Pick your role models wisely; mine is Elora Mukherjee
In my last blog, I argued for an unflagging support for girl-child education instead of extravagant expenditures on marriage ceremonies. But, what is the outcome when India and Indians invest in girl-child education?
Do we have any role models to look up to? The Indian diaspora, living across the world roughly reaches a sizeable 30 million. It is time to emulate and encourage some role models for youngsters growing up in the western world, who are primarily second or third generation Indians. There should be viable alternative choices of careers other than computer engineering and medical college. You can pick your role model. I would recommend Elora Mukherjee.
The name Columbia has its associated connotations for us Indians. We immediately think of Kalpana Chawla, an American astronaut, engineer, and the very first woman of Indian origin to go to space. She first flew on the space shuttle Columbia in 1997 as a mission specialist. Unfortunately, Kalpana Chawla was one of the seven astronauts killed when the space shuttle Columbia broke up upon reentry over Texas.
Think of the name Columbia again, and we now have one of the finest human-rights and immigrants-rights champion of Indian-origin, Elora Mukherjee, who heads the Columbia Law School’s New Immigrants’ Rights Clinic. As a lawyer, Elora Mukherjee, recently visited a Border Patrol facility in Texas, where immigrant children are housed, and reported about the horrible conditions in which they were kept separated from their parents, as their asylum applications were being processed. She has been interviewed on CNN, by Anderson Cooper on his program 360° on the very same issue.
This is just one of the spectacular cases, where we see her involvement, being covered extensively by the media, because immigrant rights is becoming a hot potato for the coming presidential election in 2020. For several years now, Elora Mukherjee has successfully represented hundreds of migrants and refugees who have fled violence and persecution in their home countries.
She has gracefully embraced her Indian background and built on it. Like many other immigrants from India, Elora Mukherjee’s father arrived in New York City in the 70s from India on an engineering scholarship. Her mother joined him after six years. Both her parents worked multiple jobs and long hours to provide their daughters with the opportunities they never had in India.
Their effort was rewarded. Their daughter Elora now heads a prestigious law school department. In her childhood her parents kept taking trips back to Patna in India, making her realize how valuable her education was and how hard work was necessary to bring justice to all girls.
Mukherjee has succinctly said what inspired her legal career, “Growing up and seeing the very stark contrast between how people lived in Patna and how I lived in the U.S. made me realize at a young age that the world is unfair, and I should do what I could, as I got older, to make even a small difference in people’s lives.”
The education of a girl is self-rewarding. She is now one of the most famous human-rights lawyers America listens to. Instead of disowning and distancing herself from her past, she has embraced it. This to me is a more honest approach than deliberately trying to assimilate and imitate western culture, as some persons of Indian origin do by forgetting everything about their Indian past.
Why be so thankless? India, too, has appreciative values to offer. As people in the western world are hastily copying Indian vegetarian and vegan dishes, some of us are desperately copying everything Western, which is dilapidated like love of fancy cars and unhealthy fast food.
I am reiterating, what I mentioned in my last blog; we should invest more in education of girls and less in extravagant marriage parties. Last week, a couple, Johanna and Peter, who originate from the Faroe Islands, and who also happen to live in Copenhagen, decided to get married in a frugal Gandhian style. The kingdom of Denmark also includes the Faroe Islands, a small community of 50,000 people, who speak their own mother tongue and Danish.
Here is a photo, about her simple marriage, where her husband brings her to the ceremony on a cargo bike. This kind of cargo bike is popular in the city of Copenhagen where it is primarily used to transport children. Now the tradition of using eco-friendly means of transport to the wedding ceremony is also getting popular. No limousine, no Lamborghini, just a cycle. Gandhi’s idea of simplicity is not outdated, it is now practiced in many parts of the world.
If we really want to imitate and be inspired by something Western, then we should adopt cultural patterns that will help reduce the amount of greenhouse gases and make our cities more liveable
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.