Category Archives: Culture

Why I Started Sanskriti Box

I wouldn’t be the first person you think of when looking for an authority on Indian culture.  Actually, I wouldn’t be the last either.  I was born and raised in the Chicago Burbs from immigrant parents.  By the time I was born, they had already lived here for over 10 years.  They had the best intentions when they decided not to teach us Hindi.  They believed that it would be detrimental to our future by having an accent, rather than as we know now, be an asset to have a 2nd language.  My parents wanted us to assimilate and so we celebrated Christmas every year and barely knew about Diwali.  Let’s face it, Macy’s sales are much better in December than October.   While trying so hard to fit in and ignore what made us different, not only did I lose out on a lot of our culture, I also never quite felt like I belonged.  Regretfully, sometimes I even wished I wasn’t Indian.

I always yearned to be more connected to my culture.  While we did have an Indian community that we were a part of, at school my siblings and I were the only Indian kids in class.

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When I was old enough, I started seeking friends who could relate to my lifestyle.  Eventually, I married my husband who grew up in London with a totally different dynamic.  His enormous family held on so tightly to their heritage sometimes blindly that even some basic questions, like why do you say “Jai Shree Krishna” when greeting others, he wasn’t able to answer.

When I became a mom, I knew that I wanted my children to be proud of who they are and where they come from.  But I also wanted to be able to teach them the meaning behind the traditions which were never taught to me.  The question was how.

We had been doing our best between getting information from their grandparents, participating in Indian festivals, and enrolling in Indian activities.  Then one day while cruising Facebook, I saw a picture of my nephew reading a book about Ganesha.  IMG_2711

In 9 years of parenting, I had never seen a children’s book like that before so ofcourse I went on to Amazon and bought it.  There were a couple other like it so I bought those too.  The kids loved them.  They felt connected to the stories and had explanations that they had never had before.

When my middle daughter, Aria, was star student of the week, she was told to bring in a few pictures of herself along with a book to read to the class.  She wanted to take only pictures where she was wearing Salwars or Gagras and also take the new Indian books that we had bought. 12108212_10153057187410653_3353719575027307014_n It made my heart melt that she was so proud to be Indian, that she wanted to share her differences with her class.  The opposite of me who was just trying to blend in at her age.

I started thinking about ways to keep that excitement going, not only for them to have pride in their culture but to learn more about the meaning behind it.  It was great to have found a couple of books but they aren’t something you pick up at Target or at the Book Fair.  We needed to spend time on Amazon to find well-written ones that were engaging and beautifully illustrated.  I started thinking that if I never knew these books existed and had trouble finding good ones,  then other parents would be going through the same thing.kids with background

Then after looking at several posts about Kiwicrate and Blue Apron on my feed, it hit me.  I could create a service for parents to do this for them, who don’t have the time or energy to seek these materials out.  At the same time make it exciting for kids on a regular basis with crafts, treats, charms, and challenges.  What kids wouldn’t enjoy receiving a cool box in the mail every month made just for them?  I selected just the right amount of things to enhance the books and Sanskriti Box was born.

I truly believe in this service as it is a labor of love by me and my family.   I want all kids of Indian descent to be proud of the beautiful culture they come from.  From my own 1st hand experience, I know what growing up as a minority is like and I want to make it super special for them to be proud of being Indian.

Please subscribe or send a gift to the special kids in your life who would enjoy learning about Indian culture at www.sanskritibox.com.

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Me Versus the Chapati

In millions of Indian homes around the globe for many centuries, chapatis are made on a daily basis and are a staple of their diet.  In more traditional times, it was common for a bride to be judged by her new family by her ability to make them round and soft.  In my husbands family, most of the women were taught at an early age to know their way around the kitchen including making a perfect round chapati.  As a result, my mother-in-law is the best cook I have ever met.  While my mom was also cooking full dinners by the age of 8, she decided not to raise her daughters the same way.  My parents made our education our first and only priority and I was often shooed away from the kitchen.  It should come as no surprise that when I first stepped foot in my future inlaws home at 19 years old, I instantly felt out of place.  It was so intimidating to watch all the women know exactly what to do and how to do it.  Even if I wanted to help, I was nervous about doing something wrong.  Fast forward 15 years, I have come to accept that I will never “fit in” with the expertise around the kitchen but my inability has always made me self conscious in my culture.

