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  • 4 Oct 2020 3:20 PM | Anonymous

    By Pravin Trivedi

    She loved to be told stories, especially at bedtime. Her favorites stories were the ones in which she was the star. The story did not have to be anything special except that she had to be in it.

    “Once a time,” he started to make up a story for her one day.

    “NO, no, no,” she said, “you have to start the story the right way.”

    “And so how should it start?” Dad acted as if he had forgotten.

    “’Once UPON a time’, that is how you begin a story,” she reminded him.

    “Oh, I  see. Well here goes. Once upon a time,” he tried to restart.

    DING DONG was the noise outside.

    “The ice cream van is here”, she said and was out of the room in a jiffy.  

    The ice cream guy knew where the kids lived as he slowly made his way down the street.

    “Mom can I have a quarter please?” the little girl asked her mother.

    “No, I don’t have one,” said her mother.

    “I have one,” said Dada, her grandfather, who was standing by. She ran to him and he held a quarter in his hand. She jumped, grabbed the quarter, and ran to the cart still four houses away.

    “You spoil them. Ice cream is not good for them,” she said.

    “It is only once in a while,” said the grandfather, “besides there is nothing else I give them.”

    ‘Why is your mom so worried. It is only a quarter and it is so hot today,” the other children muttered.

    The ding dong cart came around the corner and down the street, making a beeline to the siblings who had run out on the hot street without their shoes.

    “Would you like sprinkles with that?” he said.

    “Sure,” she said without thinking.

    “That will be an extra nickel,” said the ice cream man holding on to her ice cream cone. She had forgotten about that extra bit and she did not want to ask mom. However, as she turned around dejected, she saw grandpa behind her.

    He had his hands in his pocket and pulled out a bunch of change.  She took a nickel and ran to get her ice cream.

    What would little girls do without grandpas?

    And that is how the summer went.
  • 4 Oct 2020 3:02 PM | Anonymous

    Partner Profile

    With this issue we introduce a new section profiling partner organizations that have worked closely with ISW. Contact newsletter@iswonline.org to add your organization's profile.

    A conversation with Indian Circle of Caring Director and former ISW Board of Trustees Chair, Hemant Shah

    ISW and the Indian Circle for Caring (ICC) have had a long relationship together. Many of ISW members have turned to ICC during times of crisis or bereavement for support and services. Founded by Girish Mehta in 2007, ICC is a volunteer non-profit organization focused on providing urgent or emergency guidance and support for our fellow community members and their families as they may encounter unplanned and unexpected events such as serious sickness, hospitalization, accidents, family crisis, and death / bereavement of a loved one.

    ISW and ICC have had a long mutually beneficial relationship. Its strong collaboration with ISW and its Crisis Committee has made a huge difference to our community members where both organizations have stepped up to selflessly serve our community. Recently ISW lost one of its stalwart volunteers, Dr. Mandalaywala (known to ISW friends and colleagues as Dr. Lal).  His son Amol shared his thoughts about ICC’s support during this time.

    “Earlier this year, I received a recommendation to contact Mr. Girish Mehta when my beloved father, Dr. Mandalaywala, passed away. Mr. Mehta was compassionate and helped in making arrangements from the funeral to the requisite rituals in the challenging times of the pandemic. Our family is extremely appreciative for his help.”

    We spoke with Hemant Shah, former Chairman of the ISW Board of Trustees and Director at ICC about their work.

    While many ISW members might have heard of ICC at a time of extreme stress, what are some of the other services that ICC provides?

    Today ICC offers several services in 14 states that can briefly be described in three areas:

    • Emergency Support Services to individuals and families
    • Educate and empower individuals and families to be prepared for eventualities
    • Lifestyle Management – a Transformative new initiative to mitigate high risk of heart disease and diabetes for South Asians from Indian subcontinent. We have two free webinars about this specific area coming up in October.
    To clarify to our members, is there a fee for these services and how can one request help?

    ICC services are free for all community members. You can request help on the ICC home page via an online form, or you can call the ICC voice mail: 641-715-3900, ext. 87891. The voicemail is immediately channeled to appropriate members of the ICC team to address the issue.  Communications are monitored during “waking hours” and our aim is to respond as soon as practical.

    What are some of the programs under these umbrellas?

