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  • 25 Jul 2020 1:35 PM | Anonymous

    By Ragoo Raghunathan

    Smiti and Abhinit are new residents to Shrewsbury, MA. During these COVID times, they have focused their energy on creating an alternative channel of entertainment and communication for themselves and their family back in India. I caught up with them to get a glimpse into their journey:

    Q: I know you recently started up a YouTube channel called FunIndians, and you are having fun doing it. Over the past few months, you have gained over 300 subscribers. We think that there may be other people in the community who might want to do similar things during these COVID times. Would you mind sharing some of your thoughts and experiences with us?

    For people who don’t know you, please tell us who you are and a little about yourself, when did you come to Shrewsbury?

    I am Smiti Nagar. I married Abhinit in January 2019 and came to Albany, NY where my husband was a Ph.D. student. We moved to Shrewsbury in November 2019 when my husband got a post-doc offer at UMass Medical School. I’ve pursued an MBA (HR) in India and am currently on a F2 visa. As my visa’s restrictions prevent me from working in the US, I’m currently a homemaker.

    Q: When and how did you figure out you wanted to start a YouTube Channel? What message do you want to convey thru this effort?

    As I cannot work in the USA, I was planning to enroll in some diploma course. Unfortunately, due to Covid pandemic the whole country went on a lockdown and I postponed my study plans for one more year. During the initial period of lockdown, I realized that it was going to be a very depressing time for people like us who love to travel. I have an inclination for videography and as a result wherever we have travelled in the past year, I would shoot small clips. Also, I love cooking and would occasionally make videos of something new that I would try. The purpose of these videos was to send it back home so that my grandmom could try the same. When I was going through all these videos during lockdown, I decided to start a YouTube channel. I named it FunIndians as “Fun” is the common element in all my videos, whether it is about cooking, travel or anything else; and “Indians” obviously to denote our origin. Initially, I was posting our old videos which matched with my theme (Fun, Travel, Food) but now I have switched over to posting weekly vlogs. There is an interesting story behind this switchover, which I have described briefly below.

    One day my husband received his Ph.D. diploma and found out that it was all wet as the delivery guy left it outside on the porch (it rained all night). So, to cheer him up I decided to cook for him. As a habit, I recorded a video and later decided to post it on YouTube. Surprisingly, I got an overwhelming response for that video. From that day onwards, I decided to post-daily/weekly vlogs as people are interested to see the life here. I want my videos to be a window through which everyone can view how life in the US is different or similar to one in India. Also, through these videos I wish to convey the feelings of every Indian living in the US to their relatives back home.

    My goal is to spread happiness and to motivate people to show the world their creative side, their inner child and to ignore the surrounding negativity even during such a grim situation like this pandemic. My vlogs are mostly in Hindi, so that it can connect with most of the people back home.

    Q: What drives you to keep going and what is your long-term goal?

    I see my YouTube channel as a medium which teaches me some basics of videography and motivates me to expose myself to new software. In these three short months on YouTube, I’ve learnt so much. The happiness and satisfaction that I get from the love that my subscribers show me is another factor that keeps me motivated. At times I’ve got pings on our FB page (FunIndians) when I got delayed in posting my videos. My long-term goal is to create a few more channels where I can specify the contents (like cooking, art of homemaking, tips on getting on to YouTube etc.) It will be a long journey and I hope to reach there soon. Apart from all this, this channel provides me the platform to save our memories forever. So, twenty years from now, when we would like to cherish our memories, I know I’ve to just tune in to our YouTube channel and hit play on our playlist.

    Q: How do you define ‘success’?

    For me success is never ending. I feel success is when you achieve what you have aimed for whether it is small or big. With this channel, I’ve aimed to share the happiness with the world and connect with people back home. Once these goals are achieved, I would call it a “success” but that would give rise to another set of goals and hence would start another race for “success”.

    Q: What advice/tips would you give to an aspiring YouTube enthusiast?

    I would suggest that just keep things simple in your mind and do what your heart says. It is useless to worry about getting subscribers, rather focus on the quality of your content. Ignore any criticism you get and focus on people who are liking your vlogs. These are the people who are going to watch your videos, so focus on their likes and dislikes. Once you see yourself growing and maturing, you will be motivated to continue this forever.

