LEGAL OR ILLEGAL? THAT IS THE QUESTION
It took me some time to wade through the desultoriness of Sandip Roy-Chowdhury’s editorial (“¡Sí, Se Puede!” India Currents, May 2006), but eventually I figured that it is a call to arms to support the recent immigration demonstrations.
I cannot disagree more with Roy-Chowdhury’s call for more Indian Americans, “whether we are here on F-1, H-1B, green card, or without papers,” to get behind the largely Latino-led movement for immigration reform (read legalization of illegals).
Roy-Chowdhury wishes to sweep under the carpet (no innuendo intended) a very important distinction—are you in this country legally or illegally?
By and large Indians arrived, and have flourished, in this country legally. In contrast, the current movement and the support it enjoys, is an example of law-undermining vote-bank politics that Indians are all too familiar with. I would find it morally offensive to extend my support to people who have demonstrated disdain for the law. And knowing that Mexico has a per-capita GDP almost five times that of India’s, I find the much-touted humanitarian aspect, frankly, laughable.
Morality aside, any legalization program could have undesirable consequences for legal residents, especially those on an H-1B visa. Although current legislation under debate has provisions to increase the number of immigrant visas, it is far from clear how the USCIS, notorious for long processing delays, will simply not crumble under the weight of 11 million guest-worker applications.
I believe your readership, and the Indian community in general, undocumented workers at holes-in-the-wall admittedly excepted, would be better served if both you as a publication, and we as a community, drew more attention to the complicated and downright irrational aspects of current immigration law.
We could highlight the plight of permanent residents who have to wait for almost five years to get their spouses over to the United States, during which time the spouse is not even allowed to visit the United States. Or we could highlight the plight of an H-1B visa holder’s spouse who, while allowed to live in the United States, cannot work (understandable), therefore cannot get a social security number (inconvenient), and therefore under recent laws cannot, at most places, open a bank account or get an add-on credit card (shocking). Although an H-4 visa holder is legally allowed to accomplish the commendable feat of attending school without a bank account, it doesn’t really mean much. So much as a part-time job in the campus library needs a student visa.
For far too long we have accepted these problems as being transient in nature, and the price one needs to pay for living in a foreign country. But that does not mean we should jump to the other extreme of supporting illegals.
Trivikram Krishnamurthy, Sunnyvale, Calif.
CREDIT GOES TO THE LATINOS
I enjoyed Sandip Roy-Chowdhury’s editorial (“¡Sí, Se Puede!” India Currents, May 2006) on the immigration debate. Why aren’t there editorials and articles about this issue in other Indian papers? Is it because they don’t care?
Any reform will be due to the Latinos, who are well-organized, and care for their people, who have suffered due to the circus of laws that is U.S. immigration.
Arun Rana, Los Angeles, Calif.
DISTORTED IMAGE OF INDIA
Water is a beautiful movie with breathtaking photography and haunting music. My heart was bleeding for the child widow, Chuyia, and Kalyani.
But does it really portray the status of widows in 1938? Probably that was the way it was for Brahmin widows in North India, but not in the south. My grandmother became a widow when her husband died in 1930, leaving three children behind. She definitely had a tough time, but she never shaved her head or was sent to a place to live with other widows. She was not rich, but managed to send her sons to medical school, and got her daughter (my mother) married. Thanks to her hard work, kindness, and generosity, all her children prospered. She even paid for our schooling and instilled in us an appreciation for scriptures and the great epics—Ramayana and Mahabharata.
Did Deepa Mehta forget about Ramakrishna and Sarada Devi and how Ramakrishna Mission helped widows in those days?
The acting was simply superb all round. However, I found it repulsive when Madhumati (Manorama) first used Kalyani and later Chuyia as prostitutes for their survival. It is appalling how people were interpreting scriptures according to their convenience. When the pundit said the abandonment of widows was a case of business dealing, how right he was about the Brahmin society in those days.
I strongly disagree with Mehta’s postscript: “There are over 34 million widows in India according to the 2001 Census. Many continue to live in conditions of social, economic and cultural deprivation as prescribed 2000 years ago by the Sacred Texts of Manu.” This is certainly not true in South India. I know quite a few Brahmin widows in Chennai in their 60s and 70s, who put kumkum on their foreheads, and wear colorful silk saris and jewelry. Even the widowed poor maidservants in Chennai have normal lives. Gandhi promoted widow’s remarriage. A friend of mine, a college professor who lost her husband when she was just 30, married again. A Brahmin widow marrying again is not uncommon now.
This beautiful movie would probably give a distorted image of modern India to Westerners despite the fact that it portrays the status of widows in 1938.
Hope the movie will be shown in India. It is a pity that Mehta could not film it on the banks of the Ganga in Banaras.
Lakshmi Sridharan, San Jose, Calif.
CATERING TO WESTERN FANTASIES OF INDIA
Anil Verma writes (“Water Delivered,” India Currents, May 2006), “… V.S. Naipaul has often argued that it is only the outsider who can see things more clearly,” to which I say, “Pooh! What rubbish!”
I hate stories told by “outsiders.” They are invariably selling, exporting. They have internalized fantasies of India and they simply cater to those wants. It’s like talking to a salesman or broker or marketing person—you can’t have a real conversation because they are always making a pitch for something. When I see movies by people like Deepa Mehta or Mira Nair or even someone intelligent like Gurinder Chadha, I always feel like they’re pimping Indian life—selling, selling, selling. Somehow one feels cheapened by the whole experience.
I would love to see a film starring Manorama and the same cast about this very same topic made by a Tamil or Hindi director living and working in India. Even if it’s not as clever, it would just be more honest and carry more conviction.
Arul Francis, via the Internet
MY HEART IS FOREVER IN INDIA
Thank you for Preeti Verma Lal’s article on McCluskieganj (“Red Hibiscus Among Abandoned Houses,” India Currents, February 2006). I left India in 1970 but my heart is forever there. I visited as often as I could but am now getting on in years and usually fall ill on these trips. I am trying to write about my life in India where I grew up, and was educated in the Convent of Jesus and Mary, Agra. Many happy memories live within my heart and I enjoy a daydream now and again. Yes, I am a proud old Anglo-Indian, proud of the blood that runs in my veins.
Lynette Waters-Mendes via the Internet