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Meet Tulsi Gabbard, real face of Hinduism in the United States Congress

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By Harshmeet Singh

A non-Indian family with 5 children named Tulsi, Aryan, Jai, Vrindavan and Bhakti is hard to find in the US. But interestingly enough, a daughter in this family is today regarded as the ‘rising star’ in the Democratic Party in US. The Hawaii Congresswoman, Tulsi Gabbard, caught the imagination of the International media when she took her oath to the office over her personal copy of Bhagavad Gita. In January 2013, she became the first and the only Hindu to be elected to the US Congress. Interestingly, during her election campaign, her opponent mocked her religion saying that it “doesn’t align with the constitutional foundation of the U.S. government.” 

Contrary to the common perception, Gabbard has no connection with India, the birthplace of Hinduism. Gabbard’s father practices Catholic faith and boasts of Samoan heritage whereas her mother is a Hindu of Euro American descent. Gabbard doesn’t fit into an orthodox image of a ‘Hindu girl’. A surfing enthusiast, Gabbard joined the US army on combat duty in Iraq for a 12 month stint in 2004. She married (for the second time) on 9th April 2015 in a Vedic style wedding.

Tulsi Gabbard'd Vedic Style wedding photograph
Tulsi Gabbard’d Vedic Style wedding photograph

Gabbard has often pressed the need for good relations between India and the USA. During Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent visit to the US, she greeted him with Hawaii’s indigenous ‘ginger flower’ garland and gifted him the same copy of her ‘Bhagavad Gita’, which she used to take her Oath.

An Iraq war veteran, Gabbard was also the youngest woman in the US history to be elected to a state legislature in 2002. Getting back at her opponent for taking a shot at her religion, she reportedly said,

“It is stunning that some people in Congress would so arrogantly thumb their nose at the Bill of Rights. When I volunteered to put my life on the line in defence of our country, no one asked me what my religion was.”

Ever since Gabbard entered the political arena, she has been seen as a role model by the American Hindus. Most Americans still picture the followers of Hinduism as gurus dressed in saffron cloak, reciting complex shlokas and searching for eternal knowledge, an image which seems far from the developed American lifestyle. Gabbard is trying hard to break this stereotype.

Gabbard’s long list of achievements seem even more awe-inspiring, considering that non-Christian politicians have always found it hard to make their way to the top in USA’s political scene. The two most well known Indian American politicians in the US, Bobby Jindal and Nikki Haley, converted to Christianity for some reasons. Jindal has always been known to suppress his ethnic background at the political scene. Preferring to be called by his nickname ‘Bobby’, instead of his real name ‘Piyush’, Jindal reportedly said, “My dad and mom told my brother and me that we came to America to be Americans. Not Indian-Americans, simply Americans.”

Haley, on the other hand, proudly wears her ‘Indian background’ tag. Her endeavours to forge strong relations with India aren’t a secret to anyone. This, perhaps, has made her a familiar figure among the Indian community in the US.

Although Hindus account for a population of close to 2 million in the US, their representation in the mainstream national politics is extremely meagre. Barring a few local leaders across states, not many Hindus have managed to make their mark in the mainstream US politics. Some other names that have managed to secure political posts include the US Attorney for New York’s Southern district, Preet Bharara and the US Surgeon General, Vivek Hallegere Murthy.

A possible reason for minimal political representation of the Hindus is that barring metro areas of New York and Chicago, their population is too dispersed to make their votes count. The chances of winning an office based on their votes have a minimal probability. Though ‘religion based politics’ seems like an indigenous term to India, religion isn’t completely irrelevant when it comes to US politics as well. The national presidential candidates have long faced questions (and often backlash) around their faith and worship. The number of Christians in the high offices in the US is overwhelming, if not cent per cent.

Gabbard has always been vocal about her faith and doesn’t hide her disappointment on coming across incorrect projection of Hinduism. “Hinduism is largely misunderstood today in part because of how it’s been portrayed in a negative and backwards way,” she once said. Hindus, in fact, remain an overlooked faction in the US, which is probably why her opponent’s hate speech against Hinduism in 2012 didn’t get much attention within the country.

Apart from the everyday discrimination, Hindus also have to face numerous misconceptions and ignorance among the American population. Hinduism remains an ‘unfamiliar’ entity for most Americans – an enigma which they don’t give much thought to.

Hindus in the US are confident of a proportional political representation following Gabbard’s meteoric rise and her strong allegiance towards her faith. Her concern towards a ‘misunderstood’ image of Hinduism in the US could go a long way in making the American Hindus proud and ensuring that the US emerges as a truly secular society.

