Ashritha Eswaran At US National Chess Championship

Eighteen-year-old San Jose resident and UC Berkeley student Ashritha Eswaran tied for fifth place at the 2019 U.S. Women’s Chess Championship.
The U.S. Women’s Chess Championship is a prestigious national event where 12 of the top female chess players compete. It ran from March 18 – April 1. The tournament was held in the round robin style and was held in St. Louis, MO–the chess capital of America. It is an invitation-only tournament, and this was the third time that Ashritha was invited to participate in this prestigious competition. She was first invited to attend this national-level tournament in 2014 – that year, she won the award for the best game of the tournament. Subsequently, she also attended the same tournament in 2016.
Despite Ashritha’s slow beginning in the tournament,  she managed to finish strong and ended up tying for fifth place overall. She won 4 games and drew 2 games during the tournament. The tournament was intense and needless to say highly competitive, lasting for more than two weeks. The closing ceremony was on April 1 where Hikaru Nakamura was crowned as the men’s champion whhile Jennifer Yu won the women’s championship.
Ashrithis currently a freshman at UC Berkeley. She started playing chess at the age of 7. She became a national master by the age of 13, and now she has the title of Women’s International Master (WIM). She won the gold medal at the 2015 Pan-American Junior Championship in El Salvador and she also won the 2015 US Junior Girls Championship held in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

An Arranged Marriage Checklist for College Admissions

Given the recent college admissions scandals, I am struck by their similarity to “Bachelor,” the popular American television show. The twenty-odd young women vie to be picked by the Bachelor, who is seen as the “catch.” The pursuit of admission to ivy league colleges and to other elite colleges has taken on a similar flavor — everyone and his or her uncle wants to be chosen by “the one” — college, that is. In the process, they are willing to stoop to any level — bribes, donations, cheating on tests, and gaming college athletic programs.

Thankfully, I no longer have to worry about all this. I went through the process over a decade ago when my daughter was a high school senior. At the time it struck me that it is possible to look at the college admissions process from a slightly different angle. And, it is an angle that can alleviate the stress and anxiety, and can actually help make a better decision for the long term.

Yes, I am talking about the, shall we say, more democratic Indian arranged marriage system. The old arranged marriage system has a bad name, but the way it is practiced today, it is a whole new ball game — there is free choice and the focus is on compatibility rather than on “the catch.”

When arranging a marriage, families start by identifying alliances that seem promising. Is the prospective groom well-educated? Does the groom come from a good family? When it came to colleges, my daughter and I started by identifying colleges that seemed promising. We looked at the majors the colleges offered and the size and composition of the student body.

Another important consideration when assessing the suitability of a prospective bridegroom is the town where he lives. Is it too small? Is it too far from the bride’s hometown? Will it be easy for us to visit each other after she moves away? By the same logic, the proximity of her ideal college to a large city was important to my daughter; having grown up in a suburb, she craved the bustle and energy of a big city. A requirement of mine was that the college should be within a few hours driving distance from our home so that she would be able to visit home as and when needed.

If a prospective groom clears these preliminary considerations, the next step is checking vital information such as the groom’s height and weight, income, and career potential. In the same vein, my daughter and I compared the colleges’ numerical data such as SAT scores and class rank of accepted students.

Meetings between the families of prospective grooms and brides tend to be formal and somewhat scripted events. Each family member, including the bride or groom, airs his or her views and reactions only after the meeting has ended and they are headed home. We did the same when driving home from college visits; we compared notes on the college’s presentation, the tour of the campus, and dining and other facilities. It was nice to share ideas and opinions and, through that, zero in on factors that were “nice to have” and “must have.”

The next step in the arranged marriage “dance” is the one-on-one coffee or dinner shared by the prospective bride and groom. In the same spirit, my daughter visited a friend who attended one of the colleges that she particularly liked. This was her chance to see the college without the marketing hype. She walked around the campus, visited the dining halls, the dorm and the library, and heard lore about the college mascot.

By the time an arranged marriage match reaches the next stage, a pragmatic approach sets in. Every bride need not “catch” the eye of a millionaire or a startup founder in order to be happy. The advice of the guidance counselor at my daughter’s school echoed the same thinking. She repeatedly told us parents that we should pick colleges that are “right” for our children, and that it was important to look beyond the brand names. Ivy league colleges are not for everybody; neither may a large urban campus or a remote rural one suit our particular child.

