Maestro Viswa Subbaraman Set to Blaze New Trails
BIG BOSSES OF LITTLE INDIA
Sari Sapne: A Fashionista’s Dream Come True!
Tête-à-Tête with Author Robert Arnett
HELP-LINE OR LIFE-LINE
The Origin and Growth of Daya
SAJEEV AND SANJAY MEHTA
Photo: Saeed Agha
THE SOUL ETERNAL…
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THE PUBLISHER’S DESK
These past several months, it’s been a riotous cycle of gathering articles, writing, editing, long production days, and hasty lunches at our desks as HUM Magazine clamored for attention like a recalcitrant child. We’re easy marks. We’ve catered to her every whim! Now it’s getting easier; we’ve hit our stride, and we’re happy to present to you the fourth issue of HUM. There’s also been an endless social whirl of galas, parties, and miscellaneous events in Houston this past summer that have been both exhilarating and enervating. There’s more of the same as the cooler season hurtles in and we’re caught up in the magic of the festive season beginning with the advent of Halloween. October is also National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, an annual international health campaign to increase awareness of the disease. This year, it is estimated that a staggering 226, 870 women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer. In this edition of HUM, Dr. Julie Nangia discusses prevention, early detection, and better treatment options that can help save lives. This month also throws the spotlight on the ‘equal opportunity’ scourge of domestic violence. Lakshmy Parameswaran, a founding member of Daya, writes about the organization’s crucial role in the community since 1996. In a compelling piece about bullying in schools, HUM correspondent Dr. Arjune Rama revisits a time in his youth when he was victimized and has advice for kids enduring similar circumstances on how to end it. Talk to us. Let us know what you want to see in HUM. My team and I invite your participation on our What I Love About Houston page. We’d welcome your rants and raves at Caviar & Cabbages. Congratulations to Opera Vista’s proliﬁc founder Viswa Subbaraman, recently named Artistic Director of the renowned Skylight Music Theatre in Milwaukee. Do Houston proud, Maestro! Warmly,
team HUM Publisher/Editor Kalyani Giri Art Director Saqib Rana Print Consultant Ken Hoffman Correspondents Dr. Arjune Rama Ian Mellor-Crummey Lisa Brooks Nalini Sadagopan Priya M. James Tajana Mesic Tamara Mousner
CONTENTS What WE Love about
08 and the Mehta Brothers Kalyani Giri
a concept-to-completion, every stage in between - and beyond - enterprise
•Anil Kumar • Bhuva Narayan •Dr. Carolyn Farb •Chitra Divakaruni •Dr. David Courtney •George Eapen •Krishna Giri •Leela Krishnamurthy •Nellie Naidoo •Rachel Dvoretzky •Dr. Rathna Kumar •Robert Arnett •Sarah Gish •Seetha Ratnakar
Dr. David Courtney
HUM Magazine assumes no responsibility for the content of articles or advertisements, in that the views expressed therein may not necessarily reﬂect the views of the publisher or any magazine employee or contributor. This publication and all of its contents are copyrighted.
Ghouls and Goblins and Gremlins, Oh My!
Spinning Wheels MOD Mandalas Bonnie Sheeren
Cover Photo: Saeed Agha, 59Minutephoto
7457 Harwin Dr #250, Houston, TX 77036 Tel: 281-888-4552 email:email@example.com www.hummagazine.com
Naughty Weed’s Industrious Cousin
Maestro Viswa Subbaraman Set to Blaze New Trails Kalyani Giri
Big Bosses of Little India Sari Sapne: A Fashionista’s Dream Come True!
24/7 updated local, national & international online news service www.twitter.ocm/DholNews
OCTOBER 2012 25
Hooked on Salmon Latika Bathija
A New GenerAsian of Music Deepi Sidhu
Help-line or Life-line: 26 The Origin and Growth of Daya
Annual Workshop 42 SARDAA’s and Beneﬁt Dinner
The Soul Eternal… 28 Tête-à-Tête with Author Robert Arnett
Ahead of Breast Cancer 43 Getting Julie Nangia, MD
Bullying: What are we doing right? What are we doing wrong? Arjune Rama, MD
Fall Fashion 33 Men’s Priya M. James Foodie Buzz With Celebrity Chefs at
36 Metropolitan Cooking Ian Mellor-Crummey
Being More Environmentally Friendly Can Be Good for You:
Sustainability 2.0 Tajana Mesic Arjune Rama, MD
44 Ek Disha’s Baazi 46 Caviar & Cabbages A Parent’s Best Revenge Is To
47 Have Grandkids Helen Buntting Langton
48 HUMwee 50 Baku Sister City of Houston
Falling in Love in an Arranged Marriage
What I Love About
Houston Rachel Dvoretzky
One night years ago on KPFT the DJ’s played a hometown paean to Houston so sincere in sentiment, so earnest in performance, but so clumsy in composition that after less than a minute they cut the music and, between snorts of laughter, began dissecting the ﬁner points of the lyrics. Only the ﬁrst two dreadful lines of the ballad remain in memory: Oh, my beloved City of Houston, you have so many cultural amenities You have so many educational opportunities... The songwriting went downhill from there. There was truth not only in the laundry list of civic virtues, but also in the very need to make that list. Why do we Houstonians so often feel compelled to remind ourselves of why we love our city? Could it be because so many of us came here not for natural beauty or the pleasures of traditional city life, but by economic circumstance? Is this why we work a little extra on living with, and loving, our less-than-perfect mate? The Allen Brothers founded Houston on canny economic prognostications, real estate speculation and outright lies. A wooded swamp at the junction of two sluggish, unpredictable inland waterways, the city had no natural reason for being. But the Allens ﬁgured that advertising lots for sale cheap at a place big enough to turn a boat around would sell just ﬁne back East. Never mind that their descriptions of rolling hills and a salubrious climate was an outright fabrication. Mud, ﬂoods and yellow fever epidemics greeted the ﬁrst citizens of the modern Houston. But the price was right, the energy was high and there were few fetters on entrepreneurs, or on much of anything else for that matter. The die was cast, the DNA inscribed. Generations of settlers, including my immigrant grandparents, who met in English night school, were drawn by economic opportunity, the low cost of living, and the freewheeling attitude. The philanthropy of wealthy cotton, timber, oil and ﬁnance families established
“so many cultural amenities and educational opportunities” which today, are high on Houstonians’ gratitude lists. A constant, ever-changing inﬂux of immigrants both domestic and international has kept Houston growing and percolating. We have more than 80 consulates, the Ship Channel and the Medical Center, art cars and Bentleys, HGO and zydeco, high culture and titty bars, fashion boutiques and feed stores, hip-hop and mariachi, skyscrapers and horse barns, immense wealth and immense poverty — all right next door to each other. We have beautiful skies, a rich mix of cultures, a great sense of humor, and lots of really smart people (and plenty of stupid ones, often found multi-tasking at 60 mph). And we are hands down the best eating-out city in the United States of America. Houston is also infamous as a center for cough syrup abuse, Medicaid fraud, drug smuggling, human trafficking, and petrochemical emissions. But even Paradise would be awfully boring after a while. Houston is out of its wild adolescence and comfortably in its young adulthood, addressing serious issues with more thoughtfulness and perspective than ever before. This is a signiﬁcant and positive evolution. But despite its richness, is Houston the city we would have chosen rationally for our destiny? Let’s be honest. Comparing Houston to a city located in beautiful mountains with clean air or on a coast with white sand and clear blue sea, or one scaled and designed for humans and not automobiles, or with more history or less poverty or competent school leadership or, dare we say it, zoning — where would a reasoning person want to live? But here we are, committed to a city perhaps not of our own choosing, always looking hard to ﬁnd and honor its best, most endearing qualities. How can anyone not fall in love with this hard-working, free-wheeling subtropical conundrum of a city? Like an arranged marriage, the rewards are all the sweeter for the effort.
Rachel Dvoretzky is a native and longtime resident of Houston. Her background and interests include the improvement and growth of civic, cultural, and educational institutions, the remediation of problems in these areas, and the promotion of the best of what they create for their communities. She has broad professional experience in nonproﬁt fundraising, as well as previous careers in art curatorship and music performance. Her other interests include food and foodways, humor and satire, and rearing her teenage sons into manhood.
WHEEL W IZARDRY and the
Mehta Brothers By Kalyani Giri Meet the Mehta brothers Sanjay and Sajeev. The world is their oyster… just substitute cars for pearls. What begun as a childhood fascination with cars morphed into a dream vocation for one and a seemingly endless indulgence for the other. The siblings have varying and hectic schedules so it proved a challenge to get both under the same roof together. I chatted with them individually and what I found were accomplished men, best friends both, of divergent paths but with a shared passion for wheels. Considered connoisseurs in the ﬁeld of exotic, classic, and vintage cars, the brothers have collared the market and won the admiration of a legion of car zealots, as well as the grudging respect of detractors. Sanjay and Sajeev are the sons of longtime Houstonians, Deepi and Chander Mehta. Initially I conspired with Deepi to make contact and schedule meetings with the brothers. But once I got to interview them, I was struck by how easygoing, sincere, and fun people they are. That is, after I managed to wrap my mind around words like customized horsepower and torque and strut tower brace. Talking with Dr. Sanjay Mehta My ﬁrst meeting is with Sanjay. He’s a radiation oncologist with his own private practice — Century Cancer Centers — in the medical center area. It’s a sprawling building with capacious consulting and treatment rooms. I walk into his sanctum sanctorum and there’s confetti, balloons, and a birthday banner. Propped on his desk amidst medical paraphernalia, are tinsel palm trees. The staff had celebrated Sanjay’s 41st birthday just a day earlier and he’s sitting in a Corvette chair, a gift from his staff. Jockeying for wall space are sports posters of the Oilers’ Earl Camp-
bell and a drawing of a Buick Century (done by Sajeev); elegantly holding court on an opposite wall is an enlarged photograph of a white 1989 Ferrari Testarossa, a car owned by Sanjay and believed to be the original one featured in the television series Miami Vice. It’s Sanjay’s favorite of the twenty cars he possesses. There’s also a painting of a silver colored ’05 Ford GT (sans stripes), with black aluminum alloy wheels and customized 1,000 horsepower. It’s another from Sanjay’s festive ﬂeet. To say nothing about his blue Ford Thunderbird ’85 with the eight cylinder engine... I’m silently trying to remember when I last took my own car to a carwash, and this man has a stable of them, all beautifully maintained and in mint condition. I’m in awe. I’m told he has a cavernous garage at his Bellaire home, and additional secure storage space for the rest of his precious ﬂotilla. “Every little boy is mesmerized by cars, Sajeev and I just didn’t get over it,” says Sanjay laughingly. He’s the older of the brothers by ﬁve and half years and was Sajeev’s mentor in many ways. From a very early age both siblings had the uncanny ability to identify the makes and models of cars, to the amazement of their parents. “Cars reﬂect the culture and history of the time they were created, and I enjoy collecting old cars. From a sentimental standpoint cars transport me to a different time and place. I get joy from driving my Ford GT - it’s not a temperamental car. It’s very reliable and docile quite like any ordinary car,” says Sanjay. The brothers, along with dad Chander, take the cars to shows and display them for the enjoyment of other aﬁcionados. Or they hit the amateur races and take the cars for a spin.
