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My grandmother’s idea of a great lullaby was the hymn, Come All Ye Faithful. I recall piping in at the Come Let Us Adore Him refrain, adding my sleepy voice to her sweetly soaring one, then thumb back in mouth, I’d drift off. It didn’t matter that we were Hin du and it wasn’t that we suffered any dearth of lullabies in our native Tamil language. There are many penned by some of the most brilliant of South Indian poets, several of whom were my grandmother’s contemporaries. However, that song clung and became our family tradition, brought out time and again to coax even the most obdurate into slumber. I’ve sung it innumerable times to my own daughter. My grandmother left us 21 years ago, and every festive season when the hymn resonates so profoundly, I feel her smiling lavender-scented presence surround me like a mantle of comfort. This month heralds spirituality and celebration; Christmas trees, carols by candlelight, midnight mass, presents, family, food, and the advent of a New Year. Indeed, it is the most wonderful time of year for so many of us. But as we rummage through the attic for those Christmas decorations, let us spare a thought for the dead and the living victims of pointless conflicts, and for the broken hearts of mothers who have lost their children. For decades upon decades, fighting has flared up now and again in many parts of the world, but little has been resolved. A truce is merely a band-aid on the gaping wound of loss, hurt, and the ravages of war. While civilization has made giant strides forward, we’ve yet to master the fundamentals of humanity, of which the crowning jewels are forgiveness, peace and tolerance. Praying for peace… This is our sixth edition of HUM Magazine. I am so thankful to my brilliant team, and my erudite writers, photographers, and advertisers, for enhancing my pages. You have been invaluable to HUM’s evolution. Wishing you a very blessed Christmas and a glorious New Year. Warmly,

Kalyani Giri


team HUM Publisher/Editor Kalyani Giri


Art Director Saqib Rana Print Consultant Ken Hoffman

What I Love About

06 HOUSTON Jonathon Glus

Correspondents Dr. Arjune Rama Ian Mellor-Crummey Lisa Brooks Nalini Sadagopan Priya M. James Tajana Mesic Tamara Mousner Helen Buntting Langton

& RICK SMITH 08 TIFFANY of Texans, and of Family Values Kalyani Giri






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Ken Chitwood Jonathon Glus Cynthia Singleton Sanjay Ram Gordon Quan Shyam Pillai Sonal Bhuchar Pradeep Anand Rachel Varghese




The Changing Face of America Sanjay Ram


20 UNIVERSAL APPEAL Kalyani Giri FASHION ME FESTIVE 22 Priya M. James PIZZERIA 25 COPACABANA Where the Taste buds Celebrate

Cover: Tiffany & Rick Smith Photo: Krishna Giri

7457 Harwin Dr #250, Houston, TX 77036 Tel: 281-888-4552 HUM Magazine assumes no responsibility for the content of articles or advertisements, in that the views expressed therein may not necessarily reect the views of the publisher or any magazine employee or contributor. This publication and all of its contents are copyrighted.

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Kalyani Giri

The Festival of Lights at 29 COMPREHENSIVE 42 T. H. ROGERS SCHOOL IMMIGRATION REFORM IN 2013 Gordon Quan



Men And The Women Who Love Them

Shyam Pillai

32 aHANUKKAH, Festival of Lights Lisa Brooks



What They Are and Where to Find Them

Tajana Mesic

FOR HUMANITY 36 HABITAT Celebrates 25 Years of Community Service



BEYOND THE THREE “R”S... 39 Sonal Bhuchar

Arjune Rama, MD





46 A CONTINUUM Arjune Rama, MD


An Oratario on Mary Magdalene Rachel Varghese

48 SIGNATURE COCKTAILS for the Festive Season

49 CHRISTMAS IS ABOUT LOVE Helen Buntting Langton



What I Love About

Houston By Jonathon Glus When one moves to a new city, there is always a litany of explanations from the locals about the true nature of the community. Angelinos say the pleasure is found in the hidden gardens and intimate spaces nestled among the sprawl of freeways and boulevards. Chicagoans say the city’s spirit is embodied in its grand gestures of architecture and tolerant Midwestern approachability. Houstonians are quick to say that Houston’s special gift is her people and their “can-do” spirit. Over the years I’ve learned that locals really do know their community better than anyone else, and the collective stories each community tells is at least in part its truth. For me, though, the adventure of any city is learning the rest of the truth. I like to turn the phrases inside out. Yes, Houston is only roughly half the density of Los Angeles and sprawls so far and wide that Chicago, San Francisco, and Boston can all fit within its borders with plenty of room to spare. So what does that mean? Sprawl? Yes. But we have room – and plenty of it. It is a luxury. We can flex our collective arms. We have the space to experiment, and try things on for size. If we don’t like it – it goes. That means we may not be as good at preserving our past as we should. But, as many cities strive to embody a certain era, or evolve like building blocks of time periods, Houston is a working laboratory, a test kitchen, a construction site. We are in a constant state of reimagining and rebuilding. That is the sweet spot that is uniquely Houston. The skeleton of Houston sweeps through the meandering Texas prairie and near-coastal marsh as a mass of freeways and toll roads, holding us all together in this not always forgiving climate, while the region breathes and heaves below. Space City and Energy Capital. The Medical Center and the Port. Massive immigration from across the globe. Interstate 45 to the Gulf. Extraordinary oaks and bayous. Vast concrete and more neighborhood boulevards than perhaps any other city. Humanity of all kinds jumbled up in the rigid geometry of post-war neighborhoods that at first glance could be Anywhere, USA. Ultimately, though, amid the vastness, Houston is about

creativity and risk taking. That is her fuel. Innovation and independence. That exuberance is embodied in the extraordinary arts legacy we have built in a comparatively short time frame. Houston Grand Opera is among the finest, and the legacy of the de Menil family lives on in so many institutions, among them the Menil Collection. Houstonians are fiercely proud of the institutions they have built, and with good right. But that can-do spirit, the creativity that fuels research and industry celebrates the creative in all of us. The Orange Show was the vision of a postal clerk who believed we could educate ourselves about health and nutrition through the performing arts. The Beer Can House is a domestic celebration of industry… or the can. Take your pick. And one of our biggest collective celebrations is the Art Car Parade, an homage to our romance with the car and our irreverence with ourselves. As we so quickly evolve, a common language among all Houstonians is creative expression. That creativity is celebrated in the artists’ warehouse studios, commercial art galleries, museums, and theaters across our city. And at the intersection of creativity and commerce is a robust economy in which artists are employed as photographers, choreographers, graphic designers, architects… the list goes on and on. Looking forward, I imagine we will finally become a more walkable city, a more dense city and a more green city. Chances are good we will remain a city of creative risk-takers, a “cando” city. A creative city that loves its art and all the quirkiness of artistry. But that is only a trajectory based on what we know of our city today. Houston’s beauty, as we all know, is that she changes on a dime and reinvents herself again and again. She heaves, and a new city is about us. We’re traversing a new urban terrain reimagined for a new era more quickly than we even imagine. Really, right before our eyes. Maybe that is why we celebrate the auto – because we know our city is going to take us on a never-ending ride. So what do I love about Houston? What tomorrow holds is what I love most.

Jonathon Glus is the CEO of the Houston Arts Alliance, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit arts organization that exists to enhance the quality of life and tourism in the Houston region by supporting and promoting the arts through programs, initiatives and alliances.

Spring/Summer 2013 collection available now

Photo: Krishna Giri




OF TEXANS, AND OF FAMILY VALUES By Kalyani Giri Football fever is high. And are we celebrating! Houston’s heroes, our very own Texans, are poised on the brink of making history. We’ve exultantly high-fived and cheered when they brought their A-1 game, and shouted helpful suggestions at the television screen when us couch potatoes believed we could better them at what they do best. At the Thanksgiving table, we’ve cheated by keeping one eye shut in prayer and the other on the game, not the turkey, during the blessing. And we’ve had those prayers answered in OT, not once, but twice in five days. With the Super Bowl XLV11 just two months away, HUM scored an advance touchdown when we bagged a coveted opportunity to chat with the Texans’ General Manager Rick Smith and his wife Tiffany at their elegant home in the Tanglewood area. To have the beautiful, made-foreach-other couple gracing the cover of our December edition of HUM was both timely and the perfect coup for the magazine. We met Robert, 9, Avery, 4, and little Christian, 3, their adorable and well-mannered children who are clearly the center of their universe. Hospitable, refreshingly unpretentious and warm, the Smiths welcomed us and shared vignettes of their lives. Rick and Tiffany met in Las Vegas at the BET 20th Anniversary Bash in 2000. “I knew that Tiffany was the one I wanted to spend the rest of my life with,” said Rick. The romance had some challenges; Rick lived in Denver at the time, and Tiffany was a television producer with the Judge Judy Show and resided in Los Angeles. A persistent Rick swept Tiffany off her feet, and a whirlwind courtship led to a destination wedding at the gorgeous Ocean Club in the Bahamas a year later. As they showed us photographs of the nuptials, they reminisced endearingly, and exclaimed laughingly over relatives and friends who had appeared so much younger a little over a decade ago. The couple moved to Houston six years ago when Rick assumed the mantle of GM to the Texans. “I love Houston, it’s such an international city like no other, and so affordable. I love raising my children here,” said Tiffany. She, along with the wives of the players and the coaches, are the Lady Texans, a humanitarian outreach group that helps feed the homeless and the destitute. Tif-

fany and Rhonda Kubiak, wife of the Texans head coach Gary Kubiak, are spearheading a philanthropic drive for the Houston Food Bank on December 5, at the HEB on I-10 at Bunker Hill. Tiffany also serves on the boards of The Children’s Museum and at Susie Bean, an organization that benefits children with autism. Rick serves on the board of the Pro-Vision School, a charter for underprivileged students in the Sunnyside area that has a 90% graduation rate. What are the values that the Smiths instill in their children? “We’re very spiritual, we teach them about faith in God, and about working hard for what they want. Nothing comes easy, and we don’t want them growing up with a sense of entitlement. We make it clear that everything here is ours,” said Tiffany with a smile. “We also teach them to be kind and humble. Humility is very important in life,” added Tiffany. The following are excerpts from the (serious!) conversation with Rick and Tiffany: What are the Texans chances at the play-offs? Rick - Well I don’t like to get too ahead of myself, but what I like about our football team is that they understand the correlation between what they do Mondays through Fridays and that they’ve got to put the work in. They work extremely hard and play with a lot of confidence. I think that if they work and prepare, then it gives us a chance to be good on Sunday. So far we’ve maintained that attitude and approach throughout the season and if we continue to do that, I think we’ll continue to play good football. The Texans ranked as No. 1, so how did they lose to the Packers? Rick - Well, we didn’t play our brand of football. We turned the ball over, we gave up big plays, we just didn’t execute the way we executed most of our outings and when you don’t do that in this league… well, everybody’s good, and you’ll get beat. But what I like is that we came back after that loss and had a very important game against Baltimore, and played the way we’re capable of playing and had a big victory against the Ravens.