With this advice in mind, we drew up a list of colleges in three categories. The colleges in the “reach” category were ones that were more competitive and where she might not get in. The “match” category contained colleges whose target student profile was very similar to my daughter and so there was a high probability that she would be accepted. The “safety” schools were the backup plan, or Plan B.

In an arranged marriage scenario, if everything lines up satisfactorily, the bride’s family informs the groom’s family of the bride’s openness to the match. In the same vein, my daughter wrote the requisite essays, collected recommendation letters and submitted her application.

It is then time to wait for the groom’s response. Er, the colleges’ responses.

Guarding against the disappointment that would result if she was too focused on any particular college, she nevertheless had an order of preference. Even as she tried to keep her spirits up and her mind open, there was an unmistakable gloom about the otherwise mostly cheerful teenager. As the expected decision date drew near, she returned from school each day hoping for a fat envelope from “the one.”

With the arranged marriage analogy in mind, I was able to have a certain detachment and sense of humor about the whole process. I found strength in the fact that the stakes were not nearly as high for my daughter as they typically are for youngsters in societies where the competition can only be described as cut-throat.

“Whatever will be, will be” I concluded, as I told her about the analogy of her experience to arranged marriage. “We did all the research and you gave it your best shot. You are what you are, and the college that sees your strengths and admits you will be the right one for you,” I told her. And happily, unlike marriage, there will be other educational choices in the future – it’s not as if you are marrying the college that you attend at the undergraduate level!” She smiled, her tension momentarily lifted.

Postscript: My daughter was accepted by her first choice college. I emailed a friend with whom I shared the analogy to arranged marriage. She had an apt response – “the hoped-for groom approved!” Within days of receiving the acceptance, my daughter ordered the college sweatshirt. I was amused to note that she delighted in wearing it and drawing attention from her friends (and their parents) in much the same way that a young woman might have with an engagement ring! And as the “bride’s” parents, all we had left to do was worry about paying the college bills.

Nandini Patwardhan possesses graduate degrees in Mathematics and Statistics. She is a passionate writer and edited Abroad at Home, an anthology of content from Desijournal, an online magazine that she co-founded. Her writing has also been published in the New York Times, TalkingWriting.com, Slate.com, Alternet.org, American Atheneum, and India New England News. More recently, she co-founded Story Artisan Press, a publisher of books of interest to the global Indian. Nandini can be contacted at nandini.writer@gmail.com.

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    Tulsi Gabbard Reaches Important Milestone

    On April 10th, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard’s campaign for President announced that it has surpassed the threshold of 65,000 unique donors required to join the Democratic debates. Gabbard’s campaign is building momentum with supporters from every state in the nation, joining her call to end regime change wars, the new Cold War and nuclear arms race and invest that money to serve the needs of the American people.
    ************
    Rajeev Singh writes about what distinguishes Tulsi Gabbard from the slew of candidates aiming to run on the Democratic ticket.

    As many as twenty candidates have either announced or are expected to run in the 2020 presidential race. But only one seems to be looking at the big picture and thinking holistically. Her spirit of Aloha, which as a native Hawaiian she is known to start her conversations with, has the underpinnings of common-sense fiscal prudence, respect for the sovereignty of other nations, and urgency for focusing on investment in our future. That is Tulsi Gabbard, a 4th term US Congresswoman from Hawai’i.

    Like any concerned citizen, I am anxious about some intractable problems we face. Gun violence and illegal immigration are the two issues at the top of my list. My expectation from our leaders is to not lose sight of important issues that we face as a country – guaranteeing the strength of our individual voices as citizens in our democracy, our civil liberties, the vibrancy of our local communities, and the environment. Election after election we have witnessed issues of pressing importance being marginalized by the candidates. This cavalier attitude insults the intelligence of an engaged voter like me.

    The influence of special interests on our political process is very evident. In six years of her successful legislative tenure in Congress, Tulsi has built a reputation of a reformer, especially in highlighting the influence of special interests, lobbyists, and drawing our collective attention to the need for campaign finance reform. Tulsi raised her voice against “dark money” (corporate donations) so that the wealthy do not silence the ordinary citizens in our democracy. In refusing to accept money from big businesses and Political Action Committees (PAC) Tulsi is spearheading a grassroots movement. She wants our democracy to be about us and our interests.

