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Letters from Readers

March 2013
Letters from Readers

Across the ocean with 50 dollars

Congratulations on your editorial and the two articles on Indian-American archives and returning expatriates (February issue).

Please allow me to share my own story on how I first came to the USA in 1958 to teach at N.C. State and then to Atlanta in 1959. Along with three other gentlemen called Ashoke, Sumitra Bhattacharyya and Jayanta Bhattacharyya, I was the fourth owner of the very first Indian restaurant in Atlanta—the Calcutta Restaurant. In the early seventies I started two businesses at Peachtree Center in downtown Atlanta: SENGUPTA’S (a high-end international boutique) and an architectural practice, Sengupta-Gruber & Associates, built a number of buildings, and was a consultant to ARC for MARTA. Earlier, I had also worked as an associate with TAW, the then-premier architectural practice here, and designed many major buildings, here and elsewhere. Following a personal tragedy I closed down my two businesses and left Atlanta soon after.

After 26 years in the USA, Canada, and Saudi Arabia, I returned with my family to India and spent 14 most wonderful years in Chennai where I was a professor at Anna University, had my own practice as an architect, and designed over 50 major projects all over India.

We visited Atlanta many times and returned in 1998, since our two sons and grandchildren live here. I do projects occasionally in other places, too, but I have recently started paying attention to imparting my humble knowledge and experience of 80 years through books. I published through Amazon a book titled Stranger in Shangri-La—A Vision of a Gentler World, and expect to publish a sequel soon.

Thank you for letting me sum up the greater part of 80 years in three short paragraphs. If there is reader interest I shall be happy to tell how I made my ocean voyage in 1958 from Mumbai to Montreal with $50 in my pocket and other real-life stories.

A.N. “Shen” Sengupta
Smyrna, Georgia

The inspirational Swami Vivekananda

Special thanks to Khabar for the fine article titled “The Godfather of Indian Spiritualism in America” by Rev.Victor M. Parachin in the February issue. When I read in my college days the book Barrows Lectures, a collection of lectures delivered at the first world parliament of religions in 1893, one caught my attention and registered in my brain instantly.

“I do not believe in a God or religion which cannot wipe the widow’s tears or bring a piece of bread to the orphan’s mouth,” said Swami Vivekananda in his lecture. The foremost book of the New Testament was written by Apostle James, and he has written, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after the orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” James 1:27.

Swami Vivekananda lived a very simple life of faith, slept wherever he could, and lived by donations given by strangers. He kept two books with him: the Bhagavad Gita and Imitation of Christ, written by Thomas à Kempis, a German Catholic priest of the 15th century.

When I read the quotation in the article, “I am here (in America) amongst the children of the Son of Mary and the Lord Jesus will help me,” I was deeply touched by his faith and trust in God. When he served food to his disciples and they objected to being served by their guru, he answered, “Jesus washed the feet of his disciples, let me at least serve you some food.”

We live in an age when we discover hoards of diamonds and bundles of currency stashed away in god-men’s abodes when they die. Swami Vivekananda’s humble and simple life, his compassion for the suffering world, and his faith and and nobility tell a different story. The young generation who are simply chasing after materialism must learn from this great godfather of Indian spiritualism.

A. S. Mathew
Ringgold, Georgia

Distorting history, the Wikipedia way

Chai Time’s “Don’t Re-Lie on Wikipedia” in the February issue hits the nail right on the head. Not only is Wikipedia an open book with no control over what someone posts in the disguise of history, it allows anybody to edit the postings of others and further distort the truth.

There is a Wikipedia article on my ancestral village in West Bengal. My ancestors had been one of the earliest families to move in there around the 14th century, acquire extensive real estate in that area, and establish a well-known and respected zamindari there. A fellow-descendant of mine had written a Wikipedia page on the village, and had included some brief paragraphs on the history and a few anecdotes related to my ancestors. I have a copy of an old book on my family that mostly validates the original article.

Several weeks back I happened to re-visit this Wikipedia page, and to my great dismay I noticed that someone had recently edited the text to replace every single occurrence of my family’s last name with presumably his or her own, changing some of the first names, but retaining all the anecdotes.

