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Letters to India Currents: 10/22/20

To The Editor,

I have seen how the Indian American Voters have gotten slightly disaffected by Harris/Biden/Jaipal Reddy/Ro Khanna/Ilhan Omar’s stances being perceived as though against India, especially on Kashmir and Modi administration.

In swing states, Indian votes will make a difference. I see a large number of politicians and policy wonks giving a perception of this anti-India stance (and mollycoddling of Separatism in Kashmir by Muslim fanatics supported by Pakistan and China).

Therefore I would request politicians that support Indian democracy and want peace and normalcy to return to the Indian subcontinent – especially Kashmir, please make a strong statement that supports India’s Modi’s efforts to call the 70-year-old bluff (explained below) and bring normalcy to the people of Kashmir, including for Muslims, by restoring Law and Order slowly.

To US Political Leaders and Policymakers:

Please give light to the treatment and plight of the Kashmiri Pandits who had to flee Srinagar due to the genocide/ethnic cleansing wrought on them by the Pakistani Army.

Mention the fact that a majority of the J&K population and area – Jammu residents and Ladakhis do support the Modi governments’ actions and gradual restoration of the rule of law.

Mention that after article 370, there are glimmers of hope in Kashmir and now the local population is asking the Indian government about constructing infrastructure instead of breaking away. As an example, read this article on India Currents: https://indiacurrents.com/after-370-glimmers-of-hope/

You could also talk about the torment (and smothering) of ordinary people in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (which Pak cunningly calls Azad Kashmir) and Gilgit Baltistan under the hands of the Pakistani military, which does not easily allow free expression or a free Press. In addition, talk about how a large cross-section in these regions under Pakistan, wants to actually join India!

Additional points:
1) Don’t ignore the plight of the soldiers and their families who have lost their near & dear ones too.
2) There is a history of corruption and demagoguery by the Kashmiri politicians (Abdullahs and Mufti Mohammed Syeds, albeit along with central political parties) in rigging elections in 1989 and thus giving disaffected youth a cause to rebel – however unjustified.
3) Note the treachery of the Hurriyat leaders (local Kashmiri leaders), including Gilanis.
4) Please understand that J&K had acceded to India in 1947 and it is the Pakistani army that tried to wrest it away by force. Upon that, Article 370 and 35A were but temporary and stop-gap measures having no validity any longer and completely un-tenable for a state in a democratic country
5) Understand the abuses of these articles in Kashmir, with the politicians giving passports and citizenships to Uighurs as well as Rohingyas without any sanction from the Central Government.
6) Let people know about the amount of money and sops given by Indians to Kashmir, which was mis-used by the corrupt Kashmiri (local) politicians and administration before the abrogation of article 370.
8) Realize that the original Kashmiri Muslim (mostly a Shias/Sufis) will have much better human rights, security, and equality in a unified Kashmir than under Pakistan (Shias being persecuted in Pak), just as Kashmiris had between 1947 and 1989, before militancy.

I really hope you can educate your colleagues to avoid making a blanket “mother of all” statements supporting the plight of the Kashmiri Muslim alone, without understanding the complex history, nuances, and facts – especially the plight of the plurality of the J&K population (Pandits, Jammu residents and Ladakhis).

I hope your colleagues will be even more strident in castigating and thwarting the Pakistani military’s nefarious designs at damaging the Kashmiri psyche, peace, and economy by fueling Jihadist terrorism.

If you leaders are true to your words and really care for the average Kashmiri, you need to pass resolutions to stop funding and aiding the Pakistani military, impose sanctions on ISI and strengthen the Indian administration’s hand in making J&K a prosperous part of peaceful and democratic India.

Please help in the ongoing restoration of peace by making such statements for India’s efforts and pass this on to your colleagues’ policymakers.

Thank you,

Mayank Jain


If you would like your opinion or perspective expressed at India Currents, do not hesitate to contact editor@indiacurrents.com with a submission or note. We are open to all voices, only barring hate speech and misinformation. 

Letters to India Currents: 10/14/20

To The Editor,

Thank you for your email and for including me in your community. I will address your general questions.

Yes, I am voting in 2020. I have always voted since I became a US citizen in 1981 and I am a registered voter in CA as an Independent. So, I have the right to choose my candidate not necessarily for a Political Party but across the party line. As an independent, I am restricted from Voting in the CA Primaries.

Sorry, I will not share who I am going to vote for. I will reserve my right to privacy. I consider the ‘Issues’ and the ‘Stands’ for each Presidential candidate and not necessarily for their personalities, although that is somewhat important for a President. Nevertheless, to me, I never bring it down to a personal level for anyone I come to know, not necessarily a political figure. Although most people do. It is the most convenient, shallow depth and an easy way to bring a person down and avoid personal responsibility.

