Sunday, December 03, 2006


I am feeling perplexed by this organization, Indicorps. Below is some
of the polemic that comes across in the debate. As I am part of the
International Development Program at Johns Hopkins SAIS, it is a funded
internship I am being pushed to apply for though I feel uncomfortable
with all this controversy. If anyone has more thoughts and reflections
please do let me know.


Following what you heard about indicorps I found this on the website of
some activists, related to the alleged
connections of this NGO with VHP and RSS. More information are provided
below, and links. Actually indicorps's involvement with fundamentalist
groups seems to be based just on funding ( most of which come from the
nationalists, sangh parivar)something which could blur its well known
secular and highly progressive structure. The ambiguity lies in its
founder's involvement, this Sonal Sha, whose affiliation with VHP is

I suggest you to find more on the issue, get documented, and be careful
your decisions, when the time will come.
and you were right, it is not a casualty that people in JHU pushed you
join this organization, on the base of your ethnic background and
tokenized identity. it gives me the creeps, but on the other side one is
also curious to explore the contextuality of it all.

This could be also an issue if discussion and debate for your seminars.

good. take care always.

Indicorps and its Sangh affiliations

The South Asian Conference Council (SACC) at Yale University organized a
conference on solidarity in the South Asian community. The objective was
to increase social activism in the South Asian student community. The
conference included panels on youth activism and workers rights and
brought together some very progressive activists in the community (such
Nahar Alam from Andolan, Saru Jayaraman from Restaurant opportunities
Center of New York, Chandra Bhatnagar from the ACLU to mention a few).
conflict with this progressive list of speakers, the organizers also
invited Sonal Shah, vice president of Goldman Sachs and co-founder of
Indicorps. According to their website, “Indicorps is a non-partisan,
non-religious, non-profit organization that encourages Indians around!
world to actively participate in India's progress.” While some of the
organizations that Indicorps works with are indeed secular and
progressive, at issue was their affiliation with organizations of the
Sangh parivar. These connections range from personal affiliation of
Shah with the VHP-A (see
institutional affiliation of Indicorps with IDRF (IDRF is one of
Indicorps’ supporters; see,
Indicorps’ involvement with Sangh parivar projects such as Ekal
Perhaps most questionable was Indicorps’ decision to accept an award
the “butcher of Gujarat” Narendra Modi in November 2004, at a time when
numerous human rights activists have been threatened from continuing
work (

The conference organizers allowed a couple of progressive youth
collectives (Organizing Youth! and Youth Solidarity Summer) to read a
statement and ask Indicorps to explain their association with the Sangh
Parivar. Far from explaining, Sonal Shah admitted her affiliation to the
VHP-A, claimed that she would take money from anyone (including the
and used a young Muslim volunteer to claim that Indicorps was in fact
secular. Such is not the kind of solidarity that one expects from a
non-partisan, non-religious organization. In fact, based on the evidence
and Sonal Shah’s admission, Indicorps can be listed as one of many front
organizations of the Sangh parivar in the US. Soon after this public
discussion, the Patriotic Sons of Mother India (a virulent Sangh outfit)
posted a defence of Indicorps by attempting to defame Youth Solidarity
Summer as anti-India and anti-Hindu- typical reaction from the Sangh for
one of their own!

Saturday, December 02, 2006

For Biji

My grandmother is not well. She is old yes and I suppose thats what
happens when one grows old. You don't feel well. I hear she is in the
hospital alone. I want her to go peacefully yet medicine keeps her
alive. She is to far away for me to help her. She has lived a full,
beautiful life and I want her death to be with dignity. Everyone
allows her to be in a bad condition when we need to be brave and end
her life with dignity. We are weak. We allow the doctors to make a
mockery of our values and judgments. (sigh) Here is a story I wrote
to her in the year 2002 to give you all an idea of what she was like.
She was a force of nature, a giver of stories, a strong presence in my
life. When I read 100 years of solitude and then read Marquez's
interviews of his inspiration I understood perfectly when he said
everything came from his grandmother. Biji made me see our family that
way. I have always been enthralled to hear her speak of the tragedy
and joy in living.


