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Posts Tagged ‘society’

Conversations Born from Stories

In Books on 2 June 2017 at 1:56 pm

You, Me, and a Story
Suresh Ediga
46 pages

The wheels on the bus go round and round!  goes a popular children’s ditty.  But what if the wheels stop turning?  What if people stop breathing?  Such are the questions that Suresh Ediga explored with his children when talking with them about such issues as the disaster in Bhopal, in which a pesticide factory exploded, leaking tons of toxic fumes, killing thousands instantly and poisoning the ground and water for decades.  This makes the first story in his collection, You, Me & a Story.  

The family that reads together! From left, Sireesha, Suresh, Surina, Suhash each holding a copy of You, Me & a Story.

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The Bully is Awake: How my Daughter Lifted me out of the Abyss

In Call to Action on 10 November 2016 at 12:00 pm
We know we have to get out of the abyss and onto the streets.  But how?
My daughter was as involved as I was in campaigning for Hillary Clinton this year.   Election Day morning, at her suggestion, a dozen of us held signs on a corner on Main Street, and many passersby cheered for us.  Since we live in a red county (in a blue state), we had hope that there were more people like that, even in other states.  Every time someone gave us a thumbs up or a supportive honk, we felt we were giving hope to people.  We rallied again in the evening, and then anticipated the results, sure that we would be celebrating.  When things looked bleak, we went to bed hoping for a turnaround by morning.  I woke to the nightmare.

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Bathrooms Accessible in Every Situation (BABIES) Act

In News & Notes on 7 October 2016 at 8:00 pm

Bathrooms Accessible in Every Situation (BABIES) Act

It is crazy that we need an Act to ensure that bathrooms are accessible in every situation but let it not be said that Obama just ignored the need as so many presidents before him.  Just in the nick of time too.  Thanks to his timely action, the men save face and can be satisfied that it did not need to wait for a woman president to make sure that they had a place to change babies diapers in public restrooms.

Obama and Baby aren't seeing eye to eye

Situation?  Obama and Baby aren’t seeing eye to eye …or maybe one of them’s gotta GO.

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Father, tell me about Kashmir

In How on 23 July 2016 at 11:00 am

A young boy asks his father, “What happened in Kashmir?”

father son sunset

Those of us sheltered from the daily horrors that have become a way of life in far too much of the world may be unprepared to answer honestly when our children ask us questions like this.  How do we reveal much less “explain” the violence in the world, when we don’t quite understand it ourselves?

Fred Rogers said about talking to children about such events – “look for the helpers.”  In any horrible scene (e.g. that you might read in the news) there will also be people who are helping, even if it is only the reporter bringing public attention to it.

Going one step further, one can try to be a helper – even from a distance, as this father tried to do.

“B, We have to go a protest today. Do you want to come too?”
“What is this protest, Acha (Dad in Malayalam)?”
“It is about a place called Kashmir. A lot of people have been killed and blinded there by the police and the army.”
“What happened there?”
“Ok, Let me tell you…..”

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Priceless Birthday Presents

In How on 12 June 2016 at 2:43 pm
As I was sending out invitations for our daughter’s birthday party, the question of gifts crossed my mind.  A long time ago I read in one of Miss Manners’ advice columns that it was bad manners to expect a gift.  Therefore, it followed that it was was not polite to offer any instructions about gifts to give or not give.  Although Miss Manners made a slight concession for children’s birthday parties, I agreed with her logic and simply kept gifts out of our vocabulary when inviting friends for parties.
Her concession, as I recall, was that one could, for example, decorate the invitation with images of say, books or trains, as a hint to parents wondering what to bring as a gift.  From the perspective of a parent of a child attending a birthday party, I can appreciate that it is nice to get such a hint.  But surely we can do better than that?  Can we not take the time to give a gift from the heart?
Also, let’s face it.  It’s 2016.  We know the Story of Stuff.

 

No one wants birthdays to be about accumulating more stuff.  But what is the alternative?

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We All Live in Bhopal: Sign Petition to White House

In Call to Action on 8 May 2016 at 12:50 pm

The Mother hiding her face with one hand and carrying her child in the other, weeps for all of us.  This is the Memorial Statue honoring the victims of what many call the world’s worst industrial disaster, the explosion in the Union Carbide factory in Bhopal on December 3, 1984.  Survivors have been struggling for justice for over 30 years and are now petitioning the White House meet US obligations under Treaty & international law by immediately serving notice upon Dow to attend court in Bhopal on July 13, 2016.

