The Importance of Rituals

I really liked the article (Rituals Sans Religion, November 2009), more so because it is the same at our place too. I could instantly identify with the author. It isn’t just immigrants; people in India face the same issue, especially in families like ours where there are no elders.

I’ve continued alpana from my Bengali  roots, adopted Lakshmi pooja from my hubby’s, decor from Christmas …. but what makes everything worth it is that our son will have happy memories when he grows up. So “religion” is serving its purpose! Thanks for a great read.

Madhumita Gupta, Alwar, India

Ode to Bozeman

I’ve read Lakshmi Palecanda’s  articles off and on in India Currents and enjoyed them.  But her ode to Bozeman (An Indian In Cowboy Country, October 2009) really touched a chord. Rest assured, there were Indian grad students in Bozeman 45 years ago, which is when my father arrived into a Ph.D. program. My mother was photographed just for wearing a sari in the local grocery store, and they have very fond memories of how well they were treated. Haunches of venison and strings of fish were left at their doorstep (for a very young South Indian woman this was hospitable but quite overwhelming!)

I have photos from the 60s of serious looking young Indians and other Asians (many of my parents’ friends in those days ended up marrying other foreign grad students), as well as the American professors’ wives in beehive hairdos and horn rim spectacles. I do know my mother was very homesick. She had to mail order spices from New York City in those days. They moved to Toronto when I was a year old, and I grew up there.

Now I’m a family doctor in California, and oddly, the biggest connection I feel with Bozeman is an old-time family doctor named Richard Nollmeyer who delivered me. All the foreign students went to him because he charged very little and allowed both barter and payment plans.

S. Reddy, via email

Bangkok’s Bollywood Connection

One tidbit on Bangkok’s Indiatown (A Thai Little India, October 2009)—Akshay Kumar, the Hindi film actor, has his roots in the Indian community of Thailand.

Carl Chan, via email

Insurance is Not Charity

I was disappointed by the misguided protests (Satyagraha in Action, November 2009) to demand payments for medical treatments excluded by health insurance contracts.

The health insurance industry has become a convenient scapegoat for the numerous ills afflicting the American health care system. However, insurance is not charity; it is merely a method of spreading risk.

Just as you cannot coerce a home insurance company to pay for contractually excluded damage (such as termite damage), you cannot coerce a health insurance company to pay for excluded medical procedures.
Of the $2.5 trillion that Americans spend on health care every year, health insurance industry profits account for only a tiny fraction (about 1%). The high cost of medical services accounts for bulk of the remainder.

Recently a friend of mine had a knee replacement surgery at a well-known Bay Area hospital. Her insurance was billed a whopping $108,000 for this routine procedure (one knee only). The bill included  exorbitant fees and charges for the surgeon, the hospital,  drugs, and medical devices.

Many Indian Americans today are pursuing a career in medicine. Most have chosen the profession because it is very lucrative (the highest-paid specialties are most in demand in medical colleges). When MDs are primarily motivated by money, why should we expect the MBAs running the health insurance companies to be any different? Moreover, it is well-known that many doctor-recommended procedures such as Cesarean section, back surgery, and prostate surgery, are often unnecessary or avoidable. Why should insurance companies write a blank check for ALL doctor-recommended procedures and raise the insurance premiums for everyone?

The health care system in America can be fixed by a concerted effort on the part of the American people. First, people can minimize the need for medical treatments by adopting a healthy lifestyle. Second, they can elect politicians who are not overly influenced by health care industry lobbyists. Finally, they could also question the politically sacred assumption that every American is entitled to every available medical treatment regardless of its cost-benefit ratio.

Vijay Gupta, Cupertino, CA

Thank You

I am not of Indian descent, but I receive the India Currents magazine. I always enjoy reading your thought-provoking articles. Thank you.

Michael Tanouye, via email

An Enriching Experience

I stayed up really late a couple of nights reading India Currents. The contents were thought provoking, inspirational, educational, and delightful. It has been an enriching experience.

 Jyoti Kalapa, India

Vandana Kumar is a publishing executive with a 35-year track record in the industry. She leads the India Currents Foundation as President and CEO. As a new immigrant, she co-founded India Currents magazine...