Politics | Education | Business

Creating Spaces For LGBTQIA Hindus

Washington, DC (June 21, 2018) — In honor of LGBT Pride Month, the Sri Siva Vishnu Temple, in Lanham, Maryland, hosted a town hall discussion on June 16 about what the temple could do to make queer Hindus feel more included.

The event, “Creating Spaces for LGBTQIA Hindus,” was co-sponsored by the SSVT Center for Dharma Education, HAF, and Indiaspora.

Moderated by Sivagami (Shiva) Subbaraman, the director of the LGBTQ Resource Center at Georgetown University, the panelists talked about their experiences coming out and the struggles they had to overcome reconciling their sexual identities with their religious identity.

SSVT co-founder Dr. Siva Subramanian and BOT member Vasu Murthy opened the discussion by noting that Hinduism’s scriptures do not vilify LGBT identities, but noted that the scriptural openness is not always reflected in the attitude of many Hindus. They noted the SSVT’s statement on creating an inclusive space for LGBTQIA Hindus, which read:

“Hinduism is an all inclusive and open way of life that teaches that all beings are equal. To honor those scriptural ideals, SSVT’s Constitution forbids discrimination against any one on the basis of race, gender, religion etc. The recently formed Center for Dharma Education — whose task has been to engage younger generations of American-born Hindus — has done several events based on the relevant issues in the society such as non-violence, socially conscious parenting etc.

Based on the CDE’s initiative, the SSVT is undertaking a dialog about how those who identify as both LGBTQIA and Hindu have reconciled those identities, and how the temple can help make them feel included and integrated into the larger Hindu community. SSVT is undertaking this discussion to bring the community together for an open dialog, and find a way to make sure all of our community’s voices are heard and respected.”

Subbaraman and panelists Swarna Chowdhuri, Mytili Jagannathan, and Harsh Voruganti said they appreciated the temple’s willingness to host the discussion. Members of the audience, including some who identify as queer, added that they felt more welcomed as a result of the event. The event was standing room only, with some traveling from as far away as Pennsylvania just to attend.

CDE chair Rohit Setty and former HAF education director (and current consultant) Murali Balaji noted that the townhall was just the first step in creating a long-term space for queer Hindus. The SSVT Board also said they would work to do more to provide support for community members and their families.

“We need to do more to uphold our scriptural ideas,” Balaji said. “Hopefully our queer family members will feel that the SSVT is a welcoming and loving space as we build on this.”

The SSVT is working on engaging more Hindus, and others, on important topics through the CDE’s townhall series. Townhalls on domestic violence and mental health, respectively, will take place in the fall.

HAF co-sponsored the event as a continuation of its advocacy on behalf of LGBTQIA issues. To see more on HAF’s advocacy on behalf of LGBTQIA rights click here.


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Opinion | Columns | Youth

Separating Children From Parents at Border is Unconscionable

Washington, DC (June 19, 2018) — The recent actions by the Trump Administration separating children from parents at the border, placing them in detention facilities, often strikingly inadequately prepared for their needs, are unconscionable.

As immigrants or children of immigrants, as parents, as Hindus, we can find no legal, moral, or ethical justification for such actions.

HAF Executive Director Suhag Shukla, Esq. offered the following insight:

“Hindus place great importance on the family. Whether attempting to enter the United States to seek asylum, fleeing violence in their home country, or seeking better economic opportunities, separating children from their parents is abhorrent. Treating young, vulnerable children in such a degraded way is beyond not only Hindu values, but American values.”

“When the family is ruined, the timeless laws of family duty perish; and when duty is lost, chaos ensues.” — Bhagavad Gita

The Hindu American Foundation unequivocally calls for the immediate end of the practice of separating children from their parents at the border and the treating of asylum seekers as criminals. It further urges that diligent efforts be undertaken to reunite all families affected by these cruel and inhumane policies.



