Saturday, July 12, 2008

How my articles have been edited by Deccan Herald

July 08 - what finally came -
http://www.deccanherald.com/Content/Jul132008/sundayherald2008071278408.asp

Nov 2007 - what finally came - http://www.deccanherald.com/Content/Nov42007/sundayherald2007110233776.asp
( They did put a picture of the Diwali mela poster in the print edition)

Now given below are each of what I actually submitted - in both cases upon request from "Sunday Herald" and according to their guidelines on the number of words - not a word extra. For ur convenience, I have highlighted in red the portions in red that got edited out .. Upto u readers to draw any conclusions if u wish ... !!!

July 08

American View of India and Indians

In 1911, the LA Times published a headline "A Hindu apple for modern Eve: The cult of Yogis lures women to destruction". In 2001, Time magazine did a cover story on Yoga, with an opening paragraph that read "Stars do it. Sports do it. Judges in the highest courts do it. Let us do it – that yoga thing. A path to enlightenment that winds back 5,000 years in its native India, yoga has suddenly become so hot, so cool, so very this minute"

Perceptions change with time, people and events. For two Nations vast and diverse, it is difficult to summarize the "American perception of India" in a short article – this is at best a collection of thoughts and experiences on the topic. In general Americans treat its foreign population including Indians, with warmth and my experience has not been much different. Not to deny occasional cases of racial abuses, like against Sikhs perhaps mistaking them for Talibans due to their turban and beard, but such incidents do not make the general rule. Perhaps Indians are able to fetch greater respect than many of their Asian counterparts because of their relatively better communication skills, hard work, and most importantly the cultural values they have brought with them. It is not uncommon to see a good number of Americans – some out of curiosity, but some who have made it part of their lives – in Hindu temples, festivals and indeed Indian restaurants

So what are certain factors that might be shaping the American opinion on India and Indians? As the adage goes "Strength recognizes strength", India's advances in the economic field in general and IT field in particular, has definitely contributed positively. How can one not take notice when say Tata Motors buys the prestigious Jaguar and Land Rover from Ford Motors for 2.3$B? Outsourcing and call centers in India will only add to the list of recognizing India's strengths, and even though there has been critics both in media and among the policymakers, overall the American public has not yet shown an animosity and "You people are taking our jobs" attitude towards Indians.

The contribution of second generation Indian-American is no less – Dr Sanjay Gupta, CNN's chief health correspondent for example, is quite a household name in the US. Talking of events, even though subject of major criticism from American policy makers at the time it happened, the 1998 Pokhran tests have for sure, made America take a fresh look at India and redefine its foreign policy. Among people, a big factor will be missing if mention is not made of the contributions of Hindu spiritual leaders like Swami Dayananda Saraswati, Mata Amritanandamayi, Sri Sri Ravishankar, and so on who regularly visit US and conduct Satsanghs.

In a country where 4 out of 10 marriages on an average are believed to end in divorce, I have felt that Indian family values is another factor that evokes respect from a good number of Americans. In fact during a friendly talk with an American cop near my house, he asked me if I was married. Hearing a no, he said "I am telling you, marry a girl from India, not from here. My wife is Indian and she values family so much" It has to be mentioned however that most Americans find it hard to appreciate arranged marriages. I do not believe bollywood has much of an influence on American public due to the language factor, though English movies about India like "Indiana Jones and the temple of doom" could result in a good number of Americans get the wrong impression about India

American public's general knowledge about India leaves much to be desired. Here are some samples questions and statements that have been thrown at me or my friends on various occasions- "So do you speak Hindu or Indian or Arabic ?". "So where in India ? Bangladesh ?". "In 1947 Pakistan won Independence from India". " I know Mahatma Gandhi and her daughter " - the last one, a reference to Indira Gandhi !! Interestingly it was not an American but a Chinese colleague of mine who once asked me "Do kids go to school in India on elephants?"

Even though Indian Americans have started making a mark in politics, time alone will tell if the influence is positive or negative or neutral. Academics unfortunately is a field where some vested interests – unfortunately many of whom are Indians – are hell-bent on tarnishing India, may be in quest of money and promotions. Then there are some Indians who consider it their duty to talk about only the negatives of India, for reasons best known to them. Even in media sometimes– I stopped buying Washington Post because the India correspondent had only trash to write about India , perhaps thinking that will "please the boss".

