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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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

 

Awkward

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.

Soccer fever

Euro 2012 Logo

Note: I’m not ignoring the political situation in the Ukraine. There has been a lot of discussion about the imprisonment and treatment of Yulia Timoshenko, the former prime minister of the Ukraine. But apart from that, the human rights situation is deplorable as well. There are reports of police brutality and torture. Attention needs to be paid to the situation in the Ukraine not just during spotlight that the Euro 2012 shines on the country, but also beyond. Visit Amnesty International for more information.

Tomorrow is the day! Tomorrow the Euro 2012 starts! The hosts are Poland and Ukraine, and the first game is Poland vs Greece, kicking off at 6pm EST. The Euro Cup ranks just below the FIFA World Cup, at least for me. I foresee lots of soccer watching and neglecting the rest of my life. There’ll be viewing parties, at home or maybe even at work. People will have flags up, people will be wearing team jerseys and face paint, some people even decorate their cars accordingly.

Well, I have to cheer on my favorite team, Germany. It’s been a while since Germany won a Euro championship – the last time was 1996. The last time Germany won the FIFA World Cup was 1990 (Germany still played as West Germany). Which is totally contrary to Gary Lineker‘s quote: “Soccer is a game for 22 people that run around, play the ball, and one referee who makes a slew of mistakes, and in the end Germany always wins.” But Germany and England do have a soccer rivalry – just think of the Wembley goal during the 1966 FIFA World Cup.

They’re toe-up, so the stripes look upside down. Note the soccer appropriate footstool!

I was in Germany during the 2006 world cup, and the atmosphere there was amazing. They had public viewing parties, the weather was awesome, and all in all the mood was great (you’ll always have a few Hooligans and others up for trouble, but all in all it was pretty peaceful). Oh, and in addition to the mood, people were pretty euphoric because Germany was doing really well. Whenever a critical game took place the roads were pretty much deserted during the game. Depending on the results people were driving around, cheering, waving flags and honking like mad. You’ll also get that during games involving Turkey’s team since there are so many Turkish people in Germany. In fact, a lot of Germans cheered for Turkey except for the Euro 2008 semis where Germany played against Turkey. But in 2006, people were so euphoric and so excited by this young team that it ended up being called “ein Sommermärchen” – a summer fairytale. There even was a documentary with that name dealing with that period during that summer.

This time I’ll once again will be in Germany for the Euro tournament. I’m hoping for lots of soccer related parties. And I’ll get the chance to wear my Germany socks (hand-knit of course!). In fact, I still need to knit more Germany socks for friends and family. The munchkins of course need German flag socks. And I know a few other people who’d love German flag colored socks. I may be starting something, though – I think a few people might want socks in the their favorite team’s colors.

Join in, and no matter what time you’re cheering for, I hope you have lots of fun! Yay for 90 minutes (or more) of watching 22 people chasing a black and white ball. Yay for soccer!

Bummed

Knitting and Crochet Blog Week is over, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still have fun with it! The Friday challenge was the day where people put up all kinds of creative posts on the topic “Something a bit different.” Here is the exact wording of the challenge.

It’s back, and this time it has the most amazing of prizes (look for the prize for ‘most creative post’). This was a massive success last year, and for many it was the highlight of the Blog Week, so this year you are challenged, again, to find a new way of blogging.This is an experimental blogging day to try and push your creativity in blogging to the same level that you perhaps push your creativity in the items you create.There are no rules of a topic to blog about but this post should look at a different way to present content on your blog.

I talked about about my favorite posts from this year’s Knitting and Crochet Blog, and the photography nominations about two weeks ago. And now the creative post nominations are up. 10 posts are nominated, and they’re all great nominations. They include a bunch of my favorite posts, and a few new to me posts. Take a look – all of the posts are very very creative.  So – if you’d like to vote for any of the posts, go here. Voting end on Sunday, at midnight British Standard Time.

I have to say, I really had a lot of fun during this year’s Knitting and Crochet Blog Week. It was responsible for me getting back into a blogging groove. Before it, I was blogging rather occasionally – I was trying to get at least one blog post a week in. And now I’ve actually joined NaBloPoMo, and half-way through May, I can say that I’ve actually managed to continue blogging every day. I’ve also been trying to intersperse my crafting blog posts with food and photography posts.  The different topics have inspired other blog posts – for example the photography challenge made me think about knitting waves for the soap stone boat I’d made for Mother’s Day, and then I took that idea and ran with it:

Given that, I’m kind of bummed I didn’t make it into the creative post nominations. It’s not about the prizes – they’re great, but honestly, I’ve been trying to stash down. It’s also not that I don’t wish the nominated bloggers. Au contraire, they all did a great job. There’s no whose place I think I should take. I just wish that there were 11 spots and that I’d make into that spot. Hence the title to this post.

BUT – ultimately I put up the post for myself. It was all up to me what I’d do, and I chose to challenge myself. I learned how to do stop motion animations, and how to have lots of fun while doing it. Yes, it’s a lot of work, but no one made me do it. I remember all the work when I look at the video, but also all the fun. I love the feedback, but I think I get the biggest kick out of that video:

So, no pity party for me. In the end, we blog first and foremost for ourselves. Or more correctly, I blog for myself. Yes, I have things to share, but I would run out of things to say if I only posted for others. I ultimately blog about things that interest me, things I like, things that make me think, and things I enjoy. Yes, we hope for an audience, and we’re glad to have followers, and subscribers and likes. But it’s about what I have to say. And there’s where an audience comes in. If you’re genuine in what you have to say, then other’s will realize it too. That’s what makes you interesting to others, I’d say.

