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Treatment From Mumbai to Houston: Help A Family

This is about my husband, Sanjiv Agarwal.

Sanjiv is the quintessential 40-year-old – an engineer, working as a marketing professional with an FMCG company. Full of dreams and full of life, always smiling, super intelligent, the center of attraction of any gathering, the best son to his parents, the most caring brother to her sisters, and a doting father to my 11-year-old boy. He is a young heart wanting to achieve something big and also enjoy it to the fullest. His friends would describe him as an absolute gem.

We met at our MBA school and became best friends instantaneously. While I tried to keep finding the best girlfriend for him, we both fell in love ourselves. We got married a few years later in 2007 and now we have a son who is 11-year-old and three of us were leading a small happy life.

Last year our lives turned upside down. Sanjiv was diagnosed with high-risk blood cancer – Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia B – in May 2020. We were absolutely shocked, as there is no family history of cancer. We were informed that the cure was few rounds of Chemotherapy ultimately followed by Bone Marrow Transplant. We had one day’s notice to decide and commence the Chemo as his case was very acute.

Post his first chemo, Sanjiv developed an extremely rare and troublesome fungal infection while he was immunocompromised. This got us into a vicious cycle as the fungal infection prohibited further chemo treatment without which cancer would not go away into remission. By early November, cancer showed up on his skin as leukemia deposits. His condition worsened with leukemia in the blood, leukemia in the skin, and fungal infection in the body. That’s when doctors in India raised their hands and told us that MD Anderson Hospital in Houston, USA was our best hope. By mid-November, I moved to Houston, temporarily, along with Sanjiv and my son.

Treatment is definitely possible, but prohibitively expensive. 

Doctors here are trying to balance out the chemo and infection treatment to get him ready for a Bone Marrow transplant. We are done with 2 rounds of Chemotherapy and there have been lots of complications post Chemo, and now we await BMT as a final step. BMT is a very intensive process where the body’s immune system is being rebooted and can be complicated as well. The positives news is that the leukemia in the bone marrow is under control, skin leukemia is being treated with Radiation and the bone marrow transplant is now being discussed with the best doctors here.

The last 8 months have been extremely draining for us as a family- physically, emotionally, and financially. All our life’s savings have been used up in the treatment in Mumbai and America.

I have created a Gofundme page: https://gofund.me/0b63f076

I am highly hopeful that I can find some help here in this foreign country from fellow Indians. I want to complete Sanjiv’s treatment here and take him home healthy and hearty.


Prerna Garg has written this piece to receive help for her husband.

Harjeet’s Family Suffers the Aftermath of COVID

(Featured Image from left to right: Harjeet, Asha (sister), Avtar (brother)) 

Harjeet Singh Zhim was born on May 17, 1983, in Panama, Central America. His family migration to Panama dates back to the early 1900s, originating with work in the Panama Canal construction. His parents, Parkash and Sushila Singh Zhim raised him as a man of good, who valued his cultural and international heritage.

Harjeet and his daughter, Gracie.

Harjeet moved to the United States in 1998 and resided in San Jose, CA with his elder sister, Ashinder. He graduated from Silver Creek High School in 2000 and Heald College in 2003. Affectionately, he was also known as Panama to family and friends because of his interesting background. His ethnicity was Indian but he was born and raised in Panama. He was fluent in Spanish, Punjabi, and English and enjoyed the blend of Latin, Indian, and American cultures, including different music genres, among his favorites: Reggaeton, Bhangra, and Hip-hop, as well as, movies from Hollywood and Bollywood, and Punjabi and Spanish movies too. He adopted religious views from both oriental and occidental cultures, visiting Christian churches, Sikh gurdwara, and Hindu temples.

He was an entrepreneur, frequently trying new business ideas. His last initiative in the US was Oh Pizza & Wings in Dublin, CA, a restaurant he opened and managed with his cousin from 2015 through 2018 with original recipes starting from the dough and pizza sauce through the creation of many customers’ favorite pizzas, such as: chicken tikka, oh siracha, turken, and hot smokey chicken. Always providing the best customer service such that customers felt welcomed and enjoyed hosting events at the restaurant.

