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Letters from Readers

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May 2018
Letters from Readers

 

Will Atlanta’s oldest Indian association save itself?

I read the April editorial (“Why What Happens to IACA Matters to the Community at Large”) and felt that I should congratulate you and thank you for the writeup with all the details of the story to the extent any one can get. I realize it is not the full story as IACA leadership could not share their side of the story. I attended some meetings and I felt that your article reflects truthfully to the extent any one can see the real situation from the general membership point of view. Thanks again for helping the community understand the situation. I earnestly hope all the senior leadership will get together and resolve the issues for the benefit of IACA.

Raju Vanapalli
by email


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An Indian-American pioneer

Your cover statement that “It all started with less than a dozen college students in the 1960’s” (April issue) is not quite correct. I came to U.S.A. in 1958 as a lecturer (not a student) at North Carolina State University, as a part of the then Technical Co-operation Mission (T. C. M.) between India and U.S.A., and also visited Atlanta in the same year doing some professional work. I kept coming back to Atlanta every year and in 1970 settled down here. In quick succession I became the silent third partner of Calcutta Restaurant, the first Indian restaurant here, started my architectural practice at Peachtree Center, started a high-class boutique named “Sengupta’s” also at Peachtree Center, and became a visiting professor at Georgia Tech. My architectural and planning projects in Atlanta include MARTA Phase I, 30-story Peachtree Summit office building, Westlake MARTA Station, Master Plans of Atlanta U. and Spelman College, and the conceptual design of the CNN Center.

A. N. Sengupta
Smyrna, GA

 


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Reflections on the rituals of dating and mating

I enjoyed reading Dr. Bhagirath Majmudar’s wellwritten, insightful, and engaging article on a hot-button topic (“Veteran Wisdom on Toxic Sexuality”) in the April issue. Bhagirathbhai has a knack of stringing together a few words to either express his reflection on a matter or to make us chuckle. The topic is timely because of the recent spate of sex scandals by celebrities. On responsible sex, he says that ideally it should be dating and waiting for marriage before mating—but because of changes in lifestyles due to various factors, it is becoming common for couples to live together and delay tying the knot. The young, he rightly says, should enjoy this privilege of living together prior to marriage with responsibility. The vows that couples take at the time of wedding should also apply at cohabitation, whether marriage is desired or not.

Like sex, love has many facets. There are many moving stories of lovers who pined for love that sadly remained unfulfilled. For example, tales of Salim and Anarkali, Sohni and Mahiwal, Cathy and Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights, Devdas and Paro, and Heer Ranjha are the stuff of legends. I commend Bhagirathbhai for his thoughtful article.

Mahadev Desai
Atlanta, GA


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Understanding rape: Hook-up culture or social conditioning?

Thank you for highlighting the Aziz Ansari story and having an editorial on it (February issue). As one of those activists who want to change “rape culture,” I am fully aware that consent and coercion’s impact on our culture is complex, and that it can’t be covered in one article, and we need to really work to unlearn what has taken us years to learn and become part of who we are.

Let’s first define rape culture. Emilie Buchwald, author of Transforming a Rape Culture, says that when society normalizes sexualized violence, it accepts and creates rape culture. She defines rape culture as a complex set of beliefs that encourage male sexual aggression and support violence against women.

Reading the editorial, I got the impression that it was saying that rape culture is a problem now because of the hook-up culture and lack of moral values. The reality is that consent and coercion are age old problems that occur all around the world. Throughout generations in India, for example, women have not felt safe riding buses, walking in markets, in school, or in their homes. I understood the editorial to imply that this did not happen in previous generations and we can only get consent when we are in loving committed relationships. We know this is not true. Marital Rape is an issue that has made headlines in India, the U.S., and globally. Now people are talking about it. Women often did not feel safe talking about it because they are often blamed, shamed, or judged when they talk about it. That is how rape culture manifests itself in our lives.

Consent is something we should be working on in every aspect of our lives. This comes from loving and respecting every person we come in contact with, and valuing their boundaries—the physical and emotional limits we all set for how we interact with people. For example, my youngest nephew does not like hugs; I love to give hugs and had a hard time understanding why I could not just give him hugs like I give my older nephew. We often don’t know what another person’s experience is, or what they like and don’t like, so it is important to ask. Just because we like something, does not mean everyone else likes it.

Another example of consent was when I was at my doctor’s office and the nursing assistant was about to take my blood. I knew it was happening but she asked my permission before she inserted the needle in my arm. I walked away feeling respected in this very small interaction. Why don’t we put energy into creating a consent culture, where we ask people before we get into their physical and emotional space?

In our culture, a child who does not want to hug an auntie or uncle might be scolded and told that they are rude—we are inherently telling the child that we know better and that they must show love and affection when they are not feeling it. Can we take a minute to think how that might translate to sexual interactions when they are older? I have learned, based on my work on addressing domestic and sexual violence in our community, that this interaction is one thing we need to change in our culture. So I usually respond by telling the parent that it is okay and that I prefer for the child to only hug me when they feel it is ok.

This also happens when we go to someone’s home and they want us to eat there. Despite, us saying no, we will hear “No, you must eat something,” and it becomes a game of saying no and the host asserting more pressure until we relent and say yes. So whether it a meal, chai, or sexual interactions, culturally, we learn we can keep asking and eventually get a yes. This is also modeled in older Bollywood movies. A woman will say no to a suitor, but it is seen as flirting; the suitor keeps persisting and wins the girl. Our rape culture is not a product of hook-up culture; it is a product of generations of social conditioning.

I agree that Aziz Ansari is not on the same level as Harvey Weinstein. I also agree that we need to make culture changes in our pop culture but also in our cultural beliefs around sex and sexuality. We have to be unafraid in having these conversations about sex, sexuality, consent, and coercion with our kids, our peers, and each other.

Instead of talking about morality, we need to talk honestly about intimacy and expectations about our sexual interactions. Asking for consent and setting expectations shows respect; it does not have to be legal issue—it is about saying, I care about you enough to ask you what you want and need in this interaction. Maybe it is about a meal, a cup of tea, or even a sexual interaction. Regardless of what it is, we need to keep talking about it, practicing it until it is ingrained in us and part of our everyday interactions.

To start the conversation, please check out this guide by Heart Women and Girls, created in response to the Aziz Ansari situation: http://heartwomenandgirls.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Aziz-Ansari-Aftermath-Syllabus.docx.pdf, or get involved and help us create some community conversations so we can actively change our cultural norms and create respectful norms to counter the rape culture and toxic masculinity. It will take a much longer and deeper conversation to look at all the elements that created rape culture and devalued women and their bodies.

Aparna Bhattacharyya
Executive Director of Raksha
Atlanta, GA


What’s on YOUR mind?

We welcome original, unpublished letters from our readers. You could either respond to a specific article in Khabar or write about issues relevant to our community. Letters may be edited for length and other considerations. Longer submissions by readers may be considered for the “My Turn” column.

Email: letters@khabar.com • Fax: (770) 234-6115.

Mail: Khabar, Inc. 3635 Savannah Place Dr, Suite 400, Duluth, GA 30096.


Note: Views expressed in the Letters section do not necessarily represent those of the publication.

 


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