USA Melting Pot – India & Canoeing

The USA Melting Pot club’s June meeting featured great presentations on India’s culture and the outdoor activity of canoeing & kayaking.

This new club is unique in building and crossing bridges between ethnic groups, which already have their own individual clubs. The club is for everyone, whether your ancestors came on the Mayflower, a slave ship, through Ellis Island or whether you came on an airplane.

In the past three months, we’ve had meetings on , India’s culture and canoeing, and Korean culture and camping.

Many attended for the first time, so the June meeting began with everyone introducing themselves and hearing a brief overview of the club and its .

India’s Diversity – Languages, Religion and Geography

Ajay Pandey presented material from GM’s Asian Indian Affinity Group on India’s history, languages, customs, and culture.

One of the most diverse nations on earth, India has a 5,000 year old civilization. Ayurveda, the earliest school of medicine, and yoga originated there.

India has 325 different languages and 1652 dialects. Of the eighteen official languages, Hindi is the national language, but not everyone speaks it. English is widely spoken, and many Indians speak three or more languages.

With 29 states and five territories, the world’s largest democracy has 1.2 billion people: roughly four times the U.S. population in a third the land area.

Almost all religions and several sects are represented: Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhists, Christians and others.

Bounded by the Thar Desert in the northwest, snowy Kashmir in the north, the spectacular Himalayas in the northeast, and the Indian Ocean with over 4600 miles of coastline, India’s weather is as varied as the landscape. 

Modern India

Since India got its independence from Great Britain in 1947, it has had a parliamentary form of government. Indian Railways is the world’s largest employer. With a stable political and social system, the world’s fourth largest economy has one of the highest GDP growth rates, especially in computer software.

Indian Architecture and Festivals

The famous Taj Mahal is actually a mausoleum. India has many interesting buildings, from the Meenaskhi Temple in Tamil Nadu state to the Red Fort in the nation’s capital, New Delhi.

With its many religions, India’s people celebrate the major festivals, from the Hindu festivals of Diwali (lights) to Holi to the Muslim Eid al Fitr at the end of Ramadan to Christmas.

Indian Food and Dances

Indian food varies greatly with the region, is often vegetarian, and can be very spicy. Cultural dances with elaborate clothing also vary with region and religion.

Places to Explore in Michigan

You don’t have to travel to India to sample Indian food; there are many Asian Indian restaurants in metro Detroit.  The Bharatiya Hindu temple on Adams Road in Troy serves Indian food after its services on Sundays. You can also visit a Sikh Gurdwara or a mosque.

Indian Americans

Asian Indians make up 0.8% of the USA population, with most having settled in California, New York, New Jersey and Texas. Michigan has 77,000 Asian Indians, mostly in southeast Michigan.  

Prominent Indian Americans include Governors Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Nikki Haley of South Carolina, Fareed Zakaria of ABC and Dr. Sanjay Gupta, medical consultant to CNN.

Canoeing and Kayaking

Alan Heavner and Jerry Truss brought probably the largest visual aid ever through the doors of the Troy Public Library: a seventeen foot aluminum canoe. Their love for the outdoors and children was evident as they shared about canoeing and the No Child Left Inside program they teach about in the schools.

Heavner has owned and operated Heavner Canoe Rental near Milford, Michigan for over forty years, where people can rent canoes and kayaks to paddle to Proud Lake Recreation Area for a swim at the beach, experiencing a gentle river and an open lake. They can also paddle down the Huron River through Milford and be picked up by a van afterwards. Heavner also operates the cross country ski rental at Proud Lake during the winter.

Canoe Equipment

The length of the paddle should be between the nose and chin when set upright in front of the person. Bring a hat, sunscreen, sunglasses, swimsuit, and rain gear. Wear sandals, water shoes or old tennis shoes to protect your feet. Take snacks, lunch, and a camera, fishing equipment if you want and you’re ready to enjoy a day on the water.

Canoe Safety

Wearing a life vest is required for certain water conditions and non-swimmers. General boating safety includes watching for branches that can tip you over and not getting caught sideways in the current by an obstacle.

When running rapids, usually it’s OK to go through an open vee; a closed vee normally means a rock under the water. Above all, don’t stand in a canoe!

Getting in and out

Alan and Jerry demonstrated with one of the attendees. Have one person steady the canoe on the beach, with most of the canoe in the water. The other person crawls in, keeping low in the center. Push off and climb in as the canoe fully floats. Sandals or water shoes are helpful.


With one hand on the top of paddle, the other hand on the shaft, one person paddles on each side of the canoe. The stern (rear) paddler controls the steering. If both paddlers paddle straight, the rear paddler overpowers the front and the canoe turns.

If you have a front and middle paddler, they should be on the same side and opposite the rear paddler. This eliminates the need for most J stroking, which slows the canoe while it is straightened with two paddlers.

Canoe Strokes

The bow (front) paddler uses the power stroke and reverse. The stern (rear) paddler uses the J stroke (power stroke plus a push away from the canoe at the end) and reverse. Other strokes can be used to maneuver the canoe, but these are the basic ones. Usually paddlers will trade sides every few minutes to use different muscles.

Canoe and Kayak Differences

Canoes have a keel and have more comfortable seating positions; they are more easily tipped because of a high center of gravity. Canoes can carry more camping gear.

Most kayaks have no keel and are more maneuverable. Some sea kayaks have a keel and can carry camping gear.

Canoe Camping

Popular places include:

  • Boundary Waters in Minnesota/Canada
  • Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario
  • Numerous rivers and lakes in Michigan and other states
  • Day trips can be taken at many locations


Alan provided Metropark maps to attendees for local canoeing locations.

Food for Thought

Several thoughtful questions were asked about the Hindu religion after Ajay Pandey’s presentation. Ajay explained that Hindus believe in one God who is manifest in many different ways: the sun, moon, nature, animals, fertility. They pray to different gods on different days: the sun god on Sunday, the moon god on Monday, etc. People left with a better understanding of Hindu beliefs.

Unfortunately the presentations ran longer than planned, so the Table Time conversations didn’t happen. We plan to streamline future meetings to save time for the important face-to-face part of our club’s purpose:

  • To help newcomers assimilate into the USA and mingle with all ethnic groups
  • To celebrate ethnic background & cultural identity, including American culture
  • To provide a forum for conversational English
  • To encourage face to face dialogue in our increasingly technology-dependent world.


Other Future Events

Some club members are riding in the Tour De-troit bicycle ride Saturday, September 15, a 30 or 62 mile group ride through Detroit. Streets are closed to cars, so there are no traffic worries.

Last year 4,400 riders participated; you can find out more or sign up for this unique ride and we’ll look you afterwards at Roosevelt Park.

Future evening meetings at the Troy Public Library, 7-9 p.m. are:

September 24: German culture and classic car restoration

October 18: Brazilian culture and soccer

Learn more

Visit the club’s website at www.USAmeltingpot.org often, where the presentations are posted. Quizzes on their content and video clips will eventually be posted.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.


More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something
See more »