WHAT DOES IMAGE HAVE TO DO WITH LIFE AND DEATH?

We were dismayed to read Ragini Tharoor Srinivasan’s editorial, “1000 Words” (India Currents, November 2007). What does “image” have to do with a life and death story and a relief organization, whose only mission is to help and provide comfort to those in desperate need?

While we do not quarrel with the editor’s right to express her opinion, we feel Operation Blessing was unfairly equated with her “image” of what flood-ravaged Indian victims should look like, how a relief organization should document its work and her impression (right or wrong) of who should be aiding victims.

The photos supplied to the magazine were tasteful and wholly representative of what we do. We do not apologize if our photos did not “fit” the “image” that Ms. Srinivasan sought. It is difficult enough to get aid to some of the flood ravaged locales that we reached, but to pose victims, or put a “positive spin” on their plight is not what OB is all about and would have been disingenuous.

OB stands by its work in India. Established in 1998 with national headquarters based in Hyderabad, Operation Blessing India has a staff of 30+ employees who provide medical aid, water wells, hunger relief, micro-enterprise and disaster relief to those in need throughout India. Some highlights include:

• To date, OB India has drilled a total of 3,578 fresh water wells providing clean water to more than 1.6 million people

• OB India has conducted 791 medical clinics in 2006 throughout India, providing medical treatment and medicines to 380,615 beneficiaries

• As a first responder to major disasters in India, OB India provides emergency relief in the form of food, clothing, medical services and medicine, cooking stoves, blankets, hygiene products and temporary housing.

Recent disasters responded to include: 2007 India floods, 2005-2006 India floods, 2005 Kashmir earthquake, 2004 Southeast Asia tsunami.

Bill Horan, Operation Blessing

EDITORIAL REVEALS CRUCIAL QUESTION

I sympathize with the editor’s moral dilemma, which Ragini Tharoor Srinivasan recounted in her editorial “1000 WordsIndia Currents, November 2007). She wrestled over whether promoting an aid organization with pictures of a “Caucasian American man—however well-intentioned, however much a world citizen and humanitarian—lowering himself to gift the poor brown families of India the relief they were not able to attain for themselves … ” would reinforce long held stereotypes of a poverty-stricken India at the mercy of Western benevolence, an image that India has only recently begun to transcend. I appreciate her editorial giving due credit to Operation Blessing, while also generating a crucial question that hangs over the NRI community.

In India’s rise to global power, how are we Indians harnessing our successes to make a positive impact on India? In truth, we all know of NRIs who are doing their part on some level to give back. These are stories that need to be told. I would love to see India Currents highlight not only the incredible contributions Indians are making in business, technology, and the arts, but also the leadership roles they are filling in humanitarian efforts. I applaud and encourage efforts from any organization that empowers struggling Indians. At the same time, we should remember that, as Nehru said, “Freedom and power bring responsibility … The service of India means the service of the millions who suffer. It means the ending of poverty and ignorance and disease and inequality of opportunity.” When Nehru spoke these words in his speech on the eve of India’s independence, he was after all, speaking to Indians.

Ranjini Richards, Culver City, Calif.

INDIAN, NOT “SOUTH ASIAN”

It pains me to have to be the one to say it, but Rupa Dev’s “Welcome to the South Asian Blogosphere” (India Currents, November 2007) is not a round up of the South Asian blogosphere. It’s a round up of what Indians are following in the blogosphere. It is doubly painful at this time when the Pakistani part of that mix is playing such a key role in the resistance to Martial Law.

I say this not in an “Us vs. Them” attitude. We bloggers get along great. We’ve exchanged notes across the border when our respective governments have imposed censorship, for example. And sites like Sepia Mutiny, Chapati Mystery, as well as sites like Chowk, which pre-date the blogosphere, are proof of that. For what the Pakistani part of the blogosphere is up to right now, see: pakistan.wikia.com/wiki/Emergency_2007#Blogs or just start at bloggers.pk

Sabahat Ashraf/ iFaqeer, via email

HOW WE VIEW OURSELVES & OTHERS

Aditi Nadkarni’s “The Racism in Desism” (India Currents, October 2007) is a very well thought-out and interesting look at racial views. In the end, what we can all learn is that no one is really different from anyone else—we all have our stereotypes.

When I first moved to India and heard the term “chinky” being used, I was flabbergasted. My husband kept telling me it was okay, that even the people in question called themselves by that name. I was still appalled. I got used to people asking my husband about his “gora” wife. I think the biggest issue I have had in India is the notion that just because you are a “person of color” means you are exempt from being labeled prejudiced or racist.

I also agree with Nadkarni about the portrayal of whites in India. I often hear from people after they have gotten to know me that I am not nearly as bad as they expected! They expected that an American woman would be a hypersexual, domineering, loud-mouthed, war-mongering idiot who thought all Indians lived in grass huts and rode elephants. When it comes out that I can eat with my hands, wear a sari with ease, and studied Dravidian languages for my Masters degree, mouths hang agape. The image of Westerners here has been shaped by the T.V., politicians, and some boorish and ignorant travelers who land up here and make everyone look the fool.

It would clearly benefit all sides to take a hard look at how we view not only other races, but also our own.

J. Murthy, online

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