Ras Malai- A Milky Heavenly Dessert!

 

Milky Heaven !

Ras Malai is a completely milk based Indian dessert. It is made of sweetened cooked paneer in a sweet milk custard sauce.

Ras Malai will always remind me of my first Diwali with my husband. For our first Diwali as a married couple I was extremely pregnant! We were living in our first tinny apartment together. It got sweltering hot in the summer and freezing in the winter, but we were in love so none of that mattered.  We lived in an area with very few Indians, so we didn’t have the organized public festivals or the Indian Sweet shops that many areas of California have. I knew that our first Diwali was supposed to be super special so I was determined to do my own research and cooking. That year my husband and I made these wonderful paper lanterns out of pieces of pine wood glued together in a three dimensional rectangle frame with a space for a candle in the middle. The frames were covered in colored wrapping tissue paper. We put a candle inside and they glowed marvelously with the different colors. We still laugh about the time my husband was putting the lit candle in one of his paper lanterns and the whole back panel erupted in flame that quickly consumed the entire backside and put it self out.  We laughed for hours!

A few days before Diwali I researched Indian sweets online that I could make for the holiday. I knew that sweets were significant in my husband’s Punjabi culture for all happy events.  I had not been to India yet and had not eaten many Indian sweets, so most of the recipes I looked at I had no idea if they even tasted good. I looked through the recipes trying to find something I could make with limited ingredients and tools. I finally found one that only called for milk, sugar, cardamon and saffron, all ingredients I had on hand.

So on the day of Diwali I tipped toed to the kitchen when my husband was still sleeping. I warn you this is not the easiest Indian dessert to make. There are a lot of steps but it is well worth the work. This recipe was also the first time I ever made paneer ( homemade cheese), so it was a major learning process. I can not take credit for this recipe! I got this recipe from the lovely ladies at ” show me the curry”.  I have included a link  to their page and video. I literally watched it over and over again. I followed the recipe exactly and it came out perfect.

When I finished making the dish I put it in the fridge. My husband woke up and saw that the kitchen was a mess. He look at me laughing, ” what did you make?”. I tired to act coy, but he started searching the kitchen. He got to the fridge and I tried to block it but he was too determined. He looked in the dish and said ” Oh my God is that Ras Malai?! How did you know that was my favorite dish!”. I was so happy and relieved that I made something he liked. He grabbed a spoon and went in for a taste. He took one bite and smiled so brightly!  He said  ” It tastes amazing! My mom does not even make Ras Malai at home, she buys it from the shop. Yours is the best I have ever tasted.” I glowed with so much pride! It felt good to make him that happy and to make our Diwali special.  These days I make Ras Malai a couple times a year, usually for a holiday or anniversary or if we have an important guest. It is still my favorite Indian sweet even though I have tried so many others.

These are what the paneer balls will look like

Ingredients:

Whole Milk – 8 cups (divided)
Lemon Juice/or vinegar – 2 Tbsp
Water – 5 cups (in a pressure cooker)
Sugar – 1 cup
Saffron – pinch
Cardamom Powder – 1/4 tsp
Pistachios & Almonds – 2 Tbsp, roughly chopped
Sugar for the Ras – to taste about 1/2 cup

Instructions:

1. Boil 4 cups milk in a steel pan and boil the remaining 4 cups milk in a non-stick pan (The milk in the non-stick pan needs to be reduced to half the quantity so once it comes to a boil, keep the flame low and keep cooking while stirring occasionally. Grind saffron with a small amount of sugar and add it to the milk while boiling).
2. Once the milk in the steel pan comes to a rolling boil, slowly add lemon juice.
3. When the milk curdles (paneer), switch off the stove and strain the paneer in a cheese cloth.
4. Pour a little cold water over the paneer and hang the cheese cloth on the tap for approx 30 minutes to remove all of the liquid.
5. Remove the paneer from the cheese cloth and run it through a food processor to smooth it out. ( you know that its done with the paneer forms a ball and spins with the blades.) You can knead the paneer by hand but it will take a long time to make it smooth.
6. Divide the paneer into 12 equal portions a little smaller than the size of a ping pong ball.
7. Roll the portions in your hands until a smooth ball is formed. Lightly press the ball until it flattens out.
8. In the pressure cooker with water, dissolve 1 cup sugar and add the flattened paneer.
9. Close pressure cooker lid and cook until one whistle sounds. Immediately switch off the stove and set the timer for exactly 5 minutes.
10. After 5 minutes, carefully take the pressure cooker to the sink and pour cold water over the lid to remove the pressure.
11. Remove the cooked paneer with a slotted spoon into a bowl and allow it to cool.
12. Meanwhile, the milk in the non-stick pan should have reduced to half. Add sugar to taste, cardamom powder and nuts. Switch off the stove and keep milk aside.
13. Once the paneer is cool enough to handle with your hands, gently squeeze out the sugar syrup from the paneer and place the paneer into a serving dish.
14. Pour the prepared reduced milk over the paneer and chill in the refrigerator.
15. Garnish with additional chopped nuts.