Visiting Myself

My grandma surrounds herself with photographs, spending more time with
these images than with the people they represent. Voices from afar on
the telephone respond to her existence, reminding her that people
remember her, who she was, who she has become.

She is a shell of her former self.

I sleep next to her, hearing her breathing, in and out, the air it
keeps her spirit alive. I wonder what she thinks, dreams about, as the
days keep going by.

Morning brings the sun to my eyes. She’s already awake sitting on an
easy chair, waiting for me. In the bathroom I can hear her rumbling
pots in the kitchen, she’s trying to cook something. I come out to help
her, telling her to sit down, take it easy.

She insists on cooking, so I let her. I watch her move, she’s a blind
person in the dark, unaware of the darkness, it’s all the same to her.
She reminds me that she cooks for herself all the time.

I eat and listen to her. She starts talking. I feel like I’m not there.
She keeps going, stories, some sad some interesting, one about how on
the hottest day of the year, she walked to the supermarket, on the
other side of town, to eat a mango. A goal, her entire existence
converging on a sweet mango. She touches it, tastes it, more real than
pictures or voices from afar. I imagine her in the hot sun, alone on a
park bench, eating all she knows. She’s in the moment.

I look at her, I can’t tell if she sees me. She gets quiet, she lies
down on the couch. I sit in front of her reading, it’s all I know to
do. Occasionally she wakes up to say something. I try and read and
listen at the same time, I try to ignore her, I feel uneasy. I tell her
I’ll get the groceries.

I walk out. I get a cup of coffee and an overwhelming feeling of
wanting to make love takes me. Usually the feeling is incessant, like a
leak from the faucet, dripping making noise, raising awareness, but not
drawing attention to itself. Eventually it becomes a slow din, fading
into the background. This is different, it’s a flood of feeling so
strong, as if I was the one dying, looking back at my life in regret.

I walk into the grocery store, the sun going down on this gray winter
day. I know by the time I come out, it’ll be dark. I spot a photo
booth, jump in, take pictures. The pictures remind me I’m young, that I
have a long time to go. My mind it feels really old though. I feel
stuck alone waiting to die. My whole life behind me, only darkness
ahead, an unknown. It’s not true. I look at my young face, I see that
everything these old people wish to do I can do.

My grandma is 84, I’m 24. 60 years apart, yet we share the same
struggle: getting through the day. She waits for 6:30 to roll around,
to play cards downstairs, with 5 or 6 other senior citizens. “It helps
pass the time,” she says. I sit all day next to her, reading, trying to
keep busy. Slowly the day turns to night over and over. My uneasiness
eventually subsides, I feel rhythm, a feeling that I have done this
before, of being content in just being, of being here for her. I don’t
want to leave her.

I tell her I’ll join her for cards. We head down, sit at the table
ready to play. The game is easy, mostly of chance, the little skill
that comes into play, has to do with screwing over the person sitting
next to you. We all sit around the table stranded, do our best to deny
it, with endless chatter. Once in a while everyone asks each other how
they’re doing.

I lose every game. I’m the first one out. In a game of chance you would
think I would win some games. I tell my grandma I’m heading up and that
I’ll be waiting for her. 3 hours later she drudges in. She won 2 games
and she seems happy, she made it through another day. She tells me
she’s sleepy, she goes to bed.

A little lamp lights the room, the rest of the place is dark. I sit and
listen to the night. My eyes start getting tired, but I see nothing in
sleep, it means nothing to me here.

I wake up to the sound of a vacuum. The orderly is here, she assists my
grandma in cleaning and other household chores. I think of the whole
day ahead of me in the shower. Rain coming down, washing away my sins.
I think of leaving, it’s been 8 days and I’m starting to lose track of
time. I don’t remember what yesterday was like and tomorrow, I don’t
care for. Am I in the moment? Is my grandmother my mango?

