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Hindu community in Tuscaloosa are a close group kept together through cultural traditions

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image source: www.cw.ua.edu

By Chandler Padgett

(Tuscaloosa is a town in Alabama state in USA. Located approximately 60 miles from Birmingham, it has a population of about 95,000.- NewsGram)

Nagaraj and his wife kneel before an altar in their apartment, chimes ringing in the air. Laden with colorful deity figurines and ornate art, the altar, or mandir, acts as a small temple for the Hegdes and a vital aspect of their religion, Hinduism.

Unlike the many churches that fill the Tuscaloosa landscape, the approximately 400 Indians (many of whom are Hindu) primarily worship at small mandirs in their own homes, as mass gathering is not emphasized.

“A mandir is a place where we can surrender our mind, it’s a small set-up, this home is an extension of the temple,” said Nagaraj Hegde, UA Vedic Society president and a Ph.D. student. “Even though the television waves are everywhere, we still need a TV set to capture it and play it back. We understand that divinity is everywhere, but these are concentrated forms where the deity is present.”

Before eating, his wife placed food on the mandir.

“We offer prayers, we worship them,” Hegde said. “We offer the food, whatever we eat, before, to the divine beings, pray to them please will you accept it, and we will take the remnants.”

In addition to domestic mandirs, there is a modest temple in Tuscaloosa and a larger one in Birmingham, which has a larger population of Hindus. People gather there every Sunday.

“Once in a week it’s good to meet each other,” said Parnab Das, a Ph.D. student at the University. “They give good, home-cooked vegetarian food. We do a small worship service, and we discuss things from our scriptures. We try to discuss not only religious things. We try to discuss social things going on in this world. Just try to inspire each other what we should and should not do in our life.”

Though a mere fraction of the population, Indians in Tuscaloosa are a close group kept together through cultural practice and traditions.

“We are very much closely bound,” said Vaishali Batra, president of the Indian Student Association of Tuscaloosa and Ph.D. student. “We do a lot of events together, a lot of social gatherings together. We always make it a point that we get together on Indian cultural festivals. We also meet the senior citizens and families, so we are very well-knit in Tuscaloosa.”

As is natural with intercultural interaction, Hindus in Tuscaloosa sometimes have to deal with misconceptions and misunderstandings from Americans and other non-Indians, such as the name Hindu itself. Most likely coined by Persians, Hindu merely referred to people living on the Sindhu River. The original name of the religion is Sanatana Dharma.

“Sanatana means eternal and Dharma means law or the way, so Sanatana Dharma means the eternal way or eternal law of being close to God,” Das said.

Even then, Das clarifies that Hinduism is more of a way or law of life than a religion.

Das and Nagaraj Hegde have faced some negative experiences during their time as students here as well.

“I was being asked by one of my lab mates that after death, if I go to hell because I am not a Christian, and it is being written in the Bible that if you are not a Christian you go to hell, what will I do?” Das said. “So I said, then I will go to hell, what else can I do? If God cannot see the deeds which I have done in my life, if God cannot see my love towards him, if God cannot see my dedication towards him, if still he asks me to go to hell because I am not a Christian, then I have to go to hell.”

Nagaraj Hegde shared a similar story.

“Once, four years ago, we were singing Indian kirtan on Manderson Landing, and within 5 minutes, someone said you can’t do it here,” Hegde said. “But it’s really improved a lot. Last year, every single Thursday in the summer, we have done it and nobody bothered us.”

The positive change in the past few years hints at some of the positive relationships Hindus have in the community. For example, Hegde’s Vedic Society seeks to educate Americans and other non-Indians about Hindu and Indian traditions and beliefs like yoga, meditation and universal harmony.

“I try my best to present the real knowledge without adding my own interpretations and present the knowledge as Krishna presented it,” Hegde said. “We try to bring about harmony in this world. We get Christians, we get Muslims, we get atheists, every type of person, and we don’t exclude against anybody.”

Some new international students struggle to become acclimated to Alabama and find their way around, especially since few have cars. Batra and ISAT seek to help with that.