I believe ‘ Actions’  are important because that is what makes the person not the looks or the talks. I judge a person by his or her actions over a period of time.  I also want to see the overall ‘situation’  of the country and decide on my vote.

It is not easy to have a perfect Democracy. Each person must understand its value and the value of the vote. It is not a matter of ONE issue but SEVERAL issues and how those are being dealt with.

Hope I didn’t offend you by my remarks.  I do have my First Amendment Rights and being in the publishing business, you might know about it very well.

Best wishes,

Sumedha Sengupta

Livermore, CA


If you would like your opinion or perspective expressed at India Currents, do not hesitate to contact editor@indiacurrents.com with a submission or note. We are open to all voices, only barring hate speech and misinformation. 

Letters to India Currents: 10/06/20

Dear India Currents,

In the Red and Blue states and cities where we have our hotels, we are pledging to work with the cities local officials to create polling places for the 2020 general elections promoting community and civic engagements. Our employees will volunteer and help out as needed.

Like the years before, we are giving employees paid time off to vote, urging to uphold virtues of respect and dignity amid contentious election as we continue to push for social, racial justice, and equality.

In the 2016 General Elections, our 2 sons, Krish (10) & Aryan (9) joined us at the polls to vote, where me, my parents, and Neelam made our selections and our sons turned the dials and pressed the buttons communicating it to the government and election officials. It bought a big smile to the whole family when the official ballot was being printed to double confirm as we pressed the accept red-button.

As a first-generation American, voting has always been a big deal for me and I was feeling proud and patriotic. you know, I am an immigrant and built my professional life here in the United States. I owe much to this country, as I started from nothing to my education and the opportunity to build a company here to the safety to raise a beautiful family in an encouraging, inclusive, and diverse society. I feel a moral obligation to take a stand on social issues and spread enthusiasm. Turnout is just going to be critical in this election.

The Voting process instills positive lessons about responsibility, honor, equality, justice, patriotism, and leadership. Practicing good citizenship understanding and appreciating our responsibility for civic involvement being good stewards of the communities. Citizenship has taken roots in their kids in the form of 2 young voters who became engaged in the voting process, owning the responsibilities and privileges of American citizenship making them true patriots. Voting reinforces respect for people and it’s very important that kids inherit a great country and just not a great history. Take the young Voters of tomorrow to the polls today, as they will be empowered for the future. This is their chance to be part of history and emerging as PROUD Citizens who’d done a citizen’s noble work.

Voters are the future of this country and continue to practice kindness, compassion, and respect for others building bridges of love and respect. No matter how divided you might be, Voting is your right and shared experience, a process that everyone should feel proud about as United Americans. You can also choose to go out and volunteer at a local precinct of your preference to call on your friends and families to vote. You may even help them and talk through policies with them. Whatever you do, exercise your right to vote, help someone else do the same, and make a positive difference. more importantly, GO VOTE!

For us, the policy is non-partisan and designed to give employees, some of whom may be voting for the first time, the chance to make lasting changes and be part of the community and the American Dream. No American should have to choose between a paycheck and fulfilling his or her duty as a citizen,

Voting matters even @ 85 in a wheelchair, with my father’s failing eyesight, Dad cast his vote and he made me read the names on the ballot and told us which one to mark for him. That was his purpose of action contributing his abilities and right to Vote, his voice to be heard making a positive impact. Living a value-centered life is highly rewarding and gratifying for our family.

With the Covid-19 pandemic, it feels we all are just searching for pathways to connect and not to feel discouraged, not to feel pessimistic and not so powerless. Right now, the needs of our country, our community and citizens are right in front of our faces and we must not ignore it. Everyone is trying to tear us apart, but we need to heal now.

GOD BLESS AMERICA.

Sunil Tolani

Los Angeles, CA


If you would like your opinion or perspective expressed at India Currents, do not hesitate to contact editor@indiacurrents.com with a submission or note. We are open to all voices, only barring hate speech and misinformation. 

Letters to India Currents: 9/29/20

This is with regard to the recent article published by Dr. Majmudar,

Normalcy after the Pandemic

The article is very timely and the attention it brings to mental health, particularly of children is heartening. Children, besides their vulnerability and being at an impressionable age, have paid the highest price. We would like to hear more about what can be done by parents and communities to help them. The article sheds light on many aspects, it is brief but dense.

Have we mastered our learned lessons or will our fickle memory sequester it in oblivion?” is the question put forth by the author Dr. Majmudar.

The tragedy and loss is a  great teacher. The lessons taught by it are of a lifetime– it could be bitter or sweet. It is Our choice, what we make of it. 

One big lesson, I hope that we all learnt during these testing times is – How few are our NEEDS and how much load of WANTS we have been carrying.

In our search for independence and self-reliance we had forgotten the eternal truth – life is possible only by codependence and cooperation.