    In addition to helping families during their time of need during an unexpected crisis or situation, ICC embarked on programs that educate and empower community members. One of those programs is preparation of “Health Care Proxy and Living Will” through the FIVE WISHES® document. You can download a read only version of the document from our website at http://ouricc.org/health-proxy-living-will/ It is available in English, Gujarati, Hindi, Bengali and Urdu.

    Other educational programs include:

    • Retirement Planning: A new initiative to broaden the awareness and provide meaningful resources for preparation before and while retired.
    • Planning and preparing children or adults with special needs in the family:  We offer workshops to help families plan for how to manage the special needs of their child
    • Arthritis Exercise Program and Arthritis Educational Seminar:  A twelve-week, 24 session Arthritis Exercise program for improving quality of life despite this chronic illness.
    • Community Initiative for TB Education (CITE):  To increase awareness and educate our community about risks of TB while we live in the United States.

    Tell us about the latest initiative that you have launched?

    ICC has embarked on a transformative new initiative to mitigate high risk of heart disease and diabetes for South Asians from Indian subcontinent. Did you know? Indians make up less than 20% of the world population but make up 60% of the people suffering from heart disease worldwide. This is independent of where they live in the world. Similarly, Indians make up a far larger share (over 25%) of the people in the world that are afflicted with diabetes. What’s worse is South Asians have heart attacks at much younger ages, despite being mostly vegetarian, nonsmoking and non-obese.

    As part of the Lifestyle program, you can register for two FREE webinars in October on the ICC website.

    • Introduction to Meditation, Sunday, on October 11, 2020 at 10:00 AM EDT. Dr. Bindu Vyas, Director Indian Circle for Caring USA Inc. (ICC) will discuss the science of meditation and how you can use your mind and body as a healing mechanism together with some basic meditation techniques.
    • Heart Disease in South Asians: A cause for alarm and call to action on Saturday, October 17, 2020, 10:00 to 11:30 AM EDT. Dr. Harshad Sanghvi, MD. FACC and Medical Director, Lifestyle Program, ICC will discuss the scope and impact of heart disease; review the traditional and emerging risk factors in South Asians leading to the emerging epidemic of heart disease in South Asians and show how to crack the Indian Paradox and plan an effective preventive strategy

    That’s a wide range of programs and offerings. How does ICC manage these efforts?

    ICC offers these services through a network of over 200 volunteers who serve clients directly, with a few that help run the organization administratively. It has over 8000 members supporting all the ICC activities and programs as well as helping to spread the word about ICC to friends, family, and others who may need assistance. ICC also partners with organizations like ISW focused on social, religious/spiritual, professional, services and media/entertainment) as well as other state, local, and private support organizations. While ICC covers most of New England, Sewa International has replicated the ICC model with our support to 12 additional cities across the US.

    ICC has been recognized for its work by the India New England Choice Award for Best Non-Profit Organization in 2019. It also was one of 130 local nonprofits chosen from among 738 applicants to receive $100K over 4 years through Cummings Foundation’s Grant Program in May 2020.

    ISW and ICC have had a long mutually beneficial relationship. Our strong collaboration with ISW and its Crisis Committee has made a huge difference to our community members where both organizations have stepped up to selflessly serve our community. ICC is also grateful to have Mr. Yogesh Parikh, ex-ISW President and Hemant Shah, ex-Chairman of the BOT, as Directors of ICC bringing the ISW connection, experience and community needs to ICC’s planning and execution processes. We look forward to providing our services to the ISW community in the future. For more information, to request help or to join as a member of volunteer, check our website at www.ouricc.org

  • 19 Sep 2020 3:10 PM | Anonymous

    Regardless of which candidate or party you support, voting is a civic responsibility that was hard fought over the years. Today, as US citizens, all eligible voters have the right to vote regardless of race, gender or ethnicity. That wasn’t always the case. Keep these important dates in mind.

    Register to vote by October 24th, if you haven’t already done so. You can do it online, in person or by mail, if postmarked by Oct 24th.
    Election Day is Tuesday, Nov 3rd!
    In addition to in person voting on Election Day, This year you have two additional options

    • You can request a ballot by mail by Oct 28th and mail your vote no later than Nov 3rd.
    • You can avoid the rush and Vote Early in person from Oct 17th to Oct 30th.

    More info at: https://www.sec.state.ma.us/ele/eleidx.htm

  • 19 Sep 2020 3:05 PM | Anonymous

    By Venkat Kolluri

    A lot of us have resorted to working from home and taking calls from home. How do you prepare yourself and not make it a disaster? Here are some tips via an infographic.

  • 19 Sep 2020 2:42 PM | Anonymous

    By Ria Seth, Grade 4

    Covid-19 is a scary time. Schools and stores are shutting down. This is bad for everyone. Almost 200,000 people died in America because of this virus. People say it was China's fault, but it isn't; it's our fault, we made it happen. We always eat meat and there are viruses in it. It started with pigs, then cows and every other meat until a bat from china. The first death happened in Massachusetts by an 87-year-old man. This virus is hard to beat but some people are taking it seriously while other people are going to parties and bars. This is why Covid is still here. Covid is going out for kids and elderly.

    Schools are online or they’re going face to face. (Mostly private schools are going face to face or shutting down). My school is giving me an option for nine weeks. The options were face to face or online. Some people picked face to face or some people picked online. This pandemic is hard for parents, kids and grandparents.

    My personal story about this pandemic is that since I moved to Houston from Massachusetts, my friend and I talk and play Minecraft. We played in Massachusetts, and we still facetime and play. I'm lucky to have some assistance with girl talk. A lot of people are bored in this pandemic so you got to stay healthy and entertained. I hope everyone in the world is being safe and being healthy.

  • 19 Sep 2020 2:20 PM | Anonymous

    Hello community members! We are excited to host our first monthly meeting for South Asian Activists and Allies (SAYAA) on October 7th at 8:30 pm!

    SAYAA is dedicated to disseminating resources about important social justice and racial equity initiatives while also increasing our own self-reflection of the role South Asian communities can play in supporting social justice and promoting activism to combat such trends.

    If you are between the ages of 15-35 and are interested in joining us or learning more, please email SAYAAec@googlegroups.com

  • 19 Sep 2020 2:01 PM | Anonymous

    By Pravin Trivedi

    They have to be good tomatoes. Really good tomatoes. Maybe they are the elephant variety, like the garlic from that town in California. Gilroy, that’s the town. But really, why fifteen dollars?

    Well, since it may be a long story, I might as well start now. We downsized our living requirements from a seven bedroom house to a two bedroom condo. A little cramped, but my wife and I did get to see each other’s faces a lot more during the day.

    Apart from complaining about the lack of room for my never-ending projects and honey-do lists, there was one thing that was bothering me a lot. We had no garden! I could not plant any tomatoes or vegetables. It was the one thing I enjoyed in the big house. I wound up spending my spare time chatting with the neighbors and visiting the local bars until I came up with the solution. I got some clay pots and made my own mini garden on the 8 feet by 10 feet wooden deck in the rear of the condo. We found that it was not forbidden by the articles of the condo group. And two or three people could still squeeze onto the deck and sit.

    We had stored last summer’s plant equipment in the basement for the winter. It looked like the plant supports, diggers, gloves and fertilizer were not going to be needed this year. But with my procrastination, I was late in getting around to doing anything. So, it was end of July before I got my plants in the pots. By mid-August they were two feet tall. While my friends were complaining daily about how many tomatoes they were having for salad, I only had six yellow flowers on each plant.

    Discussing my garden became a taboo subject in the house. We finally had two tomatoes, one on each plant. They were green in September when we went to visit my sister. My wife had warned her not to talk about my tomato season. When we returned one tomato plant had been knocked flat on the deck by the wind. The other tomato was still green. I picked that tomato, wrapped it in newspaper and left it in the kitchen drawer. We forgot about it until Christmas when it finally turned red. The total cost this year – fifteen dollars! What an ROI!

    Can’t wait till Spring.

  • 6 Sep 2020 7:13 PM | Anonymous

    By Ragoo Raghunathan

    Hinduism’s most important and best-known text, The Gita, says the purest gift is one given from the heart to the right person at the right time and at the right place expecting nothing in return. As we are engrossed in our daily grind, it becomes important to remember these words and incorporate the act of giving in one’s life.

    During our professional pursuit we are focused on learning, earning and being successful in what we do. It is mostly take, take, take. Let us not forget that there is also so much happiness and satisfaction in giving. It is said that people are happier when they give than when they get. LinkedIn reports that ‘volunteer activities’ increased over 2-3 times more than it was a couple years ago. Volunteering for humanitarian and health causes were especially popular with a big spike in volunteering for civil rights organizations in the past few months.