When you say “our brand” is there anything in particular you’re referring to? Rick - No, it’s more of a style. We play smart, aggressive, tough football, we try to limit our turnovers, we try to take the ball over and create turnovers and we didn’t do that, basically we didn’t execute. How have they learnt from that loss and what adjustments have they made? Rick - Football is a tough sport and you’ve got to prepare each week as each team presents different sets of challenges whether it is the offensive scheme or the defensive scheme that they run. Then you have the obvious difference in talent level from team to team, so the adage “any given Sunday” is a truism in our league and every team is capable of winning each week. To the degree that you can get your team focused and prepared and you go out and execute it. That’s how you win in this league and it’s not easy. Any preferences as to which team they would like/dislike playing against in the Super Bowl? Rick - If we’re there, then we’ll take whoever’s in. I doubt they dislike taking on anybody. I think we’ve got a confident group of players and if were fortunate enough to be in that game we’ll line up against whoever they put out there against us. Do you feel that every player in the team is healthy for what they’re doing in this season? Rick - Yes, we’ve got some health issues we’re dealing with. We’ve got some guys that just came off a stretch playing a tough game in Chicago and we won, and then we had two

games in five days because we had Jacksonville and they always play tough, it’s always a very physical game. We followed up a five days later with a very good Detroit team and we’ve got bumps and bruises and the latter two games ended in overtime. So we played extra quarters for the last couple of days. We’ve got to get our guys healthy and get our entire group back, but I feel confident we can do that. Did you play football when you were in college? Rick - I played at Purdue University (he has degrees in sociology and psychology), not in the NFL. I coached and taught before becoming the Texans’ manager. The Texans acquired former Dallas Cowboys head coach Wade Phillips as defensive coordinator. While Phillips had difficulties in Dallas, he has been a key factor in the success of the Texans on defense. Could it be that his lack of success in Dallas was a result of the coach having very little or no authority? Is it because the owner was really in charge and the players knew it? It seems as if the coaches have more autonomy with the Texans. Would you agree? Rick – (Laughs) Wow… I’m not going to get into that. What I will say is what Wade has added to our group is invaluable. He walks into a room and he commands respect. The team has confidence in his system. And he has a very player friendly system and he asks players to do what he knows they are capable of. He’ll put them in positions to be successful. And I think when you get that kind of coach and players that are very aggressive, competitive, and passionate about football – the kind that enjoy playing each other and for each other… when you get that kind of combination and start to see more success, then you get more confidence and play better.

Photo: Erin Golan



Photo: Krishna Giri

How do you hold up with the travel that takes you away from your very young family and how do you deal with the stress? Rick - That is the challenge. I’m fortunate because my wife has the home base secured and that is important because it alleviates the stress for me when I know the home is safe and functioning and efficient and harmonious. That allows me to go out and focus on the job. But it’s difficult because I’ve got young kids that want daddy around. And daddy wants to be around them but at least they enjoy our time together when I’m around. Tiffany understands what the sacrifices are and does a good job supporting me. Tiffany – I’ve also heard that there’s less violence in the city when we win. Local businesses also seem to make more money. Is this your fulltime job? Year round? Rick - It is. As soon as the season is over the scouting season starts. We have college scouts that out on the road responsible for different parts of the country right now. And those guys will come in by December and we’ll set our draft board, believe it or not, that early in a couple of weeks. So right after the season there’s the All Star games in January, the Senior Bowl, the East/West game and then in February the NFL combine is in Indianapolis, then we start our draft meetings in March that go on ‘til April. And I’m on the NFL’s competition committee, and that’s basically the rules committee and we will meet in February and March. It’s a continuous cycle. What advice would you give to young people aspiring to

get into pro-football? Rick - I’d say follow your dreams. If you have the passion to do something, you will excel. Good character, hard work, and keep on track. Who are your heroes? Rick – Arthur Ashe was the consummate gentleman, I respected him greatly. My father Dr. Franklin L. Smith, an academician and educator in Virginia, my older brother Franklin L. Smith Jr., a consultant with Calvert Memorial Hospital in Maryland, and the sociologist Harry Edwards. With recent studies showing football as the cause of the high incidence of head injuries and the links to Alzheimer’s disease, what are your thoughts on that? Rick – Football is a violent sport. The NFL is leading research and awareness on playing safely, and adjusting the rules to accommodate that. We have a mature team and they’ve learnt lessons and work hard to play good football. When the Texans bring home the trophy how do you plan on celebrating? Rick - I will tell you this about what I learnt last year. When we made our play-off for last year, what was most significant as anything to me was the energy that I felt from this city. It was clear that when we won that game against Cincinatti and came home, this city was on fire. It was electric. I realized at that time what we do can really elevate people’s feelings and emotions and the thoughts about themselves and our city. And I look forward to that, to the pride and joy that folks will take in having a successful team.

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at BB1 CLASSIC Sleek cars and designer shirts, a fun flock of fashionistas of both genders, wine and and delicious nibbles. The BB1 Classic/ARod MercedesBenz happy hour event with designer Georg Roth was a splendid way to celebrate the spirit of the much-vaunted fashion week in this city; it also launched a partnership between BB1 Classic and the ARod Mercedes-Benz All-Star Club. Predictably, Roth’s fall/winter collection of shirts held centerstage as guests gushed over the tasteful fabrics and meticulous details, and admired the imaginatively embellished cuffs, a signature flourish by the LA-based designer, whose label is worn by celebrities in the ilk of Randy Jackson and Ricardo Antonio Chavira. Roth mingled amiably with gatherees, and posed for photos. The event, hosted jointly by BB1 Classic owners Calli Saitowitz and Julian Saitowitz at their swish showroom at Uptown Park, and Lora Chivers of ARod Mercedes-Benz, also boasted a stellar line-up of 2013 Mercedes-Benz luxury and sports cars parked on the sidewalk in front of the store. Café Benedicte, Solea Wine Bar & Café, and Sweet Jesse’s Treats catered delicacies. Amin Safari, owner of Solea Wine Bar & Café provided live music for the evening.

Dawn Landham Boehler, Lora Chivers & guest

Photos: Krishna Giri

Lora Chivers, Georg Roth & Calli Saitowitz

Georg Roth & Amin Safari


Running the Christmas Gauntlet By Cynthia Singleton



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Ahhhh, the holiday season! It can be such a fun time for parent of young children. What’s better than watching delighted faces, bright with excitement over the special sights and sounds of Christmas, holiday parties, church pageants, special family visits, school breaks, and a visit from that fat guy in the red suit? For families like ours, who have a child with autism, those special once-a-year traditions usually become a dreaded and exhausting obstacle course to navigate with our sanity intact. Autism is a neuro-developmental disorder that affects 1 out of 88 children in the US. It mainly affects communication, behavior, ability to function in social situations/settings, and unusual responses to the environment because of an over/under sensitivity to sights, sounds, etc. It can also affect other areas too, like not being able to accept changes to a routine, children having special dietary needs, etc. It can affect a child anywhere from a child with no language who does not even understand the concept of Christmas and is having meltdowns because they would rather be at school, to a child reacting badly to noisy holiday parties. Added up, the holidays can be a very, very stressful, bittersweet time for parents of kids with autism. This stress can be really compounded when family members are unsympathetic and unwilling to make accommodations. “Can’t he just do X?” And refuse to believe or make judgments when the parent responds, “No, he really can’t.” For years running the Christmas gauntlet of accommodating his needs for all the changes during the holidays, as well as preparing foods that were on my son’s special diet for every gathering we attended was so demanding, that by the time that Christmas day rolled around, I dropped into bed sick and exhausted, sleeping for the next three days. These days, it’s much, much easier, but there are still pitfalls and challenges. There can be moments of magic too. I will always treasure the year my son was a reader at the church Christmas pageant and there was an audible “Awww” response of the attendees at how dramatically he read his part about the sky being filled light when the heavenly hosts appeared to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Unfortunately he got very overwhelmed as everyone came up afterwards to congratulate him on doing such a good job. I had not been told that there would be cookies after the pageant, so I had


nothing for him to eat while everyone else got treats. Now at 14, even though he attends a typical junior high and has all regular classes, he still believes in Santa Claus. This is ironic considering he didn’t even understand the concept of Santa Claus until he was five years old. One of the talents autism has gifted my son with is music. I will never forget how at eight years old, he began harmonizing with my favorite recording of Silver Bells. Now that he plays guitar, he has learned it for his holiday song repertoire and will be singing it for seniors this Christmas. He enjoys making people smile with his music. My holiday wish is that if you have someone in your circle of friends or family members who are affected by autism, you will ask them how you can help make their holiday a little easier. Could you babysit while the parents go out to shop or take the siblings to a special holiday event or attend a holiday party? Would a day or two of meal or maid service be appreciated or needed? If you’re hosting a holiday gathering, could you provide a ‘quiet room’ for the child on the spectrum where they could watch a video or read

during the party? Could your child offer to do something with the child on the spectrum - often times these kids are socially isolated and feel very left out. They get isolated not necessarily because they want to be but because they get overwhelmed in rooms with a lot of people talking or are very, very clumsy in how they respond to other people. Also, if you’re feeling financially generous and would like to contribute to local organizations that are really doing something to help families as opposed to being a black money sucking hole for administrative expenses, please consider donating to the following groups that run primarily on volunteer efforts and do an amazing job serving local Houston families: Houston Area Disability Network Family to Family:

Katy Autism Support: Desperate for Respite: I wish you and yours a blessed and peaceful holiday season.

Cynthia Singleton, a native Houstonian, uses her powerful voice to write, speak, advocate, train parents and professionals about autism in the area of recovery, awareness, special education, and health insurance reform. She is busy working on a guide to the Texas Autism Supplement for parents. The busy mother of two is also an intrepid traveler.

Photos: Cynthia Singleton


TULSI GABBARD The Changing Face of America

Photo: Krishna Giri

By Sanjay Ram A long drive from Houston to Des Moines in the summer heat, led me to a chance encounter. At a press conference style meeting on the sidelines of the National Conference of the US Junior Chamber, I met Tulsi Gabbard. Or should I say, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard from Hawaii for the first time. No, she was not campaigning. We were both being honored as recipients of the Ten Outstanding Young Americans Award. We traded stories on who had had a tougher time getting to Des Moines, and over lunch, I got to hear a lot more about her amazing life story. The name Tulsi sparked the proverbial question — Is there a link to India? She went on to explain that she was a practicing Hindu, and that her father hailed from American Samoa and her Caucasian mother who had “found” Hinduism. She spoke earnestly about Servant Leadership and how Bhakthi Yoga and Karma Yoga had shaped her life. I went on to discover that she was the youngest State Rep in Hawaii’s history and that she had served in the Hawaii National Guard. She gave up certain re-election to fulfill tours of duty in Iraq and Kuwait. That should tell us all something. In an era where many in elected office seem to believe that they are entitled to their elected positions for life, there was this shining beacon on the hill, a leader with a deep sense of duty to country and humanity. The tours of duty in Iraq were life-changing experiences for Tulsi. Her commitment to service was further reinforced. To many, hers’ was an improbable candidacy for the US House of Representatives. The retirement of Senator Akaka would result in a trickle down effect. Congresswoman Mazie Hirono’s pursuit of the



open Senate seat created an open congressional seat for the 2nd district of Hawaii. Enter Tulsi Gabbard! She started the race with a 45-point deficit that would scare most political stalwarts, but she proceeded unfazed. Up against a well-known former Mayor of Honolulu she prevailed in the Democratic primary and won with 54% of the vote in a crowded primary. And as they say, the rest is history and in Tulsi’s case, she continues to make history. Tulsi will enter the U.S. House of Representatives as the first Hindu-American legislator. She will focus on environmental issues, veteran affairs, and developing relations with India. She believes that fostering a closer relationship between Washington and India requires decision makers to have a better understanding of the religious beliefs, values, and practices of Indians. She has stated her desire to become the first to take her oath of office in January 2013 on the Bhagavad Gita, a 700–verse (http:// Dharmic scripture that is part of the ancient (http://en.wikipedia. org/wiki/Sanskrit) Sanskrit epic, the (http:// Mahabharata. Recently, Tulsi was in Houston meeting with the members of the Indian American community who were keen to listen to her eloquent perspectives on how her faith would help her tackle the many challenges that face the country. Her phone’s screensaver, a picture of the infant god Krishna often results in many a lighthearted moment. Many in the corridors of power mistake this to be possibly her son, nephew, or niece in costume! Tulsi Gabbard is certainly an integral part of the changing face of America. In elections past, we knew the diverse population across America was beginning to vote in larger numbers. The November 2012 election was a pivotal moment. It showed us that this changing face of America



now goes well beyond just voting. They run for office and in 2012 they WIN! Who has not heard of “The World is Flat.” It’s not just increasingly true when it comes to globalization and the economy. We are beginning to see indications of a similar scenario in politics. We are a diverse electorate across the country, evidence of a slow move towards a different kind of level playing field. The incoming class in Congress is among the most diverse this country has seen with the most number of women in the Senate, the

first Asian-American woman senator, all ready to shape the future of our country and in the process, make history. Welcome to the everchanging face of America and be prepared to witness more history being made as Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard moves forward to help shape the trajectory of this country. Above: Tulsi Gabbard with host Vijay Pallod and prominent supportes at the Houston fundraising event Right Top: Tulsi meets with community leader Karun Rama. Looking on or Swapan Dhairyawan and Sharad Amin Right Bottom: Tulsi with Sanjay Ram

