Monday, May 30, 2016

Resilience

Vasu Reddy from Chicago
vasureddy@aol.com

Every now and then we keep discovering new civilizations of our past and we keep trying to assimilate the lifestyle and culture of a long lost era of our ancestors.  There is a definite time and place to the attitude to life at that given time.  The times and technology might continue to evolve and change, but the human resilience will remain adept to change with the times and continue to survive, prosper and most times be more successful with each event.  Sometimes life’s challenges, and at times in need, things are constant in change and human beings always are finding ways to survive and prosper.

The ability to be strong, healthy and/or successful after something bad happens, the ability to come back stronger after being knocked down by life; resilience.  It is our ability as human beings to find a way to succeed, and the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats and/or significant sources of stress related to family, friends, relationships, work place and financial issues; and being resilient to bounce back from any and all difficult human circumstances.

Along with ending the WW II (1945) we have had many instances of destruction and devastation caused by man, the big ones include after dropping the atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the nuclear plat meltdown in Chernobyl, being disastrous definitive examples of mankind’s ability to self-destruct with or without intent.  We know how to unleash power/s that we can’t control, and nuclear bomb is one such power.  The N Bomb can destroy beyond anyone’s imagination, and there is no plausible way to create a resilient society after the N Bomb.  We have only invented destruction that is irreversible.  The discovery of utility of nuclear energy has its benefits, but no one has yet to find a way to harness it without the consequences of irreversible damage to the environment, even in instances where it is used for peaceful purposes.  The irony is harnessing the sun and wind energy is much more practical and without the devastation, and much cheaper than the nuclear energy, and we have yet to jump into utilizing the free resources that are available to all of us on Earth.

After all these years (since 1945), Hiroshima which has very few survivors from the N Bomb attack, the impact on the city and its surroundings are still fresh.  The nature doesn’t have the ability to heal nuclear explosion.  In case of Chernobyl, the nuclear accident was unavoidable and manmade.  It is a classic case of human inability to harness the power that we really can’t manage in a controlled environment.  Similar accident in Japan’s nuclear reactor happened because of a Tsunami, and with the same results.  Today we look Chernobyl, completely desolate, still uninhabitable and a beautiful ghost town.

This past week President Obama visited Hiroshima.  It is a good gesture to pay respect to history and remember the devastation which was caused because of war, but the scars of the N Bomb remain, and will perhaps be forever.

There are many example of manmade and unimaginable destruction.  The lessons of history never seem to be learnt by humans, as we continue to find new ways to destroy.  We also see the nature and humans together are resilient after the devastation and destruction.  Luckily for humans, nature is really quite adept to resilience.

We continue the massive destruction in the ME, and no one really knows if anything is left behind in the devastation.  What we see is killings and loss of civilization; today’s and our past.

While it is true that natural disasters cause huge losses, we do get forwarding on the intensity of nature and have ample warning to get away from its path.  Typically natural disasters allow for rebuilding and regrowth, which is the beauty of the planet helping to rebuild self.  We most times rebuild with better infrastructure and facilities and try to prevent future natural disasters.  We reinvent ourselves in how we forecast and foresee the natural events, and build our life to best avoid the same situations.  We however can’t fathom planning for killing, bombing, attacking, terrorizing or abusing each other.  Man against man violence is simply act of barbarism that can’t foster resilience.

While humans are resilient in facing adversity, there is only so much nature can help in our survival.  It is entirely up to us to keep the earth habitable for generations after us.  Only the last 100 years our life on earth has been plagued with so much devastation and destruction, we have taken actions that have decimated hundreds of thousands of years of natural resilience.  If we continue to act the way we have in the last 100 years, there is little hope for the good earth as we know it.  It is time to reflect on who we are, and how precious earth is and life is, and it is time to reflect rather than be resilient.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Political Religion

Vasu Reddy from Chicago
vasureddy@aol.com

When elections season is in full force, the politics of religion come into full force.  In the USA this current political season (2016) especially for the republican politicians has been quite active on the religious front.  All said and done and with a lot of pandering to the religious groups (a lot of sounds were made towards the evangelicals) the end product of picking a republican candidate still ended up with choosing Donald Trump as the Republican nominee.  Go figure this out about the politics and combining them with religion, and Trump being the republican nominee.

Trump has made a lot of pronouncements degrading everyone and everything, and by doing so knocked out all his republican opponents.  His words and actions to date have been nothing less than boxing bouts of the worst kind without the gloves.  The republican primary campaign has not been civil, not been policy driven, not been one that has offered any solutions, it has simply been full of personal insults and almost fistfights, without the punching.  As incredible as it sounds Trump did knock out more than a dozen Republican heavyweights on his way to clinching the republican nomination.  It will only be civil to say what will come before the general election should be avoided by anyone who doesn’t like animosity.