The author has done well in reminding us of our role and responsibilities. And the gratitude we all owe to those on the front line.

“The course of our actions will let us see who we are and who we are not. ”

So well stated by the author and it forces us to give a hard look at ourselves, our actions/inactions.

Thanks!

Vimal Nikore


If you would like your opinion or perspective expressed at India Currents, do not hesitate to contact editor@indiacurrents.com with a submission or note. We are open to all voices, only barring hate speech and misinformation. 

Letters to India Currents: 9/22/20

A response to the previous Letter to India Currents. 

Dear Vandana Kumar, 

Black Lives Matter, also relates to our own sordid chapter in the history of the Indian diaspora.  For those of us who arrived in the fifties, sixties and decades before, have experienced the white heat of racial discrimination, insults, and rejection like our black brothers and sisters.  The difference is that as a group we spread tentacles to connect with other brown folks for support, and pushed forward.  A friend, retired president and CEO of a silicon valley business, related his viewpoint as a matter of fact.  I saved enough, working as an engineer to buy the business and then broke the glass ceiling to reach the top.

Looking forward, most of us ended up in a better place as engineers, doctors lawyers, while giving our offsprings a head start.  African Americans, Natives Americans, and Hispanic Americans, unfortunately, suffered many more setbacks due to poor education, weak support systems, and outright discrimination. That is perhaps an oversimplification. It behooves us, however, to be sympathetic to those who are less fortunate.

If it helps, let us remind ourselves that only a generation or two ago, we were under a brutal colonial rule in India.  Most can trace their lineage to parents who fought, resisted, revolted, and gave birth to a nation called India.  I am proud to say, that my mother led Azaadi marches at the age of 15 in Bombay. For her work, she was awarded a handwoven Khadi blouse made by Kasturba. The progressive mindset is in our bloodstream.  Change for the better is natural. MLK said in his ‘I dream’ speech,  paraphrasing, I dream of the day when White, Black, Brown, will share and live together happily. Please continue to highlight progressive views, because that is the path of enlightenment, I trust the mission of India Currents.

– Satish Chohan


If you would like your opinion or perspective expressed at India Currents, do not hesitate to contact editor@indiacurrents.com with a submission or note. We are open to all voices, only barring hate speech and misinformation. 

Indian American Writer Learns From a 17th Century Dutch Woman

I recently celebrated the cover reveal for my debut novel The Company Daughters: A Heart-Wrenching Colonial Love Story. For me, it was the culmination of a long, difficult journey to publication.

I started writing this book nearly ten years ago. I was in the middle of a stressful divorce, raising three kids under the age of five, and I had returned to grad school for a career change from lawyer to English professor. By the Indian standards and expectations I’d grown up with, I felt like an utter failure. 

Every morning I forced myself out of bed before my children woke up and wrote at my kitchen table, accompanied by a hot cup of coffee and the familiar scent of the temple incense my father brought back from India. I wanted to write a story that addressed colonialism and other systems of power, and when I found a footnote mentioning a 17th-century picture bride policy of the Dutch East India Company, I couldn’t resist the pull of exploration. I shelved my fear of failure and the persistent feelings of inadequacy that often plague the immigrant offspring navigating community expectations. I plowed on. 

I read hundreds of articles. Studied maps. Perused books about 17th-century Dutch furniture, glass bead factories, shipping routes, forest glass blowers, and illnesses of the time. I traveled to Amsterdam, spending hours at the Rijksmuseum examining the furniture collection and still life paintings. I took a boat trip through Amsterdam’s canals and pretended to be my main character, impoverished, hungry Jana, trudging down the city’s narrow, meandering streets hundreds of years ago. 

At times, I thought, “How can I, an Indian-American woman in the 21st century, know anything about a 17th-century Dutch woman?” 

And then I remembered the books of my childhood, written by white authors who occasionally populated their books with Indian characters, mere props for white narratives. I wanted to know about these peripheral characters, to hear about their lives, their stories.

In writing The Company Daughters, I hoped to give my main character the complexity and humanity I often saw lacking in representations of Indian characters in books and on TV during my childhood. I wanted to avoid the pitfalls of white savior narratives while providing a glimpse into the colonial world and its hierarchies—structures of power that persist today.

And in connecting with people from other time periods, other cultures, other languages, I found shared humanity uniting us across centuries. Common desires for justice, love, freedom, and understanding that persist now. In my efforts to render a 17th-century Dutch woman sent across the world to marry a stranger, I began to recognize my own desire for agency, freedom, and a new life. 

I wish I could say that from that point on all went smoothly, but that is the fantasy of every writer, and the reality is much, much messier. Many people told me to give up on this dream. I don’t have an MFA. I didn’t know anything about writing a book or getting an agent. But I loved reading, an act which provided comfort whenever I felt lonely or alienated. And the characters kept “talking” to me. And I kept listening. 

