She Reads South Asia


Friday, December 30, 2005

My Review of Narendra Jadhav's "Untouchables"

Untouchables: My Family’s Triumphant Journey Out Of The Caste System In Modern India

It is a fact that 1 out of every 6th person on the face of the earth is an Indian. What is staggering and often unknown is the fact that 1 out of every 6th Indian, which ultimately translates to 165 million people is an untouchable or a Dalit, the lowest caste position in Hinduism. Over many, many years these people have been subjected to inhuman cruelties, subsequently having been made lower than animals.

Untouchables is a history of one such family of the Dalit caste and their journey to free themselves from it. With all the severe hardships and excruciating trials, the author’s father rebelled against the atrocities that almost killed him and the ones who mercilessly rendered such upon these innocent and docile people.

This amazing and intense story will make you laugh a little, cry a lot and assess your life in great detail. A heart-wrenching account told from Narendra’s parents, Damu and Sonu’s point of view; each chapter ending with one’s narrative and picking up with the other’s on the same event and continuing forward.

It takes place during a crucial time in India’s history, when Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar and Mahatma Gandhi were touring the nation with their speeches, rallying people for the great cause - Freedom.

The love, courage and determination Damu and Sonu have for each other, their children and their freedom eventually proves victorious, thus affording their children a better life than their own.

As you read this story, allow yourself to be drawn in and forever changed, while entering a world where unimaginable events happen to a people with no way out of the predicament into which they were born. Your senses will be awakened, as you will almost taste the grilled bhakris and hot chai, smell the stench of cow dung, which hangs heavily in the air, hear the hunger cries of both children and adults, feel the stings of the whip as it cracks against raw flesh, experience the fervor of the protestors and in the end rejoice with the victors after seeing the mighty determination they possess.

Narendra Jadhav breaths life into his father’s diaries and endless family stories and shares them so that we may come to understand a world much different from our own. . . Or is it?

Monday, December 26, 2005

Kahani, a US magazine for South Asian children

The following information was given to me from SAJA news.

Newspapers in metros with large South Asian populations could take several angles with the Kahani profile.

They could talk about why two women in Boston were motivated to start a magazine for South Asian children.

We started Kahani because we wanted to make a difference in the lives of South Asian children. There is plenty of good children's literature that reflects the mainstream American experience. And there is plenty of literature available in India about Indian culture and folklore, but there is not enough literature for our children that reflects their multicultural experience growing up here.

Our children go through a fascinating bi-cultural experience. They go for soccer and ballet classes, but they also go for Indian music and dance classes; they eat pizza and burgers, but they also enjoy Indian food; they listen to music by Britney Spears but they also listen to Hindi songs from Bollywood movies; they get embarrassed if grandma comes to school in a sari; and they go for long vacations to their native country to meet extended family. In most public libraries and book stores, there are very few stories about brown-skinned children, with names like Anju and Ahmed, who go through experiences like these. The few books available are typically about our festivals - Diwali, Holi and Eid. We started Kahani to fill this vacuum.

They could talk about the amazing quality of the magazine…

Kahani is the first magazine of its kind in the children’s market. We work hard to produce a quality product. There are no ads in the magazine. All the stories and all the art in Kahani are original and have been especially produced for us. A number of well-known South Asian children’s writers and illustrators have contributed to Kahani, including Uma Krishnaswami, Mitali Perkins, Ruth Jayaveeran, Pooja Makhijani, Rukhsana Khan and Anjali Bannerjee. The stories are complemented by non-fiction articles: a regular column by renowned linguist Anu Garg; a science and math column by T.V. Padma; A “Spotlight” on a successful South Asian role model; Rreviews of South Asian books; and a fun cartoon strip! Librarians across the country have loved the depth and quality of the magazine.

South Asian children deserve a quality product, tailored just for them!

They could talk about Kahani’s upcoming story-writing contest….