Weather Trump is qualified or not, it really doesn’t matter anymore as the Republicans could not find anyone who will block him from their nomination.  No matter what’s out there as his accomplishments and life, there was not enough from other Republican candidate to stop him.  Religion was heavily broadcasted with the Republican agenda, but no one could convince the religious right and white vote bank to vote for anyone other than Trump.  This was one primary election where the personal profile or record of a person really did not matter to the religious groups or Republican voters.  Perhaps the past record of Republican Party’s performance in dealing with the religious groups is what has been the determining factor in them to vote for Trump, rather than their favored and or the so called Republican establishment candidates.

It is incredible that Trump just with crude language could knock out the heavy weight slate of Republicans out of contention in the primary.

The Democratic voters have yet put Clinton on the ballot on their behalf, and Sanders is still contesting for the Democratic party's nomination.  Neither Clinton nor Sanders pander as much as the Republicans do to the religious right.  The Democrats identify mostly with minorities; which itself is a massive conglomeration of hyphenated Americans, who are really fairly wide canvass of immigrants and locals who are a large groups of people of ethnic and racial backgrounds.  The Blacks, Chinese, Indians, Muslims, Hispanics, Women, Europeans, Asians, and whole slew of demographic and religious minorities all makeup of the Democratic Party’s vote bank.  These groups of people don’t necessarily have to be Christian, as many of them practice religion of their ancestral heritage.  It is difficult to distinguish the Evangelicals and Christian right or other religious groups that represent the majority why they would vote with any particular party, the identification of the religious right with Republicans is a political pitch that’s made in the American elections.  It doesn’t mean that all Evangelical Christians go to the polling booth and vote Republican.

Trump and Clinton both are not by any standard demonstrated that they are god fearing.  Clinton has been a lifelong democratic champion, who has a record of public service and there is nothing that people don’t know about her, and the voters are either for or against her.  Trump on the other hand is a new politician who also has a well-documented life which if people were not aware of, will for sure know everything about him before the presidential election.  By and large, the American electorate votes on their party lines; democrat or republican.  The only people in the middle, the so called independents who will probably are the swing voters, who might determine the election of the next President of the USA.  

Does religion really impact the voter behavior?  Most times not, as the party affiliation overrides any other matter.  The voters probably looking for a leader not just with religious leanings but are certainly more interested in economy, security and governance.  Democracies already foster religious independence, and as a political practice, religion simply will align with the party’s platform rather than a driving factor.  The beliefs of individuals and their religion is already aligned with the political parties, and no matter what the current candidates say or do, the religious affiliation of their representative parties is already well documented, and no matter what they say about the religious beliefs or practices will have little sway with the electorate.

Monday, May 16, 2016

The Importance of Feeling Secure

Vasu Reddy from Chicago
vasureddy@aol.com

First; it’s me, I, mine and then my folks, my home, my lane, my village, my town, my state and my country.  There is no secret to what comes first.  It is an absolute certainty that I come first and everything else follows.  It’s a well-developed emotional and rational human response to everything; when it comes to choice first it’s me.  It is instinctive and natural and absolute emotion that allows for one’s survival.

Although the global political systems are loosely based on democracies, communists, dictatorships and rulers; the people’s aspirations for themselves and for their near and dear ones remain the same.  When it comes to making a choice, it will always be me and mine.

Wherever we live in the world and whatever system of government we are under, the aspect of personal security will always be in the forefront of personal comfort.  Politically it is probably the most audible and also most fearful feeling when security of ones surroundings is concerned.  Politicians play up to the fears of internal security of the nation as their main objective of governance, and they have been using the internal security card as long as we have lived in societies.  Today the proliferation of radio, television, communications, internet and social media simply feed much faster to our fear of safety.

Each nation irrespective of its size and or stature, would like to be sovereign and protective of its boundaries.  Also, its governance and politics be respected for what they are as its people have chosen to embrace its own nuances.  The majorities of nations on earth that share boundaries live in peace and respect one another’s boundaries.  Many nations, both big and small and sharing boundaries have different traditions, languages and customs.  These differences in way of life don’t affect their neighborly relations.  In some other case the border disputes are constant.  In these instances the fight against the neighbor is a major political rallying factor leading to the polling booth.  When a country is under dictatorship and need general and populous acceptance, attacking the neighbor nation/s is a ploy to stay in power.  By and large most nations on earth respect their border and people appreciate not just their but their neighbor’s boundaries.

