Category Archives: India

“The act of migration,” he wrote, “puts into crisis everything about the migrating individual or group, everything about identity and selfhood and culture and belief.”

Salman Rushdie

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15 September 2012 · 5 44 am

Up to writing

I have a wee article published in the August edition of USIEF’s “Indian Fulbrighter” about my experiences in India – click here to read all about it.

Writer’s note about the editors : Small liberties have been taken. Don’t worry, I haven’t changed my name to be spelled with a Z.

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Filed under India, storytellings


This time, I disappeared for a good reason (don’t I always?). Back in PA for 2 weeks, I produced a prototype run of a jewelry line that will benefit Sphoorti over the next few months, and hopefully long term.

I drew the designs of these necklaces from muggulu that children at Sphoorti had drawn for me before I left Secunderabad. A muggu – as it says on that card there – “is a symbol of welcome in Indian culture. These floral designs are drawn on the ground outside of entranceways based on a geometric grid of dots. Traditionally, the delicate white lines are formed by sprinkling rice flour, but contemporary versions often use chalk or paint instead. After practicing the basic patterns, children gradually learn to creatively combine & elaborate on them, forming stunning artwork at a truly grassroots level”.

Of course, all the proceeds go to the designers – at about $20 each, one piece can buy books & school supplies for one child, and selling half a dozen necklaces will fund a year of tuition.

They’re all out at Journeys Spirited Gifts in Lahaska, PA (thank you thank you thank you!) and I’m all out in Los Angeles, trying to be patient.

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Filed under India, Sphoorti Foundation

Exhibition(ette) of photography

Since I’m sure all of you are spending hours each day missing the Sphoorti kids, just like I am, I thought I would post a couple of my favorite photographs taken by students throughout the year. Welcome to the gallery.

Photo credit : Arjun

Photo credit : Ratna

Photo credit : Kavitha

Photo credit : not sure. Wish I knew because I like it.

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Filed under India, Sphoorti Foundation


my last few weeks in India, the hectic tragedy of exiting a place that I wasn’t ready to leave overwhelmed the usual news I like to report; but the usual newsmaking carried along nicely. Our remaining solar-powered flashlights winged their ways out to reach rural communities in north Andhra through a network created for an innovative library system. In order to serve a widespread population, a single library collection is divided among multiple communities, and the segments are periodically rotated so each community ultimately makes use of the entire collection. And when I say winged, I mean travel by train, then car, then by foot to reach these villages, along the same routes as all those books.


To my astonishment, delight, and surprise (it was hot out) our plants began to catch from their cuttings and sprout or survive –


As our last art project together, I asked the children to draw muggulu for me. Muggulu (or rangoli) are the geometric designs drawn as a symbol of welcome or celebration in front of entrances to homes, shops, schools… and sometimes inside too… and they’re beautiful. Traditionally, the dots and lines are formed by sprinkling rice flour, but in the city I usually saw them drawn with chalk or white paint. On special occasions, they would sprout sprinklings of red kum kum, yellow turmeric powder, or delicate flower petals that never blew away in the hot still air –

Muggu & photograph by Kavitha

Chalk, white paint, crayons, stickers, pencils, and markers actually.

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Filed under flora, India, One Million Lights, Sphoorti Foundation

Ta, ta

Dear geckos (and all the other personalities who have made my time in India so special),

I miss you so much. You add a little sparkle and pep to my day every time I see you. I love how you still manage to surprise me, like the time I closed the sliding door in my bedroom and you had been hiding on it inside the wall, or the time you were stuck in the kitchen sink when I woke up in the morning. I even love how everyone else thinks I’m totally crazy for adoring you so much.

I even love meeting your relatives. That’s got to be a sign.

So I’m writing to say thank you, really. I’m sure you’ve changed my life indelibly. I’ll be back to visit as soon as I can.



Travel Maven
Large Jet

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Filed under fauna, India

Homing In

So about that book that took five hours to print, which is about my students at Sphoorti, which has taken about 8 months to finish – I’m about to give you a sneak peek while we try to establish a reasonable way to make a few more into paper and ink. This is Sphoorti in Action.


Filed under India, Sphoorti Foundation