Passage to Marginality: The Vanishing Hindu Presence in Kerala

Preface: A Certain situation in Kerala as grave as the title clarifies compels me to write about it and which should arouse concern in every Hindu who harbors sentiments about our ancestry and our traditions. I am somewhat relieved that similar concern is being shared by many of our leaders and intellectuals who are making passionate efforts to reverse the trend and re-establish fairness of equality in our state. I fervently hope and pray that their efforts succeed.
     The topic is an issue obvious to anyone who cares to observe. That observation has prompted me to analyze its reasons and possible measures of correction as it is deemed warranted.
     Even though I have been involved with Sri Meenakshi Temple in Houston since its inception, I may still not qualify myself as a devout Hindu, since I am not ritualistic, nor I practice what is traditionally expected of a Hindu if we have a strict code of ethics. Yet, I passionately claim myself to be a Hindu, which I am by birth, by philosophy, by conviction and essentially by my inner filaments of being. And being a Hindu, I respect other faiths and their adherents’ option to approach Divinity in the ways they choose.
     I am an ardent believer in the spark of divinity in every creation; my concept is of equality of all human beings. I respect the right for each to choose their approach to the ultimate reality or their freedom not to have any such belief at all. Many of my best friends and some of the most decent human beings follow a variety of faiths and I do not measure a person based on their religious preference. The notion of anyone claiming a monopoly of divinity or preaching superiority is absurd. Almost always we are destined to follow the faith we are born into, but an intelligent being should have the option to choose a faith that appeals to them through educated understanding. I believe that it is a primitive and despicable ploy to lure someone into conversion through bribery, baiting them with offers and donations. Promoting such methods and practicing propaganda against other faiths should be considered a disgrace to organizations that do it in the name of God. Every crime committed in the name of religion and every atrocity leading from terrorist activities could be avoided if the leaders of faiths make an earnest attempt to influence their followers to practice what is preached by the noble souls who created such religions.


I am from a Nair family in Ernakulam, and I have pleasant nostalgic memories of my childhood, of feeling privileged in a certain way of belonging. My childhood was enriched with festivals and festivities of our customs, based on religious observations and cultural celebrations. The events were related to auspicious Hindu occasions as my Christian and Muslim friends were celebrating their similar religious festivals. We enjoyed the collective amity as we cultivated friendship, mutually accepting and appreciating the differences.
     Today, that image of my Kerala has vanished. From the perspective of a Hindu, proud and passionate about the bygone days, I sense an alarm in our declining number of the census and of our proportionate representation in other spheres of society. My apprehension arises from concern of fairness and my objective is to focus on needed corrections.
     My observation is that there is a discernible shift of religious representation in Kerala, the percentage of Hindus receding, gradually and palpably, compared to other religious factions. The reasons for such a shift are obvious. Vigorous family planning propaganda promoted by government is readily accepted and practiced by Hindus, which limit their progeny and consequently the growth of their population. The other factions, by contrast, feel privileged to propagate as dictated by their religious directives and dogmas, which promote a disproportionate increase in their census. Another disturbingly damaging practice is of conversions of Hindus by other faiths through a variety of means and motives, while such practices are alien to Hindu philosophy.
     Alongside, there is a similar, parallel shift in the educational, political, economic and other leading indices, where Hindus of Kerala are losing their fair share of distribution. The trend can be traced to a variety of reasons.


As India gained independence from colonial British in 1947, democratization and establishment of republic rule in the country necessitated the reorganization and the end of Hindu kingdoms in many states. When Pakistan felt proud of being established as a Muslim country, India showed generosity of spirit and nobility in choosing the path of Secularism. In the name of fairness, we carelessly created double standards offering enormous privileges to the ‘minorities’ which have been haunting and discriminating Hindus ever since. In the Hindu majority state of Kerala, we have been at the mercy of governmental regulations, indiscriminately choking our basic privileges and presence.

In Kerala, the popularity and influence of communism attracting mostly Hindus, spelled the demise of our traditional values and age-old customs. When the political leaders sold the concept of atheism as a means of liberating the poor, generations of Hindu masses were being deceived into discarding their rich and magnificent heritage for hollow promises and baseless assumptions.

The corrupt and self-serving political leadership created and promoted regulations solely to gain votes and stay in power. The inequality of legality and absurdity of its implementation are so discreetly obvious in the laws governing the temples versus churches and mosques. Such discrimination is blatant in the marriage rules of different religions, the quota systems in selection to admissions, posting and promotions and a variety of ruling measures which hurt the Hindus more than any other factions

As much as we credit the church system in establishing many educational institutions, promoting literacy in the state, we need to realize that such education gradually pulled the minds of traditional Hindu generations towards the westernized thinking approach. Such a gradual transformation of their mentality was at the expense of eroding the time-honored, culturally established Hindu value systems. Convent educated teachers innocently inculcated such westernized values and disseminated them into the following generations, thus altering our basic cultural chemistry. Little did we realize that such change at the root of our educational system was undermining our rich philosophy as well as corroding our cultural codes and habits. Disturbance at the level of thought process distorts the basic assumptions and destroys the fundamental respect of traditions. The contrast of styles between the west and the east, the basic personal freedom to choose as you please, the liberated codes of ethics and habits, the promotion of individual rights against traditional guidelines and the convenient life patterns against our established observations, altogether contributed to the steady dilution and the loss of our precious identity. What we proudly proclaimed as the promotion of intellectual freedom to analyze our faith and arrive at personal understanding and interpretation was misconstrued, misunderstood and misused by many Hindus, perhaps without realizing the damage they caused to their own roots. Rampant abuse of power by the upper class, using profoundly set principles to promote personal agendas, brought in disgrace to our traditions. The original well-meant intent of classification to selectively encourage and perfect different trades was abused to meet and enhance personal benefits and interests. The grave consequences resulting from centuries of such practices have done the worst damage to Hinduism, alienating a substantial percentage of our believers. Religious conversions by opportunistic outsiders, capitalizing on this weakness of ours, have been the major basis of our downfall.

Hinduism never actively promoted the wealth of our information that was passed on to us by our sages and saints. We never had regimented processes of disseminating such treasures which could have enlightened human beings and enhanced the level of their existence. On the contrary, many of the purohits who had control of the leadership kept the wealth of information and stopped them being disseminated to classes of people they disliked. All our Vedas and treatises were written for the intellectuals without any sincere attempt to distribute that information in an understandable form down to the level of the commoner. Unlike some of the later religions created by single individuals and expanded by purposeful propagandas and disciplined enforcement, Hinduism took the higher moral ground assuming that the available information may be absorbed and understood by its followers. We also did not subscribe to the tactics of enforcing such beliefs on anyone in exchange for charity. Neither did we attempt to brainwash ‘non-believers’ and coerce them to join our ranks through intimidating measures of fear of sin or burning in the hell. Our faith has always remained one of love and compassion and our basic tenets are to worship for the welfare of the entire humanity. We believe in the existence of divinity in everything that exists, that is around us, within us and beyond us. A faith with such a profound philosophy as Hinduism, which has no barriers or restrictions, should have attracted any and all who accept principles with common sense. But unfortunately religions are nothing about lofty philosophy or broad ideology; they happen to be the politicization of divinity, capitalizing the glory of its creator, packaged and sold with all the zeal of successful business operation. The ulterior motive is to extend and expand the personal interests of individuals in the name of institutions.

