Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Friends That Won't Play

Of the two boys, Sidd has a greater attraction to such furry friends as cats and dogs. Back in our neighborhood in Belmont, the Russian family next door had a cat that used to sun bathe in our driveway, much to Sidd's delight. Unfortunately, when our sociable toddler would come out to pet the feline friend, the cat would stay a healthy 2 or 3 feet away. Perhaps Sidd played a bit rough in all the excitement. Perhaps this was not one of those gregarious cats. In any event, what entailed was a steady saunter for Sidd across our yard, in slow pursuit of the cat, but to no avail. Finally, it would dash off across the road to find a less interrupted location, leaving our younger one crest fallen. Petting the cat would have to wait another day.

Hoping against hope...
- -Abe Pachikara, Copyright 2005 (click for larger image)

Stood up by the cat, and heading home...
- -Abe Pachikara, Copyright 2005 (click for larger image)

That cat, sheesh...
- -Abe Pachikara, Copyright 2005 (click for larger image)

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

A Case for Shifting Religions

Rekha signs the registry - -
Abe Pachikara, Copyright 2005 (click for larger image)

Sometimes one sees both a goal in the distance, AND the work needed to get there and still says, "Yup let’s do it." Even when one has the sneaky suspicion that daunting obstacles may come out of the woodwork.

So it was the case for Molly’s cousin Rekha. You see, she meets this man, and somewhere along the way, man oh man, she decides that he’s THE man.

But there was a catch – his family was (and is) Jacobite ( ) which in many instances would be inconsequential but… hers was (and is) Catholic. All are Christians, but it is one of those important nuances, one that matters. Particularly to the parents, who were pretty keen that each keep their current denomination – a reasonable request to expect from anyone who believes in their own faith.

As you may suspect, one converted - - in this case, it was Rekha. And after I had a chance to meet her man, Jomy, well, it seemed like an awfully good decision. We attended their marriage, my first Jacobite wedding, presided over by none other that the Bishop of Kollam (which is a big deal). And even though I didn’t really understand any of the Malayalam spoken at the function, it was still grand, solemn, and prayerful.

Jomy signs the registry - -
Abe Pachikara, Copyright 2005 (click for larger image)

The newlyweds and the Bishop - -
Abe Pachikara, Copyright 2005 (click for larger image)

Blessing the thali - -
Abe Pachikara, Copyright 2005 (click for larger image)

Blessing the manthrakody saree - -
Abe Pachikara, Copyright 2005 (click for larger image)

The Bishop leads a prayer - -
Abe Pachikara, Copyright 2005 (click for larger image)

Under the haze of photographers' lights - -
Abe Pachikara, Copyright 2005 (click for larger image)

Books of prayer - -
Abe Pachikara, Copyright 2005 (click for larger image)

The family looks appropriately serious for this joyous occasion - -
Abe Pachikara, Copyright 2005 (click for larger image)

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Outsourcing Your Own Legacy

Dusk falls upon the angels - -
Abe Pachikara, Copyright 2005 (click for larger image)

If you wanted to leave behind a monument or some such structure for posterity, how much of your own hard earned money would you be willing to part with? How about 1 lakh, that is 100,000 Rupees, or about $2,500 U.S. dollars. Perhaps less than you expected? You may first ask well what sort of "leave behind" are we talking about, and that would be a smart thing to ask.

I was taken by Mamachen Uncle to a nearby church, right on the waters of Lake Vembanad. Lo and behold, here was a serene addition to the original structure that had be installed by a non-resident Indian in commemoration of St. Thomas' visit to the area back in the 1st Century, A.D. It has angels, lights, a beautiful walkway, a fairly ornate cross whose design is historically significant (not to mention that it is seven sided to showcase the names of the original families who came with him). And, along with all of this, on each side of the walkway are tasteful depictions from Biblical stories.

My reaction: wow, not bad for 2,500 clams! If sheer mileage is what one is looking for, this sure beats getting your name engraved into the end of a church pew in some U.S. suburb, eh?

Mamachen Uncle tours us through the site - -
Abe Pachikara, Copyright 2005 (click for larger image)

One of seven families is seen on the right facet - -
Abe Pachikara, Copyright 2005 (click for larger image)

The cross, seen up close - -
Abe Pachikara, Copyright 2005 (click for larger image)

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Modes of Transportation, Part 1

No longer strapped into a car seat, Paul takes it all in - -
Abe Pachikara, Copyright 2005
(click to enlarge image)

The India trip presented a fantastic opportunity to try out quite an array of transportation for two reasons: 1) both our boys have a fascination with any manner of transport; 2) compared to being tied down by a 5 point harness, in a rigid car seat, in the belly of a mini-van, 3rd world travel is about as untethered (and therefore exhilarating) as it gets.