Writing saved me. The steadiness of my characters’ voices in my mind alleviated the crushing loneliness of single parenthood. When I could not share my daughter’s newest milestones with anyone, I recorded them in scenes of my book (later excised). And when I was without my children, the insistence of my characters’ stories gave me purpose even as my heart ached with each separation.

Change can be incremental, and other times change comes on like a monsoon—heavy and relentless. In my author’s journey, I had a mix of both. I had the encouragement of my Creative Writing instructor at Stanford, and I had friends and family, worried by the potential for disappointment, who advised me not to get my hopes up, to consign writing to a weekend hobby. 

As an Indian-American writer, I was often conflicted with the requirements of my culture and the desires of my hidden self. Shouldn’t I use my time more productively? Shouldn’t I focus on activities with an assured financial return? Was I being a responsible mother?

But that’s not what writers do. We pursue the impractical, the impossible, the incredible, in spite of—perhaps because of—our ongoing dance with self-doubt, inadequacy, and fear. We ferret away moments for writing like squirrels stuffing acorns into knotholes. Waking before the sunrise to write, writing in our cars, committing lines to memory while waiting in checkout queues, eking out moments for creativity from the myriad of mindless routines that comprise a life. Describe the smile on that woman’s face. Observe the shape of that shadow.

In the end, the “monsoon” of my writing career was being selected as a Pitch Wars mentee. I landed my agent soon after and was offered my book deal another year after that. 

A book deal sounds so easy when the journey is reduced to a few hundred words. It was anything but. My debut novel is about a young woman hungry for life, love, justice, freedom, and reprieve, as I was. But it was a long journey, with starts and fits, highs and lows–as it should be. Writing is an act of transposition. When we are writing, we are writing our lives onto the page in some way or another. Every paragraph and chapter deleted, expanded, revised, and revised again promises a transformation in our characters. But those same moments open us up to the possibility of transformation in our own lives as well. That process is what made me a writer, and brought me to myself. 


Samantha Rajaram is a former attorney, solo mother of three, and English professor in the Bay Area. Her debut novel, The Company Daughters will be published in the US and UK this October. 

I Refuse to Be Called an ABCD

Masala In Ur Dosa – A column addressing identity through the lens of a Telugu Indian-American in conversation with his South Asian peers.

“I like pizza, and I like camping, and hiking with my dad”, my classmate shared with me on the very first day of first grade in the United States.

I remember thinking to myself in Telugu (my mother tongue) that I had no idea what he had said. “Pizza? Camping? Hiking?”. It was the first moment I realized that there was something different about me.  I felt lost. The feeling was a visceral one that would become a familiar and frequent feeling over the next 26 years of my life in the United States. A feeling that can only be described as a mismatch between my external perceptions and my internal being at my very core.

As I grew older, I obviously grew to love the savory Italian dish, and I even grew to love walking through nature and appreciating its beauty while sleeping in tents overnight. But as I met others like me, I soon learned that this feeling was the seedling of the identity crisis that will continue to cause a chasm in the souls of many young South Asians growing up outside of India.

My confusion with identity did not stem from a lack of awareness of food items and outdoor activities, but rather from confronting my parents’ core values compared to mine. I’ve since adopted what they’ve considered “American Values” while still keeping some of my “Desi Values.”

I am part of a generation that is only now recognizing and accepting its new identity. This identity is far greater than the once common yet cringey acronym, “ABCD” (American Born Confused Desi). What led up to this self-acceptance? A slow rise in visibility of the South Asian identity in community and media spaces. It spurred the never-ending conversation about identity amongst first, second, third-generation immigrants.

‘Masalainurdosa’

What was once an Instagram handle that my cheeky 21-year-old self came up with to arrogantly describe the spice and the “stuff” that makes the beloved South Indian dish has now inspired the identity of my new platform to showcase the “stuff” that makes up South Asian diaspora.

I hope to bring on people from all walks of life, all South Asian backgrounds, and speak with them about their journey with their identity. Through meaningful conversations and discussions, I hope to address the complexities and nuances that exist in how our South Asian culture and heritage mixes with our daily lives. I want to showcase conversations from South Asians who are exploring and defining their identity through their careers, art, music, and writing.

While acknowledging that our families have introduced us to our cultures, the platform prioritizes the voices of the younger and newest generations to show the ever-transforming ways people are resonating with South Asian culture – beyond language, behaviors, regions, or caste.

My hope is for the South Asian diaspora to realize that one’s unique and individual identity should be celebrated unmarked by cultural or generational expectations of the country you are born in. If any of this strikes a chord with you, check out my Instagram for regular updates, and my YouTube channel.


Prithvi Ganesh Mavuri, MD is an Internal Medicine physician in the Southeast region in the United States. However, his other passion lies in learning about South Asian languages and cultures.

