Interviewer: Hans-Jürgen John
Interviewee: Jaya Kamlani
Date: April 19, 2016
Photos placed at disposal by Jaya Kamlani
Interview with Jaya Kamlani, author and activist.
Interview with Jaya Kamlani about Donald Trump, her book «To India, with Tough Love» and the situation for children and women in India.
Almost no interviews these days without a question about Donald Trump. Will he become the next President of the United States? Or are his statements only words in order to win the elections?
Who am I to foretell when the political pundits have been proven wrong for their predictions so far?
Why is he successful?
All politicians promise you the moon. But, I can understand why Donald Trump’s message «Make America Great Again» resonates with the working class citizens. Since the 2007-2010 Great Recession, their incomes have remained stagnant while corporate profits have soared. So voters have turned out in droves to bring change to America. They do not trust the politicians any more.
Who can stop him?
The Republican establishment has tried to derail Trump’s momentum in the primaries. They have instead provided support to challenger Senator Ted Cruz. It appears the Republican nomination is headed for a contested convention this July. Rules will then be written and rewritten on the fly by the party committee in each state.
There will be elbow-twisting, wheeling-dealing, behind the scenes delegate manipulating at the convention. Elections in America have been known to be stolen before.
What if Donald Trump does not get the Republican nomination? Will the real estate mogul then pursue a third party option for the general election this November? It remains to be seen.
Donald Trump is only one candidate. What about those from the Democratic Party?
On the Democratic Party campaign trail, the contest is heating up between Senator Bernie Sanders and former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton.
Sanders focuses on important issues of the people such as income inequality, Wall Street influence on politics, campaign financing, and unfavorable US trade deals that have cost millions of Americans their jobs.
On the other hand, Clinton has the experience, especially in foreign affairs. She also has the super delegates in her pocket. In the grand finale, she can pull them out like white rabbits from a black hat and walk away smiling.
What do you expect from the next President of the United States?
I sincerely hope our next president will remember his/her oath to serve the country and its people. I hope our next president will bring honor and dignity to our country and be the beacon of light for justice and peace in the world.
What is your latest book about?
This year, I am not writing a new book. Instead, I am adding a couple of chapters at the end of my memoir «Scent of Yesterday». It will include chapters on my peace related activities and the US elections. Since the book already has chapters of historical nature about India and America, this piece would fit well. I will then republish my memoir.
«To India, with tough love» is about violence against women and children. You say the India Supreme Court justices have a copy of this book and even the Prime Minister has one. But will rapists read your book, too?
«To India, with Tough Love» is more than a book on women and children. It is about my observations during my tour through rural India and the city slums. It is about mass farmer suicides and genetically modified foods. It is about corruption in high places and acute poverty. It is about the caste system and toxic environment. It is about trafficking of children and injustice to women. It is also about the Good Samaritans who are bringing change to India.
An Indian-American scientist from California sent copies of the book to all the Supreme Court judges of India as a Republic Day gift in January 2014. He felt if anyone could help bring change to India, it would be the Supreme Court judges.
I don’t expect rapists to read my book. Their evil minds work in malicious ways. They are always hunting for their next victim. They are not interested in reading, bettering themselves or doing something good for society.
Society’s values have further deteriorated in the new millennium. Internet pornography and videos have promoted more rapes. Bollywood is also guilty of promoting such culture by producing movies that portray women in poor light and in compromising roles. Sex sells. That is the ugly truth. Besides, young idle jobless people gravitate towards mischief. They have no fear of the law, as laws are not enforced in India. As is said, an idle mind is a devil’s workshop.
Jaya Kamlani is an award-winning Indian-American author and poet, and a former Silicon Valley technology consultant. Jaya migrated to the U.S. in 1969 and has been living there since.
She believes we all have a role to play in making this world a more compassionate place.
Her publications include: Non-fiction «To India, with Tough Love» (2013) – a book written to bring change to India; memoir «Scent of Yesterday» (2014) and a poetry collection «Garden of Life» (2015).
Author and activist Jaya Kamlani received the NRI Institute’s Bharat Samman (Pride of India) award from former Army Chief, General V K Singh, Minister of State for External Affairs and Manu Jagmohan Singh, Secretary General of NRI Institute on January 12 at the Leela Palace, Delhi.
Kamlani also received the Hind Rattan (Jewel of India) Award at the 35th Congress of NRIs on January 25, 2016. There she spoke about her concerns about women and children’s issues in India.
Author page on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/author/jayakamlani
Will it change something if your book becomes a school book in India and pupils have to read and comment about it?
«To India, with Tough Love» is not intended for high school students, as the infamous December 2012 rape and murder of Jyoti Singh Pandey (Nirbhaya) is covered in detail in the book. The book also covers child trafficking issues. However, it is recommended for college students and those over eighteen years of age.
Top twenty colleges associated with the Mumbai University carry the book at their libraries. I would like to see more universities across India carry it. I would also like the book to be translated in Hindi and other languages, but have not yet pursued this option.
How much is your book? How much are books in India? Is it cheap enough that an average Indian can buy it on Amazon?
