10/10 for Amit

Remember Amit Gupta? He was diagnosed with Leukimia in September 2011 and thus began the largest social media driven internet friendly bone marrow donor recruitment campaign we’ve seen to date. He has something to share today.

… After over 100 drives organized by friends, family, and strangers, celebrity call-outs, a bazillion reblogs (7000+!), tweets, and Facebook posts, press, fundraising and international drives organized by tireless friends, and a couple painful false starts, I’ve got a 10/10 matched donor! You all literally helped save my life. (And the lives of many others.) [amitgupta]

 

I am stunned by this good news! As we’ve blogged before, South Asians have a 1 in 20,000 chance of finding a donor match and to find a perfect match is even more of a slim chance. This is one of those circumstances that highlights how social media campaigns can turn into real life successes! Of course, Amit still has a battle ahead of him.

Tomorrow, I’ll be admitted to Dana Farber in Boston for 4-5 weeks.

 

First I’ll get a second Hickman line to allow direct access to my heart (for meds and for nutrients if I’m not able to eat). Over the next week, the docs blast my body with a stiff chemo cocktail to try and eradicate all traces of cancer cells. In the process, the immune system I was born with, and my body’s ability to make blood, are destroyed.

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Curry leaf flavor in the LA Times

Flickr photo by Tatiana Gerus

A recent Los Angeles Times article, “Curry leaf tree, a touch of India in the backyard,” reminds me that my dad’s old office had a curry leaf tree growing just outside his window. From time to time, while he was working, he would see desis drive or walk up to his office building and step up to the elevated garden area to grab a bunch of the fragrant leaves to go. My grandma lived next to his office and she planted the tree many years ago. Of course she wasn’t the only one to do so in sunny southern California.

Rishi Kumar’s grandmother brought curry leaf seeds from India, and his mother planted them 18 years ago at her home in Diamond Bar. Now the curry leaf has filled out into a mini-grove of slender stalks, bushy with the pointed leaves essential to Indian cuisine.
After graduating from UC San Diego in computer science, Kumar came home to his parents’ house and started gardening seriously. He started a community-supported agriculture project, or CSA, called the Growing Home and Learning Center, based out of the 2,500-square-foot garden around the house. He put in a series of cinder-block terraces, heavily mulched with forest humus and horse stable bedding, and started planting. An Ayurvedic garden is out front, where the lawn used to be; in the back, plants reflect his family’s Punjab roots: holy basil, neem (a tree believed to have medicinal properties), Indian jasmine. (LAT)


For more information on the curry leaf tree read the rest of the article. It’s part of a Tuesday series called the Global Garden.

The (r)Evolving Kominas

A belated Christmas present for all y’all for this #MusicMonday – our oft written about friends The Kominas have released an (almost) self-titled album called “Kominas.” If you thought the previous albums were too punk/too political/too “taqwacore” for you – then it is time to give the band a second chance – this album might just be for you. With a more Desi-rock sound, gritty riffs, lo-fi vocals and lyrics taking a back seat, the band’s path has turned and taken on a new sound. Gone are the sing-along playfully raunchy hooks, this album is all about the bass line and dirty drum beats.

The band members of The Kominas have shifted to not only to now include the duo from Sunny Ali and the Kid, but also in instrumental roles – three of the four bandmates take a turn on the mic for this album. With multiple talents acting as the driving force between music and lyrics, the album is eclectic and completely different sounding from anything previously released by The Kominas. People have been saying that their sound has “matured” but instead, I feel the new album better reflects the skills and sounds of the new band members trying collaborate and create a new cohesive sound (Basim Usmani is the only original band member that remains from 2005).

Don’t just take my word for it. Follow the link here to the megaupload site to download the album. And if you are too chicken to download the album before listening to a song – here’s the demo to Ren, a song off of the new album.

Frankly put, it sounds like our punks have evolved – they just may be growing up.

‘Skewed Demographic’ Highlights Bone Marrow Disparity

The online art exhibit Skewed Demographic brings together artists to address the racial disparity in the bone marrow registry. Each piece in the online gallery is being auctioned off with proceeds going towards processing bone marrow testing kits.

Photographers Shirin Adhami and Sunita Prasad curated the show in honor of Photojojo founder Amit Gupta and other South Asian leukemia patients. Adhami first met Amit Gupta when both were undergraduates at Amherst College a decade ago. When Gupta first announced his diagnosis and his need for a bone marrow donor, Adhami was one of his many friends who rallied to action.

“Personally, I was working on doing drives and I was thinking of doing a more symbolic gesture,” said Adhami during a recent phone interview. “How could I reach an audience that maybe couldn’t donate marrow? How could it be more than a request for money?”

Adhami decided to put the call out to her contacts to see if they would be willing to donate their work to the cause. “The idea is photo-based, but the artists are not necessarily all photographers. The inspiration is really from Amit’s photo interest,” she said. “There were times that I have not even realized I was using one of his inventions until much later. He has really affected the photo world with Photojojo.”

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Aziz wants you to give a spit

Aziz Ansari and his Parks and Recreation co-star Chris Pratt just released this PSA encouraging young people to get their cheeks swabbed for the bone marrow registry.

DoSomething.org’s Give a Spit campaign is specifically targeting young people between the ages of 18-24. The campaign and its partners Be The Match and DKMS “need inspired young people like you to take the lead and register more committed college-age donors, especially minority donors. You can save lives by running a “Give a Spit” drive on your campus. Just sign up and we’ll get you everything you need to run a drive.”

Plus, there are prizes: The drive that gets the most donors signed up wins $2,000 for a celebratory party and everyone who enters the registry through a Give a Spit drive is eligible for a $500 college scholarship.