    Q: Anything else you would like to add?

    Be happy and try to make others happy. I would like to end it in YouTube style, if people like you, they will definitely subscribe to your life and share it with others.

    Feel free to check out our vlogs at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCtrlMXJ8Mt1Zdx2ncIWPjzg/

  • 24 Jul 2020 1:42 PM | Anonymous

    By Pravin Trivedi

    The bus was just resting, like many of its passengers. This station was a lunch break on the way to Amdavad. There was a small Hanuman Temple where the elder folks went to pray. Many monkeys, including a really naughty one, were hanging around for handouts, trying to get gifts from the believers and to play with the kids. Dev was, as usual, selling cookies and staying away from the policeman. Chachi, his cigarette and tea selling buddy was also selling his wares. He too was staying away from the policeman.

    Chachi was also playing with the cover of a biscuit box to reflect sunlight on anyone or anything interesting. The monkey liked to watch him do that as he liked shiny things.

    The policeman standing by was gently twirling his handcuffs. They too were shiny and also caught the monkey’s attention. Chachi shone the biscuit box cover on him and on the handcuffs alternately. Once he was sure the monkey was engaged, he speeded up the shining game driving the monkey wild. No one else was aware of what was transpiring.

    The policeman put down the handcuffs on the chair near the tea stall in order to get to the tobacco pouch in his shorts pocket. Very slowly the monkey came down the tree and approached the tea stall. Then, when he was close, in a flash, he darted at the table, grabbed the handcuffs and ran up the tree with his new toy. By the time the policeman realized what had just happened, the monkey was flashing his newly acquired toy from halfway up the tree. The policeman was beside himself. His immediate reaction was to reach for his revolver. He was about to pull it from the holster but slowed down. It would not be right to use a gun in such a public place.

    “And not against God in god’s house,” said the priest.

    He calmed down and patted the holster instead. “But I’ll be the laughing stock at the police station,” he painfully dragged the words out of his mouth.

    “May be the monkey will get tired of the new toy and throw it down soon,” said the priest, being hopeful and helpful.

    “He will throw it away and I’ll never find it, and it costs a hundred rupees,” cried the policemen. “That is almost a week’s salary,” he kept on lamenting.

    The priest took him by the hand and nudged him to the door of the temple, saying “May be there is a way to reason with the monkey”.

    Calming the policeman down was the first step. The policeman was always mean to the boys selling things at the bus stop. He expected free cookies from Ved and tea and cigarettes from Chachi. The policeman was always rough on Ved and Chachi. The kids were afraid of him but could not figure out what to do.

    Chachi said that with the priest’s help they had a plan. The priest got hold of Chachi and they went into the temple with the policeman. Chachi signaled to Ved and pulled him in too. A few minutes later they all came out and dispersed.

    Life went on as usual until next day when they all gathered at their respective stations. All seemed normal except the policeman had his handcuffs in his hands and seemed happy. He was buying cookies and cigarettes from the boys and paying them money. Everyone seemed content. Chachi and the monkey were making faces at each other. Even the monkey had a shiny cover of the cookie tin high up in the tree.

  • 11 Jul 2020 10:38 AM | Anonymous

    By Ria Deshpande

    Ragini Seth is an involved member of our community, and has played an incredibly active role in the India Society of Worcester for over twenty years now. Beyond ISW, she has always been actively involved in her local communities. Prior to ISW, Ragini founded and was the first president of the Golden Club, a cultural club for elderly South Asians that provided a venue for senior citizens to share their common issues and an outlet for fun activities. Ragini is also an enthusiastic member of the Northboro Junior Woman’s Club. She volunteered to be the Recording Secretary for NJWC for two years, was co-president and also was the Corresponding Secretary for the club. She is never shy about volunteering her services when the need arises. After September 11, 2001, Ragini co-founded the Indo-American Solidarity Foundation and was its President. The organization raised funds and held a vigil to show support for the victims. This same aspect of her character can be seen with all the work she has done for ISW. She is always ready to help in any capacity, whether it be initiating a new event idea or introducing new people to the ISW community. With her support, ISW’s Garba, Karvachowth, and Hindi Kavi Sammelan events have really thrived and become a great success. Through it all, she always brings her positive attitude to brighten all those around her.