You cannot compare apples to oranges when it comes to book pricing in India versus America. Discounted book prices by Amazon also tend to vary from time to time. The book is not affordable for an average Indian. It took me seven intense years to research, write and get it published.
Also, India has strange FDI rules for online retailing. Authors selling via Amazon have to split their commission with a third party distributor in India.
Therefore, if readers in India want to purchase my books, they should do so through Amazon.com, not Amazon.in. Volume discounts can be arranged with my publisher.
What about your readers? Do most of them live in India?
My readers are spread throughout the world, because many of the issues discussed in the book are universal issues.
To be born in India sounds like to be born into a trap. There is poverty, there is injustice, violence against women and children, corruption.
Where there is greed, there is corruption. And where there is corruption, there will always be a big disparity between the rich and the poor. The poor are kept uneducated, so they cannot question authority.
Violence towards women and children is rampant. Women are still considered second-class citizens. Sometimes, girls are forced into arranged marriages in their early teens. This subordinates them at a tender age and makes them vulnerable to domestic violence.
Is there anything positive you can mention?
Yes, India is rich in its culture. The people of the country are warm, friendly and hospitable. India was once known for its spirituality. Although that has diminished today, you will still find many spiritually inclined, especially in smaller towns and rural areas, where most of the population lives. India has made great progress in technology. It has many highly educated people. However, the mass has been kept uneducated.
What can be changed? How? By whom?
The Supreme Court and the High Courts of India can ensure laws are enforced against corruption, trafficking and violence towards women and children. Universal education must be promoted. The country also needs many good leaders.
Will you keep on visiting India or will you stop it for security reasons?
In the last three years, some Indians wrote on my Facebook postings that I should not visit India and that I should not sell my book in the country. I also received messages and emails telling me to refuse my awards this January in India. They asked me to stand in solidarity with the locals who were returning their awards. A politically driven move during the state elections to protest religious intolerance in the country.
However, since my recent visit, I have overcome my fear. I realize I have family and friends and people in high places I can turn to for help, including the American Consulate. I also believe that as more Indians read my book, they will realize that I have brought out both the good and bad aspects of the country because I care.
The book was written with the intent to bring change to India. I have no plans to visit the country in the near future. But circumstances can change and I might find myself on the plane again.
What advice can you give to India? Which country in the world can be a role model for India? The USA?
My recommendations for India are mentioned in the book. I believe both USA and India can become partners and good friends, as each has plenty to offer to the other. Each has its own shortcomings and virtues. It can be a mutually beneficial relationship.
There are many problems. To name the issues is easy. Where are the possible solutions?
There are many solutions offered throughout my book. Also, the Good Samaritans chapter demonstrates what some NGOs and individuals have done to bring change to rural India – how they have brought water and solar energy to the villages, how they have uplifted the poor, empowered the women and educated the children in remote rural and tribal areas.
How can India fight poverty?
India must first ensure that its children are educated and that adults are equipped with livelihood training skills. Also, it can follow the «inclusive capitalism» examples explained in my book. But above all, it must ensure that basic amenities, such as water and energy are available to all people in the city slums and villages.
In the new millennium, many NGOs have taken that initiative. Once these amenities are available, then basic personal needs such as food, clothing and shelter must be met before the children can be educated. However, when the poor are compelled to migrate from state-to-state for jobs, their children drop out of school.
The poor people are provided ration cards for subsidized food by the government. But the Public Distribution System is ridden with corruption. The poor often do not receive their fair quota of grains. Their ration card is invalid when they travel to another state to seek work.
How can India fight corruption?
India needs to enforce its current laws and show by setting an example that even the high and mighty are accountable for their actions.
How can India fight violence against women and children?
The courts must enforce and even improve current laws to protect women and children. The government can run a public relations campaign to address violence against women, including domestic violence, dowry-related deaths, rape, female infanticide, and even forced marriages.
Teaching martial arts at school can serve as a good defense mechanism against violence towards children. High school education should be made mandatory. This would ensure that children who graduate are at least eighteen. It would help prevent child marriage, which often leads to domestic violence.
Education can empower young girls. An educated woman is also your best weapon against poverty and over-population.
You were born into Hindu religion. Does it influence your everyday life?
I am more spiritual than religious. I care for humanity, regardless of their religion. I also attended a Catholic convent school and a Jesuit college. This taught me tolerance for all religions.
Can religion in India be the key to solution of problems? Or is it a hindrance to changes?
There should be separation between religion and the state. Religious institutions have not solved poverty or other social problems in India. Many of the temples coffers are filled with gold treasures and wealth donated by the patrons, worth millions of dollars. If these temples truly want to lift their communities from poverty, it is within their power to do so.
Where do you derive your energy from?
I derive energy from my faith in God and humanity, from the beauty and harmony in nature, from music, from my family and friends, and from my conviction that even the worst days do pass. Most of all, I always count my blessings.
How long will it take India to change?
India’s biggest handicap is its population of 1.3 billion people. To educate the young and employ the youth is an enormous challenge. Its treatment of women belongs to a long bygone era. It may take a generation or two to bring the needed change, because people’s mindsets have to also change.
Thank you so much for the interview Jaya Kamlani.
«To India, with Tough Love» is available at Amazon: