Saathee Readers Forum Adventure in Ecuador By Ron A. Virmani, M.D. In December of 2012, I signed up for an adventure tour of Ecuador with a commercial outfit known as STI (Singles Travel International). I spent the first four days in Galapagos Islands and enjoyed Darwin’s finches, blue-footed boobies, sea-lions, giant tortoises, iguanas and beautiful Tortugo bay on Santa Cruz Island. Then I boarded my flight from Baltra airport in Galapagos Islands to Quito via Guayaquil. I was ready for my multi-sport adventure in Ecuador for the next six days. Day 1 – Arrival in Quito (Dec 26) Day 2 – Butterfly farm, zipline and hike (Dec 27) Day 3- White water rafting (Dec 28) Day 4- Otavalo Indian market and Cuicocha lake (Dec 29) Day 5 – Riding Horses and Mountain Bikes (Dec 30) Day 6 – Teleferico and Hike (Dec 31) Day 7 – Quito and Equatorial Monument (Jan 1) Day 8 – Back to the Queen City of Charlotte How Goes in Galapagos India: Soccer’s Final Frontier? By David Tulley As he took to the field in the muggy September air, a deafening roar erupted from amongst the thousands of spectators, many of whom had travelled from afar to see their idol in the flesh. Supporters rushed to the front of the stand, straining their every muscle to capture this moment within their minds and hearts. Lionel Messi does not react. He has grown accustomed to this brand of hero-worship. But this is not Barcelona or Buenos Aires, instead this is the Salt Lake Stadium, Kolkata, India and 120,000 have arrived to watch Lionel Messi, and his Argentine teammates, take on Venezuela in the biggest soccer event in India’s history. My Very Indian Adventure: 3-day classical dance workshop Guru Brahma guru Vishnu gurudevo maheshwaraha For thousands of years, our culture has taught us to respect the value of education and therefore to revere our Gurujis and teachers. Our culture preaches us to compare our teacher to God. In my 22 years of living in the United States, I have never witnessed that true bond between teacher and student till I went to India this past year. During my first week in India, my paternal grandmother, a former mathematics and physics professor, had called her student Bhairavi bhen who is a bharatnatyam dance teacher, to come teach me dance. Bhairavi Aunty informed us of a 3-day classical dance workshop that was starting the very next day and she explained how this is a rare opportunity because three famous gold medalist artists were coming to teach the workshop. She instantly registered me for the workshop and arranged transportation for me so that I can attend. Bhairavi Aunty and my grandmother had not seen nor talked to each other in over 20 years, but she still showed selfless love towards me because she had so much respect for her former 4th grade teacher. Here is how my 3-day workshop went: Day One: Dr. Kanak Rele, an Indian dancer and academic who is most famous for the dance form Mohiniattam was the teacher for day one. She is also the founder of the biggest Indian classical dance school, Nalanda Dance Research Center in Mumbai. Her achievements have been recognized by the award of PadmaShri, Kalidas Samman and Sangeet Natak Award. She taught us about abhinaya (expressions). During the lunch break, I was called by Bhairavi aunty to the lunch room where Guru Kanak Rele was eating and through conversation, I found out that she was my own guru’s guru; it’s like meeting your great grandmother for the first time! She complained to me about her back pain she had while performing earlier and I suggested that she uses biofreeze to alleviate her pain. After the workshop ended, Bhairavi aunty drove me home to pick up some biofreeze and we went to the hotel to give it to Dr. Rele. Day Two: C.V. Chandrasekhar taught us in the workshop. He is one of India’s most senior Bharatanatyam dancers and academic, composer, singer, as well as choreographer. He received the Padma Bushan award from Government of India in 2011. Since it was a bharatanatyam workshop, we had to wear half saris, so my grandma dressed me up in her sari and I went to class. I was the most unprepared student there because I have not done Bharatanatyam in 5 years. But during all our rhythmic exercises and inspirational lectures, I was set on starting bharatanatyam again. I forgot how much I missed the dance form and how much I appreciated the dance because it made me feel closer to my culture. It was an honor to receive his blessings. Day Three: I have never seen kathak being danced as beautifully as it was tonight by Kumudini Lakhia’s dance troop, Kadamb. Kumidini bahen is a padma bushan award winner, gold medalist in kathak and is known for her innovation in the kathak dance field. After the performance, Bhairavi aunty took me and my grandma to a 5 star hotel called Grand Bhagwat for dinner with all the dance gurus! I actually sat in the same table as Kumidini Lakhia and CV Chandrasekhar. I have never felt so honored in my life. Day 3 was definitely my favorite day out of the 3 workshop days, because I have fallen in love with kathak and Kumidini ji allowed me to join her dance institute, Kadamb. She also really liked me out of most of the other students and after the workshop she had to go meet Chief Minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi for blessings because she is VVIP and a local international artist. She had to take several dancers with her to go meet Narendra Modi and she chose me out of the 140 girls! We took a bus to the hall where Narendra Modi was fasting, and I got a chance to go on stage and meet him! I also saw Bollywood actor Paresh Rawal because he was giving a speech right in front of me. I was on the local Guajarati news for three seconds because they showed “kalakaris” (artists) receiving blessing from Narendra Modi. At the conclusion of the workshop, I made up my mind that I will start classical dance again. This workshop really made me realize how immature I was to quit such an elegant art form because of personal conflicts, and now I am inspired to dive into the classical dance field. Hinduism: There’s more to Idol Worship than meets the eye. By Anonymous Ten years ago, as a new bride I unpacked my boxes in our newly rented townhouse. My new husband was away at work, but his mother and mother’s brother were there to “help.” I pulled out my shiny new Shiva Linga that was handcrafted and a gift from my parents. I had found the perfect spot and couldn’t wait for it to grace and bless my new home. My Very Indian Adventure How many people can say they have followed their dreams? As I was sitting inside my maternal grandmother’s house, in an attempt to avoid the scorching heat, I heard a bunch of cars passing by with the famous song “Chammak Challo” blasting. I was wondering why the same track was playing out loud from each auto rickshaw and car. Soon enough, I found out that ShahRukh Khan was coming to Baroda Central Mall today to promote his upcoming movie, Ra One. ShahRukh Khan, King Khan, my most favorite actor since my childhood days, was in the same town as me and I was determined to not miss my chance to see him live. John Glen’s Space Flight 50th Anniversary February 20 2012 is the year fifty, 1st to circle planet was Yuri Gagarin, America beat U.S.S.R. very soon, 2nd time rocketed Senator Glen, At Cape Canaveral did old John Glen, Thanked workers at Cape Kennedy, Once America was a big Space might, I love you Kripa She is now five, a happy five… her face is always lit so bright, She makes me feel the love of God, and that he has his grace on me… The next few years will go so quick, that feeling makes my heart so sick. And then I think, when she is big, she would want to fly free, Tuskegee Airmen All Airmen of Tuskegee, First black pilots to be, Trained in a Tuskegee The US patriotic legacy, Idea of the black military President Roosevelt did relent Many blacks were trained finally Working hard, black men many Organized as a 332nd Fighter Group, Later they were ordered to base, Italy Slow Bombers, big targets for enemy, Soon White Bomber pilots gave respect Completed 1500 sorties, black airmen The skilled Airmen Pilots of Tuskegee Awarded were they for combat bravery, In 2011, I planned to climb a couple of peaks in the Himalayas in the Khumbu/Baruntse region around 21,500 feet with a technical high-pass in between at 19,000 feet. I had trained hard from an endurance standpoint all year with swimming, running, and cardio. Physically, I felt pretty good. Bollywood Music Goes Fit Priya’s Son is Coming to Town Reflections on the Charlotte Indian Community and the Hindu Center Satyameva Jayate Family Finding God in Unexpected Places Blurred The First Spaceman Yuri Gagarin 50 Years later Once upon a time Place Yourself in Others’ Shoes From Mediocre To Marvelous In this superficial and controversial world, the greed and the eagerness of proving oneself better than others is increasing with tremendous speed. Great American Architect Frank Lloyd Wright, once remarked, “I know the price of success: dedication, hard-work, and an unremitting devotion to the things you want to see happen,” is a clear answer to the unending obsession of people regarding their ceased progress, dissatisfied status, and most importantly their success. Hard work is the only criteria that people must adhere to in order to achieve their goals. There are many personalities in the fields of business, entertainment, and research that emit the radiations of success, which is the outcome of their diligence and their perseverance. Madhav Bhatt is a sophomore in the Pre-Pharmacy Program at Campbell University, North Carolina. Do you know where my Grandma is? I do not know when, nevertheless She would wrap her arms around ‘You are the apple of my eyes, We played in the snow we made Grandpa Gandhi I miss playing with Grandma Silk sari, crown make up. Fancy up-do- Fusion of her perfume and mirch-masala (spices) I wake up feeling hungry I sit on the floor I adorned myself with her curly locks Grandma I miss you very much. Sharing My Heritage: Indian Participation in the Raleigh International Festival “Hey Ram” on the lips of Modern Ram Being a Hyderabadi doesn’t just mean you’re from Hyderabad; instead, it’s a phrase that signifies someone who knows much more than just Hyderabad as a city itself. They know that no matter what the world or signs say Hussain Sagar Lake will forever be etched into memories as Tank Bund. They know that old city Charminar is where to go if you’re looking for the best pearls or bangles. They know that they’ll be proud of Amruta Castle simply because there aren’t a lot of Indian cities that can say they have a mammoth hotel shaped like a castle with a white Birla Mandir temple in the background. And being Hyderabadi means you know your Biriyanis well and have your own distinct flavor of Hindi. It’s a simple combination but one that makes me proud. Bollywood and Beyond: Hinduism Changing the World Secrets of Happiness part II My first Marathon Facing the fear It was peaceful here Claire had to say. The park wasn’t somewhere one usually found her in the winter but here she was. While preferring the indoors during winter, she sometimes felt the need to be outside, to enjoy the rush she experienced from spending a few silent minutes with nature. She saw two figures in the distance and acknowledged them when they made their way over. Majestic Mount Fuji In July 2009, I signed up for a two-week Japan trip with GAP adventures. I wanted to see the land of the rising sun and the country of Shinkansen (bullet trains). I had trained for high-altitude climbing and climbed Mt. Elbert (14,400 feet) in Colorado in early July and wanted to use this training to climb Mt. Fuji as well. Climbing Mt. Fuji Dating, matrimony and Indian parents Contemporary God My Favorite Middle Eastern Delight-The Falafel The rain was relentless and it was getting late. I wanted to grab a quick dinner and call it a day. My Heart My heart seeks peace in times of unrest and upheaval My heart seeks stability in times of economic uncertainty My heart seeks faith and trust from friends & family July July brings nostalgia It’s cold out here tonight (CHORUS) I’m driving home right now (CHORUS) I’m coming home to you (CHORUS) Now I’m here and holding you tight Man Made Mind When we look at the mountain from a distance, we are captivated by its grandeur, majesty, and beauty. We feel joyful and peaceful. This joy and peace is not the result of effort, will or desire. We mentioned earlier how the two-year-old twins at the lake responded when they saw the ducks. Both were dancing with joy. We can call this the dance of life. Parents of the children were part of this dance. Luckily because I was there, I was also participating in this dance. The whole cosmos, the sun, the air, the weather, the lake, the trees and the birds were making this dance possible. The joy was not the result of an achievement of a goal set by thinking. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org Himalayan Climbing Expedition
Lessons Learned in Mithapur
By Ananya Mallavarapu
When you first hear of Mithapur, you wonder what the place is like. When I heard of it, I wondered what rural Gujarat was like and imagined a village complete with small houses and hardly any vehicles except for the occasional two-wheeler. Mithapur does personify that except in a different manner and in a way I found that there was a lot more that a small rural community could teach a city girl like me. Mithapur is really a small township created by Tata Chemicals Limited on the western edge of India, off the Saurashtra Peninsula and right by Okha-which some say is the westernmost point of India. The environment is beautiful there – friendly locals, good food, and nice flora and fauna at your fingertips. It also was nice to know that from anywhere in Mithapur the sea was no more than a fifteen minute walk away. It was actually an ideal place for a college student to spend a summer doing an internship at a place called TCSRD.
TCSRD stands for Tata Chemicals Society for Rural Development and it was the area I was chosen to be in for my internship this past summer. It has three units around India – one in Babrala, Uttar Pradesh, one in Haldia, West Bengal, and one in Mithapur, Gujarat. The aim of the organization is simple. Instead of just taking from the resources of the area, TCSRD aims to contribute to the rural environment by offering empowerment schemes, youth employment partnerships, natural resource management for farmers, and teaching local villagers about sustainable environmental practices. In Mithapur, TCSRD runs a large number of women’s empowerment groups in the nearby villages, partners with at least five different organizations for youth employment schemes, and works on saving the nearby coral reefs, whale sharks, and farming land. Over the seven weeks that I spent in Mithapur I learned a lot about rural India and the projects taking place there that could easily benefit the local populations and make them self-sufficient.
My project centered on making an impact assessment of a few projects that TCSRD had undertaken and as a result, I had the opportunity to see and experience first-hand all the changes that were taking place in the surrounding area and see how the villagers were benefitting from the programs. I visited self-help groups (SHG) run by women taught to save money, saw youth who went to Ahmedabad and Baroda (two nearby cities) for training and then returning to Mithapur to find jobs, and met farmers who nearly sent me home with fresh produce. It was an enriching experience and one I feel that the world needs to know. While rural India still has a long way to go, they still need a voice. I can only do so much but, still, I feel that chronicling the life of some of these villagers is needed. Someone needs to tell their story or at least show something about the places I visited.
I remember visiting a school once where I was set to interview students who had received a scholarship called “Desh ko Arpan.” The scholarship is designed to help hard working students of salt-workers in the Tata Chemicals Plant. These workers are only employed for certain portions of the year and their families struggle to send their children to school while seeking other employment options after the salt season has ended. One of the recipients I interviewed was named Sunil Hathiya who spoke quietly as he told me he had just begun the tenth grade a week earlier. The scholarship, he explained, paid his school fees, a fee that his father would have paid anyway to make sure his son succeeded. Considering that Sunil’s father makes ?5,000 a month and annual school fees are ?4,500, I was amazed at how a family of twelve not only made ends meet but sent a son to school. Sunil wasn’t the only recipient of the scholarship but his story made me suddenly grateful for the amount of college tuition my parents pay. But Sunil brushed off any questioning glances sent his way and assured me that his family was well off. His resolve and resilience made me wonder if I’d read about him someday in a newspaper- a young man from rural Gujarat making it big as an innovative businessman. He wasn’t the only one to make a lasting impact on me. Of the ten case studies I had to do for my project, there are three that I will never forget. Sunil was one of them; Kimi Bein and Godar Bhai’s family are the other two.
I remember that upon my first meeting with Kimi Bein I thought of her as a kind lady. She told us stories of how her father built the machinery that is still used in the factory today. She also told us about what it was like to live in a household where the only income-earners were female. Unable to stand not being a great help; she sought out the training run by TCSRD and a partner organization the Dalit Shakti Kendra (DSK). She was far too old for the age requirements but her perseverance managed to woo the members of the acceptance committee and she now works from her home, helping her sister-in-law and niece. Her story made me think long and hard about what it was to be an entrepreneur and a successful businesswoman. Kimi Bein was one of many ladies who had taken seamstress training but she was the only one I met who actively sought out and marketed for new clientele. Before leaving, she promised me to show her my impact analysis even if she couldn’t understand it. I only hope she did get to see it after I had left.
I think, however, my favorite field visit and case study was that done about a farmer named Godar Bhai and his family from Gadechi, Gujarat. Godar Bhai was the younger son of a farmer; he worked the farm and his older brother earned an additional income by working in the TCL factories. The day I visited there was a little bit of construction around Godar Bhai’s field. I learned that this project was called a “net house.” To put it simply, a net house resembles a greenhouse which, instead of glass panels, has netted sheets covering the structure. The point is to shade and block out winds.
In the Okhamandal region it is often dry and hot with excessive winds. After finishing my interview with Godar Bhai, I was left to do whatever I wanted on the farm with my mentor while we waited for the other field workers to come back and pick us up.
I was offered buttermilk, which I drank for the first time without abhorrence and then was given an impromptu lesson in vegetable gardening before Godar Bhai’s mother asked my mentor and me if we knew how to cook karela. Having never really done anything more than help someone in an Indian kitchen I shook my head and could only watch as the matron – a smile on her lips and hands wrinkled with age – demonstrated how she stuffed the karela with curry powder and then fried them.
I distinctly remember this visit because it transcended the usual “come sit down for a talk” type of meeting and instead I was given an opportunity to go inside the home of this family and learn. I remember being taken to the kitchen by Godar Bhai’s mother and being shown how she made ghee. Later, I was led to a living room of sorts where I was shown some of her most prized possessions, her beautiful sewing work. By the time I left, I wanted to go back and visit her one more time; I wanted to show her my work, even though it was in English and she only knew a little Hindi, because I wanted to see her kind face proudly smiling down at me. I wanted to learn how to make ghee and take with me her recipe for stuffed karela so that I could tell others this amazing story.
I never did get the chance to revisit her or any of the other interviewees but I am so glad to have known that I spent a little time with them and gained so much in the process. One of these days, I want to go back, to show them that I did learn from them; that they made such an impact on my life and that there are people all the way across the world that get to hear about them. I want them to know that their story inspired me in a manner that I wanted to start and still do plan to start my own organization meant to help these lovely people succeed. I never really understood what I was getting into when I went to Mithapur, but now that I have had the experience, I want to go back. I think the highlight of my next visit there will be the towers of the Tata Chemicals factories that are seen miles around and act as a welcoming beacon to visitors and residents alike.
Quito is the capital of Ecuador. At 9300 feet, it is the second highest capital in the world (after La Paz in Bolivia). Guayaquil on the seashore is the biggest city in Ecuador, which was inhabited by pre-Inca tribes in historical times. The region of highland Ecuador became part of Inca Empire in 1463. Spanish soldiers and missionaries arrived in Ecuador in 1531. Francisco Pizarro captured Atahualpa, the Inca chief, and promised to release him if the Inca gave him a room full of gold. That was done, but Francisco killed the chief by strangulation. That reminds me, when I went to Spain, I was robbed. But that is a story for a different day!
Ecuador is a presidential republic and became independent in 1830, after having been part of the Spanish Colonial Empire, and for a much shorter time of the republic of Gran Colombia. The main spoken language is Spanish today.
I arrived at Quito airport when the sun was setting. George picked me up from airport and made his way through the mountainous roads to the Mountain Views Inn (MVI) where an 18 person group was assembled for the adventure trip. I was just in time for a sumptuous dinner where I met with other members of the singles group (13 females and 5 males in all). The ages ranged from 27 to 62. Mostly, they were from all over the U.S. plus a few Canadians. After dinner, Robert, our tour organizer and guide and brother of George, briefed us about the next day activities. Then we went to the lounge and played some pool, foosball and table tennis.
After breakfast, Juan, our van driver, helped us escape the city to reach Mindo cloud forest two hours away. This is a magical ecosystem where a near constant mist gives nourishment to trees, lichen and epiphytes. We went to a butterfly farm where we could see beautiful butterflies in various stages of development. Hummingbirds were feeding on nectar. We headed for the canopy tour with 2000 meters of ziplines (10 in total), which was a thrilling experience. This was a nice addition to my zipline experiences in Costa Rica, Cabo san Lucas, Guatemala, Philippines, Virginia and North Carolina. Mindo rainforest is abundant with over 350 species of birds, waterfalls and lagoons. We hiked for a few picturesque miles passing many waterfalls. I was among the brave/crazy to go for a swim in the cold water. A well-earned dinner included Quinoa soup.
This day started off with pouring rain and a temperature of about 50 degrees. This did not stop us from driving to the rivers of Amazon. We put on wet suits and had a very fun time rafting a level 3 whitewater river with experienced guides. When we took out our rafts, we carried them on our heads for a few hundred yards, which was a pain in the neck. After our exhilarating whitewater rafting, we went to see several amazing waterfalls in the area and attempted to cross a turbulent river. The water current was very strong and swept one of our group members down the stream. Luckily, we had an experienced local guide with a rope and we were able to rescue her after some harrowing struggle. After this, we cleaned up and had a picnic. Fresh pineapples and watermelons were always plenty on our outings.
Ecuador was getting into festive spirit because of the approaching New Year. This was apparent when we visited the colorful local city of Otavalo. Parque Bolivar is the civic center of Otavalo surrounded by the main Catholic church and the municipal building. A large gathering of cheerful people and Andean music were filling the square. Of course, I joined the dancing. Then we went to Plaza de los Ponchos, where the artisan Indian market was in full swing. This market is world famous for their textile and handicrafts. We all made out like bandits here because all kinds of souvenirs are quite inexpensive. Our next stop was sparkling blue Cuicocha (Cui- guinea pig) lake formed 3000 years ago. This is a lake within a volcanic crater, at the foot of the dramatic, yet dormant, Cotacachi volcano (13,000 feet). We took a 40 minute boat ride around the two small islands in the middle of the lake marveling at the flora and fauna of the area. It takes 4 hours to hike the 5 mile trail around the edge of the crater. We only hiked for a couple of miles but were rewarded with breathtaking panoramic views. At night, we went to an Irish pub in the small town Tumbaco for a drink.
