Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Letter to Shiv after his first India trip

My dear Shiv,

Mama is writing you this letter as we just came back from a month long India trip, your first trip to India. The whole month in India, there was only one thing you did, being loved. You were all the time being hugged, kissed and protected, by our sweet loving family. It's funny that mama took you to China for a month in August-September 2015, but never thought about writing you a letter about it, because China is where mama comes from and to me it's nothing more than going back to hometown for a visit which I do frequently. I guess when you have your own family, either traveling to China, India or America, you would always feel like returning home.

It is mama's fifth time in India, we came back to California a few days already, but till now I have never stopped thinking about it, the places, the faces. From the first time I saw her in 2009, India changed so much and it could change even faster and more dramatically, mama has this strong fear that I might not have enough time to embrace, to breath all in, to write them down, before certain beauty disappears. This fear has its roots in mama's childhood in China. Throughout my childhood China changed completely, old houses demolished, forests replaced by metropolis, villages disappeared, rivers drained or polluted, in less than twenty years. Now the whole world is talking about China like a superstar, but sometimes all mama want is the passage to reconnect to the past.

I wish my grandfather’s house is still there for the big family to gather together every weekend, the pond in front is still filled with water and fishes, the hills in the back are still full of peach trees and they bloom in spring, I wish the neighbors are still around and sometimes we could meet up during lunar new year to talk about old times. Some of the best times of my life was spent following the neighborhood kids into the mountains, gathering under the bamboo trees exchanging horror stories, climbing peach trees with my cousin sister or simply watching the ants transport food and build anthills underneath the pomegranate tree in our little garden. My grandpa and the whole neighborhood’s houses are taken away because the local government decided to relocate and expand a primary school’s campus on our land. I had never imagined all that made me who I am, blurred out in front of my eyes, and blown away in the wind like dust. Yes now we live in fancy apartments, drive fancy cars, wear fancy clothes, but a soul like me, her heart stops singing, if she is taken away from her earth. 

While mama was carrying you in my belly, there was a period as long as two to three months, I had been continuously dreaming about my grandpa's old house, the pond, the hills, the neighbors. Grandpa built it himself, as an outsider finally he settled in the town after many years' hard work by himself. Like other families, our family lost track of our ancestors, grandpa seldom mentioned anything. China was thrown upside down due to political traumas, prestigious families and almost entire high class wiped out, new generations mostly left rootless, and lacking interests in the search of roots. My grandfather, my mother’s father, was an extremely kindhearted person, he had high ideals and believed in self-discipline and sacrifice, he sincerely contributed his whole life to the building of the nation, as a response to the state propaganda at that time. In grandpa’s house, my parents got married there, I was born there, when my father was away for three years pursuing higher education, I spent all of my time there and grandpa played the role as my father for that three years. I still remember he took me wherever he went, we were often on the roof of his office watching trains pass by, we often took a walk after dinner in the forest nearby, our favorite place to listen to my grandpa’s mythological stories. Grandpa also passed away in that house, the image is still fresh and clear in my mind - a few hours before he went, when I, the kid he loved the most, entered the room, his face started trembling, lips shaking, tears came down, but he couldn't speak anymore, no last words to me.

What has been crashing me is that I won't be able to show you the house, the rooms we played hide and seek, the door frame which marks our height growth, the wall we jumped up and down again and again. Even though in the new Chinese society it is normal to be a drifter, pushed around like a float, I long for roots… Because of the months-long-dreams, I decided to name you after my grandfather, which is the middle name you have. 

Mama is telling you the story about my grandfather and his old house, because when I saw the house and village in where your Papa grew up, and understood that while in China the government holds the ultimate ownership to all lands, in India individual people are the ones who have ownership to lands, government doesn’t, my heart was relieved. In India it’s illegal for the government to claim any private land, it’s unimaginable if the government could forcefully demolish someone’s house to make highway or malls. While acquiring lands for a thousand meter long highway usually takes two months in China, in India it seems never ending.

