Congratulations to Lakshmi Palecanda for her article, “On Being a No-Frills Mom” (India Currents, September 2008). I had a blast reading it, actually spluttering in glee as I read some lines. I could especially relate to her experience of baking muffins from scratch. Ah! The way it hurts as your ego is deflated when your child says he prefers the store bought brand to your haath ka bana goodies!
Thanks to Palecanda, I won’t feel so guilty next time I hand my son food that is “fast” rather than labor over the stove for hours! I know there’s at least one more mom like me out there!
Rajani Kumar, Fremont, Calif.
INDIA AT THE OLYMPICS
I was really impressed by the Forum “Olympic Machismo” by Rajeev Srinivasan and S. Gopikrishna (India Currents, July 2008). Srinivasan does a good job of summing up the problems associated with India not performing as well as it can in the Olympics. I agree that India lacks the necessary funding, facilities, and coaches that the United States and China have. It is not that India lacks potential, but Indian athletes lack the will to fight, lack enthusiasm for certain sports, and suffer from lack of confidence.
India and China both have populations of over a billion people, so why is China is doing so well and India lagging behind? Countries like Kenya and Jamaica that have fewer people and greater economic problems than India still tend to perform better than India in the Olympics. Why? India does not even compete in diving, beach volleyball, fencing, and gymnastics, to name just a few events.
Srinivasan mentions that P.T. Usha’s school is struggling for funds and that a girl from Kerala who was on the rowing team committed suicide because of lack of funding. The Indian public needs to be made aware that competing in the Olympics carries a lot of weight in terms of portraying the nation’s image. Indian parents need to expand their focus beyond academics. There should be more after-school sports programs for children in India and interest should be generated at an early age.
After reading the article in India Currents, I checked out P.T. Usha’s school and decided to offer my support by sponsoring an athlete. I think that big companies in India like Reliance and Infosys should also sponsor athletes and build facilities for training purposes. If India has the capacity to build malls, then why not training centers for Olympians?
Olympic athletes are heroes who deserve respect in India. The government must join hands with the corporate sector to improve India’s performance at the Olympics.
Aparna Bhatia, via email
THINKING ABOUT ZIMBABWE
I was inspired to write by Ranjit Souri’s “It’s a Good Life in Zimbabwe” (India Currents, August 2008). I traveled to Zimbabwe in 2004, where I worked on a television show called The Rebel Billionaire and followed Virgin Airlines-founder Richard Branson on an around-the-world adventure.
I collected bills and coins from all the countries we visited on that trip (including Morocco and South Africa). When I told the men working for us in Zimbabwe about my collection, one offered me a worn $25 Zim bill. The people of Zimbabwe have close to nothing, so I told him I couldn’t take it. He replied in his charming African, British accent: “With this, I cannot buy the smallest sweet.” He couldn’t get a piece of candy with a $25 bill, so he might as well give it away to a nice guy who gives a damn about the once valuable piece of paper. Later, I got my hands on another bill, this time a $20,000 Zim. I have it in Los Angeles today. It’s beautiful, fresh looking, and has on it a picture of a nuclear reactor. In English is written an expiration date; because of inflation and unrest, their money actually expires.
In spite of their hardship, I found the Zimbabweans to be some of the kindest, most open people I met. They were particularly fond of our crew for bringing our cameras, because they live in a beautiful land, and believe that if everyone could see it, tourism dollars could save them. I hope when regime change happens, their belief will become reality.
Troy Hauschild, online
VITAL FILM AND ARTICLE
Shruti Swamy’s “On the Road” (India Currents, September 2008) was a wonderfully well-written article. Thank you for helping to bring more attention to a film, Divided We Fall, that needs to be seen by everyone.
Don Presley, online
CUSTOMER SERVICE AWOL
What’s the Hindi, Telugu, or Punjabi word for “customer service”? You have to think hard about it, right?
