EXTEND THE V VISA

This is to bring attention to a situation causing a lot of suffering to hundreds of thousands of Legal Permanent Residents (LPRs) since the expiration of the V visa in December 2003. The V visa was introduced for a three-year period in 2000. Since its expiration, spouses and children of LPRs now have to wait for an immigrant visa to become available before they can be allowed to enter the U.S. Currently the waiting period is about six years. During this period the spouses and children are not even allowed to visit their family in the U.S.

On Jan. 20, 2004, Rep. Robert E. Andrews, D-NJ, introduced a bill, HR 3701, in the House of Representatives to extend the V visa until 2011, and reduce the waiting period to six months. If enacted, HR 3701 would most effectively solve the problem with a minimum impact on the federal government while allowing families to be united. The necessary procedures and infrastructure for its implementation are already in place. The bill is currently in the House Judiciary Committee, but no action has been taken on it since its introduction.

Every day this bill is delayed, hundreds of thousands of spouses and minor children of permanent residents remain separated. You can help innocent families by showing your support for this bill. Please visit www.united4life.org and send a letter from the website.

Please spread the word about this to your friends. A few minutes of your time could make a huge difference for these distressed families.

Chandrasekaran Ganesan, Lowell, MA
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UNDERSTANDING HINDUISM—BIG MYTHTAKE

When ignorants ignite,
with ignominious flame,
Ignoring indignance
with infamous shame,
Then professionals protest,
over provocative plays,
Problem, does that prove them pro-right-wing,
pray?

Makes no sense? What occurred in Saratoga will confound you. A theatre group, reputed for intellectual productions, ventured into the fragile arena of religion to project an atheist’s perspective. Great! Every-one enjoys thought-provoking experiences.

However, the play took a provocative turn when the Pandavas hurled expletives at Lord Krishna, evidently to demystify him. This agonized Krishna’s devotees and disappointed others for whom Krishna is Murlidhar, the nirgun shakti, maintaining universal harmony. Some professionals rallied to raise awareness about the offensive play and its abuse of literary freedom. If the director wished to stimulate discussion, his purpose was sorely defeated. A more imaginative technique might have succeeded. Peter Brooks’s Mahabharata for example, with a multiracial cast, presented food for thought. Tathaa Kuru instead, failed to convince its target audience, yet riled them up. As a result, Krishna came alive, more than ever.

The director dismissed the protestors as “Sainiks”! Not surprising, for lately, even a raised eyebrow makes you a “Hindu extremist.” I face this phenomenon every day, since I chose to advocate greater awareness about Hinduism. I’m grateful to be born free of “religion” … in other words, a Hindu. At liberty to regard any faith, I’m secular; free to expand my knowledge, I’m universal; unburdened by mythological conditioning, I’m rational, and striving for harmony, I’m spiritual. These core human values define Hinduism. Everything else is Mythism. So, at the risk of being labeled a “Hindu activist,” may I request that sponsors avoid mediocre productions. As one lady put it, “… the director, … trying to make sense out of things … could have done this by finding a guru, rather than share his confusions with the world.” Tathastu!

Mona Vijaykar, Saratoga, CA
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PEACEFUL PROTESTS AND HATE MAIL

On February 7, 8 and 21, I staged my Hindi play Tathaa Kuru: The Bhagavad Gita As It Should Be. The shows were very successful, and generated a flood of positive and negative feedback. Some of my critics, instead of expressing intellectual disagreement with the play, decided I was a “commie” and an “evil mind,” and took up the cause of Hinduism as they saw it, which was to threaten boycotts of my third show. We staged the third show regardless. There were (largely peaceful) protests outside the theater, and the audience inside did not seem to care.

My critics enjoy the same rights as I do, but clearly some felt constrained by the American Constitution, as made clear by abusive emails that were circulated on mass mailing lists.

Consider the following:

Naatak group in San Francisco Bay Area has been formed by renegade Hindus, atheists, and commies … Some of these misguided people were educated in church-run schools, and they raise funds to send to India through probably church-related organizations.

followed by some unprintable language (which I ask you to print anyway):

These idiots and bastards are not ashamed of demeaning their ancestors’ civilization and Hindu Dharma.

Some emails yearn nostalgically for home:

Dear Mr. Saraf, Thank god you are in America! Do you have nerves to stage your play in India? … I bet you don’t.

