1.‘maximum INDIA’ Brings India’s Sights and Sounds to Washington
STEVE EMBER: I‟m Steve Ember.
SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: And I‟m Shirley Griffith with EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English.
Today we travel to India by way of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. This cultural organization is currently holding a three-week festival that celebrates the art, culture, food and people of India. Join us as we explore the sights and sounds of “maximum INDIA.”
(MUSIC: “Mysore Se Ayee” by Raghu Dixit)
STEVE EMBER: That was a song performed by the Indian folk rock musician Raghu Dixit. He is one of many musicians who have performed at the Kennedy Center during “maximum INDIA.”
Other musicians include the rock band Parikrama the violinist L. Subramaniam, and the opera singer Anando Mukerjee.
SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: Festival organizer Alicia Adams has been working on this event for several years. She visited India many times to put together the festival. She visited dancers, artists‟ work shops, festivals and restaurants. Then she and other festival organizers decided what they would bring to the Kennedy Center for this event.
Ms. Adams says the name of the festival was influenced by the book “Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found” by Suketu Mehta. She says the festival‟s use of the word “maximum” describes India well. Ms. Adams notes that everything in India is “maximum” -- from its colors and
environment, to the density and number of its people.
STEVE EMBER: The “maximum INDIA” festival gives visitors to the Kennedy Center a taste of India‟s many cultures and traditions. India has more than a billion people, fifteen official languages, more than one thousand dialects and more than three hundred thousand gods and goddesses.
The event has been extremely popular. Almost all of the performances have sold out. Ms. Adams says that many of the free performances have been extremely crowded. The Kennedy Center had to bring in additional sound and screen devices to make room for the huge numbers of people. Here is U. Shrinivas, a skilled musician in Indian classical music who plays the mandolin. (MUSIC: “From Folktales” by U. Shrinivas)
SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: In addition to music, “maximum INDIA” offers many kinds of dance and
theater performances. Tansuree Shankar is a dancer and dance creator whose company performs Indian modern dance. Other groups performed traditional dances such as bharatanatyam, sapera, and kuchipudi.
The Manipur Chorus Repertory Theatre performed Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen‟s play, “When We Dead Awaken,” in the language of Manipuri.
STEVE EMBER: The Ishara Puppet Theatre Trust was one of many shows aimed at younger audiences. The group performed a work called “Images of Truth.” The performers used puppets and actors to tell the story of Indian political leader and activist Mahatma Gandhi. Before beginning the show, director Dadi Pudumjee asked the audience to observe a minute of silence to honor the actors and puppet experts in Japan who may have suffered after last week‟s major earthquake.
SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: Not all “maximum INDIA” events are about dance, music or theater. Experts discussed subjects including India‟s cities, women in Indian movies and Indian literature.
Comedian Dan Nainan told funny stories about his unusual cultural background. DAN NAINAN: “My dad is from India and my mom is from Japan. Yes, I‟ll let that sink in.”
“In fact, my mom is so Japanese that when I was born, I came out cordless.”
STEVE EMBER: Susmita Mohanty is a spaceship designer from India who gave a talk called “3011: Spaceship Utopias.” She discussed India‟s space program and the future of spaceship
design. She called for governments to use design experts and not just engineers to make spaceships.
SUSMITA MOHANTY: “What I think the problem is is not because we don‟t have the imagination or the resources or the talent to build better spaceships. I think the problem is that the design approach that most government agencies take is heavily dependent on engineers only.”
SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: Several exhibits at “maximum INDIA” show the work of modern Indian artists. Bharti Kher is an artist born in London who currently lives in New Delhi. Her work, “I‟ve
Got Eyes at the Back of my Head,” is made up of five thousand large cloth bindis.
They are attached to the windows of one of the Kennedy Center‟s long hallways. Bindis are small dots traditionally worn by Indian women on their forehead, in between the eyes. Ms. Kher has enlarged them and organized them in colorful rows.
STEVE EMBER: Jitish Kallat‟s work, “Public Notice 2,” recreates a speech given by Mahatma Gandhi in nineteen thirty. Gandhi gave the speech before beginning a twenty-four-day march to protest Britain‟s unfair control of India‟s salt trade. Gandhi called for the use of non-violent civil
The artist has written out the speech using letters made of fiberglass. The letters are in the shape of bones and sit on a series of temporary wall structures. Mr. Kallat says the speech includes several subjects that could help us rethink the deep aggression in the world today.
(MUSIC: “Humse Rootha Na Karo” by Vatsala Mehra)
SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: Other exhibits explore India‟s rich craft traditions. One exhibit shows the
many beautiful kinds of sari clothing that Indian women wear. Another shows a huge collection of fans used to cool off during warm weather.