In 2018, he went to India, got engaged, and married to Sonia Chumber, following the Indian tradition of an arranged marriage. They had a beautiful baby girl, Gracie, in 2020. He temporarily moved back to Panama in 2019, where he was also loved and welcomed by family and friends and he continued to expand his network through his entrepreneurship. With his elder brother, Avtar, he managed a family-owned restaurant, Salsa Parrilla, sharing delicious Panamanian dishes with customers. 

He was a kind and gentle soul who brought joy, laughter, and warmth to all those around him. He was happy to babysit his nieces and nephews, as well as, family and friends’ pets, spending quality time with them and quickly becoming their favorite uncle and babysitter. He enjoyed hobbies such as installing music systems and being a DJ. He contributed to society by donating his time and resources to charitable organizations. During his life, Harjeet lived life to the fullest by traveling the world, befriending those he met, and creating amazing memories with all those he knew. He visited many countries following his passion to travel the world: Canada, Colombia, Dubai, Germany, India, Mexico, Dominican Republic, South Africa, and more. 

He passed on January 15, 2021, due to COVID complications. Harjeet’s good-hearted spirit and presence will live on through his wife and their daughter, who will turn one on February 20. If you wish support them, please visit: www.gofundme.com/panamasgracie


Ashinder Singh Zhim earned an A.A. from Florida State University, Panama Canal Branch, and a B.S. in Business with an emphasis in Accounting from San Jose State University. She is a CPA licensed in the state of California and works for a big four accounting firm in the Bay Area.

We Fill A Critical Need

From day one it’s been our mission to contextualize Indian heritage and culture as it relates to the Indian American diaspora, hopefully providing a safe space for minority voices. We strongly believe that that local, in-depth journalism is at the heart of an informed public. The stakes have never felt higher than they have in 2020—but that only strengthens our commitment to producing high-quality journalism you can count on.

The funding we raise during NewsMatch will set us up for 2021, allowing us to continue filling a critical need—producing reporting that informs our readers on important issues and holds our leaders accountable.



Here are just a few examples of reporting in 2020 that our readers helped fund:

We have big plans for the upcoming year, including: 

But we can’t do any of this without you. This is critical work—the kind that strengthens our community and bolsters our democracy. 

Get into the gift-giving spirit this holiday season! Even $5 from you will go a long way at India Currents. Right now Newsmatch will double your donation!

Give Nonprofit. Give NOW.

Thank you for supporting India Currents and happy holidays!


Vandana Kumar has been the Editor for India Currents and is serving as the Publisher. 

Pulling Back the Curtain: Q&A With Our Assistant Editor

At India Currents, we believe that the most important news stories leave a lasting impact and also elevate local and regional issues to a national platform. 

We’re pulling back the curtain on one such piece, Will My Culture Survive the Pandemic, by conducting a Q&A with the writer and IC Assistant Editor, Srishti Prabha.

VK: How did this story come about?

SP: India Currents is fortunate to collaborate with local, diverse, community organizations. One such organization is SF-based nonprofit, Ethnic Media Services, which aims to inform minority media on issues relevant to them. At one of their media briefings, the topic discussed was Arts and Culture on Life Support Because of COVID-19 and panelists relayed their personal experiences, as artists impacted by the pandemic. I began to reflect on my own connection with my culture and art. Despite not relying on the arts as a source of income, I would be devoid of my identity without art. That is how I began to frame my article. Indians in America grasp at sources for identity and performing arts are the magical bridge that can teleport us to our motherland. 

VK: What was the most surprising discovery you made while reporting it?

SP: The performing arts were the first industry to shut down as a response to COVID and will be the last to reopen. This sounds intuitive and may not be surprising for people to hear, but the sheer breadth of what that means – the economic loss, individuals with no foreseeable income, and possibly, the erasure of culture – is something that wasn’t being addressed in mainstream media. Subsequently, it wasn’t where resources were being allocated. Since the Great Depression, federal funding hasn’t been given to the Arts. I became fixated on the potential loss of minority arts. 

VK: What was the message of your article?

SP: My hope was to reinvigorate interest in minority-run cultural arts, even in those that meander away from the South Asian culture. My article had a three-fold purpose: first, to shed light on South Asian arts and artists that were undergoing a strenuous time; second, to have the reader actualize their relationship with the arts and its connection to cultural identity; and third, I wanted the article to be a poignant reminder for those that take interest in the arts, to sustain it.

VK: Why do you think this article resonated with readers?