We are launching Kahani’s First Annual Young Writer’s Contest in November. We want kids to use their creativity and write a short story which includes the words, “mango,” “elephant” and “rikshaw.” In January we will launch an Art Contest, in which kids will be called on to illustrate the winning story. The winning combination will be published in the magazine. There will be cash prizes and several winning stories will be published on our website. The kids will have fun.

We want South Asian children to have a platform to express their unique talents. We want as many kids as possible to find out about the contest and participate. It would be great if mainstream newspapers could find out about the Contest and write about it to inform their readership.

For more information, our website is: Kahani.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

One Year Anniversary of Tsunami

In honor of the one-year anniversary of the tsunami, we give you these two articles by veteran international journalist Ken Moritsugu. You can also listen to interviews conducted by Sandeep Junnarkar with Mr. Moritsugu on the corresponding pages.

Tsunami aid distributed unevenly between India's fishing and farming villages

A Rush to Rebuild Leads to Wasted Effort

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Indian baby born with external heart dies

I cried while ready this article. It is a shame that she died when it could have been prevented.

Infant girl developed infection; parents couldn't afford surgery


Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Book Review - The Speech Of Angels

Not your average rags-to-riches story!

Sharon Maas uses ‘The Speech of Angels’ to capture the vivid sights, the cacophony of sounds and the pungent smells of the darkest backstreets in Bombay, India, while taking you to the elite and elaborate dwellings in Germany and London in the same breath.

Her writing style excites the reader and draws them into a world, which may be different from their own, yet allows them to wholly relate to the story and empathize with the characters portrayed. It is a book that cannot easily be put down without devouring every page, right to the very last. The rich details and striking descriptions she utilizes paint an intense picture that becomes embedded in the reader’s mind and is not soon forgotten.

Jyothi is a five-year-old street child from Bombay, whose eyes are a mirror into her soul. A shy little girl who doesn’t fit in anywhere in her own country, let alone a strange new Western one, until the day when it is discovered that she possesses a rare musical talent. With the urgings and encouragement from her adopted family and few close friends, Jyothi, in time, transforms into the international musical phenomenon - Jade.

Music becomes her life, her very being; conveying everything her words cannot. So what happens when her beloved music is taken away? How will she survive the turmoil raging within her? When she does, will it be as Jyothi or Jade?

Her soul-searching journey begins with the confrontation of shadows, fears and the images of a world she so desperately tries to leave behind. Follow Jyothi as she wraps herself in a cocoon and with time and nurturing emerges a beautiful butterfly.

You can find The Speech of Angels and Sharon’s other books - Of Marriageable Age and Peacocks Dancing at

Sharon's site can be found here/

Talking To Your Teen

Many parents Indian and otherwise find it difficult to talk with their teens about the issues that they face everyday - peer pressure, smoking, drugs, dating, sex, etc. I found it just as difficult getting any teens to agree to talk with me about these for an interview. But one young girl steppped up to the plate and spoke candidly with me. Here is the article that was published in India New England Newspaper last week.

By Simran Silva

Editor’s Note: This project was to evolve as a conversation with a few South Asian teens about everyday issues they face. Unfortunately, getting teens to talk on record was quite a challenge. This article therefore looks only at one teen’s views. It is by no means meant to encompass all teens’ views on the topics discussed. If you are a teen and would like to contribute to the conversation, please send a letter to the editor at with relevant contact information. Anonymous letters will not be accepted.

Today’s youth don’t have it as easy as they did years ago. They are not only dealing with routine things such as life with family, friends and school but also the pressures and situations that some may not realize.

As adults, talking with them is essential but equally important is listening to them, hear what they have to say.

They may surprise or embarrass us with their questions and answers. Nonetheless, if we are to help them, we need to know exactly what they are facing, how it affects them and how they feel about it. It is normal that the embarrassment is there when discussing delicate matters. However, if we don’t have meaningful discussions and leave it to chance, we are asking for trouble.

Peer pressure has taken on a whole new meaning — not subtle for the most part, it entails issues that we sometimes don’t want to discuss. Yet, these issues are real and need to be addressed if we are going to keep our youth safe and help them become healthy adults. None are immune to the stresses and pressures thrown on us by life but with definite support groups in place and professional help they can be victorious.

