Tag Archives: India

Yoga for Hope coming this Fall!

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In 2004, I traveled to India for the first time. During my month-long exploration, I found myself enchanted by the colors, spirituality, and rich cultural heritage of the country, and simultaneously shocked by the poverty, especially in the slums of Kolkata (formerly Calcutta), my first destination.

I resolved to make a difference…

Then, on only my second day in India, I stumbled across The HOPE Foundation, an NGO founded by Maureen Forrest, an Irish woman who believes that her life “belongs to the whole community.” HOPE has many fantastic programs to help the most abandoned and destitute residents of Kolkata: Its street kids and slum dwellers. I visited their hospital, which serves the poorest of the poor; their free medical clinic located in the slums; a restaurant where HOPE residents learn to cook, serve, and run the business; the skill center where people with no employment opportunities can train in media and fashion; and two of the homes where street kids come to live and learn. Continue reading

Versions of You.

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I’m in India.

It’s 2005, or something very close to that, I am 35, but my mind is much older.

As per circumstance, happenstance and the unusual, I am here in the dusty, smelly and undeniably magical streets of Delhi through a very strange, unexpected and mostly serendipitous series of events, that even I could not have calculated or created a few weeks ago.

But that is how my life tends to be unfolding. A series of absurd, extreme and mostly exceptional plot twists. You would think I would have figured this out by now. Continue reading

Ginger Masala Chai Worthy of a New York Winter

chai-tea-e-liquidI recently moved to New York City from California and am (ahem) “enjoying” my first real winter here. Let the wuss jokes begin!

It’s alright. I’m laughing at myself, too. Born and raised in California, used to being fairly tan, gets cold easily, loves sunshine so much she’s basically part lizard… Yep, that’s me. Now instead of donning a windbreaker for misty San Francisco mornings or wearing a hat for fun in the 60 degree Los Angeles winter sun, I’m learning the art of boots, down coats, ear muffs, long johns and mittens. Endless mittens. See you next April, world, because I am officially 75% clothing right now, and I can barely see over my scarf.

It’s going to be a long winter.

In all honesty, though, I love autumn and winter. I love the snow; I love the holidays; I love the feeling of warming up after being cold. It probably has something to do with a nesting instinct. One of the most beloved memories I have from childhood is making nests with my big sister on rainy days and sick days. When it was miserable, grey and raining outside, or when we were stuck in the house with colds and fevers, my sister would orchestrate a grand “nesting.” We’d pile tons of blankets and pillows on the ground, arranged in little cup-shaped seats like an egg carton. And then we’d hop inside the nest with a box of Nilla wafers and tea and watch a Disney movie to pass the time. Pure joy.

I still make nests of sorts, as does she, both literally and figuratively. Sans actual blankets and pillows, I just love making people feel warm, comfortable, and cared for. In any kind of weather, there’s little I love more than bringing people together around a table for delicious food and loving company. But this is a particularly important practice during the cold and dark months when our souls really need that extra swaddling. And many traditional winter recipes do the trick of warming us inside out.

Case in point, spice-infused recipes. This season you’re undoubtedly enjoying foods flavored with all kinds of spices, whether you know it or not. Butternut squash soup, gingerbread cookies, curries and stews, applesauce, etc. Winter recipes tend to incorporate many different spices, for several reasons. In Ayurveda, the winter season is associated with exacerbated Vata qualities, which are best assuaged through warming foods. This can be literally hot foods (like soup, hot cereal and warm drinks) and/or through warm-ing foods, made invigorating through the use of spice.

Even outside of Ayurveda, there’s a very practical reason to eat more spice during the winter. It’s cold, there’s a bug going around, you’re sniffly and sick…Voilà, spices curb cold and flu symptoms! Ginger, for instance, is an anti-inflammatory, anti-viral and anti-bacterial. It can help boost your immune system, loosen mucus, open your sinuses, and relieve sore throats. That’s a lot for one little root!

Keeping the health benefits in mind, as well as the essential need for warming and nesting that we all experience during this season, I offer you chai.

