Saturday, September 17, 2016

Diaspora Diary

WEDNESDAY, 31 AUGUST 2016 10:40
Finding opportunities in obstacles
Written by  Jamuna Devi Advani

Leaving India
I left India in November 1994 for Canada to start a new life with mixed feelings. Leaving behind my near and dear ones was not easy but at the same time, the prospect of settling down near our children was a dream come true. My husband, Rup, decided to join me later while my son had left for Ireland earlier to see his friend. We planned to meet at Heathrow International Airport on our way to Toronto but my son missed his flight and I had to face the immigration officers at Pearson International Airport all alone. I was nervous and started blaming my husband for allowing our son to go ahead and miss his flight. Waiting in the immigration room for about two hours for clearance as some papers were needed from Canadian Embassy at New Delhi was the longest wait. When the ordeal was over and I came out of the immigration, seeing my eldest daughter Lata waiting for me with her husband outside the airport terminal was the most joyous moment of my life. Thankfully, by then, my son had also arrived by the next flight.
It was with this rough episode that my journey – and life – in Toronto began. It continued with ups and downs like surging waves in the ship in the sea. I was, however, determined and not one to get scared of challenges.
I had not worked for over three decades in India but in Toronto, I made plans to take up a job. This wasn’t easy but determined to be financially independent, I chose to revive my nursing career. I applied for a license to work as a nurse through the Board of Canadian Nurses’ Association. After verifying my documents, I was instructed to take a course in psychiatric nursing for three months. During our training in the 1950s, under the aegis of University of Delhi, we didn’t have psychiatric nursing programme. As I waited eagerly for the training to start, I took up a job as a caretaker in a nursing home for seniors. It was a 24-hour duty, I was allotted an apartment, and I could not go out anywhere except on weekends.

Changing track
Though I was committed to the profession, I kept wondering if I could take up nursing in my 60s. This made me turn to the profession of a beautician, a dream I had harboured since my younger days. I didn’t seek advice from anyone, I didn’t consult my fellow nurses who were working in Toronto. I simply trusted my gut instinct and decided to go with the flow and enrolled myself at the local community college in the city of Etobicoke for a two-semester course in cosmetology.
Just when I started planning my professional future, something unexpected happened and there was a complete turn of events. When I completed my first semester of the cosmetology course, my daughter (also in the US) sought my help to look after her three kids as she wanted to complete her teaching course/ credential. Understanding my own desire to study and work, she was prepared to enroll me for a cosmetology course at the Beauty College in California. After consulting my husband – he was still in India to complete his pending work before moving to the US – I finally decided to move to California. In February 1996 I arrived in the US with one big suitcase. My daughter submitted legal papers to the authority for my green card. In the meantime I got my work permit.
Heady with excitement, nervous but confident, I enjoyed being a student again at the Beauty College. It didn’t matter if I was 60 years old, the learning and the potential to grow was immense. My association with the younger generations was an uplifting one and my hours of experience from Toronto and Indian School of Cosmetology helped me tremendously, even facilitating in the completion of my course earlier than scheduled. I took exams and tests for the California license in cosmetology and once I got my license, job offers started pouring in.
I couldn’t have asked for more – I had experience in a field that I enjoyed and I had financial security. Now I was waiting for my husband, my life’s companion to join me in California. I dreamed of our new future, the new chapter that we would write together in a brand new land. But two months before he was to join me, my husband passed away due to sudden stroke while he was in Shillong. His sudden death was a heavy blow to my life, it left me stunned, unable to cope and as a lonely widow in a new land. From being the person waiting with dreams in her eyes, full of ambition, prospects of new opportunities, and my companion, I felt lonely, lost and vulnerable.
Rediscovering myself
I don’t know how – and when – I picked remnants of my lonely life but with time, and through the support of my daughter and her husband, I managed to find myself healing. Around this time, the owner of Fantastic Sam’s salon offered me a job at her salon. The owner was Indian, I felt an immediate kinship and accepted the offer. Though I loved my work, I couldn’t continue for too long – we had to move to Northern California as my son-in-law had got a very good job offer in the Bay area. The shift wasn’t easy for me because I was leaving behind my friends, my professional life all over again to make a fresh start. I looked around in the Bay Area for a job for over two months – I came across JC Penney Salon and put in my application and got hired immediately – if only I had seen this salon earlier! Though it was a grueling schedule, I enjoyed my job and looked forward to my retirement after working tremendously hard. By the end of 2006, I was ready for my social security and I took my retirement.
Another turning point for me was to get spiritual guidance through NichirenDaishonin Buddhism’s philosophy. One of my clients, an American lady, over 80 years-old, had talked to me about this philosophy and though I didn’t take it seriously then, ten years later I found myself in her living room, listening to the sonorous chanting ofNamyo ho rengekyowhen I gifted her my poetry book,Land of the Dancing Deer. I found myself drawn to the tenets of the philosophy and became a member, drawn to its rich views and life-altering results.
While the particular Buddhist philosophy allowed me to find peace and calm within, I also found myself drawn to playing golf. Through a friend I got introduced to this sport at the Pleasanton golf club. I persevered and continued and I’m now a member of the Fore Women’s Golf Association and Pleasanton Ladies’ Fairways group. I don’t play it so often because of my knee aches even though I love the sport.
The Writer Emerges
My relationship with my father wasn’t easy and I remember writing my journal for the longest time, penning down thoughts and my dreams and aspirations along the way. I always loved reading and writing and much of my childhood and growing years saw me reading poetry and novels. Decades later, a chance meeting with memoir writer Linda Joy Myres made me understand that penning one’s own thoughts was a journey towards healing. I took an introductory class with her and I continued writing – I experienced a sense of overwhelming joy and calm. I got my book published and through my journey as a writer, I realised that I owed a debt of gratitude to my father – our volatile relationship allowed me to explore writing as a medium to heal. Harbouring no grudge or resentment, I found myself healing completely. I have, since my first book, published my poetry books, including Land of the Dancing DeerandSymphony of Heart Songs. My memoir, The Letter, an ode tothe Northeast, the area of India where I grew up, has been received so well, particularly from the Manipur community. To hone my skills further, I am a member of Trivalley Writers’ Club and Story Circle Network.
I’m now working on a book in our local script and dialect, Meiteilol. I am treading a difficult path as the original Meitei Mayek script is replacing the Bengali script.Still trying to master the original script, I plan to write in both scripts so that the old and new generations of Manipur can read it.