One large exhibit imaginatively brings together crafts from the twenty-eight states of India. The large room is made to look like a gathering of sellers at a village market. There are large videos on the walls showing the busy streets of India.
There are many bicycles carrying objects that represent a special local tradition. One bicycle has all the materials needed for making and selling chai, or tea. Another bicycle carries the materials and tools for making paan. Paan is made up of small pieces of areca nut and other spices. People chew it to cleanse the tastebuds in the mouth and support fresh breath. Several of the bicycles also show objects used to honor Hindu gods in religious ceremonies.
STEVE EMBER: Another exhibit is filled with priceless treasures. Visitors can see traditional jewelry made by the Gem Palace company in Jaipur. One diamond and pearl wedding set includes a headpiece, earrings and a huge necklace. It took seventy-five jewelers three years to complete. Another necklace and earring set is also for a bride. It is made of over eighty carats of diamonds and over sixty carats of red stones called rubies.
SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: No festival of Indian culture would be complete without food. Festival organizers brought in the famous Indian cook Hemant Oberoi to create food for the event. Both Kennedy Center restaurants are offering Indian meals from around the continent. Mr. Oberoi had many dried spices shipped to Washington from India. A local Indian restaurant has helped provide the right tools and fresh ingredients. So Mr. Oberoi and his team are making Indian food that tastes as close as possible to the food they make in their country.
STEVE EMBER: We leave you with a song by the artist Panjabi MC. He will perform twice this weekend at “maximum INDIA.” He combines traditional Panjabi music with hip-hop to make
songs that make you want to get up and dance.
SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: This program was written and produced by Dana Demange. I‟m Shirley Griffith.
STEVE EMBER: And I‟m Steve Ember. You can see pictures of some “maximum INDIA” exhibits on our website, voaspecialenglish.com. You can also find us on Facebook and YouTube at VOA Learning English. Join us again next week for EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English.
2.American History: An Angry Nation Puts Its Hopes in President Roosevelt
STEVE EMBER: Welcome to THE MAKING OF A NATION – American history in VOA Special
English. I'm Steve Ember with Shirley Griffith. This week in our series, we begin the story of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
In nineteen thirty-two Americans were tired of the policies of Republican President Herbert
Hoover. They thought Hoover had done too little to fight the depression that was crushing the economy.
They gave a big victory to Franklin Roosevelt and his Democrats in the elections that year. Roosevelt believed that the federal government should do more to help average Americans. The election brought hope to many Americans in the autumn of nineteen thirty-two. But Roosevelt did not become president until March of nineteen thirty-three, four months after the election. And those months saw the American economy fall to its lowest level in the history of the nation. SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: President Hoover tried to arrange a world economic conference. And he called on President-elect Roosevelt to join him in making conservative statements in support of business.
Roosevelt refused. He did not think it was correct to begin acting like a president until he actually became the president. He did not want to tie himself to policies that the voters had just rejected. Congress, controlled by Democrats, also refused to help Hoover.
STEVE EMBER: It was a strange period, a season of uncertainty and anger. The economy was worse than ever. The lines of people waiting for food were longer than before. Angry mobs of farmers were gathering in the countryside. And the politicians in Washington seemed unable to work together to end the crisis.
Hoover said, We are at the end of our rope. There is nothing more we can do. And across the country, Americans waited -- worried, uncertain, afraid. What would the new president do? SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: The new president was fifty-one years old. His family name was well-known to the American public. Theodore Roosevelt -- a distant family member -- had served as one of America's greatest presidents thirty years earlier.
Franklin Roosevelt was born to a rich and important New York family. He went to the best schools: Groton, Harvard and Columbia Law School. In nineteen ten, he won election to the New York State Legislature. He showed great intelligence and political understanding as a state senator, and worked hard for other Democratic candidates.
Franklin Roosevelt next served as assistant secretary of the Navy under President Woodrow Wilson. And in nineteen twenty, he was the Democratic Party's unsuccessful candidate for vice president.
STEVE EMBER: The next year, Roosevelt suffered a personal tragedy. He was sailing during a holiday with his family. Suddenly, his body became cold. He felt severe pain in his back and legs. Doctors came. But the pain got worse. For weeks, Roosevelt was forced to lie on his back. Finally, doctors discovered that Roosevelt was a victim of polio. He lost control of his legs because of the disease. He would never walk again.
Roosevelt had always been an active man who loved sports. But now he would have to live with a wheelchair. All of his money and fame could not get him back the strength in his legs. SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: Many Americans thought the illness would end Roosevelt's political dreams. But they were wrong. He showed an inner strength that people had never seen in him before.
