Monday, May 10, 2010

Mother's Day, May 2010--Some Cross-Cultural Family Observations

Chicago Peace Roses

Mother's Day in Western culture falls generally in the month of May, with some variation by country. In Muslim countries, including Saudi Arabia, Mother's Day is celebrated on March 21, the day of the Vernal Equinox, as described in this earlier post: The Vernal Equinox: Springtime in Saudi and the Equinoctial Day and Night that Join Us All.

Celebrating Mother's Day or not, depending on familial, cultural, and national practices can be a particular challenge for mixed couples and families. It can be hard for one spouse to celebrate his or her mother-in-law and feel that his or her mother is being left out, no matter the quality of the relationships. Will the one care if they aren't even used to celebrating on that day? Does that matter, or should one explain and celebrate anyway? What about language differences, geographical distances, culture bound gift giving practices, and differing levels of literacy?

I have spent this Mother's Day (Sunday May 9, 2010) weekend visiting my mother and family. Shortly after I arrived, my mother, who had such a big role in my love of literature, and subsequent literary studies, said, "I have kept a book from the library I finished reading, not a literary book, or a famous one, but I liked it, and you, it's here if you want to read it." This is how I sometimes have a relaxing, good, light read of something I cannot possibly turn into a peer-reviewed article, doctoral thesis, book, grant application.

The book was Secret Daughter: A Novel, a first effort by Indian-Canadian-American Shilpi Somaya Gowda. It is in the Realist, omniscient narrator (a chronological realistic portrait of "real" life, where the story is told my an all-knowing, all-seeing abstract voice) style that my mother prefers, and that I rarely write and publish on. Still,  it  is a very good first effort, and that style makes it at once an easy read and much like a tour with the authorial persona through a number of topics relating to motherhood, adoption, fatherhood, marriage, and life stages. Because it is set in both rural India and the internal migration to Mumbai, and in California where one main character heads for medical studies, marries an Anglo-American woman who is, like himself, an aspiring academic physician and stays, other more specific themes are  woven through these universals: male child preference, female infanticide or feticide, poverty, orphanages infertility, dual-career vs traditional marriages, cross-cultural/ cross-ethnoracial/ bi-national/ interfaith marriages and adoptions, and the twists of fate and fortune that mark a life and a family.

The characters are well-drawn, and their thoughts and feelings have verisimilitude (seem authentic). The "evil husband" of Chapter 1 becomes a man doing his best in a patriarchal world, and a loving husband and father whose final scenes in the novel are very moving. Anyone who has been a teen or raised a teen will be able to relate to the family dynamics around that. Anyone who has ever gone to a family wedding in a foreign culture, and not only had "nothing to wear", but no clue how to wear the culturally appropriate clothing will laugh out loud at some scenes. Best of all, it is a comedy in the Northrup Frye sense of the term: a story that starts happy, goes through sadnesses and challenges, yet ends happily with a new forward looking personal, familial, and social order.

To give you an idea, what follows is some information from the author's official website, where an excerpt is also included here:

Shilpi Somaya Gowda was born and raised in Toronto to parents who migrated there from Mumbai. She holds an MBA from Stanford University, and a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In 1991, she spent a summer as a volunteer in an Indian orphanage, which seeded the idea for her first novel, Secret Daughter. A native of Canada, she has lived in New York, North Carolina, and California. She currently makes her home in Texas with her husband and children.

A stunning debut novel that explores the emotional terrain of motherhood, loss, identity and culture, witnessed through the lives of two families, one Indian, one American, and the daughter who indelibly binds them.
On the eve of the monsoons, in a remote Indian village, Kavita gives birth to a baby girl. But in a culture that favors sons, the only way for Kavita to save her newborn daughter’s life is to give her away. It is a decision that will haunt her and her husband for the rest of their lives, even after the arrival of their cherished son.
Halfway around the globe, Somer, an American doctor, decides to adopt a child after making the wrenching discovery that she will never have one of her own. When she and her husband Krishnan see a photo of the baby with the gold-flecked eyes from a Mumbai orphanage, they are convinced that the love they already feel will overcome all obstacles.
Interweaving the stories of Kavita, Somer, and the child that binds their destinies, Secret Daughter poignantly explores issues of culture and belonging. Moving between two worlds and two families, one struggling to survive the fetid slums of Mumbai, the other grappling to forge a cohesive family despite diverging cultural identities, this powerful debut novel marks the arrival of a fresh talent poised for great success.

