**Note: I currently write from India but my WP publishing time is set to California time, so you’re see I talk about today/yesterday/tomorrow very fluidly. Don’t get too confused por favor!**

First off, it is November 11th and Happy Diwali and Veterans Day to everyone! May this year bring each and every one of you health, prosperity, and peacefulness! It is a rarity for both of these holidays to coincide, but I guess the stars are aligning! Other bloggers that have written about this day are FUSSYlittleBLOG and Pundita – check their posts out!

On Tuesday, I received a message from my dear friend asking how I’m doing and whether I’m in a ‘festive mood’ and my instant response to her was… “Hmm I never really think of Diwali as festive! Lol. Feel like I’m just stuck in a busy routine I can’t deviate from”. Originally when I said ‘busy schedule,’ I was referring to my marathon-like NaNoWriMo blogging on this site, but now, on Diwali, it refers to the constant noise pollution and annoyance of firecrackers bursting 24/7 and the fact that my brain has been busy pondering less-than optimistic thoughts about the state of the world we live in, non-stop, today.

And now…I’m tired. So instead of anything too structured, I just want to share an informal post with you about what I did and thought about today that preoccupied my fragile mind so. Apologies in advance for the stream of consciousness writing that went into recounting the activities of the day intertwined with my philosophy on humankind.


I woke up on Diwali Day as usual, had breakfast, and posted yesterday’s blog post whilst dealing with wi-fi connectivity issues. Not long after, my family headed to the office to do Puja and returned for lunch. The flaky internet now working, I randomly started searching online for iconic images I could make into shadowbox art. I started out looking for famous paintings and famous magazine cover photos that led to searches for historically important photography and thinking about the impact of black and white photography and how that would translate into 3D form. Something with a strong social message?

I looked at photos of atomic bombs, emancipated prisoners, child laborer so, sex slaves, protests and other visually powerful material. This led me to wonder what kind of images would represent historical events that don’t have photographic evidence. I also wondered if any would also work as silhouette paper cutting art. And not for the first time since changing my career path after my MSc in Human Osteology and Palaeopathology, I regretted giving up my dream of one day becoming a forensic anthropologist come true, and doing my part to help bring the world’s one step closer to reconciliation and righting the wrongs that have been committed. I was so sure back then that I’d made the right choice because of the mental trauma it would cause me, but I’m now not sure that is a good enough reason anymore.

I definitely got a bit overwhelmed and decided to relieve myself by coming up with a soap recipe I wish to try my hand at soon (talk about stress-relief multitasking). I had planned to make myself a soup for dinner but got so completely wrapped up in my web search and soap calculations that the next thing I knew, it was time for the Diwali Puja at home. We did that, had dinner, and I again wondered why on such an ‘auspicious day’ I was having such dark thoughts about the constant failures of humankind since early afternoon.

Diwali is called the festival of lights because we celebrate the victory of light over darkness, and good vanquishing evil. But in my mind, all I can think about is why the battle even needs to take place in the first place, why is there man-made sadness and evil in the world, and what about picking up the pieces after damage has been done and worrying about how it may affect those who survived the ordeal (regardless of which side they are on)?

It was only then, when I went on Facebook, that I put two and two together and realized others were celebrating Veterans Day. (Thank you to everyone who gave their service from the bottom of my heart!) But I found my thoughts weren’t comparable to the point of Veterans Day either. The PTSD, the political agendas of which service men and women are mere pawns, and the grieving families of the ‘fallen.’ Thank you is not enough and my worries about society still stand – why go there in the first place? I’ve researched wars and why they happen and what happens during them for many reasons, but I’m still no closer to understanding if they are required or can be prevented…..

I know the responses I’d get for all the questions and frustrations I’ve already voiced, and I’ll see more sense when I’m up tomorrow. But either way, I’m still uncomfortable and burdened by the way I was thinking today of all days (as this is common thoughts for me on ‘normal’ days but I try not to think about it on festive days). For today, my point of view is admittedly narrow and I have a heavy heart.

To relieve the burdens of the day, I decided I needed to do something that made me happy before I fell asleep so I caught up on all the Korean dramas I am following (talk about another jump!), which did in fact bring a smile to my face despite the ‘happy festive’ thunderous sound of firecrackers outside my window made me somewhat melancholic as its constant noise was reminiscent of the sound of gunfire and warfare. That sound was the scary lullaby I fell asleep to.

