a bit of time google-ing and you’ll find many many more hair-raising statements aimed at women, regardless of the status in society.

Candle in the wind

Image by Felix Francis via cc

In the wake of the rape and the public outrage it has spawned, I think it’s important to talk about gender violence and gender politics, and how much they are a problem within Indian society. We’re privileged in that our view of India is mostly of that we visit India and see the parts that we chose to see. Our exposure to India, and its ills are limited. I cannot imagine what it is like to live in a city (New Delhi), where 80% of women say that they fear being sexually harassed or even assaulted. We are privileged middle class, we – and our friends and relatives – have the means to take certain precautions reducing the risks that things like that don’t happen to us. We are not forced to take public transport and endure frequent groping or worse. We don’t have to travel third class on the train. We are not forced to be vulnerable to harassment due to working long hours and thus being out at late(r) hours. And we are very much shaped by our Western views and the enforcement of women’s rights as we know them.

And yet, there is no precaution that protects you 100%. No matter where you are, there are plenty of reports of women being assaulted by men in their closer social circle, ranging from family members to extended family to friends. In fact, most of the sexual assaults come from people known to the victim. But in India, societal pressure and the value system stack the odds against women. There is even a term called “eve-teasing” – a term that is an euphemism for sexual harassment, groping and molestation. There are still plenty of women that are stuck in bad marriages, suffer abuse at the hands of their family, are married off way too early. Plenty of women are sent back by their own family to their husband and their in-laws when they try to complain of mistreatment. Burning, attacks with acid, and girl infanticide still occur (Estimates are that up to 12 million female babies have been aborted over the past 30 years).

Police and other authorities serve to reinforce cultural mores. It makes it so hard for women to even dare to come forward to file reports, and then to be harassed by the police, potentially be threatened by the rapists, to be pressured to accept financial settlements, or even worse, to marry your own rapist – that’s just torture. No wonder that rape and sexual violence is severely underreported, and the fact that conviction rate has shrunk from 44% 30 years ago to about 20% now – how shameful. Plus, keep in mind that there are 15 judges per 1 million of Indians. It can take forever for a case to be resolved. Shame.

Delhi protesters (via @HistoryNeedsYou on Twitter)

Shame on our pride to be the biggest democracy but to fail to protect half of our population. This is not the India that our founding fathers envisioned. These are not the values that Hinduism, that religion teaches us. This is not what an enlightened society is about. This is not the India that I know and love. It’s no good to write about equal rights, to anchor these in various laws, in the Constitution, and then fail splendidly in their implementation. Let’s hope that her death was not in vain and that public discourse on the role and rights of women occur, and that real changes happen.

There are some very good observations in this opinion article from the Hindu on “how we contribute to rape“. It asks some very pointed questions, and makes very apt observations on Indian society. I finish with the final paragraph from this New York Times Op-Ed:

India, a rising economic power and the world’s largest democracy, can never reach its full potential if half its population lives in fear of unspeakable violence.

featured image photo credit: ruminatrix via photopin cc


Wavin’ Flag

Remember how I talked about soccer fever? That it was Euro 2012 time? And that it was time to celebrate the beginning of Euro 2012, and to cheer on Germany? Well, I didn’t quite manage to create a German food menu, instead I made carrot pancakes, a spring potato salad and a cherry, corn and fennel salad. But now, with the Olympics, I have another chance to create a ‘German fan menu.’

One option is to come up with food inspired by the German flag. The German flag is composed of stripes in yellow, red and black. Or I could do the completely lazy version and make Bratwurst and Sauerkraut. I could also make some kind of classic German cake like a Black Forest cake. There are also delicious fruit cakes in Germany, but I’d rather challenge myself. Btw, did you know that the German chocolate cake is actually German’s chocolate cake – named after the chocolate brand German’s? If you ask a German for a German chocolate cake, they’ll probably look confused and ask you what kind of chocolate cake you’d like.

three layer cake: yellow cake, red velvet cake, chocolate cake

A three layer cake: yellow cake, red velvet cake and chocolate cake

I’m not the first person to think of making a flag cake. Petite Kitchenesse made a beautiful version, with layers of yellow cake, red velvet cake and chocolate cake. I think that’s the way to go. The black flag will just have to be made of chocolate. I’m so not making a black cake, nor will I use food coloring to turn it black. Who would want to eat that? It’ll just look like a burnt cake. And the actual “black cake” which is a dark fruit cake derived from the British plum pudding – yeah, no. I was never a fan of fruit cake, so that one is a no go (I want to eat it too!).