The first real chance occurred one Saturday morning, when my Uncle Jose dropped my 2 ½ year old Paul and myself at the local train station. We caught the “Chennai Mail” as it passed through Kottayam (coming from none other than Chennai and zipping towards Trivandrum) and jumped off 30 minutes later in Changanacheri. After a brief wait, we got on board a local train heading back to Kottayam.

For Paul that was all that was needed. The relatively brief interaction provided enough to chew on without physically taxing his constitution. He was: mystified by the train's inside (as all the books had only schooled him on the outside); enthralled by the sights; and intrigued in particular by the sounds and smells as tropical trains have portals with bars rather than the sealed panes of glass you see on U.S. and Canadian trains.

We also had the terrific luck on getting on at the station where a couple of thousand Hindu pilgrims disembarked as part of an annual trek to Sabarimala ( They left the train adorned in flowers, providing me with a truly vivid example of the prominent role that religion plays in daily life of this nation.

The Chennai Mail, addorned in flowers by Sabarimala pilgrims - -
Abe Pachikara, Copyright 2005 (click to enlarge image)

The idyllic countryside races by - -
Abe Pachikara, Copyright 2005 (click to enlarge image)

Our train continues onward - -
Abe Pachikara, Copyright 2005 (click to enlarge image)

One Way to Boost Your Immunity

Who needs toys when you've got rocks! - -
Abe Pachikara, Copyright 2005
(click to enlarge image)

Here is one of those local beliefs: If you are visiting from outside the country, you can expect to get a little sick, a little stung by critters, and have to put up with an “adjustment” phase.

Want to get this over with quick? Then rather than avoiding the elements, immerse yourself in them. For example, don’t have your children avoid the outside elements; rather, have them spend time playing just the way the locals do. Sure they may experience some initial discomforts, but they’ll certainly get tougher quicker.

Can I say this worked? I don’t really know. But once Sidd was introduced to all the fascinating things to be found outside the house, he was hooked. That is for certain.

Sidd get's cozy with the flora and fauna - -
Abe Pachikara, Copyright 2005 (click to enlarge image)

Being a Mom Again

Jolly Auntie dotes over Nicole and Kevin - -
Abe Pachikara, Copyright 2005 (click to enlarge image)

In general, I think it takes a hell of a lot more to go from an easy job to a hard job, than vice versa. Or maybe more accurately, from a role with fewer hassles to one with a lot more hassles. This is akin to north/south versus south/north migration: most (former) die-hard Canadians will tell you that it is easier to move from a cold place, like Ottawa, Canada, to a warm place like Atlanta, in the U.S. of A., than to move northward.

A second, complementary point is that being a grandmom must be great fun - - no more do you need to pour your energies into day-to-day tasks as you did a long time ago when you were a mom (washing, feeding, bathing, diapers, more diapers, disciplining, etc.)… now you get to dote over the grandkids, and take your best shot at spoiling them 10 different ways.

Now my Aunt Jolly has come full circle, as her son Russell and daughter-in-law Ligi will be in Toronto (as in Canada) for perhaps another year studying for their pharmacy certification. So Jollyauntie has stepped up and taken the role of “mom” again, and immersed herself in the tasks that come with this territory. You can see it is hard (any parent will grimace as s/he remembers the exhausting years when the kids were in that 1 to 4 year old range). Luckily for Russell and Ligi (and frankly for Nicole and Kevin too) Jollyauntie is one of those folks with a real verve, and this propels her through the each day with gusto and passion. It is one of those “2nd tours of duty,” one she enthusiastically embraces.

Nicole and Kevin pause for the camera - -
Abe Pachikara, Copyright 2005 (click to enlarge image)

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Spanning Generations

Ammachi's songs again capture the attention of 3 generations - -
Abe Pachikara, Copyright 2005

Not everything about the extended family tradition is a good thing. For example, you may get less privacy than you want. And hence you may feel there are fewer things that one decides without a family committee.

However, some aspects of interacting with your extended family are priceless... You do get more exposed to the wisdom, broad perspectives and experiences of your elders when you are younger, and you do reduce the probabality of losing contact with younger kin and all their energy, (sometimes aggravating but signature) hubris and irrational optimism as you grow older.

