Tag Archives: independent

A Moment Like No Other

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of India Currents and India Currents does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.

On an October day, around the time I turned 59, I’m voting as if my life in my adoptive nation depends on it. At no point in my life in these United States have I felt more insecure or more irrelevant. I feel like the phalanx of coronavirus striving to live inside the body of America’s 45th President. It wants to stay but the environment is toxic.

The insecurity I feel has resounded around the globe in a year unlike any other in recent history: Pestilence, fires, death, fear, unemployment, grief and loneliness, all, in 2020 marked by miles of gravestones. For the privileged among us, this year was a reminder of how fortunate we were that we could work from the comfort of our homes. For each of us, at every rung of the US electorate, this year has been a watershed year proving why we must care a great deal about the people we elect to govern us.

I became eligible to vote in July 2011 upon becoming a naturalized citizen twenty-four years after I arrived in the United States. My husband and I delayed becoming citizens until citizenship became a practical need. We left one democracy for another in search of name and fame but we didn’t entirely commit to our adoptive country either. This lack of early investment in the place that had nurtured us became more apparent to me in January 2017 when America became Play-Doh in the hands of an immature, bigoted human. 

Reading author Vijay Prashad’s Uncle Swami: South Asians in America Today made me reckon with some of my stances. While visiting his relatives in Northern California, Prashad observed how educated Indian-American professionals in their vast, comfortable homes did not care to be engaged in the political process in any serious way. He reasoned that it was because they had never had to fight for their survival. The fight for independence in India had been fought by the previous generation. In their adoptive nation, too, Prashad pointed out, it was the doggedness of the African American community that led to the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Well before that, African Americans and other minorities had also fought for fairness in employment which led to their employment in companies engaged in work for World War II. 

The Indians who arrived here in the United States after 1965 were thus doubly privileged; we had benefited from our parents’ fight in our native shores and enjoyed the privilege of the black man’s fight in our adoptive country. The only real struggle faced by Indian-Americans, as we rose up the ranks of corporate America, was to secure our foothold in America’s meritocracy. During our climb up, successful Indian-Americans did not think to question why some segments of American society never crossed our path; we shrugged it off observing that some people did not work hard enough or were not smart enough. A 2017 Pew Research report showed how the household income of Indian-Americans ($100,000) was a lot higher than the median annual household income of households headed by Asian Americans ($73,060). While Indian-Americans and their families—4.5 million, according to Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI)—had done better, had we consistently sought to make America a better place for others? Hadn’t we become part of the systemic racism now endemic to our nation?

In late September, I was startled to read a series of articles in the Los Angeles Times. The paper was contrite about how, over its 140-year history, it had frequently been insensitive and racist in its coverage stating its support of Japanese internment, its denigration of Latinos as “marauders” and its tacit nod to white supremacy. It listed all the instances when it could have been fairer. One of the obvious ways was to hire people who represented, fairly, the demographics of the area it served. 

While reading it, I wondered about individual responsibility in nation-building. Indian-Americans had gloated over our successes never questioning why a cross-section of the American population suffered injustices even as we thrived. When my son was in high school in Saratoga, he wondered why there was only one African American kid in his graduating class. I was taken aback, too, but I didn’t really think about this any more than I needed to. Here was my moment to ponder and to question the demographics of my community. Thus I too was complicit. 

The time has come for successful immigrant communities like mine to admit that we rode on the coattails of others who fought for fair employment practices and equal rights that led, ultimately, to the immigration act of 1965. 2020 has offered us a rare glimpse into our common humanity. Let us commit to the common cause of building a fairer nation. Let us begin by voting for a qualified compassionate leader.


Kalpana Mohan writes from Saratoga, CA. She is the author of two books, Daddykins: A Memoir of My Father and I, and An English Made in India: How a Foreign Language Became Local.

A House Divided

A household with four people – two parents and two children – is akin to the sea. There are high tides and low times, turbulence, and quiet days. Now morph the kids to teenagers and the picture becomes more chaotic – the same sea analogy, but with more stormy days than pleasant ones. But throw in an election where the members are on opposite sides and you get – the perfect storm.