TT Ford GT
Dr. Sanjay Mehta So deep is Sanjay’s affection for a good car, that he named his establishment after his parents’ Buick Century, the vehicle that they drove when he was a little boy. Born in Washington State, Sanjay was two years old when the family moved to Houston. Mom Deepi produced and presented a radio program Gateway to India from 1978 – 1987 on the NPR channel. On occasion, Sanjay got a turn at the microphone. Education and Work Sanjay did his undergrad in premed and biology at University of Texas at Austin. He received his medical degree from UT Dallas, and did his residency at UT Houston Medical School and his radiation oncology residency at UTMB Galveston. “A vast majority of cancers are curable if caught in time,” says Sanjay. “Every year we host an annual party for our patients to celebrate life.” To unwind, he and other doctors
Sajeev Mehta formed a music group ﬁttingly named Ultrasound. They play ‘70s and ‘80s rock music at bars and clubs. Sanjay plays the drums. He’s also proﬁcient at the keyboards and electric synthesizer. Not too long ago, Sanjay met the woman of his dreams in Tejal Banker, an attorney. She’s the perfect combination of beauty and brains, and with a great sense of humor, says Sanjay happily. The wedding is in November. Chatting With Sajeev Mehta Houston-born Sajeev’s family affectionately calls him Jeeves. Unpretentious and blessed with a keen mind and an irreverent wit, the 35-year-old certainly doesn’t suffer fools gladly. Particularly deceitful fools who make a mockery of the car business. Like the kid in the fable The Emperor’s New Clothes, the avid blogger has taken car manufacturers to task, and pointed out ﬂaws that would make the less courageous turn tail and bolt. Not for Sajeev the banality of a quiet existence. Not when he has
the knowledge and the mettle to express himself quite succinctly in boardrooms across the nation or equally vociferously through his computer keyboard. In 2006 he started an automotive blog called thetruthaboutcars.com, which has 3.5 million readers monthly. His blogs have catchy names like Piston Slap and Vellum Venom, and he doesn’t believe in pulling back punches. Quite by chance he happened upon his holy grail, a book that actually mimicked his way of thinking, and to him it was life changing. The Cluetrain Manifesto threw the spotlight on open and honest communication. It was a unique concept of sharing knowledge without the babble of sales talk or the added insult to the customer’s intelligence. Fortuitously Sajeev also found his niche — a corporate job as social media manager at Group 1 Automotive, a nationwide company that oversees the interests of over 120 stores. He’s in a job he enjoys and delivers analytical suggestions and feedback. His increased visibility has him taking a more active role in
Photo: Krishna Giri
other regions, and that involves some travel. I also like the fact that the coffee table in his midcentury modern Spring Branch home is a reclaimed Ford Taurus engine topped fetchingly with glass. He’s unconventional and creative; a winning combination in my book. A talented artist, he once wanted to become a car stylist and attended the Detroit College for Creative Studies for formal training. The environment was generally discouraging so he returned to Houston and completed his undergrad studies at the University of Houston, and went on to earn an MBA. “I started realizing that my education did not tell me what I wanted to do with the rest of my life,” says Sajeev. He’s very fond of his older brother; together they’re consumed with non-stop car restoration projects and look forward to their car junkyard forays that sometimes yield treasures. Sajeev drives a ’95 Lincoln Mark VIII and a Ford Ranger, and is also the owner of a ’83 Ford Sierra that he imported (!) from the UK. Like his brother he too plays western and conga drums. Sajeev teaches classes about personal ﬁnance at the junior achievement level at Spring Woods High School. He’s hoping for some quiet time to indulge his love for art. Those Mehta guys are a class act.
Naughty Weed’s Industrious Cousin
Industrial Hemp Production is Poised for a Comeback By Dr. David Courtney Industrial hemp — it is not the same as marijuana. Hemp is not just a single plant but a variety of species and subspecies, some produce the drug marijuana while others are used for industrial purposes. This is similar to the way that only some varieties of poppy produce opium. Industrial hemp produces little or no THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychotropically active substance in marijuana) so is nearly useless as an intoxicant. But it is remarkable for its ability to produce raw materials that can be used in a broad spectrum of American industry. The hemp plant produces several useful raw materials. The stalks of the plant produce ﬁber and hurds (the woody portions). From these one can make cloth rope, plastic, paper, particle-board, break linings for automobiles, and a number of other goods. The seeds may not have the same mechanical strength, but they are extremely nutritious, and may be used for both human and animal consumption. A quick look through your local health food store will reveal hemp milk (similar to soy milk), hemp nuts, and a dizzying array of food products. If the seeds are crushed and pressed one can derive hemp oil, which is useful for both culinary and industrial purposes. Perhaps the most well established industrial use of hemp oil is in the manufacture of ﬁne varnishes and paint. Hemp has been grown in virtually every continent since the beginning of civilization. Its cultivation is believed to go back 7000 - 10,000 years. Hemp’s use throughout history is impressive, but the age of sailing could almost be described as the age of hemp. Hemp rope was used for the rigging and even the sails were made of
hemp (the word “canvas” is a cognate of the word “cannabis”.) It was so important that there were laws requiring people to grow hemp. In the early 20th century, the US was well on the path toward a major utilization of industrial hemp. Its by-products were found in every home. Just for paper alone, it was noted that one acre of hemp was comparable to 4.1 acres of trees. Many predicted that by the 1940s no more trees would be cut down for the making of paper. But then things went wrong! A corrupt Congress working along with business lobbies derailed the entire industry. The oil and coal interests were far more powerful than the farmers, and they wanted the ﬂedgling plastic industry to use petrochemicals, not hemp. They wanted to push their artiﬁcial ﬁbers and get rid of the natural hemp. So they used all their clout to fulﬁll their agenda. These business lobbies pulled off this remarkable legislative coupe by a combination of fear, ignorance, yellow journalism, and racism. This started with anti-Hispanic racism. The Mexican revolution of 1910 displaced a lot of people; many ﬂed to the US. Some smoked marijuana. Ignorance of this recreational drug coupled with anti-Hispanic racism ushered in the ﬁrst round of state laws. Between 1915 and the mid 1920s many Western states passed laws restricting the use and possession of marijuana. But when marijuana passed from the Hispanic to the black communities, things became too much for “sensibilities” of the mainstream white population. One editorial of the period said, “Marijuana inﬂuences Negroes to look at white people in the eye, step on white men’s shadows and look at a white woman
twice.” After yellow journalism had molded public opinion, corrupt lawmakers in Washington could now satisfy the business lobbyists by eliminating the hemp industry. The ﬁrst federal attempt at destroying the hemp industry was the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937, which was followed by a series of legislations that eventually made hemp illegal in the US. This could have been the end of the story but it was not. Since the 1930s many things have happened that are forcing us to reexamine our national policies on marijuana and industrial hemp. Decades of research have made it clear to most of the US population that the “insidious” inﬂuence of marijuana was greatly exaggerated. But more important to industrial hemp is America’s dependence on foreign oil coupled with worldwide deforestation. Plastics made from hemp can be made of domestically grown raw materials that can be cheap, biodegradable, and reduce our dependence on foreign oil. Just as important is the problem of deforestation. Hemp grows to maturity much faster than trees and generally produce better products. New varieties of industrial hemp are another reason why we are moving towards reinstating hemp cultivation. There are modern varieties of industrial hemp that have virtually no THC. The absence of any narcotic quality means that there is no justiﬁcation for its continued regulation. It is not a question of “if”, but only “when” the US will restart industrial hemp cultivation.
Dr. David R. Courtney is a writer, musician, teacher, activist, and ﬁlmmaker. He has over 65 publications on the subject of Indian culture and Indian music. Dr. Courtney is presently running for Texas State Senate for SD 17.
Ghouls and Goblins and Gremlins, Oh My! By Lisa Brooks Just in time for Halloween, when people seem to love being scared, I decided to do some exploration and investigation of famous Houston landmarks that are reportedly haunted. After all, a good creepy tale thrills us all just a little bit. Ghosts, spirits, and other worldly beings are not around to do harm. Instead, it is believed that souls sometimes get somehow stuck somewhere between this world and another, and spend endless days and nights, “haunting” the places that they once occupied in life. Houston, a city full of history despite a penchant for bulldozing and rebuilding rather than preserving old structures, has its share of haunted sites. Some of these tales are based strictly on lore, while others, well, investigate and see for yourself if you have a spirited encounter. One of the oldest standing buildings in Houston houses a bar, La Carafe, at 815 Congress Street. There have been alleged sightings of a couple of ghosts that inhabit this location. One is supposedly the ghost of a man named John Kennedy (not related to the President) who built the ediﬁce in 1866, and owned the bar. He was murdered outside the door. The property was in the possession of the Kennedy family for over 100 years. The spirit of a former bartender named Carl is the most-often noticed other worldly presence. He can be seen peering
out a second story window, or he manifests as the eerie feeling of being watched by unseen eyes. There are unexplained noises and sudden moving objects. A couple of other ghosts also haunt La Carafe. A playful boy and a woman create mischief both upstairs and down inside the building. During the month of October, the staff has held séances and magic shows for a fee, and serve inexpensive beverages. It’s a great place that boasts a year-round Halloween atmosphere. For a trip back to the stately elegance of old Houston, the Esperson buildings can’t be beat. These office buildings still function and are centers of business, as they have been since the construction of the ﬁrst, the Niels Esperson building, in 1927. Centrally located downtown, this structure has the distinctive looking “wedding cake top” architecture capping the building. The Mellie Esperson building was completed in 1941 and is actually an annex to the original building. It is said that Mellie haunts the hallways and elevators here, and is often felt as a presence; impishly, she also stops the elevators on occasion. The Spaghetti Warehouse at the corner of Commerce and Travis Streets is reportedly actively haunted as well. The building was built in the Market Square area in the early 1900’s and served as a warehouse for produce, pharmaceuticals, and as storage for the Southern Paciﬁc Railroad. Most of the tales stem from the acci-
dental death of a young pharmacist who, instead of stepping into an elevator, stepped into an empty shaft and fell to his death. His grief stricken widow is the one who found his body, and she died a year later of a broken heart. There are many reports of a woman in white searching the building, and objects levitating, and of customers reporting being tapped on the shoulder or having their hair tugged with no one present to do such things. There are several descriptions of creepiness in the upstairs back bathroom where the elevator shaft used to be. Cold clammy feelings, and mysteriously appearing orbs make people want to exit the bathroom as quickly as possible. The restaurant is also decorated and stocked with antiques, which can all contribute to the ghostly energy experienced by staff and customers. The former Jefferson Davis Hospital has a long history of other worldly activity. This site purportedly served as a mass grave for victims of Yellow Fever. Then, in 1840, it became Houston’s second cemetery, called City Cemetery. Many Confederate soldiers are buried there. It served as a cemetery until 1904. Presumably there are thousands of burials on this site. Jeff Davis Hospital was built in 1924. It was named after the Confederate President to appease families of Confederate soldiers buried on the site. The “basement” was constructed above ground to avoid disturbing graves. It served as a charity hospital, a venereal
disease clinic, and a psychiatric hospital, before it was closed. Eventually the building was renovated and now houses the Elder Street Artist Lofts. For funeral fascination, The National Museum of Funeral History is right here in Houston. You can visit to learn about burial customs and funeral traditions from the ordinary to the outright bizarre, from ancient times through present day rituals. From funerals of the famous, to historical hearses, you can see it all. To celebrate Dia de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead, head over to Lawndale Art Center at 4912 Main Street for their annual retablo show and gala auction. Local artists have the opportunity to memorialize their dear departed with a retablo, fashioned somehow to use one of a few hundred tins given ﬁrst come ﬁrst served to artists to create work for this auction fundraiser for the museum. There are Dia De Los Muertos events and celebrations, as well as hands on art activities scheduled in October. Finally, Houston has its share of fantastic old cemeteries. Among these are Founders Memorial Cemetery opened in 1836, the same year Houston
was founded. There are memorials to John Kirby Allen, and Augustus Allen, founders of the city at this site. It is located just east of the old Congregation Beth Israel Cemetery located on West Dallas Street. The historic Olivewood Cemetery located behind Party Boy on Studemont Street. It was the city’s ﬁrst black cemetery, and Party Boy employees report the site is haunted. But, in my opinion, the crowning jewel of Houston’s haunted history is Glenwood Cemetery, and the Washington Avenue Cemetery now annexed into Glenwood. Glenwood is a veritable park, with gorgeous old magnolias and oaks, rolling green along the banks of Buffalo Bayou, and Art Deco monuments to the who’s who of Houston. Individuals buried or memorialized here include Edgar Odell Lovett, ﬁrst president of Rice University, Denton Cooley, George Hermann, William P. Hobby, Oveta Culp Hobby, Ross Sterling, Glenn McCarthy, Roy Hofheinz, and Howard Hughes, among others. Glenwood is a beautiful and peaceful place to stroll through the trees, think about Houston’s history, and maybe, just maybe see a ghost.
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.