Letters to India Currents: 9/15/20

Dear Vandana Kumar,

I have been an avid reader of IC for several years. I have enjoyed your magazine and website until recently. Lately, your content has been disappointing, leaving me with a bitter taste. Every week I let it pass but felt like now I had to write to you.

I find your recent content very biased, leaning towards subjects of identity, race politics, and pushing only liberal agendas. you represent the Indian American community as if we all live in California and are trendy hipsters in a protest.

I was a teacher for many years and see the enthusiasm and future of young people, but I also see a lack of experience and understanding of life’s complexities. Even though your new writers like Srishti Prabha and Kanchan Naik are good writers, their understanding is very young. And you definitely do not feature different sides of issues.

I was very disappointed when in the first week of BLM protests IC came out with a solidarity message. You pushed and keep pushing similarities between the Black and Indian communities. Please get your facts rights!!

I believe in racial equality but I also believe in the success of the American dream. While the intentions were correct, this mass movement also has an extremist, communist bent that you have not reported, instead of glorifying them. Please read Khabar Magazine’s editorial by Parthir Parekh. In spite of a very democratic outlook, he addresses extremism in this movement and presents its perils like looting, threatening, violence, lack of tolerance, communism, and lack of diverse opinions.

As an Indian American who has worked hard had been rewarded with a good life in America, I do not want to side with your views! If this country was so bad, we would not have survived here and IC would not be in business.

As media, you should be a neutral place to exchange views, especially as a community online magazine. You or your staff can have personal views on this matter but should not promote them under the name of IC.

I understand with the election year things are hot but you are not a corporation unless you are funded by agencies asking you to present only leftist and racist points of view, in that case, you might be another sell-out.

I hope you can provide more balanced content. If not, I will sadly not be logging on anymore.

Sincerely,

Neelima Sheth

Atlanta, Ga

P.S. Being an immigrant has more complexities than just race. It is not so one dimensional.

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If you would like your opinion or perspective expressed at India Currents, do not hesitate to contact editor@indiacurrents.com with a submission or note. We are open to all voices, only barring hate speech and misinformation. 

Emerging From My Corona Cocoon

Just like everyone else, I remember where I was when the COVID-19  lockdown was announced. It struck as the school year was growing to a close in India. Thanks to it, the school where I worked closed down prematurely, and boy, was I happy about it. Fate laughed in my face just a few days later when just about everything locked down, and I understood a weird thing about myself.

I had been wanting some days to myself, where I could stay home, and forget about work. It happened. I wanted to stay in and not go out, vegetate at home completely. That happened. I wanted to concentrate on my home and my family. That happened too.

An ideal situation, yes, but just one caveat – it was not on my terms. Fate was forcing me to have a holiday. Every person I talked to said the same thing. Most of us being average salaried employees with a little money in the bank to fall back upon, we finally had some time to rest up and have family time. But to a man and woman, we resented it. To us, ‘it was the best of times, it was the worst of times’.

By the end of Lockdown 3, I’d truly had it. I got exactly what I asked for, but because it was imposed on me, I was PO-ed. As a family, we had maintained a kind of guarded peace at home, but we all knew that we were nearing the end of our tethers.

I had wild dreams about what I’d do the instant lockdown lifted. Not exactly floating on pastel-colored clouds, laughing for no reason and blowing bubbles, but something of the kind that was more suited to an obese 50-year-old. Visiting the library, going out with like-minded friends to chat over coffee and pakodas, catching a movie with family, going clothes shopping, that kind of thing. You know, all the normal things people like to do that won’t break the bank.

Fate gave me the break I wanted. But the tab, when it came, was huge. Coming out of lockdown, nothing was normal, and I just didn’t know what to do. I wanted to go out, but go out where and do what? 

Meeting friends was out – nobody wanted to come to my house and nobody wanted me at theirs. I could shop for essentials, but where was the fun in buying atta and chili powder? Therapeutic shopping, where you buy what you don’t need with money you don’t have and suffer guilt pangs for days, was out because the malls weren’t open yet. Eating out was out … unless you wanted to picnic on the sidewalk – restaurants were only doing takeout. You couldn’t travel … heck, you couldn’t leave town because the city limits were closed.

I could go for a walk, but that would be just lame – like chewing on a carrot stick when you’ve got major cheesecake cravings. 

And then there was the psychological component. Fear was an overwhelming factor. I’d heard stories from my father about how, during the plague, they would vacate their house if they saw a dead rat. In the case of Corona, there wasn’t any overt sign at all. Any desire to meet anyone was overridden by the trepidation – were they symptomless carriers? Even if they were clean, who had they met?

Those were the insidious things about COVID – suspicion and misgiving. What if the person I’m talking to was carrying the virus? S/he just sniffed – was s/he sick? Was that a Corona sniff or generic? Why? You might give people heart attacks by just sneezing. 