Our household is as normal as it gets, given that all four of us are very vocal about our feelings and thoughts, likes, and dislikes. Over the past four elections, life was relatively normal as we were all on the same side, more or less. Up until 2008, we weren’t US citizens, so elections were mostly a spectator sport. Granted, we discussed them so much that our little ones lisped ‘Haba Dean’ when Howard Dean made his short but memorable run, and spoke about ‘Superdelicates’ during the much-contested 2000 election, but that was about the extent of it.

We got our citizenship in February 2008 after a long wait, just in time for the elections. That April, I had surgery for ACL repair and had to be on crutches for a while. Just then, Barack Obama came to a rally in a city nearby. Of course, we went, kids, crutches and all. Seeing me on crutches, a volunteer-led us to seats right behind the podium. Listening to a presidential candidate speak, and that too someone as articulate as Obama, was awesome. We shook hands with him afterward, and our vote was sealed. No contest there. He was our two-term president, no question about it. I even volunteered during the run-up to the elections, making calls to people in our state of Montana. They must have thought that they were receiving calls from a call center!

Then came the election of 2016. Here we ran into a weird problem. No one in our family, including our two young daughters, liked either of the main choices. After some discussion, we voted for an independent candidate with heavy hearts. It felt like we were throwing away our votes.

And now comes the election of 2020. This year has seen so much drama that everyone is buying next year’s calendars in September, in hopes of seeing this year-end. Politics too has played no small part in it. There is so much bad blood, so much hatred, fear, and nastiness that the country of the United States of America stands divided like never before …

And so does our family!

For the first time, our family is split in our votes. Also, for the first time, all four of us can vote, so we began to have discussions as soon as the candidates were announced. And that was when the cracks in our household began to show.

Well, nobody liked one candidate, that was for certain. We might all have voted for the other candidate if he had been younger or more dynamic. As matters stood, some in the family felt that the obnoxious one may be a better choice to fix the economy, seeing as how the other one seemed almost out of it. They also disliked the way in which the liberal media was openly taking sides. One of the family, however, just couldn’t stand the obnoxious one, so that person’s vote was headed elsewhere. 

At the beginning of October came another shocker. Both COVID-19 and the elections, which had been cutting parallel paths through the year, suddenly merged, with one candidate contracting the disease. Honestly, if anybody had written a fictional piece like this, they would’ve been laughed out of the publishing business for having Kafka-esque imagination. It has also become obvious to all that however these elections end, whichever candidate wins, it is going to be a knockdown, drag-out, ugly mother of a fight, and the repercussions of which will last a very long time.

As for my family, we are still having discussions/arguments/fights over these elections. Luckily, we don’t take these skirmishes seriously. Hey, we may even unite to vote for an independent candidate. Therefore, hopefully, our house will still be standing after the elections. 

As for the country … only time will tell!


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

It Is Sacrilegious Not to Vote…

(Featured Image: 1952 ballot boxes in Delhi – Wikimedia Commons

Why will I not fail to vote?

I am an immigrant who has never failed to vote in ANY of the elections since my citizenship. Moving from India to the USA, I transferred from one Democratic country to another.

I remember when India got to be a free country and the first election we had after that in 1951-52. I was a high school student tenaciously engaged in helping out our first election as a volunteer. There was a historically mammoth turn out of people waiting in line to vote. I remember so many older people unable to walk who were assisted by volunteers like myself or who came by oxen driven carts, some running out of breath but nobody will return without voting.

Nobody used the convenient excuses of inconvenience like long lines, heat, etc. to abstain from voting. The tradition has continued until today. People were determined to vote patiently, quietly, and ungrudgingly. Democracy brings its own challenges and hardships but to be able to vote is its ultimate reward and quieting relief. Peoples’ dissatisfactions get a chance to be resolved, dissolved, or diluted.

Democracy is our elementary right provided it is executed in an elemental way. Yes, majority prevails in democracy but how do we ascertain that if the majority of people do not vote or vote responsibly?

Perhaps everyone may not agree with me but our journalists are doing a job as well as humanly possible to enhance our power of responsible voting. If we want democracy to survive and thrive, it needs our commitment and loyalty. We also have to redefine our loyalty.

“A healthy loyalty is not passive and complacent, but active and critical,” said Harold Laski, the astute political Philosopher from England. Voting without discretion will only perpetuate anachronism. We, therefore, have to shake off our sleepy confidence and restore our lost glory.