The last 40 years of improved ease of transportation and employment based immigration has made relocation normality.  Millions of people have moved to their new and adopted lands and made it their home.  Many nationalities are now hyphenated identities that combine their ancestral nation and the nation they have adopted and currently live in.  It is natural that the ancestral habits including food, Dress and language will continue to be embraced by generations irrespective of where they live.  The love for traditions and customs continues irrespective of time and place.  When you combine the multi-cultural societies and continued growth with the minority communities, in any society the scope for political exploitation is a normal and easy practice.  In the USA, we still refer to black people as African Americans.  Why?  Almost all the black people don’t have anything to do with Africa.  They are Americans, just as white people or any other people who are the citizens if the nation.  The Chinese, Indians, Asians, Mexicans, Hispanics and every other nation’s immigrants have a hyphenated tag.  In reality everyone should be tagged, but we don’t.  The tagging is perhaps not linked to the initial occupiers of nations, rather tagged to the immigrants who help with nation building.  No matter how the history is written and handling the immigrants, today there is no need for hyphenation and discrimination.  If you live in a nation and are a citizen of that nation, then you are simply a citizen of that nation.  All nations for some reason continue to hyphenate and to a vast degree discriminate societies based on ancestral origins.  The fundamentals of immigration and the participation of immigrants in the development of their respective adopted societies get clouded by the politicians when they bring in the nationalism as a political pitch.  Any person riling against a community conveniently forgets his or her origins.  At some point of time, we (our families) are all immigrants.  Especially in the Americas, the natives are so outnumbers (many a reasons for this), they are a minuscule minority.  They themselves are hyphenated as Native Americans.  So, all the communities are hyphenated and a vast (99%) majority of people are immigrants who sought out opportunity in the new land.  We are all the same; just look different.

So, going back to security, it is all paramount to all citizens.  We migrate not just for a place to live but for opportunity, contribution to the society and also security for self and family.

Much of the immigration to North America and other nations over the last 40 years have been thru people seeking to satisfy the country seeking talent to meet its needs.  The benefit to the nations and the immigrants has been mutual and rewarding.  Only in the last few years the rhetoric against the immigrants has become a political narrative.  There is obvious global tension with terrorism and also individuals showing their displeasure against nation/s and societies that have provided them a new home and new opportunity.    While the majority of global migrants embrace and cherish their new home (while retaining their own ancestral traditions) isolated examples of displaying displeasure towards their new home.  Although isolated, these incidents cause considerable mistrust with the entire community.  These disturbing incidents are not isolated to the immigrant community, but anyone can be influenced by whatever factors leading to the disturbing nature, that leads to terror and killing.  Most times the effected are the ones that are near and dear.  The western societies by and large foster democracies and individual freedom and choice, where people live in peace.  But one incident is enough to cause divisions within the communities.

The last few years have been seeing increased incidents of terror and mindless violence.  All nations are facing the unexpected terror and mindless violence.  A combination of fanatics and open borders, and perhaps an immigration system that was designed generations ago, along with the localized extremists, and absolutely the www and social media; all along with politics add to lapses in societal security.  While any government can’t control the infiltration or promotion of terror, today’s communications and media make it impossible to monitor.

The politicians make it project the communities in such extremism, even situations of isolated religious or communal terror becomes glorified.  It doesn’t benefit anyone, except build communal barriers.  By no mean even a single incident of terror is acceptable, but raking it up 24/7/365 makes it an advertisement for the also want to be.

People primarily want peace and opportunity.  The reality is no one wants to migrate to a place where there is no peace and opportunity.  If any place doesn’t foster peace, it will seldom welcome with opportunity for new citizens.  We all want (no matter where we live) to provide security and opportunity for our families.  No matter what someone is mouthing, we are where we are and that is where we belong and it is a choice of individuals and families to make their home at their choice.  No rhetoric can make it any different.  We have already chosen to become a part of a community we live in, to be good citizens and that holds irrespective of what anyone says.   If any society is unwelcoming and without opportunity, then we move on to where we find the solace.

Monday, May 09, 2016

Enter the Dragon – Proddatur Diaries

Vasu Reddy from Chicago
vasureddy@aol.com

Enter the Dragon was in theaters in Madras (now Chennai).  We had to go see it as there was so much buzz about the movie, and specially Bruce Lee.  In those days there were no TV, DVD or VCR or other means of watching a movie, except in theaters.  Everyone wanted to kick the air and break bricks and throw themselves around.  I really think that Karate for a little while was as popular (if not more) than cricket, all because of Bruce Lee and Enter the Dragon.