Half a dozen beautiful horses were ready in the morning. We rode in small groups for about one hour each. After lunch, we spent some time swimming in the pool and had fresh mango fruit. Then we got on mountain bikes and explored Chiche canyon for 2-3 hours. It has a beautiful flowing river at its base. Some of the group decided to hike it instead of riding bikes. In the afternoon, we took a trip to the Old Town of Quito, which is full of Spanish colonial architecture. Independence plaza was the main square of Quito in the 16th century. The Government Palace, the City Hall and the Archbishop’s Palace and the cathedral form the boundaries of the main square. We saw many churches, monasteries, convents and looked up to see the 148 ft. high Virgin Monument (The Winged Angel) on Panecillo Hill. We went to Iglesia de San Francisco, the first church built in Quito. The construction started in 1535, one month after the arrival of the Spanish. We visited another baroque church – La Campania on the way.
This morning we visited La Basilica del Voto Nacional. It is a still unfinished concrete marvel. The stained glass work in this basilica is fabulous. From the top we had spectacular views of the Old City and La Virgin de Quito (as described above). We had a nice lunch of tamales. You can get really high in Ecuador by El Teleferiqo. There, six-person cable cars transport you up the side of Volcan Pichincha. In eight minutes, you go from 10,000 feet to 13,280 feet. From the top, we saw volcanoes on the left and a panoramic view of Quito on the right. On a clear day, one can see surrounding volcanoes: Antisana (18,700 feet), Cayambe (18,725 feet) and Cotopaxi (19,347 feet). When we got out of the cable cars, we hiked further up for an hour and came back. The air was chilly and thin, I was glad to be bundled up for this hike. On the way back in town, we could see the festivities of the New Year’s Eve. Many cross-dressed guys were stopping cars and asking for money (tradition in Ecuador). Many others were dressed in costumes just like Halloween. At night, all 18 of us plus our guides descended upon Plaza Foch in the Mariscal district, dubbed as “Gringolandia” of Quito. The plaza is in the New Town – the fun, culture and entertainment district in Quito and was bustling with party hardy people. We ate our dinner at restaurant Azucar (meaning sugar) and danced the night away in the middle of a maddening crowd. We welcomed 2013 by burning effigies, sort of like bon fires, which is also a tradition in Ecuador.
Juan took us in the van took to a typical farmers’ market located in Tumbaco where fresh fruit and vegetables were sold. On the way, we saw an animal being slaughtered on the roadside. By the way, guinea pigs are quite a delicacy in Ecuador. My stomach was too weak for this. “Ecuador” is the Spanish for “equator,” as the country is situated on equator. We visited this area called the Middle of the World (La Mitad del Mundo). The French built a 30-meter tall massive monument here marking the equator. But that was before GPS came along. They found out that the real equator passes 600 feet north of it. This place is known as Intinan solar museum. The new “real” equator is marked by a red line on the ground. Like countless other tourists, I straddled the red line and was able to get my picture taken with one foot in the Northern hemisphere and one in the Southern. Several scientific phenomena are demonstrated at this place. One is to balance an egg on the head of a nail. The other is: The guide filled water in a pail which had a hole at the bottom. He threw a few small leaves in the pale of water. On the equator, the water simply fell out of the hole without forming a vortex. When he took the pail a few of feet to Southern side, the leaves showed formation of a clockwise vortex. When he took the pail a few feet to the Northern side, the vortex was anti-clockwise. Whether it is due to Coriolis Effect or not, is debatable. We did get to see the “shrunken head” of an Inca chief. This is accomplished by processing the head after killing the person. I wondered if the modern day psychiatrists (shrinks) do something similar!
So many adventures, so little time! I was able to take in much, but a lot was left for next time. I had a fantastic time and recommend this trip to all non-sedentary spirits!
By Ron A. Virmani, M.D.
True of false? Charles Darwin was born on the same day as Abraham Lincoln. Charles Darwin initially believed in the theory of creation.
Both statements are quite true. Both Darwin and Lincoln were born on the same day: February 12, 1809. When Darwin boarded the 10 gun brig (a sailing vessel) named Beagle to explore the world, he believed in the Bible’s story of Creation. From 1831 to 1836, Darwin traveled in very Spartan accommodations for 40,000 miles in search of evidence for the theory of Creationism, but came back with preponderance of facts to irrefutably support the theory of evolution. He put forward the theory of natural selection.
In his travels, Darwin stumbled upon one of the most marvelous evolutionary laboratories on the planet: the Galapagos Islands with its huge turtles clanking along toward the sea on roads they had worn away themselves, and birds whose beaks varied according to what they had to eat. Darwin took his time to write his famous work “The Origin of Species” which sold out on the first day of its publication in 1859.
Not taking Darwin’s word about Galapagos, I decided to explore Galapagos Islands myself.
According to Wilkipedia: The Galápagos Islands are an archipelago of volcanic islands distributed on either side of the Equator in the Pacific Ocean, 926 km (500 nmi) west of continental Ecuador, of which they are a part. There are 13 main islands in the group but only five are inhabited (Santa Cruz, San Cristobal, Floreana, Isabella and Baltra) with a total population of 25,000.
Day 1 – Charlotte to Quito, Ecuador
I started my journey to the fascinating Galapagos Islands on December 22, 2012. An American Airlines flight took me from Charlotte to Miami. Then I took a LanEcuador flight to Quito, the capital of Ecuador. On this flight, I was rewarded with exquisite views of snow covered volcanoes. I stayed overnight at Best Western hotel in Quito, which is inland in Ecuador at an elevation of about 9000 feet, so the temperatures are quite cool.
Day 2 – Quito to Galapgos islands
Next day, I took a flight to Guayaquil (the biggest city in Ecuador and on the Western coast) and then to Baltra airport, where I had to pay $100 fee for entering Galapagos national park. A ten minute water taxi took me to Santa Cruz Island, where I was to ride in another taxi, which was really a pick-up truck. The island at sea level appeared a desert but became lush green as we climbed into the highlands nearing 3000 feet. The famous giant Galapagos tortoises live here. I saw many of them roaming around in the wilderness and eating grass. Each must have weighed several hundred pounds. They hissed with seeming disapproval when the guide took my picture standing behind them. I also got inside the empty shell of a tortoise and had my picture taken. I also explored a cave-like formation called lava channel, I was told lava flowed through it in times of volcanic activity.
The guide took me to Charles Darwin Research Station. This is a research and breeding center for many subspecies of Galapagos tortoises. I was able to see tortoise eggs as well as new hatchlings and tortoises in various stages of life. When mature, the tortoises are released in the wild.
Then the guide took me to my hotel Casa Natura in Puerto (port) Ayora, which is the inhabited part of the island. I had a sumptuous late lunch at 5 pm at Il Giardino restaurant overlooking the beautiful and scenic marina. I spent the evening shopping for souvenirs on the Charles Darwin Avenue.
Day 3 – excursion to Isabella Island
My itinerary included an excursion to Isabela Island. I was taken to the marina from where a speedboat whisked us to Isabella Island. This was a very fast and bumpy ride on the ocean. If you didn’t hang on tight to your seat, you rolled around. Many got seasick.
On Isabela Island, sea lions frolicked all over in the sand. Iguanas played. We took a short dinghy ride and saw sea-turtles mating, penguins deftly diving for fish in the ocean and a blue footed booby bird perched on a volcanic rock. The boat took us to Tintoreras Island. We took a nature walk and saw hundreds of baby iguanas, sea-lions, bright red colored crabs, and sharks in volcanic channels. Then we went to another part of Isabella Island where we snorkeled with sea-lions. We went to the Flamingo lagoon - a volcanic crater which had become a lake where we spotted several flamingoes. The ride back to Santa Cruz Island was another belly churner. I spent this Xmas evening exploring this wonderful island.
Day 4 – Xmas day – 85 degrees on Tortuga bay
After breakfast, my guide took me to Tortuga bay (the name comes from sea turtles that go there to lay their eggs). We walked for about 2 miles west from Puerto Ayora on a marked and cobbled path. We saw many birds such as frigates and finches. On the beach, many turtles were coming in and out of the sea. Marine iguanas were showing off their swimming prowess. Part of the bay is full of rip-tides but I enjoyed an hour of heavenly swimming in the serene part of the bay. Then I put on my snorkel and admired schools of glistening fish. I spent the afternoon in the park on the marina, watching the local children and adults having a great festive day in the sun, some by playing their version of hard-court volleyball.
Day 5 – back to mainland Ecuador
I took taxi from Puerta Ayoro back to ferry point on Santa Cruz Island. On the way, we stopped and saw Los Gamelos, two huge sinkholes made from volcanic activity. The ferry took me back to Baltra airport. I said nostalgic goodbye to Galapagos Islands and its wonderful creatures. I fondly remembered and saluted Charles Darwin and boarded my flight to Quito via Guayaquil. I was ready for my multi-sport adventure in Quito for the next 6 days.
For a country that has last qualified for a World Cup in 1950 and currently ranks 163 in the FIFA world rankings, India would not appear at first glance to be a hotbed of footballing activity. However, this would be doing a disservice to a country that is developing a growing appetite for their former British colonial ruler’s ‘other game.’
Thanks to satellite television and an explosion in the amount of television channels being distributed, soccer is reaching in to an increasing number of Indian homes and catching the imagination of the urban middle-classes. The figures may just surprise you. The FIFA World Cup was watched by 34 million people in 2002. By the 2010 tournament that figure had reached 63 million, an astounding increase in viewers. India’s TAM Media Research report’s ‘among non-cricket sports, soccer is at number one in India, there are eighty-three million football viewers in the country and 55 per cent of them watch domestic leagues.’
These figures haven’t gone unnoticed by the world’s leading clubs. Always anxious to exploit any new market, in particular one which boasts 1.2 billion people and has an economy growing at a rate of 8% per year, the money men’s eyes have shifted to India and its huge youth population which are embracing their newfound exposure to soccer with gusto.
The English Premier League, with channels such as ESPN Star Sports showing 230 matches per season, has found itself millions of new viewers and supporters. The club’s have begun to respond. In December 2011 Manchester United opened their first store in Mumbai. The success of this quickly led to six more outlets appearing and their merchandise spreading to within sixty department stores across the country. In 2012, Mumbai played host to the Manchester club’s first football academy in India. They join Liverpool who opened their academy last year in Pune and plan to open up to five by the end of 2012. Arsenal and Chelsea will not be far behind.
It is not just the Premier League which has caught the imagination, Barcelona, perhaps India’s most popular football team, has announced plans to open an academy in Gurgaon while Real Madrid are heavily rumoured to be following suit. Bayern Munich visited Kolkata in 2008 for an exhibition match against the national side that had an attendance of 125,000 people. The German side have been regular visitors to India ever since.
Within the next few years it is likely that the clubs mentioned, as well as others, will become regular visitors to the country as they attempt to capitalise on two things. The first and likely main objective is merchandising. It’s par for the course now that soccer is a global game. As such, the major clubs are prepared to trek the globe in a quest to increase their reach and more crucially their revenue. In 2010 the UK-India Business Council estimated that the sportswear market in India was worth over £300 million pounds and that is a figure that is expected to rise sharply as soccer’s popularity increases and India’s middle class becomes more affluent. What has started with stores and academies inevitably is the precursor for money-spinning summer tours to come like we see in North America and other Asian countries each pre-season now. Within the next few years we are likely to see the word’s top clubs facing each other across Indian cities, something almost unthinkable at one time.
The second aspect that attracts these clubs is the capacity for untapped player’s potential. To say that the Indian national team has underachieved since it famously declined to attend the 1950 World Cup on account of it’s players being asked to wear soccer boots, is quite an understatement. Cricket, for so long usually the only visible game being played by youngsters on the streets of India outside of the northeast of the country, has found a rival for its nations children’s affections. The increase in visibility of soccer has led to a huge number of youngsters taking up the beautiful game. The European clubs hope to use this to their advantage by establishing a beachhead in India for grooming future stars for their first-teams – the revenue potential of which would be considerable within a country that idolises its sporting heroes. For a country that has historically experienced foreign incursions as a result of its natural resources, this will be nothing new.
Paradoxically, the ripple effect usually brought on by a boom in soccer’s popularity has not favourably affected the fortunes of India’s national side unlike the experience of Japan and South Korea, both of whom experienced a boom in soccer’s popularity in the past twenty years. A long-standing issue with the game in India has been a lack of money and infrastructure within the game. Cricket, for over a hundred years imbedded within the DNA of Indian culture, has left soccer a neglected stepchild by comparison, starved of attention and, crucially, investment. The lack of big-name talents on show in the domestic leagues has done little to attract spectators to many of the cash starved clubs, many of whom have struggled to stay afloat in recent times.
However, there are signs that much-needed change is on the horizon. In 2010 the AIFF (All India Football Federation) signed a fifteen year deal worth $140 million dollars with IMG, a global sports and media developing firm based in the USA, and India’s Reliance Industries, to ‘radically restructure, overhaul, improve, popularize and promote” soccer on an amateur and professional level.’ According to the Indian Express, the deal allowed IMG and Reliance to control the Indian national football team and all current and future professional leagues. Commercially, the partners have control over all sponsorship, advertising, licensing, merchandising and franchise rights.
IMG and Reliance are no fools. They will have noted the success of cricket’s wildly popular IPL (Indian Premier League) which has been valued at £3 billion pounds and estimated that, at current rate, soccer has a good chance of one day, if not necessarily surpassing cricket in India, then certainly become a competitive rival. However, making the domestic I-League marketable and, crucially for all concerned, profitable will take some time to accomplish. IMG’s senior-vice president, Jefferson Slack, told India’s Daily News & Analysis, ‘You can sit at home and watch Manchester United play Real Madrid...we’ve got to compete with that. And that’s the hard reality everywhere around the world. To make the league appealing, we need to improve the playing standard and generate a buzz so that it gets a broadcaster interested. But it all comes down to whether the people are interested. Right now in Indian soccer, people are not. But things will get better.’
Improving the playing standard will take some time but the long-awaited investment has begun. The Premier League’s academies will produce, if not players destined to go overseas, then players with a higher quality of coaching and expertise than was otherwise already available. However, there is a lot of work still to be done to bring access to India’s poorer children. At Manchester United’s Mumbai academy, the costs are prohibitive to many who would like to take part. A trainee has to pay 12,600 rupees ($256; £162) for a course lasting 10 sessions. Soccer, a traditional working-class sport, is in danger of forgetting its roots here. Often, the best talent emerges from the less privileged environments; we need only look at Brazil for evidence of this. However, in countries such as Brazil and Argentina, soccer is ingrained into a young person’s life from birth. As such, there are pitches and teams available to use and join for even the poorest children. Improving grass-roots participation through youth programmes and activities is one of the key challenge’s Indian soccer faces.
The money has only begun to trickle in but the potential for an audience has been spotted by several investors. Cue, too much media hoopla, and now the formation of a new Indian league - Premier League Soccer. The Celebrity Management Group alongside the IFA (Indian Football Association) last year announced a new league set within the state of West Bengal of six clubs, or franchises, to compete in a league season lasting eight weeks during the ‘off-season’ for the domestic players. Do not let the IFA name confuse you. The IFA administers soccer within the state of West Bengal while the AIFF administers on a national scale.
Any developing league invariably relies upon importing well-known overseas players to spark interest in the product. Also announced for this brave new world of Indian soccer were several well known players such as Fabio Cannavaro, Hernan Crespo and Robert Pires, all now at the end of their careers, who were to be available to the six franchises to scrap over as part of an auction. The players, of course, sung the virtues of bringing their own brand of soccer to the great country of India, but the bulk of each clubs $600,000 dollar salary cap would undoubtedly be finding its way into their back-pockets. A price worth paying for the exposure they would provide the league, some could argue.
The stage was all set for the latest biggest event in India’s footballing history. But it didn’t happen. Beset with problems from the outset the league was postponed indefinitely in February this year. The West Bengal state government refused to allow access to its stadia due to the murkiness of the tournament’s finances and source of funding. The AIFF, for their part, refused to allow player’s from their I-League to join, citing that the league was a state-run, and not national, tournament. The rumour now is that the AIFF, along with their commercial partner IMG, plan on organising their own franchise-based mini - league to take place next year.
The impact of overseas soccer within India has been a double-edged sword thus far. Interest in the game itself has spiked considerably but at the expense of the domestic leagues which still struggles to compete with the foreign stars that appear on the television. Aware of the interest in their product, the Premier League and La Liga sharks have begun to circle a vast, new market ripe for exploitation. India is set to be the next battleground between these global clubs.
However, overseas involvement, such as IMG, within Indian soccer itself is not necessarily a bad thing especially in terms of generating revenue through commercialising the product. The investment in infrastructure and an increased awareness in the revenue potential of football will hopefully lead to an increase in the amount of spectators entering the grounds. It is a domino effect. The more spectators will mean more supporters and more supporters equal younger players aspiring to represent that club in the future.
Perhaps then, the breakthrough moment will come with what India’s young people ultimately desire, their own home grown stars to get behind. If they could create a player, perhaps dare one say, at or near the equivalency of crickets Sachin Tendulkar, then Indian soccer may just yet take off in the country that world soccer almost once gave up upon.
By Nirja Rakesh Parikh
Guru sakshaat parabrahma tasmay shri gyrave namaha
Then suddenly from over my shoulder I heard the sarcastic tone of my mother-in-law; “Oh my, quite the Bhagat (devotee) aren’t you!” This and other sarcastic comments that followed shocked me and left me speechless. Never in my religious and loving upbringing had I ever heard an Indian person poke fun at their own religious idols. And never would I have imagined a respected elder to be the ill-sayer.
With the enormous exposure to western society, there are many amongst us who have doubts and skepticism of idol worship. Those who scorn and question this worship of idols prove to me their enormous ignorance and understanding of Hinduism, specifically, and anything profound in general.
No religion on earth is without a symbol or idol today. The Catholics have their many saints and the Cross. The Muslims their Crescent moon, Buddhists their beautiful statues of Buddha. Hinduism, as laid out in the Veda, claims only one god who is omnipresent. None amongst us who pray to idols truly believes the idol we stand before is actually this omnipresent god. But we are mere mortals. And this idea of the omnipresent god is big and difficult concept for mere mortals to grasp. The mental image or the physical idol we pray to help us to focus and make it easier. It also clears our mind of other baggage. It helps to bring ones heart and mind fully to the task at hand, which is to worship God and nothing else.
Then how can idol worship be a sin? If your eyes are fixed on Krishna and your are chanting prayers with your hands together, there is just not a whole lot of your being left available to harm oneself or another being. There’s not much of your mind left for harmful thoughts and feelings. In short, you are mentally and physically non-violent to yourself and others. Isn’t this what Hinduism calls for?
That’s not to say that the help of the idols and symbols is necessary to everyone. Hinduism is not dogmatic. But it is a vast, complex spiritual truth that not every mind can grasp easily. Nobody can deny that there are only a handful of enlightened souls amongst us. The rest of us are still grappling to attain mukti.
The idols are our middle men. You wouldn’t dream of going all the way to a Coca Cola manufacturing plant to buy a can of coke. There are several middle men we encounter before we can feel that cool, sweet, refreshing stuff trickle down our throats. The bottlers deliver it to several warehouses, after which it goes to our grocery stores or vending machines. We have to look out for the Coca Cola sign and finally we can reach out and take the can or bottle and finally experience that wonderful pop, sizzle and sweetness.
The idols are a necessary stage of life. “Would it be right for an old man to say that childhood is a sin, or youth a sin?” Childhood was the necessary stage to progress to adolescence, which in turn is a necessary stage to adulthood, which is a necessary stage to old age. This progression is necessary and completely unavoidable.
I admit unashamedly to being in the childhood phase. Initially I did not. In fact I’m ashamed to say that I packed the boxes up again and they remained so for many years. In my quest to please my new family, I disrupted the natural progression of my spirituality. But they are back. The idols. My children are their newest fans.
Ganesh, Krishna with his flute, Hanuman and his strong body. These are my Santa Claus, my tooth fairies. I will never stop believing in them. They will always have a special place in my heart and home.
By Nirja Rakesh Parikh
Mark Twain once said that, “India is the cradle of the human race, the birthplace of human speech, the mother of history, the grandmother of legend, and the great grandmother of tradition. Our most valuable and most instructive materials in the history of man are treasured up in India only.”
After my graduation from North Carolina State University in May 2011, I was firm on going back to my roots to discover myself and possibly learn many new things. Growing up in America with an Indian background I have always enjoyed going to India and I have had a dream of going back there for more than just a couple of weeks.
