Tag Archives: #desivoice

The sky (Image by Saumya Balasubramanian)

My Son’s Pandemic Ponderings: Why is Our Sky Not Green?

Due to the pandemic, my son and I have been thrown together a lot more than usual. Walks take on a gentle curious hue that is relished by us both. He is definitely more energetic than I am, but somehow I seem to thrive in the glow of his energy too, so all is well. Our walks are often talk-fests. The elementary school-going son, like many children his age, pulls a full why-wagon with him wherever he goes. The questions tumble out with ease, and can be anywhere on the spectrum:

They are all fair game.

Sunset (Image by Saumya Balasubramanian)
Sunset (Image by Saumya Balasubramanian)

Sometimes, of course, his questions chip away at the stoutest of theories. For instance, a few years ago, as we mooned about the hills overlooking the bay at sunset and taking in the shades of pinks, oranges, blues, grays, purples, and reds, he said, Why is the sunset never green?

Now, that is a perfectly valid question with a perfectly scientific answer. However, it had me stumped, for it never occurred to me to ask that particular question. I remember being awed a few years ago when the children had drawn rust and pink-colored skies when asked to imagine a sky for their imaginary world. 

How often do we take the time to question things that just are? It is thanks to the young and curious minds of the children that I stop to ponder about these things and enjoy the joy of wonder.

In the Pale Blue Dot by Carl Sagan, he comes up with a marvelous chapter on determining the planetary world one is in simply based on the color of the sky. This is the kind of leap in imagination, where only deep thought and research can take you, and here he was, simply giving it away in a book. All his marvelous thought processes, his wonder of the world, his eternal curiosity, and scientific rigor just laid out on a page so we could embrace it in one simple reading. 

“The color of the sky characterizes the world. Plop me down on any planet in the Solar System, without seeing the gravity, without glimpsing the ground, let me take a look at the sun and the sky, and I can, I think, pretty well tell you where I am, That familiar shade of blue, interrupted here and there by fleecy white clouds, is a signature of our world. “ – Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot

Pale Blue Dot
Pale Blue Dot

The essay, Sacred Black , in the book, Pale Blue Dot is well worth reading. He explains the reasoning behind the colors of the planets as we see them. He deduces the color of the sky based on the elements found in their atmospheres. 

  1. Venus, he says, probably has a red sky.
  2. Mars has a sky that is between ochre and pink much like the colors of the desert.
  3. Jupiter, Saturn – worlds with such giant atmospheres such that sunlight hardly penetrates it, have black skies. He talks about this bleak expanse of a sky being interrupted here and there by strokes of lightning in the thick mop of clouds surrounding the planets. This image does make for a sober shiver for someone who loves the sky and its myriad attractions. Imagine, not being able to see the stars, the sun, or anything beyond the clouds.
  4. Uranus & Neptune have an uncanny, austere blue color. The distant sunlight reaches a comparatively clean atmosphere of hydrogen, helium, and methane in these planets. The skies may be blue or green at a certain depth resulting in an aquamarine or an ‘unearthly blue’.

He shows us how in the absence of an atmosphere, an inky deep purple is all there is – how our planet is only a pale blue dot floating in an inky void illumined by a ray of light from the sun. Our eyes may not show us green colors in the sky at sunset, but it does detect plenty of green in the flora around us. The colors in the visible spectrum of light make for a marvelous world, but what if our eyes had evolved differently? How would life have been? 

I read bits and pieces of the chapter to the son one evening, and he had that look of intense concentration as if imagining a hundred worlds with thousands of possibilities of the sky. When I smiled at the end and said, ‘So, how do you like it?”

He grinned his approval and said, “Awesome!”

In June 2014, Mangalyaan, launched by India in November 2013, became the first Asian orbiter to stay in Martian orbit, and sent many high-resolution images from the Martian orbit for us to analyze. The Martian Magic continues with the rovers now on Mars. From the earliest times of ancient civilizations, the ‘wanderers’ have enthralled mankind. Behaving differently from the thousands of stars visible to the naked eye, the planets were the first teasers on a long journey through Aryabhatta, Johannes Kepler, Galileo Galilei to Mars missions and rovers. The first puzzle in understanding the cosmos and our place in it.

A few days later, the son came charging into the room in the middle of his school day – “Amma! Amma! You will like this. I just came to tell you this! The Mars landing just happened!”

There is something special in being able to watch the Mars Perseverance Rover land on Mars during the day with your fellow explorer. The video attests to Carl Sagan’s deductions. The Martian atmosphere does look pinkish red with heavily desert hues. The son & I looked outside at the beautiful blue sky with reassuringly white clouds flitting by. We were admiring the clouds in the Bay Area in California while thinking of Mangalyaan launched from India. The missions launched from halfway across the world. The cosmic arena is truly a unifier – to design and perceive the grand universe, the scale of the experiments requires international co-operation as the International Space Station, LIGO experiments, and the Mars pictures attest.

Flora and fauna (Image by Saumya Balasubramanian)
Flora and fauna (Image by Saumya Balasubramanian)

Science took us to Mars with the reddish sky, but it was the blue sky with white clouds that enabled us to dream.

Throughout the following week, the little cosmologist in the house interspersed our Earthly life with Mars-ly anecdotes and clips. 

One evening, we sat together huddled up, watching pictures stitched together from the 3 Mars rovers: Opportunity, Curiosity, Perseverance. Barren desert landscapes, not unlike those in the Sahara desert or the Arizonian deserts, are all the rovers could see. 

The one thing that the Martian landscape reinforces to me, is that our Earth is a beautiful planet – so vast in its diversity, and lifeforms. The Martian pictures make me want to go out and sigh and fall in love, look after, and cherish the one planet we can thrive on. To admire the miracle that is every tree, every lake, every cloud, every blade of grass, and every flower. 

“A blade of grass is a commonplace on Earth; it would be a miracle on Mars. “ – Carl Sagan

If Martian 4K resolution images have taught me anything, it is to buckle down and look after the one planet we do have. I talk to my son about this – It is his generation that will adopt the new skies. 


Saumya Balasubramanian writes regularly at nourishncherish.wordpress.com. Some of her articles have been published in the San Francisco Chronicle, The Hindu, and India Currents. She lives with her family in the Bay Area where she lilts along savoring the ability to find humor in everyday life and finding joy in the little things.


 

Math teacher writing on the board.

My Big Dreams Involve Math

It is the first day of school and I am rushing to school with my bag and laptop. I arrive at 7:30 am, ready for students to start arriving at 8:00 am. I will be teaching 7th & 8th-grade Algebra and have planned out my first day: getting to know kids, letting them get to know each other, and some fun Math activities to get an idea of their academic Math level.

My goal is to foster a love for Math.

I am interrupted by the pressure cooker whistling and am rudely reminded that this is all a dream. I am close to turning 40, just standing in my kitchen, imagining what could have been. 

Some people have dreams to change the world, reduce carbon emissions, find a cure for cancer, but I just want to teach middle school Math. It is a culmination of many things over many years that has led me to my purpose.

I was an average Math student in elementary and middle school. In fact, my parents feared I would do very badly in high school and hired a tutor. I think having my two dear friends with me in Math tuitions was a transformative experience. All of a sudden, my attitude towards Math changed. I put in hard work and reaped the results of getting a good grade in 12th. It was around that time that I also figured I enjoyed studying Computer Science and eventually, I started working as a Programmer.

I got married and moved to the USA during the dot-com boom. I was in a new country, in a new marriage, and with a new job in tech. Math was on my mind.

After the birth of my son, I stayed home and did not get much of a chance to practice Math or Programming – I had to trade it for storytime and park dates.

My son’s elementary school was a parent-participative school which meant parents could be in the classroom helping teachers. In 2005, I signed up when my son started Kindergarten and although at first, it was my way of learning the American School system, I soon found that it brought me fulfillment. I looked forward to the day where I would attend school with my son and would prepare for it. I knew that if I ever went back to work, it would be in a school setting teaching Math.

Once the goal was set, it was about continuously doing things to reach my target. With my husband traveling for work, I could not afford the time to go to college to get a degree or a credential in teaching. So, I continued to volunteer every single year and honed my teaching, communication, and lesson planning skills by observing and helping the teachers.

