In the News…. September 26, 2011

One step forward…

From The Hindu:

Saudi Arabia: Yesterday King Abdullah announced that women will have the right to vote and run for public office in the 2015 elections. Very exciting news! Women’s groups in the country had been using the momentum of the Arab Spring to stage protests, especially around the ban against women driving. The government has gone easy on these rebellious women, not wanting to inspire a similar uprising like their neighboring countries. Power to the people.

And another backwards…


United States: Georgian Troy Davis was executed last week for allegedly killing an off-duty police officer, even though hundreds of thousands of people petitioned against the execution.  Apparently seven out of the nine jurors changed their verdict after the trial, saying that police had pressured them for a conviction.

In related news, Republican Presidential candidate Rick Perry is a big advocate for the death penalty. Under his leadership Texas put 234 people to death.


In the News…Sept 20, 2011

Santiago: The youth of Chile are in uproar. Their leader is a 23 year old named Camila Valeijo who is shaking the country, organizing protests and demanding corrupt and/or inept political leaders to step down. She is only the second woman ever to lead the University of Chile’s student union in 105 years (!).

Chilean student leader Camila Vallejo sits among a peace sign created from empty teargas canisters used by police against protesters.

(Photograph: Roberto Candia/AP)

The protesters’ top target is the unpopular President of Chile, Sebastien Pinera. Students are calling for broad education reforms, more healthcare spending, and the need to address unemployment. These initiatives are amazing when you consider that Chile’s military dictatorship was toppled only 21 years ago, in 1990. Here’s a look at the protests in photos.

When I feel let down with the general apathy of America’s youth, I am rejuvenated to discover that the youth around the world are taking their future into their own hands. Rather than identifying with a generation on a national level, we should consider ourselves members of this global generation.  I am relieved to know that this fire still exists, burning deep within to rebel against the institutions that kept us seemingly safeguarded when we were small, and then we slowly realize that these same structures are often a mess of greed and shortsightedness.

You have as much power as you take. Strangely, the more you push, the louder you squawk, the more people take your demands seriously. The youth have the energy, the hope, and the unabashed courage to push national leaders to do better. It only takes a few that are crazy enough to go for it.

I can only smile sardonically at the perpetual paradox of student protests. Do we not learn in kindergarten to share with others, to have patience and a loving heart? Why do we demand more from six-year-olds than we do from our chief ministers? When we reach secondary school, we take history, science, philosophy and literature classes that feature the works of the few people who questioned the status quo. Then why are students who are taking the initiative of change rewarded with tear gas and arrest? I can only hope that history will remember these bold youth more fondly than will their scars and scratches from the streets.


Delhi University Elections

Sept 8th, 2011

Delhi University: It’s student government election season! I was delighted to find daily coverage of the Delhi University elections in the City section of the Hindustani Times. Can you imagine if the city of Eugene covered ASUO elections? Delhi Uni has about 500,000 students, constituting 52 colleges. Campaigns here are big–very big. There are political parties, such as the National Students Union of India (NSUI) and Akhil Bharatiya Vidhayrthi Parishad (ABVP). My understanding is that these parties are student versions of the main regional parties. Cool!

Every campaign must adhere to the recently instituted spending cap of Rs. 5,000, about $125. It is unbelievable that this shoestring budget is possible! (An average ASUO campaign costs between $3-5,000.) Instead of using shiny printed posters, campaigns are saving money with handmade posters, which cover almost every available wall of the university. “We have about 60 volunteers who are making posters. We have so far made 8,000 pamphlets and about 8,000 posters,” reports a NSUI campaigner. T-shirts are also used to promote campaign brands. Facebook, Twitter and blogs are a must to appear professional and, of course, to show off how many followers they have.

Campaigns also employ celebrity twitter endorsements from Bollywood actors and MPs (members of Parliament).  Awesome!

Campaigns are no longer allowed to use printed posters, stickers, loudspeakers or animals (lolz). Out of 41 total candidates, 14 are presidential candidates. The polls open tomorrow. May the best campaign win!

An ABVP rally (

Sept 11 Update: Here is the khus winner of the Presidential race, NSUI candidate Ajay Chikara, while the three other posts were swept by the ABVP Party. This is the first time that ABVP has not one the Presidential seat in the last four years.

(Photo:Sandeep Saxena)

Eugene City Club Lecture

Today I gave a lecture at the Eugene City Club on three current University of Oregon policy issues: the New Partnership, UO’s expansion to turn the public safety department into a police force, and the controversial Riverfront Research Park development. The City Club’s mission is to build “Community Vision Through Open Inquiry” through monthly lunch programs with a guest speaker followed by a Q & A.

City Club Members wait in line for their turn to ask questions. 

I had a very rewarding experience, as members were engaged throughout. I talked for 20 minutes, there was a quick break, and then members fired off questions for the remaining time. The best part was when a mention of state tax reform received applause. They asked a myriad of questions on the three issues, but I also got thoughtful questions about grade inflation and neighborhood livability. We need a broader range of committed Eugenians to get involved in the City Club’s work. Hopefully the ASUO will be more involved in years to come.

Thanks to Mary Leighton and Zach Vishanoff for the opportunity. The RG coverage of it here and on KLCC 89.7, Monday July 1st at 6:30 pm.

Books, books, and more books

Since I just graduated from the UO last month, I now have a lot of time to read up on India. I was an English major, so I love classical and modern literature but that hasn’t stopped me from delving into the socio-political history of India as well. Some of my recent favorites have been:

  • The Lives of Sri Aurobindo, by Peter Heehs: A very thorough biography of the founder of the Sri Aurobindo Society and his exciting life as a political independence leader, teacher, and yogi.
  • The White Tiger, by Aravind Adiga. Winner of the 2008 Man Booker Prize, this is a hilarious tale of an Indian villager who through cunning and survival skills becomes a successful entrepreneur set in the rush of modern day Delhi.
  • The Kama Sutra of Vatsyayana, translated by Sir Richard Burton: surviving over a thousand years, this text describes the proper societal practices of love and marriage in India. A fascinating and insightful read.
  • Cutting for Stone, by Abraham Verghese: set in Addis Ababa, twin brothers are as entwined in love as they are in their passion for practicing medicine. Vivid characters against the backdrop of Indian and American hospital life and practices.


  • A Passage to India, by E. M. Forster: a 1928 satirical novel about the societal relationship between Indians and Britishers. An entertaining read that holds deeper societal critiques.
  • Interpreter of Maladies, by Jhumpa Lahiri: the author of The Namesake presents a compelling collection of short stories set in both India and the United States. If you like short stories, read these.
  • India’s Freedom, published by Urwin Books: a collection of speeches and letters of Prime Minister Jawharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister after India became a free nation in 1947. Nehru suffered through periods of imprisonment for his vision of a socialist, anti-imperialist government that would serve the people first and foremost.
A bespectacled Mohandas Gandhi, with Jawaharlal Nehru, at the All-India Congress committee meeting in Bombay, India, on July 6, 1946. Nehru took office as president of the Congress during the session. (AP Photo/Max Desfor)
First Lady Jackie Kennedy with an older Nehru, now as Prime Minister. Delhi, 1962. (Photo by Kulwant Roy) 
Next on my list is A Fine Balance, as well as Wanderlust and Lipstick: a Woman’s Guide to Traveling in India. Anyone have other good book recommendations?