Sanjay Ram is active on the civic, business, charitable and political fronts in the Greater Houston area. A public infrastructure consultant, he was recently recognized as one of the 2012 - Ten Outstanding Young Americans by the US Jaycees. An Asia 21 Young Leader, he serves as Chair-Elect at Leadership Houston and has been associated with the “Connecting Communities Initiative” at Rice University’s Kinder Institute. Twitter @sanjayram2000

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5901 Hilcroft Drive, Suite C 1, Houston, TX, 77036



Indian Delights, Universal Appeal By Kalyani Giri Neatly ensconced in a mini-mall at the intersection of Cypresswood and State Highway 249, Dhakshin Indian Cuisine is arguably the Tomball area’s best-kept secret. To the locals who know it well, it is the storied port of call for delectable favorites in the languor-inducing ilk of chicken tikka, piping hot appams drenched in coconut milk, and butternut squash and sage samosas liberally laced with Indian spices and served with a mango chilli chutney. On a recent drizzly Sunday evening, we take a leisurely drive up to Dhakshin and seek refuge within its tasteful confines. Sreemathy Ranganathan, the owner of Dhakshin and our longtime friend, steps forward to greet us with welcoming arms and her signature warm smile. We’d never before seen her in her avatar as restaurateur, but it’s obviously a role she’s adopted with alacrity. A multigenerational, diverse crowd occupies several tables; families, babies in high chairs, older couples, and at a corner table, a group of young men engaged in intense conversation. Wait-staff bustle about bearing steaming trays and sizzling fragrant platters. The energy in the large room is comforting, pleasing. We settle in at a quiet table. Outside a storm shakes the trees and an occasional headlight pierces the gathering dark, the perfect weather for the hot bhajjis that are placed in front of us. “My goal was to create a positive atmosphere, one that invited people to come in, linger, and enjoy their food in a convivial environment,” says Sreemathy contemplatively. It’s been two years since Sreemathy took sole ownership of Dhakshin. Without a whit of prior experience in the food industry, she restyled, modified, and redefined the trajectory of the restaurant. Beginnings Ranga, Sreemathy’s husband, joins us. He’s calm, easygoing, and by her own admission, her greatest support and her rock. The couple, distant relatives, grew up knowing each other through family gatherings; only when they were in high school and college did they rediscover each other and acknowledge that they were in love. They married in 1987. Their son, Shashank, was born in Chennai in 1990. In 1992, Ranga, an engineer by vocation, made the switch to information technology and accepted a job



Sreemathy and Ranga with their fantastic team of chefs and waitstaff with a software company in New York. Sreemathy and the baby joined him in 1993, and the young family moved to Houston and put down roots in this city. Their daughter Sanjana was born here in 1994. Sreemathy joined Continental Airlines in 1997, the very year that Ranga started his own IT firm. When entrepreneurs were looking for funding to start a restaurant called Chettinaad Palace in Dallas in 2001, they approached Ranga who came onboard primarily as a partner/investor, but also helped set up the business and commuted weekends to aid in establishing the eatery. In October 2004, the partners opened Dhakshin, a branch of Chettinaad Palace. When the partnership dissolved in 2010, Sreemathy found herself at the helm of Dhakshin. Going Forward “I always had a passion for the food industry, it’s almost as if something was drawing me to the restaurant business,” says Sreemathy, who with no dearth of initial trepidation, rolled up her sleeves and learnt every aspect of the job hands-on. The plucky lady navigated almost insurmountable challenges and emerged a winner, confident, and with lots of plans for Dhakshin on the horizon. An efficient multi-tasker, she still holds onto her part-time job with United Airlines and is also working on getting her MBA. “I am blessed to have a fantastic team that has stood by me and want the restaurant to be very successful,” says Sreemathy. On her birthday, the staff surprised her with a cake and a card signed by them. It moved her to tears. “They are just a little older than my son, so it touched my heart,” she adds. The restaurant, that seats 120 over 3,000 square feet, is open all week for lunch and dinner; lunch is a buffet offering an extensive range of dishes, and dinner is a la carte. Typical clients at Dhakshin are predominantly non-Indian, employees at local hospitals and surrounding companies like Schlumberger and Baker Hughes. Weekends see a mixed crowd, many diehard Dhakshin fans who swear by the menu and come by for their weekly fix of traditional and Indo-fusion foods. Dhakshin, which means south, doesn’t necessarily mean that only south-

ern regional foods are offered; the restaurant covers a wide range of cuisines from many areas of India and has introduced culinary amalgamations that marry Indian dishes with Chinese, Italian and Mexican preparations. Like the chicken or paneer tikka lasagna. Executive Chef Kadir, who’s dedicated over six years of his career to Chettinaad Palace and Dhakshin, is creative and always willing to experiment with different styles of food, which helps when Dhakshin caters for different events. The restaurant has in its employ three chefs, but Sreemathy turns down catering assignments if they are oversubscribed. “I’d rather give the best quality and attention to each customer than compromise and do a shoddy job, every event we cater is special to us,” she says. Dhakshin’s catering is boomtown; the team has developed a “progressive” cooking ethic, and what the client wants is what they deliver. They had suggested green jackfruit biryani to one client who was so ecstatic by the flavors that she recommends Dhakshin far and wide. If the team is uncertain about a cuisine, they’re not averse to asking for the recipes, testing them, and having the client come by for a tasting. For other recipes there’s always Google, says Sreemathy. Ahead Plans are underway for expansion on a different level, details she’s understandably leery about sharing. They are in the process of finding locations. Family To both Sreemathy and Ranga, family is everything. Sanjana is a senior at Travis High School. Shashank is a pre-med student at the University of North Carolina. The greatest joys are derived from hanging out together and with extended family that also reside in Houston. The family loves to travel and they enjoy all kinds of music and sports. They share their home with their furry family, dogs Buddy, Snoopy, and Marley.



Image courtesy of Nordstrom, Inc.

Fashion Me Festive

Image courtesy of Nordstrom, Inc.


Image courtesy of Nordstrom, Inc.


By Priya M. James The holidays have come upon us and the myriad of parties are just around the corner. The formal gatherings, casual family get-togethers, and holiday office parties require you to look your best this time of year. This year’s holiday trends are all about the details! Jeweled or metallic embellishments, sequences, and textured fabrics are on trend this season. Gold and silver shades continue to be the favored color of this time of year, but for a more unique look, try incorporating these colors in the detailing of the outfit. A dress with an embellished collar made of faux jewels or metallic beads, or a dress with a sheer dark overlay and a layer of gold or silver fabric underneath are examples of how detailing can make the outfit. Another option is a dress with sparkling, silver sequenced sleeves, like the one pictured from Nordstrom. Dark and rich jewel tones, such as emerald, ruby red, and sapphire continue to be prominent colors of the season, but designers have also incorporated lighter shades that are typically associated with spring collections, such as peach, rose, lavender, and cream. Lace dresses are a must-try holiday look this year, and the solid gray or black lace dresses pictured from Nordstrom are great examples. To make an impression, accessorize your dress with a closed-toe shoe that has an ankle strap or a pointed-toe pump, and then pair it with an envelope clutch. Enjoy the holiday festivities, and redefine yourself and your look this season.

Priya James is a fashion stylist and owner of Priya James Fashion Consulting. She has a Bachelor of Science in Fashion Merchandising and Marketing from The Art Institute of Houston. Priya has styled and assisted in the production of fashion shows and photo shoots and has provided fashion consulting services to small businesses and start-ups in the fashion and retail industry.

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on AM 1320 Geetanjali Radio Sat & Sun 2-6PM

Shoba Joshi

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FOR SALE Hiren Joshi Every Sunday from 3:30pm to 4:30pm 832-646-2116

Traditional Hand Crafted Kolkata Sitars with Fibre Glass Cases For furture information call:

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5700A Hillcroft Ave, Houston, TX 77036

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Flavor of Brazil

Copacabana Pizzeria

Where the Taste buds Celebrate

Samba dancers, energizing Brazilian beats, Caipirinhas, and a Mixta Pizza with islands of luscious Catupiry cheese. What more compelling reasons could there possibly be for one to become a bona fide Copacabana Pizzeria groupie? Well, there are many more. Take for instance, the X Fominha, a towering symphony of lettuce, tomatoes, grilled chicken, hamburger, sirloin steak, bacon, peas, corn, and potato sticks, on a bun, and crowned with a fried egg with crispy golden edges. Or a Fried Seafood Combo with fish, scallops, calamari, and shrimp served with coleslaw and onion rings or fries? Why not try a Tuscan Chicken Pannini with American cheese and ranch dressing or a divine Tuna Melt that will make your taste buds sing? If you’re vegetarian, the Mixta Pizza is for you! It’s heaped with an abundance of chopped vegetables and gooey Catupiry cheese. And when the healthy doses of cachaca in the Caipirinhas kick in, you may be tempted to take to the floor with your own solo rendition of the Bolero, the

Dance of Love. To heighten the sweetness of this unique dining experience, the Papaya Cream is a dessert to behold; rich, smooth, creamy, you’ll relish every spoonful. If you’re uncertain about what to eat from the extensive range of choices, ask the staff for recommendations, they’re knowledgeable…and they love the food! Indeed, the Copacabana’s vivid atmosphere ignites the intoxicating spirit of Brasilia. Feisty, generous, tempestuous, and never boring! Owners/Business Partners of this colorful eatery, Asif Lodhi and Ronaldo Gomes, have astutely picked a winner. The restaurant draws families and young revelers alike. It’s the perfect spot to meet, eat, drink, mingle, and have a fun time. For those with a nocturnal streak, and late show movie-goers, the eatery is open ‘til late weeknights and ‘til the wee hours on weekends. Family-owned and run, the Copacabana is conveniently located in the Energy Corridor, at South Kirkwood at Westheimer, a safe and welllit area with ample parking.