    As she now moves onto the next chapter of her life in Texas, I had the opportunity to ask her a couple questions about her experience with ISW. Read her story below!

    How did you first get involved with ISW?

    I get involved with all organizations through Shiamin, my sister. Though I came here before, I used to commute to Boston so I didn’t get the chance to be involved with any community organizations until Shiamin introduced me to ISW in 1996.

    Throughout the years, what aspects of ISW were you involved with?

    When I first joined ISW, I joined the executive committee as a member at large for four years. After that, I was Vice President for four years, then Assistant Treasurer for four years, and then finally President for two years. I am now a member at large again. With this, I was also a Hindi language school teacher throughout the years. I first taught older kids, and now I teach elementary school kids.

    What will you miss most about ISW?

    I will really just miss being a part of ISW. I enjoy giving my time to the community and I have loved being part of this volunteer organization. One of my favorite memories has been going to all the sports games. We first went to a Red Sox game in 2008, and one of our community members had a chance to sing the National Anthem at Fenway - that was really exciting. A couple years later, we had the opportunity to have our dance team perform at a Red Sox game but unfortunately, the game was cancelled due to rain! I felt so bad that they could not perform after practicing for hours and hours, so I called the Celtics and asked if our dancers could open one of their games. They agreed, and since 2010, ISW has been attending and performing at TD Garden! I have had so many fun memories with ISW, and truly I’ll miss it all.

    (Photo credit: Ragoo Raghunathan)

  • 11 Jul 2020 10:34 AM | Anonymous

    By Pravin Trivedi

    We had lived for two years in Springfield, MA. We did not know anyone when we moved to Massachusetts as it was my first job after emigrating to the USA.  We bought a ten-year-old Plymouth Valiant that was burning and leaking oil. I knew so little about cars. We could not afford a second car, so we had to use this oil bucket for everything, my work, my wife’s college, taking our child to the doctor’s.

    Then the brakes died one day. Being an engineer, I thought how difficult can it be to repair brakes! I had a Lambretta 80 cc scooter and a bicycle, and always fixed them.   So, I went to local auto parts store and bought everything the technician recommended. It being the only family car I had to repair it in a short time when we least needed it . So the next Monday evening my wife had school from 7 p.m. till 9:30 and I thought that would give me enough time to take her to school, go home, fix the brakes and go back and get her when school finishes.

    Little did I know things that can go wrong!!  The wheels had rusted on their rims to the car. It took me an hour to hit them loose with a 10 pound sledge hammer. I also did not know that I knew that many swear words. I was not careful that my three-year-old son was within listening distance. Looking at the watch, I had to hurry now.  I quickly put on the new brake shoe pads on and rushed to lower the car.  The jack slipped and scraped my knuckles. More cursing, change of clothes and quick trip to the school. 

    She was waiting for me, got in the car and off we go home.  There was a traffic light and a left turn to be made out of the school. I made the light and the turn when the light turned red. I tried to stop the car but some how the brake pedal went all the way to the bottom. The car did not stop. Fortunately, the car had slowed down going around the turn, but it did not stop.  On he other hand, the car in front of me had stopped just after the turn.  When the front bumper of my car found the now stationary rear bumper of the car in front, both cars came to a grinding halt with a slow screeching noise. 

    I turned off the engine and with hung head waited the inevitable. I saw the door of the car I had hit open slowly. I opened my car door and slowly got out. I could see ahead a yelling from him, a call to the police, exchange of license and insurance information, etc.  The person that got out of the car was more than six foot tall and he tried to direct the traffic away from us. He slowly walked towards me and looked beyond. He looked behind my car and that is the first time I noticed a pool of liquid on the road.  He touched the liquid and said, “Brakes?” “Yes, I just fixed them” I said. “Looks like you did not quite,” he said.  For a guy who had just been hit in the rear, he was vey calm.  I went to the passenger door of my car and looked in the glove compartment.

