By (author) Miranda Kennedy
“5.5 liters of blood;” Mr. Krishan could not have said it better.
Mr. Krishnan founded his nonprofit Akshaya Trust in 2003. He has served more than 1.2 million meals – breakfast, lunch and dinner – to India’s homeless and destitute, mostly elderly people abandoned by their families and often abused. “Krishnan brings hot meals and dignity to India’s homeless and destitute – 365 days a year,” CNN said.
Please share this video and may we all have the heart to give (and receive) as Mr. Krishnan does. Please watch the first 3 minutes (After that is an interview with Mr. Krishnan):
I traveled to India several years ago and one of my fondest memories was chatting with a young boy in Varanasi. He approached me while I was watching a beautiful performance along the Ganges River. He spoke perfect English at 9 years old and asked me some questions about why I was in India. He guessed, eventually, where I was from. And when he did, the first question he asked was, “Lady, where is your gun?”
Stereotype #126: All Americans own guns.
I took a moment to let what he asked me sink in, and then I informed him that I don’t own a gun. I told him that none of my friends or family members own guns. (I have since realized that 2 actually do.) I asked him why he thought I would have a gun and he said, while mimicking a shootout, that all American movies have guns and all Americans do too.
When I travel, I always learn about my host country and culture, but I always learn MORE about my home country and culture. This 9 year old boy was teaching me about the perception of Americans and their relationships with guns and violence.
This past weekend in Tucson, Arizona, US Representative and Fulbright Alumna (Mexico) Gabrielle Giffords was shot at point blank range in the head by a man toting a 9 mm Glock handgun. The shooter purchased the gun legally in the U.S. Incredibly, thus far, Representative Giffords has survived a bullet ripping through the left side of her brain and exiting through the other side of her head.
According to the Brady Campaign to End Gun Violence (named after James Brady, who was seriously wounded in the assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan,) nearly 100,000 people in America in an average year are shot or killed by a gun. More than a million people in the US have been killed by guns since 1968.
It makes perfect sense that people outside the US think we all have guns. Our statistics would imply that a heck of a lot of us do anyway, and our film industry is very proficient at creating violent films loaded with guns of all shapes and sizes.
Study abroad advisers often feel overwhelmed by the barrage of questions about safety in the programs that we plan and support, despite data illustrating relatively high death rates from gun violence in our own country. Our standard answer regarding safety in study abroad is that cannot be guaranteed anywhere in the world, period. No student or parent should believe any program materials or adviser that imply that a program is 100% safe. Safety isn’t an item you can purchase at your corner store – it doesn’t exist here or any other country.
What is more tangible and worthwhile when advising students is to share the safety measures that are being taken in study abroad programs, as well as the reality of safety in the US. I often have cited the example of the Japanese exchange student, Yoshihiro Hattori, who was gunned down in Loiusiana after accidentally arriving at the wrong house for a Halloween party. One wonders whether his parents were concerned about gun violence in the US when they allowed him to participate in an exchange program.
We must keep safety in perspective, as described here by Rick Steves, who wrote about this issue this past October:
“…Each year 12 million Americans travel to Europe and 12 million return home safely…every year another 30,000 die in the USA — victims of gun violence (this is eight times the per-capita gun-caused deaths in Europe). Assuming you believe in statistics — regardless of what the news headlines say — we have one strong piece of advice that could very well save lives: If you care about your loved ones, you’ll take them to Europe as soon as possible. … I refuse to let fear and fear-mongering media mess up my perspective. And, as a patriotic American citizen, I know the best thing I can do to keep my country strong and safe is to travel a lot, engage in the world, and return home with the good news: Life is good, and fear is for people who don’t get out much.”
Study abroad advisers are encouraged to use the example of statistics on gun violence in the US as a tool in preparing students about safety at home and abroad, but also to remind students that they will arrive in their host country carrying the baggage of stereotypes, including “all Americans have guns” and that they may be on the receiving end of this question: “Why do so many Americans die because of guns in this country and why doesn’t our government do something about it?” Students should be “armed’ (pun intended) with some understanding of the 2nd Amendment and the politics of guns in the US. This snapshot of the issue of gun violence in the US (by Wikipedia) is a useful tool to give students a basic understanding of “why we are the way we are.”