I want you to spend your golden childhood in the village where your Papa and his forefathers lived, running around with neighborhood kids, climbing mango trees, swimming in the water, I want you play your heart out during Durga Puja each year. I know when you grow up you will have strong attachment to your ancestral land as it is your roots, defines who you are, I know you would always want to revisit the village house, trees and rivers. When you get lost in the wild world, maybe you could only find peace and rediscover yourself if you could come back and sit on the door steps of the same old family temple. Mama doesn’t want any of that easily wiped out by anyone, any forces.

In the news they always compare the growth numbers between China and India, like comparing exam scores of two students, but you see, it’s very interesting to know all the stories before judging with a number, for example the part of the China mama knows and the part of the India Papa knows, it’s far more complicated than numbers, no? At current time, the whole globe is focusing on economic growth, people tend to compare with each other, especially the ability of money making, and tend to look down upon the ones with less possessions. But is improving life standard so important? How important is it comparing to other factors in life that makes happiness? Twenty years, fifty years, this is the time span most people set their mind on, but how minor is it compared to the history of India or China, history of mankind? How many people nowadays really know about histories?

My son, being equally a Chinese, an Indian and an American, naturally heritage their different ways of living, I want you to have a broad heart, capable of understanding, respecting and tolerating differences, capable of seeing back to the histories and looking forward to the futures based on that knowledge, I want you to not blindly follow mass opinions but observe and think for yourself. I want you to look for meanings of life and see beyond this worldly place, the human forms that we are just temporarily dwelling in.   

I told you it’s mama’s fifth India trip right? Actually during the first few times, it was not easy for mama, being in this part of India, being exposed in front of all of your Papa’s family. Sometimes it felt like I was dropped into an entirely strange world, my pride and prowess were taken away somehow, certain things I was unable to understand but would only understand when time comes. There was confusion, sometimes even hurtful feelings, but smile it away was the only correct thing to do. Each time in India, there were different reasons mama had her tears for. However, misunderstandings will surely go away with time, because of each every family member’s efforts to help me blend in, now it feels more and more like home. The amount of love your Papa’s family can generate seized my heart.

And the most interesting thing is, deep down in my mind, I know it’s fate that brought me back to the family and I’ve always belonged in this family, I had my stories with one and another from my last life, or lives centuries back. Like you, my son, who you were to me when Buddha was meditating under the Bodhi tree? When Chinese priests were on their way to obtain Buddhist scriptures? Why are we still here in the Samsara? Do you remember the dream that made me believe you are Baba’s reincarnation? Mama would still have some doubts on the concept of reincarnation if it didn’t happen to myself. But right now nothing matters because we all live in the present, we should do our duties and will see through everything some day.

On our way back from India, in Hong Kong airport you were playing by yourself, smiling and waving to every passenger as you did in India, but not everyone is friendly enough to return your attention, most people seemed so busy rushing to places or drawn to their smartphones. It made a strong contrast to the days when we were in India, wherever we went, people were smiling at us, waving and opening their arms, their faces benign, smiles genuine. A lot of them might not have much to possess, not many places to go, but surely they are happy. While in the other parts of the world happiness is strongly connected to material satisfaction, what India has is rare and surreally beautiful. But will this change once India is also done with her transforms, and each citizen of hers is equipped with expensive devices? What makes them true and happy? Mama wants you to explore, to find out, with an open heart.

Ok I think I can wrap up this letter now, next time when we will be in India, you should be able to talk full sentences and have long term memories, maybe mama will write you another letter then :)


Wednesday, December 2, 2015

A thought

As I looking out from the car window, I saw all these different men either roaming around or busy making a life, hanging out or walking pass by. Suddenly a sense of realization, forgiving or rather say, came into my mind. It's not their individual choice to be the majority sex who are out there. The ones who carries disrespect, discrimination or hatred towards women, even the ones with violent thoughts, could still be kind and polite to the people they care, could still have a good heart.

