Friday, June 7, 2013

Solitude

By
Ella Wheeler Wilcox (1850-1919)

Laugh, and the world laughs with you;
Weep, and you weep alone;
For the sad old earth must borrow its mirth,
But has trouble enough of its own.

Sing, and all the hills will answer;
Sigh, it is lost on the air;
The echoes bound to a joyful sound,
But shrink from voicing care.

Rejoice, and men will seek you;
Grieve, and they turn and go;
They want full measure of all your pleasure,
But they do not need your woe.

Be glad, and your friends are many;
Be sad, and you lose them all, -
There are none to decline your nectared wine,
But alone you must drink life's gall.

Feast, and your halls are crowded;
Fast, and the world goes by.
Suceed and give, and it helps you live.
But no man can help you die.
For there is room in the halls of pleasure
For a large and lordly train,
But one by one we must all file on
Through the narrow aisles of pain.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Home Sweet Home

'Mid pleasures and places though we may roam,

Be it ever so humble there's no place like home!
A charm from the skies seems to hallow us there,
Which, seek through the world, is ne'er met with elsewhere.

Home! Home! Sweet, sweet home!
There's no place like home!
There's no place like home!

An exile from home splendor dazzles in vain;
Oh, give me my lowly thatch'd cottage again!

Give me them with the peace of mind dearer than all.

- John Howard Payne, 1823

Early Spring

After a long cold winter I am excited to welcome a very early spring shyly entering my garden. The soil is cold and full of weeds. There is a lot of work to do. I have big plans for March. Soon it will be time to play with the soil. And I have a list of plants I want to grow. Will go ahead and list them out so that when I come back here, it will be waiting for me to see how far I succeeded.
So here goes my list... I want to plant - yellow Rose tree, Dahlia, Dasies, Cosmos, onions, radish, beets, salad greens, broccoli, swiss chard, ginger, fenugreek, fennel, blueberries. We have too much red in the garden a little yellow, blue and orange will be delightfull. This year I want to learn how to sucessfully grow vegetables. My previous attempts have always had poor results. This year I plan to grow my vegetable garden in containers. It will be easier to for me and since we have such less space, it will be wiser to do so. And I can move them around with the sun.

Calla lilies have sprung out of the moist soil as an early surprise, from places where I had least expected them to grow. The plant has been moving underneath the soil and choosing its own spot to blossom. Love Calla lillies. My husband has been photographing them with great enthusiasm.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Wedded to a Tree

Trees
Joyce Kilmer (1886-1918)
I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth's sweet flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.
This silly piece I wrote in my diary longtime back.

I wish to wed a mango tree.
Strong and firm,
that wears a thick coat of fresh green leaves.
His mind rooted deep to the earth beneath;
that the roughest storms fail to defeat.


With arms long and brown risen up to the skies,
where at the onset of rains,
an inconsolable bird,
seated atop his limbs,
sends out the sweetest of its cries.

As the season of productivity arrives,
He boasts a rich robe of blossoms,
a bounty of fruits sweet as honey,
sweeter than that milled in any Bee's hive.

And his cool and comforting foliage welcomes all alike,
to find a momentary place for respite.

In such a tree I shall carve a small groove to nestle;
for it will provide for all my needs.

If occasionally, I fly far away from my nest,
then on return I would find,
my great mango tree welcoming
with his widened chest,
to embrace me within his secured presence,
with comforting love and assurance.

The H4 Ordeal: Part Two - 'H4 Wives Club'

..... Continued from the previous post

The H4 status takes away the basic right to work; more appropriately put, the right to choose - to work or not! As everyone should have a choice to decide what is good for them and their family.

Having obtained their Masters' and Bachelors' degrees with much hard work, and even having had a successful career in their respective fields, the H4 wives end up cooling their heels at home. Cornered by their dependent status, having scoured through the television channels, shopping malls, internet and chat rooms, cooked and cleaned their hearts out, made endless calls to their parents and family back in their homeland, volunteered at libraries, non-profits etc., and even considered filling the space with a baby when they still had the time, the H4 wives do end up bored and frustrated.