Photos: Lisa Brooks
Spinning Wheels s a l a d n a M D MO By Bonnie Sheeren Getting Sarah Gish to stay still long enough for an interview is like trying to catch the wind in a butterﬂy net. A quick trip to her website, www.gishcreative.com, would make anyone’s head spin with all the ventures that Sarah has launched. She personiﬁes raw energy and her enthusiasm is infectious. As luck would have it, I was driving past Discovery Green when I caught a glimpse of her turquoise Hubba Hubba Art Car. There she was in all her trademark resplendence, turquoise hat barely obscuring her strawberry blonde hair, and turquoise cowboy boots that perfectly matched the color of her car. Bubbly as ever, she gave me a bear hug and we caught up for a few minutes. Sarah hosts a fun and informative radio show called Only Connect: Exploring People and Places that Make Houston Great on KPFT 90.1 FM. She started a Facebook blog on Houston Gems that recognizes people and places that contribute signiﬁcantly toward enhancing the value of this city. She started Gish Creative, a marketing company, in 2000. Since 2004, Sarah’s brought out The Summer Book: A Guide to Houston Day Camps and Classes for Kids and Teens (www.thesummerbook.com) that is an invaluable resource for parents. She also blogs GISHPICKS, a weekly newsletter that recommends cultural outings for families; the blog reaches over 10,000 households each Wednesday. Married to her childhood friend Stuart Buchanan, and the mother of teenagers Alexander and Matthew, Sarah also collected hubcaps and countless bottle caps, painted them, and decorated her car that rolls in the Art Car Parade annually; hooked on bottle caps, she’s fashioned a trendy jewelry line called Bottle Cap Mama, that has gathered a faithful following that includes singer Beyonce! Personally, I believe one of her greatest accomplishments is The Fourth Friday Divas, a group Sarah started over a decade ago that connects a widely diverse group of over 500 women who support and cheer each other on. Kalyani Giri, the publisher of HUM Magazine, and I are longtime members whose lives have been positively impacted by the group. Now the Diva Supreme is debuting Mod Mandalas: The Chakra Series, an exhibition that combines the spiritual concepts of mandalas (circles) and chakras (energy centers) through seven pieces of art that use repurposed hubcaps to symbolize modern mandala images. The exhibit that opens on October 4 at 14 Pews, 800 Aurora, will close on November 11. While I only had a few minutes with her, it was wonderful to hear the reasons behind her inspiration and what she hopes we all take away from viewing her oeuvre. Here are excerpts from our conversation:
Why were the concepts behind mandalas and chakras such a motivating force for your latest artwork? All of my artwork is infused with spirituality so I wanted to explore chakras and mandalas not only because they are ancient concepts from Hinduism and Buddhism but also because they contain rich fodder for art with their concepts and their connection to color. And both chakras and mandalas are tools for meditation and that appealed to me as I am always looking for ways to increase my personal peace. If the “medium is the message”, then why hubcaps? Why not paint on a canvas? I have always been attracted to throwaway items that I can re-purpose and turn into something interesting in my art so it struck me when right after my brother had died of alcoholism in 2004, I suddenly started seeing hubcaps on the side of the road everywhere. I picked them up, not knowing what I would do with them, but because of the pain I was in, I started to see the hubcaps as beautiful mandalas, which led me to connect them to God. Each one I saw became like a bell of mindfulness and I found great comfort in that. Did completing this artwork help you achieve the balance you craved or is it an ongoing process? Balance will always be a challenge for me but I did ﬁnd that while creating the pieces I literally had a physical sensation of centeredness because my brain had been focused on creating works that were symmetrical. Psychiatrist Carl Jung had his patients meditate while focusing on mandalas as a way to center them – I have found that my pieces have a similar effect on me. What do you want people to take away from your show? I want them to leave inspired and curious. I want them to understand the concepts of chakras and mandalas better and I want them to learn new ways of balancing their own lives, whether through creativity or by ﬁnding a meditation practice and others ways to take better care of themselves. There is a connection between the care of cars and the care of our bodies through the intertwinement. It is hoped that the exhibition will inspire a wide variety of people to study chakras and mandalas as portals to personal peace. Mod Mandalas: The Chakra Series is exhibited at 14 Pews (www.14pews.org) and on view October 4 November 11, 2012.
Bonnie Sheeren has worn many hats over the years. She has been a publisher’s representative for Harper and Row Publishers, a medical video writer/producer and a public school teacher. She recently turned 50, and hopes to synthesize these experiences into writing projects.
Photos: Mary Wilson
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Photo: Danny Clark
Indulge your tastebuds on a trip of evocative ecstasy
MAESTRO VISWA SUBBARAMAN SET TO BLAZE NEW TRAILS AT SKYLIGHT MUSIC THEATRE By Kalyani Giri Viswa Subbaraman is disconcertingly tall. My office just gets a tad smaller when he steps in. The internationally acclaimed artistic director, founder, and prodigious young conductor of Opera Vista is also surprisingly reserved. That is, until I get him to talk to me about music and his unusual choice of vocation. The change is instantaneous. His face lights up; it’s a subject closest to his heart, one that obviously brings him supreme joy. “I went into music because I wanted to be a conductor. When you think about the orchestra, it’s the most incredible instrument you can envision. It has every source of color, every source of sound possible. I like the studying aspect of being a conductor, sitting down with music and understanding the structure and harmonic analysis,” says Viswa. “There are basic meter changes. How fast is the tempo? Should the music seem extremely short, how short, or should it be a bouncy short, or a long line, or louder or softer. A lot of orchestral pieces I do from memory but especially for opera, you do have the sheet music as there are so many moving parts. It’s a little dangerous to feel like you know everything.”
Conducting, I learn, is a science replete with a vocabulary all of its own, and demands intrinsic understanding of the fabric of the composition that is then meticulously relayed to the orchestra. His hands dance gracefully as he describes through a lexicon of gestures and quietly articulated elongated and staccato sounds, the skill that has earned him celebrity status, numerous awards and honors, and the untold respect of his peers. So much so, that it was announced in early September this year that he’s been invited to lead the venerated Skylight Music Theatre in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, as the company’s next artistic director and conductor starting with the 2013-2014 season. Selected out of seventy contenders for the job, Viswa ﬁlls a coveted position previously occupied by Bill Theisen who stepped down after nine years with Skylight. He’s obviously exhilarated by the prospect of shaping the creative trajectory of Skylight. “I’m really honored,” says Viswa, 35, named one of Houston Press’ 100 Most Creative People for 2012. He’s also one of Houston’s most eligible bachelors, something he’s quite bashful about. “The history of the Skylight is incredible. In a lot
of ways, 54 years ago, it was the Opera Vista of Milwaukee. It had a visionary artistic director who did outlandish productions and developed a lot of new works that made it an exciting and energetic company. It’s like going to Opera Vista ﬁve decades later from today. The goal is to inject that original freshness, newness to it.” Skylight, says Viswa, is a four million dollar company with seven productions per season and about forty-ﬁve people on staff. Opera Vista, founded in 2006, does four productions with two performances of each. “It’s of a completely different magnitude. Skylight is doing three to six week runs depending on the show,” says Viswa, who was a delegate at the 2012 Indiaspora. “At Opera Vista, I’m lucky if I have $200,000 from my season!” On Beginnings and Family Viswa was born in New York City to south Indian immigrant parents Shantha, an accountant (but mostly a stay-at-home-mom), and Sriramamurthy Subbaraman, a physician resident at the Bronx-Lebanon Hospital. After a series of moves, the family relocated to Big Spring, Texas, 40 miles outside of Midland, Odessa. In that tiny town, Viswa and his younger brother Ramnath attended the local school and participated in extra-curricular activities that included music. Viswa learnt to play the violin and trombone. “Indian parents tend to put their kids into everything. The idea is that kids have to be multifaceted to go to college,” says Viswa. After high school, he went to Duke University in North Carolina as a pre-med undergrad and studied mathematics and music with the concentration in premed. “Growing up, dad always said we should do what makes us happy. But medicine was all we really knew as a career choice as we’ve got several generations of doctors in our family. I started as a math major. I found that my favorite thing about math was writing proofs, the sense of structure, the elegance of ﬁnding how the previous line connects to the next line,” says Viswa reﬂectively. “As a conductor, 90% of my basic analysis is spent in determining the structure and compositional material of a piece of music so there was a link in my brain between the music and math.” Viswa’s credentials are impressive; he has a bachelor’s degree in music and biology from Duke University,
Photo: Krishna Giri
a master’s degree in music performance and orchestral conducting from Texas Tech University, and an MBA from the University of Texas, Austin. He was awarded a Fulbright Grant to study conducting in Paris, France, with John Nelson as visiting assistant conductor of the Ensemble Orchestral de Paris in 2002; he also served as the assistant conductor of the Orchestre National de France where he worked with Kurt Masur, one-time music director of the New York Philharmonic, and Leipzig Gewandhaus, and was the ﬁrst in the history of the French Fulbright Commission to receive an extension of the grant. A veritable globetrotter, Viswa’s been featured with orchestras worldwide including the Thames Philharmonia in London, and the Bombay Chamber Orchestra in India. Not only is he cogent with his talking hands, he speaks Tamil, French, German, and Italian ﬂuently. Viswa’s younger brother Ramnath chose the traditional path as medical doctor, but is a visionary in his own right. He attended Yale Medical School, won a national institute of health grant while still in school, and did a year of research in HIV in India. He returned to complete his residency at the University of California, San Francisco, and went back to India to research disease transmission in the slums of Bombay for eighteen months. Ramnath’s presently on an infectious disease research fellowship at Harvard. “He’s a slacker,” jokes Viswa affectionately. The love and pride in his voice are unmistakable. “Dad says, ‘I have two really smart boys, nobody wants to make money!’” laughs Viswa. Viswa’s parents have retired and reside in Midland, Texas. The Conductor’s Role “The orchestra can deﬁnitely do without a conductor but you’re quadrupling the amount of time to create. There are issues of everyone having their own interpretation of a piece. So it’s up to the conductor to give the piece perspective,” says Viswa. “But that’s where the study comes in with this big piece of music and then you break it down to the basic structure. Then you ﬁgure out how every structural section works to the point where you can build an exact recording of what you believe the piece should sound like in your head. As you rehearse you get the orchestra as close to the recording you’ve created in your mind and that’s a huge challenge, molding it into the direction you think it should go. It’s also a huge challenge of leadership too, convincing the orchestra of the way you want them to go,” says Viswa. Opera Vista and Productions Viswa’s won critical acclaim for infusing Opera Vista, an avant-garde contemporary chamber opera company, with an irrepressible freshness of approach and bold originality. The company has the only international opera competition of its kind in the world that invites composers to submit their works; each year Opera Vista is inundated with about 100 applicants, and Viswa decides which piece to showcase. “Almost everything we’ve done is by living composers. In the six years we’ve been in existence we’ve done six world premieres,” says Viswa. “The most recent was the Texas premiere of a piece by Thomas Adès called Powder Her Face, based on the life of the Duchess Margaret of Argyll who was kind of the Paris Hilton of the 1950s. In doing research on her, it was more than likely that her promiscuous lifestyle was probably due to frontal
lobe damage to her brain when she fell down an elevator shaft. At the time it wasn’t diagnosed. She was the icon of her time. At the end, she’s destitute. She had the inability to comprehend the results of her actions. The opera explores what happens to this person when she’s no longer in the limelight. It’s famous for being a very racy opera, though we focused more on her as a character,” says Viswa. Opera Vista did a world premier of The Silent Prince, which was based on a Jataka tale. It was billed as a Bollywood opera. “It was a great crossover piece by a Thai composer, Somtow Sucharitkul, the director of Bangkok Opera. He was very interested in incorporating Carnatic music. And there was a blend of western and eastern elements,” Viswa adds. Opera Vista will present Ainadamar (Arabic for fountain of tears) based on the life of Spanish poet Federico García Lorca who was, as it is surmised, assassinated for his seditious writings against the Franco regime. The piece, emboldened with vibrant Flamenco music and dance, and heavy Latin percussion, will show at the Zilkha Hall, Hobby Center on November 16 – 17. (Tickets – www.thehobbycenter.org) On Success and Money “You have to ﬁnd something you’re passionate about and as you keep growing in the ﬁeld the income gets better. But primarily I don’t think you enter the ﬁeld thinking I’m going to just make money. You have to have a sense of joy in your life. I wake up in the morning enjoying what I do. There’s nothing to compare with looking at an audience once I ﬁnish a concert or production. Those are the joys and peace I get that cannot be equated monetarily. Those with money aren’t always happy or successful. It helps, that sense of security is very helpful,” says Viswa. “What Bill Gates and Warren Buffet did was great, the idea of using money to do some good. Money is there to do things, to create things, a means. Success in my book is to use money to create great things.” The Future Viswa will move to Milwaukee in June next year but will continue to be involved in Opera Vista. He says that he will miss the many friends he has in Houston. He still hopes, with his busy schedule, to ﬁnd time to indulge his hobbies. He enjoys reading, all genres. He cooks European food; he doesn’t attempt Indian food because he can’t rival his mom’s cooking, he admits with a smile. He’s an avid fan of college basketball. And he harbors a longing to return to Paris, a city he loves. But Skylight Music Theatre beckons him to his future, one that glows with promise. “Five years from now, I’m hoping we’d have built Skylight into a major player nationally and internationally. All arts organizations really are at the stage where we have to go to the next level. It’s no longer sufficient to be just an opera company. We’re in a different age of the arts and we have to look at how to serve our community better,” he says.