Others bemoan the tolerance of Hindus:

If you think you are that creative, why don’t you try something related to Islam? That will give you fast publicity and fame. Or maybe a fatwa.
I feel grateful to American society that these protests were peaceful. Some of my critics, no doubt, wish they were somewhere else.

Sujit Saraf, Director, Naatak,
Bay Area Indian Theater, www.naatak.com
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ARUNDHATI ROY’S ABSURD CLAIMS

“There is not a country on God’s earth that is not caught in the crosshairs of the American cruise missile and the IMF checkbook.” How wonderfully Arundhati Roy puts it (“The New American Century,” IC, March 2004), and yet how absurdly arrogant is her claim! Roy should recall that India did not willingly accept the IMF checkbook in 1991. It was quite happy with socialism and Nonalignment for 45 years despite the fact that over half of India remained illiterate and malnourished. Why bother tackling India’s real problems when one could simply have conferences and forums where you can blame everything on capitalism, imperialism, or racism, and get cheered for it.

When Michael Gorbachev acknowledged that Lenin and socialism really had no clothes on, India had to fend for itself. Saddam Hussein did India another favor by invading Kuwait—the subsequent loss of Gulf workers’ remittances caused India to go nearly bankrupt and the IMF had to be asked to bail it out. This set in motion a chain of events where now no one in India—in government or opposition—questions the basic ideas of free market capitalism and how it has improved the lives of even the poorest Indians, and will continue to do so.

Has Roy left her cozy existence as the world’s leftist darling to spend one week in 110 degree F summers in western India? The land there is extremely parched—it desperately needs water, even from dams on rivers. Yes, even India’s poor need to drink and eat.

Roy should stick to fiction. There she does not need to be consistent or pay attention to facts; she can be creative and make them up.

Ramesh Gopalan, Fremont, CA
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INSIGHT, VISION, AND WIT

Thank you so much for featuring Arundhati Roy (“The New American Century,” IC, March 2004). Her insight, vision, and wit are both refreshing and greatly needed. She illuminates with grace and clarity the challenges facing our world today.

Eugene Salandra, Toluca Lake, CA
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DOUBLE STANDARDS?
I can’t believe B.B. Lal’s advice (Letters, IC, March 2004) for other parents about raising their daughters. Is he serious when he recommends “freedom to a limited extent” for daughters and suggests to “keep them under discipline”? Does he recommend the same restrictions for sons?

N.L. Patel, via the Internet
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CONTACTING THE PRESIDENT OF INDIA

The Consulate has received many enquiries regarding the email address and website of the president of India. His website ispresidentofindia.nic.in and email address is presidentofindia@rb.nic.in.

These are the only official website and e-mail of the president of India. No other sites have been authorized nor do they have any connection with the office of the president of India.

Akhilesh Mishra, Deputy Consul General, Consulate General of India, San Francisco, CA
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IT’S ABOUT CORPORATE GREED

To Naeem Mohaiemen’s query (“The Dark Side of the Outsourcing Revolution,” IC, March 2004), “Would outsourcing be a political hot potato if the jobs were going to Norway, Israel, or Portugal?” the answer is a resounding yes.

To suggest that this issue is about India is to warp it almost beyond recognition. To label it “racism” is to demean people’s just concern for their livelihood by recasting it as irrational hatred of an ethnic or cultural group. Not only is this grossly unfair to the workers who have been displaced but it masks the real issue, which is nothing other than corporate greed.

I am an American-born citizen whose Western European ancestors were immigrants more than 200 years ago. I live and work in the Silicon Valley, among hundreds of thousands of Indian-born workers with whom I interact comfortably and easily, without prejudice. I am a longtime reader of and subscriber of India Currents. In my opinion, the suggestion that this burning issue is one of race does more to divide my Indian co-workers from their American-born counterparts along racial lines than anything I have seen or read until now.

Here no family is untouched by the hemorrhagic job losses of the past few years. I know seasoned, competent, ready-to-walk-in technical writers, well educated and well trained for their profession, who have been out of work for months or years while our biggest high-tech corporations are hiring “writers” in India who have never set foot on American soil or been inside the company whose products they are describing, never done technical writing before, and indeed never even held a writing job before, not to mention that English is not their first language.

The issue is not about where the jobs go or who is taking them (and what their race is) but the fact that the jobs are going.

