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Readers Write

October 2010
Readers Write Don’t write India off—it’s maddening, but still great

I am writing in response to themes raised in two letters in the Readers Write section of the September issue. First, in a letter about being a “closet Indian,” the writer says that cultural events in the Indian community are religion-based, and therefore cannot be enjoyed by Americans. She also contends that Filipinos and Chinese are better adapted to life in America. I cannot disagree more. As Indians living in America, and as Indian Americans, we need to get out of the habit of lambasting our heritage. India is home to one of the world's most ancient and continuous civilizations; the history and culture that go along with that are, at times, awe-inspiring, and at times, tumultuous and chaotic. Most other ancient civilizations have a similar record of triumphs and tribulations.

In other words, there are many reasons to be proud of our civilization, its history, and its messages, which have real relevance to modern life in America. Look at how many Americans practice yoga; look at how many young people bring non-Indians to Dussera garbas and Holi celebrations (all of which have religious undercurrents). Even Bollywood movies and themes are talked about at Starbucks, and many Americans now know what grand events most Indian weddings can be. It is simply not accurate to say that Indian culture is somehow off-limits to the mainstream American community. And as for Filipinos and Chinese adapting better, all it takes is one drive down Buford Highway to see how “assimilated” our fellow Asians are: lines of stores and restaurants without any English signs whatsoever! I'm afraid Ms. Joshi is simply mistaken. India is home to one of the most open and pluralistic societies on Earth, and this commitment to pluralism and openness is shared by both India and America, making community bonhomie all the more natural.

Second, another letter states that “India's future is bleak,” and goes on to compare India to the other economic powers of Asia. Yes, China and other Asian powers are more “developed” than India in many ways. But, as many political experts and economists have pointed out, it is not an apples-to-apples comparison. After Independence, most observers doubted that India would even stay together for more than a generation; many predicted famine and disintegration. But India proved the doubters wrong, and has remained stable and made strides towards reducing abject hunger. Additionally, we forget other areas in which India excels and take these things for granted—a vociferous and free press (try writing an anti-government letter to a newspaper in Beijing), a robust democracy in which even the poorest Indians at least have the right to vote (the average Chinese person has a very limited say in what the Chinese government does), and an active and free civil society.

Yes, India's elections are not perfect, and the press is not always a boon, but these institutions bode well for India's future. As Chinese citizens become wealthier and better educated, they will want to have a say in their government; they will want to read an uncensored newspaper, and they will want freedom of thought and spirit. No infrastructure—no matter how dazzling and modern—can guarantee that. India's path to prosperity may take much longer than China's or that of other Asian giants, but it will be a more sound and consistent path, and one that may ultimately lead to a more stable society. India moves at her own pace, and we should learn to appreciate and support it—just see how much the country has changed in the last 20 years. To write off its future as bleak is misguided and myopic.

We need to stop viewing India and its culture through a strictly comparative, and thereby sometimes negative, lens. Yes, India is far from perfect, and can be a maddeningly complex and contradictory place, but this, too, is part of its allure. We need to learn to embrace it and share it with those around us.

Munjal G. Shroff
Smyrna, Georgia

Make us feel welcome: we want to learn more

Having read a letter titled “Why I am a closet Indian,” I had to respond to her statement that she had never seen any Americans visiting Global Mall. Well, here is one who goes there regularly, subscribes to Khabar, and even visits Hindu temples!

As an Italian American who moved here from New York, I feel very invisible among the Atlanta Indian Community despite my presence at local Indian establishments. In New York, if I asked for a spice at an Indian grocery store, I would be taken to it, given alternatives and even a brief cooking lesson! Recently when I needed hing, a spice I didn’t have the faintest idea about, I was told to go “down that aisle.” Likewise at a Hindu temple, when I called ahead and asked if it was wheelchair-accessible I was assured I could use an elevator. Unfortunately, when I arrived with my 89-year-old client, I was made to push the wheel chair up that long ramp despite the fact that I have multiple sclerosis and told the man I couldn’t easily do that! Neither establishment made me feel welcome.

I would love to be able to learn more about Hinduism and the culture but find few welcoming opportunities to do so. Perhaps as an American I feel invisible to the Indian community? I am not saying that all members of the community have treated me this way. I see other Americans at Global Mall and at the Indian grocer and we say hello to each other. Very rarely have I been acknowledged or greeted in that manner in Global Mall or at an Indian grocer by a member of the Indian community. “How can Americans enjoy our cultural programs if they have religious themes?” Start by saying “Hello” when we are in your cultural spots. That will open dialogue and understanding/enjoyment of your cultural programs.

Mary Ferrara
by e-mail

Assimilation needs to be two-way

I loved the way Mona Vijaykar (“We are but Closet Indians,” August issue) explained the real inhibitions of Indians and its effect on the thought process of our own kids. She has given an excellent definition of assimilation, which needs to be interactive and two-way rather than demeaning to your culture or your identity. She has rightly pointed out that moving forward we Indians have to remember that while we make an effort to assimilate, we must also encourage and expect from fellow Americans true cultural integration, not just cultural appreciation. Wear your bindi, suhaag jewelry and Indian outfits to work or American gatherings proudly, ready to answer queries. I DO!

Indu De
by e-mail

Thank you for Khabar!

I am visiting from India, spending time with my daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren, who live here in Georgia. I have been traveling, and reading a lot of local periodicals. I enjoy Khabar so much that I read it from first to last page. It is colorful, informative and keeps the reader totally engaged.

I enjoy reading the Spiritual Straight Talk column by Sadhguru-ji, who, in a recent piece, has very lucidly answered questions relating to being drunk. He confidently declares, “I can have you drunk all the time for free, no hangover and no doctor.”

Lavina Melwani has expressed her thoughts about yoga and Ayurveda very clearly in her well-written article. Of late, Ayurveda has been gaining ground in the U.S. But the irony is that while many mainstream Americans are open to this ancient healing system, Indian Americans are generally reluctant to accept it, despite the wide range of home cures offered by Ayurveda.

Similarly, I loved reading recent articles about the Indian spice box, fashion and international satsang, and columns like Bollywood Buzz, Chai Time, Immigration and even the classifieds! I appreciate the work the Khabar team is doing. I wholeheartedly thank you for giving us such a readable magazine. I have saved a lot of Khabar issues and will be taking them with me to India as souvenirs. Additionally, my daughter and her family love reading your magazine, too, and carry the latest issue in their car at all times to catch up with business contact information on the go.

Madhukar Naikude
Lawrenceville, Georgia

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