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May 2009
Readers Write

Indian media, wake up to the reality!

Recently, significant attention has been drawn to India because of the movie Slumdog Millionaire. My family saw the movie and was in awe of the excellent cinematography and the realistic view of life in Mumbai. After the accolades from Western media, segments of the Indian community were embarrassed or unhappy about the depiction of life in the slums of Mumbai.

Simultaneously, I have come across several eye-opening reports. Lancet, the medical journal, reported recently that more than 100,000 young women in India between the ages of 15 and 34 years committed suicide by self-immolation in a single year as a result of domestic abuse, dispute, or dowries. More than half of the nation’s households do not have an indoor toilet, and open defecation is a national problem.

All this should lead to soul searching about our culture, our value system, and the “progress” from independence after 60 years. We talk about the richness of our Vedic heritage and the affluence and pride from the growth of the software market, which has put India on the world map. However, all this tends to make me think twice about the country’s priorities. We have not been able to provide basic healthcare and a decent standard of living for the majority of the population. Most Indians seem to have accepted corruption, unsanitary living conditions, and communal strife as a way of life. The Indian media in the United States rarely address this issue, while mostly glorifying the isolated achievements of a few out of one billion people.

We need to enable our next generation to address these issues head on, instead of skirting and burying them in hype about progress. We need to encourage them to make a difference to a larger segment of India who need help and the opportunity to succeed.

I hope that Khabar will take a lead in reporting on these subjects, along with positive achievements, and keep readers in touch with reality. I am a strong believer in the “one half cup full” theory but when the cup is less than one quarter filled for most of the population, we cannot bask in the past without putting in place a plan for the future to create a just society for all citizens.

Jay Desai

Lawrencville, Georgia

Go ahead and call me Uncle!

I disagree with the writer of the article “Please Don’t Call Me Aunty” in the April issue of Khabar , who feels that the use of term “aunty” or “uncle” by Indian Americans is a sign of disrespect and thoughtlessness.

I have lived in America for over 35 years and have seen kids here being disrespectful not only to their parents but also to their relatives. Many of them address their elders by their first names. So it is a breath of fresh air when I am addressed as “uncle” by young Indian Americans in family or social settings, even if they are total strangers to me. I feel elated and proud that Indian kids respect my age, maturity and experience and consider me worthy of their respect.

I know this respect won’t last long, because I am sure the grandchildren who are born and raised here will be Americanized quickly and won’t address someone much older than themselves as uncles or aunts. I bet they will start calling their uncles and aunts by their first names.

So let me enjoy the respect and love as long as it lasts.

Praful Shah

Alpharetta, Georgia

When will we drop “Aunty”?

In English-speaking countries like England, the United States, Canada and Australia, the noun “aunt” is used to address the sister of one’s father or mother and the wife of one’s uncle.

In these countries, it is used before the name, as in Aunt Gita. However, most Indians use it after the name, as in Gita Aunty, just as we use it in Indian languages. Uncles too are addressed the same way; so we have Ramesh Uncle instead of Uncle Ramesh.

Such usage may be acceptable in India, but it is totally absurd to use them in western countries. In modern society, if the age difference is small, people don’t even use the term “aunt” or “uncle” and address even real aunts and uncles by their first names. I have seen that some American sons-in-law and daughters-in-law address their spouse’s parents by first names.

So when are we going to adopt the western system and drop the “aunty”?

Bharti Desai

Macon, Georgia

The land of Nehru Chacha and Gandhi Bapu

I am a bit puzzled at the writer’s offense at some kids calling her aunty.

Mahatma Gandhi was called “Bapu” (Father of the Nation) and Jawaharlal Nehru “Nehru Chacha” by millions of people. It is our Indian tradition to give respect to someone older than us by calling them with such terms of endearment. Sometimes I feel insulted when little kids as young as five call me by my first name. So I am proud when I am called Aunty or Didi.

Jyoti Mukherji

Norcross, Georgia

Memories of Teaching in Africa

I enjoyed the heartwarming and inspiring article by 13-year-old Sanjana Shukla (“Lessons from a Teaching Safari”) in the April issue of Khabar, which describes her fortnight-long service trip to a remote village in Tanzania to teach English. As I was born in Tanzania and grew up in Kenya, I am familiar with the crying need for good teachers and basic classroom facilities in remote parts of Africa.

The article took me down memory lane as I recalled similar teaching experiences. After graduating in business studies in Mumbai, and earning a post-graduate diploma in teaching from London, I returned to Nairobi in 1964 and joined Kenya Polytechnic, where I taught accounts, economics, secretarial duties and commerce for ten years.

I particularly enjoyed a bookkeeping class taught to African girls studying for a diploma in hotel management. Most of these girls were from rural areas, so they lacked exposure to the business world. In addition to using many teaching aids to complement “chalk-and-talk” teaching, I took them to places like the post office, commercial banks, hotels, the Bata Shoe factory, and a sweets factory, to expose them to the real business world. At the end of the year, they took the Royal Society of Arts exams. I was apprehensive, but to my delight, they all passed with flying colors! And we celebrated with a fruit-cake and tea party! As a library committee member I arranged for better reading and borrowing facilities for these students. I formed the Polytechnic Cricket Team, and included a few African male students. We went on to win both the league and knockout competitions.

Teaching African students was the most rewarding experience of my life. The students were highly disciplined, attentive, respectful, and keen to learn. I wish I can meet and greet them and share all those happy times again!

I salute Sanjana, her mother and classmates, and exhort all who can to go to developing countries to teach these deprived and disadvantaged students.

Mahadev Desai

Atlanta, Georgia

A treasured article

I salute Ajay Vishwanathan for the wonderful, thoughtful, nostalgic and well-written commentary titled “Darned Measures for National Treasures”. It vividly covered the feelings of all the Indians, no matter where they live.

Tears rolled down my eyes while reading the saga of the auction of the Mahatma’s belongings and other lost treasures of our great India. Our politicians are busy playing their politics, our Indian business tycoons and film stars are busy buying players for their IPL teams and our NRIs are busy in Wall street and Main Street, and have lost connection with the motherland.

Nobody cares, and the people who care don’t have millions of dollars to purchase our national treasures and return them to our country with respect.

Hussain H.

Birmingham, Alabama

Gem of an issue

Your April 2009 issue was a true gem. There were so many articles that were worth reading!

I compliment Mr. Murali Kamma on his article (“Arts +Science = Sense”). I know what he means, because I am one of the fortunate ones who was “not smart enough” for medicine or engineering and so escaped being pigeonholed into a restricted life.

I also thought that the cover story on H1-Bs was interesting, but I found that it was too focused on the IT industry. There is a whole other side to it. I did my master’s in plant biology, and couldn’t find a soul who’d sponsor me for a H1-B. Only after I was cleared for a green card on my husband’s application, could I get a job. Until then, I was an H-4 who could not work legally in the U.S.

At the time, I used to be so sick of the IT guys who would waltz in with a basic degree, and land a H1 visa, get a good job with a good pay, and then crib endlessly about their status. So, sorry, not much sympathy for them here!

Lakshmi Palecanda

Bozeman, Montana


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