SP: One can never be sure of what resonates with a reader, but I write from a place of empathy and advocacy for culture and minority voices. I can only speak to my own experience, as a first-generation Indian American, yet I find cross-cultural narratives on identity humanizes what people consider an “other”. As Americans, we benefit from exposure to multiculturalism and can create inclusive spaces. India Currents facilitates such discourse. I write for the readers – I write for myself. You are all on the journey with me, of self-exploration and pandemic pursuits. 

Reporters like Srishti Prabha work hard on stories like these in order to present the complete picture for our readers. It’s the kind of in-depth reporting that you’d be hard-pressed to find anywhere else—the kind that takes time and money to produce. 

Will you support India Currents and ensure our reporters have the resources they need to do their jobs well? 

Give today and double your investment, before the NewsMatch challenge ends on December 31. 


Vandana Kumar has been the Editor for India Currents and is serving as the Publisher. 

Support the Art of Writing, Support Your Community

Dear Readers,

Your inbox is probably overflowing with #GivingTuesday appeals, so we’ll keep this brief. On #GivingNewsDay, we join other news organizations in celebrating independent, and fact-based community journalism like ours—and appeal to our readers to raise the funds that make it all possible.

We often hear from readers that our reporting truly makes a difference in their lives—that no other publication covers Indian narratives like we do, or with such integrity and transparency:

“Thank you for your media presence in these difficult times…America gave us the opportunities to grow and we are now giving back in the knowledge and resources we acquired. These coming months will challenge people from India.  We have unique opportunities to lift, support, and lead in more creative ways than we ever imagined. Please continue to do what you are doing for the community and country at large.” – Satish and Surekha Chohan

Your mail surely touched my heart, so simple and yet genuine. It is a period of deep anxiety as we strictly follow the Government’s decision for all to stay indoors and maintain a fair distance from one another…In the meantime, thank you all for the cheerful introspection you give us.” – Nita (Dave) Jain

“We follow your daily updates, good—keep it up.  WE ARE IN IT, WITH YOU, WITH OUR COMMUNITY.” – Sunil Tolani

Journalism with this kind of impact is free to consume but expensive to produce.

Will you consider making a donation to India Currents today, in honor of #GivingNewsDay? From now until December 31, NewsMatch will match your new monthly donation 12x or double your one-time gift, up to $5,000.

We hope to $5,000 by the end of the day today. Can we count on you to help us reach our goal? 

This #GivingNewsDay, support reporting that’s for the people, with the people. Give now. 

We know you have a lot of worthy choices when it comes to making your year-end donations. We hope that, as a reader of India Currents, you’ll demonstrate the value we add to your life by making a donation today. This #GivingNewsDay, invest in us.

With gratitude,

Vandana Kumar
Publisher
India Currents

P.S. Don’t keep #GivingNewsDay all to yourself! Celebrate with friends and colleagues by helping us spread the word and forwarding this email.

Kids show off their art on Zoom as Team Anti-Coronavirus.

Kids Make Art to Fund PPE for an Indian Hospital

Ten children from the ages of 3 to 13 based in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New Jersey took to Zoom to organize and create Team Anti-Coronavirus. Their goal? To raise funds for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for frontline medical professionals treating COVID-19 patients at the Christian Medical College and Hospital (CMC) in Vellore, South India. 

“I had a lot of fun making cards and artwork with my baby brother,” says Anoushka. “My dad is a doctor. I want to help other doctors like him and all healthcare workers who are taking care of COVID-19 patients.” 

Anoushka is collaborating with her teammates Advaith, Ilakkiya, Neil, Nikhil, Oviya, Pragnya, Prisha, Shreya, and Veera. The youngsters have raised $550 so far by making cards, wearable art, and shrinkable charms for family and friends in exchange for a donation to a Go Fund Me campaign launched by journalist Sujata Srinivasan, whose son is part of the group. Srinivasan was motivated to contribute following her personal experience at CMC when she lost her mother to a road accident in 2018. The initiative is a collaboration with the Vellore CMC Foundation in New York, which will route all donations, which are fully tax-deductible, to CMC Vellore.   

The award-winning, Indian nonprofit institution was in the U.S. news recently as a case study in the Harvard Business Review, and for work by one of its medical college alumni Dr. Ankit Bharat, chief of thoracic surgery in the Department of Surgery at Northwestern. Bharat and his team performed the first double-lung transplant on a COVID-19 patient in the U.S., after her lungs were damaged by the virus. 