“Success is not the position where you are standing but which direction you are going,” said Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., once an Acting Chief Justice of our unique country. When our leaders do not operate discreetly under “unfettered freedom”, the voters can and should. In Democracy, voters can control and should modify their leaders. All the columns and letters published in our media reverberate the feeling of “ our happiness” rather than “my happiness”.

Let our leaders take this life-saving hint while time is still permitting. Any deviation that leads to personal or party interests will be lethal to both this country and its leaders. True democracy means everyone breathes without effort. A shudder went down my spine when I read a quote by Winston Churchill, “Democracy means that when there’s a knock in the door at 3 am, it’s probably the milkman.”

Senility versus sanity in the choice of our next President…

It was perhaps not entirely fortuitous that within a span of a few hours I came across two thought-provoking articles: One on “Age and health both on the ballot” by Charles Blow and “Elder Statesmen” in Psychology Today by Christopher Ferguson, Professor of Psychology at Stetson University. They both expressed concern about the septuagenarians’ battle for the highest office of our country. Both candidates, while in their seventies are likely to be engaged in the “younger than thou” approach to fulfill their political ambitions.

How critical are the age and health factors in choosing our President?

We usually apply the criteria of statistics and science to evaluate them but they both are soft. They can provide crude estimates but not a perfect portent. This is because health is fickle and beyond prediction. Let us look at our own Presidential history:

* John F. Kennedy: had Addison’s disease with chronic back pain, needing occasional use of crutches.

* Franklin D. Roosevelt: Functioned fully while in a wheelchair.

* Woodrow Wilson: Dyslexic from childhood, massive stroke during Presidency.

* Dwight Eisenhower: Abdominal pains from adhesions, heart attack, Crohn’s disease.

* Ronald Reagan:  Alzheimer’s disease started manifesting in the later parts of his Presidency.

It may, therefore, be an exercise in futility to predict the consequences related to the age and health of our elected President. 

Accordingly, I do not think the age or health of our future President (although we will pray for his health) is a decisive factor. If we cast a glance at the age of our illustrious world leaders, some of them were chronologically old, but a young and open heart to serve humanity was throbbing in them. “Young men know the rules, but old men know the exceptions, “ said Oliver Wendell Holmes. Jr., our insightful ancestor. It is open to question at the same time if old age is invariably associated with wisdom. Sometimes old age can come all by itself. 

At this point in time in our current world, we are fortunate to have an assorted group of young and senior world leaders assisted by a caring cluster of experts in all fields. Our challenge is to create a chorus of coordinated talents that are unswervingly dedicated to the welfare of the Globe at large. Effective leadership in the present and future will undoubtedly be consisting of teamwork. No single leader, no matter how brilliant, can handle the complexity of the rapidly changing world. His success will depend on the company of advisors he keeps and parts from. The term “Third world country” is now replaced by “developing Country” and even that term is fast being replaced by the term” developing world.” We are all developing, hopefully cohesively and cooperatively to make our globe inhabitable if not glorious.

This election extends to us a chance of creating leadership that our country benefits from and the world is grateful for. Anything less than that is less. America still provides a beacon of hope for the rest of the world.

Let us all vote with a vision. Not to vote is sacrilegious. To vote without the welfare of the world in mind, ours and everyone’s, is self-destructive in the long run.


Bhagirath Majmudar, M.D. is an Emeritus Professor of Pathology and Gynecology-Obstetrics at Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia. Additionally, he is a poet, playwright, Sanskrit Visharada and Jagannath Sanskrit Scholar. He can be contacted at [email protected] 

Watching My Daughter Graduate At Home

It was supposed to be a momentous year. I was planning to throw a party. A graduation party. Friends, flowers, photos. Smiles, speeches, tears. A memorable day where I would watch my daughter walk across the stage, surrounded by her peers, basking in the cheers of their families. A communal celebration. A coming of age. A time to fly. A time to sigh.

From the time she was four, I had imagined this milestone moment of her college graduation. Almost twenty years ago, I had heard commentary by Baxter Black about his graduating daughter on National Public Radio. It began with a question. “Did you ever stop and think to yourself – this will be the last time?”