The atrocity of sex trafficking is highlighted in this heartbreaking book simply titled “SOLD.” I read it for a book club recently and was completely floored at the power of Patricia McCormick’s writing. It is the story of Lakshmi, a 13 year Nepalese girl whose stepfather sells her to help with his family’s financial troubles. She is taken to India and forced into prostitution to survive.
McCormick traveled to Nepal and India to retrace the steps that a young girl like Laskhmi would follow as part of her nightmarish journey. She interviewed aid workers who rescue girls from brothels as well as survivors, to ensure the authenticity of Lakshmi’s experience. Girls are sold for a few hundred dollars and transported to brothels where they are forced to “pay off their family’s debts” through prostitution. If they don’t obey, they are beaten, starved, intimidated, drugged and raped.
The U.S. State Department estimates that nearly half a million children are trafficked into the sex trade annually. They are being taken from their families as early as 6 years old and are forced to have sex with men twenty to thirty times per day. Yes, you heard me correctly. Take a moment to let that data soak in and to be really angry about it.
Then, when you’re ready to do something about it, visit Ms. McCormick’s link to web sites that combat sex trafficking.
The first organization Ms. McCormick lists on her site is Maiti Nepal. The founder of this organization, Anuradha Koriala, won CNN’s 2010 Hero of the Year award. What did she do to earn this honor? She has rescued 12,000 girls from brothels and rehabilitated them. Yes, you heard me correctly again: 12,000. Twelve thousand. TWELVE THOUSAND since 1993.
Here is an interview with Ms. Koriala (The video will require that you click to youtube – CNN won’t allow their videos to be embedded. Please forgive any ad that plays prior to the video – it is beyond my control. But trust me, two and a half minutes of this video will move you to the core):
Educators around the world have a responsibility to share the truth of what is happening to girls around the world. The book SOLD is an excellent vehicle for teaching our youth about the reality of what is happening to vulnerable girls, particularly when girls in many parts of the world think that their biggest challenge may be what color dress to wear to the prom or what to post to Facebook that day!
SOLD can be read by students as young as 13 years old (or 9th grade in the US.) It is written in a free flowing manner – no chapter is more than three pages and there is much room for dialogue because there is a lot of white space to fill with your students’ imagination and questions.
Please read this book. Find it at your library or you can purchase it here. I don’t really care how you find it - just make sure you read it and then share what you’ve learned and act to change it.
By (author) Patricia Mccormick
Here are 3 interesting videos that highlight the importance of non-verbal communication. If you will study, volunteer, intern or travel abroad, the following video clips are useful resources that highlight how a simply gesture, turn of the head or handshake can convey a much deeper meaning. (If you are a study abroad adviser, add these links to your toolkit for pre-departure or in country orientation meetings.)
The first video is a clip from a BBC documentary. It provides various examples of non-verbal communication including hand shakes, head nods, and hand gestures for places such as Mali, India, Turkey, Greece, the US, England, Italy and more. It does a nice job of explaining some of the history of these non-verbals:
This appears to have been prepared by students (who selected some great music!) and focuses on non-verbals in India:
This is specifically about the various uses of silence in Japan:
I had the pleasure of hearing two incredible speakers recently: Nicolas Kristof, the New York Times journalist and Shilpi Somaya Gowda, author of the book “Secret Daughter.” Although I heard them speak weeks apart, their words came together for me like a beautiful mosaic, and I must share their wisdom with Melibee readers.
While many of you know who Nicolas Kristof is, you may not yet know the wisdom of Shilpi Somaya Gowda. I read her debut novel this past summer and found myself returning to the many layers of her story. Secret Daughter is the story of a couple in the US who adopt a baby girl (Asha) and the equally moving tale of her birth parents in India. Gowda says that she attempted to compare the world that the girl was born into with the world where she is able to live her life out. The baby, Asha, is given a name at birth, a silver bangle and a chance at life because she is secretly taken to an orphanage.
Gowda was born in Canada, although her Indian parents (from Mumbai) had also lived in the Middle East and Europe. She became a foreign student when she came to the United States to pursue her BA and MBA degrees. During her undergraduate studies, Gowda traveled to India for a summer in 1991 to volunteer at an orphanage. She expected the orphanage to be a sad place, but instead, she found it joyful. There were 100 children and they had formed a family. There was pleasure in the simplicity. They made up games with dirt and sticks. She became very attached to several of the children and wondered about them for decades. She especially wondered about the girls.
Interestingly, Gowda entered the business world and says she didn’t write more than a power point presentation for years. But she kept seeing the faces of the children from the orphanage and knew that a story was taking shape. The story took years to develop and required research about orphanages in India and why so many girls end up there. Her research indicated that there is a tremendous imbalance in the population of girls and boys in India and that girls are killed, aborted and neglected to death. According to the UNICEF, 40 to 50 million girls have gone “missing” in India since 1901. And while there is less infanticide today, there is still an imbalance in the number of girls and boys in India, largely due to sex selective abortion.
Nicolas Kristof says that gender imbalance is the central moral challenge of the 21st century. In his book, “Half the Sky,” Kristof reminds us that 100 million women are missing because of gender discrimination. And like Gowda, Kristof doesn’t find the challenges of the women he meets to be the depressing thing about his work – in fact, he stated: “What is depressing to me, is to return here (to the US) and have people think there is no greater humanity than having the hottest car or latest cell phone!”
Interestingly, Gowda is an economist at heart who also happens to have written a stirring book. As a result, she completely agrees that what can best be done about the missing girls in India is to 1) educate women and girls AND 2) give them more economic power and choices. Data indicates that birthrates fall when women are educated. She firmly believes that these issues are rooted in economics, as does Kristof. He stated that when cultures invest in education, it chips away at societies’ ills. Women learn, work and lift communities. And when they don’t, the sons get feed first, taken to the doctor first and invested in first, and daughters die.
In our field, we often wonder how an international experience impacts a life and career. When I asked Gowda about her experience abroad and how it shaped her, she said that it broadened her horizons because even though she thought she knew the culture as a daughter of immigrants, she was able to experience a completely different part of Indian culture by volunteering. She didn’t expect it to be an eye opening experience, yet it was one that evolved into her magical book. She said that her time at the orphanage ultimately made her think of herself as a world citizen, not a Canadian or Indian.
I think that these books would be a terrific pairing for a course on gender studies, human rights, sociology, and more. Gowda’s fictional tale beautifully mirrors the reality of Kristof’s read. I would encourage you to explore these books further – they are easily two ideal options for your toolkit. And the best news is that Gowda is able to participate in book club discussions via skype from her home in California! She would be willing to do this with university students also, so be sure to reach out to her if you’re interested in hearing her perspectives first hand.
By (author) Shilpi Somaya Gowda
Today’s guest posting is by Rinku Bhattacharya. I met Rinku several years ago when I signed up for one of her Indian cooking classes. We had a marvelous time and learned some terrific recipes, however the best gift from that class is that Rinku and I stayed in touch over the years and have had some very interesting conversations about culture. I recently asked Rinku if she would write about how she teaches her 2 beautiful children about her Indian culture while living in New York. (Be sure to scroll down to the bottom of this posting for one of her delicious recipes!)
Can your memories have a scent? Can your culture and childhood have a taste? It is a matter of perspective, if you are like me, where your world and memories are composed of a heritage of food, a heritage of tastes and flavors that link your past to your children’s flavors you would say – yes! Like me, you would remember childhood cures for a cold and your mother’s nurturing touch in a pot of simmering soup spiced with ginger and tomatoes, you would crave traditional rice pudding on your birthday and your Thanksgiving meal would need some cranberry chutney to complete the all day long feast before it made it to the table.
Two decades ago, I made the US my home. It really was a more evolved rather than consciously planned decision. There is a lot of truth to the saying “home is where the heart is!’ Actually in my case, “home is where the “hearth is.” I also do think you can have more than one home, I do not feel out of place when I go back to India, but also feel very much at sync in New York. Like most people with a foot in two cultures, there is a need not to want lose the richness of heritage and identity. In some ways this becomes more an issue when you are raising children. Our household does not even have a common language outside of English, since my husband speaks Hindi and I Bengali, but we do share a love of food both Indian and Global.
This is not surprising since this is the most basic element of heritage. My earliest memories and my most vivid ones of my childhood are of chatting with my grandmother while she ground spices carefully, used the freshest of ingredients and carefully created simple delicacies that graced our table every time we visited. People often ask me whether I learned to cook from my mother or grandmother – this is a tricky question because while my memories of shadowing them and observing them in the kitchen are deep and very profound, I never actually cooked when they were around. I never needed to. It was only after I left home that I missed home cooking and my own culinary adventures began.
