This project began as an outgrowth as it happened of a periodic column that I was writing for my local Maine newspaper, bridging the culture from India to Maine, and is today a platform for exchange of issues, experiences and solutions globally.

With a small grant from Maine Humanities Council and a matching one from American and New England Studies department at the University of Southern Maine for which I am thankful to Dr. Kent Ryden, the project started out as a simple comparison of lives of people on the two ends of the globe. It quickly evolved in an unforeseen but much more interesting manner, when I delved deeper into the issues related to the people I was interviewing, especially when I reached India, a country which defies comprehensively all simplistic parameters of measurement.

With the banner of India shining on all international forums, for me the project for that part of our world became more about realities on the ground- is India really shining? In what? Has the IT revolution actually changed the landscape of India as I knew it twenty years ago? Are people's lives that much better? Are women free to pursue their lives, goals, ambitions and careers? Is education available for all? Is trickle down economics removing some of the terrible poverty of India? Has the environment become better for living? Is water now available everywhere? Most importantly, for India to shine- corruption must be a thing of the past, no? Because how else could a country shackled as it was soldily by a bureaucracy that demands Bakshish at every point in one's life move forward? What has changed? What is changing? And is it all for the good? These questions became my primary motivation as I ploughed forward gathering viewpoints from a wide spectrum of Indians in New Delhi.

My interviews became about issues: about women; environment; HIV/AIDS; education; corruption and Right to Information, outsourcing; infrastructure; health and ultimately about the status of women in India- which became my own singular quest as I discovered that even in a society which today is allowing women to reach newer and newer heights, women are determinedly also being kept from being born in one of the largest invisible plagues of this century: Feticide.

I was fortunate in finding people both here in Maine and in New Delhi, in all walks of life, who were willing to give me their time to talk deeply and thoughtfully and sometimes quite candidly about their lives, experiences and a place they love. Ultimately, this site provides a richness and depth of content that spans issues and experiences and thoughts of people across a cross section of society in two opposite parts of the world. What do Americans think about ageing, community, education, healthcare, religion, environment and outsourcing and what do their compatriots in India think about similar topics that are more pertinent to that region?

From the Lt. Governer of Delhi to the top woman law enforcement officer to the social worker trying to rehabilitate women victims of HIV/AIDS thrown out on the street in New Delhi, to the women senate majority leader and women speakers of the house here in Maine to doctors, professors, philosophers and shoe repair shop owners here in Maine, this site spans the spectrum of people who have given their time and shared their thoughts with me.

Most joyful of all my interviews perhaps was that of women belonging to a Self Help Group in India, trying to emerge from behind the suppression of the veil by forming an 'Awakened Women' federation for mutual help. The most poignant perhaps were the latrine cleaners resigned to their fate because of their untouchable status in society. Then there was the shoe repair man under a tarp awning on a corner of the footpath who had a Bachelor in Physics. And an established Homoepathic doctor forming alliance with western medicine to help cure cancer, and the head of the HIV/AIDS cell at the premier All India Institute of Medical Sciences running help lines, writing pamphlets and broadcasting radio and TV shows to help victims in the 3rd most afflicted country in the world. Then the interesting combination of the COO of one of the top software educational institutes and a professor at the prestigious IIT steadily losing his batch of engineers to the money boom in outsourcing and finance sectors in India.

My focus on women took me from interviews with the first High Court woman judge of India helping to reform laws for women, to the woman chairperson of the Minorities Commission of India fighting to better the lot of minorities- Muslims in particular, to a sociologist and author as she tries to understand the nexus between tradition and modernization that is accelerating the killing of the unborn girl child in India to the President of the Indian Women's organizations effecting changes in laws that affect women in India. One of my most looked forward interviews however, was with Kiran Bedi, the then highest woman law enforcement officer and a role model to women in India for many decades, as she ploughs on in her quest to bring reforms in the country, actively working today to empower and reform lives for marginalized women and children in society. There are many other and many more such stories contained within the links to these pages- on both the Indian and the American fronts.

It all started however, at the Lifeline Gym at USM here in Maine, where I became a part of this wonderful group of morning regulars, many there not simply because of the exercise, which they could perhaps do even more cheaply elsewhere, but because of each other. It was and remains one of the truest communities that I have seen in all my years here in America, and one that unfortunately seems to be also bearing the brunt of the latest economic cutdowns. But here I got my start for the project, as first Gunnell, then the forever energetic Joanne, and then Catherine and Francis and then many others began to open themselves to me. I am grateful immensely to them, and to Skip, and to Lenny and Jerry and Stephanie and Nancy and David and Gregos and many others, because without them this project would never have begun. And there in the Gym itself, I found the most amazing cross section of American society- a world into itself, that I harvested richly for this project and added to as connections and thoughts unfolded one upon the other. The director of Tourism, for Maine derives almost its entire revenue from that source, the commissioner for economic development, the woman senate majority leader and woman speaker of the house, the butcher shop and the shoe repair shop father and son teams, the youth of today, and the Indian immigrants were all a small part of the many added to this mix.

For my India interviews, not least I am deeply grateful to the facilitators of the Internet, through which much of my research and contact information for many of the people came, as I am to all those people who generously shared their time, thoughts and experiences with me. I am especially thankful to Dr. Kiran Bedi for her help in arranging for me to meet the women of the Self Help Groups facilitated by her foundation, as well as the Gully Schools. I am also thankful to Ms. Anjali Gopalan first for giving me an interview in the middle of a terrible flu bout and for arranging for me to meet the Gay Support Group. I am also thankful to Ranjana Kumari for making the time out of her busy schedule to talk to me about womens issues in India.

I am most thankful however for my family and friends: Renu, for believing in my belief for this project and sponsoring my flight; Meera for her indefatigable energy and help, Raju and his family for their warmth and friendship; Anuj without whose generous help I might have lost some of my data; Neeta for her company and solicitude, especially for celebrating my birthday at midnight so beautifully, Sangeeta for her kind thoughtfulness; and so many others for being there for me. And how can I even begin to Thank author and my first mentor Alice James who taught me to see the snot falling from from my characters' noses and who barrels through every challenge with a grin and a punch with the flag of her humor flying high and her hands extended to help others even from a wheelchair. Alice, you are an inspiration everlasting. Most importantly though, I am thankful for Jason, my husband who has believed in me and supported me through all my endeavours, most of which result in no monetary benefit to us! And to my even keeled Curran and my spirited Meghana both of whom also put up marvelously with their mother and her projects. I love you all.