“Masala chai” is the Hindi term for a drink made with black tea, milk, and lots of spice. It is a drink that has been consumed in South Asia for centuries and is traditionally much less sweet and much more spicy than what you’d get at your local coffee shop. I can’t necessarily vouch for the total authenticity of my recipe, as I’ve never been to India, but I promise you won’t be disappointed!

Ginger Masala Chai

Makes 2 servings

Ingredients:

2 cups of milk (I like organic whole milk, but soy, almond, or oat work as well)

2 cups of water

3 tablespoons of loose leaf, unflavored black tea (the stronger the better; I like Darjeeling)

1/4 teaspoon Wakaya Perfection ground ginger

1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

pinch of saffron

2 whole, crushed up cardamom cloves

3 teaspoons of Turbinado sugar (or Agave, honey, etc)

Instructions:

Get two saucepans going on the stove on medium heat. Pour the milk in one and the water in the other. You’ll need to work in both pots simultaneously. As the milk begins to warm, add the pinch of saffron, pressing it between your fingertips gently before dropping it in the saucepan.

Once the water in the other pot begins to boil, add the loose tea leaves and reduce to a low simmer. Let steep 3-5 minutes. While you’re waiting, add the sugar to the milk and stir until it dissolves. Once the tea is ready, place a strainer over the milk and strain the tea water into the milk saucepan. Now you’re working in just one pot.

Start building the spice. Add the ginger, cinnamon and any other spices you want to the pot, saving the cardamon to the side for the end. You can try the chai to see if it has the right spice/sugar ratio, and adjust until it’s just right. Bring the pot to a boil, and as it begins to bubble up, throw the cardamon in and turn the heat off right away. The chai will stew for a second, cooling down slightly, and the cardamon will infuse the drink just enough without overpowering it.

Serve in two mugs and enjoy! Stay warm, everyone!

Mallika Chopra: My Yoga Challenge

intent meditationI struggle with yoga.  I feel guilty admitting this given I am a Chopra, a meditator, from India, live in Santa Monica, have dear friends who are yoga teachers, and have a website on intention.  People assume I am a yogi, and I’ve even been recruited to be a spokesperson for yoga by companies even though I struggle with Downward Dog!  I’ve also written about the comedy of being a Chopra in a yoga class (but more on that next week)!

But, in the last few months, I have committed to my intent to lead a healthier, more balanced life – to meditate daily, eat better, exercise more, and practice yoga.  I was invited to join a group of friends for a Monday morning yoga class, and while I was very doubtful I would enjoy it, I committed to it thinking that by being accountable to my friends to “show up” would force me to actually show up.

I have done 3 classes so far, and I have to admit that I am secretly starting to enjoy them.  I’m realizing it takes a few classes to get the flow of the poses, and the self-assuredness that yoga is a personal practice where you can improve with every practice.  Our small class is relaxed and fun, and the social interaction is as motivating as how I feel physically and emotionally after class.

So, it is timely that I am joining my friend, Tara Stiles, and Intent’s partner, Sports Club LA, to launch the 21 Days of Yoga Challenge on Intent.com!

Each week we will be posting a new yoga challenge on Intent.com.

Please support people’s yoga intents, adopt one of the yoga intents or set your own (and put them in the yoga category).

This week, I’m adopting Tara’s yoga intent to challenge myself with sun salutations every day – something manageable for me as I will probably start with one a day!  I will re-affirm and update it daily, as well.  I hope you will join us for this challenge!

Also, I wanted to share this video of Tara and I chatting about yoga and intention, as well as her post about how she incorporates intention into her daily life.

An Open Letter to Racist Tweeters on Miss America

By: Sayantani DasGupta

Screen shot 2013-09-17 at 11.57.35 AMDear Racist Tweeters of America,

First and foremost, let me thank you on behalf of feminists of color everywhere, not to mention the producers of the Miss America competition, for making people sit up and take notice of a beauty contest that otherwise would have been off most of our radars.