Over breakfast, I casually mention how I should head back to the city,
how I have so much stuff to do, that's so important. She tells me to
stay one more week, says she’ll feel sad if I go. I tell her I’m going
back so she’ll be proud of me, how I’m thinking about going back to
school, getting my act together, getting a job, becoming successful so
she can then talk about me downstairs over cards, to her orderlies,
random strangers, I would become just like the rest of her
grandchildren, a faded image on her walls. I take out my unsmiling
pictures from the photo booth, I pin them on the wall. There’s four of
me, all looking at her, abstract, far away, making her feel as good as
God does on lonely Sunday afternoons.

– Gaurav Deep Arora
March 31, 2002

A story I wrote in 2003

I came upon this after a longtime. It was published on a web journal.
I was completely depressed when I wrote it.....


I Only Have You

She’s got half a face and I’ve got till the end of the week to put it
together. All these days with her ugly. Her ugly everywhere
inescapable, it’s not turning into beauty like I promised.

The door it opens differently now. Anticipation in her polite rushing
footsteps to see me, be with me. The lock turns with no hesitation, I
walk in, no words, hesitation, ready to be alone together.

How different its all become from the beginning when I saw her on the
street with her half face disgrace, half moon embrace. People pretend
not to notice. I look at it, her, all to touch where it hurts, her
swollen redness, her mangled goodness.

To touch is to heal to hurt is to steal her story.

I followed, took pictures from afar. As she stood on the line at the
post office, as she paid for her groceries with no eyes touching her.
Where was she? I couldn’t tell how it felt for her. How she did it, to
go on each day so quietly disturbed, silently ignored. She goes on. I
can’t go on. We all go on somehow.

In all the pictures she clashes with all colors all goodness. Hours and
hours go by I look into her, look for her in her pictures, look for
what I know I saw. I realize what to do, it comes so suddenly.

All day I smoke camels on the corner waiting for her. I try and speak
to her. Please I need to talk to you. I show her my camera, I take
pictures of her. Her gaze to the ground, her smile not smiling. We go
nowhere with her broken English, my broken heart. She walks away. I
follow, corner her. I need to love you to make this all work, okay?
Tears and I’m real close to everything that makes her cry, her flaw my
beauty, I touch it with my softness, my forced goodness.

I’m taking pictures, she’s undressed. My cigarette burns slowly through
the room. The smoke hangs in the light by the window, she looks at it
as one would a lonesome cloud on a clear sunny day. One cloud, can it
cover all the magnificence of the sun?

She starts cooking something for me and she’s gotten use to my looking
at her. I’m allowed to, I am allowed to do whatever I please. Her ugly
is mine. She doesn’t care. Because of it I’m by her side, without it
I’d be gone.

Her half face is bringing joy, the joy that comes right after a lot of

The smiles get brighter, the laughter longer, I never show her the work
– it might hurt her. Slowly I realize I really have nothing. Just a lot
of pictures of some mangled girl, nothing comes together. I stop going
to her place, the sky fades into darkness again and again. I feel a
happiness inside I can’t describe.