Recently I have felt  the desire to be able to cook.  For a few reasons: being able to cook mine and my husbands favorite meals, feeding my kids healthy meals, and being able to teach my children.  I have been slowly learning a few dishes here and there and using frozen ones to complete the meal.  Last weekend I decided that it was time to learn this ancient art of chapati making and give it a try.

I opened up my PC and started googling.  I have helped rolled them a few times and certainly seen my mom and mother in law make them often enough but never made the dough.  I choose the video with the most hits and figured I am smart enough, I can figure this out.  I started following the recipe.  After all it is just flour and water, how hard can it be?  1 hour later, I am calling every expert indian cook I know.  I finally got a hold of my sister-in-law who tried to help.  I tried to roll one out and it was an gooey sticky mess.  My husband thought with his pizza expertise he could figure it out.  No such luck.  They all went into the trash.

Point – Chapati

Luckily we had the frozen ones as back up.  I opened up the pack and started them on the pan.  Unfortunately even those would not work for me.  Every single one was hard as a rock and just did not have the taste of a home cooked chapati.  We grudgingly ate them as I felt defeated.

Point – Chapati

I started instead looking for the ad I had seen sometime back about the automatic chapati maker and how to get my hands on one.  I found it and watched it again.  It looked awesome but unfortunately is sold out.

Point – Chapati

I was determined not to give up.  This week I Facetimed my mother in law to walk me through it from start to finish.  After watching my dough take shape, I finally was able to roll out the chapatis with my daughters. They were far from round but I was on the right track.  After the first few, they actually even started to fluff up.  Paired with the an eggplant sabji they were absolutely delicious.  Next time I will cheat like my other sister in law who cuts around a lid to get those perfectly round circles!

Game – Anjali!

Celebrating Diwali with Kids

Today is India’s biggest and brightest holiday, Diwali, the festival of lights.  Diwali is a 5 day holiday celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, and Buddhists.  The holiday represents the spiritual triumph of good over evil.  Historically, Diwali also represents the start of a new year.  There are several simple ways to celebrate with your family here in the states.

Teach – Why are we celebrating 

The story of Ram dates back many centuries ago (kid friendly video).

Lights – Light up the House 

Waiting for Ram’s arrival, houses in the city of Ayodhya were lit up to welcome him home.  Ever since, Indians have celebrated by lighting outside their homes or windows with diyas (clay lamps) and fireworks.

Alternative:   Grab some Christmas lights and hang them up.  Dig out any leftover sparklers you have from the 4th of July.

Decorate – Rangoli

People decorate their homes with design patterns called Rangoli using colored powders or sand.

Alternative:  Print out some rangoli designs and find some markers.

Visit – Celebrate with the ones you love

The various nights of festivities celebrate different kinds of relationships. The fourth day for example is dedicated to husbands and wives while the fifth day is devoted to the brother/sister bond.The best part of the holidays is being with the ones you love.  Visit family, share a meal, and exchange gifts.    IMG_8826Happy Diwali and a Happy New Year from my family to yours!

Young Entrepreneurs – Rani’s Treasures

My daughters have been begging me for years to let them sell something.  They enjoyed reading the book, The Lemonade War, and loved the idea of opening up their own stand.  We live on a tucked away cul-de-sac so waiting on foot traffic seemed pointless.  Then they learned how to make rainbow loom bands, along with 2 million other kids in America and wanted to sell that crap.  No thank you.  My kids have been so enthralled with starting their own business, that if I said no this time, it would just be crushing their spirit.

For my daughters 9th birthday party, each guest learned how to make a custom tote bag.  The girls enjoyed making the totes, they look phenomenal, and are extremely practical.  The girls finally found the right product.

