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A Non-Holiday Tradition

January is over and along with it, those remnant feelings from the holidays of celebration, ritual and tradition. From September to December and through the celebratory season, we make a conscious effort to bring family together, honor age-old practices and create warmth in the home. Robbie and I went to church and temple more, played holiday music, decorated the house and ate our favorite holiday foods.

Holidays 2012

We enjoyed special family traditions too, without which, the holidays just wouldn’t be the same – nachos with my cousins after a weekend of Diwali goodies, chit-chatting with my sister-in-law while wrapping gifts until the wee hours, huevos rancheros on Christmas morning. Observing tradition during the holidays is fun and easy; that is what the holidays call on us to do. By the same token, the holiday season certainly makes January feel bland.

At least that is how I was feeling a couple of weeks ago, unceremoniously packing away Christmas décor with the tv on in the background. And then I heard the new Vonage commercial – the one with the Indian lady who switched to Vonage so she could speak to her mother miles away – the one where she breaks out into an old classic Hindi film song Abhi Na Jao Chhod Kar – this song:

Hearing the song, I grew nostalgic. All of a sudden, I was back in my parents’ kitchen where I’d heard them sing this song together for as long as I can remember. I missed them. I missed home and that feeling of happiness and warmth that my parents created in our house day-in and day-out . . . even when there were no holidays . . . even in January.

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A Christmas Message

Christmas this year was truly beautiful, and so too the messages that it brought. From newspaper articles to old favorite movies to Father Sebastian’s homily at Christmas Eve mass, the focus of our country – especially in the wake of the Newtown tragedy – was on our children. Protecting their innocence, loving them, rejoicing in them. While so much of Christmas this year was typical of Milla family tradition, there are a few moments I will never forget that separate this Christmas from all the rest. Reading Susan Katz Miller’s piece, “On Mourning, Christmas, and Interfaith Community” is one of them, and I now share the piece with you. Merry Christmas!

Being Both

Star Ornament

After the tragedy in Newtown, townsfolk gathered together at an interfaith service with Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Muslim and Baha’i prayers. In this moment of great sorrow, we sought solace and inspiration in a gathering that reflects the complex religious pluralism of America in the 21st century.

We do not need to share a creed or dogma in order to share our burdens. Community provides a balm to the believer, the seeker, and the secularist alike in times of trouble. Sitting together, singing together, mourning together, despite theological differences, we are able to experience catharsis, and ephemeral hope.

I feel profoundly grateful to be part of an interfaith families community, a community that allows my family to feel the transcendence of interfaith gatherings on a regular basis. On Sunday, just two days after the Newtown tragedy, we attended the annual Lessons and Carols service for Advent and Christmas. My…

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One and Counting

How time flies. On September 30, Aashi turned 1. After a relaxing day recovering from her big birthday bash, we went through her nightly routine, a bath, a book, a lullabye or two. As I was holding her in my arms, about to put her into her crib, she waved at me happily, repeating her new favorite phrase, “bye bye.” It was so innocent and sweet, almost like she was waving goodbye to her first year, so happy to be growing up. And in that sweet moment that I can’t let myself ever ever forget, I just broke down. The tears began falling and I held onto her for as long as I could, trying to remember each and every one of my favorite moments from our first year together, as if remembering could slow the time.

We celebrated her first year with a “Very Hungry Caterpillar” party after Eric Carle’s timeless classic. Thanks to my sister, Shaili Rajput (a.k.a. Bena Mashi and Dr. Rajput), we have some beautiful images capturing the day:

And as with the book, we now have our very own little butterfly, ready to spread her wings and take off.

The Internet Matchmaker

Robbie and I have been doing a lot of online dating lately. It started the way it does for many – with a promising relationship hitting a dead end, leaving the Internet as the most likely source for the “perfect match.” The reason behind our dead end? An out-of-state move to Michigan. Long distance. Of course, Robbie and I are not looking for other partners. Not even best friends (see MWF Seeking BFF by Rachel Bertsche). For the last two months, Robbie and I have been in an all-consuming online search for the perfect family to fill the void in our “nanny share.” Read more

Wedding Nouveau

Last weekend, Robbie and I witnessed the marriage of two good friends, one Hindu and one Catholic, and celebrated their wedding with a party that bespoke a seemingly effortless confluence of two cultures and faiths. Bridesmaids wore bindis, the sweet table had chocolate mousse and methai, and every now and again, the band would take a breather to play old Hindi favorites. The celebration was beautiful, a true testament to the success of the difficult planning that went into it.