jamuna  Devi Advani is based in California. She is a keen golfer and a 

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Walking chatpada

রাকিং চত্পদ ।।
উ্ররিয়ে ঙসি ঐন রাকিং চত্পদ
Uriye Zsi AEn wakiH cYpd
ঊ অম থল্লে মপাল্-চরোং চরোং লশিংগুম্ অঙৌবন
U Am TLle mpaL croH-croH ldiHguM AZaUbn
মনা খরদনি উরিব, মপাল্ শাত্পগী
Mna Krdni Urib, mpaL sYpgi
মথৌদাংদো পাংথোক্পদ ।
mTOdaHdo paHTopd !
তোঙান্ন মতোম্ত পোংন লৈজরিয়ে মাসে।।
toZoNn mtom poHn lEriye mase

মনাক্ত হৌরিব ঊসিংদি নিংথম্থাগী
mnaQt hOrib UsiHdi niHTMTagi
অঈঙবদু কাউঙমদন তূম্দুন লৈরিয়ে
AyiHbdu kaUZMdn tuMdun lEriye
তূম্লনু তূম্নুনু বশন্ত রিতু য়ৌরক্কদৌরে
tuMlnu tuMlnu bsNt ritu yOrQkdOre
-শা খুদিং লৈতেংব হৌরো মনা অশঙবন
N sa KudiH lEteHb hOro mna AsHbn
শজিবুগী মলয়া নুংশিত্ লাক্লনি কুইররোই
sjibugi mlya nuHsiY laQlni kurroI
জগোই তান্-ধা পুদুন  শামিন্ননব !
jgoI taN-Da pudun samiNnb !