As of Nov. 1, the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 tracker showed 8.1 million positive cases in India. The number of COVID-19 deaths that were reported totaled 122,111. CMC alone has a positivity rate of 16 percent, down from as high as 30 percent, according to Dr. Kishore Pichamuthu, professor and head, Medical ICU, Division of Critical Care at CMC. “We have 75 COVID ICU beds in six units. Around 1,000 critically ill patients with COVID have been treated in these beds since April 2020,” he says. 

From the data provided by CMC, of the total 9,072 COVID-19 patients admitted at the hospital, 91.6 percent were discharged (as of 28 Oct). A total of 3,135 patients received a subsidy for COVID treatment to date – the total charity amount was approximately $1.5 million.

Resources are strained as more patients continue to seek treatment.

Patients are still coming in swarms to CMC, mostly because of the large number of COVID beds offered by the hospital,” says Dr. Pritish Korula, associate professor, Surgical ICU, Division of Critical Care. “Treatment for COVID is expensive. While our hospital does its best to help numerous socioeconomically-deprived patients, it has been a struggle to meet patient needs as the volumes are so large and the pandemic has been going on for so long.” 

To donate to CMC COVID-19 relief, please visit: Go Fund Me for PPE


Srishti Prabha is the Assistant Editor at India Currents and has worked in low income/affordable housing as an advocate for children, women, and people of color. She is passionate about diversifying spaces, preserving culture, and removing barriers to equity.

Ethnicity Matters to Stem Cell Recipients

Indians are dying unnecessarily from blood cancers. There is a shortage of Indians available on the national registry to assist fellow Indians who have been diagnosed with leukemia, lymphoma, and other blood cancers. What’s the solution? To encourage more Indians/South Asians to register as potential stem cell donors.

“Registering is easy,” says Dinesh Chandrasekhar, who along with his wife, registered at the Hindu temple in Livermore, CA. “It only takes about 5 minutes. You can complete the online registration and a swab kit will be mailed to you. When you receive the kit, swab the inside of your cheek and pop the kit in the mail. Postage is pre-paid and you don’t have to leave your home. And, the testing is free.”

Dinesh serves as an ambassador for the Asian American Donor Program (AADP), a 30-year-old nonprofit organization in Alameda, CA that works to educate Indians and other ethnically diverse people about the importance of registering as potential stem cell donors. In the past year, AADP has worked with 10 Indian patients in need.

Joining the Be The Match® registry means volunteering to be listed as a potential blood stem cell donor, ready to save the life of any patient anywhere in the world who is in need of a transplant.

“With the coronavirus pandemic and the need for six-foot distancing, we have canceled our in-person community registration events,” says Carol Gillespie, AADP’s executive director. “So, our community education and awareness efforts, which generate new donors, are suffering and blood cancer patients are worried.”

The coronavirus has had a dismal impact on patients diagnosed with blood cancers like leukemia and lymphoma, and other illnesses treatable by a stem cell transplant. Blood cancer patients are afraid that a life-saving donor will not be found in time. They are scared that if a matching donor is found, that person, because of COVID-19, will not want to go to a clinic to have their stem cells collected.

Locating a stem cell donor and having a stem cell transplant is an example of a health care disparity. For people of color, there is a shortage of donors on the Be The Match® national registry. Patients of South Asian/Indian heritage face challenges, as the population is severely under-represented as donors.

At any given time, there are 12,000 people looking for a matching stem cell donor to help save their life. Patients are from all walks of life and are from numerous racial and ethnic groups.

Dinesh Chandrasekhar’s Story

Dinesh and his wife registered with the AADP as potential stem cell donors. Then, in the fall of 2014, Dinesh was notified that he was a match for a patient. 

“I got very excited about the opportunity of being able to help someone in need, but at the same time, I suddenly got apprehensive about the process,” Dinesh says. “But, after talking with an amazing person at Be The Match®, I was completely clear about what I was expected to do. After that, I had no fear.”

Dinesh liked that the stem cell donation process was simple and convenient for him, the donor. And, there were no expenses for him.

When lab work found that Dinesh had high blood pressure, the transplant procedure was called off.“I was never more disappointed in my life,” he says. “It was a huge shock that I could not donate.