 

 

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Yes I am Fat, Get Over It!

Fat shaming is a concerning phenomenon that has become disturbingly popular. In general it is the shaming of people that are overweight. It is typically targeted at women, but it can occur to men as well. I know from personal experience the feeling of being shamed for being overweight. It has happened to me on multiple occasions. I am speaking out because it needs to stop! Fat shaming is cruel and can lead to depression and even in some cases suicide. It has become a joke to some people, but I guarantee you it is not funny to the people being targeted. I have observed fat shaming in two unique settings, both are equally detrimental.  

1. Fat shaming often occurs in public spaces. The overweight person can be eating, exercising, or just going about their business. A person may approach the overweight person to inform them that they are fat and need to get thinner. This can be done in a mocking/attacking way, or the person may fake some kind of concern for their health. It is completely unsolicited and cruel.

2. Much of the fat shaming I see occurs online. I have several successful blogger friends that write wonderful pieces about life, parenting, politics and everything else under the sun. They have many readers and receive tons of positive feedback. These individuals have shared with me some of the horrid comments that people send them. These readers veiled behind internet anonymity verbally harass these women for being what they judged as overweight. They discount everything that the writer says simply because she is not the weight they feel is proper or beautiful.  They reduce her entire identity to inches and pounds.  I have also seen news anchors and actresses who receive similar emails from people who feel very strongly that their weight makes them unfit to be public figures in any capacity.

I remember one time in particular I was at the gym. I was working out hard on the elliptical. It had been a challenging workout physically and mentally. I had to keep changing the playlist on my ipod to keep motivated.  My muscles burned and I was hot and breathless, but I kept running. When I hit my goal of 60 minutes I was excited and proud. I got off the machine and started to wipe it down, and then a woman came up to me. She was older, maybe in her 60’s but fit and trim. She wore cute tight fitting matching workout clothes, with a pink shirt and black yoga pants, and pink accented Nike shoes. She looked perfectly put together, no hair out of place and the make-up was precise. I on the other hand was wearing an over sized bleach stained black t-shirt with an old pair of sweat pants. I was covered in sweat, red as a tomato, and still panting from my workout. The women started talking to me like she knew me, and at first I thought she did. She said “You know that being overweight like you are is really bad for your joints and your heart. Your body really can’t take that much weight. You really need to lose weight”. She sounded so condescending and self-righteous. My adrenaline was still pumped up from the workout, so I fought back to the urge to slap her smug perfectly polished face, and instead engaged her in meaningful dialogue. I said “yeah I am aware of the negative ramifications on my health from being overweight, thus the reason I am at the gym, but it’s really none of your business. The fact that you’re commenting on my weight is really rude and inappropriate, you don’t know me!  Obviously you’re suffering from some kind of serious self-confidence issue, and just because you don’t like what you see in the mirror, does not mean you need to tear me down. You could not tear me down even if you wanted to, but please don’t talk to me again, I don’t have time for your insecurities”. The women looked at me shocked, her mouth was hanging half open and she started to tear up. She said “you didn’t have to be rude I was just trying to help”, and I responded “No, YOU did not have so be so rude. You are a bully and I do not tolerate bullies!” I walked away to finish my workout as if nothing happened. I never saw the women at the gym again.

These fat shames are so uncomfortable looking at themselves in the mirror that they feel the overwhelming need to attack other people. This is especially true when they see overweight people that dare to be happy, confident, and shine with beauty inside and out. These curvy happy people completely destroy the shamer’s idea of what is beautiful. The shamers typically hold themselves to some extreme image of beauty that was probably imposed on them by someone else. They work hard trying to achieve this unrealistic model of beauty, which causes them resentment and frustration. When they see someone else who seems to be happy just as they are, they strike out trying to defend and protect the image of beauty that they have been working so hard to achieve. Curvy successful beautiful women are threatening to the fat shamer. It is as if they are saying “how dare you stand up in front of everyone and be so confident even though you are overweight! “. The men that participate in fat shaming are also striking out because these beautiful confident curvy women threaten the very power these men believe they hold and deserve. The power to decide what defines a beautiful woman. These chauvinists are angered and infuriated when they see a woman that is happy being fat and is not working to change their appearances to fit these men’s purely sexualized view of what a women should look like.