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A Complete List of Community Events

Date/Time Event
May 11, 2018 - Jun 24, 2018
All Day
Rembrandt & The Inspiration of India
Rembrandt & The Inspiration of India
J. Paul Getty Museum, LA CA
Jun 3, 2018 - Jun 30, 2018
4:00 pm
2018 Arangetrams of Vrindavan Indian Dance Academy
2018 Arangetrams of Vrindavan Indian Dance Academy
Dougherty Valley Performing Arts Center, San Ramon CA
Jun 10, 2018 - Aug 4, 2018
All Day
Get Inspired - Summer Internship
Oak Brook, Illinois Illinois
Jun 10, 2018 - Aug 4, 2018
All Day
Get Inspired - Summer Internship
Buffalo Grove Areas, Illinois Illinois
Jun 10, 2018 - Aug 4, 2018
All Day
Get Inspired! A Summer Internship
Get Inspired! A Summer Internship
Naperville, Illinois, Illinois Illinois


Impactful Insightful Coverage

World War I: South Asian Soldiers In The US Military

The First World War was not only the United States’ first global conflict, but it was also the first time in which a truly diverse American military was able to showcase its strength and resolve on the battlefields of Europe. Among this diverse American Expeditionary Force was a group of South Asian soldiers. In the Spring of 2017, I completed an internship at the United States World War I Centennial Commission in Washington D.C. My assigned responsibility as an intern involved creating an original historical database on the service and lives of the South Asian soldiers during the war.

This project originated from a simple conversation I had with my supervisor at the Commission, Mr. Chris Christopher. I was sharing information that I had found about Dr. Bhagat Singh Thind’s service in the U.S. Army. Dr. Thind was one of the first South Asians and turbaned Sikhs to serve in the American armed forces. Mr. Christopher advised me to investigate more into Dr. Thind’s time with the American Military during the war.

As I did, I referred to Young India, a journal and newspaper publication from the South Asian American Digital Archives (SAADA). Using this resource, I uncovered the fact that more South Asians had participated in the conflict on behalf of the United States. The August and October 1918 issues of Young India listed the names and included photographs of South Asians who were in training or deployed overseas to Europe.

I utilized the information from Young India to identify primary documents catalogued on the website Over a period of four months, I examined, analyzed and collected hundreds of records, such as naturalization papers, federal census documents, military registration cards, and more, in order to recreate accounts specific to the lives of these soldiers and relative to their military service. My searches used the moment they arrived in the U.S. as a common starting point and traced through time to their last known life event.

The internship project I completed at the U.S. World War I Centennial Commission continues to be important to me because it highlighted the comparatively unknown history of the contributions made by the South Asian community in the war. This project taught me that the First World War truly showcased America’s diversity and every person in their own way played a role in defending their country.

One story that reflects this sentiment is that of Manganlall K. Pandit because he served in both World Wars on behalf of his adopted country. Mr. Pandit was eventually laid to rest in Fort Leavenworth National Cemetery, Kansas. It was fascinating to discover the extent of his service to the U.S. military, and I found I was learning more than information about this heroic soldier.

In collecting and examining hundreds of pieces of information, I was able to apply a richer context to the profiles I was developing for each soldier that I identified and, thereby, I was able to strengthen my writing, analysis, research, and historical recording skills.

An aspect that I found intriguing while documenting the individual backgrounds of these soldiers was that almost all of their registration cards listed their race as Caucasian, and not as Indian, colored, black, or some category used today. After the First World War, the Federal census documents listed their race and ethnicity as Indian, Muslim, etc. This could have been the result of the 1923 Supreme Court case, United States v. Bhagat Singh Thindwhich ruled that individuals of Indian origin were not considered white and, therefore, could not be granted naturalization and citizenship.

Unfortunately, the issue of naturalization and citizenship followed a highly contested pathway and this issue was not resolved until after World War II. 1946 saw the signing of the Luce-Celler Act by President Truman, and even then, there was a quota set at 100 natives of India per year. It was not until 1965 that the Hart-Celler Immigration Act began the phase-out of U.S. national origin quotas altogether.

Overall, I learned that the South Asian soldiers who contributed to the diversity of the American military through their service did so with commitment to a greater ideal. They could not know that it would take nearly half a century before their sacrifices would be aptly acknowledged through U.S. naturalization and citizenship.

My current research is an effort to capture the stories of the South Asian soldiers and their lives. In continuing my work, I would welcome hearing from anyone who has information regarding individuals of South Asian descent who served in the U.S. military in any capacity during the First World War. Please assist me to preserve and commemorate the legacy of these brave soldiers.

Tanveer Kalo’s research is being shared by the US WWI Centennial Commission.

Contact:, or

The original version of this article appeared on Centenary

Tanveer Kalo of St. Lawrence University in Canton, NY, is researching the stories of South Asians who fought for the United States in the Great War. He writes about how the project began during his internship at the United States World War I Centennial Commission.