    As a standard bearer of change in our politics, Tulsi has not been afraid of going against special interests within her own party. She has been leading a charge to make the Democratic National Committee (DNC) more open, transparent, and inclusive. In 2016, Tulsi endorsed Bernie Sanders and stepped down as the vice-chair of DNC. She highlighted Hillary Clinton’s interventionist stance against Iraq, Libya, and Syria and called out her military mindset that was costly for our nation. She was also instrumental in bringing the era of superdelegates to an end within the DNC.

    In 2015, Tulsi lent her voice to a community in need when California’s Department of Education attempted to re-write its curriculum framework. Suggested changes in California textbooks would have peddled an outdated Eurocentric overview of India and Indians with Marxist-inspired and colonial bias to middle schoolers. Tulsi supported a fair, accurate and equitable representation of Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, along with the contributions of Indian-American communities as a whole. She strongly urged the California State Board of Education to take all necessary steps and address the concerns of the Indian-American community. In doing so, she was the only Congressperson and federally elected legislator who proudly came in support of the community. There is a clear trend emerging. Whether it is a community in need of equity in education in California or native-Americans in the Dakotas wanting to preserve their water and environment, Tulsi is willing to fight for them.

    The narrative that Tulsi is building for strengthening the American fabric is different. She has chosen to bring us psychologically together to reinvent America. She is very clear about the most important structural change needed. Tulsi wants our support in reducing the influence of the military-industrial complex that has directly contributed trillions of dollars to our national debt. In the age of rapidly declining trust in most major institutions, including the government, Tulsi with her “service before self”’stance is the only candidate capable of restoring it

    Speaking of her unshakeable sense of integrity, she refused to hold on to a much-coveted position in the party when she saw irregularities inside the DNC. She has courageously served the country during two tours to Middle-East. In standing by her faith, she has supported the Indian-American community across the country that needed help. Holding on to a strong sense of ethics, she has taken the bold decision to not allow big-money to influence her. With a strong sense of morality, she fought the DNC to reduce the influence of super delegates, and called out the private prison industry on how it ultimately undermines liberty and justice.

    In 2020, we have a candidate who shares the values of our community, stands up for what is right, and works hard everyday fighting for real issues – stopping senseless and costly wars to build our infrastructure, invest in our education system, preserve our environment, while taking care of our veterans.

    Rajeev Singh is a Tri-Valley Tulsi Gabbard supporter and a recent transplant from Florida. He is an activist who regularly engages community, interfaith, and elected leaders on a range of issues to support freedom, equality, and justice. Rajeev is an unaffiliated voter.

    Happy Earth Day! 

    Even
    After
    All this time
    The sun ☀️ never says to the Earth 🌏
    “You owe me.”
    Look
    What happens
    With a love like that.
    It lights the whole sky.

    Hafiz (1315-1390)

    Photo credit: Geetika Pathania Jain, Ph.D.

    Geetika Pathania Jain, Ph.D. is Culture and Media Editor at India Currents.

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    “I See God in My Audience:” Sangeeta Katti Kulkarni

    Sangeeta Katti Kulkarni – the name is synonymous with Hindustani Classical music. Various aspects of her life, starting with her auspicious birth on the day of Saraswathi Puja; the many titles and accolades she has received in the field of music, and her vibrant musical virtuosity have been feted, discussed and celebrated over the years. She is a Senior Artist in All India Radio and Doordarshan and serves on the faculty of Hindustani Vocal Music at the Bharathiya Vidya Bhavan, Bangalore.

    Initially taught by her father, Dr. H.A Katti, she has been blessed to receive training under well known singers like Sheshagiri Dandapur, Chandrashekhar Puranikmath, Basavaraj Rajguru and Kishori Amonkar.

    The recipient of the Suvarna Karnataka Rajyotsava award by the Karnataka state Govt, she has over 2,500 concerts to her credit, both in India and the world over.

    India Currents caught up with Sangeeta Katti Kulkarni as she prepares to embark upon a 2019 tour of the U.S, with the opening concert on May 5th, 2019 at the Shirdi Sai Parivaar, Milpitas, California. 

    IC: Your musical star first arose as a child of 4. It has been quite a journey! What motivates you as an artiste today?

    SKK: The parampara or tradition of music is my primary motivation. Through my singing I can return Nature’s most beautiful gift of music back to where it originates. And of course the blessings of my revered Gurus under whose nurturing care I have been able to pursue my passion is a priceless motivation.