“Our organization on campus is about uniting people and helping new students as well as the older students to settle down here or to help them with the basic things they need in the beginning or give them campus tours,” Batra said. “And this organization is about organizing Indian festivals so that students can have the feel of home when they are away from home.”

Hindus and Indians have formed a community in Tuscaloosa that maintains cultural and religious ties while simultaneously interacting with and befriending others across the city.

“Initially it was hard, it was very hard, but once I started the Vedic Society meetings then I made such wonderful friends, such nice people I could never imagine, I feel at home,” Hegde said. “I have many nice friends. There are nice people everywhere. You just have to go and find them. You think ‘oh this is bible belt they will be close-minded,’ but that’s not a fact.”

Source: http://www.cw.ua.edu/

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Forks in the Road : 10 places to eat in Delhi

Delhi has so many diverse cuisines to offer. Here is the list of 10 places to eat in delhi which you can not miss

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Foodie Delhi
10 places to eat in Delhi (pexels)

Delhi, the present day cultural hub of India, which was once under the rule of The Parthians, The Turks, The Afghans, The Mughals and The Britishers which left an impact on the city and gave it its own  unique status. Tourists from all over the world come down to Delhi and lose their hearts to it scrumptious cuisines.

It’s winter in Delhi, a perfect weather for sampling Delhi’s most famous attractions- its incredible street food. It’s not just the street food that Delhi is famous for but a lot of history and culture that is mixed up with the food. Everything from Asoka era to Mughals to the invaders who held sway over Delhi to Purana Qila, have left the taste of the food behind.

To the variety of chats that will take you on tour of tangy, sweet and spicy flavours to the non-vegetarian food which will remind of the rich flavours to the food never tasted anywhere, Delhi has it all.

Here are 10 places to visit for indulging into the flavors of Delhi.

  1. Paranthe Wali Gali
IndianGyaan

 

Paranthe Wali Gali since 1870s is the name of a narrow street in the Chandni Chowk area of Delhi known for its series of shops selling parantha, an Indian flatbread. The food is old fashioned, strictly vegetarian and the cooked dishes do not include onion or garlic. Stuffed aloo (potato), Gobi (cauliflower) and matar (peas) paranthas are the most popular ones. Lentil paranthas are also available. The cost could come up to 150 rupees for 2 people. This street is lit from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m.

  1. Dilli Haat
India Opines

Dilli Haat does not only showcase the rich Indian culture and diverse Indian Heritage, but is also one of the best place to enjoy regional food from all over the country. Dilli Haat provides various food stalls having food from various Indian States that gives you a variety of choice at low cost prices. Its timings are from 10:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Bijoli Grill- a West Bengal food stall offering Fish curry and Kosha Mangsho; Momo Mia, an Arunanchal Pradesh food stall offering Momos and Fruit Beer; Nagaland Kitchen, a Nagaland food stall offering Raja Mircha and Momos; Manipur Foods, a Manipuri Food Stall offering Fried Rice, Tarai Tong ad Fruit Beer; Rajasthani Food Stall offering Pyaaz Kachori, Desi Ghee Jalebi and Rajasthani Thali; Maharashtra Food Stall offering Vada Pav, Puran Poli, Shrikhand; Dawath-E-Awadh, a UP Food Stall offering Kebabs, Biryani and Phirni and other food stalls from states such as Andhra Pradesh, Assam and Kerala.

  1. Khan Market
The Urban Escapades

Khan Market is not only a place for die hard shoppers, it is also Delhi’s incredible food districts. A neighborhood that never sleeps, whose streets are filled with the scent of mutton kebab and fried rice. Khan Market has restaurants such as Town Hall Restaurant, The Big Chili Café, Yellow Brick Road Restaurant, Wok in Clouds, The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, Soda bottle opner wala, Azam’s Mughlai, Café Turtle, Omazoni and Market Café.

  1. Spice Aangan
EazyDiner

Tucked away in Safdarjung Development Area’s main market is a hole-in-the-wall tandoor-and-takeaway restaurant known as Spice Aangan. Spice Aangan has been a staple of the SDA market food scene for a while now. The hole-in-the-wall is bang opposite the small, grassless park located at the centre of the market. While there are a couple of steel benches at edge of the park to sit and enjoy their food, it is otherwise a purely takeaway and home delivery outlet. Restaurant serves tandoori snacks–chicken tikka, malai tikka, seekh kebab–as well as mutton dishes, curries, biryani and shawarma rolls. Despite so many options, though, you’d be hard pressed to find the regulars ordering anything other than the chicken shawarma.