It is the best martial arts movie ever made (I think) and probably always will be, and inspired many entertaining movies and all languages of movie making.  A Telugu movie was made and released in early 2016 with the name Bruce Lee (go figure).  You can check more details on Enter the Dragon: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enter_the_Dragon.  You don’t have to be a martial arts enthusiast, just watch it you will like it.  Even today I enjoy watching it, and still enjoy the cinematic experience as much as I did when I first watched it.

I was home in Proddatur on a break from school.  We rarely had English movies playing in theaters in our town those days.  If you wanted to see one, you had to head out to the city.  Without recalling the events that lead Jayadev and I, we simply had to get on a train and head out to Madras, to see Bruce Lee in Enter the Dragon. (I had poster of Bruce Lee, and I am sure everyone in the world had the same one, with him looking intent on throwing his fist).  The train ride to Madras was overnight, so that you were saved from the oppressive heat of the day.  You got into a regular bogey and if you found a seat, just whiled the night away (or dozed away) until you got to your destination.  The rail cars had no air conditioning or sleeper seats at the prices we could afford.  You had bear minimum comfort to get you from point A to point B.  You did not have to worry about an alarm as the guy who sold tea would walk around and be yelling.  You would wake up early and drank tea, and it had a distinct taste to tea that only the trains had.  Any discomfort you had with the train more than made up with a combination of banter and what waited at your desired destination.  All the discomfort (which I never felt when in India) of train travel simply disappeared as soon as you set foot on the platform of your destination.

Going back to our trip to Madras to see Enter the Dragon, we had only a single plan.  See the movie and get back on the next train back home.  We didn’t have enough money for any other luxuries of a hotel or touring the city.  We got to Madras, and went to a distant relative’s home and knocked on their door.  The gentleman happens to have the same last name as ours.  I think we took an auto to T Nagar.  His name was Linga Reddy.  Before his name onions were attached.  I believe he was a big trader dealing with onions.  His name that we knew when we landed at his home is Ulligaddala (onions) Linga Reddy.  We somehow found his home (which was very spacious) and told them who we were, and that we would be there just for a day and head back home.  I distinctly remember Mr. Reddy’s entire family welcomed us and very gracious in the short time we were with them.  They let us stay with the, freshen-up and really feed us well.  All the members of Mr. Reddy's family were keen on inquiring about our home town and families.  They were really very gracious.  It was typical of all our families in those days, you could simply visit and everyone was welcoming.  In this case Mr. Reddy’s family was most gracious.

We were all too happy with the hosts, but our main agenda was to get to the theater.  Enter the Dragon.  The theater itself was not the huge capacity halls we are used to in our town.  There were a series of small theaters (current day multiplexes) and air conditioned,  which was instant hit with us; a cool place for the next couple of hours and the anticipation of seeing Bruce Lee in action.  Both of us were well fed and back to our full energy level and the movie and the experience of watching it in the theater was everything that we anticipated.  After all these years, I still remember the experience as it was yesterday, and I still enjoy watching the movie on DVD every once in a while.  By the way both Jayadev and I live around the suburbs of Chicago, and we were together (again) when we shopped and found the DVD.  Nothing changes.

Going back to Madras, and the movie; we watched the movie in awe, and it was every bit of what we expected.  Both of us enjoyed it.  The trip was well worth it, although it was the first of a kind adventure for us.  We spent a little time checking the city out, and headed back home.  Once again it was a train ride back, all night to the nearest station to Proddatur, and a short hop on the bus home.

Monday, May 02, 2016

The Magic of Reading – Proddatur Diaries

Vasu Reddy from Chicago
vasureddy@aol.com

Almost everyone I knew in town was veracious readers.  My own love for reading (and writing) has been a lifelong and continues to be one.  I read just about everything I can get my hands on; books, magazines, new papers, internet and even my kid’s books.  I keep telling her to read, read and read.

Proddatur had a little library, not a huge one by any standard, but had a good one.  I don’t believe that there were many patrons, so you had easy access to what was available.  It was close to the girl’s high school and a bit of a distance from my home.  Although it was quite a walk, I found it full of promise as it was not crowded, and did have up to date literature for the time.

If I start with my own home, starting with my two aunts who were at home (until they got married) read a lot when I was young (I remember the grand wedding celebrations of both of them). When in boarding school I was a veracious reader.  The school in Horsley Hills had a great library.  From Milton, Keats, Shakespeare to Cricket, there were thousands of books you could read and read and never get tired of the subjects.  Your daily dose of reading was never routine.  I read quickly, and wrote even quicker.  Having a huge family and a great circle of friends did not hamper me from reading.  Reading was very much part of my growing up and learning; it was always magical and intriguing.