For them, the door to the awareness and consciousness about the existence and suffering of the opposite sex is not open. It is just because of the way how they reincarnate the "I", a sense of self. And this mainly happens at the beginning of each person's earliest years, if there is not sufficient enlightenment through education. Every child takes in her surroundings to form the sense of self, what she sees will become who she is, not consciously done and resilient. According to varied history and tradition, each community has its own doors which are shut and keep shut, it could be the realization of individual freedom and prowess, it could be the consciousness of equality for other races. Everybody is living in their own world, without the door open to awareness, they are sleep walking. Only the ones who are violated or coming from a different world, will clash with the current.

Do I really forgive and forget then? I guess the answer is yes but until the next violation or major conflict. So I won't stop making my voice heard, because this is the only way to push open the door of awareness.

Dec. 2nd 2015
In India

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

To Shiva - Letter from Mommy 2

My dear son,

I want to make a tradition to write a brief letter to you every year, so here it is, my second one.

Past one year has been the most beautiful year of my life, with your birth and tremendous growth from an infant to a toddler. You and I were together each every second, it's so lucky for me that I am not missing out even one single moment, first crawl first walk first tooth first word. You are kind, loving and happy, always on the move, full of curiosity, a true explorer, you bring joy to anyone who surrounds you, your smile is the best prayer.

Mama is trying out her best to provide you a positive environment which shapes you, your temperament and character. And my goal is simply that one day when you grow out of us - your mama and papa, you would thank us for the good qualities printed in you, instead of wasting years and years on fixing yourself. That is only easy to say. So please forgive mama if I still haven't learned to let go a little. I get anxious, sometimes even losing temper when you refuse to eat, I get fuzzy when you sometimes don't feel like doing anything but being held and cuddled. Forgive me for not being able to control my anger sometimes, and I will really make a change for you because I don't want you to grow up seeing this side of me and eventually become the same. Parenting is all about patience, hopefully I am getting there, thanks to you.

I hope the love I am giving to you today is enough to fill all of your heart, in fact, way much more than enough so when your heart is fully filled, the extra you received will go out to the people you encounter, and make your life beautiful. Happiness, confidence and integrity, that is all I want for you.

And at last please always remember, when you think we make you cry, or we are not preferring you, it's only because we love you dearly and deeply.

Love forever

Letter from Mommy 1

Monday, May 11, 2015




所以说一般的印度家庭一听说自己的儿子找了个中国女朋友,不少人对中国一点概念没有,只知道是外国的。在电影里看到的外国女人都放荡不羁,没有家庭责任感。于是两眼一黑,哭天喊地,“辛辛苦苦养了你这么多年,到头来你找个外国女人,被她骗去外国住,忘记了自己的家!外国的女人都性格放浪,不善不孝,不尊重印度的传统。不会说我们的话,不穿沙丽点朱砂,不懂得怎么念佛拜神,不会做印度菜和甜品。生出来的孩子听不懂我们的话,以后她是会跟你离婚的,孩子还被她抱走留在国外!” 印度当然有接受过良好教育,见识胸襟皆宽广的家庭。他们对世界的认识全面,对婚恋看得很开。而且这类家庭的数目不小,这里说的是比较极端但却更普遍遇到的例子。




现实是随着印度的经济开放与发展,年轻一代印度人大多接受了一定程度的中高等教育。大小公司的兴起为印度女性提供丰足的就业机会。接受过良好教育、个人经济独立的印度新时代女性,怎么可能会对父母言听计从,接受支付嫁妆这样的恶俗呢?如果和不同种姓的男生交往压力太大,那就在同种姓中自己找婆家呗。父母介绍也好,朋友介绍也好,上印度特色婚恋网站(将种姓等出生情况标明,直接间接目标都是联姻)找也好,总能找到适合的好家庭。据印度朋友说这也叫包办婚姻(Arranged Marriage)。我认为这与我们外国人所理解的受父母强迫、女方必须交纳嫁妆的传统包办婚姻完全不同,应该叫相亲才对。可以说随着近十年的经济高速发展,改变悄然来临。印度人的婚嫁方式从整体上在慢慢走出传统包办的模式,一点一点的,更多的自由。