Enjoy our happy hours with full bar Monday to Friday 3 p.m to 7 p.m. with free house appetizers live music & Brazilian samba show every weekend 2825B South Kirkwood Rd., Houston, TX 77082

281-496-9922 281-496-9936



From Rugs to Reflection By Kalyani Giri I teeter perilously on tippy toes like an inebriated ballerina across the expanse of an exquisite carpet in the foyer of Abrahams Oriental Rugs at The Decorative Center on Woodway. I’m tempted to remove my shoes, as it seems to border on the sacrilegious to tread on something so sumptuous, so sacred. I curb the urge for fear of looking ridiculous, and enter the sanctuary of the genial Sam Abraham, owner of Abrahams Oriental Rugs, who graciously ushers me to a chair. From my seat, I have a panoramic view of the rest of the showroom. I see hundreds of rugs piled high, some suspended from the ceiling at the periphery of the cavernous space, lush in their rich tones and designs. Nonplussed, I wonder how he keeps track of the inventory. “It is challenging, and even though we have thousands of rugs, we still buy more every day to keep up with new trends and our customers’ needs,” says Sam. “We sell some that we may have bought 25 years ago and I’ve realized that rugs, like human beings, have lives and journeys to accomplish, and eventually find the homes that they were destined for,” he adds whimsically. Sam and his lovely wife Omana are the indubitable household names in fine carpets, having gleaned their experience over 40 years in the business. They have two other showrooms at the Galleria area at Post Oak, and at The Houston Design Center on Old Katy Road. Omana manages the Post Oak location, while their daughter Annie Thomas is at the helm of the Katy branch. Omana wasn’t able to be present at our interview as she was fulfilling an order for a longtime client. An appraiser of rugs for the US Customs, Sam tells me that rugs have a lifespan of two-three hundred years, and that they appreciate in value; the range he carries are hand-knotted, exclusive treasures fashioned from wool, silk, or silk/wool blends. They run from $500-$500,000 apiece in price. A vital part of the business are the restoration and cleaning of the carpets, and he has craftsmen onboard who are Sam Abraham


Photo: Alexander Photography


Sam and Omana Abraham with their three daughters Rachel, Annie & Elizabeth

skilled at providing those essential services that help prolong the life of the rug. The Beginning Sam and Omana met for the very first time in New Delhi. It was a love match, but the couple waited five years for the blessings of their families before marrying. Both are highly educated; Omana earned a Masters degree in Islamic Art and History from Delhi University, while Sam received his Bachelors degree in business from Kerala State University in 1968 and a law degree from the Delhi University School of Law. The Abrahams came to the US as post-graduate exchange students in 1972 with six-month old baby Annie. Sam got an MBA and a second law degree from the University of Houston. The early years were tough as the young couple struggled to cope. Soon they had their second child, Elizabeth. Sam’s work with the law firm he’d joined took him out of town a lot, while Omana stayed home with the babies, isolated and lonely. She wanted to do something, and selling Indian handicrafts seemed like a good idea at the time. They asked relatives back home to send brassware, but when they arrived, were unable to sell them. So, the Abrahams gave the pieces away as Christmas gifts. In the meantime, the law firm was going through a bad patch. Sam decided it was time to diversify and start a rug business.

On Working Hard and Success The couple spent hours poring over books at the local library, researching carpets, and learning everything they could about the different kinds of rugs, the regions they came from, craftsmanship, design, and procurement. So knowledgeable did they become that they were asked to give talks at seminars about the history and origins of rugs and the enduring influence of the Mughal period. As they did not have venture capital, Sam took the advice of a banker and started building a credit history. He worked hard at different jobs, saved money, took bank loans, and initially started with a small inventory. “When we sold our first four rugs, we were so excited that we were jumping around like kids in a candy store,” says Sam with a smile. In 1976, Abrahams Oriental Rugs had its first retail space, and the couple never looked back. Even when the economy was dire, Abrahams Oriental Rugs prevailed; Sam is proud of the fact that they’ve never needed to liquidate. “In business, never go into something unless you have a great passion for it. You must be able to set your ego aside and work hard to succeed,” says Sam, who lives by his convictions; he is first to open the showroom and the last to leave. “I love coming to work every day to see my treasures, it’s been a tough but joyous journey,” he adds.

Omna Abraham Today the store has many repeat clients. So trusted are the Abrahams that they have also inherited the patronage of the children of their clients who frequent the showrooms for rugs for their own homes, much to the delight of Sam and Omana. “God has truly blessed us,” says Sam, whose own home boasts over fifty rugs of all sizes. Family During those early years, the couple welcomed their third daughter, Rachel, into the world. Sam and Omana are devoted parents and grandparents to six. They’ve led by example, shown love by action, and raised their daughters to make good choices and to look to their Christian faith for resolution when in conflict. The family worships at the 1st Baptist Church. Annie is married to Abraham Thomas, a director at Comcast. Elizabeth, an attorney by vocation lives in Montana with husband Ilyas Colombowala, a cardiologist. Rachel, a practicing psychotherapist, lives with her attorney husband Raj Duvvuri in this city. Two of the Abraham girls have married out of their faith, but their parents are happy with their choices. “All three of our sons in law are wonderful men, we’re very proud of them,” says Sam. Of Faith and Philanthropy The Abrahams are feted for their generosity. It’s also an ethic that was instilled in them as children growing up in India, where unexpected guests and strangers to their village were treated with warmth and hospitality. “So much of what we are is how we were raised,” says Sam reflectively. “My par-

ents were very driven community activists. My mother would travel by bus to different destinations to teach bible classes, but it was more about mentoring and helping women build their faith even when life was harsh to them. She felt it was her Christian duty to reach out to others as it also helped her to find inner peace through service,” confides Sam. Over the years when he’s had to make important decisions, Sam turns to quiet communion with god to guide him. “When you go through difficulties, trust in god and work hard,” says Sam. “In a business like this if I’m surviving and thriving, it’s because I work diligently. You never know what the new day will bring,” he adds. His faith and that of Omana’s have remained unwavering. The Abrahams have long been associated with the Asia Society since the 1970s. Sam serves on the boards of the Houston Grand Opera and the Houston Symphony. They have generously donated funds and rugs to several organizations and for many philanthropic causes. When the sleek new Asia Society Texas Center opened, the Abrahams donated three specific kinds of rugs that the architect, Yoshio Taniguchi, had envisioned seeing enhancing the building. Sam had two of the rugs in the showroom. For the third, he made the trip to New York and purchased it for the edifice on Southmore. It is that level of commitment that is remembered and appreciated by clients and organizations. “When you give from your heart without expecting anything in return, you get more. That is what I have learnt over the years,” says Sam.

Comprehensive Immigration Reform in 2013 By Gordon Quan For the last ten years, immigration advocates have been pleading with Congress to overhaul an outdated U.S. immigration system. The last major reform occurred in 1996 with the passage of the Illegal Immigration and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IRAIRA). No increase in visa numbers has occurred since 1990. Despite efforts by former president George W. Bush, the Republicans have consistently blocked every effort to pass meaningful reform. Out of frustration, the Obama administration has sought administrative measures to stop removal procedures against young people who have been attending school. Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA - also known as the “Dream Act”), and prosecutorial discretion for undocumented immigrants who have no major criminal record, were both put into action. While temporary in nature, the Obama administration recognized these were their only options at the time. The election results of November 6, 2012 suddenly changed the prospects of comprehensive immigration. The growing Hispanic and Asian communities’ rejection of candidate Romney’s “self deportation” strategy, along with his rejection of the Dream Act, served as a wake-up call that Republicans must change their attitude or risk becoming

irrelevant in the future. Suddenly, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), Senator Lindsay Graham (R-SC), former governor Haley Barbour (R-Miss), and former Speaker Newt Gingrich issued statements encouraging support of embracing positive immigration policies. What would immigration reform look like? While much negotiation lies ahead, look for the following items to be on the table: permanent status for DACA applicants, moving of the Registry Date whereby a person in the country for a long period (ie: 20 years) may qualify for permanent resident status, broad waivers for the 3/10 year bans for persons who entered without inspection, a pathway to citizenship with a probation period of anywhere from 5 to 10 years assuming the person pays taxes, learns English, and stays free of crime. It has been said that making legislation is much like making sausage – very messy. Your voice is vital in expressing the views of the community. Please let your representatives in Congress know that you support adopting a comprehensive plan that will allow good, law-abiding individuals to pursue their American dream in a fair and reasonable manner.

Gordon Quan has had a long history of community activism. The first Asian American elected citywide to the Houston City Council and first to serve as Mayor Pro Tem, Gordon believes each person can make a difference. Professionally, Gordon is the Co-Chair of Foster Quan, LLP, the second largest U.S. immigration law firm in America with offices in Houston, San Antonio, Austin, Washington, The Rio Grand Valley and Mexico City. He has been selected for Best Lawyers in America, Texas Super Lawyers, Best Lawyers in Houston, and is AV Rated by Martindale-Hubbell. Gordon continues his community service as a member of the board of directors of the Coalition for the Homeless (Houston), the South Texas College of Law, Catholic Charities, and Neighborhood Center, Inc. He also has chaired the Asian Chamber of Commerce and is Vice-chair of the Asia Society, Texas Center. Gordon is married to the former Sylvia Lau for more than 37 years. They are the parents of three daughters, Caroline, Kristen, and Katherine.

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METROSEXUAL Men And The Women Who Love Them By Shyam Pillai Ladies, how often have you played the “Is he straight” game with your girlfriends? You see an attractive man on a night out in town; he smells intoxicatingly of Ferragamo cologne, and there’s not a single strand of hair out of place, thanks to his $200 cut-color-serum regime. He’s dressed in meticulously matched designer labels replete with a $300 Alexander McQueen skull bow tie! He makes eye contact with you in a manner that is definitely flirty, and walks up to you and compliments your Jimmy Choos! After you get over how beautiful he looks, (not handsome, beautiful), you start to wonder where he gets his perfectly arched eyebrows done! If this wasn’t enough sensory overload already, he gives you his

s ’ o a R h s i t Sa

phone number and asks you out on a date! Ladies, don’t let the grooming fool you. He’s as straight as an arrow, a well-groomed arrow with great style nonetheless! You’ve just spotted a breed of inner city men aptly labeled metrosexuals. They have been on a steady rise for nearly a decade and there is no stopping them! They are suddenly everywhere! At the workplace, where they wear fitted shirts and trousers that show off their “mancurves”, oh-so-well! At the gym, where even their iPod armbands are color coordinated with their short, gym shorts! At a happening club where their dance moves can give you the “is he/isn’t he” vibe! While they border dangerously close to the standard stereotype of a gay

man, a trained eye can spot a metrosexual man even at a men’s shoe sale at Prada! So, what defines a metrosexual man? Some say he’s a man who has embraced his feminine side and is very comfortable with it. Others think it’s just a label perpetuated by the media to support a whole industry that includes high-end men’s grooming products. While ‘out and proud’ metrosexuals like David Beckham and Ryan Seacrest have made it cool for men everywhere to flaunt shaved chests, wear tight trousers, and gel their hair like it’s nobody’s business, other men believe that they don’t care for societal labels. They just love to take care of themselves and are blessed with a good sense

• Serving Delicious North our r & South Indian Dishes • Catering Events of All Sizes


VEGETARIAN PUREPURE VEGETARIAN Katy: 943 South Mason Road, Katy TX 77450 g Delicious North & South Indian Dishes • Catering Events of All Sizes: Dallas: 35 Richardson Heights Village Richardson, TX 75080 - 469-330-1600 rporate | Weddings I Birthdays | Anniversaries


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of what makes them attractive to the opposite sex! Having a high disposable income, coupled with a healthy lifestyle, a great wardrobe (and the latest issue of Men’s Health Magazine!) seems to be a commonality in most of these men. Clearly, I have managed to put these men in a box, much to my chagrin! The leading men in most Harlequin romances are described as brooding, muscular, mysterious, rough, and almost animal-like (I have heard!). Our 80s and 90s male pin-ups were the likes of the Marlboro man, who had never met a hand lotion or a black-head remover in their lives! Old Spice was pretty much the only product most men used for the longest time! Women suffered having to deal with hairy backs, body odor, smelly feet, bad clothing choices, fugly shoes, and two left feet in their significant others. But somehow all of those fit the then-prevalent macho male mould and all was forgiven. Today, the straight male stereotypes and the women who love them cringe at the idea of a man who shapes his eyebrows and has more than three pairs of shoes. The thought that their spouse might take longer than them to get dressed is a little disconcerting to some women. Some think it takes away from their masculine charm. And some others fear

restaurant in



that they will never get to dress their husbands or tell them what colors look good on them because they already know better! Gasp! The horror! My curiosity got the better of me and I asked a bunch of my girlfriends from different ages and walks of life if they would be ok with having a boyfriend/husband/spouse who was metrosexual and by that I meant the ‘mani-pedi-eyebrows-brands-lotions’ kinda guy! While some of them were a strict no-no (as I had expected) to the idea of their man using face packs and spending more on his shoes than them, many women surprised me with their answers. I got far more “It’s cool” (with an “as long as” caveat!). Here are some responses: • “If I am going through all this trouble to smell good and look flawless, I’d want my man to take some effort to be well groomed” • “As long as he is heterosexual, very much into me and can afford his products, why not” • “As long as he is not on the deep end of vanity and thinks only about himself and his shopping” • “Absolutely! Then we can both enjoy shopping and pedicures together!”