The author speaks briefly about the inspiration for her work, and the challenges specifically in India of a strong cultural preference for sons. The fuller explanation is a short and worthwhile read here. The book itself explores the theme with greater nuance and compassion for individuals caught within a system that makes girls too great an economic burden for poorer, less educated families. For those fond of accents, her American one now dominates her Canadian one!

My Teacher Calls Me Sweetie Cakes

My teacher calls me sweetie cakes.
My classmates think it’s funny
to hear her call me angel face
or pookie bear or honey.

She calls me precious baby doll.
She calls me pumpkin pie
or doodle bug or honey bunch
or darling butterfly.

My class is so embarrassing
I need to find another;
just any class at all
in which the teacher’s not my mother.

--From a Grade 5 cursive exercise book

I found this poem as one of the entries in my nephew's homework book when I sat down at the kitchen table for lunch. I thought it was fitting in so many ways: the day, the fact that my mother was a teacher, and the familial challenges of cursive writing.

In Grade 6 I got a C (gasp!) in penmanship on my first report card of the year. My mother, the busy new high school teacher, who was visually reviewing my report with a kind of "tick through the A's" mentality, stopped abruptly and said, "C? a C? you got a C?! I TEACH PENMANSHIP! Let me see your handwriting....CHICKEN SCRATCH! CHICKEN SCRATCH!! Just like your father's! Let me watch you write...NO! NO! Use your whole arm, not your hand! Never mind, I'll bring home the Grade 9 penmanship book. CHICKEN SCRATCH!" Needless to say, I got only A's in penmanship subsequently.

My father came by his "chicken scratch" thanks to being a left-handed, younger than the rest, boy in a Catholic school at a time when the nuns used to use the sharp edge of the ruler to whack the offending left hand and make the child switch the writing instrument to the right hand. I once met an older man from Goa, the former Portuguese Catholic colony of India, who had the exact same handwriting and the same story. My father did everything he learned at school, writing, woodworking, using tools, right-handed; and everything else, playing baseball, dealing cards (!), left-handed. At the end of his life his handwriting was chicken scratch plus Parkinson's, so he switched to printing.

My sister is truly ambidextrous, while my mother and I are clearly right-handed--though I breathe left while swimming the front crawl, a correlation with left-handedness, do sidestoke left-sided, and synchronize swim left-legged, just as my dad was a left-legged football kicker. When my nephew was an infant my sister was most concerned to let him have the handedness his brain, not society, gave him. To this end she would present objects to the mid-line of his body and let him reach for it with the hand of his choosing. Like most babies he was ambi-undextrous. When he graduated to a high chair she would put his food in the centre of the tray, and most importantly his spoon dead centre at the top of the bowl with the handle down, not off to one side to suggest with which hand it should be grabbed. Gradually he showed a very marked preference for his left hand.

He never quite made it to "chicken scratch" because he printed so badly that his Grade 3 teacher recommended he have an assessment by an occupational therapist to determine why he couldn't learn to print better despite excellent fine motor control for other tasks. My sister took him of course, all the while muttering "But he chose his own handedness".  This was one of those times when auntilary cautiousness regarding intrusions into sibling mothering was most frustrating. I had never fully voiced the opinion I'd held for years: "He is left-handed, he is a boy, he gets little printing instruction from the teachers, and his mother the primary specialist with a negative view of early 'pencil and paper work' won't teach him, and won't let anyone else do it either." The official assessment yielded a more politically correct opinion: as a leftie he needed more instruction than he had been given. It was so close to "learning cursive time" that he was enrolled in special cursive classes, and skipped printing. He gets A's in cursive (but still can't print!).

Toward the end of the day of Mother's Day I was reminded, by finishing Secret Daughter, of Robert Munsch's book,Love You Forever, about the never ending love of a mother for her child.

American-Canadian children's storyteller Munsch wrote this initially to aid his grief, a father's grief, over the loss of his 2 stillborn children.

“I’ll love you forever,
I’ll like you for always,
as long as I’m living
my baby you’ll be.”

