India

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At a lecture Thursday evening at The Belo Center for New Media, Indian journalist P. Sainath spoke about his new project, The People's Archive of India, which is run entirely by volunteers. The content focuses on the over 800 million people who live in rural India.
Photo Credit: Daulton Venglar | Daily Texan Staff

Rural farming in India is disappearing because farmers typically earn low incomes and suffer from high suicide rates, according to an award-winning journalist who spoke on campus Thursday.

Worldwide, 70 percent of food comes from small and marginal farmers. In India, the monthly average income of a farmer’s household with five family members is $103, according to journalist Palagummi Sainath. 

Sainath said at a lecture Thursday that low income rates are causing a rise in suicide rates among farmers in India — approximately one suicide every 30 minutes — and that the problem is spreading. 

“The predicament of the rural farm is not just restricted to India; it’s worldwide,” Sainath said. “Small farms are in a state of collapse.”  

Journalism freshman Maleeha Syed said rural India’s disappearance is significant because farming is a big part of the country’s economy.

“Farmers are such a big part of the world’s economy, and so the fact that they feel that such a big part of their labor is going towards other people and feeding other people, yet they can’t even provide for themselves — I think it’s really sad,” Syed said. “It’s even worse because they’re such a crucial part of the Indian economy; it just kind of shows where the priorities lay within the country.” 

Sainath said a partial solution to this growing problem is a website he founded called the “People’s Archive of Rural India,” where he tells everyday stories of people living in rural India. 

Journalism senior Natalia Fonseca said she loves the idea of creating a people’s archive and hopes to apply it to her home country of Honduras after she graduates. 

“The situation of the farmers [in Honduras] is not unlike other world problems,” Fonseca said. “In general, the urgency to do something is very similar to the one I see back in my country. Journalists from anywhere with an iPhone or with a Nikon camera can tell the story of the country, which I think it is very important to empower the people to help themselves.” 

The idea of empowering the people through stories about people and told by the people helps erase the feeling of isolation, Sainath said. 

“A people’s archive [is an entity] that governments and the powerful cannot take down or make their own,” Sainath said. “This is an archive that does not dispose people of anything and has the potential to better the situation.”

This past Saturday, while some may have been celebrating Valentine’s Day, the Longhorn Cricket Club hosted its annual match screening for the International Cricket Council Cricket World Cup in the Jester Auditorium. This initiative itself is of huge significance every year, as members of competing teams unite to host the event. This year, India and Pakistan squared off, with India winning 50-47 as around 400 fans in Texas watched from 9,200 miles away.  

The Longhorn Cricket Club is an organization composed of about 20 individuals from the Indian subcontinent. Its members actively participate in regional and national tournaments. The club used the screening as an opportunity to raise money by selling refreshments and collected $240 for an upcoming tournament in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The Longhorn Cricket Club will be representing UT at the American College Cricket National Tournament, which will begin March 11. College teams from all over the country will compete with each other in this game.   

India and Pakistan possess one of the most intense rivalries in the world, with this year’s match attracting 1 billion viewers worldwide. 

The rivalry originates from the extensive communal violence and differences that erupted in the 1947 partition, when Pakistan was formed and separated from India as an independent state. Since then, additional conflicts have cemented this rivalry between two nations that had once played on the same cricket team. 

The rivalry transcends sports, and now, in the 21st century, the tension is omnipresent with constant claims and accusations thrown back and forth between the neighboring countries. 

It is precisely for this reason that the meetings of these countries on the wicket are so important. The matches offer opportunities to ameliorate conflicts as fans travel to either country in order to support their nation and share their passion for the sport. 

And now, more than 67 years after the partition, although our current generation has not witnessed the momentous initial sacrifices made by the establishment of either of the independent states, cricket plays an instrumental role in bringing excitement and momentarily breaking the continuous tension between India and Pakistan.  

We often forget to look beyond our differences and look at what holds us together. The combination of culture, ethics and religion has blessed us with regional trade and our shared passion for sports. Our nationalities aside, cricket has been and will continue to be the source of excitement for both Indians and Pakistanis during this time of the year. In the end, the game brought peace more than anything.

