Soni: an Indian Artist and Blogger

Soni is a friend from India who I “met” (online) through my mom.  A fellow writer, she has recently published a children’s book featuring beautiful Indian-style art to go with each phrase of the Lord’s prayer (you can take a look at her book and buy it here if you like).  Soni and I arranged to do guest posts on each other’s blogs; hers is below, and you can read mine on her blog at http://jaajaabor.wordpress.com/2013/02/15/guest-post-annie-douglas-lima//.  Make sure you read or scroll all the way to the bottom, because both of us are holding giveaways!  You can win an actual, physical copy of a piece of Soni’s art or a copy of my eBook In the Enemy’s Service!

-Annie

Ever since I started my blog, I have found virtual community and met people that would not have been possible otherwise – I find it amazing. Annie’s mother Cathy introduced us when I wrote to tell her about my self-published children’s book. It is called “Teach us to pray” is an illustrated book for young kids to teach them about the Lord’s Prayer. My illustrative style has been influenced by many folk arts of Indiaand to know how you can win a print please stay with me till the end of the post.

 

I have often likened immigration from the east to west to getting married and moving from your family to your husband’s family. As a woman that analogy makes sense to me, it may not make as much sense to you so let me explain.

Typically in India, when a woman gets married, she moves into a joint family with her in-laws and she is supposed to adhere and adjust to existing unwritten rules of the household. Even in nuclear families, the relationship with the mother-in-law is significant and often is subject to comparison with the mother. For all purposes she may have taken on her new identity but there is a part of her heart that belongs with her own parents and family. Same is the case with coming to live in a new country.

When I made my big move from Indiato Canada, I did not know what to expect. I had to go through a learning process which included new mannerisms, new cultural references etc.

No matter how much you read about a country in books or travel as a tourist, you get the real authentic flavour of a place only when you have lived there for an extended period of time. Over the course of time I have discovered newer things about Canadaand my expectations have become more grounded in reality. For example the winter in Canada- It was during my second winter in Canada that I really begun to  understand the passion behind skiing or ice hockey or for that matter the craziness in summer to soak it all in. After five years in Canada, I can say that I feel as much Canadian as I feel Indian.

I moved to Canadain the year that the hugely successful movie “Slum dog Millionaire” was released. So naturally, people were interested in finding out more about India and the movie became an ice-breaker in many instances. Even till date when I meet new people, Indiabecomes an instant topic of conversation.

India is a secular country with 28 states and 7 union-territories, and 14 official languages. Indiais such a big country that it is not possible to summarize it in a 5-minute social talk or even in a single blog post but I am glad to engage in a conversation. For today  I thought I would take a few minutes to talk about the most common topics I have been asked about India.

Fooooood! 
Food is the most talked about subject especially when you are gathering at events. I have often found extreme reactions to Indian food- they either love it or stay away from it, there is no middle ground.  It is true that our curries are often too spicy, our deserts too sweet and our portions too big. It is also true that it what is considered as Indian cuisine is not one style of cooking at all , it is a culmination of different regional cuisines and somehow the most popular ones got associated with Indian food. The most common curries you would find in any Indian restaurant in North America are spiced-down versions to the mughlai and Punjabi style of cooking in addition to some south-Indian favourites like Dosas, idlis, sambar etc. The actual Indian cooking is much diverse than that. Also what is served in restaurants is a feast fit for a big occasion but it is not how we normally eat at home. To get an authentic taste of Indian cooking, I always recommend eating at home with friends.

When asked for restaurant recommendations, I have to often apologise because when we go out to eat, we go out to try some new cuisines other than what I can make at home!

Yoga

This style of physical and mental discipline may have originated in India but I will be honest; I never practised it except in school where it was a part of our physical education training. I would posit that yoga was almost declining from the daily life in India – limited only to spiritual retreats and ashrams (thanks to the dedicated ones who continued on with it )-  before it became popular in the west. Yoga has become such a huge thing in the west- much different from the yoga of my younger days.

Thanks to my friends who are into yoga, I now know about a few yoga retreats in North- India and some ayurvedic healing resorts in south of India- Something I would never have found out on my own (ironic , I know !).

Bollywood

Mainly referring to the Hindi film industry, Bollywood movies are characterised by their song and dance routines, a larger than life canvas and melodramatic performances. Hindi movies are flag bearers of traditions and language in one way. As an immigrant, watching Hindi movies is akin to creating a small oasis of Indiaaround me. I have met many second generation Canadian-Indian who feel connected to Indiaby the way of the movies.

Ever since dance shows like ‘so you think you can dance’ included Bollywood as a dance style in their roster Hindi movie songs have become better known internationally. Credit is also due to Hollywoodand international movie makers for shining the spotlight on India. As I mentioned earlier, in 2008 it was the movie “slum dog Millionaire” and in 2012 it was “life of Pi” that became a starting point of lot of conversations.

Clothes 

Indian clothing and fabrics have recently become fashionable. Thanks again to Hindi Movies and many Indian actors making appearances on red-carpets all over the world. Women’s wear like saris and kurtis are well known and have been worn by the likes of Oprah and Madonna. Some say there are as many ways of wearing a sari as there are regions in India.

Whenever I turn-up in church or a social gathering in an Indian ensemble, I am always complimented about the bright colours and rich embroideries or weaves. Even some of our simple designs are quite elaborate and you have to see some heavily embroidered and richly textured dresses to believe how much can be done on a piece of fabric. If you are interested please look up Banarasi, Kantha, kanjeevaram weaves on the net. Add to that all sorts of jewellery styles like kundan, temple jewellery from south etc. and you would never be short of things to talk about.

Arranged Marriages/Traditions 

Oh this is a big one! Every time someone asks me how I met my husband; they are almost dumbfounded that I met him only once before marriage or that our marriage was approved and blessed by our parents and pastors of both our churches. Wedding are a family affair in Indiaand are big on traditions. From finding a suitable match to making all the arrangements, the family is involved in all the aspects. The most popular version seen on the media is the north Indian Hindu marriage but there are lot of regional variations in traditions with in the Hindu belief system and there are local traditions associated with different religious groups as well. It is no wonder then that an immigrant from Indiais naturally inclined to look for local traditions and culture of the new place.

I always find it interesting to hear from people what they know or like to know about my culture and where I am from. It makes me feel welcomed and accepted. When people talk to me about life in Canada they make me feel like a part of this country. I am excited to be a part of this inter-cultural dialogue that is constantly shaping and diversifying the social environment in Canada.

Leave a comment to get a chance to win a 5X7 print of the original madhubani- inspired artwork shown below.
-Soni

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Comments


2 Replies to “Soni: an Indian Artist and Blogger”

In Taiwan, there's a restaurant called Bollywood. I didn't know it was a move industry, too! The Life of Pi was so good.

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Nice blog i like it really informative blog.

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