It was a brief monologue, simple and moving, in the way heartfelt words often are. I thought about his words for days, trying to remember the order of those short sentences, trying to grasp the genuine emotions they conveyed. Years later, Google helped me trace the transcript. 

I printed the words on an off-white sheet of paper with green trellis design, inserted it into a plastic sheet protector, and tucked it into a cardboard box. The box traveled from America to India, and then to Singapore. My job was to keep the paper safe until her graduation day. The idea was to hand the sheet to her; to ponder, to keep, to discard, just like all the words I had uttered her over the years. That was the plan.  

To paraphrase John Lennon, Covid-19 is what happens when you are busy making other plans. Instead of the class of 2020, my daughter’s graduating cohort will forever be referred to as the Covid-19 class. 

Without a public ceremony for graduation, there will be no visible marker of an event to signify an end and a beginning. For me, the end of the years of direct parenting; for her, a beginning that would require her to fly away with strong wings and a smile. 

The disappointment of not having a large in-person ceremony was not just hers. I was hoping to vicariously relive the memory of my own graduation that took place more than two decades ago. To temper my disappointment, I revisited commencement speeches that form an important part of the US graduation experience. 

Encapsulating the distilled wisdom of the lived experience of writers, entrepreneurs, and people of substance, each speech is a mini self-help book of sorts, a concentrated shot of a carefully fermented brew that could cause a palpable buzz if swallowed swiftly. Many popular speeches became books that could be handed out as graduation gifts containing words of advice to young people stepping into a world of possibilities. 

But what advice can you give this cohort of millennial youth who feel cheated of their moment in the spotlight? They were denied the chance to post envy-inducing photos of a champagne-popping, hat-tossing, party-hopping day on Instagram. More importantly, they were denied the chance to savor the last in-person class, the last in-class exam, the last time of simply hanging out around campus, and the last chance to say goodbye. 

In an ideal world, my daughter would have heard inspiring words from influential people. All she can do now is hang out with family members with whom she has been stuck at home for months. While I cannot provide her the chance to march across a stage, victorious in a cap and gown, the one thing I can do is dispense pearls of wisdom. After all, I have lived an interesting life. But, as she helpfully points out, I have been giving ‘lectures’ forever. Instead of applause, my monologues are usually met with eye rolls.

Even though I grudgingly agree, I am tempted to install some final pieces of programming code into her before she flies away.

“Uncertainty is inevitable. Doing something is more important than getting it right every time. Take all advice with a pinch of salt.’ 

But in this post-COVID world, I look back on my years of parenting and consider the futility of the insistence on helmets and seatbelts, at the constant attempt to ease my child’s path and smooth the bumps, and wonder if anything I have said can prepare her for a world that has literally turned on a dime.

Words, however, are not empty platitudes. They carry with them the weight of a person’s experience, and their value is proportional to your trust and respect for the person involved. 

There is much I want to say, but this is the time for action, not words. I once again read Baxter Black’s musings and notice for the first time that like me, he has more questions than answers. 

All I can do is mutely nod in response to his final question – “Where did she go, this little girl of mine?” 

Ranjani Rao is a scientist by training, writer by avocation, originally from Mumbai, a former resident of USA, and now lives in Singapore with her family. She is co-founder of Story Artisan Press and her books are available on Amazon. She is presently working on a memoir. Medium | Twitter | Facebook | Blog


This piece was first published here.

SFIFF: An Asian Film Feast

A notable cultural event of the SF Bay Area, the 22nd San Francisco Independent Film Festival features poignant and evocative content. From clever gangster dramas to social dystopias to dark comedies, the myriad of Asian films presented at this event provide a stirring yet raw glimpse into the Asian identity.

The festival takes place from January 29th to February 13th at the Roxie Theater and Victoria Theater in San Francisco. The content presented is refreshing and diverse. San Francisco audiences will have the  awesome opportunity to view new independent films and digital programs from around the world, including India, China, and Japan. This year’s festival has 57 shorts and 47 features from 21 countries. Complete program information can be found at  www.sfindie.com

Regular tickets are $15 and Opening Night tickets are $25 (21up). The FestPass, good for all screenings and parties at the Festival, is $250. Advance tickets are available now at sfindie.com and at 415.552.5580.