I have this poster in my daughter’s room, and it is my mantra for beauty

I know I am Fat! Yes I said that scary three letter word, which I have always avoided. I usually stick to terms like curvy, or thick, and maybe even the comical fluffy. The reality is I AM FAT! I am taking that power back! That term does not control me. I am Ok with being fat, for right now anyway. I am working on getting healthy. I want to be healthy. I want to fit into cute clothes like anyone else. But, I don’t have to explain this to anyone.  Being overweight does not make less of a human being, or give someone the right to be rude. Being overweight does not detract from my other qualities. I can be beautiful and fat!  I can be intelligent and fat! I can be caring and fat! I can even be sexy and FAT!  I am fat, but fat does not define who I am! So to all those fat shamers out there, get over yourself!  Your idea of beauty is not the only one that exists! For all those that are attacked, my advice is to just keep being the beauty that you are. You are obviously doing something right to arouse so much emotion in people. Keep breaking barriers, re-defining beauty, and doing what makes you happy!  I am fat, I am confident, and I am proud! No one can bring me down!

Our Memorial Day Weekend

Nasreen ready for the pool

Daddy and Nasreen

Mexican style corn on the cob, yum yum yum

Banana split pie 🙂

Summer has officially began at the Rallhan’s.  The Apartment pool opened on memorial day, so that means fun in the sun and swimming in the pool. We all went for a wonderful swim Sunday, it was nice to get my husband in the pool, it can be hard at times to get him to have fun.  After the refreshing swim we came home and made summer foods. We had Barbecue chicken that had been marinating for three days. My husband does not usually like barbecue sauce but he actually liked this one. We also made Mexican style corn on the cob like the kind you get from the carts in Los Angles  ( chili, mayo, cojita cheese and lemon), coleslaw  ( my hubs favorite) and banana split pie. In general we had a wonderful weekend. Today its pouring and thunderstorms. Oh the Beauty of Michigan summers, one minute hot and humid the next pouring and thunder. I actually like the turbulent weather, not the snow though. I have always been a weather nerd so Michigan keeps things interesting.

What a Summer in India and a Winter in Michigan Taught Me About Life

I have always learned all my important life lessons through personal experiences. Here is a piece about how two very extreme climates taught me a lot about life, hope, and appreciating everything we have.

 

The beautiful vineyards of of sonoma county

I was born and raised in Sonoma County, California. Sonoma County is in the northern part of California, about an hour north of San Francisco.  I honestly think it is the most beautiful place in the world, and I have done my fair share of traveling. Maybe it’s because I was raised there, and have personal memories associated to each place. I know that many people feel like this about their hometown. Sonoma/Napa is the wine country of the United States. If you go to a store in any of the states and go to the wine aisle I would bet you would find that the majority of the wine comes from Sonoma/Napa.  The vineyards are very beautiful. The endless rows of both young  and old vines go on for miles, covering the hillsides. We have a gorgeous river and a stunning and dramatic coast line. The towns are sweet and personal, each with a wonderful quaint downtown. The people are generally progressive and thoughtful. The weather is great, and very moderate. It’s not too hot in the summer and there always seems to be a cool breeze coming in from the coast. The winters are also moderate as well. We do not get snow or severe frost. It often rains at night and the sun shines in the morning. In College I moved to Southern California, for a new experience.  I went to college at California State University Northridge, in the San Fernando valley. This was a huge change for me! The summers in Northridge are HOT! I remember dreading the walk from campus to the dorms because the heat was so overwhelming.  It was usually 100 to even 110 degrees of dry heat. In the summer and fall horrible wild fires would break out all over southern California, often propelled by famously high dry winds.  I got used to this weather and thought that I was ready for anything! I was wrong!