First came picking a name.  Combining Avani and Aria gave us Avia and Arani.  Rani means princess in Hindi which seemed like a perfect fit and Rani’s Treasures was born.

Then the girls had to come up with their own ad and model the product.  Since they are too young to have social media accounts, I have been posting it for them.

Hi our names are Avani and Aria Bharadwa. Maybe you need something pretty to hold your stuff to dance, or swim, or anything else. You should check out Rani’s Treasures then. We are selling totes from November through December. They are also awesome gifts to give to your loved ones for Christmas. There are different colors and designs. The colors of the tote are different tones of purple. Thank you for reading, please tell us if you want one at avanibharadwa@gmail.com.

IMG_0050Guess what?  The girls got their first few orders.  Time to get to work.  The girls are quickly learning what it means to have their own business.  First step is buying their materials, including paying for supplies that we already have in house since this is a business after all.  The girls have been using all of their allowance money as their investment to get their business off the ground.

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My younger daughter has not been too thrilled giving away the money and not getting anything back (yet).  My older daughter is learning the ups and downs of hoping business comes in, getting an order, and then all the work you have to do to actually come through!

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Since I don’t want the girls to bite off more than they (or I since I am ultimately responsible for them) can chew, I told them they can only accept up to 10 orders.  Interested?

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*Mom’s Notes – Rani’s Totes are made from 12.5 x 13.5 x 6 professionally manufactured canvas totes that my girls tastefully decorate.  Most notably reviewed as a great grocery bag or library bag and is durable enough to hold several books.  The girls are charging $20 per tote and $30 with initials.  Additional customization options are available.

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What Racism Looks Like For Kids

Even though she is still young and lives a pretty sheltered life, my oldest daughter Avani has experienced her fair share of racism.  While I do believe the US is moving in the right direction when it comes to cultural awareness, we as Indian Americans are still minorities.  At the end of the day, we are different.  In the eyes of most children (and some adults) it’s as simple as what color crayon they should use to draw skin.  I remember when my younger daughter was describing her new friends after the first day of school, she would describe them as “peach skin”.

When Avani  was only in Kindergarten, 3 years ago, a classmate told other children that they didn’t like her.  When my daughter asked her why, she said “Because you are Indian”.

During 2nd grade, a classmate told my daughter that “[she is] going to hell because [she did] not go to church”.  I will always wonder if that was what her parents taught her or it was how they made sure their children went to Sunday School.  Proudly, my daughter handled these extremely difficult situations so much better than I ever would.  She simply told her classmate, “That might be what you believe, but that is not what we believe.”

What is the most amazing is her perseverance to stay proud of her heritage.  When I was little, I was embarrassed of being different and just wanted to fit in.  My daughter will be the first to tell you that she is Indian, want to wear traditional Indian clothes, and bring her favorite Indian dishes to school.  She is so much stronger than I ever will be!

Today marks the first day of a new school year.  Hoping that it is drama free for a 4th grade girl is probably unrealistic but hopefully any drama that does rear it’s head is not based on the color of our skin.

 

Why I Wished I Was a Boy – Inequality for Indian Women

I remember the day I realized that my life was worth less than my brother’s.  I just graduated from college with a Bachelor’s of Science in Computer Engineering, and was planning one of the most important days of my life; my wedding.  Following traditional Indian culture, the wedding festivities were being thrown by the bride’s family.  It was during a poor economic cycle and the family business was feeling the pinch.

My Dad and I were trying to pick the location for the events.  “Just give me a wish list for your wedding and I will see what I can do”.  Back in the day Indian weddings were planned by the parents, all the Bride did was show up!

“That’s not the way it works in the US.  The Bride plans their own wedding here.  Can’t you just give me a budget and I will plan a wedding within whatever budget you give me?”

My Dad sat quietly and was very pensive.  “I remember the day when I thought I was going to spend a ton of money on your brother’s wedding.”  Indian Weddings are an elaborate, multi day event and cost a fortune!