In January 2015, Dinesh was notified again that he was a match for a patient in need. He was asked how his blood pressure was and he said he and his doctor worked on it and it was now normal. In April of 2015, Dinesh donated his peripheral blood stem cells.

Dinesh donating stem cells.

“It ended up that I donated for the same patient. And, interestingly, we are both the same age. It was like destiny,” Dinesh says.

The process at Stanford Hospital took a little more than four hours. Dinesh’s blood was taken out of Dinesh’s arm and then cycled through a machine that separates the stem cells from the other blood cells. The stem cells are kept in a separate bag, while the rest of the blood is returned to the donor. During this time, Dinesh watched TV shows.

“I was mind blown about the science behind this and that this (his stem cells) would produce immunity in another person who was compatible with my stem cells,” Dinesh says.

“Giving your stem cells is not like you are donating a part of your body (kidney, liver, etc.),” Dinesh says. 

Before going to a clinic or hospital, donors are given shots that stimulate white blood cell production. “This production moves blood stem cells from the marrow into the bloodstream so that the stem cells can be collected from the donor,” says Gillespie.  “So you are missing nothing.”

Upon returning home, Dinesh ate lunch and slept for about three hours. “The next morning I felt normal and went back to work,” he says. “I would do it again.”

After six months, Dinesh was told that his recipient was doing well and back to their normal life.

“Registering and, then, donating my stem cells was fulfilling,” Dinesh says. “As human beings, we are here to help each other.”


Join the registry by texting AADP to 61474 or visit AADP. Visit AADP’s Instagram page for upcoming Live Interviews. AADP also hosts special events.

Community Seva Means Many Things

“I just wanted to say thank you again for the portable charger. I need to keep my phone charged in case my kids need me… You really have no idea how much this helps me out,” says Angel, as a Community Seva volunteer hands over a mobile solar charger to her at a homeless encampment.

To most of us, a dying phone battery is a minor inconvenience with an easy solution – we can just plug it in and go about our day. That simple act is an impossibility for nearly ten thousand unhoused individuals living in the Bay Area. The number of difficulties that they face every day is nearly impossible to comprehend, and the COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated these issues. With no access to news media or health guidelines, many unhoused people weren’t even aware of the pandemic for a long time. Already lacking proper healthcare, nutrition, and sanitation, the pandemic has exponentially worsened the lack of access to toilets, water, and fresh food. Beyond the direct risk of infection, which is already much higher for unhoused individuals, they have no shelter to ‘shelter-in-place’, and are left with no ability to even maintain basic hygiene. The homelessness problem is increasing dramatically now that many more people are losing their jobs, and hundreds have been recently forced out of their homes and onto the street.

Healthy burrito given out by Community Seva volunteers.

Community Seva, a non-profit organization based in the Evergreen area of San Jose, has aimed to alleviate some of the struggles that these individuals face. Community Seva’s mission is to “Feed the Hungry & Serve the Homeless”. Since 2013, Community Seva Inc. has served over 150,000 meals, distributed over 7,000 backpacks filled with winter essentials, delivered 6,000 hygiene kits, and given over 1,000 showers to the homeless population in the Bay Area. During the 12 weeks since the COVID-19 pandemic began alone, the organization has served more than 12,000 healthy, nutritious, and freshly-cooked meals to the people living in 7 different shelters, 5 encampments, and even to individuals who have been forced to live in their cars or RVs. The challenges faced by the homeless community are growing, but as Community Seva founder Nathan Ganeshan says, “Together we can, and we are, making a difference!

Nathan Ganeshan delivering food.

Community Seva has launched a new set of initiatives to respond to the recent needs of the homeless community. As members of the homeless community have lost access to places where they could charge their phones due to the shelter-in-place order, they raised funds to purchase and distribute solar power chargers: giving unsheltered individuals the ability to call 911, use flashlights, and thus better protect themselves.

Further, Community Seva Inc. began a new program to help women in these difficult times. They packed and delivered female care hygiene kits to the nearly 3,600 vulnerable homeless women living in the Bay Area. Volunteers entered homeless encampments in an effort to clean up living spaces, throw out trash, and distribute food, hygiene kits, and backpacks with essentials such as blankets, towels, beanies, socks, and rain ponchos. They also distributed Personal Protective Equipment: 400 gloves, masks, and face shields were given to homeless individuals and homeless advocates working on the frontlines. 

