Chennai Journal
Sunday, January 01, 2006
Happy New Year!

A Happy and Healthy New Year to all readers. It has been quite a year for our family, and we are looking forward to 2006 for another adventure filled year. Marty's sister Roberta arrives in just a few days to teach for three months at the Asian School of Journalism located here in Chennai, and our son Harry will come for three weeks in February. At that time, we are all planning to go up to Delhi and Agra and do the Taj Mahal and other North India sites. For New Year's Eve, Marty and I went next door to the Madras Club for their bash, but didn't make it to midnight. Probably we should have, because at the stroke of midnight there were fireworks at several places in the city including both the Madras Club and Madras Boat Club, which is also nearby. Above you can see Marty, Dad and I with garlands presented us by Leela. We both got a ton of SMS messages on our cell phones yesterday from well-wishers---New Year's is a big deal here. My Hindu employees say that they celebrate the holiday by going to temple, as the first day of the year is considered auspicious. More on Indian astrology in a later post.

This week I paid a second visit, accompanied by a member of the Ford India Employees Association from the U.S who was visiting relatives for the holidays, to YRG Care (not all of their links work). YRG was founded by Dr. Suniti Solomon, who is India's foremost expert on HIV/AIDs. YRG does a tremendous amount of work in both prevention and awareness, as well as care for victims. They have an onsite clinic where testing and treatment is done, as well as emergency care (many hospitals will not admit known AIDS patients). Of special concern are housewives and widows, who are accounting for a rising number of cases. Domestic abuse is also very high in this population---housewives may be beaten for even suggesting the use of a condom. Widows are stigmatized by their families---their parents do not want to jeopardize the marriage of eligible daughters and their in-laws blame them for the disease. YRG helps by giving them a safe place to talk, by providing means to livelihood, and by treatment. What I like most about this organization is that it is very grassroots--everything they do comes from patient need and 100% of their charitable funding is used to the benefit of the population, as all their overhead is covered through research grants and other means. All meals for patients are supplied through a program called "365 friends" , where people give 1000 rupees on their birthday. A pharmacy on site was funded by the Elton John Foundation for $4000. It is possible to make a great difference here for relatively modest sums by U.S. standards, yet as much as the money it is establishing programs that are sustainable when the funding is through. They have invited me to attend one of the village community education sessions for housewives, and we are also planning some joint volunteer activities with our workforce in the new year.

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Astrologer Chennai
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