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Bollywood in America | Media

What Would Manto Say? wonders Nandita Das

She quietly defied molds with expert performances in Fire (1996), Earth (1998), Kannathil Muthamittal (2002), Azhagi (2002), Kamli (2006), Before The Rains (2007) and Ramchand Pakistani (2008). Her directorial debut Firaaq (2008),  which she co-wrote with Shuchi Kothari, was based on the 2002 Gujarat riots. Manto, her second feature film, follows four critical years of Saadat Hasan Manto’s life. He was an immensely respected and controversial South-Asian short story writer of his time, known for his searing, humane work on colonised India and subsequent India-Pakistan partition.

The director is fresh and happy from her Cannes experience, where she showed Manto and also participated in the women’s march on the red carpet, led by Cate Blanchett and Agnès Varda, calling for equal pay and representation in the film industry.

Nandita speaks about her Cannes trip, her inspiration for the Manto, why she chose his life and its relevance today, plus her creative journey as a director and producer.

What was the experience and feedback at Cannes like, showing Manto?
We got an overwhelming response, both from the audiences and critics. Cannes is a rare festival that actually caters to film professionals and not general audiences, so they are very discerning and exposed to world cinema.

Initially I felt the excitement and nervousness of a director whose film is going to be screened at the most prestigious film festival in the world, with toughest-to-please audiences and critics. Strangely on the day of the premiere, I was neither euphoric, nor nervous. Just happy. The fact this film actually got made is a miracle. For it to be in the Cannes Film Festival was the second miracle.

After the film, we got a four-minute standing ovation. Some strangers hugged me, some sobbing, some rather sombre. Some just sat in their seats still immersed in the experience. Some chose to walk out quietly, as if not wanting to break their experience. Six years of relentless work and challenges had finally found their culmination. All in all, I have returned with great sense of gratitude for the kind of response the film has garnered. This year’s Cannes was like no other year.

Describe the feeling of standing among 82 women in that historic event and moment at Cannes? What was going through your mind before, during and after?
It was an incomparable feeling, being on the Cannes red carpet with only women and that too with editors, screenwriters, producers, sales agents marching alongside the usual suspects. All of us wore small badges that said ‘50/50 by 2020’. While it is unlikely that we can achieve this dream in two years, the demand for equality has been expressed, loud and clear. It cannot be ignored anymore.

After walking up the stairs, we stopped midway. Actor and this year’s jury president, Cate Blanchett, and Agnès Varda, the Nouvelle Vague French filmmaker, read out their impassioned speech. They said, “Women are not a minority in the world, yet the current state of our industry says otherwise… As women, we all face our own unique challenges, but we stand together on these stairs today as a symbol of our determination and commitment to progress. The stairs of our industry must be accessible to all. Let’s climb.”

And we did. To the top of the stairs. Some teared up, some smiled with pride, some squeezed the hands of the ones they were holding to show their solidarity, to express their excitement on this momentous occasion. On reaching the top, a spontaneous gush of emotions and choked voices began to fill the air. We hugged each other. It didn’t matter that we were strangers. The feeling of sisterhood was so strong that it felt most natural.

A young producer who held my right hand burst into tears. She told me that in the last 48 hours she had worked relentlessly for this initiative, and couldn’t believe that it had actually happened. The woman on my left apologised for her cold hands, a sign of her excitement. She said this was the most significant thing she had ever been a part of. It gave her a sense of purpose. Next day she came to the Manto screening and gave me a hug that conveyed more than any word of solidarity could have.

I have returned from Cannes stronger, having been part of the 82-women march who pledged to hasten the process. The onus needn’t be only on the women to speak up and be part of the #MeToo campaign. Our dream for an equal world must be seen collectively. It must be a shared dream, a call to action because the #TimesUp.

Why did you choose to tell Manto’s story and creative journey?
What drew me to the story of Manto was his free spirit and his courage to stand up against orthodoxy of all kinds. I have always felt most deeply connected to his deep concern for the human condition. No part of the human existence remained untouched or taboo for Manto. His faith in the redemptive power of the written word, through the hardest times, resonates with my own passion to tell stories. In some mystical way, I feel I am part of this hopeful legacy! Through him, I feel I am able to kindle my own conviction for a more just and compassionate world. I feel there is Mantoiyat (Manto-ness) in all of us: the part that wants to be free-spirited and outspoken.

