Voice of Sneha, January 2013

January 2013 Issue, Voice of Sneha

A publication of Sneha Inc, CT Volume 7, Issue 1

A Message to SNEHA Supporters From the Current President & Vice-President

Dear Sneha Friends and Supporters,

Wish you all a Prosperous New Year!

We at Sneha want to thank all members and supporters who have helped Sneha’s cause. This work would not be possible without your continued support.

Each year presents new challenges and new opportunities to be of service to the South Asian community. The Sneha helpline is now being used by community members from Connecticut as well as the nearby states. The economic downturn has caused a variety of hardships for the community ranging from the inability to pay for rent and food to physical and mental health issues. Sneha has been approached for help with college tuition, child custody, and housing. Sneha has developed a close liaison with state agencies to assist the South Asian community.

Sneha activities could not have been performed without your help in the form of donations and membership dues. Once again, it is time to help Sneha with your continued involvement by mailing in your 2013 membership dues. These annual dues go a long way towards helping the South Asian community in these difficult economic times. We have provided an envelope to send in your membership dues of $25.00 for year 2013. We extend special thanks to those who have made additional contributions, and request each one of you to add an extra amount as a donation to your membership dues.

As a general member, we encourage you to attend our monthly meetings. General member meetings are an opportunity for members to learn more about Sneha activities.

Sneha has received a grant from the Mass Mutual Company for community outreach programs. We will be hosting various events at local universities and other venues to initiate a dialog with the young and the old. “Growing up in America” and “Growing Old in America” are the topics of discussion. Here are some upcoming events that we hope you will be able to attend:

February 2013 – Town Hall event at University of Connecticut
April 2013 – Sneha Open House
September 2013 – Town Hall event at University of Bridgeport

(Please refer to our website, Sneha.org, for specific dates and times.)

Thank you again for your support. We look forward to seeing you at our next Sneha event!


Sharayu Tulpule & Sheila Charmoy
Sneha President & Vice-President

We, the New Americans - Lata’s Story: by Ms. Kshiteeja Bhide, Psychotherapist, Sneha Board Member

In the Gospel according to Matthew Jesus said, “Assuredly I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the LEAST of these My brethren, you did it to Me.” (Matt. 25:40) This Christian thought is experientially not evidenced by the current South Asian practice of religion wherein we similarly assist the truly destitute. I wonder if at this point in our model minority success as an ethnic group, where our identity is primarily linked to economic and social success, we should have evolved to a strong-enough psyche to be confident and mature enough to self-examine and to reach out to the very unfortunate.

This is a story about Lata, a woman with whom we had contact through Sneha and the community for a long time. Why have I chosen to write about Lata? Her story is an analogy to the Gloria Steinem essay “Ruth’s Song Because She Could Not Sing It.” Lata started her life in a small Indian town, was a high school graduate, loved the flora and the fauna (with the proper education she could have been a botanist), and married an accomplished musician and music professor at a junior Ivy League university. They raised two children and he reaped the comforts of having his homemade Indian food during his adjustment years, and a spouse taking care of the entire backdrop necessary for one person in the family to go forward. During his growth as a professional, he succumbed to the temptation of his enhanced self esteem. Surrounded by a multitude of students and faculty he entered into a liaison with one and subsequently divorced his dependent, caring, nourishing wife, his homemaker and the mother of his two children. She no longer served his needs.

What happened to Lata? She raised her two children, who were undoubtedly scarred by the divorce as it diminished their life style and their mother to a lost person. As is common with divorce in the Indian community, virtually no one came to Lata’s aid. Then her son, who was in college, committed a crime where a male college student perished. He was sentenced to over 20 years in prison; his release is imminent. If he is deported how will he manage in a foreign land? Her daughter labored under the cloud of the divorce and her brother’s crime, as well as her mother’s precarious financial, emotional and physical health, and ultimately moved away to begin a new life with a less negative associations.

About 18 years ago Lata, who was working as a Certified Nurse Assistant (CNA) and already in her mid 50’s, was having a very hard time physically coping with her job. She also did not earn enough money to pay for her basic needs. She contacted Sneha as she had previously been assisted personally by Shyamala Raman. We in Sneha had little if any money at the time. We were however at that time trying to make collaborative relationships with larger South Asian community. There had been a flurry of inter-organizational activity where we had met quite a few times, shared and communicated for about a year. On the basis of this association, which seemed earnest, and as Sneha’s president I approached two leading Hindu groups in order to obtain some help for Lata. I explained to them that she was being approached by a church group to convert to Christianity, as they were willing to help her. After making four phone calls to two separate individuals they did not respond, even after I explained that all she needed was a couple thousand dollars to survive the crisis in her life. Lata converted to Christianity. A colleague said their beliefs suited her more than the religion of her birth. Why? I would imagine a sufficiently caring response in the form of meeting her basic financial, physical and therefore emotional needs would appeal to anyone!

Is it time for those of us who think critically to recognize our cognitive dissonance, particularly in the face our success? Is that success reflected in bigger and better equipped temples with more statues? Acts of kindness are the hands and feet of God. The questions we need to ask are: How can we reduce Lata’s discomfort, what can we learn from her pain, and what can we do for her as one of God’s less fortunate? As a community will we eventually graduate to accepting murder, honor killings, dowry death, incarceration, and destitution as another part of the human condition? At this time can we summon our courage to reach out to a truly deserving woman who would appear, as in Matt. 25:40, to be the LEAST of us?