• “I’d be cool with that, as long as he doesn’t buy scented candles for his bathroom, please!” • “I wouldn’t look for someone like that, but I wouldn’t reject him for that reason either, if we are compatible in other areas” • “I am married to one!” • “I don’t think girls like narcissistic boys even if they themselves are — its really a gender thing” Today, there is more than just gay and straight. There are more labels than one can keep track of, but the lines between these divides are blurring rapidly — gay, bi, tri, metro, retro, who cares? The traditional image of a man may have undergone a metamorphosis, somewhat, but the end product is not so bad. Here is a man who has literally come out with flying colors! He can wear a fitted mauve shirt with confidence and understands the pain that women go through to look gorgeous. He may have exposed his softer side to the world, but that does not make him less of a man by anyone’s definition! So what’s so wrong with having a nightly moisturizing routine with your man, all the while knowing that he can still sweep you off your feet?

Shyam Pillai is primarily an engineer. He’s also an artist, writer, dancer, and actor trapped in the body of a techie! He is a true-blue Bangalorean who considers Houston his second home. He loves writing about movies, fashion, social commentaries and a bit of tattle (didn’t hurt anyone!). Shyam is also a self-proclaimed relationship “expert” who likes to write about dating, finding, chasing, losing, and being in love! He is an avid traveler and dreams of backpack for a living someday.

3 South Mason Road, Katy TX 77450





a Festival of Lights

Around the time of the winter solstice, many holidays are celebrated. Among them is the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah, or Chanukah. There are many ways to spell the English version of the Hebrew word for this observance. Hanukkah is a commemoration of a miracle. The story Jewish children learn as the origin of this festival, is only part of what is being honored. After the desecration of the Temple in Jerusalem by Hellenistic King Antiochus IV in 167 BCE, the Jewish people had enough. Jewish observances were outlawed. A statue of Zeus had been erected in the holy Temple, and pigs were sacrificed on the altar. The Jewish people rose up in protest. After three years the small army called the Maccabees defeated the mighty army, and the temple was cleaned and rededicated. However, only a small can of oil was found to light the Ner Tamid, the Everlasting Light that is never supposed to be extinguished. The oil was only enough to burn for one day, but it would take much longer for more oil to be brought to keep the light burning. In the miracle of Hanukkah, the oil burned instead for eight days and nights, until more could be brought to keep the light burning. It is believed that ancient Rabbis and scholars who wanted to acknowledge miracles focused on this story because of its supernatural and spectacular nature. However, the real “miracle” was something that occurred in the human realm. Hanukkah is a holiday described in the book of Maccabees, not in the Hebrew Bible. The story of the real miracle is that a very small band of Jewish fighters liberated the land of Israel from Syrian Greek rule that forbade the practice of Judaism. The Maccabees, led by the five sons of a priest waged a three year campaign, won, and restored the Temple in Jerusalem. All of this took place around 164 B.C.E. Because of the war that year, the Jews had been unable to observe the holiday of Sukkoth, an important festival celebrating the harvest earlier in the fall. Thus, Hanukkah was originally commemorated as a belated Sukkoth, once the Temple had been rededicated, and the new holiday was and is honored for a week, the length of the Sukkoth festival. Hanukkah means Dedication. The dedication of the Temple, the dedication of a small band of swarthy fighters, and the dedication of the Jewish people are all celebrated during Hanukkah. Jews today are aware of the issues raised in the memory of this miracle; oppression, identity, religious freedom and expression, and national independence. Several traditions are observed during the Hanukkah Holiday. First, the Hanukkiyah, or Hanukkah Menorah is lighted each night of Hanukkah. There are nine spaces for candles, one that is used to light all the others, and one candle for each of the eight nights. The first night, one candle is lit, the second, two, and so on until all

Photos: Lisa Brooks

By Lisa Brooks

eight candles are burning bright on the final night of the holiday. Candles are mostly used today, but olive oil with a wick is a more traditional type of light, and is occasionally still used. The lights are festive, and traditionally, no work is to be done when the lights are burning, about 45 minutes to an hour for most of today’s candles. People visit, play games, eat, and open small gifts while the candles burn. In the west, Hanukkah has become a more significant gift-giving holiday because of its calendar proximity to Christmas. The game most often played as a Hanukkah tradition, is the dreidel game. A dreidel is a spinning top. The dreidel also has some lore attached to the tradition. It is said that a sevivon, which means spinning top, was used as a front when Jews were not supposed to be studying Torah during the time of the Syrian Greek prohibition of the Jewish religion. The sevivon/dreidel was played as a gambling game, so if any soldiers were to come, there would be raucous gambling underway, not the study of the Jewish text. The dreidel has four sides, and each side has a Hebrew letter. The letters represent words. In most of the world, the letters represent the words Nes Gadol Haya Sham — A Great Miracle Happened There. However, in Israel, the words represented by the letters on the dreidel are Nes Gadol Haya Po, A Great Miracle Happened Here. It could be played for money, but children today tend to play for chocolate candy wrapped like silver and gold coins, Hanukkah “Gelt.” M&M’s have always been popular in my house, but we’ve also played with pennies, raisins, paper clips, or beads. All of these traditions are fun, and looked forward to by young and old alike, but my favorite holiday festivities always involve food. Hanukkah foods are traditionally fried in oil, to celebrate the miracle of the oil burning. Potato pancakes, crispy and golden brown on the outside, soft on the inside are often served with sour cream and applesauce. They are so delicious, and the whole house smells yummy while they cook. Another traditional food is Suvganyot, or jelly doughnuts. Also fried, also delicious! Mostly though, I love Hanukkah because it is a time for my family to gather, to tell stories, to eat, to give and receive small gifts, and to reflect on the year that is almost at a close. The light of the Hanukkiyah brings a warm glow to our home around the longest night of the year. Lisa Brooks is the proud mother of four wonderful children, a Comparative Religion teacher at Congregation Emanu El, and she also owns and operates a small home organizing business. She enjoys writing, reading, and exploring both in Houston, and around the world.



“A self-starter looking for a rewarding career with a progressive organization that will allow me to contribute to company’s growth.”


WHAT THEY ARE AND WHERE TO FIND THEM By Tajana Mesic Does this look familiar? “A self-starter looking for a rewarding career with a progressive organization that will allow me to contribute to company’s growth.” Most of us want a solid career that will put us on the path toward financial stability. However, many are unfamiliar with the profitable job opportunities offered by the growing green economy. Careers that offer something extra — a chance to make a social or environmental impact while bringing in a good salary. Thanks to sustainability taking root across the board, green jobs are found in virtually all industries. Some of those green jobs reflect new and emerging occupations, some changing occupations, and some others reflect traditional occupations where the work hasn’t changed much in the last decade. You can work for a recycler as a sales manager or for an oil and gas company as a Director of Corporate Giving. Build houses as a green architect or work for a retail company as a supply chain manager. To find a green job, you should look at your future opportunity from three angles — industry, function or organization type. Industry angle - find an industry where green jobs are easier to spot such as energy, recycling, green building, manufacturing, socially responsible investing. Certified B Corporations are great companies to work for. B Corp certification is to sustainable business what Fair Trade certification is to coffee or USDA Organic certification is to milk. They are good places to work and they treat their employees well. Peruse this list for leads. community/b-corp-jobs. Function - look at your job prospect from the perspective of the function you would be performing in a company such as Environmental Engineer, Geothermal Field Technician, or Green Building Technician. A great place to start your research is using the U.S. Department of Labor’s O*NET OnLine system at Just type in the function that is of interest to you, and find all about your job prospects.



Organization type – are you set on working for a publicly traded company, privately held company, a government organization, or a non-profit? You have to decide which one works best for you and if they have a sustainability program that you can participate in. If they don’t, this might be a great place for you to start a green team once you join the company. How is Houston’s green job scene shaping up? We live in a great city, ripe with opportunity. Our city is home to twentytwo Fortune 500 companies, ranking only second after New York City. Energy and manufacturing represent 74 percent of all publicly traded companies. And there are many green jobs at these companies. A quick LinkedIn search for “green”, “sustainability” and “corporate social responsibility” revealed over 30 open positions. Hydrologist, Environmental Sustainability Manager, Strategic Sourcing Leader for Raw Materials, Business Development Manager in Enterprise Energy Solutions, Recycling Sales Manager, Corporate Social Responsibility Assistant Director. There are many jobs with the green, sustainability, or corporate social responsibility focus out there. But is it that easy, you ask? Growing a solid career in any field requires planning and career mapping. Let’s look at our own back yard, where professionals and students are looking for “green jobs”. Sarah Weingarden is an energy efficiency and sustainability consultant, who moved closer to home to look for her next opportunity. Eilanwy Slyboom is a Business Senior at University of Florida about to graduate and looking for a job in Houston. Question: As you are looking for your next opportunity, what are some of the key attributes that you look for in your future employer? Sarah: Since graduating with my Master’s degree, I found my focus has been on opportunities that have tangible benefits on the local community and economy. I’m looking for an employer that shares this same vision. I believe this industry is primed for people who think outside the box and aren’t intimidated by obstacles. Eilanwy: Many people would agree that Google would be a great place to work because of all their attributes such as complimentary gourmet food, electric cars, and a fitness center on site. So besides the obvious, I am looking for an employer that is taking “green” action. An employer that is willing to promote sustainability not only inside the organization but that is also helping to implement environmental performance in other

organizations and communities. Question: Do you see the “green industry” shrinking or expanding in the next five years? Sarah: Expanding. Especially with relation to energy production and use. There is a lot of opportunity for efficiency and distributed generation provided that we step up on the education component. Eilanwy: Expanding, definitely! Consumers are demanding social responsibility and with the radical transparency from social media they can’t hide for long.   Question: Did your education help you find a job in the field? If not, what was it? What path do you suggest a student take right out of college to gain employment in this industry? Sarah: My first job after grad school was the result of solid networking while I was still a student. In fact, every employment opportunity I have received was the direct result of successful networking. Of course, my educational background is a huge asset in this industry but it’s making good working contacts that will help identify the right opportunity for you. Eilanwy: I graduate with a business degree in May. I believe this is a good foundation in my education, but I do plan to get certified as sustainability professional and also as a LEED AP. My advice for students would be to make sure to do a couple different internships so you know what “green” job is a good fit for you. I also found that occupational interviews really help students to network and get to know professionals who are already in the field that you want to be in one day. This is a great way to learn about the industry challenges and opportunities for innovation. If you still need help mapping out your green career look at the Green Economy Map. Created by Green Career Central’s Carol McLelland, PhD, it‘s a great first stop. So, if you are looking to add “social impact” to your resume, a “green” job is a good start. Find an industry, a function, or an organization that is conducive to your contribution. You will be glad you did. In the January edition of HUM, we are taking you behind the scenes of Total Energy USA conference. The conference takes the conversation of energy to the next level by adding renewable energy to the mix. Stay tuned!

