Tag Archives: #Indiannewsroom

I Walk With My ForeMothers When I Wear My Streedhan, ‘Woman’s Wealth’.

Desi Roots, Global Wings – a monthly column focused on the Indian immigrant experience

On Mother’s Day, as on all others, I was thinking of my mother and grandmother. Even though they are no more, they are very much present in my everyday life. This is partly thanks to the gold jewelry—a chain, a pair of small earrings, and bangles—that they bequeathed to me. These items matter to me not because of their (modest) monetary value but because of what they signify.

***

In Marathi, streedhan means “woman’s wealth” (stree=woman, dhan=wealth). The term means “woman’s capital” and, traditionally, it was endowed upon the bride at the time of her wedding. It was comprised of gold and jewelry, household items, and cash. This was the contribution that her birth family made towards helping her get settled in life. Sometimes, the groom’s family also made a contribution towards the streedhan.

This was a way to provide capital which would serve as insurance or investment. If the marriage did not last—early death of the husband was common—the helpless widow would not be entirely at the mercy of fate or her in-laws. Uneducated and unable to earn a living, she could sell the jewelry to pay for her children’s educations, or to buy a small home of her own.

***

I wear my gold chain, hoops, and bangles all the time—despite the fact that the pieces don’t match my American outfits. Over the decades lived in this adopted land, I have changed about as much as I want to, especially regarding attire. On the few occasions that I bow to the dictates of fashion and take these items of jewelry off, I sense emptiness. My wrists feel manly, my neck seems bare, and my face—unframed by two little hoops—looks as if it is sickly or in mourning. And so, I avoid taking them off; on the few occasions I do, I put them back on at the earliest opportunity.

I walk in this world with my foremothers holding my hand in the form of the jewelry that they wore throughout their lives.

***

Indian bride

But the chain, hoops, and bangles are not my literal streedhan. My womanly capital is my education. It is what makes me a critical thinker and a lifelong learner. It gives me self-confidence as well as emotional independence. My mother (and father) and grandmother (and grandfather) invested as much thought and energy into making this streedhan available to me as previous generations of parents might have to gather the gold that they bestowed on their young, about-to-be-married daughters. Having witnessed or suffered the havoc that resulted when women were un-empowered, my elders were determined to change course.

Despite my being female, I was excused from doing chores like cooking and cleaning. My elders set expectations of high educational achievement and applauded when I achieved to my potential. So convinced were they about the rightness of this that they did not allow themselves to worry about the consequences such as the challenge of balancing work and family. That would be my battle to fight—using the capacities with which I was being equipped.

They conveyed the reason for the focus on education in clear-eyed and empowering terms. Yes, it was so that I would be spared the hardships and indignities that women of earlier generations had suffered. But, with discipline, determination, and their encouragement it was achievable. All that mattered was making me the most empowered person I could be.

So, the streedhan that I will hand down to my children will be the jewelry that symbolizes a way of being in this world—the courage and sacrifices of our ancestors over outdated and crippling customs; their commitment to nurturing the children and to seek flourishing through unsparing hard work.

***

Last year I moved 3,000 miles—from the east coast to the East Bay. The pull was my deep desire to be present to my infant grandson. The push was the pandemic which made travel impossible for the foreseeable future.

As he awakens into consciousness and learns about the world around him, sundry items catch his eye. He tugs at my gold bangles and when I hand them to him, he touches and, invariably, puts them in his mouth. Sometimes I twirl them on the floor and they spin like dervishes. He watches enthralled.

The bangles that were worn by my mother and by her mother before her have become the beloved toys of their great-grandson / great-great-grandson. The distance—across five (!) generations and multiple continents—is being bridged through an outdated but repurposed tradition.


Nandini Patwardhan is a retired software developer and cofounder of Story Artisan Press. Her writing has been published in, among others, the New York Times, Mutha Magazine, Talking Writing, and The Hindu. Her book, “Radical Spirits,” tells the deeply-researched story of Dr. Anandi-bai Joshee, India’s first woman doctor. 

Image Tehzeeb Kazami Pixabay

We Can’t Go Back Once Climate Change Hits A Tipping Point, Warns Climate Reality Activist Bill DeVincenzi

Our Climate is Changing. Why Aren’t We?

What happens when ice caps melt, forests die, the permafrost thaws and microbes multiply?

Climate Reality Activists Bill DeVincenzi and Erin Zimmerman join DesiCollective to clear up some misconceptions  about the pace of climate change. Scientists warn that we are in 6th extinction and that some of these changes are irreversible. Humans only have a ten year window to reverse the chain reaction of ‘feedback loops’ that are escalating the climate change crisis. The world is at a tipping point which can put us over the top to runaway climate change.

 

A Short Primer on Feedback Loops with Bill DeVincenzi & Erin Zimmerman

Climate Reality Leader Bill DeVincenzi

What’s A Feedback Loop?

A feedback loop is defined as a certain set of circumstances that can become self-perpetuating. They are present in everything from machines, and economics, to biological processes. They can be both positive and negative; however, in the case of climate change the consequences would be bad. Very bad.

