If Gods can be gay, why can’t we? Maori author Witi Ihimaera is a moving force in giving voice to Maoris in New Zealand

Ihimaera's book 'Nights in the Gardens of Spain', a semi-autobiographical work about a married father of two daughters coming out, was turned into a movie

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Witi Ihimaera. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

– by Preetha Nair

Sept 04, 2016: Aboriginal, litterateur, and rebel, Witi Ihimaera is a moving force in giving voice to the Maoris in New Zealand. The first published novelist in Maori literature, the 72-year-old has several novels, short stories and recognitions to his credit.

September Aboriginal, litterateur, and rebel, Witi Ihimaera is a moving force in giving voice to the Maoris in New Zealand. The first published novelist in Maori literature, the 72-year-old has several novels, short stories and recognitions to his credit.

His works were a harbinger of change to the Maoris, says Ihimaera who questioned in his works.

Ihimaera’s book ‘Nights in the Gardens of Spain’, a semi-autobiographical work about a married father of two daughters coming out, was turned into a movie.

The author, who also worked as a diplomat at the New ZealandMinistry of Foreign Affairs, spoke to IANS on the sidelines of Mountain Echoes Literary Festival held in Thimphu, the capital city of Bhutan.

Maori People. Image source: Wikimedia Commons
Maori People. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Excerpts from the interview:

Q) You were the first published novelist in Maori literature. How important is it to tell stories of the marginalised?

A) It is important to tell the story of the Maori in a world of huge voices and political entities. We are a minority, and also one among the many indigenous communities around the world. Our story will help give voice to other indigenous people whether they live in India, or North America or in South East Asia. We all have the same stories of colonisation.

Q) Did you face resistance from the West?

A) My life was always about resistance. We were denied educational opportunities and there was institutional racism. Our land has been taken away and I have seen my grandmothers struggling for land to farm. The consequence of our fight through literature and other means was that our land was returned after 30 years. The government is providing better housing and education for the Maoris now. There is a better understanding of Maori culture now and my work is a part of New Zealand’s curriculum.

Q) You came out of the closet in 1984 and have dealt with sexuality in your writings. How was it received?

A) One has to be brave when dealing with issues like rape and homosexuality. There is authentication of sexual identity in mythology that has been denied by the West. Europeans look towards Gods in Greek mythology who can shapeshift and make love with women, men and animals just like some Hindu gods. Why can’t we accept homosexuality in the way our mythology explains it? I operate in a Maori value system and don’t care what people say.

Witi Ihimaera memorial plaque in Dunedin. Image source: Wikimedia Commons
Witi Ihimaera memorial plaque in Dunedin. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Q) In your memoir, you have written about being abused as a child. How difficult was it to write about it and what was the reaction?

A) I always adopt an organic approach to writing, looking at it culturally and socially. I wanted to address the issue of child abuse. My work has always been a shock to many. The Maori community is now largely Christian and it was difficult for them to acknowledge it. I am accustomed to shift the universe a little. That’s my theory of change. Each one of us has the power to change the system.

Q) Who’s your favourite Indian author?

A) It should be Arundhati Roy. She is an intellectual and erudite woman.

(IANS)

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How Resolution 20-172 by St. Paul City Council Incites Hindu Phobia

To be taken up on May 20,2020, St. Paul City Council's Resolution 20-712 marginalizes the Hindu community, feel Indian activists.

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Saint Paul, Minnesota city council resolution against India’s CAA based on misinformation. Pixabay.

In the colder Midwestern state of Minnesota in the USA, The St. Paul City Council’s Resolution 20-712 has deeply troubled the Hindu community the region, needlessly bringing divisive international politics and creating Hindu phobia amongst the masses. Amidst the deadly coronavirus pandemic when people are losing lives, left right and centre the St. Paul City Council has chosen to table Resolution 20-712 which has left the Hindus of the area dumbstruck. The resolutin is to be taken up on May 20.

The way this resolution has been secretly introduced makes it problematic for the community. There are around 50,000 people of Indian origin in the Twin Cities and this resolution 20-172 creates an unnecessarily hostile environment for them.  According to Vishal Agarwal, member of the Advisory Board of the Hindu American Foundation and Trustee Executive Council of the Hindu Society of Minnesota the Hindus are now forced to dispel the many untruths and stereotypes the St. Paul City Council has perpetuated. In these times of trouble, they have another pressure on themselves as respectable citizens of the area.