As I was helping my two kids, I came to a very big realization – that as fortunate as my kids are to have me teach them at home, not all kids have this luxury.

I shifted my focus to teaching kids who are falling behind or those that just need that extra help. I offered my services to teachers to help such students. It made me become patient and be a non-judgmental parent to my own kids. I definitely learned a lot from the kids I taught and I suspect, sometimes, more than what I taught them.

With my son in his senior year of high school and my daughter just a few years behind, I could not put the burden of another college degree on my family. Life is strange in that when you have time, money might be an issue and when you have money, the time might not be right. 

I decided to start at the very beginning and when an opportunity came up last year to be a middle school Math Intervention Aide, I jumped at it.

This is my second year working and I love every bit of it. My goal is to take the Single Subject Math exam which consists of three parts. Passing this exam and getting a Master’s degree in teaching will give me the certification needed to be a full-time classroom teacher. I am keeping this one in the pocket for the year 2021, a year of new possibilities. 

Now, I am in my Zoom classrooms in the morning and the pressure cooker is exchanged for an Instant Pot. Cooking and teaching can happen at the same time.

I have a long way to go to have a Math classroom of my own and but for now, I am happy. Math makes me happy. 


Vasudha Ramanrasiah is an Instructional Aide in a public school and a mother of two. She enjoys all things food, hiking, and volunteering and is passionate about helping students understand math.

Fork in the road

How Certain Are We About Uncertainty?

Certain and Uncertain

They seem to be separate antonymic words, but they are like Siamese twins. Their separate bodies, facing from opposite sides, are fused together, nurtured by the same sanguineous source. Their interdependence is the reason why they survive. If one dies, the other will follow, sooner or later.

There are many anecdotal stories in Indian, American, and global folktales that give a clear message of how we can be misled by confusion between certainty and uncertainty in real life. Heisenberg, a German physicist identified Uncertainty Principles even in Quantum Mechanics. But how do these considerations apply in our practical life?

Our Recent Pandemic:

Let us trace our own circuity of thoughts developing in the short span of this pandemic.

First, we thought it was a hoax.

Then we were certain it would be confined to China.

“It will pass away on its own.”

“No masks are necessary.”

“Masks are mandatory as advised by highly trained scientists.”

“Only old and previously diseased people die in this Pandemic.”

“Children can die too.”

“The virus kills by compromised respiration.”

“It can affect other systems too.”

“We should keep a social distance to prevent it.”

“No, We find distancing and masks to be an insufferable obstruction!” 

In short, we kept on lengthening and shortening our rubber band of the certainty-uncertainty spectrum while our rings were getting sparklingly shiny because of incessant hand washing! Washing hands was the only acceptable way out! The upcoming generation of children will put an end to this Pandemic’s uncertainties because they will know better by then. That will not stop them, however, from generating new uncertainties since the times, circumstances, and the strain of the virus are likely to alter when the next Pandemic strikes us.

Let us also look at our own selves

Some of the commonest phrases that we generously use every day are: ”Wait and watch,” “ I hardly can wait,” “I changed my mind,” “Are you sure?”, “ How can you be so sure?” etc. We always will be engaged in weaving a web of uncertainties as a modus operandi of our reflex habits.

There is a common aphorism in the Sanskrit language, “Tunde Tunde Matirbhinna,” meaning each head thinks differently. But even the same head can think differently at different times! One night we buy an item with absolute certainty, and the next morning it changes its appeal. Even in a vital matter like choosing a life partner, our certainty fluctuates until marriage seals it. In India, we often try to resolve this uncertainty by “matching horoscopes” to finalize our decision.

”Uncertainty is the very essence of romance,” said Oscar Wilde, the famous Irish author.

There are only two points that are certain in our tenaciously tethered life: Birth and Death. These two extreme points are fastened together by life itself, a miscellany of deep disappointments, Joi De  Viver, and  “delicious ambiguities”, a term coined by the famous actress Gilda Redner who succumbed to ovarian cancer at a very young age. 

 Perhaps we need to undertake a perceptive analysis of what constitutes certainty and uncertainty. 