As a dancer and a dance teacher, I knew that India would be the most ideal place for me to advance further in my training for classical dance since it is the source of the dance forms which I am interested in.
Now that I am back from my 120 day trip to India, I can truly say that I had a true cultural experience, which had a good share of low moments where I wish I was back in America but now more than anything, I wish I could return back to my home (India).
This trip allowed me to get out of my comfort zone, a chance to give back to my country by volunteering, celebrating Hindu festivities such as Navratri, spiritually connecting to my beliefs, improving my mother tongue, and assimilating to the local life. I encourage students who are in their senior year of college to take the chance to take a year off to go back to the motherland and discover yourself. You will not regret it.
As I was writing this short article, I was wondering how many people actually follow their dream. People grow up with so many desires and ambitions but some people never fulfill their desires. I did not want to be one of those people who grew old and regretted not following my inner instincts and this was the perfect time and age in my life to go for this trip! I am young, not committed to anything and have an intrinsic drive to push myself to the limits.
I am so fortunate to have parents who supported my dance desire and allowed me to go to India.
As the time approached near to my departure, I had sleepless nights because of anxiety. I instantly overcame this nervousness because I knew that I was listening to my heart and all I kept repeating in my mind was, “So here I come, motherland!” I want everyone to think about what their childhood dreams were, and why did they give up on those dreams?
Walt Disney once exclaimed, “All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.” Why not give your dreams a chance? I did, and I can honestly say that I am a better and stronger human being now than I ever was before.
As soon as I stepped foot in India, it was a surreal feeling because I was still in utter shock that I actually left my family and friends halfway across the world. My uncle came to pick me at the airport and dropped me to my grandmother’s house in Ahmadabad, Gujurat. Since it was midnight and I was jet-lagged, I did not properly see how the city that I was born in transformed into but nevertheless I was titillated to discover mysterious India.
My excitement died out as soon I reached home and I went straight to sleep since it was daytime according to my biological clock. As soon as I dozed off, guess who just had to come disturb my beauty sleep, several monkeys. There were about 10 of them behind our balcony tree, and they were all trying to come in but none of them could come inside except the baby monkey! Eventually the monkeys ran away, but some were still monkeying around on the neighbor’s roof, and eating fruits they stole. Talk about cultural shock! This only can happen in India, and India is truly blessed.
I don’t know any other country that can have animals like peacocks, monkeys, dogs, and cows all over the busy streets and rarely have road kill. People here would rather give up their own lives than risk hurting an animal on the street. Animals are really valued and I respect India for this notion. The people of India have so much faith in each other that despite the chaotic roads, they know that they are going to be fine and will not hurt or injure any animals.
My trip to India had many different components to it such as Navratri and Diwali, traveling, volunteering at an orphanage for the blind, auditioning for reality show “Dance India Dance,” meeting the chief minister of Gujarat, dancing on stage with Sharukh Khan, spending quality time with family members and creating bonds that will last a lifetime.
But all this cannot be summed up in one article. So stay tuned for my next month’s article as I go in further detail about my very Indian adventure!
My Very Indian Adventure - Luck By Chance
By Nirja Rakesh Parikh
I called my neighbor, who is about my same age and told her that we have to go to Baroda Central Mall to see ShahRukh, but she was in college and exclaimed that in this heat and a very large crowd, we would not have a pleasant experience, so it was not worth to go. I still was not convinced by my neighbor, so I continued my quest. I started to call my local friends that I had made by this time to see who would accompany me.
Finally, my friend Sanchi was ready to take me on her scooter to go to the Mall. I took a quick five minute cold shower and sat on Sanchi’s hot scooter. We were on our way to see ShahRukh Khan and I was excited. On our ride there, I started daydreaming of how ShahRukh would call me from the audience to dance with him. Suddenly, my daydream was interrupted when Sanchi started scolding me on how, “Nirja, don’t get too excited, you don’t know the Indian crowd, you will barely get to see a glimpse of him.” I nodded in agreement. As soon as we got to the venue, it was packed with thousands of fellow Indians all waiting for hours in the heat to see their favorite actor.
My friend and I reached the venue really late and while we were parking her scooter, by chance ShahRukh’s security guard approached me. He asked if I knew how to dance and, of course, I replied out loudly yes!
The next thing I know, I was on stage next to ShahRukh Khan with two other girls. He asked each of our names, and I thought to be just funny and witty, I announced my name as Nirja Khan. Then, ShahRukh announced that there was going to be a small dance competition between the three girls on the stage, and whoever had the most applause from the audience will be the announced winner. The music started to the famous soundtrack, “Chammak Chalo” sung by American music artist Akon and I started moving to the beat. I was having so much fun dancing on stage as ShahRukh Khan was standing five feet away from me.
He noticed that I loved the attention from the crowd and came next to me and started dancing. So there I was on stage dancing with ShahRukh Khan, almost every Bollywood lovers’ dream. At the end of the song, he called out all of our names to the large crowd, and somehow I received the most cheers, so I was announced the “winner.” ShahRukh himself even said that I danced with a lot of masti. He gifted me a big gift box which had autographed Ra One back to school supplies such as pencils, CDs, journal, pens, a small pencil bag, and a note pad. It was a great experience and after the King Khan finished his promotion, he left and people were taking videos, interviews, pictures of me. And you what? It felt great! This was definitely a once in a lifetime experience and a moment I will never forget, and I hope ShahRukh Khan won’t forget it either. As they say, sometimes it is all about where you are at the right time.
By Jai Rangappa (Hampton, VA)
Of a space flight round earth nifty,
By US Astronaut John Glen.
In the cold war ‘space run’.
Orbited globe 3 times did John Glen,
Flying in the spacecraft Friendship 7,
He thanked all who made it happen.
With the Soviets the USA became even.
NASA landed a man on the Moon,
Russia now, was old Soviet Union,
All nations now use Space Station.
In 1998, at age of seventy seven,
With Astronaut Stephen Robinson,
Became oldest in space, a human.
Join many a surviving space veteran,
Of NASA historic Project Mercury,
Celebrated the 50th Anniversary.
Who are now in their seventy to 80,
Swapped stories of 1962, February 20,
In wheelchairs and canes were retiree.
Now China, India are into space flight,
United States has to lead again to Mars,
Carry humans into Space with no bars.
By Ritu Bhat
It seems just like yesterday, when she came into my world,
I knew that very moment; she was more than just my baby girl.
Her face so perfect, she was so sweet, so soft and was so pure,
All wrapped in pink, my little girl, looked like an angel for sure!
She gives greatest hugs to me, be it morning, evening or night.
Sometimes she is willful and sometimes demure and sometimes she is so coy,
She wants to do all that she can, to give me so much joy!!!
Her twinkling eyes, her naughty smile, her face is flawless as can be!
She is so gentle and so kind…to everyone she knows,
And as the time just goes by, she grows and grows and grows!
I’ll miss these moments of laughter and joy, mixed with a few tears to cry.
The nightly rituals, the bedtime stories, will remain forever in my head
The giggles, the laughs, the piggy-back ride, on her way to the bed!
And I shall always pray to God…that let her stay some more with me!
All I know she would always be... my little baby girl,
With a sweetness that shall never end, I would always be her closest friend!
By Jai Rangappa (Bowie, MD)
Band of Negro fraternity,
Fought in air so bravely,
Did not lose planes any,
In WW II, old Germany.
In US Air Corps Army,
Defeated German Nazi,
Stood America proudly.
AL airfield patriotically,
Racists of the country.
Of the Airman Tuskegee,
Not heard by very many
American citizens sadly.
Pilot, absurd to so many,
Said Army report in 1925,
Little hope for black to fly.
To Civil rights group eventually,
To train black men with talent,
To be pilots, fly in US military.
By “Chief” Anderson, black pilot
At the Air Institute in Tuskegee,
After a ‘ride’ by Eleanor Roosevelt,
As S. Service relented eventually.
In planes day and night did fly,
Did learn an air combat strategy,
Flight controls and meteorology.
Under Col. Benjamin O. Davis, troop,
Did train all pilot airmen of Tuskegee
Enter air combat in Africa, Germany.
Fighting Luftwaffe air force of Nazi.
To protect US Bombers on missions
And protect them as they flew slowly,
Skilled pilots fought with old lessons.
332nd saved them in close company,
Painted bright red their airplane tails,
Courage nicknamed “Red Tail Angels “.
For Tuskegee Pilots courage and combat,
Many White pilots who initially did object
Did request the protection and soulful pat.
Did destroy 260 aircraft of an enemy,
Sank a destroyer, demolish installation,
With no loss of their planes you see.
Made proud American black community,
And all the American citizens generally,
Show racist leaders in the Big Military.
By many governments, other military,
Humble and skilled pilots of Tuskegee
Were all disbanded after WW II finally.
USA should be grateful in perpetuity.
Distinguished Flying Crosses, Silver Star,
Legions of Merit & Yugoslavian Red Star,
Purple Hearts and French Croix de Guerre,
Congressional Gold Medal, 62 years later
Given by President G. Bush to pilots dare!
I flew into Kathmandu, Nepal in mid-Oct, and met my teammates: a police officer from Gibraltar, an acrobat pilot from Lithuania, and one from South Korea, all led by a climbing guide and five Sherpas to carry camping equipment, gear, and food. We started chatting soon, and people started discussing their previous experiences. Most had done either Mt. Elbrus (highest in Europe), Mt. Aconcagua (highest in Americas), or Mont Blanc in France.
We started the following day and flew to the base at Lukla (9,400 feet) from where our expedition would begin. Lukla’s Tenzing-Hillary airport was something. The runway was only 1500 feet, and is inclined at 10%. The take-offs and landings are always interesting here.
We began the climb the following day with roughly 25 lbs on each of our packs. Our climbing routine was 7-8 hours of climbing. We’d usually stop after 4pm and the rest of the time would be spent in setting up tents, re-arranging equipment, taking off the crampons, etc. It was very cold in the tents (around -10C), but I managed to get roughly four hours of sleep.
On the fourth day we were to climb the first high pass at 15,200 feet, and then climb down for the night. Climbers go by the maxim – climb high, sleep low – meaning the sleeping elevation shouldn’t increase by more than 1000 feet per day roughly, although you could climb higher during the day. This is to acclimatize effectively. We began at 8am the following day and by mid-day we were at the top of the pass; however, we had to come back down to 12,000 ft for the night. At this stage, due to the low oxygen levels, we had also begun taking Diamox (Acetazolamide) to prevent AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness).
After several days of climbing, we reached glacier camp at 17,200 feet amidst a lot of crevasses. Everything went well, except for the one incident. A porter from the expedition ahead of us died due to altitude-sickness the previous day. He was carried down to 14,000 ft. where the helicopters could come in to transport the body. The incident affected everyone’s mood.
The next day, we started early for high-camp (19,300 feet), with each climber roped in to each other so if one slips, the others could arrest his fall. By the time we reached high-camp it was around 3 pm. The high-camp was a rocky ledge covered with snow and ice and the last stop before summit attempt. There was hardly any room to pitch a tent there and there were steep drops all over the place. One side of the tent was right alongside the edge, so I had to put some heavy equipment on the opposite side to be extra careful.
We talked to a few climbers who were waiting and didn’t submit due to avalanches that resulted from fresh snow the previous day. Some climbers had aborted the climb because of frost-bite, or altitude sickness, and were being rescued by helicopters. We estimated that roughly 4 out every 10 made it to the summit. I felt pretty good that evening for the altitude although I was very tired. No sign of altitude sickness and my pulse was around 80.
On day 20 we made the summit attempt for 21,500 feet. We began in the dark at 3am with four layers of clothing and our headlamps on. The climb was extremely difficult with some very steep sections and cold at -20 Celsius. The last 250 feet of the summit was almost vertical. We really pushed ourselves for the next 4-5 hrs. The climbing was slow. The cold made it difficult to get a proper foothold even with the crampons, or get an adequate grip on the rope. Finally, with the ice-axe in my left hand, and Jumars clipped to the rope in my right, I reached the peak! Once on top, I anchored myself using my safety carabiners since there wasn’t much room to walk around and there were steep drops all over the place. I could see Everest, Kangchenjunga, Lhotse, Makalu, and Choyou clearly; they represent five of the six highest peaks in the world. I spent roughly 10 minutes on the peak, gathered my equipment and started my descent.
I knew I had to be very careful since most accidents happen on the descent. I started abseiling down. It took me five hours to come down to 14,000 feet. We had been climbing or descending for 12 hrs. It was bitterly cold and the weather was getting bad. It began to snow. Now, 23 days after the start of my expedition, I was finally down and back in Kathmandu at a small but famous Tibetan hotel called Utse. I took a much needed shower and shaved. I finally slept well that night knowing that I had accomplished what I had wanted to do.
By Ashima Kodali and Seher Khanna
From the golden era of Madhubala to the thumkas and jhatkas of Munni and Sheila, the Indian film industry has transformed, modernized, and exploded into “Bollywood.” And along for the ride have come the costumes, dances, and the music. Today the leading musical talent from Bollywood collaborates with the likes of Akon, Snoop Dogg, and Kylie Minogue. The result is the sometimes sultry, sometimes earthy, always pumping music we love.
Bollywood music pervades almost everywhere today. In India of course you can hear it blaring from chai stalls filled with autorickshaw wallas, and high-end discotheques frequented by the who’s-who. Bollywood music has gone far beyond the big screen with reality shows Just Dance and Dance India Dance capitalizing on the Bollywood craze by choreographing competitive routines using hip-hop, ballroom, Latin etc. with Bollywood music. Here in the US, shows like So You Think You Can Dance regularly feature Bollywood dance and music, and of course A.R. Rahman’s “Jai Ho” topped the music charts in five countries around the world.
So what’s next for Bollywood music?
Well, let’s take all that bhangra, garba, classical, and fusion music from Bollywood, throw it in a box with some high energy, easy to follow dance steps, shake it all up, and voila: an exotic new fitness routine is born! Consequently, Bollywood music has begun to play a major role in the global fitness arena. Popular dancers like Serena Jain and Hemalayaa have successfully launched dance-based fitness programs and videos, all set to the beat of catchy Bollywood tunes. Mainstream gyms are adding Bollywood-based fitness classes to their offerings as an alternative to Zumba, well aware that gym-rats are always on the lookout for the next new fitness craze to add to their workout regimen. And Bollywood fitness is just that. The combination of moves and music is unique, yet you don’t have to be on Dancing with the Stars to get the hang of it. Simplifying Farah Khan’s choreography and Hrithik Roshan’s dance moves retains the very essence of Bollywood, and combining this essence with targeted, aerobic moves yields an exciting and effective workout.
And so, Bollywood fitness classes are springing up everywhere in the US as well as in India, attracting a diverse range of clients.
Especially after Slumdog Millionaire’s eight Oscars, there is a growing segment of the American population interested in Indian music, food, and culture. For them, traditional and classical Indian dancing often seems complex, daunting and inaccessible. However, Bollywood, especially in a fitness domain, is much less intimidating, and non-Indians are excited to be part of this movement. Not only do they get to experience a different genre of music they also gain familiarity with certain cultural aspects related to the Indian sub-continent. Xeniya Klimova, a regular at BFit Dance in Charlotte, says, “I love the unique combination of ethnic choreography with cardio moves. I feel like I’m dancing rather than working out, it raises my mood on the rest of the day.”
At the same time, those familiar with Bollywood and all its masala, enjoy the opportunity to dance to Bollywood music in a safe environment, while getting a workout at the same time. For them, the nostalgia they feel when they hear the “dhol” or the “shehnai” often brings back memories, thus involving them in the classes at a much deeper level. Of course they are intrinsically familiar with the moves, whether they consider themselves dancers or not, there is an in-built momentum that kicks into action!
In this day and age we all know how important it is to be physically fit. And choices are unlimited. Some of us prefer a brisk walk in the neighborhood while some opt for state-of-the-art gyms; but once in a while, it’s great for your mind, and your body to blast some really wild Bollywood music and go crazy. Shake off those inhibitions, stomp out the stress, and relax! In just a few minutes you will discover moves and muscles you never knew you had.
Article courtesy of www.bfitdance.com
By Sadashiva Godbole
(Sung to the tune of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”)
We can’t wait, we can’t sleep,
We can’t do ‘most anything,
Priya’s son is coming to town.
Lots-of-toys are here, the bassinet is all set,
So is baby’s swingo-matic, and soft-cozy blanket.
We can’t wait, we can’t sleep,
We can’t do ‘most anything,
Prem’s son is coming to town.
Nanee-is here-and-ready, Nanaji is ready too!
Dadee-is waiting eagerly, for the happy happy news.
We can’t wait, we can’t sleep,
We can’t do ‘most anything,
Our grandson, is coming to town.
Dear Priya is hosting, the process of creation*,
Let’s give-her-a jolly-big-hand, and-watch God in-action.
We can’t wait, we can’t sleep,
We can’t do ‘most anything,
Priya’s son is coming to town,
Prem’s son is coming to town,
Our grandson, is coming to town.
* The conception and child bearing process are very actively associated with God’s creative power. During this process, stem cells are created, which differentiate into specific cells to, further forming the physical structure of the body. Therefore, a pregnant lady has an especially active God’s presence in her during that time and it is an opportunity to see God in action. She is hosting, and participating in the divine creation process, which continues until the child is weaned off mother’s milk. Thus she should be specially respected, honored, and treated with tender love and care during that time. God has entrusted ladies with this exclusive capability.
By Roshan Attrey
The Hindu Center was only two years old when I came to Charlotte. The Charlotte Indian community was quite small then – small enough that you could hail a stranger walking on a street because he or she looked Indian. That was before the mid-eighties. The Hindu Center catered to the religious, cultural, and social needs of most Indians then, particularly the Hindus and those closely affiliated with them.
A decade passed – Charlotte grew larger and became more diverse, and with that grew the Indian community and the Hindu Center. In 1993 the Hindu Center hosted its biggest week-long religious event at the Oasis Temple – The Rama Katha. The administration marked the occasion by bringing out the 1993 special publication titled The Ram Katha. Of many significant letters and articles included in it, the one on page 5 still inspires me. It is a statement of the Hindu Center’s vision, which reads as follows:
The Hindu Center Dreams of a Future in which Indian heritage becomes part of America:
—In which Indian children feel accepted by their American peers;
—In which they cherish their Indian names;
—In which they choose to worship according to their Indian religions;
—In which they cherish the best of their Indian culture;
—In which they speak at least one Indian language;
—In which they keep their ties with India;
—and in which they pass the Indian heritage on to future generations and keep the torch lit.
Does this statement inspire you despite some distinctions in your belief system? If so, you might find it worthwhile to think deeply over the issues that matter to us and our children in the years to come. We are at a juncture when Charlotte’s Hindu population, which has reached a peak in diversity and in numbers, should find creative ways to pool its resources for a more vibrant future of the community.
Now, almost thirty years later, the second generation is beginning to step in to take charge of many things at the Hindu Center, and even the third generation, enrolled in local daycare centers and schools, is getting exposed to its activities and happily playing on its premises. This religious-cultural center is steadily growing and improving as it responds to its members’ religious, social, and cultural needs. Periodically, as indicated by the temple’s ongoing activities and developments, the Center reviews current and future needs of the Charlotte Metro Hindu community and actively seeks input from its members.
Thus far the Hindu Center has been a place of worship for Hindus of all stripes and a sort of cultural center for Indians in general, including north Indians, south Indians, Gujaratis, Sindhis, Maharashtrians, Bengalis, and Punjabis, to name a few. And the picture becomes quite colorful when you add Hindus from other countries, such as Fiji, Kenya, Uganda, Malaysia, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Surinam, and others. These groups represent a huge diversity, meaning numerous differences in language, food habits, ways of dressing, religious and social practices, and in other aspects. At the Hindu Center I feel they have satisfied in some measure their need or desire to connect to other Hindus and in so doing softened and modified their original edges and angularities so that their children would find a bigger pool of Hindu children to connect to and draw upon.
Sometimes when a certain section of society reaches a critical mass in terms of its population and resources, they tend to exercise their right to a separate temple of their own, especially if supported by distinct traditions and belief systems. I believe, however, that if they can function together in one temple, or under one religious umbrella even when separate, they should do so – knowing that deep religious affinities hold them together.
When the various religious groups accept and accommodate one another harmoniously, they cumulatively enrich and empower all children emotionally, intellectually, and religiously. If, for instance, my son can associate only with a small group of 25 children of my religious denomination, he will become exposed only to that small group. Conversely, if he can be part of a group of 100 children, he will have the opportunity to be part of a much larger number, from which to draw upon and to broaden his horizons and enlarge his mental-spiritual landscape. Moreover, I might argue, the Hindu community is relatively small and politically not strong, and if it becomes divided into smaller groups, its power and resources become divided. So it is important for us as a community to know what can unite us and realize the power in “unity in diversity” to best serve the interests of our children and grandchildren.