Skylightmusictheatre.org Operavista.org www.viswasubbaraman.com
BIG BOSSES OF
SARI SAPNE A FASHIONISTA’S DREAM COME TRUE! By Nalini Sadagopan Balaji Bhavan, Hillcroft’s hottest spot for crispy dosas and mouthwatering chaats is only a small part of one man’s vision to blaze new trails. Introducing Ramesh Lulla, a fashion designer who followed his dream from Bangalore to the United States over three decades ago. I met Ramesh and his son Akash at his high design store Sapna Boutique. Surrounded by beautiful couture ghagras, salwars and suits, colorful and ornate with intricate silk thread and sequins, we made our way to seating area furnished with Rajasthani ﬂair. Ramesh, dapper in a black striped shirt with a matching tie and neatly pressed slacks, beamed with nostalgic joy while reminiscing about the days of his nonchalant youth. “I was a rebel those days who purposely ﬂunked the IITMadras entrance exam by turning in a blank answer paper as I was adamant about following my heart,” said Ramesh. While studying for the Pre-University Certiﬁcate at the wellknown St. Joseph’s College in Bangalore, Ramesh knew that he did not want to be an engineer like everyone else in his family, but was very fascinated by his uncles who would visit from abroad dressed nattily in brightly colored shirts and trendy bell bottom pants. Their non-traditional, carefree style captivated young Ramesh’s attention. He was determined to study fashion and moved to Hong Kong in the mid-70s, where he trained in fashion design. After months of practical experience, he was ready to bring his newly acquired skills to the US. He joined Taj Sari Palace in Chicago and had the opportunity to travel to major cities in the US on business and to witness ﬁrsthand the fashion runways of ethnic Indian wear in major Indian settlements such as Jackson Heights, New York; and Devon Ave, Chicago. A business trip to Houston in the late 70s on business drew his attention to the large Indian population but nary a fashion vendor to serve the needs of the community. He spearheaded the efforts to open a branch of Taj Sari Palace on Westheimer, now the Highland village area. With his business acumen, the business thrived as he developed an enthusiastic clientele. A trip to India in 1981 proved fortuitous for Ramesh. He met and married the woman of his dreams.
“I am very lucky to be married to Jyothi,��� said Ramesh with warmth. “She exempliﬁes the adage that behind every successful man stands a woman.” A true match in every sense Ramesh and Jyothi began their journey as life partners. “She inspired me to get my own business, and stood by me in realizing my dream — that was the beginning of Sari Sapne”, recalled Ramesh. Sari Sapne became the go to place for exclusive saris, dress fabrics, and Indian garments. “Jyothi and I worked very hard, as any entrepreneur couple, and we took high risks and put our savings into leasing and remodeling a 1000 square feet space, knowing that the lease might not be extended beyond the ﬁrst year. As predicted, the lease came to an end in 1982 as well as for every Indian store that was at the on that stretch of Westheimer. “It was a blessing in disguise,” said Ramesh. Ramesh strategically moved Sari Sapne from Westheimer to the Hillcroft location. Many Indians lived in the Chimney Rock, Hillcroft, Alief, and Sugar Creek areas. Sari Sapne, Jay Store (the oldest Indian grocery store in Houston), and a handful of others all arrived on Hillcroft. Thus began the legacy of the famous Hillcroft strip which now boasts of dozens of Indian stores, thanks to those visionary Big Bosses of Little India. Akash Lulla, the couple’s oldest child, was born in 1982, a year after the birth of the store. “What better way to train and learn from your own dad on the nuances of running the fashion store business? Dad’s my hero,” said Akash, a ﬁnance graduate from the University of Houston. Today he works closely with his Ramesh overseeing all aspects of the businesses. “We are here to make our customers happy, provide the latest designs and trends at the right price and quality. Happy customers bring repeat business, which is the key to the growth of our enterprise,” said Ramesh. In addition to Sari Sapne, the Lullas added Sapna Boutique and Fashion Fabrics to their repertoire over the years.
From left: Jyothi, Ramesh and Akash Lulla
“We like that our clients shop with us for the very best instead of traveling to India,” added Akash. Sari Sapne carries saris of all varieties and prices while Sapna Boutique caters to high-end tastes. “We spend hours studying Eastern and Western trends in vogue and work with designers to mix and match the best of both worlds. Fashion trends are primarily inspired by the movie industry in India, which is in turn inspired by fashion designers. We have been great followers of Sabyasachi, Ritu Kumar, and Manish Malhotra for our designs” said Ramesh. While they do carry designer labels, they also bring saris and outﬁts inspired by the designers at affordable prices. Sari Sapne has locations in Dallas and Atlanta. How did Balaji Bhavan ﬁt into the grand scheme of things?
Once Sari Sapne opened on Hillcroft, the Lullas ﬁlled a void for South Indian food through Balaji Bhavan. The recipes are Jyothi’s and the couple hired a manager from the Balaji temple in the Dallas area and Balaji Bhavan opened to much acclaim. Indeed it is one of the few places that my own family can unanimously agree on for any given meal. “Consistency, quality, freshness are key ingredients for our success at the restaurant,” said Akash. The coconut chutney is made seven times a day as it has a short shelf life. Sambar, another popular side dish with the dosas, is made four times a day at Balaji Bhavan. I was surprised to hear that there aren’t any walk-in coolers that enable large quantity food storage at this restaurant, which means all food items are turned over frequently in
Photo: Krishna Giri
Sapna Boutique less than a day. The restaurant is listed on Yelp and ranked 27th in Houston Chronicle’s top 100 restaurants, which attests to the value and taste of the food served here, especially for Houston that has more restaurants per capita. The Lullas are ever thankful to their hard working kitchen staff and all their staff at Sari Sapne. But Ramesh tells me that they owe their success to their loyal customers who have supported them over
the years. “We are deeply indebted to our clients for shopping with us,” says Ramesh. As a fashion lover myself, I walked away feeling quite happy knowing that our ambassadors of fashion from the Indian subcontinent at Sari Sapne have great business sense, a keen sense of fashion, and care about their customers’ needs and bring the best quality at the right price.
Nalini Sadagopan has been a Houston area resident for ﬁve years. She loves writing and public speaking and has been making more time for it recently. Her passion for arts, culture and heritage motivates her to volunteer time in the local community to promote these, especially among the youth. She is a Chemist by training and works as a Technical Specialist for Agilent Technologies. She is married to Rishi with two children Shilpa and Vishnu.
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Fish Tales Hooked on Salmon By Latika Bathija I know what I want to eat on my birthday. It’s a crisply seared medium rare salmon steak. It’s what I’d love to dazzle my guests with at festive gatherings. On weekends on the patio overlooking the lake, breakfasts are leisurely and relaxing as my family enjoys a choice of baked salmon with lemon and chives, or smoked salmon and a crisp bagel with cream cheese. My list is endless, and the featured star of my most favored culinary delights is almost always the super sexy scintillating salmon. My craving for this super food began when I was expecting my second child Shivani, and predictably, she is an avid seafood lover, and to date, her favorite meal is salmon and sticky rice. I often ponder my love of salmon. Perhaps it’s somehow linked to a past birth, which raises the interesting theory that I may have been a Norwegian ﬁsherman or an exuberant Mumbaikar ﬁsherwoman in a former life! I do seem to love the other aspect of salmon as well, which is the mysterious ocean. Salmon is feted as a super food. High quality salmon isn’t only a delicious protein source but is also rich in Omega-3 fatty acids that help lower triglycerides and cholesterol levels, keeping your heart healthy. Salmon is also loaded with vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant. Many laboratory studies show that this ﬁsh can help control inﬂammatory processes associated with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. And, wonder of wonders, moderate consumption of salmon does promote anti-aging. Now, that’s what I call a superstar food. Every summer my family vacations in Seattle. I do consider myself the luckiest person to be able to pick up fresh ﬁsh from Pike Place Market. However, with all the advanced technology in place, Copper River salmon caught off of the shores of Alaska, Chile, Norway, and Scotland is shipped worldwide and consumed daily in ﬁne restaurants all over the world. Expensive, but well worth the dining experience! Another option is buying conventionally raised salmon which is “farmed” salmon, typically Atlantic salmon raised by large multinational companies using non-organic feed and dense stocking practices. I do prefer wild caught salmon, when I am assured its fresh. As a former restaurateur, and I know most current restaurateurs will agree, it is with great reluctance that more often than not, we have to use Atlantic salmon on occasion with clients who do not want to pay top dollar for the best. Here is one of my family’s favorite salmon recipes. It’s easy to prepare and is delicious and healthy.
Baked Salmon with Ginger Basmati Rice: Serves 4 Prep Time: 15 minutes Cook Time: 20 minutes
INGREDIENTS FOR SALMON: 1 teaspoon salt 2 Tbsp Olive Oil 1 teaspoon ground black pepper 4 (6 ounce) salmon ﬁllets • Prepare marinade by mixing together olive oil, salt, and pepper. Place salmon ﬁllets in a bowl, cover with the marinade, and refrigerate for about 20 minutes • Preheat oven to 375° F (190° C). Set timer for 18 minutes • Line a baking tray with aluminum foil. Place marinated salmon ﬁllets on the tray and bake for 15 minutes • For the last 3 minutes, switch the oven to broil, move the tray up to the highest level so the ﬁllets get a great seared look Your salmon will be moist and tender and melt in your mouth with these instructions Note: When the salmon is in the oven you should start preparing your rice to save time. INGREDIENTS FOR RICE: 1 tbsp olive oil 1/2 cup chopped green onion bulbs 2 tsp minced fresh ginger 2 cloves garlic, minced 1 cup uncooked long grain Basmati rice 2 cups chicken broth 1/4 tsp salt 1/4 cup chopped green onion tops • Heat olive oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add 1/2 cup chopped green onion, minced ginger and garlic cloves. Sauté for 2 minutes • Stir in 1 cup uncooked rice. Sauté till every grain of rice is covered in the oil and glistening • Stir in broth and salt, bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Stir in 1/4 cup chopped green onion tops. • Add more broth if you want sticky rice, and less if you want the grains “al dente”. Bon Appetit!!!
Latika Bathija is a former restaurateur and has worked in various ﬁelds in the hospitality industry over the last 16 years. She is the proud mother of two teenagers, Karan and Shivani and assists her husband Sunny Bathija with his company Satya Inc in the areas of marketing and public relations.
43 South Mason Road, Katy TX 77450
Help-line or Life-line:
The Origin and Growth of Daya Lakshmy Parameswaran A newly arrived and upwardly mobile immigrant group in America, South Asians, began building communities in the early 1970s by establishing centers based on their religious and regional identities. The role of women in these male-run associations remained traditional — arranging pot-luck dinners and children’s programs. Counter to this focus on cultural preservation was the migration’s inﬂuence on the community’s evolving new identity. And there was no forum for women, who often bear the brunt of systemic changes, to address their challenges as new immigrants. It was in the 1980s that South Asian women in New York City, New Jersey and Chicago began organizing to express their experiences of inner discord and oppression and the need for a uniﬁed voice. At a small gathering of Indian women in Houston in the spring of 1982, Jo Viswanathan, a United Way social worker discussed her observations of isolation and abuse among the city’s South Asian women. Listening to Jo, I pondered her idea of starting a support network for our community. I did not know then that South Asian women in the east coast were also exploring the same problems and the same solutions. Only years later would I recognize the signiﬁcance of these mini- gatherings in major cities across the U.S. They were the prelude to the current and ongoing nationwide South Asian movement to end violence against women. Despite Jo’s efforts, it would take years and an unfathomable domestic violence tragedy to startle Houston into joining the movement. In March 1996, twenty-eight-yearold Nirmala shot her violent husband of eight years, three young children and set her subur-
ban house on ﬁre before shooting and killing herself. Nirmala, educated and employed, had not sought help from anyone for her terrible ordeal, perhaps because there was no one she could turn to. Had our 1982 vision of a support network materialized, Nirmala’s tragedy might have been avoided. In July 1996, seven of us — Indian-American women — established a help-line we named Daya (meaning ‘compassion’), an initiative for which we were prepared. Although the time was ripe for Daya to emerge, stigma of domestic violence was palpable in our community. Daya’s mission to end violence against women had to begin at the grass-roots level. With seed money from the Indo-American Charity Foundation, Daya established a voice-messaging system where victims of violence could leave messages. Retrieving the messages, advocates like me would follow-up from our homes since Daya did not have an office. We met with clients in coffee shops and donated offices. The turn-around of trained advocates was high because calling clients from home posed problems for many advocates. They were afraid that their families would disapprove. Yet, the work continued because of the commitment of a few and the steady increase in the number of calls which began at 20 a week. The women who called Daya were representative of our community and they exposed its underbelly. They were engineers, MBAs, doctors’ wives and new immigrant brides. They were physically injured, abandoned on the streets and threatened with deportation; their marriages were fraudulent and they were slaves to their in-laws. They had no place to go. To them, Daya was not just a help-line but a life-line. And there were many more, but Daya, an allvolunteer organization, was too limited in its scope to reach them. Daya’s signiﬁcant growth began in 2005 when Daya with a revamped Board hired its ﬁrst qualiﬁed staff — a Master’s level social worker — and placed her in an office with a telephone. The office was donated by Sara International. Availability of
Daya promotes healthy family relationships in the South-Asian community by providing services that include counseling, referrals, transitional housing, legal advocacy, career counseling and ﬁnancial support to women and children affected by family violence and sexual assault. Daya also promotes awareness on topics relevant to the welfare of South Asian families through educational seminars, publications, and, outreach events. Vision: A South Asian community in Houston that is free from family violence.
