A Tribute to the Indian Minstrel: Ravi Shankar

An internationally renowned artist who continued to perform and perfect on the sitar, for well over six decades, Pandit Ravi Shankar, after giving a full concert in Long Beach, CA, as recently as November 4, 2012, has passed  on. But the musical bridge he built between the East and the West stands firm and well traveled. Because of Shankar, the raga, a formalized melodic base on a rigorous scale, is now part of world music.

Mark Swed, the music critic for the Los Angeles Times, in his appreciation of Ravi Shankar, generously adopts poetic imagery as he compares the raga from Shankar’s sitar to the elementary particles, like charge, mass, spin and charm that make up the Universe. But Shankar’s particles have one more character—soul, according to Swed. Shankar was a musician to be approached in a state of reverence and awe.

There is a perception among many that Ravi Shankar had at least passively, contributed to the delinquency of the youth of America and in particular to the hippy culture of the 1960s. This segment of the restless and stoned were fascinated by the Indian artist, his instrument and style. Let me anecdotally refute this insinuation. Late in the 1960s, Shankar gave a concert at the University of California, Irvine. The audience included a few of us from the Indian community, many from the local majority community, and a liberal mix of the young and the restless. As Shankar built up the tempo of his performance, we, in the audience noticed that  several of the hippy group in the audience had decided to “ let it be” so to say. This was an uncalled for distraction. The artist abruptly stopped playing and rebuked a young woman sitting in front with just two words: “Sit properly!” The stern message was to her directly and indirectly to the many. Order was quickly restored and he picked up the tempo from where he left off.

In the passing of Ravi Shankar, Indian minstrel, I remember the famous ode by William Wordsworth, “Ethereal minstrel, pilgrim of the sky, Dost thou despise the earth where cares abound?”

P. Mahadevan, Fullerton, CA

The Republican Point of View

While Sarita Sarvate makes a few substantive points in her recent article (India Currents, December 2012, “It’s Morning in America Again”) about the policies crafted by the Obama adminstration, I think she is plain wrong about the GOP.  As a Republican and an Indian-American, I am proud of the fact that while the people elected Obama, they also returned several Republican governors to power. These elected representatives had been doing the tough job of balancing the budget and working on tough bipartisan issues to move their states forward. I have worked at the grassroots level and served as a precinct officer in the last elections so I know that even with the registration advantage of Democrats, the Republican majority can still be mobilized if we Republicans introspect and address the imbalances.“Morning in America” was a promise that President Reagan delivered.

Republicans need to address women voters and telling a young woman what to do is not the job of government. Conservatism is alive and thriving and that encompasses the Indian-American community who want lower taxes on their businesses, a free-enterprise system and do not ever ever want to get back to a failed socialistic system like India which they left in the first place for economic oportunites in the United States. Our pews and churches and temples and gurdwaras are filled with Republicans who want to practice their faith freely and who reaffirm the central place of God in our lives. The recent senseless violence in Connecticut shows Republicans that we need to do a better job of building cohesive communities with better funding for mental health. Sarita’s message may play well in liberal bastions such as San Francisco but not in rural California.

Gopal Chakravarthy, CA

Sarita Sarvate’s article (India Currents, October 2012, “Obama Is Our Only Option”) reeks of the typical intolerance for diverging points of view that has become the hallmark of current day “liberalism.” This is revealed when the author resorts to phrases like “… the stupidity of a large segment of the American public;” “the choice is a no-brainer even for the mentally challenged.” Using these derogatory phrases is reprehensible. After these sweeping characterizations, Sarvate goes into an imaginary world describing what a Romney administration could have looked like. What she portrays is a figment of her imagination, because the reality is that Romney was a fairly centrist Governor.

The article is full of misinformation, but I will point out only a couple in this letter.

First, the wars were approved by the Congress (of which Democrats are a part) and Obama’s “tax cuts for the rich” include tax cuts for the “middle class.”

Second, the reason behind the financial crisis was the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act that separated regular banking services from trading activities by President Clinton. The lending standards were diluted to accommodate risky mortgages to push the democratic agenda of home ownership for all during Clinton’s term. This created the housing bubble and when it burst it resulted in the financial crisis. Yes, it happened at the end of the Bush presidency, but the seeds were sown during the Clinton era. The point is the effects of a policy are typically not immediately visible and may take decades before its effects are realized by the public. It is important to analyze the policies that lead to a crisis in order to help us learn from past mistakes.

Finally, the title, “Obama Is Our Only Option” is reminiscent of dictatorship. I am not sure what the author wants: a single-party single-person rule?

Arpita Chattopadhyay, Daly City, CA

A Royal Lineage

Kalpana Mohan’s article (India Currents, November 2012, “A Maharani in the Next Avatar, Perhaps?”) made me nostalgic. Being that I am a cricketer and a golfer, I was well connected with the royal Gaekwads, starting with the late Maharaja Fatehsinhrao Gaekwad, to his younger brothers, the late Ranjitsinh (husband of Shubhangini Devi) and the youngest Sangramsinh Gaekwad. The article references the Delhi Darbar incident and states that Prince Sayajirao Gaekwad III of Baroda refused to dress in full regalia at the Durbar. I believe that that was not a deliberate affront to the Crown, but a lack of knowledge of protocol. Though it is true that Prince Sayajirao was a great nationalist. Interestingly, quite a few eminent scholars, pursuing Indian Civil Service in England, including India’s first President, S.P. Radhakishnan, Sri Aurobindo and Dr. Ambedkar, did not want to return to India to serve the British Raj, and hence took up positions in Baroda that helped them hide from the eyes of the Raj.

Atul Mehta, Saratoga, CA

Handling Aging Parents

Kalpana Mohan’s article on handling her aging/disabled parent (India Currents, December 2012, “Starched, Crisp, White and Made in India: Dhoti”) touches a chord since it is something many of us are dealing with. Such inspirations help ease our minds, so keep ‘em coming. Nice writing.

Ram and Kavita, online

Very touching and nicely written. I have made the United States my home for 27 years and have a similar story about my dad always smiling at any time of the night or day waiting for us at the Bangalore airport.

Poornima Chitnis, online

Vandana Kumar is a publishing executive with a 36-year track record in the industry. She leads the India Currents Foundation as President and CEO. As a new immigrant, she co-founded India Currents magazine...