While I do understand the advantages of smaller groups (warmth, autonomy, etc.), our children would be better off connecting also to larger and diverse groups of Indians. Some of you might disagree with me, but I feel our children would find it advantageous to learn: how their religious heritage is pan-Indian/pan-Hindu, how it is relevant to their American lives, how their heritage – and they – should relate to other people living in this country and on the planet, and how it – and they – can improve the lot of humanity.
I hope you would find some food for thought in these reflections. If you please, think over the issues that matter to us and our children in the years to come. Let us find creative ways to pool our resources for a better future for our community or communities. On the whole, the Hindu Center has made the various Hindu denominations feel at home, which minimized their differences and valued common ground as Hindus and Indians. As long as the Hindu Center keeps its focus on its long-term vision, continues to evolve with the changing times, and remains relevant to its members, it will continue to effectively serve most Indians, particularly Hindus and those closely associated with them.
By Jay Desai
What could be more exciting? The Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger chanting “satyameva jayate” alongside Oscar-winner A R Rahman and three other international artists, Dave Stewart, Joss Stone and Damian Marley. This is exciting indeed, that Jagger is truly singing in Sanskrit!
“Satyameva Jayate” meaning “truth alone triumphs” is a part of the Hindu mantra from the ancient scripture Mundaka Upanishad. Upon India’s independence from Britain, the phrase was adopted as the national motto of India. It is inscribed at the base of the national emblem. The emblem and words “Satyameva Jayate” are also inscribed on one side of all Indian currency.
Rahman was asked to offer a great Indian song for the multi-artist album. Rahman said in a recent interview, it was l “long dream for me was to take one of the morals of Indian culture which is Satyameva Jayate and make it a song.”
Much milking has been done of this mantra for many centuries by politicians or by nations or now by artists like Rahman, rather than leaving it as an example. More so, where in India does he find that truthful moral? Although it is not an easy proposition for any ordinary individual, or for that matter any nation, to leave and lead by this famous mantra. Let’s accept that, for most of us, it is merely more politically correct or poetic, cosmetic, and compelling on an Indian currency or the country’s emblem.
However, one man was not ordinary, but was exceptional and historic. He showed the world that “Satyameva Jayate” is true; that truth is tough, testing, and challenging but does triumph in the end.
Gandhi was unique when it comes to exploring truth, and of course executing it in every aspect of life, or struggle or fight. He explained little more about his fascination and pursuits of truth in his biography, so aptly titled “My Experiments with Truth.”
In this biography he talked about some of his childhood experiences, including one when he disobeyed his teacher who wanted him to copy correct spelling of the world “Kettle” from a fellow student.
The teacher wanted all his students to come out with all the words spelled correctly, because an Educational Inspector was visiting his class to examine the teacher’s own teaching record. But to the student Gandhi, such untruthful acts were not appealing.
The other crucial one was the play he watched. The play on King Harishchandra – the historical legend who sacrificed all his materials and kingdom just for the sake of his high regards for truth. This character and the play inspired Gandhi greatly, something he talked about later. Gandhi aspired to be King Harishchandra.
The seeds were probably planted at the right time, and then later on, he just kept mastering his character around these basic ethical forces - sacrifice, love, truthfulness. He termed his freedom struggle against British as “Satyagraha” – insistence of truth, or truth force; and surely there are other interpretations to it! And not to forget, he learned from Tolstoy and Ruskin about passive resistance and non-violent force, which he blended in with those ethical forces. His ultimate weapon became Satyagraha.
Satyagraha did sound complex or even cowardly to many of his contemporaries, maybe even to his adversaries the powerful British. Although it was the only practical yet mighty means against the tactful, established, and shrewd British. Strategist that Gandhi was, he had probably seen it through, as he had been fighting against them while living in South Africa. Well, he was challenged by his own people many times, more than the British for using these soft techniques. He would never give up, though. He had faith in these ethical forces and more importantly they were evidenced at every stage in his practice. It was not easy using these softer ethical weapons as the fight for freedom was tough. It was tougher than the cowardly British General Dyer’s massacre of hundreds of innocent children, women and men in Jalianwala Bagh in Amritsar, Punjab.
Gandhi would put a stop to his Satyagraha movement many times when he saw the prevailing weaknesses of violence, hatred and “Duragraha” (opposite of Satyagraha). These weaknesses were many times purposefully provoked by his opposition. He would rather wait than dilute his ethical means.
Gandhi just wanted a fair fight while applying the force of truth. In the end, to him, truth was higher than his fight, or outcome of his fight, and as he perceived, truth was higher than even God. Truth was his God. Non-violence was the means of realizing Him.
And, as it seemed to Gandhi, when and where truth prevails, there prevails true Godliness.
By Ananya Mallavarapu
Anita looked into the office at the man hunched over the table focusing diligently at his work. He was so focused he hadn’t even heard her approach the room. The only sound that could be heard in the otherwise silent room was the slow scratch of pencil on paper and a slight rustling every time a new ruler or compass was used to draw lines.
She’d never imagined that she’d be here today, especially not in the state that she was in. When her parents had suggested marriage she’d acquiesced mainly because, at twenty-six, she felt it was time to look at settling down and starting a family. Out of all the marriage prospects, for some reason Nitin’s face had struck hers. She’d met him and his family and couldn’t help but be drawn to the man.
He was caring and compassionate and wanted a family. But he didn’t want a housewife either- he wanted a woman who could work and yet be there to put her children first. He fit all her ideals. Being an architect, he was a hard-worker who often brought his work home with him, but at the same time always made time for family.
Before she’d gotten married, she’d stipulated that she’d need a three month “dating” period to make sure that this man was for her. Truthfully, she sometimes wondered if the “dating” period was necessary now. Nitin had always been considerate of her. He’d taken her views into account and tried hard to reach that middle ground with her. Instead of the three months that were given, it only took her two months to tell her parents that she wanted to marry him. Six months later they were.
Now two years after that day she’d gotten married, she was here, in love with her husband who loved and cherished her in return. Shaking out of her sudden reminiscence, she knocked on the door causing Nitin to briefly look up from his work. After all, she’d come here for a different reason altogether.
“You shouldn’t stand too long.” He chastised as she walked inside and made her way to him. The study was the one room that she couldn’t touch. Being an architect, Nitin needed a room in which he could use work without having to worry about space when he brought work home.
His home, which now had become their home, was modest. It had three bedrooms, one which doubled as a guest bedroom and her own private lawyer sanctuary, one which they had made Nitin’s room and their bedroom. But they both were looking for a bigger home; one in which they could happily raise the family they both wanted.
“I haven’t been standing too long.” She replied, coming to stand by him. “Plus, I can’t just sit all the time and expect to be carried everywhere.” Nitin looked up again, a brief smile playing at his lips. She loved it when he did that; it made her feel privy to a side of him that was meant for her only and that alone made her heart swell. She knew that was also why he did it so often too- to make her happy.
“Maybe not, but I still worry.” He pushed away from the table, setting his pencil down on the papers and pulling her onto his lap. He knew she’d come to tell him she was going to bed, and he was done with his work for the night anyway, so he supposed that it was as good a time as any to relax with his wife. He held her, stroking her hair lovingly, before his hands strayed down to her stomach.
“When do you think you’ll start showing?”
Anita tenderly placed her hands on top of his. She was only two months in but her husband worried over her so much. It was nice to feel that sense of protection from him. It was also nice to see how much love he had towards the family they were creating.
“I’m only in my first trimester,” she replied, “give me two more months and I might start showing then.”
“Hn.” His eyes refused to stray from that spot as though he was imaging her swell with child. She didn’t mind it, but she hadn’t come here to talk; as she muffled a yawn, her intentions became clearer.
“I’m sorry about dragging you to bed so early.” She began bringing her hand back to cover his. “I was just going to tell you I was sleepy.”
“It’s no problem.” Gently ushering her up out of her seat he stood up, placing his hands on her back and guiding her up the stairs. He was always attentive. At first Anita had tried to push away that side of him, but soon it grew on her and she could only accept it whenever it came- such as now when he helped her upstairs and into their room.
Nitin quickly changed into his night clothes and used the bathroom. By the time he was back in the room, his wife had already settled herself under the comforter and lay there waiting for him. Turning on the lamp, he switched off the large light and settled beside her. When he was sure she was comfortable, he turned off the little lamp as well.
“Good night. I love you.” Anita’s voice meandered to him and he sighed gathering her closer to his body. No matter how many times he heard it, the three words managed to make him feel tremendously happy.
“I love you both too. Good night.” Settling himself around his wife, he settled in for a comfortable night of sleep thinking of the family they were starting together.
By J. Dana Trent
India has an age-old system of monkey versus human. Monkeys perched on market street rooftops, poised to steal eyeglasses as ransom for snacks. Not far behind these thieves are angry shopkeepers, shooing away the rascals for fear their spectacle-wearing customers will neglect their purchases.
India’s other ancient tradition is Hinduism. Touted as one of the world’s oldest religions (circa 2500 BCE), India’s rich Hindu history is foundational to its daily life. Although monkeys are seemingly everywhere in India—God is even more so. Temples, shops, schools, and even cars are adorned with representations of the Divine. Men, women, and children wear outward signs of their inward faith preferences, carry japa (prayer) beads, and offer religious greetings to one another in the street.
Last January, when my husband and I returned back to the US from our two-week honeymoon in Vrindavan, India, I missed God. On most American days, I don’t see God. The divine is not obvious in my workplace, my car, on the street, in the grocery store, or at the mall.
There was a time when God felt more present. During my Clinical Pastoral Education Residency (2006-07), at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, I saw God in most hospital moments. Someone was invariably having their worst day, and as patients and families asked, “Why?” God was ostensibly nowhere and everywhere—all at once. While patients and families felt that God’s comforting presence had been exchanged for disease, trauma, and bad news, the chaplain—focusing on being open and unassuming—was willing to hold their suffering for the moment, hour, or night.
India was not unlike this chaplain experience. In India, you relinquish control. Patience is a must; days are spent praying, waiting, and moving (slowly) through life’s chaos. Temples keep time and rituals mark the hours. Your minutes are not your own—they belong to God for worship, bhakti (devotion), and service. The country’s landscape is imbued with a constant hum of chanting Hindus.
The hospital felt similar. Patients’ time was not their own. They were at the mercy of their circumstances and caregivers. Endlessly waiting, they surrendered control and slipped into the institutional rhythm, and prayed.
In India, I struggled with God just as I did as a chaplain. Questions of suffering, purpose, war, evil, joy, and sadness bruised my time. I abided by schedules not of my own making, walked with suffering people, breathed stale smells, and washed off the despair at the end of the day. I adjusted, let go of control, and accepted India as a place for healing and surrender. It seemed familiar. While white coats save lives in one time-keeping house, saffron robes save souls in another.
I miss India. In my American life, I rush through my day, barely whispering a quick prayer before dinner and bed. I neglect Scripture study. I don’t carry prayer beads to work or to run errands. When I shop, there is no sweet smell of incense or an altar to remind me that God, too, looks over this place. I’m blissfully unaware of the depth of human suffering. I’m grumpy and I lose patience with others. I skip church, snarl at traffic, and indulge in far too many large meals.
I long for the closeness to God that I felt in India and in my work as a chaplain. I long for the fusion of surrender and spiritual in a community where it’s okay to have messy boundaries.
J. Dana Trent is a freelance writer and spiritual director. Ordained in the Baptist tradition, Dana served as a hospital chaplain specializing in death and dying for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) Healthcare System. She blogs at http://jdanatrent.com/
By Jay Agrawal
My parents lived in a country that is constantly on the move, and if you don’t move with it, it’s like you get left behind. They lived in a world where it was everyone on their own and if you didn’t grab the opportunities as they passed, they would disappear in the wind. Then what would you have to show for your work? Your life? What would you have to set you apart? In a world of a billion other people just like you, these are the brief accomplishments which moved you forward. So they get married at twenty-four, like all their peers do. Started a family at twenty-five like all their peers do and moved to the pace of a world where competition is the only way of life.
Everything happens in a blur; go through school, get a degree, get married, and start a family. Then what? Then you live until you die. And while you’re dying, you force you’re children into that culture. Run, keep on moving, because if you slow down, life will come and stab you in the back. If you slow down, then you’ll come in second, and no one remembers the one who came in second. So they learn to run, and while they’re running, life becomes a blur of colors where they forget that sometimes it’s okay to stop and look at the objects that make up that blurry landscape.
Then they moved to a western country. Here there is more competition. Their accomplishments of the past had given them one goal; go to the other side of the world. Then the lists start all over again.
By Jai Rangappa
A Russian pilot became 1st man in space,
27-year-old cosmonaut’s 108 minutes trace,
As he circled in space once round the earth,
Parachuted down into the country of his birth.
April 12, 1961 Gagarin’s rocket left,
At 9.07 am, Moscow time in secret,
As United States peacefully slept,
Rest of the world in peace dreamt.
Yuri Gagarin circled in the spacecraft Vostok,
As a stunned America & the world took stock,
Russian was the first weightless man in space,
He returned to earth smiling with simple grace.
This handsome man became a poster boy,
For communist Russia’s intrigues and ploy,
He has remained a national hero till late,
After a great historic feat of man to date.
Yuri Gagarin was a simple man & kind,
With Valentina, his wife always in mind,
With a loving older daughter Yelena,
And an adorable younger one Galina.
He told loving wife Valentina to remarry,
If mission was fatal or was lost in space,
But she was never for him to feel sorry,
He carried himself with concern & grace.
Writing to Valentina, he did to her ask,
To raise daughters “not as princess
But as real people”, fulfilling his task,
Opened space, to adventure limitless.
A handsome Hero of the Soviet Union,
To city of Moscow was next day flown,
Greeted by premier Nikita Khrushchev,
By all adoring Russians & Brezhnev.
America woke up & was shocked,
Russia had publicly USA mocked,
With its incredible space feat,
In a space race America beat.
NASA was grilled by US Congress,
To see Russia show such progress,
23 days after Yuri Gagarin’s flight,
Shepard was 2nd to space alight.
His US suborbital flight was done,
In 1962, circle earth did John Glen.
J. Kennedy committed to put a man
By decades end on the full moon,
My wife & I saw on TV 1st American
On July 20, 1969 land on the moon.
March 27, 1968,in air crash did YG die,
Valentina Gagarina never remarried,
And was simply out of the public eye,
Yuri Gagarin was as a Hero buried.
First man to enter space was gone,
With his graceful feat, he had shone.
By Ritu Bhat
Once upon a time,
I looked into your eyes,
Those dreamy dark eyes,
Eyes deep with passion,
Eyes that took my breath away,
And left me speechless.
Once Upon a time,
We started meeting each other,
Under the beautiful blue sky,
And our feelings became everlasting,
Just like the love within you and me.
Once upon a time,
We sat by the pond,
We held hands,
And gazed into each other’s eyes.
We felt a bond so strong and magical,
As if our souls were connected.
And then I knew,
I knew I had lost my heart to you.
We met everyday,
And with time fought the weeping willow,
Suddenly my perfect fairytale was on fire,
Sunlight shone on my eyes,
Shattering my fantasy.
The sun ascended,
And reality settled in.
And then finally the day came when we overcame the tragic,
And under the dreamy light of the moon,
Our love lived that moment with it’s magic!
I opened my eyes,
Only to find myself in your arms.
Thank god for you are not a fantasy,
Not a fairytale.
You are my reality,
My real life fairytale.
By Nina P.
Oh no, not again! I had recently met Mandy at a baby shower and felt an instant bonding. We decided to meet for tennis on a Monday morning. She was describing the awful time she’d had at a Superbowl party the night before. “What was so awful about it?” I asked, recalling the rather ordinary night we’d had of getting the kids to bed by eight.
“I was one of four women there, the only white American.” The other three were of Indian origin, like her husband. “They spent the entire evening conversing in Gujarati, their native tongue, even though they were all fluent in English and spoke it well. Since I don’t understand it, I spent the entire evening feeling out of place and bored, since I don’t follow football very well either.” The evening dragged on like this for Mandy for four solitary hours.
Where have I heard this before? Or should I say how many times have I heard this before? I had a similar experience. I was once invited to my daughter’s South Indian friend’s birthday party. Once it was ascertained that I did not speak Tamil, I became merely part of the decorations. Actually they got noticed. I quickly found out what it must feel like to be completely invisible. I was wiser than Mandy though. I made excuses and escaped within an hour.
I arrived in the USA from Africa, in search of a better life and of course the American Dream. How then could I not speak a little English? Surely this is the smallest gesture of thanks I could give to a country that has done so much for me? Speaking English here has not made me any less Indian, or Gujarati or less African or less anything. Speaking English the American way complete with colloquial has given my brain a much need workout. It’s opened up a whole new world for me and the best part is I’ve gotten to know some amazing
people, like Mandy.
I’m not opposed to people speaking in their own languages; in fact I am one to cringe when I hear of even a dialect in danger of extinction. Languages are art that make the world a richer and more fascinating place. So much so, that these same people are ever so proud when their child attends a school that offers various languages. Being fluent in many languages is such a respected ability, that people eagerly highlight this on their resumes and job interviews. What makes it so wrong then to speak it at a party, or outside of an academic or career environment?
How important was it for those three ladies to speak in Gujarati that night? Doesn’t the non violent principle of Hinduism translate into compassion for all living things? Specifically, not causing suffering to all living things no matter how minor that pain, like feeling excluded as Mandy did. Did any of the women at the party think about what it would be like to be in Mandy’s shoes? Nobody likes the feeling of being left out in the cold, especially not at a party. My guess is that the content of the Gujarati conversation was not much different to one conducted in any other language by 30 something housewives at any party, anywhere. (Unless it was about Mandy and that is a whole other story.) As my mother always says, in the end, we’re all the same on the inside and we all have the same goals and
problems in life, regardless of what language we speak.
The notion of “let’s bond by talking in the same language” is so passé, if you’ll excuse my French!
By Madhav Bhatt
For example, one such personality who completely changed the perception towards science and a true example of an average student who transformed into a renowned scientist is Albert Einstein. He was a mediocre student at school. He was often defamed by his teachers and was considered a foolish student. Einstein could never understand history and disapproved memorizing historical dates and events. He always said, “It’s not important to know when battles were fought, but why were they fought.” Though failing in few subjects, he was an exceptional master of mathematics. His performance in math was constantly outstanding.
He was, however, asked to leave school because of his overall academic failure. After a long stretch of hard work and determination, he was allowed to study higher mathematics in Zurich where he stepped into the world of science. He solved and described the most challenging enigmatic principles of energy and mass. He formulated an equation that would hold true and was approved as a universal scientific application. He clearly proved that confronting failures with right attitude and ameliorating mistakes are the true characteristics of diligence and a most appropriate way to success.
Classical music legend Ludwig van Beethoven is another glimpse at a portrait of determination and meticulousness. He was a child prodigy on piano. As a child, he was able to play piano with extreme degree of perfection and perform with a precise gesture of a professional artist. He often gave an impression of more than two hands playing on piano. Later, he became a victim of incurable health defects. As he grew older, his hearing weakened. He was not able to hear low frequency sounds and was unable to respond to the people who spoke in soft tones. As a result, his skill of producing high quality work was impaired. Instead of being perturbed and dejected, he realized his inability to hear accurately and decided to keep composing music until his death. He kept on composing music and tried to regain his sense of music without listening to the sounds made by the instruments. This determination led him to compose one of the finest pieces in the history of classical music, which is still played in concerts and by numerous orchestras around the world. His success describes the genuine meaning of the importance of being conscientious and meticulous instead of being absolutely undermined by inappropriate health.
Yet not only did the field of music and science have the evidences of hard work as the key to success, but also there are innumerable sources that substantiate uphill struggle into triumph in business. One such example is Dhirajlal Ambani. He is the founder of Reliance Industries, one of the biggest industrial groups in the world, involved in various sectors such as petrochemicals, textiles, and polymer products. Ambani started as a worker with Arab merchants and later moved to Mumbai to start his own spice business. After long years of struggle, he was able to make modest profits and was capable to break through the catacombs of poverty. He moved into textiles and opened his first mill and slowly expanded his business and founded Reliance Industries. Though he had proclivity for business strategies, he had to confront many pressures and unexpected hindrance to his progress from the other competent business tycoons. However, he made it through with excellence and fortitude. He has been the inspiring foundation of willpower and strength for the young generation and exemplifies the benefits of hard work and its emphasis on victory.
In addition to this, Helen Keller, an American author and political activist, also showed a remarkable spirit of diligence. She was an extraordinary child with a treasure of immense desire to study and become literate. A disastrous event took place when she was nineteen months old, which altered her normal living. She suffered from a high fever, which caused her to become blind and deaf. These circumstances made her realize her inability to accomplish her aspiration of graduation. After being supported by her teacher, Anne Sullivan, she regained that essence of executing her dreams into reality. After a long period of perseverance and assiduousness, she became the first blind person to read regular books and finally, the first blind woman to graduate from college and achieve Bachelor of Arts degree. Thus, she was an inspiring source depicting the essence of hard work and accentuates on the inner strength of overcoming inabilities and accomplishing goals.