 Ever since my childhood, I’ve always loved to ride in auto rickshaws. When we moved back to India, I had got back in my auto habit without missing a beat. Since I was too chicken to drive, I took autos everywhere to the extent that I became the patron saint of the ‘auto men’ at our street corner. But now with Corona dominating the landscape inside and out, it became an effort to commit to an auto ride. Yes, things that I’d taken for granted became painful decisions. 

When it came to food, it got weirder. The cooks, the deliverymen … and even the food – all were suspect. And, why was I paying the big bucks when I had all the ingredients at home and all the time in the world to cook it? It just felt wrong. Dang, I was becoming my mother!

So, where I had thought I couldn’t wait to get out, I was now afraid to leave the house. I wasn’t winning this game, I wasn’t even breaking even. Aargh, what was I to do?

That was when I got an invite … for a puja at a friend’s place! It was just perfect! I had a legitimate excuse to get out. I could actually meet people other than family. Also, though I’m not very religious, I believe in hedging my bets. It might not be a bad idea to work myself into His good books. Or Hers. And finally, I’d be eating someone else’s cooking – you just can’t refuse prasad, don’t you know?

Now came the preparations to step out. In India, by some association, silk and gold are related to prayer and religious observances in India and it is practically law that you must wear a silk sari to a religious ceremony. Who was I to question this hoary tradition … especially since I had a new silk sari with a newly stitched matching blouse that actually fit me? 

Dressing to go out took forever. I had always been quite at home in saris as I’d worn them since I was 18, but the two months of dressing down in pajama bottoms and tank tops had taken its toll. Draping the sari took 10 minutes longer than normal and it felt horribly uncomfortable. Wearing bangles or bracelets had been a pre-COVID habit too. I snapped on my watch and put on a bunch of gaily-colored bangles – and instantly felt like I was manacled. I put on a gold chain (remember the unwritten law?) and felt like a middle-aged street dog forced into a collar for the first time. As for when I put on some lipstick, I felt like a painted woman. It felt all wrong.

However, being made out of strong stuff, I sailed across the threshold all manacled and chained … only to have my husband call me back.

“Haven’t you forgotten something?” he asked. I had my purse, I had my handkerchief, I had some Tupperware in case of leftover prasad … what else did I need?

He held out a black cotton mask. I stared at it, full realization hitting me. Putting it on, I realized bitterly that I might as well have been wearing an old nightie. At least, I’d have been more comfortable.

A drive in an auto restored some of my mood. When I got there, however, I was greeted not by the usual tray with haldi, kumkum, and flowers, but by the lady of the house holding out hand sanitizer. The penetrating smell of the chemical didn’t vibe with the look and feel of puja. The place looked like a masquerade ball or a massive hold-up with everyone wearing masks. I couldn’t recognize most faces and blundered around until the puja began.

To me, pujas have always been a time for my mind to wander. After the first suklam baradaram vishnum, my mind took off as usual. It is hard to focus during a puja when there isn’t anything specific to focus on. Priests can say just about any shloka they want and get away with it as long as they are careful to insert some well-known ones in between. It may be pouring for hours, leaving everyone blaming global warming, while it is only the priest next door reciting the Varuna Japa shlokas for a Ganapathi puja. 

Then it was time for the unmasking … the eating, that is. The fare was simple, but delicious. As I tucked into the uppittu with coconut chutney and kesari baath, I finally felt at home. That was when I realized that it is the smallest things that make up normality – things like family and friends gathering for a meal, trading little jokes, laughing together. Meeting, catching up with each other. Taking selfies and pictures of unsuspecting people tucking into food. Laughing at silly things and sharing sad news. 

I came away, reassured. No matter what, Corona can never take that away from us.


Lakshmi Palecanda moved from Montana, USA, to Mysore, India, and inhabits a strange land somewhere in between the two. Having discovered sixteen years ago that writing was a good excuse to get out of doing chores, she still uses it.

Embracing the Abnormal

Embracing the Abnormal

A rather unusual situation 

culprits with no prior records

leaving only a trail of devastation! 

New victims captured each day,

punished differently than the other.

 

Anger, dismay, denial about the situation.

Authorities trying their best to handle.

 

Not knowing how to cope with the new adversity

but gradually accepting it, trying to make sense

of the world and lives falling apart.

Grappling to hang on to any support

pretending to have found an anchor but 

knowing it was just a precarious hold.

 

Lives altered forever, scars and wounds 

too deep, fractures probably never healing!

Those lucky to escape the captors’ cruel grips

knew freedom would never feel the same. 

Those who hadn’t been captured lived 

in perpetual fear of the captors! 

 

Life had come to a long pause

with no reset button, no answers, no comfort! 

The only way out was to Accept and 

Embrace the New Abnormal!!!