“It really doesn’t have to be that extravagant, whatever the budget is, I will work with it. ”  I was so excited.  I thought I had him, he was going to give me a budget and I would get to plan my own wedding.

“I said your brother’s, not yours“.

It wasn’t the first time that I had been put in my place as a female.  When I was a child, I started showing interest in the family business.   When I told my dad that I wanted to be the President of his company one day, he immediately told me that position was reserved for my little brother who was still a toddler.   I questioned him because I knew I was 4 years older, therefore I would always have more years of experience but it didn’t seem to matter.  From that day forward, I knew that my life would be different if I was born a boy.

Although we would never be equal to our brothers, my dad had provided me and my sister with all the same luxuries of life, demanded that we were well educated, and ended up with 2 strong female daughters.  Luckily thanks to my strong minded Grandma, his position on women was nothing compared to the culture he lived in India.

Recently, a film was released called India’s Daughter.  It brought global attention to the inequality between sexes as a young woman, Jyoti Singh, was being accused of provoking being gang raped and murdered.  What had she done to provoke it?  Simply being outside in the dark.  It exposed India’s inequality so powerfully that it was banned from the entire country.  Watching the documentary left me speechless.

Equally horrific, I learned that in rural areas of India, women are raped to pay off their father’s or brother’s debts or crimes.  Like the story of a village leader who ordered the rape of a 14 year old girl for her brother being accused of sexual assault.

What is ironic is that according to the Hindu scriptures, women are supposed to be held in high regard.  The position of women in current times is a result of society and not what our religion teaches.  Luckily there are brave women working on changing that, like Anuradha Koirala, founder of Maiti Nepal who has saved over 12,000 girls from human trafficking in India.

While I will never be the President of my father’s company, I am grateful.  Grateful that I live in a country where my daughters will be seen as equals and I have the power to speak up for our rights.  I just hope that the girls in India will soon also have those same rights.

Lifestyle vs Niche Blogging

After being inspired by my brother to start blogging more, I decided that if I was going to dedicate time to it, I might as well do it properly.  While persuaded to pick a single theme to post about, there is way more to know about me than just my passion for interior design.  I also enjoy making crafts, throwing parties, I am an active member of the community, I was learning how to cook (that one isn’t going so well), learning photography and most importantly a mom.

Here are some pros of a lifestyle blog.

  1. You are not confined to blogging about only topic.
  2. You don’t get bored of it as easily.
  3. You are establishing yourself as a brand.
  4. It is easier to come up with content.

Here are the cons.

  1. You are not establishing yourself as an expert as you would in a niche.
  2. Potential subscribers need to be interested in most of your topics
  3. Chances of monetizing your blog is lower.
  4. You aren’t forced to expand your own knowledge.

Julie Neidlinger says that “Niche blogs give you an audience that you understand, and that understands you.” in her blog “How to Start a Niche Blog (And Why You Should)”.


After weighing the pros and cons, I decided that a lifestyle blog is more appropriate for someone like me, not to mention very trendy at the moment.  Not only will I be able to share my knowledge with the world, but it will serve as my own therapeutic release and my online journal.  Certainly a lot cheaper than laying on someone’s couch!

To help me get inspired and get my wheels turning, I looked for who are some of the top lifestyle bloggers.  I heard one of the most famous was www.cupofjo.com.   After cruising her site I quickly realized that she is like me.  A woman with lots to offer to the world and if people were interested in her, they could be interested in me.

The free blog with long name had to go.  I needed something catchy, easy to say, and easy to type.  This blog had some tips that seemed natural to me.  I played with Realty and Reality but it didn’t feel right.  After thinking about what I am all about, the word “live” stood out.  You live everyday, you live in a house, you live for your family.  Hence birthed Live Like Anj.

I did need to do some research on how to make a proper blog and I found Amy Lynn Andrew’s blog  on how to make blogs the most helpful.  I don’t expect for this to be my new career path, despite my brother’s faith in me, I did find her how to make money blogging interesting.  I might hold off on that for now, and just try to see if anyone is interested in hearing what I have to say!