How was your writing journey for Manto, given the scope and length of his creative life?
My research is based on his writings and some from those who have written about him. Many have helped me in the process as I don’t read Urdu and there are difficult words that I don’t understand. There is a long list, starting with Mir Ali Hussain, who was a consultant on the script, and strangers like Saeed Ahmad from Lahore, who has now become a friend. Manto, the husband, the father, the friend; these relationships I could only understand through the important nuggets his family shared with me.

Manto died young, at 42. Two people who knew him were his sister-in-law Zakia Jalal, who also features in the film, and a well-known Pakistani writer Mr. Intizar Hussain, who passed away recently. The book written by Manto’s grand niece, the eminent historian Ayesha Jalal: Pity of Partition – Manto’s Life, Times, and Work across the India-Pakistan Divide (2013) was one of the first gifts I got from the family. Jalal also wrote on Manto’s centenary along with Manto’s youngest daughter, Nusrat Jalal.

The whole process of researching and writing was time consuming and hectic, but that’s what formed the backbone of the film. And this journey has attracted so many ‘Manto’esque people and that has enriched my life, and the film.

Tell us about the significance of those four years of Manto’s life.
The film follows four years (1946-1950) of his life, which in many ways are his and the Indian subcontinent’s most significant years. It is as much a story about two faltering cities – Bombay and Lahore, the Partition that saw the greatest mass migration in history as it is about one man trying to make sense of it all.

Was Nawazuddin Siddiqui your first choice for playing Manto?
I always had Nawaz in mind while writing Manto. Firaaq, my directorial debut, was his first significant role in a feature film. In 2013 at Cannes, when I was in the short film jury and he was attending the festival for Monsoon Shootout (2013), I told him about the film. They say if you get casting right, 70 per cent of your job is done; with Nawaz that’s exactly what happened. He looks and feels the part. He has an incredible range as an actor, but intrinsically Manto lies somewhere in his eyes – it was almost an obvious choice.

I brought in my research from books and many gems from Manto’s family. Nawaz brought with him his life experiences and his talent. Together I think we have managed to bring out many subtleties and nuances to the character of Manto. Also Nawaz has many traits that are similar to Manto – deep sensitivity and intensity, anger, and a straight face sense of humour. These innate qualities have helped him transition into Manto on screen effortlessly. There were many magical moments with Nawaz during the shoot. And I truly feel that our actor-director relationship has struck a perfect chord. This is so important in a film like this.

How relevant is Manto in today’s Indian political and social context?
Manto was relevant then and will sadly continue to be relevant for a long time to come. Not much has changed. We are still grappling with issues of freedom of expression, and struggles of identity. Almost 70 years later, our identities lie inextricably linked to caste, class, race and religion, as opposed to seeing the universality of human experience. Manto shows us a mirror like nobody else does. I know he would have had lots to say about the times we live in.

For me, making the film Manto was not just about telling people about him but to invoke the Mantoiyat that I believe all of us have, whether dormant or awakened. I think people will see themselves more nakedly. It will make them uncomfortable in a way that hopefully they would want to do something about it. After all, we all want to be more truthful, courageous, empathetic and free-spirited. And Manto inspires us to be that.

Hamida Parkar is a freelance journalist and founder-editor of She writes on cinema, culture, women and social equity.

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Arts | Music | History


Viewpoint | Perspective | Analysis

Why Liberal Arts and The Humanities are as Important as Engineering

Earlier in my academic career, I used to advise students to focus on science and engineering, believing that they were a prerequisite for success in business. I had largely agreed with Bill Gates’s assertions that America needed to spend its limited education budgets on these disciplines, because they produced the most jobs, rather than the liberal arts and humanities.

This was in a different era of technology and well before I learned what makes the technology industry tick.

In 2008, my research teams at Duke and Harvard surveyed 652 U.S.-born chief executives and heads of product engineering at 502 technology companies. We found that they tended to be highly educated, 92 percent holding bachelor’s degrees and 47 percent holding higher degrees. Hardly 37 percent held degrees in engineering or computer technology, and just 2 percent did in mathematics. The rest had degrees in fields as diverse as business, accounting, health care, and arts and the humanities.

We learned that though a degree made a big difference in the success of an entrepreneur, the field it was in and the school that it was from were not significant factors. YouTube chief executive Susan Wojcicki, for instance, majored in history and literature; Slack founder Stewart Butterfield in English; Airbnb founder Brian Chesky in the fine arts. And, in China, Alibaba chief executive Jack Ma has a bachelor’s in English.