It began with the song above, which he couldn't sing for a long time as it made him choke with tears, but eventually became a story, and a book that is a classic, and speaks to children, parents, and grandparents. The full text is here, but the illustrations are exquisitely complimentary.

Robert Munsch reading and singing Love you forever. I have my own voicing of this in my head (Munsch tells us to make up our own!), but it may be a valuable listen for others and certainly is beautiful visually.

Before the day was over, I gave my mother this year's gift and card, my nephew barbecued, and my sister took us out for ice cream.

I bought my mother one of these hydrangeas, 
as it reminds me of the ones she gave each year to my grandmother, 
and that she herself loves

Eventually it will join the others in the garden and look like these

To all mothers, aunts, grandmothers,
and maternal figures
Happy Mother's Day!

How did you spend Mother's Day?
What are your special Mother's Day memories?
What do you think the role(s) of aunts and grandmothers is/are?
Have you had cross-cultural Mother's Day challenges?
How have you resolved them?
How would you answer the questions in the second paragraph of the opening of this post?
These days a given child may have a biological mother (egg contributor), gestational mother (womb contributor), an adoptive mother, and a social mother (eg a maternal figure of any type). Given that, who gets included in Mother's Day?
Should adoptions be open or closed in your opinion?
What is the impact on each of the family members biological and adoptive?
What is your view of cross-race, or cross-cultural adoption?
What special challenges does it present?
If raising a child takes a village, who are the mothers of the village?
Any other comments, thought, experiences?

* My apologies for the slight delay in posting about this celebration (unless you are living in an unusual time zone, Mother's Day just past). However, it is here before Father's Day, which will get its own post too!


Susanne said...

Happy Mother's Day to you, too, Chiara! What a lovely post! I really enjoyed all the pretty cakes and flower pictures. :)

That book sounds really good. I will look for it at my library. Pretty neat to me that the author went to UNC-CH since it's just the next county over (about 30 minutes from my house.) I liked what you said about accents so I listened to hear if I detected a southern drawl - yet! ;-)

We went to my grandparents' apartment for mother's day. My parents, siblings, their spouses, my spouse and my nephew were present and we had a great time eating lunch and talking a bit.

It sounds like your day was special. I enjoyed the bit about lefthandedness and your chicken scratch handwriting. Ha ha! :-)

Qusay said...

Setting aside that it is another marketing scheme to get people to buy cards and flowers and be good to their mothers for a day… I think it is a good idea so mothers have their day to be celebrated… because if only a few people do it, other women (who are mothers) would tell their kids that so and so’s children gave her this and that for mothers day LOL
Chicken scratch, that is me, I could not get my hand writing to look good, no matter how I tired… at least it is legible :)
Mothers should be celebrated often :) more than once a year

oby said...

what a lovely post! I will definitely find the book as I think it is going to touch me on so many levels and I am going to be able to relate to it very well. When I got to the "Anyone who has ever gone to a family wedding in a foreign culture, and not only had "nothing to wear", but no clue how to wear the culturally appropriate clothing will laugh out loud at some scenes." part I literally laughed out loud...oh the stories I could tell!

two in particular i want to share and I hope it won't be too long:

when I first met my husband's mother I wanted to impress her and give her a signal that I was willing to be accepting of the culture and try to "blend" as much as i could. I wore my best Salwar Kameez to meet her. for those that are unfamiliar there are several styles of salwars but the one I was wearing had big blousy pants that were tied around the waist with a "narla" which is a rope bigger than a shoelace and thinner than a clothesline that threads through the waist band and ties in front. I got all dressed and was looking quite fashionable in Indian terms, but of course I was nervous! this was Chicago and I was taking the bus from my apartment to go meet my future mother in law as we were all going to take a boat ride on the river. I had to run to catch the bus at the corner or wait for another one and risk being late. The bus stops, doors open and I, panting and sweating start to climb the stairs fare in hand. At the top of the stairs as I drop my money in I feel that something feels a little odd. I look down and realize that my pants are starting to bunch around my ankles. Thankfully the top of a salwar kameez is very long (in some cases past the knees) so nothing showed. But it was quite a trick of dexterity as the bus lurched away from the curb, to put my money in the fare receptacle, while holding the the top of the pants so they wouldn't fall all the way down and THEN in front of an entire bus of strangers get them back up from mid thighs over my hips and retie that blasted string! Funny the time...not so much!

