Here comes Spring….

 

On Tuesday, the plane of the Earth’s equator passed through the centre of the Sun’s disk. In other words, this heralded the coming of Spring in the northern hemisphere and autumn in the southern hemisphere. This movement occurs twice a year, in March and September and on these days, it is said the day and night are of equal lengths. During the rest of the year, either day or night lasts a little longer, depending on where you are in the world, because of the Earth’s tilt and this is why it starts getting darker earlier as winter progresses. Living almost on the equator, for us, almost all days are like the equinox and most days we have roughly 12 hours of light, followed by 12 hours of dark.

But the spring equinox or as it’s called in Latin, the Vernal Equinox in the northern hemisphere, traditionally marks the start of spring in many cultures. It’s the time to throw off the covers of winter and look forward to the sun and the green of spring and summer, a time for new beginnings, births and a fresh new start at life.

A number of festivals take place around this time all over the world, dating back to ancient times. Ancient Christianity links the celebration with Easter when Jesus is believed to have died and then been reborn. The link with the vernal equinox is clear as it coincided with pagan celebrations of rebirth and renewal. The Mayan calendar is famed for its spring equinox rituals at the stone-stepped pyramid at Chichen Itza, Mexico. The pyramid, where human sacrifices once took place, is made in a way that a “snake of sunlight” moves down the steps on the day of the equinox.

In Spain, the time around the start of spring has traditionally been the planting season as the ground thaws and the daylight hours become longer so crops can grow. Japan celebrates both equinoxes with national holidays, as the days are seen as a time to worship ancestors.

Indians celebrate the advent of spring with the festival of colours, Holi which signifies good triumphing over evil by the throwing of colour and coloured water over each other.

In Iran, the New Year begins on the day of the equinox and is marked with the festival of Nowruz. The Parsi community has also brought over this festival with them and I did see messages in my school Whatsapp group chat wishing each other Happy Navroz (I went to a school which is operated by a Parsi trust and there were a good significant portion of Parsis in our school, I’ve written in detail about my alma mater previously).

Ireland celebrates St. Patricks Day in the middle of March each year, which is also a spring festival.

Other countries also celebrate the coming of spring in various ways and it’s quite fascinating to read how different we are, yet beneath all the differences we have (of race, language, religion and culture), we are all intrinsically the same! Food for thought right?

I’m going to leave you with these amazing videos and photos I found online. The first is a photo released by the American National Weather Service which showed how the earth looks like on the first day of Spring.

Spring

The short video below is from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) who celebrated the start to spring in the Northern Hemisphere with a stunning view of Earth from sunset to sunrise.

 

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Instagram Interludes

Last weekend, I ended up in Serangoon Road aka Little India to buy some things for my Diwali preparations and the store I wanted to go to was smack bang in the middle of the Diwali market there. Here are some photos I took with my phone of the beautiful market!

Diwali Bazar 1

Diwali Bazar 2

Diwali Bazar 3

Diwali Bazar 4

Diwali Bazar 5

Television Shows

I have never been a huge television fan. Growing up, my dad was against all forms of TV, believing it to be not very good for growing girls and so we were on a very restricted schedule for television watching. The television was only switched on in the evening and we could only watch approved channels and shows.

Of course, most of this was during the era of a single (and later two) state sponsored channels. I remember the happiness people felt when the Indian television industry was opened we got access to a plethora of channels.

I just read the above paragraphs and started laughing! BB & GG can never understand this if I ever explain my growing up days to them. Actually, they too rarely watch television, preferring to get their entertainment through YouTube and other streaming devices.

Anyway, last year when I was bored, one day, I randomly started watching videos on YouTube which popped up on the Recommended feed and I got hooked on to watching dramas from Pakistan. These dramas are in their official language, Urdu, but because it is so similar to the Indian language of Hindi, if you are fluent in Hindi, you understand around 80-90% of what is being said. The rest you can infer from what is happening on the screen. In fact, since the time I have started watching these serials, I can find myself using Urdu words unconsciously!

I now watch dramas and soaps from two channels and love most of them. Unlike the Indian dramas and soaps which were mostly formulaic and with very predictable story lines (mostly about a plucky and pure heroine and her Mother-in-law who spends all her time plotting against her) the dramas from the channels I watch have very good story lines. The best part, unlike most Indian serials, these dramas have a clearly defined story with a start, middle and end and most end in a few months so you never ever got bored of them. This is unlike some serials which have been going on for more than five years!

Stories and plots are also quite sensitively taken and I am surprised (in a good way) to find strong women characters in these serials. The story lines are varied from plots which are sappy love stories to revenge dramas, to a very well taken drama about a girl who is punished for liking a boy and who, against all odds becomes a doctor. Even at this point, she is being discriminated against and I would love to see her reach her goals and cock a finger at her detractors.

What I don’t like about these dramas are probably very feminist in nature, but it is the concept that a girl or even a grown adult belonging to the male of her family; her father first, then her husband and if she doesn’t have a father or husband, then it’s her brother who decides her life. It doesn’t really give the woman, especially those who belong to lower strata of society a voice and many dramas show if a woman is self-sufficient, then she has to endure and wade through the taunts of the people in the society she lives in. Women who are from the more economically advantaged families have it a slightly better though. This is true to a large extent in India also, especially in the semi-urban and rural areas where women are seen as mere chattels and wearing western clothes, using and speaking a mobile phone is seen as the promiscuous behaviour they indulge in. I can go on and on about this, but this is material for another post!