Anita R Mohan is a poet and freelance contributor from Fairfax, Virginia.

Finding Poetry as Sanctuary

Poetry/Song-writing came to me when I was around 16 years old. Until then, I had no taste or interest in the poems that I had to mandatorily read and memorize as a part of my school curriculum. At that time, the school was the only place where I got any exposure to poetry or writing. I was not the kind of boy who would bother to go out of his way to buy a novel or a book of poems.

However, when I did read poems in my school textbooks, I enjoyed reading the works of William Blake, George Cooper, and numerous poems which now float around in my mind only as faint images of reverberating words superimposed on top of the faces of my friends, teachers, and the places where I spent most of my childhood and teenage years.

Fast forward to 2019, and I found out that I had been writing for nine years now. I came to the conclusion one introspective evening after a recent move to San Francisco from Los Angeles, that a disparate amount of poems I had written all revolved around the broad themes of unrequited love, admiration of the lover, and just silly love songs. Sure, there was nothing wrong about having a consistent theme across your work. But I did feel that I was quite limited in the way I was repeating my experiences over and over again. It is strange that we choose to feel what we already know.

Until that point, I had thought that new life experiences were capable of enabling new channels of creative outlets. On the contrary, it was the opposite. It was, in fact, the conglomeration of beliefs, attitudes, personality, biases, and a myriad of factors that decided what one was actually capable of experiencing.


How many times does one need to fall in love before he can write about love with the utmost veracity? In clinical psychology, it is said that people high on Agreeableness tend to divide their lives into epochs dictated by the romantic relationships they have had at the time. Boy, was I agreeable! That was all that I was writing about. A psychologist may have recommended an assertiveness training for me, but instead, I just chose to diversify my writing style a bit.

I was lucky to have found a poetry group in the city through the Meetup app that year. I was blown away by the sheer magnitude of talent that was concentrated in a radius of 15 feet around me. These were people that I couldn’t have met anywhere else in the whole world. Hanging out with them had opened up new doors of perception and possibilities for me. Of course, it wasn’t apparent that I would associate with them in the very first meeting. Still, I gradually started to open up to this group of oddly passionate people who appreciated some of my eeriest poetries that would otherwise bring two likes for a friend list of 1500 people on my Facebook.

Now it is 2020 and right before the COVID lockdown, I was fortunate enough to become a rather regular member of this group called Poetry of Diaspora in Silicon Valley which, hosts a poetry circle through video conferencing apps each Saturday.

Writing and reciting poetry has ever-changing meanings for each individual.

At times, poetry is a psychological toolkit that enables me to express my feelings in a way that others perceive as novel and a work of art. On some occasions, poetry becomes the irrefutable divine law of nature that each man inherits but of which loses the appreciation as his life progresses into taking upon an increasing amount of responsibilities.

At other times, poetry is how one could showcase their intellectual fitness and creativity to a member of the opposite gender that they’d like to woo. Poetry is also that friend who comes to sit down with you in solidarity when the world seems too chaotic or too orderly (in a dystopian way) as you look outside your apartment window and say, “Man! None of this makes sense!”

Poetry can be your very own self when you have successfully identified your being as an entity compartmentalized into several flavors manifested out of a hitchhiker’s diary describing his journey across the country.

Poetry can also be this:

The Paranoid

 

In a world with so many places to see,

I’ve never seen a tree that touches the sky.

Tangerines so high, invite me for a tea,

In a treehouse with nobody else but you and I.

 

And in a treehouse so green,

There are places where I’d like to be:

 

In your arms, in your eyes,

Watching you gaze, the paranoid.

 

In a country with so many people to meet,

I’ve never seen a man reading from a monocle.

Sidewalks so alone, hear them greet –

that lonesome band dressed in canonicals​.

 

And with a band so quiet,

There are places where I’d like to sleep:

 

In your arms, for a hundred years,

Hearing the sound of the paranoid.

 

At a clinic with so many beds to sweep,

I’ve never seen a bed with strangers on a feast

Nurses so shy, ignoring those who weep

They only smile to pacify the familiar beasts

 

And along the rooms so sterile,

There are tables you’d like to clean:

 

In your hands, a surgical knife

Watching you operate the paranoid.

*****

Regardless of how I conceptualized this abstract phenomenon of poetry, this group had made me feel that I wasn’t the only one trying to make sense out of the daily experiences and operations of the human ordeals and pleasures.

This article is part of the column – Poetry as Sanctuary – where we explore poetry as a means of expression for voices of the South Asian Diaspora. 


Vishal Vatnani is a man as ordinary as you can imagine. He is a 26-year-old data analyst working in San Francisco for a Fintech company. He enjoys writing poetry, playing guitar, reading self-help books, and slaving away his days working.