Safe Communities Start With Each of Us: by Deepa Iyer – originally published in Huffington Post

A friend posted this on her Facebook feed last week: "This warning is to everyone but more specifially my hijab/niqab-wearing sisters -- please be careful, don't stand too close to the train tracks, we need to be on high alert."

Her warning was related to the gruesome death of a 46-year-old Indian-Hindu man who was shoved onto the path of an oncoming train at a subway stop in New York City at the end of 2012. According to authorities, the woman held in custody for pushing Sunando Sen said: "I pushed a Muslim off the train tracks because I hate Hindus and Muslims ever since 2001 when they put down the twin towers..."

My friend's response is one that many of us who are South Asian, Arab American, Muslim or Sikh can understand. We say "Be safe" to each other, with the silent understanding that those words, when spoken to our Sikh brother, our Muslim sister, our brown-skinned father, carry the weight of over a decade of profiling, hate crimes, deporta-tions, and school bullying. "Be safe," we say, because it is possible that you will get harassed or hurt out there. The warnings are for good reason. The FBI reports that hate crimes against Muslims in the U.S. rose 50 percent in 2010. The year 2012 saw even more incidents of backlash against our community members. Just a few weeks ago, a man entered a mosque in Fremont and shouted that he would shoot worshippers there. In August, six Sikhs were shot and killed at a gurudwara in the nation's heartland, in a tragedy that the U.S. Department of Justice called a hate crime.

In our country, we have a tendency to condemn racist sentiment and actions, but then often leave it to others to confront it -- usually, the racial or ethnic group that is at the receiving end. But all the organizing and advocacy within the so-called post-9/11 affected communities can only go so far in changing the climate in our country. Rather, all Americans must see hate violence as part of a history, past and present, of racism and xenophobia in our country, and make it clear that we cannot and should not tolerate in any shape or form.

We must see the connections between the ongoing harassment of African-Americans on our streets and the profil-ing of Arab-Americans at our airports. We must see the link between the mistreatment of undocumented Mexican immigrants and the detentions of hundreds of thousands of people from South Asian and Middle Eastern coun-tries. We must see the connection between the violence that is sadly becoming commonplace -- from Newtown to Aurora to Oak Creek -- and call for an end to all of it.

There are examples of this already in our midst: Japanese and Muslim students in Los Angeles learn about the similarities of their histories by visiting internment camps; online portals such as MyBestFriendisMuslim.com en-able friends to share the commonalities that bring them together; elected leaders at local and national levels in-troduce legislation and hold hearings to preserve civil rights; and community members such as those in Oak Creek, Wisc., who continue to support the gurudwara in the wake of the tragedy there nearly six months ago.

All of us deserve to feel safe and welcome in our schools, neighborhoods, subways and places of worship. As the new year opens, let us ask what each of us can do to create these communities so that the words "Be safe" need not be uttered with worry and fear any longer.

Deepa Iyer is the Executive Director of South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT).

Past President/VP’s Letter to SNEHA Members

Dear Sneha Friends and Supporters,

Welcome to the 7th edition of the Voice of Sneha.

For the past three years from 2010 to 2012, Sneha has reached new heights and achieved success with the women and families we have worked with, in helping them to resolve their emotional and financial problems. We have helped place women in shelters when needed, helped arrange housing, find employment, and resolve family differences, resulting in empowering our women to become independent and strong minded individuals. All this was possible due to a number of hours of dedicated time and effort of Sneha board members. Also, thanks to the unconditional and generous support of community members, and private and corporate donations, we have been able to assist women and families with the much needed help they seek.

We have continued to stay involved in local and state community projects and be visible wherever opportunity arises. Over the last two years we participated in the South Asian Bar Association of Connecticut’s annual event and seminars, and Connecticut Coalition of Domestic Violence workshops. We nominated five gentlemen who are great Sneha supporters to the ‘First 100 Men’ award celebration held by Connecticut Coalition of Domestic Violence where they were honored by Senator Richard Blumenthal. We, along with the South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) a national organization based in Maryland, signed petitions to policies proposed by US leaders in the Senate and Congress.

As always, we look forward to adding members to our Sneha board. Please contact us if you are interested in joining Sneha. We encourage you to attend Sneha general members meetings which occur on the 2nd Sunday of every month as a way to get involved in Sneha activities and to know other Sneha general and board members. This is a wonderful way to connect and network with other like minded people. The dates and times of the meetings are listed on the Sneha website Sneha.org. For our general members we hold a variety of programs every year including book discussions and our annual Open House. This past year, we also tried to offer increased opportunities for members to more informally gather together through such events as movie discussions and a year-end Holiday Luncheon.

We thank all our board members, general members and supporters for the moral and financial support we have received through the past years and hope you will continue to give us the same kind of unwavering support in the future.

Wish you all a Happy, Healthy and Prosperous New Year!!!!

Jyoti Ramesh and Trupti Rao-Chimilio
Past President and Vice President

Sneha at a Glance:

SNEHA’s Voice is a publication of Sneha Inc. of CT. Permission must be obtained for any use.

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