To Travel or Not to Travel?

~ Mithila Rajagopal ’10

The month of October has been a frenzy of travel alerts issued left, right and center.  The already tense relationship between India and Pakistan is not becoming any better, as India issued a travel advisory against traveling to Pakistan on Tuesday, the 27th of October. The string of terror attacks in the Punjab province of Pakistan has urged the Indian government to attempt the curtailing of travel to Pakistan. Despite this warning, more than a hundred pilgrims left India for Lahore to celebrate the 540th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev, the founder of Sikhism. The rampant spread of violence and aggression in Pakistan has not deterred these determined pilgrims as they made their way across the border. Prior pilgrimages to Rawalpindi in Pakistan have had to be cut short because of security issues. The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), mini-parliament of the Sikhs, is continuing to organize trips to Pakistan and is requesting clearance from the government. If they are successful in obtaining clearance, then the Indian government will have the added responsibility of working with Pakistan to ensure the safety of the Sikh pilgrims.

India has its own travel security issues. The United States has recently issued a travel advisory to India alerting its citizens of the possibility of terrorist activities in the region. The November 2008 attacks in Mumbai have shown that the foreigners are liable targets for terrorist activities. The US government advised Americans “to monitor local news reports and consider the level of security present when visiting public places, including religious sites, or choosing hotels, restaurants, entertainment and recreation venues.’’ India is not, however, regarded to be as much a dangerous situation, as is the other 30 countries that the US has issued travel warnings for – including most of the countries in South Asia, particularly, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nepal and Sri Lanka.

In these rough times, it is definitely advisable to be as cautious as possible. Let us hope the new year and increasing military action in Pakistan and Afghanistan will bring us a better and safer future.

Source: IBN Live, Times of India

Obama Celebrates Diwali

~ Reetu Bajaj ’12

On Wednesday, October 14th 2009, United States President Barack Obama celebrated Diwali by lighting the ceremonial lamp at the White House while Vedic mantras were being chanted, seeking world peace. He believes that “the significance of the holiday for each faith varies, all of them mark it by gathering with family members to pray and decorate the house and enjoy delicious food and sweet treats.” This is the first time that any U.S. president attended and celebrated Diwali at the White House, giving official recognition to this festival celebrated by many Jains, Sikhs, and Hindus. Obama welcomed many prominent members of the Indian community to celebrate with him, including nearly half a dozen members of his Cabinet and various Indian Americans from his administration. The visiting Union Minister of Commerce, Anand Sharma, and Indian Ambassador to the US Meera Shankar graced the occasion. Using the occasion, Obama declared to re-establish the review commission for Asian American and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) and White House proposal created by the former US President, Bill Clinton ten years ago. Obama signed an executive order at this occurrence. Before lighting the diya, and while Pandit Narayancharya Digalakote from the Sri Shiva Vishnu Temple chanted Vedic mantras, Obama states that “While this is a time of rejoicing, it’s also a time for reflection, when we remember those who are less fortunate and renew our commitment to reach out to those in need.” Check out the Diwali message publicized by Obama.

Obama Celebrates Diwali

Image: Courtesy Indian Express