That concludes the reflective part of today’s post. I hope you have fun on this blog. I’d love to hear from you, but as always that’s up to you. Happy blogging everybody!

February = Fail

Oh hello! Are you wondering where I’ve been this past month? I’ve been around – it’s just that I’ve been knitting so much that I haven’t really taken the time to blog. Even though I’ve been taking lots of photographs – mostly of knitting projects and of food. I’ve just been a slacker with regards to uploading photos and blogging about stuff. And I don’t just want to put up videos to pass the time for you guys.

The thing is, one of my stash down goals was to blog more regularly about knitting projects. Yes, I know it’s not really a stash reducing goal – but I just want to get myself on some kind of regular knitting schedule. February = Fail. But hey, it’s a new month, and my blogiversary is this month, so let’s look forward.

I’m doing pretty well with my stashdown goals – I’ve finished 9 projects and I have 3 current wips going on, one of them a KAL, and we’re in week 10 of the new year (right?), so I’ve been pretty much keeping pace with the 52 projects in 52 weeks goal. As to my yarn purchase goal: I bought a bit of yarn to finish the project, plus an extra skein for free shipping, and then I purchased two skeins of yarn that’s really hard to get a hold off (more on that another time). Though I’m not to sure if that purchase has actually gone through – I have a confirmation email, both from the vendor and Paypal, but my order status still says processing (I bought this over a week ago – maybe I’m just too used to quick responses by vendors).

I’ve knit more than I have acquired this year, so that’s a good thing. My queue is full of projects I want to knit – both for myself as well as for gifts, as well as a few requests. Those projects are mostly wraps and stole projects, and that’ll take some time. I just counted – I have 20 must knit in 2012 projects in my queue including three big wraps, 3 garments, and I haven’t even thought about holiday and birthday gifts yet. Oh and 3 old wips. I wish I could knit faster.

And of course I won’t have as much knitting time as I’d like – I’ll be job hunting and maybe even planning a cross-country move, as well as some other personal stuff, and that will reduce my knitting time significantly. Plus my stash will probably have to be reduced (sniff, sniff) to make moving ‘easier.’

Other stashdown goals? 6 pairs of socks, 2 sweaters (probably for my Mom and my sister), a wedding gift blanket (one of my current wips), and aim for 12 shawls in 2012. And I’m participating in the 12 Wollmeise in 12 months – the goal is to knit up some of the old favorites, instead of them lingering in one’s stash. So far I’ve been keeping pace, even though I finished my January project late. Oops.

So I’d better get going. Bye for today, and I’ll have a post about some of my recent going-ons up in a few days. See you then!

It’s been 10 years

I still remember where I was 10 years ago. One of the employees came in and said he’d heard on the radio that a plane had hit the World Trade Center. I can remember how we were all shocked and were wondering what had happened. At first we thought it wasn’t true or that it had been an accident. We went to the meeting room and turned on the TV. We watched the scenes in horror, and I remember how we were hoping that someone would get the people out from the upper floors via helicopters. One of the employees was a former marine and he explained to us how difficult and dangerous it would be to mount such a rescue. We were talking about the tragedy unfolding in front of our eyes when the second plane hit.

I can’t describe what went on the rest of the day. We were all frantically trying to get in touch with friends and family. At one point there were rumors that there were still a number of flights up in the air, with destinations to major cities, and someone stated that air control didn’t have contact to some of them. We tried to get in touch with everyone who we knew who was working in tall buildings – I finally managed to get in touch with my sister and my cousin and updated them since they didn’t have a TV in their office, and told them to go home, to get out of the upper floors of the buildings they were working in.

I was scheduled to teach Karate that evening and was talking to Hanshi, our head teacher, whether we should cancel classes that day. He decided that classes should take place as scheduled – those who couldn’t manage or cope wouldn’t come, but it would be important to maintain some sort of routine for the children.

My father was scheduled to fly to New York on September 12, and then to DC, but everything was cancelled. My father’s colleague who was working in downtown DC, three blocks away from the White House. He told us how the streets were packed, how everybody ended up walking to their various homes, some of them walking miles and miles. I don’t know how people who worked in suburban Virginia or Maryland managed.

I remember seeing all the flowers being placed at all the embassies around the world, how people were expressing their condolences. I remember how le Figaro, one of the most important French newspapers carried the headline “Nous sommes tous Americains” (We are all Americans).

I remember seeing the flag from the World Trade Center being carried during the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games in February 2002, and how I started to tear up. I remember driving up I-395 into DC a week after that and seeing the side of the Pentagon that had been hit by the plane first hand from my car.

It’s been 10 years, and in some ways the world changed. But life has moved on. We’re resilient, and we don’t let ourselves be intimidated by terrorists.

As an aside, the Newseum in DC has both an excellent permanent and an online exhibit on 9/11. I recommend you check it out.