 

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Truecaller Denies Breach as Indian Users’ Data Goes on Sale

ruecaller records of 4.75 crore Indians were being sold on web for just about Rs 75,000

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Records of 4.75 crore Indians were being sold on the dark web for Rs. 75,000. Wikimedia Commons

After an online intelligence firm flagged that a cybercriminal was selling Truecaller records of 4.75 crore Indians on dark web for just about Rs 75,000, the Swedish caller identification app on Wednesday denied any breach of its database.

“There has been no breach of our database and all our user information is secure. We take the privacy of our users and the integrity of our services extremely seriously and we are continuously monitoring for suspicious activities,” a Truecaller spokesperson said in a statement.

“We were informed about a similar sale of data in May 2019. What they have here is likely the same dataset as before. It’s easy for bad actors to compile multiple phone number databases and put a Truecaller stamp on it.

“By doing that, it lends some credibility to the data and makes it easier for them to sell. We urge the public and users not to fall prey to such bad actors whose primary motive is to swindle the people of their money,” the spokesperson said.

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“There has been no breach of our database and all our user information is secure.”, a Truecaller spokesperson said in a statement. Wikimedia Commons

Also Read: FDCI to go Live for Hosting ‘Phygital’ Fashion Week

Online intelligence firm Cyble in a blog on Tuesday said that its researchers have “identified a reputable seller, who is selling 47.5 Million Indians Truecaller records for $1000. The data is from 2019.”

“Looking at the information itself, it has over 47.5 million records, and it includes interesting information such as phone number, carrier, name, gender, city, email, Facebook ID and others,” said the blog post.

On Wednesday, Cyble updated the blog to say that the same hacker has dropped another 600 million records for sale. (IANS)

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Oil Pulling: An Ayurvedic Treatment to Boost Immunity

Oil pulling is an ancient treatment dateing back to more than 3,000 years

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Oil pulling
Oil pulling can boost your Immunity. Pixabay

Oil pulling is regarded as an ancient Ayurveda treatment that dates back to more than 3,000 years.

Considered as a detoxification therapy, it is done by taking a spoonful of cold pressed virgin oil (preferably coconut oil) and swishing it in your mouth for about 5 minutes, similar to using a mouthwash. The purpose of oil pulling is to swish the oil around in your mouth, between the teeth to get rid of bacteria in the mouth, spit it out and immediately rinse with some warm water.

Nutritionist Sheryl Salis shares how oil pulling that can help improve your immunity, uses of virgin coconut oil and the method of oil pulling:

Oil pulling is an alternative health practice gaining traction in recent times not only for oral health but also as an immunity boosting measure. As the mouth is a home to millions of microbes including bacteria, the oil pulling process helps get rid of these bacteria through swishing oil in the mouth and in-between the teeth. Swishing the oil for a prolonged period cleanses the mouth and decreases the bacterial load. Not only does this promote oral hygiene, this technique aids in overall health and well-being.

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Other than basic precautions like sanitizing and washing hands, immunty is the key factor to protect yourself from COVID-19 pandemic. Pixabay

With the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the globe, it is recommended to build and maintain a strong immune system to help combat the risk of being infected. While external precautionary measures like sanitizing and washing hands are essential, maintaining basic hygiene measures and eating healthy to build one’s immunity is of utmost importance.

Using virgin coconut oil to build immunity

Cold pressed virgin coconut oil is a superfood recommended for its myriad health benefits; it is a rich source of naturally occurring Lauric acid and contains Vitamin E which helps to improve body’s immunity. The medium Chain Fatty Acids (MCFAs) that contain lauric acid and caprylic acid strengthens the immune system and has anti-viral properties. Therefore, Adding 2 spoons of virgin coconut oil to the diet every day can help improve the immunity and maintain a healthy, holistic lifestyle.

In most Indian household’s, virgin coconut oil is a staple for consumption and beauty practices and is slowly making its way in the mainstream wellness community for oil pulling. Known for its immune boosting properties, virgin coconut oil can be introduced as an effective technique into your heath regime.

Oil Pulling
Virgin coconut oil is a staple for consumption and beauty practices. Pixabay

How to do it?

eStart by swishing it in your mouth on an empty stomach, first thing in the morning

Also Read: Ace Learning From Home During Lockdown

eTake about 1 tablespoon of virgin coconut oil in the mouth and swish it for about 3-5 minutes.

eDiscard the oil by spitting it out. Do not swallow the oil as you will ingest the toxins with it as well

eRinse the mouth with warm water and brush your teeth as usual

eRepeat the process 3-4 times a week. (IANS)

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National Capital Delhi Makes a Gradual Comeback

The city of Delhi has slowly and gradually reopened

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Shutters are lifted and shops spruced up as Delhi's markets open after two months as lockdown restrictions are eased. (Anjana Pasricha/VOA)

Signs are being spruced up and prayers performed as shops in the Indian capital open their shutters after two months with the gradual easing of a stringent lockdown.