Atleast for those who are not, their own community ensures they do, by constantly reminding them their sorry state, whenever they run into them. Whenever a Desi runs into another Desi, inevitably the subject arises - Do you work? What visa are you on? Are you considering a degree from US? Do you have a technical background? And this triggers the frustration, and suddenly their sweet, innocent simple lives appear boring, compared to the 'double incomed', 'we have it all' -flaunting, 'been there done that' -attitude, 'driving freeways, day-care dependent, juggling everything at the sametime - supermoms', Green Card - Desis.

SADAF SIDDIQUE a journalist for "The Hindu" India's National Newspaper, in it's Jul 06, 2008, Sunday edition, categorises the H4 wives, in one of his articles, into 5 groups with a lot of humor and sarcasm.
Though I do not agree with him entirely, it is amusing to read his piece. So here I quote him as it is:

"So what are these bored wives to do?
The boredom manifests itself in interesting ways. Let’s go through a little sampling shall we? There are:
the desi-party-throwing wives,
the shop-till-I-drop wives,
the my-husband-got-me-a-job- wives
and finally the I-am-no-longer-in-the-H4-wives-club –
and-let-me-take-up-any-pause-in-conversation-to-reiterate-that wives.

The Enthusiastic bunch
The desi-party-throwing wives are usually the most enthusiastic. You would have to be, to invite over 40 people to your home, entertain and feed them and then clean up afterwards. They are also a storehouse of information. I mean, how many people do you know who can tell you when Dussehra, Diwali, Chaat puja fall and when to perform Shri Maha Lakshmi Homam? They know all the best catering deals in town. They’ll throw a party as frequently as the falling dollar makes the news.

They’ll invite all their friends, acquaintances and their acquaintance’s acquaintances. Everyone at the party will be desi. The women will dress in their most garish shaadi-ka-jodha, complete with maang-tikka, while the men will wear their jazziest kurta or Hawaiian shirt. (which is fast becoming some kind of desi style statement, right up there with the white shoes) These wives compete with each other to host over-the-top Karvachauth or Diwali parties or ones where unsuspecting hosts are subject to torturous party games.

Then there are the shop-till-I-drop wives. They have probably hit all the malls in the entire continent. They live, breathe and eat shopping. They drop off their husbands to work and begin their retail therapy for six straight hours. Having scourged all the sale racks in all the big stores, they form bands of two or four and head out for the outlet malls.

They switch off their mobiles and shop with the single minded dedication and focus of an ant saving its winter hordes. Why they hoard 10 sets of crockery, frosty pink (!) glass horses and more shoes and handbags than they can count is beyond me. But they are always the ones to hit on for information on sales and steals. You might also see them rummaging through someone else’s cast-offs at garage sales.

Good Economic Sense
The my-husband-got-me-a-job-where-he-works wives are probably the epitome of sati-savitris. She’ll hang on to every word that drops from her beloved’s mouth. Even if she has a degree in Political Science and a desire to pursue it further, she follows her husband’s advice and takes up a Computer course at the local community college. That helps hubby dearest place her in the company where he works and where he can bump up a favour with the guy in HR who did the same thing for his wife. No problems of different work and commute timings. It all works out to good economical gains.

She takes every opportunity to tell you how absolutely wonderful her husband is. She will vociferously defend pati-parmeshwar’s taste for Budweiser and Black Sabbath even if all she drinks is the occasional diet coke and her musical taste never went beyond the Titanic sound track.

And finally there are the I-am-no-longer-in-the-H4-wives-club –and-let-me-take-up-any-pause-in-conversation-to-reiterate-that wives. These wives see being in the H4 wives club as comparable to having the bubonic plague (or maybe even the bird flu). They go to great lengths to enrol themselves in some academic programme merely so that they can change their visa status.

Ask them a simple “How are you?” and be prepared for a three-hour-long saga of how the prized J or F visa has been obtained, how they got their status revised and how they gleefully discarded their H4 visa. In reality, of course, changing status is really more hassle than it’s worth and you effectively remain a dependent. They will talk pitifully of other H4 wives and reiterate once again how the prized J or F visa has been obtained, how they got their status revised and how they gleefully discarded their H4 visa."