None of these achievements would have been possible without the generosity of Community Seva’s supporters. Bay Area businesses such as Jalsa Catering and Events, 8Elements Perfect Indian Cuisine, Bella’s Bar and Grill, Shastha Foods, and Biryani Bowl have donated their time and resources to help provide daily breakfasts and lunches.

Talented musicians, a youth group, and comedians have participated in fundraisers to help with Community Seva’s COVID-19 alleviation efforts. There has been an outpouring of support from the Bay Area community, whether through individual donations from families or corporate grants and sponsorships from Silicon Valley tech giants and other companies.

Community Seva and countless other organizations have stepped up during this time of need: as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “The time is always right to do what is right.” 

Varsha Venkatram is a rising senior at Stanford Online High School. She has been volunteering for Community Seva since 2017 mainly focusing on social media posts, newsletters, articles and image/video management. She has also cooked breakfast, dinner and led youth care bag sevas for the organization.

Commencement 2020: A Letter to Our Future Leaders

Dearly Beloved,

We are gathered here today, to join this Class of 2020 with the World.  2020 has been such a surreal year that your graduation will certainly remain remarkable.  Staying in place has made in-person toasts a tedious task, so we raise a symbolic glass in your honor.  Congratulations!

Finally, it is your commencement

I remember when I was in Second Grade when studies seemed endless and I asked my teacher how long it would be before we stopped learning. The answer has stayed with me till today – “NEVER!”  What a shock when you are 7 to hear that studying is never over!  She said life is a continuous learning process. And perhaps that is what has inspired me to keep learning till today. 

University of life

Of course, one does not have to sign up formally to any course for learning.  You are automatically enrolled in the University of Life which gives admission to people from all walks, irrespective of their grade with no discrimination of age, color, creed. 

Sometimes you get a gentle guru and at other times a tyrannical taskmaster. Both teach you different things.  Keep an open mind so you learn from your experiences.  Keep an open heart so that you take others under your wing and give to those who might need a hand.  And never forget those who have extended you a hand, in your time of need.

Speak up

Recognize other’s struggles. The role of being a Knight in Shining Armor has become less dangerous and genderless. It doesn’t require the skill of horse-riding, or slaying dragons – just that you raise your voice with and for others when you see injustice.  

Never let someone tell you your place. Never have someone have you questioning your self-worth or your worth as an employee. 

Stand up for yourself. Stand up for your sisters and brothers. Stand up to injustice. Just be upstanding and outstanding in whatever you do.

Don’t undersell yourself, but don’t be a sellout either.  It is better to rise to the top with others rather than alone. 

Lift each other up. Remember you are stronger as a tribe.  

Changemakers

I have great hope for the current generation.  It is more open, more accepting, and more tolerant than the previous generations.  We are headed in the right direction.  Your asset is your idealism – guard it against a cold and cynical world.  Idealism is what leads you to fight for changes – big or small. 

Recent events, such as Black Lives Matter, have shown us that the world still needs radical change. You are the changemakers. Do more than sharing news on social media. Sign petitions, protest, talk to your City Council Members, get involved in politics – find ways in which you can make a difference.  

We must look beyond the comfort of our own communities to speak up for others facing dire situations.  While there is a sense of belonging within any individual culture, there is no greater strength than feeling a sense of oneness with the larger community of the world – a recognition, that we –despite our color, race, gender identity, nationalities– are all human. Our happiness and freedoms come from the happiness and freedoms of our brothers.  A cry for help must not be quelled. 

Money talks

You have all been blessed to have an education. Some of you will be earning sooner than others. You’ve earned your right to spend!  Money used for yourself gives you pleasure.  Money used to buy someone else a gift doubles in value.  Money invested wisely in the stock market may triple in value. 

But money given to someone in need or money invested in humanity, now that is priceless!  How much is the value of your money multiplied by Infinity? 

Money has great buying power.  But know also that what cash CANNOT buy is what is TRULY valuable.  Love, peace, happiness, friendships, and health – invest in these. 

It’s your life

You have one life – so live it up.  Live it to your fullest!  Yes, you have one life – make sure what you do counts.  Some of you will no doubt create huge waves, but others will affect the world with gentle ripples. You get no certificates from the University of Life, except for the Karmic kind, and the satisfaction that you have served. 