    IC: Tell us of your association with the famous composer and music director Naushad Ali sahab?

    SKK: I was extremely fortunate to have met Naushad sahab when I was 4 years old, and I rendered the evergreen melody “Avaaz de kahaan hai” which was made famous by the legendary Noorjahan. When he encouraged me to sing some more, I sang his masterpieces from several movies like Mughal-e-Azam, Aan, Udan Khatola etc, recognizing the ragas they were based upon as well. Naushad sahab was thrilled and blessed me! He told my father to make sure that I received training in classical music from a good Guru. “Desh ki bahut badi gaayika banegi yeh ladki (This girl will become a great singer),” he said.

    I kept in touch with him, updating him of my progress from time to time. He used to recall and narrate wonderful incidents about Lataji, Rafi sahab and other great musicians and artists. Since his blessings marked the beginning of my journey with classical music, I consider him my very first Guru.

    IC: What is your favorite aspect of being a performer?

    SKK: A performer creates a beautiful bond with the audience and has the ability to build a bridge between him/herself and the Divine with the help of the “shrota” -the listener. A good performer can explore the techniques and nuances of the notes, getting into the details of the Raag/Raagini paddhati or tradition with years of training and rigorous practice. When the beauty of the Raga finally unfolds seamlessly, that is the ultimate bliss! The energy of music transcends through the listener to the Almighty. This I firmly believe. So, to me, as a performer, I see God in the audience.

    IC: Which piece do you enjoy performing in a concert setting?

    SKK: Raag Aalaapi in its purest form with Gamak! No second thoughts.

    IC: There have been women artists in the classical arts arena over the years. As one yourself, do you see the challenges women artists face today?

    SKK: Ours is a male dominated society and however rigorous their “sadhana” or practice, women artists still face struggles claiming their rightful dues, with the exception of a few stalwarts like Kishoritai Amonkar, of course! Most of us have to juggle between family obligations and our performing careers which is a definite challenge. Many singers have lost to this struggle, which is a sad fact.

    Women who have the passion, and drive to succeed at all costs should never give up. There are many more opportunities for women artistes in the classical arts fields in today’s world. With self confidence and the blessings of our Gurus, I pray we will be able to face those challenges and pursue our passion.

    IC: Who do you look up to as inspiration in the field of music?

    SKK: My Guru – Kishoritai Amonkar, Begum Akhtar, Lata Mangeshkar, Mehdi Hassan, Jagjit Singh, Kishore Kumar, R.D Burman, Madan Mohan, C. Ashwath, Ilayaraja… and Naushad Sahab of course! There are so many.

    IC: You are a singer who straddles different musical genres: classical, contemporary, folk music / janapada sangeet, bhav geet /light music, film music, etc. Several of these genres are intersecting in today’s world. What are your thoughts about this trend from the point of view of a classical musician?

    SKK: As the scriptures state, “Samyaka geetham iti Sangeetam” – a beautiful melody becomes music. There is no need to find fault with any particular style of music. A cuckoo’s kuhu kuhu call is pleasant to the ears… does it have any words? But we still enjoy it. Music is beyond language.

    My junoon – passion or madness (if you will) is Indian classical, traditional music. But I have great interest in light, folk and film genres as well. I also enjoy Jazz and Arabic music. Fortunately my Gurus have encouraged me to balance and nurture all the nuances of the musical form.

    Over the years, music has evolved to a greater dimension. This is true especially of Instrumental music due to innovative concepts like Fusion, Desi and International flavors. They have gained global recognition because of technology. Audiences get plugged in to the latest trends in music. So naturally the various genres will intersect and intermingle.

    As far as keeping the “purity” of styles intact, it is up to the singer or musician and their individual experiences. As a responsible musician, if I am able to convey the feel of any style of music, without inhibitions, then my mission is achieved.

    IC: What do you see as the future of the Hindustani musical tradition?

    SKK: Music is the universal language of mankind. Music is Divine. I do not have any prejudices about the styles of music because it is a world with 7 notes, with a universal appeal.

    No matter what the styles evolve and transition into, I am positive that they will all eventually return to their roots. Because I firmly believe that Classical music has all the answers.

    “Maa Saraswathi sabko sambhalti hai”! (Mother Saraswathi takes cares of all)!

    Smt. Sangeeta Katti begins her 2019 tour of the U.S with a performance in the San Francisco Bay Area at the Shirdi Sai Parivaar, Milpitas – on May 5th, 2019; from 3:30 – 6:30pm.

