finding beauty…

 for families of a certain caste, diamonds are a part of their culture–and my family is one of those families

 they are gifted and worn in celebration of weddings but also in daily life they are a woman’s prized possession and are cherished and passed on for generations

 my trips to india have always included looking at my aunt’s and cousin’s jewelry this time was no different except that we were seeing the diamonds before they were set and made into anything

 but what captured my attention was not the diamonds themselves but the sea of slum dwellings that was the view from the window of the  jeweller’s  home

 i was struck by the stark contrast between the diamonds and the slums and yet i found beauty in both

 a few years ago i was lucky enough to see the late Alexander McQueen’s (iconic fashion designer) exhibit, Savage Beauty, at the New York Met– it is one  of the most exquisite and mesmerizing exhibits i have ever seen

 his quotes about what inspired him were displayed throughout the exhibit and the one that struck me the most was:

“I think there is beauty in everything…[b]eauty can come from the strangest of places, even the most disgusting of places…[i]find beauty in the grotesque…”

 i found myself thinking about his words as i looked out at the slums and we explored the streets of mumbai today

 i could not help but see the beauty in the slums, the garbage that you cannot escape, the buses, rickshaws and cars that pollute the air,  the broken down buildings and streets, but mostly the people who are left to find their homes on the streets

 it is not lost on me that all of these things also represent the huge disparity between those of us that have the luxury to look at diamonds and those  who must sleep on the street and the tragic consequences of this disparity

 but i think (maybe naively) that if we turn away rather than look at and find the beauty in the very things that are hard to look at, we will not care and if we do not care, than nothing will ever change… Read the rest “finding beauty…”

family and color…

 i woke up to the continuous sound of horns beeping and people on the move

 as i write this sipping chai and eating my yummy homemade, indian breakfast full of savory and spicy treats, most of you are fast asleep

 while i am still jet lagged and exhausted from 48 hours of travel, i feel exhilarated from the newness yet familiarity of it all, the organized chaos that is   mumbai, and the feeling of being part of a big family

 because my parents immigrated before i was born and our trips back to india were far and few between i have always thought of myself as  being a part of a small family–my mom, dad, sister and me but when i come back here, i am reminded that i am part of a huge family  overflowing with aunts, uncles, sisters, brothers, nephews and nieces

 i wonder how different life would have been if i had been raised with all of this family…but mostly, i study their faces to find features like mine and enjoy  the crazy adventure of being part of a big family…

 landing at the mumbai airport, i was greeted by the familiar smell of india

 one that i remember from my childhood–a mix of indian smells & spices, lots of people and oppressive heat

 what i was not prepared for was how different the mumbai airport now is… before, just as the city of mumbai is busy, chaotic, hot and dirty so was the airport… but now it is clean, new, and modern…and i found myself wondering what other changes i would find during my time here…

 the best part of leaving the mumbai airport is being greeted by the galley of people waiting to greet their loved ones…and even better is seeing  the hands of my dad, sister, cousin and nephew raised high above the sea of other hands letting me know they were there

 yesterday was full —

 it began with a trip to a hill station (a retreat from the hustle and bustle of the city) where we spent time with my dad’s family and ended with  meeting my mom’s family at the flat they have lived in since we were small–

 it was familiar, welcoming and happy–lots of talking, laughing and eating

 we also managed to pack in a trip to a beautiful temple set in the hills complete with a “gaushalla”–a barn decorated with malas (garlands of mostly   yellow, orange, and red marigolds) where the cows, considered holy, are cared for

 mesmerized by the color of life here and the beauty of the architecture, garlands, shrines, and paintings, i cannot wait to see and experience more… Read the rest “family and color…”