Tag Archives: Voice

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Fork in the road

How Certain Are We About Uncertainty?

Certain and Uncertain

They seem to be separate antonymic words, but they are like Siamese twins. Their separate bodies, facing from opposite sides, are fused together, nurtured by the same sanguineous source. Their interdependence is the reason why they survive. If one dies, the other will follow, sooner or later.

There are many anecdotal stories in Indian, American, and global folktales that give a clear message of how we can be misled by confusion between certainty and uncertainty in real life. Heisenberg, a German physicist identified Uncertainty Principles even in Quantum Mechanics. But how do these considerations apply in our practical life?

Our Recent Pandemic:

Let us trace our own circuity of thoughts developing in the short span of this pandemic.

First, we thought it was a hoax.

Then we were certain it would be confined to China.

“It will pass away on its own.”

“No masks are necessary.”

“Masks are mandatory as advised by highly trained scientists.”

“Only old and previously diseased people die in this Pandemic.”

“Children can die too.”

“The virus kills by compromised respiration.”

“It can affect other systems too.”

“We should keep a social distance to prevent it.”

“No, We find distancing and masks to be an insufferable obstruction!” 

In short, we kept on lengthening and shortening our rubber band of the certainty-uncertainty spectrum while our rings were getting sparklingly shiny because of incessant hand washing! Washing hands was the only acceptable way out! The upcoming generation of children will put an end to this Pandemic’s uncertainties because they will know better by then. That will not stop them, however, from generating new uncertainties since the times, circumstances, and the strain of the virus are likely to alter when the next Pandemic strikes us.

Let us also look at our own selves

Some of the commonest phrases that we generously use every day are: ”Wait and watch,” “ I hardly can wait,” “I changed my mind,” “Are you sure?”, “ How can you be so sure?” etc. We always will be engaged in weaving a web of uncertainties as a modus operandi of our reflex habits.

There is a common aphorism in the Sanskrit language, “Tunde Tunde Matirbhinna,” meaning each head thinks differently. But even the same head can think differently at different times! One night we buy an item with absolute certainty, and the next morning it changes its appeal. Even in a vital matter like choosing a life partner, our certainty fluctuates until marriage seals it. In India, we often try to resolve this uncertainty by “matching horoscopes” to finalize our decision.

”Uncertainty is the very essence of romance,” said Oscar Wilde, the famous Irish author.

There are only two points that are certain in our tenaciously tethered life: Birth and Death. These two extreme points are fastened together by life itself, a miscellany of deep disappointments, Joi De  Viver, and  “delicious ambiguities”, a term coined by the famous actress Gilda Redner who succumbed to ovarian cancer at a very young age. 

 Perhaps we need to undertake a perceptive analysis of what constitutes certainty and uncertainty. 

A different approach to certainty-uncertainty complex

It helped me a great deal just by looking at the synonyms of these two enigmatic words:

Certainty: confidence, trust, conviction, faith, validity, dogmatism, clarity, composure, contentment, happiness, peace, security, calmness

Uncertainty: changeability, variability, anxiety, ambiguity, concern, confusion, distrust, suspicion, trouble, worry, dilemma, oscillation, lack of confidence

Although these synonyms depict uncertainty in darker colors, a closer analysis will reveal that certainty too, can have its drawbacks. It can push us to a blinding dogma impairing our vision. It will be judicious to build a bridge between these two extremes and skillfully traverse from one point to the other, navigated by an internal call, and cautiously master the shades between the two. It is true that the cautious seldom err, but it is also true that those who are excessively cautious seldom move. Many shades of grey connect the black and the white.

All uncertainties are likely to be experienced by someone at some time, but maturity is the capacity to endure and outgrow them. No progress or creativity is ever possible without uncertainty casting its alarming shadow on the road ahead. You pause, you ponder, you proceed, and prepare for an inadvertent result. “ Medicine is a science of uncertainty and an art of probability,” said William Osler, a mastermind of practicing and teaching medicine in this country. We all have no choice but to learn how to stay afloat in an ocean of uncertainty. 

An “Aha” or “eureka” moment may hatch after an incubation period spent in a meaningful, self-searching meditation. Many leading psychologists support this viewpoint.