It is to keep this sense of creativity and wonder, I started Cooking With Rinku, a personalized set of cooking classes designed to teach the interested learner a true taste of Indian cooking, in a practical and personalized way. I have been offering classes for groups and couples. We use the freshest of ingredient and students learn how to grind spices and season and flavor food the way I remember it being done growing up. The kitchen is a place of solace, wonder and creation for me. When I cook with my students, it is a very personal connection, the classes are very home style and designed to replicate flavors of simple and pure home cooking.
My classes also help me meet people from so many different walks of life and also allows me to learn the many ways people relate to India. I have students who have visited and lived in the country as curious travelers, others who have embraced the nuances of eastern religion and surprise and teach me the depth of traditional Ayurvedic cooking and other fellow kindred spirits who learn to savor and smell India through my spice box. Indian cooking is so much more accessible today; it never ceases to amaze me how close the world really is.
This is also how my children learn about the richness of India – spice by spice. Their high chairs were in my kitchen and from very early on, their memories of interacting with me are watching me cook and work with spices. My five year son, today calls me “the best cooker!” It is amazing how some things never change, like my grandmother, it is very important for me to both cook and feed my friends and family in a very personal way.
My husband and I also have a deep love of nature and try to grow our own produce, especially in summer. This is why I also like to think that I often cook Indian food with a New York accent; my summer zucchini is seasoned with cumin and turmeric, cherry tomatoes get tossed into a yogurt based salad and my beet greens are tossed and seasoned with almost any imaginable combination of spice. My recipes and food experiences are also shared in by blog – Cooking In Westchester. Keeping the blog has allowed me to also track my life as it relates to food. It often brightens a mundane day to look back and realize the first time you cooked a recipe was when your daughter took her first steps. I also think it helps me provide a real life medium to a food legacy that was passed on as an heirloom by my grandmother.
This recipe is an adaptation of my mother’s tomato chutney recipe. It is from the eastern part of India and is tempered with the classic 5 spice seasoning called panch (5) phoron. This is a mixture of cumin seeds, mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds, nigella seeds and fennel seeds. Most India stores sell the blend pre-mixed, it is used in small amounts and is supposed to bring the entire complement of tastes to the recipe. This recipe is a great use of summer tomatoes that are so plentiful these days.
Bengali Tomato Chutney
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Makes 1 cup chutney
1 tablespoon oil
1.5 teaspoons panch phoron
1 tablespoon diced ginger
1-2 dried red chili
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 small can diced tomato
1/3 cup raisins
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
Papads or pappadums for serving
Method of Preparations:
1. Heat the oil and add the panch phoron and wait till the mixture crackles.
2. Add in the ginger and the red chili and saute lightly.
3. Add in the salt and the canned tomato mixture.
4. Add in the raisins and the sugar and simmer on low heat for about 20 minutes, till the mixture is thick and fairly sticky.
5. While the chutney is cooking, cook the papads by microwaving on for 1.5 minutes.
6. Cool the chutney slightly and serve with the papads.
About the Author: Rinku Bhattacharya was born in Kolkatta, India and has had a life that has taken her traveling extensively to most places in the world. Rinku has been passionate about food from a very early age and loves to talk and work with food and people. She started teaching Indian cooking in New York about 5 years back to share her love for food and cooking. Her classes can be found at Cooking With Rinku. Rinku shares her food and life experience at her blog at Cooking in Westchester. Rinku live in Westchester County, NY with her children Deepta and Aadi, husband Anshul and her cat Benji. Rinku is trained as a financial professional and specializes with non-profit organizations. She has masters degrees in areas of finance and non-profit management. She is currently working on a cookbook – The Contemporary Indian Table – to be published by the Bryant Park Press.
Today’s guest post was written by Rick Zimmerman. I had the pleasure of meeting Rick through our work at ICMIS (International Center for Management and India Studies – formerly known as the Centre for American Education) in Bangalore, India. When I read Joel Stein’s controversial piece in Time magazine recently, I asked myself to look at it through an Indian lens and then an American lens. Needless to say, I can see why there was such an uproar. While Time magazine and Mr. Stein both apologized about the piece, I was curious to hear Rick’s thoughts about it. I asked Rick to serve as a guest blogger, as he has extensive experience in India, and like me, a true passion for this phenomenal country and its people.
By (author) Katherine Russell Rich