Former IC Intern Releases Anticipated Book

Shruti Swamy’s debut collection of stories A House is a Body is a highly anticipated volume, after the potential displayed in the publication of her stories in journals like the Paris Review, Prairie Schooner, Kenyon Review Online among others. She is also a two-time winner of the O’ Henry Prize. It might interest our readers to know that Shruti worked as an intern at India Currents long before her fiction became widely known.

Short stories as a genre are more difficult to market than long fiction forms like the novel or even the non-fictional genre of the memoir. In the South Asian American literary archive, short story collections that have had a profound effect on audiences and changed our expectations forever include Bharati MukherjeeThe Middleman and Other Stories and Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Interpreter of Maladies. More recently Neel Patel’s If You See Me, Don’t Say Hi also earned the distinction of becoming New York Times Book Review’s Editor’s Choice and NPR Best Book of the year. Swamy’s collection although firmly rooted in the tradition of diasporic South Asian American writing is charting new and unexplored territory.

What distinguishes Swamy’s collection is the persistent presence of trauma, loss, female vulnerability, and fulfillment in a transnational and transhistorical contexts.

While some stories like the last one in the collection “Night Garden,” invoke a very specific geographic landscape, others like “The Siege” and “Earthly Pleasures” seem to flow effortlessly between the genres of realism, mythology, and magical realism.

In “Earthly Pleasures” Swamy plays with the theme of unrequited love of a lonely female artist for a celebrity named Krishna, invoking the myth structuring the Bhakti tradition of India: Radha’s love for her divine and unattainable lover, Krishna. This unrequited love gets replayed in the medieval poet/ devotee Mira’s longing for Krishna which produces a flowering of her poetry. Similarly, Krishna is an earthly pleasure for Swamy’s protagonist Radhika and also her creative muse and obsession.

In “The Seige” Swamy weaves a story that resembles an Indian fable where an old queen is abandoned by her husband and loses her sons in battle.  This story may be read entirely as a fable, a throwback to an earlier pre-modern, feudal world of female victimhood, but it connects thematically to several other stories of spousal abandonment in contemporary North America. For example, “The Laughter Artist” and the title story “The House is a Body” as well as the final story “Night Garden” dwell on themes of husbands leaving their wives, sometimes on the abyss of despair and destruction. In both these stories, the husband or male partner who has left is a shadowy, indeterminate presence, but the effects of this abandonment are registered on the traumatized family.

In “The House is a Body,” the abandoned wife goes through the distracted motions of caring for a sick daughter whose skin is burning with fever, even as a wild California forest fire forces her to pack the detritus of her broken life and memories as she waits to get rescued, while almost succumbing to a desire to be destroyed by the fire.

In “Night Garden,” we witness a woman’s bond with her dog who protects her home from the attack of a cobra, holding steadfast to his task of guarding the home over the course of a night. The implicit comparison is evoked between the loyalty of the woman’s animal companion juxtaposed with the fickleness of her human partner who has abandoned her.

Swamy’s exploration of loss is not limited only to the loss of romantic love. In some stories, she touches on the loss of children or the loss of parents. In “Mourners,” a young infant is barely aware of the trauma of the loss of her mother which is being processed by her father and aunt. In “Didi,” in a rare moment of grasping his daughter’s fears, a father reveals to her the loss of her older brother in gestation. Even more unfathomable is the loss of a brother in “My Brother at the Station,” where a sister stalks her brother’s ghostly presence from the station to an apartment, only to realize that she could not cross the threshold and do her parents’ bidding and “beg him to return home.”  Sometimes, the elegiac quality of loss changes to the more jagged depiction of domestic violence registered on the bodies of women, in “Neighbors,” hidden by sense of shame and not acknowledged by other women even when revealed.

The most joyful story in this collection is “Wedding Season.” which is an unabashed celebration of a lesbian relationship between a South Asian woman and her white female partner who are attending a heterosexual wedding in India. Even though they have not come out to their families, they revel in their surreptitious intimacy interspersed among the wedding rituals.

Swamy is masterful in her use of spare prose to evoke the most harrowing psychological experiences. Her stories span a variety of styles and genres from realism to mythic representations. Reading her stories is akin to reading poetry or entering into a dream state. Her characters seem sometimes to be indistinguishable from story to story.  They are not sufficiently varied and sometimes seem unidimensional in their experiences as survivors of trauma. Swamy is skillful in depicting characters on the brink of psychological collapse, but she rarely provides any experiences that offset their abjectness. Perhaps in the future, we will see more of her satiric commentary and sly humor which is offered fleetingly in “Wedding Season.”

The India Currents team is filled with pride to see Shruti Swamy’s burgeoning career after her time with IC and is here to cultivate the next generation of writers. Reach out to editor@indiacurrents.com if you’d like to work or intern with India Currents!


Lopamudra Basu is a professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Stout. She grew up in Calcutta and currently lives in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.