In conclusion, history keeps giving illustrations of people who have overcome the imminent fear of incapability to tackle problems and achieve their dreams. It is high time people must realize that being meticulous and determined is the only medicine to the interminable pain of facing failures and not achieving goals rather than searching for other insignificant reasons that precludes victory. Hence, people must remember that triumph without industriousness is like a boat on a dry land.
By Usha Gandhi
As if a rainbow, she came in my life
My heart become lighter, days became brighter
From that day forward, our bond become tighter
I was her Beta (sweetheart) and
She was my ma that was very grand.
I miss my Grandma
Do you know where my Grandma is?
She would kiss me on the head.
Then many, many rounds, of-merry go round.
And rolling on the carpet that was very red
Were such our rituals, each time we met.
Playing with Snupu and fat Tiku
I miss our trips to meow mart.
Do you know where my Grandma is?
You are a song in my heart’
Grandma would sing her signature song,
In her sweeter then sweet voice
Tucking me in the bed each/every night
Kiss on the head she never/never missed
I miss that kiss and I miss Grandma sweet
Do you know where my Grandma is?
We red many stories and we acted out ‘green giant’
‘I smell little Mahatma, I want to eat little Mahatma,’
The green giant- Grandma Gandhi would scream
Then little Mahatma would run and hide
Under grandma’s skirt, as if he was very, very scarred
Do you know where my Grandma is?
‘Where you are going Grandma, may I ask you?’
‘I am going for a ball, I am riding pumpkin coach.’
I run after Grandma, pulling her red hair
I scurry and I hurry, and I jump in pumpkin coach.
We blast Sony stereo and we do disco dandia
I made children dance on my tabla beat
All night long, now only in d-r-e-a-m-l-a-n-d
I miss those fulfilled yesterdays
Do you know where my Grandma is?
Miss Basmati Biryani and I miss Tadka-dal
Miss Grandma’s goodies especially Halva-Puri.
Head in my hands instead in Grandma’s lap
I sit on the floor rest of the night.
I am Gra-ma’s little monkey, mischievous for sure,
Nevertheless, I do no evil.
Then why I do this time,
You must tell me, what was the crime?
I miss grandma’s home I miss her loving care.
DO you know where my Grandma is?
Used her rolling pin, In-lieu-of real flute
I posed as if; I was baby Krishna .
I told a sweet lie, with a cunning smile.
‘Sun O, vahali Yashoda maiyan,
Main ne Makhan nahi churayo.’
I ate couple of chocolates, that is all
She opened my mouth and laughter rolled
When she found her calcium tablets in my tiny mouth
O what laughter, as if pearls spilling on the ground
I miss that laughter
Do you know where my Grandma is?
By Yash Garg
It was the year 1986. I had just moved to Raleigh with my family when one day I received a call from Mrs. Saroj Sharma, the then President of Hindu Society of North Carolina, asking for help at the International Festival. I said yes and participated in the Raleigh International Festival as a volunteer to coordinate the Indian Cultural Booth. Participation in the festival meant that we could showcase our culture through dance, cuisine, bazaar, and cultural exhibit. We had a large number of volunteers and participated in all areas of the festival. It encouraged camaraderie as well as gave us an opportunity to raise some funds for our organization by selling Indian ethnic food and merchandise in the bazaar.
This year the festival marked its 25th anniversary. I feel that just as the 1st festival celebration 25 years ago gave birth to a quiet resolution of its continuity in the minds of the administrators, we expect over the next 25 years and beyond the International Festival will help transform our world, making a meaningful difference in the lives of NC’s Triangle area residents, corporations, communities and cultures. I was amazed at how much I learned that weekend about different cultures, history, and about countries I had never visited. The festival brought together a large number of people to eat, dance and celebrate diverse cultures. While storytelling, arts and crafts keep children absorbed, ethnic cuisine demonstrations – from Baklava to egg rolls and from Indian Curry to sausage – enrich culinary experiences. Those were the beginning years when Mrs. Sharma coordinated and cooked Indian delicacies all three days with many volunteers, which work is now replaced by restaurant-cooked delicacies.
I have come to realize that this event brings all of the area’s international communities together to build better community relations between various ethnic groups and the community at large. I love the opportunity to visit cultural exhibits, buy imported gifts and souvenirs in our international bazaars and taste the culinary richness of far off places.
This year I decided to give a true taste of Indian cuisine during the two-hour demonstration session featuring Baingan Bhartha, stuffed green peppers, and cauliflower rice pilaf. The audience greeted these preparations and took home recipes.
This year’s cultural exhibit was presented by Mala Kasthurirangan on the theme of the celebration of Navratri as observed in South India. Her decorated dolls stole the show and Geetha and Bhaskar Rao’s presence at the exhibit acquainted many visitors with the theme.
The setting of the main stage was spectacular under the skillful direction of Karen Edwards, who had been organizing the center stage dances since 1986. The audience could watch the steps and movements of the dancers on an un-curtained stage.
Indian dancers participated in almost all categories – children, teens and adult dances. A total of 150 performers presented a variety of Indian dances ranging from traditional folk dances of Gujarat to Punjabi Bhangra, from Ganesha Aarti to classical kathak and Bharatnatyam. Whereas Indian bazaar attracted many patrons with clothes, custom jewelry, art & crafts, and shawls. Ramesh Patel offered henna designs.
International Festival celebration has encouraged many of us to organize our own ethnic organizations for showcasing our culture to acquaint our children about their heritage and traditions. I can say about myself that as an indirect result of this experience of being associated with International Festival, I along with my husband Dr. Harish Chander, community leader Harsha Shah, and other like-minded people founded Heritage India Association of North Carolina.
I have not missed attending the festival since I joined in 1986, and I find that my enthusiasm for the festival is stronger than it has ever been. Like most of the other ethnic group coordinators, I enjoy coordinating participation of Indian community in all areas now. I spend almost three days at the Festival.
At the 25th anniversary of the International Festival, which was held from Oct. 1-3, 2010 with this year’s theme of “Global Celebrations,” local collaborators and emphasized the need to come together as a community, it inspires the audiences to discover the surprising connections we have with one another.
To me, International Festival of the City of Raleigh beautifully illustrates the motto of the United States, E. Pluribus Unum (out of many, one), as it brings together diverse ethnicities in a spirit of amity, friendliness, and common purpose.
By Jay Desai
It was a victory of Good over Evil. It was victory of Virtue over Vice. It was history – very ancient history - thousands of years ago. It was history made by Lord Ram. Hindus have been celebrating that victory for many years by lighting lamps and calling it Diwali.
And now, in the time of modern history again there was victory. Victory for many millions, again for good over evil; victory of political freedom and justice, social justice, victory for downtrodden, and untouchables; victory for women, and many others; but this time the victor was not Ram, rather it was his devotee Modern Ram.
Modern Ram lived to the legacy of his mythological Rama. He dreamt of so-called Ram-rajaya (Rule of righteousness) where values are based on universal truth, personal sacrifice, equality and justice. His dreams were big in such modern time where challenges of materialism were daunting, ill effects of industrialization was haunting and faith of the common man and woman was getting crushed upon. But his efforts were bigger than his dreams, his sacrifice was taller than his aspirations, and his stone-like attitude was far larger than probably his own imagination. He was ready to be a change in order to bring change. He was ready to experiment on his own in order to implement. He was ready to practice before, in order to preach later. He was ready for his big battle. He was warrior sharper than his own Mentor Lord Ram.
He had digested every aspect of life of his mentor Ram, and adopted it to reality. Be it his sacrifice of his political position - when Ram gave up his kinghood just to keep father Dashrath’s promise and prestige. Be it his sacrifice of family – when Rama gave up his most beloved Sita, just for his sake of love for his people; just for the sake of respect for the opinion of Dhobi (washerman) - opinion from ordinary man. And the story goes on and on. Rama’s wisdom, his firmness, his simplicity, his love for his people, everything was an inspiration to Him, everything was guiding light to Him. He used all those in his personal fight, his social fight and larger political fight.
And every step of his fight, this modern Ram proved that he was no different than his Hero. He gave up his own personal desires, surely all political desires long ago, he gave up his family desires, he gave up his all sons. When there came war to fight mighty Ravana; Ram walked thru jungles, and built army out of nothing. Many joined him by mere admiration, his rightfulness and trust they found in him. He built Vanar Sena (army of Monkeys) to fight against mighty Ravana. Ram’s army was even joined and strengthened by Ravana’s own brother Vibhisana. That was power of his character which attracted everyone to join the right cause.
It was no different here. This Modern Rama built an army of common people to fight against a mighty empire. His army included all, Harijans to Brahmins, Sikhs and Muslims, women and children, rich and poor. Millions just believed in him, trusted him, gave away their jobs or left their families at his call, and joined his army to fight against evil. Many good thinking British joined him too. Meeraben (Madeline Slade) who was one of many became his life-long disciple. It was a scene no different than one that took place thousands of years ago.
Well, victory was achieved; it was massive against the British Empire, which was as powerful as Ravana. However, to his satisfaction it was mere political victory. He was looking for complete victory on all fronts. He was aiming for victory leading to Ramrajya.
He did not think he had achieved it, and hence he continued his truthful and bold battle till his last breath. But he was just modest. He had brought change that did not seem achievable. Just that sky was limit for him aiming at total victory, a perfect victory over all evils of society. His impact was huge on the society, on the mankind, on the modern history.
Dramatic is the end when “Hey Ram” was on his lips at his last breath; that moment he again proved that he was truly Mahatma or for that matter Modern Rama. Ten days earlier at the first failed attempt of his assassination, he said in his prayer assembly, people call him saint or Mahatma, but he could be truly Mahatma, only if he can take a bullet on his chest with smile on the face and “Ram” on his lips with sense of forgiveness to his own opponents. Truly was he Modern Ram, left us with his legacy of simplicity, sacrifice and Satyagraha.
(Jay Desai humbly appeals to all readers to try to be civil to all others and be even vegetarian in diet at least for a week or for a day during month of October in honor of Modern Ram – Mahatma Gandhi.)
“Tu Hyderabadi hai kya?”
By Ananya Mallavarapu
I was born in Hyderabad on February 25, 1992. Ever since, I’ve been incorporated into life with all the sights, colors, and randomness that the city offers. Even before I knew what Palak Paneer or Channa Masala was I could tell you how I absolutely adored Biriyani - the Hyderabadi specialty. And even though the APS RTC Bus System is kind of questionable at times, it’s very cost-effective and can take you anywhere in and around the city. Of course I also know that living in Domahalguda (pronounced Domalguda to us Hyderabadis) puts me in relatively close distance to anything I want. I know that if I want to try my hand at shopping, Sultan Bazaar is about twenty minutes away, fifteen on relatively traffic-free days.
It takes me ten minutes (sometimes even less) to get to Liberty Crossroads from my Grandmother’s House - a little past the Gaganmahal Nursing Home. Once I reach those crossroads at the edge of Himayathnagar I can relatively go anywhere in the city. I go left and hit Basheerbag, Abids, and Koti where you have the lovely Sultan Bazaar for shopping. I go right and I hit Tank Bund, NTR Gardens, Lumbini Park, and of course the largest monolithic Buddha statue ever (set conveniently in the middle of a lake). This route also takes me to Secundrabad- Hyderabad’s sister city with areas like Tarnaka, Tirmulghery, Rani Gunj, Patny, and the General Bazaar. If I happen to decide to go the straightest route possible from the crossroads, I’ll eventually hit Necklace Road and go around Tank Bund. And I’ll even hit the Khairtabad Flyover, which takes me to the newer “posh” areas of the city- Panjagutta, Banjara Hills, Jubilee Hills, and Hi-Tech City. The Hard Rock Café in Hyderabad is located in Banjara Hills right next to the Taj Deccan and the Taj Krishna.
Now all these may sound confusing to anyone who hasn’t grown up in Hyderabad, however, it’s relatively easy to understand if you have a seasoned experience Hyderabadi go over certain things with you. One of the biggest, always know where you are going before you get into an auto and make sure you know the best way to get there. It isn’t hard for an auto-drive to rip you off! Second, make sure you have a partial grip on Hyderabadi Hindi- trust me it helps!
And lastly, make sure you know what your plans are before setting out - of course don’t set these in stone as things change within the blink of an eye. I’ve been seasoned in all this knowledge but it was put to the test recently when I was allowed to finally roam the streets on my own.
Up until now, I had always been learning the streets through my parents, cousins, uncles, aunts, and grandmother. This year, when I had to go to an internship in Jubilee Hills, I finally put this knowledge to the test. Every day, I would set out in an auto geared with my backpack and purse and head to a location that was “a little past the Jubilee Hills Checkpost.” The auto drivers had various ways to get me there but I didn’t mind at all because I found nearly five different ways to get at my final destination. That’s one thing I love about Hyderabad - there is never really only one way to get anywhere!
My cousin once said that as long as you keep going straight on an unknown Hyderabadi road, you’ll eventually find yourself in a place that you recognize. To put it simply, as long as I recognize a landmark such as the Panjagutta flyover I’ll know what road to take home. I’ve passed many neighborhoods in my regular travels and usually remember them via landmarks. For example, if I see the E-TV building I know I’m in Somajiguda. When I see the Secretariat, I know I’m on Necklace Road, which goes around Tank-Bund. When I get to the Chermas in Abids- well that’s been a landmark for thirty years so I don’t think I need to elaborate. The joy of living in a city like Hyderabad is that even though new stores pop up and old ones disappear there are some institutional landmarks that are always present.
Take for example Tank Bund. Place me in any spot on or around Tank Bund and I can tell you nearly four different ways to take me to my grandmother’s home. Leave me alone in Himayathnagar and it takes me around twenty minutes to walk and get home. I can even guide an auto through that neighborhood simply because every auto driver in the city knows where the Urdu Hall in Himayathnagar is. When travelling to Abids a person simply has to say “Abids Chermas” and the driver knows where you want to go. It’s these kinds of things that make me think I love the city.
Recently, the city has grown and there are so many outskirts that are popping up to encompass “Greater Hyderabad.” I don’t like seeing that because the many new immerges cropping up that it becomes confusing to handle at times. It’s losing some of its old Nizam charm and it’s hard to find a good decent Hyderabadi Biriyani place these days without having to travel as far as Paradise (nearly 30-40 minutes away). The city I grew up in - where Banjara and Jubilee Hills were once considered greater Hyderabad - is now becoming a mapping ground of epic proportions. While I’m glad that my grandparents ended up settling in the heart of the city in Domahalguda, and I can go relatively anywhere with ease, I wonder what will happen when I return a few years from now and have to travel all the way to Lingampally, Kukatpally, or Patancheru for certain things? Even two years ago, my mother’s uncle and aunt in Patancheru were far away and travelling to visit them was a long journey. Now even they - although they live nearly two hours away from Tank Bund - are considered to be in the Greater Hyderabad sphere.
I have to admit that although there are some things I find wrong with the way the city is growing, I love the fact that the heart of it - Sultan Bazaar, Abids, Tank Bund - is still such an essential component to the city. I’ve been raised up with stories of Hyderabad’s Nawabi Charm and wonderful cuisine. When I grow older and have kids of my own, I’d like to show them this charm and point out the wonders of the city. Maybe I’ll even take them to see the Birla Mandir temple overlooking Tank-Bund. Now I ask you a question: you may have visited Hyderabad but “Tu Hyderabadi hai kya?”
By Pankaj Jain, Ph. D.
In his 1964 Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “We have learned to fly the air like birds and swim the sea like fish, but we have not learned the simple art of living together as brothers.” I think the future of humanity is nicely summarized in these words. In addition to living together with humans, we also need to learn how to live harmoniously with our environment. In our increasingly globalized world, we are witnessing our local neighborhoods becoming increasingly globalized. Just as an example, now within the USA, there are more than seven hundred Hindu temples and their associated communities according to the Pluralism Project of the Harvard University. Similarly, the threat of climate change challenges us to learn and practice new ways of relating to our natural resources. Can Hinduism present us some ideas to deal with these issues challenging the present and the future of our world?
Although the United States is often referred to as the melting pot absorbing different ethnicities and races, history of Hindus living in India presents a much longer tradition of accepting even larger number of diverse people such as the Greeks, Jews, Christians, Muslims, Zoroastrians, Huns in the ancient times and the Dalai Lama and Tibetan Buddhists in the last century. It is this Hindu past of religious acceptance and harmony that goes even beyond the human species. Hindus not only have accepted humans of diverse races but have also accepted divinity in non-Human forms. A Hindu can worship a stone and/or a specific mountain, the water and/or a specific river and/or the ocean, a plant, an animal (not just a cow but a snake or a rat or any other species), a bird, the earth, the sky, the sun, the fire, and so on. It is widely mentioned that Hindus have 330 million gods but perhaps it is better to say that Hindus have infinite number of gods and goddesses, because everybody and everything is potentially divine according to its philosophy. Its practitioners are simply trying to live up to the Hindu ideal of visualizing divinity in every part of the universe, every particle of the ecology. And following this infinite number of divinities, there arose thousands of different castes, tribes, and other socio-religious communities who not only tolerated each other but even accepted each other’s spiritual path. Thus, there is no false god or true god for Hindus.
The most fundamental concept of Hinduism is Dharma which etymologically means “that which sustains”. Indeed, the very foundation of dharma is based on sustainability of not just the human society but its related Vedic concept of Ritam includes the entire universe. There is a famous hymn in the Rigveda which describes the creation of the entire universe: how a cosmic person is transformed into the ecological entities (the sun, the moon, the wind, the sky, and so on) and the human society (different social classes). This interconnectedness of humans with the ecology can be a very promising message for the contemporary problems of global climate change.
It was the Hindu idea of non-violence as immortalized by Mahatma Gandhi that Dr. King witnessed in his 1959 visit to India and later adopted in his own movement in the USA. The Hindu practices of Yoga and meditation are now helping millions of Westerners improve their health. Hindu idea of revering the Mother Earth is also increasingly shared by many Westerners in their quest to save the planet. In August 2009, Newsweek ran a story titled “We Are All Hindus Now” based on the Pew Forum Surveys showing that 65 percent of Americans believe in multiple paths leading to God. Similarly 24 percent of Americans say they believe in reincarnation, according to a 2008 Harris poll, another major Hindu (also a Buddhist and a Jain belief). More than a third of Americans now choose cremation, according to the Cremation Association of North America, up from 6 percent in 1975, which is yet another practice of majority of Hindus.
Another major cultural presence largely representing the Hindu way of life is the “Bollywood”, a popularly name for the Indian film industry. India not only produces the largest number of films each year (in Hindi and other Indian languages) but Indian films are now enjoyed in African countries, the Middle Eastern countries, the South East Asian countries and Australia, the Europe, and the North America. According to a Businessweek report, Bollywood sold more than 3.2 billion movie tickets in 2009, much more than Hollywood. This globalization of Indian films has not only shown a glimpse of Hindu culture worldwide but in turn Bollywood films themselves have now started becoming more global in appeal, for instance, by deemphasizing the village life and the caste system. Future of Hinduism, as depicted in Bollywood at least, seems to be led by the urban globalized Hindus.
Ironically, Hindus themselves need to be reminded of Hindu ideas now to save their land of origin India from the assaults of all kinds of pollution. The Bishnois, a Hindu community in Northern India, is famous for its earliest ecological sacrifice in 1730 in which a woman named Amrita Devi led 362 other Bishnois to sacrifice their lives to protect their sacred tree. The public memory of this event continues to inspire environmental movements, such as the Chipko and the Appiko. However, Indian rivers, mountains, forests, and air are under tremendous pressure due to rising economy and growing population. The future of Hinduism is thus increasingly dependent on how successfully Hindus learn and apply their teachings in everyday life.
To conclude, Hindu ideas and practices are slowly entering and transforming the Western lifestyle. Hindus in turn are becoming more aware of the global problems such as the climate change. The ideals of Hinduism, such as pluralism, dharma, ritam, and nonviolence are some important lessons for the future of Hinduism in particular and for humanity in general. If today’s Hindus can take inspiration from their own teachings, they can ensure a healthy and prosperous future for themselves, their diverse neighborhoods, and their natural resources.
(Originally published at: http://www.patheos.com/Resources/Additional-Resources/Bollywood-and-Beyond.html)
Pankaj Jain is an Asst. Professor at the Univ. of N. Texas where he teaches on South Asian Religions and Ecology. He is interested to connect ancient traditions with contemporary issues and has been published in the Journal of Vaishnava Studies, Numen, Religion Compass, Religious Studies Review, Visual Anthropology, and Worldviews.