    =========

    If My Mother Met Marie Kondo

     

    Marie Kondo reminds me of my mom. Petite, photogenic Marie, with her perfect hair and business savvy is nothing like my pleasantly plump, saree-clad, stay at home mother. To paraphrase a cliché, Marie and Amma are as different as sushi and curry. What connects them, is a passion for tidying up.

    When Marie walks into spacious American homes to help people sort through their cluttered living spaces, I am reminded of my childhood home in Mumbai, a sparsely furnished, tiny 550 square feet apartment that housed my parents, two brothers and grandmother. Pure and simple lack of money, space and resources dictated our minimalistic lifestyle.

    “A place for everything and everything in its place” – Amma’s mantra, was implemented through a set of rigorously deployed rules that began with the kitchen. She ordered quantities of household staples like rice and flour that lasted a month, optimizing space and minimizing deterioration and wastage in Mumbai’s heat and humidity. Limited space meant limited possessions and therefore the cardinal rule – first out, then in.

    Before we could ask for a new item, we had to truthfully answer three questions:

    1. Do you need it?
    2. Can you still use it?
    3. Can anyone else use it?

    Perhaps it was this survey that was responsible for books being handed down the line until they were in tatters, new shoes being bought only when we outgrew them and school bags being replaced when the old ones became completely unusable.

    My brothers and I shared a desk with three drawers that held our books and a cupboard with designated space for our clothes. Needless to say, if we had applied Marie’s “spark joy” test to every item in our home, the answer would have been a resounding “yes.”

    Amma’s strict approach didn’t bother me, except when it came to books. I had long envied a girl in my class whose home, though not much bigger than ours, had bookshelves lining every wall. In contrast, our family read the daily newspaper and delighted in our monthly subscription to Reader’s Digest. I resolved early on that I would rectify this dismal reading situation when I had a home of my own.

    As an adult in America, with no shortage of space, I wanted to start a home book collection, except for the irony of the abundance of books in well-stocked, easily accessible, local libraries. Applying Amma’s time-tested three question survey meant that I could visit these book havens as often as I wanted, and keep a rotating selection of books within arm’s reach without having to own them, by truthfully answering the first question. I bought only those books that I really loved and wanted to own. 

    Fast forward twenty years, I find that Marie’s books, gifts from well-meaning friends, newly converted to the KonMari method, don’t spark much of any response. Having come a long way from those frugal days in Mumbai, I have accumulated stuff – things I love and things that stress me out. But I have kept enough space in my apartment to roll out a yoga mat when needed and have left a few walls unadorned so that my kids can practice handstands. And yet, every time I shop, a familiar voice whispers – do you really need it?

    I know the voice is Amma’s, not Marie’s, because the question drops into my consciousness in a mall as I contemplate an impulse purchase or as my finger hovers over the ‘buy’ button while browsing online. Will the fickle spark of joy, ignited by retail therapy, last? It is a relationship after all. Not to be entered into lightly. 

    Amma’s grocery order used to be delivered in packets made with old newspaper and brown paper bags tied with string. When daily milk delivery switched from glass bottles to plastic bags, the bags were washed and used to line shelves and transport leaky lunch boxes. Biscuit tins stored sewing paraphernalia, cloth bags were used for trips to the market. Before the term ‘recycling’ entered my vocabulary, it was a way of life.

    Unlike my lukewarm response to her books, Marie’s Netflix show, has been a real eye opener. As I watched her demonstrate the simple art of folding laundry and organizing a kitchen, I remembered Amma. Marie amazed me, not for her superior technique but for her marketing savvy. The KonMari method teaches people to declutter – discarding items that don’t spark joy without giving any thought to their motives for buying them in the first place. Neither is there a discussion about making the most of what they have. As garbage bags are filled and taken to the driveway, a new path to reorganization takes shape, with the buying of more boxes. While her method is sensible, useful for some and life-changing for many, to me, it seems woefully incomplete.

    If Amma met Marie, I wonder what she would say?

    I can’t answer this question because Amma died eleven years ago.