Story of Shilpa
a professional on the phone resulted in exponential increase in call volume. Clients could now meet with their advocate any day of the week. Counseling, advocacy referrals, case management, legal advocacy, job training and education, translation and interpretation services and transportation to court became part of the routine services. A community outreach coordinator position was added to conduct ongoing education and awareness programs which include the popular Annual Seminar in September and the One Voice Against Domestic Violence event in October. In 2007, Daya launched a program to operate a transitional home where qualiﬁed clients could stay for months while they prepared to live abuse-free lives. Daya gave residents access to food, shelter, counseling, legal advocacy, education and job training and child care – all the tools necessary to establish independent lives. A third staff — transitional home manager — was hired. With the purchase of a four bedroom house in 2010 as a permanent transitional home, Daya achieved its goal of taking a concrete step to stem the generational cycle of abuse. The next goal is a full-service counseling center to provide preventive family counseling. Expansion of service areas meant more clients and bigger budget for Daya. From a call volume of 350 and a budget of $25,000 in 2003, the agency is handling 5,000 yearly calls and a budget of $280,000 today. Since 2005, Daya has served 1,400 clients. Despite the widespread stigma of domestic violence, the
Houston community has rallied behind Daya by contributing to its annual Spring fundraiser, volunteering and providing probono services. For a late starter, Daya has made fast strides. Of the 26 South Asian Women’s Organizations (SAWOs) in the U.S., Daya is regarded among the top, its services on par with the established ones — Manavi, New Jersey; Sakhi, New York; Apna Ghar, Chicago; and Narika, San Francisco. As part of the SAWOs, Daya is involved in policy advocacy and global movement against violence of all forms. Daya has come a long way and is a long way from accomplishing all the goals it has for Houston’s South Asian families. Lakshmy Parameswaran is a founder and board member of Daya Inc., serving South Asian survivors of family violence and sexual assault. She is a licensed counselor specializing in women’s issues; she has conducted numerous workshops on gender-based violence. Her writings have appeared in the Houston Chronicle and Texas Psychologist. Her essay on the rise of South Asian-American women’s antiviolence movement is included in Shout Out: Women of Color Respond to Violence, an anthology published by Seal Press. She and her husband, Dr. P.G. Parameswaran, have been active members of the Houston community for over 30 years.
Shilpa arrived in New York City eager to unite with her husband, Anil, two years after their arranged marriage in India. During the two years she waited in India for the visa to be issued, Anil would call her intermittently. When she and Anil lived with his parents after her arrival in New York, her mother-in-law and sister-in-law criticized her for everything, from her looks to her cooking. They called her parents and berated them for Shilpa’s shortcomings. When her mother-in-law insisted that Shilpa should leave, Anil and Shilpa moved into a studio apartment where she conceived their child. Shilpa did not receive proper pre-natal care and suffered from malnourishment. Anil ignored the doctor’s suggestion to admit her, and refused Shilpa’s request to move in with his or her parents. He insisted that she cut all ties with her parents and go back to work. She had to give him all her earnings. When she went into labor, Shilpa was not taken to hospital and left to fend for herself. Barely recovered after delivery, Shilpa and the baby were sent to India. When she managed to return to New York with the baby, she learned that Anil had moved to Houston. Shilpa arrived in Houston hoping for reconciliation but was served with divorce papers. She didn’t know anyone in Houston. With the help of Daya’s legal clinic, Shilpa received her permanent green card under the Violence Against Women Act and obtained custody of her child. Daya also provided her with counseling, shelter and ﬁnancial assistance. Shilpa now works for a company and lives with her child.
“One Voice” 2012
“One Voice Against Domestic Violence,” Daya’s annual domestic violence awareness month event is usually held in October on Hillcroft Street. This year, it will take place on the 20th. Under a big tent in the shopping area, banners and placards proclaim zero tolerance to domestic violence. Daya is joined by the Houston Police Department for this fun ﬁlled event that imparts a serious message. Amidst the sound of dhol and DJ music, hundreds of supporters, community leaders and dignitaries hold hands and form a human chain to express solidarity with victims of family violence. Seen and encouraged by passers-by and shoppers and widely reported on by community media, the event helps to highlight the fact that South Asians do their part in combating domestic violence in Houston.
The Soul Eternal…
Tête-à-Tête with Author Robert Arnett
By Kalyani Giri Every time Robert Arnett put his eye to the viewﬁnder on his trusty old Pentax and clicked, he captured with sedulous devotion, the very essence of India and her people. His twenty-month long pilgrimage to the land that inspired and changed his life served as the basis for his internationally acclaimed, multiple award-winning book India Unveiled. The exquisite 270 photographs reﬂecting India’s diversity and the informative recount of his journey makes the book a timeless tour de force. In his avatar as the relentless tourist visiting every Hindu temple, Muslim mosque, Jewish synagogue, or Buddhist monastery over 24 states in India, and through living with local Indian families, Arnett was mystiﬁed by the spirit of the people whose multiple religions, sects, languages, and cultural diversity transcended the ordinary and engendered harmonious co-existence. He soon understood that it was the innate belief that in the ﬁnal analysis, all religions were striving for a common goal — oneness with God. “India just specializes in the science of the soul,” says Arnett, whose avid interest in India began over 40 years ago. Born Jewish in Columbus, Georgia, Robert Arnett felt from a very early age that something intrinsic was missing from his life. “I didn’t realize what it was until someone I met on a business trip to Detroit told me about Raja yoga,” Arnett explains. “He invited me to a meditation service led by the oldest living disciple in the West of Paramahansa Yogananda, the author of Autobiography of a Yogi. I had a profound experience the ﬁrst time I meditated which showed me that I was much more than just this body.” It was the practice of yoga and the many inner doors it opened that prompted Arnett’s ﬁrst trip to India. Once in the world’s second most populous country he roamed without a guide or the ability to speak any language other than English. “India in terms of yoga is the only country in the world where ancient wisdom is not only in simple, everyday deeds, but more im-
portantly in living examples of God-realized Masters decade after decade. That is how I would measure the greatness of a country or religion. Not by the size of its computer chip, but by how many Godrealized souls it has given the world. When one starts the journey inward, religion becomes just an outer trapping.” Arnett is unequivocal about being a self-confessed Hindu. “I’d like to say I’m Hindu by choice, whereas most people born into the religion take it for granted. The devotion in Hinduism, the tolerance is what attracted me, the inner peace exempliﬁed in dayto-day life.” For Arnett, his India Unveiled is only a medium for the message that western society could learn so much from India. “There is an emphasis on tolerance of things different than our own.” India Unveiled has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the Benjamin Franklin Award for Best Travel Essay, the Small Press Book Award for Best Travel Book, British Book of the Month Travel Club Selection, the Independent Publisher Best Color Photography Book First Runner-up, and the 1998 Top Books for the Teen Age, awarded by the New York Public Library. Over 50,000 copies have sold and the book is at public libraries and schools nationwide. His other publication Finders Keepers?, a children’s book, won the Mom’s Choice Award: Best Educational Picture Book and the Benjamin Franklin Silver Award for Best Multicultural Book of the Year; the book has wonderful colorful illustrations by artist Smita Turakhia. Arnett has a Master’s Degree in History from Indiana University. Undergraduate studies were at Tulane University, University of Georgia, and the London School of Economics in England. Arnett has lectured widely throughout North America, including The Smithsonian Institute, The Kennedy Center, Harvard, Yale, and Stanford Universities. He was a speaker at the Parliament of the World’s Religions held in Cape Town, South Africa.
HUM Magazine has regularly featured articles by Arnett since the very ﬁrst issue in July this year. For this edition, we decided to talk with him about India Unveiled and his recent project, a traveling photographic exhibit comprising of 35 photographs from India Unveiled. The following are excerpts from that interview: The title of your book India Unveiled implies you have captured the mystique of the country. What have you revealed? Through photographs, words, and stories I have done my best to reveal the heart and soul of India. Underneath the veneer of bustling India, there is peace, tranquility, and contentment, even among the poor, that is seldom seen in the West. As Americans, it can be difficult for us to understand how very poor people can be happy since we are brought up in a society that teaches happiness is to be found externally through things. Also, the majority of Indians do not separate God from their daily lives. Many live by the most sublime beliefs of their religious principles every day. Can you share with us some experiences where Indians manifested these traits in their daily lives? My favorite story is of the little boy who found my lost wallet. It had a large sum of money in it, and after returning it to me, he would not accept a reward and did not think I should pay someone for doing what is right. That is the principle of dharma: to do what is right for its own sake. In fact, this is the encounter that gave me the inspiration for my multiaward-winning children’s book, Finders Keepers?, which will be coming out in a Spanish edition also in December. Another fond memory is of a 14 year-old girl I met while visiting an Indian family. When she asked me to get her a pen pal in America, I told her I would, but she never brought me her address. I sent for her and asked her, “Why if you wanted a pen pal in the U.S. did you not bring me your address.” Her reply was simple, “After thinking about it, I was not sure that I wanted to write to someone for the rest of my life.” She then handed me a paper with her name and contact
information. To that teenager, if you make a promise, you keep it for the rest of your life — even in casual social situations such as writing to a pen pal. This brings us to marriage, an embarrassing subject for me to write about in the West. Traveling one day on a second-class train, a man inquired if I was married. When I told him I was not, he asked did I think I would ever marry. I replied, “Yes, if I ever met someone with whom I had soul unity.” Looking at me with a smile and a twinkle in his eyes, he said, “Soul unity comes through many years of marriage.” I could ﬁll the rest of this month’s issue of HUM with examples, but perhaps these accounts make the point that many Indians live by the Sanatana Dharma, the eternal principles of God, that if one follows them, inner peace and happiness is the result.
North Carolina/NC State/Duke University; University of Georgia; Museum of Science and Industry, Tampa; Columbus, GA Museum, and the Sheth Family Foundation, Atlanta. Each exhibit includes 35 photographs from all over India and all of India’s major religions: Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, Islam, Christianity, and Judaism. The captions of many of the photographs include aspects common to all religions, rather than what makes religions different from each other. Students like the inclusiveness of the human family. I am hopeful that the Indian-American community of Houston will purchase and donate a photo exhibit to the University of Houston, especially since it will support its India Studies program. What are some of the major misconceptions that Westerners have about India? The major misconception, of course, is that Hindus worship many Gods. I suspect the “polytheistic” label of Hinduism originated from a combination of ignorance and self-serving missionary zeal. But the amazing thing to me is that many Christians continue to perpetuate that erroneous concept, even though proper information to debunk that notion is in the public domain. One of the Hindu scriptures, the Rig Veda, clearly states: “Though men call it by many names, it is really One.” Hinduism is a monotheistic religion, in which God is beyond time, space, and physical form. The entire pantheon of Hindu gods and goddesses are merely symbolic representations of God’s numerous qualities and His intelligence immanent in every aspect of creation. Saints of various religions tell us that until we have experienced the transcendental God beyond form as Bliss, Love, Beauty, Joy, Peace, Wisdom, etc., it is easier to think of God in form.
India Unveiled has been so warmly embraced by the Indian American community, but how has it been received by the American mainstream? From the very beginning, India Unveiled has been wonderfully received by the mainstream, winning several prestigious book awards and getting excellent reviews in newspapers, magazines, and library journals. Today, India Unveiled is in over 7,700 school and public libraries. And thanks to the generosity of the Indian American community’s support of our library book project to donate our two books to public schools, India Unveiled and Finders Keepers? are in all the public schools in four states: Georgia, Maryland, Utah, and almost in all of Tennessee, plus in many large cities such as Houston, Dallas, Los Angeles, Cincinnati, Tampa, Raleigh, and Albuquerque, just to mention a few. Also, our educational traveling photo exhibit with photographs from India Unveiled has been very well received on college campuses and at museums. In fact, one of the photo exhibits is currently being displayed at the University of Texas, Arlington, and due to its popularity, it has been extended for an additional six months.