Markets were allowed to reopen recently after the government signaled economic activity must resume, even as the fight against the COVID -19 pandemic continues. Traffic is humming on once-deserted streets as buses and auto rickshaws have been given the go-ahead to operate.

However, people in the city of nearly 20 million — one of the worst-hit in the country — remain hesitant about venturing out as cases of coronavirus touched record highs in recent days.

Shop owners, hoping to slowly emerge from the economic pain imposed by a weekslong shutdown, have instituted new rules to cope with the pandemic.

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Though markets are open, they are seeing few customers as people remain wary amid the COVID 19 pandemic. (Anjana Pasricha/VOA)

“We’ve restricted it to three people at a time for browsing, and then we have new checks and measures in place where we first check the person’s temperature, we give them hand sanitizer and we have started giving everyone a pair of gloves as well,” said Rajni Malhotra, owner of Bahrisons Booksellers, a 65-year-old landmark in one of the city’s most iconic markets.

The city is only partially open — shopping malls, restaurants, schools and colleges still remain closed and offices can only have limited staff.  Even in markets that have opened, only half the shops open every day to avoid crowding. Delhi accounts for about 10% of India’s infections.

“We have a twofold challenge — to reduce the transmission rate of the disease, and to increase public activity gradually,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in an address to the country two weeks ago. “Coronavirus is going to be part of our lives for a long time. But we can’t let our lives revolve around it,” he said.

Shop owners even sanitize customers’ purchases to reassure people still wary of entering markets. Among those that sold some goods is a store that sells kitchen equipment — in Delhi, like much of the world, cooking and baking have been therapy for some of those confined indoors.

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A customer turns up to buy baking tins — in Delhi, like much of the world, cooking and baking has been a therapy for people confined indoors. (Anjana Pasricha/VOA)

However, a sense of unease remains as once-buzzing markets see only a sprinkling of customers, who mostly visit shops selling groceries and other essentials.

“There is this feeling that complete your work fast and then return home,” said Aparajita Pant, a city resident who had come to buy food for her pets.

“Earlier one would like to linger around, there are so many interesting shops here but as of now, there is that cautious approach, at least in me,” she said.

That is not good news for some shop owners. Not a single person had walked into Leena Mehra’s shop selling handicrafts and silver jewelry during the first two days.

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Most customers head to shops selling essentials like groceries and medicines. (Anjana Pasricha/VOA)

“It’s depressing. We have to open the shop, we don’t have any choice,” she said.

“We know it is difficult for us to sell this product to the consumer because right now the mindset of the people is not at all in this direction, but we will try,” she said.

The pandemic has left its mark on a city whose love for shopping and being well turned out made it a retailers’ paradise.

“One would take more efforts to get maybe a little better dressed, but now you come here, avoid jewelry, avoid wearing even a watch, I am not even wearing my earrings,” Pant said ruefully.

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Shops display signs asking people to wear masks and take precautions as new rules are put in place to cope with the COVID 19 pandemic. (Anjana Pasricha/VOA)

Even budget accessories and clothes being sold from small stalls tucked in the market’s narrow lanes have few takers. That is disappointing for low-income workers who say they desperately need to start earning again.

“Everybody needs money. If customers don’t come and this atmosphere persists, it will not be easy to face the problem created by this pandemic,” said a despondent Lucky Arya, as he helped set up a stall to sell summer clothes.

The wait for customers is also long for auto rickshaw drivers waiting on sidewalks.

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Auto rickshaw drivers don’t see too many customers as most people still hesitate to venture outside. (Anjana Pasricha/VOA)
 A once-familiar sight as they skillfully negotiated their way through Delhi’s often chaotic traffic, they too have been scarred by the pandemic because of new rules allowing only one passenger instead of the customary two to ensure social distancing.

Also Read: COVID-19 Makes it Difficult to Manage Cancer Care: Oncologist

Mohammad Parvez Khan decided to brave the city’s sizzling summer temperatures to ply his auto rickshaw even during Ramadan because his savings were running out.

“Only we know how we passed these last two months,” he said.

“Every day, when I fasted, I prayed that let the coronavirus go quickly, and may everything come back to how it used to be,” he said. (VOA)