The state of Kerala has undergone tremendous changes in the last fifty years, almost every such change hurting the cause of the Hindus. Where nonHindus are industrious and ambitious in expanding their presence and possession, Hindus have generally remained docile, timid and stagnated, resting on their claim of old laurels and false pretenses. Even among Hindus, the different factions have cultivated animosity rather than mutual unity and have never found any common ground based on their profound religion. Such divisions among us have made us weak and fragmented; distracted us from fighting for our common good, consequently being at the receiving end of gross political and social injustice. We have not identified ourselves as a group or the need to address problems in a unified way. The Hindu classes placed as the underprivileged, scheduled or backward have been subjected to gross humiliation and injustice, taken advantage of by the so-called superior Hindus. We are paying a penalty for such reprehensible actions that the disadvantaged classes have countered with anger and animosity, leading them to conversions or communistic affiliation.

The pride of secularism has been our perpetual curse, the minority religions having bestowed with unfair power and penetration. How do we condone the injustice of all the millions donated by the Hindus to the temples being controlled and squandered by the state, while every penny that goes into the coffers of the churches and mosques remain at their discretion?. Why does the government control the Devaswom boards, when they do not dare to exercise the same power over churches and mosques? Why was the precious land masses owned by the Hindus were snatched away in the name of reform, while no such process found access to properties of Christians and Muslims?

Another major, disappointing trend that is gradually but certainly worsening is the economic aspect of the equation. As in anything else monetary power is the ultimate yardstick and Hindus have lost that edge in a dramatic fashion. The disintegration of possessions of Hindus on the real estate, farming and business fronts is very palpable. The docile attitude on the part of established Hindu families along with a lack of frugality, have irreparably destroyed the old ‘tharavadu’ concept, leading to partitions and fragmentation, moving the economic advantage to industrious, businessoriented non-Hindu factions.

Amazing scientific and technological progress leading to enormous mechanization and sweeping alteration of the lifestyle of humanity has been a global phenomenon of the last few decades. Such industrialization has swept human minds away from the old concepts of celestial controls and godly influences pervading everything that happens around us. Such a change has shifted the focus of life in general from religiosity to human authority. Often there is a certain amount of arrogance and audacity expressed by the scientific clout which is easily accepted by the consumers who are immersed by the technical luxury they are surrounded by. The natural extension of that philosophy is evident in the urban lifestyle based on consumerism, a total deviation from the previous practice of discipline revolving around religious dictations. As generations got more acclimatized with the westernized, pleasure-seeking, sensually slanted, self-centered, individually oriented lifestyle, we got farther away from our centuries-old traditions and value system. Interestingly, while such scientific globalization has been challenging the old concept of heavenly superiority, there is a surprisingly parallel proliferation of evangelical zeal to regain the losing influence. Out of sheer fear that they may lose control of religious advantage to science and modernity and consequently their economic and political dominance, many righteous groups are fighting it out with powers bestowed on them by gods to attack science and discredit their advances. Such groups with sinister intentions use every tactic influencing and intimidating the godfearing followers. The sensible notion that science can be part and parcel of an elaborate divine theme and that knowledge can be understood and absorbed in a broader, tolerant sense, is seldom discussed. It also takes certain humility to accept that scientific thoughts can be realistically contained within an involved intellectual extension of ‘divine’ principles. It is thus conveniently overlooked or intentionally avoided for lack of available objectivity and perhaps ulterior financial reasons.

As much Hindus are damaging our own cherished heritage, many opposing groups are making organized efforts to annihilate our venerated glory. As if declaring a silent war, these groups have methodically mounted measures to discredit our values and time-honored belief system. They are successfully proving that with a disciplined marketing and enormous economic clout, anyone can gain superiority and usurp even the most magnificent adversary. As the damage has been slowly but surely threatening the survival of Hinduism in Kerala we remain complacent and even reacting in bizarre ways. “So what! Does it really matter?”. We Hindus are our biggest nemesis. As billions flow into our sacred country and as the cancer is creeping into the very foundation of our ancient treasures, most of us lay 178 oblivious to the damage while some of our leaders even assist the enemy, using the opportunity for personal gains. The sad reality is that as the savage forces encroach and massacre the sanctity of our heritage, we stand silently and shamelessly insensible, watching the demise.

Should we be concerned? Should we care? Should we even attempt to find out? It is all up to our conscience; it is up to the values of our upbringing; it is up to any remnant of pride left in our moral substrate. If we even remotely care about the threat of our integrity, it is imminently important that we wake up and respond about it; against it. We are certainly capable of standing up to it and meeting the challenge, our venerated responsibility.


How do we approach such a formidable adversary? It requires an intelligent, organized, purposeful approach, simultaneously on many fronts.

We need leadership. Assemble and organize brainstorming sessions of concerned, capable intellectuals without personal motives but who are passionately committed to the cause

We need to identify and analyze the underlying ‘pathology of the problem’ with the elaborate, multidirectional approach.

Establish an effective force, motivating and mobilizing enthusiastic individuals who are sincere and dedicated to achieving the goal. Educate, motivate and train the volunteers to systematically implement the needed remedies.

Recognize sources and methods to raise the revenue needed to accomplish the desired measures. Reach out to Indian Hindus within the state, within India and abroad, who will be sympathetic and resourceful to subscribe for the cause.

Provide extensive publicity about the situation, about the need for action, requesting involvement and commitment. Adhere to the sublime tenets of Hinduism in respecting and appreciating all the faiths, but making it very clear that the purpose is to re-establish parity and fairness. Use television, radio, and publications to educate our younger generation and stimulate the older ones to revive the Hindu style of living, its basic principles and its liberal outlook about welfare for the entire humanity. Simple, understandable explanations about time-honored values of Hinduism will stimulate and motivate youngsters to feel proud of their traditions. Do it in a subtle, gentle, positive and interesting fashion that the change happens out of 179 realization and not of compulsion. Definitely avoid imposing extreme ritualistic practices and boastful, fanatic dictations.

Re-establish the old, traditional practices which have gradually and sadly disappeared from Hindu homes, explaining their symbolic significance. Examples are many: Lighting the Nilavilakku at dawn and dusk, ‘naamamchollal’ as a daily tradition, applying bhasmam and sandalwood paste after a bath, celebrating the traditional events like Onam, Vishu, Sivarathri, Ashtami Rohini, Poojavaikkal and others, observing Vaavu, Noyambu, Thiruvathira, etc.

Work towards eliminating the disparity between the ‘classes’, so that Hindus work united and not fight fragmented.

As much as we accuse and detest other faiths of all their ‘wrong-doings’, we have a lot to learn from their charitable, helpful, altruistic attitudes which are commendable and worthy of emulation. As compared to Hindus, many of their groups are available and willing to come to the rescue for the needy, the down-trodden and the fallen, without consideration of their religious affiliation. Even if their motive is to attract them to conversion, they are available and accessible when needed; we can hardly ever give credit to Hindus for that kind of humanitarian efforts.

Establish dialog with understanding, intellectual leaders from other faiths to work towards a symbiotic relationship which can mutually enhance respect and enrich socio-cultural harmony and parity among religions.

Work from the political angle to assert the rights of the majority, to regain equality and eliminate the unfair advantage to any single group or faction.