    “What are you looking for?” he asked. “Did you bleed the brakes after you replaced the cylinder bushings?  Did you get the rotors ground?” 

    He saw the answer on my face. I had not. 

    “My insurance papers,” I said.

    “We don’t need those,” he said, still calmly.

    “We need to get our cars out of the traffic, or someone will hit us again.” He opened the trunk of his car.

    “But I cannot move my car,” I said.

    “I can see that, but we can, where do you live?”

    “Sixteen acres,” I said.

    “Oh, that is where I live,” he said.

    It was when there were no cell phones, so we would have to wait for the neighborhood patrol cars to arrive.  He took a wide fabric belt in his hand and wrapped it around his rear bumper. He took the other end of it and wrapped it to my front bumper.

    “Now I will drive very slowly. You keep your hand on the emergency brake and do not brake hard if you feel me stopping.”

    “But, but,” I was mumbling.

    “Do you have any better ideas?” he said and got in his car.

    I got in my car and the two cars slowly started moving jerkily forwards.  We were fortunate, there was very little traffic and apart from a couple of bumps, we did not do any further damage.

    I also made up my mind that I will not tackle such a big job without working with a friend!  I also did not think nice people like that man existed anymore.

  • 11 Jul 2020 10:27 AM | Anonymous

    By Ragoo Raghunathan

    As a part of this series, this week we introduce you to a local entrepreneur. Dr. Venkat Kolluri is a Shrewsbury resident and has been a member and well-wisher of the ISW community for many years. I recently got the opportunity to interview him about his entrepreneurial journey and experience.

    When and how did you figure out you wanted to start a company? 

    In 2002, I was working as a technologist at Lycos.com. When everyone panicked during the internet 1.0 bubble burst and left the dot coms, I saw the true long-term potential of the web as a powerful matching engine connecting advertisers and online consumers. I quit my full-time job at Lycos and started an ad tech company, along with another colleague, Alden Dorosario, kick starting a journey that led to the creation of one of the largest contextual ad networks, Chitika.

    What drives you to keep going and starting up new companies?  

    Being a tech geek at the core, I tend to gravitate towards the intersection of data and technology, especially when it gives me the opportunity to solve real world problems. The world of online web advertising attracted me when I noticed that it can be significantly improved using technology and data to match advertisers and online consumers. Similarly, with the advent of mobile phones, using mobile GPS tech to present users with location specific relevant offers from local advertisers turned out to be another opportunity that attracted me, leading to the creation of a mobile marketing company, Cidewalk.com. 

    How do you define ‘success’? 

    Taking an idea from inception to creation to launch and getting users to like it and use it. Seeing your idea in action in the real world, making an impact and getting positive feedback from customers, is simply priceless! 

    Do you think there are certain core values that companies should instill in their teammates? If yes, what are they?

    An irresistible passion for problem solving. In business, as in life, day in and out you get hit with unexpected challenges. You have two choices: either look at those challenges and simply get frustrated or tackle those problems as if they are interesting puzzles to be solved. The first approach will quickly wear you down. The second approach will tend to make the journey very exciting and successful. 

    What advice would you give to an aspiring entrepreneur? 

    YES you can do it, IF you truly believe in it AND if you are willing to go all in. 

    Also, don't hesitate to ask for and take help. We are all surrounded by people who are ready to help when needed. You just need to be true to your vision and ask for help when needed.

    What is your perception of the impact of small businesses to the local community?

    Small businesses are the pulse of the local ecosystem. If we can nurture and support local businesses, it will lead to a healthy ecosystem we all can benefit from. Along with a group of like minded entrepreneurs, we started Krosslink.org to help nurture the entrepreneurial spirit within local communities, using local public libraries as the launching pad.

    What are some of your hobbies and what do you do in your free time?

    Being the crazy wacky husband to my better half, and the goofy dad to my two kids.

