Category Archives: India

Indian stories


From Point of No Return:

Here are various stories about Jews in and from India which Point of No Return readers have brought to my attention:

Brivdaker in the IDF.  Photo credit: IDF Spokesperson’s Unit

Israel Hayom reports:

Ronen Birvdaker, a Jewish Indian from Mumbai, was so moved by the 2008 terrorist attack in his home city that he decided to immigrate to Israel last year. On Wednesday, he completed his training to become a soldier in the Israel Defense Forces’ Golani Brigade. Birvdaker, 25, said that after the November 2008 attack — which killed 166 people, including a Chabad emissary and his wife — he felt that as a Jew there was no place for him to live other than in Israel.

“I was shocked by the assault on Jews, just because they were Jewish,” he said. “It affected me so much that I felt I had to do something, although at the time, I wasn’t sure what I could do. I thought about it for a while and arrived in Israel last year to serve in the IDF. I was determined to join Golani.” Birvdaker said he was inspired to join Golani after meeting Israelis in Mumbai.

Read article in full

Mattancherry Jew dies: The strength of the Jewish community in Mattancherry has been reduced to eight with the passing away of its leader 88-year-old Johnny Hallegua. Read article in full 

Bene Menashe: Israel to resume aliyah of ‘lost tribe’ from India and Burma Read article in full


Shabbat Meals: Black Eyed Peas and Butternut Squash Curry


From the Forward:

[…]In seeking to expand my Shabbat repertoire, I have been surprised to find particular inspiration in Indian cooking. Three of India’s major religions — Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism — advocate the principle of ahimsa, non-violence towards all creatures. That tradition makes Indian cooking particularly welcoming for vegetarians like us. In experimenting with Indian flavors, David has tended to be the bolder adventurer, while I have stuck more closely to cookbooks. But a few months ago, I was inspired to come up with this recipe, a curry of black eyed peas and butternut squash, after tasting a similar combination at the Eastern Mediterranean restaurant Oleana in Cambridge. The cumin and sautéed onion bring out the sweetness in the butternut squash, and the black eyed peas are a cool relief from the cayenne. It pairs well with rice, or with a spinach salad.

If you’ve never cooked with Indian spices, it’s best to buy them at an Indian market or in the bulk aisle of an organic grocery store — you’ll pay much more for small bottles. But don’t worry if you’re missing one spice, or want to experiment by adding another. You can play with the balance of spices to suit the tastes of your friends and family, too — it’s less about strict rules or exact amounts than the combination of flavors and aromas. Indian food, I’m learning, both encourages and forgives creativity: from home to home, no dish is prepared in precisely the same way, a curiosity considering how classic many dishes have become. It too has come to remind me of what Shabbat can be.[…]

Read more:


The July bombings that rattled Mumbai’s diamond district might also spur the tradition-bound industry to relocate to a new fortress-like center in the suburbs. By Mark Magnier, Los Angeles Times September 19, 2011

Opera House in Mumbai, IndiaPolice move crowds along near a bomb blast site at Opera House in Mumbai, India, on July 18. The country’s
diamond-cutting and -polishing industry is based mainly in the surrounding neighborhood. (Indranil Mukherjee / AFP/Getty Images)

When three bombs tore through Mumbai  in July, the blasts scattered scores of diamonds being carried by traders as
they rushed to safe deposit boxes on their way home. After frantic panning of  drains, sewers and monsoon puddles, about 65 were recovered. […] The coordinated bombings, which killed 26 people in the biggest attack  against India’s financial capital since late 2008, when a three-day siege killed  166, also staggered the country’s diamond-cutting and polishing industry, the  world’s largest.

[…] One effect of the attack may be a move that the insular, tradition-bound  industry has resisted: an accelerated relocation to the fortress-like Bharat  Diamond Bourse — Bharat means “India” in Hindi — in suburban Mumbai. “Most of the diamond industry is allergic  to change,” said Anoop V. Mehta, the bourse’s president. “This business is still  old-fashioned, done with a shake of the hand. They haven’t moved on.”

The multibillion-dollar industry still transacts million-dollar deals in  rabbit-hutch offices around Opera House, a dilapidated British Raj-era music hall, with brokers haggling over gems on sidewalks below.

Diamonds worth a fortune are carried in vest pockets by unarmed, shabby-looking couriers mostly from Gujarat state, north of Mumbai, from families so interwoven that few dare steal anything because the community opprobrium would be so great.

