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Desi Children's Bookstore By Anupama R. Oza

Holiday Cooking By Malar Gandhi

Amrita Pritam: Grooves of My Soul By Monita Soni

INDIA CURRENTS Celebrating 30 Years of Excellence

“ S houl d” Issue e h T

Books to Read

Movies to Watch

Insights Not to Miss For fun and reflection over the holidays! By Shilpa Sachdev and Shruthi Rao

Thoughts to Ponder

dec ’16 - jan ’17 • vol. 30 , no. 9 • • $3.95

CONGRATULATIONS ZAKIR HUSSAIN LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT HONOREE SFJAZZ GALA 18 JANUARY 2017 The pre-eminent classical tabla virtuoso of our time, Zakir Hussain is an international phenomenon in the field of percussion and is one of the world’s most esteemed and influential musicians. His groundbreaking collaborations Shakti and Remember Shakti with John McLaughlin, Diga Rhythm Band and Planet Drum with Mickey Hart, in trio with Béla Fleck and Edgar Meyer and with Herbie Hancock. We are proud to present Zakir Hussain with the SFJAZZ Lifetime Achievement Award.


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What Can You Do Outside of “You?”

ooking inward to re-calibrate personal ambitions is an inevitable part of the holiday season. “New Year Resolutions”—headlines scream, talk show hosts discuss, and school-age children bring lists that need to be filled out. My lists in years past have been filled with items too mundane to merit discussion. Even as more than half the country looks forward to an unexpected future, it is indeed time for all citizens to give the new President-elect a chance to govern. This election served to remind us that what happens in Washington can and will have a bearing on all Americans. It is incumbent on each citizen to be ever vigilant about the new changes. This can be done best by having New Year resolutions that include “we” goals along with “my” goals. Once the new President assumes power, Senate hearings will be held for appointees to lead various federal departments. Examining the backgrounds of the professionals who are nominated for key posts will be an important task. Once you know how you want your representative in Congress to vote on these appointments, reaching out via a phone call to the local office is the most effective way to voice your opinion. Congressional staffers routinely ignore posts made on social media sites of representatives. I have called my Congressional representative twice before on important legislative issues and the staffer took down my contact information. I also received an email after the Congressional vote, informing me that my representative voted to support my position. Beyond this, however, where we can make an immediate and tangible difference is letting our voice be heard within our local communities. Consider attending your city’s School Board meetings, city council meetings, and planning commission meetings. If excessive development is causing traffic jams in your neighborhood, you cannot simply sit back and expect more active city residents to pick up the cudgel for you. Become that active city resident. The list of issues where one can make a difference is long, giving us the choice to pursue issues close to one’s heart. Childhood poverty, educational inequality, homelessness, domestic violence, gay

rights—this is just a short list of several macro-issues facing our communities. As Indian-Americans we receive high marks for keeping Indian traditions alive. Indian Independence Day celebrations in local parks, cricket matches in community playgrounds, language classes being taken for high-school credit through non-profits —the list is long and each item on that list needs to be lauded for the volunteerism involved. By giving time to these causes, we send clear signals to our children about the Indian values that we hold dear. When it comes to “American” traditions, our achievements do not hold up so well. We pay taxes, organize Super Bowl parties, and put up Christmas trees. What of the volunteerism needed within our communities? Should we not spend time volunteering through organizations that benefit “all” Americans? City police departments, libraries, homeless shelters and food banks need help. In fact, non-profits often need help managing technological resources, a task

that many of you will be qualified to do. A friend once told me that conversations at the food bank where she volunteered had completely changed how she looked at grocery store prices. As Winston Churchill put it, “We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give.” Being visible in the community is an important step forward. Community leaders, teachers, police personnel and non-profit leaders should feel that we, as Indian-Americans, not only make use of the services provided to us, but that we also actively provide services through the donation of time, a commodity more valuable than money. As I said earlier, the question is— “What can you do outside of “you?” The answer lies with you, our readers.n

Nirupama Vaidhyanathan, Managing Editor



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Dec ’16-Jan ’17 | West Coast Edition | | 3

INDIA CURRENTS Dec '16 - Jan '17 • vol 30 • no 9 3 | EDITORIAL What Can You Do Outside of “You?" By Nirupama Vaidhyanathan

LIFESTYLE West Coast Edition

Find us on


40 | RECIPES Holiday Cooking By Malar Gandhi

8 | BUSINESS Three Common Myths About Global Management Practices By Nitin Deo

42 | BOOKS Review of A House for Happy Mothers By Jeanne Fredriksen

10 | POLITICS How Can the DNC Rise from the Ashes? By Rishi Kumar

47 | TRAVEL Down Memory Lane in Manali By Neha Kirpal

22 |NOW AND THEN A Fake White World By Jaya Padmanabhan 38 | COMMENTARY Fact and Fiction Converge By Melanie Kumar 46 | PERSPECTIVE To Those Who Feel Bad About the Trump Win By Sriram Dakshinamurthy

24 | POETRY Amrita Pritam: Grooves of My Soul By Monita Soni

16 | The Should


Books to read, Movies to watch and Thoughts to ponder Prominent Indian-Americans Share Experiences

By Shilpa Sachdev and Shruthi Rao

51 | ON INGLISH Langur Around the Bend By Kalpana Mohan 72 | HEALTHY LIFE Yoga: Walking on a Path Beyond the Asanas By Geetika Pathania Jain 78| THE LAST WORD Democrats, Thanks for the Apocalypse By Sarita Sarvate

4 | INDIA CURRENTS | West Coast Edition | Dec ’16-Jan ’17

33 | Films Top 10 Hindi Movies of 2016 By Aniruddh Chawda

56 | Feature Desi Children's Bookstore By Anupama R. Oza, Mangla Oza and Raj Oza

60 | MUSIC The Rasa of Belonging By Priya Das 62 |RELATIONSHIP DIVA Three Mistakes Men Make with Women By Jasbina Ahluwalia 74 | DEAR DOCTOR Childless and seeking Meaningful Connections By Alzak Amlani

DEPARTMENTS 6 28 29 30 64

| Letters to the Editor | Ask a Lawyer | Visa Dates | Tax Talk | Cultural Calendar

HEAD OFFICE 2670 S. White Rd., #165, San Jose, CA 95148 Phone: (408) 324-0488 Fax: (408) 324-0477 Email: Publisher: Vandana Kumar (408) 913-1612 Managing Editor: Nirupama Vaidhyanathan (408) 913-1610 Social Media & Events Editor: Mona Shah (408) 913-1617 Diversity Ambassador: Somanjana Chatterjee Advertising Department Managing Director: Vijay Rajvaidya (408) 324-0488 Operations Manager: Anu Barman (408) 913-1615 Graphic Designer: Nghia Vuong Cover Design: Nghia Vuong WASHINGTON, D.C. BUREAU (Managed by IC New Ventures,LLC) 19709 Executive Park Circle, Germantown, MD 20874 Phone: (202) 709-7010 Fax: (240) 407-4470 Associate Publisher: Asif Ismail INDIA CURRENTS® (ISSN 0896-095X) is published monthly (except Dec/Jan, which is a combined issue) for $19.95 per year by India Currents, 2670 S. White Road, Suite 165, San Jose, CA 95148. Periodicals postage paid at San Jose, CA, and at additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to INDIA CURRENTS, 2670 S. WHITE ROAD, STE. 165, SAN JOSE, CA 95148 Information provided is accurate as of the date of going to press; India Currents is not responsible for errors or omissions. The opinions expressed in our published works are those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions of India Currents Inc., or its editors. Advertising copy, logos, and artwork are the sole responsibility of individual advertisers, not of India Currents. Copyright © 2016 by India Currents All rights reserved. Fully indexed by Ethnic Newswatch




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letters to the editor India Currents Lost!

In the presidential election the losers were not only Hillary Clinton but also President Barack Obama and the First Lady Michelle, who aggressively campaigned using all the available government (public) resources. Many celebrities and a majority of the mainstream media not only backed Clinton heavily but also became Clinton surrogates by leaking questions and sharing information with her. Some of the Indo-American magazines also lost, including India Currents that had broken its 30-year record of not endorsing a candidate. (Vote, India Currents, November 2016) India Currents openly endorsed Hillary Clinton but the way it promoted the Democratic candidate with a frontpage photo and a ‘vote’ tick mark showed how an active campaigner should work. It was obvious that they had not correctly read the anger, frustration, resentment, insecurity, and also anxiety of the vast number of people all over the country. Despite Californians supporting Clinton, it was obvious that the majority of states voted for Trump despite his controversial statements. Hillary Clinton had bigger issues including the e-mail scandal and the Clinton Foundation’s dubious sources of funds. Instead of tackling these issues she kept harping on Trump’s alleged sexist utterances, his blunt stand on illegal immigration from south of the border and Muslims from notorious terrorist states. The country was not interested in these issues. People wanted safety, security, jobs and a strong nation. They were opposed to liberals, leftists, big business, socialists, and special interest groups of opportunists who would continue to fleece the people with tax-and-spend policies. Trump promised to change all of that. His message resonated with the common people. After the elections Clinton supporters converted their shock into anger and frustration disregarding the Constitution and their leader’s assurance that she would accept the outcome of elections. The huge protests showed total defiance and led to disruption of normal life of the people. They insulted the American national flag, but happily waived the Mexican flag. More shocking is the absolute silence of President Obama and Hillary Clinton

about the aggressive demonstrations, and even the petition drive to sway the members of the Electoral College to change their votes. They should condemn such behavior and urge their supporters to accept the results. They will have another opportunity in the next election to try and regain a Democratic majority. Yatindra Bhatnagar, email