  • 10 Jul 2020 5:36 PM | Anonymous

    by Snehalata Kadam

    Namaste! I would like to demonstrate Surya Namaskar in this video. This is one of my favorite everyday routines. It is a fast pace complete workout and it takes only 4 and a half minutes. So no excuses! :)

    It has multiple health benefits:

    1. Improves our posture and strengthens our wrist, something that we need to be aware of during this virtual world of learning and working.
    2. It strengthens our bones for our longevity as well as for the young growing kids to increase their height.
    3. It enhances our immune system.
    4. It boosts our energy to stay active and positive throughout the day.
    5. Believe it or not it absolutely improves our skin tone for us to look as graceful as we want and for a very long time.

    We can do either just one set every day for the above benefits. We can also do 5 sets to melt some extra pounds if we want. So let’s get started! We need to breath-in at 1, 3, 5, 7, 9 and 11 counts and breath-out at 2, 4, 6, 8, 10 counts. The video shows one set of 11 Surya Namaskars done in 4 and a half minutes.

  • 28 Jun 2020 3:45 PM | Anonymous

    By Ria Deshpande

    Bharti Bhakta is the owner of Manor on the Hill Assisted Living Community, and in the past twelve years, she has also become a yoga and meditation instructor. She credits her practice in aiding her to become a more grateful and balanced person, and encourages everyone to try it as well. Read her story below!

    How did you get into yoga and meditation?

    I run an assisted living facility, and around thirteen years ago, this one lady came to place her elder sister. She asked me if I do yoga, and after telling her that I do not, she suggested that I buy a yoga book titled “Do Yoga in 30 Days”, saying that it is the best book she has ever bought. After that, every time she visited, she used to ask whether I have bought the book and after months of me saying no, she finally gave me the book so that I would have no excuse. So, I have been practicing yoga since receiving the book in 2008.

    What kind of training do you have? 

    I did a six week teacher training session in 2010, and a second asana training in 2014. I completed both in India. 

    What is your favorite style of yoga? What about your favorite way to meditate?

    It really depends. Some people feel comfortable doing simple asana style yoga, whereas others like to sweat with hatha yoga. I enjoy all styles, as long as it helps my body feel healthy. I feel that no matter the style, yoga and meditation is extremely rewarding with physical, mental, and spiritual benefits. It helps the body feel energized and balanced. For example, I enjoy doing pranayam (breathing exercises) and meditation for mental awareness and feeling lightness in the body while at the same time making my life force feel very energetic. It is important to keep in mind that yoga and meditation makes the mind feel very compassionate for any being, and I always tell people that it can help you do anything you pursue more efficiently. 

    How do you think yoga and meditation has changed your life?

    Physically, I have lost some weight and I feel more healthy, but beyond that, I see many mental changes. I have lost interest in arguing with anyone and overall, I am a more calm, level headed person. Meditation goes beyond the mind and can help change your personality to what you want to become. In fact, some jails in India even have prisoners practice yoga and meditation to change them into a better person. It really is powerful. 

    What advice do you have for people who want to start yoga? 

    I see many people who say they do not have time for yoga, but I always tell them, even if you don’t have time for a full one hour yoga session, give at least thirty minutes or even five minutes -- just keep going. You need to make it a habit, a lifestyle, and after you do, your body and mind will ask for it and it won’t feel like a chore anymore. The hardest part is always getting started. 

  • 28 Jun 2020 3:40 PM | Anonymous

    By Pravin Trivedi

    Rush hour in our little town of Westborough used to be lunch time on Main Street, which is a mile long and has fifteen turns going in and out of shops and streets. It can take a long time at lunch time as well as at going home time. It gets a little easier if you know how to cut across streets and shopping centers, but you have to be willing to sacrifice a little of your sanity to go out at these times. That is what I thought when I had to deposit a few checks in the Bank yesterday. It was not so. I took less than five minutes to get in my car, drive to the bank and park with ease in the ample but empty parking lot. There was no one standing in my way, no one in the entrance to the bank and no one at the Keurig coffee maker. Wait, there was a catch. I could not get to the coffee maker. The door of the bank was locked. I was being heavily signaled by three bank workers from inside the bank to make sure I did not break down the door. Trying to comprehend what was going on, I kept pointing to the locked door and the workers took no notice. That is when it occurred to me that I may be missing something.

