Cultural norms affect our group behavior

Kamala Harris put down of Mike Pence for interrupting

During the vice presidental debate of 2020, VP Kamala Harris smacked down Mike Pence when he interrupted her saying she was still talking. I cheered her quick repartee and wished more folks had the guts to do the same. In the culture I grew up in the tendency to interrupt others is endemic. In India people interrupt constantly when listening to someone relate a story or discuss an event adding anecdotes or jokes and non sequiturs to what the speaker is talking about.

I recall family gatherings where everyone seemed to be talking at the same time. How we managed…

My knee pain resulting from doing a simple task has made me question one of life’s challenges during my childhood

Photo of a notice on a store restroom wall in New Zealand, by Ron Advani, 2019

The other day I had to change the seat on the toilet to a soft seat as it was getting a bit uncomfortable to use a wooden seat. I checked on Youtube where I learn about how to do anything around the house and it seemed easy so I ordered a soft seat from Amazon. When I started to remove the old seat I realized that I would have to get on my knees between the toilet and the wall as the room is so narrow that I could not reach under the seat to unscrew the old seat. After…

The unrivaled feeling of joyous relief from scorching heat and stifling humidity

Street children enjoying the monsoon rains in Mumbai

California is in the throes of another mulityear drought. The rainy season from November to March has been disappointing. In the Bay Area where I live the rainfall so far has been less than half the normal amount. Every time there’s a forecast of rain we gaze hopefully at the skies for signs of clouds and we get some sprinkles or a gentle silent mist like rain. Throughout the rainy season this year, I have dreamt of the torrential thunderstorms of Bombay ( now Mumbai) where I grew up. A teeming city full of shocking poverty, astronomical wealth, stray animals…

A fabulous underrated travel destination

Most Americans associate Mexico with drugs and crime. The reality is far different at least in Mexico City the capital of the country and the first globalized city in the world. For a historical perspective the book 1493 by Charles Mann is a treasure trove of factoids on how civilizations changed, morphed and evolved since the seminal voyage of Columbus. It describes in vivid detail the consequences of The Columbian Exchange. In this book he demonstrates that Mexico City became the first globalized city in the world and held that distinction for almost two centuries after Columbus. After reading the…

The US needs a national masking mandate immediately

Photo by Juan Mayobre on Unsplash

The CDC director Rober Redfield told the Senate yesterday he believed face masks were “the most important, powerful public health tool we have” to combat coronavirus. “This face mask is more guaranteed to protect me against Covid than when I take a Covid vaccine” he said.

When Covid emerged in China in December 2019, Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore all acted swiftly to impose wearing masks and social distancing before any significant cases were observed. Japan did not shut down the economy and most other countries in Asia shut down only parts of the economy for short periods…

I will miss the life affirming exhilirating experiences

Mount Everest

I often recall gazing at a stock picture of the Golden Gate bridge on an old calendar on a cracked wall in our tiny apartment in Bombay at age 16 when I suddenly developed an urge to travel the world. I yearned to expand my limited view of the world and daydreamed of visiting distant places and cultures. I started exploring the world through old copies of National Geographic on loan for a quarter rupee (5 cents US in those days) from the corner second hand book store that served as the local library.

I have relentessly pursued that dream…

The role of death in life

Photo by Benjamin Catapane on Unsplash

On one of our trips to visit family in India we inquired about the corner shopkeeper Murlidhar from whom we would buy snacks on each trip. My father in law stated matter of factly and in a tone of finality — “Murlidhar expired”. We knew what he meant but our young children had never heard this expression before and on finding out that Murlidhar had died, they broke out in laughter. They said repeatedly “expired ? — like a library card”?

Do humans expire like a carton of milk or canned food? The word expire indicates that it is past…

It is time we acknowledge the debt we owe African Americans

I came to the US in 1964 from India to attend graduate school at Northwestern University. When I disembarked in Chicago off a Greyhound bus from New York in 1965 the first person I encountered was an African American who asked me for a qurter to help a brother. The entire area near the bus station was the African American part of the city. I did not know the significance of the term “brother” at that time. He saw I was not white and therefore a brother. …

They were the quintissential social interaction venues and gave Bombay its vibe

I grew up in Bombay, now renamed Mumbai, in the 50s and early 60s. The city still had streetcars called trams that plowed every major road and provided cheap accessible transportation. It also boasted around 350 Irani cafes. Today there are a couple dozen left reminding us of a bygone era. In those days they had names like Star of Iran or Empress of Iran.

At nearly every corner along major roads was a cafe cum bakery run by Iranis, a subset of Parsis. Fleeing persecution Parsis had migrated to India in the 8th century from Persia. Iranis had migrated…

A perspective on my personal risk of fatality from Covid 19

Photo by Todd Turner on Unsplash

The statistics from medical literature that I have researched regarding various communicable diseases demonstrate that measles, malaria and typhoid are all highly infectious diseases just like Covid 19. The reason I picked these 3 diseases is their prevalence in India during my childhood years so as to put in perspective the risks to me of fatality from contracting Covid 19. This is not done to minimize the danger of being infected with this virus but to gain perspective from a personal standpoint and from my own life background.

Measles is a highly contagious virus that lives in the nose and…

Ron Advani

Wannabe writer and voracious reader. Love traveling and observing local cultures and traditions. Lived in India, Egypt, Singapore and retired in the Bay Area.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store