To quote from the poem Incredible Woman written by Yours Truly, “Your beauty is not in your height, but the heights YOU will reach…”  So, be inventors, game-changers, set a spark – no, not as arsonists!  Spark debates, spark changes, make your mark on this world.  And while you are blazing trails, we, your Bay Area community, will leave the light on for you. Shine on!

Yours truly,
Meera Rao Prahlad

Meera Rao Prahlad is a freelance writer, community organizer, and volunteer with a variety of interests.  In addition to writing and teaching Language, she wears the hat of Director of Top Form Academy, which provides training in Business Communication and Etiquette to professionals, as well as life skills for youth. She is currently working on writing a book on Etiquette.

Local Teens, Global Impact

It’s vital that we don’t forget about aiding communities impacted heavily by the virus even as the lockdowns and shelter-in-place are lifted.

Rayan Garg (Left) Arjun Gupta (Right)

Non-profit Elevate The Future, started by teens Arjun Gupta and Rayan Garg, is a 501(c)(3) organization is focused on “providing youth with the resources and support in order to spark their passions and set them up for success”. This involves giving students exposure to fields beyond the traditional STEM sphere — topics such as business, finance, and computer science. Established a year ago, Elevate the Future has seen incredible success, with 22 chapters all over the world, 200 volunteers, and 1000 completed hours of service.

While the coronavirus pandemic could have stopped this organization right in their tracks, Elevate The Future has emerged resilient and prepared. Recently, they collaborated with the Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce and the Cupertino Chamber of Commerce to help family-run businesses adapt to this rapidly shifting environment. This involved providing them online presence for takeout meals and coaching their students in developing websites for these businesses. Not only does this endeavor protect local establishments, but also provides students with a web development skillset that they can use for the rest of their lives.

To encourage the same creative, entrepreneurial spirit that led to their formation, ETF has hosted multiple online Global Entrepreneurship Summits in partnership with local chapters. Their most recent effort is the Cloud 9 summit, which is a virtual competition that produces student-led businesses. The judges include the Head of Global Customer Conferences at Juniper Networks as well as the co-founder of the 1517 fund. First-place winners will receive a mentorship opportunity from an IBM Executive Partner, while top competitors will receive prize money and assistance in filling out a patent. 

During these tumultuous times, it’s heartening to see young students like Rayan Garg and Arjun Gupta encourage and empower their communities. To find out more about Elevate the Future, check out their Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn!

If you are a business and need help, you can complete this form. If you are a student who wants to learn or would like to volunteer and help, you can reach them through their website.

Kanchan Naik is a junior at the Quarry Lane School in Dublin, California. Aside from being the Youth Editor of India Currents, she is also the editor of her school newspaper The Roar and the Teen Poet Laureate of Pleasanton.

Dear PostModern Gandhi: What Is the Right Response to Coronavirus?

Dear PostModern Gandhiji:

A decade ago, when I was a first-year medical student, I worried that modern medicine and pharmacology were based on animal products.  I had been raised in a strictly vegetarian Jain household and had been taught to respect all living things.  Thus seeing monkeys and dogs in cages used for experiments and dissections disturbed my belief system.

Fast forward to 2020.  First the good news: physician training in American medical schools no longer requires animal dissection. But with the tragic coronavirus pandemic, my old concern about animals seems quite trivial.  It seems that we should do anything and everything to save humans from suffering.

Because I practice sports medicine, I’m not with the frontline of clinicians tending to those with COVID-19.  As such, I’ve been struggling to understand what Gandhiji would be doing if he were alive today.  What should I be doing?

Dear Friend:

Here are a couple of quotes from Gandhiji that you might find of value.  My own sense-making of Gandhian principles follow the quotes.

“There is a divine purpose behind every physical calamity.”

“I do not want my house to be walled in all sides, and my windows to be closed. Instead, I want cultures of all lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible. But I refuse to be blown off my feet.” (M. K. Gandhi)

Thank you for this opportunity to consider Gandhiji’s response to the coronavirus.  I imagine that he would have taken a multi-disciplinary approach.