Roosevelt ran as the Democratic candidate for governor of New York state in nineteen twenty-eight. He won by a small number of votes.
Two years later, the voters of New York re-elected Roosevelt. And they cheered his creative efforts to help citizens of the state who were suffering from the Great Depression.
STEVE EMBER: Franklin Roosevelt always appeared strong and friendly in public. He loved to laugh and enjoy life. But his happy face hid a strong will.
Throughout his life, Roosevelt worked to improve life for the common man. And he was willing to use the power of government to do this. He thought the government had the power and responsibility to improve the life of its citizens.
SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: Roosevelt believed deeply in this. But he was less certain about the best way to do it. "Above all, we must try something," he said during the presidential campaign of nineteen thirty-two. Roosevelt believed that the country demanded creative experimentation. Americans in large numbers across the country voted for Roosevelt in nineteen thirty-two. They supported his calls for action to end the depression. But no one was really sure just what this new president from New York -- this man unable to walk -- would really do after he entered the White House.
STEVE EMBER: Inauguration Day in nineteen thirty-three began with clouds and a dark sky. Roosevelt went to church in the morning. And then he drove with President Hoover from the White House to the Capitol, the building where Congress meets.
Roosevelt tried to talk with Hoover as they drove. But Hoover said little. He just waved without emotion at the crowd.
The two men arrived at the Capitol. A huge crowd of people waited. Millions more Americans listened to a radio broadcast of the ceremony. The chief justice of the United States, Charles Evans Hughes, gave the oath of office to Roosevelt.
And then Americans waited to hear what the nation's thirty-second president would say. He told them he was sure they expected him to speak openly and honestly about the situation facing the country. He told them that their great nation would survive as it had survived in the past. That it would recover and become rich again.
He talked about the danger of fear -- a nameless fear that blocked efforts to move forward. And he talked about Americans giving their support to honest, active leadership in every dark hour of their history.
Here is some of Roosevelt's inaugural address in his own words.
PRESIDENT ROOSEVELT: “This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself--nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”
SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: Roosevelt's words caught the emotions of the crowd. He seemed sure of himself. He promised leadership. His whole style was different from the empty promises of wealth offered by President Hoover.
PRESIDENT ROOSEVELT: “Happiness lies not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort. The joy and moral stimulation of work no longer must be forgotten in the mad chase of evanescent profits. These dark days my friends will be worth all they cost us if they teach us that our true destiny is not to be ministered unto but to minister to ourselves, to our fellow men.”
SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: Roosevelt said that the most important need was to put people back to work. And he said the federal government would have to take an active part in creating jobs. Roosevelt said there were many ways to help the nation recover. But he said it would never be helped just by talking about it. "We must act," he said, "and act quickly."
STEVE EMBER: Roosevelt had a strong and serious look on his face. He told the crowd that all the necessary action was possible under the American system of government. But he warned that Congress must cooperate with him to get the nation moving again.
Then, his speech finished, Roosevelt waved to the crowd and smiled. Herbert Hoover shook his hand and left. Roosevelt rode alone through the huge crowds back to the White House. And he immediately began a series of conferences.
SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: Roosevelt's inauguration speech of nineteen thirty-three was one of the most powerful and important speeches in American history. Roosevelt's speech was like an ocean wave that washes away one period of history and brings in a new one. The president seemed strong. He gave people hope.
The new president promised the American people action. And action came quickly. During the next three months, Roosevelt and the Democrats would pass more major new programs than the nation had seen in many years.
We look at this beginning of the Roosevelt administration in our next program. (MUSIC)
STEVE EMBER: Our program was written by David Jarmul. With Shirley Griffith, I'm Steve Ember. You can find our series online with pictures, transcripts, MP3s and podcasts at voaspecialenglish.com. You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter at VOA Learning English. Join us again next week for THE MAKING OF A NATION -- an American history series in VOA Special English.
3.Debating the Display of Ten Commandments in Public Schools and Buildings
This is the VOA Special English Education Report.
In Giles County, Virginia, the school board has removed displays of the Ten Commandments in its schools. The county thought that posting the Ten Commandments, along with the first part of the United States Constitution, might help increase moral values.
There had been few complaints since the Commandments were posted almost twelve years ago. But recently, civil liberties groups had threatened to take the county to court if it did not remove them.
The United States Supreme Court permits the Ten Commandments to be on public property so long as the goal of displaying them is not to gain support for religion. But in nineteen eighty, the Court ruled that the Ten Commandments cannot be shown in public schools because displaying
them shows support of religion by the government.