Readers who are curious about what donating entails should check out Taz’s recent interview with two donors. You should also check Amit Gupta Needs You for a list of drives across the country.

(Via Gawker)

What Is It Like To Give?

The countdown clock ticks down ominously on www.amitguptaneedsyou.com, counting down the 22 days left of finding a perfect donor bone marrow match for Amit Gupta, who I blogged about before. The bounty for a match (just a certified match, not a donor) is up to $30,000 generously donated by his friends. Amit has now been interviewed on CNN by Sanjay Gupta and his campaign is gaining national traction, with a bone marrow sign up table at almost every Brown event.

It’s surprising to me after all this time that there are still people not registered in the bone marrow registry. At last week’s San Francisco Subcontinental Drift, I eagerly convinced my friend to sign up to the bone marrow registry at the back table, surprised that he hadn’t done so already. “I’ve been in the registry for 7 years,” I told him. “All it takes is 4 simple cheek swabs and you are in.” Within minutes, he was in the registry too.

But what is it like to actually donate? That I didn’t have experience in. I do know that if I ever get the chance to donate, I’ll be 99.9% willing to step up to the call of duty. I decided to interview two South Asian American women who had the opportunity to donate bone marrow, Kristeen Singh and Darshana Vakharia. Here’s what they have to say:

Congratulations! When did you do it and what was the overall experience like?

Kristeen: Almost a year ago (Dec 14, 2010), I donated bone marrow for a seventeen year old boy with Leukemia. I was told that the recipient was the same age as my nephew, so it was natural I wanted the same for this boy. As a donor it feels like yes, we are doing it, and yes we are life savers.

Darshana: I donated in January 2004.  When I donated all I knew was that it was for a little girl who was 9 years old.  My oldest daughter was exactly the same age at that time.  Needless to say I couldn’t do the procedure fast enough.  All I remember right now is how lucky I felt that I was a match and was actually donating.

When you got the call that you were a bone marrow match, what was your decision making process?

Kristeen: I was in disbelief that I was actually called. It wasn’t until I had my blood tested that confirmed I was the best match that, I believed it. I was excited that during the holiday season, I would get to share the gift of life. Continue reading

Amit Needs Your Brown Bones

The internet world frenzied with bone marrow call outs this week when word spread that entrepreneur Amit Gupta, founder of  http://photojojo.com/ discovered he has acute leukemia and needs a bone marrow transplant.

Two weeks ago I got a call from my doctor, who I’d gone to see the day before because I’d been feeling worn out and was losing weight, and wasn’t sure why. He was brief: “Amit, you’ve got Acute Leukemia. You need to enter treatment right away.”

 

I was terrified. I packed a backpack full of clothes, went to the hospital as he’d instructed, and had transfusions through the night to allow me to take a flight home at 7am the next day. I Googled acute leukemia as I lay in my hospital bed, learning that if it hadn’t been caught, I’d have died within weeks.

 

I have a couple more months of chemo to go, then the next step is a bone marrow transplant…. [M]inorities are severely underrepresented in the bone marrow pool, and I need help. [amitgupta]

 

We’ve told you before of numerous cases where bone marrow donors are needed -  for Sonia Rai, Maya Chamberlin, Vinay & Sameer, Bevin Varughese, and more. For the most part, these stories have ended tragically. The sad thing is, they did not have to end the way they did. The health disparity is stark: There are 9.5 million people in the bone marrow registry; only 1% of them are of South Asian descent; that means South Asians have a 1 in 20,000 chance of finding a match.

What are you waiting for? A simple (FREE) cheek swab can save a life. Continue reading

Yogurt: A Gut Feeling in the Mind

When I was younger, yogurt repulsed me. This was no small thing because my parents come from southern India, where yogurt seems to serve as a sort of digestif without which meals don’t feel complete. There was always a pot of homemade yogurt in the fridge or on the kitchen table.

Family members would marvel (and sometimes take offense) that I wasn’t finishing up my meal with yogurt, mixing it up with rice or using it to temper the spicy foods or pickles. Imagine a grandma’s Ayurvedic admonitions in place of a Robert Mitchum voiceover and a symphony of joyful slurping instead of Copland’s “Hoe-down” and you’ll have an idea of what the Yogurt, It’s What You Eat After Dinner experience was like. Some of the reasons why I was supposed to eat it:

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Facebook’s First Female Engineer, Ruchi Sanghvi

Huffpost Tech writes about Ruchi Sanghvi, who was Facebook’s first female engineer. Its profile portrays Sanghvi–who left the company last year to start her own company Cove soon after marrying a fellow Facebook engineer–as an example of the success of startup meritocracy. But it also shares her views on what she calls the boys’ club and the difficulty of breaking into it at Facebook.

Sanghvi, who didn’t use a computer regularly until college, went on to launch such features as News Feed, which defines the user experience for many people on Facebook. Her rise at the company from when she was one of the first 10 engineers hired illustrates the potential and possibilities for a bright young engineer in the tech field. Given her vantage point and success, her impressions and suggestions stemming from her experiences carry a certain weight.

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Seeing Ghosts in the Air

Image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mikerollinger/

Browns on a Plane is an American horror story not featuring Samuel Jackson and not coming to a theater near you, though it did make its way onto a Detroit-bound flight yesterday and may be replayed on select 9/11 anniversary flights as long as brown people continue to fly the fear-filled skies. To learn more about the plot of this real-life tale, read Shoshana Hebshi’s personal account of being on one of the two flights that were escorted by fighter jets to their destination yesterday on September 11–“Some real Shock and Awe: Racially profiled and cuffed in Detroit.” Hebshi is a self-described “half-Arab, half-Jewish housewife” from Ohio who sat next to two Indian men on the Frontier Airlines Flight 623, two men who used the restroom at some point during the flight.

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