Steve Jobs touted the importance of liberal arts and humanities at the unveiling of the iPad 2: “It’s in Apple’s DNA that technology alone is not enough — it’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the result that makes our heart sing, and nowhere is that more true than in these post-PC devices.” With this focus, he built the most valuable company in the world and set new standards for the technology industry.

Logitech CEO Bracken Darrell, who majored in English, also emphasized this. I recently asked him how he turned his company around and caused its stock price to increase by an astonishing 450 percent over five years. He said that it was through relentlessly focusing on design in every product the company built; that engineering is important but what makes a technology product most successful is its design.

The key to good design is a combination of empathy and knowledge of the arts and humanities. Musicians and artists inherently have the greatest sense of creativity. You can teach artists how to use software and graphics tools; turning engineers into artists is hard.

And now, a technological shift is in progress that will change the rules of innovation. A broad range of technologies, such as computing, artificial intelligence, digital medicine, robotics and synthetic biology, are advancing exponentially and converging, making amazing things possible.

With the convergence of medicine, artificial intelligence and sensors, we can create digital doctors that monitor our health and help us prevent disease; with the advances in genomics and gene editing, we have the ability to create plants that are drought resistant and that feed the planet; with robots powered by artificial intelligence, we can build digital companions for the elderly. Nanomaterial advances are enabling a new generation of solar and storage technologies that will make energy affordable and available to all.

Creating solutions such as these requires a knowledge of fields such as biology, education, health sciences and human behavior. Tackling today’s biggest social and technological challenges requires the ability to think critically about their human context, which is something that humanities graduates happen to be best trained to do.

An engineering degree is very valuable, but the sense of empathy that comes from music, arts, literature and psychology provides a big advantage in design. A history major who has studied the Enlightenment or the rise and fall of the Roman Empire gains an insight into the human elements of technology and the importance of its usability. A psychologist is more likely to know how to motivate people and to understand what users want than is an engineer who has only worked in the technology trenches. A musician or artist is king in a world in which you can 3D-print anything that you can imagine.

When parents ask me now what careers their children should pursue and whether it is best to steer them into science, engineering, and technology fields, I tell them that it is best to let them make their own choices. They shouldn’t, I tell them, do what our parents did, telling us what to study and causing us to treat education as a chore; instead, they should encourage their children to pursue their passions and to love learning.

To create the amazing future that technology is enabling, we need our musicians and artists working hand in hand with our engineers. It isn’t either one or the other; we need both the humanities and engineering.

This has been reprinted with the  permission of the author.


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Dear Doctor | Healthy Life I Recipes

International Yoga Day a Culmination of a Surge in Yoga Culture

The number of US yoga practitioners has increased exponentially to more than 36 million in 2016, up from 20.4 million in 2012, as per a study conducted by Yoga Journal and Yoga Alliance. Yoga has surged in popularity and its impact is everywhere: in movies, television, advertising, and schools. Americans have witnessed an increase in yoga studios, meditation centers and vegetarian restaurants, all of which have roots in India. Meditation was originally a huge part of yoga. Now, yoga is marketed as a series of asanas (postures) that makes one fit and helps in weight loss. Many Americans have incorporated yoga routines as an essential part of their workout regimen.

International Day of Yoga

In 2014, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution proclaiming June 21 as ‘International Day of Yoga’. The resolution introduced by India’s ambassador to the UN was a follow up of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call during his address to the UN General Assembly on September 27, 2014, asking world leaders to adopt an international Yoga day, as “Yoga embodies unity of mind and body; thought and action; restraint and fulfillment; harmony between man and nature; a holistic approach to health and well-being.”

The first International Day of Yoga was observed all over the world on June 21, 2015. In New Delhi, Prime Minister Modi, a large number of dignitaries from 84 nations, and a record number of 35,985 people performed 21 yoga asanas (postures) on Rajpath for 35 minutes. At the UN Headquarters, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and India’s  External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj spoke at the inaugural function which also featured a yoga demonstration. The UN General Assembly President Sam Kutesa attended the event along with more than one hundred people, including diplomats and UN staff. The event was webcast to thousands who took part in an all-day yoga event at Times Square.

The Indian Embassy in Washington D.C. organized many curtain-raiser yoga events featuring Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev, among others, during the months of May-June 2015. Indian ambassador Arun K Singh attended the event on June 21, along with several dignitaries. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii delivered a congressional resolution commemorating the day. Now, the Indian Embassy in D.C. is organizing a celebration of the 4th International Day of Yoga on June 16, 2018. All Indian consulates in USA are also organizing similar events and inviting members of the Indian community to participate.    