    What can I give?

    In our professional life giving is easy – the best thing one can give is their time. You can give your warmth and friendship, give a listening ear or a shoulder to lean on. Last but not least – you can give materially if you can afford it. Giving inspires giving. People who have been on the receiving end of kindness do pay it forward and give to others even when they have hardly anything to give. Perpetuating the cycle of giving makes the world a better, more humane place to live in.

    If you are an experienced individual, immaterial of the area of expertise, plan to set aside a little time on a regular basis to guide or mentor younger professionals. Sharing your experiences, offering to join a panel discussion on a local platform, contributing to the local parent-teacher meeting, participating in the local town hall meeting, encouraging an aspiring entrepreneur by giving her a word of advice or some tips will just do the trick. There are many little things you can do to help others on LinkedIn. Being open to networking on LinkedIn, endorsing someone’s skills, sharing or liking their post, increasing their visibility to your network are just some of the actions you can take. If you are part of a local community or cultural organization (like India Society of Worcester), volunteer some time there.

    So what do I get?

    Well, the brain is a complex organ and responds via neurochemical signals. Happiness triggers the release of dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin in the brain. While dopamine is connected to motivation and arousal, serotonin is crucial for sleep, digestion, learning, memory and appetite. Oxytocin is among the most important hormones and favorably affects your blood pressure, increases bonding, trust and empathy, while reducing social fears. So, if giving makes you happy and allows us to secrete all these wonderful neurochemicals in the brain, we owe it to ourselves to give as often as possible.

    What are you waiting for?
  • 6 Sep 2020 7:06 PM | Anonymous

    By Pravin Trivedi

    Everyone’s journey through this planet is a one-time event. One day you slide down your mother’s legs, empty handed, screaming your lungs. If you are not screaming then one of the medical staff, if they are there, slaps your rear end to ensure you cough and spit and seek food with your open mouth, trembling lips. You drink your mother’s milk and sleep. That goes on for a few short years and before you know it growing up envelops you and carries you thru this world.

    You are given one chance to leave your mark. Where you want to make it and how you want to be remembered is up to you. Most make themselves the number one with I want, I have. They continue to make money, buy property, widen their power and influence. They compare themselves with their siblings, life partner and coworkers in a materialistic way.

    A few see the stuff they have amassed as important but see the more important goal is to use it to help others less fortunate than themselves. 

    The year was 1951. The month was June. The time was 2 p.m. Siesta for some, especially the young ones. There was no indication of an impending monsoon and it looked like there would be no rain for the third year in Balwa, Gujarat. There are only three seasons in India. Winter, summer and the rainy reason, monsoon.  When it rained, there was not a dry spot anywhere. Not on the road, not in the fields, not even in the house.  But where was the monsoon this year? You could hear the earth crackle and bake in the sun. This happened with predictable monotonous regularity every five years.

    The heat was oppressive, nearly one hundred degrees, with barely a whispering wind. The little boy was looking out of the living room window holding the metal bars that were close enough so that he would not fall out. It was a second-floor room and the slight breeze was welcome.  But it was very warm, more like the desert wind called ‘loo’.

    “Move Gauri move.”

    The sound of a stick hitting parched skin covered bones could be heard. With it the plaintive sound of a cow bellowing moo. The cow had no energy to move. Yet the farmer behind her and his son  in front, pulling the neck yoke, tried to move the beast one foot at a time.

    “Why are they beating the cow?  It is so cruel,” the boy asked his father.

    “You get down from there right now,” his mother shouted running towards him. “You will fall down and kill yourself one of these days.”

    “You worry too much about your son,” father told her. “He is nimble and careful. His hands can do creative things. He may end up as an artist, musician or even a surgeon when he grows up.”

    “You should see him doing things when he thinks you are not around,” a little girl quipped entering the room to see what the commotion was about.

    “Tattle tale,” the boy shot back.

    “Go do your homework, both of you,” mom said dismissing the children.

    The boy was persistent.

    “But why were they beating the poor cow?” he wanted to know.

    “We have had two years with no rain. The monsoons are late again this year. The farmer cannot afford grass or water for his cows. If he can get her to the next village there is a rich man who will keep her with the other animals he has gathered until things improve,” father explained.