The second is when I was in India and either newly married or about to be (I forget). My mother in law (whom I barely knew and was nervous about still) was having a party for family/friends to introduce me. She had lent me a beautiful hunter green chiffon sari that, when I moved, shimmered and changed colors. Really stunning. She had dressed me completely. I had no idea how to wear one. A sari is 6 yards of fabric that goes around and around and around the body with accordion pleats in the front. It is generally held together with safety pins and the skill of the wearer. The front is tucked in. I was all ready to meet the crowd when i realized I REALLY had to go to the bathroom. So before coming out I made a it stop in the ladies room. All was well until I got up and tried to adjust myself for the grand entry. anyone who has worn a chiffon silk sari knows it is not only beautiful it is VERY slippery.
I watched in absolute horror as 6 yards of silky and carefully wrapped chiffon unwrapped itself like a thread and puddled in a big silky pile at my feet. I am standing there in my petticoat(the equivalent to a half slip)and NO ONE is around...they are all out in the living room awaiting my grand entrance...and waiting and waiting. My dilemma: should I try to pull myself back together and enter looking as if I had dressed myself with my feet or should I call for help. I quietly called for my husband hoping he would hear me...finally my pitiful bleats were heard and he came to ask me what the heck was taking so long. He of course could not wrap a sari either so fetched my Mother in law who actually had a pretty good laugh about it and rewrapped me.

oby said...

How did you spend Mother's Day?
Very quietly. My daughter made me a special booklet, a heart paperweight out of clay, a painted picture frame, some homemade bath oil and my husband got me a dozen roses. We ate at a lovely steakhouse.

What are your special Mother's Day memories?
Not sure I have any one special one

What do you think the role(s) of aunts and grandmothers is/are?
I think all the females in a child's life are so very important as each one brings something different to the table. they can act as female adult role models for the child.

Have you had cross-cultural Mother's Day challenges?
Not at all. In India they don't really celebrate per se. I sent my MIL a card.

How have you resolved them?
Resolved other issues by trying to be as open to the culture as possible.

How would you answer the questions in the second paragraph of the opening of this post?
all great questions. The way I solved it was this: I did what I could to blend with Indian culture. By the same token I expected them to give me some latitude as well and wouldn't expect it to flow in only one direction. I assumed that they would do some adapting as well. So...I just automatically included them in the holidays. If it is Mother's Day I sent my MIL a gift and card...indian websites have a way to choose a gift and it is delivered directly to the person. Same for FIL. I send Christmas gifts/wishes and they sent Diwali gifts and wishes. I am very blessed that there is ZERO tension and misunderstandings in this area. They accept graciously as do I. I find a big smile and a squeeze of a hand can say more than all the words in the world.

These days a given child may have a biological mother (egg contributor), gestational mother (womb contributor), an adoptive mother, and a social mother (eg a maternal figure of any type). Given that, who gets included in Mother's Day?
I would only include the adoptive mother and as an honorary the social one if wanted. The egg donor is not the mother in the sense of a mother as we mean it on mother's day. the gestational one isn't as well.

Should adoptions be open or closed in your opinion? I am not sure. I think the decision should lie with the mother as it might affect whether she will give the baby up or not. If she doesn't want to be found she shouldn't. But the child needs access to medical issues and the like. It isn't easy.

What is the impact on each of the family members biological and adoptive?
It depends on the situation. If the biological mother was young when she gave birth and wants nothing to do with that time in her life then I think the impact might be minimal. If however she gave the baby up and was forced to or regretted it after it could have a profound effect. the adoptive parents wanted the child so I think if they want the child to know the biological parents then they have to be pretty strong and secure in their place in the child's life. Sometimes it turns out great and other times not so well at all.

What is your view of cross-race, or cross-cultural adoption?
all babies deserve to be loved and given a chance at life. If there is someone who wants a child and it is not of the same race then I think that is fine, but i think it is important that the parents make sure the child knows their culture and has a good feeling about it despite being adopted. It is a part of who they are and that should not be forgotten.

What special challenges does it present? Takes courage, effort,education and if it is a culture that they would rather distance themselves from, a lot of maturity to overcome that and help the child value that part of his heritage.

If raising a child takes a village, who are the mothers of the village?
women who care for the child and can help him/her develop and grow along the path of life. But also they are women who have a relationship with the child's mother and can help her in this journey we each take called life.

oby said...

