Hogi Bartini – You say Goodbye, and I say Hello.

Unfortunately, I have to confess that since moving here, I have barely learned anything in the local languages. The challenge in India is that, unlike in many other countries where you only hear one, or maybe two languages on a daily basis, in India you hear several: Hindi, Kannada, Tamil, Bengali, Urdu, Malayalam, Telugu, and more. While the local language of the state of Karnataka is Kannada, Bangalore has people from all over the country, who all speak the languages of their home states.  I try to convince myself that these days I can actually tell Kannada apart from the others – but I’m probably definitely just fooling myself. I also can’t read local scripts, which makes it even harder to try to learn how to read signs, menus and other “easy” materials in local languages.

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Young men who rape are not “promising” or “successful” – Young men who rape are rapists.

I live in a country that has recently been the headline of international news because of the horrific and tragic case of a young woman being raped in a bus and losing her life as a result of the injuries she sustained from that assault. The Delhi bus rape brought sexual assault in India to the forefront of international news, and resulted in heated commentary about the situation of women and girls in India, the accepting and approving attitude towards sexual harassment and rape, and the common belief that women themselves are usually somehow at fault when they are sexually assaulted or raped.

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Locating a Lost Package – The Curious Case of Mr. Suresh

Quilt1About a month ago, I ordered a beautiful quilt and some pillow cases from an arts&crafts collective called Dastkar Ranthambore, located in Rajahstan. The Ranthambore Foundation was established to support villagers who had to leave their old lands because of the establishment of the Ranthambore National Park, which aims to protect the tigers in the area. While the National Park itself was an important move to provide needed protection for the nature and the animals there, it also displaced many people who lost access to their old lands and natural resources. The Ranthambore Foundation sought to support these people and utilize local craft skills and materials to generate employment and income. The collective makes absolutely beautiful items, and while they unfortunately don’t have a website yet, their products are presented on their Facebook page.

Dastkar Nature Bazaar in Bangalore in 2012

Dastkar Nature Bazaar in Bangalore in 2012

I saw their products at a crafts fair here in Bangalore last year, and bought a couple of pillow cases – but this big, beautiful quilt haunted me for months after, and I finally contacted the organization to order it to Bangalore.

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My Love/Hate Relationship with Being an Expat

For almost a month, I went through the pleasure – and pain – of criss-crossing around the globe from India to Finland to the United States and finally back to India, in an attempt to spend time with as many family members, loved ones and dearly missed friends during the holiday season as humanly possible. I ended up doing a pretty good job, managing to go home to Finland for about 10 days, then flying from Helsinki to Alabama to spend a few days with my husband’s family, and then continuing the trip to New York to change the year in our old neighbourhood in Brooklyn with friends. While my husband returned to India early January, I stayed behind for another week or so to attend a work event in Washington, D.C., where I also luckily managed to find some time to grab drinks with an old friend from graduate school who I haven’t seen in over a year. So, all in all, a successful trip. The one person I missed was my youngest sister, who has recently relocated to Scotland with her Scottish beau. Moving abroad with a foreign boyfriend – I wonder if she has really thought this thing through..

Why, then, after such a joyous reunion with so many people, did I feel almost as depressed by this adventure around the globe as I was excited about it? Why did it exhaust me as much as seeing all those people energized me? Why do I feel like, in the end of it all, it was a zero-sum trip?

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Delay is the deadliest form of denial.

When it comes to garnishing global action and doing whatever we collectively can to fight preventable causes of child deaths, such as diseases like polio and malaria, nobody argues against it. Everyone agrees that as societies, governments and individuals, we have to do whatever we possibly can and whatever it takes to stop children from dying of causes which we already have the tools to prevent and curb, and at minimum, we have to take every possible measure to minimize the risk of lives being lost for reasons that are anything but out of our control.