A different approach to certainty-uncertainty complex

It helped me a great deal just by looking at the synonyms of these two enigmatic words:

Certainty: confidence, trust, conviction, faith, validity, dogmatism, clarity, composure, contentment, happiness, peace, security, calmness

Uncertainty: changeability, variability, anxiety, ambiguity, concern, confusion, distrust, suspicion, trouble, worry, dilemma, oscillation, lack of confidence

Although these synonyms depict uncertainty in darker colors, a closer analysis will reveal that certainty too, can have its drawbacks. It can push us to a blinding dogma impairing our vision. It will be judicious to build a bridge between these two extremes and skillfully traverse from one point to the other, navigated by an internal call, and cautiously master the shades between the two. It is true that the cautious seldom err, but it is also true that those who are excessively cautious seldom move. Many shades of grey connect the black and the white.

All uncertainties are likely to be experienced by someone at some time, but maturity is the capacity to endure and outgrow them. No progress or creativity is ever possible without uncertainty casting its alarming shadow on the road ahead. You pause, you ponder, you proceed, and prepare for an inadvertent result. “ Medicine is a science of uncertainty and an art of probability,” said William Osler, a mastermind of practicing and teaching medicine in this country. We all have no choice but to learn how to stay afloat in an ocean of uncertainty. 

An “Aha” or “eureka” moment may hatch after an incubation period spent in a meaningful, self-searching meditation. Many leading psychologists support this viewpoint.

In the end, I will quote our visionary poet, Robert Frost: 

I shall be telling this with a sigh, somewhere ages and ages hence,

Two roads diverged in a wood and I– I took the one less traveled by

And that has made all the difference.


Bhagirath Majmudar, M.D. is an Emeritus Professor of Pathology and Gynecology-Obstetrics at Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia. Additionally, he is a priest, poet, playwright, Sanskrit Visharada and Jagannath Sanskrit Scholar. He can be contacted at bmajmud1962@gmail.com. 

Nostalgia and Other Maladies

It has been two thousand eighty-eight days since I entered a classroom full of expectant faces waiting for me. I am a teacher, or previously, was! On a chilly December night, in 2014, I bade my best friends adieu at the Indira Gandhi International Airport, to embark on a journey that would change my life. Looking back at the foggy landscape of the city I loved, one last time, I boarded the plane with my seven-year-old daughter and four juggernaut suitcases stuffed with an abbreviated version of my life in India. Twenty-eight hours later, I landed in Lincoln, Nebraska, where a golden sunset reminiscent of an HD wallpaper greeted me. I shook my exhausted daughter out of sleep, thanked the onboard staff, and got off the plane, to start a life in a city at the other end of everything and everyone I knew.

It has been almost six years, since, and in all fairness, I have fallen in love with this country. I have grown to love the “honestly, it’s not for everyone” state of Nebraska. The humble midwestern city with its warm welcoming people, hot, dazzling summers, and bitterly cold, snowy winters, sneaked its way slowly into my heart. Miles upon miles of trails running through the city became my source of sustenance. I love walking! Being raised in a small town in West Bengal by the river Bhagirathi, I grew up walking miles every other evening, along its banks, with my father, listening to him talk about the rich ancient history of Bengal, embroidered with betrayal, bloodshed, and glory! It went on to become an unshakable habit that stayed with me! 

Trails running through Lincoln, Nebraska (Image by Saswati Sen)

Life moves slowly for the wife of a research scholar. It gave me ample time to appreciate the innumerable moments suspended in sunlight, the incredible, intricately shaped snowflakes that stuck to my windowpanes, the unbelievable double rainbow that unfolded in front of my eyes during a walk one evening after a thundershower!.

I wholeheartedly jumped into the new role of a stay-at-home mom and wife! I read voraciously, baked cakes, planned my daughter’s Halloween outfits, listened to my husband’s research goals, cooked specialty Indian dishes for the Department parties. But from the nooks and crannies of my new life, peeped my old one! Assignments, worksheets, Shakespeare, Joyce, and Conrad struggled for predominance in my leisure-languished mind. I woke up in the middle of the night, one day, worried about my next day’s lecture, only to realize that there were no classes to teach… 

I remember one of my favorite Professors talking about roots, how it spreads inside us without warning. We all carry bits and pieces of our childhood, our culture, our beliefs, and practices deep inside us. We realize this only when we migrate.