    The day after her death, I wandered around her kitchen, gently touching the coffee filter on the counter and the well-worn rolling pin tucked away in the drawer, items that she had handled every day of her life, trying to connect with her spirit embedded in these objects. As I looked at the pile of the previous week’s newspaper, neatly stacked in its designated corner, and the sight of her unfinished Sudoku grid precipitated a flood of tears. In the following weeks, clearing up Amma’s personal items was a heart-wrenching but brief chore. She had left clear instructions for her jewelry to be equally distributed amongst her children and for her few sarees to be donated to the old people’s home. Only a small mound of stuff, pared and purged by her over time, remained for us to figure out. Of course, we used her favorite three-question survey.

    Amma left the world, like everyone else, taking nothing with her. What made her special was that she left nothing behind either; no mess, no burden for those left behind. But she did leave me an invaluable inheritance; an affinity for simplicity that goes beyond decluttering; a philosophy for living, not just tidying up.

    Ranjani Rao, scientist by training, writer by avocation, lives in Singapore with her family. She is cofounder of Story Artisan Press, a publisher of ebooks of interest to the global Indian. Ranjani’s books are available https://storyartisan.press/books  and she can be contacted at ranjani.writer@gmail.com.

    First published in the Singapore Straits. Published with permission.

    What Is The Key To Healthy Aging?

    Aging is not an event – it’s a continuous process. It can creep up on you, sometimes in a disruptive fashion. However, it is an inexorable process. Have you noticed, however that although we’re all aging, some people feel older or younger than they are? How old do you feel? Would you like to know if there’s a better way to age?  To age well? 

    A recent Washington Post article quotes experts on the difference between our chronological age and our biological age – the measure of our physiological state; our actual wellbeing. Many things we attribute to age “are more related to activity or inactivity as opposed to age,” says Professor Todd Miller of George Washington University, an expert in exercise and nutrition sciences.  Such age-related changes are inevitable but “can be mitigated by sleep, exercise, nutrition and stress reduction.” Eyleen O’Rourke, professor of biology and cell biology at the University of Virginia, agrees that lifestyle impacts aging. The ability of our cells to rejuvenate, to respond to damage, is what keeps us ‘young,’ she says. Good genes help, but good habits help more.

    What is Healthy Aging? The World Health Organization, says it “is about creating the environments and opportunities that enable people to be and do what they value throughout their lives. Everybody can experience Healthy Aging. Being free of disease or infirmity is not a requirement for Healthy Aging as many older adults have one or more health conditions that, when well controlled, have little influence on their wellbeing.” The goal of healthy aging is to “develop and maintain the functional ability that enables wellbeing in older age.”  

    When is a good time to contemplate getting older?  It’s today. Now. Your best bet to stay healthy, active and in control of your life in later years is to weave this goal of healthy aging into the fabric of your life now; integrate it into your daily routine.

    Begin with this promise to yourself: I will try to do all that I must to maintain good physical health and a positive mental attitude. Then tell yourself: I need to do this in order to accomplish all these things that I value (your personal and specific list follows). Identify all the key factors that influence your health and wellbeing, list the actions needed to address them, develop a plan to incorporate these actions into pursuits that you enjoy and make them part of your daily, weekly and monthly routine. Start small. Once you’ve acquired a small habit, add another. Build on your successes. If you enjoy something, you will do it. The Positive Psychology Program talks of Positive Aging, and refers to it as a way of living rather than a state of being.

    It’s really quite simple. You won’t have the same physical capabilities at 50 that you had at 18, or the capabilities you had at 50 when you are 80. Our bodies and minds change as we age, and we have to adjust our lives to accommodate those changes, focusing on three areas: the body, the mind and the spirit.  We all know – for the most part – what we need to do.  There are innumerable articles, books, and self-help guides on this subject. All the good ones address one or more of the following themes: Eat a well-balanced, nutritious diet. Exercise and otherwise stay physically active. Get regular health checkups. Don’t forget those dental and vision checkups.  Do not ignore any health-related warning signs. Secure your financial future. Practice stress-relief and mindfulness techniques. Keep your mind active as well. Stay socially connected with family and friends. Give back to your community. Make a habit of life-long learning.

    The key to your success is to apply these guidelines to develop your own individual roadmap; then break that down further into a specific set of actions that you can incorporate into your daily lives. This list of actions should also meet three simple criteria: enjoy what you do, what you eat and drink, and whom you spend your time with.

