WHEN I GROW UP, I WANT TO BE MANY DIFFERENT THINGS.
I currently reside in: Brooklyn, NY
What is your favorite hangout in Brooklyn: Since my daughter was born, I’ve been spending a good chunk of my days in Fort Greene Park. It’s a lesser known park within NYC, but it’s amazing; really beautiful and spacious, without being overwhelming or too large. It was in the spot of a former fort, repurposed for public use at the request of Walt Whitman, and was designed by the same duo behind Central Park & Prospect Park.
But what kind of New Yorker would I be if I didn’t mention a restaurant? Olea is definitely a favorite. It’s got this Mediterranean influenced vibe and cuisine, but what I love most about it is the balance it strikes being a consistently excellent meal, while remaining completely welcoming and comfortable – even with a toddler. The other night we sat outside for dinner on a lovely spring-like December evening – a celebration of sorts after having finished up my first ever holiday markets. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that it’s just a few blocks from home. I guess in a nutshell, my favorite hangout is my neighborhood!
I currently work as: Block Printer / Mother Extraordinaire
I do this because: Carving and printing by hand allows me to slow down and be present; I find that the process is very grounding. Likewise, the past year and a half of being a mother has encouraged me to live a more deliberate, in-the-moment life. I love letting the day go at a pace that feels natural to my daughter, making an earnest effort to avoid rushing her – she’ll have her entire adulthood to feel rushed and busy. So, I block print because it’s something I love and it’s incredibly therapeutic, but also because it’s something that allows me to feel balanced while staying at home with my daughter while she’s still young.
I’ve really enjoyed developing the business side of Kaibelle, too. It compliments the artistic side of things…I guess you could say this venture satisfies the duality of being a Gemini.
What are some Indian traditions you still follow? I wasn’t the best at following traditions in my adult life, but after my daughter was born, I knew she would never know her Gujarati side if I wasn’t deliberate about sharing the culture with her, especially since my husband isn’t Indian. The upside is that I think it makes us more intentional about what cultural aspects from each family we try to pass along, and it grants us more perspective on who we are and where we come from that we might otherwise simply take for granted.
Of course, I’ve been noticing how a few smaller things ingrained in me from childhood have naturally resurfaced; for example, I ask my daughter not to step on books (because they represent knowledge, which is considered sacred). And we don’t wear shoes in the house (but really, does anyone want the streets of New York on their rug?).
For Diwali, we made rangoli from colorful flower petals. She blew out the diyas as if they were birthday candles. My husband tried to stop her but I actually thought it was pretty funny.
Bollywood or Hollywood, and why? I usually gravitate towards slower, quieter, less cutty films which probably rules out a lot of both Bollywood and Hollywood fare. I love witty, interesting dialogue and seeing complex relationships, and am a sucker for beautiful cinematography (which happens to be what my husband does!).
Favorite movie? “Amelie,” “Robot & Frank,” “The Royal Tenenbaums,” “Little Miss Sunshine,” “Moonrise Kingdom,” “Beasts of the Southern Wild.” Oh, and “Acqua fuori dal Ring.” It was a small feature film with a huge heart that my husband and I had the opportunity to work on together in Sicily a few years ago.
I think you also meant to ask me about my favorite TV show…”Gilmore Girls!” Lorelai is one of my mom heroes, in case that was going to be your next question. Though my recent favorite would have to be Aziz Ansari’s “Master of None.” The “Parents” episode was spot on, at least for me. I think part of what I like so much about the show is that it’s incredibly honest and in many ways universal, but it’s also such a specific slice of diversity that just isn’t represented very often in media and entertainment. So it’s nice to feel that we’re entering a new era of multi-culturalism that isn’t all negative and polarized.
What’s your favorite thing about Indian culture? As far as Indian culture in the US, garba (traditional folk dance of Gujarat), though I’m a bit out of practice. In India, definitely the warmth and depth of humanity and connectedness of people. I love the colorful vibrancy in the northern parts, and the natural beauty, simplicity, and humility of the south. I always leave feeling a little more soulful, promising myself that I’ll carry this over to my life back home. But eventually I get swept away in the US way of life and I blend right back in.
What’s one piece of advice your parents have given you abide by? Work hard, be kind, be generous. During our father/daughter dance at my wedding, my dad said to me, “Always do everything you can for him, and expect nothing in return.” It reminds me that we should do whatever we can for others in life, especially those we hold most dear. It’s about selflessness. I love this piece of advice and have found myself revisiting it from time to time.
So are you a Good Indian Girl? Possibly, maybe, but I suppose that depends on your definition.
You can follow Neena Litton and her work at www.kaibelle.com or on Instagram.