You Missed the Call with your Editorial Stance

You missed the call as you doubled down on Clinton in your latest editorial. (Vote, India Currents, November 2016) You completely missed why America is great and everyone wants to come here. When you come here, try not to turn it into the crappy corrupt country you came from. Terry Johnson, email

Can’t Vote—Hope Others Will

I read your editorial endorsing Hilary Clinton. (Vote, India Currents, November 2016). I agree on both counts—about voting for Clinton, as well as the apathy of Indian Americans. As someone who arrived in this country just a year ago, I can only stand by and watch helplessly and hope that people have the sense to go out and vote. Every voice goes a long way in influencing people, and so, though your article might provoke some angry responses, I appreciate your speaking up on this issue. Shruthi Rao, email

Global Understanding

I am an African American man with a touch of East Indian ancestry who was born and raised in this country. So I talk from aspects of my own personal experience. It has been most apparent that this country is still a white male misogynistic country. But some white women and other women have also shown their hating of other women! (Vote, India Currents, November 2016). I would like to add that one does not have to be East Indian full blooded or in part to read India Currents to read and learn more about another culture and be inspired by that to gain a wider global understsanding. Mark Winn, email

6 | INDIA CURRENTS | West Coast Edition | Dec ’16-Jan ’17

Trump is an Honest Man

Your articles are one-sided and appear to favor Hillary. (Vote, India Currents, November 2016) What we have here is a seasoned politician, but with very few accomplishments in the past 30 years, versus a private citizen who has a driving passion for reform in the country. Your articles suggest that character values of Hillary triumph those of Trump. It’s really apples and oranges ! Hillary is a classic corrupt person, who has been involved in numerous scandals involving her husband Bill Clinton when he was Governor of Arkansas. Bill Clinton is a sexual predator, who actually used his White House bedroom for sexual activities, besides the Oval Office. Every Indian knows, or should know that this Bonnie and Clyde team are a hardened set of white collar criminals. They are protected by the corrupt media, who in the meanwhile are out to destroy Trump for his “locker room conversations.” Such recorded conversations are human and natural among men. Even women have such conversations when they get together. Trump is an honest man who will steer and bring better values and prosperity to this country. Forget about the locker room nonsense, because that’s the way men play their games. Anjan Muhury, email

Forgot to Put a Crown on Hillary!

You forgot to put a crown on Hillary Clinton’s head in your latest magazine cover. (India Currents, November 2016) Shame on you for endorsing a corrupt, pathological liar for President of this great country. Anonymous, by mail


Have a thought or opinion to share? Send us an original letter of up to 300 words, and include your name, address, and phone number. Letters are edited for clarity and brevity. Write India Currents Letters, 2670 S. White Road, Suite 165 San Jose 95148 or email:

Dec ’16-Jan ’17 | West Coast Edition | | 7


Three Common Myths About Global Management Practices By Nitin Deo


f you endeavor to sell your company’s products in a global marketplace, my experiences will help you navigate through unspoken cultural messages present in the workplace. I hope to share my perspective on how to “Think Globally and Act Locally.”

Myth No. 1: Everyone understands English I have lived in and done business in Japan and the Asia-Pacific region for over two decades. As a person of Indian origin, I found it very easy to fit into Japanese culture. They admire Indian philosophy and the fact that Buddhism originated in India thousands of years ago. Whether they follow a religious lifestyle or not, they respect the fact that most Indians adhere to a religious practice. Talking about the topic of religion becomes an excellent way to break the ice during otherwise tough business meetings. Also respecting elders, especially if the boss is older, is appreciated in the Japanese workplace. In Japan, business meetings are conducted in English. But, is your understanding of what is being said match with their understanding? When the Japanese customer in a long winded manner says, “Mmmmm, is very difficult for me to convince my is not very this product benefits us...I need more data and more time.” If you walk out of that meeting thinking that he just needs more data and time and the deal is yours, your guess would be wrong! He was rejecting your product. But, he cannot say “No” to you directly—especially since you are a foreigner. Also, unlike English, Japanese is not a definitive language with clear signals for the positive and the negative. If you face this situation in Japan, you are better off walking away from the deal. Then you should follow up by sending your Japanese colleague or middleman to invite that customer for dinner and assure him that you will come back with more