The overall objective should be an approach with a very broad sense of outlook to reinstate the lost grounds of Hinduism, reversing the damaging efforts perpetrated by a variety of formidable forces and faiths with ominous and menacing intentions. It should be accomplished exercising the integrity, dignity, and nobility of Hinduism, but with the perseverance and resolve that we are capable of. Let us grab the situation as a god given opportunity to fulfil our responsibility. It is our sacred call, our destiny. It is our Dharma.

What it means to be a Kerala Hindu in the USA!

‘Whatever! Should I care ?’ must not be the instinctive response of many, if they were posed with such a query.
The very objective of KHNA is not to hear such a response and ‘create a universal sense of pride and commitment about Malayali Hindu traditions and heritage, of their cultural roots and identity’. Are we accomplishing that objective? Let us analyze. Let us introspect
 The Universe
As proclaimed in Hindu Puranic perceptions, passed on to us through the wisdom of our rishis, the cosmological history of the multiverse is cyclical 166 without a beginning or end, comprising of a repetitive continuum incorporating many universes and many ‘Big-Bang’ explosive episodes. Our ancient hypothesis can intelligently accommodate the many postulates from the Greek stoic Ekpyrotic theory to the Buddhist concept of evolution or the modern scientific and technological understanding of the ‘origin’. A single day of Brahma, the Creator is the equivalent of over four billion years in human time and is divided into four Yugas, at the end of which is the cataclysmic deluge or Pralaya, when Brahma rests for the night, as equally long as his day. Through the ongoing cycles of Srishti (creation), Sthithi(sustenance), and Samhara (creative destruction), life begins and ends as dictated by the cosmic command under the guidance of the Ultimate Reality, the God Principle.
Life on Earth
     If one follows the sensible postulate of evolution, even the rudimentary form of life began after millions of years of preparation as the earth cooled down and gradually became receptive to sustain the living entity. Through a gradual process of adaptation, refinement, and perfection, there was a conceivable, gradual and steady improvement to the life forms that performed with more precision and intelligence. It is amusing to infer that even the Gods, the most knowledgeable authorities took their time and observed the laws of nature in advancing their creations with patience and endurance. And such events happen for a reason, a purpose that is to be contained and comprehended within the confines of a larger principle.
The Humans
     Following the concepts and philosophy of our faith, we owe plenty to the mercy of the Almighty. His biggest endowment to us is to have chosen us to confer the dignity of a human being. Not that any life is more precious than any other, but within our knowledge, the humans occupy the biggest pedestal of His creation. If we do not recognize, realize and be humbled of being the recipient of that ultimate distinction, we have missed out on the fundamental meaning of our existence. And such awareness can distinctly offer the support for our search assuring answers to how and why we should utilize that precious gift and return the favor. To realize that truth is to live life as it was meant to be.
     As per our traditional belief, ‘Arsha Bharatham’ is regarded and revered as a virtuous nation, a ‘Punyabhumi’. It is the land that gave birth to all our incarnations, the place that nurtured the many scholarly saints, the ground that has cultivated the attitude of harmony and accommodation, and where the philosophy 167 of Eternal Righteousness prevails supreme. In the recorded history of mankind, there is no place elsewhere which can boast of virtues of morality and rectitude as the fundamental theories of life. To be born into that heritage and be reared along such precious traditional value system is an exceptional privilege for human life. To all of us who are born Indians or have Indian heritage, it is a blessed concession, a sacred and distinguished stroke of destiny.
     Religions are created by man and are just establishments that promote and politicize divinity as the theme. Exceptionally enlightened souls authored philosophies to preach and to help evolve humans and their behavior. Such embodiments of divinity took life as they were sent to earth as often as required and as decided by the ultimate authority. Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha, Mahavira, Sankaracharya, and others were such enlightened souls who were born with the destined function to help humanity, to guide them towards righteous behavior. Their followers created organizations to promote and propagate their teachings that came to be known as religions. In due course, such entities started claiming divinity as their monopoly and advocating their methods as the only way to attain the eventual salvation. Most of the problems that we witness in today’s world are the results of the enormous dominance and influence exercised by religious interests.
Sanatana Dharma
     Hinduism is perhaps the only exception without a set agenda, claiming superiority or ownership of divinity and attempting proselytization of all else by coercion. Ironically and ignorantly it has been assigned the title as a ‘religion’ but in reality, it is ‘Sanatana Dharma’, a practice of ‘Eternal Righteousness’. It is a principle that provides an authoritative, intellectual, philosophical guidance to virtuous, moral living. And it invites and encourages everyone to understand the concepts using honest curiosity, unbiased analysis, and intelligent assimilation. Its basic principles rest on simple yet the ultimate truth; its complex philosophy may exceed limitations of human comprehension. Its doctrines are based on the fundamental meaning of life. Its tenets transcend promise of pleasures or covenants of punishment.
     We, the Hindus of Kerala are a uniquely blessed, distinctly endowed group of human beings. We have been awarded the exclusivity of an enviable blend of superlative, noble distinctions that are beyond even our imaginative conjectures. At every level of option, God has been generous and merciful in bestowing on us the best that can be granted. The ultimate of His creations, the human life; in the land of virtuosity, the Bharat Bhoomi; born as a Hindu, to observe the Eternal Righteous principle; in God’s own country, Kerala, the serenely stunning piece on planet earth. If we are not able to savor that absolute reality and not be exalted about our distinct excellence of birth, it is distressingly sad; it is our misfortune. And if we can appreciate the boon in its totality, we remain blessed. We truly are inimitable.
Our Identity
     Identity is as intimate and crucially imperative as one’s shadow. It gives one the authority, personality and the essentially vital correlation between self and everything else that it relates to. It offers the owner the spatial, social, functional and philosophic perspectives setting them apart from the rest and endorsing the uniqueness that is distinctive of human life. An individual utilizes sets of unique traits that collectively declare his individuality in a certain setting and based on the particular situation. Such traits vary from physical appearance to language to habits to religion to a variety of parameters, but nevertheless, they remain the distinguishing markers of that person. And when many people collectively share certain commonalities, it generates group identity and similarity in belonging. The distinction of identity may focus on a single individual to the family to a township or a community to the state or nationality, language or religious belief system, ultimately extending the concept to the entire humanity and beyond. Our distinction is to be born as a human, in India, being a Hindu from Kerala. That is our proud, precious, unique, identity
     Once we acknowledge our ancestry and accept our identity as to who we are, where we are from, and what we are, it is inevitable that we pose the question of what our role in life is, what is our purpose of being here. And that purpose will be at various levels and roles and obligations, from our responsibility as a child, a sibling, a student, an employee, a spouse, a parent, a provider, a social being, a citizen and as a human being. And right in this context, with relevance to this article, let us focus our attention to our role and responsibility as a Hindu from Kerala.
With that uniqueness, our obligations are two-fold; to live life as per the tenets of our faith and to adhere to the habits as expected of our heritage. Arriving in the new land of domicile, assuming to have undergone alteration, longing to be integrated into the society, some of us have a false notion that we need to act differently to be accepted, to be respected, to be included, and to be assimilated. Our generation of immigrants, the zero group who left the shores of India and opted to live in America, are preparing to exit the scene leaving a legacy that will follow a course, the direction and details of which the only history will decide. In 169 our eagerness to adapt to the myriad of challenges and struggling to succeed in the new environment without guidance from past experience or established routines each of us chose certain paths appealing to us as the appropriate ones. In many cases we did not have many options; in others, such choices came too late. When we observe our progeny who is well settled and raising their own descendants, we should be able to relate their behavior to our style of bringing them up. Since we had to take a path totally deviant from those of our ancestors of many millennia, such a sincere soul searching may leave many of us confused or penitent. In order to gain the accomplishments and materialistic acquirements, that was the price to pay in terms of sacrificing our established, precious and profound heritage.
     Change in Logistics
Within the constraints imposed by the altered environment and demands that enforce a modified lifestyle, we should have strived not to lose perspective of our fundamental value system and our precious traditions. And fortunately for us, the technological advances and consequent shrinking of the universe, along with many of our kind settling down here, it has become easier than a few decades ago, to adhere to most of our ethnic customs and religious observations. India is no more the strange, poor, distant third world continent that it was perceived as just a while ago. As computers and communication bridged the gap between continents, there is a mutual understanding of the cultures and even acceptance of different traditions and customs. Hindu Faith and followers being the third most widely accepted religious system in the world, our mores and practices are gaining tolerance, if not approval. And our time-honored gems of Yoga, meditation and philosophic discourses are gathering admiration by the mainstream. And the intellectuals who are able to grasp the profound fundamental principles of our Sanatana Dharma, there is growing respect and even followership.
     Our Pride
But we ourselves have to feel the same pride in our own profound traditions, realize the richness of our essential basics. Instead of trying to escape from our illustrious identity we should feel exalted to uphold it and exhibit its majesty. If we can successfully utilize the affluence of our heritage we can face the challenges as rewarding opportunities. If we are ashamed of our legacy and attempt to assume, or act a false identity, we will be losing the future generations and ourselves in the process.
     Our Role, our Duty
As transplanted Hindus, our responsibilities, as well as our challenges, are on many folds. It involves the spiritual, religious, social, cultural, linguistic, economic and political aspects of our life as based on our interest and degree of concern and contribution. If we make an earnest attempt to live our life as we have been raised, but adjusting to the limitations that we face in our new homeland, it 170 can easily be accomplished in a comfortable, practical way. Our children will learn from what we show, but not from what we preach. Our basics like having a pooja room in our homes, lighting the lamp, praying as a routine, observing our religious and cultural events and involving children in all the activities, and explaining to them the significance of each of our festivals, will certainly instill in them a proud sense of belonging, as it keeps us connected to our traditional beliefs. Getting involved in school activities, explaining our customs to outsiders and sharing the celebrations will link up the bridges and bring everyone closer. At the community level, we can collectively observe and celebrate events like Onam, Vishu, Vidyarambham, Thiruvathira and the like. Nowadays almost every city and community in the US have such organizations and even a handful of Kerala Hindus can arrange and invite others to celebrate our events
     Kerala Scenario
Unfortunately, the trend that is taking over Kerala has not been very encouraging. Are we losing our standing, our image? It seems that during festivals like Onam, all the felicitations are on the television or arranged events with almost no homes setting up the traditional welcome event for Onathappan, the visit of Mahabali. It is seldom that a housewife is willing to make the traditional sadya or prepare the customary delicacies, as families order the meals from available vendors. The ethos and the passion of our traditions have vanished from our culture. More distressing, many are celebrating the Hindu festivities with alcohol and meat dishes. Hindu functions like weddings and birthdays follow the same way, often serving beef, pork and scotch to ensure that invitees are ‘lured’ to show up. Many homes have abandoned the tradition at dusk of lighting the nilavilakku and placing it on the front porch with children singing bhajans as the grandparents guide them. Instead, the addictive TV serials engage the grown-ups as the youth stay busy texting on phones or partying in the malls. Politically, economically, administratively and in the sheer percentage of the population, Hindus are facing a vanishing presence in Kerala. Even worse, the enthusiasm, pride, and sense of commitment to protecting our precious legacy are abysmally dwindling among Hindus. Instead of finding common grounds to bond together, the Hindu factions in Kerala are getting splintered along lines of caste, creed, social orders, and political affinities. Have we become a disintegrated, feeble, rudderless, pride-less, powerless entity?
     We the Hindus of Kerala who have chosen to migrate, accepting this new land as our home are trying to catch up, promote, adapt and recreate the nostalgic splendor that we once owned. Many of us feel the agony of isolation, and a longing for a lost cause as many others laud it as their good fortune in gaining a glorified new identity. We can endorse the changes as predictable ‘progress’ that are part 171 of modernity, or of inevitable destiny and resign to go along with the stride as the tides of time impose them on us. Or in our limited way, holding on to our precious, rich and established traditions, we can make an attempt to recapture our treasures, and prevent their extinction. We can achieve it here, and we can definitely attempt to make an impact at home that we left behind. Collectively, under the banner of our common organization, we can accomplish a lot. How much we succeed and how worth such attempts are, will be decided by our efforts, enthusiasm and of course, time.
     And so will remain the future and relevance of being a Kerala Hindu in America. ‘The Kerala Hindus of North America’ deserves accolades and alliance for all their attempts to help materialize that noble intent. (March 2013)