Jewish and Christian holy books say the Ten Commandments were laws given to the prophet Moses by God. Many Americans believe the country was founded on Judeo-Christian beliefs. Many of their beliefs are expressed in the Ten Commandments. They are a set of rules against murder, stealing, cheating, adultery and profanity.
Douglas Laycock is a professor of constitutional law at the University of Virginia School of Law in Charlottesville. He says the Supreme Court has ruled that governments must be neutral about religious teachings.
DOUGLAS LAYCOCK: “Putting up the Ten Commandments in a way that promotes the Jewish
and Christian scriptures is a violation of the Constitution, and especially if they do it in a public school. Parents are entitled to send their children to school without having to proselytize somebody having somebody else‟s religion.”
Officials in Giles County say they may put the Ten Commandments back on the walls of the schools but will add other historical documents. Professor Laycock says it is possible that might satisfy a court.
DOUGLAS LAYCOCK: “Whether or not they can keep the Ten Commandments on the
wall…depends on how serious and plausible the things they put around it are. And, whether it looks like a genuine secular display that happens to include the Ten Commandments or whether it looks like just an excuse for putting this religious document on the wall.”
Since the Supreme Court ruling in nineteen eighty, more conservative justices have been appointed to the Court. Professor Laycock says some conservative activists believe this new, more conservative Court might be willing to once again permit the Ten Commandments to be displayed in public schools.
And that's the VOA Special English Education Report. Tell us what you think about religion in public schools. You can comment at voaspecialenglish.com. You can also find transcripts and MP3s of our reports. And you can find us on Facebook and YouTube at VOA Learning English. I'm Christopher Cruise.
4.Japan's Disaster Could Hurt Plans for Nuclear Energy Industry
This is the VOA Special English Economics Report.
The crisis at Japan‟s Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear energy center has raised questions about the
future of the nuclear energy industry. Arjun Makhijani is president of the Institute for Energy and
Environmental Research in the United States. He says the disaster in Japan is historic. ARJUN MAKHIJANI: “We are witnessing a completely unprecedented nuclear accident in that there have never been three reactors in the same place at the same time that have had a severe accident.”
This week, the chairman of America‟s nuclear agency said there is little chance that harmful radiation from Japan could reach the United States. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Gregory Jaczko also said America has a strong program in place to deal with earthquake threats. No new nuclear power centers have been built in the United States since nineteen seventy-nine. That was when America‟s worst nuclear accident happened at the Three Mile Island center in
Pennsylvania. The accident began to turn public opinion against nuclear energy. To support more clean energy production, the Obama administration has been seeking billions of dollars in government loan guarantees to build new centers. Currently, about twenty percent of electricity in the United States comes from nuclear energy. But critics say nuclear power is too costly and dangerous to be worth further expansion.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Germany would temporarily close seven nuclear power centers while energy policy is reconsidered. The European Union is planning to test all centers in its twenty-seven member nations.
Developing nations are less willing to slow nuclear expansion. China said it will continue with plans to build about twenty-five new nuclear reactors. And India, under a cooperation agreement with the United States, plans to spend billions on new centers in the coming years. Japan has made nuclear energy a national priority since the nineteen seventies. Unlike many major economies, Japan imports eighty percent of its energy. The Nuclear Energy Institute says twenty-nine percent of Japan‟s electricity came from nuclear sources in two thousand nine.The government planned to increase that to forty percent by twenty seventeen.
Nuclear reactors supply fourteen percent of global electricity. Nuclear energy is a clean resource, producing no carbon gases. But radioactive waste is a serious unresolved issue. So is the presence of nuclear power centers in earthquake areas like the one near Bushehr, Iran. And that‟s the VOA Special English Economics Report written by Mario Ritter. I‟m Steve Ember.
5.Writer Deborah Eisenberg Wins PEN/Faulkner Fiction Award
DOUG JOHNSON: Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC in VOA Special English.
I'm Doug Johnson.
This week, we play R.E.M.‟s new album, “Collapse Into Now,” and read a few comments about
some of our recent shows.
But first, we tell about writer Deborah Eisenberg, the winner of the 2011 PEN/Faulkner award for fiction.
DOUG JOHNSON: The writer Mary Lee Settle established the PEN/Faulkner Award for fiction in nineteen eighty. She wanted to create a national prize that was judged by writers and was free of commercial interests.
Mary Lee Settle died in two thousand five. But the yearly award she founded continues to support American writers. Faith Lapidus tells about this year‟s winner.
