Tag Archives: south asians

South Asians Running for Office – Ajit Varma in Palo Alto, CA

Ajit Varma is running for City Council because he wants Palo Alto to be the best place to live, raise a family, and start a company for generations to come.

 
Ajit tells DesiCollective about his Silicon Valley dream that brought him to Palo Alto when he was just 19. He is raising his young family in the city and if he is elected, hopes to encourage investment and innovation in housing, jobs, development and technology. 
 

This story is the fifth in our series on conversations with candidates – SHORT TAKES for India Currents – where first time contenders for political office share their aspirations and plans with our community!

If you live in Palo Alto, take a look!

SHORT TAKES/DesiCollective: South Asians are Running for Political Office

Short Takes: Belal Aftab in Saratoga

Short Takes : Harbir Bhatia in Santa Clara

Short Takes: Sri Muppidi in Dublin

Short Takes: Kuljeet Kalkat in Los Altos

Short Takes: Sumiti Mehta in Natomas

South Asians Running for Office – Sumiti Mehta in Natomas, CA

Sumiti Mehta volunteered for an incredible 11 years in her school district. All those years in the classroom gave her a bird’s eye view of what works and what doesn’t for the schoolchildren of Natomas- the second most diverse school district in the country.

Sumiti was the first Indian-origin Parks Commissioner for the city she now calls home, and told  DesiCollective about her vision for the future of Natomas schools  – she’s running for one of three vacant seats on the school board.

What drives her? South Asians aren’t represented because “they don’t step up for things” says Sumiti. You can’t move the needle if you don’t push your boundaries -“that uncomfortable feeling? We have to get over it!”

This story is the sixth in our series on conversation with candidates – SHORT TAKES for India Currents – where first time contenders for political office share their aspirations and plans with our community!

If you live in Natomas, take a look!

SHORT TAKES/DesiCollective: South Asians are Running for Political Office

Short Takes: Belal Aftab in Saratoga

Short Takes : Harbir Bhatia in Santa Clara

Short Takes: Sri Muppidi in Dublin

Short Takes: Kuljeet Kalkat in Los Altos

Short Takes: Ajit Varma in Palo Alto

 

South Asians Running for Office – Kuljeet Kalkat in Los Altos, CA

Kuljeet Kalkat is running for office in Los Altos. A 30 year Los Altos resident, Kuljeet is a former tech executive who is currently a realtor, and once owned a downtown business called Cranberry Scoop with his wife. Kuljeet also served as Chairman of the Los Altos Financial Commission. He tells DesiCollective he understands how his city works.

Kuljeet says he believes in collective responsibility and will promote a culture of dialogue in Los Altos.

This story is the fourth in our series on conversation with candidates – SHORT TAKES for India Currents – where first time contenders for political office share their aspirations and plans with our community!

If you live in Los Altos, take a look!

SHORT TAKES/DesiCollective: South Asians are Running for Political Office

Short Takes: Belal Aftab in Saratoga

Short Takes : Harbir Bhatia in Santa Clara

Short Takes: Sri Muppidi in Dublin

Short Takes: Ajit Varma in Palo Alto

Short Takes: Sumiti Mehta in Natomas

South Asians Running for Office – Sri Muppidi in Dublin, CA

Sri Muppidi, a 25 year-old Stanford graduate, is running for city council in her hometown, Dublin.  She may be one of the youngest candidates in the surge of South Asians running for office in the Bay Area – but Sri tells DesiCollective she is motivated by the urgency of the moment – with Covid-19 decimating the economy and Climate Change wreaking havoc on our environment. Sri wants a hand in shaping the future for her generation. 

This story is the third in our series on conversation with candidates – SHORT TAKES for India Currents – where first time contenders for political office share their aspirations and plans with our community!

If you live in Dublin, take a look!

SHORT TAKES/DesiCollective: South Asians are Running for Political Office

Short Takes: Belal Aftab in Saratoga

Short Takes : Harbir Bhatia in Santa Clara

Short Takes: Kuljeet Kalkat in Los Altos

Short Takes: Ajit Varma in Palo Alto

Short Takes: Sumiti Mehta in Natomas

 

 

South Asians Running for Office – Harbir Bhatia in Santa Clara

Though they excel in their chosen fields, South Asians tend to ‘play it safe’ when it comes to running for public office, says Harbir Kaur Bhatia – who is running for a seat on the Santa Clara City Council.  They tend not to venture outside of their chosen professions and engage in the hardscrabble demands of a political campaign.  As a result, minority voices have long been missing from the civic discourse of the communities they live in.