Young Mohandas Gandhi had been both a trained and untrained nurse.  As a child, he had tended to his ill father by sitting at his bedside and perhaps massaging his father’s head and legs.  As a young man returning to India at the end of the 19th century, he confronted the Bubonic Plague and served his brother-in-law; while the ayurvedic treatments could not save his sister’s husband, he learned something about himself:  “my aptitude for nursing gradually developed into a passion.”  He famously used this aptitude for the healing profession during the Boer War in South Africa as the founder of the Indian Ambulance Corps.  And through the rest of his life, he nursed himself through many fasts and served those with serious illnesses.  His patients ranged from his wife and other immediate family to members of his ashrams and lepers whose stigmatized condition he championed.  I recall this medical biography to suggest that, as a man of science, Gandhiji would have surely been at the frontline today serving COVID-19 patients in the ER or the ICU. 

But Gandhiji understood that science has its limits.  He wrote, “To state the limitation of science is not to belittle it.”  I imagine that he would have recognized this crisis as an opportunity to head off larger crises. To be sure, he would have used his political talent to support organizations like W.H.O. to mitigate the socio-economic risks of future pandemics. But I believe that Gandhiji’s greatness lies in his multi-generational vision for humanity. The earth – all of it, and all of its creatures – was a Gandhian home.  Not only would Gandhiji have directly faced the respiratory challenges of the coronavirus, but he, also, would have used the present danger to open windows and minds to confront even greater ecological, social, and spiritual catastrophes like climate change, enduring inequality, and cruelty to animals.

Using his tools of satyagraha, swaraj, sarvodaya, and ahimsa, Gandhiji would have encouraged us to be in satyalogue with each other, in truthtalk, about what we’ve learned about ourselves and each other during this pandemic.  

Regarding your question about what you should be doing, I suggest using all of the gifts bestowed upon you from your religious upbringing and your medical studies; kindly consider how you can use that knowledge for your private spiritual growth and our public universal uplift.

Dr. Rajesh C. Oza has published a compilation of similar Q&A pieces addressing dilemmas that we face in the 21st century.  His book Satyalogue // Truthtalk is available on Amazon.

Indian Girls Are Making Masks Global

COVID-19 isn’t a test of whether we can fend for ourselves. Rather, it’s the story of those who choose to fight for the rest of us. And that’s precisely what a hundred young girls from Uttarakhand, India are trying to do — but they need your support. 

Since the coronavirus was declared a Public Health Emergency in January, countless medical facilities have struggled to accommodate the growing need for surgical masks. Hoarding, misinformation, and price gouging have all contributed to the scarcity of masks in hospitals. And while masks should be a priority for all members of society, it’s absolutely critical for medical professionals and sanitation workers, who are directly exposed to infected patients on a daily basis for hours at end. A single mask could break a chain of infections and hospitalizations before it even begins. According to the Mayo Clinic, masks have proven to filter out COVID-19 particles, thus protecting you from those infected but also allowing victims of the coronavirus to avoid infecting others. These girls know what’s at stake. 

That’s why Uttarakhand’s students, with the support of the non-profit organization Educate Girls Globally, have pledged to sew fabric masks and distribute them among communities in need. With nothing but their grit and their sewing machines, they have already brought a nascent change to their locale by providing a nearby hospital as well as the Uttarakhand Police Department with more than one thousand cloth masks. And that was all in a month’s work!

It was after a representative from Educate Girls Globally reached out to me that I realized the need more resources, attention, and support from the rest of the world. At a time when healthcare professionals are being forced to reuse existing masks, it’s crucial to encourage public movements that make more masks available. With the help of Educate Girls Globally, we started a GoFundMe account in hopes of scaling this endeavor to the international level. 

These funds will allow the girls to purchase additional materials, as well as transport these masks to healthcare facilities. More than twenty hospitals in the United States desperately need masks  — both  homemade and surgical — to protect caregivers, hospital visitors, and volunteers

These empowered young girls from Uttarakhand want to raise $25,000 to distribute more than 50,000 high-quality fabric masks to hospitals in the United States. They tell a story of perseverance amid immense adversity and fear. 

With your small financial contribution, we can give this story the ending it deserves.

To donate, click here.

Kanchan Naik is a junior at The Quarry Lane School in Dublin, CA. Aside from being the youth editor of India Currents, she is the editor-in-chief of her school’s news-zine The Roar. She is also the Teen Poet Laureate of Pleasanton and uses her role to spread a love of poetry in her community.