Diwali’s now over but the celebrations continue. The Korean dramas are over but it is now the next day, and the sound of bomb-like crackers has not stopped even in the daylight… The ritualized massacre and bloodbath of the creatures and organisms that call the sky their home continues…in the name of peace and love. How ironic…

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Kudos to my dad for showing me this brilliant YouTube video of Pritam’s Mashup Performance from this year’s GiMA (Global Indian Music Academy) Awards. Not only are the 3 performances brilliant, the video also inspired the idea for this blogs post!

I love Bollywood music and always have. However, I can’t remember lyrics if my life depended on it! Do I sound like anyone you know? Yeah…there is a whole community of us hidden across the world. The only words I can remember (and only after hearing it) are the catchy and overly repetitive song choruses used today. So a mashup is an ideal way for me to enjoy music.

Back in the day, I always felt a bit out of my element in America because other young people would start cheering before even two seconds of the intro of any popular song came on at a dance party, for example, while my own recognition response would have to wait until I’d hear the chorus. May not matter much if you’re just there to dance, but unfortunately, I don’t enjoy dancing and only get on the dance floor and dance if I know the song playing and can sing along to parts of it. I know, bummer for me.

Anyway, getting back to the point, this delayed recognition meant that being in singing or music environments was (and still is) a rather difficult and arduous ordeal for me growing up. Having to participate in a game of Antakshari with family in India by far tops the bill for most uncomfortable situations ever. India Opines disagrees with me and uses cute GIFs to give reasons why it’s the ‘Best Indian Game Ever’ (which apparently requires little skill to play), but I stand by my statement of traumatic (despite the excitement I felt just spending time with family in an entertaining way).

Words Spoken when Starting a Game of Antakshari

For those who don’t know, Antakshari began as a family pastime and singing game played between 2 opposing teams where the first verse of Indian songs are alternatively sung by each group, but the first consonant of the song must match the last consonant sung by the last team (confused yet???). It has featured a lot in romantic films with Bollywood dancing accompaniment (such as the video below from the movie Maine Pyar Kiya) and has even been popularized as a popular Zee TV singing show / musical competition game show since 1993 (hosted until 2006 by Annu Kapoor). The parlor game is also most often played while on a road trip and preferred over collectively watching a movie  in silence, for instance, because it facilitates participation and entertainment for all ages instead of a bus full of snoring and lethargy.

Thankfully the cute little me didn’t know Hindi that well – and knew only one song that started with the letter ma – and would sometimes be unlucky enough to start off the game with my rendition of Hum Aapke Hain Kaun‘s song ‘Maye Ni Maye‘ – jumbling up the lyrics soo bad that I’d become the hilarious opening act for the group. (To be fair, that is a fond memory I retain of the sport…)

Point: Don’t get me wrong, I love watching and listening to Antakshari when there are energetic players on both sides, but being roped in time after time was difficult because I never felt like I could walk away or control the situation. It took me listening to Pritam’s fantastic mashup performance from last month (and the fact I could sing along to all 10 minutes of the clip!) to realize just how uncomfortable I used to get from being dragged into a game of Antakshari in my younger days because I was hopeless at memorizing song lyrics from the beginning verse!

One of the highlights of my year and time in Japan was visiting Hiroshima during the Memorial Ceremony. 2015 is an important year that marks the passage of 70 years since the first atomic bomb ‘Little Boy’ was ever used in the world.

Although I hadn’t pre-planned going to the ceremony until about a day beforehand, after I made my decision to attend, I was eager for a day full of introspection and self-realization. That’s not what I got. In fact, the last thing I had time for in that busy day trip, was time to reflect inwardly. All I was bombarded with was the ultimate message of Hiroshima, its victims, its survivors (Hibakusha), and the impact of the bomb on our lives today. The powerful yet sedated vibes that hung in the air charged the whole city of Hiroshima that day.

It’s not the first time I’ve visited Hiroshima. In fact, I Hiroshima and the Himeji Castle have long been two of my all-time favorite places to visit in Japan! If you haven’t been, I’d highly recommend both! I even posted photos of the Hiroshima Memorial Park on this very blog back in 2012 (see here).


So, on Aug 6th, 2015, I made a day trip to Hiroshima to attend and be a part of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Ceremony and the Peace Message Lantern Floating Ceremony. Both events occur on this day every year for two reasons:

  1. To REMEMBER the suffering and disastrous aftereffects of the A-Bomb dropping on Hiroshima and to CONSOLE the 140,000+ souls who lost their lives as a direct result of it
  2. For people from all around the world to COME TOGETHER in hope and prayer for everlasting world peace – a future world free of threats from nuclear weapons…. so that there may NEVER be another Hiroshima again.