Bodega Bay, Sonoma County

My husband is from Chandigarh , a city in Punjab India.  After we got married we had planned to visit India so that I could meet my in-laws and learn more about the food, language, religion, and culture. We had always planned to go in December during Diwali. About a year into our marriage my Father- in- law got hit by a scooter on a busy road and his leg was injured. My mother- in- law soon after this discovered she had tuberculosis ( on top of sever asthma) and lost significant weight and was very weak. My husband and I agreed that we needed to go to India right away to take care of our family. This was in May and our daughter was 4 months old at the time. I remember I was really nervous and excited to be going to India and to be finally meeting my husband’s family in person. My husband warned me that it was going to be very hot. I laughed, and told him I knew what hot meant from college. We had both attended the same university. He laughed and said you don’t know “ India Hot!”.

We successfully made the trip across the world with our infant daughter and landed in Delhi. It was 10pm at night and I remember stepping out of the airport and being nearly knocked over by the heat! It was the middle of the night and there was not a breeze to be felt. It was hot and humid and thick! I looked at my husband and he laughed, he knew he was right and that always delighted him.  We saw my Father-in-law at the taxi waiting area. It was so wonderful to see him. He was using a cane and walked with a lot of pain though. My husband had begged him not to come meet us here, but he insisted. He wanted to meet and see me and our daughter right away. We all embraced and then got into the taxi. Luckily there was AC. The ride from Delhi to Chandigarh is around six hours. We entered into Chandigarh right when the sun was rising! Chandigarh is called “ City Beautiful” and it really is quite a beautiful place. When we got to my husband’s flat, I had to cover my head and my husband quickly tied a turban. As we entered into the flat my mother and sisters in-laws were waiting for us. An additional cloth was put on top of me and my husband and I were given a silver plate with fruits and sweets and money on it. I knew nothing that was going on ; my husband did not mention any of this I just knew I was being welcomed and that felt amazing.

A Cool dip at the Golden temple

The first week was a total adjustment for all of us. The heat was so intense. My inlaws said that it was the worse heat in record.   His place did not have an AC, it had a swap cooler. For those that have never had the pleasure of such a device here is a description. A swamp cooler is a metal box that is installed in a wall or window so that half is in the house and half of it out.  The outside part of the box is covered in living vines to insulate and keep the inside cool. The bottom part of the box is filled with water. There is a fan and the air is taken from the outside and blown over the water and vine habitat and into the house. This makes the air feel cooler and filled with moisture. It is a little bit of a relief but not complete.  As a result we would all rest under the cooler on the stone floor. Nasreen was so small that we used a suitcase for her to sleep on so she didn’t roll away. Now we have installed an AC unit in India so they are a lot more comfortable these days.

The thing you have to understand about “ India hot” is that its humid so your sweat does not even exasperate and provide you with relief. The worst part is that it never ends. There is no night time cooling to provide relief. There is no costal breeze.  There are power cuts though every day. The power would turn off, the fans would stop, the mosquito plug ins would turn off. The heat would invade and the mosquitos attack within moments of the power cut. We would all go outside in the common area of the community and so would everyone else in the area. For three months straight there is just unending heat. The heat just sucked the energy out of me and my daughter. I would feel heavy and sleepy and pass out for hours in the middle of the afternoon with my daughter. We were unable to stay awake. This was true for everyone. One day my husband was going for a short walk to get something from the store I begged him to come I wanted to get out of the house. He warned me that heat was intense. As always I ignored the warning and within minutes of the walk I had finished my bottle of water and still felt horribly thirsty. That was the last time I went out in the middle of the afternoon. I lost 30 pounds in 2 months. I think from the sweating and the fact that I only ate small amounts due to the discomfort from the heat.

So hot and tired asleep under the cooker

So hot and tired asleep under the cooker

Before I went to India I had heard the term Monsoon in a science class. I knew that it meant a long period of rain. You cannot truly understand Monsoon until you live it.  Heat in India is so unbearable and it goes on for so long. Monsoon comes when you feel like you cant possible take anymore! The monsoon is a blessing! The monsoon is a feeling of relief and happiness and hope. The Monsoon is a gift from God! When it comes you can feel the relief and you can feel the whole city surge with the feeling of happiness and joy! I actually jumped up and down when the first rain came. I was so happy! I now truly understand what Monsoon really means.