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

My first travel abroad

My first travel abroad during 1972 Munich Olympic
Travel abroad was something beyond our imagination those days during 70s  as Government of India was very strict. After one brave Indian I believe fought in the court ,” travel is a birth right and Government cannot restrict.”  He won the case and travel became easier for all. When opportunity came my husband and I joined one group planning for the trip of  Europe during the 1972  Olympic Games in Munich.  
          Traveling abroad being a big achievement, friends and families waited at New Delhi  airport holding bouquet of flowers and garlands.( Pictures with those garlands remain a permanent memory.} The flight landed in Moscow after about six and half hour. That was  the first stop in our itinerary for 29 days of travel in Europe. Entering Moscow, we immediately felt the uneasiness as we lined up for the immigration counter. The seriousness and stern look of those immigration officers made us feel as if we were some aliens from another planet. When my turn came, the officer took the passport and after scrutinyhe looked at my face and then to the passport and then looked at my face, he repeated three times. We were happy when it was over and could go to our hotel to rest for the night. Next morning we 70 of us boarded the two buses waiting for us for the city tour. Since it was our first adventure in a new big city like Moscow we were thrilled. All those  majestic palaces Kremlin a fortified complex at the heart of Moscow, Red Square, the  official resident of the President of Russia, state historical museum, the impressive Kremlin Palace,  the residence of the Russian Tsars  built in 1849 by architect Konstanin Ton. The first time when I saw the  Ballet  at Bolshoi Theater. Presenting a bouquet of flower after every performance on the stage was something new to me. After one and half day in Moscow we were taken to Leningrad where we felt as if we felt a bit different air unlike in Moscow,
           After the tour of Leningrad we were flown over to London. We felt for the first time so relaxed there seeing all the names of the streets like Trafalgar Square and counties like Buckinghamshire, Essex which we used read in novels while growing up during our school days.  At the end of London tour we passed the countryside to board the ship from Dover in UK to go to Calais in France.  The beauty of the countryside remained as permanent imprint in my memory even after forty three years. During that time the tunnel  in the English channel was not yet ready. When we landed  in France no one spoke English I even those who knew the language.  Luckily as the hotel receptionist was our consolation as he guided us in English. As planned ahead we had the full city tour of Paris and around.
           Half way during the tour when we arrived in Frankfurt, the sad and shocking  news flashed all over about the massacre in Munich Olympic campus. It was 4th September at 4:30 am local time. Eight Black September members entered the campus dressed in track suit with AK -47 assault  riffles, pistols and grenades in duffel bags. It was unfortunate that because of wrong decision of the Israeli commandos the members of the Israeli athletes including those Black September members were all killed.
          The games continued as usual after the incident. When we reached Munich next day Hockey game was going on. India and Pakistan were the main contenders, India did not go up to the final.
          In our group we had few close friends who signed up together for the trip, one young couple who were always fighting and arguing, another two gentlemen of Marwari community who were strict vegetarian.  In Europe no one understood what was a vegetarian meal supposed to be those days. These two gentlemen had some snacks brought from home  and  they lived on those and  with water which was available free of cost. As they were reluctant to spend money on items like fruits they remained starved most of  day. My husband was more concerned  as they were  almost starving    and  suggested to buy one electric stove and a pot with some rations and so that we could cook in the hotel room for them. After some consideration they agreed finally. We got a stove and a pot,  rice and lentil, some vegetables, a small bottle of cooking oil. When night time came I cooked frying the onion and then adding the rice and the lentil in a pot with water and added all the vegetables, salt and some red pepper  powder  as condiments. The young couple came to know about it and joined us in our room. That was the most tastiest food we ever had after missing our home food for the last two weeks living mostly on bread, butter and fruits provided in the hotel.  Thus we continued to cook off and on during the rest of journey.
           Our tour of Russia, UK, France, Germany, Denmark, Switzerland, Italy, Rome was over by the end of 29 days. From Heathrow International airport we took our flight back to India. The electric stove and the utensils were divided among the two gentlemen and took home with them as souvenir. I have the memories of those as souvenirs.


Thursday, January 28, 2016

Inshang ahauba

ইন্শাং অহাউবদো
INsaH AhaUbdo
Liligi INsaH man pijbdo Zsi
য়াম্ন হাঊবন নিংশিঙদুন লৈরে
yaMn haUbn niHsiHdun lEre
কাউব ঙম্দদুন রাখলসি‌দ ইনশাংসি
kaUb XZMdre waKLsid InsaHsi
য়েরুম্ থোংব মলায়ালিগী মথোংনি
yeruM ToHb mlayaligi mtoHni haI
আপ্পম্দো য়াম্ন হাউবদুন  অমুক্  হন্ন পীজব
AaPpaMdo yaMn haUbduna AmuQ hNn pijb
ঙাইব তারি নুংশিরবী ইবেম্মগী ।
ZaIb tari nuHsibi IbeMmgi !  