The more long-term out-of-work professionals we have here, the more dependency we have on public agencies and services that are paid for by tax dollars coming from fewer and fewer employed workers. What offshore worker is sending a portion of his or her salary back to California to aid my unemployed neighbor while I work evenings and weekends to keep up with the impossible task of making that offshore worker’s technical documentation a fraction as good as what my neighbor could have written in a quarter of the time?

Name withheld upon request, San Jose, CA
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GASTRONOMIC MEDIOCRITY

In your story “The Tastes of Home” (IC, February 2004), the author fails to touch upon a crucial aspect of the Indian restaurant culture in the Bay Area: there is not a single class act in the area. Our restaurants uniformly dispense inferior product at undeservedly high prices. The quality of offerings, customer service, attention to detail, consistency of overall product and staying power—attributes that make for a superior dining establishment—are not deemed important.

The roots of this morass of gastronomic mediocrity lie in the background of the restaurateurs. It is scarcely appreciated that the métier of food and hospitality draws on special training, experience, and talent. That these second-rate outfits have been embraced is a reflection of the Silicon Valley desi’s reluctance in demanding a quality product and the American customer’s lack of understanding of what constitutes wholesome Indian food.

Rajan P. Parrikar, Mountain View, CA
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CORRECTIONS ABOUT KOMALA VILAS

Thank you for featuring Komala Vilas in your covery story “The Real Tastes of Home” (IC, February 2004). While a majority of the facts about Komala Vilas were true, there are one or two inaccuracies that I would like to see corrected.

The lady with the MIT degree is not the cook but the manager-partner of the restaurant. Because of her scientific background and skill, Komala Vilas provides a healthy, nutritious, balanced meal without additives or preservatives. She has developed processes that keep the nutritional value high in contrst with the oily fare that most restaurants serve.
Also, we do not have a buffet, nor 48 items. We prepare fresh food (10 items in all) and serve it to you at your table piping hot.

A.N. Narayanswami, Komala Vilas, Sunnyvale, CA,www.komalavilas.com
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PLIGHT OF ANIMALS

The articles and letters in India Currents about the Westernization taking place in India rarely mention the plight of animals.

When I first visited India in 1962, staged fights between the mongoose and cobra were common on the streets. Now, in 2004, none of this was seen, although cobras were still swaying in their baskets. So one must deduce that conditions for animals are improving.

My daughters and I visited the Taj, of, course, always a must when in India. It rose out of the winter fog like an otherworldly vision of paradise. Then, on leaving, there were the gypsies with their “dancing” bears. When it was evident that we were certainly not going to give them money, a madari beat a wretched bear with a club.

Most tourists today know about this cruelty—that cubs are kidnapped from their mothers. That they are held down, and without anesthetics their teeth are pulled out. Red-hot iron needles are then pushed through the tops of their snouts, followed by ropes, which come out through one of the baby’s nostrils. The rope is then attached to a ring on a stick. All of this causes excruciating pain and the screams of the cubs can be heard for long distances. Then the men muzzle the bears with tight straps around their heads and jaws. The bears then live to “dance” with pain and starvation. One learns they seldom live for more than eight years while their normal life span is at least 24 years.

Evidently, the Indian government has legislated against this cruelty, but little has been done to stop it. These madaris are out in plain sight where it would be easy enough for police to cart them off to prison and humanely take the bears to the sanctuary outside Agra. The gypsies could be trained, while in prison, for a saner occupation except for those who are beyond hope.
The appalling treatment of these bears totally dislodged the memory of the Taj Mahal. Why isn’t the Indian government more sensitive to the views of tourists who return to the U.S. with their stories?

Robyn Nayyar, Aromas, CA
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EMBRACING MY INDIANNESS IN U.K.

I can relate closely to Kamala Thiagarajan’s article (“The Last Laugh,” IC, February 2004). “Embracing Indian values often tends to take on greater importance when you live a life away from your native land.” I am in the U.K for higher studies. When I was in India I watched only English movie and music channels and usually ate pizzas or burgers. But now, being away from home, I feel closer to it. I’ve been in England for a year-and-a-half and haven’t eaten a burger. On the contrary, I have learned to cook Indian food. I even listen to the local Hindi radio channel. I have learned to appreciate my culture and my values. I think I am more Indian here in England.

Saloni Mittal, via the Internet

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