    “That man has more than a hundred animals like Gauri that he feeds and provides shelter and water. When the rains come, the poor farmer will get his cattle back,” father continued answering the son.

    “But there is water in other parts of India, only we are suffering here,” thought the little boy. At bedtime, he kept tossing and turning. He could not rest nor sleep until he could figure out what should be done.  Art or music was not important. A belly full of hay and water was what was needed for the animals.

  • 6 Sep 2020 7:01 PM | Anonymous

    By Priya Vaidya

    The India Society of Worcester (ISW) has been celebrating the cultural festival of Ganesh Pooja in the Shrewsbury area for nine years in a row. It is mainly celebrated in Maharashtra, where its public festival form was first introduced by the leading freedom fighter Bal Gangadhar Tilak. With the spread of Marathi speakers across India, the Ganesh festival is now celebrated outside Maharashtra too. People celebrate and follow the tradition fondly. Given its popularity in India, all the indians residing in the United states also celebrate this event with a lot of enthusiasm. 

    One of the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic we are facing today, is in the way festivals are celebrated this year. Given the restriction, all events are virtual and so was our ganeshotsav. "Bappa", as he is fondly called, goes online this year! The team started planning for the event a few months in advance, the decision for an online event was made early on. The planning began in full swing and the team was able to line up a series of pre-recorded entertainment sections. 

    On Sunday August 30, the program started at 2 pm. The pooja happened religiously and with perfection at the Manjrekar residence. The decoration and the preparations showcased the Bappa (Ganesha) in his ever cheerful grandiose look. The video streaming of the event on Facebook live was shared with ISW family and friends to participate in it virtually. The ritual of performing aarti (holy chanting of hymns) also happened online with several of the community families participating one at a time and the rest joining them from their respective homes. The virtual darshan (or online sighting) of the Ganesha seemed a very different experience for many of us, yet it was better than not having it at all.

    Immediately following the pooja was the entertainment program, based on the Theme: Retro to Metro  (1980 - 2020). Focus was on Hindi and Marathi movies that have contributed remarkably to the entertainment industry during that era. The local amateur artists enthusiastically practiced various skits. The team lined up Sachin Pilgaonkar, PL Deshpande, latest movie Sairat as the marathi contributions and for hindi the evergreen "Sholay", "Maine Pyar Kiya", "Three Idiots" made it to the list. The response was tremendous. Everyone within the comfort of their homes, enjoyed their very own friends taking to the stage and becoming the star of the screen! The dances, dialogues and the creativity in choosing the background and the locations was mesmerizing. Use of available resources to create the props, video editing and effects made it even more enjoyable. Some of the characters were so effectively showcased that it reminded us instantly of the originals, like "masi" from "sholay", "antubarva" from "vyakt and valli" and "Manjula" from "Ti phularani".  

    Added benefit of this event being online was that a lot of artists and famous personalities from India sent in their best wishes in video format which was broadcasted live during the event. It added a nice surprise element to the show. Music composer Dr. Salil Kulkarni, famous compete Sudheer Gadgil and Marathi Bana fame Ashok Hande recorded their lovely wishes for us with some of their own songs and anecdotes. The team also pulled together an online interview with famous hindi and marathi movie writer and director Abhijeet Deshpande. His seamless style of speaking, varied experiences and narration of backstage stories with famous personalities like Amitabh Bachchan kept the audience engaged through the interview. A short video clip of one of the past isw ganeshotsav events was also broadcasted early on in the show which made everyone nostalgic. The compering for the show was precise and effective. Ah! and there was a very vibrant, foot-tapping dance by the teenager girls crew which made the audience instantly energized. The girls were very agile and graceful in their presentation. Thus, the entire show turned out to be a balanced mix of skits, music, dance and speeches. 

    Given the situation we are in today worldwide, each one of us wants to help each other, stay positive, healthy and engaged; but there is this "black hole" of worry sucking us now and then.... Amidst of such unprecedented times, ISW Ganeshostav turned out to be a mirage of hope and positivity. The teamwork and the uplifting spirit of the presenters and audience outgrew the anxiety and cheerfulness prevailed! 

    Overall, it was a great show, a virtual event indeed, yet it left all of us longing for the usual in-person celebrations with all the dress-up and decorations and the noise. We are certain, next year we will celebrate this event in all its glory and grandeur and in person at the new ISW building in our very own Shrewsbury. Until then, गणपती बाप्पामोरया

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