When I complained to Wikipedia, they suggested that I edit the text back to what it was.

What a farce Wikipedia is!

Hem (Dutta) Chaudhuri
Cumming, Georgia

A collective statement decrying violence against women

After the brutal attack on Jyoti Singh Pandey, and after the numerous memorial vigils and the resolutions sent to the Indian government by individuals and organizations, both women and men all over the world wanted to begin action to voice loudly their opposition to violence against women (VAW), to spread the discussion, and to promote change. One of the actions was organizing “flash mobs” around the world on Valentine’s Day, a global event called “One Billion Rising” that demonstrated both the size and the energy and determination of the opposition to VAW.

The next day a statement was released by the National Coalition of South Asian Organizations (NCSO), from South Asian women’s organizations and allies, as follows.

The horror of what one woman on a bus in Delhi endured is something that goes beyond our imagination. In her senseless death, we confront not just her story, but also the stories of countless women and girls who, on a daily basis, endure some aspect of her pain. We also see the place of women in our world—how we are all at risk of harassment and sexual assault and systemic injustices that lead to silence and inaction. We recognize that there are women and girls who have similar experiences with no one to fight for their lives.

We know that these tragedies are not isolated to India alone. They happen throughout the South Asian subcontinent, and the rest of the world, including the United States of America. One in four women in the U.S. will experience domestic violence and one in six will experience sexual violence. One in three women experienced child sexual abuse. Girls who do not follow strict gender norms are three times as likely as their heterosexual and heteronormative counterparts of being sexually assaulted in their lives.

We will also not forget the absent, the silenced, and the missing. The girls who grow up ignored, neglected and passed over because of their gender. The human beings who have no story and no champion in much of our work to end violence against women because we think of gender as two distinct realities, rather than a spectrum of realities. The ones who endure silently, who die unmourned, who struggle every day of their lives in order to build better ones for their families.

What happened on a bus in Delhi was beyond our imagination. We can, however, imagine how to change ourselves and our communities. We can work hard to make changes in how we view one other, and how we value every member in our society so that this does not, cannot, happen again.

What can we do?

We can value our girls, and support them to become vibrant members of our community.
We can value our boys and raise them to respect women and girls.
We can do more to be inclusive to the LGBT members of our families and community.
We can make sure not to turn a blind eye, a deaf ear, or a cold shoulder to violence in our community.
We can provide safe spaces and support for survivors of violence.
We can build our capacity to prevent and respond to violence.
We can say, “We’re not going to tolerate this anymore. We are not going to endure the catcalls, the leers, the unwanted language, touching, contact of any kind.”
We can build spaces to talk about that which is silenced.
We can pass stronger laws and enact policies that will protect women, and ensure that victims of crime can access safe, culturally sensitive services.
We can draw strength from our community to know we are not doing this work alone.
We can build bridges between our community and others to stand united against violence and hate.

We are a collective of South Asian Women’s Organizations, and their allies. We work in the U.S. with South Asian survivors of domestic and sexual violence and strive to strengthen our larger community and end gender-based violence. We stand in solidarity with our allies in India, the U.S. and all across the globe who work towards strong communities and families, human rights for all and a world in which every life is valued.
      API Chaya
      Apna Ghar, Inc. (Our Home)
      ASHA for Women
      Daya, Inc.
      MAI Family Services
      Manavi, Inc.
      Sakhi for South Asian Women
      Sneha, Inc.
      South Asian Network (SAN)
      Turning Point for Women and Families

We are allies of these South Asian women’s organizations and we stand in solidarity with their work to end gender-based violence and with our shared goals of promoting and protecting the rights and safety of the South Asian community in the US.
      Counselors Helping (South) Asians / Indians, Inc. (CHAI)
      Chhaya CDC
      Indo-American Center
      Saathi of Rochester, NY
      South Asian Youth Action (SAYA!)
      South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT)
      South Asian American Policy & Research Institute (SAAPRI)
      South Asian Council for Social Services (SACSS)
      The Sikh Coalition

[For further information on NCSO, see]


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: • Fax: (770) 234-6115.

Mail: Khabar, Inc. 3790 Holcomb Bridge Rd. Suite 101, Norcross, GA 30092.

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


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