When I woke up Monday morning to find one of my Indian American friends had posted something on my Facebook wall to the effect of “Sisters! We are Miss America!,” I appreciated the sentiment, but couldn’t bring myself to care that much. After all, I spend most of my life as a feminist scholar, parent, and pediatrician writing and lecturing against the toxic body culture and impossible beauty standards that reduce our daughters’ worth to their physical appearance over their intelligence and actions.

Ok, so some overachieving daughter-of-Indian-immigrants-who-is-also-an-aspiring- cardiologist had done a Bollywood dance, worn a swimsuit, and won a tiara. Beyond a passing eye-roll, I wasn’t that interested.

But then came you, dear tweeters, and the reports of your racist hatredswathed, sari-like, in your unabashed ignorance: your conflation of Indian fusion dance with “Indonesian” dance; your interchange of “Arab” for “Indian”; your assertion that this brown-skinned Miss America was not somehow “American” despite being born in Syracuse, New York. And I realized then that your firestorm of xenophobic fury was nothing more than fodder for an excellent real-life lesson in feminist intersectionality.

Because of you, dear tweeters, I – like many other feminists of color – have been forced to defend a brown woman’s right to win a competition whose premise turns my stomach. (Talent contests! Hair spray! Your answer to world peace in two minutes or less!) Because the truth is, your insight-less cyber-comments reveal much about the reality of living, as brown women, in post-9/11 America.

The ‘contingent citizenship’ faced by most Asian- and Middle Eastern-Americans was a reality of our lives long before the twin towers fell. The perpetual question “where are you from?”–when answered ‘incorrrectly’–is still usually followed up by “no, where are you REALLY from?” (Refer to this genius “What Kind of Asian Are You” video by Ken Tanaka as a cultural refresher.) Somehow, in mainstream American consciousness, it has always been impossible to be both of Asian or Middle Eastern origin and from Texas, or Syracuse, or Ohio. No matter how many generations we have been in the United States, no matter our contributions to this nation, our communities are damned to marginalization as ‘perpetual foreigners.’

But after 9/11, those of us with brown faces (whether Muslim or Sikh, Hindu or Christian, atheist or agnostic) have found ourselves also conflated with the face of terrorism. We have been yelled at on the streets, unduly searched at airports, the victims of hate-crimes, and had our families and communities targeted for police harassment,immigration detention, and deportation.

missamericaSo your tweets that 24-year-old New Yorker Nina Davuluri should be called “Miss 7-11” or “Miss Al-Qaeda,” your outrage that an Indian American could be crowned Miss America only a few days after 9/11, were kind of a call to arms. (And no, I don’t mean the kind of arms toted by blonde, tattooed, huntress Miss Kentucky, Theresa Vail.) Your cyber-hate shed light on something much bigger than mere ‘bigotry’; it unearthed the ugly sentiments that lurk right beneath the surface of life in America, the venomous underbelly of a false patriotism that impacts our communities every day. And so, we brown skinned feminists have had, as always, to perform a complicated dance of alliances: responding to xenophobia and racism without forgoing our gendered analyses.

Without a doubt, beauty is a political issue. Growing up in the heart of the American Midwest in the 1970s, I was assaulted with media images that looked nothing like me, and for a long time was convinced that no one who wasn’t a blonde-haired and blue-eyed Christie Brinkley look-alike could be deemed ‘beautiful.’ This inability to see myself in the world around me eroded my self-esteem and self-confidence for many years, convincing me that perhaps I should be invisible – in body, word, action, and deed.

My thirteen-year-old self would have been thrilled to know that someone like Nina Davuluri – someone like me — could be crowned Miss America. My adult self thinks that maybe such contests are valuing women for the wrong things, and that it’s not the crowning of a Miss America of Indian origin that resolves a little brown girl’s self-hatred, but the ability and courage of we as a society to recognize how sexism, racism, and xenophobia all work together in our lives.