The Anarchy: William Dalrymple introduced by Sanjoy K. Roy

     The story of the East India Company is not a fable about business, nor a fiction of adventure. It is one of abject looting, a scheme of wretched plundering, of a huge country like India by a mere private corporation from Britain. In its five hundred-year history, it is the account of how a trading corporation ruthlessly trained a security force of 200,000 men and subdued an entire subcontinent, robbing them of all their assets. The Anarchy is William Dalrymple’s most ambitious and riveting book on the East India Company, a portrayal ‘as it has never been told before’. In the concluding JLF Houston session, the author gave an elaborate and illustrative analysis of his creation to a captive audience.
     The story begins from how the company defeated the Mogul emperor in 1765 and forced him to set up a new administration run by English merchants and collect tax through ruthless means and then changing from a company trading silk and spices to a colonial power camouflaged as a multinational business. The book explains the disintegration of an empire that gets replaced by an unregulated private company. That was when India stumbled from the clutches of Islamic 164 dominance to two hundred years of British anarchy, that stole our treasures, divided and ruled our people using an army of Indians, imposed their habits and style of education, ravished our culture, wiped us of our national pride and created generations of Indians who loathed India and behaved like trashy British appendages.
     More treacherous than any crime thriller, and heinous than most espionage themes, the methodical launching and further scheming of a business establishment deliberating the takeover of nations, enslaving their populace and pillaging their resources for centuries may seem ludicrous, beyond even fictional imagination. But it was the reality of history as explicitly portrayed by the Anarchy. And further, the author postulates that the establishment of the East India Company paved the way to the genesis of modern corporations and their established ‘legal practice’ of greed, lobbying and influencing the leaders at the expense of the naïve participants and helpless outsiders.
     From the Indian perspective, it is prudent to take stock of how much we have progressed as an independent nation since we got liberated from London boardroom dictations over seven decades ago. Stories of religious disharmony, infighting, corruption, stagnant progress, lack of infrastructure, electricity, water and sanitary facilities, and a compelling absence of leadership are common topics of conversation. There are good and bad reports heard about the Modi government, though he seems to be a leader with international clout, understanding of our needs and a clean government without corruption. Hope there are sensible Indians allowing him an opportunity to give India a chance rather than try to bring him down through false and mean claims. Let us trust that the experience under the British had taught us a lesson to act with pride and pitch in for an India worth its potential. (September 18, 2019)