It is when an atheist’s heart skips a beat watching a video of “Dhaaker badyi” on a forgotten Ashtami evening. It is when you wish that the tall grass of the prairies were “Kaashphul”. Or when you suddenly desperately crave “phuchka” after a particularly heavy grocery run. Or when you run out in the rain, out of years of habit, only to run back inside shivering, realizing its Fall and you are in Nebraska!

A year ago, we moved to the East Coast. It has been a ‘sea’ change of surroundings. Today, I miss Lincoln like I miss India. I miss walking along the trails, waking up to tornado sirens going crazy, or snow days. I miss the old lady on the trail who had the kindest smile in the world. I miss the fragrance of chlorine and sunscreen as I lay lazily by the pool watching my daughter race her father to the deep end. I still miss teaching like an amputee misses a body part. The pain is gone, but the emptiness persists.

Nostalgia is an uninvited guest! It has a peculiar habit of finding out where you live and turning up there. As you adapt, your roots grow wings. The context changes, the music shifts to different chords, but the longing remains. You pine for different things. The subjects change, the needs change, but the ache remains constant.


Saswati Sen is a former English teacher, an avid animal lover, a food enthusiast, who runs on coffee and long walks on the beach or on the trails. When she is not holed up in her den, writing or reading, she always looks for an excuse to travel to quaint little towns with her husband and daughter to sample the local food, art, and music scene.

American Dystopia

In 1980, I read Ayn Rand’s novel, Anthem, and was struck. What a great concept: the discovery that ‘we’ was actually ‘I’, and that ‘I’ was all-important. My 20-year old self, yearning to be independent but not really knowing how, found it very alluring. But fast-forwarding 40 years, ‘I’…and I … no longer look so attractive.

Rand’s perspective seemed impressive many decades ago when it was written in reaction to communism and the USSR (where she lived the first twenty years of her life), and when the value of individualism was working to propel the US forward. However, now, taken to an extreme, that same individualism is outdated and is bringing America to its knees, both on a personal level and on a national level.

On a personal level, we have long enjoyed Hollywood’s long-running love affair with the lonely hero and visualizing ourselves as one. I don’t know about you, but advertisements have repeatedly told me that I’m worth it. Whitney Houston’s song, The Greatest Love of All struck such a chord with us because we were already in love with ourselves. And lately, a plethora of ‘I’ technologies (including hardware like mobile phones and software like Facebook) has allowed us not only to express our self-love but also to create our own silos of information. Somewhere along the line, we transitioned from a me-first society to a me-only society. We now see ourselves as individually all-powerful, invincible even, and feel we should be able to solve every problem alone. We’re in an echo chamber of one.

On a national level, capitalism – practiced in an unchecked manner and without socialist protections – has proved to be an exemplary ‘I’ concept, resulting in a growing and destructive social inequality. Strangely, this seems acceptable to many. In international relations, the US has become more isolated by pulling back from several collaborative agreements (e.g., the Iran Deal), joint ventures (e.g., Paris Climate Accord), and cooperative institutions (e.g., UNHRC, UNESCO). American culture and media have glorified the individual to such an extent that ‘we’ and concern for the group at large is thought of as weak and wimpy.

This unquestioning belief in the singular power of the ‘I’ can be delusional, leading to a vast number and array of psychological, social, national, and global problems.

Having drunk the Koolaid for the past 40 years, I do not want to be bothered to wear a mask or social distance or indeed in the future take a vaccine because ‘I’ am invincible. And I certainly don’t want to do it to save the lives of others because ‘I’ am most important. My right to carry guns not only makes me look super cool but also supersedes your right to live. If pushed, I may empathize with those of my country people who vote like me and look like me. I may extend that to those who pray like me because after all, I have God on my side. Since I am the ultimate, I do not want others around who are different: read, inferior. And while I’m at it, I do not wish to vacate the White House if I lose the election because rules do not apply to me. The individual uber allies.

And what do I care about what is happening over the border or across the ocean? I’m not there.

