Monday, November 15, 2010

Waiting Lines: A Blessing in Disguise

It is interesting to observe people in Puerto Rico while waiting in a line. Lines in Puerto Rico are common. While the main purpose of sitting in a line is to receive a service it serves some other purposes as well. For example, people in a doctor’s clinic can be seen discussing politics or the neighborhood gossip. The best part is that they don’t have to be old friends to start a discussion in the waiting line. Lines are really the best socializing “space” that I have found in this Island.
These waiting rooms are usually air-conditioned, furnished with comfortable chairs and decorated according to the time of the year. On ocassion there are TV sets with the most popular “novela. ”Some of them even have vending machines where one can get a chilled beverage, chips or a hot cup of coffee.
In the beginning, none of these luxuries (in the eyes of this common Indian these facilities were more like luxuries) help to reduce the frustration of waiting for hours to get a little task done. Mainly because I wasn’t used to air-conditioning back at home and felt a bit chilly, I also wasn’t interested in the calories that the soda drink brought with them and lastly I preferred ‘masala’ tea to coffee.
Eventually, the frustration turned into a search for doable activities that I could enjoy during the waiting time. Lack of my favorite TV shows and availability of Internet made this quest a bit more challenging. I had to think of activities that would not disturb others in the room like playing video game on my cell phone, off course on a silent mode, day dreaming, reading or writing. Tried the video game first but got bored of playing the same game all the time. Daydreaming is good but in my case, too much of daydreaming without action doesn’t work. Reading helped but intake of all this new western focused information needed a way out.
Finally, in total despair, and after trying all the options, I took refuge in writing. I started to carry my computer wherever I went. I wrote what I felt, what I learned, what I observed. Now, I looked forward to going to the government offices, doctor’s office or even sit in the plaza of my adopted hometown. I would look for a place to sit and concentrate on giving words to my experiences.
The tranquility of Cayey provided the enabling environment to transfer little ideas to articles, poems and even a book. By the way, I realized that taking the laptop around is not the best idea after it died as result of its journeys to the hospitals, license office, electricity office, water office and other such places. Now a days, I carry my diary around which is lighter to carry and a little bit more durable for the falls and jerks on the way.
Currently, I am a published author of an acclaimed autobiography and I write three active blogs in two languages, i.e. English and Hindi (my mother tongue). Instead of focusing on the long and boring hours in the waiting lines, the serenity and warmth of this country now inspires me to write about peace and humanitarian poetry.
Having worked with the survivors of disasters and armed conflicts in, I feel that the beautiful green mountains that surround the valley of Cayey seem like the guardians sent from above to preserve peace and security in our lives. The hope that the rainbows that decorate the Puerto Rican sky give me, I share it with people throughout the world through my poetry.
And now the rest of the story:  if it wasn’t for the waiting lines in Puerto Rico, I probably would’ve never discovered a writer and a poet within me. My Boricua husband says, “si te dan limones, has limonada.” As things go I may soon be opening a “limonada” store called—“Limonada Tranquilidad Boricua” and sell it internationally! :-)

Monday, November 1, 2010

When an Indian attempts to turn Boricua…Published in Daily Sun, Puerto Rico 2009

When I first came here with my Puerto Rican friend, now my husband, I was amazed at the beauty of Puerto Rico even before our plane landed. The aerial view of the island was astonishingly beautiful. While I admired the serene beauty of the island, I also wondered what would it mean to live in a small island. Having been raised in India, a country where over a billion people live, I was ignorant to the island lifestyle. Soon to my surprise, I was told that this is the bigger island compare to our other islands ‘Vieques, Culebra, Mono Island and Dececheo’. 
In addition to the differences in physical characteristics and size of the population, what struck me the most was the status of women. They looked way more in control of their lives than what I saw my mother or myself growing up. The dressing style was very different, although the Puerto Rican women looked equally sensual and gorgeous. 
Another culture shock for me was to see a pig being roasted, tied to a rod, in Guavate. At first glance, it didn’t look good at all, but once I tasted it, I was no more concerned about the amount of fat I was going to put on. I fell in love with the local cuisine but couldn’t forget the taste of food I grew up on. So, I embarked on the fusion food. For example I use ‘sofrito’ to prepare ‘ paneer’ (cottage cheese) and make ‘pollo pinchos’ with Indian ‘masalas’ (spicies). 
It was not very difficult to adjust to the new culture while I enjoyed the stunning beaches, exploring the potential natural wonder of the world, ‘El Yunque’, and driving on the curvy roads in the central mountain region. Here life goes on with the enchanting beats of the native music. The luxury of living Puerto Rico is to sleep to the natural lullabies of coquis’ every night.
The best part of this lovely country is the people, the ‘Boricuas’. My first encounter with a Puerto Rican family is unforgettable. Warm hugs, which were combined with unexpected kisses was a nice way to make me feel welcomed. That was just the beginning of my long-lasting association with Puerto Rico. After making three visits as a tourist, I agreed with my husband to move to Puerto Rico with our son. 
Surprisingly, there are also similarities between the two cultures. Like India, there are strong family bonds. For me personally, another thing that was similar was the divine environment in the church and the affection and care we received from our church members. In terms of food, basic Puerto Rican food, ‘Arroz y Habichuelas’ is also a common plate in India called, ‘Rajma Chawal’. Lastly and more importantly, just like an Indian is proud to be an Indian, a Puerto Rican is proud to be a Boricua. My deepest thanks to my husband and all my Puerto Rican friends for letting my son and I be a part of your society.