God Save Texas: Lawrence Wright interviewed by Chandrahas Choudhury

     If I owned Heaven and Houston, I would rent out Heaven and live in Houston. Having lived in the city for almost fifty years, I can substantiate that claim with my personal, valid reasoning. And with almost two hundred thousand ‘Indians’ making it home, let the ‘cowboys’ take it as a challenge if they so choose.
     The Pulitzer Prize-winning author and native Texan, Lawrence Wright, in his interview with Chandrahas Choudhury, laments about the metamorphosis of his once-upon-a-time, distinctly fabled state of extensive landscapes and charming foibles into a virtuously unpleasant region, from others blaming us for the assassination of Kennedy to the Texan drawl and all in between. Our politics has not elected a Democrat since the seventies, and we are being. threatened by the brutality of several disturbing changes.
     Being addressed as a Texan used to be synonymous with its automatically assumed charm, be it for the cowboy culture, fast-drawing guns, oil fields, 160 hospitality or sheer vastness and its massive dimensions. In recent years, it has overtaken California in technology, has almost an equally large economy as Australia, its Texas Medical Center being the largest in the world, and owning its distinction as the energy capital of the world. Living up to be a Texan, is a burden for almost anyone to justify, a shadow, too big to fill up. Its economic model of low taxation and minimal regulation has been producing extraordinary growth, attracting steady relocation of people from all over. The place is also one of conflicting statistics; politically the Democrats controlling the cities while the Republicans holding the majority control of the state for decades, where the minorities form a majority, including the largest adherents of Muslims anywhere in the United States.
    As he narrates the several unsettling attempts from the Trumpian leadership, Mr. Wright remains optimistic of the impending progressive changes, the inclination of the state gradually turning purple, with the working-class voters realizing the doom and reacting with their votes. He envisions such a possibility of the tides turning, if the Democrats were to pick a moderate candidate, a leader who would pay attention to the declining educational standards, improving the dilapidated infrastructure, accepts the scientific advice regarding the ubiquitously disastrous climate changes, bring on reasonable gun laws and engages in the many needed social reforms.
    To those who have chosen Texas as their home, the discussion turned out to be quite educational of its history, its evolution, its opportunities and its political fluctuations as he concluded it offering hope for a possible change of fortunes, and for a potentially prosperous future. The session turned out to be an interesting, intimate, inside perspective from an erudite Texan, whose political opinions may not be agreed by some, but nevertheless worth everyone’s introspection. ( 18 September, 2019)

Migrant Words: Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni,ama Makdisi

     International Organization of Migration (IOM agency of the United Nations), since its inception in 2000, has published its ninth report in 2018 with the purpose of contributing to an increased understanding of migration throughout the world. In a fast-evolving, global, socio-political arena where facts and expertise have been pushed aside by opinionated agendas and self-centered leadership, the role of IOM is crucial. Never in the history of humanity than the present have we required a better and more realistic understanding of migrants and what compels them to migrate. The topic on ‘Migrant Words’ during the JLF Houston session was thus a most timely and essential subject for understanding, analysis and assimilation.
     The organizers could not have chosen a better panel of discussants than Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, Mira Jacob and Ussama Makdisi- celebrated authors and themselves migrants who have generously contributed to their adopted countries and who could profusely relate to personal experiences encountered as migrants. In a country like the United States of America, where everyone except the sparse and isolated native is a migrant, the present, alarming dialogs and looming developments about migration is a threateningly dangerous trend.
     As a country of immigrants, America is a nation built by them and continues to benefit from their ongoing efforts in essentially maintaining this place. If the Nobel laureates, corporate executives, scientists, teachers, doctors and technologists are enriching this country with their scholarly contributions, the less educated labor migrants keep our farms yielding, roads built, and buildings cleaned. The migrants also bring in a wealth of their cultural treasures, adding on to the kaleidoscopic collage of this magnificent nation. Yet, there are disturbing instances that we all face, of discrimination and racial profiling. The three panelists enumerated sad references and anecdotes of discrimination that they have observed and what their children endured from bias and intimidation, the parents not even knowing how to console them or compromise on dignity.
     As much as the writers and their writings focus on educating the younger generation of our culture and our ethnic customs with a hope to pass on their legacy, it serves to update those we left behind on our plight here, as well as to educate the curious locals and help them become comfortable with and appreciative of alien habits and the migrant’s plight. Through fictional characters created by the writers and through our social and cultural interactions with the locals, our generation of migrants desires to generate a sense of compassion and sensitivity in the policymakers in dealing with newcomers.
     The future of immigrants in America is hard to predict. The prevailing trend, the tribe mentality of America as evident from the many sections of the present government colluding to make it hard for immigrants, is disturbing, even scary. The leadership hopefully would change and resort to understanding and accommodating all, without discrimination and with equanimity. Writers do play a significant role in achieving the status. (18 September 2019)

Corona Conundrums – Reporting from Kerala.

“Trust the Wait. Embrace the uncertainty. When Nothing is Certain, Anything is possible”