  1. Karim’s
Musafir

Karim’s is a historic restaurant located near Jama Masjid Gali Kababian, Old Delhi, Delhi. It is know that this is the best restaurant in Delhi, serving non-vegetarian food since 1913. The original Karim’s is bang opposite Jama Masjid in the walled city area of Delhi. It is close to a market known as Darya Ganj. Those visiting Karim’s for the first time will be surprised at the location. Getting there is not easy, you will need to ask locals for help. Mutton Burra, Mutton Raan-this starter is huge, and is meant for four or five people. There is a wide range of kebabs including Seekh Kebabs, Shammi Kebabs and Mutton Tikka. Chicken Seekh Kebab, Tandoori Chicken or Chicken Tikka for those who love chicken. Mutton Korma, Mutton Stew and Badam Pasanda Chicken Noor Jehan and Chicken Jahangiri are the main courses to be tried once you get there. As for the bread Khamiri Roti is something not to be missed. Karim’s serves two main desserts Kheer Benazir and Shahi Tukda.

  1. Pandara Road
ScoopWhoop

Delhi serves delectable food in almost every nook and corner of the city. Whether it is crowded streets of Chandni Chowk or the sophisticated eateries of Khan Market. One such stop is Pandara Road Market, located near India Gate, the place serves best non-vegetarian food of the city, so all the meat lovers out there fill your wallets. Havemore offering the best Butter chicken and garlic naan and Gulati which is best known for its Dum Biryani and kebabs with the cost price of 1500 rupees for two, and many other restaurants like Chicken Inn, Pindi and Ichiban.

  1. Amar Colony
TripAdvisor

Amar Colony is generally known to be the hub of garments but it is also the hidden street food hub. Home to a diverse population from India, Africa and Afghanistan, there is no doubt, diversity in food here too. A number of small joints for street food in Amar Colony exist which serve the most delicious dishes for you. Most of the shops are situated in the main market and are close to each other. Nagpal Chole Bhature, Hunger Strike, Tibb’s Frankie, Biryani Corner, 34 Chowringhee Lane, Sharma Chaat Bhandar, Deepaul’s Café, Dolma Aunty Momos, Muttu South Indian Anna, High On Burger are the best places to visit when on Pandara Road.

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  1. Hudson Lane, GTB Nagar
MY APRON DIARIES – WordPress.com

Hudson Lane, very close to the main North Campus area, is one place where you will find one of the finest cafés and best restaurants in Delhi. Mostly serving Italian, Café, and Fast Food Cuisine, these quirky joints offer an amazing culinary experience at an extremely pocket-friendly price. Woodbox Café, Mad Monkey, Indus Flavors, QD’s, Ricos and Big yellow Door are the most recommended places to munch at.

  1. Jung Bahadur Kachori Wala
Delhipedia

Situated near Paranthe Wali Gal, Jung Bahadur Kachori Wala is a small but popular street stall that’s been serving sought- after Kachoris since the early 1970s. Kachori stuffed with urad dal and served with special spicy chutney is a must try ther.

  1. Connaught Place
India Today – India Today Group

From fancy revolving restaurants to the delicious local rajma chawal, Connaught place does not discriminate when it comes to food. Home to some of the best restaurants in Delhii and also ironic dahbas, one can relish all kinds of cuisines here be it local, regional or international. Kake Da Hotel, Parikrama, Jain Chawal Wale, Minar and much more are the places to step up with.

