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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.

Think Globally, Act Locally

“These are unprecedented times…” is probably the beginning of every email that you’ve written, received, or been forwarded over the course of the last month. While our lives have surely been changed, our day-to-day schedule in quarantine largely looks, well, pretty precedented. If you’re anything like me or my family, you’ve probably tried your hand at the internet’s favorite Dalgona coffee, baked banana bread out of boredom, or co-starred in your younger family members’ TikToks (reader, please explain to me why I’m now obsessed with the Skechers song!). In the world of social distancing, we often believe that we are at a loss to do anything other than propping ourselves up with these mundane pleasures. After all, many of us aren’t epidemiology researchers, state legislators, or doctors (as much as my parents would have hoped differently). But the truth is, there’s more we can do to help our community than we might currently think. 

The Indian-American community is one of the most successful ethnic minorities in America, with the highest average income of minority groups in this country. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey is receiving praise for his commitment to donate $1 billion (28% of his net worth) to the COVID-19 crisis, but leaders in the Indian-American community have not pledged nearly the same. Several Indian-led nonprofits have stepped in to help in ways they can. Our community has seen over 40 deaths in America. While saddening, these figures pale in comparison to the health disparities in black and LatinX communities, which shows that we have more of an obligation than ever to contribute. There’s a variety of ways for people to get involved in local efforts, donations, and advocacy, and it’s important to keep these opportunities on our radar as we brace for several more weeks of isolation. 

Donating Time:

While not everyone can be in a place to be able to financially support local charity work, there’s plenty that can contribute with their time. In today’s climate, vulnerable populations often see their challenges exacerbated, with social-isolation, medical bills, and job losses plaguing our country. Victims of domestic violence are quarantined with their abusers, high-risk senior citizens are spending days alone, and the impact on migrant and refugee communities is terrifying. For many of the non-profits seeking to provide resources to these communities, what they need most is an increase in volunteers to reflect their increased needs at this time. Here are a few ways you might be able to get involved: 

  • You can help with contactless driving for Meals on Wheels, a nonprofit that helps provide food and check-ins for senior citizens. 
  • You can get trained to be a domestic violence crisis counselor from your couch  
  • You can even be a decoder for Amnesty International
  • Got extra cloth? Help sew masks for your local health professionals. 
  • Looking for a more comprehensive list of volunteer opportunities? Look no further.
Madhavi Prabha sewing masks for local hospitals.

Donating Money

While some of us might be able to donate extra hours, if someone’s quarantine-buddies are immunocompromised, or if the hectic pace of our lives has not calmed down, donating money might be an easier avenue for them. Mutual Aid collectives, which organize under the philosophy of “solidarity, not charity,” help mobilize a community’s financial resources for those who are in need. Mutual aid groups have been used in several universities and municipalities, and this locator helps a user see the aid efforts nearest to them. There are several well-known non-profits and locators that families can use to donate to at this time:

Think Globally, Act Locally

While the saying might be trite, the most impact that we can make is within our own communities. Whether it’s buying gift cards to your favorite small businesses, dropping off groceries for a neighbor, or caring for the children of medical professionals, there’s a lot we can do by simply keeping ourselves aware. You can subscribe to the email list-servs of your local political representatives, who often can provide constituents with information about neighborhood efforts. Charity navigator is also a great resource that can help you identify what organizations are doing great work in your community. If you’re from the Bay Area, Silicon Valley strong is a wonderful place to start with your efforts. The possibilities are endless, and the genuine good in the hearts of everyday people is incredible. If there’s a silver lining to all of this, it’s this: we are stronger together.

Swathi is a junior at Duke University studying Public Policy and Computer Science. She hopes to continue to learn through the lens of her Indian-American heritage.

Desi Craft Kitchen Goes From Dine In to Drive Up

It was a mere two months ago that I fulfilled my lifelong dream of opening a restaurant to serve the community. My vision for Khan Saab Desi Craft Kitchen in Downtown Fullerton, CA was to create a space where I could not only bring people together at the table to eat, but also showcase Desi cuisine in a novel, elegant manner. And so, Khan Saab was born. But, not soon after opening our doors, California and the rest of the country began taking all necessary precautions to curb the spread of COVID-19.  Unfortunately, we were forced to close our doors, as our number one priority is the safety and wellbeing of our guests and staff. We stand in solidarity with our partners in the hospitality industry to do our part and get through this together. 

These are uncertain times for sure, and while my restaurant is closed for the time being, my calling to serve my community is alive and well. During this challenging time for all of us, I want to do what I can to help reassure our neighbors and community that they are not alone. In the midst of social distancing, we hope to help bring a feeling of togetherness. That is how my team at Khan Saab and I decided that the best role we can play at a time like this is to provide provisions and meals to our community. 

Chef Imran and his team

We’ve since pledged that every Friday from 4pm to 7pm, we are going to give out hot meals, as well as uncooked rice and lentils, to anyone that comes by.  We’ve launched this program to help our neighbors in need; our seniors and single parents, especially those unemployed as a result of COVID-19 layoffs. But we won’t turn anyone away. This effort began with us hanging a sign on our door and posting on social media two weeks ago that we would be handing out basic provisions in the community; we had more than 50 families reach out to us for help. This just went to show the volume of people in our area who need assistance during this challenging time.

Now, weekly on Fridays, anyone seeking a hot meal can pull into our parking garage attached to the restaurant and a staff member will deliver the food to the car window. The food will feature variations of rice dishes like biryani and other specials served in the restaurant, rotating weekly depending on the products available, and will be a combination of 100% halal with vegetarian and non-vegetarian options to accommodate dietary restrictions. Despite not being able to showcase our food exactly the way we would like, we will maintain the restaurant’s integrity of serving high-quality Desi cuisine and give the same care and attention to these offerings as we do in the restaurant. We will do our best to feed everyone who stops by on Friday nights, and plan to increase the number of meals to support the demand on a weekly basis. 

While our restaurant might be closed for in-house dining, we still want to be able to share our food with those in need. We want to become an integral part of the community and give back to our neighbors. Our priorities have now pivoted towards doing everything we can to help during these uncertain times. In addition to our weekly “Drive Up” program, we are currently working with UCI Medical Center in Orange to drop off individually packaged meals to hospital staff, doctors and nurses to show our gratitude for those tirelessly working around the clock to help battle this pandemic. 

We plan to continue the “Drive Up” program for as long as it is necessary.  We are also looking for more opportunities to assist as time goes on. Feeding healthcare workers is something important to us.  It is our hope that through this weekly program we can help those in need during this crisis while building and cultivating relationships with our neighbors. When this is all over, we look forward to serving guests one again inside our restaurant doors, while continuing to build, maintain, and grow these new relationships

Executive Consultant Chef Imran Ali Mookhi is an award-winning culinary chef specializing in traditional Indian cuisine. He has earned national recognition as the executive chef of several high-caliber restaurants and leads the kitchen in his new eclectic eatery in Downtown Fullerton, Khan Saab Desi Craft Kitchen.

 

India Currents #GivingTuesday Fundraiser

India Currents readership keeps increasing but advertising revenues are falling fast. Unlike many news organizations, we haven’t put up a paywall – we want to keep our journalism as open as we can.

So you can see why we need to ask for your help. Our independent, community journalism takes time, money and hard work to produce. But we do it because we believe our collective voice matters.

If you read our reporting and like it, please consider making a contribution. Take a minute this #givingtuesday to dontate via PayPal , credit card, or email. If your company would like to match your donation or to document your donation for tax purposes, use our 501(c) (3) Tax ID #83-3257703.

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