Tajana Mesic is the president and founder of GGG Sustainability Solutions. GGG is a full-service sustainability and resource efficiency consulting firm, providing clients with professional services and guidance on integrating sustainability strategy into operations in a financially viable way. GGG is a certified B Corporation and deeply involved in the Dallas and Houston international community. You can get more relevant sustainability tips at or connect with Tajana at



Frank Sosa, Trini Mendenhall-Sosa, Nat Krishnamurthy, Leela Krishnamurthy, Kelli Cohen Fein, Martin Fein, Anita Smith and Gerald Smith

Houston Habitat for Humanity Celebrates 25 Years of Community Service In honor of the Houston Habitat for Humanity 25th Anniversary, the organization hosted There’s No Place Like Home RED SHOE Gala on November 7 at Hilton-Americas. Event Co-Chairs included Kelli Cohen Fein and Martin Fein, Leela and Nat Krishnamurthy, Anita and Gerald Smith and Trini Mendenhall-Sosa and Frank Sosa. The gala feted Chevron, Houston Bar Association, Wells Fargo Bank, InnerChange Freedom Initiative, Irene and Brian Binash, and The Kinkaid School. In keeping with the theme, guests stepped lively in red shoes and exotic festive wear. Representing the transformation Houston Habitat partner families’ experience, 25 artists used ordinary, recycled doors as a canvas for unique works of art. Doors

Project Co-Chairs Gaynell Floyd-Drexler and Philamena Baird coordinated with Linda Limb, Kermit Eisenhut, Loli Fernandez, Tra’ Slaughter and other local and national artists to create meaningful artwork to benefit Houston Habitat. The pieces were auctioned to raise funds for decent, affordable housing. In spirit of the Wizard of Oz theme, a Toto look-alike was auctioned to one happy family. Funds raised directly benefit families like the original Dorothy Howard, the first Houston Habitat homeowner and guest speaker for the evening, who reminisced about the past 25 years since moving into her home in the Fifth Ward and reiterated that there truly is no place like home.

Bala & Roopa Balakrishnan, Vish & Vatsala Bhaskaran and Sudha & Ravi Mani

From left, Rashmi Desai, Roopa Gir Representative Garnet Coleman, Jagat Kamdar, Judge R. K. Sandill, Lane Lewis, James Cargas and G.V. Krishnan

Progressive Indian Americans Celebrate Obama’s victory A celebration of President Barack Obama’s victory was held under the auspices of the Progressive Indian Americans, and the Indo American Political Action Committee, at the Hilton Southwest on November 18, 2012. About one hundred supporters from the local community attended. Speakers included Lane Lewis, the Harris County Democratic Party Chair; Garnet Coleman, Texas House of Representatives for the 147th District; James Cargas, Congressional Candidate 7th District; Judge R. K. Sandill, District 127, Harris County; and volunteers Padma Srinivasan and Lakshmy Parameswaran. Guests later mingled over wine, hot tea, and snacks catered by Udipi Café.

Caviar & Cabbages “One of the many things that I like about Houston is the job opportunities. That is the reason we came here in the late 1970’s. At that time the economy was down but jobs were still available in Houston. Now the situation is the same. There are jobs in the Oil industry, Tech field, Healthcare, Banking, Insurance, Retail and many others. There is something for everyone. We also have some of the finest hospitals and doctors in the country here in Houston. For the sports fans there are professional football, baseball, basketball, and soccer teams. We also are a star city with NASA here. We may not have Plymouth Rock history but we do have Space History. We also have excellent road networks but, unfortunately, we have too much traffic for them. I don’t like the crime, flooding streets, and hurricanes. However with time, Houston should be able to take care of most of these problems. “ William Garic

Christmas Traditions By Ken Chitwood For some, it seems the eleven months leading up to December are only meant to build anticipation for the Christmas season. Of all the holidays celebrated in December - Chanukah, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice or even Festivus (for the rest of us) - Christmas looms largest. A global celebration and capitalistic sensation, Christmas is the most significant holiday on the United States calendar. While it is steeped in Christian history and theology, the holiday has roots in pagan festivals and is celebrated today by many cultures with myriad traditions.  W.J. Cameron, a Christian preacher, spoke of Christmas’ power when he said, “Christmas is the gentlest, loveliest festival of the revolving year - and yet, for all that, when it speaks, its voice has strong authority.”  Each culture has its own traditional expressions of Christmas, many of which are on display here in Houston, but the holiday finds its genesis thousands of years ago in a town called... Rome.  While many expect the story of Christmas to begin in Bethlehem, the middle of winter has long been reserved for merrymaking throughout the world. Long before the birth of Jesus and its concomitant carnival of faith, early Europeans commemorated light and new life in the dark of winter.  Scandinavian peoples celebrated Yule from the day of the Winter Solstice, December 21, through January. Fathers would bring home large logs to burn in the hearth and families would feast until the log burned out. Sometimes this would take as long as 12 days. Most of the cattle and other livestock were slaughtered for the feast and beers and wines were properly fermented for a proper celebration.  In the more temperate climate of Rome, the people celebrated the good graces of the god of agriculture during Saturnalia. A month long season of merry-making marked the generosity of Saturn and general hedonism, including extravagant gift-giving, ensued.  While some Yuletide traditions sprang from these ancient pagan festivals, Christmas is more commonly associated with the birth of Jesus Christ and the Christian tradition observed on December 25.  The Bible does not identify the exact date of Christ’s birth, and in fact, many scholars assume that it took place in Spring, but Pope Julius I chose the date of December 25 in order to absorb, and redirect the energy of, the aforementioned pagan winter festivals. The hope was that Christmas, then called The Feast of the Nativity, would be popularly embraced.  The holiday was favored for its lavishness in the bleak days of winter, but in the 17th and 18th centuries, the festival was generally looked down upon, and in some places outlawed, for its liberality by religious Puritans in England and the American colonies.

In the 19th century, two pieces of literature changed that tune and established Christmas in Western folklore and tradition. In 1822 Clement Clarke Moore wrote A Visit from St. Nicholas (more popularly known as ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas) and in 1837 Charles Dickens released his classic, A Christmas Carol. Combined with other pieces of popular literature and the popular introduction of customs such as the Christmas tree and the exchange of cards, the tide turned towards positively embracing the holiday. Today, Christmas is a cultural force. Christians the world over remember the birth of Christ in festive services of preparation during the liturgical season of Advent, which begins 40 days before the holiday, followed by 12 days celebrating Christ’s birth. However, most Christians condense the holiday to Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.  People from diverse ethnic backgrounds celebrate Christmas in unique ways. Colombians enjoy fireworks for Christmas, and many Latinos in Houston prepare tamales for the holiday feast. In Eastern Orthodox churches, the Feast of the Nativity is celebrated on January 6th, commemorating the visit of the magi, or wise men. In India, some houses are decorated with mango leaves and sweets are prepared to share with friends. For Czechs and Slovaks, Christmas is not complete without the velija meal, a representative feast reflecting the narrative of Christmas provided in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. Many Eastern European families also hide a pickle, or witch, in their Christmas tree.  Beyond being a Christian holiday with assorted expression, Christmas is a civil holiday celebrated by millions of non-Christians. Indeed, even with its religious overtones it is arguably the most potent non-religious holiday the world over.  Richard A. Horsley, writing in Religion and Empire, described Christmas as, “the principal festival of consumer capitalism.” Horsley called the Christmas tree a “domestic shrine of... consumption” and argued that, “this festival of ‘Holy Days’ has become a central expression and embodiment of American” devotion to capitalism in which we “no longer have the freedom not to participate.”  Indeed, many Christians bemoan the popularization and secularization of the holiday complaining about a “War on Christmas,” aimed at directing holiday language to be more inclusive and less religiously specific.  Despite controversies and copious consumption around Christmas, the holiday is still held dear in the hearts of many, Christian or not.  Although the holiday is undoubtedly Christian, it has many streams of religious and quasi-religious tradition running through it, adding up to a diversely celebrated, and all encompassing, holiday of life and light. 

Ken Chitwood covers religion from Houston as a freelance writer. Passionate about religious education he writes to share fascinating religious stories from various spiritual perspectives. His work regularly appears in the Houston Chronicle and his work has appeared with Religion & Politics, RealClearReligion, Publisher’s Weekly, IndoAmerican News and Sightings from the University of Chicago. Ken serves two local churches and is a graduate student in theology and culture. Ken has learned about, and taught, religion in several countries and actively encourages religious literacy through teaching, blogs, professional writing and speaking. Follow Ken on Twitter @kchitwood.


Beyond the Three By Sonal Bhuchar

“The illiterate of the future are not those who can’t read or write but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.” --Alvin Toffler

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As the world frantically tweets and chirps and blogs and uploads and posts to create instant notifications, instant gratification, and instant news, it allows for the basic human need to be heard and be seen. From this melee of information overload, emerges a cacophony of voices that clamor for attention and action. At some point in this game or continuous exchange of thoughts and ideas, each one of us makes decisions on what from this confusing smorgasbord, requires an immediate response, reactive offense, proactive defense, or just a “let’s sit back and watch this”, non- interference mode. Gleaning through this mountain of information — good, bad, ugly, detailed, trivial, significant, or non-essential — requires us as adults, to have the basic knowledge and skills to sift and process, that which is critical for our wellbeing. More importantly, however, it requires us to honor our own moral or value system compass, to assess and empower our ability to live and learn. What then do our children need to succeed? Their ability to manipulate clouds, digital content and cyberspace, far exceeds ours. The concept of classrooms, chalkboards, books, and binders has transformed magically into laptops, tablets, Kindles, and iPads, or better still, iPhones. But what has not changed are the basic Rs… Reading, ‘Riting and ‘Rithmetic are still as relevant today as they were a century ago. They are what brought us to this age of “the cloud” and they are what will take us, as a nation at the cutting edge, to the next frontier. The ability to read and write good literature, albeit on a Kindle, is the only way to move a society forward with ideas and ideology. The ability to master ‘rithmetic will

take us to Mars and beyond. Unquestionably, the basic skill set remains as relevant, even if its teaching methodology has shifted paradigms. To those of us as the Indian diaspora, the value of a basic education is unquestionable and sacred. But in today’s rapidly changing world, beyond the basic skills, how relevant is our education, how rigorous and eventually, how reflective? In the image of the world which is now a flat, level playing field, is the education we are imparting culturally relevant? Do we provide our children with historical perspectives and teach them to analyze continuously unfolding and evolving issues in the world? If we have advanced at astronomical speed past the space age into “clouds,” does our basic education continue to provide the rigor and inspiration to forge ahead and conquer barriers to science, technology and medicine? The US lags abysmally behind the world in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education and immediate intervention into current curricula begs attention. With the tremendous storehouse of knowledge that Indo Americans bring in these fields, it is critical that we step forward to contribute in any way we can. And finally, is education really reflective? Is it reflective of the moral compass and ideological value system that we hold dear in a democracy? Does it engage our children to focus on a common cause and find solutions that work in productive ways, rather than create destructive forces that will continue to implode? Education that will continue to inspire the love of freedom, courage, empowerment, rather than appeasement of the weak, and a forward thinking vision that is strong enough to shine the light on the “greater good.” As a diaspora that holds education as the first key to success, it can only follow that we must remain involved every step of the way to ensure that the sanctity of what we hold so dear, stays intact.

Sonal Bhuchar is a resident of Sugar Land for 20 years. She is a practicing physical therapist for the past 28 years. Sonal is married to Dr. Subodh Bhuchar, and they’re parents to Sunaina, Sameer and Supriya, all FBISD graduates. Passionate about education, Sonal served as President, FBISD Board of Trustees – 2008 to 2009 and 2010 to 2011, and currently. She serves as a Director of the Texas Association of School Boards from 2009 to present, and is an active community activist with formidable leadership skills.