Hilarious! Isn't it! Though sad this is how some enlightened individuals (journalists) perceive the lives of the H4 wives in the states.

I could bring on hundreds of instances, comments, perceptions on this subject. And I don't want to even delve into the darkside of the dependant status, lest I spoil my readers mood. I don't even want to talk much about the large number of cases of Domestic Violence reported by the women on the dependent visa status.

So let me talk about this forum instead, 'The Indus Ladies' on the web, which is mostly for the Indian community residing all over the world, where they discuss various issues concerning women, exchange information on various subjects, jokes, stories etc. Members do not give out their real names. But discuss and seek advice on real issues. Not revealing their true identity gives them greater freedom to express themselves openly. And other women members do respond and help by giving genuine advices and real solutions. Believe me, it works. And a 100,000 membership till date, holds it true.

Here, in the section of H4 ladies in Bay Area, women pour out their frustrations of being on the dependant status, surprisingly, some even after living in US for a few months. And there is a lot of support and advise by other women who have succeeded in overcoming the 'H4 Panic Syndrome' or atleast figured out a way to keep themselves busy and in a positive spirit. Still the number of new posts that come in with the same questions, is appalling.

Among all the exchanges going back and forth between the newcomers and the veterans on the H4 status, I bumped upon this desperate request by a husband for the H4 wives deperate to overcome their desperation. Here it goes -

"Let me add the male version of WORK AROUNDS for you guys I personally work on H1B and my wife who is an Engineering Graduate in Computer Sc and Engineering, WAS H4 for the initial two years ...........This feedback was my experience with a H4 spouse while my wife was on H4. Since I work a longer times on my job, I want some one to help me rather then earning money with her job. I want my wife to take my routine tasks which she can do, few things like shopping, bills pay, scheduling the Family activities etc, thats good to start with, this gives me to do my job smoothly. If you H4 wife, can learn driving, have your own car, that helps your spouse a lot by doing many things yourself to help your family, I want my wife to take my baby to school etc, I want them to go to some fun places like Chuck-e-cheeses etc and have fun, I am totally annoyed when I need to go to some shopping or to do some scheudling etc after coming from office.

Gurls.. please please, doing a WIFE/Mother job is not an easy thing, if you take it seriously. Dont feel that you are bored etc... There are a lot of things which you can do and makes your family like a heaven for every one. For a working spouse, its also their responsibility to keep the things cool at home. So, H4 is not equal to WASTE, before being H4, you are women, the wonderful human in the world, Dont feel down by being H4"

Friday, August 1, 2008

The H4 Ordeal: Part One - 'Desi Damsel in Visa Distress’

First a little background -

The highly skilled youth mostly in developing nations, with ambitions of their own or of their parents or simply following a popular trend; and with dreams of higher education, income, status, lifestyle, come to the developed nations, mostly to the United States.

Undeniably, the United States, provides them the opportunity and the environment to live, learn and earn well. While the highly skilled Indian immigrants have contributed heavily to the American economy, India is facing acute shortage of talents in the fields of science, engineering and technology.

In course of driving their ambitions of higher knowledge, skills, ideal work environment and lifestyle, they end up chasing a lofty ambition of the ‘American Dream’ of success, fame and wealth.

This in turn makes them hot commodity in the 'Indian Marriage Market'. Since every parent want to see their daughters well settled and comfortable in life, an NRI candidate, with the promise of a better living, is in great demand. Though there are also cases of love marriages, where love is the driving cause, and not the NRI factor, even here, there is no respite from the social consequences of living away from family and familier ways.

And this is how the dreamy-eyed, highly-aspiring, sometimes ignorant, Desi H4 wives end up in Visa Distress.
Not long before the rosy months have passed, and the Mehendi color has faded from their hands, does it dawn upon them that their dollar dreams are stranded for, no one knows how long. Having partially overcome the spells of the initial obsessions with their husband and homesickness, they find themselves isolated within the walls of their new home.