In the end, I will quote our visionary poet, Robert Frost: 

I shall be telling this with a sigh, somewhere ages and ages hence,

Two roads diverged in a wood and I– I took the one less traveled by

And that has made all the difference.


Bhagirath Majmudar, M.D. is an Emeritus Professor of Pathology and Gynecology-Obstetrics at Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia. Additionally, he is a priest, poet, playwright, Sanskrit Visharada and Jagannath Sanskrit Scholar. He can be contacted at bmajmud1962@gmail.com. 

A Podcast Creates A Growth Space for Youth

Current Problem

Gen Z’ers are motivated activists and advocates working on social justice. However, after starting, they lack the network and know-how to accelerate their changes into meaningful community impact. The burden of running an organization dilutes their efforts to spread awareness, while the financial burden of paying for their cause out of pocket can severely hinder their work. 

The Solution: What Cause Inspires You podcast

What Cause Inspires You is a podcast I launched and host, in which students from across the nation share the service they are doing in their communities, be it designing an app and donating blood to sending e-cards to elderly homes or creating an anti-bullying campaign. The podcast is currently booked through March 2021, broadcasting the passionate voices of the next generation’s change-makers. 

After experiencing cyberbullying, I initiated the podcast with the goal of bringing awareness to the issue. I thought, “What better way to educate my peers about a topic close to home than hearing it from a student like themselves?” My episode on cyberbullying was a hit and from there, I had youth from around the nation reach out to me to use my What Cause Inspires You podcast series as a platform to gain traction for their own movements. 

In addition to raising awareness, our scholarship division host challenges to provide monetary awards to students who are making an impact. Students in our most recent scholarship challenge created a one minute video about a cause that inspires them and why. The winner was the youth founder of the organization, Me2U Foundation, who won $1000 to help donate food and hygiene supplies to underdeveloped countries. The winner of our ongoing Flyer Challenge will receive $100 and the opportunity to interview one of our experts on Professional Perspective podcast and gain a lifelong connection. 

The Impact 

Through What Cause Inspires You, I have already helped 35 students from 12 states across the US to build awareness for their causes on a global scale, reaching students, parents, and experts alike on Spotify and Youtube. With a goal to unify our communities, the podcast series helps our audience connect with our speakers to encourage them to be invested in the student organization’s cause, all while educating on important and often under-represented issues. In addition, speakers join an exclusive group of youth leaders where they are given the opportunity to connect and collaborate with one another. 

To further enhance their networks, I have also initiated Professional Perspectives, a sub-series that features interviews with CEOs and experts regarding their insight on social justice, social entrepreneurship, and how to accelerate change. These episodes allow students to connect with inspirational professionals and in return, we have seen real change – student-organizations partnering with CEOs and presenting innovative solutions to long-standing problems. 

My impact with Humanity Rising extends far past the WCIY podcast. I am also the marketing and social media head for the organization, combining my expertise in business strategy and social justice. I lead a team of 20 student volunteers in marketing, analytics, interview operations, and outreach. My interns receive exposure to the hundreds of causes that need our society’s help and gain experience in the social entrepreneurship sector. They incite change in their communities and have already reached 100,000 students globally. 

What the Future Holds

Using What Cause Inspires You podcast, I hope to leverage my personal experience and leadership to empower student organizations with awareness, connections, and financial resources. In the future, the team and I are looking forward to bridging CEO involvement and What Cause Inspires You by providing corporate sponsorships for impactful organizations. To get involved, sign up for our email newsletter, and join the movement towards unity and progress.


Alisha Gupta is the founder and host of the What Cause Inspires You podcast series as well as the Head of Marketing Communications and Outreach for Humanity Rising Ambassador. Contact Alisha at alishagupta2020@gmail.com and @whatcauseinspiresyou.

On Racial Tensions, From an African American Hindu

I grew up in the South during the 1950s and 60s. Those were troublesome times for the African American community. We were identified as Negroes and as an ethnic minority, it was very difficult to understand what our place in the world was. Honestly, there was an element of shame associated with being black.

During the late sixties, I became involved in the “Hippy culture” which exposed me to the concept of “Universal love.” I was not familiar with this Vedic concept of universal love, which is foundational to the true Hindu/Vedic culture. 