Saifullah is a neuroscience sophomore from Richardson. 

Kaustubh Thirumalai, geological sciences graduate student, was selected to research alongside 30 international scientists aboard a scientific drilling vessel.

Thirumalai began his expedition in India on Saturday to study the development of monsoons. The expedition will last until Jan. 29. Thirumalai, originally from Bangalore, India, grew up experiencing monsoons and said his adviser encouraged him to apply for the research expedition.

“The application process for [an International Ocean Discovery Program] expedition is a competitive one,” Thirumalai said in an email. “Essentially, you have to propose some scientific endeavor that is in-line directly (or indirectly) with the expeditions’ objectives.”

According to Thirumalai, the research will focus on testing sediment to predict future climate changes. Thirumalai said the expedition is titled Indian Monsoon Rainfall and its main goal is to collect sediments in the Bay of Bengal.

“The Indian monsoon is a very important climate phenomenon and many people (~billions) directly depend on it for their livelihood,” Thirumalai said. “Ultimately, the goal of the expedition is to understand how rainfall varied over the Indian subcontinent so we can better understand how drastically that climatic system is capable of changing, so we can better inform ourselves and anticipate future changes.”

Thirumalai’s job as a sedimentologist will be to study any sediments brought onto the ship. He said he will make detailed reports about the sediment that is collected through their drilling.

“My job will be to examine, inspect and characterize the cores as they come on deck,” Thirumalai said. “I will be looking into the type of sediment that we collect and will be  describing the characteristics of the mud, its age, its color, its makeup and so on.” 

Despite dramatic weather shifts, the drilling ship, called the JOIDES Resolution, should be safe throughout its expedition, Thirumalai said.  

“Since cyclone season is over, we should be pretty safe,” Thurmalai said. “Also, there aren’t any notorious instances of piracy or thievery amidst the Bay of Bengal, so it should be relatively safe. Although, I hope there are no big Indian Ocean earthquakes when we are out at sea!”

Anisha Srivastava, business and Plan II sophomore, launched her own philanthopy-based fashion website, Clothes for Causes, which seeks to empower customers to effect change.

Photo Credit: Chris Foxx | Daily Texan Staff

Flowing maxi dresses, screen-printed shirts and delicate jewelry fill the pages of Clothing for Causes’ online catalog. The organization’s trendy website represents a purpose that goes beyond style. Through fashion, Clothes for Causes aims to create a positive impact on the world.

Anisha Srivastava, business and Plan II sophomore, founded Clothes for Causes out of a desire to effect change through her interests in business and fashion.

Before moving to Texas, Srivastava lived in Thailand for five years and developed her interest in philanthropy work through her experiences in Thailand and summers spent in India.

“I enjoy working creatively with designers, photographers and models,” Srivastava said. “I love applying what I learn in class to projects, and it is very exciting actually applying concepts and creating a business.

Clothes for Causes’ mission is to empower the younger generation to act on its passion for philanthropy. A quarter of proceeds from clothing sales are donated to support nonprofit organizations conducting a broad range of philanthropic work.

Srivastava asked Plan II sophomore Caroline Read to model clothing for Clothes for Causes’ catalog.

“I was so excited because I really believe in what she’s doing,” Read said. “I really believe in Anisha’s goal to raise money for disease education and
other charities.”

Srivastava plans to release multiple fashion collections, each inspired by different philanthropic causes.

“The designs, colors and cuts of the clothes embody the message and spirit of the cause,” Srivastava said.

Clothes for Causes recently released its first collection, called Cause Collection: Fight Against HIV/AIDS. Proceeds from this collection go to the Right Now Foundation, a U.K.-based organization that supports HIV-positive children across India.

Business honors sophomore Jenny Lai took the photos featured on the Clothes for Causes website. Lai said the photos are meant to capture fashionable clothes in a philanthropic light.

“We wanted to create a brand that would appeal to socially conscious college students,” Lai said.

