MOURNING THE ASTRONAUTS

As America comes to grips with another tragedy, our prayers are with the families of the seven astronauts of the space shuttle Columbia. Their valiant contributions will make our space program even stronger. These are testing times, even when democracies around the world are mired in fighting terrorism around the globe; this crew personified the underlying unity in our directions and goals. The team included several American men and women, including the first female immigrant from India, Kalpana Chawla.

The American space program has been an important part of scientific advancement and also a source of inspiration to all Americans. In two separate space shuttle tragedies, we have lost three female astronauts who even in their death continue to inspire women in all nations. The Indian community feels the loss of one of their own, Kalpana Chawla. This mission-specialist was a role model for young women in India and the Indian community across the world. Our thoughts and prayers are with her family and loved ones in Karnal and New Delhi, India.

We are also impressed with the leadership of President Bush in times of tragedy. His words were soothing and comforting. As America mourns the loss of seven brave souls, Americans are not alone. The world mourns and remembers.

Gaurang Desai, Friends of India Society International (FISI), Fremont, CA

HOMAGE TO KALPANA CHAWLA

It was a moving experience to participate in the memorial service held for the seven Columbia astronauts, including Kalpana Chawla, who lost their lives in the shuttle tragedy. About 2,000 Houstonian Indians gathered to pay their homage. Kalpana Chawla was making her second journey into space. It seemed routine for her to fly in space as she did with the many types of airplanes. The memorial service was organized under the sponsorship of Vishwa Hindu Parishad of American-Houston (VHPA).

People paid homage to the seven stars and our daughter of India who sacrificed their lives for the advancement of science. It was an unusual show of unity and solemnity that bound us together. Now it is up to the second generation of Indians to carry forward the torch for the quest of knowledge handed to them by Kalpana Chawala.

P.V. Pathak, Houston TX

SEX IN THE LAND OF KAMA SUTRA

As a young, 22, Indian Diaspora reader, I found Tim Sullivan’s piece “Sex in the Land of Kama Sutra” (IC Feb 2003) very interesting indeed. Long a devotee of Indian films for their enchanting music and pageantry, I came to be increasingly vexed by the absurdity of romantic situations as they are generally depicted.

For broadcasting minister Swaraj to tell journalists that, “kissing is obscene” may be a reflection of her own discomfort with the act, but it is nonetheless part of life and love. It is a sad fact that in the land of the Kama Sutra, visual enjoyment must be sacrificed to the whim of medieval governmental despots.

Victoria Patel, Los Angeles, CA

ALL OUR PEOPLE

The story “All Our People” (IC Nov 2002) is vastly controversial, due to the diaspora before and during the British Colonial system including occupation of India for 200 years and present migrating patterns.

My grandparents settled in Durban, South Africa in 1900s. I arrived in U.S. five years ago with a green card, an 18-month contract and job offer from an International Nursing Agency. I spent a short time in the U.K., have visited many countries, met Indians everywhere. Here I have wonderful friends that make life so good. Being South African, I do not discriminate according to economic status, gender, race, color, class, caste, social status or creed. I believe a lovely demeanor, caring attitude, generous smile are lifelong friends. Be your best self, and comfortable in your own life, love yourself, everyone responds positively. Judging, mimicking, leveling makes others uncomfortable. We are also God’s children, but I am the only me on this earth, my best, and goodness will prevail.

My phenotype is Indian. I am Hindu. My Western apparel and speech set me apart in India, a decade ago. Now we are homogenous here, so double-migrants make us more alike assimilating beautifully the world seems to have shrunk. Our similarities with genetyping is promising too. This double-migrant is on the N400 list to marry a U.K. born and settled in the U.S., but forsees no hassles … rose tinted glasses and all.

Sushilla Mahadew, Menlo Park, CA

TO TEST OR NOT

I have hardly slept since I read “To Test or Not to Test” (IC Feb. 2003). Everyone knows of the cruelty to animals that go on behind closed laboratory doors, but how many realize how irrelevant the research is to human application?

There are many valid alternatives to animal research and testing:

Studies of people which includes the medication errors in which a drug incorrectly given improves another condition. In-vitro studies where cells are grown and used to test the effects of drugs. Studies using mathematical and computer models of biological systems predict benefit or harm on the human organisms. Chromatography and chemical techniques analyze substances for potency or chemical composition. These are only some of the possibilities.

Humans are the most egocentric of species in believing that the life of a human surpasses the life of other species. Because we are more powerful, do we have the right to steal the life of another without its permission—a life that belongs to it and not us?

Robyn Nayyar, Aromas, CA

NEW CHANNELS

An untold story from Pravasi Bharati Divas conference in January 2003 is the opening of a new channel of communication with people of Indian origin living outside India—a website called www.IndiaDevelopment.org.

This Web site is dedicated to building a talent pool of those interested in the development of India. The site should be of special interest to Indian Americans who have expertise in almost any field to register themselves, provide their background, offer suggestions, or submit proposals.

The India Development Web site is devoted to generating new ideas for increasing India’s growth rate by at least 2 percent. It seeks new ideas, expertise, and investments from well-wishers of India, whether based within or outside of India. Its goal is to create a talent bank, looking for out-of-the-box thinking and creative ideas that can put India into the ranks of the advanced countries of the world. India is also seeking new ideas in leadership and change management within the government and for ways to increase foreign investment.

Developing a database is an important step to best match India’s needs with the expertise of Indian Americans. For further details contact Sharad M. Marathe at smm@uts.com.

Ram Narayanan, via the Internet

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