The physical spaces within office buildings might have the ambience of a conference room within an American company. But the work culture, the incentives and subtleties that power that workplace might be vastly different.

data at a later time. He will remember this gesture forever and will definitely meet with you the next time you go there. When I was in charge of business development for Japan, I used to be confused about how to react when the “big” boss attended meetings only to doze through them. I soon learnt that if the boss was alert and asked a lot of questions, it meant something was not going right during the negotiations, whereas dozing off meant that everything was proceeding smoothly! On the other hand, in France, if you don’t get a single question during an entire 45-minute presentation, you might be mentally congratulating yourself thinking —“They agreed with me! They were eating from my palm! They had no questions!” Wrong! If a French professional doesn’t ask probing questions or argue with you, that means they are not interested. And if that happens, you might

8 | INDIA CURRENTS | West Coast Edition | Dec ’16-Jan ’17

want to prep your colleague (if you have a French colleague) to ask a question and then see if the attendees pick up the thread and start asking questions. If they still don’t, you thank them and say goodbye!

Myth No, 2: If I can sell in America, I can sell anywhere in the world There are some countries where customers will make you go through extra scrutiny, rigorous benchmarking, asking for Proof-of-Concept in their environment to make sure your product will work in their company’s technology ecosystem or IT infrastructure—which may be significantly different from many American companies. When you are in Germany, make sure all your calculations are noted to the 4th decimal place. Attendees are bound to take out their calculators and challenge you on numbers—unless you already specify assumptions and test conditions. If you waver in front of them, you might as well bid goodbye to your hopes of selling to them. In the 1950s Ford sent a few cars to test the German market. They soon learnt that wipers were flying off the cars on German highways. Ford engineers were confused by this occurrence, as no such issue was reported here. They soon realized that there were no speed limits on the Auto Bahn in Germany and when the same cars were driven around a racetrack in Detroit, the wipers started flying off when the car speeds exceeded 80 to 90 miles per hour. That’s when wind deflectors for wipers were designed and implemented. If you are conducting business in India, it is good to remind yourself that the buyer needs to feel that they arrived at the decision independently—and not because the decision was forced. Many American companies follow a strict division of labor with technical, business and legal evaluations being carried out by technologists, business users, and lawyers respectively. In India, you have to make sure that man-

agers belonging to various divisions are brought in to sign off on all aspects. In other words, in the U.S. each individual is considered “master of one,” whereas in India, each individual considers himself or herself, “jack of all trades and master of one!”

Myth No, 3: Every company wants to be like an American company In America, taking a risk with a startup to bring in innovative products, methodologies or technologies is a common business practice. However, in Japan, for example, no one wants to be the first, but no one wants to the third either! The trick is to make sure you get the first customer that is influential enough and to make sure all other customers feel like they are the second customer in line! For most Asia-Pacific companies, growth is carefully managed because growing a company and hiring employees is done very carefully. Most of those companies hire slowly and almost never

fire. A few decades ago, a large Japanese corporation was going through financial trouble, so the management decided to cut the yearly bonus for the workers and the workers went on strike. But their strike was very different. Unlike other countries where strike means no work, these workers started working double—sometimes triple—shifts and production more than doubled. In just two weeks the management came to their knees, begged workers not to produce any more and gave them bonuses by cutting expenses elsewhere. The point is that local culture and philosophies of different people impact buyer behavior and hence every company is not like an American company nor do they want to be and one must comprehend the differences to find success. Even while dealing with major markets like Asia, people very often lump a number of countries together. But if you look closer you will realize that in Asia, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, South Korea, Taiwan and China are completely different when it comes to buyer behavior. Similarly, there is no such thing as a “European” market— there is a French market, German market,

Italian market, and so on. In fact, when traveling the world, the physical spaces within office buildings might have the ambience of a conference room within an American company. But the work culture, the incentives and subtleties that power that workplace might be vastly different. Just like they say, “Buyer beware!”, I say, “Seller be savvy!” Recognize the differences; understand the diversity and tailor your product offering, product promotion and most importantly your own behavior, to be successful in global markets. Think globally and act locally! n

Nitin Deo is a high-tech industry executive in Silicon Valley with vast international business experience. He is in charge of product management for Aster Analytics Platform at Teradata. His business experience spans over two decades in America, Europe, Pacific Rim and India. He has helped set up sales channels for emerging software products and services. He holds degrees in enineering and management.