Why Feedback Loops are Bad

Feedback loops are important to consider when trying to halt the climate crisis. And while entire books can, and have, been written about them, here’s a short primer on why climate action is essential now, and not at some point in the future.

When Earth Loses Its Best Reflector, that’s The Albedo Effect

You wouldn’t think the earth’s reflectively matters but it does. The Albedo effect, or loss of earth’s reflectivity is probably one of the most dangerous, and little known feedback loops. While much of the sunlight that hits the Earth is absorbed, some is reflected into space. You’ve probably experienced the Albedo effect if you have gone skiing or visited the high mountains in the winter. Snow and ice reflect around 85% of the sunlight that hits it and keeps the planet from getting too warm. But the volume of ice around the world has decreased by 75% in the last 40 years. According to scientists, we could lose Arctic sea ice completely by the end of this century. The ocean absorbs about 90% of the sunlight that hits it. So, we are replacing the best reflector, sea ice, with the worst absorber, open ocean. If you add in the loss of snow and ice on land as well, this adds up to approximately 40% loss of reflectivity. More heat absorbed means a warmer planet and results in even more ice melt and the cycle repeats itself.

Climate Reality Leader Erin Zimmerman

Permafrost Melt Releases Methane – It’s Wrapping Earth in a Warm, Toxic Blanket

Thousands of years ago, an icy cover in the North froze billions of tons of biological material to create Permafrost.  When permafrost melts, the biological materials thaw and then decompose, releasing the greenhouse gasses (GHGs) carbon dioxide (CO2) and Methane. GHG’s are like a blanket that covers the Earth, keeping it warm. As the blanket gets thicker (more GHG’s), the planet gets warmer. Today, permafrost keeps twice as much CO2 in the ground as there is CO2 in the atmosphere right now. If this CO2 is released, the consequences could be devastating. It’s vicious cycle. As global temperatures rise, the permafrost thaws, which increases greenhouse gasses and more warming. The cycle then repeats itself. The carbon dioxide is bad enough, but the Methane is 30 times more potent than CO2 in terms of trapping heat in the atmosphere.

The Jet Stream’s Deadly Loop De Loop

The Jet Stream ironically, is an actual loop of air current. It circles high above the earth around the Northern hemisphere between the colder north and the warmer south. The temperature differential between the two keeps the jet stream in place; however, the temperature in the North is increasing 2 to 3 times as fast as the temperature in the South. This is pushing the jet stream South; the further South it wanders, the more it picks heat from the South to carry North. This reinforces the cycle and causes wild and unpredictable changes in weather, from extreme cold spells in the South (ice storms inTexas!) to hotter days in the Arctic (or 100.4F in Siberia!). Dry areas become drier, and wet places get wetter.

Stand Up to The Folly of Fossil Fuels

As you have probably noticed, all the feedback loops start with fossil fuel emissions. If we reduce fossil fuel emissions, stop deforestation, and re-green the Earth, we can prevent or start to reverse these feedback loops.

Advocate for Climate Action or Elect Leaders Who Will

The single most important thing we can do is elect leaders who will move us in the right direction. We must vote in political leadership that will take on this problem and collaborate with other countries around the world. It is up to us to continue to put pressure on our local legislators to support the administration in the effort.

Regardless, the planet will continue to exist just fine, albeit a lot warmer, like in the time of the dinosaurs. We humans may not exist, nor would many of the species that now exist with us. So, we can sit back and let global warming wipe us out. Or we can act now to save ourselves and our fellow species. We have total control over this.

Let’s make it happen!


Meera Kymal & Anjana Nagarajan Butaney produce the climate change podcast ‘Our Climate is Changing, Why Aren’t We?’ at DesiCollective.

Photo by Hans-Jurgen Mager on Unsplash

In Santa Clara County, Nearly 67% Of Residents 16 + Have Had A Vaccine Shot

The Number of Californians With at Least One Covid Vaccine Dose Continues to Rise.

More than 75% of California’s seniors have had at least one dose, which makes epidemiologists hopeful that other age groups will follow suit

Demand for covid vaccines is slowing across most of California, but as traffic at vaccination sites eases, the vaccination rates across the state are showing wide disparities.

In Santa Clara County, home to Silicon Valley, nearly 67% of residents 16 and older have had at least one dose as of Wednesday, compared with about 43% in San Bernardino County, east of Los Angeles. Statewide, about 58% of eligible residents have received at least one dose.

The differences reflect regional trends in vaccine hesitancy and resistance that researchers have been tracking for months, said Dean Bonner, associate survey director at the Public Policy Institute of California, a nonpartisan think tank.

In a PPIC survey released Wednesday, only 5% of respondents in the San Francisco Bay Area and 6% of those in Los Angeles said they wouldn’t be getting vaccinated. But that share is 19% in the Inland Empire and 20% in the Central Valley.

“More urban areas might be hitting a wall, but their number of shots given is higher,” said Bonner. “The rural areas might be hitting a wall maybe even before, but their shots given isn’t quite as high.”

Infectious disease experts estimate that anywhere from 50% to 85% of the populationwould need to get vaccinated to put a damper on the spread of the virus. But overall state numbers may mask pockets of unvaccinated Californians, concentrated inland, that will prevent these regions from achieving “herd immunity,” the point at which the unvaccinated are protected by the vaccinated. Epidemiologists worry that the virus may continue to circulate in these communities, threatening everyone.

The regional differences could be attributed, at least in part, to political opposition to the vaccine, said Bonner, as about 22% of Republicans and 17% of independents in the survey said they wouldn’t be getting the vaccine, compared with 3% of Democrats.

But officials and epidemiologists see some encouraging signs that the state has yet to hit a wall of vaccine refusal. “As a strongly blue state, one would expect that California is less likely than red states to hit a relatively low ceiling of vaccination, assuming that the access is good and the messaging is strong,” said Dr. Robert Wachter, chair of the department of medicine at the University of California-San Francisco School of Medicine.

As of Wednesday, 77% of seniors in California, and 68% of those ages 50 to 64, had received at least one dose of covid vaccine, according to a KHN analysis. These large percentages reflect the early vaccine eligibility of these age groups and are a hopeful sign considering how difficult it was to get a shot in the beginning of the year, said Rebecca Fielding-Miller, an assistant professor at the University of California-San Diego specializing in infectious diseases and public health.

“I’m very hopeful that addressing access would pick up at least another 10-15% before we need to really start addressing myths and hesitancy issues,” she said.

The state could see a new jump in vaccinations as workplaces, schools and event organizers begin to require the shots, Wachter said. For example, the University of California and California State University systems announced April 22 that their 1 million-plus students and staff members will be required to get vaccinated against covid once the shots are formally licensed by the Food and Drug Administration, likely to occur this summer.

Still, the red-blue political distinction on vaccination is meaningful within California as well as nationally. Despite depressed vaccine demand across the board, counties that lean conservative have lower rates of vaccinations.

In true-blue Los Angeles, 4.5 million first covid vaccine doses have been administered, meaning that about 55% of eligible Angelenos have gotten at least one shot.

But first-dose appointments at county-run sites were down at least 50% last week, said public health director Barbara Ferrer on Thursday. The county has opened several sites where people can walk in and get vaccinated without an appointment, but these walk-ins don’t make up for all of the unfilled spots.

Last week probably marked the first time the county did not administer 95% of the doses distributed to it, she said.

In San Diego and Orange counties, meanwhile, vaccination appointments are going unfilled or taking days to get booked up.

About 20% of appointments in Orange County started going unclaimed on April 25 and the slack has persisted, said Dr. Regina Chinsio-Kwong, deputy health officer.

However, based on survey data from last winter indicating that about 58% of Orange County residents plan to get vaccinated against the coronavirus, the county is still expecting more residents to seek out appointments. As of Sunday, about 49% of residents had received at least one dose.

In San Diego, officials expect all appointments to be filled despite the slowdown, said county spokesperson Michael Workman. About 54% of eligible residents had received at least one dose as of Wednesday.

In San Bernardino, the slowdown started in late March, said county spokesperson David Wert. Only 42% of county residents had gotten at least one dose as of Monday.

Across the state, officials are unclear on the extent to which hesitancy or lack of access to a vaccine are responsible for the slowdown.

Campaigns to educate, convince and reach out to people have started to pick up throughout the country, including targeted messaging for conservatives. Ten GOP doctors in Congress recently issued an ad urging their constituents to get vaccinated.

Santa Clara is shifting most county-run sites to enable walk-ins and expanding evening and weekend hours to make it easier for working people to get a shot. San Diego and San Bernardino are also allowing walk-ins.

Other counties are returning unused doses to the state to be redistributed, a bounty from which Los Angeles County has benefited, according to Barbara Ferrer, director of the county public health department. Representatives from Blue Shield and the California Department of Public Health would not say which counties are sending doses back.

California’s good pandemic news, which has enabled counties to reopen many businesses, is one of the challenges to getting less-than-enthusiastic people in for their shots right now, said Wachter of UCSF.

As of Thursday, California has one of the lowest case rates in the U.S. at 31.3 cases per 100,000 and a covid-test positivity rate of 1.3%.

“My hope is that a strong communication campaign, perhaps coupled with some degree of vaccine requirements, will get some people to jump off the fence,” Wachter said.


This story was produced by Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent program of the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Image: County of Santa Clara Public Health Department

To book your appointment go to https://covid19.sccgov.org/covid-19-vaccine-information

CA Small Business Relief Applications Open April 28 2021

The sixth and final round of the California Small Business COVID-19 Relief Grant Program opens April 28-May 4, 2021. The program is funded by the State of California and administered by the California Office of the Small Business Advocate (CalOSBA) at the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz).

The California Small Business COVID-19 Relief Grant Program (the “Program”) provides micro grants ranging from $5,000 to $25,000 to eligible small manufacturers impacted by COVID-19.

The state has designated Lendistry, a CDFI and CDE small business lender, to act as the intermediary for the Program to disburse the grant funds. While application for previous rounds have closed, Round 6 is right around the corner.

The upcoming round of California’s small business COVID relief program is open to new applicants.

Eligible applicants include currently waitlisted small businesses and/or nonprofits not selected in Rounds 1, 2, 3, or 5 who will automatically move into Round 6. They do not need to re-apply.

New applicants that meet eligibility criteria can apply for grants ranging from $5,000 to $25,000. Businesses are eligible based on their annual revenue as documented in their most recent tax return. Owners of multiple businesses, franchises, locations, etc., will be considered for only one grant and are required to apply for the business with the highest revenue.

What criteria must a small business or small nonprofit satisfy to be eligible to receive a grant award?

To be eligible to receive a grant award, a small business or small nonprofit :

1. Must meet the definition of an “eligible small business”. An “eligible small business” means (i) a “small business” (sole proprietor, independent contractor, 1099 work, and or registered “for-profit” business entity (e.g., C-corporation, S-corporation, limited liability company, partnership) that has yearly gross revenue of $2.5 million or less (but at least $1,000 in yearly gross revenue) based on most recently filed tax return) or (ii) a “small nonprofit” (registered 501(c)(3), 501(c)(19), or 501(c)(6) nonprofit entity having yearly gross revenue of $2.5 million or less (but at least $1,000 in yearly gross revenue) based on most recently filed Form 990)

2. Active businesses or nonprofits operating since at least June 1, 2019

3. Businesses must currently be operating or have a clear plan to reopen once the State of California permits re-opening of the business

4. Business must be impacted by COVID-19 and the health and safety restrictions such as business interruptions or business closures incurred as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic

5. Business must be able to provide organizing documents including 2019 tax returns or Form 990s, copy of official filing with the California Secretary of State, if applicable, or local municipality for the business such as one of the following: Articles of Incorporation, Certificate of Organization, Fictitious Name of Registration or Government-Issued Business License

6. Business must be able to provide acceptable form of government-issued photo ID

7. Applicants with multiple business entities, franchises, locations, etc. are not eligible for multiple grants and are only allowed to apply once using their eligible small business with the highest revenue.

How will grant recipients be determined? 

Grants will be prioritized, to the extent permissible under state and federal equal protection laws, in accordance with the following criteria:

1. Geographic distribution based on COVID-19 health and safety restrictions following California’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy and county status and the Regional Stay at Home Order.

2. Industry sectors most impacted by the pandemic, including, but not limited to, those identified as in the North American Industry Classification System codes beginning with:

61 – Educational Services

71 – Arts, Entertainment, and Recreation

72 – Accommodation and Food Services

315 – Apparel Manufacturing

448 – Clothing and Clothing Accessory Stores

451 – Sporting Goods, Hobby, Musical Instrument, and Book Stores

485 – Transit and Ground Passenger Transportation

487 – Scenic and Sightseeing Transportation

512 – Motion Picture and Sound Recording Industries

812 – Personal and Laundry Services

5111 – Newspaper, Periodical, Book and Directory Publishers

 

3. Nonprofit mission services most impacted by the pandemic, including, but not limited to, emergency food provisions, emergency housing stability, childcare, and workforce development.

4. Disadvantaged communities tracked by socioeconomic indicators that may include, but are not limited to, low to moderate income, poverty rates, unemployment, educational attainment, and other disadvantageous factors that limit access to capital and other resources.

Grants to eligible nonprofit cultural institutions will be prioritized on documented percentage revenue declines based on a reporting period comparing Q2 and Q3 of 2020 versus Q2 and Q3 of 2019.

Who is ineligible to apply?

1. Businesses without a physical location in California

2. Nonprofit businesses not registered as either a 501(c)(3), 501(c)(19), or 501(c)(6)

3. Government entities (other than Native American tribes) or elected official offices

4. Businesses primarily engaged in political or lobbying activities (regardless of whether such entities qualify as a 501(c)(3), 501(c)(19), or 501(c)(6))

5. Passive businesses, investment companies and investors who file a Schedule E on their personal tax returns

6. Churches and other religious institutions (regardless of whether such entities qualify as a 501(c)(3), 501(c)(19), or 501(c)(6))

7. Financial businesses primarily engaged in the business of lending, such as banks, finance companies and factoring companies

8. Businesses engaged in any activity that is illegal under federal, state or local law

9. Businesses of a prurient sexual nature, including businesses which present live performances of a prurient sexual nature and businesses which derive directly or indirectly more than de minimis gross revenue through the sale of products or services, or the presentation of any depictions or displays, of a prurient sexual nature

10. Businesses engaged in any socially undesirable activity or activity that may be considered predatory in nature such as rent-to-own businesses and check cashing businesses

11. Businesses that restrict patronage for any reason other than capacity

12. Speculative businesses

13. Businesses of which any owner of greater than 10% of the equity interest in it (i) has within the prior three-years been convicted of or had a civil judgment rendered against such owner, or has had commenced any form of parole or probation (including probation before judgment), for commission of fraud or a criminal offense in connection with obtaining, attempting to obtain, or performing a public (federal, state or local) transaction or contract under a public transaction; violation of federal or state antitrust or procurement statutes or commission of embezzlement, theft, forgery, bribery, falsification or destruction of records, making false statements, or receiving stolen property, or (ii) is presently indicted for or otherwise criminally or civilly charged by a government entity, (federal, state or local) with commission of any of the offenses enumerated in subparagraph (i) above

14. “Affiliated” companies (as such term is defined in 13 C.F.R. § 121.103)

 

Documentation needed includes: 

1.  Application Certification: Signed certification used to certify your business

2.  Business Financial Information: Most recent tax return filed (2019), Copy of official filing with the California Secretary of State.

3. Government Issued Photo ID such as a Driver’s License or Passport

Lendistry is the sole entity designated as the Intermediary of the California Small Business COVID-19 Relief Grant Program (the “Program”). This site (careliefgrant.com) and the other websites available on or through this site (the “Designated Sites”) are the only approved websites designated for the administration of the Program. Any other website purporting to administer or otherwise act as an Intermediary in connection with the Program may be fraudulent. As such, you should exercise extreme caution and avoid providing any information (personal or otherwise) in connection with the Program on or through any website other than the Designated Sites. Further, neither Lendistry nor any of its partners will charge any fees to apply for a relief grant under the Program and we recommend that you avoid any third-parties purporting to charge fees for you to apply.

Questions? The program’s call center is open 7am-7pm. 1-888-612-4370

To learn more: https://careliefgrant.com/webinars/


Ritu Marwah is an award winning author whose story Jinnah’s Daughter, featured in the New York Times’s Express Tribune blog, exemplifies her deep interest and understanding of history and the place of people in it.

Photo by Gene Gallin on Unsplash
Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

Students Kaushik Tota, Radhika Agarwal, & Peri Plantenberg Make ‘Clean Energy’ Waves In The Bay Area.

Our Climate is Changing. Why Aren’t We?

Silicon Valley Youth Climate Action advocates Kaushik Tota, Radhika Agarwal and Peri Plantenberg are still in high school, but their climate change activism is making ‘clean energy’ waves across the Bay Area! Their team is spearheading climate change reform and has successfully influenced environmental policy in Sunnyvale, Mountain View and Cupertino, for starters.

Reach Codes mean anything to you? Listen to why these committed young climate change advocates are driving reform to safeguard the environment, and standing up for their future before it’s too late.

Kaushik Tota
Radhika Agarwal
Peri Plantenberg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kaushik Tota suggests “If you are interested in joining a youth-led environmental initiative, options run the gamut from community engagement to policy advocacy. The Climate Youth Ambassador Program is a youth-led environmental education organization that aims to equip individuals (especially children) with resources and knowledge to lead sustainable lifestyles. Organizations such as Silicon Valley Youth Climate Action and the Youth Public Policy Institute (both of which I’m a member of) are working on all sorts of climate policies with varying scopes—you can join an existing city team or advocacy team, or start a new team if one doesn’t exist yet.”


Meera Kymal & Anjana Nagarajan Butaney produce the climate change podcast ‘Our Climate is Changing, Why Aren’t We?’ at DesiCollective.

Erase Your Carbon Footprint. Save Our Earth, Says Seema Vaid

Our Climate is Changing. Why Aren’t We?

Going vegan or  reducing your carbon footprint does not mean you’re losing your lifestyle or giving it up, when in fact you’re actually gaining a better relationship with your health, with nature and especially the environmental legacy you leave behind for future generations.

Climate Reality Activist Seema Vaid

The facts are simple, says Seema Vaid. Every day a vegan saves one animal’s life, 11 hundred gallons of water, 45 pounds of grain, 20 pounds of CO2, and 30 square feet of forested land.

Do you want to figure out your own carbon footprint? Go to footprintcalculator.org

 

Bay Area Climate Reality activists Seema Vaid and Erin Zimmerman, Ph.D,  tell DesiCollective why reducing our carbon footprint will help save the environment.

 


Meera Kymal & Anjana Nagarajan Butaney produce the climate change podcast ‘Our Climate is Changing, Why Aren’t We?’ at DesiCollective.
Photo by Etienne Girardet on Unsplash

Bay Area Activist Erin Zimmerman Checks If Biden’s Climate Agenda Stacks Up On Earth Day

Our Climate is Changing. Why Aren’t We?
Bay Area Climate Reality Leader Erin Zimmerman, Ph.D (she has a doctorate in Political Science), talks to DesiCollective about President Biden’s executive actions on climate change and what the political and financial implications of his ambitious agenda  will mean for all of us.
Will it drive more technological innovations for green tech in Silicon Valley?

 


Meera Kymal & Anjana Nagarajan Butaney produce the climate change podcast ‘Our Climate is Changing, Why Aren’t We?’ at DesiCollective.

Going Vegan With Bay Area Climate Reality Activist Seema Vaid

Our Climate is Changing. Why Aren’t We?

Seema Vaid grew aware of veganism when she joined a campaign by Beatle Paul McCartney to save an Indian temple elephant. It was a change that lead to her vocation as a climate change activist who walks the walk to incorporate sustainability in her daily life.  Seema has lived in the Bay Area for a long time with her family and has 3 children, and works at Intel. She talks to DesiCollective about her choice to go vegan and why. 

Bay Area Climate Reality Leader Erin Zimmerman joined the discussion.

Do you have questions about what vegan vs. vegetarian means and how exactly does that affect climate change? 

Find out more!

 


Meera Kymal & Anjana Nagarajan Butaney produce the climate change podcast ‘Our Climate is Changing, Why Aren’t We?’ at DesiCollective.

Photo by Ella Olsson on Unsplash


 

Green Jobs Could Save The Bay Area, Says Climate Change Activist Justine Burt

Our Climate is Changing. Why Aren’t We?

Will green jobs help solve the unemployment crisis? 

 We are in a worldwide pandemic, dealing with a climate crisis and an unemployment crisis, but we have an opportunity to use this disruption – to use a Silicon valley term – to create something even better.

Could green jobs pay as much as fossil fuel jobs ( $70 to $80 thousand a year)? And how can ordinary people make a difference to help avert a climate crisis?

Justine Burt – a Bay Area climate change activist wrote The Great Pivot –  a roadmap on how to decarbonize and dematerialize the economy.

She explains how creating millions of green jobs could lead to a sustainable future, for the Bay Area and beyond.

 


Meera Kymal & Anjana Nagarajan Butaney produce the climate change podcast ‘Our Climate is Changing, Why Aren’t We?’ at DesiCollective.

Photo by Ralph Hutter on Unsplash

In Mumbai or Japan, Mother Nature Can Calm A Restless Mind

Desi Roots, Global Wings – a monthly column focused on the Indian immigrant experience.

Learning to unwind in nature – A life-saving skill that can help us survive not just the pandemic, but the ups and downs of daily life.

In the early months of the pandemic, I consoled myself by saying that all the drastic changes demanded by the Covid-19 virus were short-term measures. The inconvenience was temporary; a test of resilience that was best borne with a smile. A year later, the once-surreal situation that has now become an unpleasant but accepted reality for the foreseeable future, makes me grimace. 

As an unabashed urbanite who thrives in crowded spaces and fast moving environments, I doubt whether I can endure being cooped up on an island for much longer. Singapore is Covid-free but reluctant to risk outside threats, particularly in the form of returning residents who have visited other countries. Therefore travel, my preferred form of rejuvenation, is not an option. I need to find other ways to survive. 

Mysteries of nature

Growing up in Mumbai, I assumed milk came in glass bottles or plastic bags, delivered to the doorstep each morning. I knew the names of common vegetables and fruits that were easily available at the store down the street but I had no idea whether they grew on creepers or shrubs or trees. Textbooks references to four seasons, particularly autumn and winter, seemed to be theoretical constructs, much like physics. The water cycle however, played out in front of my eyes each year in the form of a sultry summer that gave way to monsoon rains. 

My first introduction to changing seasons came in my first year on the east coast of the US. Arriving on a cold December day in Washington DC, I was aghast to see wide avenues lined with tall tree trunks that resembled giant skeletons. The barren branches shocked me as much as the unfamiliar cold. 

When warm spring days arrived with spots of color on tree branches and sprouting tulip bulbs in the ground, I felt a lifting of my spirits. Finally the homesickness that had plagued me all winter seemed to melt. The breathtaking view of the cherry blossom trees around the Tidal Basin and the Jefferson Memorial in full bloom in early April is indelibly etched in my memory. I hoped to one day visit Japan, the country that had gifted these Yoshino cherry trees to the United States.

Dreams take time, so do flowers

In March 2018, almost three decades after that original wish to travel to Japan, my dream came true. My husband and I arrived in Tokyo in late March. We had made arrangements to walk part of the Nakasendo trail, a path that runs between Tokyo and Kyoto. 

Since the sakura usually blossoms in April, we wondered if we would catch the peak of the blossoming. But we were lucky. Tokyo looked like any densely populated city with it’s crowded trains and high rises, except for the majestic flowering trees lining its busy thoroughfares. 

Side-effects of Shinrin-yoku 

On the trail, we walked through picturesque villages and mature forests with well-marked paths. Each evening we checked into small ryokans, traditional Japanese inns. The hosts gave us cotton yukata robes to wear and served freshly-cooked food made using seasonal, local produce on exquisite crockery. To our delight, ryokans were able to accommodate special requests from vegetarian and vegan guests. After spending several hours each day absorbing the refreshing energy of the forests, we fell fast asleep on futons laid out on tatami-matted floors. 

Although I had often visited the California redwoods in summer and admired the glorious colors of Shenandoah Valley in the fall, this entire experience was unusually soothing. It was my first foray into nature for a prolonged period. 

The Japanese practice of Shinrin-yoku – forest bathing, involves soaking in the atmosphere of the forest by mindfully absorbing its sights, sounds, textures, smell and taste. Invented in 1982 in response to the increasingly stressful life that the Japanese were leading, as well as to protect its forests, the practice gained prominence after studies proved its health benefits that included stress and  blood pressure reduction and ability to promote better sleep. 

The act of immersing myself in nature forced me to slow down, be observant, and acknowledge the trees, the sky, and the gurgling river that kept us company for most of the trek. As a city slicker, it was an unfamiliar experience. Yet, it was exactly what I needed – an orientation to the therapeutic and restorative benefits of the natural world.

Escaping everyday life

In April 2021, I’m looking forward to receiving my Covid-19 vaccine shot and keeping my fingers crossed for the possibility of a vaccination passport to ferry me to foreign lands. But what can I do until then?

The accumulated stress of living and working from home demands a release. Last year we found creative ways to work from home. This year we need to find new ways to get outside

My kitchen window offers a verdant view of a nature reserve that is literally in my backyard. Sometimes after a rain, the dense foliage is slick and shiny. At other times, trees topple, branches collapse and it’s a glorious green mess. During a dry spell, the trees shed leaves, the grass dries up and everything looks forlorn, like an abandoned project, begging for mother nature’s grace.

In April, hot mornings are often followed by afternoon thunderstorms. I step out for a stroll after the rain dies down, enjoying the gentle drip-drop of rain falling from saturated leaves. A meandering walk through paths littered with fallen leaves and creeping vines, amidst thick shrubs and trees, slows down my heartbeat. The green canopy soothes my tired eyes. 

My solo nature walks are a mindful pause that invite mother nature to do what she does best, provide a nourishing environment for things to grow. These mini recharge breaks help clear my mind and allow budding ideas to take shape.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a time when I can travel to a faraway place to have a rejuvenating break. For now, I’m glad to have a quick serenity fix, right in my neighborhood.  


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 presently working on a memoir. She is co-founder of Story Artisan Press and her books are available on Amazon. She loves connecting with readers at her website and at Medium | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

Photo by Bewakoof.com Official on Unsplash

 

Being Sheela: The Life Journey of an Immigration Lawyer

Being Sheela” is a biography of Sheela Murthy, an immigration lawyer, entrepreneur, and philanthropist based in Maryland. It charts her journey from a childhood in the bosom of a middle-class, military family in India, to a highly successful career as a Harvard-trained lawyer in the United States.

Author Adithi Rao beautifully brings to life the dynamics inside families – Sheela’s own as well as her husband’s, highlighting the unique qualities and subtleties of relationships, while exploring the conflicts and ambiguities within what are clearly very loving families.

Sheela’s personal story of growing up in a family of three high-achieving sisters (two of them are doctors), is a delightful tale weaving together the charms and challenges of Indian middle-class life.

Sheela’s story is one that needs to be told. In an America where immigrants have been under siege during the last four years, this memoir is particularly significant and meaningful.  It’s almost a primer on how to navigate a complex immigration system and counter discrimination against H1B visa holders, or dependent EAD-4 spouses, green card families awaiting decisions that determine their future, and immigrants whose lives are on hold in the wake of aggressive immigration reform initiated by the Trump administration.

And therein lies its weakness. Rao does a terrific job stitching together the rich anecdotes that form Sheela’s early life. She understands the nuances of Indian culture and expectations and articulates those stories from an insider’s perspective.

That richness of detail and color is lost when the book turns its attention to Sheela’s professional life and philanthropic work. Rao seems intent on recording the minutiae of cases that form the cornerstone of the Murthy Law Firm which Sheela founded. But the narrative feels less compelling. Rao painstakingly covers case studies of Sheela’s work as an immigration attorney but pays less attention to the human side of Sheela as she makes decisions and does not fully explore why Sheela makes certain career and professional life choices.

It feels as though Rao is in a hurry to pay homage to achievements that are richly deserved, rather than offer insights into the transitions that propelled Sheela into her career and philanthropic journey.

Why did Sheela switch jobs or what made her finally decided to start her own firm which became the powerful Murthy Law Firm? The story skims the surface of her reasoning in a way that makes some of Sheela’s decisions, unfortunately, seem somewhat contrived.

Sheela found unique ways to deal with her client’s dilemmas. She has a reputation for helping women who are victims of violence and has made a difference in people’s lives. But Rao does not dig deeper into Sheela’s personality – the thinking and motivation that drives Sheela in these scenarios.

The book is similar in style to Michelle Obama’s “Becoming” – but unlike “Becoming”, it is not reasonable to assume that the reader is familiar with Sheela’s track record as a lawyer and philanthropist.

Her work for women’s causes and philanthropy is mentioned in passing throughout the book, but these significant contributions are quickly summed up within a few chapters.  Adding more layers to this catalog of accomplishments would enrich the narrative with the same sensitivity and depth given to her personal story.

None of this, however, takes away from the remarkable tale of an intelligent, engaging, empathetic woman who has dedicated herself to others in what she calls ‘labors of love’.

Being Sheela is an inspiring immigrant success story that offers intriguing insights into the complex inner workings of American immigration policy.

Being Sheela: The Life Journey of an Immigration Lawyer; Adithi Rao, HarperCollins India,$34.87, 260 pages


Svati Kania Shashank is a lawyer practicing in New York for over 20 years. 

Edited by Meera Kymal, Contributing Editor, at India Currents

Oil-free and Plant-Based Food Serve Up A Healthy Desi Diet

Two years ago, I could not imagine cooking and eating oil-free food. Cooking good food was synonymous with a liberal splash of cooking oil in everything from simple sabji to biryani.

I loved cooking all my recipes  with lots of oil, though I knew it was bad for my health. Every dish began with a bottle of cooking oil right beside me.  As a foodie I relished food glazed with oil.

Homemade chakalis were my favorite. As a vegetarian, I assumed that oily snacks were okay, given my healthy vegetarian diet of fruit smoothies, brown rice, sambar, vegetables and beans.

But I often wondered why I was putting on weight despite my plant-based diet. In Atlanta, I met Shobha, and my perspective drastically changed. Shobha is an advocate of plant-based foods, inspiring folks to thrive on plant-based fare with zero oil!  That simple conversation with her had a profound impact on me.

I joined Shobha’s WhatsApp group and my plant-based health education began.

I discovered that the persistent ache in my knees was inflammation from the excessive oil in my diet.

I was shocked to find out that all cooking oils, from soybean to canola oil are highly processed. High temperature and chemicals are used to extract oil, a  process that make their nutrients go rancid.

When I learned that one tablespoon of oil has 120 calories, I nearly fainted. I felt so guilty! All that processed oil in my everyday food!

The more I discovered, the more I realized how little I knew about how cooking oil affects the body.

Processed oil is responsible for so many health issues – obesity, constipation, inflammation, heart attacks, and more.

And yet, the information you read on websites and news articles is really so confusing and overwhelming.

Are cold pressed sesame oil and coconut oil safe? Is olive oil as healthy as  nutritionists claim?. And what about using “just a little oil’. Vloggers and sharers of recipes suggest 4 to 5 tablespoon of oil per pound of vegetables. Doctors and nutritionists urge folks to include oil in their diets, as oil fat is essential in the absorption of some vitamins, and the healthy functioning of cells and tissues.

So what’s the truth?

Our modern diet and lifestyle is driving the upsurge in diabetes, heart disease, and blood pressure. The reality is that oils have extremely low nutritive value. Both the monounsaturated and saturated fat they contain is harmful to the endothelium, the innermost layer of the artery, and that injury is a gateway to vascular disease.

So it doesn’t matter if it’s olive oil, coconut oil, or canola – my takeaway is to avoid all oil. And since diabetes and heart disease run in my family, I made an intentional decision to drastically cut back on oil in my everyday cooking.

At first, it was hard. I automatically reached for the oil when I started cooking. I had to really make a conscious effort to stop myself!

Magically, my WhatsApp group delivered. They shared amazing pictures  of oil-free recipes and dishes.

In the span of few months I was cooking up a storm of  tasty, zero-oil dishes, from upma to masala vadas, and cookies to cakes. No unhealthy oil!

Now, I’m on a roll. Here’s how.

In delicious cakes and cookies, I substitute applesauce and banana for oil .

I get healthy fats from fresh coconut, guacamole, almonds, walnuts and sesame seeds. My zero-oil channa masala and rotis are delicious. To sauté onions, I just use a tablespoon or two of water instead! Going oil-free has helped me to explore so many interesting food items and cooking techniques .  Fortunately, my family loves it too!

I’m simply awed by the tasty and nutritious dishes I can make without a drop of oil!

Growing up, I loved deep-fried peanuts and spicy lentils. Now I simply roast sprouted green gram, channa dal and peanuts in the oven, and while it’s still warm, I mix in chili powder and salt. Yummy! My husband couldn’t believe it had no oil at all!

Studies show that Indian Americans have high rate of heart disease. In fact many vegetarians assume that they are thriving on a healthy diet, even though their food is rich in carbohydrates, fats, cholesterol and sugar. Sugar and all-purpose flour are white poison. I realize that cooking oil is colorless poison.

Once or twice in a week, I  use cold-pressed sesame or peanut oil as they offer a healthier option than highly processed vegetable oils.  Occasionally, I have a deep fried treat, during festivals and on special occasions, but no longer need to open my chakali box!

My mindful eating habits have produced a happy result – fortunately, I no longer suffer from knee pain  and my weight has stabilized.  I know my new plant-based diet with zero oil, and thirty minutes of exercise, is playing a pivotal role in my leading a healthy lifestyle.


Kumudha Venkatesan is based in Atlanta and often writes about the vegan lifestyle and spirituality.

Edited by Meera Kymal, Contributing Editor at India Currents
Photo by Nadine Primeau on Unsplash
Photo by Jo Sonn on Unsplash