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India Currents gave me a voice in days I was very lost. Having my articles selected for publishing was very validating – Shailaja Dixit, Executive Director, Narika, Fremont
TASTE MEMORY Reading the recipe page regarding karela (“Bitter is Better,” India Currents, December 2006) brought back a pungent memory. My Punjabi husband and I, in our first year of marriage, were living in Honolulu. I was from Washington state, and he had been embedded in the boondocks of southern Idaho for eight years, so it was a revelation for us to discover various fruits and vegetables in Hawaii that we hadn’t seen in the continental United States. One day he saw these lumpy green vegetables in the store and bought them. I was very skeptical, but he crowed, “Just wait. My mother always made this wonderful subzi from this. I’ll make it for you, and you’ll love it!” He proceeded to cut them up, fried the usual onions and masala in butter, added the chunks of vegetable, stirred it up, added water, and cooked it. Our apartment filled with an alarming cooking odor, but I held my tongue. (After all, when your Indian husband cooks for you, you don’t want to put a damper on it, as he may swear off and not do it again!) Soon he proclaimed the subzi ready to eat. He also made some wonderful rotis, and we settled down for the meal. Well, at the first bite, I knew something was wrong! “Gaaaah!” I croaked. “Ma made this for you? How could you eat it? This is zeher!” (I was also learning Punjabi, and unexpectedly found the perfect context to use the word for poison.) He bravely ate on, but I could see that he too realized that there was something wrong. We of course had to throw out that batch. It wasn’t until many years later, when a relative came from India to live with us, that I saw karela made properly, and how great they could be. She scraped off the lumpy skin, salted them and set them out in the sun to “sweat” off the bitterness. After all bitterness was removed, she stuffed them, tied string around them, and fried them. Delicious! But every time I see these vegetables in the store, my mind goes back to that ill-fated karela meal in Hawaii. Darleen Dhillon, Berkeley, Calif. …………………………………………………………………………………………………. NUCLEAR HAZARDS Largely ignored in the ongoing debate of India’s emergence as a nuclear energy and nuclear weapons nation is the accompanying human cost. The only source for uranium, the raw ingredient for nuclear energy production, in India is Jadugoda, a small tribal village in the mineral-rich state of Jharkhand. The health of the indigenous people of that area has been devastated and the environment destroyed by ongoing mining operations. In an effort to resist the unwelcome intrusion of the uranium mine operators into their lives, the villagers have organized themselves into the Jharkhandi Organization Against Radiation (JOAR). JOAR’s goals are to demand better safety measures against radiation exposure, protection of their environment, and opposition to opencast uranium mines. The organizers have made a low budget groundbreaking documentary, called Buddha Weeps in Jadugoda, which was recently shown at Stanford University. It shows the grotesque health hazards of uranium mining. The film depicted the casual attention applied to the transportation of the refined uranium ore or yellow cake in leaky barrels that spew large amounts of lethal radiation. Many of the scenes evoked strong responses of outrage, and grassroots activists Ghanshyam Birulee and Dumku Murma, from JOAR, and Shriprakash, the filmmaker, were present to furnish additional details. (More information is available on www.friendsofsouthasia.org.) We Indian Americans have become so enamored and excited at finally gaining admission to the exclusive nuclear club that the attendant health hazards and environmental devastation are all but ignored. This does not bode well for India’s future. Jagjit Singh, Palo Alto, Calif. …………………………………………………………………………………………………. THE LAST WORD IS HATE As a 52-year registered Democratic voter who has been elected to different city and county offices, I well understand the principles and platforms of my Democratic party. Underlying these platforms is the moral foundation every Democrat must have if our party is to survive. The Last Word, “Return To Sanity?” by Sarita Sarvate (India Currents, December 2006) does not represent that moral foundation. Sarvate’s writing is hate mongering in its purest form. She demeans a defenseless dead president, Ronald Reagan, saying that he had no inner life. Yet many of us who opposed some of his policies and knew him could see his deep religious convictions and his full inner life. She claims that the people who have surrounded President Bush in the last six years are sycophants, and wonders if one day they will admit that “he has no conscience; that his psychological profile matches that of a sociopath.” This is simply hate speech. Even my fellow senior Democrats do not believe Bush is like that. In fact most beltway Democrats respect Bush for his strong leadership. Sarvate says that Condoleezza Rice is “a token female African American …” Can you think of a more demeaning, catty, hateful way to speak of a highly successful career woman? I assure you, those words are not the morals of the Democratic Party. This is the view of a hateful left extreme of my party. I oppose the Iraq war, but disagree with Sarvate’s call for the president’s impeachment. She cares nothing of our nation of laws that both the left and right in Congress and the president followed to prosecute this war. Sarvate is so filled with hate that she is unconcerned that a vain and misguided impeachment and trial process would seriously weaken and divide the nation. Nitai Prasad, Washington, D.C. Write India Currents Letters, P.O. Box 21285, San Jose, CA 95151, email email@example.com, or fax (408) 324-0477.