     The lines by Mandy Hale, creator of the social media movement, ‘The Single Woman’, seem clairvoyant of pandemic Corona. We all may have endured extreme personal tribulations, but a global calamity of this magnitude threatening our way of life is unique; inimitable. As millions are affected, there are millions of anecdotes, from intense tragedies to trivial discomforts; of death, suffering, disruptions, confinements, and lost jobs, of heroics, sacrifice, and altruistic endeavors – the list is long and alarming.
     From my leisurely, retired life in Houston, our ‘annual pilgrimage’ to Kerala was about over, when the virus struck. We could have traveled, but some premonition prompted me, ‘better, don’t’. I am glad that we didn’t.
     My reflections are from a Kerala perspective relating to what I observed and heard of the ‘misadventures’ of Covid-19.
     The first Corona patient of India, a medical student from Wuhan, came to Kerala and experiencing sorethroat and a cough, reported to the local health inspector. She was immediately admitted to Thrissur General hospital. On January 30, she tested positive to Covid-19, was isolated, treated, offered emotional counseling, and was discharged on February 19, into home quarantine. Approached by the social media, she was concerned about her family having to face stigma and contacted the health authorities, who handled it discreetly. “I was afraid of my family members could be infected too”.
     Kerala is praised globally for its impeccable efficiency in handling the monstrous bug. After the recent debacles with the floods and Sabarimala controversy, the communist government is scrupulously managing the myriad of issues with the pandemic. The state is coordinating with the Center and its decisions of lockdowns, an efficient team implementing them, as applicable on a district level. The system is set up to record information from arriving people, screening them, ambulances taking the symptomatic ones to hospitals, others quarantined in designated places or own residences, food provided, and constantly kept in touch. The general public is receiving free ration packages, migrant workers sheltered with free food, and being gradually dispatched to their states. There are discussions by panels of agricultural, industrial, and economic specialists about handling the fallouts after the pandemic.
     Along with totally dedicated healthcare workers, DISHA tracking with phone Apps, social workers managing 24-hour tele-health helpline, CM’s helicopter service, ‘Break the Chain’ propaganda, NORKA for NRI’s, constantly updated information, educational institutions and public places closed, hotspots declared, Kerala has kept Corona under control, so far.
     Here is an instance to exemplify the leadership’s dedication. A nephew of mine, the accounting administrator of Southern Railways in Chennai gets a call from one Shailaja, and when he doesn’t seem to recognize, she admits, ‘I’m the Health Minister’ from Kerala. She searched and found a Malayalee Menon holding a responsible position in the railways and pleaded for help, in transporting stranded people to and from Kerala! The very same Shailaja teacher who contained the Nipah virus in 2018. And not by chance, the Health minister, DHS, DME, 11 out of 14 DMOs, and 65 percent of doctors in Kerala are females!
    Kerala nurses are legendary for efficiency and empathy. Sister Mridula had this to say; “today I know the scariest situation in life, being stuck in a room, wrapped up in protective gear, sweating, unable to drink, eat or use the restroom for hours, with no one to talk to and at risk of being the next victim”.
    Beyond wiping out human lives and testing the limits of expertise, farreaching tentacles of the microbe are infiltrating every filament of our established norms of life. Stories of parents dying with children unable to reach, events postponed indefinitely, single and old family members isolated, sick ones struggling to find a doctor, doctors coping with restrictions and frustrated patients, workers without jobs, disrupted schooling and several such are commonplace, poignant tales. The state is also receiving their share of criticisms, for not doing enough screening tests or research studies, and not adequately prepared for the influx of Pravasis; fear of impending cataclysm.
    Migrant workers are facing havoc, the states panicking, unable to handle them. Laborers, many with children walking hundreds of miles to their villages, with barely any food or drink, and when eventually making it, many are banned out of fear! Heart- breaking stories of a teenage daughter cycling for thousand miles with her sick father on the back carrier, or the son hand-carrying his father for miles, are routine.
    Keralites are passionately ‘self-convinced intellectuals’ with individual opinions, always a step ahead of others and authorities. In addition to party politics, there is abuse of social media spreading wrong information from ‘scientific gurus’ and criminal minds, disruptions out of ignorance, disobedience, impatience, disbelief in authority, foolishness, arrogance, and sheer personal situations that cannot be contained within the imposed restrictions. Even a Kollam sub-collector IAS officer, was suspended for violating the quarantine.
    Our friends stranded in Chennai managed to fly on US Consulate evacuation flight through Mumbai and Atlanta, landing in Houston after 36 hours. Their experience was ‘more grueling than their trip to Mt. Kailash’, with hours at the hot airports, congested lines, numerous forms to sign, $2000 promissory notes, and many screenings in India, yet none in the US. A lady who traveled from Mumbai to Kerala had nothing but praises for her home state.
    Shifting gear from the negatives and assumptions of doom, we need to divert our thoughts to comforting modes, discover creative ways to escape the misery; contemplate, introspect of what life is all about, rediscover relationships, cultivate compassion, and appreciate the abundance of nature. Do gardening, experiment with cooking, read books, write memoirs, enjoy music, or just ruminate.
    A situation offered to us or enforced on us is perhaps with a designated design, an intended purpose to make us better humans. Let us accept it that way. (May 26, 2020)

Covid 19 – Contemplations from India

Within the concept and contexts of a ‘Multiverse’, Mother Nature demands periodic, mandatory manipulations. Like geological adaptations and ecological assimilations, microbial invasions may be elemental impositions that She dictates to keep the ‘balance’, and for the ‘Act’ to continue.

The Covid-19 could be one such ‘obligatory adjustment’.

     India is ‘an equal opportunity’ participant in the ongoing saga of the Corona pandemic, a global calamity of the century, mercilessly muddling human lives from a multitude of established foundations. As the ‘microbial marathon’ got off the starting block, the country, quite surprisingly yet convincingly, was a cautious competitor. But as the race is entering ten months, and the destination-tape keeps shifting backwards, India is gathering a malevolent momentum, with the numbers spiking and the frightening anecdotes from them, surging.
     The first Corona patient of India, a medical student from Wuhan, China, came to Kerala, tested positive on January 30, 2020, admitted and discharged on February 19. The first death was of a 76-year-old Karnataka man on March 12. The initial hotspots were cities like Mumbai, New Delhi and Chennai, reporting crowded hospitals, mounting death-toll, shortage of healthcare workers and a dark cloud of terror cast over the nation.
     From July, the cases began spreading exponentially from metropolitan to rural areas, states like Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamilnadu and UP leading the pack. From dignitaries to politicians, entertainers to sports personalities, rich or poor, irrespective of age or sex, the indiscriminate tsunami has been gobbling up our essential existence.
     Professor Ashish Jha, from Harvard Global Health Institute, (recently, Dean of Brown University), in an interview with Karan Thapar in June, referring to the Gu Model (YYG), implied the counts to be erroneous due to faulty data and may 152 far exceed the projections, eventually, half of India getting the Covid, with deathtoll into several millions. A more considerate SEIR model, though, predict the decline as early as mid-October. As of this writing and as per the Covid tracking App Arogya Setu, used by 160 million Indians, about 7 million are infected, almost a million active with around 80,000 daily new cases and the lives lost, exceeding 100,000.
     While the PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) being the gold standard diagnostic test, the Health Ministry through ICMR has introduced faster and cheaper tests like antibody tests, rapid antigen and other types, doing about 1.2 million tests per day. Different states resorting to their own choice of testing, add to statistical inconsistencies.
     Kerala State, reporting three of the first 6 cases in India, made global headlines containing the spread, despite its highest population density and old-age people.
     Health Minister Shailaja teacher and her remarkable team initiated the ‘disaster management’ policies ahead of the Center and other states, implementing the ‘break the chain’ campaign. But by October, Kerala reminded the ‘rabbit and turtle’ fable, with maximum active cases per million, obviously, some irresponsible crowding from many, unruly events reversing all the early accomplishments.
     Government of India ordered its first 21-day-lockdown on March 24, extending it often, and unlocking in stages based on updated situations. The National Disaster Management Authority restricted movement of people across states and districts, limiting large assemblies, closing shopping complexes, cinema halls, religious institutions, and public transportation. The lockdowns slowed down the spread, buying time to study the disease and getting closer to vaccine availability. Most worthy of India, the largest global manufacturer of vaccines, is the country’s promise to provide vaccines worldwide, as Adar Poonawalla, CEO of the Serum Institute of Poona referred to Sri Modi’s recent speech at UN Assembly, where the PM legitimately criticized UNGA for excluding India out of its decisionmaking structures.
     The Covid-19 has painfully hurt the Indian economy. GDP suffered a 24% drop in the April/June quarter, its domino effects infiltrating every segment of life and the nation predicted to have its worst recession since Independence. The government has liberally pumped in billions of dollars as financial aid, several other sources promising support.
     What lies ahead? Almost all the expert projections have been mirages in the mist. Each country has its own script, and so has India. The virus reaching into the vast and varied masses, our populous nation is still fighting its initial wave and struggling to contain and quash the infection. Following restrictions, anticipating herd immunity and availability of vaccine, the pandemic would eventually be 153 contained, though the lives compromised and damages inflicted before normalcy returns, would remain anybody’s guess.
     But the lessons we learned would hopefully jolt our conscience and common sense, waking us up into a ‘new beginning’, respecting Mother Nature, and adapting a harmonious and universally sustainable ‘Symbiotic Existence’.