– Gaurav Deep Arora
February 16, 2003

Poetry in motion

I would liken this debate to "poetry in motion". What do I mean? As a
New Yorker I have had a lifelong love affair with the subway system,
its as natural to me as my own blood. Imagine then how I feel about
subway advertising, I hate it, what it stands for, how it invades my
experience of the NYC subway experience. It wasn't so so bad when we
had Dr. Zizmor ads next to lawyer ads that were quite funny, like those
apex commercials "we can't call you pick up the phone and call us".
anyway things got out of hand when one day I walked into the "Yoo-hoo"
car and it was all just yoo-hoo or the budweiser one, it was an
onslaught on my sense and made me hate subway advertising, as a system,
a concept, a paradigm. BUT, and this the but you have been waiting
for, in the midst of this desert of mediocrity and mental prostitution,
there is poetry in motion. You know when you are squished on the 7
train riding home and you can't see the sun and you feel like a rat in
the cage and you look up and its not a stupid commercial it's poetry, a
rather profound verse speaking to the heart. It livens you, saves you,
makes you happy. Even though poetry in motion in of itself is good,
valuable, you are glad you have it, it no way justifies the existence
of the corrupt structure within which it operates - advertising. if it
was up to me I would still banish all subway advertising even at the
loss of poetry of motion - it would do over-all more good. Similarly i
feel while drug companies do some good (20% according to some
estimates) it over-all if taken into account iatrogenic effects (4th
leading cause of deaths USA) and malpractice and a possible connection
all the way to ww2 and hitler germany, than we got serious trouble and
I don't care if grandma has less pain because the system in which it is
embedded is fucked. so stop being apologetic for it, wake up, and
while we may not have poetry in motion we will have open mental space
and horizons to build a new order. I would make a similar argument
with oprah and TV, so i agree with gatewood.....drug companies are part
of the problem not solution when it comes to health, dependency is no
measure of freedom and because one has to take something (like
advertising!) doesn't make it good or free from critique.


On Nov 30, 2006, at 7:21 PM, bwatson wrote:

> As someone who practices holistic and herbal health,
> I'm certainly no fan of drug companies. I also
> recognize the ways in which so many companies these
> days are able to simply plant press releases in the
> news and have them passed off as stories. Despite my
> misgivings about the pharmaceutical industry, I think
> it's important to distinguish an industry's greedy
> practices, with the import of its purpose. Drugs in
> and of themselves are not evil. The reality is that
> many people with HIV, Depression and a host of other
> diseases have benefitted from the breakthroughs in
> drug treatment made available in the past two decades.
> Those break throughs and the help to folks on the
> ground do not negate the damaging practices of drug
> companies or the degree to which people have begun to
> use drug therapy as a replacement for life therapy and
> long term holistic health. Still, I think it's a
> disservice to those researchers who have made real
> contributions to society by discovering new forms of
> medication to simply dismiss the industry out of
> pocket as a whole. Further, and this is a point I
> think you should really sit with a bit, there are
> people who have tangible evidence in their own every
> days lives of the degree to which a particular course
> of drug therapy has helped them. When you dismiss the
> industry in the out of hand manner that you generally
> tend to, you risk also dismissing the voices and
> experiences of those folks. Promoting a perspective or
> a message can be most effective when the manner of
> your delivery displays a bit more sensitivity for the
> possibility of people who not only do not share your
> point of view but who believe themselves to have had
> experiences that invalidate or contrast your view.
> Bahiyyih
> --- Sean Gatewood <> wrote:
>> Read this bullshit article very carefully and
>> recognize that the drug
>> companies are one of the greatest menaces to human
>> health and well-being
>> around:
>> Followed closely be the media and its "reporting" .
>> . .
> _________________________________________________________________
>> Fixing up the home? Live Search can help
> kit=improve&locale=en-US&source=hmemailtaglinenov06&FORM=WLMTAG

Newspaper Seminar - December 1st

Ladies and Gentlemen. Fidel Castro isn't feeling well, milton friedman
is dead, ecuador has a new president and the pope is in Turkey. In my
native Queens 2 cops shot an unarmed black man 50 times breaking the
record set 7 years ago of 41 shots that killed Amadou Diallo, prompting
protest songs from Bruce Springsteen and Wyclef Jean. Somethings never
change or perhaps they get worse.

Speaking of things getting worse lets focus on Lebanon. We got Faysal
who has offered to present on the topic. Below are some readings to
get you up to speed. We will be at the bar 530pm getting our groove
on. I look forward to a lively presentation and discussion.

Peace, Love and Understanding (what's so funny about that?)


Lebanon’s seeming slide toward civil conflict is not just a symbol of
unfortunate historic symmetry. This country is a barometer for the
region, serving as a measure of tensions and rivalries.

The new new middle east....

Just to show you how multicultural I am....the leading english daily
from lebanon which has interesting items to explore, timeline of the
war, opinion pieces, all from lebanon itself.