Photos: Krishna Giri


Jason Miyomoto (center)

with chef support at his benefit event

CHEFS FOR A CAUSE My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.” - Dalai Lama XIV

Embracing this high-minded philosophy, Houston’s culinary masters gathered at the hip Sorrel Urban Bistro on November 19, 2012, to cook up a storm benefitting one of their own. The event, Chef’s For A Cause, a collaborative endeavor by Chef Michael Nutt of Sorrel Urban Bistro and Chef Ruben Ortega of Hugo’s, brought together the best in the industry to help raise funds for Chef Jason Miyamoto, who is battling oral cancer. Chef Miyomoto was present, visiting the various food stations and amiably chatting with chefs. Guests milled around sampling exotic delights that included braised rabbit, venison, oysters marinated in lime/chilli and topped with icy sorbet, and wild mushrooms in a truffle sauce. There was fall-off-the-bone-tender beef served with risotto, and divine desserts. For those that preferred to wet their

whistles, there were specialty cocktails concocted with Cinco Vodka and wine tastings by Regent & Chameleon distributors. A silent auction accorded gatherees the opportunity to bid on dinner packages, artwork, and other items on the block. Aside from Micheal Nutt and Ruben Ortega, participating chefs included chefs Phillipe Schmit of Phillipe Restaurant & Lounge, Brian Peper of Hotel ZaZa, Chef David Cordua, Marcelo Cardenas of Post Oak Grill, John Sheely of Mockingbird Bistro, David Coffman of Katsuya, Charles Clark of Ibiza, Kevin Naderi of Roost, Dylan Murray of Benjys, to name a few of the sterling bunch who spent their one night off to foster a good cause. Chef Ara of Aracan the Roaming Kitchen had his food truck out in the car park where he was seen plying foodies with steaming bowls of bouillabaisse.



Chef David Guerrero, owner of Alma Cebiche + Bar

Kristen Schafbuch of Fraiche

Grill and Habaneros Mex-Grill

Chef Polo Becerra, owner of the Post Oak Grill and Habaneros Mex-Grill

Chef David Guerrero, owner of Alma Cebiche + Bar, was also in attendance with an appetizer lightly flavored with rocoto pepper, a favored ingredient; Guerrero was only 27 years old when he was diagnosed with brain cancer two years ago. He underwent surgery and lost his sense of taste, but bounced back miraculously. Many of the chefs we talked with hoped for a similarly positive outcome for Jason Miyamoto. Seen schmoozing with guests… the urbane Ray Salti, restaurateur and owner of Sorrel Urban Bistro. A late evening amble-in was Chef Polo Becerra, owner of the Post Oak Grill and Habaneros Mex-Grill, whose dreamy bread pudding was winning kudos under the ministrations of Cardenas. All proceeds from the Chefs For A Cause fundraiser was channeled toward Chef Miyomoto’s cancer treatment.

Jose Luis Vela & Julian Perales

Chef Dominic Juarez of Masraff’s


Kevin Naderi of Roost with Marilu Garza

Chef David Cordua, owner of Alma

Cebiche + Bar

Ray Salti, restaurateur and owner of Sorrel Urban Bistro & Jill Ann Jarrell

Chefs Phillipe Schmit of Phillipe Restaurant & Lounge,


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students and children for weeks leading up the event were Smitha Rajesh and Shravanthi Joopelli. The dĂŠcor was in the capable hands of Vandana Kalanee, Sudha Natrajan, and Deepa Govindarajan. An afternoon cultural program saw the avid participation of students in Bollywood and classical dances that drew thunderous applause from the student body. To the delight of the children, the staff of T.H. Rogers led by a dapper principal David Muzyka made a surprise appearance on stage and danced in perfect synchronicity to Jai Ho, the hit song from the movie Slumdog Millionaire. Serving as Mistress and Master of Ceremonies for the afternoon were the very poised, Anna Tobin and Kylan Naidoo, both students at Rogers. Holly Skipton and Anuraag Madabushi moved the vote of thanks.

Photo credit Ramesh Ravi.

In a heartwarming affirmation of cultural diversity, students of T.H. Rogers School enthusiastically celebrated Diwali, the Festival of Lights, with their Hindu peers. The cafeteria and stage were festively adorned with lamps, icons of the gods, traditional artwork, and posters educating non-Hindus about the signiďŹ cance of Diwali. From early in the day, students and staff lined up with hands outstretched for elaborate mehendi (henna) designs. The hard-working, parent-driven effort won the admiration of the staff and students alike as they outdid themselves in creating a mini-India ambiance that was spirited and inspiring. They also treated the entire staff to a home-cooked Indian luncheon. Vidya Madabushi coordinated the event, with lunch organized by Nellie Naidoo. Dance choreographers who worked with

Full Service Bar 15295 Southwest Fwy, Sugar Land, TX 77478

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The Southwestern National Bank celebrated its 15th anniversary on November 3, 2012. A diverse crowd of about 300 clients, friends, and well-wishers gathered to congratulate the bank’s chairman C.K. Lee, CEO Gary Owens, and staff on the milestone reached. Congressman Al Green presented a certificate of special congressional recognition to Lee and Owens. Also in attendance was Houston City Councilman District F, Al Hoang. Guests enjoyed a plethora of delicacies from an extensive buffet as they mingled and chatted with friends new and old.

Southwestern National Bank celebrating




Congressman Al Green presenting a certificate of special congressional recognition to Chairman C.K. Lee, CEO Gary Owens, and Houston City Councilman Al Hoang.

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Anniversary Celebration at Southwestern National Bank



CHRISTMAS IN BOMBAY By Pradeep Anand India is the final resting place for at least two Catholic Saints, St. Thomas the Apostle and St. Francis Xavier, a founder of the Jesuit order. St. Thomas the Apostle brought Christianity to India in 52 AD and today the faith is India’s third-largest religion, with approximately 24 million followers. By the 6th Century AD Christianity was rooted in India, even before some nations of Europe had turned to Christ. Today, a majority of Indian Christians live on India’s West Coast, the Southern peninsular states, and in the Northeast. They have the highest literacy rate among the various religious communities in India. Their priests and nuns run some of the best educational institutes and networks in the country. My hometown Bombay, now called Mumbai, is on India’s West Coast. The people of that city were influenced significantly by Christian institutions and neighbors. I am one of those who had these dual influences. We had Christian neighbors and I went to a Catholic school. Don Bosco schools are run by Salesians, an Italian order focused on educa-

tion. Don Bosco schools are found on all inhabited continents of the world. During my twelve-year stay at Don Bosco, Matunga, I enjoyed the company of my Christian friends and their religious traditions, especially Christmas. Christmas in Bombay was nothing like it is in Houston, Texas. It was a quiet family and church affair. Before our school broke for Christmas vacations, Santa Claus would come to our school and visit kindergartners, who would watch him with the wide eyes of the awed, some perhaps even petrified by his presence. (Father Marriotta, a jolly Swiss priest with a flowing white beard would have been a great Santa Claus but I never saw him play that role.) Our school church would have a beautiful “nativity” exhibit that would draw out the beauty of the humble birth of Jesus Christ. All students had free access to all parts of our gorgeous church, where the story of Christ was retold, recalled, and remembered. When schools closed for the holidays, I would visit my classmates’ homes in the Mahim and Portuguese Church areas of Bombay, for some terrific Christmas treats. There was joy in the air



and in the hearts of all, and they shared it abundantly. Our neighbors, the Nanoos, were especially generous. During the season, Thelma would come up to our home to see our mother (on some pretext) and leave behind something special she and her mother had conjured in their kitchen. We lived in an apartment/flat that was a floor above theirs and often when I ran down or up the stairs I would be stopped by either Lalit (my friend) or his brothers or sister or mother, asking me to come in and eat something that they were enjoying. Mrs. Nanoo made the best fruitcake I have ever eaten and I did not need a second invitation to rush into the kitchen for a small slice. Christmas Eve was a quiet affair. A majority of the Christians in the city were Catholics. All in the immediate neighborhood went to churches at Don Bosco and St. Joseph Schools for their Midnight Mass. When it ended, celebrators of all ages would walk home in large groups, laughing, singing Christmas carols, blowing little trumpets. I used to sit in my balcony and wait for these revelers, many

of whom went to school with me. Once in a while, someone would yell “Merry Christmas” from the street below, and I would yell back into the night, “Merry Christmas”, to no one in particular. On Christmas morning we first went down to the Nanoo home and wished everyone. Of course, I had another bite of Mrs. Nanoo’s fruitcake. We were often invited for lunch, with a quiet warning that beef would be served. My parents, being strict vegetarians, would not go for lunch and my siblings and I stayed away to show solidarity. It wasn’t hard to stay away — we knew that Thelma would come by later with some delicious Goan/ Kerala vegetarian dishes. After the families had had their siestas, we would go down to the family room and talk about Christ, Christmas, and how things had changed over the years. A small Christmas tree in the corner blinked its lights and a star twinkled. The Bombay of my childhood was a “dry” city — no alcohol. But, Christmas Spirit flowed so joyously and endlessly.

Pradeep Anand is president of Seeta Resources,, a consulting firm that helps accelerate revenue growth of their businesses. He is the author of An Indian in Cowboy Country: Stories from an Immigrant’s Life.

Let’s put gender on a continuum By Arjune Rama, MD I don’t understand the fervor of gender identification and the subsequent lifelong segregation we impose upon children. Gender is a mantle placed on fetuses in utero by way of the pink coloring of a genetically female infant’s room to the blue balloons hanging from a mailbox in anticipation of a genetically male infant. So what if it’s a boy? So what if it’s a girl? Why are these facts so important? As a scrawny boy in elementary school I envied girls mainly because their games usually didn’t require physical prowess. Mostly, their games appeared to revolve around fantasy, e.g., MASH MASH is an acronym for Mansion Apartment Shack House. This paper-and-pencil game is based somewhat on a combination of chance and arbitrary questions (the specifics of which I now forget). Regardless, by the end of the game one’s future abode was determined. Perhaps my jealousy was misplaced as I later learned that such games had a dark subtext of catty abuse. At the time, however, I would loved to have taken part, avoided being terrible at kickball, and had the chance to actually speak to people. Boys, in my opinion, didn’t do enough talking. They were all action, sweat and violence with the occasional merciless taunting. I think my frustration with hard-and-fast “boy” and “girl” activities stems from growing up in a home in which strict gender identification was not pushed. I don’t mean to suggest that I was not raised as a male but rather that my parents allowed me to play as I liked. I gravitated towards “boy” games, no doubt secondary to the influence of television and school, but I don’t recall my father or mother saying, “that’s a girl’s game” and steering me away. Just as importantly, sexual preference was never pushed. I have always dated girls but I wonder what would have happened if I brought a boy home. We never ran into that situation but I think my parents would be accepting of my choices as they always have. So what am I like now? I think that I embody a lot of what people consider feminine attributes. I speak with a feminine lilt unless I’m around a bunch of men who don’t know me well and then I feel compelled to give off a more “masculine” air. I’m averse to violence. I don’t like watching or playing sports. I like things that are delicate and small. I am a good listener and I love stories. My perception of romance, from what I learned in school and on TV, was restricted to the tall-darkand-handsome-take-charge attitude expected of boys and the damsel-in-distress-waiting-to-be-swept-away attitude expected of girls. The type of romance that actually appeals to me is the intertwining of two people who share elements of both of these types; some days I want to be the one who sweeps away and sometimes I want to be the one who is swept. I chose to address this topic because I think that if we all took a moment to examine the proportions of masculinity and femininity within us then perhaps certain groups, particularly

people who are transgendered, might seem more like points on the same continuum of strictly “boys” and strictly “girls” rather than aberrations that don’t have a place in society. Transgender is a term under intense dispute and as I don’t purport to be an expert on sexuality I hope people more knowledgeable than I will make some comments on the subject. My basic understanding of the term transgender is that it is an umbrella word for those who fundamentally disagree with the gender dictated to them by virtue of being born genotypically male or female (XY or XX) or phenotypically male or female (possessing a penis or a vagina). I feel we are making a mistake to so fervently place our children into one category or another. Perhaps we do this to side-step the life stressors currently experienced by those who consider themselves transgendered. While I think we can teach our kids to be more tolerant than that, I can’t condemn anyone who wants to protect their children from the pain related to crises of identity. Perhaps the best way we can instill comfort with regards to gender identification for our children is to start them early with the idea that perhaps gender is an issue of proportion rather than two slots. Maybe in every man there is a proportion of femininity and vice versa. We could describe it like eye color. Some people have blue eyes, some have blue-green eyes, some have green eyes, etc. Of note, I purposely do not address sexuality (homosexuality, heterosexuality, pansexuality, etc.) because as I understand it, sexual preference operates independently of the gender with which someone identifies. In college I took a class on gender and sexuality in which we read about the Incans placing transsexual people in positions of reverence. Anthropologists hypothesize that the reason behind this placement was that if one person could cross boundaries of sexual identity with ease then perhaps he/ she had an uncommon insight into the human condition from which others could learn. I am fascinated by this situation for two reasons, 1) gender identification is hardly a new issue and 2) perhaps American society has it all wrong; maybe we are marginalizing the very people who carry unusual insight into personhood. I realize I am hardly the first person to propose a proportional view of gender or gender as being on a continuum. My point is that if we elect to accept these hypotheses, we have a lot to gain with respect to the treatment of people who are transgendered. They may seem less different than those who fit into the strictly “boy” and “girl” categories thereby receiving the treatment and respect they deserve. As a result, I think American society would collectively take a large step forward in terms of tolerance and understanding.