Mexican Rivirea

Mexican Riviera:
December 10 Thursday, 2015

Figure 1Grand Princess under Golden Gate Bridge
After embarking the ship and locating our room number 263 at deck Plaza and we get the mid-ship I say "we are in a good spot". Our  room being near the main hall where the fun activities go on we do not have to go far at the end either side. Once we get the luggage in our room we go for our lunch at the buffet at the 14th  deck. As we approach  toward the buffet we are directed to sanitize our hands and then take the napkin with cutlery in the fold of the napkin. As we glance through the display of numerous and varieties of food, no doubt our eyes are bigger than the stomach specially when we are hungry. Starting with bread in different shapes and sizes then mashed potato, chips and eggs boiled, scrambled and poached uploaded in the plate the next table with pastas prepared with cheese, chicken roasted, steamed, rice plain and fried, pork and beef roasted, by now our plates are already full. lastly I see soup, two types one with chicken broth and the other tomato. Next table has all fruits cut and uncut.  As we hold carefully our plate full to the brim we look for a table but only sharing with other people available we settle at the available table. Well this is our first day why not enjoy. We enjoy our lunch and then only after we have our tea, we are ready to take the elevator down to the 7th floor to watch the departure of the ship from the port of San Francisco. Grand Princess is still at the dock and not going to move till late in the eveningM to avoid encountering an approaching bad weather.  We jon a group of people  waiting for the ship leave tthe port and cross under the Golden Gate Bridge. Around 6pm the ship starts sailing, the stream of lights from the slopes of the city and also lights of the Bay Bridge slowly fading away. The ship slowly passes under the bridge in the darkness of the approaching night and my camera clicks to capture as much as I could. My mission accomplished we are ready to go inside try to locate our assigned restaurant for dinner. It is at Botticelli dining  located at he far end of the ship. We are already late by one hour  as it is 6.30 pm by the time I find the dining place.  we are directed to our table number 273. Emi apologized vigorously for our late arrival and I fee it is not necessary as it is our first day. Already two couples are lready sitting and we introduce ourselves. One couple is from City of San Francisco, Donna Parkare and Paul Fappiano, and another from Southern California, Mari Ryan and Joel Simoff.
  As the ship moves we feel the roughness of the sea, Emi starts feeling of dizziness and  taking advice from the couple in the dining room she gets herself a wrist band for the sea sickness, but she still feels it as the hand band has not yet shown its effectiveness.  We are lucky that one generous lady offers a plastic bag for Emi to use and hence there is no mess around.
December 11, Friday 2015
 Today Emi sleeps while I go around for breakfast and look for other activities like jumba and line dancing classes. By dinner time she feels better and ready to join to dinner alright. Later we go to  the comedy and music show by Steve Moris of North Carolina. As I feel tired and can’t stay awake I return to our room while Emi continues to watch the show till the end. I miss the invitation of Cruise captain Ronald Wilson to join the meeting of the inner circle as I skip picking up the card from the slot.
December 12, Saturday, 2015
Still at sea and anxiously waiting for docking at Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Today  again I join the Zumba and line dancing classes at Vista Lounge deck 7 aft 9.45 am. Breakfast at DaVinci where we meet two ladies from San Francisco and another lady from Fairfield who owns a ranch who are  both singles. Today we try Hi tea at DaVinci, meet an elderly lady with Oxygen tank who has come alone from Seattle and also it is her 36 cruises during last 6 years. Very interesting to meet so many adventurous people. I continue walking at deck 7th twice today  and I am overwhelmed to watch the wake of the sea as the ship passes. We enjoy the evening show at Princess theater “the British Invasion” a song and dance presented  by the cruise artists.
December 13, Sunday, 2015

