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It wasn’t a slave ship that brought the first South Indian Tamils to the French Caribbean. But it was close. For the men, women and children transported as indentured labor in the 19th century, the passage from French outposts in and around Pondicherry could be brutal.

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In the century that followed the epochal messages brought to the United States by the reformist Hindu scholar Vivekananda near the end of the 19th Century, at the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1893 and in lectures around the county – the swami’s vision of Hinduism’s precepts and practices attracted many Americans.

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Being born, raised and educated in Kolkata could make anyone a political junkie. Shyama Venkateswar, who calls her birthplace “the most political city in the entire country,” began the journey there that led to an Ivy League Ph.D in politics and a successful American career in cross-cultural political analysis.


After Nikki Haley won the 2010 Republican primary for South Carolina, political consultant David Woodard was asked by a reporter if he thought she might run for president one day. The news report on South Carolina’s newspaper did not say what his reply was, but the question has seemed to be making the rounds again.

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Nikki Haley’s resignation as United States Ambassador to the United Nations genuinely stunned the diplomatic world. Ambassadors from near and far who had on occasion been at odds with her suddenly erupted in near-hysterical praise. The reason: apprehension – fear even – of who could replace her.

In the United Nations, on national television and in the perception of a majority of Americans who have watched her at work, Ambassador Nikki Haley has proved to be the most popular member of the ever-evolving Trump administration. 

On Oct. 31, 1984, in a wire service office in Beijing, I was waiting to send a news report to New York when a bell rang to call attention to a breaking story. As the New York Times chief Southeast Asia correspondent, I had just visited camps for Vietnamese refugees in southern China and was preparing to return to my base in Bangkok.

An adventurous cook navigating the aisles of a typical supermarket in Middle America sails past shelf after shelf of Latin American ingredients, an array of Chinese sauces, Thai noodles and a continent of European cheeses in a sea of Italian olive oils. The necessities of Indian home cooking are mostly not there.