The election season for this year is over. This month our community members reflect on the state of the political system in this country, whether the citizens’ choices are getting reflected in the policies, and what change they would like to see, if any.
Sonali Dandekar Tambe
While election results may not always mean that voters are in favor of one party’s agenda, recent election results suggest that elections can still serve as a check on the political system and government’s actions.
The Trump presidency and the insurrection on the Capitol on Jan 6 were serious threats to our democracy. Meanwhile, the Republican Party has adopted extremist positions on issues such as abortion. The 2022 midterm results will require the Republican Party to reevaluate those extreme stances in favor of ones more palatable to voters. In the midterms, Democrats had bigger gains in states where abortion rights were under threat. Similarly, election denying candidates and candidates backed by Trump had a difficult time. The larger turnout of young voters and women for midterms further prove that voters can influence the direction in which the country is heading.
We have been a polarized country for the last 2 to 3 decades and it seems that will be the case for quite some time. There is a faction on either side that has strong core values on governing the country, which are completely opposite of each other and if they stick to those core values, the other side is always going to feel left out. However, and most importantly, there is a growing faction in the middle that is determining the direction of the country to some extent and keeping it balanced between those two, in spite of this polarization and to me that is the silver lining.
Irrespective of polarized viewpoints, I think the citizen’s choices are reflected in the government and overall which direction the country should go. Progress with democracy is slower, but it’s worth it, because it’s a collective choice!
Yes democracy is geared in the right direction but we need stronger voices to bring radical reform in immigration laws, bringing diversity to the forefront and emphasizing issues which are women centric. The changes we seek need to be pushed at the grass roots to be able to become visible at the state and federal level.
I think the political system is working, democracy is playing out the way as it should. Republicans and democrats should realize what really is important to the voters.
The political system is working even though far from perfect. Having said that, the system has a lot of loopholes and gray areas which sometimes get exploited. The citizens’ choices are getting reflected but the public themselves are being misled to think on what should be their top priorities. The choices given to them are sometimes politically driven and may not be the right direction. Changes needed to support democracy are: more transparency, media should broadcast only authenticated news, fact-checked reports /statistics. The election process should be fair and trustworthy for all citizens.
Politicians cater to oligarchs and organized interest groups in setting public policy and the voice of the average citizen is left unheard. Ordinary voters have little to no independent influence or representation and wealthy elites drive lobbying for policy changes, leading to systemic polarization and growing dysfunction in our democracy.
In recent years, we are seeing a compromised democracy that does not reflect the will of the people and the choice of the citizens. With rampant efforts to suppress the voter’s voice at ballot boxes across the country, restrictions to voting, mass purging of voter rolls, systematic disenfranchisement, and gerrymandering has actively aimed to block citizen participation in the democratic process.
The way to restore fairness to our democratic system and ensure a level playing field – is competitive elections driven by term limits. Congressional term limits can break up an incumbent monopoly and replace it with competition. Term limits give voters more choice at the ballot box, can make Congress more representative and will protect our democracy by removing the influence of lobbyists enjoying cozy relationships with incumbents.
For the last decade or so, government decisions have been made by folks on one side of the aisle or other with very little collaboration. From legislation to appointment of judges to even healthcare recommendations. This lack of collaboration leads to further partisanship. Now that the house and Senate are in different hands, it remains to be seen how the two branches work together. I am not optimistic about that. As a progressive, I don’t think we are headed in the right direction starting from internal issues like addressing disparities in access to education and opportunities- to addressing global issues like climate change.
IAGB Spotlight – Shadaj
The moment of pure music is magic. And no one can really tell how that magic happens! One can certainly make an effort to bring together the essential ingredients – a good artist, an appreciative audience, and right ambience. Shadaj, a non-profit organization dedicated to cultivate, nurture and promote Indian Classical music, attempts to ensure an invigorating Mehfil by putting together all those factors. They also try to increase the chances of success by sprinkling the magic dust of an extra intangible essential, i.e. taking care of an artist’s frame of mind around the day of the performance.
Shadaj is a group of like-minded people, led by Rajesh Godbole, who aspire to preserve the rich Indian classical music heritage through high quality music concerts in the authentic form. Preserving traditions is not served well when we follow empty rituals; it is a lot of effort to stay true to the core of any art form and still be relevant. Shadaj has been striving to strike this fine balance since 2015 through diverse activities.
Along with organizing ‘Baithak’ style concerts, they also believe in cultivating a community of good active listeners. In a concert setting where the performance is based on improvisation, the aesthetic sensibilities of the audience highly feed into an artist’s motivation to perform better. To that end, most Shadaj concerts are preceded by a music appreciation session where the audience gets exposure to the intricacies of music in an interactive session with the artist. These sessions provide a platform for open dialogue and discussions which help build a community of music connoisseurs, active listeners, and students of music.
However those are not the only situations where music grows. Shadaj aspires to create an ecosystem where genuine love and understanding of music spreads to communities and people from diverse cultural backgrounds. Shadaj’s open mic sessions serve as a platform for the local talent comprising amateur musicians and advanced students of music to showcase their creative side. Perhaps it also helps those who perceive Indian classical music as an intimidating adventure, to experience music and get attached to the world of music in an informal community setting.