Figure 3Wake  at sea of  Grand Princess
Still at Sea and anxiously waiting for to dock at our destination Port. The first thing I see is on the daily  brochure  a romantic quote of the day “Love is a fruit in season at all times and in reach of every hand.” Mother Teresa
Today, time change 1 hr forward and we lose sleep by one our as our daily tea is at 6.30 am. Finding out many of the passengers are  going to take shuttle or taxi but still we decide to go through Cruise ship the shore excursion of Puerto Vallarta costing for the shuttle $ 29.90 ticket each. Joining line dancing in the morning is very vigorous one and had slight pain at the lower back and hence rested in bed for some time and rubbed the icyhot. I felt better after some time and hence did all the walking and eating and watching all the program like piano, songs and band in various locations.
.Puerto Vallarto.December 14,2015, Monday 
We are finally at Puerto Vallarta. Passengers are advised to carry the ship card before leaving along with government issued I D card.  As we have purchased ticket already for the shore excursion  we join the group in Princess Theater. We all are advised to follow the guide for the group. The guide Ms Santa introduces herself and also the bus driver Rahul.  She gives a guided tour of the new and old town of Puerto Vallarta.  We are told tha Puerto Vallerta was originally a silver mining town and still the mining goes on in some areas. There are many activities one can do here  like snorkel, swimming with Dolphins, and taste tequila at the factory at Hascianda Dna Engracia. Our guide takes us at the Diamond International as the cruise advises to do so. Another main attraction is the Cathedral and behind it is the house of Liz Taylor  gifted by Richard Burton. After we come back we decide to attend high tea at DaVinci and dinner and late night dinner at the same restaurant.
Manzanillo: December 15, Tuesday,2015
Here we decide to take a shuttle paying $20 each for sightseeing. The driver doesn’t know  English well and hence he takes the help of someone to explain whenever we stop at a place of interest.  He drives us to the flea market where products of local artists are sold. At the end of the

Figure 4 A a Iguana  farm in Manznillo
 tour he takes us  Iguana  farm(species of lizard) farm
Manzanillo  is the biggest commercial port on Mexico’s Pacific coast. Places of interest are Cuyutian Turtle Sanctuary for these endangered turtles, snorkel for colorful fish and popular hiking places. Gateway to ancient cities of Colima and Comala. Time change again as the ship’s clock forward. We have to get back by 3.30 PM as the ship starts sailing  just after.
At Mazatlam street E,mi and Jamuna 

Colorful fish swimming glass floor of boat.

Grand Princess crossing  Golden Gate Bridge

man ready to dive down 

Jamuna near the swimming pool 

On way to Manzanillo town

Jamuna in whale watching boat Puerto Vallarta
Mazatlan, Wednesday, December 16, 2015
As soon as the ship is docked at 8.15am  we all are allowed to go out of the ship and take tour of the town. We take a shuttle paying $25.00 each. The driver Carlos is eager to show us all around the old and new development of the town. The 19th century Cathedral Basilica of Immaculate Conception is one of the main attractions with its interior design and the stained glass windows. The most interesting is the man standing for diving into the sea and people all around waiting to see him jump. We also wait for sometime but have to leave as he is still debating.
 For the first time today we try  at Michaelangelo restaurant and have only one menu of the day: fish and chips. Those two couples from Walnut Creek and another from Reno Nevada are very entertaining people. Food is excellent and we want to go again. But never have a chance to go again as it is no more open for lunch.
Cabo San Lucas: Dec 17, Thursday, 2015

Figure 5 Whale watching in Cabo S L

Figure 6 Emi and me posing at street of Cabo S L
At Cabo San Lucas we have to go to the shore taking tender as the ship is docked quite far away from the shore. Tender ride takes  about 20 minutes to reach the shore. Once on the shore we decide to take whale watching in a small boat. We have to wear life jacket during the ride to middle of the sea where the whales can be seen. On the way the boat man explained about the different rocks and the beaches along the sail. Lovers beach and the rock partitioning the Pacific ocean and the gulf of California are places of interest.                                            
Figure 7 Lover's beach Cabo S L
Cruise Summary: December 10 to Dec 20, 2015
San Francisco USA to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico  Distance (Nautical Miles) 1430
Puerto Vallarta  to Manzanillo                                                                            155
Manzanillo to Mazatlan                                                                                        289
Mazatlan  to Cabo San Lucas                                                                                190

Cabo San Lucas Mexico to San Francisco USA                                                   1138                                                                                                                                                                                                                        
Lover's Beach at Cabo San Lucas