Sign here: Tell the US Government to Stop Shielding Dow Chemical from its Crimes in Bhopal

We all live in Bhopal – please SIGN the PETITION. And please share widely. It’s what Julia Ward Howe, who proclaimed Mother’s Day in 1870 would do.

About the Artist & Sculpture Read the rest of this entry »

Why do the poor not have money?

In Why on 22 December 2015 at 10:57 am

We pick up our conversation on Talking about Poverty with Toddlers with further musings on a question that followed from Why doesn’t Gandhi have clothes?

The question is:  Why do the poor not have money?
Note that the question is not “why is there poverty?”  One might say that poverty is defined as not having money but that is the definition of financial poverty.  One may have money and yet suffer cultural or nutritional poverty.  Recently the Times of India carried a report on the rich who eat poorly.   The increasing cases of malnourishment among the rich now have their own term, mall-nourishment.  There are people with money who suffer time-poverty.
One could ask: why do the rich have no time?  But to have no time is considered a status symbol, and is associated with being in demand, which by the laws of supply and demand, should make one rich.  Or at least expensive.
When we ask why the poor have no money we must also ask why the rich have money.  Such conversations can be really interesting and one should approach them with plenty of time, a brave heart, and a wide open mind.
This reminds me of something from a while ago …
During the major World Bank protest of 2000 I spoke to a first-grade class in Washington, DC.  It was on a sudden request from one of the local organizers who spotted me speaking at an event. I spontaneously said yes.  I had not prepared for how I was going to tell six-year-old children about why we were protesting the World Bank and IMF.

Nine picture books (and the winner is .. .)

In Books on 6 December 2015 at 8:00 pm

On the heels of one picture book spree I intrepidly went into the library for another.  I had not set out to do so when I left home.  One thing led to another … it happened like this:  Late in the afternoon, I stepped out to take in the atmosphere of townsfolk streaming out of downtown after the Christmas parade, while hundreds more stayed at Shamrock Park for the sing-along and tree lighting.  Normally among pedestrians, persons of color are the majority even though we make up only 10% of the population of Bel Air.  But on a few days like today and the fourth of July, we can take to the sidewalks and experience the sense of being a visible minority in our charming little town.  Nothing dramatic, all very subtle and on the whole pleasant.  (But still.)

I reached Shamrock Park and saw the tip of the bonfire flicker against the setting sun over the swarm of heads.   Only a few seconds after the countdown reached zero, followed by a coaxing, “hello!” the lights came on around the tree at the Town Hall.

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Whiteness, Food Colors, and Food Culture

In How on 4 September 2015 at 8:00 am

Food Colors and Food Culture

“No race ever yet ate black bread when it could get white; nor even brown, yellow, or other mulatto tint.”

Dr. Woods Hutchinson in McClure’s magazine, 1906.

In the mass conversion towards refined and processed foods that has swept much of the world over the past few generations, many foods normally occurring in a wide variety of earth tones, became white, as if a formidable fairness cream had descended upon the food industry.   White flour, white sugar, white bread, white spaghetti, white rice, white upma ravva, white urad dal occupied the markets.  At first a status symbol for those who could afford them, refined foods later became a status symbol for those who need not eat the coarser grains because they lived a delicate life and could hire workers to do their heavy lifting for them.  Eventually they themselves became cheaper than their whole grain counterparts, while the nutritious polish and peels were diverted to the livestock industry.

Thirty years ago, Sidney Mintz unpacked the social, economic and political context of food in his seminal work, Sweetness and Power.  The history of whiteness and power with respect to food offers much to explore.   While evolutionary biology may account for our predilection towards the quick calories that processed foods offer, taste and food habits evolve under a variety of influences and cultural messages.  Read the rest of this entry »

Black Gram Matters

In Recipes, When on 1 September 2015 at 2:04 am

Since when are idlis white?

Not more than a few generations.    And if you look at all things that have become white over the past century, one by one they are regaining their color.   White bread, white pasta, white flour, white sugar, white rice are now recognized as more or less empty calories and are being replaced by their whole counterparts, on the brown to black side of the color spectrum.  It is time for idlis to do the same.

Soaked Urad - bursting out of its skin!

Black Gram (Urad): Soaked and ready to burst out of its skin!  Urad or Black Gram attracts wild yeast from the air.  As it ferments, the yeast makes the batter rise.

What are idlis made of?  Black gram and rice.   Or black gram and millets. Read the rest of this entry »

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