如果非要做个总结,那么总体上来讲南部印度比北部和东部在经济水平、教育程度、妇女权益、社会治安、城市规划等方面都好很多。旁遮普邦(Punjab)、哈里亚纳邦(Haryana)、新德里直辖市(New Delhi)这几个北部省邦虽然比较富裕,但曾在历史上受到反复入侵,并且受穆斯林传统影响大,男权主义氛围特别重,印度首都德里有“强奸之都”的臭名。从北方邦(Uttar Pradesh)、比哈尔邦(Bihar)、恰尔康得邦(Jharkhand)一路往东到奥迪沙邦(Odisha)、西孟加拉邦(West Bengal)这一条由北至东线上的省邦是印度最贫瘠落后的地区,许多匪夷所思的事情都是从这一带出来的。而南部则以低文盲率,高文明程度,女性地位高而闻名。另外虽然西孟加拉邦(West Bengal)贫瘠,但孟加拉人历来男女平等对待,在这个邦女性的社会地位极高,一般没有嫁妆的传统,甚至比南部一些地方要好得多。不过Raj就来自于东部的恰尔康得邦(Jharkhand),是这几个落后省邦的垫底,他的父母却异常开明善良。Raj在当地的朋友圈情况也大致一样,父母基本都允许孩子自由婚恋。所以说看人选人的时候,他是哪里人,说什么话并不重要。要看的是他是否善良,有一颗宽容大气的心,是否懂得尊重女性,尊重生命。而在孩子的身上往往能折射出父母的品性,男孩够真诚,他的家人就不会坏到哪里去。



不少中国姐妹找我聊天,对我诉苦说印度男友家里怎么都不同意,有的拖了好几年了,依然天天哭着喊着要他分手,还要一边给他准备包办。一般我都会提醒她们,与男友好好地交谈一次,鼓励甚至要求他对家里人坚持自己的想法,独立坚强起来,不能对父母的软硬兼施唯唯诺诺。Raj的情况就是这样,他从小就是个有自己主张和想法的男孩子,加上他的父母育儿有方,知道对儿子要“放养”,给他足够的自由,尊重他的意见,平日里家里人都特别听他的话,很多大事都由他做主。当他2010年初正式向父母通报了自己找了女朋友想结婚这个消息后,父母的第一反应正如前文所描述的,对中国了解甚少,基于电影里的印象(我这几天刚刚和婆婆一起在Youtube上看了一部印度电影叫“Purab Aur Paschim”,印度知名的几部老片之一,不出二十分钟就把我彻底看无语了,里面的外国女孩好放浪啊,每分每秒都在抽烟喝酒派对,无所事事,对印度一无所知,乱和男人睡觉。相反印度男孩虔诚善良完美,“拥有印度的优良传统”,全电影从头到尾都在唱印度如何如何好的歌),以为所有外国女人都是拴不住的,离婚是家常便饭,很害怕他们善良的儿子是不是被坏女孩给骗了。我不清楚父亲的反应,但经常听他母亲在电话那头印地语说着说着忽然间很害怕地哭起来,喑呜地边抽泣边问他儿子,“怎么办啊,怎么办咯?”每次Raj都很有耐心,通过点滴事件来为父母介绍我,说我是善良的女孩子,有爱心,学习成绩好,尊重长辈,很会照顾人,在学习印地语等等。不论谈什么,Raj都不忘清清楚楚地向父母摊牌自己的底线--我一定会和这个女孩结婚,决定权不在你们手里。我只是在想方设法说服你们,以便我们能开开心心地完婚,就算你们不同意我也还是会和她在一起。
















Raj一边喊着“爸妈”一边俯下身子去触碰他们的脚。我面对着他们,微笑着双手合十说了声“Prenam”,这是与长辈见面时的尊称。说完立马也俯下身去,用右手触碰了Raj父亲的脚面,从左至右两只脚面一一触碰,顺之把手举到额头再放下来碰一下心脏的位置,这是向亲近的长辈打招呼的全套动作,我一步一步非常认真地俯着身子做完。套装配好的纱巾从肩膀滑落下来,我一边挽起纱巾一边对着Raj父亲重复说了一遍“Prenam 伯父”。同样的步骤,我也认认真真地对Raj母亲行了礼。行礼这个过程前后不到两分钟,却基本上已经安了Raj父母的心。特别是极度善良的Raj父亲,一边说着“祝你幸福祝你幸福,乖孩子,太乖了” (“祝你幸福祝你幸福”是长辈回礼时都会说的),一边笑呵呵地嘴都合不拢了,打量着他心里已经接受了百分之八十的儿媳妇。许多印度家长都是这样,如果你从心底对他们表示尊敬,还能用印度的方式表现出来,他们善良的心没两下就融化了,已经开始把你当成自己的孩子。