Deaths caused by guns should be treated the same way – as deaths brought on by preventable causes. So should deaths and violence resulting from untreated mental illnesses. We know what actions can be taken to fight gun violence. There are preventable measures that can be implemented to minimize the risk of horrible events such as the massacre that took the lives of 20 children and seven adults at the elementary school in Newton. We know there are ways to help families battling with mental illnesses and psychiatric problems. We know we can do more – and yet, we keep failing, over and over again, to properly address these issues. And more lives are lost – from preventable causes. “Delay is the deadliest form of denial” – and there has been enough delays in taking concrete action to change the situation of gun laws and mental health problems in America. The delay is becoming too deadly, for too many.

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Kindly do the needful and gift me something nice – My Favorite phrases and words used in India

As anyone who has ever travelled to Asian or African countries where English is spoken as an official language will know, the English language takes many forms outside the western English-speaking world. Words are used differently, new phrases or words are created, and people will frequently use sayings and idioms that you’ve never heard before, but can’t wait to use yourself – even though they will never sound as natural and normal coming out of your mouth as they do when the locals use them. India definitely has its share of English language quirks and phrases that are only used here, and that can sometimes confuse a poor foreigner who is trying to figure out what “chums/chumps” are, what “PFA” means at the end of almost every email, and what exactly one is expected to do when someone asks you to “please revert”. The internet is filled with posts about Indian English phrases – and here is one more. Below, kindly find a list of my favourite Indian English words, phrases and acronyms! Please feel free to add more in the comment section!

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A death of two cats.

This week has been all about loss – both expected and unexpected. While losing things I have loved, I have also come to realize how much I have in my life to value, to care for, to cry over – and how lucky I am to have things that, when gone, leave a void that cannot be filled by anone or anything else.

Pet owners will understand – others, maybe not – but this week, my family lost two members. Two cats, to be exact. One of them we had since he was a kitten, for about 11 years now. We called him Tiikeri – Finnish for “Tiger” – even though he was gray and looked nothing like a tiger. The other one, Mytty – Finnish for “undefined pile of stuff” – I found outside our home nine years ago. When I found Mytty, the vet estimated him to be anywhere between 10 and 15 years of age, which was 9 years ago, which would make him around 20-25 now. That is quite old for a cat – around 100 human years. A lifetime, if not more. Tiikeri was 11 this year.

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First time for Everything – Five things I never thought I would find myself doing

When we travel to new countries and live in foreign places, there will be many “firsts” we encounter along the way – things we end up doing, thinking, seeing, hearing and saying that we never thought we would, or never have before. I’ve had many of those here already, and I am sure I am in for many, many more – but here are some of the things I have experienced/done in India so far, that I didn’t really see myself doing – or haven’t done before.

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Who heard about Cyclone Nilam?

So, Hurricane Sandy didn’t reach India – but Cyclone Nilam did, bringing heavy rains, strong winds, high waves, and heavy floods across south of India earlier today. 100,000 people were evacuated on the coast of Bay of Bengal in Tamil Nadu, and on its way towards India, Nilam displaced over 4,000 people in Sri Lanka. The heavy rains, wind and floods will not only destroy houses and displace families, but also destroy crops that people depend on for their livelihoods. These are largely people that already live below the poverty line – and now they’ve lost the little they had to keep them going for the next few months. They have nothing left.

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5 + 1 things I Love about India

After quite a few rants about American politics, upcoming presidential election, the sad state of gender equality and women’s rights, and why I sometimes hate India, I think it is about time for a more upbeat positive post, and particularly a positive post about India. It is sometimes easier to get motivated to write about things that I think are wrong, that upset me, things that make me mad or that I don’t understand, because in a way, writing is a way for me to work through those things and process issues that are difficult. I think it is about time to get inspired about good things again, especially given the endless number of positive and beautiful things I have in my life and should be more thankful for. So, here it is – my take on what I most love and like about India so far. I am sure this list will expand as time passes on, since every day seems to bring some new experience or event into my life in this magical, weird, uncontrollable and fascinating country I am in, but I will start with these five things that I have come to love and enjoy during these past couple of months in India.

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