So thank you, Racist Tweeters of America, for opening up this dialogue about the intersectionality of race, nationhood, and gender.  Your comments only remind me how the bodies of women of color continue to be a battleground for so many oppressive forces. And it is only by naming these forces, and recognizing their ugly reflections in our lives, that we can begin to see all of our own true beauty.

But before you take down your hate-filled twitter feed, just provide me one favor. Hashtag #intersectionalityisforracistidiots. Let it hold up a mirror to all the ways you represent what is wrong with America today. And, ironically, the many ways that a brown Miss America reflects what is right.

Kthxbye,

Sayantani

Originally posted on The Feminist Wire

Originally trained in pediatrics and public health, Sayantani DasGupta, M.D. M.P.H., teaches in the Master’s Program in Narrative Medicine at Columbia University and the Graduate Program in Health Advocacy at Sarah Lawrence College. She is Co-Chair of the Columbia University Seminar on Narrative, Health and Social Justice and a faculty fellow at Columbia’s Center for the Study of Social Difference. Sayantani is the co-author of a book of Bengali folktales, the author of a memoir about her time at Johns Hopkins Medical School and co-editor of an award winning collection of women’s illness narratives, Stories of Illness and Healing: Women Write their Bodies. 

New Miss America Attacked By Internet Ignorance

Screen shot 2013-09-17 at 11.57.35 AMOn Sunday night, Nina Davuluri (Miss New York), became the first Miss America winner of Indian descent. Davulri won after wowing judges with a Bollywood fusion dance. She plans to use her $50,000 prize to help pay for medical school. As Miss America she will also spend a year traveling the country talking about her platform: celebrating diversity.

This is a hard earned and historic moment for Davuluri, and for minority little girls across the country who watched the pageant. Instead of congratulations and praise though, Davuluri’s crowning as greeted with an onslaught of hateful and bigoted comments from the internet. You can get a good idea of the social commentary on twitter from this viral Buzzfeed post. Only moments after she won the crown twitter exploded with dismayed tweets that “an Arab” could win Miss America, accusing Davuluri of being a terrorist and of course, saying it was distasteful to name an Indian woman Miss America four days after the anniversary of September 11. There’s not enough blog space in the world to correct all of the cultural/geographical/historical errors these people made when bashing Davuluri, and that’s not even the most disturbing part of their tirade.

What’s most ironic is that so many of these people justify their opinions with the statement “This is America.” – as if that’s a righteous defense for bigotry. Do they even know what that phrase means? This is, indeed, America – the great melting pot! Davuluri is from New York, where the Statue of Liberty greets newcomers to this country every day with the words “Give me your tired, your poor/Your huddled masses, yearning to breath free/The wretched refuse of your teeming shore/Send these, the homeless, tempest tost to me/I lift my lamp beside the golden door.” 

Yet there are so many who deny America’s immigrant roots and reject our diverse identity. This is America, and we should be doing better than this.

So from Intent, we offer Miss Davuluri our sincere congratulations and best of luck with your future endeavors. We look forward to hearing more of your stance on celebrating diversity during your reign as Miss America. Obviously it’s a message we still need to hear.

“Abused Goddesses”: The Ad Campaign that Tackles Domestic Violence in India

enhanced-buzz-13226-1378408862-44Hinduism is the most widely practiced religion in India and one of the largest religions in the world. It is a faith steeped in the concepts of karma, dharma, and the cycles of birth and death, watched over by central deities Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva, among others.

Hinduism is also traditionally known to be highly reverent both the feminine and masculine forces in the world, paying tribute to gods and goddesses, alike. Some of these goddesses, like Parvati and Lakshmi are represented as ideal wives and mothers, modeling feminine virtue. But others, like Durga and Kali, and fierce and powerful in their own right, independent from any male god.

Unfortunately, this reverence in the spirit world does not always translate to real life. This is precisely why the ad company, Taproot, has developed a powerful campaign, called “Abused Goddesses,” to highlight the disparity between India’s goddess-centric religion and the troubling frequency of violence against women. The campaign states,

Pray that we never see this day. Today, more than 68% of women in India are victims of domestic violence. Tomorrow, it seems like no woman shall be spared. Not even the ones we pray to.

