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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Wed-nes-day

Source: clarewbrown.files.wordpress.com 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: life.time.com 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.

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.

Happy 60th, T!

Today is my Uncle T’s 60th birthday. He’s a pretty awesome uncle. T grew up in India, with his family and many cousins, aunts and uncles. He was a mischievous little guy – my Mom still tells the story where she chased him around the house because he didn’t follow the rules. He would take off his school uniform pants in the middle of the room, step out of them and run off. He was one of the youngest of the bunch so he often got away with things.

T sometimes talks about the discipline that was ingrained in them. There was no such thing as an allowance for the kids, and if they ever received a paisa or a rupee it was carefully hoarded and you would spend a lot of time figuring out what exactly you’d buy with it. Sweets and other bought snacks were the rare exception. T tells the story of how he’d walk back from the school with only one peanut to eat. Which we’ve of course modified to “walking uphill both ways, in the snow, with only one peanut to chew on.” I should add that he grew up in South India, where there was no snow around.

Apparently his school and college days were fun party times as well. Oops, guess his sisters will find out now that he had plenty of fun driving across borders to … uhm, we’ll leave that open-ended.

After graduation – at least we think he graduated – T wasn’t quite sure what to do with his degree when my aunt suggested that he look into computer related jobs. After some work at larger corporations, he branched out on his own, and together with his business partner he started up a company. He’s really disciplined or otherwise he wouldn’t be able to work out of his home office. He’s a busy guy – he’s even busier now than he used to be, and he has to deal with calls from India and telephone conferences at random times during the day and the weekend. His golfing time has been dramatically reduced.

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T is like the glue that holds the family together. He keeps track of all the random relatives, including the second and third degree cousins, various aunts and uncles, and other random people. Of course, he talks to you while working away on his computer, so you’ll often hear him tap away. You might have to repeat yourself once or twice.

Of course, T may just as easily repeat himself. He especially tends to repeat his wife. Here’s an example:
Question to T’s wife: “How did you make the scallops?”
T’s wife gets the recipe and reads off the instructions.
T will start talking at the same time as his wife: “And then she takes the scallops, and she dips them on one side, and dips them on the other side, and then she fries them. And just like that, just like that she does it. Just have some wine with. Open a couple of bottles of wine. She does it nicely.” All accompanied by lots of hand waving and gestures.

T is generous to a fault and a born philanthropist. He believes in helping the needy and combined with his generous heart, he sure is a favorite in the family. He’s the kind of guy that buys shoes for 50 rupees in India and pays 200 rupees to help the little corner store out. Or after taking over a pub celebrating the holidays in Germany he generously handed out a 50$ tip to the waitress. He supports charity, especially an educational foundation in India that includes various school programs. He generously donates, and makes sure to fundraise among family and friends, and anyone else he can think of. He is a very fair and tolerant person. He always has an open ear for you – you just have to get his attention away from his work. He has a large circle of friends that he loves spending his time with. And he’s pretty darn active – he has quite a social calendar, more than many 20 year olds.

T is also the one who sends out the Christmas letter – well, sometimes, whenever his wife or kids don’t keep him from it. He can ramble along with the best of them – he has that from his mother. For example, he “educated” us on how to make a left-over Chinese food omelet. This was done by comparing the separation of the egg yolks from the egg whites to the separation of church and state. Yup, that’s a direct quote. T is also a jokester, though not as good as his kids. T tends to use words like “dipdoe” (his version of idiot), “what-you-may-call-it” and “thingamajig,” leaving the rest of us to interpret his words. He’s also the kind of guy that can go to his son’s bachelor party and still hold his own with the 20 and 30 somethings.

I hope you got a sense of what T is like. Check out the slideshow for more T fun. Happy 60th, T!

A Knitter or Crocheter For All Seasons?

Day 4: April 26, 2012. A Knitter or Crocheter For All Seasons?
As spring is in the air in the northern hemisphere and those in the southern hemisphere start setting their sights for the arrival of winter, a lot of crocheters and knitters find that their crafting changes along with their wardrobe. Have a look through your finished projects and explain the seasonality of your craft to your readers. Do you make warm woollens the whole year through in preparation for the colder months, or do you live somewhere that never feels the chill and so invest your time in beautiful homewares and delicate lace items. How does your local seasonal weather affect your craft?