Another thing I don’t like is the concept of triple talaq or the concept where a man holds the woman he is married to absolute hostage because he has the power to divorce her by uttering the words “I divorce you” thrice. In almost every drama or serial I have seen, at some point or the other, a male character will threaten his wife that if she does not do <insert demand by husband> he will divorce her and throw her out of his home. It does not matter if the man was drunk, angry or not in his senses, or even if uttered between just the two of them, the words once uttered become irrevocable. I wonder if this is the real reality in such societies or is something that a director uses to create more drama. I hope it is the latter because such scenes make me as a woman quite upset!

So if anyone wants to want dramas and serials which are different from the typical Indian soaps you see, just look out for Pakistani dramas. You also get a glimpse (even if it is manufactured and not absolutely real) into this country’s culture. If you remember, this was a country I had wanted to visit before I die. Read more about that post here.

Do you watch Pakistani dramas? I’d love to get more recommendations, though these days where I am going to find the time to watch, I don’t know. Do comment below.

 

Family Stories: Family Adoptions

Following my last post, I started thinking more about what makes a woman a mum. I have also been watching this drama where a woman is forced to give up her five-year-old daughter to her sister-in-law (husband’s sister) who is childless. She has another, older daughter and is pregnant with her third child, which also happens to be a girl. Her husband had taken loans from his sister’s husband who also pressurises the couple for the adoption. The woman’s mother-in-law also forces the issue as she wants her daughter to be happy since the daughter’s mother-in-law is forcing her son to divorce her since she is childless. The only person who is on her side is the woman’s brother-in-law (husband’s brother), but he is silenced by the others in the family. At this point in the drama, the child has been handed over, but everyone is miserable. I am sure the ending will be positive, as it happens in all dramas, but this got me thinking about something that has happened in my own family.

My mum is the oldest of four girls, and when my grandmother was pregnant with her fourth child (maybe in the hope of having a boy), her sister-in-law (my grandfather’s sister) who was married, but childless offered to adopt the child if it was another girl. My aunt was born and was informally adopted by her aunt. Why informally you may ask? This was because she was betrothed at birth to a cousin who happened to have the same gotra as her aunt. Now because marriage within a gotra was prohibited, the aunt could never formally adopt her or even have her call her mum. She lived with my mum’s aunt all her life, a mere 10-minute walk from her mum’s place and used to meet her sisters often. She always knew who her parents were and used to call them mum and dad and her adopted mum and dad as aunt and uncle, but she didn’t go to the same school as her sisters and perhaps in a small way resented the hold her sisters had over her.

When she got married, it was my grandparents who gave her away and this rankled my grandaunt all her life. She was incredibly jealous of my grandmother and my mum and her sisters and would resent anytime my aunt spent with them. This went on for around 60 odd years until the grand aunt died last year.

She was a mother to my aunt in all ways that mattered but never heard her adopted daughter call her mum, while she had to hear her sister-in-law being called mum all the time. I would think the resentment she had within herself was completely justified.

Then I started thinking about my grandmother. How would she have felt, having to hand over her child to someone else, even though she was her own sister-in-law? Would she have felt pressurised by her family to give her up? Or did she do it with full consciousness?

The person who was most stressed was my aunt according to me. She was constantly under pressure between her mum and adoptive mum and had to play a balancing game all her life. It is only now, when she is past 60 and her adoptive mum has passed on, that she is planning a holiday to stay with her birth mum for a month. How sad is that! She had to always watch her thoughts, words and actions in case her adoptive mum took offence in something she said or did, especially when it related to her birth family.

This situation was something I’d lived with my whole life and was not something I really thought about till now because this was normal in my family. But watching the drama and then relating it to what happened/is happening in my own family made me see it in a different light, one that is more emphatic, I hope.

I hope sharing this family story helps you see adoptive families, especially those who have been adopted by their own family a little differently. Life is never black or white and this is one situation where the shades of grey are more prominent.

World Book Day

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On Sunday (April 23) we celebrated World Book Day. I’d not heard of this event till a couple of years back, but since then, I try to commemorate it in some way or the other.

I’ve blogged about it in detail some time back, so if you want to know more about why this particular day and what happens on this day, click here to find out more!

2017 is the 20th year that UNESCO is celebrating World Book Day.

book-quote-world-book-dayEvery year, books are chosen as special world book day books and the selections this year are:

  • Peppa Loves World Book Day (for pre-schoolers)
  • Everyone Loves Underpants by Claire Freedman (for pre-schoolers)
  • Where’s Wally? The Fantastic Journey by Martin Handford (for children aged 5-7)
  • The Famous Five: Good Old Tim and Other Stories by Enid Blyton (for children aged 5-7)
  • Horrid Henry – Funny Fact Files by Francesca Simon (for children aged 5-7)
  • Princess Mirror-Belle by Julia Donaldson (for children aged 5-7)
  • Butterfly Beach by Jacqueline Wilson (for children aged 7-9)
  • Blob by David Walliams (for children aged 7-9)
  • Island by David Almond (for children aged 11-14)
  • Dead of Night by Michael Grant (for children aged 11-14)

The World Book Day website has some really interesting resource packs for your child, be they in pre-school and nursery, primary school or secondary school. Click the link in the respective age group to access the resource packs.

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Every year, UNESCO and the international organisations representing the three major sectors of the book industry viz. publishers, booksellers and libraries, select the World Book Capital for the year, effective from 23rd April each year for an entire year. This year’s World Book Capital for 2017 is Conakry, Guinea on account of the quality and diversity of its programme, in particular its focus on community involvement as well as for its well-structured budget and clear development goals with a strong emphasis on youth and literacy.

Governments, schools and libraries across the world celebrate this year to encourage people to read more! So did you read something on Sunday? If no, don’t fret! Just read a book today and celebrate World Book Day today! Go on, read a book now…

do-something-booky