You read that book in one day? wow!

The book i'll love you forever takes my breath away. I can't describe it...I used to read it to my daughter and bawl with a tremendous love...

Usman said...


Do you have a blog? If not then you should start one. You have very interesting stories to tell and I am curious of all the interesting anecdotes from you. You will be a very good blogger, I am sure. Count me in as your subscriber :)

Souma said...

Having been to school with some of my city's most spoiled children, it was more common for a nanny to raise them than their mothers. Having my mother and grandmother raise me, take me to school and help me with my homework made me stand out.

Some of them didn't even spend summer vacation abroad as a family, they'd be sent to camp or summer school. i resisted when my dad tried to send me to summer school in Switzerland. it doesn't take a village to raise a child, only Swiss French summer school.

One thing i regret most is the years my father didn't let me contact my grandparents. So much time lost that I can't make up for, rest their souls.

Flowers and cupcakes is what my sister and I usually have for mother's day. Last year, my friend called and asked me to get bouquet for her mother as well. So i get the flowers, she meets me at the entrance of the building in which they live and we go up the elevator together with a huge bouquet and two ladies. One of them suddenly asks us if we were celebrating "Mother's Eid" (which makes it sound like a religious holiday) which freaked us both out, then the elevator door opened and we both said "no! no!" as we ran out. Mother's Day is rather adventurous in Saudi Arabia, non?

oby said...


Thank you for your kind words. I do enjoy telling a story. I don't have a blog...but maybe one day I will start one. If I do I will be sure to let you know. At least I know I will have one subscriber! LOL!

Usman said...


I'm not sure if you know or not, but there are many of gories* who are married to desi** men and having blogs about their multicultural experiences. Some of them even got to gather in some coffee shop last month in Washington DC. Since you are also a Gori married to a desi, you certainly qualify to that club.

Here are some of those blogs:

The Gori Wife Life

The Big, Bad, Blond Bahu Blog

Lucky Fatima

Lucky Delicious

And there are many more but I used to read only the first one.

*Gori means White Woman in Urdu/Hindi
**Desi means a person from India, Pakistan or Bangladesh

Susanne said...

Chiara, I wanted to say that I'm curious now the history of Mother's Day. Was it Hallmark's fault or 1-800 Flowers that campaigned for it? ;)

Samer is in Germany and today - a Thursday - they were out of classes due to a holiday, Father's Day. Government offices are closed, too. Here we have Mother's and Father's Days on Sundays so nothing much is affected. :)

Maybe I'll go look up the history of MD now.

Susanne said...

Usman, I am a gori white woman. OK...that may be redundant, but I couldn't help but be repulsed because gori looks a lot like gory!

1. Covered or stained with gore; bloody.
2. Full of or characterized by bloodshed and violence.

Well, I hope I'm not that. :-/


(Sorry, Chiara, for going off topic.)

oby said...


thanks a lot! I had not followed any of them. I will definitely to to them. It is nice to know others with the same experiences that I had...

Chiara said...

Susanne-starting with your last comment first. I'm sure Usman knows the etymology of this Hindi word better than I do, but here is what I found from wiki and confirmed on a number of other dictionary sites:

The adjective Gora (or Gora) is also commonly used amongst South Asians and South Asian British to refer to white Britons. Although the term literally translates to "fair-skinned one", and thus could and is applied to individuals of any ethnicity with a fair complexion including south asians themselves. The adjective has been incorrectly used as a noun and come to be used to describe white people—hence its potential as a racial slur. The feminine of the term is Gori.

In general it is used as a converse term to Desi (day-see), which was described to me by an Desi friend as having a meaning like paesani for Italians, ie from the same country, region etc. I was told neither was pejorative, but then anything said with as sneer could be including "mother"!

Gory from gore has Nordic origins: Old Norse, Old English, and Old High German, and is more a mud clump, then a blood clot, and a bloody mess as in battle.

So of course you are not gory, but a gori, yes! :)

Happy Mother's Day to you too! I'm glad you had a great time with grandmother, mother and nephew.

"Little Paul" had his tonsils out yesterday so he has had much loving care from mother, grandmother, and aunt. It may not take a village, but it has taken a female ENT surgeon and his home team of 3 to make sure he suffers the least possible. Besides there are ice cream benefits for the team!