Yoga Comes to America – Yoga Luminaries

Swami Vivekananda introduced yoga to Americans. He came to the USA in 1893 to address the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago. During his stay of about four years in America, he lectured at major universities and retreats. He started the Vedantic centre in New York in 1896 and taught Raja Yoga classes. In 1920, Paramahansa Yogananda came as India’s delegate to the International Congress of Religious Leaders in Boston. He established The Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF) in Los Angeles. Today, there are seven SRF centers in California where Yogananda’s meditation and Kriya yoga techniques are taught.  Maharishi Mahesh Yogi introduced Transcendental Meditation (TM ) to Americans in 1959. The TM technique involves the use of mantra and regular practice offers reduction of stress and fatigue. Yoga continued to proliferate in a limited way as the focus has been on the religious aspect of yoga, which dealt with how to use meditation to come closer to God.

Indra Devi

Indra Devi was the first to teach and propagate nonreligious yoga for the American mainstream, with an emphasis on its physical benefits. She opened a yoga studio in Hollywood in 1947 with emphasis on the physical benefits of yoga. She was born Eugenie Peterson in Latvia on May 12, 1899 and went to India in 1927 for three months. She was not happy coming back and returned to India where she became a rising star as a dancer and actress in Indian films. In 1930, she married Jan Strakaty, the commercial attaché to the Czechoslovak Consulate in Bombay. She started learning yoga in 1937 from Sri Tirumalai Krishnamacharya. She became the first Western woman and the first woman chela (pupil) of an Indian yoga teacher. In 1938, her husband was transferred to China. At the urging of her teacher Krishnamacharya, Indra opened a yoga school in Shanghai in 1939. Many Americans and Russians joined the school to learn yoga. There, she became known as Mata Ji, which means mother. She wrote her first book “Yoga, the Technique of Health and Happiness (1948). It was believed to be the first book on yoga written by a Westerner to be published in India. In 1947, a year after her husband passed away, she moved to California. In an effort to publicize and spread yoga for health and wellness, she cultivated movie stars like Gloria Swanson and other famous people like Yehudi Menuhin to come to her Hollywood yoga studio. She promoted yoga to Americans as a system of physical exercise, consisting of a series of poses, postures and positions. She reached thousands of people through her books on yoga, two, Forever Young, Forever Healthy (1953) and Renew Your Life by Practicing Yoga (1977) were best sellers.

Yogi Bhajan started teaching “Kundalini Yoga, the Yoga of Awareness” in 1968. His version of Kundalini Yoga has continued to grow in influence and popularity largely in the Americas, Europe, South Africa, Togo, Australia, and East Asia. He was an inspiring teacher and trained thousands of teachers. Many of his followers opened their yoga studios in various parts of the world, popularizing yoga for health and fitness.  

B. K. S. Iyengar, considered one of the foremost yoga teachers in the world, was the founder of  “Iyengar Yoga”. He learned yoga from Sri Tirumalai Krishnamacharya, the same teacher who taught Indra Devi. In 1954, Yehudi Menuhin invited Iyengar to Switzerland. From then on, Iyengar visited the west regularly to teach his system of yoga. He made his first visit to the United States in 1956 and gave several lecture-demonstrations. He published his first book, Light on Yoga (1966), which became known as “the bible of yoga” and has been the source book for yoga students. He was the author of many books on yoga practice and was often referred to as “the father of modern yoga”.  Iyengar started hundreds of yoga centers, teaching Iyengar yoga which focuses on the correct alignment of the body within each yoga pose, making use of straps, wooden blocks, and other objects as aids in achieving the correct postures. He was awarded the Padma Shri  in 1991, the Padma Bhushan in 2002 and the  Padma Vibhushan in 2014.

B. K. S. Iyengar


Bikram Choudhary emigrated to the United States in the 1970s and founded yoga studios in California and Hawaii. He earned fame and fortune by teaching yoga to Americans by opening heated yoga studios. His style of yoga is practiced in a room that has been preheated to a temperature of 105 degree F. Bikram Yoga is the 26 postures sequence selected and developed from Hatha Yoga.  In the 1990s, Bikram began offering nine-week teacher certification courses and trained thousands of certified instructors who opened Bikram Yoga studios all over the world. For the last several years, Bikram has been involved in lawsuits due to his sexual transgressions.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar established the International Art of Living Foundation in 1981, which is operating in 154 countries. He has been promoting the Sudarshan Kriya, a rhythmic breathing yoga exercise that incorporates specific natural rhythms of the breath, harmonizing the body, mind and emotions. It is claimed that regular practice of Sudarshan Kriya “eliminates stress, fatigue and negative emotions.” In 1986, Sri Sri came to California to conduct the first course to be held in North America. Since then, he has been frequenting America to spread his brand of yoga.