My first exposure to this culture was through my association in 1971, with Transcendental Meditation introduced by the late Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. I was a performing artist in Atlanta and the surrounding areas and heavily involved with the culture of “Sex, Drugs and Rock n Roll.”

Eventually around 1972, I came in contact with disciples of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the founder Acharya of the International Society of Krishna Consciousness. They introduced me to the Bhagavad Gita, which is the most well-known of all Vedic texts. This holy book is very dear and sacred to all Hindus and Westerners who have adopted these teachings and practices.

Central to the Hindu/Vedic philosophy is the concept that we are not these material bodies but that we are eternal spiritual beings, temporarily inhabiting these material bodies. So whether we identify as an African American, Hindu American, Asian American, White American, or an American of color, we are all spiritual beings equal in the eyes of the Supreme Lord. 

During the present time of racial tensions in America, I along with other Hindu/Vedic leaders are considering what we can do to impact and help change this painful and distressful situation.

One thing that I have learned during my several efforts to share Hindu/Vedic principles in the primarily African American community, is that these communities are not looking for a handout. They are desperately in need of help in building up their communities, especially in the areas of affordable housing not just gentrification. Jobs and other meaningful social activities for their youth and young adults are also a major concern along with educational help.

Some years ago, I partnered with a young African American community activist who was working in my hometown of East Point Georgia and during that time some local people who knew about my association with the Hindu community said to me, “Mr. Tillman, could you ask your Hindu friends to teach us how to do business like they are doing.” One reason for this question is that many of the small businesses in their communities are owned by Hindu community members.

I serve as the president of the Vedic Friends Association, an organization focused on preserving and presenting the various aspects of the Hindu/Vedic culture, in a manner suitable for the present environment which is plagued by such issues as racism. This is the first time to my knowledge that they have elected an African American as the president of a major Hindu based organization. I am honored to serve in this capacity and the support and encouragement have been tremendous. 

I am confident that with the vast resources of our Hindu/Vedic community, we can have a positive and powerful impact on developing our communities of color. 

Benny J Tillman (Balabhadra Bhattacarya Dasa) is the President Vedic Friends Association, a Leader in the Hindu Community, and a disciple of Rapanuga Dasa.

“Being Different Is Like Sushi and Fried Chicken”: GUAA

I’m Asian American. My dad was born in the British Territory of Hong Kong and my mom is Chinese-American. My mom was born in the Deep South, in Mississippi, and not many Asians lived there. My Po Po is from Hong Kong and my Gong Gong came from Canton, China, so my mom knows how to speak a little bit of Cantonese. I was born in California. My mom says we are Chinese but we also may be related to Genghis Khan!

When I was in preschool one time I got bullied because of the way I look. I didn’t know why. But now I understand. Diversity is like genes from your mom and dad. Genes control how you look like, your personality and the color of your skin. So of course, nobody looks the same. Even though our ancestors come from different countries, we are still American. At my school, in second grade, there’s this presentation called, “Global Us. The Global Us is a play about your culture and your identity. Students perform traditional dances and songs. Afterwards there is a potluck. Did you know that food can bring people together? Countries all have different types of food, and Americans eat almost everything. My friend Lucia loves sushi more than me even though she is not Asian! I did not grow up in the Deep South but I love southern fried chicken, catfish, and hushpuppies! Yummy. Italian pasta is like Chinese chow mein. Argentinian empanadas are like Dim Sum. French baguettes are like American sourdough bread!

The most important thing about being Asian American is that we are still American citizens even though our ancestors came from different countries. A lot of times people cannot tell where we are from because of the way we look. They may say something racist like “go back to your country.” I get very confused because this is my home. You may have heard that the Coronavirus has been spreading around the world. My best friend, who is white, said to me that some white people are scared of Asian people because the Coronavirus can be contagious. But she knows I don’t have the Coronavirus even if I’m Asian American.

But do you know what? A virus doesn’t discriminate against people who look different from other people. In a way, a virus can be a role model, because they don’t care whether people are Asian or not, they just infect anybody with lungs. Nobody should be bullied for the way they look. We all look different. Differences are not bad. Differences are special. We should be kind and include everyone. We can all get along. Everybody deserves to be treated the same. Finding things in common like soccer, ice cream, and Minecraft can build a bridge to make friends like sushi and fried chicken. Everyone in America should be treated fairly because we’re all humans. We all should really get involved to create a better community around the world.