The organization saw heartening evidence of a growing support base even during the pandemic times. As true music lovers, they resorted to organizing concerts online and audiences from across the world responded positively to those ticketed events! When most of the world was shut down, Shadaj could offer concerts with full artists’ fees. Not only that, they received membership and donations from the public who wanted to support this honest endeavor. Slowly and surely the community is growing and even the artists’ world has started recognizing Shadaj as the prime connection point to a living body of learned audience.
We wish all the best to Shadaj in their future ventures!
Dharohar – Kohima
An integral part of India’s legacy and heritage (Dharohar) are its cities, towns, and villages. History awaits at every corner of India, whether it is a lost legend, a well-preserved palace, or a village bazaar. Through our ‘Dharohar’ section we bring to you some of India’s treasured places.
This month we showcase Kohima, the capital of the Northeastern Indian state of Nagaland. Kohima is known for its serene, peaceful and untouched beauty, and has mesmerized people for generations. Kohima is a name derived from the original name Kewhima or Kewhira, which comes from the Kewhi flowers that are found all around in the mountains.
In the month of December, Nagaland celebrates the Hornbill Festival, the Festival of Festivals, which features the vibrant elements of tribal festivities and gives a glimpse of Naga life. The festival is named after the Indian hornbill, the large and colorful forest bird which is displayed in the folklore of Nagaland’s ethnic groups. The Hornbill Festival provides a colorful medley of cultural performances, indigenous games, craft bazaar, music events, fashion, cycling, motor sporting and a series of competitions.
Among some of the most breathtaking landscapes in Kohima is the Dzukou valley and Japfu Peak. The Japfu Peak standing tall at 3048 meters is the second highest peak in Nagaland and provides the perfect vantage point for admiring the heavenly beauty of the Dzukou Valley. Dzukou valley is also known as the “Valley of Flowers of the east” and is quite a sight to behold, when in full bloom. Dzukou valley and Japfu Peak trek is an absolute must for all trekking enthusiasts. Another place to visit is the Kohima Museum which portrays the traditions and culture of the many tribes of Nagaland. Many unusual artifacts from various tribes in the area can be found at the museum, including a huge collection of traditional apparels, ancient jewelry, ancestral weapons, music instruments, carved gate posts, ceremonial musical instruments, sculptures of birds. Shilloi Lake, a beautiful foot shaped lake in the heart of Patkai range of Nagaland, is a very picturesque destination with verdant valleys surrounding it from all sides. Touphema Village, is another attractive Kohima tourist place, and allows one to explore and relax in the natural confines of picturesque beauty. The local community, in partnership with the Nagaland Tourism Department, created this village in the Naga style to exhibit Nagaland’s rich cultural heritage. Kohima Zoo, is home to many notable species of flora and animals, and is a popular tourist attraction in the Kohima district and attracts a huge number of visitors each year. Kohima Botanical Garden is another place worth visiting. Its flower-laden garden and immense beauty in and around can easily mesmerize anyone.
Kohima is well connected to other parts of the country. The nearest Domestic Airport is Dimapur Airport with daily flights to Kolkata and Guwahati. The nearest Railway station is located in Dimapur and is well connected to Guwahati, Kolkata, New Delhi, Chennai, Jorhat and Dibrugarh. Kohima is well connected by road network to major cities of India.
Kohima is among the most beautiful places in Northeast India, and a paradise for nature lovers and adventure enthusiasts. This enthralling city dotted by lush hills, quaint, breathtaking landscapes, dense forests is sure a great travel destination.
Event Recap – Thanksgiving Food Drive
IAGB thanks everyone who donated during our Thanksgiving Food drive! Together we delivered 860 lbs. of groceries to ‘Merrimack Valley Food Bank’, Lowell and ‘Project Just Because Inc.’, Hopkinton.
Also included 20 thanksgiving bags – Each bag containing essentials for the thanksgiving feast: mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, stuffing mix, dessert mixes, and a few other necessities. Every bag had a grocery store gift card for families to complete their meal with their choice of bird. We at IAGB thank all our donors for their generous donations!
IAGB Director Pallavi Datar led this food drive with help from Santosh Salvi (IAGB Director) and Asha Thotangare (IAGB Director) who managed Nashua, Bedford and surrounding towns’ donations.
We can’t thank our volunteers enough: Devki Mahambrey Salvi led and managed ‘Project Just Because Inc.’ food drive in Hopkinton. And Jeyanthi Ghatraju managed our Westford collections location. Without their help, this drive would not have been possible.
IAGB Youth Opportunities
IAGB Youth Spotlight:
Who: 25 and under
When: Submissions are due by December 15th.
Nomination form: https://forms.gle/yNMAZNBDeNB9c14SA
Inviting nominations for October IAGB Youth Spotlights! The IAGB youth initiative spotlights talented local youth who have demonstrated outstanding contributions to art, sports, or the community! Nominees must be 25 years of age or younger, and they must have lived in the New England area.
The IAGB Youth Team is recruiting!!
Who: Grades 8-12
When: Meet once per month
Students will coordinate and engage in several community activities. Community service hours are available, as well as leadership opportunities!
If you have any questions or if you are interested in joining, send an email to email@example.com.