    I thought the workers in the bank all had the virus and were making sure no more people got infected. When things did not change for the next few minutes, I accepted defeat and retreated to my car to go back to my work, or home. Still not giving up, I called the bank on my cell phone from the car. After waiting for a long time and been given many reminders that due to the virus many people were absent and that the wait on the phone would be long, I eventually got a live human voice at the other end of the phone to tell me that I had a couple of ways to deposit my checks. Either go to a credit card machine or do it using a scanner at home. Not being familiar with either of these, I decided to go home and get myself in a self-imposed quarantine. That is a modern way of saying self-imprisonment.

    On the way home, I saw a line of cars outside another bank branch. This was a way I had not thought of. These people were banking using the drive-up teller and car drive up machine. So, I got in line. I found out that to move ahead by one car took fifteen minutes. I got out of the car and followed the line of cars by walking. I counted twenty-two cars to the teller’s window. That equated to more than five hours. Still taking a chance, optimistic me, I went back to my car and got in, hoping I had enough gas. At one point it looked like no one had moved for half an hour. I walked again and saw one person had left an open space. I knocked on the window of the stopped car, only to find out that the driver had fallen asleep. I drove out of the line and headed home. For once, we were told even by the government not to go to work, lie in front of the TV and do NOTHING, we cannot get that right!!

    Pravin Trivedi is a retired Computer development engineering Director with four Master’s degrees. He has worked in New England, Shanghai, China; Tokyo, Japan; Paris, France; London, England; and Colorado and California. He has been a local resident for over forty years and was very active in music circles, in the India Society of Worcester and in Springfield, and one of the architects of IA of Greater Springfield where he was secretary for five years.

  • 28 Jun 2020 3:33 PM | Anonymous

    By Ragoo Raghunathan

    ISW co-sponsored a networking event with STEMPeers, a non-profit organization at the India Day celebration at the DCU Center in August 2019, where professionals from various sectors (biotech, computer science, business etc) participated. It was part of an effort to bring together our local STEM students & professionals and provide a platform to interact, support, learn and gain from each other.

    STEMPeers was founded in 2015 by Ananda Ghosh and Abhinav Dey, both postdoctoral researchers from IISc, Bengaluru, with an idea to build a community that can openly discuss issues pertaining to the life of STEM graduates and to create a supportive and a creative community.

    The foundation of the community is based on values that are relevant today with a vision to:

    • Create equal opportunities through shared resources and encourage creativity
    • Create an open environment where members can make informed decisions and succeed in their endeavor
    • Invest in the professional development of the members

    In order to achieve that STEMPeers have come up with various programs that its members can avail and contribute to like: Career Development, Mentorship, Work Life Balance, STEM Education, Science Policy, Ethics in Science, Women in Science, Building Tomorrow’s Leaders, Social Entrepreneurship and Fellowships & Awards.

    Some of the activities run and sponsored by STEMPeers include: Club Sciwri – an online magazine to give visibility to the members’ scientific writing skills in social media; CSG Consultancy Club - a breeding ground for aspiring ‘consulting professionals’; The STEMPeers Weekly - the official newsletter covering the highlights from the World of STEM with a volunteer editorial and writing staff.

    Currently the organization has over 16,000 members from around 70 countries and currently run on Facebook as a closed group. New members are always welcome and added to the group by a fellow member. The annual conference held in major cities in USA and Europe generally attracts ~200-250 members and showcases a number of professional panels, speakers and networking events.

    STEMPeers (www.stempeers.org) is run by the founding members and volunteer ‘leaders’ supported by a board of advisors (including Ragoo Raghunathan from ISW). Recently STEMPeers organization was recognized as the World’s biggest STEM Community Network by the scientific journal Nature Biotechnology (https://rdcu.be/b4Tad).

    With a large representation in the STEM professions, ISW members are encouraged to share their time and talents with others in their field. STEM students and professionals interested in being a part of the STEMPeers group are encouraged to reach out to Dr. Ragoo Raghunathan (https://www.linkedin.com/in/ragoo/) or Dr. Jagan Srinivasan (https://www.linkedin.com/in/jagan-srinivasan-a71b653/)to be added to the group.