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Ethnic Indian Jai Sears responds to complaint against the statue of Gandhi in Grenada

Jai Sears wrote in response to a letter on Mahatma Gandhi entitled “Dustbin of history” written by Josiah Rougier

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Gandhi
Mahatama Gandhi, leader of non violence

Jai Sears from Grenada, Caribbean has written a letter to editor in response to complaints against the statue of Gandhi in Grenada. Here is the text:

I write in response to a letter on Mahatma Gandhi entitled “Dustbin of history” written by Josiah Rougier and published in the Grenada newspaper, The New Today (Nov 3, 2017). In his letter, Rougier is asking the Government to remove the bust-statue of Gandhi which overlooks Sauteurs Bay in Grenada where East Indians arrived 160 years ago. Rougier’s opinion is based on the false notion that Gandhi was racist because the Mahatma reportedly considered Indians to be superior to black Africans when he referred to the latter as “kaffirs.”

Gandhi was only 27 years old when he made that contextual statement. If Rougier had done his research, he would have found that Nelson Mandela said: “Gandhi must be forgiven for these prejudices in the context of the time and the circumstances.” The quote can be found in “Gandhi the Prisoner” by Nelson Mandela published in 1995. Gandhi was a man; he was not god. And even god made mistakes.

In favour of Mahatama Gandhi
Photo of Jai Sears

Rougier must instead focus on the Gandhi’s vision of non-violent protest and his belief in satyagraha which inspired rebels and revolutionaries around the world. Gandhi’s ideas influenced leaders of the African National Congress and the struggle by Indians and blacks against white apartheid rule in South Africa. From as early as 1956 when he was 27 years old, Martin Luther King, Jr. referred to Gandhi as “the guiding light of our technique of nonviolent social change.”

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Following the success of his boycott, King contemplated traveling to India to deepen his understanding of Gandhian principles. The fact is that Gandhi saw people of all races, castes, colours and creeds as equal which led to his assassination by a Hindu fanatic in 1948. So who is this unknown Josiah Rougier? Is he as illustrious as the great Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King? And is he disagreeing with his possible heroes?

A friend to all.
Jai Sears
Grenada, Caribbean

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5 Events Of November Which Are Ideal For Family Vacations

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Events in November which will give you a vacation mood.
Events in November which will give you a vacation mood. Wikimedia.

As we approach the year’s end, Indians not just bid adieu to their summer outfits but also welcome the festival seasons. October and November are two months in India which are full of cultural events and festivals, which make these months, the ideal time for going on family vacations.

Below are the events of November 2017 which you will regret missing. They are worth the try for family vacations:

1.  Dev Deepavali, Varanasi

family vacations
Representational Image. The ghat of holy city Varanasi. 

Varanasi, the holiest city of India, celebrated Dev Deepavali on Kartik Poornima every year. The festival is celebrated with joy. The ghats of Varanasi are lit with beautiful diyas (earthen lamps). God is believed to have descended to the banks of Ganges, to take a holy dip. The festival will take place on November 3, 2017.

 2. Dharamsala International Film Festival

Filmmaker, cinema buffs or all those people interested in the art of films come together of Dharamsala International Film Festival (DIFF). This film festival will witness filmmakers coming from different regions to show films on various issues- socially relevant, contemporary etc. DIFF will take place from November 2 to November 5. If you are a movie buff, then you should immediately pack your bags and seal a date for attending the festival.

3. Pushkar Camel Fair, Rajasthan

Family vacations
Representational Image. Camel Fair is celebrated in Pushkar. Pixabay

Pushkar Camel fair, a cattle fair, in Pushkar which truly defines the real meaning of culture. The Pushkar Camel Fair has been in tradition for a very long time. The fair attracts a huge crowd every year. One of the most ideal and happy places for family vacations. It will take place between 23rd October to 4th November.

Also Read: 7 Beautiful Places To Visit In North East India

4. NH7 Weekender

The five seasons old Indian multi-city music festival has indeed garnered a lot of attention and love from the musically inclined youngsters across the country. It is a combination of national and international studies coming together. In Meghalaya, the event will take place from October 27 to October 28.

5. Guru Purab

family vacations
Sikhs celebrating Guru Purab. Wikimedia.

Guru Purab, one of the most important festivals for Sikhs. The golden temple celebrates it with a lot of joy. The celebration which Amritsar witnesses at this time are unbelievable. It will take place on November 2017. Golden temple is indeed one of the best places for family vacations.

-by Megha Acharya of NewsGram.  She can be reached at @ImMeghaacharya.