In an Open Letter to St. Paul City Council signed by 27 of the Twin Cities’ prominent Indian and Hindu community leaders, they have asked the government to Stop Tearing Apart the Hindu Community with RES 20–712. The letter written by Vishal S. Aggarwal given on Medium is as follows:

“Dear City Council Members of St. Paul, MN

We are a group of long-term residents of the Twin Cities and are prominent members of the Indian and Hindu American Communities of Minnesota. We are writing to you to express our collective dismay at RES 20–712 proposed by the St. Paul City Council for a vote on May 20, 2020.

It is our considered opinion that the tone and the content of this Resolution promotes misunderstanding and marginalization of our community, puts us in the way of harm, and distracts from our city’s collective fight against the ongoing Pandemic.

Indian Hindus
Indian Hindus deeply troubled by Saint Paul, Minnesota city council resolution. Pixabay

This past April, city council members introduced RES 20–621 that rightly condemned acts of racism directed against our fellow Americans — immigrants from the Asian and Pacific Islander communities residing in our state, who were being blamed unfairly for the Covid-19 Pandemic. The current RES 20–712 is opposite in its essential nature and impact. It injects divisive overseas politics into Minnesota and thereby endangers the safety and well-being of people of Indian origin in the Twin Cities by creating a hostile environment for us and creating fault lines within the community. We know that the City Council strives for peace and friendship in our community. This resolution achieves the opposite.

We urge you to withdraw RES 20–712 or vote against its passage for the following main reasons:
It mis-states facts that are easily verifiable. Inaccurate declarations are made worse with incendiary language.
It divides our local communities along religious and political lines at a time when we need to fight the Covid-19 Pandemic unitedly. The Resolution unnecessarily injects divisive overseas politics into local concerns.
It endangers Indian Americans residing in Minnesota by falsely implying that their homeland is becoming some version of the Third Reich. Most Indian Americans here are first generation immigrants with strong family ties in India. The resolution makes them appear as racists and religious bigots. It also affects their relationship with family members back in India.
It diminishes the valuable contributions of the Indian American community to Minnesota and undermines the healthy relationship between the two largest democracies in the world.
Below we provide a Fact Check as ‘Clarifications’ for the various erroneous assertions made in RES 20–712 so that you get a correct and informed perspective.

There are 50,000 people of Indian origin in the Twin Cities. They are outstanding members of the community, contributing to a variety of notable sectors, including but not limited to healthcare, bio-technology and engineering, entrepreneurship, education, tourism and food service, retail etc. Numerous Indian, Hindu, Muslim, Christian and Sikh community organizations in Minnesota are volunteering tirelessly to serve other Minnesotans during the ongoing Pandemic. We wish to emphasize that when a city council paints an entire country in broad and factually dubious strokes, it reflects negatively on all people of Indian origin, and especially on Hindus Americans who reside in Minnesota as fellow Americans. It also promotes Hinduphobia.

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In an open letter, Indian American Hindus criticize St. Paul City Council’s inaccurate and ill-advised RES 20–712. Pixabay

Indian businesses have made a significant investment in the Twin Cities and are creating jobs for Minnesotans. According to a study by the Confederation of Indian Industry, Minnesota has attracted more than $1.8 billion and created 2,500 jobs as a direct result of investment from India-based companies, ranking Minnesota third among American states in Indian investment dollars. Several Indian companies are doing business in Minnesota: TATA Consultancy Services, Infosys, Wipro, and ITC Infotech are in the IT and telecom industry; Essar in the materials and manufacturing sector. Twin Cities based businesses also have significant and mutually beneficial investments in India. For example, Cargill began a five-year investment plan of $240M in 2017 intended to improve food safety and economic development and benefit the food processing and agriculture industries. 3M is heavily invested in India for over 30 years now. Target Corporation and Medtronic Ltd (with its major operations run from Fridley, MN) are other examples of companies with a broad footprint in India.