What is one of your fondest memories of India? While visiting a small village in Western India, I asked a group of simple, uneducated villagers if they wanted me to share anything with America. To my surprise, a man raised his hand and said, “Tell them that if they would do their work in a spirit of service to God, it would help them to loosen the grip of the ego.”
C o t t er Ran ch P ro pe rti e s
The Photo Exhibit sounds like a visually exciting and educational experience. I am pleased to say that there are seven separate photo exhibits owned by various museums, universities, and foundations: University of Texas, Arlington; University of Washington, Seattle/Indian American Education Foundation; University of
To contact Robert Arnett, call 706-323-6377, or visit www. AtmanPress.com. The photographs in the India Unveiled Photo Exhibit can also be viewed on the website.
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Bullying: What are we doing right?
What are we doing wrong? By Arjune Rama, MD Once all of us sixth-graders piled into the gym the rules were simple: ﬁnd the nametag of your eighth-grade “big brother/ big sister” for the year. As one would imagine, it was sheer pandemonium. “Who would I get?” “Who did you get?” We scurried across the squeaky ﬂoor searching for our nametags with the name of our corresponding eighth-grader who would steward us through the choppy waters of early junior high. Simultaneously, our “big siblings” were on the lookout for the nametags of their mentees to whom they would impart their fourteen years of wisdom. Within minutes I saw hugs and pats on the back. I saw broad smiles and bright faces. And then it happened. After he pulled me by the shoulder, whipped me around and literally punched my nametag onto my chest, I thought I would vomit. The next few months were hell. Unbeknownst to the school administration, this was not a mentorship; this was a pairing of the nastiest bully with the feeblest kid. I started to take the far stairs to get to science class. Even then I couldn’t hide. I was constantly paranoid. Empty hallways felt like long, dark alleys. My routes to class became so circuitous that I started arriving chronically late. Even then he would ﬁnd me. My “big brother” cannily chose to punch me in the arm so my bruises would not reveal the abuse. I would take my tardy slip without a word and then settle into my desk still shaking. He told me he had come by my house and knew which window faced into my bedroom. I’d never been so terriﬁed in my whole life. I was too scared to tell my parents. I was too embarrassed to tell my friends. I felt paralyzed. That was 1992. Exactly twenty-years ago. However, back then, when I went home from school I felt safe. I didn’t have a cell phone to receive harassing text messages. As these were the days before Facebook, I didn’t have any nasty posts waiting for me. In this era of incredible connectivity among young people there is seemingly no respite from such harassment. This all-encompassing psychic pounding of vulnerable young people has accompanied a frightening uptick in suicides in the context of bullying. During the last school year, “John,” a 7-year-old student in Miami, Fla. was bullied and sexually assaulted by an older classmate to the point that he attempted suicide once by deliberately standing in traffic with his eyes closed and another time by sticking a metal hanger into an electrical socket. Rachel Ehmke, a 13-year-old seventh grader in Mantorville, Minn., died April 29, 2012 after hanging herself at her home after receiving merciless texts and reading school graffiti calling her a “slut.” Perhaps most famously, on the evening of September 22, 2011, Rutgers University student Tyler Clementi posted from his cell phone on Facebook, “Jumping off the gw bridge sorry” after which he jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge. Clementi’s death followed soon after his roommate secretly recorded and streamed online video of Clementi being intimate with a male partner in his dorm room. Seemingly no age group is spared. These are our
elementary school students. These are our high school students. These are our college students. As a parent of a toddler, I ﬁnd myself asking, “What would I do for my daughter in this situation?” Even worse, since I cannot predict how bullying will evolve, I feel woefully unprepared to protect her. I feel paralyzed in a similar way to when I was bullied myself. Perhaps the most surprising element of this worsening and evolving trend is that the advice we as adults give our children does not seem to be working. Stan Davis, LCSW and Charlisse Nixon, PhD conducted the Youth Voice Project, a research project surveying 13,000 students’ perceptions in grades 5-12, from 31 schools in 12 states of strategy effectiveness to reduce bullying in schools (http://www.youthvoiceproject.com/). Sadly, some of the most commonly recommended strategies by adults (i.e., telling the person to stop, telling the person how I feel, walking away, and pretending it doesn’t bother me) produced markedly worsening of bullying. Furthermore, worsening of bullying was reported when school staff gave reprimands rather than strategies, i.e. saying if they had acted differently they would not have been mistreated, telling them to solve the problem themselves, or silencing youth by telling them not to tattle. So if our traditional ways of advising our children are ineffective, what seems to work? Davis and Nixon’s research suggests that telling an adult at home, telling a friend, and telling an adult at school seem to make things better more often than make them worse. Overall it seems that the age-old recommendation to “take matters into your own hands” is not only ineffective but frequently contributes to worsening the issue rather than improving it. Instead, approaching the issue by making others aware (peers and adults) seems to have an appreciable effect in reducing abuse. Even though there weren’t such well-developed studies when I was in the sixth-grade, I coincidentally ended up doing one of the recommendations from the Youth Voice Project. After a few months, I simply could not tolerate the physical and psychological toll. I gingerly walked into my Principal’s office and tried to explain the situation calmly and rationally but couldn’t help but to burst into tears mid-sentence. I didn’t know how devastated I really was until I saw her reaction to my runny face. I frequently think about her consolation and how she completely understood the fear and misery of daily bullying. I’m not sure exactly what happened but I was never harassed again by this particular boy. To that particular Principal (you know who you are) thank you so much. As we start this new school year, I am reminded that in a world where bullying has become more vicious, pervasive, and lethal, we as mental health providers need to further examine this difficult subject and our students need more educators like my Principal.
Arjune Rama is a resident physician in psychiatry at Yale University School of Medicine. You can follow him on Twitter at @arjunerama
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Menâ€™s Fall Fashion
By Priya M. James
A man’s fall wardrobe can typically be put together with a few classic staples. Just like the color schemes in women’s clothing, the color in men’s clothing transition from light to dark for the fall. Dark brown, deep blue, mustard yellow, tangerine orange, shades of gray, and deep red are all color trends for men’s clothing this season. Light colored denim should be stored away by now, while classic dark denim should be worn to enhance the deeper colors found in sweaters and shirts of the season. Dark denim is also more versatile than light denim, because it can be worn with casual or dressier shirts; making it easy to change from a casual daytime outﬁt to one for a night out. Another article of clothing that should be a staple in every man’s closet is a navy or black sweater. They can be worn alone for a casual look or over a collared shirt for a more dressy appearance. Likewise, blazers are essential and versatile pieces for men this fall. They can be worn during the day for business meetings or at night for a date, a dinner party, or a night out on the town. For a more distinct look try a textured blazer, like one made from corduroy. A lot of men shy away from scarves unless they are in very cold weather, but scarves come in heavy and light fabrics, so they can be worn in all types of weather. They also come in different styles, so they are a great accessory to change up any outﬁt. Pea coats are a classic apparel item that not only keep you warm, but also create a chic look. Like with all coats, ﬁt and especially length are important, so shorter men should choose a pea coat that ends a few inches below the waist, as seen in the pictured coat from Nordstrom. Bridge coats (long pea coats) will create the illusion of short legs. These classics combined with styles that reﬂect your personality will create a distinguishing and brilliant fall look.
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. www.fashionmepretty.com www.facebook.com/PriyaMJamesFashionConsulting
H&M Hennes & Mauritz AB (Photographer: Kacper Kasprzyk) and Nordstrom, Inc.
By Priya M. James
Metropolitan Cooking Show Foodie Buzz With Celebrity Chefs at
By Ian Mellor-Crummey Houston’s food scene is on a meteoric rise, and on September 15-16, we received a taste of the future. The second annual Metropolitan Cooking and Entertainment Show, presented by the Houston Chronicle and held at the Reliant Center, was abuzz with thousands of excited foodies hoping to catch a glimpse of national celebrity chefs and local legends alike. This year, guests were treated to appearances by Paula Deen, Giada De Laurentiis, Jacques Pepin, and Martie Duncan, as well as local celebrities Hugo Ortega, Kiran Verma, Michael Cordúa, Randy Evans, Rebecca Masson, Ronnie Killen, and Jamie Zelko. Walking into the cavernous event hall, the enormity of the show was immediately apparent. Columns upon columns of vendors expanded to ﬁll the entire space, displaying a dazzling array of cutlery, spice mixes, prepared foods, pots and pans, and other culinary accoutrements. A general admission ticket offered access to every one of the over 150 vendors presenting at the show, as well as the Cooking Theater, where one could watch live cooking demonstrations from local chefs, and the HEB Tasting and Entertaining Workshops, where those lucky enough to grab a seat could watch exhibitions on everything from knife skills to sari-tying to party decorating. Those exhausted by all of the show’s activities could wade their way through the crowd to the Houston Chronicle Style lounge, where attendees could give their feet a break by making use of the plush couches and chairs and meet writers from the Chronicle, as well as learn about the Chronicle’s new Style section, which will be debuting soon. Of course, the highlight of the show took place in the Celebrity Theater, where Paula,
Jacques, and Giada entertained their fans. Depending on which celebrity was performing, the experience changed drastically. Giada, as bubbly and animated as usual, tried to include the audience as much as possible by bringing up volunteers to help prepare her dishes and by ﬁelding questions about her life, family, cooking, and show. Some of her responses were educational, like her warning against using truffle oil, while others were simply charming anecdotes about her personal life, such as her sharing her ﬁrst memories cooking pizza with her grandfather at the age of ﬁve. In contrast, Paula’s demonstration was less like a family gathering and more like a rodeo, complete with raucous cheering and southern festivity. Paula displayed her trademark sass throughout, and even brought out her precious Javanese dog Lulu to perform tricks for the audience. The one constant, regardless of the celebrity, was that every experience in the Celebrity Theater was amazing and unique, and not a single guest left disappointed. Overall, the Metro Cooking and Entertainment Show brought enough activities to appeal to anyone’s tastes, though trying to keep track of all of the special appearances and events was a tad daunting. What could have easily taken up an entire week was packed into just two days and it was over just as quickly as it began. As Houston’s food scene continues to grow, we can only expect more spectacular events such as this to ﬁnd their way into the city. Though the Metro Cooking Show has only just ended, many more amazing culinary opportunities loom on the horizon, and I, for one, cannot wait.
Ian Mellor-Crummey is a freelance writer and photographer. His photography recently appeared in Houston Center for Photography’s Collaborations IX: Aging. He is currently a senior at St. John’s School. (email@example.com)
Reduce, reuse, recycle is the mantra of sustainability. For biggest and most lasting impact, there are four parts of the equation. Rethink, reduce, reuse, and recycle. First rethinking processes and our behaviors before having to reduce, reuse, and recycle makes most sense.
By Tajana Mesic
BEING MORE ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY CAN BE GOOD FOR YOU:
SUSTAINABILITY 2.0 Which approach best describes your investment philosophy? Top-down approach focused on key sectors? Bottom-up approach focused on cash ﬂow? While picking your stocks and bonds, are you directing you investment capital toward a more just, sustainable, and healthy world? Financial storms raging from 2006 to 2008 closed down over 200 mortgage investment banks, real estate investment trusts and commercial banks. Many were caught in the global economic turmoil with no place to hide. Social issues of yesterday became today’s economic problems. As companies lost their footing, Americans lost their jobs, lifelong earnings, and pensions. Numerous instances of accounting fraud and other scandals have eroded trust in company leadership. We were all craving something else. Authenticity, focus on values, transparency, and trust. In the investment world, a paradigm shift was underway and took shape of values-based investing, impact investing, socially responsible investing (SRI)
or green investing. It applies to investments which deliver capital growth alongside social impact. Your money works to provide value to you and the communities and businesses it is invested in. Where does this type of investing come from and how can it beneﬁt me, you will ask. Are these funds easily available? The roots of values-based investing can be traced back centuries. For generations, investors whose traditions embrace peace and nonviolence have avoided investing in enterprises that proﬁt from products designed to harm fellow human beings. In recent history, the ranks of socially conscious investors swelled in response to environmental disasters, pressing global issues, including poverty, pollution, climate change, and fair labor practices. In terms of availability, more than 250 mutual funds are available for socially conscious investors. Sustainable and responsible investment options are increasingly being offered
The Sustainability 2.0 column will help you by sharing resources, discussing trends and bringing you the latest and greatest on how you can be part of the solution. We will discuss energy, out of the box water conservation, socially responsible investing, eco-tourism, healthy eating, and collaborative consumption.