A Nair is a Nair

     A Nair is a Nair, as long as he opts to sustain that standing. Why is a Nair a Nair, how can one remain a Nair, is allowed to be a Nair, ceases to be a Nair, or chooses not to be a Nair? And when is a Nair, not a Nair? It is for us Nairs to explore, analyze, understand, adjust and adapt. And most importantly, what is our meaning, role, responsibility, and obligation as a Nair?
     The ‘offer’ to write for the NSS convention souvenir reached me as I arrived in Kerala, aspiring to visit my siblings, extended family members and friends, and in the midst of an unusually heavy and drenching deluge of the Monsoon. Contemplating on what to write about, with some relevance to the theme and regime of the Nair Service Society, I am venturing into my own life of over eight decades, lived in three continents and how that span has molded my personal perspectives on Nairs, their lives, status, direction and future from a global standpoint.
     I am a Nair, a Menon by designation, labelled based on the prevailing customs of the era. My mother’s, as well as my father’s Tharavad, were Menons in Kochi state, while my mother’s father was Raman Nair from Malappuram of old Malabar. My parents were brought up with matrilineal traditions that were distinctive of Nairs, but gradually through my generation and nuclearization of the system, the customs changed and blended with the universal habit of families headed by the father, the earning member of the family.
     As we acknowledge human life as the highest, divine endowment, I was lead to believe that being born into a respectable Nair family was a privileged, honored assignment to be cherished and nourished as dictated by certain perceived regulations of the times. I was raised in an extended, three generational setup with grandparents and parents designing and managing the supervision of the children. It was with tacit discipline that we were subjected to guidelines in every aspect of behavior, with customary instructions and timetable on how to conduct ourselves through the day, through life. Like a well-directed cinema, we were scripted, edited and screen-played on our routine, from getting up before daybreak, through the ordeals of daily routine, bathing, praying, studying, dressing, and eating, the kind of language we used, how we behave with others, on absolute honesty, performance at schools and essentially every little detail of maintaining dignity and poise. A step out of the prescribed allowance would be considered an insult and humiliation to the family, the status of the household that was for each of us to uphold.
     That certain distinction, instilled in us from a very young age, was assumed to be the standard of culture, that every Nair was obliged to cultivate, to uphold a legacy that belonged to the class of our creed like a knighthood bestowed on us. We believed that the status of a distinct dignity comes with the inherent responsibility of behavior that we offered others as they reciprocated with subtle deference and an expectation of accountability that came with it.
     The last eight decades would perhaps be the most tumultuous and ethnically rebellious in the history of Kerala. India gaining independence from the British would also sadly mark the end of an epoch when we began to lose our cultural integrity and appreciation for a certain pride and poise that we cultivated for centuries. Ironically, the foreign rule imposed on us a sense of implied cohesion, a need for bonding, that we used our rich, millennia-old traditions as a protective cocoon against a common enemy. After their exit, instead of strengthening our traditional values in a free India we lost that focus as well as respect for our priceless heritage, abusing the power of freedom to squander away what our saintly ancestors have generously bequeathed us. If aping the west and grabbing their worst marked the end of our regimented habits based on pristine Vedic traditions, the communistic encroachment derided us of our spiritual inclination, annihilated our work ethics and conditioned us from respecting others. The cancerous growth of technology and its obscene influence on the behavior of people extinguished the few remnants of our adherence to age-old customs and religious and cultural observances.
     Hindus in general and Nairs, in particular, were the worst casualties of modernization, embracing all the evils of such changes and with a penchant to discard their prized habits. Unlike the Christians or Muslims who obey the strict guidance of the churches and mosques, with no such authority in Hindu ways of life, the parents not being aware of any responsibility to instill such fundamental values in their children, our past two or three generations gravitated into a state of basic religious and moral bankruptcy. Establishments like the misguided, communistic pseudo-principles attracted the passionate young minds, robbed them of respect for our old habits, eradicated sentiments of religiosity and forced us to foolishly embrace and cultivate hollow ideologies that appealed to their disoriented minds.
     For us, the expatriate Nairs who are sentimental and nostalgic about our past glory and making every attempt to rekindle and re-establish the concept of ‘Nairhood’ in our adopted land, handing it down to our future generations, it may be relevant to periodically update the status of our old glory in our motherland and adjust our actions as appropriate and practical. Every time I visit Kerala, as I walk through the streets of Ernakulam where I grew up, the scenes I witness, the changes that have undergone and the behavior of its present inhabitants, stab my conscience and tear up the inner filaments of my emotions. To say the least, it is abysmal, devastating, and deplorable. I would rather ruminate on my old, majestic, royal little town and be content that I was fortunate to grow up in that era.
     There is a drastic and measurable change in the outlook and habits of the Nairs in today’s Kerala, more by their own choice that subsequently and inevitably forced us and our traditions out of style, out of power, and out of the picture. We have discarded our cultural habits, our social discipline, our pride, our communal responsibility, as well as losing our economic dominance, and in turn, squandering claims of any status worthy of gloating. Many of the recent movies, novels, and stories depict the harsh reality of the Nairs who are portrayed as servants in the kitchens, shops, and industries of the newly wealthy and affluent non-Hindus, who earned their status by diligent hard work or perhaps some of them gaining it through backdoor tactics. In the popular scenarios, we often see a Chackochen muthalali ordering a Narayani Amma to wash his under clothes or a Kunju Mohammed shouting at a Kesavan Pillai for not cleaning his footwear. The tables have turned.
     Is it the finale? Has the last curtain already been drawn and have the Nairs reached a point of no return? Hard to say. Unless something drastic is done and if the present course is allowed to continue, a pathetic end is inevitable and assured. And sadly, many ‘Nairs’ wouldn’t even know or care. Before we arrive at that ominous conclusion, it would be prudent to analyze how we got here and what were the many factors involved in our downfall. This short article doesn’t have the scope for an elaborate exploration, but in a nutshell, it may be summarized as our own despicable apathy, disregarding our precious legacy and foolish, pitiable subjugation to wrong influences.
     The approach to meet and correct the situation must be after extensive deliberation, education, and discussion while the moves must be instituted on a cohesive, global scale. Being very much aware that many of the leaders may have already attempted such endeavors, I am adding my thoughts for whatever they are worth.
     Get informed of the profound legacy of our heritage; proudly learn our ancestral accomplishments gained through their scholastic efforts, yearn to digest 148 the immense wisdom that they possessed and how they utilized it for the benefit of the community; and bask in that glory not to boast with arrogance, but to regain the ownership that can bring back our glory days. Propagate the values of our history, and its benefits, share, spread, disseminate to those who are interested. Be inclusive, not restrictive. Bring back our old, inculcated austerity of habits, prayers, observations of our festivals, temple related routines, stressing them as building blocks of character, honesty, efficiency, education, leadership – fundamental, clean, healthy Hindu values. Be cognizant and alarmed of our adversaries, the several, immensely potent, drastic, resourceful, internal and external agencies that work through political, religious, evangelical, radical, economic, and vicious vehicles. Distinctly identify our friends who share our values, hopes and obligations, and discretely detect our enemies who deceive and destroy us through subtle, malicious means. Create and strengthen our base, gathering and broadening similar-minded groups, establish political unity, economic stability, and a willingness and commitment to enhance our fundamental interests. Utilize the conventions and Karayogams not just to socialize, entertain and promote selfinterests, but also to share concerns, to understand our situation, mutually educating and designing long-term solutions, to steadily cultivate our culture and periodically monitor, adapt and modify our modus operandi. Set definite goals and work with unity, camaraderie, focus, pride and intense fear of the impending peril and of possible extinction. What we do today will determine of what we would become tomorrow. Do not let the history books of the twenty-second century designate Nairs and NSS as mythological entities.
‘Nairs of the present’ do not want to follow the dinosaurs of the past.
(Written for the souvenir of the NSS Chicago Convention, June 30, 2018.)