I was so hot you can see my red race here

 

This last year we decided to make a huge change and move to Michigan for a new job for my husband. He is a mechanical engineer and needed a permanent job. The job market for engineers in California is a hard one to get into, you need a lot of experience. He found a job with an auto maker in Detroit Michigan that was willing to take in fresh graduates. So we sold our stuff and drove three days from California to Michigan. We moved into a wonderful apartment in Farmington hills about 30 minutes from Detroit. We made the move in July and everything was green and lush and beautiful. We knew there would be snow in the winter but we were not that concerned.  Snow seemed fun and interesting and new. Well December came and it got cold! Then it started to snow, and snow, and snow! This winter we had a weather system called an arctic blast, which is an extreme cold front coming from Alaska. This brought temperatures down to -50 wind chill. You can’t imagine this kind of cold until you feel it. Reading these words does not describe the bitterness of the feeling. The freezing of the fingers and the toes! The pain to the face.  No matter how many layers you wear it cannot keep the cold out. This was the worse winter in two decades and it happened to be our first ever winter in snow. Every time we had to drive in the snow it was pure anxiety. The slipping and the sliding on the ice. The horrible accidents we saw people get into.  I worried about my husband every time he went to work.

snow as far as the eye can see

My husband told me that Punjabis are not meant to live in the snow 🙂

This winter was not like the ones you see in sweet movies where the kids go outside and build snowman and laugh and run around. Michigan winters are horrid and extreme.  From December to March there was white as far as the eye could see. My daughter and I spent three months inside the house. There was no sun no warmth and no feeling hope. There was not even noise outside. In the summer Michigan is loud. There are tons of birds and Crickets and the very noisy Cicadas. In winter it was deathly silent. It made me uncomfortable. Just snow and wind and cold. I felt myself go into a depression. It felt like the winter would never end. As my friends and family in California started spring, I was still in waist deep snow. Finally when I could not take another day of the cold we had at 40 degree day, then a 50 degree day. Finally the snow started to melt in April and we were all so relieved.  Everyone  emerged from our homes in to the sun. I went for walks with my daughter to the playground and there were so many children there all so happy. It seemed like overnight Michigan had changed into a new wonderful world full of life again. I truly understand the beauty of Spring.

Summer in India and a winter in Michigan have taught me that there is always a light at the end of the tunnel, no matter how dire the situation make appear. The heat in India was so horrid and extreme but God sent the rain to cool us down. In Michigan the snow and cold was so oppressive and bitter, but God sent the sun to melt it away. We are never given more then we can handle. These two experiences changed me forever. I will never look at rain the same way. I will always see the beauty of its life giving abilities. I will never take for granted the beauty of the sun.  When the sun disappeared from my life for three months I felt lost and alone. When the sun returned I felt overjoyed. Maybe I was meant to live through such extreme conditions to truly be grateful for everything that nature gives us.  To remind us that tomorrow is always another day and there is always hope. No matter how hopeless you situation may look the relief may be right around the corner, so hold on!

How to Make Homemade Yogurt, As Easy as 1, 2 , 3 !

My family loves yogurt, we eat it nearly everyday. We eat it with our subjis and spicy dishes. We love it with our Paranthas and Potatoes. We make cool butter milk and sweet Lassi . I remember when I went to India I fell in love with homemade yogurt. It was so tangy and wholesome. My wonderful Mother-in-law taught me about how to make it, and I have been making homemade yogurt ever since. It is super easy, and saves money, and you avoid harmful ingredients in store bought yogurt. My secret to getting good yogurt is to heat up the oven a little bit and then tun it off and placed the wrapped bowl with the milk and yogurt inside of it. This keeps the temperature consistent enough to form the yogurt. This recipe makes 4 cups.

Ingredients:

4 cups milk

3 tablespoons plain yogurt (purchased or homemade)

Earthen clay containers make the best yogurt

Instructions:

1. Place the pot over moderate heat and heat the milk until it reaches at least 180°F or boils, stirring occasionally to prevent a skin from forming and making sure the milk doesn’t scald or boil over. Remove the milk from the heat and allow it to cool to 110°F to 115°F, or which feels a little hot to your finger. Place the milk in a bowl ( non metal)  that can be covered. My husband and Mother-in-law swears that earthen containers, like those made of fired clay makes the best yogurt! So I stick to those, because it is so yummy.

2. In a small bowl, combine about 1 cup warm milk with the yogurt and stir to combine. Add the yogurt-milk mixture to the remaining warm milk and stir until completely incorporated. Do not stir vigorously.