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Katelyn Ho is a 2nd grader, whose essay “Being Different Is Like Sushi and Fried Chicken” won the Best In Class Award at the ‘Growing Up Asian In America’ contest.

Lina Lee is a 2nd grader, whose artwork “My Beat To Our Rhythm” won the Best In Class Award at the ‘Growing Up Asian In America’ contest.

I Took Two Weeks off of High School to Climb the Himalayan Mountains

I am 15 and a sophomore at my average suburban San Francisco/Bay Area high school. However, April this year I was provided an opportunity that was more than average–to go on a climbing trip in the treacherous mountains of the Himalayas. Ruthless Himalayan mountains allow for very few months of clear and predictable weather, which happens to be during spring or fall; school sessions would be in full swing during any of those times. I knew that missing school for two and half weeks would equal countless extra hours of work and sleepless nights, but I had to go. I had to go see and touch the tallest mountain range in the world for myself. Thankfully, my teachers were supportive of my crazy idea and gave me the green light! 

I think one universally popular opinion is that no one actually wants to wake up for school at 7 in the morning; the thought of leaving your familiar room and getting out of your soft, warm bed so early… just to enter a classroom for 7 hours. Seven hours of having a teacher talk about a topic they may know little to nothing about. And then end up resorting to learning from a textbook like a robot. Never to learn from experience. The Himalayas provided me with a different, new classroom; it was outdoors, breathable, and rewarding in an unimaginable number of ways.

Similar to a school day, hiking in the serene mountains of Nepal required waking up very early in the morning. As the days passed, it seemed much less like a task and it found it rewarding. It was not only comforting but also beautiful to wake up to the culture in Nepal. The amount of determination and zeal that my sherpas, Babu and Yuvraj, had for their job was incomparable to any other occupation I’ve seen. Not only did their hiking skillset help me through climbing the Himalayas, I found friends in them as well. Some days proved to be rather difficult but I knew that I had experienced and genuine sherpas by my side. Their humor and love for the mountains encouraged me to climb right behind them and made me eager to see what was beyond every single boulder. At times when my mom felt altitude sickness or headaches, our sherpas always knew the appropriate remedy. I knew the medicine helped her but I felt Babu and Yuvraj’s compassion and understanding contributed to her healing process. My mother and I could not have completed my trek up the Gokyo Ri, if it was not for out hard-working sherpas.

Just like I had begun to notice Babu and Yuvraj’s work ethic, I began to take account of all Nepalese culture. The work life of people in the Himalayan mountains was quite different than what I knew. They used yaks and donkeys to transport food and other materials, yet managed to preserve the beautiful nature of their landscape. While trekking from village to village, my group and I would often run into herders or even porters who would carry hundreds of pounds for a multitude of miles. In spite of the difficult journey, they would always find ways to accommodate and push forward. This truly made me more open-minded because I realized how hard people in Nepal worked. More than that though, I saw that the indigenous people of that mountain range were passionate about their breathtaking homeland and that they enjoyed a lot of their daily work. Determination is an integral part of the culture in Nepal and is a joy rarely seen in the office jobs that surround me. Societies in urban areas like Silicon Valley are so attached to all their technological advancements and mechanical developments, that they forget that true beauty is found in the falling snow, grazing yaks, and running rivers.

What did this trip mean to me? It meant making new friends and meeting various people. It meant learning new ideas and taking on different perspectives. It meant finding peace in the sound of rushing water. It meant defining beauty as much more than an urban lifestyle. It meant leaving behind a trail of footsteps that I am proud to call my own. With that said, I encourage all those who are capable of traveling to Nepal and climbing the pristine, snowy peaks of Nepal to do so, because it is an astounding experience. I would not trade the two weeks I spent in Nepal for anything else, and my time spent there will never be forgotten.

Jasmine Pannu is a high school sophomore who took a trekking trip to the Nepalese Himalaya with the guides of Extollo Adventures. She hiked to the village of Gokyo, at 4,790 meters (15,720 ft) of elevation over the span of seven days and from there on, climbed a mountain named Gokyo Ri, to reach at 5,483 m (17,989 ft) of elevation. The most challenging factor here was being in the zone where an atmospheric Oxygen is 50% less than at the sea level making it extremely difficult to breathe. With constant snowstorms making conditions even more challenging – including slippery trails, and subzero temperatures, she was able to achieve her goal to successfully conquer the mountain of Gokyo Ri along with her mom. 