而对长辈行见面礼这个礼仪,被我大用特用,甚至到了“滥用”的地步。反正也不知道到底什么时候行此礼什么时候不需要,对谁该行礼对谁只要“Namaste”就行,第一次在印度嘛。于是我晚上睡觉前也摸摸父母的脚道晚安,早上醒来时也摸摸道早安,分开了几下重新碰面时还摸摸。其实是我发自内心地表示尊敬,也没有人阻拦我。只记得Raj父亲每次都特别特别开心,一边不好意思地赶紧把我扶起来一边大声笑着说,“祝你幸福祝你幸福,太乖了太乖了!” 我在小姑妈家里住的十天里,同样是每天早晚专门找到小姑妈和小姑父,俯下身子摸脚给他们道晚安和早安。到现在他们依然会对其他亲戚提起,啧啧不停地发出赞叹,说我是个多好的女孩。之前的一个学期印地语课也没有白上,嘴里能不时冒些基本的单词,还能用正确的语法造完整的句子出来,印度家人心服口服。和家人吃饭的时候,我也总是主动要求用手吃,积极入乡随俗,越发觉得这印度饭菜只有用手抓才抓得出味道。其实大多印度家人要求不高,看得出我是发自内心地尊重他们,并且为了融入他们的生活而付出努力,这就足够了。


“有的有的,我是佛教徒,中国人都是佛教徒哈!” 宗教信仰是每个印度人的ID,极少无宗教信仰的印度人。见面前已经和Raj讨论过了,虽然我从未“皈依佛门”,但在Raj家人面前,在印度,我就是纯正虔诚的佛教徒。

“吃啊,会吃鱼肉、鸡肉,不过牛肉肯定是不碰的!” 印度人对肉类的食用也很有讲究,整个国家大部分是素食主义者,即便会吃肉也不大量,印度教徒绝对不能吃牛肉。Raj家族是武士阶层,古时征战沙场,所以他们吃肉,羊肉、鸡肉、鱼肉是日常佳肴,只要知道我不吃牛肉就行了。


“哈哈,哎呀算了啦,这个问题你叫人家怎么回答咯!” Raj父亲开始有点坐不住了,在母亲身后的床上摸着脚趾头笑呵呵地帮我答话。

我稳住自己,强迫自己镇定,声音不要紧张放轻松,“嗯,好的,我保证。” 我硬着头皮答应,当着面必须答应,心里其实是没有答案的。



对女性充满敌意的陌生环境,无人能诉的莫名苦恼,对双方父母撒下的天大谎言,从情感上来讲我基本上到了奔溃的边缘。当时在小姑妈家里,我找到Raj对他说,“我需要和你谈谈”。将他拉进房间,关起房门,泪水决堤一般倾泻下来,我使劲压住喑呜声怕别人听见,低声抽泣着对他诉说了缘由。Raj安慰我说他母亲一定是听了亲戚的话精神紧张,怕Raj找了外国女人抛弃他们。加上走过社会主义制度(英迪拉甘地 Intra Gandhi 统治时期的主导社会制度,算是印度国家独立运动的延伸,重于重建印度国人的自信,前文提到的印度老电影“Purab Aur Paschim”就出于那个时期)的父辈印度人都接受了一定程度的洗脑爱国教育,认为“从东方到西方,印度是最好”,况且她不敢找Raj质问所以只能抓住我讨个心安。Raj向我保证,以后不论我们去哪里生活,都是我们两个人自己的决定,不受父母的挟持,他还向我保证,即便是要搬家换国,要回印度,只会搬向更好的生活,物质上不会倒退,他保证绝不会让我吃苦。