Swami Ramdev is the most celebrated yoga teacher and has a following which runs into millions. He has revolutionized  people’s thinking about yoga exercises. In 2003, India-based Aastha TV began featuring him in its morning yoga slot. Within a few years, he attained immense popularity and developed a huge following. His yoga camps are attended by a large number of people in India and abroad. His Pranayam exercises – a set of breathing exercises – are promoted to bring about balance between the body and mind. Regular practitioners claim numerous benefits. Zee TV in USA gives a one hour program daily featuring Ramdev’s yoga asanas.  Ramdev has attained commercial success of his physical fitness yoga, with no parallel in India or the western world.

Embracing Yoga

America is now dotted with yoga gyms and studios providing easy access to everyone, including business executives and Hollywood celebrities. There are also many yoga professionals and teachers who have gained prominence in this growing industry and are available for expert guidance. Several studies have shown that yoga reduces blood pressure, back pain, relieves stress and improves overall health. Several doctors recommend yoga to their cancer patients during and after treatment. Many Americans are drawn to yoga for physical fitness, others are attracted as yoga provides relief from stress while many others practice yoga for weight management.  

Several entrepreneurs are flourishing in this $30 billion industry. They publish yoga magazines, yoga books, produce TV shows, make DVDs, video games and apps, manufacture yoga clothes, yoga artifacts, yoga furniture and furnishings, yoga foods, yoga tea, yoga energy bars, and hundreds of products and services. The proliferation of yoga products, DVDs, and Internet websites has made yoga accessible by one and all. These yoga websites have all kind of information about yoga, from health and wellness to spirituality and show simple to complex poses. Several New Age gurus, who travel across the globe, have contributed to yoga’s popularity. In the United States, best-selling author Deepak Chopra has significantly contributed to Indian meditation philosophy and yoga going mainstream.  

Yoga has gone through several ups and downs during the last sixty years but now has earned well deserved respect and recognition. At its core, yoga is both a physical and spiritual practice. But for most Americans, yoga is a workout system that consists of a series of stretches, poses, and postures to tone and shape one’s body.

Inder Singh regularly writes on Indian Diaspora. He is the author of The Gadar Heroics – life sketches of over 50 Gadar heroes. He is Executive Trustee of Global Organization of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO) Foundation. He was chairman of GOPIO from 2009-2016, president from 2004-2009, president of National Federation of Indian American Associations (NFIA) from 1988-92 and chairman from 1992-96. He was founding president of Federation of Indian Associations in Southern California. He can be reached at

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Travel I Books | People

Creamy Happiness—Kesar Badam Kulfi

It’s almost that time of the year, when the relentless sun and soaring temperatures make me reach out to an age-old, close to heart recipe. Long before we were spoilt by the plethora of ice cream choices in our freezer, a lot of us can remember looking forward to hearing the kulfiwallah (kulfi seller on a rolling street cart) screech out in the scorching summer afternoons.


My earliest memories of this frozen milky delicacy date back to our luxurious summer vacations at my grandma’s place. Our cousins from all over the country would converge as soon as school let out. Fun, lots of food and unending frolic would ensue. Amidst giddying rounds of childhood games such as hop scotch, hide  and seek, the hollering of the kulfiwallah on the streets would make us run to our parents begging for some (in fact any!) money. Moved by our incessant requests, our uncle would then invite the kulfiwallah to roll the cart into our courtyard as we literally drooled. Be it the fragrant, matki (earthen pot) filled with a mixture of ice and salt or the leaf that doubled up as the serving plate, all of it was so unique that I still remain captivated by it. This toothsome, luxurious frozen dessert holds a very special place in my heart. To this date, I could gladly give up all other ice creams as long as I could have kulfi. Such is my loyalty!

For the uninitiated: kulfi stands apart from its numerous counterparts for its absolute velvety richness. I would say that it’s more like a gelato than an ice cream just for its sheer luxuriance. I have tried my hand at making kulfi many-a-times, but I have always wondered about the chewy texture of the store-bought ones. Mine never quite turned out like the one from the matki until I got this teeny-weeny secret.