Arjune Rama is a resident physician in psychiatry at Yale University School of Medicine. You can follow him on twitter at @arjunerama

Best Indian Restaurant- Zagat Survey Best place to eat Indian CuisineSouthwest In-flight Magazine Indian Restaurant setting the standards for other Restaurants- Austin Chronicle

By Rachel Varghese Women are either seen as pure goodness, nurturing, mother figures, or paradoxically as earthy, sensuous, embodiments of evil. Biblical figures are no different until you read small passages which include a character named Mary Magdalene. She inspires and confounds theologians and artists alike because, while she is frequently mentioned, there is very little known about her. She remains a mystery as she is neither completely good nor evil. She is mentioned as the woman from whom Jesus cleansed seven demons, she demonstrates unchanging devotion to him, and eventually remains with him at the cross. When all the of Jesus’ closest male disciples flee in fear at his crucifixion, it is Mary who goes with him till the end. According to two separate gospels, she is forever noted as the first person to see Jesus after his resurrection. She recognizes him and He asks her to go tell the others what she has seen, thus making her the apostle to the apostle. Historically, the twelve apostles are remembered, but it was Mary who was the first. The First Apostle premiered an oratario based on what is known of Mary Magdalene at the Christ Church Cathedral in Houston on November 24. The program included music and libretto composed by David Evan Thomas. The afternoon included a symposium by Thomas, the Reverend Betty Adam, Resident Canon Theologian at Christ Church Cathedral; and Reverend Pittman McGehee, Episcopal priest and Jungian analyst; all renowned scholars of the Magdalene.

“It all began in the mind of conductor Keith Weber, who wrote to me two years ago after pondering an article by Joan Acocella in The New Yorker, which reviewed the more recent scholarship on Mary Magdalene,” explained Thomas. Other oratorios exist but all of them depict Mary Magdalene as a wayward woman, a prostitute as per the 6th century’s Pope Gregory of the Catholic Church. The first oratorio written with Mary Magdalene as a favorite disciple was brought to life by the beautiful voices of the soloists, mezzo-soprano, Natalie Arduino; tenor, Dann Coakwell; David Grogan, bass; and the Christ Church Cathedral adult and children’s choir, instrumentalists, with Sonja Harasim, concertmaster, Robert Simpson, Canon for music, and conducted by Keith Weber. McGehee hailed it as a shift in the understanding of Christianity as a faith working with other faiths to include the role of women, not as separate but as connected. Proceeds from the event went to support Brigid’s Place, a non-profit organization, named after St. Brigid, a fifth century Irish Celtic Saint who founded a monastery of nuns and monks based on the social concept of equality of men and women. The mission of St. Brigid’s Place is to “promote interfaith relationships which are mutual, inclusive, and provide unity in diversity; relationships whose basis is love rather than a power balance. For the goal, in truth, is the flourishing of all people in their uniqueness and interrelation.”

Madras Pavilion Indian Cuisine

The First Apostle An Oratario on Mary Magdalene

Authentic Indian Cuisine- Houston Press Best Indian Restaurant in Fort Bend County- SUN reader’s choice

Specializing in Moghlai, Punjabi, Gujarati, Peshawari, Italian, Mexican, and Mediterranean Delicacies

For Fine Dining, Catering & Banquet Services, Contact: Mahesh 713 256 5441 Rajan 832 656 7861 Four Texas locations Houston 713 521 2617 Sugar Land 281 491 3672 Austin 512 719 5575 Dallas 972 671 3672

Rachel Varghese is a freelance writer and television host. She is committed to social justice and has been instrumental in the start of various non-profit organizations and served on several boards in the Houston area. She has her own image marketing and communication company called Reel Volume and continues to work both in the US and in India.

Indulge your tastebuds on a trip of evocative ecstasy



Signature Cocktails for the Festive Season

As the weather cools, there’s nothing that quite ushers in the festivities like a glass of cheer. Add a touch of the exotic touch to your party with badami chai infused with Amaretto and topped with luscious whipped cream. Hibernate with a good book and warm the cockles of your heart with these delicious cocktails conceived by Chefextraordinaire Kiran Verma of Kiran’s. Don’t forget to pick up Verma’s special boxed blends of tea, Kiran’s Daughter, whimsically labeled for her daughter Puja, at the restaurant and online. They make for great gifts!



umpkin Martini

3 oz. Stoli Vanilla 1 1/2 tsp. pumpkin butter 1/2 oz. cinnamon simple syrup 1/2 oz. fresh orange juice 1/2 oz. fresh apple juice Fill a mixing glass with ice. Combine ingredients, shake and strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with nutmeg.


adami Chai




Add Masala Chai (Kiran’s own Chai Blend) 1 1/2 oz of Amaretto Topped with whipped cream Serve hot on a cold winters day. e=plcp

2 1/2 oz Grey Goose Charbay Pomegranate 1 oz pomegranate juice (pure juice, not blend) Splash Triple Sec (if using juice blend) Shake, strain into Martini glass. Garnish with pomegranate seeds.



CHRISTMAS IS ABOUT LOVE By Helen Buntting Langton As a child, I loved Christmas. We didn’t have expensive gifts or designer clothes. My parents were hardworking, farm folk with seven of their own kids and two or three foster kids. On that humble farm in Nqabeni, South Africa, the biggest joy for our family was coming together after a year at boarding school. It was so great to come home and get on with the business of being siblings; loving, laughing, and fighting with each other. Our beloved parents were the constant, loving presence holding the family together. Going to church on Christmas Eve was the most important part of the festivities. In the early years (before dad got his first car) we traveled on the back of a large trailer pulled by a farm tractor driven by dad or our oldest brother. We’d place a mattress on the huge trailer and the whole family would be covered in blankets to keep out the cold night air. We’d pass the very long trip singing Christmas carols and marveling at the bright stars in the sky. It was sheer magic trying to figure out which one was the star that led the shepherds to the manger. I usually fell asleep halfway through midnight mass on mum or dad’s shoulder or lap. On our way home we would go hunting for a Christmas tree. This involved pilfering a tree from the side of the road… straight from church! We’d get home to homemade shortbread biscuits, ginger beer, and other treats. Before we went to bed we would decorate the tree and place simple gifts underneath.

Early on Christmas morning an epic cooking fest took place. Gargantuan amounts of food, all farm-grown, were the order of the day. I sometimes think about how crazy it was that in the hot summer of Africa, cooking and eating mountains of food more suited to a white Christmas. The traditional turkey took pride of place. The bird would be accompanied by a huge roasted leg of lamb, a pot of curried mutton, a macaroni dish, fresh roasted potatoes, pumpkin, peas, and sweet potatoes — all from the garden. Cucumbers, carrots, and cabbage salad was simply garnished with good old salt and vinegar. Dessert would be something plain like custard and jelly or Christmas pudding with custard. The success of this huge meal was always indicated by a loosening of belts and various family members passing out like stuffed turkeys after lunch. To this day the smell and taste of Christmas cake takes me right back to Christmas with mum, dad, my siblings, and the farm. Ironically, I have never liked Christmas cake. The pre- and postChristmas visits to various relatives were torturous exercises as EVERYONE served Christmas cake. There were endless varieties, from the dry, powdery cakes to the very wet ones literally drowning in brandy. I have always preferred plain cake but ruthless aunts would not take no for an answer and I’d be railroaded into ‘’having a small bite’’ while they would watch me hawk-eyed as I struggled to chew and swallow the ghastly, medicinal-like offer-

ing. People who think Jewish and Italian aunts are pushy haven’t encountered South African aunties. In later years our family expanded to include our husbands, wives, and the grandkids. The noise, the laughter, the food, the love! It just expanded and grew to include our much bigger family. My parents loved the chaos and the fun of all the babies, toddlers, and later teenagers, who filled the humble farmhouse with so much joy. Today, much has changed. My parents have both passed away, the farm was sold and my siblings live everywhere. Two of us live overseas and we are all now grandparents. The example of love our parents gave us is the glue that binds our extended families despite time and distance. Christmas weather in New Zealand is pretty summery, yet we still have the huge, hot Christmas lunches we had way back then. Inevitably, we have a Christmas fruitcake in my house because I married a man who loves it. I buy a cake just for him, as our kids appear to have my aversion to it. I do, however, still take a sniff or a tiny bite and I am instantly transported to a humble farm in South Africa and hear my mum’s happy laughter as she and dad preside over the Christmas lunch. My eyes mist over and all I remember is the enormity of that love... because love is what Christmas is about. Have a blessed Christmas everyone.

Helen Buntting Langton is a writer and a dedicated wife, mother, and grandmother residing in New Zealand. In a former life in her native South Africa, she worked as a teacher for 18 years. We invite readers to submit parenting experiences (500-700 words) to HUM at


November 9, 2012 – April 14, 2013

Salon & Spa

Organized by the Japanese American National Museum


Photo by Kip Fulbeck, 2006


Businesswoman and beauty salon owner Mythili Mukdevi celebrated her newly renovated premises and expanded range of beauty and spa services with a coterie of clients and well-wishers. Guests got a personalized conducted tour of the spacious and cheerfully appointed areas that would accommodate customers coming in for facials, waxing, massages, and a plethora of other ministrations offered by the skilled aestheticians and therapists in Mythili’s employ. Mythili thanked her staff and clients for their support over the past six years when she first opened the doors of the salon. Gatherees were treated to Indian delicacies and soft drinks, and a cake was ceremonially cut and shared to mark the hallmark event.





Mythili’s Salon & Spa Skin • Hair • Massage

Gifts with Massage & Facials


6453 Westheimer (between Voss and Winrock, next to Diamond Jewelry Factory) • Houston • TX 77057




asian american portraits of encounter november 9, 2012 – april 14, 2013

This exhibition is a collaboration between the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery and the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Program Shimomura Crossing the Delaware (detail), by Roger Shimomura, acrylic on canvas, 2010. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; acquired through the generosity of Raymond L. Ocampo Jr., Sandra Olesky Ocampo, and Robert P. Ocampo

Asia Society Texas Center 1370 Southmore Boulevard Houston, TX 77004 (713) 496-9901

Sari & Museum Silk Collection

Galleria area 5000 Westheimer @ Post Oak Blvd. Suite 200 Houston, TX 77056 713.963.0980

The DecoraTive cenTer 5120 Woodway Dr, Suite 180 Houston, TX 77056 713.622.4444

The housTon DesiGn cenTer 7026 Old Katy Rd, Suite 166 Houston, TX 77024 713.622.3226

HUM Magazine December 2012  

HUM Magazine December 2012

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