I'm glad you enjoyed my penmanship traumas! LOL :) :P

Thanks for your comments!

Chiara said...

Susanne--I almost forgot! Regarding the history of Mother's Day, stay tuned for my May 30th post! You gave me a great idea! Thanks! :)

oby said...

Thanks Chiara...I just took Usman at his word and figured he knew what it meant and he didn't mean it badly. I was going to take my new Hindi word and try it out on my husband and watch as he thought I am so smart! LOL! No Usman...I would give you the credit for my education on that! :-)

Chiara said...

Qusay--thanks for your comment! True, Mother's Day has been horrendously commercialized by some, and apparently the American woman who got the modern version of it going in the US wound up campaigning against its commercialization. I agree there can be immense power in "peer pressure marketing" but that mothers should have their own day, in addition to being celebrated often and well.

Legible is good! When I was looking at my nephew's cursive exercise book I was thinking "nice shapes but too vertical" and then I remembered that a forward slant would be harder for him and thought he was doing really well not to have a back slant. Must be the L-handed fancy special German pens my sister wrote away for when she finally got on board, and which the company sent gratis since they weren't being marketed here, and suggested she and he give their feedback! :)

Thanks again for your comment--even if a a left-handed mouse was involved! :)

Chiara said...

Oby--I am glad you liked the post!

I thought of you many times as I was reading the book. Let us know how you enjoy it. I did read it in one 24hr period but that was aided by ny nephew having a friend sleep over on the Saturday, and being kicked off the computer unless I wanted to risk a slap shot to the head, getting booted to sleeping in my nephew's room, until they came in and woke me up after about a half hour of sleep to take over that room, and being wide awake after setting up a makeshift mattress for the guest (my nephew hasn't acquired any Arab hospitality rules).

Thanks for your wonderful stories. Although I have never braved wearing a sari, I have had my adventures with Moroccan gondoorahs which are a long, straight from the shoulder dress, doubled with an overdress, and belted with a decorative belt--preferably of worked gold with green gems encrusted.

Mostly I am lucky my SIL has had a lot of experience with children as she still dresses me. She makes me stand still, and puts it over my head, says "arms in", then "arms out to the side", "not that far, ok", "does the belt feel ok", "ok now raise your arms a little like this". I have learned that every time I make an independent move I mess up, and that when she is in a hurry I just have to hope no one is looking through the window she has stood me beside. Luckily I am used to walking in long, and with high heels so not a problem once I am dressed.

Thank you for your very thoughtful answers to the mothering questions. There are challenging definitions in some ways and very clear ones in others. I know 2 women forced by family to give up a daughter--one after 1 1/2 years, and the other after 2 2/1 years of trying to find a way to keep them. The first one had her oldest brother track her daughter down in a 3rd country because as the girl was about to turn 16 she became "insane with worry", and now they have a decent relationship and she has 2 grandchildren. The adoptive family were apprehensive at first, but now have accepted her too.

The other had less fortunate life circumstances, and as she was a grad student patient, I am not sure what she did later on. As an undergraduate, she couldn't financially afford to keep her daughter and her mother wouldn't help her, so she gave her up at 2 1/2--at least that is the story she told me. Children's services might have been involved now that I think of it. She was extremely pained though.

I also really appreciated what you said about the women helping the mother meet her needs--not many realize how important that is.

"Love you forever" has a very profound effect. My sister gave it to my cousin when his mother was very frail, and needed care. I tried to warn him but he wound up bawling too!

Thanks again for your comments. I think we should come back to the topic of types of mothering in some way.

Chiara said...

Usman--thank you for your comments. I agree with the suggestion that Oby get a blog. The information about goris and desis was apropos of the cross-cultural themes here, and the links are appreciated! Thanks again for your contribution.

Souma--Thank you for your insightful and eclectic comment! I am a firm believer in household help, nannies, and daycare, but I don't think the actual parenting should be delegated. These other people are helpers, hopefully loving ones who enrich the child's life and experience, but helpers.

I'm glad you had some time with your grandparents. Often family issues get in the way of important relationships for the children. Not everyone can or wants to get past whatever is going on, or just practicalities even when relationships are good.

