Tag Archives: Indian

Letters to the Editor: Earth Day Open Letter to Mayors & CEOs

Dear India Currents,

To the Community Leaders –

Please do not try to rush back to the pre-Covid normal. Indeed, drop the idea altogether. It will be the best thing you can do for the planet, for your residents & employees, and for the overall US economy.

To the Mayors of large metros –

Many of you are leading your cities to become more environmentally friendly and demanding Congressional leaders take bold action to protect our planet. One of the boldest actions you yourself can take for the planet is to stop pushing for businesses and people to come back to your city as soon as possible.  Your large metropolises have for decades drawn resources from the surrounding areas facilitated by cars, buses, and trains – each mode of transportation relying predominantly on fossil fuel. Cities can facilitate lower carbon lifestyles, being densely packed they reduce miles traveled for city-dwellers and most of that travel is on public transport, which is easier to electrify. However, there is a serious counter-balancing externality of daily travel in and out of cities for suburbanites. The same engine that has spurred your cities’ spectacular growth has also imperiled the planet and choked areas with air pollution. Scientists had been warning about the potential of a global pandemic, now they are warning us that going back to pre-Covid normal, when normal is what has brought us to the brink of disaster, is simply untenable. We don’t have much time left and your actions/inactions will help seal the fate of our planet. Why must you then push for an anti-planet agenda?

Your cities haven’t just fueled climate emissions; they have also been funnels of economic activity sucking jobs and wealth from their surrounding suburbs. In many ways, your cities have imbibed the logic of the market with competition dominating the sphere. In pre-Covid times, the country was littered with listless towns, their sole purpose being feeders of human resource to your illustrious cities. Covid-19 changed that. Suburban house prices have gone up all across the country, especially as many city-dwellers flocked to the suburbs in search of more spacious housing. People already living in the suburbs, unencumbered by the rush of getting to work each morning and returning exhausted at night, find themselves with time to relax, so they spend it enjoying their own neighborhoods, eating out more often, revitalizing their own localities. Our own little Long Island town’s Main Street is buzzing like never before; even during weekdays and weeknights, when it used to be nearly deserted before, is now swarming with people at breakfast, lunch and dinner, and the vibe is superb. If these people are again forced to go back to their sordid commutes, it may bring more economic activity to your cities, but it would be at the expense of the suburbs. Why is it that for the benefit of your large cities so many small towns across America must suffer?

To the CEOs of big corporations –

For decades, there existed a model of business and management that assumed employees’ physical presence in an office a prerequisite for growth and profitability. Covid-19 has finally proved this to be a fallacy. Corporate profits are skyrocketing and an overwhelming majority of employers acknowledge that remote work has been successful. The best example of remote-work success is the software/tech industry. This success is now possible because by 2020, the technology to work remotely had matured in the form of high-speed internet access and myriad video conferencing software.  Any remaining kinks in technology will soon be sorted. Towering skyscrapers with their gleaming glass offices have already started to resemble monuments of the past. Many employees have discovered that not having to spend 2-3-4 hours each day driving in rush hour traffic or riding on trains & buses offers a much higher quality of life. Sleep deprivation has been a major detriment to the health of long-distance commuters, napping being the most common commuting activity. Imagine having an extra 2-4 hours added to your daily life; you can sleep more, play more, spend more time with your kids, have more time to think creatively, or just ponder. This prized gift of time improves productivity and makes for happier employees. Why would you then try to upend this superior work-life balance?

Of course, some employees, especially young people, might want to come back to the office. Others, especially older ones, who have homes & roots in the suburbs and/or are raising young children may vastly prefer to either fully or mostly work from home. It is not so difficult to find ways to facilitate these shifts. Those who do not desire to go back to a daily commute should be allowed to come to the office once or twice a week as per need, potentially for a day of meetings or if a new employee on-boarding requires physical presence. Even those employees who would mostly prefer to work in the office are more likely to appreciate being able to work from home 1 or 2 days a week, especially if the home is no longer a cupboard size apartment. Pre-Covid, the living arrangement in some of these “wealthy” cities was close to inhumane for most people, tiny apartments carved up into “flexes” converting living rooms into extra bedrooms to add another roommate. The sole objective of renting such an apartment was to get away from it for most of the day. Facilitating more employees to live and work from homes in the suburbs not only adds to their quality of life, but it also relieves housing pressure in cities allowing the employees living there to be able to afford humane housing conditions. Why not embrace this win-win for both employees and employers?

To all reading –

You might ask the fundamental question – if people start working right where they live and if corporations close offices in large cities, what does it do to the stature of a big city? What would “New York, New York” mean if the suburbs in New Jersey, Long Island, and the other NYC boroughs no longer funnel all their resources to the tiny island of Manhattan?

While you may not like the answer, the truth is that there is nothing sacrosanct about the stature of a big city. History shows that crises and disasters have always set the stage for new paradigms of thinking and living. Mega-cities have long been considered the engines of human progress, but they have also brought immense misery to countless areas through depopulation & brain-drain, and commuting to and from cities is a huge source of sleep deprivation and carbon emissions. For far too long, scientists’ warnings have been ignored by governments and corporations alike, both unable to see beyond the next fiscal quarter’s growth figures. And the abomination of “business as usual” has continued unabated.

Covid-19 has brought the world immense tragedy but it has also given us a glimpse of new possibilities. It has shown us that even cherished old paradigms have an expiration date. For the sake of the planet, our own well-being, and for the greater good, we are counting on you for the right kind of leadership.

Thank you!

Swati Srivastava and Mark Bartosik

Long Island, New York


Swati Srivastava is a filmmaker and an environmentalist. Mark Bartosik is an engineer and an environmentalist. Together, they try to lead a sustainable life and live in a Net Zero Energy Home in Long Island, NY. They can be reached at [email protected] and [email protected] 

If you would like your opinion or perspective expressed at India Currents, do not hesitate to contact [email protected] with a submission or note. 


 

Author, Lakshmi Rao with her tanpura(Image by Jigna Desai)

The Enduring Poetry of the Gwalior Gayaki

Poetry As Sanctuary – A column where we explore poetry as a means of expression for voices of the South Asian Diaspora.

“Geetam Vaadyam Tatha Nrityam, Trayam Sangeeta Mucchyate.”

This quote from the ancient Sangeet Ratnakar by Pandit Sharangdev, defines ‘sangeeta’, or ‘collective music’, as singing, instrumental music, and dance. De rigeur for many Indian children, I have fond memories of training in Bharatanatyam and Carnatic vocal music myself. While my exposure to playing instruments was limited, I spent time listening to soulful Hindi film songs and singing in the school choir.

 I also ventured outside ‘sangeeta’. Over the summer holidays, I lost myself in brooding Dutch skies and the idyllic English countryside, while painstakingly recreating the paintings of the Old Masters on my own. My unexpected partner in artistic ventures was my mother. I still remember her reciting “For whom the bell tolls”, during our weekly Sunday oil-bath ritual. The oil was smelly and the bathroom floor was cold, but John Donne lit up my seven-year-old imagination. 

“No man is an island,

Entire of itself.

Each is a piece of the continent,

A part of the main.

If a clod be washed away by the sea,

Europe is the less.

As well as if a promontory were.

As well as if a manor of thine own

Or of thine friend’s were.

Each man’s death diminishes me,

For I am involved in mankind.

Therefore, send not to know

For whom the bell tolls,

It tolls for thee.”

Captivated by words, endless hours were spent in bookstores and libraries, train compartments, and dull classes secretly devouring Dickens and Austen and later, Sheldon and Nabokov. Fascinated by these cerebral and rather mysterious personalities, I wondered: was writing art? If a picture paints a thousand words, are words then less, or more? And do they not have a place in “sangeeta”?

Time passed and I “grew up”; focusing my energies on studying and working, traveling extensively while juggling the demands of career and family. In 2009, I decided to take a much-needed break when we moved to Mumbai and rekindled my interest in the arts, this time through Hindustani classical music. I found a compelling and motivated teacher in Vidushi Neela Bhagwat, the doyenne of the ancient Gwalior parampara. Neelaji, as she is affectionately known, traces her lineage through her guru, Sharathchandra Arolkar, to Krishnarao Shankar Pandit and in turn to Haddu and Hassu Khan. Of course, the millennia-old river that Indian music is, there have been many others that gently fed the rivulets and streams. I feel incredibly lucky to be connected to this lineage of artists, spanning space and time.

Gwalior Fort (Image by Pavel Suprun and under Creative Commons License)
Gwalior Fort (Image by Pavel Suprun and under Creative Commons License)

Famous for its “ashtanga gayaki” (or eight-fold ways of voice projection), the distinctive Gwalior aesthetic relies on the composition as the portal into the raaga. The gayaki employs  a number of musical forms to render emotion: “khatka”, “meend”, “gamak”,”aalaap”, “behlava”, “taan”, “kampan” and “murki”. The richly detailed, complex compositions typically contain many of these forms, both conveying the essence of the raaga and the unmistakable singing style. Gwalior singers typically favor the “siddha” raagas (principal raagas). Yet, what drew me most was the focus on the “bol” or words of the bandish, and the interplay of these words with the “layakari”, or play of rhythm. While many gharanas emphasize similar musical forms, the Gwalior gayaki melds them with the “bol” – and “bol aalaap” is a hallmark of this tradition. 

In my quest to convey the beauty of these verses, I stumbled upon an entire world of poetry and lyricism. One of my favorite bandishes, set to raaga Vrindavani Sarang:

“Bore jina Allah ko yoon na jaaniye. Karna tha so kar chuka, aur ji chaaha so kara.

Adarang sanchi kahat, as kaaman ko, rahim reejha reejha layi, kahu ki as kaaman kara, so hi det rab”. 

Translated:

“Oh simpleton, do your duty and once done with it, do what you desire.

Adarang says truly Allah will satisfy your sincere wishes.” 

Written by Adarang who was a poet in the Delhi court of Mughal Emperor Mohammed Shah Rangile (1702-1748), the soaring notes pay tribute to the Creator. Singing the composition day after day, I noticed how my mood gradually grew more positive – and I realized the power of poetry. Poets weave magic, and “geetham” would be closer to “vaadyam” without their precious words.

Another evocative piece set to raaga Bageshri, about the plight of a lovelorn woman pining for an indifferent partner and confiding in her friend strikes a different chord. The second stanza, especially, conjures vivid imagery:

“Kaun gat bhaili, mori sajani, yeri mayi, piya na pooche ek baat;

Ek ban dhoondhoon, sakala ban ban, gayi daar daar, karahi paat paat”

Translated:

“Where has he gone, dear friend, my love did not take leave of me;

I am searching for him in the forest, through all the woods, branches, leaves.”

I joined the “Poetry of Diaspora in Silicon Valley” circle in 2019, hoping to better understand poetic sentiments and bring more feeling into my singing. Surrounded by verse in languages ranging from Pali to Portuguese, and meeting online as a getaway from Covid-imposed isolation, I eventually summoned the courage to write, too. Here’s a bandish on my travels, to meet my teacher:

“Badhi kathinayi saha guru dwaar aayi,

Ghar baal chhod kar, gyan pane mayi.

Guru haske kahe, jaanat nahin baawri,

Main antar mein rahoon, tu kahaan jayi”

Translated:

“Braving great troubles, I came to my guru’s door,

Leaving my family, in order to gain knowledge,

The guru laughed, asked if I didn’t know,

That the guru resides inside, where are you headed?”

Listening to poetry has unexpectedly grown into a much-anticipated weekly ritual. I’m delighted in my discovery of an art form within an art form, expanding my horizons and making friends along the way. Many of the members in our circle share common interests and creative collaborations bubble up quite often. I look forward to the ventures and adventures that beckon in 2021!


Lakshmi Rao is a senior disciple of Vidushi Neela Bhagwat, training in the vocal style of the Gwalior parampara. She calls the Bay Area home, and remains ever curious about the world that was, that is and that will be! 


 

Pagglait Approaches the Insular Hindu Family With Humor and Heart

Pagglait is a Hindi dramedy film that released this past March on Netflix. The narrative follows the emotional reaction and circumstance of a young widow, Sandhya (Sanya Malhotra), after the death of her husband. The film is set in a small town near Delhi and chronicles the aftermath of the death of a breadwinner in a middle-class joint family.

This film, written and directed by Umesh Bist, is a winner! The producers Shobha Kapoor, Ekta Kapoor, Guneet Monga under the banners Balaji Motion Pictures and Sikhya Entertainment deserve praise.

The film plunges us into the middle of a drama. Astik has passed away. Sandhya is alone in her room, amidst a house full of grieving relatives, sifting through “routine” condolence posts on social media about her dead husband, Astik. Sandhya is very natural in her confusion and state of shock.

When asked, “If she wants some tea?” She says she would prefer a cola

Ghanashyam, a relative, suggests she has PTSD and Sandhya’s mother tries to ward off evil spirits by burning chilies. Sandhya’s attitude leaves the others puzzled but the viewer gains more insight into Sandhya’s character after her friend Nazia (Shruti Sharma) arrives. This vegetarian “chips” craving, Muslim school friend helps Sandhya process her grief. Sandhya admits that she is not feeling sad and sneaks away with Nazia for spicy street food while Astik’s brother is performing rituals for Astik on the river bank.

Ashutosh Rana looks sufficiently tired and hapless as a grieving father of a young son. Raghubir Yadav as the interfering orthodox uncle who orchestrates the funeral arrangements and thirteen-day right of passage of the deceased soul is natural. Another easy feather in Sheeba Chaddha’s professional cap as a traditional middle-aged mother who has no time to grieve. She just carries on cooking bland food for visiting relatives, massaging her mother-in-law’s ankles, giving her enema, offering support to her husband, and seeking guidance from her “guru”.

Sandhya admits that in the few months of marriage like any other arranged married couple, she was not very close to her husband. The loss of her pet cat affected her more than her husband. It takes time to develop feelings for someone…

The other family members are distressed but I think they are more concerned about the repercussions of the loss in their lives rather than genuine grief for the departed soul. Meanwhile, Sandhya discovers a photograph of Astik’s crush in his book. Sandhya is angry at her dead husband and is curious about Aakanksha, played flawlessly by the lovely and well-groomed, Sayani Gupta.  Aakanksha, who worked with Astik, came to offer her condolences with others from Astik’s office. Sandhya confides in Aakanksha and tries to gain more information about Astik from Aakanksha. She meets her a few times and tries to dress, act, and live vicariously through Aakanksha. Sandhya finds it hard to believe that Aakanksha and Astik were not involved after marriage and broods over it. 

The plot presents a twist when the family finds out who is the sole beneficiary of Astik’s life insurance. Questions arise. Will Sandhya remain in the joint family home or return to her parents’ home? Will she accept another proposal of an arranged loveless marriage? She has been craving soda and “gol gappas”, is she expecting? Can she find a job with her Master’s in English literature?

There are so many questions for Sandhya who is caught unawares at a crossroad.

But if you look closely, this ludicrous state is not Sandhya’s alone! This is the state of so many female denizens of a repressive society in which all decisions are made for them. From birth. Whether they have a right to be born to upbringing, education, toys, books, clothes, career choice, marriage, emotional and financial stability. Their ability to choose food, love, happiness is nullified by others. All decisions are made for them.

I highly recommend this film to everyone who supports gender equality. To quote the beautiful Sanya Malhotra, “Pagglait is a person who listens to their heart!”

A round of applause to Bist for hitting a home run with his flashlight on an insular Hindu family, the predictable characters with their hypocrisy (coming late to the funeral and drinking while making others abstain), warmth (treating the old dadi with respect and cuddling up in her comforter), jibes (at the in-laws), stress (of one bathroom), prolonged rituals (despite poor financials), every attempt to draw a line between a high caste Hindu and a Muslim, and the rather odd raunchy doorbell!

Death opens doors for self-realization in unexpected places.


Monita Soni, MD has one foot in Huntsville, Alabama, the other in her birth home India, and a heart steeped in humanity. Monita has published many poems, essays, and two books, My Light Reflections and Flow Through My Heart. You can hear her commentaries on Sundial Writers Corner WLRH 89.3FM.


 

Not Really Indian: Subhashini Prasad’s Book Compiles Global Narratives

Subhashini Prasad was born Indian, raised Indonesian, educated American and professionally groomed to call the world her oyster. Her debut book, an anthology – Not Really Indian, was published in 2019 and made it to Amazon’s Top 100 Bestsellers in its first month of release. Her first children’s book – Hoo and Hau, has been published on Storyweaver. In 2020, Subhashini won the runner-up Storyteller of the Year Award by Beyond the Box. She shares funny and sincere stories of motherhood on her Instagram page, @dosaiamma. She believes that laughter is an instant vacation and that dancing is the solution to everything. Subhashini currently resides in Gurgaon with her husband and two children.

Here’s a purview into her writing process and her journey on finding inspiration to write her debut novel, Not Really Indian.

Cover of book, Not Really Indian.

What inspired your book ‘Not Really Indian’?

When I was 4, my family moved from Chennai to Jakarta. When I was 18, I moved to America to pursue my Bachelor’s degree and career opportunities. Therefore, from a young age, I have been a cocktail of cultures: sometimes confused, sometimes misplaced but always inquisitive and respectful of diversity. Stories from my own life and those of other third culture women have inspired Not Really Indian. Not Really Indian is a collection of short stories that challenge stereotypes and narrate the tales of women who long to be both Indian and worldly at once. 

Are the characters in your book based on people you know?

I am a writer who strongly believes that ‘reality is stranger than fiction’. Not Really Indian therefore takes inspiration from real life and from acquaintances who share experiences of living in India and abroad. Every time I made new friends or encountered incidents that pertain to the theme of Not Really Indian, I had made notes in a journal or on my phone. The notes made over the years came in handy when I crafted each story about women and their journey in India and abroad. The story: Goodbye, My First Love is loosely based on my family’s experience when we moved to Indonesia in the late 1980s. Offshore’d is based on the experience of many of my colleagues who worked round the clock supporting the Western finance world from India. And finally, Not Really Indian takes snippets from my own life, mixed with a pinch of drama and a fistful of twists. 

Did you struggle to develop any of your characters?

Author, Subhashini Prasad.

Surprisingly, the character sketches came naturally. Plotting the story, keeping the character development in mind was more challenging especially because I chose to use the short story format. It was challenging and exhilarating when the idea merged perfectly to reveal a character’s true color or to provide closure to the character’s personality. 

If you choose to be one of the characters in your book, who would it be and why?

Niyati Shah from the story Offshore’d is a very brave, young professional who has found the ideal balance of interacting with clients across the globe and still, staying true to her Indian identity. Even when she faces challenges from her boss and colleague as she climbs the corporate ladder, she doesn’t give up and knows how to showcase her Indian team to the rest of the world in a banking world. Niyati, believe it or not, is an embodiment of every young lady that works in the outsourcing or IT sector in India. I would choose to be Niyati for her perseverance, courage, and patriotism she shows for being Indian. 

Can you tell us about your writing process?

As a writer, I spend more time planning than in writing. I start with a one-line summary of each story and develop a character or chapter outline, depending on the length of the story. Once the planning is complete, I sit to write without distraction and find the flow. Once I find the flow, it is easier for me to finish chapters or stories at a length.

What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?

Since I work on planning and finding the flow for the words to occupy my page, it takes me more time to finish writing a large novel. And with the pandemic, with two small children at home, it is very difficult to find a distraction-free time. Also, planning can become very extensive and take time and effort away from creative writing. 

Who are your favorite authors?

Khalid Husseini and Jhumpa Lahiri have always been my favorite authors. Recently, I have enjoyed reading Elif Shafak and Indian women writers like Anuradha Roy, Madhuri Vijay, and Kiran Manral

Tell us about your future projects

I am currently working on my second book, which is a novel in the genre of dark romance. I have also completed my manuscript for two children’s books. If all goes well, all the manuscripts will be taken to publishing. 


Surabhi Kaushik is a writer from the heart and finds joy and comfort in her words. You can find all her published work on her blog: https://surabhiwritersmind.blogspot.com 


 

Indian Women Revolt: The Problem Lies in Your Genes and Not Our Jeans

A recent comment over women wearing ripped jeans by an Indian politician has once more thrown open the misogynist mentality prevalent in our culture.

On March 18, my journalist friend Sid Shukla wrote a post on Facebook which read: The problem lies in your genes, not in my jeans. RIP #Ripped_Genes. This was right after a storm broke out across the country over the ripped jeans comment made by Uttarakhand chief minister Tirath Singh Rawat, who wondered what values women wearing ripped jeans would pass on to their children. Following his insensitive comment, several women posted pictures of themselves wearing ripped jeans on Twitter and other social media platforms. Female politicians like Jaya Bachchan and Mahua Moitra also condemned the chief minister’s comments heavily.

Such careless and thoughtless remarks by politicians are not new in India where women are often blamed for inviting rape by their choice of dressing, conveniently forgetting the fact that children fall prey to pedophiles in this country. 

Delhi Pradesh Mahila Congress members take part in a protest against Uttarakhand CM remarks over ripped jeans | Parveen Negi (Image from New India Express)

Jeans have always been the bone of contention and in many homes, women are not allowed to wear them.

Early on in my life during high school, I have fought for the two Js in my life, jeans and journalism. My mother wanted to restrict my choice of clothing. She was dead against my wearing jeans, citing her conservative family members and their value systems. Seriously, I have never come across such bizarre logic in my entire life, the very fact that relatives can dictate the choice of a woman’s dress. 

Author, Deepanwita Nyogi in ripped jeans.

I was adamant and the day I first owned two pairs of jeans, I knew I had scored a point. Later during my college days, whenever I bought jeans, my mother made her sentiments clear.

Back in college, friend Devi Banerjee (name changed) admitted that wearing jeans was a big issue in her house, but her mother was supportive of her choice. Devi told me that some of her relatives nurtured the idea that only bad women wear jeans. Another college friend was never allowed to wear jeans, always arriving to classes in salwar kameez. While salwar kameez is never an issue, debarring a girl from wearing jeans because hips and thighs become pronounced is the most baseless argument I have ever heard. However, while Devi was content in Indian wear and I rebelled against my mum.

College days are long past. But to imagine that someone in 2021 can remark on how women in jeans can fail to impart the right sanskaar (value system) to children can take India back to the medieval ages and nullify all the achievements it has made till now. 

With globalization, many things have become a part and parcel of the Indian culture or that of South Asia as a whole and jeans are one among many. To criticize women for wearing jeans or ripped jeans while letting go of men attired in the same outfit is shameful and deeply disturbing. It points to the fact that society always wants women to be the torchbearer of tradition even if these are regressive.

Jeans, which originated in America in the late 1800s, are often associated with western culture and value systems. It has a certain sex appeal and an association with rebellion. Hence, those indulging in moral policing think it should be shunned by women in conservative cultures. But ironically in our society, people feel proud of their sons settled in the US and it becomes a point of discussion. Even in the US, the culture pervades the thoughts of the Indian community. India Currents very own, Srishti Prabha spoke to me about her experience. She said, “When I first wore ripped jeans in middle school (my mom was pretty progressive and let me wear them), the parents of my Indian friends would comment on how I looked like a beggar or trying too hard…”

In the Bollywood movie, Lipstick Under My Burkha, one of the female characters out of the four portrayed in the film wears jeans under her burkha because of restrictions at home. While it may appear to be a trivial issue for many, for Rehana Abidi’s character, it is the first step towards independence. 

I love wearing jeans and often remember how hard I fought to have them in my wardrobe. If jeans have to be indeed shunned, avoid it because it uses a lot of water to be manufactured and not due to stupid morality issues advanced by regressive minds… 


Deepanwita Gita Niyogi is a freelance journalist based in Delhi.


 

BET Island: An Untouched Gem

The Cultured Traveler – A column exploring the many miles of what South Asia has to offer.

If you appreciate the vastness of the sea, boat rides, and heritage temples of India, then this place is for you. A place where you feel immersed in serenity one moment and the adventure in the next. 

Okha is a small coastal town in the Dwarka district of Gujarat. It is surrounded by the sea on three sides and has a sandy beach on the Arabian Sea coast. BET Dwarka Island situated 3 km across a small creek from Okha port and reached by ferry, which was a memorable experience for me.  For the about 20-minute journey, you only have to pay Rs 20 per person. If you want to hire a personal boat, you will have to shell out Rs 4000.

For me, amidst the clean blue sky, hovering seagulls, and the coos of birds, the soothing cool breeze was like a tranquilizer.

Indeed, Bet Dwarka is a magical, beautiful, untouched, and enchanting island. This is a place on the western coast of India where I get the opportunity to see both the sunrise and sunset from the ocean. It is a lifetime memory. The long stretch of the Bet Dwarka beach is perfect for a long walk. The best part was that I did not find a lot of commercial activities here and it might be because Bet Dwarka beach was the first in Gujarat that the Government earmarked for eco-tourism development.

BET Dwarka Ports

Archaeological Importance 

The place derived its name from the ‘bhent’ or gift that Lord Krishna received at this place from his friend Sudama. The island is also called Shankhodhar as it is dotted with a huge number and variety of conch shells. Archaeological remains found under the sea suggest that there were settlements of the Harappan civilization from the Late Harappan Period or immediately after it, from the Indus Valley Civilization. It was an important shell-working center during the Harappan period. During the explorations in and around Bet Dwarka, a large number of antiquities of late Harappan period which include pottery, a seal, coins, etc, were found.

That is the reason Bet Dwarka has always stirred the curiosity of archaeologists. Probably because of the mythical claim that points that this place had been Lord Krishna’s original house in the yesteryears. 

Ferries going to and from Okha to Bet Dwarka Island.

The Beauty of Nature 

While getting to the jetty to board the boat, I saw people selling packets of bird feed. Not knowing why, I also bought some packets. And as soon as the boat left, seagulls flocked to the boat for the feed that’s in our hand. It’s was an incredible experience to see the gulls flying extremely low at such close range and even picking the feed from your palm. After getting down at the jetty, I walked for nearly 700 meters to reach the Lord Krishna temple. I saw hand-pulled trollies taking elderly persons to the temple. The main temple which closes at 12 noon, is believed to be built by Rukmini, wife of Lord Krishna. This is the place where Mirabai, the devotee of Krishna, disappeared at the feet of the Lord’s idol.

Sri Keshavrai Ji Temple in BET Dwarka Island.

Story of Sudhama and His Gift

The main temple here is Sri Keshavrai Ji Temple. Interestingly, here the idol holds the shankha (conch) in an oblique position. The temple is like a palace, built in pink limestone and filled with carvings. Small shrines are built for every queen of Krishna. Rukmani who is believed to have carved the idol here is not found, instead, Satyabhama, the second wife of Krishna, is very prominent here.

Devotees offer ‘rice’ here, which reminds one of the legendary tale that tells how Sudama, a friend of Krishna, had bought him ‘rice’ as a gift. 

When Sudama decided to seek Krishna’s help, to come out from his poverty, his wife packed him a handful of Poha to offer to the Lord. Sudama was hesitant about how to give his gift to Krishna. Krishna asked what gift his friend has brought for him. Sudama tried to hide it but Krishna took it and ate the Poha and offered it to his wife. Sudama returned without asking for help. But a surprise awaited him back home! Instead of his broken hut, there stood a palace and his wife and children were dressed in expensive clothes. That’s when he realized of Lord Krishna’s magical powers.

Other Shrines 

Apart from the main temple, there are various small shrines dedicated to Radha, Rukmani, Jambavati, Lakshmi-Narayan, Devki, Matsya form of Lord Vishnu, and many more. Hanuman Dandi temple of Bet Dwarka enshrines idols of Lord Hanuman and that of Makardhwaja – Hanuman’s son. According to myths, a drop of sweat from Hanuman Ji’s body was gulped by a fish who later delivered a son known by the name of Makardhwaja. Interestingly, the Bet Dwarka region has two Dargahs – Sidi Bawa Peer Dargah an Hajo Kirmil Dargah.  

Mobile phones and cameras are not allowed inside the temple, so better leave either in the hotel or you will have to keep them in the lockers specially made for this purpose.


Suman Bajpai is a freelance writer, journalist, editor, translator, traveler, and storyteller based in Delhi. She has written more than 10 books on different subjects and translated around 130 books from English to Hindi. 


 

Rishi Kumar Recruits Student Interns for 2022 Election Campaign

The summer days go by slowly? Well, why don’t you join a summer internship program and find a fabulous leadership opportunity right where you live? You may even be teamed up with your schoolmates.

Get involved in a high-energy campaign by joining the Rishi Kumar for Congress Fellowship program. Submit your application today at RishiKumar.com/Fellowship to be invited to an interview.

With this internship, you will discover a unique empowerment opportunity: You will find plenty of opportunities to be promoted to a Team Lead, Associate Manager, Manager, Sr. Manager, Associate Director, and Director positions.  In the summer of 2020, this program was led by 14 directors, and 45 managers leading specific functional roles, mentoring, and leading interns from 29 states.  The Kumar for Congress team drove an unprecedented engagement with our neighbors, the likes of which our district had never seen before: 100,000 doors, a million phone calls made, called 86,000 seniors offering them help with groceries/medications, and the videos went viral with 1.25 million views. In the November 2020 election, Rishi fell short by 45,000 votes in challenging a 30-year veteran incumbent but did get more votes than any other challenger in the last 30 years.

Rishi’s motivation: Rishi brings a fearless political agenda and is on a mission to change the broken Washington culture by bringing a new brand of people-driven, not lobbyist-driven politics. Watch Rishi’s personal story here. Rishi won with the most votes in Saratoga’s 60-year election history on a people-centric platform and a track record of “Getting Things Done”.  We have had only 2 competitive congressional races in Silicon Valley. This is a unique opportunity that is not to be missed.

Joining the Fellowship Program would allow you to:

An opportunity to lead teams, and discover invaluable management skills.
– Win MVP awards, get recognition awards
– Get a personal letter of recommendation at the end of the program upon request
– Earn valuable political and leadership experience while working alongside dozens of your peers
– Run for the California Democratic Party Executive Board or for a delegate seat.
– Earn passes to the California Democratic State Convention and even meet Presidential candidates

This internship is mirrored after the fellowship program of President Obama’s winning re-election run in 2012. Last summer the Kumar for Congress team had students participating from Stanford University, Georgetown University, University of California (Berkeley), UCLA, San Jose State University, Santa Clara University, and many local high schools.

For further info, please contact the campaign team at [email protected]

New York to Kerala, American Actress India Jarvis Makes a Malayalam Film Debut

The first time Director, Jeo Baby mentioned her name, I thought I had heard him wrong. It was prior to the release of his film, Kilometers and Kilometers. Requesting him to repeat the actress’s name, I heard him say India Jarvis again. Now I was convinced of my hearing. 

Actress, India Jarvis

India Jarvis might be an unusual name for this New York-raised American actress. And, clearly, her mother had no inkling while christening her daughter India, that one day her little girl would cross the shores to work in the eponymous country. 

Jarvis traveled in 2019 to India on her first visit for the filming of the Malayalam film, ‘Kilometers and Kilometers.’

“My mother named me after one of the characters in ‘Gone With the Wind,’ says Jarvis over email. “She found the name beautiful.”

Jarvis’s love for acting goes back to her childhood when as a 9-year-old, she joined a community theater. And, with a BFA from the Academy of Art University (San Francisco), she moved to New York. She worked there in Off-Broadway shows and short films.

Kilometers and Kilometers is her first Indian feature film where she essays the lead role of Cathy- an American tourist in India. Cathy after winning at a casino is keen on touring the country, but not in chauffeured cars. She is eager on exploring India while riding pillion on a motorcycle.

When the offer to do this Malayalam film came her way, Jarvis despite being unaware of the industry, took it up.

“I have watched Indian films,” she says. “My favorite is ‘Black’ – the Amitabh Bachchan starrer. As an actor, you’re always looking for scripts with interesting stories and characters.”

Like her character, it was her first experience traveling to India. 

“I’ve never worked on anything like this before. I knew it would be a challenge from an acting perspective.”

Talking about her director, Jarvis says, “Jeo had a great vision for this film. I knew it was in great hands.”

In Kilometers and Kilometers, she is paired opposite Kerala’s heartthrob –Tovino Thomas. Thomas plays Josemo, a motorbike mechanic who takes on the work opportunity to drive Cathy around on his motorbike. Being the only son, he supports his widowed mother and younger sister and hopes to clear his family debts with the money thus earned. 

Jarvis was at ease working with Tovino Thomas. 

“While shooting, I found myself lost at times due to the language barrier. Tovino was always helpful,” she recalls.  “There’s one scene where Josemon and Cathy are sitting on the edge of a cliff. We were secured by a rope around our waists. It was terrifying, but I put on a brave face to get through the scene. Pillion riding on a motorcycle was a blast. Despite a hectic schedule, it was almost therapeutic.”

Kilometers and Kilometers is a feel-good film now streaming on Netflix.

Following its release, Jarvis has been flooded with messages on social media. Though she has received offers to work in India, she is unable to travel in the existing pandemic times.


Mythily Ramachandran is an independent journalist based in Chennai, India with over twenty years of reporting experience. Besides contributing to leading Indian and international publications including Gulf News (UAE), South China Morning Post, and Another Gaze (UK), she is a Rotten Tomatoes critic. Check out her blog – http://romancing-cinema.blogspot.com/ 


 

De-Colonizing the System: The Core Divisiveness Between Minorities

I grew up in an environment where my grasp of English determined my intelligence and the colour of my skin determined my beauty. Undermining those with ‘heavy Indian accents’ or a dark brown skin tone were a part of the Indian mindset that what must be eventually achieved is “whiteness”. I attempted to be as white as possible with my brown skin. 

When I came to America as a kid, I did not know much about systemic racism. It was a distant concept that I had not tackled in India. In my first week living in America, I was called so many names and racial slurs. I realized I knew of a very different world. Whiteness did not mean intelligence or perfection like I had previously believed. The white man has conned us. 

At an Ethnic Media services briefing on March 26th, a few distinguished speakers gathered to discuss and explain the process of redistricting in the US. 

Redistricting is the redrawing of political district boundaries – the boundaries of a district are redrawn to account for a relatively equal population and to have better representation in that community or district. 

EMS panelist, Thomas A. Saenz stated, “Redistricting is the redrawing of district lines not just for Congress, but also for state legislatures, also for local bodies like city councils, county boards, boards of education, community college boards. Where those systems elect their representatives by district, rather than at large.” He further went on to state the reason for redistricting: “In the 1960s, the U.S Supreme Court concluded that each state and each locality must redraw their lines after the census to make the districts relatively equal in population.” 

Once every ten years, after the census— the official count of the population— the district lines are redrawn to create a relatively equal population in each district and also have a better representation of people of colour in these districts and offices. This means that people of colour can engage and actively participate in communities and vote from city councils to legislative areas, it also helps create a better environment for minorities in their day-to-day lives. 

Despite all these beautiful laws that should be protecting minorities, in the 2020 Census, the Trump administration was trying to change the way data was collected for the census from total population to citizenship population. This would mean that people under the age of 18, illegal immigrants, and any non-citizens in the U.S would not be counted in the census and lead to drastic misrepresentation.

The people that minorities may seek validation from are not even willing to count them as part of the population or have them represent a community in American society. 

San Jose Districting (Courtesy of University of Maryland’s T-Races project)

Leah C. Aden, who currently serves as Deputy Director of Litigation at the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund (LDF), stated that the next round of redistricting will be a struggle because in 2013, the Supreme Court “immobilized section 5 of the voting rights act.” This was a provision that stated some states require federal approval prior to redistricting, just to make sure that there was proper representation of people of colour as those states had elected officials who would finish the voice of POC to come up in power. But now, due to the immobilization, places like Georgia, or Texas, or Louisiana, will not need federal approval, potentially making it worse off for communities of colour.

The speakers at the EMS briefing gave concrete examples of how people of colour can be affected negatively in every community. The constant need to push out people of colour from finding equality and comfort in communities is just perturbing. 

It’s been a series of events, the way white supremacy has constantly pitted people of colour against each other while simultaneously driving them out of political places that influence their daily lives. 

I’ve seen Black people and Native American people scream on top of their lungs and seen Asian and Latino communities having to protest all day, just to be considered human. I’ve seen the privileged find comfort in their privilege and only raise their voice if the privilege isn’t extended to them. This year has perhaps been one of the biggest eye-openers…

As people of colour a lot of us feel tired. But I urge you to accept and love and define your own self. I urge you to unlearn the ideologies that have been instilled in you and learn that you are enough because you exist. You deserve respect because you are human. I urge you to decolonize your mind. To engage in communities and be the representation in society you want to see. 


Swati Ramaswamy is a recent graduate from UC Davis and is an aspiring creative writer who loathes speaking in the third person. 


 

In the Land of Narmada: Visions From 50 Years Ago

Sri. Nettur P. Damodaran (1913-1978) was a prominent public figure from the state of Kerala, India, who had made contributions in various fields as a freedom fighter, political activist,  social worker, author, journalist, Member of Parliament, and a senior government official. The recently published book In the Land of Narmada, which is a translation of a travelogue written by him in Malayalam and first published fifty years ago, is a fascinating work due to many reasons. It shines a light on many facets of the state of Madhya Pradesh, which are unknown to the present generation.

Among such lesser-known aspects of daily life in the province are those related to the dreaded gangs of dacoits.  For all practical purposes, dacoits have been eliminated in central India, the current generation, including the youngster from those areas, are not aware of the sway they once held on the day-to-day life of the people. 

Apart from their social impact, the stories of these bands, which included the full spectrum, from the scum of the earth right up to almost noble souls, make fascinating reading. The personal experiences of the author had half a century back, as highlighted in the excerpts below,  will certainly ignite curiosity in the minds of the readers to learn more about them. 

Dacoits come in, right in the introduction to the book written by renowned novelist, travelogue writer, and winner of Jnanpith Award,  Sri. S. K. Pottekkatt wherein he describes an experience he had while traveling with the author: 

“….I still remember a small incident that happened during that trip. Somewhere on the way, a group of six or seven men stopped the bus in which we were travelling. We noticed few passengers getting up and making seats available for them when they boarded the bus. Those who entered the bus were seen speaking loudly and gesticulating among themselves. We understood that they were showering abuses in strong colloquial tongue. Suddenly, a young man with thick moustache got up from his seat, removed his footwear and started slapping a fairly old and hefty man on both sides of his cheeks and shoulder without respite.

While receiving the blows, the elderly man did not utter a word nor did he resist. He just unsuccessfully tried to evade and then quietly withdrew, mumbling. The conductor, the driver and the passengers remained silent throughout the episode as if they have not seen anything. Nettur and I were a bit perplexed.

Once the bus reached a deserted place, after travelling two or three miles, the thick moustached young man ordered the driver to stop. After the bus stopped, first the young man followed by others in the group, including the person who received the slaps, got down and went away. Once the bus started to move after they disembarked, the passengers heaved a deep sigh of relief. Then they broke their silence. It appears the ones who disembarked were the members of a dacoit gang!”

Sri. Nettur P. Damodaran continues his narration in the chapter on the dacoits – Please keep in mind the fact that this book was written fifty years back. Many of the schemes described and societal changes envisioned by the author have already happened, which in turn highlights his unique insight and foresight.

From ‘Land of Narmada’, originally published in the year 1972

……Along with a team comprising a clerk, a peon, and a driver, I left Delhi to go on a tour of Madhya Pradesh, one day. Traversing the dacoits-dominated districts of Morena, Gwalior, and Shivapuri, we reached Shivapuri. Though we had some apprehensions in our minds, none of the dacoits cared for us. What would they gain by robbing us?

It is the rich, those who don’t pay upon their demands and the informants who help to catch them, that they generally kidnap and harm. Perhaps they would have known that neither I nor my party falls in that category. Apart from that, our travel was in broad daylight and on the Agra–Bombay National Highway. There’s heavy traffic on that highway.

It appears the dacoits have great respect for such highways. They are also true nationalists, who abhor parochialism! If anyone travels fearlessly on provincial roads, they do not spare them. Those holding local sentiments and are parochial in mind should hence exercise extreme caution before venturing on such roads. Generally, they do not harm outsiders. They catch hold of only those who are living among them; whom they know very well.

Dacoits also have certain needs, don’t they? They approach the rich and seek money, when in need. If the approached one does not pay up, they simply withdraw after setting a date. On that chosen date, they reach there and take him as a hostage. Once the set ransom is paid, the person is brought back as well. However, if he does not pay up, the rich man will never return home.

Helping the poor and the suffering lot is one of their covenants. They donate liberally to the poor parents for meeting the expenses of their daughters’ weddings. Is it for nothing that the authorities are failing to eliminate the dacoits? “

The political philosophy of the dacoit gangs also is socialism. They have a popular base and public support—the egalitarian principles of the dacoits are generally applied to those ruthless anti-socials, who have amassed wealth by exploiting the poor. I used to wonder at times whether areas such as Morena, Shivapuri, Bhind, and Gwalior aren’t more suited than Kerala for communism to flourish.

The dacoits do not have any special affinity towards communism. They are believers in God. For them, committing dacoity and even murder is considered as acts of offering to God. Whether communism will take roots among them is a matter to be seen.

Vinobaji had conducted a padayatra over there. He also did succeed to some extent. But it is difficult for Vinobaji to succeed where government, police, law, rules, etc. are enmeshed in tangles. If such issues were not there, probably Vinobaji could have succeeded and the dacoits could have undergone a change of hearts and their lives would have found new streams to flow. Though they do not respect the law, they have certain laws of their own. They follow them. Before carrying out every dacoity, they bow before their Goddess.  The boundaries of operation for individual gangs are set. If anyone breaks these boundaries, they fight among themselves. As a result, many die. It is believed by the villagers that such dead bodies of dacoits killed in inter-gang fights are later picked up by the police and exhibited as the ones killed in police encounters falling prey to their guns to gain fame. To my knowledge, this belief is not only among the villagers but among others also. 

Many officials who had been in the captivity of the dacoits had described their experiences to me. Once the houses of the officials stationed in the district headquarters of Bhind district for the construction of an irrigation project fell prey to the dacoits. They did not harm anybody. After selecting and bundling things lying there that they felt would be of use, they dispersed peacefully. There is a danger only if they are resisted. In such a case, in addition to money, lives also may be lost. In Bhind itself, once a lady officer fell into their hands. But they did not do any harm. Being a lady and an outsider, she was let off. But her peon, a local, who got up from sleep and came there on hearing the noise had to bear a minor burn inflicted on his hand. Perhaps a punishment for not vigilantly guarding his lady boss. This was the only harm done by them.

In Shivapuri, we had parked our car in front of a shop for filling the tank. That shop was owned by a rich Sait. A month before, that very shop and the town had witnessed a scene. A few men came in a jeep, alighted in front of the shop, and asked the owner Sait to board the jeep. As if accompanying known people, Sait boarded the jeep. Only much later did the citizens of Shivapuri realize that the people who came in the jeep were dacoits and it was an abduction for money, after the Sait returned spending few days as their captive and guest and regaining his lost freedom by paying up the ransom. The shop and the Sait are still there. The Sait is quite sure that they will not approach him again for quite some time. The dacoits observe many such etiquettes. They approach an old target only after completing a full cycle of covering all the targets on the list. Such an understanding exists between the rich and the dacoits. Many people in the area also believe that there is a different set of understanding between the police and the dacoits. I have met many who believe that the issue of dacoits remains unresolved because both sides have reconciled on cooperative coexistence within certain limits. 

Chambal Valley (Image from Land of Narmada)

The Government has a good scheme to sink the dacoits. It is the Chambal ravines that aid the dacoits to hide and engage in guerrilla battles. 

On our way from Dholpur in Rajasthan to Gwalior in Madhya Pradesh, we reached Shivapuri after crossing this gorgeous and modest river that flows along the border between the two states. It is difficult to believe that dacoits are hiding within the folds of the flowing attire of this charming beauty of a river that is streaming through a long and broad path far beyond the line of sight.

If the shores on both the sides are visually examined, one can find truth in these stories. Because of the soil erosion due to the continuous flow of water, the terrain formed over a long distance is full of large pits, mounts, and caves. It will appear as if nature has built a fort for the dacoits to have a free run in the area. The Government’s plan is to flatten these areas for making them cultivable and to smoke out the dacoits like wild rats. The name of the scheme is Chambal Valley Reclamation Scheme. Long live the Chambal project!


Pradeep Nettur, the translator of the book, is the second son of the author. An Engineer by training and a Civil servant by profession, spanning 36 years, he pursued his literary passion by taking up the translation of this masterclass work of his father, which, though widely appreciated, was confined in the vernacular for about 50 years, for laying it before the world of an extended, enlightened and enlarged readership.


 

Bhageera Premieres at Poppy Jasper International Film Festival

The Poppy Jasper International Film Festival (PJIFF ) brings local flavor to the South Bay, broadcasting more than 170 films from 38 countries. From feature-length to short films, the festival will be virtually streamed from April 7-April 22. One of the unique aspects about Poppy Jasper is that it has remained a strongly community-based festival since it was founded in 2003, connecting movie buffs to filmmakers and directors. 

Mattie Scariot, the director of the PJIFF explains, “Our mission as a film festival is to change the way people see each other through film and to bridge that gap in Hollywood with women and minorities,” as various panels at this year’s festival discuss how to empower women filmmakers and herald diversity of gender and cultures into the process of filmmaking. “When we show films from around the world, that changes the dynamic and the way we see each other,” adds Scariot.

The complete PJIFF line-up includes features from across the globe including Bagheera from India, a film that draws on true events, interpreted with intense film noir style. Shot in Hindi this impactful, 20-minute short film, LOGLINE Bagheera, tells the story of a bright young leader of a Girl Scout troop in India, who is abducted by a brutal assailant. The skills that have earned her many achievement badges provide the key to her escape and scorching retribution.

Director Christopher R. Watson wanted to tell a powerful story about a modern woman which would uplift audiences. The plot centers on the sexual abuse of women, which is the most common unreported and unpunished crime in the world. So, he decided to celebrate the human spirit, by demonstrating the value of common sense, resourcefulness, and courage in the face of danger. Preeti Choudhury, the star of the movie, brought a girl-next-door naturalism to the character. When she turns out to be tough and capable, it’s not only a magnificent surprise, it’s believable. Nailing the visuals was vital and the locale–a disused shipyard on the outskirts of Mumbai and a tract of vacant land nearby—adds a deeper dimension, instrumental in expanding the script with a magnificent myriad of detail.

A wonderful way to spend the advent of spring check out The Poppy Jasper International Film Festival, as they highlight original content with different points of view, a wonderful outlet for artistic and cultural expression.

Tickets for Bagheera: https://pjiff.eventive.org/films/60132175a9fa880069fdce01

Tickets for the festival and entire line up at Poppy Jasper International Film Festival: https://pjiff.org


Mona Shah is a multi-platform storyteller with expertise in digital communications, social media strategy, and content curation for Twitter and LinkedIn for C-suite executives. A journalist and editor, her experience spans television, cable news, and magazines. An avid traveler and foodie, she loves artisan food and finding hidden gems: restaurants, recipes, destinations. She can be reached at [email protected]


 

Madhumeha: Ancient Origins, Recent Epidemic

Diabetes has existed for millennia. It has been recognized by several ancient cultures including Indian, Egyptian, Chinese, and Persian. Sushruta, a surgeon and physician who lived around 600BC in the Varanasi area in northern India, documented it in his works. They recognized that ants were attracted to the urine of affected individuals and it was named Madhumeha (Sanskrit; madhu- honey).

Ancient physicians also recognized that there were two types of conditions that involved excessive urination and loss of weight. This recognition of excessive sugar in individuals affected by diabetes was refined over the next 2000 years, and in the 18th century, England Johann Peter Frank is credited with the identification of two forms of diabetes- diabetes mellitus and diabetes insipidus. Mellitus (Greek; honey) was associated with high levels of sugar in the urine, while insipidus was not. In fact, diabetes insipidus is an unrelated condition related to hormonal control of the kidneys, leading to excessive urination. 

By the 5th century physicians in India and China had noticed that there are two kinds of diabetes mellitus- one of which was prevalent in older and heavier individuals. Methods to recognize, understand and treat diabetes mellitus have evolved with technological developments. Relatively rapid progress since the 18th century has identified insulin as the hormone secreted by the pancreas that plays a central role in this indication, and also defined type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

Type 1 (also termed ‘early onset’ and ‘insulin dependent’) is a condition that generally develops in children and younger individuals where insulin production by the pancreas is compromised or completely shut down due to several reasons. Type 2 diabetes (also termed ‘adult onset’ and ‘non-insulin-dependent’) is the focus of this article and has become a global health problem. 

In its current trend of prevalence Type 2 diabetes, or T2D, has blurred two boundaries. It was previously confined to low- and middle-income countries but is now on the rise even in the higher-income countries. Secondly, the age of onset is not confined to older patients. Among the Indian population worldwide, T2D is gaining numbers within India and also within expatriate Indian and southeast Asian communities. Some studies put the number of Indians in the US as the group with the highest incidence of diabetes than any other racial group at an age group above 20. Similar reports have been made with respect to Europe and UAE. Within India itself the numbers of T2D in adults 20 years and above has tripled over the past 3 decades.

This appreciable increase in T2D in southeast Asian expatriate communities, and also within their countries especially India and China, is thought to be due to the relatively recent cultural changes in diet and lifestyle over the past 50 years, such as an increase in consumption of fried foods, fast food, refined grains and sugars, lack of dietary fiber, and sedentary lifestyles.

In addition to these behavioral changes T2D is caused by an interplay of genetic and environmental factors, and familial history serves as an indicator for individuals to be forewarned about their own health. That said, considering the speed with which changes in the age of onset and frequency of T2D are being documented, it appears that environmental, diet, and lifestyle changes are the major contributors to the current epidemic. Also, in general, Indians have a higher degree of insulin resistance than Caucasians, which occurs when the cells of the body lose the capacity to respond to insulin even when it is being produced by the pancreas. 

The burden of the long-term health effects of T2D are significant to the individual and from a public health perspective. The more stark chronic manifestations include neuropathies, foot ulcers, blindness, kidney dysfunctions, accelerated aging, and a general decline in health and productivity. In addition to insulin, newer medicines exist to control blood sugar and insulin response, and other therapies are being developed including stem cell therapeutics. 

If there is a good aspect to T2D it is that it can be prevented or the onset delayed. The fact that onset can be delayed is a point of practical importance, as most of the clinical manifestations arise due to cumulative effects of high circulating sugar. Prevention is the best cure, as the adage goes. A regular health check-up will flag a ‘pre-diabetes; condition. Glucose intolerance tests, HbA1c levels in the blood, body mass index, and overweight are common tests to gauge pre-diabetes. This indication should be taken as a warning, and acted upon seriously and with a positive attitude. 

The trinity of diet, exercise, and stress management are often called upon. Eat less. Eat on time. Walk more. In general, the lifestyle changes that are recommended are geared towards helping maintain an even level of blood sugar and reduction to, or maintenance of, an optimal body weight.

Processed grains, and refined carbohydrates like maida (all-purpose flour), have a high glycemic index. As against whole grains, they are quickly metabolized to sugar and result in a sudden spike of increase in glucose in the blood. Our standard fare includes white rice or chappatis/other breads as a base, and this can be substituted with brown rice and atta (whole wheat).

Instead of serving up a plate with a large portion of rice and sides of vegetables and protein, switch around the amounts and serve up rice as a side dish instead. Control portion sizes, and maintain steady time intervals between meals and snacks. Include soupy low-calorie items which will serve to fill up the stomach. Fasting is not recommended. Eat a diet of high fiber which includes green leafy vegetables and excludes starchy vegetables, skim milk-based yogurt, and whole grains. High fiber dals (moong, masur, urad, etc., along with sprouted whole dals) and beans (such as chole and rajma) should be a mainstay. Including methi (fenugreek) regularly in cooking, and in salads and dals after sprouting (sprouting methi completely reduces its bitter taste) adds flavor and a health benefit. Fruits that are delicious and low in sugar include papaya, guavas, blueberries, and jamoon

Items to be conscious of and exclude, or eat in disciplined quantities, include fried foods and fatty foods in general (including our delicious tea-time snacks!), foods that include sugar and artificial sweeteners (yes, some sweeteners and bulk additives added to sweeteners can produce a sugar spike!), and processed grains. While regulating these will help with the maintenance of body weight, avoiding sugar, sweeteners and the inclusion of whole grains will maintain even levels of blood sugar. Depending on the stage of diabetes fruits may be eaten in moderation, but high sugar fruits such as mangoes, grapes, and sapotas should be avoided. 

As with diet, steady exercise is highly recommended for diabetes. Even our hoary sage Sushruta recommended this, and in some studies, the inclusion of exercise had the most obvious ameliorative effect. The type of exercise will need to vary based on the individual’s age and capacities, but even a basic activity like a daily brisk walk for about thirty minutes would make a difference. Obviously, more will be required if weight loss is an objective. Although yoga is excellent for weight maintenance, it will not suffice for weight loss regimes. Walking, yoga, and exercise, in general, will also help in stress management, and others may be included, such as reading, meditation, etc., depending on individual preferences. 

Tackling the diabetes epidemic at the global level would need to start with the individual. 


L Iyengar has lived and worked in India and the USA. A scientist by training, she enjoys experiencing diverse cultures and ideas. She can be found on Twitter at @l_iyengar .