First, a little lesson in U.S. immigration. While the H4 visa allows spouses legal residence in the country, it does not permit them to work. So that’s pretty much a sure-fire route to turning the blushing bride into the bored and restless. Sure, you could study further but if you have already slogged through a Masters degree of your parent’s choosing, or worked in India, chances are that you are thinking, What! Not Again!

While their husbands on H-1B visas, that are granted to highly skilled professionals to fill jobs at the software companies and technology labs of Silicon Valley, are busy with their own jobs; under the conditions of their H-4 dependent visas, spouses are not allowed to work or pursue a career. Often highly educated and skilled, they find themselves in the uncomfortable position of social and financial dependency on their husbands, while struggling to adjust to life in a new country. As if this were not enough, some states do not even allow them to procure a driving permit!

Quoting an article by Anastasia Ustinova, Chronicle Staff Writer on this subject, ‘Indian women isolated in Silicon Valley’ on Sunday, March 9, 2008

“In Silicon Valley, many of the Indian women’s stories are similar. Most were born into higher castes in India, graduated with college degrees in computer science or business, worked in fast-paced companies, had a support network of friends and family. Moving to the United States seemed like a great opportunity, but all too often there was little discussion about the terms of their immigration status. Now, while their husbands are climbing the career ladder, they stay at home alone, isolated.”

“While her husband has a thriving career in a giant high-tech company, Shahani spends her days browsing the Internet and watching the Food Network. When she arrived in 2006, she did not have a driver’s license and her world was reduced to the size of a two-bedroom apartment.”

And what is more shocking, is that of the readers’ reactions to the circumstances of the H4 Indian visa holders in Silicone Valley which are mostly unsympathetic and at times downright hostile. The following is an example, posted by “Mrs. Nesbitt”:

“Oh please, they’re lucky to be here in the first place. These wives should be required to volunteer to re-train the American technical workers who were displaced by their husbands to begin with, as well as the rest of us who are enduring a lifetime of wage deflation from the rotten H1-B visa program. NO SYMPATHY. And if they don’t like it here, feel free to move home immediately.”

I must admit I chanced upon this wonderful site trappedinh4mess.wordpress.com, with all the information I needed during my research, where I also found the response to this comment.

Here it goes –

“As for Mrs. N:
I am amazed at the ignorance of these people. If I leave today with my family and friends and all the Asian community, this country would crumble (so would ours but we aren’t the ones getting caustic). Let’s just withdraw all the people on H1 and other temporary visas for a month and let’s see how things function…maybe we can withdraw all the goods from China, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Pakistan ( after all, these imports too take up jobs here - right ?)…and then, let’s see some more….

I wonder if they have heard of the word - ‘GLOBALISATION‘…it is not just our need but also their’s, that is why we are here. People who come here on H1 are not beggars or slum dwellers in their country…they are very well educated, rich and the cream of the society. They make very good living in their country but the ambition to further their professional careers brings them here. So, there is no FAVOR involved here…It is an exchange …from which both parties benefit. And if people here or in any part of the world refuse to understand this …I just ask them to Educate themselves before commenting. And hey, we dont want your sympathy. We want our rights and do whatever you want, we are going to get it ! eat your heart out !"

-Joli

I must say Joli, you have a point!

And here is yet another case. I am quoting this from the blog "Trapped".

"It is very difficult to explain why is hard not to be working. But it’s true, the hard part is not to have the choice of or even worst, having someone else deciding for you . I am a mechanical engineer and I used to work a lot, A LOT. I thought it was going to be actually a blessing not to have to work. And I do feel grateful, don’t get me wrong, I am pretty sure this was the right decision. But it’s true I FEEL TRAPPED!

I have been on an H4 visa for almost three years. I have studied english, photography. I have volunteered . Once, I decided to apply to get into a public college hoping I would be considered a “chicagoan” since we have lived here for almost two years and I have an ITIN, but I was considered an international student so instead of paying the $79 per credit chicagoans pay, I had to pay $250 per credit. And for sure this is the kind of situation makes you feel “trapped”. When you run out of choices. Because let’s face it, studying here its very expensive. "

According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, there are now between 600,000 and 800,000 H-1B visa holders in the United States. Exactly how many are married to spouses ineligible to work in this country is unclear.

........ to be continued in part two.