3. Cover the bowl with a lid or plate. Wrap the container in a towel or small blanket. If the room is really warm like in summer you can leave the bowl on top of a refrigerator. If your house is drafty or it is not warm you can heat the oven for a few minutes then turn it off and place the covered and wrapped yogurt container in the oven. Let incubate between 110°F and 115°F for 5 to 10 hours, depending on the desired flavor and consistency—longer incubation periods produces thicker, more tart yogurt. Do not disturb the yogurt during incubation. When the yogurt has reached its desired taste and consistency refrigerate and enjoy!

Mango Kulfi ( Indian Ice cream): A Wonderful Summer Treat You Can Make Without an Ice Cream Maker

My favorite summer treat, Mango Kulfi

As the summer heats up here in Michigan and around the USA, god knows its sweltering in India already, I thought I would share one of my favorite summer treats, Mango Kulfi. This recipe is so simple and easy anyone can make it. The best part, no need for a fancy ice cream machine. Mango Kulfi is a yummy Indian ice cream that helps cool you down in the sweltering heat. It can be made in a Popsicle mold or just a pan or dish, both tastes wonderful it just depends on preference. The first time I saw this recipe I thought that using bread was weird , but it really works wonderfully to keep the kulfi a nice consistency and not develop ice crystals. I hope you enjoy this recipe and the Kulfi it makes! 🙂

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 1 slice of white bread
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup sugar, adjust to taste
  • 1 to 2 mangos skinned and blended, depending on strength of mango taste desired

    Kulfi can be made in a simple baking dish like this or into Popsicles

Method 

  1. Remove the crust from all sides of the bread and cut the bread in small pieces.
  2. Blend bread pieces, cornstarch, and a 1/2 cup of milk, making smooth paste and set aside.
  3. Boil remaining milk (3.5 cups) in nonstick pot  on medium high heat.
  4. Stir milk as needed to keep milk from burning on the bottom of the pot. Stir the sides of the pan to avoid scalding.
  5. After milk comes to boil, add blended mango. Let the milk boil for another 12 minutes. The goal is to boil the milk from 3 1/2 cups to 2 1/2 cups.
  6. Add the bread mixture to the milk in pot and cook for another 4 minutes, reducing the heat to medium. Bread and cornstarch are added to reduce the water crystallizing in kulfi during freezing.
  7. Next add sugar and cook for 2 more minutes.
  8. Turn off the heat.
  9. Cool the milk to room temperature and pour into a bowl,  baking pan, or Popsicle mold
  10. If using bowl or pan take cellophane wrap and place it right over the milk covering it completely. Note: It is important that the cellophane wrap touches the milk.
  11. Put it in freezer. It will take about 7 hours for the kulfi to be ready to serve. It tastes wonderful with Pistachio or almonds sprinkled on top! I Hope you enjoy!

    Great for kids and can be made into Popsicles

Our Masala Religion: Sikhism and Christianity Meet in the Middle

Nasreens Religious books, both Sikh and Christian

A photo project I did on my husband about Sikhism

One of the first questions that people usually ask me when they find out I am married to a Punjabi Sikh, is if I converted to his religion. When I explain that I was raised Christian and still practice Christianity, they wonder how we balance our religions, especially in regard to our daughter. Honestly we never really planned how to do anything in our relationship, it just fell into place.

Mommy and Nasreen with the chunnis on and ready for Gurdwara

I have always felt a deep connection with religion. I was raised Christian. As a teenager I attended religious summer camps and youth groups. I have always found myself searching for God. In College I took enough religious studies classes to have a minor in religious studies just for the fun of it. I took classes on the Old and New Testament, Introduction to Islam, Jewish studies, and a class on minority religions in the United States that covered religions like Wica and Vodoo. I joined a Christian organization on Campus during my sophomore year. I enjoyed the community service and sense of fellowship. It was an election year and the topic of Gay marriage was on the ballot as well as other issues. I soon discovered that the people that I was worshipping with were actually quite hatful to people who were not exactly like them. I believe in Christ, and my goal is emulate him. Christ was a loving, kind, passionate, forgiving son of God. Who sometimes had a temper and no patience for bad behavior or hatefulness.  He ate with tax collectors and prostitutes. He healed the sick and the sinful. He gave his life for us all. These Christian I worshipped with had so much hate and none of the love that Jesus taught. In my book they were not Christians. They hated gays and Muslims and anyone that was not like them.  I tried to stick around and change their views but that did not seem possible, so I took my leave of them and worshipped on my own.

