South Asian Connection

Davita Maharaj

Davita Maharaj was born in Los Angeles. Part of her childhood was spent in Zurich, Switzerland. After moving back to the States, she attended Westridge School in Pasadena, took night classes at the Art Center College of Design, and then moved to Chicago where she attended and graduated from Wheaton College. Davita Maharaj works full time at Russ Reid, the world's largest agency exclusively dedicated to fundraising for nonprofit organizations. Her client at Russ Reid is a large international NGO, whom she helps fundraise for humanitarian disasters; children in poverty, slavery and child-trafficking; AIDS, malaria, and other life-threatening diseases. On the side, she collaborates on educational projects for India's poorest children, travels, and is a freelance writer. Besides art, international education, and philanthropy, Davita is passionate about all things Indian. And she loves spending time with friends and family. Davita Maharaj is a Fellow at the Trinity Forum Academy in Royal Oak, Maryland, and is pursuing a master's degree in international human rights law at Oxford University.

 Articles by this Author

Many Indians recognize Rabindranath Tagore as the winner of the 1913 Nobel Prize in Literature, and the philosopher who discoursed with Gandhi, Albert Einstein, W. B. Yeats, and other greats of his day. Many more Indians are admirers of his poetry and   artwork. Throughout India, students recognize Tagore as the author of India’s national anthem, Jana Gana Mana. Despite his fame in other arenas, Tagore’s progressive educational philosophy is largely forgotten today. The experimental models Tagore pioneered in his schools, Santiniketan and Sri Niketan, remain mere experiments. His ideals have not found their way into India’s schools; future generations have returned to rote-memorization as the predominant learning style.

I Lived Next Door To A Brothel

Reports suggest that globally, there are more people living as slaves today than at any other time in history. Unlike willful prostitution, modern-day slavery means having no control over your body. Your life is at someone else’s command. You cannot control where you are taken or how many men will rape you per day. You cannot control whether or not you get free time, food or sleep, and whether you get to live or die. And there’s often no escape. India, the world’s largest democracy, has the largest number of bonded slaves. At least 100 million people are involved in human trafficking in India, according to Home Secretary Madhukar Gupta (May 2009).

Like every girl, I enjoy a good love story. However, this one was different. As children growing up in Kerala, Marcus and Annamma Chacko lived just five kilometers apart. Their communities never intermingled. Marcus explains, "Though we hail from the same place, her people and my people had nothing much to do with each other because we belonged to two different castes." They finally met in Uttar Pradesh. Marcus was a guest singer at a music hall where
Annamma was in the audience. She instantly felt an affinity to Marcus when he sang in their mother tongue, Malayalam. After a three-minute conversation, they parted ways. Two years later they ran into each other again while working for the same nonprofit organization. Though in separate departments, they couldn't help but admire each other's warmth, energy, and passion for social justice.