 

Kamala Harris’ Amma, an Unlikely Soulmate

Until recently, American elections used to evoke in me, not angst, but wonder.  When Bill Clinton ran for president, I watched The Man from Hope, a documentary about his life, over and over again, feeling inspired by the story of a boy who rose from an abusive childhood to reach the highest office in the world.

Through the summer of 2008, as the world teetered on the edge of a financial meltdown and my mother lay dying in our house in Nagpur, I sat by her bedside, reading Barack Obama’s memoir, Dreams from my Father, and marveling at the miracle of America.

Even today, as a criminal occupies the White House and I dread the demise of the American promise, I come across the story of Shymala Gopalan and feel I’ve met my soulmate.

I am talking of Kamala Harris’ mother, who, until recently, I did not know was Indian.  Why, as Harris rose through the political ranks, she never spoke of her mother, remains a mystery, but I find Shyamala to be a fascinating figure.  I can’t imagine a young woman from Madras – now Chennai – venturing into the University of California, Berkeley, at a time when few Indians had even heard of the place.

I recall when I was a school kid in the 1960s and America was just entering into my consciousness.  The Kennedys had appeared on the world scene and Jackie Kennedy was visiting India.

I imagine the young Shyamala leaving Madras, a place of Hindu orthodoxy and spicy food, and arriving alone in Berkeley just as the ‘60s were in the offing.  I can envision her being thrown into the tumult of Vietnam War protests and civil rights movements.

Nearly two decades later, I arrived in Berkeley to find myself just as exotic as Shyamala once was.  In the ‘70s, there were still very few Indian women on campus and even fewer role models to follow.

How had Shyamala navigated this terrain nearly twenty years earlier?  What were her guiding principles?  Did she find Berkeley’s liberal politics and culture just as invigorating as I found it?  Did the Americans of Berkeley, a breed unto themselves, wrap their arms around her just as they had done around me?  Did she relish this place where she could live without restrictions or fear of judgment, just as I had done?  Did she welcome the absence of expectations?

I am convinced that she did.  Why else would she fall in love with a black man from Jamaica?  Why, when it became imperative, would she divorce him and strike out on her own as a single mother?

But the question that haunts me is this: how did Shyamala have the courage of her conviction that I’ve had to struggle to maintain?

Arriving in the US decades after Shyamala, I experienced the stigma of divorce out of my arranged marriage. I was ostracized, not by the Americans, but by the Indian community, which had just begun forming in the Silicon Valley.  Later, I felt the taboo of my marriage to a white Englishman.

I felt I had been wronged.

But Shyamala overcame so much more.  When Kamala mentions that her grandparents had no telephone and had to rely on writing flimsy aerograms that took two weeks to arrive in Berkeley, I tear up.  Decades after I arrived in the US, my parents too did not have a phone.  For them, calling me involved an expedition at a prearranged time to my cousin’s house in another suburb.

I imagine that the lack of communication made it easier for Shyamala to break away, to assimilate into North American society; to eventually take the professorship in medical research at McGill University in Montreal and move her two daughters there.

Just as it had enabled me to strike on my own path.

Recently, I came across a picture of Shyamala walking her daughters to an elementary school in Berkeley.  In the photo, she is wearing black stockings, a short plaid skirt, matching vest, and a black blouse.  With her strong Indian features, curly hair, and beaded earrings, she looks like a woman who is working hard to assimilate.  The picture reminds me of the first skirt and vest outfit I had purchased nearly forty years ago for attending job interviews.  With my knee-length hair and off-the-boat expression, I’d perhaps looked just as out of place in it as Shyamala had done.

The thought fills me with a kinship that I haven’t experienced with any other immigrant female. I marvel at the miracle of our nation which, every four years, presents us with unique stories of the American journey.

Sarita Sarvate (www.saritasarvate.com) has published commentaries for New America Media, KQED FM, San Jose Mercury News, the Oakland Tribune, and many nationwide publications.

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