By Swami Satyanand
From birth to death we all search for happiness. Absolute Bliss is our true nature, yet every one of us chooses to search the external world to solve the inevitable problem of unhappiness. With the goal of happiness in mind we embark upon an endless and fruitless search for satisfaction and contentment. Intellectually we can all understand that true happiness comes from within, yet we continue to participate in a mad race for happiness based on the false belief that the answer can be found in a better job, a new car, an expensive vacation, a thinner body, or living up to the expectations of others. In this way we relentlessly pursue that which we hope will bring us the happiness we so deeply desire. Man has continually pursued this goal with misplaced enthusiasm for millennia, yet even though it has not worked for our forefathers, we continue on the same path. This is why Vedas declare that man should follow the path of Shreya (spiritual well being) and not the path of Preya (material well-being). Ancient India’s Rishis and Yogis were capable of creating all the luxury of material pleasures, yet preferred to live a simple life in the forest. They knew that material well-being distracts us.
So what, then, will lead us to true happiness? And what is it that prevents us from experiencing our true nature, which is bliss? Let us begin by looking within and considering how the attributes of nature affect us. The soul’s entrapment in materiality lies in its association with prakriti, or nature. The individual soul becomes bound by prakriti during the process of evolution that results in the manifestation of the empirical world. Once the soul is bound and shrouded in delusion, the pull of prakriti is so strong that it may be compared to that of a powerful magnet. All of our activities, all of our ups and downs, are ultimately governed by the interplay of the attributes of prakriti, or nature. It is, in fact, the three attributes of Nature that create maya, or the illusion that causes us to participate helplessly in this drama of life and death. There are three attributes or qualities of prakriti: sattva, rajas and tamas. Sattva is a state of peace and purity. Its characteristics include spirituality, right knowledge, harmony, purity, generosity, contentment, happiness and indifference to worldly ways. It is the principle of illumination. Rajas is a state of activity, restlessness and agitation. It reflects the qualities of possessiveness, greed, and passions. Finally, the guna of tamas represents a state of inertia. It reflects the qualities of indolence, laziness, anger, falsehood, and the pursuit of delusion.
The interplay of these attributes, or gunas, is the cause of our submission to maya, or delusion. Our life-styles, birth, death, eating habits, friends, behavior, attitudes, etc., are shaped and inspired by these gunas. In fact our entire life is governed by these gunas. Only one who learns how to master and transcend these gunas can become free from the drama of maya and the anguish of death. How, then, do we come to associate with the gunas of nature? When prakriti (nature) is in an undifferentiated state, the gunas remain balanced and dormant. But the entanglement of the soul begins when the gunas become imbalanced, thus disturbing the purity and bliss of the divine soul.
As this process progresses, the soul remains inactive; it is not really doing anything. It is the gunas that are working on their own. It is said that “guna guneshu vartante,” or “the gunas play the role of life and death.” But, because we have identified ourselves with the gunas and their derivatives—the ego, mind and intellect—we feel that we are doer, that we are the initiators of all of our activities.
It is said in the Bhagwad Gita (3/27) that “prakriti kriyamanani gunai karmani sarvash. Ahankar vimudhhatma karta aham iti manyate ! (All karmas are performed by the gunas. But under the influence of the ego, the ignorant feel that “I am performing these karmas.”) Again it is said in the Gita (3/28-9): ”Tattva vittu mahabaho Gun karma vibhagayo. Guna guneshu vartant iti matva na sajjate !” Prakriti Gun sammudhha sajjate Gunkarmeshu ! (“The self-realized person who has transcended the gunas knows the gunas and their karmas. Once he understands that gunas are the cause of karmas, he is no longer attached to them. But those who remain under the power of gunas continue to follow the path of maya and prakriti.)
So how do we escape from this entanglement with the gunas? How can we attain freedom from this delusion? The interplay of the three gunas creates an infinite combination of characteristics as long as they remain imbalanced. But if we can narrow our focus to just one of these gunas this interplay will stop. For just as three colors of nature— red, blue and yellow—can make innumerable color combinations in the realm of nature, so also can sattva, rajas and tamas lead to innumerable manifestations of needs and wants in the minds and activities of our inner world. Prompted by desire the only result is an endless cycle of unfulfilling pleasures and prolonged sufferings. But if we can focus on only one guna this multiplicity of unfulfilled desires and wasted energies will disappear. But which of the gunas should we choose of the three? Sattva is the principle of illumination, harmony, clarity, peace, purity and spirituality. Sattva takes us towards the spirit while rajas and tamas draw us towards the illusion of Maya. Sattva on the other hand takes us to spirit. Thus the only way to reduce rajas and tamas is to strengthen the quality of sattva. Swami Satyanand opened a retreat called Life Mission?U.S.A. in Mebane NC in May. Contact: 336.421.0690. www.lifemissionusa.com
Eleven million people, Sixty votes and one state
By Lakshmi Challa
There are approximately eleven million undocumented people in the United States anxiously awaiting immigration reform. Recently, President Obama stated that he needed 60 votes in the Senate to pass any immigration legislation. As of today, he does not have those votes. The immigration debate has resurged after Arizona's passed the controversial immigration law (SB 1070), scheduled to go into effect on July 28, 2010. This law, among other things, requires state and local law enforcement to check the immigration status of individuals it encounters, and makes it a state crime to be without proper immigration documentation. Other states also frustrated with Congress’ inaction have passed similar legislation. The Arizona law has incited boycotts; demonstrations; inter-state rifts and many legal challenges. Proponents of the Arizona legislation affirm that the measures were required to combat the criminal activities rampant at the border. Does legislation requesting the immigration status of migrant workers have a direct or indirect correlation to fighting crimes stemming from the trafficking of drugs, guns and money?
Clearly, the south-of-the-border, cartel-related crimes require wide-ranging solutions based on cooperation from both the Mexico and the United States law enforcement. However, enacting the Arizona legislation to address the problems at the border is akin to treating cancer with an antihistamine. The purported cure does not relate to the disease. The violence at the border and the problem with illegal immigration are distinct and to treat them as related afflictions would dilute resources. The distinction is that unauthorized immigrants are not the cause of the violence which plagues so many communities in Mexico. The more law enforcement is focuses its efforts on apprehending non criminal undocumented workers, the less resources it has to channel its efforts on combating serious criminal activity. Further, despite assurances from the Arizona Governor, there is also a concern that the new Arizona measures will lead to racial profiling. Since Arizona passed the controversial immigration law, one of the most famous cartoon characters, Dora the Explorer, has already fallen victim to racial profiling. Pervasive on electronic media is allegations about Dora’s immigration status. After all she is brown and has an accent; how could she be an American citizen? Wait a minute, the original occupants of this country, the “true Americans,” the American Indians were brown and had an accent. Perhaps if they enforced their immigration laws, America would not have an immigration crisis today. Just think, Arizona might be questioning the immigration status of white men with no accent.
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The Secret of Happiness, Part One
By Swami Satyanand
Before we may understand the secrets of happiness, we must first we try to understand what happiness is and where happiness is to be found.
Are you happy? How might we describe a happy person? How can we learn to be happy?
Although happiness appears to be a simple concept, everyone’s definition of happiness is different. Similarly, although water is the simplest and most common liquid, the containers that may hold it are many. Therefore one person’s happiness will manifest as unhappiness for another. A smoker may find happiness in a cigar while a non-smoker is repulsed by its strong odor.
In truth, no one has a clear understanding of the true nature of happiness. The very idea of happiness appears to be an illusion, yet we spend all our time and energy pursuing it. One person may find happiness in collecting wealth, while another seeks it in parties and social events. Another person finds happiness in enjoying movies while still others find it in eating. Still others find it in raising a family or attaining good health.
The vast majority of people pursue endless goals that end in dissatisfaction; ultimately leading to new pursuits followed by yet another dissatisfying result. No matter what we accomplish, the “happiness” we seek inevitably proves to be unfulfilling and transient. The inherent tastes and desires that drive us in our search for happiness are also constantly changing. If today we eat pizza and we are satisfied, tomorrow our tastes change and Caribbean food will be the order of the day. Thus whatever we seek from the outside world never results in permanent peace, contentment or satisfaction.
I will give you one example. An old lady was searching for something in her backyard one evening. Her neighbor noticed that she was hunting about for some time and asked her, “What are you searching dear?” The elderly lady answered, “I am searching for my needle,” replied the lady. The neighbor asked, “Where did you lose it?” “I lost it in my house,” the lady answered. “Then why are you looking for it outside of your house?” asked the neighbor. She replied, “There is darkness in the house, so I decided to look for it outside.” In the same way we look for happiness in the outside world, while happiness is only to be found within.
Saint Kabir said, “I have often heard it said that ‘a fish is thirsty in its own pond.’ In this way people wander restlessly from place to place, while the peace they seek is only to be found in the dwelling place of the soul.”
Everybody wants happiness. After all, no one is satisfied with unhappiness! Why do we seek happiness and reject unhappiness? The answer is that our natural state is found solely in contentment, peace and happiness. Yet we continue to search out pleasures that lead only to an ever-changing and painful existence.
What is in us that causes us to be unhappy? It is the prakriti, or maya, that is attached to the soul that makes us unhappy. Maya is delusion and it has the ability to project its veiling power, making that which is lifeless appear to be vibrant and full of life, that which is temporary to be permanent, and that which is impure to be wholesome and pure. This is why we identify the physical body with our self rather than with the Divine Essence, which is our true nature. The truth is that the body has no life of its own. It exists only due to the presence of the Atma, the Divine Soul within.
Since we identify ourselves with the physical body, we become passionately connected to the Maya of the tangible world and its comforts. Meanwhile we hardly remember the Atma or Divine soul within, for our focus is on the physical body only.
Life is like a drama. Maya engineers this drama, but we imagine that the drama we are enacting is truth. That is why it is called God’s leela, or “divine play.” In truth this Maya is an illusion, not a reality. For example, in the waking state this physical world appears to be real, yet while we are sleeping in the dream state the world becomes unreal. Further, when we are in the dream state it appears that dream world is real and our waking state is unreal.
Finally, when we are in deep sleep, both these states become unreal. What, then, is real and what is unreal? In truth, all three of these states are unreal. Each of them is no more than a transient world that constantly changes, keeping us off-balance and ultimately unhappy. In contrast, Truth, or reality, never changes. It is changeless and eternal.
We will discuss what this prakruti and maya is and what are the measures and practice necessary to come out of maya so as to achieve stability, happiness and peace in the next issue.
Swami Satyanand is opening a retreat called Life Mission U.S.A. in Mebane NC in May. Contact: 336.421.0690. www.lifemissionusa.com
Summer Descent at Baga Beach
By Cecilia Gomes
In the summer of 2007 I was strapped to a harness on a boat resting on the waters of the Arabian Sea. The day’s heat stung until the coastal breeze swept the skin. The Goan afternoon sky was a motionless reflection of the vast, blue water. My parachute was multicolored, but I barely remember the colors. I was tied to ropes that held me to this world, but eventually physically disabled me for the rest of my life here.
I had not left the United States since our permanent move from Bangladesh in 1994. My dad was completely opposed to the idea of his first born leaving his sight, let alone his residing country. I wanted to see the world. I wanted an adventure! And, when the opportunity to visit my newly-wedded, newly-relocated cousin in India presented itself after my sophomore year at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, I took it up. While in Goa, I took it up to the heavens.
A stranger approached us on our second day at Baga Beach. We all wanted to go parasailing. It was 700 rupees—only 20 US Dollars.
His boat drove us far from shore. I bubbled with disbelief and anticipation.
“I wanna go first!” I announced, overzealously, to the passengers, five of my cousins also visiting from the States. They stopped chattering as the boatmen slackened the ropes to release me. We all held our breaths. The parachute lifted me.
Then, it was silent.
I cannot recall my ascension, but at some point I felt like I was awakened mid dream. Even though my eyes were open the whole time, I felt like I had them closed until that moment. I awoke to see eternity—silent and ever-extending eternity. It was blue sky. Beyond some dispersed clouds, I saw that sky meeting blue ocean. My brain could not focus on one point of the vibrant monochromatic scene it was experiencing. I felt the rush of soundless adrenaline.
My mind was excited, yet my body was still and cozy in a constricting harness. I searched for the boat. It seemed miles away below me and so small. It was a toy boat in the distance, and I didn’t care to look at it for long. My focus was the consuming blue that was feeding my high. As I looked toward the sky again for the image ahead, above and surrounding me, the silence broke without warning. And, quite nearly, it broke my face.
I felt a sudden pressure on my left cheek.
Then, a sharp sting.
“What just happened?” I was startled and confused. It didn’t feel like the sweet sting of the Goan sun, but a painful one. was yards away from my boat. Around me there was endless space and no one.
What just happened? Again, I asked myself. I looked once more for the vision that exhilarated me just a moment before, but, this blue canvas was moving now. When I realized I was falling, all I could do was wait.
I discovered, six months later, that the impact of the rope that snapped off the boat and whipped my face resulted in a damaged retina. After the wounds on my face healed, I was left with only that scar, never to regain vision in my left eye. This was permanent, yet I never regretted the experience. I got a glance at a beautiful eternity of blue, and I will never see the world the same way again.
By Dilip Jumani
I raised my tired arms up in the air, as I ran through the Tobacco Road Marathon finish line with every ounce of juice I had left. Breathing heavily and hearing the slowing of my pulse as my heart started to ease, as my pride soared above this blue planet. Looking back I remember how last year I was amazed to see my manager, Nemie Celemen, run a full marathon and the joy on his face for his terrific achievement. I decided right there, that if he can do it while raising five kids, I can certainly do it with three kids. Inspired and fascinated by my manager’s victory, I decided I could and wanted to accomplish this titanic self-challenge. Now in front of me is a river of achievers wrapped in metallic, silver blankets, and I am very happy to be a part of it this year.
My friends let me share my story of my first marathon with you. The night before the big run, I lay in bed thinking of what a good friend, and fellow runner, stated about the big day: “The difficult part (training) is over; this is the victory run.” What a terrific statement, for it is true. Putting in at least 20 long miles a week and continually icing aching joints and muscles, makes a person eager to finish the race, but the training has definitely improved my mental and physical discipline. I fell asleep tingling with nervousness and excitement.
The brilliance of the cheerful sun perfected this bold day. When 3300 participants heard the boom of the cannon, a roar of liveliness filled the small town of Cary. I started with full enthusiasm and continued my journey step-by-step, mile–by-mile. By mile 20 my smile faded, and I was moving on determination alone. The last three miles felt like a marathon in itself. My body was in pain and I needed more than Gatorade, Power Gels and Powerbars; even the crowd’s cheers were a fog to me.
I had heard about “The Marathon Moment;” that it is a very special instant during the race that inspires you in such a way that at that moment, you know that you will make it…
While I was running exhausted, my mind wandered. My thoughts led me past my present pain, the past of my training, and into the events of my upcoming week. Suddenly I realized I had my citizenship interview tomorrow. That means I would be a US citizen within a week - but today I am an Indian citizen. An Indian runner in the Cary Marathon. Since I was the only Indian of the 900 full-marathon runners, this run now became a matter of pride for my country. It was at that instant that I knew I was going to make it or rather, I had to make it! I stopped running and was speechless for a moment. After that wonderful split second, I never forgot again why I was there and whom I was running for. I knew I had to do it for my country and my family.
Other runners may have been a driving force behind my running initially, but my end drive was for my country. What has always been motivating me though was my family. I had to finish because I knew my family was at the finish line, eagerly waiting for me to arrive. Not only would they be at the finish line, but they would also be in my life the next day, and the next, and the next. That’s worth running for.
I stopped at the 26-mile-marker to take a final picture of what I saw; a sea of faces, a mixture of pain and pleasure, people reaching out to their final destination, the finish line.
I rounded the final corner of the 26.2-mile and glanced at the crowds of families and friends, searching for my family. Regardless of the hundred of spectators cheering the runners on the sidelines, it took only a few seconds to find them. As I raised my arms high over my head and crossed the finish line victoriously, it was as much their triumph as it was mine. Although the blisters had worn through three layers of skin and my toes were raw, my back, shoulders, knees and thighs hurt, as I finished, I didn’t cry out of pain. Instead, I cried out from joy - the joy that filled my heart and my mind, the joy that I had completed my first marathon. Friends asked me “Are you OK”? I realized in that moment that not only I was OK but also I was more OK than I had ever been before. What an indescribable experience! Events like this change your life forever.
I had run for a long 4 hours and 49 minutes straight, but time melted the day quickly. This awesome act rewarded my body with soreness and blisters, which will last for few days; but it has tattooed my pride with an unforgettable memory of self-accomplishment. There is a deep satisfaction in setting a stretch goal, figuring out how to accomplish it, challenging myself to dig deep within, then going about the business of making it happen.
I learned a lot about perseverance and how to be flexible. Completing a marathon is a confidence-builder. I found out what I am made of, and the result is comforting. The finisher medal is a worthy reminder of achieving something difficult, something that few people try and fewer complete. Now I possess a new confidence that has altered my way of thinking. I have learned so much from the process of training for the marathon, that I can say with certainty that anything is possible.
In the end, I have to say thank you to the volunteers and the spectators. So many times along the way I wanted to quit. I was out of gas and just plain beat. It was at those times when a stranger on the sidewalk or a volunteer at a fluid station would say something, and I would get a little burst of energy. I made sure to thank each person who handed me something. I tried to high five as many kids as I could along the way. Their delight with my high-five was probably as great as mine. It was so amazing. To all of you, who volunteered or just came out to cheer us on. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I am now a marathoner and I owe this to people like you who supported me so generously and allowed me to live in this moment.
By Ananya Mallavarapu
Claire had left her hometown years ago for the urbanized life of Boston. She missed things about life in Cape Cod, that was sure, but seeing the person she missed most at this moment she didn’t know what to do. He approached her with a little girl next to him and smiled in greeting.
“It’s been a while Claire.” Claire regarded her best friend. College and maturity had changed them both for the better. David was now a teacher at the same high school that they had graduated from. He was wiser and accepted things. She still remembered the times when he truly was her best friend; years back in high school. They were still close now, but three years of no contact had undoubtedly caused a rift.
“How have you been?” She began ready to face her fears. She hadn’t returned to Cape Cod for years - three in fact, three years that she spent earning her reputation as a ruthless Boston lawyer. Being here, in her hometown, she remembered events in her life and the important days they occurred on. She could see in her mind the day she left for college - nearly fifteen years ago, and now sitting here next to David, she remembered the day she left him.
“It’s been good.” David watched his daughter play on the swings. The years had been good and bad for him. He’d gotten married once, eight years ago, and his wife after giving him a beautiful daughter had left. It was fine living with a six-year-old girl, but at times he wished he could have gone back and fixed things in the past.
He wished he’d seen the signs sooner so that his daughter could have grown up with a mother. But right now what he wished for most was to return to three years ago and undo the past. Both the friends remained in silence as they looked at the little girl who was now pushing herself on the swings.
“She’s six now.” David stated pointing to his daughter, “Becca loves the swings.” Claire nodded, knowing that she needed to face David now before things escalated. She had ended their friendship, relationship, interaction, whatever she wanted to call it, abruptly, and she was unsure of where they stood at this point.
“David what are we?” She stated cutting him off. “I know what I did was stupid, but I just couldn’t think. I didn’t know what to do. I wasn’t ready to be what you needed me to be.” She had finally let her tears and emotions free, and was scared of the outcome. These thoughts had been plaguing her for three years and she needed to just let them out now. She needed to tell him.
“Do you think you’re ready now?” David questioned after a few moments. He too had spent the last three years thinking: What if he did this, what if he did that? It was all in the past now and he just decided to wait to see what was going to happen.
A slight wind blew and Claire stared at the sky behind the playground. It was a dull winter gray, with trees silhouetting the landscape and she admitted that after three years of thinking of the answer to David’s question she wasn’t sure of the answer still.
“I don’t know.” Claire shifted her gaze to her companion stating her answer honestly. His age was starting to show in his face now. There was a look in his eyes - a look that showed just how much he had gone through in the past years.
“I want to try.” Claire added looking at him. “I was scared and so I left, and now I’m still scared but I think I’m ready.” David smiled at her and gently held her hand.
“We’ll take things slow.”
“No!” Claire shouted, embarrassed at having suddenly screamed her dissent. “When I said try I meant yes. I know that things can’t just happen this fast but three years have told me just what I’ve missed. I should have been there for you when Becca found out about her mother; I should have been there for everything. And I wasn’t. We had something David and I want to get it back.” David sighed, turning to his daughter who had now stopped in her play to look at the two adults.
“Are you sure? Because I still love you Claire. When you left, I was afraid I’d pressured you into a relationship you didn’t want. Don’t do this just for my sake.”
“I’m not. I’ve come back for good.” David stood up and walked towards his daughter. When he approached her, he turned to Claire.
“Let’s go home. I have some hot chocolate waiting. And we can talk some more.”
A couple was waiting on the sidewalk in the fall. They were waiting for someone to leave a school bus and soon they were tackled by a little girl who eagerly gushed to them about her first day of first grade.