Srivastava cites businesses such as TOMS as an inspiration for Clothes for Causes’ business model.

“This love of products paired with causes will help us support initiatives on a scale not always achievable through fundraising,” Srivastava said. “Our products tell the story of the cause and, through that, provide an opportunity for customers to advocate for the cause.”

Students interning with Nourish International worked with students at a school in India over the summer. The interns taught English classes and held weekend workshops.  

Photo Credit: Photo courtesy of Samuel Vanicek | Daily Texan Staff

When I visited India two years ago, I left knowing that it would be a long, long time before I’d have the opportunity to return. Little did I know, there were other plans unfolding before me. In the summer of 2014, Nourish International gave me the chance to intern in two coastal villages in the Indian state of Odisha. For six weeks, four UT students, including myself, taught spoken English classes, created a mini-documentary by interviewing villagers, and empowered women through weekend workshops.

We lived at a convent in Gopalpur, a small village brimming with beauty. In the evenings, our students would come and play cricket or hopscotch with us. Some nights, we would all walk 10 minutes to the beach and jump into the ocean. Some nights, we would just sit by the shore and practice our “English conversation skills.” The weather was good to us those nights, and sometimes, we would even catch a full moon, hanging right above the dark crashing waves. One weekend, we had planned to go see a movie in Telugu, one of the many languages spoken in India. Our students were so excited because they would be able to teach us something, too! Unfortunately, that same day, the aunt of one our students passed away.

It was the first funeral that I went to. I remember the village women wailing in grief. I remember standing inside the hut, eyes closed, hands pressed together, praying with all the Christian villagers, a Hindu myself. Nevertheless, we all wanted the same thing. Peace. Peace for the mother, who was only a year younger than my mom and who had to bury her child. Peace for the soul of that woman. Peace for her three children. Witnessing such an event was deeply saddening, to say the least, but I also witnessed warm acceptance. We were foreigners, strangers to this community, but they let us be a part of such an intimate event. A death.

There were moments of joy, too. Some students would ask for more literature to read, or would sit and talk to us after class. Their English seemed to improve a little each day. One of our kids notified us that our lessons had been helping her pass tests in school. Small moments like those were the ones that kept pushing us to challenge ourselves — and our kids.

Although I tried extremely hard to stay impartial, I had my favorites. One of our brightest and youngest students, Sai, presented passion, focus and kindness in a way I had never come across before.

“I want to be a doctor when I grow up,” Sai said. “When I get my degree, I want to come back to my village, and help my community.” He was one of the many students who actively empowered themselves with any and all resources provided to them. Although I miss all of my students, I think I miss him the most.

Volunteering in other countries is something that will change your life. It changed me. Six weeks felt like a year, only because I felt so different when I came back. That being said, do not believe that you will make dramatic change. It was small narratives like Sai’s that truly and deeply moved me. When I focused on the village as a whole, of course I felt resigned, hopeless. But community development is termed that for a reason. It’s a slow process. I appreciated the villagers and their lifestyle; I found beauty in them. At the same time, their options were limited. Kids like Sai deserve the right to choose their lifestyle, rather than be given only one option. Did we feel ineffective at times? Of course. Change does not happen overnight, but it does happen with consistent determination, passion and lots and lots of love. You can be the one to mobilize that change.

If you’re interested in participating in a project this summer, go to http://www.utnourish.org/, or contact me directly atenaganguly@utexas.edu.

Ganguly is a government sophomore from Houston. 

Photo Credit: Madison Richards | Daily Texan Staff

While discussing his new book, “Beyond Caste: Identity and Power in South Asia, Past and Present,” on Wednesday, history professor Sumit Guha said the caste system continues to influence India today.

Guhu began the book 10 years ago as a way of connecting India’s history of class stratifications to the present existence of low-social groups, such as castes and tribes.

Guhu defined castes as organized community councils of defined ethnic groups, typically of an agrarian origin.

Guha said he wrote the book in order to reveal how caste systems have remained relevant to Indian life today.