    You’re not just helping yourself in this process; there are other impacts. Dr. Laura Carstensen, psychologist and Founding Director of the Stanford Center on Longevity provides a fascinating perspective on how the pursuit of healthy aging – people embracing the developmental trends that improve with age – benefit not just themselves but also society overall. She discussed her views in a recent interview with AARP’s Doug Shadel. Older people are happier and the last third of their lives can be the best years for themselves and for their contributions to society. “To the extent that the majority of people arrive at old age mentally sharp, physically fit and financially secure, the problems of individual and societal aging fade away, and we can shift to conversations about long life,” she says. We can have a whole different aging society – “one that will ultimately be engaged and contribute to families, communities and workplaces in ways that we never imagined.”

    Healthy Aging is not an end goal but a life-long journey. There are abundant resources to help you get started. You will find some of these at Sukham. Join this journey today!

    Mukund Acharya is a co-founder of Sukham, an all-volunteer non-profit organization in the Bay Area
    established to advocate for healthy aging within the South Asian community.  Sukham provides
    information, and access to resources on matters related to health and well-being, aging, life’s transitions including serious illness, palliative and hospice care, death in the family and bereavement. If you feel overcome by a crisis and are overwhelmed by Google searches, Sukham can provide curated resource help. To find out more, visit https://sukham.org, or contact the author at sukhaminfo@gmail.com.  

    Bridges Of Understanding With Words

    The novel The Bridge Home by Padma Venkataraman has just won the Global Read Aloud prize for middle grade readers.

    I started the conversation by sharing with Padma that as a parent it Is indeed a tough job to choose books with appropriate themes for middle schoolers. Also, reaching adolescents through writing is a tough task for any author, I say and Padma agrees wholeheartedly. “I chose to write a middle-grade novel n part, because I have a 11 year old child, and so many books are not really appropriate for her because of the themes they handle,” she said.

    Her motivations for writing the book speak to the current political moment too. “Especially in this day and age, It is so very important to me for children to know that instead of building walls, breaking walls in your mind and heart is much more powerful. The ability to relate to people far different from you is the very basis on which humanity survives.”

    With a clear sense of conviction, she asserts, “a book is indeed more powerful than a movie. Through the pages of a book, a child can look into the heart, mind and soul of a character. Words allow the child to look at situations through the character’s eyes. And, through this process,  they can watch and identify with that character, building empathy and compassion. When you are very young, if you are exposed to a different culture then, you can respect differences in that culture. That is indeed the most important task of global children’s literature which is honest and authentic – it can literally shrink the globe by changing perceptions and thoughts at an impressionable age.” 

    Her book – The Bridge Home – takes her back to her hometown of Chennai. It handles the difficult theme of the ways in which street children survive in the city. “Handling a theme as tough as the lives of street children, and trying to reach adolescents throws up a whole host of issues. The question becomes – ‘how do you make an impression on the reader, without showing them everything in terms of adult themes like sex and violence?’ As an author, it is hard to elicit a deep emotional response without stating everything. At the end of the day, there will be adults – librarians, and parents who are above the target age of the book who will read the book and make decisions about including the book for the children in their care.”

    Rereading books that had made a deep impression as a child and drawing on her childhood experiences of growing up in Chennai helped her write this book. From living a very privileged moneyed life, Padma’s mother made the tough decision to raise her as a single parent and her own childhood was filled with experiences of connecting with children who led underprivileged lives. Many of them came to her mother in search of a sense of direction and help with school lessons, and, as a child, she regularly played and interacted with children who faced violence, abject poverty and related issues through her impressionable years.

    “My life in Rhode Island today is beautiful – the West can have very sanitized spaces whereby it is difficult to see a child go hungry in my neighborhood. So it is very difficult for children growing up here to have a connection with children drawn from a different socio economic status. In India, regardless of where you grow up, the physical setup of homes sets up a situation where lives and destinies clash, by virtue of how everyone lives on everyone else’s doorstep,” she says. The unusual circumstances of her life also found her understanding at a deep level the value of education, as it was her mother’s education that helped them survive tough times and circumstances. Padma’s journey to being a full-time author has been a circuitous one with her moving from being a scientist and an oceanographer who wrote for various publications part-time to finally transitioning to becoming a full-time author.

    The best part of the interview was when I realized how deeply touched she was when she received fan letters from American children living very different lives than the child protagonists of her novel. That, in itself, shows how her primary objective of helping children break walls in their minds while building bridges of understanding has been achieved. What more can a passionate writer ask for?

    Nirupama Vaidhyanathan is the Managing Editor of India Currents magazine and eternally relives the days of her childhood spent with books in her lap.

     

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