“And you know what? Now everyone wants to meet my new mommy! You’ll come visit won’t you?”
“Yes.” Claire answered, squeezing David’s hand. She was ready to go on and create a new life. Ever since she’d started law school she’d been alone until four years ago when she began seeing David. Now, she knew that she was an accomplished woman who had finally found her spot in life.
She may have had to drop a hefty salary in Boston for life in Cape Cod but she was silently glad that she did.
“Mrs. Griffin, what’s on your mind today?” David asked noticing she was lost in her thoughts.
“Just happy to be here Mr. Griffin.” She answered with a reassuring squeeze of his hand.
By Ron A. Virmani, M.D.
I landed in the Shinagawa suburb of Tokyo on July 20. There were a total of 14 of us, a couple from Germany , a couple from Canada , a few from U.K. , a lady from Belgium and another lady from Australia. By and large most, including our guide, spoke English. For about 11 days, we toured Takayama, Hiroshima , Nagasaki , Himeji and Kyoto. On July 30, we headed 62 miles west of Tokyo by train to Kawaguchiko, at the foot of Mt. Fuji .
Fujisan (san=mountain) is Japan’s highest mountain, rising to 12,388 feet. It is a stunningly impressive cone of almost perfect symmetrical proportions. Poets and pilgrims have revered it since ancient times. Painters and photographers, including me, have been mesmerized by it. It is the icon and pride of Japan.
Mt. Fuji is actually a volcano. Geologists estimate that it was created 600,000 years ago in Pleistocene era. It last erupted in 1707. The mountain was sacred to Ainu, the original inhabitants of Japan. It is also sacred in Shinto (religion in Japan before Buddhism) and Buddhist religions. The mountain is named after Buddhist fire goddess Fuchi. The shrine of Shinto goddess Sengen-Sama is found on top of the mountain.
Surrounded by five lakes, the spectacular mountain is impressive in its dimensions. Not only does it rise more than two miles into the sky, but also it is 25-30 miles in diameter, topped with a crater spanning 1600 feet in diameter. As a rare occurrence, the mountain may be visible on a clear winter day from 100 miles away. In general, Fujisan is shrouded in clouds.
When I was able to get some clear pictures of the awesome mountain from our hotel in Kawaguchiko, I knew that I was one of the lucky ones.
Even though it is the holiest of the three holy mountains in Japan, it is not considered sacrilegious to climb it. Japanese have climbed it forever, but women were considered impure and not allowed to climb it until 1871. How they became pure after that, beats me.
The official climbing season lasts only two months, July and August. In other months, snow cover and weather conditions make for a hazardous and even perilous climb and people have died on the mountain.
Mount Fuji is divided into 10 stations. The first station being at the foot of the mountain and the tenth being the summit. Paved roads go as far as the fifth station, after that, you are on your own.
On July 31, we took a bus from Kawaguchiko station to the fifth station in the morning and got there at about 11 am. We were at 2300 meters altitude now. It was a foggy morning with drizzle, temperature around 70 degrees. We were facing a climb of 1470 meters or about 4800 feet, approximately a vertical mile.
A mother daughter pair said they were not going to climb, so the twelve of us joined the throngs of people starting off on Yoshidaguchi trail. The trails are like I have never seen before. Because 3000 people, including children and grandmothers, climb every day, the trails are very wide. They narrow to some degree as ascent continues.
It started raining. The possibility was that this could be a miserable hike. One of the girls turned back after an hour and decided to visit Tokyo. The rest of us pressed on. Fortunately, the rain was not terribly heavy or sustained. There were periods of clearing between rains.
The terrain was firm to start and then became full of gravel. There were stretches of volcanic rocky climbs and a seemingly infinite number of switchbacks. As we climbed up, the air got thinner. Some faces became pale, some people started having headaches and nausea. Some vomited. Some lay by the wayside clutching their oxygen tanks. Surely, it was altitude sickness.
Many mountain huts have been constructed along the way to the top. As we passed each one by, we hoped that one would be ours. Finally, we made it our hut Tomoe Kan at 3400 meters. I got to this hut around 4 pm, having hiked for four and a half hours. Boy, that was a hard hike!
Some made it to this hut before me, some after. In the two-story hut, there were several rooms or small halls. In each hall, there were futons on the floor and blankets. The hut accommodates, which is not the right word, about 250 people. We were packed like sardines in a can.
Some of us were quite finished by this point. The holy mountain had taken its toll and drained them. I do not think that they had realized the seriousness of the climb before they undertook it. Anyway, the supper came at about 5 pm. Rice is always a part of every meal in Japan. In addition, there was Miso (soy) soup and a hamburger patty. Buying a coke could set you back 500 yens (five and a half dollars) .
The view from the hut was spectacular. The sun was setting. Darkness grew and the mercury fell rapidly. Going to the outside primitive toilets was an act of bravery because of narrow passage and cold weather. The use of toilet cost 100 yens. We could see a constant stream of hikers making their way both below and above the hut on the switchbacks of the mountain. Their headlamps and flashlights made for a captivating sight.
We lay down, hoping to get rest, maybe sleep. But sleep was hard to come by. I am sure that CO2 level was high from having so many people in such a small enclosed space.
We got up around 2 am. The plan was to be at the top of Mt Fuji to witness the sunrise. The temperature was freezing by now. Six of us started up, the rest were going to go back down. I had five layers of clothes on.
It was a thrilling and unique experience to join hundreds of hikers climbing up the volcanic rock in the middle of night. We were packed on the trail 5 or 6 hikers abreast. It was like being in a crowded state fair with some amount of pushing and shoving to make room to the next step up. The going was slow. Many times, we came to a complete stop from congestion. Trail was steep and challenging. I managed to make headway by maneuvering through and around the crowded pack.
Reaching near the summit, I saw the Torii gate. It is a traditional religious gate in front of Shinto and Buddhist shrines. By 4 am, about an hour before the sunrise, I was on top of Mt. Fuji, the first one from our group. It was not only freezing on top but also very windy. I would say the wind chill was about zero degrees Fahrenheit. Thousands of people were at the top, dozens more pouring every minute, all awaiting the big spectacle of sunrise. The clouds were below us, the east was aglow and the sky was getting lighter with time.
A few minutes before 5 am, the first rays of sun reached us. The miracle was happening. Just then, clouds rolled in to partially block the sun. Fortunately for us, they cleared up in a couple of minutes. We were now witnessing the breathtaking sunrise we came to see. I had long dreamt about this moment. It came true on the first day of August. We savored the sunrise to our heart’s content. Not many people are lucky enough to see a clear sunrise because of the ever encroaching clouds.
We saw the crater on top of Mt. Fuji. One could hike the perimeter in about 90 minutes. There are eight peaks surrounding the crater, the highest being Kengamine. This truly is the highest point (3776 meters) in Japan. But the collective will of the tired group was bereft of any desire to hike the perimeter in bitter cold and howling winds.
We started back down around 5:30 am. Again, treacherous trails of volcanic ash greeted our feet and made short work of our shoes. Some of us fell but did not get hurt. Sun, clouds and rain kept us guessing about the kind of weather we were going to have for the next five minutes.
Libby, the British girl and I were the first ones to get down by 8 am. It was beginning to rain. But that did nothing to hide the glow on our faces of conquering the highest mountain in Japan.
Would I do it again? As they say in Japan, one is a fool not to climb Mt. Fuji once, but a fool climbs it twice! However, only one percent of Japanese people actually climb Mt. Fuji.
By Vatsal Suthar
Matrimony. That’s a word that brings about anxiety among Indian parents and their children alike. It is that word we see posted at the end of Indian newspapers and magazines. Kids in their mid-twenties look at it and begin to chuckle and think “I would never let my parents do this for me.” More and more Indian youth are prolonging marriage while they are finishing their degrees or establishing themselves in their respective careers while also looking for a mate that is equal in both stature and personality.
Parents also have a same mindset for their kids to finish school and methodically establish themselves in the world before settling down with their mate. I was born in America and was brought up by parents that took me to many religious and cultural events growing up while instilling in me the values of India such as learning Gujarati, Hindi, and understanding the importance of family. Talking about relationships with the opposite sex with Indian parents is most likely nonexistent. Whatever experience I would know about dating and relationships began with watching TV shows such as “Saved by the Bell” and “Family Matters.” As a high school student, the prom and other dances were just platonic experiences with friends while college introduced me to more freedom with the opposite sex but without expecting to find my future wife.
But high school and college are over. I am now in my mid-twenties. My cousins and college mates around me are getting engaged. People are becoming serious about looking for a “life partner.” Well I want a life partner too but what is the right way to go and get one? Do I do what they do in Bollywood and start to sing at the first girl I see? Will I have to prove my academic worth by submitting my standardized test scores from kindergarten onwards to the fathers of daughters around the Southeast? Or do I simply make my mom the captain of my Life Partner Search Ship? Can it be appropriate to date an Indian girl/guy in America while trying to avoid getting parents too caught up in either anticipation or skepticism?
Watching movies, Hollywood or Bollywood, we kids have the mind set that seeing someone on the train or at a coffee shop can potentially be our future mate. But what’s the next step with our parents? Some would like to introduce the boyfriend or girlfriend as their future mate after dating for some time while others would display them for approval from parents. I believe a majority of American born Indians like me would like to do both if their parents were also on the same page.
The parents have to be involved in the life partner process for their sake as well as the children. It is intimidating to begin dating someone while parents tell us that there is no time for all those shenanigans until after getting a job and establishing a career. Parents should be somewhat lenient and be open to dialogue with their children about dating and interacting with the opposite sex without immediately thinking they will get married or that dating a specific person is the most awful thing their child could do.
Being in our twenties we “ABCD’s” expect autonomy in order to find our ideal wife/husband while our parents are on the sidelines acting as spectators and not judges. However, the parental input is invaluable because they know what will constitute a successful marriage. All of our parents more than likely were a part of an arranged marriage era but they probably still maintained marriages for decades and created a successful generation of us kids while in a new country.
Watch the film The Namesake to better appreciate the sacrifices you parents have made. Our desi parents are a great display of hard work, flexibility, and sacrifice that should inspire our approach to dating and, eventually, marriage. They can serve as consultants but cannot become dictators over us because we grew up as Americans that expect our life partner search to include dates, parties, and heartbreak with a touch of the romanticized expectations we have seen in Hollywood as well as Bollywood.
So, I plead to parents as well as my fellow desi youth to work together and start a dialogue about relationships and marriage when you must cross that bridge. It can be awkward to initially begin but once it’s rolling, it will be good to know you are working as a team and not as adversaries.
By Jay Desai
Located at costal town of Mangalore, in the state of Karnataka, the Gandhi Temple attracts people who believe that Gandhi and his principles are meaningful even decades after his death. Gandhi is worshipped here thrice a day like any other God in temples.
And, far away on the other side in the state of Orissa, stands a temple built in 1971, where Mahatma Gandhi is placed as a deity. The temple was established by once untouchable Abhimanyu Kumar, who believed Gandhi worked hard to earn them dignity and social status in the caste-driven society. Gandhi deserves more than having his own place of worship.
There are several examples of such Gandhi temples, or such associated stories. Around the world, Gandhians will continue building temples for him, or continue worshiping him as God; it remains mind boggling why Gandhi could be perceived as a God, demigod or God-like Hero. Also, the larger is question here is does Gandhi deserve the stature of God?
As it is abstract to many, God is difficult to perceive when it comes to realizing or understanding his own full spectrum. To some, God is a just holy divine thing whose shape, form and power is eternal, infinite or mystic; and they just want to stop right there and not think beyond, or they may simply be blinded by faith.
Most of humanity likes to think about god in abstract form, since they want to remain glorified by his mystic existence and mystic power. To many it seems that once you define the God, once you finite its form, than God is merely an object not different than a tree, a house or your pet or pal, which than could be taken as granted by many.
However, to the modern generation growing within constant scientific and technological inventions, “faith” is not the answer. Constantly puzzled with their logic and questioning attitudes of why, what and when, the concept of a mystic or abstract God may not be very buyable to this generation.
And, by the same token, for those simple-minded, too, same is not acceptable, since they want to understand the God in simple ways with whom they can connect for their day to day life encounters, or where they can relate their day to day rituals to something. Merely in simplistic terms, they are looking for real life mentors and not something on a grand scale that took place ages ago or is described in mythology.
Thinking about ages and mythology, Lord Jesus seems to be somewhat closer to reality, may be, since he appeared on the face of the earth lot later. However, it was still sometime ago, when cultural values and norms of society were quite different than modern era. Also, many different interpretations can be made, without having all tangible references. Same you can say for Buddha. And now when we think about Lord Krishna or Lord Ram or Abraham of Jewish mythology, we have some layers of mystery shrouding the reality since it supposedly happened thousands of years ago. When an investigating mind tries to remove layers, more questions of why, what and when becomes unavoidable and undoubtedly daunting. An average being can be really lost or confused amongst all these, if not supported by strong inner faith.
Hence that is when real-life heroes come so handy in our daily and average lives. Although, where do those “out of the box” thinkers find those “close to perfection” kind of heroes in modern history?
It seems that Gandhi might fit the bill amongst all these. He seems easy to understand, follow or emulate, as he set his own life as an example for everything he presented or preached. He does make appeal to the “out of the box” thinker; Someone who just happened to be around the corner or around the century, someone who was surrounded by the similar if not the same challenges that most of us face today. He is not distances or eons away, yet someone who one can feel, touch and realize. To many of us, what Gandhi did during his lifetime feel like it just happened yesterday.
Okay, so Gandhi may stand as real life idol for many, however, it will be nothing but idolizing, something that Gandhi would never have preferred. He was the most modest man on the earth so far that one can think of. A man who believed more in practicing than preaching who also said that all his writings should be burnt when he is gone. He also emphasized that what he had been saying is nothing new but as old as hills standing for centuries.
To a larger extent, Islam and Judaism do not entertain the idea of idolizing unlike Christianity, and of course Hinduism. On the other hand, Hinduism accepts the existence of many other faiths, which was strongly manifested and practiced by Gandhi throughout his life. Gandhi’s life-long peaceful battle and personal sacrifice for humankind is very well comparable to Jesus’ life, and above that, his compassion for non-violence and kindness for downtrodden seems to be adopted from Buddhism and Jainism.
So Gandhi appears to manifest little bit from every faith with some proven results. That might make him tangible and more universal.
Born in 1922, Abhimanyu Kumar probably could not get his answers from religious scripts, but he did see Gandhi in action, bringing desirable changes possibly for everyone in society during his life span, enough to convince him to make Gandhi a deity.
Be it Abhimanyu Kumar or any other average Joe, he or she may not want to do endless research, or may not want to go thru Gita or Bible or Koran. He or she does not want to be bombarded with heavy scripts and deep preaching. He or she is simply searching for simple answers, and for that they might have found those answers in their contemporary god-like heroes, or for that matter God – Mahatma Gandhi.
By Indhu Gopal
I stood in a long line to order one falafel - a tasty fried seasoned chick pea mixture stuffed inside pita bread and topped with a salad mixture and sesame sauce (tahini) - for just $2.50. My Iranian friend from the Faculty Resource Network Seminar I attended in the morning suggested that I try the famous falafel at Mamoun’s Falafel. Established in the heart of Greenwich Village in 1971, the restaurant has been turning out tasty authentic cuisines for years. I could not wait to take a bite of the Middle Eastern delight.
At last, it was my turn to place an order. However, to my dismay, I had no cash and credit cards were not accepted. I was extremely disappointed and scanned my surroundings to find an ATM with little success. I looked further and my eyes turned toward a small store called The Land of Buddha, one among the very few Tibetan stores in the United States. I somehow knew that I would get help there. With high spirits, I walked into the store and explained my situation to a humble, compassionate man behind the counter. He comes from Nepal and to me he was kindness personified. He gave me three dollars instantaneously and with no reservations. I promised that I would return with the money the next day.
I lingered a little longer to look at all kinds of Himalayan handicrafts. Most items in his store came from Tibet, Nepal, and Bhutan. It was a charming place with jewelry, Tibetan carpets, antiques, DVD and CDs related to Buddhism and Yoga. It had religious items like thankas and singing bowls galore. You could also find prayer wheels, prayer beads, and incense sticks as well as traditional Tibetan style brocade dress, shirts, and Pashmina. This was home away from home. I felt like I was in a store on Big Bazar Street in India, where I was born and lived for twenty five years before immigrating to the United States.
With three dollars in hand, I once again stood outside, holding my red umbrella to shield myself from the rain as the line inched slowly into Mamoun’s Falafel. Finally, I got my falafel and I sat on the steps adjacent to the restaurant to take my first bite with a big smile, all the while thanking the kind man who made it possible for me to taste the Middle Eastern cuisine.
On the next day I returned to The Land of Buddha around 11:30 am and found it closed. As I walked down the street, I saw many small boutiques, tattoo parlors, bars, dance clubs and restaurants lining both sides of the narrow street. It was fun to walk on MacDougal Street with so many different ethnic restaurants: Yummy Village, Japanese Sushi, Ritz Asia-Asian fusion, Pasta Bristo Grill, Humm us and many more. A few men were unloading groceries in front of a restaurant and were getting ready for the hectic day ahead.
I made my way to another boutique, Nepa Bhon, where Renu, the proprietor’s wife from Nepal has been doing business since 1993. The shop deals in Nepalese Papers, mainly “Lokta” paper products. The “Lokta“ shrub grows in the high elevations of the Himalayan foothills and is used to produce paper sheets, photo albums, journals, stationeries, and picture frames. The products provide the only source of income for the villagers who grow, harvest and produce these goods.
It was wonderful to chat with Renu. She was warm, friendly, and conversant. We began to talk about the life and death of Buddha, Nirvana, and The Noble Eightfold Path, one of the principal teachings of the Buddha to end suffering (dukkha) and achieve self-awakening. The Noble Eightfold Path includes: Right View, Right Intention, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration. “Buddha was born in Kapilavasthu and died under the Bodhi tree in Bodha Gaya, 100 km from Patna, in Bihar State, India,” she said. “Yes, Buddha was born in India,” I replied. She corrected me by saying: “No, Kapilavasthu is in Nepal and many Indians think it is in India.” She continued: “it is under the Bodhi tree that Gautama Buddha attained enlightenment or Bodhi.” I did not want the conversation to end as I was grossly immersed in every word she was saying. After our lengthy discussion, I found my way to The Land of Buddha, which was still closed. It was time to join my colleagues for lunch.
As I traced my way back, I saw the Dosa Stand. The rain never stopped and the day was gloomy, yet Kumar, the man behind the vegetarian stand in Washington Square, was busy. The Dosa Stand was considered one of the best vendors in New York City. A posted article on his stand, by New York Times, described the countless accolades he had received.
Kumar was happy to see me and started talking in his native language, Tamil. He hails from Sri Lanka, and I from Tamilnad in South India, so we had much in common. He made me a spicy Sadha Dosa, which is made of rice and lentil and included two small cups of sambar (like lentil soup) and green chutni (made with green chilies, mint and coriander leaves). It was scrumptious. Then, he handed over a Masala Dosa (dosa stuffed with potatoes) to an East Asian woman who was in a similar predicament as I was, with no cash. She asked if she could pay him the next day. He happily obliged and bid farewell to both of us. I was deeply touched.
Subsequently, I traced my way back to The Land of Buddha, which was now open. I returned the borrowed money to the owner’s wife, thanked her profusely, and parted with these words: “I will never forget your husband’s kindness, which I will take to my grave.” As tears swelled in my eyes, I said goodbye. It was time to go back to my afternoon seminar session.
That night as I lay in bed, I reflected upon the day’s events. I have never written any short stories and today I was inspired to put it in writing - my thoughts, my emotions and what I saw and experienced. I wondered about why I was stirred to write; could it be the amazing discussions we had during the seminar? We focused on community outreach in a writing program developed at NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study. Could it also be the erudite colleagues in my program, including Dr. June Foley, the program convener and the first director of the Writing Program at NYU’s Gallatin School of Individual Study? Maybe it was the Chinese immigrants, the adult learners who read their writings aloud and shared their life experiences. Perhaps it was a combination of all of these.
Now, I know that I will continue to write. I also plan to introduce a service-learning course at my university where I teach Yoga, Exercise Physiology, Kinesiology and Psychomotor Development. I would like to connect students with adults through a literacy project. To that end, I contacted the chair of the Computer Science Department, who is interested to collaborate and see that the minority community from the Historical Washington Heights, a neighborhood near our university, will be computer literate and become a “laptop community.”
As I tried to sleep, I was reminded of what Marian Wright Edelman said, “Service is the rent we pay for being. It is the very purpose of life, and not something you do in your spare time.”