“I’ve tried to achieve two goals,” Guhu said. “[I wanted] to link the social history of the present with its millennial past and to place the socializations of India as the same as those of the old world of which it has always been a part of.”

According to Guha, castes and tribes have not yet disintegrated in India, although the origins of the words have altered since their establishment by the Portuguese in the 16th century.

“[These words] were transplanted to India in the 16th century and lost [their] original connotations as being a pure group,” Guhu said.

Instead of studying the different values and ideas that separated these two groups, Guhu said he preferred looking at the physical boundaries that disconnected them.

“I wanted to look at the boundaries between these two groups rather than look at the internal values or ideas they might hold,” Guhu said.

Guhu said he has paid particular attention to social taboos in India, which have created even more barriers between the people.

“[Taboos] are not boundary-makers, but they are boundary-markers,” Guhu said.

Retired history professor Gail Minault, who attended the event, praised Guhu’s book.

“I think [Guhu’s book] is a path-breaking and fascinating study of what we call ‘caste,’” Minault said. “‘Caste’ is a lot less easily defined than anyone imagines.”

Although castes persist as a part of Indian society, for some people who have been to India, such as history graduate student Norman Coulson, these hierarchies continue undetected.

“It’s really not easy for an outsider in India to notice things like castes,” Coulson said. “As far as I could see, there wasn’t really any castes still going on in India.”

Photo Credit: Jenna VonHofe | Daily Texan Staff

Abhi Sreerama, UT alumnus and Holi co-chair, said he did not expect this year’s Holi to attract 7,500 people, an attendance that nearly doubled from 2013. 

“We definitely had a major increase in attendance from last year,” Sreerama said. “I guess, logistically, we did not anticipate such a turnout in our wildest imaginations, yet it is a great credit to our officer group and staff for being able to adjust on the fly.”

Holi is an annual religious Hindu festival celebrating the victory of good over evil on the day of the full moon, as well as the arrival of color in spring. It is observed in India by participants holding prayer, playing games and throwing colored powder, or rang, at each other. Mrinalini Vijalapuram, Holi co-chair and international relations and global studies senior, said that, in hosting Holi at UT for 11 years, the Hindu Students Association also focuses on celebrating ethnic diversity through the festival.

“We feel that Holi brings together people of all ethnicities, especially when you’re throwing color at each other,” Vijalapuram said. “The significance of different colors being on your skin is really important to signify that it doesn’t matter what race you are. We’re all here to learn and have fun.” 

Vijalapuram said, while the organization attracts thousands of people to Holi each year, the event at UT is of a smaller scale than that of the celebration of Holi in India. Sreerama recalled his time celebrating Holi in India to be “both amazing and definitely a little bit more dangerous,” and said that some people will use homemade rang and oil instead of store-bought rang and water, or celebrate with “bhang,” otherwise known as a cannabis milkshake. 

“In India, it’s crazy — no matter what your religion is, everyone’s doing it,” Sreerama said. “People are in houses throwing [color] into the streets. People on the streets are throwing it onto each other. The shops are closed. Usually, a couple hours are spent running around with color, and the rest [of Holi] is spent having fun and playing different games with your family.” 

Hindu families also celebrate a “puja,” or prayer, in the morning, specifically for Holi. 

“If you’re a part of a traditional Hindu household, in the mornings, there will be a puja, where you pray to God, but in a more personal setting with your family,” Sreerama said. “Sometimes, you may get a priest to lead you. It’s a ritual, basically.” 

This year’s Holi featured a few firsts, including the first time the event was held on the LBJ Library lawn, as well as the first time the event coordinators have committed to making the event completely waste-free.

Sreerama said, for the past two years, the organization has worked with UT’s Green Events, but it was this year that they decided to do away with paper advertising, plastic banners and non-compostable plastic balloons, along with other waste-creating aspects of past festivals.  

“It’s potentially the largest university organization-run event ever that’s waste-free in the United States,” Sreerama said. “That idea was too enticing to miss, and we just pushed for it.” 

