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Another great year has gone by, and we are already on the dawn of a new year. I would like to take this opportunity to wish you all a very Happy New Year. May this year brings a new meaning to everybody’s lives.

Many of us would be coming back to routine after a long winter holiday season. The season makes you happy, with the festivity all around. One feels that we deserve this break as we all have worked very hard during the rest of the year. So rise and shine! January is here. It’s the time to get up and go.

As the citizens of Mumbai get back into their routines, Trident and Taj hotels, targets of terrorists’ attack of 26th November, also reopens for business. Life may seem to be back to normal for all of us. But only those who have lost their loved ones are really affected by the carnage. I hope 2009 brings peace in our lives.

In this newsletter we will discuss about the life post Mumbai attack and the economic climate that is deteriorating everyday. The newsletter ends with a case study of one of the children at the Ashram.

Lets hear it for a peaceful and prosperous (if we can manage in the recession times) New Year 2009!

Till next time,

Vinod Meena
Project Co-ordinator,
www.volunteeringinindia.org

Christmas and Holidays
Holiday season really gets on to you! It is a perfect occasion for me to binge on food, at least till the New Year.

It is also the time to make resolution. Have you resolved for something this year? Well, I have. Lately I have found myself becoming a bit too negative. So, this year, I have resolved to have no negative thoughts. They say that affirmations brings you happiness as positive attracts positive only. I am going to do that the whole of year 2009. Feliz Navidad again!

Economic recession
It seems nobody is untouched by the economic recession. The whole economy got affected after few big banks went bust. It was the credit in the world that was running the economy and the boom about the global growth was because of the credit. The US economy is almost certainly in recession and facing a long period of weakness that could push unemployment to its highest level since the early 1990s, economists said.

Even as lawmakers and the Bush administration tried to craft a $700 billion bailout plan for financial firms, the government reported data that suggest the economic slide is quickening. Workers filing first-time claims for unemployment surged to almost 500,000 last week, up more than 50,000 in the past month alone; new home sales plunged 35 percent from a year ago; and orders for computers, machinery, and other expensive equipment fell sharply last month, a sign that business are cutting spending.

Employers have cut more than 600,000 jobs since the beginning of the year, and the unemployment rate has jumped more than a point, to 6.1 percent. Home prices continue to fall and consumers, struggling under heavy debt and high energy costs, are cutting spending, the main driver of the US economy. Retail sales, a measure of consumer spending, have declined in each of the past two months, the Commerce Department reported recently.

In India credit systems started really late but as in the other parts of the world India got into the habit real quick. So it might hit us a little later but the signs of the same has started showing as of now.

“CASH IS KING” is the motto in the time of recession. Hold on to your jobs and money. Be very wise when you wish to spend your money today.

Mumbai Attack
The morning after the standoff ended at the Taj Mahal Palace & Tower Hotel in Mumbai, the official death toll remained 172. As the investigations started, there were questions about whether Indian authorities could have anticipated the attack and had better security in place. This comes especially after a 2007 report to the Parliament of India that the country’s shores were inadequately protected from infiltration by the sea – the passage attackers might have used to sneak into Mumbai.

It is still unclear whether the attackers had accomplices already in the city, or whether others in their group had escaped. And perhaps the most defacing and troubling question to emerge for the Indian authorities was how, if official estimates are accurate, just 10 gunmen could have caused so much carnage and repelled Indian security forces for more than three days in three different buildings.

On the night of the attack, when a married couple in their 70s went to their third-floor window to see what was happening after hearing gunfire, the attackers blazed away with assault rifles, killing them both. Only witness left to the tragedy was shards of glass hanging in the panes.

When several attackers seized a Jewish outreach center, Nariman House, on Wednesday, neighbors mistook the initial shots for firecrackers in celebration of India’s imminent cricket victory over England. But then two attackers stepped out on a balcony of Nariman House and opened fire on passers-by in an alley nearby, everyone realized what actually was happening there.

They killed a 22-year-old call center worker who was the sole financial supporter of his widowed mother. When a tailor locked up his store for the night, half a block from the Taj Hotel, a gunman spotted him and killed him instantly, said Rony Dass, a cable television installer. “We still don’t know why they did this,” he said, mourning his lifelong friend.

The details will keep pouring in. A few years down the line we will probably get the details of what really happened in Mumbai. But we are sure of one thing: Whatever happened was unreasonable and is definitely unpardonable.

Case Study
This month we bring the story of Rohit Kumar (name changed). Rohit was a young boy of six years and lived with his family. He used to manage his family’s herd of goats and take them to grazing everyday. He was sold to a big farmer in Punjab (a state in India) the year he turned six. This is what Rohit has to say about his life there: “I used to work 17 hours a day non stop. I was even forced to work whenever I refused. I looked after his buffaloes and did cleaning work in the fields. If I faltered, I used a get a good beating from the employer. Sometimes I worked till midnight. I continued like this for the next six years of my life.”

Bachpan Bachao Andolan (Save the Childhood) rescued me. “They took me to my parents but it had been so long I could not understand them or their language. I stayed with them for a couple of months and then came to the centre. I love to play football. I am studying now and would love to take up football when I grow up” says a beaming Rohit.

On this positive note, I would like end this newsletter. Wish you again a Happy New Year 2009 and be positive.

Vinod Meena

 

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When I first arrived in India, it felt like every little thing was so different from back home- the sights, the sounds, the smells, the people, the animals; every moment was a new adventure, and I was always excited to see what would happen next! I volunteered teaching English to rescued child laborers in a rural village near Jaipur.

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