Photo: Tajana Mesic within retirement plans, and hundreds of asset managers now promote their ability to manage responsibly invested portfolios. Socially responsible investors share a vision of healthy ecosystems and healthy communities. They recognize that how they direct their investment capital can have a signiﬁcant impact on their communities domestically and internationally — positive or negative. Investing in such cases becomes about integrating values with proﬁtable investment decision-making. Sustainable and responsible investing incorporates environmental, social, and governance (ESG) criteria into the investment process. Using these criteria, investors identify well managed companies with the strongest demonstrated performance in areas of environmental sustainability, social responsibility, and corporate governance. In this system, companies that practice corporate social responsibility operate at a signiﬁcant competitive advantage, which is a driver of revenue, of stability, and of shareholder value. The sustainable investment industry has led business across three developmental phases in the past thirty years: During the ﬁrst phase, investors were primarily following the “Do No Harm” approach of avoiding companies in their portfolio that were environmentally negligent, or that produced harmful products like tobacco or alcohol. During the subsequent “Doing Well by Doing Good” phase, many companies worked to reduce costs and enhance proﬁts through pollution prevention, waste minimization, energy efficiency, and other relatively simple business strategies. We are currently in the third phase, “Sustainability”. In this phase, progressive companies integrate sustainability into their operations and advocate transparency. Sustainability practices drive top line growth by encouraging innovation, increasing sales, improving customer retention, attracting talent, and offering competitive advantage. Socially responsible investors seek out companies of the future — companies working in more sustainable industries, whose executive teams have demonstrated a commitment to accountability and ethical practices. Those companies have a reduced risk proﬁle and present a safer and more proﬁtable investment to the prospective investor. Recent studies have indicated that voluntary disclosure of greenhouse gas emis-
sions [GHG] result in a higher share price for the enterprise. The concept is fairly simple: If an enterprise discloses its environmental impact, the investment community can “price” the risk of potential problems. By being able to price the risk, the investment community ultimately rewards the disclosure, as it relates to their competition. On the other hand, if an enterprise does not disclose its environmental impact, the investment community prices the enterprise as a greater investment risk. The bottom line: investors will price according to the amount of disclosure. If they don’t know what’s happening, the risk is greater. Consequently, those that voluntarily disclose their activities (related to environmental activities in this case) enjoy a greater share price. So don’t be afraid to engage in the practice of corporate social responsibility, business for social responsibility, sustainability, sustainable business, double bottom line, triple bottom line, compassionate capitalism, green business, ethical business. Socially responsible investors focus on investments that are both capital growth intense and social impact sensitive. If you are an individual investor, you would do well to seek out socially responsible, higher yield investments. If you are interested in talking with a knowledgeable, experienced investment advisor who can help you integrate your personal values and priorities for the common good into your investment portfolio, visit http://www.bcorporation.net/community/ search” http://www.bcorporation.net/community/search and search for a B Corporation Certiﬁed provider in your area. B Corporation sets a standard for privately held companies — B Corporation certiﬁcation. A third-party certiﬁer, B Lab is a national certifying organization for companies in the United States and beyond. Their seal of approval veriﬁes corporate social responsibility and transparency. There are 574 certiﬁed B Corporations in America, and 15 of those are in Texas. If you are a business owner, seek to safe-proof your business by becoming more sustainable in your operations. So regardless of whether a top-down or bottom-up investment philosophy best describes your investment style, add a little social responsibility to your recipe for success. Your ROI, your kids, and the planet will thank you.
Tajana Mesic is the president and founder of GGG Sustainability Solutions, a speaker and a philanthropist. GGG is a full-service sustainability and resource efficiency consulting ﬁrm operating in Houston and Dallas, 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 Dall0061s and Houston international community.
A New GenerAsian of Music By Deepi Sidhu
It is another Thursday afternoon and as I rush through the doors of the KPFT studio, I am welcomed with a blast of electro-lounge music infused with the soothing sounds of a Hindu bhajan. The song is then seamlessly mixed into an up-tempo Arabic song with a dubstep vibe. Above it all, the chatter in studio is as non-stop and organic as the music.
Welcome to GenerAsian Radio. It all began 10 years ago when Yogi Goyal and I met and decided we wanted to create a music show for our generation. We needed a show that represented the musical tastes of those of us raised on traditional Indian music: classical, religious, Bollywood, or bhangra, and the sounds of music we listened to with our friends: hip-hop, dance, house, rock, etc. Each side of us was represented on the radio, the East and the West, but never both at the same time. Meanwhile, KPFT, a local Paciﬁca affiliate on the FM dial, was serendipitously looking to add more international ﬂavor in its programming. Jumping on this opportunity, we hatched a business plan and pitched our idea for a hipster South Asian show to the station. KPFT gave us a two-hour tryout during a fund drive in March 2002. Although I had radio experience in high school and Yogi was an established wedding and club DJ, we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into! Two hours later we had raised $1200 for KPFT and
walked out with a regular time slot for our very own show, the ﬁrst of its kind. Fast forward ten years later and our team has grown with the addition of Alx Patel (who runs our board and mixes with Yogi), Nibu Abraham (who scouts new music and lines up guests), and new member Devan Shah (who gives a much needed hand when things get crazy). Our weekly playlists are as varied as our personalities, each of us bringing a different sound to the show whether it is dubstep, bhangra, house, or underground. The underlying premise of our show involves mixing favorite genres together such as bhangra and dubstep, as Alx often does, which we affectionately have coined “dhol step”. Occasionally, the music is not even Indian, just a great world beat that seems to ﬁt the mood and vibe of our show. Over the years we have been fortunate enough to meet and interview some phenomenal guests: Bally Sagoo, DJ Cheb-i-Sabbah, Karsh Kale, Jazzy B, RDB, Spy from Cairo, Midival
Photos: Yogi Goyal, Deepi Sidhu
From left to right: Alx Patel Surj (of RDB) Manj (of RDB) Deepi Sidhu Kuly (of RDB) Yogi Goyal Nibu Abraham
Punditz, DJ Rekha, to name a few. We have had some favorite moments as well. One time Indian comedian Russell Peters stopped by to promote his comedy show but ended up taking over the turntables instead. He was a former DJ and apparently wanted to get back to his roots. Another time we had an unsigned Punjabi singer Bikram Singh, now a world-renowned bhangra megastar, sing for us live on air accompanied only by a dhol. The entire performance was simply amazing and I like to think we “discovered” him ﬁrst. To this day, Bikram remains a good friend of the show and always donates his music to KPFT fund drives. We always love to promote emerging artists and local events, often giving out free CDs or tickets to the Museum of Fine Arts, plays, concerts, or the latest shows. Some of my favorite giveaways have been: an official screenplay for Slumdog Millionaire, Zakir Hussain tickets, and Bend It Like Beckham soccer shorts and water bottles. Heading into the second decade of GenerAsian Radio, we sometimes wonder what the next step for our
show might be. For now, we enjoy showcasing our eclectic mix of Indian and world music, giving local artists a platform to express themselves, and promoting community events around town. GenerAsian Radio embodies how hip, worldly, cosmopolitan, and fun Houston can be… kind of like our music. We love bringing our own fusion of Indian music to a new GenerAsian of listeners. GenerAsian Radio can be heard every Thursday from 1:00 PM to 3:00 PM on KPFT 90.1 FM or online at www.kpft.org
From left to right: Nibu Abraham Yogi Goyal Alx Patel
In addition to being a psychologist, keynote speaker Dr. Frederick Frese is also a consumer, having been diagnosed with schizophrenia as a young Marine Corps officer. Despite his disability, he was able to earn his degrees, found the Community and State Hospital Section of the American Psychological Association, hold psychology clinical faculty appointments, author/edit many articles, book chapters and books, as well as serve on national Boards and SARDAA’s steering committee.
SARDAA’s Annual Workshop and Beneﬁt Dinner
Schizophrenics Anonymous (SA) Founder Joanne Verbanic right) presents the SA Founder’s Award to Jim C and Nora B for their extraordinary volunteer work with SA Amazing and versatile instrumentalist, gifted composer and Native Texan recording artist Tom Braxton and SARDAA Founder Linda Stalters with Pam Liipfert and Christian Liipfert - winners of the Smooth Jazz Cruise “Greatest Party At Sea” with Tom Braxton and the Stalters
The organization SARDAA (Shattering Stigma-Realizing Recovery Schizophrenia and Related Disorders Alliance of America) hosted its annual Conference, Workshop, and Fundraising Dinner at the Houston Marriott Energy Corridor on September 29, 2012. The event called for recovery and hope with respected panelists, activists, and academia offering resources for those with serious mental illnesses. SARDAA Board Chair Linda Stalters welcomed guests from all across the nation. Nora Baylerian and Jim Cronin received the Schizophrenic Anonymous Founder’s Award presented by SA Founder Joanne Verbanic; the Honorable Patrick Kennedy was the recipient of the Shattering Stigma – Realizing Recovery Award presented by Linda Stalters. Funds raised from a live auction will beneﬁt programs, education, and resources for those with mental health illnesses. Entertainment at the Jazz On My Mind beneﬁt dinner was a soulful saxophone recital by Tom Braxton.
Award winning Formula One Kart Racer, Cord Secrest presents his signed helmet to auction winner Marie Dragan Stephanie Southall proudly claims her prize of the Houston Motor Club Redline Rally. She will drive ﬁve supercars with highend stops
Photos: Krishna Giri
Getting Ahead of Breast Cancer By Julie Nangia, MD Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women, including Asian women. One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer. In 2012, it is estimated that 226,870 women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer. There has been progress in curing breast cancer because of advances in prevention, early detection, and better treatment options. Screening and Prevention Breast cancer has very good screening available so that it can be detected at early stages when it is more often cured. Women should do monthly self-breast exam starting at age 20. It is very important that women learn early in life what their breasts feel like so that if a new lump appears they can seek medical attention. The most common reasons for women not doing breast exams are that they forget or they don’t know how — so, be proactive and put it on your calendar or ask your doctor how to do them! It is also recommended to start clinical breast exams at age 20 (performed by physicians) and annual mammography at age 40. Mammograms can detect breast cancer when it is stage 0 and too small to be felt. If there is a family history of breast cancer or ovarian cancer in more than 2 relatives on the same side of the family or a personal history of a breast biopsy showing a precancerous lesion (i.e. atypical hyperplasia or lobular carcinoma in situ) a risk assessment is recommended. This is done by a medical oncologist, preferably in a breast center. For high risk woman, a medication called tamoxifen or raloxifene can be used to decrease risk of breast cancer. If a woman does not have health insurance she can still get mammograms. The Rose (281-484-4708) will do mammograms for $100 or free if the family income is low. Lifestyle changes can signiﬁcantly decrease a woman’s risk of breast cancer. Many cancers could be prevented with simple lifestyle changes! It is recommended to exercise 3-5 hours per week. Walking is very good exercise and this can be accomplished
by walking 30 minutes every day or 1 hour every other day and is best done if it becomes part of a daily routine. Exercise decreases breast cancer risk by decreasing estrogen levels in the body. Women should also stay thin and maintain a normal body weight. When a woman is overweight, the extra fat is converted into excess estrogen in the body, which increases the risk of developing breast cancer. The best way to remember this is that overweight men develop breasts! To calculate your ideal body mass index and to see what your ideal weight should be go to http:// www.halls.md/ideal-weight/body.htm There are no speciﬁc types of foods that have been associated with breast cancer risk but a low calorie, healthy diet is recommended. Alcohol has been associated with increased risk of breast cancer because alcohol causes excess estrogen in the body. It is recommended to consume less than 3 alcoholic beverages per week. If you drink alcohol start taking folic acid — one study showed that in women who drink alcohol, some of the negative effects can be reversed by taking a simple vitamin, folic acid 800ug daily. Diagnosis and Treatment Most women are diagnosed with breast cancer because of an abnormal mammogram or a palpable mass. The initial diagnosis is made by mammogram and ultrasound followed by a biopsy. At that time a woman would see a breast surgeon or a medical oncologist. Stage 1-3 breast cancer is curable when the cancer is limited to the breast and the lymph nodes in the armpit. Treatment would include some type of surgery and perhaps chemotherapy, radiation, and anti-hormonal therapy. There are many different types of breast cancer and each of these types is treated in different ways. Stage 4 breast cancer is not curable, but is treatable and a woman can live for many years. More information can be found at http:// www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/types/ breast or http://www.bcm.edu/breastcenter/
Julie Nangia, MD is an Assistant Professor of Medicine at the Lester and Sue Smith Breast Center at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, TX. Dr. Nangia is board certiﬁed in internal medicine and oncology and specializes in the care of patients with breast cancer, with a special interest in breast cancer prevention and hereditary breast cancer. She also serves on the board of the Indian American Cancer Network (IACAN) who’s mission is to educate and support the Indian American community.