My heart bleeds with sorrow for those mushrooming
around the poles on the sidewalks
as my car passes them, closed windows and shying mirrors
trying to avoid these shards of poverty
trying to blindspot these pieces of reality
around the world, across the continents
as news channels pour out pictures of gore
trying to sensationalize these shards of brutality
trying to commercialize these pieces of reality
around stock markets, sensex and wall street
as life begins to change, everyday counts, every penny amounts
trying to quantify these shards of necessity
trying to justify these pieces of reality
around me and for those I love
as time moves forward, actions shape today and hope tomorrow
trying to rely on these shards of possibility
trying to enliven these pieces of reality
By Pravin Benjamin
Of meat balls and curry made with care
There is the wishes and gifts
Along side mom’s great reassuring smile.
The new clothes and age
Brought with happy regularity
A time, happiness for
Dad never cared.
My mom remembered it
And made something special.
So did my sisters.
The two creatures I loved.
Now painful memories
Of past and aging worries me
Making my July unwelcome.
Yet I smile, I was born.
I’ll Hold You Tight This Winter Night
By Ananya Mallavarapu
Can’t wait to come home And hold you tight.
Next to the fire it’ll feel so right,
With you inside our igloo dome.
Just wait for me on that rug
Where our names are scribbled down
And greet me with a hug
As I come home from town.
La La La La dum di Dai
I’ll hold you tight this winter night.
Just wait for me a while
I promise I’ll greet you with a smile.
La la la la dum di dai (dum di dai)
I’ll hold you tight this winter night.
As the snow falls onto the ground.
It’s slowly collecting on the boughs
Of the trees we see all around.
I’ll be home soon
To protect you from the dark.
But until then watch the moon
And the tiny stars that spark.
La La La La dum di Dai
I’ll hold you tight this winter night.
Just wait for me a while
I promise I’ll greet you with a smile.
La la la la dum di dai
I’ll hold you tight this winter night.
As the snow falls so pure.
And I just want to tell you anew
That I’ll hold you tight and secure.
I’m at the door and I walk in
To see you greet me with a smile.
You slowly tilt up your chin
And I lean down and kiss you for a while.
La La La La dum di Dai
I’ll hold you tight this winter night.
Just wait for me a while
I promise I’ll greet you with a smile.
La la la la dum di dai (dum di dai)
I’ll hold you tight this winter night.
And I won’t let go of you this night.
La la la la dum di dai
I’ll hold you tight this winter night.
Oh, I’ll hold you tight this winter night.
(Based on "I've Just Seen a Face" by the Beatles)
By Sardar Singh
Generally I go for a walk around the lake that is very close to our house. One day I met a young couple who had come to the lake along with their two daughters. I was told that the kids were two years old and identical twins. I was fascinated to see the way the children responded when they saw the ducks in the lake. Both of them were very excited and full of joy and happiness. They would go close to the ducks but would immediately back off. They played this game for quite some time. I think it is worthwhile to ask, why are we not able to maintain the same sense of freedom and happiness throughout our life?
The human brain has unbounded intellectual potential and an amazing power of the mind. Because of this potential human beings have made tremendous progress in the fields of science and technology. Resources and ingenuity have been mobilized to create variety of goods and services. But in the bargain we have lost innocence and our capability to enjoy life. We have miserably failed in creating a healthy and harmonious relationship with each other. The state of my physical, mental and spiritual health depends to a large extent on the quality of my relationship with nature and other human beings. A sane world implies where there is right relationship. Right relationship means to respond with love and care. Unfortunately human beings are not living that way.
The significant problems that we face arise out of numerous conflicts arising out of human relationships. Any type of conflict brings about pain, misery and sorrow. There is conflict between husband and wife, between parent and child, between one group and another. There is enormous confusion, violence, brutalities, the wars, terrorism and endless division on the basis of religion and nationalities. There is also the problem of poverty, overpopulation and environmental degradation. All problems are interrelated and affect each and every human being one way or the other. It is so obvious that when the children grow up they will be affected by the world in which they live.
Although each one of us is born with certain distinct physical and intellectual characteristics yet when we examine very carefully we will find that psychologically we are not different from each other. All human beings, irrespective of their color, caste, creed, religion and nationality are fearful, uncertain, feel insecure and face the same life of pleasure, pain and sorrow. Our perceptions and responses to challenges of life and our basic urges, desires, demands are similar. Our consciousness is shaped by the culture in which we live. Our mind gets influenced the same way. The society shapes the individual and the individuals create the society. The individual and the society are inseparable. If we are really concerned about the deterioration that is taking place in the world we must understand the nature of the human mind.
Our thinking determines the nature of our consciousness. Our thinking determines our actions. The ultimate source of our problems is in thought. Psychologically we are not different from each other because the process of our thinking is the same. Our own thinking is responsible for the existing state of the world. We can very safely say that the mind that we have inherited and the mind that has been shaped by the society is man made mind. If there is lack of clarity in our thinking and if there irrationality in our thinking it will inevitably create the monstrous society in which we live. There is only one question that we need to answer. Can we be free of the old, rotten, traditional mind and create a new mind?
In order for that to happen we must understand the existing framework of mind and in the process of self-enquiry and self-examination eradicate from our mind all thinking that is based on false premises and all thinking that is contradictory and therefore creates confusion in the mind and conflict in human relationship. Love, compassion, goodness and generosity are the key factors that can bring about a healthy and harmonious relationship. Love is not a process of thought. The action of love has no motive. The mind that is in state of love is a religious mind. When love expresses itself through our hearts we experience a state of bliss. Without love life has very little meaning. Is it possible for us to bring that quality of love in our life so that the future generations can also live in peace and harmony?
We would like the readers to actively participate in the dialogue so that we may together explore this vast and complex territory called the mind and find out the root cause of our problems. We can examine the existing framework of the mind only when we are in pure state of observation. Our observation should be objective, free from bias, prejudice, opinion, judgment or conclusion.
Only such a mind can see things as they actually are. Human beings do have this capability if they are willing to exercise it. No problem can be understood without clarity of perception. Clarity of perception facilitates the operation of intelligence, which is the basic instrument to wipe out the mess that man has created.
Man Made Mind - Part 2
By Sardar Singh
No doubt human beings are endowed with the power of thinking. But they are also endowed with abilities that are beyond the process of thinking. Human potential is beyond any limit. Human beings have the energy that is the very source of life on earth.
They have the ability to enjoy the beauty of the earth and experience the mystery of life. They have the ability to see things as they actually are without the involvement of memory and thought. In this state of awareness thought completely ceases. In this state of intelligence we gain insight into different areas of life. Albert Einstein said, “I never came upon any of my discoveries through the process of rational thinking.”
Human beings have the ability to experience the mystery of life in the form of love that is unconditional and without any cause. In this state of love there is bliss and peace. Life is relationship. I am related one way or the other, intimately or remotely, to nature and to all human beings. The state of my physical, mental and spiritual health depends to a large extent on the quality of my relationships with nature and fellow human beings. Right relationship means to respond accurately, which means to respond with love and care.
Now the question arises why human beings are not able to live in peace and harmony with nature and with each other? Why is there so much conflict, misery and sorrow in the world? Why there is lack of love, compassion, affection and care? Why hate, anger, fear, violence, greed and jealousy have become so much dominant factors in our lives? Why is there so much poverty, injustice and degradation? By the power of thinking human beings made tremendous progress in the field of science and technology. Same instrument of thought is being used to bring about self-destruction. Is there a way out of this mess?
The quest for intelligent living and the search for a better society are perhaps as old as man himself. Saints and philosophers examined life from different angles and prescribed codes of conduct. Psychologists carried out research into the conscious and subconscious mind and provided a plethora of findings on the basis of detailed analysis. But the fact is that despite all the knowledge and experience accumulated through the centuries, man has not been able to produce a harmonious and healthy society. Technological progress has further complicated matters. More and more education instead of helping man is making the situation still worse. All the ideological and management approaches to the problems have failed. It needs to be examined what is wrong in all the attempts to make life better and worth living.
Let us take the case of current worldwide economic crisis. Media calls this as our issue number one. How did we respond to the situation? First of all only some individuals here and there have been blamed for the crisis. These include some top executives and business people in the financial markets and some homebuyers who got the loans that they could not even afford to pay. Lack of regulations was also cited as one of the reasons. US government and politicians moved quickly to fix the problem. The Stimulus Plan to boost the economy was worked out. It is said that new laws to regulate the financial market will be enforced and everything will be all right in due course.
Although it has been mentioned in the media over and over again that greed is at the root of this economic mess, yet very little attention has been paid to the basic cause of the problem. Greed is taken for granted. We say it is part of human nature and then forget about it. It is believed that new rules and regulations will take care of this problem. Past history clearly shows that greed always overpowers. Cunning, clever and greedy people, including the politician, always find ways to bypass the rules. The tragedy is that we do not see the gravity and the depth of the problem. Greed is not confined to just a small percentage of population. If each person carefully looks at his mind he will find that in so many subtle ways his actions are guided by greed.
Greed transcends racial, religious and national differences arising out of cultural conditioning of the mind. Priests and preachers of all faiths who claim to be the custodians of ethics and morality mechanically repeat what others in the past centuries have said about greed. They tell people not to be greedy but they themselves are the greediest people on earth because they mint money not by doing any constructive work but by simply preaching what they cthemselves do not do.
Our problems continue because we do not see them clearly. We do not see clearly because our minds are befogged with ideas, opinions, beliefs, conclusions and influences. So the first step is to use our ability of pure and objective observation that helps us to see things as they actually are. The challenge is to drop the entire load of accumulation and look anew. The very pause to take a fresh look is a significant new step. Clarity of perception is our top priority. When we are looking at the problems we need to make sure that we are concerned with facts only. In our dialogue we should move from fact to fact and not from one idea to another idea. Please do respond with your comments or questions.
By Naveen Vedula (Raleigh, NC)
Saathee Readers Forum
Adventure in Ecuador
By Ron A. Virmani, M.D.
In December of 2012, I signed up for an adventure tour of Ecuador with a commercial outfit known as STI (Singles Travel International). I spent the first four days in Galapagos Islands and enjoyed Darwin’s finches, blue-footed boobies, sea-lions, giant tortoises, iguanas and beautiful Tortugo bay on Santa Cruz Island. Then I boarded my flight from Baltra airport in Galapagos Islands to Quito via Guayaquil. I was ready for my multi-sport adventure in Ecuador for the next six days.
Day 1 – Arrival in Quito (Dec 26)
Day 2 – Butterfly farm, zipline and hike (Dec 27)
Day 3- White water rafting (Dec 28)
Day 4- Otavalo Indian market and Cuicocha lake (Dec 29)
Day 5 – Riding Horses and Mountain Bikes (Dec 30)
Day 6 – Teleferico and Hike (Dec 31)
Day 7 – Quito and Equatorial Monument (Jan 1)
Day 8 – Back to the Queen City of Charlotte
How Goes in Galapagos
India: Soccer’s Final Frontier?
By David Tulley
As he took to the field in the muggy September air, a deafening roar erupted from amongst the thousands of spectators, many of whom had travelled from afar to see their idol in the flesh. Supporters rushed to the front of the stand, straining their every muscle to capture this moment within their minds and hearts. Lionel Messi does not react. He has grown accustomed to this brand of hero-worship. But this is not Barcelona or Buenos Aires, instead this is the Salt Lake Stadium, Kolkata, India and 120,000 have arrived to watch Lionel Messi, and his Argentine teammates, take on Venezuela in the biggest soccer event in India’s history.
My Very Indian Adventure: 3-day classical dance workshop
Guru Brahma guru Vishnu gurudevo maheshwaraha
For thousands of years, our culture has taught us to respect the value of education and therefore to revere our Gurujis and teachers. Our culture preaches us to compare our teacher to God. In my 22 years of living in the United States, I have never witnessed that true bond between teacher and student till I went to India this past year. During my first week in India, my paternal grandmother, a former mathematics and physics professor, had called her student Bhairavi bhen who is a bharatnatyam dance teacher, to come teach me dance. Bhairavi Aunty informed us of a 3-day classical dance workshop that was starting the very next day and she explained how this is a rare opportunity because three famous gold medalist artists were coming to teach the workshop. She instantly registered me for the workshop and arranged transportation for me so that I can attend. Bhairavi Aunty and my grandmother had not seen nor talked to each other in over 20 years, but she still showed selfless love towards me because she had so much respect for her former 4th grade teacher.
Here is how my 3-day workshop went:
Day One: Dr. Kanak Rele, an Indian dancer and academic who is most famous for the dance form Mohiniattam was the teacher for day one. She is also the founder of the biggest Indian classical dance school, Nalanda Dance Research Center in Mumbai. Her achievements have been recognized by the award of PadmaShri, Kalidas Samman and Sangeet Natak Award. She taught us about abhinaya (expressions). During the lunch break, I was called by Bhairavi aunty to the lunch room where Guru Kanak Rele was eating and through conversation, I found out that she was my own guru’s guru; it’s like meeting your great grandmother for the first time! She complained to me about her back pain she had while performing earlier and I suggested that she uses biofreeze to alleviate her pain. After the workshop ended, Bhairavi aunty drove me home to pick up some biofreeze and we went to the hotel to give it to Dr. Rele.
Day Two: C.V. Chandrasekhar taught us in the workshop. He is one of India’s most senior Bharatanatyam dancers and academic, composer, singer, as well as choreographer. He received the Padma Bushan award from Government of India in 2011. Since it was a bharatanatyam workshop, we had to wear half saris, so my grandma dressed me up in her sari and I went to class. I was the most unprepared student there because I have not done Bharatanatyam in 5 years. But during all our rhythmic exercises and inspirational lectures, I was set on starting bharatanatyam again. I forgot how much I missed the dance form and how much I appreciated the dance because it made me feel closer to my culture. It was an honor to receive his blessings.
Day Three: I have never seen kathak being danced as beautifully as it was tonight by Kumudini Lakhia’s dance troop, Kadamb. Kumidini bahen is a padma bushan award winner, gold medalist in kathak and is known for her innovation in the kathak dance field. After the performance, Bhairavi aunty took me and my grandma to a 5 star hotel called Grand Bhagwat for dinner with all the dance gurus! I actually sat in the same table as Kumidini Lakhia and CV Chandrasekhar. I have never felt so honored in my life. Day 3 was definitely my favorite day out of the 3 workshop days, because I have fallen in love with kathak and Kumidini ji allowed me to join her dance institute, Kadamb. She also really liked me out of most of the other students and after the workshop she had to go meet Chief Minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi for blessings because she is VVIP and a local international artist. She had to take several dancers with her to go meet Narendra Modi and she chose me out of the 140 girls! We took a bus to the hall where Narendra Modi was fasting, and I got a chance to go on stage and meet him! I also saw Bollywood actor Paresh Rawal because he was giving a speech right in front of me. I was on the local Guajarati news for three seconds because they showed “kalakaris” (artists) receiving blessing from Narendra Modi.
At the conclusion of the workshop, I made up my mind that I will start classical dance again. This workshop really made me realize how immature I was to quit such an elegant art form because of personal conflicts, and now I am inspired to dive into the classical dance field.
Hinduism: There’s more to Idol Worship than meets the eye.
Ten years ago, as a new bride I unpacked my boxes in our newly rented townhouse. My new husband was away at work, but his mother and mother’s brother were there to “help.” I pulled out my shiny new Shiva Linga that was handcrafted and a gift from my parents. I had found the perfect spot and couldn’t wait for it to grace and bless my new home.
My Very Indian Adventure
How many people can say they have followed their dreams?
As I was sitting inside my maternal grandmother’s house, in an attempt to avoid the scorching heat, I heard a bunch of cars passing by with the famous song “Chammak Challo” blasting. I was wondering why the same track was playing out loud from each auto rickshaw and car. Soon enough, I found out that ShahRukh Khan was coming to Baroda Central Mall today to promote his upcoming movie, Ra One. ShahRukh Khan, King Khan, my most favorite actor since my childhood days, was in the same town as me and I was determined to not miss my chance to see him live.
John Glen’s Space Flight 50th Anniversary
February 20 2012 is the year fifty,
1st to circle planet was Yuri Gagarin,
America beat U.S.S.R. very soon,
2nd time rocketed Senator Glen,
At Cape Canaveral did old John Glen,
Thanked workers at Cape Kennedy,
Once America was a big Space might,
I love you Kripa
She is now five, a happy five… her face is always lit so bright,
She makes me feel the love of God, and that he has his grace on me…
The next few years will go so quick, that feeling makes my heart so sick.
And then I think, when she is big, she would want to fly free,
All Airmen of Tuskegee,
First black pilots to be,
Trained in a Tuskegee
The US patriotic legacy,
Idea of the black military
President Roosevelt did relent
Many blacks were trained finally
Working hard, black men many
Organized as a 332nd Fighter Group,
Later they were ordered to base, Italy
Slow Bombers, big targets for enemy,
Soon White Bomber pilots gave respect
Completed 1500 sorties, black airmen
The skilled Airmen Pilots of Tuskegee
Awarded were they for combat bravery,
In 2011, I planned to climb a couple of peaks in the Himalayas in the Khumbu/Baruntse region around 21,500 feet with a technical high-pass in between at 19,000 feet. I had trained hard from an endurance standpoint all year with swimming, running, and cardio. Physically, I felt pretty good.
Bollywood Music Goes Fit
Priya’s Son is Coming to Town
Reflections on the Charlotte Indian Community and the Hindu Center
Finding God in Unexpected Places
The First Spaceman Yuri Gagarin 50 Years later
Once upon a time
Place Yourself in Others’ Shoes
From Mediocre To Marvelous
In this superficial and controversial world, the greed and the eagerness of proving oneself better than others is increasing with tremendous speed. Great American Architect Frank Lloyd Wright, once remarked, “I know the price of success: dedication, hard-work, and an unremitting devotion to the things you want to see happen,” is a clear answer to the unending obsession of people regarding their ceased progress, dissatisfied status, and most importantly their success. Hard work is the only criteria that people must adhere to in order to achieve their goals. There are many personalities in the fields of business, entertainment, and research that emit the radiations of success, which is the outcome of their diligence and their perseverance.
Madhav Bhatt is a sophomore in the Pre-Pharmacy Program at Campbell University, North Carolina.
Do you know where my Grandma is?
I do not know when, nevertheless
She would wrap her arms around
‘You are the apple of my eyes,
We played in the snow we made Grandpa Gandhi
I miss playing with Grandma
Silk sari, crown make up. Fancy up-do-
Fusion of her perfume and mirch-masala (spices)
I wake up feeling hungry I sit on the floor
I adorned myself with her curly locks
Grandma I miss you very much.
Sharing My Heritage: Indian Participation in the Raleigh International Festival
“Hey Ram” on the lips of Modern Ram
Being a Hyderabadi doesn’t just mean you’re from Hyderabad; instead, it’s a phrase that signifies someone who knows much more than just Hyderabad as a city itself. They know that no matter what the world or signs say Hussain Sagar Lake will forever be etched into memories as Tank Bund. They know that old city Charminar is where to go if you’re looking for the best pearls or bangles. They know that they’ll be proud of Amruta Castle simply because there aren’t a lot of Indian cities that can say they have a mammoth hotel shaped like a castle with a white Birla Mandir temple in the background. And being Hyderabadi means you know your Biriyanis well and have your own distinct flavor of Hindi. It’s a simple combination but one that makes me proud.
Bollywood and Beyond: Hinduism Changing the World
Secrets of Happiness part II
My first Marathon
Facing the fear
It was peaceful here Claire had to say. The park wasn’t somewhere one usually found her in the winter but here she was. While preferring the indoors during winter, she sometimes felt the need to be outside, to enjoy the rush she experienced from spending a few silent minutes with nature. She saw two figures in the distance and acknowledged them when they made their way over.
Majestic Mount Fuji
In July 2009, I signed up for a two-week Japan trip with GAP adventures. I wanted to see the land of the rising sun and the country of Shinkansen (bullet trains). I had trained for high-altitude climbing and climbed Mt. Elbert (14,400 feet) in Colorado in early July and wanted to use this training to climb Mt. Fuji as well.
Climbing Mt. Fuji
Dating, matrimony and Indian parents
My Favorite Middle Eastern Delight-The Falafel
The rain was relentless and it was getting late. I wanted to grab a quick dinner and call it a day.
My heart seeks peace in times of unrest and upheaval
My heart seeks stability in times of economic uncertainty
My heart seeks faith and trust from friends & family
July brings nostalgia
It’s cold out here tonight
I’m driving home right now
I’m coming home to you
Now I’m here and holding you tight
Man Made Mind
When we look at the mountain from a distance, we are captivated by its grandeur, majesty, and beauty. We feel joyful and peaceful. This joy and peace is not the result of effort, will or desire. We mentioned earlier how the two-year-old twins at the lake responded when they saw the ducks. Both were dancing with joy. We can call this the dance of life. Parents of the children were part of this dance. Luckily because I was there, I was also participating in this dance. The whole cosmos, the sun, the air, the weather, the lake, the trees and the birds were making this dance possible. The joy was not the result of an achievement of a goal set by thinking.
Himalayan Climbing Expedition