Will Kim Kardashian Modernize #Placenta Eating?

The reason I’m taking a curious interest in Kim Kardashian’s plans to eat her placenta, is because I’m actually keen to see how American doctors react to this.  And there’s a reason why.

One of my oldest and closest friends is Hmong American.  The Hmong are an ethnic minority from SE Asia, and live in an extensive community in mid-western USA, a community which I’ve visited frequently with my friend when I stayed with her parents or relatives.  My friend’s mother was a shaman, and she worked with local hospitals translating concepts of health, illness and healing from the Hmong perspective for American doctors with Hmong patients, and vice versa.

childbirth in ancient egypt

Giving birth in ancient Egypt

When a woman gives birth, the Hmong believe that the placenta should be carefully buried under or near the family house, because it holds and guards the spirit of the child.  They believe that if this is not done, then the child will fall very ill and could even die. There are many cultures that have similar beliefs. The Egyptians believed that a child is born with two souls, and one of them was housed in the placenta. So after birth, particularly for royalty, a special tomb would be erected for the burial of the placenta, like for a person. Interestingly where placenta was or still is eaten, as in China, Jamaica,  and among smaller tribes as the Araucaninan of Argentina, it is usually ceremonially eaten by close relatives or fed to the child.  This is symbolic of the same philosophy – i.e. preserving the spirit of the child within the home or by the family.

The problem for the Hmong living in the U.S. was, that American doctors couldn’t fathom this.  They believed that the Hmong were actually eating the placenta (though they actually weren’t)! Placenta-eating is not (more…)

Why Amy Chua is India’s Iconic Parent

That photo is probably the Indian (or Asian) concept of parenting! And it  is time for us to majorly rethink it!!

In less than a year, there is yet another diplomatic battle brewing between India and Norway on yet another child abuse case.  What India calls “culture appropriate” parenting, is regarded as abuse and violation of a child’s human rights in Norway and in most other western countries.

In the last case, Norway submitted to the bullying by the Indian government, egged on by the Indian public, and allowed the children back to India.  This time they are not taking any chances. The two parents in question have been jailed in Norway!  Norway didn’t quite like the burn marks on the 7-year-old boy’s legs, and probably didn’t buy the parents explanations that he had bumped his legs against a cooking stove.  They also didn’t like their threatening to do other things like burn his tongue and send him back alone to India. The family of the jailed couple thinks otherwise.  They say, “How can the court pronounce its judgment based on the complaint of a seven-year-old boy without even taking into account our arguments based on Indian culture and values?”

They are not alone. It is how India views parenting.  A child is the property of a parent.  Is it for anyone to say, what a person is to do with their property? 


You can beat, burn, sell, destroy your property – and I’m talking about children here, (more…)

Why an Indian Made an Anti Obama Video

Kal Penn, Indian American actor on Obama’s team

I am not surprised that the anti-Obama documentary film that’s gone viral in the U.S. (No.7 at the box office), is made by an Indian – Dinesh D’Souza?

D’Souza is a Republican, which is why he made this film with an obvious political agenda in time for the next U.S. elections.  Why am I not surprised? Because among the Indian communities in the U.S., it always appeared to me that a majority of immigrants from India, supported the Republican party.

This was true even for the my parents’ friends who lived there. They’d anxiously explain to me how the Democrats were trying to turn the U.S. into a depraved country, by apparently promoting gayness (like it’s a new religion?); by destroying culture and traditions (i.e. being open to inter-faith and inter-race unions); and the worst, the democrats take the money of the rich and use it to create welfare programs for the “lazy” poor!

The conservative approach of the Republicans appealed greatly to the older generation of Indian immigrants, most of who stuck to their cloistered communities and traditions, even as they focused on the one thing they were there in the U.S. to do (more…)

Worshipping Gods by Dishonoring the Planet!

Priests one of many ceremonies for the Goddess Durga

First published on Pickled Politics

Calcutta is in the midst of the Durga Pujathe 10 day carnival celebrating the goddess Durga.  It is the annual climax of Calcutta’s cultural ethos.

Not having grown up in Calcutta, I had never actually attended this celebration as a child. So at 30 when I moved to the city, I was fascinated and curious. I photographed the celebrations from every angle and asked a million questions.Hundreds of pandals— elaborate temple like structures of bamboo, cardboard and jute—are are set up all over the city, which house the idols of the goddess and her family. There are different ceremonies marking each of the 10 days with enthralling symbolisms.

Yet, within a couple of years my puja fever had died down, and that was largely because I didn’t appreciate a lot of what I was discovering about the pujas.

So much so, that over the last 5 years, I have consistently boycotted the Pujas and urged others to do the same. Here are my reasons why:

1.  Junking the River: At the end of the celebrations all the idols are immersed in the Hoogly – the city’s river, a tributary of the Ganges. There are more than 40,000 idols dumped into the Hoogly every year. These idols are larger than life, some of them 10-20 feet tall, and most are made of non-biodegradable materials like concrete, fiberglass and metal. These don’t wash downstream. They sink to the bottom and make the river bed one big junkyard.

2. Poisoning the river: Most of the paints used on the idols are toxic and also carcinogenic (cancer causing). And because the junk sits at the bottom of the river, it just keeps leaching this poison into the waters.

3.  Poisoning the City’s Water supply: This poisoned water of the river Hooghly is the water supply for the city of Calcutta .

4.  Poisoning the food: The people of Calcutta don’t just drink this poisoned water, but they are a fish eating community and they eat fresh water fish from this river, fish that have also imbibed this poison.

5.  Increasing rates of Cancer:  The rates of various types of cancer in Calcutta and Bengal have been increasing steeply.

6.  Extinction of wildlife species:  The Gangetic River Dolphin, which is evolutionarily blind and navigates by echo-location (a hard task for sure with all the junk in the river) is almost on the brink of extinction because of this kind of dumping on and poising of the river.

7.   Perpetuate Ignorance and Myths:  The myth bought by many Indians, is that the river Ganges is so powerful that it can take all the rubbish that people dump into it and effectively cleanse itself. That is not true! The river needs proper management and care and citizens must act responsibly.

8.  Perpetuates the use of the river as city’s garbage dump: The river is not a garbage dump and the only solution is to stop all immersions as soon as possible.

9.  Perpetuates Mindless and Destructive Traditions The tradition of idol immersions is recent and man-made. Earlier Durga idols showing the goddess spearing the demon, as displayed at the Indian Museum, are in bronze, with the clothes and accessories sculpted on. These were certainly not for immersion. Calcuttans must put their heads together and come up with an alternative way of symbolizing the ‘leaving’ of the goddess, without actually junking the idols, a method which is environmentally sustainable and not harmful to community health. Traditions change and it is time for this one to. Why not – if we can have pujas offered on the internet!

10.  Waste of Millions of Dollars Needed Elsewhere:  The cost of the puja is estimated at over a billion rupees, all collected through donations from citizens and private companies!! But is a self-destructive and wasteful spending of money. Calcutta obviously has the means to mobilize grassroots funds on a massive scale as proven by the chanda (puja donations) collected. So I would also want to see puja committees using at least 80% of the chanda collected for long-term projects that will serve the community – like schools, clinics, shelters for women, and parks.

The river is not a garbage dump.  It is a source of life and living for humans and all other plant and animal life forms.  Th only solution is to stop all idol immersions in the river as soon as possible.

Hundreds of pandals (temporary temples) like this are built all over the city. They are elaborate and take more than a month to erect. And they block lanes and neighborhoods!

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