Here are three poignant images from the campaign:

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Taproot developed this campaign for “Save Our Sisters,” a nonprofit organization that works against domestic violence and sexual exploitation. The images mirror classical paintings of the goddesses Saraswati, Durga, and Lakshmi, and you may be surprised to hear that these images are actually photographs! Makeup was painted on the models to portray wounds of domestic violence, and props are either real or painted on, as well.

Even apart from the artistic skill that went into these ads, the message is crucial. It we as a culture and a society respect women in theory but not in practice, then we are bound for a regressive and continually troubled future. Let’s start treating women – and all people – like the gods and goddesses they are!

Does the “Abused Goddesses” campaign inspire you? Tell us your thoughts below!

8 Amazing Facts About Dilo Oil – The Next Big Thing

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If you’re passionate about health and wellness like we are, then you’ve undoubtedly tried an assortment of cleanses, superfoods, skin care products, supplements, etc. Some work, some don’t. It almost starts to feel like we haven’t left a single stone unturned on this amazing planet of ours.

As it turns out, there may be one product you have yet to incorporate into your healthy lifestyle, and its called dilo oil. Why, you might ask, haven’t you heard of it? There might be a few answers to that.

First of all, dilo is only the idiomatic Fijian term for Calophyllum inophylluma native tree of the Pacific and tropical regions of Africa. The oil extracted from the plant’s seeds is being hailed by wellness product companies as the best thing since coconut oil, and for good reason. The fuss over dilo is nothing new to people of Fiji and other regions throughout the Pacific, and here’s why…

8 Amazing Facts About Dilo Oil:

  1. The long list of ailments people have traditionally treated with dilo oil include wounds, ulcers, ringworm, arthritis, burns, bruises, dry skin, acne, psoriasis, hair loss, and much more.
  2. Dilo oil is particularly effective in treating skin issues, which is why it has been incorporated into many traditional cosmetic products in the Pacific as well as in India.
  3. One study published in the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry revealed dilo oil’s  potential to inhibit HIV reverse transcriptase, which could make it a viable ingredient in antiretroviral medication.
  4. Reportedly, the oil may also be a viable biodiesel source and thus an alternative to fossil fuel-based gasoline.
  5. The dilo tree also produces an apricot-sized fruit that tastes somewhat like an apple.
  6. The plant has also been used as timber, dye, ornamentation, mosquito repellant, fragrance, craft wood, boat material, soap, and lamp oil.
  7. The tree can reach up to 65 feet in height, 3 feet in diameter, and can produce up to 40 lbs of oil once fully grown.
  8. Dilo trees were considered sacred to Polynesians before mass-conversion to Christianity. Folklore surrounding the plant spoke of gods hiding in the trees and looking out on human activities.

Are you convinced? If you’ve used dilo oil before or try it out after reading this, let us know your results!

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mailing_diloTo experience the benefits of this amazing plant, stock up on Wakaya Perfection’s 100% organic dilo cream to use in your skin care regime! Visit WakayaPerfection.com to order your dilo cream and explore the pure Wakaya Perfection Organic Ginger, too, with accompanying recipes like the Ginger Lime Creme Brulee or Mushroom-Stuffed Pork Chops!

Use the promo code THRIVE and receive 15% off your next purchase!

Deepak and Sanjiv Chopra Discuss the Meaning of Brotherhood

In Brotherhood, a new memoir by brothers Deepak and Sanjiv Chopra, the two reveal the story of their personal struggles and triumphs as doctors, immigrants, and siblings. In this first installment, the brothers discuss the nurturing side of India, the importance of family in their lives, and what brotherhood means to them.

Stay tuned for more upcoming discussions between Deepak and Sanjiv Chopra on the meaning of brotherhood and life in the Chopra family.

Subscribe to The Chopra Well and order your copy of Brotherhood today!

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