Despite calls to upgrade security around Opera House, it has remained haphazard even after the attack. A deliveryman glides past a checkpoint with a stack of dented lunchboxes known as tiffins — investigators believe one of the bombs at another gem market was hidden in a tiffin — as workers genuflect to an elephant god statue in the main Panchratna building lobby beside a beeping but
ignored metal detector. […]

Many traders live near Opera House and bridle at the suburbs’ inconvenience  and higher rents. And despite its size, even at full capacity, the bourse could handle only 2,500 of the industry’s estimated 5,500 companies. […]

Traditionalists counter that Indian family connections and global diaspora will keep India’s trade ahead of competitors for years to come. “It’s also a business built on trust,” said Harshad Shah, 52, a diamond broker who was standing near the Opera House blast site. “People don’t trust the Chinese. You can’t do business with them on a handshake.”

The Indian diamond industry after the Mumbai July bombings

Hindutva stifling of academic freedom in India

Bharata Asks for Rama's Footwear

Image via Wikipedia

From The Hindu:

Most academicians at Delhi University are feeling betrayed by their own fraternity, the reason — the Academic Council’s recent decision to drop from the history syllabus a celebrated essay by the late scholar and linguist A. K. Ramanujan on the Ramayana, despite intense opposition from the history department.

The essay, “Three Hundred Ramayanas: Five examples and three thoughts on translations,” which forms part of the B.A. History (Honours) course, had attracted the ire of Hindutva activists because it talks about 300 different versions of the Ramayana that abound in our country and beyond. And when the decision to scrap the course was put to vote at the Academic Council meeting this past Sunday, only nine of the 120 members present dissented. [READ THE REST]

India’s Jewish mother


By Michelle Goldberg:

APRIL 11 2010

Outside the Manakula Vinayagar temple in Pondicherry, a former French colony in the Southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, a temple elephant named Lakshmi collects offerings of rupees with her trunk, blessing devotees and tourists alike with a pat on the head. White curlicues are painted on her face, bells hang around her neck, and silver jewelry adorns her ankles. Behind her, little stalls sell religious knickknacks—faux-sandalwood figurines of Hindu gods and a great profusion of framed pictures. It looks, in other words, like thousands of other temples throughout India, until you examine the pictures more closely. They’re of an old woman with hooded eyes and a cryptic closed-mouth smile who looks a bit like Hannah Arendt. Everyone refers to her as “The Mother,” but she was born Mirra Alfassa. The de facto goddess of this town is a Sephardic Jew from France.

The Samosa


A recommendation

The Samosa

Some recent examples:

The activist Left must condemn the murder of the Israeli settler family

By Dimi Reider

Late on Friday night, a Palestinian militant scaled the fence of the settlement of Itamar, south-east of Nablus. He made his way to one of the homes and climbed in through an open window. The first room he encountered was a nursery. He paced in and plunged a knife into a sleeping three-year-old toddler. Still unnoticed, he made his way to an adjacent bedroom, where he found and slayed an 11-year-old boy; then, finally arrived at the master bedroom, where he stabbed and killed the parents along with a four-month-old baby girl.

India-Pakistan: hand of friendship

By Aparna Pande 

This is not the first time an Indian Prime Minister has extended a “hand of friendship” towards Pakistan, nor is it the first time Dr. Manmohan Singh has done so. Prime Minister Nehru repeatedly offered his hand of friendship and so did his successors Indira and Rajiv Gandhi. IK Gujral hoped the Gujral doctrine would help lessen the trust deficit and Vajpayee undertook a bus yatra to reaffirm that India has accepted the creation of Pakistan and wishes Pakistan well. Dr. Manmohan Singh has repeatedly offered his hand of friendship to Pakistan and expressed the desire to reduce the trust deficit between the two countries.

A growing campaign to defend Usama Hasan and free speech

By Sunny Hundal 

A group of people, including Yahya Birt, have set up a group on Facebook to rally people in support of Usama Hasan (background here)…

Music Review: Rupa & the April Fishes, Este Mundo

By Gautam Pemmaraju 

In May 1914 Komagata Maru, a Japanese steam ship carrying 376 Indian migrants, was refused permission to dock at Vancouver in a show of racial exclusionism. On return to Calcutta, a British gunboat met the ship and its passengers, who were considered to be political agitators, and a six-month standoff ensued.