This resolution diminishes and disregards the deep economic relationship between Minnesota and India and demeans the worth of Indian Americans in our state as fellow Americans. The two organizations who have drafted this resolution do not fully represent their own communities, let alone South Asians or even Indian Americans as a whole. In the coming years, the governments of the United States of America and India are expected to coordinate closely to fight this Pandemic. It is pertinent to note here that the largest vaccine producing company in India is owned by an Indian minority citizen.
Below is a list of individuals who endorse the contents of this letter (along with the Appendix). Their affiliations, while not reflective of institutional endorsements, give you an indication of their stellar community service to the several prominent institutions that they have founded and nurtured in our esteemed state.
You have heard from some of our community organizations. Through this letter, our intent is to convey how RES 20–712 has deeply troubled us as individual Americans. The country of our origin has been tarred with crude and broad strokes without even a basic fact check, thereby making us feel otherized and unwelcome in a state that we have called home and contributed to for decades.
Sincerely,
27 Prominent Indian American Citizens of Minnesota.”

The letter clearly states their plight and expresses how their status is being tarred without a thorough fact-check. They have clearly conveyed how their sentiments are deeply hurt and they feel targeted and troubled by RES 20–712. It further claims that the resolution divides the local communities along religious and political lines at a time when the fight against COVID-19 to be fought unitedly should have been the government’s main target.

Also Read: More Indian Professionals Are Spending Time Online Learning: LinkedIn

Not only does this resolution marginalizes the Hindu community but also appears to be deeply racist and Hinduphobic.

 

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Some Interesting Facts About The Language Of Gods: Sanskrit

Read some interesting facts about the oldest language, the language of gods: Sanskrit

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Sanskrit
Sanskrit was considered as ‘DEV BHASHA’ or ‘DEVAVANI. Pixabay

BY AAYUSH

Sanskrit is one of the oldest languages known to mankind It is also believed to be the most systematic and technical language of all. It is also referred to as the mother of all languages and is the only language that is used in holy functions and ceremonies of the Hindus, as it has always been regarded as the sacred language of the religion and gods. Sanskrit mantras, when recited in combination with the sound vibrations, have a specific effect on the mind and the psyche of the individual.

Sanskrit is the vehicle through which we have been fortunate to be gifted with the Vedas, Upanishads, Bhagvat Gita, and the two great epics Ramayana and Mahabharata. It is the only language that is used in holy functions and ceremonies of the Hindus, as it has always been regarded as the sacred language of the religion. Sanskrit mantras, when recited in combination with the sound vibrations, have a specific effect on the mind and the psyche of the individual.

10 Interesting Facts About the Sanskrit Language

 

Sanskrit language when recited is no less than a beautiful melody is a mystery in itself. Here are 10 interesting facts about the Sanskrit Language.

1. The Language of the Gods

Sanskrit was considered as ‘DEV BHASHA’ or ‘DEVAVANI’, the Language of the Gods by ancient Indians. The script is called DEVNAGARI which means used in the cities of the Gods. It was believed to have been generated by the god Brahma who passed it to the Rishis (sages) living in celestial abodes, who then communicated the same to their earthly disciples from where it spread on earth.

Sanskrit
The Sanskrit language is the oldest language and many other languages are taken from it. Vedicfeed

2. The oldest language in the world

Sanskrit is believed to be one of the oldest languages in the world. The Vedas, the oldest extant texts in any language, were written in Sanskrit.  The earliest form of Sanskrit language was Vedic Sanskrit that came approximately around 1500B.C, a period when knowledge was imparted orally through generations.

3. An innovative language

An old, yet, a highly technical, systematic language of the world. Following research, a report given by the NASA scientist, Rick Briggs, Sanskrit is one of the most suitable languages for computers. It is considered to be very efficient in making algorithms.

4. A language without a default script

Sanskrit did not have a “default” script (like Devanagari- Hindi) until very recently, i.e. less than 200 years back. It was written by everyone in the regional script of their region, in over two dozen scripts. This may make it the language that has been written in the most number of scripts.

Sanskrit culture had a great reluctance towards writing, and this continued for at least a millennium before the first texts were penned. Yet there are as many as 30 million Sanskrit manuscripts with around 7 million manuscripts preserved in India itself. This precisely means that the magnitude of work in Sanskrit surpasses that of Greek and Latin put together!