Here are a few of the photos from that day! For today I just want to quickly share some pictures, but hopefully there will be a future post where I recount what went on that day and my thoughts on the whole experience!

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Poem: The Secret

July 31, 2012

**I wrote this poem for my class back in 2003 when I was a junior in high school (age 16). I can see where this needs improving, but I’m leaving it as I originally wrote it for now.**

The Secret

In New York, there lives an old woman.
To the rest of the world, she is only known as Anne;
A reputable jewelry store owner.
She’s a widow and her past is a blur;
Her husband had died many years ago
But that is all anyone knows of Poe.
Over the years, Anne has bought two manors,
She’s highly educated with manners.
Anne runs her store with determination,
For the place is a big foundation,
And her vast knowledge of diamonds and pearls
Makes true the desires of all girls.

Her fascination with Prohibition,
Caused a secret hidden from suspicion.
At night, the store transforms into a bar,
Here drinks served to underage kids are.

Whether you look like one of these

or like this Venus figurine

No one has the right to make you feel bad about how you look or tell you that you are imperfect in any way.

Fashionable trends will go and come and it makes little sense to follow them blindly. However, it’s important to realize that current western ideas of beauty as thin and slender with a flat belly was not always considered beautiful in the past, and not even among different societies today. In many societies, women who have a bigger derrieres and wider hips are found to be more attractive than those without. Also, many people have also been known to prefer at least a fashionable little bulge on the belly and waist, rather than flat or six-pack abs.

Your body type will be considered ‘perfect’ somewhere in the world, even if it is not in your own community – and this I strongly believe is true for each and every person in this world. Therefore, it is no surprise to learn that if a man or woman wants to be an actor or actress, they need only look for the right entertainment industry in the right part of the world to join. This is why so many foreigners with ‘outside’ roots are becoming commonplace in Bollywood – the Indian film industry – and achieving recognition here.

This brings me to something I remember from my Introductory Anthropology classes back in my undergraduate days. It was relatively early on that we were introduced to the existence of groups like the feeder communities in the United States. Personally I find feederism really interesting because their ideas of beauty and erotica are often at complete odds with our skinny-conscious society. Unless someone does not wish to be fed or gain weight, and is being pressured or force-fed against their will, I see no problem in this kind of lifestyle. Read this article for more on feeders. Comparatively, this kind of force and pressure is not uncommon in our society either, with such eating disorders as anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa affecting so many people, which are in complete contrast to the ideologies of feeders and feedees.

Let me know what you think!

“During the last few months of the camp’s existence the shortage of food was so acute that the prisoners (the camp staff were still well fed) resorted to cannibalism, and one former British internee gave evidence at the trial of the Commandant and some of his staff that when engaged in clearing away dead bodies as many as one in ten had a piece cut from the thigh or other part of the body which had been taken and eaten, and that he had seen people in the act of doing it. To such lengths had they been brought by the pangs of hunger.

  This witness said:

I noticed on many occasions a very strange wound at the back of the thigh of many of the dead. First of all I dismissed it as a gunshot wound at close quarters, but after seeing a few more I asked a friend and he told me that many of the prisoners were cutting chunks out of the bodies to eat. On my very next visit to the mortuary I actually saw a prisoner whip out a knife, cut a portion out of the leg of a dead body and put it quickly into his mouth, naturally frightened of being seen in the act of doing so. I leave it to your imagination to realize to what state the prisoners were reduced, for men to risk eating bits of flesh cut from black corpses.”

— Lord Russell of Liverpool 2008, p. 178

The “camp” that Lord Russell of Liverpool, also known as Edward Frederick Langley Russell, was referring to in this quote was Bergen-Belsen. I originally came across this account by Lord Russell in Garry Hogg‘s 1958 book Cannibalism and Human Sacrifice (p. 188-189) while doing research for an essay on survival cannibalism in the 20th century. Because The Scourge of the Swastika was originally published in 1954 by London: Cassell, with this 2008 version just harboring a new introduction by Alistair Horne, I was able to track this second-hand reference to its source.