I’m glad I’m living in an area where you have actual seasons – winter is cold, summer is warm, spring and fall fit in somewhere inbetween. Ok, that’s simplifying things – we might not get snow in winter at all, or we might get a snowpocalypse, spring and fall sometimes are very cold, totally rained out, or unseasonably warm, and summer can be anything from pleasant to stiflingly humid. But still, we have seasons. I can’t quite imagine not living in a place with seasons. Actually, that’s not true. I spent half a year in Tanzania, which has its own weather rhythms. The weather was everything between pleasantly warm to increadibly hot, rainy season with monsoon like rains or short showers, and sometimes the evenings and nights were pretty darn cold. We camped at the edge of the Ngorongoro Crater once and boy, we were wearing plenty layers in our sleeping bags and we were still cold. But the sunrise totally made up for it.

Tanzania0832

All of these seasons make it possible to knit up all kinds of projects in various yarn weights. I’ll get good use out of blankets as well as lacy shawls. I love my Girasole blanket which I knit out of 1500+ yards of worsted weight. And despite its laciness it’s very warm and cuddly – I originally thought that it wouldn’t be that warm due to the lace pattern but I was totally wrong. Normally I like to knit those kinds of projects when it’s colder outside so I don’t have a huge pile of worsted weight yarn on my lap while the weather is in the 90s Fahrenheit (above 30 Celsius). But this was a KAL project so I knit this in July – but thankfully I had airconditioning or this would not have been pleasant.

IMG_3421

But really, I choose my projects depending on who needs what and when – especially when it comes to Christmas gifts! I always have a few projects that I try to knit up last minute, and sometimes I succeed, and sometimes not. Oh, and I’ve learned the hard way that handknit gifts should only go to people who will really appreciate them. Otherwise I feel like an idiot when I put so much hard work into something that they really don’t care for. People who craft themselves seem to be the people who appreciate handmade things most – they really know how much work goes into making something yourself.

I don't think this Ishbel ever made it out of the closet... And I even used Wollmeise for it!

So, my crafting seems to be more of a reflection of my knitting skills rather than seasonal changes. I’ve enjoyed knitting most of my projects – there are a few that I just couldn’t wait to finish them, but mostly, I’ve enjoyed creating them.  I’ve knit a bunch of shawls, scarves and cowls, and bunch of baby items – both toys and garments. I’m pretty new to knitting garments – I’ve knit a sweater and two cardigans, and there are a bunch more in my queue. But I’ll talk about my knitting skills on Saturday, in the “Improving Your Skillset” post. Until then I’ll leave you with (another) collage of seasonal knitting projects. The seasons are (per row): winter, spring, summer, fall. Then you’ll have more unsual ‘seasons’ – the individual pictures are: monsoon season, anytime season, rainy season, Easter, soccer season, and Christmas.

The projects are:

That’s it from my end for today. Check out some of the other awesome posts on today’s topic by googling for today’s code, 3KCBWDAY4. Or even better, join in! It really is a lot of fun. I’ll see you tomorrow – I’m still figuring out what my creative post will be, but I’ll do my very best. Til then!

yesterday = tomorrow

Yesterday we watched the Bollywood Movie Kal Ho Naa Ho. Like all Indian movies it’s rather dramatic, with lots of dancing and singing and overly heartwrenching moments – but also very entertaining. Here’s the trailer – unfortunately without English subtitles.

The movie includes an Indian version of the song “Pretty Woman”

Or a lovely song taking place during a wedding:

Kal Ho Naa Ho translates approximately to “Tomorrow may never come” (all you Hindi speakers out there, feel free to correct me). Well……. Kal means both yesterday and tomorrow in Hindi. So the movie title may also be interpreted as “Yesterday may never come.” Yeah, yesterday won’t come again. No kidding, Sherlock.

Somehow this seems so classic India, especially when you consider the concept of Indian standard time (IST). The Urban Dictionary describes IST as “We have or own standard time, because we always show up about 1-2 hours late to everything.” In fact, at my sister’s wedding we expected people to show up somewhat later for the reception, and were astonished when people, particularly the Indian guests pretty much showed up on time. I guess that’s the exception that proves the rule?