And I would know. While wedding season 2012 may be winding down, my sister’s recent engagement (Congratulations, Bena!) has me excitedly involved in planning for 2013. And if a family wedding isn’t enough to look forward to, it turns out I have not one, but three close childhood friends getting married next year. These four women in my life share more than just the same wedding year though. Common to all of them is a deep-rooted pride in their ethnic and religious backgrounds and traditions – Indian, Greek, Armenian, Jewish. And yet, each of them is also navigating the challenges of planning an intercultural or interfaith wedding. Read more

Bring On The Bling, Baby

Robbie was out with Aashi the other night when a woman walking by glanced at her, came over and suddenly exclaimed “Que linda! She has her ears pierced!” And then with a proud knowing grin, said, “She’s Latina, isn’t she.” Robbie of course explained that Aashi is part Indian, Filipino, Italian and Spanish. The woman nodded in approval, as if to say “Of course!” And as quickly as she rushed over, she left, but not before declaring, “We love our jewelry, don’t we?”

Yes, “we” do. And by “we,” I do not include the woman at the piercing salon who tried to discourage me from getting it done.

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A Loving Community

In Loving v. Virginia, the United States Supreme Court vindicated one couple’s battle against institutional racism when it struck down Virginia’s law banning interracial marriage. Now, forty-five years later, the number of interracial couples in the United States has reached an all-time high, yet institutional racism and issues affecting mixed race relations persist.  Below (in no particular order) is a select group of reputable organizations promoting awareness and acceptance of mixed race individuals and families, and of the ideals that Loving v. Virginia represents, beginning, of course, with Loving Day: Read more

A Happy Anniversary

“none of us can do it alone, but together we can do a lot” by The Durfs Photography

Robbie and I have a lot to celebrate today. It is our third wedding anniversary and our first one as parents. It seems only fitting that we celebrate our relationship and our world together the same day that we celebrate the birth of our country, the only place capable of setting the stage for the serendipitous events that brought us together. It was the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave that welcomed Robbie’s paternal grandparents, and it was the Land of Opportunity that brought in Robbie’s mother from the Philippines and my parents from India. If this country had not been a beacon of hope and prosperity, then Robbie’s parents might never have met, I might have been born elsewhere, and the events that culminated with Aashi might never have been.

But it would be ignorant to celebrate our nation on its birthday without recognizing those who fought through more turbulent times to make my life, my marriage and my family possible. Read more

Equal is Not Simple

Before Robbie and I had Aashi, got married, got engaged, or even entered into a long-distance relationship, we discussed the idea of having children who practiced our respective religions, Hinduism and Catholicism. Religion for Robbie and me was never a deal-breaker because we wholeheartedly embraced the concept of religious equality for our relationship and our future family. We figured that if we were already comfortable attending each other’s religious services, praying for the same things, and even planning an interfaith wedding, then we could handle the challenge of raising a family that practices both faiths equally. Of course, now that we have Aashi, we are beginning to realize that “equal” is easier said than done.

My internal debate over what “equal” really means began when Robbie’s parents gave Aashi a beautiful pendant depicting the Blessed Virgin Mary in honor of her Baptism. Read more

My Happy Heart: On Nidhi Chanani

Of the many glowing comments on illustrator and artist Nidhi Chanani’s webpage, the one that best describes her art and the sentiments it inspires is “Dil Khush” (Happy Heart). Chanani’s images are eye-catching, colorful, and just so cute. But what stands out to me most about her artwork is the culture that her images portray – her Indian American culture as well as the new cultural norm which accepts diversity in our close personal relationships. Born in Kolkata, India, raised in San Francisco, and married to a non-Indian (whom she lovingly calls hubbahubba), Chanani describes herself as Indian and American and draws from her “hybrid existence” and rich cultural experience to create pieces that reflect her identity and relationships. To do so, she presents intercultural relationships in a sweet and playful tone that others can identify with, regardless of background or Read more