Proddatur and with the circle of people, when I was growing up was always full of reading materials.  My friends and cousins all of them read, and always had something in local language to read and chat about.  Most of them waited on the next week’s magazines.  The town I remember had at least two booksellers who had a good collection of books and magazines in Telugu and English.  The periodicals were all over the town and I believe even delivered to homes.  There was easy access to periodicals, not just the Telugu ones, but in English as well.  The popular magazines like Illustrated Weekly (Kushwant Singh was my favorite in that time), Reader’s Digest, Nation Geographic, Life, Time and many of the popular magazines were readily available.

Whatever pocket money I got, typically went to buying the next book or magazine.  Many of the Telugu magazines and books were with one friend/family or the other.  Outside of the public library, the town also had dozens of rent a book/magazine stores (very similar to today’s DVD rental outlets).  These stores had just about every book and magazine in the market for a fairly small daily rental (especially if your friend owns the rental store the new books were for you to read first).  You read them quick and returned them quickly, so that the next person can enjoy the reading as much as you did.

One of my best friends and fellow reader was Sekhar from Rameswaram.  We lived in the edge of Town each of us at a different edge.  The walking distance was too far to just hop over.  Sekhar was a fellow connoisseur in reading.  He was probably my first friend in town who was not just a great friend but also had the love for reading as much as I did, over and above the love for reading he would actually buy his books.  Many times I would rent a bike and ride over to his house to hangout and also borrow books.  Sometimes when I could not afford to rent a bike, I would walk over to his home and hangout and share the love for books.  Sekhar was a dear friend and over time he also became friends with my other gang of friends.  Sekhar and his entire family were very gracious hosts.  Whenever I visited with him at his home, they were always courteous.  Many times I would borrow his latest book and would be done reading overnight.  The interest in written word was greater than sleep or food on many occasions.

It was not just the reading for the sake of it, but the interest and curiosity in each author’s depiction of story being told was always fascinating.  If it was a periodical, waiting for the next week’s edition was as interesting in waiting as any other event in a young life.  I was certainly not the only one lost in books, the whole town I thought (at least most of the people I knew) was equally engrossed with reading.  Outside of an occasional cricket match and unplanned practice sessions, reading I believe was the past time that kept the town entertained.

At the time when I left for the USA (I thought for just a few years, which is a long time now and counting), Veerendranath was the most popular Telugu writer.  As it was a common practice with most of the writers at that time, he write weekly in a serial format; simply a magazine published a few pages every week, and kept the people engaged (to buy the magazine) for sometimes years on.  More than the purchase/rent and reading people were so involved in waiting for what will be coming in the next issue, and next chapter.  My town folks were not alone with the euphoria of what will happen next with the serials.  In the age when TV and Internet did not exist, waiting for next week’s reading held the reader’s (including my own) imagining; what would be next?

Wherever you got together in town conversation veered from coffee to weekly reading.  Most of the girls and women were certainly into reading, and guys probably split between cricket and reading.

A special reference to Veerendranath was that many years later and after him writing dozens of books, and my being away from India for almost 15 years, on one of my many trips to India, one evening I looked up his home phone number from one of his books and called him.  The mobile was yet to be introduced in India.  He answered the phone and I quickly introduced myself and narrated my appreciation for all his books (I had actually purchased all his books, and still have them) and who I was, and that I was in Hyderabad and if he was available would like to meet him.  He readily agreed to meet, and we actually met a couple of times and enjoyed the interactions a great deal.  He showed how he wrote and how he kept a record of his work.  JV and Sharma (big brothers from Proddatur) who lived in Hyderabad joined into the gatherings, which was a great insight into the man who kept us intrigued with his books.  My experience in life has always been that you ask for what you need, and you will often get it.  My little time with Veerendranath was sort of a throw back to my town, and for whatever reasons I could not keep in touch with him.  But the short time with him, was a great insight into a man who kept (still keeps), millions of my fellow beings waiting for his written words every week.  I still have all his books with me (one signed by him) and still read them (many times over) and still enjoy them as I did the first time.  Even though I have read just about every author who has written in Telugu, Veerendranath remains special.  From his early writing days to today, he remains a writer who has kept his reader’s enchanted.

Proddatur, in my time had voracious readers.  I think the whole town was crazy reading.  I keep remembering the whole town and its demeanor, and how much reading was a part of life to the town folks.  The town was serene and almost quaint for a big size population.  We have our own click groups, but seldom anyone saw fist fights, most animated discussions were about cricket and books.  Although the town had a diaspora of religions and people, excitement was reserved for movies, cricket, conversation which centered on the latest weekly.