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Jon Faulkner, Maya Puri, Savita Rao, Swati Narayan, Geeta Anand, Shanthini Rubin, Raj Patel, Latika Bathija, Yolanda Celestine, Sabina Walia, Gaurav Khandelwal, and Rick Pal; 2012 Ek Disha Board of Directors
Ek Disha’s Baazi Ek Disha’s Baazi, on Saturday, Sept. 15, drew a capacity crowd at the fantastic House of Blues. Dozens of beautiful women, many donning eye-catching Indian inspired attire, accompanied by suit-andtuxedo-wearing gentlemen, began entering the elegant Foundation Room, for a chance to support Ek Disha and its various projects. The evening began with a special VIP dinner to honor the sponsors and underwriters of Baazi. Those in attendance listened intently to Ek Disha board members, Raj Patel, Swati Narayan, Rick Pal, and Jon Faulkner, discuss the various projects and partners Ek Disha is involved with, and the importance of continued support. After a brief video presentation, and live auction, guests were treated to a fusion dinner, complete with a delectable bread pudding with an Indian twist! Mr. Gaurav Khandelwal, board member and CEO of ChaiOne, and underwriter for the VIP dinner spoke brieﬂy about social entrepreneurship and the value of giving back. For the remainder of the evening, Baazi guests were treated to the comedy routine of Paul Varghese, dancing to music spun by DJ Samia, mouth watering hors d’oeuvres and a premium open bar, and casino games with an opportunity to parlay winnings into tickets for three fantastic raffle prizes. More than 250 people attended the inaugural event, exceeding expectations. At print time, Baazi proceeds totaled close to $51,000, one hundred percent of which will go directly to Ek Disha projects. Ek Disha is very grateful for the numerous sponsors, underwriters, and volunteers who helped make Baazi a huge success.
Guests enjoying a game of blackjack
Rakesh Narayan, Swati Narayan, Raj Patel, and Ankit Patel; Baazi Co-Chairs and spouses
Rick Pal & Jon Faulkner
Guests dancing til the early hours of the morning
Sneha Merchant, Nick Merchant, Hiru Mathur, Shenila Nassem, Zeenat Mitha, Catherine Le, Peta Chen Ledbetter, Jack Joe, & Faye Chin
The Asian American Family Services (AAFS) Annual Golden Ball was held at the Hotel ZaZa on September 20, 2012. The event raised awareness of mental health and honored Luminary Ambassadors Dr. Hiru Merchant, Dr. PetaGay Chen Ledbetter, Viet Hoang & Kim Szeto Shenila Humayun, Catherine Le, Jack Joe, and Naushir Merchant who collectively raised $40 million to beneďŹ t the organization. Dr. Hiru Mathur won the Luminary Ambassador Award. Gala chair was Viet Hoang, and co-chairs for the Luminary Ambassador Program were Sneha Merchant and Faye Chin. Photos-Carlos Pena
Munir Ibrahim, Punita Ponnadurai, Zeb Mamsa
Gala Chair Viet Hoang, Mayor Allen Owen, AAFS Board President Dr. Peter Chang
Asian American Family Service (AAFS), a mental health and social service agency for the diverse multi-ethnic Asian American community in Texas, celebrated its Luminary Ambassadors fashionably at the Diamonds and Denim Victory Party held at BLU in Sugar Land recently. The ambassadors dazzled in MABY Jeans, the embellished couture denim wear by designer Tanaz Choudhury who donated 30% of sales to AAFS.
Jack Joe, Dr. Dorothy Wong, Tanaz Choudhury, Sneha Merchant, Shenila Naseem, Zeenat Mitha, Dr Peta-Gay Chen Ledbetter, Rosie Arizpe, Dr. Hiru Mathur, Catherine Le, and Naushir Merchant
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Gripes and moans, rants and raves. HUM Magazine’s new page Caviar & Cabbages is all about what you like and dislike about Houston. In a few lines, have your say and we shall print your words. Team HUM welcomes you to vent grievances, and/or heap kudos on our fair city. The following contributions are from our readers.
I love the afternoons in museums and the theater district, the live oaks lining South and North Boulevards. I love Southern literature and Texan writers like Katherine Ann Porter, Patricia Highsmith, Sandra Cisneros, and Leon Hale. Brazos Bookstore is another favorite! Love bluebonnets, Astros, Texans, and Rockets. Rothko Chapel and Menil collection are places I visit with my students. I enjoy the restaurants, cosmopolitan ambiance of the city, azaleas in Bayou Bend Park! I loved the ready wit of the late governor Ann Richards. I hate the July and August heat scrambling my brains, the lack of public transport, and inconsiderate drivers. Latha Viswanathan Writer, Teacher
I love the variety of restaurants, shopping malls, and entertainment Houston offers. I love to eat out and I love to shop. I have lived in Houston all of my life and the variety of shopping centers have always intrigued me. I love the weather in Houston. I love the fact that my whole family lives in Houston. The joy of knowing there’s always love and support, and that you can just get in the car and drive over to visit your family is priceless.
Sonji Austin Pharmacist
What I adore about Houston is the abundance of restaurants. For the most part, people are nicer here, and kinder. What I dislike is the terrible traffic! Jonathan Blake Designer – Haute Couture
Send your rants and raves to firstname.lastname@example.org
A Parent’s Best Revenge Is To Have Grandkids By Helen Buntting Langton When I had my ﬁrst child I was so awed by this miracle that I wanted to stand at the top of the mountain and declare my achievement to the whole world. I immediately started planning her ﬁrst birthday party. It was a well-orchestrated party, ﬁt for my princess. It didn’t matter that the recipient of all this fanfare was mostly unaware of the fuss, got rather annoyed by all the people cooing and fussing over her and actually passed out at some time during the festivities. She didn’t even have the graciousness to know how to blow out that very important ﬁrst candle, responding ﬁrst by spluttering spit on her beautiful cake, then bursting into tears at all the noisy people cheering her on. I was so worn out by the end of that ﬁrst birthday that I decided it was the ﬁrst and last. I didn’t count on the Pandora’s box I had opened. A few months later the little mite’s favorite pastime was to look at her birthday photos saying, ‘’’nother birthday party?’’, with the sweetest smile on her face. Thus began the endless treadmill of birthday parties. And because I didn’t have the self-preservation of a gnat, I went on to have three more babies. Four birthdays a year times eighteen and you have spent enough energy and money to make a considerable dent in the national debt. In South Africa, as long as I had sweets (candy), biscuits (cookies), soft drinks, chips, cake, and games, I was set. One thing that always miffed me was the unmitigated joy on the faces of parents as they dropped off their treasures into
my care for three or four hours. Some parents would conveniently ‘’forget’’ to pick up their kids, stretching the babysitting to an extra hour. I managed to get away with my economic version of birthday parties until my second child turned eight. I thought I’d done a reasonable job of his party considering that I’m not much of a cake decorator. In fact I was quite proud of the ﬁgure 8 that I’d managed to make out of two round cakes. His opinion differed and my ego was considerably dented when he looked askance at me after the party and asked ‘’Is that the best you can do?’’ Well, I told him, that was the last party he was ever having as it was a privilege, not a right! And how could he be so ungrateful? At the time I really meant to stick to my guns to teach him a lesson. Then I had a new baby that year. The subsequent guilt feelings about jostling him into the middle child position found me giving him a much improved birthday party the following year. We moved to New Zealand and I learned a whole new set of rules regarding parties. Junk food only was not de rigueur. Childrens’ parties had been hijacked by the politically correct brigade. I had to serve real food. This included fruit slices and chopped raw vegetables with an appropriate dip. I always had a few, tiny bowls of candy, which surprise, surprise, were ravished ﬁrst. Kids do not seem to understand the importance of a balanced diet. The organized parties at different
venues were a blessing because the entertainment and food was built into the party. I did, unwisely, hold many birthday parties at home. This was the boy’s excuse to invite the whole class and then some. It was quite normal to ﬁnd thirty kids running around, throwing stuff at each other, trying to annihilate each other and generally giving me a migraine. I was fortunate in that the former eight year old ,who had once denigrated my birthday party efforts, showed a knack for entertaining the troops. Exhausted by the end of the party, I could barely wait for the last kid to go so I could have a nervous breakdown in peace. As the younger boys entered their teens, all-night game parties became their favorite. Computer generated battles, multiple shoot-outs and eating took place all night while hubby and I made a feeble attempt to sleep. I consoled myself that they could be out drinking hard alcohol and stealing cars. My former eight year old detractor (now in his 20’s) looked at them in disgust and said, ‘’What a bunch of boring nerds!” I smiled serenely because for me, the endless birthday party planning is almost done. His own seven year old already expects daddy to top the party he organized last year. As I sip my coffee from my easy chair I hear him stressing over plans for this year’s birthday. A parent’s best revenge is to have grandkids. Been there, done that, have too many t-shirts...
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 email@example.com
Aanya, 11, Ansh, 9, and Aashna, 9 months old, are the cute kids of Arpita and Amit Bhandari
Children. From the day that you bring them into the world, it’s a rotating and constant collage of emotions. They’re your pride and joy. They color your world with butterﬂy kisses and grubby hugs. They grow into disgruntled teenagers and ﬁll you with untold anxiety. And before you know it, they’re off to college, starting new jobs, getting married, and bringing their own little ones into your world. Every stage of their lives is celebratory. Share your memories with us at HUMwee. We welcome photographs and captions describing those precious moments.
Biking together is FUN! Siblings Sayali and Pranav are the children of Gayathri and Narendra Rao of Sugar Land
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Baku - Sister City of Houston During his Presidency (1953-1961), Dwight D. Eisenhower proposed a “people-to-people” network between the United States and other countries in an effort to diminish the chance of future world conflicts. Local municipalities in the U.S. were encouraged to develop partnerships with cities in other countries to create global cooperation, cultural understanding and economic development. These programs were to be based on two-way communication that would mutually benefit both communities. That’s when Houston’s Mayor Louis Welch took the first steps to create a bond between two of the world’s oil capitals - Houston and Baku. The official relationship - the HoustonBaku Sister City Association (HBSCA) - was established in April 1976. Since then, HBSCA has operated on a volunteer basis as a non-profit organization. It is under the umbrella of Houston Sister Cities International and works in close partnership with the Houston Mayor’s office as well as the Azerbaijan Embassy in Washington, D.C. The history of the city of Baku goes back to the great antiquity, though the exact date of its origin is not known. Archeological excavations carried out in the city of Baku and its vicinities proved the existence of a previous settlement there before the current era. Since its early days, the knowledge of Baku’s “burning soil” (its oils and gas deposits) has spread well beyond its borders. The Medieval written sources related to Baku, invariably referred to “the eternal flames” in its vicinities. These flames, along with the waves of Caspian Sea, on whose coast Baku is located, are now depicted on the City Seal of Baku. In 1813 the region was annexed from Iran to Russia as a result of the Russo-Persian War. Eventually Baku became a capital city of Baku province, which consisted of roughly Eastern part of modern Azerbaijan. Oil extraction played an important role in the development of the city. In 1872, oil reserves were transferred to individuals by auction. The oil fever could be compared only with the gold fever in Klondike. An intensive exploitation of the Baku oil fields provided a big flow of capitals of foreign oil companies. Within a
short period of time departments and representations of Swiss, English, French, Belgian, German and American firms were established in Baku, the most famous among them being the companies of the Nobels and the Rothschilds. It was in Baku that the first oil well in the world was drilled in 1848, the first tankers for oil transportation were constructed (1880-1885), the first oil pipeline (Baku-Batumi, 1897-1907) was laid. By the beginning of the 20th century almost half of the oil reserves in the world were being extracted in Baku. Baku was developing not only economically, but culturally as well. In 1864, the first national public library was founded. In 1873 the first Azerbaijani National Theatre was founded. The first newspaper began publication in 1875. In 1908 the first opera in the East “Leili and Majnun” was staged. In 1991 the nation of Azerbaijan gained independence from the Soviet Union, and Baku became the capital of the new republic. The signing of a Production Sharing Agreement in 1994 covering the Baku offshore oil fields created the need for an additional export route for Caspian crude oil. Construction of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline, the second longest oil pipeline in the world started in early 2003. The pipeline was officially opened on May 25, 2005. Trade ties between Houston and Azerbaijan are strong with more than 180 Houston-based firms doing business with Azerbaijan. 33 businesses headquartered in Houston operate 40 subsidiaries in Azerbaijan, and the total trade between Azerbaijan and Houston was valued at $171.2 million in 2009.
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