I am not averse to criticism, indeed positive criticism helps progress, but unfortunately some of these misrepresentations deserve the kind of remark that Gandhiji made about Catherine Mayo's book 'Mother India' - "If Miss. Mayo had confessed that she had gone to India merely to open out and examine the drains of India, there would perhaps be little to complain about her compilation. But she says in effect with a certain amount of triumph that the drains are India". Every Indian is an Ambassador whose duty it is to correct such mistakes.

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November 07

Diwali ( Deepavali) at Maryland
Being so far away from home, many times it is festivals like Diwali which connects you back with your roots and creates the home away from home atmosphere out here in the US. My experience being part of various Diwali programs in Maryland in the last few years have been no different - I cherish those wonderful memories.
As a University student you would experience that the entire festive season starts pretty much with the onset of Fall semester - typically around end of August or early september. Some Universities have an Indian Independence day celebration, and for the freshers - well, those who are in US by then- that becomes the first social event. Ganesh Chaturtis, may or may not celebrated in Universities, the latter scenario partly because most student organizations like the Hindu students council would have just regrouped after the summer holidays and still in the process of planning their events. I do know of certain Universities like the NCSU where Ganeshotsav is a major event http://video.aol.com/video-detail/hsc-ncsu-ganesh-chaturthi-2006-celebration/1528814293 . At Maryland, most years, I have had to be satisfied with the events in the temple, or organize a little bhajan and dinner session with friends or even better get invited to some one's house - typically that of some Marathi families or friends
The festive excitement on campuses kind of peaks around the Navatri times. Garba-Dandiyas , typically organized by the Hindu Students Council (HSC) or various Indian Students groups are common in almost every campus with a good Indian popuation. In fact the University of Maryland Garba organized by HSC pulls close to 1000 people. It must be mentioned that most of the participants in these are American born Hindu youth, and many times you can see them teach the dance to their Indian counterparts who just came to the US. Being from south India, I myself was totally new to Garba and some I did try to learn a bit from my friends (who were born and raised in US) with partial success . ( Some pictures can be found at http://sitekreator.com/hscumd/garba_pics05.html ) It is also common practice that part of the money raised ( through a small entry fee of about 7$) is donated to some NGO, like the ekal vidyalaya ( http://www.ekal.org )
Diwali is sort of the culmination of this Fall festive season. The fact that it starts getting cold by November and that the homework and exam pressure would have mounted, only slightly reduces the Diwali festive mood.In fact at University of Maryland, both the HSC and the SCI (Student Council of India - organisation for the grad students who mainly come from India) have their Diwali celebrations ( A few years before both the groups came together and had a single big event) . Both the groups events are typcially on a weekday evening, either ON Diwali or one day before or after. HSC event usually has a rather elaborate Puja and decorations followed by a dinner, where as the SCI event has a Puja, dinner and some cultural programs. ( see some pictures at http://sitekreator.com/hscumd/diwali06.html )
These events also become an opportunity for you to explain a thing or other about Hinduism and Indian culture to a curious non-Indian. In fact these at these events you would typically find many non-Indians, some may be fascinated by Hindu-festivals, some simply love the Indian food. In addition to the weekday event on campus, many friends circles hold their own get togethers and Pujas in some ones apartments. In addition to these, there are also various community and temple events. In fact a noteworthy event in Maryland is the Diwali Mela organized by the United Hindu Jain temples of Washington DC area, which attracts anywhere between 5000 to 10000 peple every year ( see the website http://www.dcunitedtemples.org/ )
All these efforts, have made Diwali a rather famous festival amongst Americans also -from your colleagues at to the US Congress. I remember reading an old article on how President Bush ignored the Diwali celebrations in 2004 ( http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/920984.cms ) and there was some requesting going on in 2005 for him to attend .. ( http://us.rediff.com/news/2005/oct/22diwali.htm ) when Diwali was, I believe celebrated for the first time at an "official level" . I also happened to come across this resolution that was introduced in the US Congress on 14 March 2007 ( http://www.govtrack.us/congress/billtext.xpd?bill=hr110-245 ) "Recognizing the religious and historical significance of the festival of Diwali" , and I may be curious to know what happens this year at the US governmental level.......
But, fact of the matter is that beyond a point, these things do not matter to me, or in general to any Indian or Hindu in the US in as far as the pride and joy they have in celebrating Diwali, with all its cultural significance and symbolism

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Tailpiece: For the november article, I may been better of highlighting in green what came rather than what got edited out :-) .... May be they wanted it too specific to Diwali.. arrey, then why don't u tell me that my "first draft" is off the target ?! .. anyway compared to november07, the july08 is percentage wise better !! So may be a third time..... if at all ha ha

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