The Church With No Sinners

These days I think churches are fighting the perfection complex. The idea that we only want “people like us” who live perfect lives on the outside.

Years ago I heard someone debate whether a divorced person should be welcomed in their church. “What if they set a bad example for our kids?”

I wanted to throw up. I think today traditional churchgoers  are moving toward stopping the pretending. They know their own lives are dysfunctional live everyone else’s. We all need help.

I work at a charity where neighbors come in every day to get food and clothing for their families. One woman told me how she got tired of nothing in her life working out. Her mom was sick and her sister had MS. When her son got cancer, it was the last straw, and she almost lost it.

One day as she argued with her husband she just left the house. She didn’t know where she was going. She just wanted to go to church. She drove around searching, still in her house clothes, with a voice inside telling her no one would accept her looking the way she did. She was used to not being accepted.

She arrived at the church. As she turned the doorknob into the sanctuary, the voice taunted her again. But she spoke out against it and was so hungry for something more. God started speaking to her. She started to see her circumstances in a new way and somehow discerned that she didn’t have to worry anymore; God was in control of everything.

The people in that church warmly welcomed her when she most needed it.

I hope all our churches can respond with warmth and welcome for that desperate person in need.

Because we’ve all been there or will be.

Are You Indian or American?

At San Antonio’s Institute of Texan Cultures

The older I get, the more it seems people identify me as an American.

We all grew up calling ourselves Indian. This does not mean we all grew up hating America. (Some people hate the thought of hyphenated identities like German-American or Chinese-American, and think we should all just be American.)

But we called ourselves Indian because we grew up in Indian households eating Indian foods and learning Indian values from our Indian parents. Years later, it’s easy to look back and see how this generation became it’s own category of people who are American in so many ways but love the Indianness instilled by their parents.

We get to be both. Continue reading

The Electric Pink Sari Vigilantes: Down With Abusive Husbands, Etc.

“Clad in electric pink saris, the all-female gang shames abusive husbands and corrupt politicians. Amana Fontanella-Khan talks to the woman behind the largest women’s vigilante group in the world.”

I love the concept of shaming abusive husbands (or abusive wives or in-laws for that matter). The quote above is from an article about India’s Pink Gang, the largest women’s vigilante group in the world.

When the police are paid by oppressors not to help victims and when the community looks the other way at injustice, these women ante up their own resources to find solutions. They collect food or money, organize protests and demand police action. Continue reading

“What Would People Say?” And Other Perceived Barriers

Can’t do this. Can’t do that.

What would people say?

Sometimes you’re at the mercy of a community that holds your reputation hostage. IF YOU LET IT.

My friends have two of the cutest dogs you ever saw. Every time I knock on their door, the dogs bark like crazy, excited to lick and paw at whoever comes their way. But they’re stuck behind a little indoor security gate that leans against the wall at the bottom of the stairs.

If these pups simply tipped over the fence with a nudge of their nose or even jumped over it, they would be free.

But fear and obedience keep them behind that weak little gate. That’s their routine, their sense of security. Continue reading

Were Your Malayalee Parents Chinese Mothers?

Back in January, there was a huge buzz over Amy Chua and her book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. Using the phrases “Western parenting” and “Chinese parenting” loosely, a few examples of her thoughts are below.

Western vs. Chinese parenting on piano practice:

All the same, even when Western parents think they’re being strict, they usually don’t come close to being Chinese mothers. For example, my Western friends who consider themselves strict make their children practice their instruments 30 minutes every day. An hour at most. For a Chinese mother, the first hour is the easy part. It’s hours two and three that get tough… Continue reading

The Chicken Gang (Vengeance is Sweet)

During a visit to Kerala when I was 5, my parents bought five gorgeous white chickens. They walked around like the hottest chickens on the block.

I was afraid to go outside by myself because they were hunting for me.

In their pack, they were unstoppable. I tried to act cool, but they smelled my fear. When I bravely attempted to play in the yard, they came and pecked me in the foot. I cried and ran inside, shaking my fist at them.

And then the five chickens became four chickens.

They were still a threatening pack but toned it down a notch.  When it came down to three chickens, I think they had a clue about where their feathered friends had gone.

Finally I could wander the yard. They gave me threatening looks but didn’t venture too close. When there were two chickens, they gave up the hot-to-trot act.

Dinner each day that week had never been more satisfying — the chicken curry in particular.

Vengeance was sweet. No — spicy.

Kerala Trip 2010: Stroll Around Thiruvalla Stadium

Thiruvalla StadiumMy two uncles from Canada and Chicago and I sought fresh air and exercise at Thiruvalla Stadium one morning. They reminisced like old buddies.

When you’re a child, you see the world as a child, and everyone shields the bigger picture and the details from you. That’s the way it should be.

Thiruvalla Stadium

Now as an adult, it was fascinating to hear my uncles chat intimately together about the family and its history. I lagged a few feet behind and listened to them discuss decisions that were made and how they were made. It’s different when you hear someone’s POV other than your parents. I finally heard the story with my adult ears rather than my child ears.

Along the way we grabbed unripe almonds and gawked at a huge bee’s nest just inches above our heads.

Bees nest

Kerala Trip 2010: Oon

Lunch time is party time for my taste buds.

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How Many Funerals Are In Your DVD/Video Collection?

It’s funny how your culture can do something others would call odd, but you would never think twice about it or notice it until someone brings it up.

At a college internship, my co-worker mentioned how the funeral she’d attended that weekend had a photographer and videographer.

“How morbid!” she declared. “Why would you want to see a loved one in that state after the funeral’s over?”

I nodded my head in agreement. And then it occurred to me.

“You know, we have video and photos of both of my grandmothers’ funerals,” I said.

eraviperoor funeral

At Indian funerals, I had never flinched at the site of photographers. But now that my co-worker mentioned the morbidity of it all, I could see what she meant. But then again, I could understand that family members wanted to remember the last time they would see their loved ones.

Well the craze must be catching on in the States. Inc Magazine just featured Curtis Funk for his startup, FuneralRecording.com. Not only does the company offer video and audio recordings, but you can livestream the funeral,  get a transcript of the event, set up a website and have professional voice talent record an audio obituary for the site.

What’s your take on recording the funeral and even taking the recording to the next level like Funk’s startup is doing? If you started a similar business, do you think you could own the Malayalee market?

How You Know U.S. Malayalees Are Going Mainstream

appachan and amachi on the marquee