One does not generally decide whether or not they will live in an "extended" or "nuclear" manner. More often than not, you are born into one of the two traditions and don't really experience the other except via a magazine article or similar reference. However, when you travel between cultures as different as that of the US to India, then you are traversing across these lines; perhaps, if you are lucky, you will get to see not only the parts that shock you but also the aspects which are a pleasant surprise.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Leaping Across Cultures

The newlyweds at their reception, surrounded by the camera and video crew - -
Abe Pachikara, Copyright 2005

The day we arrived in India, December 30th, was in part notable as it was the day that my cousin Sonya was married at the Little Flower Church in Ernakulam. Now, she was raised in Africa and then in the US, and for all intents and purposes is imbued with the ways of the Western pop culture. By that, in particular, I mean that getting married via the arranged marriage approach was not necessarily the most obvious or comfortable route. But that is the way she chose, with fabulous success (so far, I mean marriage is one of those things that needs a long timeframe before any real assessment can be made, if one can truly find a set of parameters with which to do so, right?).

And in marrying in this manner, she has expanded the possibilities that all her cousins may consider. Perhaps, it was a case of seeing how her older relatives were married, respecting who they were and how their marriages had shaped them, and therefore finding enough credence in this particular framework to consider it for herself, even if it was not part of the culture she was from.

We arrived in India the day of the wedding, and were only able to attend the reception. What we saw was a couple with the tired glow of newlyweds at the end of a seemingly interminable number of functions, now pleasantly tolerating the last of the hundreds of photos and the capture of hours / meters of video footage.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Collaborating Across Religions

Refueling candles - -
Abe Pachikara, Copyright 2005

So this is my first entry into my first blog and it is part of my effort to get back to capturing thoughts and notions as I once did in many journals, but now with the power that the Web brings.

The effort should help include photos that have provoked ideas for me and enable any who actually look at them or my writings to provide their opinions and reactions as they see fit.

To kick things off I will begin with a few entries about a recent trip to India, specifically to Kerala. My wife Molly and I have two young boys (17 months and 33 months as of now) - - part of the game plan was to enable family to see them, and for them to start taking in the bedlam that makes up a different society as bone crushingly rich in detail as India at an early age.

I think I will generally try to recount thoughts in a manner that is chronoligically ordered, but some exceptions will occur.

Following is one.

On Jan. 16th, we were in Chertala, Kerala, at Molly's Uncle Immanuel's place (we call him Mamachen Uncle). That evening, we went down the block to a small shrine for a festival that is called something like Perinala (though there is a great chance I have botched this term). What was remarkable to me was the attendance at a Christian function by people of Hindu and Muslim faiths. At this shrine to St. Michael, people had set up numerous candles in a range of shapes. The image above shows one of those candle arrangements - - notice it includes not only the Christian cross, but also the Hindu sign Om (read at fora definition of this), and the Muslim Crescent.

It was inspiring - - all too often all one hears are of the many clashes between religions and not of how they can collaborate. When you visit India, you cannot help but notice how religion is so immersed into everyday life. It is everywhere and people practice it with less formality but greater frequency than I seem to find in the U.S. I will close here to keep the first entry from droning on too long, but I hope to revisit this point later.

Monday, January 31, 2005

The Welcome Arms of Family

On a working day, at 1 a.m. Uncles Denny (and Donny, not seen here) tour their cousins and nephews around Dubai, providing more hospitality than Sidd has the energy for - -
Abe Pachikara, Copyright 2005 (click for larger image)

Heading toward India we had a 7 hour lay over in Dubai, but to be clear, it was from 9 pm until nearly 4 am. And although it took more than 1 1/2 hours to get out of the airport (customs, strollers, etc.) waiting for us with true enthusiasm were two of Molly's cousins, Denny and Donny. Now both of these guys had work the next day, yet that did not hold back an ounce of their hospitality. We were toured around the city, including time in front of the Burj Al Arab - - ( ) only the 19th tallest building in the world and touted as a six star hotel - - taken for a midnight dinner, and then dropped back at the airport at 1:30!

Now before I go too far, it is important to say that this was the second experience on this trip of family at work. You see, we had left our minivan back in Long Island, with my dad's brother Starling, who simply said, "No problem, you just drop by - - I will take you to the airport and watch over your minivan." For a month. So our trip was off to a warm start even before we hit the tropical weather.

With all the super-sized schedules that we can end up keeping in the old U.S. of A., it was a friendly reminder to keep our priorities straight, and ensure we don't let important facets of our lives - - such as our family members - - slip down the totem pole.