getting ready for Gurdawara

When I first met husband I was attracted his deep devotion and spirituality. I knew nothing about Sikhism at the time, but I started to research it when we were dating.  I discovered that it was a monotheistic religion that believed in one supreme omnipotent indescribable God. Sikhs believe in community service called Seva, and complete equality of all people and genders. Guru Nanak Dev Ji was the first of ten Gurus( teachers). Sikhism stood apart from other religions in India because it rejected the caste system and the idea that women were inferior. Like Christians there are many Sikhs that do not follow the Sikh religion fully.  There are some that still use the caste system and participate in femicide, which the killing of female fetuses, a serious  social problem in India.  Sikhs are known for their turbans, which cover their uncut hair and they also wear long beards. Sikhs believe that hair is a gift from God and should never be cut. This description of Sikhism is really just a summery, and I urge my readers to continue to research the religion on their own, because it is really quite beautiful.  Basically there are levels of devotion in Sikhism. There are those, like my husband, that have cut their hair but continue to worship. There are others that have kept their long hair ( Kesh) and tie a turban and they are called Sardars.  There are some who take the big commitment and become baptized Sikhs  (amritdhari). These individuals are very devout and follow all tenets of the religion.

When I met my husband he had already cut his hair. He came to the USA from India in 2007 as a Masters student in engineering. He had never cut his hair before and had not planned to ever cut it. As a foreign student his tuition was double that of the normal students and so he had to work to support himself. He was limited to campus jobs due to his Visa restrictions.  He applied for job after job and did not get a single one. He was concerned that his turban was the cause of this. He was still determined to keep his hair (Kesh) and started putting it under a baseball cap instead of a turban. One day at a mall, him and his friends were taking pictures of each other and someone called the police.  They had said that the men looked like terrorists and were taking pictures of structures. He was questioned by the police and they finally realized they were just some guys hanging out at the mall. My husband was feeling very judged. My husband became frustrated with the lack of a job and the frustration of the racism, and in a moment of desperation him and his friend cut off his hair and he sent it home to India. He got a job shorty after cutting his hair. This decision still haunts him, and he wants to grow his hair long once again and tie turban, but is concerned about how this may affect his ability to get a job.

My husband is very spiritual just as I am. When we first met we talked a lot about our religions and our belief in God. It became evident that we believed the same thing even though we were raised to believe in different religions. We believe that God is Universal!  There is no one path to God and no one correct religion. We both believe that God sent messengers to every part of the world and we all just worship in different ways.  If you look at most religions, they teach the same ideas, be kind, don’t kill, don’t lie, do community service, be a good person. All the major religions teach these same ideas.

Sunday best

Sat Sri Akal!

I believe that we were meant for each other. That God brought us together under some divine plan. My husband’s name is Gurucharan, which means “ At the foot of the Guru” ( Religious teacher), My name is Tina which is short for Christina which means  “ Follower of Christ”. Both our names show our connection to God. When we got married we had both a Christian and Sikh wedding, it was important to each of us to be married under our traditions. We both see the beauty of each other’s religious beliefs and traditions. We celebrate both religions’ holidays. We attend both a Sikh Grudwara and a Christian Church. Our daughter Nasreen who is three loves both the traditions. She knows that you say Amen in Christian Church and Waheguru at the Gurdwara. She loves covering her head with a chunni and wearing a Punjabi suit and bowing in front of the Baba Ji in the Gurdwara. She loves wearing pretty dresses in Christian church and participating in functions.  She has books on both religions that we read her.  We celebrate all our holidays. She loves Christmas, Diwali, Easter, Vaisakhi, and all the others. We have agreed that we will not cut our daughter’s hair. It is such an important part of my husband’s religion and I respect that. If we have son we will tie a turban on him. I do not think that it is a requirement from God, but it does represent an important identity to Sikhs. My only requirement is that if we have a son then my husband must also wear a turban, to be a good example. Which he completely agrees with.  We have never had a disagreement about our religions or practices which is really a blessing. I feel that our life is enhanced with the beauty of our two religions. We have two very distinct ways to worship and celebrate God.  I feel blessed by God, and that is how I know we are doing the right thing. Our daughter is growing up knowing that God loves you know matter what religion, color, gender, or economic situation you in it. Through God everything is possible.

This was a long explanation of a simple concept. In summary we never planned for our religions to merge we both just  followed our hearts and this is where it has led us. It is only when I write and reflect on it now that I see how it all happened.