Two of my quotes posted on this blog have made mentioned of cannibalism. To read them please click here and here. I have already evaluated that the practice of humans eating flesh from other humans is neither a strange nor rare practice around the world.  This practice is thought to be most justified as a method of survival. Thus, the act of cannibalism taking place in the mortuary of Bergen-Belsen due to acute starvation and hunger is understandable. For prisoners to have to resort to such ‘inhuman’ measures, however, can often lead to much embarrassment and a devaluing of self-worth. Still, it would be erroneous to assume that the prisoner mentioned in the witness testimony speedily ate the chunk of human flesh because he was “naturally frightened of being seen in the act.” If this act referred to the prisoner being caught by Nazi officers for not following orders, that would be true. However, to assume that anyone would be appalled or would retaliate to see a prisoner commit “the act” of cannibalism is unlikely and unknown. At least that is what I believe.

Surprisingly, this is the only (direct) evidence I could find of cannibalism taking place during the Holocaust. You can read this section here on Google Books. While many sources express that cannibalism was rife during this episode in history, I have been unable to find details in the literature. This may be because of the embarrassment felt by camp survivors who partook in this activity post-WWII. As their dire circumstances have been replaced by comfort and reintegration into societal life, this may in fact be a memory many have repressed or hidden from historians, archivists, and loved ones.

Reference: Lord Russell of Liverpool 2008. The Scourge of the Swastika: A History of Nazi War Crimes during World War II. New York: Skyhorse Publishing

A few weeks ago I was having a conversation with these two Indian guys and we started talking about saying Thank You among friends in different socio-cultural contexts. This discussion started when I automatically said “thank you” after one of them did something for me (it was something insignificant like passing me a napkin). The all-important response from them was along the lines of “don’t say thank you…there is no reason to…there’s no Sorry and no Thank You among friends…at least not in India.” Hello culture-clash!! Now, in the years I’ve spent living in India, I have heard this ‘Friendship Rule’ numerous times in movies, newspapers, and otherwise. But this was the first time someone said it to me. So I couldn’t help elaborating on the comment and making it a full-blown exchange of ideas.

I explained that I was aware it was unnecessary (and often avoided) to mention Sorry or Thank You among friends circles in India, but the opposite was true for someone like me who had lived in America and the United Kingdom. They were confused so I explained further. My reply was of the following fashion – “For me, I tend to feel more inclined to say Sorry and Thank You if I am among my friends. What I feel is what I like to convey to the other person, and I can do that easily among people I am close to. So if I am sorry or happy or feeling gratitude for something, I’ll say it and would also want the other person to say the same to me as well. It’s not a big deal, and it isn’t a big declaration, but I believe our friendships would suffer if we didn’t share our feelings. So for us, it is essential to say thank you among friends, even more than among strangers. The same way not saying such ‘formalities’ makes for closer bonds among Indian friends, saying these same things make our friendships grow stronger.” And the conversation went so on and so forth… It wasn’t until this topic was broached that I realized that the importance of such phrases like Sorry and Thank You in social life are not uniform across cultures.

I can’t seem to figure out when I first learnt how important saying Thank You was to me. I may have been about 15 years old when I first learnt its significance, but never truly understood its power until a few years later, when I was 18 years old. Growing up in Japan, I would often use the phrase in formal settings – when talking to strangers or elders or teachers, etc… However, we barely used the word in any informal setting – between friends or family. At home…I rarely said Thank You to my parents, except on one special day of the year – Mother’s Day. I guess I also grew up without saying I Love You to my family (not even my grandparents) until I left home to go to college. The feeling was felt, it was understood, it was written down in cards, but it was never spoken. Even today, these words – Thank You and I Love You – are hard for me to say.

Now that I think back to it, in the years I’ve spent in Japan, the United States, the United Kingdom, and India, I’ve come to realize that I use phrases like Sorry and Thank You in informal settings numerous times a day in each country. The ‘anthropology’ of it all, as it were, could be understood by examining how these words are important to different societies. Thus, Japanese people are generally overtly polite in thought/act/speech, even in informal situations, while people in the United States and the United Kingdom are taught such pleasantries as Thank You and Sorry more habitually by thought/speech – like the popular exchange Excuse Me and Bless You after someone sneezes. India, on the other hand, are more accustomed to these concepts by thought/act in familiar settings, with friendship rules to compensate for the lack of speech. When it comes to I Love You, everything is more or less the same, but both the Japanese and Indians generally express their emotions through thought/act, reserving speech for special occasions, while those from the US and UK are more expressive in overall thought/act/speech and frequently say I Love You  – sometimes too often. Interesting isn’t it!

and so I’d like to leave you with the following: to my parents, grandparents, older brother, close friends, far away friends, and blogosphere friends….

I Love You All

&

Thank You!!!