The last time I tried my hand at it, it was the same quick simple recipe but only with the slight glitch of being icy at the same time. The kulfi of my memories was supposed to feel very creamy as it melted in the mouth. So, ice was definitely NOT welcome. Hoping to achieve the perfect consistency, I started experimenting with some sort of a thickener into the milk base. Then, came the idea of adding some rice powder, a little at a time. When I was almost done with my saffron and almond kulfi, I thought “Why not add in almond powder too to intensify the flavor along with thickening the mixture?” Finally at the nth trial of the recipe with a several pounds heavier me, I had nailed it! It was creamy and smooth as well as toothsome. I couldn’t be any happier to have finally found the kulfi recipe for keeps.

Here’s the no fuss-creamy-perfectly chewy and yes a winner-of-a-recipe for my beloved kulfi. No need to watch over the milk or fret over the consistency. Get it, mix it, cool it and let the magic begin!

Jagruti Vedamati is a post-doctoral student at Stanford University.

Kesar Badam Kulfi—Saffron & Almond Kulfi

Creamy and perfectly chewy with melt-in-the-mouth texture, this typical Indian summer dessert is heightened with the richness of saffron, crunchiness of almonds and the earthiness of cardamom powder. A quick, easy and sure-fire way to earn brownie points from loved ones. Most importantly, guaranteed intense creaminess and no more icy crystals!

Ingredients (Servings: 10)
12 oz (1 can) evaporated milk
2 cups whipping cream
1 cup condensed milk
¼ teaspoon cardamom powder (optional)
½  cup slivered almonds
¼ cup warm milk
¼ cup milk at room temperature
½ teaspoon saffron strands
2 tablespoons rice flour
2 tablespoons almond powder
sliced almonds and saffron for garnish

1.  Soak the saffron strands in ¼ cup warm milk and keep aside.

2. Heat the evaporated milk in a pan (preferably non-stick) over medium heat until it comes to a soft boil and add the cream, condensed milk, saffron soaked in milk and cardamom powder.

3. In a separate bowl, whisk in ground rice and almond powder with ¼ cup milk at room temperature to make a smooth paste and add it to the heated milk mixture.

4. Whisk the milk mixture properly to ensure a smooth consistency. Heat it over medium-low flame for 7-8 minutes until it thickens to the consistency of heavy cream. At this point, taste the mixture and adjust to desired sweetness. If you like the consistency, then take it off the stove and let it cool.

5. Pour the mixture into popsicle molds/ containers and put it in the freezer till frozen.

Helpful Hints:
• Traditional recipe: If you plan to go the usual route, instead of heavy cream and evaporated milk, use 4 cups of whole milk and reduce it to 2 cups over low flame and consistent stirring. Then proceed with the rest of the recipe as stated.

• For almond and rice powder: mix in two tablespoons each of slivered almonds and basmati rice into a spice grinder to get a fine powder. If using whole almonds, soak the almonds to remove skin and make a paste.

• I used one can of condensed milk since it seemed just right and anything more would take away from the richness. But if you like your kulfi sweeter, don’t shy away from adding more condensed milk.

• Ice prevention tip—wrap the edges of the kulfi mold tightly with plastic wrap to seal it completely. This helps prevent any ice formation during freezing.

• I wish I had earthern pots for kulfi. They just add a different level of earthiness to this delicacy, which is absolutely beyond compare.

Some of the other variations that can easily be substituted for saffron and almonds are

1. Spices: green or white cardamom (ground or pods for infusing the milk and removed before freezing), saffron, vanilla

2. Lavender flowers: for infusing the hot milk

3. Rose water: a few drops added before freezing, or for sprinkling on as a garnish before serving

4. Nuts: pistachios (chopped or ground), cashews (chopped or ground). All nuts that are used are usually unsalted, untoasted, or blanched.

5. Fruits: mango, lychee, banana, pineapple, apricots. Fruits are often pureed and stirred in before freezing or dried and chopped fine and stirred in before freezing, depending on the texture wanted.

6. Coconut: coconut milk is used, and also desiccated coconut

7. Lemon: use the lemon zest and add along with the pureed fruits.

Well-equipped with this comforting recipe, I now have the confidence and the desire to take on the scorching heat. Here’s to sincerely hoping the sun to be a little gentler with us and yes, while licking that kulfi bar, make sure to avoid any distraction as it has a magical way of dripping past the elbow!

First published in June 2015

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