  • 27 Jun 2020 4:51 PM | Anonymous

    ISW eSandesh is pleased to introduce a section Community Voices where we publish opinion pieces from our community on issues. While these pieces provide perspectives and opportunities for conversation, they represent the viewpoint of the author and not necessarily those of ISW. We encourage a robust dialogue on these issues and welcome alternative viewpoints for publication.

    Black Lives Matter by Aarshiya Sachdeva

    “In a racist society it is not enough to be non-racist, we must be anti-racist.” - Angela Y. Davis

    As most are now aware, the recent killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and countless others have left many Americans in a state of fear, anger, and despair. Witnessing the instant outrage on social media and protests both in neighboring towns and across the globe, I, along with the other officers of the Shrewsbury High School Black History Committee, was certain that we needed to express our solidarity within our town. In the midst of a global pandemic, we found it even more necessary to unite our local community. With great political divide across the country, we wanted to convey one crucial message: this is completely a humanitarian issue. No difference in opinion can change the fact that George Floyd was a human being who did not deserve to die. By creating a peaceful remembrance - a march and vigil in the center of our Town of Shrewsbury, we wanted to bring our community together to mourn the tragic loss of George Floyd and the other endless victims of police brutality.

    Now, as you are reading this article, you might be telling yourself: “yes, I agree, it was terrible that George Floyd’s life ended so soon, especially in the cruel way that it did, but what could I have done to help?” Fortunately for you, I am positive that many others are thinking the same. The influx of responses in our “RSVP” Form immediately after we publicized the event reiterated that the vast majority of our community was also left feeling hurt or confused - they were desiring an opportunity like this one to not only showcase their support for the Black community, but to discover the answer to our #1 asked question at the event: “What can I do?”

    The first (and most important) thing that each person reading this can do right now is to open up a new tab and make a simple Google search. It is astonishing how much information is available right at our fingertips, but most can’t even take the time to seek it. Although there are countless ideas and events to research, here are a few helpful key terms to start: “school to prison pipeline, police brutality, racial wealth gap, war on drugs, systemic racism.” If you are as infuriated by the inequality present in our system as I was when I first became aware of it, I have linked a website below with a variety of ways to support the Black Lives Matter Movement - including a map of protests, petition and donation links, and other resources.

    However, I understand that many do not have the means to donate, or to attend protests. Nevertheless, I urge each and every one of you to use your voice. At the beginning of this article I chose to share one of my favorite Angela Davis quotes. I used to believe that as an Indian-American, I couldn’t possibly be racist. I failed to realize how America was built on principles of systematic oppression of Black people, and that it will take several years to fully resolve this issue. By staying silent, we are also contributing to the racist tendencies of our country.

    There are countless ways we can adjust our daily lifestyles to be actively anti-racist. Have those difficult conversations with your friends and family members. Continue to educate yourself through books, movies, podcasts, and documentaries. Use your race to your benefit - as a way to empathize with those who feel like outsiders in their own country. Support black-owned businesses. Don’t center the narrative around you. Recognize that even as an Indian immigrant, you are privileged. Condemn the privilege. Create a long-term strategy to ensure that you will be an ally and advocate after the outrage ends.

    As members of the Indian-American community, we must do better.

    Link to BLM Resources: blacklivesmatters.carrd.co/
    Link to George Floyd Vigil Footage (video credit:Krista Fogg of Shrewsbury Media Connection) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O4WW1_z262M

    (Image credits Megan Albertson & Angelica Vlahos)

    ISW eSandesh asked Kavya Balaji, who had written an impassioned piece titled “Black Lives Matter - An Informational Letter to the South Asian Community” about what motivated her personally to get involved or speak out about this issue? We thought we would share her message to the community.