U.S. culture requires that we are peppered with greetings, some meaningless, when we enter a store. “Have a nice day” is a hackneyed phrase that seems to have lost sincerity and meaning, but nevertheless it’s reassuring to hear. But enter any Indian business establishment—restaurant, cinema, grocery store—and chances are you won’t even get a cursory “hello” or even “thank-you.” In fact, you often get the feeling upon entering an Indian establishment that you’re trespassing onto personal property like an uninvited guest.
Plastered behind the check-out counters are angry handwritten signs stating: “No Refunds Whatsoever” or “We Reserve the Right to Refuse Service to Anyone”—“anyone” bolded and double underlined.
The monopoly that Indian business establishments enjoy, coupled with increased consumer demand and historic lack of choice, means they can get away with shoddy service and quite frankly unclean, unhygienic, and disorganized stores. Some stores look like their shelves and merchandise haven’t been dusted since the dot.com bubble burst.
We go to Indian stores out of either necessity or because they are cheap, certainly not for the ambience or the experience. Take away the former two factors, and they’d be out of business. Today, with more options available to consumers on the internet as well as western supermarkets stocking more Indian groceries, let’s hope that Indian businesses are forced to focus less on their profits and more on customers.
M. Chinna, San Jose, Calif.
BEYOND THE “MODEL”
It was refreshing to read Ragini Tharoor Srinivasan’s editorial “Model What”? (India Currents, September 2008). I applaud the identification of our brothers and sisters beyond the mainstream ideal.
I was born and raised in the United States and have not followed the usual “Indian route.” The 40 years of life I have lived in this country were not easy, and my personal story and experiences actually put me in touch with the “other side” that our community never acknowledges.
Today, I am a very happy single mother of two sons. I run my own recruiting firm and volunteer as a patient partner in our area’s local hospital. I always chuckle to myself when I bump into another South Asian in the hospital, who is seemingly appalled that I don’t work there!
Keep up the great work! I always pick up India Currents when I visit “little India” in Fremont, Calif. It is important for me that my sons have access to information that takes on more than just the fluff of life.
Manisha Patel, Redwood Shores, Calif.
Bihar Flood Relief: An Appeal
The recent floods in Bihar have wrought devastation in over 3 million lives. 24 districts in Bihar, an area of over 390 sq miles, are under water. Over 850,000 people have been evacuated. Five districts—Supaul, Madhepura, Araria, Saharsa and Purnia—have been the worst hit. Families have been displaced from their homes, crops and cattle have been lost, as have the means of a livelihood. Damages are estimated to be more than 5 billion Rupees. The Prime Minister of India, Dr. Manmohan Singh, has declared the situation in Bihar “a national calamity.”
The consequences of this crisis will persist for years to come. When the flood waters finally recede, the hard task of rebuilding lives must begin. Shelter, clothing, food, and medical assistance are going to be necessities beyond this emergency period. Since the Kosi River has changed its course, residents of that area cannot hope to go back to their home at all. Massive rehabilitation efforts are needed.
It is the need of the hour that each one of us helps out in whatever way we can. You can donate money, volunteer yourself, and mobilize others!
After the tsunami in 2004, many organizations came together to help in the recovery effort. This time, Bay Area organizations led by the American Organization for Development of Bihar (AODB) and Bihar Samaj, along with American India Foundation, BATA, FIBA, FIA-NC, FIJIANA, Indians for Collective Action, ICC, Prabasi, Sewa International, Sunnyvale Hindu Temple, TiE, and UPMA are working together to raise funds and support local reputed NGOs to help in the relief work.
National Bihar Relief Day, a fundraiser, is being held on Friday, Oct 17, 2008 at 7pm at India Community Center (ICC), Milpitas. Film producer-director-screenwriter, Prakash Jha, known for his political and socio-political films, Damul, Mrityudand, and Gangaajal is the invited guest. Prominent Bay Area artists will perform.
We urge you to step forward in this time of disaster and show your support. Tax deductible donations can be made online at www.aodb.org
Contact Sujay Roy (510-651-3711) or Varsha Kumar (408-250-7408) for further information.