Mais si! Mother's EID?? in Saudi would be verrrry complicated. I take it you were trying to celebrate both the Mother's Day on March 21 in Saudi, and the British one on May 9, and the latter is a bit of a...challenge! LOL :) That must be hard on half Saudi/half non-Saudi children unless they are very private about it!

Thanks again for your comment!

Usman said...

The Gora means light skinned Masculine, and Gori means light skinned feminine. The plural of these words is Goray. In West, South Asians (Desis) frequently use it to refer exclusively white people. The word itself and it's intentions are never derogatory. Only in South Asia some people consider it offensive simply because it reminds them the British who ruled India. Over the last 60 years, the meaning and intentions behind the word has been changed to positive.

The word Kaala (black masculine) and Kaali (Black feminine ), the plural of which is Kaaley is used for people of African origin. It is pejorative when used to refer people of dark skin among South Asian but is not derogatory when used for people of African origin.

The same way Chinka/Chaptta, Chinki/Chaptti and Chinkey is used to refer people of East Asian origin. The word is always derogatory since it refers to their eyes and noses. But Desis frequently use it since nobody other than Desis themselves know what does it mean. (oops! I have dropped the secrete :) )

The spelling of these words may differ since Urdu and Hindi are not based on Latin Alphabets. Hence finding the right spelling in English gets tricky sometimes. Here is how these words are written in Urdu. Urdu goes from Right to Left.


If anybody needs more education, let me know :)

BTW what was the topic of this post? :)

Usman said...

NOTE: Actual word is Desi. I used Desis to make it plural.

Susanne said...

Usman, LOL @

If anybody needs more education, let me know :)

BTW what was the topic of this post? :)


Cute! So you are our cultural teacher, eh? :)

Thanks for the explanation on Desi terms and whether they have positive or negative connotations attached. I think "chink" is also used here in a negative way sometimes so maybe your secret has been out for some time! ;)

Chiara, thanks for the assurance that I'm not a gory Gori. *whew!* I really hope not!

I'll stay tuned for your May 30th post. I have you in my Google Reader so I know when you have new stuff. Sometimes it just takes me a day or so to get to it. Your posts tend to be longer (grin) than most and packed full of info so I have to set aside a bit more time to fully digest them. :) As you've likely noticed, I have more to say some days than others and sometimes I prefer reading your readers' comments to adding much of my own. It's great to learn from everybody.

Re: Mother's EID -- isn't an "eid" just a holiday? Or must it be a "holy day" in order to count as an "eid"? Either way, mothers are somewhat holy, aren't they?

Re: "Love you Forever" -- I've read it to my nephew when he was small. I tend to not like sappy children's books. I much prefer "Diary of a Worm" which made me laugh and laugh when I first read it to Michael. No lie, I thought of that book just days ago and wanted to read it again! :-D

I hope "Little Paul" is healing nicely with all that female attention and ice cream! You can't lose with those two!

Oby, I agree that you'd be an interesting blogger. I read you on several blogs already and enjoy your POV. :)

Happy Friday, y'all!

Chiara said...

Usman--thanks for clarifying and sharing further information!

It is very interesting, and on topic in that the book addressed in the post is about a Gori married to a Desi, who discovers her infertility, and agrees with his suggestion to adopt a Desi orphan from an Indian orphanage. That young Desi, raised the States by her physician parents gets a journalism scholarship to report on the Mumbai slums and spends a year living with her Desi grandparents, and tries to find her biological parents, and visits the orphanage, and....

Another main theme is the Gori-Desi marriage over time ie the strains on any marriage, the ones particular to a cross-cultural one, and the ones particular to this cultural mix, and these 2 people.

If you are thinking of marrying a Gori... LOL :) :P

Thanks again! :)

oby said...


I used the word on my husband (and must have pronounced it correctly) because he knew immediately what it meant! and he agrees it was not an offensive word. Thanks Usman for the new word and brief education.

Chiara said...

Susanne--thanks for your most recent comment here and your good wishes. For strict Muslims only the 2 Eids ie holy days should be celebrated: Eid Al-Fitr and Eid Al-Adha.

I don't like sappy children's books either, and never have. I find "Love you forever" different though. I must find "Diary of a Worm"! :)

I always enjoy your comments and appreciate the different styles and timings you use.

Thanks again! :)

Oby--glad your husband confirms and that your pronunciation was accurate! :)


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