India’s hijras are male-to-female transgender individuals. Although they are called eunuchs and are thought to include hermaphrodites (people with reproductive systems including both male and female elements) and those with indeterminate genitalia stemming from endocrine conditions, a physician in a Doordarshan interview indicated that he had examined 100 hijras and none had any of these reproductive abnormalities nor diagnosable endocrine issues. This physician indicated that each person examined was genetically a male but identified as a woman. The category of ‘hijra’ thus best maps on to the category of transgender women in America (males who become females).

The discussion surrounding who is a Hijra necessitates comprehending the fundamental and nuanced discussion surrounding sex, gender, sexual orientation and lifestyle. Sex can be defined as the anatomical and biological differences between men and women (reproductive organs, chromosomes, hormones). Gender is the socially constructed difference between masculinity and femininity, which translates into what it means to live as a man and a woman (differences in the process of socialization, expectation, roles, responsibilities or stratification). Sex is assigned at birth based on visible physical characteristics and has conventionally been grouped into male, female or the intersexed. Technically speaking the intersex population are those whose sexual manifestations does not fit into the binary classification. In more developed nations of the world intersexed children often undergo surgery later on– consistent with one of the binary sex identifiers which has been assigned to them.

SETU and IAGB, with many common and complimentary missions, joined hands to bring an Indian-origin play in English through virtual presentations on September 19 and 20. About 500 people from around the world watched the production live from their living rooms.

In these tough times, in order to serve the underprivileged and to bring entertainment to the community, IAGB in collaboration with SETU, brought a thought provoking and intense play, a murder mystery, to all theater lovers as they raised funds for food pantries and shelters. We are thrilled to report that IAGB raised $6500 from this joint effort.

Randhir Jaiswal is a 1998 Indian Foreign Service officer and career diplomat. He assumed charge as Consul General of India in New York on July 19th. Prior to that, he served as Joint Secretary cum Social Secretary to the President of India since August 2017. In this role, Randhir Jaiswal headed the foreign affairs office of the Rashtrapati Bhavan and advised the President on India’s foreign policy. In his over two decades of diplomatic career so far, he has served in Portugal, Cuba, South Africa and at the Permanent Mission of India in New York. He served in New Delhi at the Ministry of External Affairs, first as Deputy Secretary looking after India’s relations with the US, and then as Joint Secretary managing India’s relations with West European countries.

“What can’t be cured has to be endured. Vision-Aid aims to build this endurance.”
IAGB: IAGB welcomes Ramakrishna (Ram) Raju and Revathy Ramakrishna, Co-founders of Vision-Aid Inc. Please share with our readers your life’s journey. Where was your upbringing, your biggest influences and how did you meet each other?
Revathy: I was born in Chennai but spent most of my early life in Ranchi, Bihar. My father, a highly respected Mechanical Engineer, retired as a Director from MECON and his tireless work on Coke Oven projects in almost every major Steel Plant in India was an inspiration. My mother, a retired schoolteacher, was loved not just by her students but by anyone who met her. Both my parents were extremely hard working and service oriented. It is they who inculcated the spirit of service in me right from my childhood. My parents used to provide hot meals and clothing to the poor. My father still personally serves food at the Leper colony. They are very charitable in their outlook and always ready to help. I have a younger brother who lives in Bangalore, India. I am fortunate to come from musically gifted family and was blessed with talent and inspiration all around me. I picked up singing at a very early age and that is how I met Ram who used to play the guitar in our engineering college music club.

India Day 2020

A couple of months after the pandemic began, the IAGB team was tasked with the challenge of celebrating India Day with so many constraints that came up. In addition to the unavailability of a grand platform like City Hall at Boston, the inevitable thought dawned on us that we would have to celebrate the event virtually. Further, the team wanted to do something really relevant for the community. A series of events were conceived by IAGB leading up to a grand event on August 15th.

What is the crisis? It can be a period of transition/a situation in the life of any of us as an individual, family or group. A situation we hope never happens but if happened, sometimes can be really daunting to maneuver through. For the past year or so India Association of Greater Boston- your community partner has been working with many affected community members, catering to their unique needs and guiding them to available resources based on their unique situations.

The knock-on effects of the COVID in our lives, resulting in lockdowns, shutdowns, and alterations of lives;
We saw the world adapting to a whole lot of “new norms” with masks n’ social distancing being the prime vibes.
IAGB India Day, known in the community for its grand celebration with thousands in a cheering crowd!
How do we live up to that tradition this time and make the community proud?

As many in the community know and recognize India Day, celebrating India’s Independence on August 15, 1947, as one the signature events of IAGB and look forward to gathering outdoors year after year!
This year, the COVID-19 pandemic brought in a different twist to our daily lives, leading us to adapt “new norms” of social distancing and come up with innovative ways of doing things. One of the most challenging ‘new norm’ is the restriction on the number of people gathering in one place at the same time. This has created a huge question mark in our minds on ways to celebrate various special milestone socio-cultural or historic occasions, traditionally celebrated in a grand way welcoming a huge public gathering.

“…Family is my uncles, my aunts, and my chithis”, as Senator Kamala Harris said in the acceptance speech for her Vice Presidential nomination. Whatever is this “Chithi”? The word, which in Tamil means younger aunt, became viral and reminded me of my own cultural reckoning when my children were younger.

“Is it ok if I call Tom’s Mom Pam Aunty?”, my younger one asked about her best friend. Before I could reply, my older one interjected, a little irritated. “Well, you can’t. She isn’t Indian. And by the way Mom, I am not going to call Ruchi Aunty that anymore. It was weird when my teacher asked me if she was your sister or Dad’s, and I said neither.”