Eighty years ago when Rand wrote Anthem, she saw the world of ‘we’ as dystopian. Today, our world of ‘I’ is dystopian. Different perspectives are appropriate and indeed necessary at different times. We need to swing the pendulum away from the extreme ‘I’ and back towards a bit of ‘we’, and we need to do it now. It requires a difficult and fundamental shift. Fortunately, as ‘I’s, we have agency. We can act to move ourselves and our society towards ‘we’ by focusing on shared values and building a foundation of shared information.

Covid-19 could be just the first test to see if we can do that. And so far, given over 200,000 dead, the US seems to be failing it. In addition, there are many global issues looming on the horizon – like mass migrations, pandemics, and climate change – that desperately need a ‘we’ perspective and approach if we are to survive.

As I grew older, I realized the importance, the strength, and the necessity of ‘we’: family, friends, the local community, and the global network. It’s time that America grew up too.


 Ranjani Iyer Mohanty is a writer, editor, and commentator. She divides her time, energy, and passion between North America and Asia.

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. 

Bereavement in a COVIDian Era

I stood anxiously inside the ICU while my brother spoke to the doctor on duty to confirm that his report explicitly stated that our mom’s death was non-COVID related. Without that report, we had been told that we would run into issues with the city. My brother scrambled to get the report of the COVID-19 test that was taken a few days ago while our spouses tried to book the earliest slot in the crematorium to minimize contact with other mourners. My mom had just died after a five-week struggle in the hospital but dealing with the pandemic took precedence over our grieving process. 

As condolence messages started pouring in, a common thread ran through them: “How fortunate that you got to spend the last five months with your mom!” “You must be so grateful!” “The COVID-19 lockdown was a blessing in disguise for you.” “You’re so lucky.” I thought I heard a note of jealousy in one octogenarian’s voice but soon I realized it was just fear: “Your mother was so blessed. How lucky she was surrounded by her family!” Another message sounded very bizarre when I first heard. “You must be thankful that she did not die during the lockdown. We could not scatter the ashes of my father in the river Cauvery because of travel restrictions.” Rarely, these messages and conversations dwelt on my loss or my grief. 

In February, when the Coronavirus infections were still in single digits in Silicon Valley, my mom was hospitalized in Bangalore and I left for India. My mom came home after a few days. I had a return ticket for a date in March but my instincts were against returning to the US. Then India went into a countrywide lockdown, and all international flights got canceled. I got to spend the next five months with my mom, taking care of her, listening to her desires, her fears and her view of how her life had fared. We played cards, listened to music and discussed recipes.

Anandi’s mother on her birthday.

During this pandemic, some of my friends in the US lost their loved ones in India and were unable to attend the funeral in India. Some in India were also unable to travel to the funeral of their loved ones. There are so many obstacles: lack of flights, travel restrictions and quarantine rules. One friend had to ask a neighbor to take care of the funeral of a loved one. The most harrowing ones I heard were from people who lost their loved ones to COVID-19 and did not get to say their final goodbyes. There were sons who could not perform the last rites. A friend, sobbing uncontrollably, told me that she did not get to bathe and dress her mother, a daughter’s duty after the mother’s death. This coronavirus has not only killed people and financially ruined many but also has left survivors suffering from guilt and having trouble getting closure. Hence, I do understand the significance of the condolence messages I received. Besides getting time to spend with our mom, my brother and I got to do our last duties, which have become increasingly challenging during this pandemic. 

It has been a few weeks and I am home now. Some nights I wake up in a state of panic, struck by the finality of my mom’s death and it feels like someone is sitting on my chest. The other day, when I was sitting at the dining table, I thought my mom would have liked to know who brought us food on the day of her funeral, since cooking is not allowed in the house. That is the kind of question she would have asked me and I would have told her that someone whom she cared about deeply brought us food. As days pass by, often I find something I would have shared with her – a recipe or a song by a rising young singer or a visit by a friend or a relative — on our regular weekly phone calls and I grasp the impossibility of communicating with her and have trouble breathing. I feel the vacuum in my life. None of the positive things people said comfort me. Grief does not care about logic and reason. I have lost a relationship, the longest one of my life, and I do not feel fortunate. 


Anandi Lakshmikanthan is a retired software engineer. She is a co-founder of Sevalaya USA. She tutors refugee women and children. She has written short stories and reviews. 

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. 

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.