Parents are not the only ones who feel uncomfortable discussing certain subjects openly; the teens are equally uncomfortable going to their parents or other adults, which is why they turn to each other, creating a recipe for disaster as it becomes a situation where the blind are leading the blind.

Issues like binge drinking, smoking, depression, drugs, dating and teen pregnancy are some of the main concerns facing our youth today, but talking about them and getting help still remains taboo in many instances.

Case in point, there were several teens that were asked to join in this discussion and they agreed to do so, until they read the questions. Many asked if their names had to be mentioned others came right out and said that the questions were too personal and embarrassing and decided not to contribute. However, a courageous young girl of 13, Natasha Sharma did answer them candidly. Speaking on the subjects of parents, peer pressure, dating, spirituality, school and drugs/drinking, this is the essence of what she had to say.

“I believe that honoring your parents is important. I mean they are the ones that work hard to put a roof over your head and food on the table. One of the things you can do for the things they have done for you is to respect and honor them.

They are wise, they have been in certain situations that might be very new to you and I believe that they deserve to know and they might be able to help you out. I look for guidance in my parents when I don’t know what to do and they advice me to do things that make my situations better. C’mon they’re parents they just know much more. Because they love you, they don’t want their kids getting in trouble or getting hurt. And it’s important for them to know where you are because then they aren’t worried that much and they know where to look for you if there’s an emergency.

How do I make real friends? You just do. It just happens. You might find someone who shares your interests and has good morals like you do. It just happens.

As far as peer pressure, someone I knew once said ‘what’s right isn’t always popular, and what’s popular isn’t always right’. That’s what I live by in terms of peer pressure. I am mature enough to tell what’s right and what’s wrong and I know I wouldn’t do anything stupid or things that might be hurtful and cause harm to people.

Teenagers want to be like others their age, have the things that others have, the cute boys like the popular girls, but being someone else is not always cool, the best person to be is just you. What does it say about a person if they like you for your looks and not who you really are? Don’t try to be someone you’re not; the world wouldn’t be exciting if all the people were the same, that’s why God made us all unique in our own way. Some may have negative feelings about themselves because of the things or situations they have gone through in life. A good way to build self-esteem would be to follow good morals, do good, be kind and learn to forgive; life is too short to be spent in hatred. Give the world the best you can, be proud of who you are.

Spirituality is important for youth but it also depends on what the person has been taught.

I think school has its pros and cons. You learn a lot, academically and gain experience. But then again you learn things that you might not like. Grades are important. Everything you do in life is somehow connected to the opportunities you get in the future.

If you had good grades and your friend has bad grades, you might be the one getting the higher position in a job. When you study hard early in life it pays off later. My goal is to get a good education. Education is very important in life and it is the one thing that people can’t take away from you. In your teenage years your mind is like clay, it’s taking shape and what you learn now is going to stay with you in the future. Also to get a good job that I like, and that I’m proud of doing.

I feel that dating means going out with someone that you have special feeling for. But you have to be careful because sometimes people make you do things that you might regret later. It’s important to know who you’re dating because you wouldn’t want to spend your life with someone that had things they never told you.

Kids get involved with drugs and alcohol partly because of stress and peer pressure. They try to do things that their friends think are ‘cool’. The dangers of drinking and driving are serious. If your friend or the person that is giving you a ride has been drinking, stop them from driving and don’t get into the car with them. You can get in an accident and end up in a hospital or even worse — dead.”

Wednesday, December 07, 2005


Well, I didn't reach the 50k mark to complete NaNoWriMo last month but I did get to 30k. Not bad for a month of writing. But I'm working on finishing the book and sending it out for publication as soon as it's done. My author page -

Here is the blogspace of one of my fellow NaNoWriMo/Absolute Write authors who did cross the finish line and kindly offered to help with some questions/translations for my story. What a gal!