I love all these cakes separately, but I’m not quite sure how the flavors will all go together. I mean, will the flavors meld, or will they clash???? I could also go a different direction and make a German Beer Coffee Cake. It looks interesting, but also strange. And it again has hints of fruit cake. Sigh.

The post title is inspired by K’Naan’s song “Wavin’ Flag” which is awesomely soccer themed. It’s also the song Coke used for its FIFA World Cup 2010 commercials. Don’t be turned off by that – all the big sponsors release pretty great soccer themed commercials for the big soccer tournament.

Wavin Flag Coca Cola Celebration Mix


I was reading a post by Karen at Sweaty Knitter called Domesticating Karen some time ago. She talks about her Norwegian mother’s attempts to domesticate her, particularly for prospective son-in-laws, all of Norwegian descent. Karen had play on the piano and her handcrafted work, including her knitting were shown off as a display of her suitability as a ‘housemother.’ And then there was the whole thing of the young men being invited, sometimes even multiple guys at the same time. Oh dear. Fortunately for me my parents never did that, but I have plenty of Indian relatives where things worked like that.

Matchmaker, matchmaker, make me a match! Find me a find, catch me a catch!

I’ve been to enough of those potential bride & groom meetings to feel so bad for them. I remember when we met my aunt (at that time aunt-to-be), and while she didn’t have to perform (no piano playing for her), her cooking skills were on display since she’d had made all the food there. And the worst part, apart from the uncomfortable presentation was the fact that a bunch of families were there – both on the bride’s side as well as on our side. We were a whole car full of people – something between 10 to 12 people. Poor girl. And that wasn’t an insular event – that happened when we met a bunch of girls (yeah, that was bad).

Monsoon Wedding movie posterThere are still plenty of arranged marriages in India – it happened and still happens in plenty of families. (And the whole concept takes on a whole new life in rural areas). I saw a documentary the other day on the business side of marriages in India, and approximately 60% of marriages are still arranged. The idea is that you go by what you know about the families and how they’re a ‘good’ family, and that what you know and what is presented about the prospective groom/bride of that family ensures a good marriage. There are even marriage investigators who try to determine if the information about the boy/girl and their family is correct.

Anyway, nowadays it’s much easier for the girl and boy to talk individually – something that wasn’t done in the past. But still, you don’t have that much of a chance to get to know the partner, and it doesn’t really rely on the individual personalities and their compatibility with each other. Love isn’t something that happens before the marriage, it’s supposed to be something that grows as the relationship grows. You make the marriage work.

Of course, that’s not a guarantee that the marriage will work out. The idea is that when a woman marries, she marries into her new family, and now leaves her own family to become part of her husband’s family. In my gran’s generation, many women didn’t see their parents’ family often, maybe because of geographical issues, but also because of societal pressure. A woman is expected to adjust to the new family, and make not just the marriage with her husband work, but also her home life work.

There are many reasons that can keep woman in a marriage, including immense social pressures that are definitely greater on a woman than on a man. Then there are the financial pressures. Some women may also stay in a marriage despite issues of mistreatment, ranging from verbal to physical abuse, or worse. As the wealth of the middle class in India has grown, so have the demands for (additional) dowries from the bride’s family, with outlandish requirements for more property, money, and so on. But obviously there can be all kinds of mistreatment – mistreatment doesn’t automatically have to mean abuse.

And yet, nowadays younger generations more and more rebel against that attitude. The divorce rate in India has risen. In fact, one of my cousin is now divorced, which was a huge disappointment to her. She was so happy when she got engaged, and was on cloud 9 during the wedding. She really wanted to make the wedding work, and she was really upset when she couldn’t make the wedding work. Not just with the circumstances, including what was going on on the groom’s side, but she’s also very upset with those family ‘elders’ that made their recommendations and ultimately suggest the groom to her. She now says that she’s going to rely on her opinion alone, and not take that kind of advice. Still, she’s struggling that her dream of what her life would be hasn’t worked out. I wish her all the best, and I hope that she’ll be happy again.