With Green Events helping facilitate a transition to biodegradable bags, cups, plates and powder, the cleanup concluded with only one bag of trash, Sreerama said.

“One aspect I didn’t foresee is how much trash people bring on their own into the event, like their own water bottles and food,” Sreerama said. “That being said, we were able to quite easily separate anything compostable from that trash which is recyclable.”

Ayushi Agarwala, Plan II and finance senior and festival attendee, said Holi is a huge cultural tradition in her family and that she never thinks to miss the festival. Agarwala said that, while some students who celebrate Holi may not completely understand the cultural or religious aspects behind it, hosting Holi at UT is still beneficial for educating others on the Hindu religion. 

“Once they come out, they always ask the question, ‘What’s going on,?’” Agarwala said. “They gain a bit of understanding. If you didn’t do anything at all they would have no idea. Even if they don’t know the full significance, they know something now.

Assistant professor Snehal Shingavi and author Rahul Mahajan discuss the rise of religious nationalism in the context of the upcoming 2014 election in India at the Belo Center for New Media on Tuesday night.

Photo Credit: Mengwen Cao | Daily Texan Staff

A student organization hosted a discussion Tuesday night on the upcoming 2014 elections in India and its current political atmosphere, featuring English assistant professor Snehal Shingavi and author Rahul Mahajan. 

The talk, “Is Intolerance on the Rise in India?,” was put on by the Azad Forum for Social Justice, an organization centered on raising awareness about politics in South Asia. Journalism professor Robert Jensen, who moderated the talk, said it was an opportunity to learn about another part of the world and get an understanding of how U.S. trends affect other areas.

“In the United States, there’s been a growth and appreciation of diversity and multiculturalism along with the need to be tolerant,” Jensen said. “But often tolerance is used as a defense against critical thinking and engagement. I think this notion of tolerance without critique is very dangerous, and that’s what we’re here to do tonight.”

Narendra Modi is the prime ministerial candidate for the Bharatiya Janata Party, but he is surrounded by controversy because of his alleged involvement in massacres of Muslims in India, according to Mahajan. Mahajan said Modi has not been held accountable for his involvement in the massacres in the 12 years since they occurred.

“It’s quite a remarkable thing — a politician who is deeply involved in a series of massacres that probably claimed 2000 lives, and then, later in 2002, essentially campaigns on the basis of the massacres,” Mahajan said. “The problem with figuring out all of the details of this is that the investigations were done in a context where [those questioned] were subject to large amounts of coercion.” 

The latest polls show Modi is headed toward a victory in the upcoming election, Mahajan said. 

In order to add context to Modi’s candidacy, Shingavi said Hindutva, an invented phenomenon meant to revitalize the Hindu religion and culture, is associated with the massacres.

Parvathy Prem, an aerospace engineering graduate student, said she came to fully understand the progression that led to the current state in India and get opinions on the matter, as she has thought a lot about the matter in the last few months.

“As an Indian, I think the upcoming elections are hugely important,” Prem said. “I also thought it was interesting that both speakers thought the way to go about fighting communalism is going about economic change.”

 

Clarification: This story has been updated from its original version. Hindutva, an invented phenomenon meant to revitalize the Hindu religion and culture, is associated with the massacres.

Researchers say the Texas longhorn has an ancestry that can be traced back thousands of years to the Middle East and India. 

Photo Credit: Elisabeth Dillon | Daily Texan Staff

While students may be familiar with the sight of Bevo at football games and rallies, several UT researchers took a look at a side of the Texas longhorn seldom seen: its genes.

The research group, comprised of biology professor David Hillis, Ph.D. candidate Emily Jane McTavish and researchers from the University of Missouri-Columbia analyzed thousands of genetic markers of the Texas longhorn. The group determined the longhorn has a global ancestry that can be traced back over thousands of years to the Middle East and India. 

“We were studying the ancestry of a group of cattle descended from cattle brought by Spanish colonists [to the New World] in the late 1400s,” McTavish said. “Texas Longhorns are descendants of these cattle.”