5. Sanskrit Newspapers and Radios

Sanskrit daily news and newspapers exist even today. It is the language of more than 90 weeklies, fortnightlies, and quarterlies published across India. Gujarat started publishing Vartman Patram and Vishwasya Vrittantam five years back and an all India Radio has been broadcasting daily news in Sanskrit once a day since the year 1974. ‘Sudharma’, the newspaper is published out of Mysore, a historic city in Karnataka, India. It has been running since 1970 and is now available online as an e-paper.

Sanskrit
Even though Sanskrit is old, yet, it is highly technical and systematic. Pixabay

6. Sanskrit speaking hamlets

There are still many villages in India where Sanskrit is still the primary language of communication. The villagers also insist the visitors converse in Sanskrit with them. Banter, greetings, quarrels on the streets, teaching – it’s all in Sanskrit here.

7. A Spiritual Language

The word “Sanskrit’ is a combination of two words – “Sanskar’ and “Krit’; “Krit’ meaning “Inculcating’ and “Sanskar’ meaning “Essence of Moral Values’. Thus Sanskrit means a language that has the capacity to indoctrinate higher values in an individual, the self.

8. A highly versatile language

Sanskrit has the power to say something using the minimum amount of words. There are numerous synonyms for each word each with specific meaning in the language of Sanskrit. For instance, a simple word like the elephant has about a hundred synonyms. English has only one word for love, Sanskrit has 96.

Sanskrit has an amazing wealth of words and synonyms to give great versatility. It has in fact over 70 words for water where English has just got one. Amazingly the Sanskrit language has over 122 words for the action to go each with the specific meaning.

9. The master of Phonetics

Sanskrit is perhaps one of the most accurate languages in pronunciation. It makes use of 49 types of sounds that make pronunciations of different kinds of words very distinct. The attention devoted to the grammar, phonetics, and linguistics in Sanskrit is believed to have been unprecedented until the 20th century.

10. Increases brain power

Sanskrit has also been proven to help in speech therapy. Research suggests that learning the language improves brain functioning and students improve academically; they get better marks in subjects like Mathematics and Science which some people find difficult. It is because Sanskrit enhances memory power and concentration.

Also Read: Revival Of Indian Economy: PM Modi Is Doing His Job, What About Others ?

James Junior School in London has made Sanskrit compulsory. Students of this school are among the toppers in various fields and worldwide exams year after year. Some schools in Ireland also have made Sanskrit compulsory. (VedicFeed)

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New Zealand Passes Zero Carbon Bill Aimed at Combating Climate Change

We in New Zealand are on the right side of history, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in a speech at Parliament

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Today we have made a choice that will leave a legacy. Pixabay

New Zealand on Thursday passed a bill to reduce its carbon emissions to zero by 2050 and meet its commitments under the Paris climate accord.

“I am really proud to stand in this House today for what is a historic moment… Today we have made a choice that will leave a legacy… We in New Zealand are on the right side of history,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in a speech at Parliament.

The law commits New Zealand to keeping global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius, as stipulated by the Paris Agreement and marks an important step in the fight against the climate emergency looming over the world according to more than 11,000 scientists worldwide, reports Efe news.

“We’ve led the world before in nuclear free and votes for women, now we are leading again,” Climate Change Minister James Shaw tweeted.

New Zealand, Carbon, Bill
The zero emissions target excludes methane emissions but the law pledges to reduce them gradually. Pixabay

The zero emissions target excludes methane emissions but the law pledges to reduce them gradually.

The law includes the establishment of a green investment fund worth NZ$100 million ($64 million), a carbon trading scheme and inclusion of agriculture in emissions pricing by 2025, and the plantation of one billion trees by 2028, according to a statement by the Ministry of Climate Change.

The law also stipulates suspending the release of new permits for hydrocarbon explorations at sea and supports the production of cheaper electric vehicles apart from setting a goal of 100 per cent renewable electricity generation by 2035.

The legislation aims to cut biological methane emissions from agriculture by 10 per cent until 2030, and targets 24-47 per cent reduction in emissions by 2050.

Also Read- Xiaomi Reportedly Plans to Insert 3 New Features in MIUI 11 Soon

Simon Bridges, leader of the opposition and the New Zealand National Party, said that his party supported the bill but would keep trying to introduce changes in the future in order to make it better. (IANS)

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