New America

     I have only felt so proud once before in my life as I am feeling now; as a tenyear-old when India received Independence on Aug 15, 1947.
     Tonight I witnessed history being made which I never imagined to happen in my life time, when conscience of Americans reversed its sense of guilt and gave hope to fairness and decency, when the young and the educated of this great nation endorsed change with conviction, when urgency prevailed over petty personal needs and wants and fear, when equality claimed victory as a penance for its past, when the concession speech reflected the dignity and decency of the splendor of American politics, when the brilliance and eloquence of the new leader rekindled hope for all in this great land, when we emphatically proved that this is a country which provides the best opportunity to the eligible and the determined.
     Let us hope and pray that we all are worthy of a better world and future. Let God bless humanity. (My ‘Letter to the Editor’, Houston Chronicle, when Barack Obama was elected President)

Need a Fresh Look.

     It is time for all Indians and people of our kind to take a fresh look at our status, to reevaluate our perception, and make amendments as needed based on each one’s assumptions. It has happened in many countries and as much as we believed that it will never happen here, we must be cognizant of the present, precarious plight of many of us in this country, who have a different shade of skin color, an atypical accent, diverse social habits or food preference than the mainstream of ‘Americans’. We are first generation immigrants and our descendants who are born and brought up here. We are all legal residents or natural citizens. Yet. But we live in troubled times.
     The statement may be cliché, but our concern is real and out of fear of ongoing developments. It is recent, acute, and authentic, as we seem to be at the clemency of some of the ‘so-called real Americans’ who have been given clearance to rampage against those who they despise, malicious with their racist bias and hatred.
     The unique status of America as the greatest nation on earth owes it to the original settlers from Europe, the white Anglo-Saxons, and the slaves they brought in who toiled over for centuries in building this republic. But in the last several decades, the influx of the bright, elite intellectuals from the East with professional training, played a substantial role in helping this country with education, healthcare, computer technology, engineering, and the like. Such skilled contributions are undeniably relevant and crucially inimitable in the progress of any country, and the immigrants from Asia have to be acknowledged and admired without reservation.
     Qualified professionals in several fields like physicians, engineers, computer specialists, scientists, researchers, accountants, nurses and such who came in from the sixties and seventies contributed in big ways to create the new wave of progress here. Being a land of immigrants, America has benefited and prospered from such help from foreigners and the brain drain from their motherland. It is noteworthy that neither did we leave India from its oppressive regimes, nor due to its political atrocities. We just looked out for greener and prosperous pastures to graze, against the interest of the country that trained us. We toiled hard, we rose through the ranks, we succeeded in our vocations, and we earned many laurels. We raised families, built homes, took vacations and our life, in general, was cozy and rewarding. We created several religious, philanthropic, cultural and political organizations, our arts, music and culinary treats appealing to the mainstream. We brought in our unique, ethnic customs and traditions to this ‘melting pot’, and we contributed to enrich and enhance the already vivid and kaleidoscopic culture of America. As we thrived and prospered, we have become the most educated and most affluent ethnic community in this country.
     There is another salient reality about many of the foreign professionals who opted to come to America. India has substantially devoted its resources in training us with a purpose that we would serve the needs of that country and its people. But we left India (we may have a million reasons why) and spent the rest of our professional career in the USA, contributing to the benefit of this country. Our input and service to the United States were done as compliments from the educational system of India, from her resources, at the expense of the people there who should have received that benefit, and against the intent with which such establishments were set up there. The United States and its progress owe us a great deal and are immensely indebted to India and several such countries for the generosity that is seldom recognized and appreciated. And most of us who benefited from such free training and chose to migrate for better comforts in life remain oblivious, and often ungrateful to our mother countries.
     But suddenly, the situation here seems to be changing and hence such a concern. With the current commotions about immigration, attacks on people who look ‘different’ with shades of brown skin, wearing sarees or with dots on their forehead, strange accents, food habits, and social customs, we are forced to reevaluate our status and situation here, in the land we adopted to domicile. It is an imperative action for our future generations as well. Even though it is from a minuscule minority, some ‘opinionated Americans’ see ‘our kind’ as unwanted, inferior, and worthless to live here. The recent incidents of hate crimes, harassment at schools and workplaces, random accusations and insults, shooting and killing innocent people may all be consequent to the xenophobic rhetoric of some irresponsible authorities.
     If the killing of Kuchibotla in Kansas City is the worst expression of hate, there are many such sporadic incidents, obviously perpetrated by the new ranking of and consequent gaze at immigrants here. The plight of the two Indian neurologists Drs. Satija and Ummat in Houston, should alert and prepare many of us who may face the same predicament. Whether they were targets of the perverse pride of the immigration department or were overstepping the legal boundaries by illegally occupying the space is not the issue. It is obvious that some of the fearmongering authorities seem to be on a rampage to evict our sort of people who they consider undeserving to belong here. The United Air episode against the Vietnamese doctor is a blatant case of discrimination. Several such incidents may ensue against worthy, productive and reputable professionals who have already proved their mettle or are waiting to be regularized. It is quite understandable if the inflow of immigrants is limited to suit our needs here, but discrimination against the already working professionals is injustice, bias, prejudice. It is totally wrong.
     The hate perpetrators seem to have no clue about our contributions or commitment in this country. The level of their education or prejudicial upbringing limits their ability to realize that many of us are assets keeping America great. They do not care to accept that most of us are much more productive than average citizens here, that we are law abiding, family oriented, tax paying, peaceful, loyal members who have put in more than we have taken out. And we did not sneak in to grab the place unlawfully; we were accepted as qualified professionals.
     What can we do about it, or what should we do about it? The reality is that we came to stay here, and here we are. Our children and future generations are bound to be living here. As hard as we chose to leave our native motherland, as much as we struggled to get established here, we have certain imposing responsibility to meet and adjust to pressing demands as they arise. Each of us as individuals and the several organizations that we created have a role to protect us from such plights. We need to educate our people to follow the lawful guidelines if they desire to stay here, and collectively such instructions have to be dispersed in our communities and by the various organizations. We should also be vigilant, taking robust measures to stand up to atrocities committed against our kind by hateful and loutish racists, who resort to violence.
     Refining the ignorant and humanizing the racists should be a fundamental and essential step. And for that, sincere understanding, sympathy and commitment from caring, sensible citizens of this country have to come through. We could work with ‘the real Americans’ who could help educate the uninformed, the misguided and the prejudiced ones about the reality about migrants like us. They should realize the fact that when their drunken son crashes his car and is taken into the ER, the doctor who saves his life on the operating table may have brown skin under the mask; the college professor who lectures to their daughter in the chemistry class may have an accent but is well qualified; many of the experts who designed their phone or laptop are very likely to have strange last names but are experts in their fields. The several professionals who came from outside are tirelessly involved in research in laboratories, hospitals, universities, corporations, computer industry, aeronautics, financial institutions and such, intent to improve the comforts in life or inventing cures to prolong precious lives. Several such people may look or act different, but they donate ‘in big ways’, to help ‘keep America great’.
     Troubled times can and must be handled by increasing awareness, improved precautions, explicit instructions, and adopting appropriate measures as relevant as required.