“I was working with a very large data set, 50,000 markers for 1,500 individuals,” McTavish said. “It is challenging to work with and analyze this much data.”

The research group determined that approximately 85 percent of the longhorn’s genome is “taurine,” descended from the aurochs, an ancient ancestor of cattle that were domesticated in the Middle East between 8,000 to 10,000 years ago.

“Genomic data can allow us to understand the evolutionary history of organisms,” McTavish said.

Hillis specializes in the breeding of Texas longhorns at the Double Helix Ranch, which has three locations in Texas. 

“Texas longhorns are colorful, diverse and exhibit complex social behaviors,” Hillis said. “They use their horns for protection and social interactions. All of these traits make them interesting and fun to be around.”

For the research group, the analysis of the Texas longhorn genome emphasizes the importance of genomes in the field of biology.

“It is fascinating that Texas Longhorns have a long and complex history,” Hillis said, “that connects them to both of the major domestication events of cattle, some 10,000 years ago.”

Printed on Tuesday, April 2, 2013 as: Researchers decode longhorn genomes 

India (Mia Wasikowska) deals with the arrival of her unsettling Uncle Charlie (Matthew Goode) in “Stoker.” Photo courtesy of Magnet Releasing.

Korean director Chan-wook Park has built an overseas following by delivering violent, sensual revenge films with impressive style. Park doesn’t step too far outside of his comfort zone in his English-language debut, “Stoker,” but his atmospheric riff on Alfred Hitchcock’s “Shadow of a Doubt” is a riveting, visually stunning coming-of-age story sure to please fans and curious newcomers alike.

India Stoker (Mia Wasikowska) is a precocious young woman thrown into a funk after her father’s (Dermot Mulroney’s) death on her 18th birthday. As the gulf between the grieving India and her unruffled mother (Nicole Kidman) grows, the arrival of the mysterious Uncle Charlie (Matthew Goode) only complicates things further.

“Stoker”’s plot never gets too complex, and the narrative simplicity may be the film’s sole drawback. There aren’t many surprises hiding under “Stoker”’s surface, and the mysteries that bubble up during the story are barely treated as such, but the stripped-down narrative unfurls mostly in service of Park’s singular directorial vision.

From the very first scene, “Stoker” etches itself as a bold declaration of style, and every moment in the film unfolds with atmospheric, precise imagery. Even the most innocuous of conversations is rendered taut and immediate by Park’s direction, playing out like a visual chess game and making the placement of the camera as exciting as the next line of dialogue. Park spends much of the film in direct dialogue with Hitchcock, and it’s impossible to ignore the film’s narrative ties to Hitchcock’s “Shadow of a Doubt.” Even more impressive is a pivotal scene halfway through the film that sends it barreling in a new direction while staging the most disturbing shower scene since “Psycho.”

Park’s exceptional direction goes beyond imagery to every technical level of “Stoker.” Even the transitions between scenes are bristling pieces of the visual puzzle, and the film’s sharply timed editing is arresting, not to mention crucial to Park’s slowly escalating tension.

“Stoker”’s sound design is equally important, and each crackle and pop builds tension and disorientation effectively, putting us squarely in India’s perspective. The entire film is built around India’s slow coming to terms with the dark truths of her bloodline, and Wasikowska gives a restrained, note-perfect performance, funneling teen angst into something much more sinister.

The rest of the cast gets to chew the scenery, and Goode is the perfect blend of charming and frightening as master manipulator Uncle Charlie. Once “Stoker” puts all its cards on the table, Goode’s transformation into fully unhinged pushes his unsettling charisma into plainly menacing. Nicole Kidman is equally vampy, veering between ice queen and seductress, and the moment when her character’s bitterness bubbles over into furious anger is a painfully toxic moment.

“Stoker” is an unusual film, more concerned with style than narrative, but grippingly told nonetheless. The film is exhilaratingly directed, every shot is gorgeously composed and each performance delicately measured. The blend of misguided sexual tension and beautifully rendered bloodshed makes “Stoker” an interesting oddity and a promising American debut for Park.