    I have always been passionate about social justice from a young age and I always voice my opinions and concerns when I feel like something is unjust. Growing up in a country where people love to say that everyone is equal and all lives matter, but behind closed doors support a system that has never stopped oppressing Black communities felt unbearable to me. I empathized with my Black brothers and sisters who constantly undergo this suffering and I did my best to be informed about the issues. For years, I read up on unbiased accounts of American history and read/watched stories from Black storytellers. I studied social issues and community resilience in depth through my undergraduate and masters degrees in International Affairs, Social Entrepreneurship and Resilience studies. With the knowledge that I had gained, I knew I had to do everything in my ability to support the Black community and thus, I went to work to put out a newsletter to educate our South Asian community on why we need to support this movement. If you don't feel the urgency and feel their pain, you probably haven't scraped the surface of knowledge of what they have underwent. Black people built this country up, and America owes everything it is to the Black community. We Indian Americans owe our comfortable lives in the US to the Black community. We can no longer continue to live unaware of the struggles faced by Black America, it is time we open our eyes, open our hearts and open our pockets to support this movement.

    Kavya has worked with her colleagues to also translate the original article into Telugu and Hindi. These articles can be found at:
    English:  https://tinyurl.com/SouthAsianBLMLetter 
    Hindi: https://tinyurl.com/HindiBLMLetter
    Telugu: https://tinyurl.com/TeluguBLMLetter

    The Everything Podcast
    Aditya Khanna, Spencer Dodge, Kevin Harper, and Nihal Wadhwa

    This year has been incredibly unique and we are certainly living in unprecedented times. That being said, many college students are left with more free time and the ability to pursue interests aside from their university. Me and three other friends are typically involved in current affairs and have found ourselves having conversations that may be beneficial for other people to listen in on, so we decided to start recording them and creating a podcast out of it!

    All 4 of us having grown up in different environments; we have two people, including myself, of the South Asian community and two of the White community. In addition to this, we’ve all grown up in different political atmospheres and have been exposed to a wide range of views which believe makes our perspective unique. All 4 of us have diverse opinions on current issues and believe that having a civil conversation about why we feel the we do can unite others over their differences.

    Our first episode, titled “Racial Injustice”, comes after the recent killing of George Floyd. Our episode, however, is not limited to that as we talk about the entire Black Lives Matter movement and what it means to be a Person of Color in America. We also touch on stereotypes within every community and the role that we play in defining the future. We release episodes on a weekly basis and the upcoming episode, titled “Coronavirus”, covers the entire pandemic response and what out fall looks like!

    Google Podcasts: https://www.google.com/podcasts?feed=aHR0cHM6Ly9hbmNob3IuZm0vcy8xNjhlMjczNC9wb2RjYXN0L3Jzcw==

    Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/show/75NwB8CElKfcrMvmXcIQv5

    The Hidden Disease
    By Danush Chelladurai

    Had you told me a year ago about the events of the past couple months, I probably wouldn’t have believed you. Most people wouldn’t have either; and yet, there were so many signs that pointed to it happening. To think it really took this long to happen is delusional. Many people want to go back to their life as it was pre-2020, but we can’t. The trope of a “new normal” is an understatement. Yes, I’m talking about a disease, but not the one you’re probably thinking of. I’m talking about the systemic racism against black people that has plagued this country for nearly 400 years. We’ve all looked at ourselves and remarked how insane it is that this problem hasn’t been solved yet, but we were all alive back then. “Black Lives Matter” has been the rallying cry for this movement, and we can’t even meet that incredibly low bar.

    The scariest part of this isn’t the introspection about our own microaggressions and discriminatory practices, it’s that almost everyone around you has as well. As a kid, it’s realizing not only that the “adults don’t have the answers,” but that they’re part of the problem. The people you look up to: celebrities, teachers, friends, relatives, older siblings, and even your parents - many of them aren’t exempt from blame. But, this is bigger than just police vs the rest of us, or black and white, it’s a problem with our whole way of life. We’ve all stereotyped before, and ultimately, African Americans are just the first group in the infinite queue of groups such as, women, LGBTQ people, and people from low socioeconomic backgrounds, who’ve been hurt by stereotype threat. It really is up to our generation to take on a bigger role by not only voting for our next president but also participating in local elections. When we have kids of our own, we have to not only teach our kids about math, science, writing, and reading, but also place equal importance on subjects such as politics, ethics, and sociology. It’s up to all of us to continue the process to make sure everyone genuinely has the human rights of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

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