FAITH LAPIDUS: Short story writer Deborah Eisenberg says there is always a terrifying moment as she nears completion of a story. She told a reporter that when she is almost done she will say to herself, is this story going to work or is it going to fall apart?
She also said that after she writes the last word, she goes back later, re-reads the story and then writes a new version.
That writing process created a book that just won the 2011 PEN/Faulkner Award. “The Collected
Stories of Deborah Eisenberg” includes stories from all four of the writer‟s books. Judge and
fellow writer Laura Furman praised Eisenberg‟s writing for its sharp intelligence and inventiveness. She said the author shows an understanding of the connectedness of human beings as it exists in isolation.
Deborah Eisenberg did not begin writing until she was thirty. She says she started writing because she had quit smoking. Her first story, “Days,” was the result.
Now sixty-five, Deborah Eisenberg also teaches at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. She lives with actor and writer Wallace Shawn in New York City. In two thousand nine Deborah Eisenberg won a MacArthur Fellowship and a Guggenheim Fellowship for her work. On May seventh, the PEN/Faulkner Foundation will honor her with its award for fiction and a fifteen thousand dollar prize.
The ceremony will also honor the other four finalists. They are Jennifer Egan for her book, “A Visit from the Goon Squad,” and Brad Watson for “Aliens in the Prime of their Lives.” The other two finalists are Jaimy Gordon, author of “Lord of Misrule” and Eric Puchner for “Model Home.” Each finalist will receive five thousand dollars.
DOUG JOHNSON: This week we take a look at some of your comments about recent programs. We will return to listener questions next week.
Many of you wrote to us about the tragic Triangle Factory fire in New York City. Hadi from Senegal is a technical director of a factory. He said the Triangle history influenced him greatly in his work.
Robert in Brazil had a similar message:
“I‟m a Safety Technician working on Petrobras Brazil. [The] message [was] very interesting. Safety must be a personal treasure in our life.”
Seiko of Japan was shocked by the blocked doors, and lack of fire safety equipment in the Triangle Factory. Seiko wrote there was a similar fire in Kabukicho, Japan in two thousand one: “The building had a fire alarm apparatus but the switch was turned off because of poor
maintenance. Forty-four people died in the fire.”
Jean wrote in honor of the memory of the one hundred forty six factory workers who died in the Triangle Factory:
“I give my greatest respects and appreciations to people who sacrificed in the fire. Because of them we have a safer workplace and a better world.”
Our story about the Grammy Awards also received a lot of comments. Many of you enjoyed the music of jazz artist Esperanza Spalding who won the Grammy for best new artist. Nataly of Russia sent this message:
“Esperanza Spalding is brilliant! I‟m happy to learn that her talent is appreciated with the award. Her performance is definitely a piece of Art.”
Many wrote in to praise Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga also. But not everyone liked the music in the story. Louis of China had this to say:
“Maybe it is that I was old, I don‟t like to listen [to] the songs of nowadays. I think [they] are not as perfect as those traditional popular songs.”
Erika of Indonesia agreed:
“The music and the songs can not reach my feelings to listen to it more and more.”
Finally, we had an interesting note from Japan about our program last week about International Women‟s Day. Maki wrote to say she was mostly happy for the changes for women but…
“Thanks to our ancestors, I'm glad that women's status has been improved than before. But in my
country we have some customs left for women. From now on, I hope men also share more household chores [like] raising our children.”
Please keep sharing your opinions and questions at our website voaspecialenglish.com or on Facebook and Twitter at VOA Learning English.
R.E.M. “Collapse Into Now”
DOUG JOHNSON: The rock band R.E.M. has been making music for thirty years. The band recently released its fifteenth record, “Collapse Into Now.” Many critics have praised it as R.E.M.‟s best album in the past ten years. Others say the songs are too similar to the band‟s past hits. R.E.M. says it is their best album in twenty years. Shirley Griffith helps us decide for ourselves.
SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: That was the song “Discoverer.” Like many R.E.M. songs, this one is
poetic with a meaning that is not always clear.
Lead singer Michael Stipe has said this song is influenced by an experience he had in New York City, where he lives. He said he was walking on Houston Street and was suddenly very moved by the energy of the city and its people.
Michael Stipe is known for his interest in many subjects outside of music. He is also a movie producer, activist, photographer and artist. Here is the song “Oh My Heart.”
The album “Collapse Into Now” contains songs with many different styles, from energetic rock to
moving slow songs. One critic noted that it celebrates both the band‟s past and its present. We leave you with ÜBerlin.
DOUG JOHNSON: I‟m Doug Johnson. Our program was written by Dana Demange and Caty
Weaver who was also the producer.