But that’s changing with the next generation of South Asians says Bhatia, especially when they see political contenders – whether at local state or federal level- who look like them or share their ethnic identity.

Bhatia – a community organizer, engineer, civic entrepreneur and longtime resident of the City of Santa Clara ,who is commited to IK Onkar,  the central message of Sikhi, tells DesiCollective why she’s challenging the status quo in District 1 of the Santa Clara City Council.

This story is the second in our series on conversation with candidates – SHORT TAKES for India Currents – where first time contenders for political office share their aspirations and plans with our community!

SHORT TAKES/DesiCollective: South Asians are Running for Political Office

Short Takes: Belal Aftab in Saratoga

Short Takes: Sri Muppidi in Dublin

Short Takes: Kuljeet Kalkat in Los Altos

Short Takes: Ajit Varma in Palo Alto

Short Takes: Sumiti Mehta in Natomas

 

South Asians Running for Office – Belal Aftab in Saratoga

A record number of South Asians are running for political office for the very first time across California. They come from the hi-tech, finance and the non-profit sectors, but what is unique is they represent a new generation that is ready to take an important next step – engaging with conviction in the civic life of this nation.

What drives them? What are their hopes and inspiration? What sort of difference do they hope to make?

DesiCollective finds out why.

This is the first in our series on our conversation with candidates – SHORT TAKES for India Currents – where first time contenders for political office share their aspirations and plans with our community!

Find out more from Belal Aftab, running for City Council in Saratoga.

http://https://youtu.be/h2rRTQ1LdBU

SHORT TAKES/DesiCollective: South Asians are Running for Political Office

Short Takes : Harbir Bhatia in Santa Clara

Short Takes: Sri Muppidi in Dublin

Short Takes: Kuljeet Kalkat in Los Altos

Short Takes: Ajit Varma in Palo Alto

Short Takes: Sumiti Mehta in Natomas

South Asians Hit Hard by COVID Need Help

As the death rate from COVID 19 in the US spirals toward 100,000, one fact is alarmingly clear. While the virus severely affects seniors and people of all ages with serious underlying medical conditions, it has hit communities of color the hardest.

“South Asians are suffering across the country on a level we haven’t ever seen,” says Lakshmi Sridaran, Executive Director of SAALT, in a recent call to action to the community.

Minority communities are more at risk because long standing disparities in health, social, and economic status make them more vulnerable. Many South Asians work high risk jobs as healthcare workers, domestic workers and grocery store workers. South Asian workers are employed in meat processing plants, and as Uber and taxi drivers. As a result of the pandemic many face economic hardships and limited access to healthcare services or even proper protection while performing their jobs.

“So many have fallen sick. Too many have died,” adds Sridaran.

SAALT is responding to the crisis by facilitating the National Coalition of South Asian Organizations-direct service organizations that are doing critical work to support those most impacted by the pandemic:  They offer services to provide food, health and financial assistance to victims of the pandemic that include undocumented immigrants as well as domestic violence survivors.

Sridaran is urging all South Asians to support and uplift the hardest hit people in our communities at this challenging time.  Links are provided below.

 New York, the epicenter of the pandemic

New York, the US epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic, has among the largest South Asian populations in the country. Community leaders are reporting that the official data on infection and fatality rates are inaccurate and don’t reflect their experiences.

Many South Asians in Queens and the Bronx work as domestic workers, as drivers, in grocery stores, or delivering packages – without PPE or adequate healthcare. Those who are undocumented don’t even have access to government aid.

What’s more, so many community members are out of work, leading to a level of food insecurity not seen before. In response, community organizations and volunteers have shifted their work to set up mutual aid networks to deliver food and medicines and provide cash assistance and childcare.

Support them at Desis Rising Up and MovingAdhikaarSapna NYC

South Asian Domestic Violence Survivors

Community leaders from domestic violence organizations are especially worried about survivors. There’s been a drop in crisis calls – because survivors are trapped at home with their abusers and don’t have the space to make calls. And, many domestic violence shelters aren’t accepting people right now out of fear of COVID-19. Domestic violence organizations are delivering groceries, helping survivors apply for public benefits, and finding alternative shelter arrangements.

Support them at Daya Houston (TX)Raksha (GA), Maitri (CA),  Narika (CA)Asha Kiran (AL)Sahara (CA)South Asian Network (CA)Apna Ghar (IL)

South Asian Immigrants

People who are undocumented have no access to government aid or relief. South Asians in immigrant detention are stuck in crowded facilities where there have been reports of COVID-19 outbreaks and over 100 migrants could be deported back to India any day now. Even if released from detention many cannot afford the unduly high bonds. South Asians on H-1B and H-4 visas fear losing their jobs and falling out of status with dim prospects of finding another job in this uncertain economy. Immigrant rights groups are fighting these injustices at every level.

Support them at Bond Funds: Fronterizo Fianza Fund, SAALT’s local partners on the border: Detained Migrant Solidarity Committee and Avid in the Chihuahua Desert, Mutual Aid Funds: South Dako­ta DREAM Coali­tion & South Dako­ta Voic­es for Peace and Jus­tice for Mus­lims Col­lec­tive Com­mu­ni­ty Relief Fund

These organizations are doing “lifesaving work right now” says Sridaran.

Click on the link for a full list of the National Coalition of South Asian Organizations.


Image Credit: Pixabay 

South Asians, Stay Heart Healthy During COVID Isolation

South Asians have the highest risk of heart disease of any ethnic group. The facts are sobering – 1 in 4 heart attacks occur before the age of 40.

In fact, South Asian men and women have a significantly higher likelihood of having a heart attack before age 50 that is more lethal compared to any other ethnic group.

Although cardiovascular disease remains the leading cause of death all over the world, why do South Asians carry an especially heavy burden of this disease?

Stanford’s South Asian Translational Heart Initiative – (SSATHI) is trying to find answers.

Helping South Asian Heart Health

At SSATHI we are helping South Asians – people from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Maldives, and Sri Lanka – better understand what makes them predisposed to cardiovascular disease and providing culturally tailored, medical and lifestyle changes to help them lower their risk factors.

We are the first cardiology clinic dedicated to the detection and long-term management of heart disease risk among  South Asians.

Health Impact of the coronavirus pandemic

Since the shelter in place began on March 17, our clinic has seen many South Asian patients whose lifestyles have grown increasingly unhealthy.

These profound changes in lifestyle  include poor diet, reduced physical activity, increased alcohol consumption, weight gain and increasing levels of stress.

South Asians must be vigilant about staying heart healthy during social isolation.  At SSATHI, we are dedicated to increasing awareness about risks and lifestyle choices and offering advice on how to improve heart health.

 Dr. Rajesh Dash MD, PhD, Medical and Scientific Director of SSATHI

Partnering with SSATHI for Clinical Services

SSATHI’s team of clinicians – behavioral psychologists, dietitians, nurses, pre-diabetes specialist and cardiologists – offer comprehensive heart risk assessments, as well as medical and lifestyle interventions aimed at aggressive risk reduction.

As one example, the clinic offers the oral glucose tolerance testing that provides detailed insight into blood sugar and insulin regulation, and helps to identify patients at risk for pre-diabetes. This insight helps our providers tailor treatment by going beyond traditional markers such as hemoglobin a1c (Hba1c – three-month blood sugar mean).

Our pre-diabetes specialist Dr. Fahim Abassi,  has developed several tools to help providers and patients better understand blood sugar regulation and to develop personalized lifestyle recommendations.

The SSATHI clinic also offers virtual care so patients can access clinic services from the convenience of their homes and offices.

SSATHI Clinical Trials

In addition to clinical care, SSATHI has a robust research effort underway to uncover the underlying causes of South Asians’ increased risk for heart disease. Our clinical trials focus on genetic and hormonal risk factors behind heart disease, and a more recent trial on the effects of lifestyle intervention delivered by telemedicine has shown promising results. SSATHI is currently recruiting for a trial that studies the effect of plant sterol supplementation on LDL cholesterol levels. Trials like these helps explore alternative treatments beyond standard medication therapy.

Dangers of Covid19

Though our community has been making steady progress in managing their health, COVID-19 presents a whole new danger. People with co-morbidities such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease are at an increased risk of developing complications from COVID19. It is therefore more important than ever that we pay attention to our physical and mental health.

Recommendations to improve heart health during shelter in place

In addition to observing city and state mandates for masking and sheltering in place, and continuing proper hand washing, it is equally important to follow positive lifestyle behaviors.  Good nutrition, regular physical activity, consistent sleep schedule and instituting positive coping mechanisms to manage stress, will enhance our ability to deal with the pandemic.

NUTRITION

Sheltering in place has forced us to change the way we shop for groceries so dedicate a couple of pantry shelves to nutrient dense shelf stable foods. Channel your culinary curiosity towards creating more vegetable and lentil-based dishes and learn to cook with whole intact grains.

Avoid

  • Refined & processed starches/carbohydrates such as Maggi noodles, poha, sooji, instant mixes of idli,  or dhokla,

Choose

  • Whole grain alternatives like whole wheat noodles, steel cut oats,
  • Coarse cracked wheat or dahlia, quick cooking farro,
  • Barley, bulgur, quinoa, brown and red rice.

Must have

  • Fresh vegetables and fruits, organic low-fat dairy,
  • Plant-based protein sources like lentils and beans
  • Whole intact grains like quinoa, millet and brown rice.
  • Frozen vegetables

Snack Mindfully

  • Avoid using sugar and other refined and processed snacks as a crutch to get through your mid-afternoon slump.
  • Choose low fat organic yogurt and or fresh fruit as a refreshing wholesome snack instead.

Create a schedule to obtain groceries on a regular, biweekly basis and consider online delivery or in-store shopping with safety practices.

EXERCISE

Setting aside a few minutes – even as little as 20 minutes to go for a walk could make a big difference in your mood, energy levels and digestion. This could also be a great way to get some sun exposure and restoring your vitamin D levels while giving you an opportunity to clear your mind and getting some exercise.

SLEEP

It is particularly important to establish a consistent sleep schedule. Positive sleep habits include avoiding late night eating (eating after 10:00 pm), unwinding at least an hour before bed (even if it means going to bed later) and allowing sleep to unfold help support a good night sleep.

Getting up around the same time every day, getting light exposure shortly after waking up and blocking blue light on electronic devices 1 – 2 hours before bedtime are all valuable sleep strategies recommended by Stanford sleep specialists Dr. Rafael Pallayo and Dr. Rachael Manber.

REDUCING STRESS

As COVID can add a higher degree of stress and anxiety, SSATHI’s behavioral psychologist Dr. Valerie Hoover recommends practicing patience and compassion by lowering your expectations in areas of your life that you cannot control.

Instead, focus on parts of your life that you can control, whether it is health, finances, recreation or relationships. Separating work and non-work activities if you are working from home, creating daily routines such as showering and dressing up, further helps us deal with the lack of daily structure and disrupted routines.

We wish you all good health and optimism!

Vijaya Parameswaran MS, RD, CDE is a clinical researcher, dietitian and certified diabetes educator. She has developed a virtual lifestyle intervention program (NEST – Nutrition, Exercise, Sleep and Transcendence) at the SSATHI clinic. She is also the program manager for Stanford’s telemedicine program CardioClick.

Edited by Meera Kymal, contributing editor at India Currents

 

New Leadership at SAALT

SAALT recently announced the appointment of new Executive Director Lakshmi Sridaran who previously led SAALT’s policy and legislative agenda for four years. Simran Noor, an expert in philanthropy, movement building, and organizational development will now serve as  SAALT’s new Board Chair.

Lakshmi Sridaran comes to the Executive Director role at SAALT with 15 years of experience working in nonprofits. She holds a Masters degree in City Planning from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a B.A. in Ethnic Studies from The University of California, Berkeley.

“I am grateful for the opportunity to lead SAALT after being grounded in our communities and the issues we confront during the last five years. I look forward to helping strengthen our movement and shift narratives within and about South Asian American communities,” said Lakshmi.  

 As SAALT’s Interim Executive Director in the past year, she played a crucial role managing the organization’s operations and infrastructure while simultaneously leading on policy and campaigns. 

Before that Lakshmi served as Director of National Policy and Advocacy at SAALT on core issues including immigration, racial profiling, and combating hate violence at the federal level. During this time she worked with national and regional partners including the National Coalition of South Asian Organizations to build movements for justice across communities of color.  Lakshmi expanded the scope of SAALT’s coalition partners at the local and national levels, and facilitated more influence for South Asian American communities on Capitol Hill.

Before joining SAALT, Lakshmi served as the Policy Director for The Praxis Project, a national organization focused on health justice in communities of color. Prior to that, Lakshmi spent six years in New Orleans working with directly impacted communities on recovery and economic justice issues immediately after Hurricane Katrina.

Simran Noor currently runs her own strategy firm and works with organizations to institute processes and programs to achieve racial equity. She has over a decade of experience working in the public policy and nonprofit worlds to advance racial, social and economic justice. She’s a past Race Forward fellow and served as Vice President for Policy and Programs for the Center for Social Inclusion. Simran holds a bachelor’s degree in American Studies and Political Science from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and a master’s degree in Public Administration and Social Policy from the University of Pennsylvania. She has served on the SAALT Board since 2017. 

“I couldn’t be more excited to support Lakshmi and SAALT in the coming years. We look forward to continuing to position SAALT to be a national leader in visibilizing the issues faced by South Asian communities and working with awesome local and national partners to create more power and justice,” said Simran. 

SAALT, a national, non-profit organization that fights for racial justice and advocates for the civil rights of all South Asians in the US, will celebrate its 20 anniversary in 2020.