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Dec ’16-Jan ’17 | West Coast Edition | | 9


How Can The DNC Rise From The Ashes? By Rishi Kumar


t did not play out as expected for the Democratic Party with a Republican President-elect getting ready to enter the White House. Democrats were hoping for a strong showing to win the House and the Senate. Instead, the numbers are very different. Out of 435 House members, we now have 188 Democrats versus 247 Republicans, and 44 Democrats against 54 Republicans in the Senate. Those are not the only numbers! We will also see changes on the Supreme Court bench and the gerrymandering will continue. So the headline in the story of this election—the Democrats just got a whipping! Now the question is—how do they pick up the pieces, rise and thrive? What can the Democratic National Committee (DNC) do to get their political machinery back on the saddle? What would they see and learn if they peered into the inner recesses of the party soul? Questions need to be asked and answered in terms of strategy to reset its fortunes in the coming years.

1) DNC’s Image is Tarnished: Perception is everything in a politics. How about the DNC try acting swiftly disassociating with everything that is dishonest thus sending a strong message to the electorate? Is the party exhibiting ethical values, and fostering a culture that will reward those with such values? Is this going to be a party that is willing to change and respond to the needs of the people or will it be responsive to corporate America funding it’s campaigns? 2) New Leadership—Fresh Blood.

It is time for the DNC to place leaders in the front that will reflect those values and walk the talk. Was the DNC doing enough to encourage new leadership or was everyone just saying “aye” to the establishment? Disband the old party machinery! Bold ideological shifts via bold leadership! Promote strong independent voices, and reward expression of new ideas and vision.

The media bemoaned that the Republican party was in shambles before the elections, but, as it turns out it is the Democratic party that needs to resurrect. Was Trump’s win a fluke or a tactical shortcoming of the Democratic National Committee? 3) Think of the America of Today and It’s Values. What does America

need? Are the core values based upon the needs of America and the electorate? Listen hard and adopt the values, after all the party is there to serve the people. Is this the party of a “rigged economy in bed with Wall Street?” The party may need a serious policy shift and grassroots efforts towards winning back the electorate that went with Trump. Is everything perfect enough that we continue business as usual? Or is the electorate disillusioned with DNC’s policies and politics and doesthe party needs to focus upon real change?

4) Bold and Open Communication. If the DNC does not listen to voices

that question assumptions, it creates an echo chamber, and eventually there is a price to pay. Some Democrats think that they lost the general election in June with the Hillary Clinton nomination. As they raised their voices, they were targeted, ignored, insulted and others even attempted to brainwash them to favor the establishment story—unbelievable as it may have been—it is true. How do we deal with people who are calling attention to the issues? When California’s Bernie delegates were protesting at the Democratic National Convention, many expressed dissat-

10 | INDIA CURRENTS | West Coast Edition | Dec ’16-Jan ’17

isfaction with them, and their voices were suppressed. But, when there is a peaceful expression of protest, they should be heard and lessons learnt.

5) Address the Economic Needs of the Middle Class. Bernie Sanders

brought attention to this recently. “I come from the white working class, and I am deeply humiliated that the Democratic party cannot talk to the people where I came from.” Is this the party that will question the system and seek to make it better? There are so many unemployed Caucasian white men in Middle America. Jobs have disappeared for those that do not have college degrees. The burgeoning population and the issue of immigration, a changing world, is a real problem affecting them and Trump was speaking to that at packed auditoriums. Is the party going to eschew corporate interests for economicjustice? 6) An Elitist Party. No group can be ignored! Yes the party appeals in urban America, but that has to change quickly. Is this the party that will flaunt expensive Armani jackets hoping for miracle wins, or will they rub shoulders with the blue collar worker, crafting out an agenda that will meet their needs?

7) Obsession with Culture. Is this the party that will flaunt “progressive values” as achievement, or will economic prosperity be the barometer? Are the democrats obsessed with social issues like abortion, equal pay for women, and climate change? But, it is time to question whether this progressive “stuff ” hampers the party message. How far will this branding carry you with the segment of the electorate who have jobs, food, housing and a desire for a renewed economic vitality on top of their minds? Here is proof: Whites without a college degree, made up a third of the 2016 electorate; Trump won them by 39 percentage points. Half of these voters said the economy was the most impor

tant issue, 14 percent said immigration, a majority opined that international trade reduces American jobs.

Is this money thrown into a well or is it really providing value?

8) Education for the Masses.

Focus on education can single handedly create a rich vibrant happy economy. How about massive funding for college education that includes trade school and tiers beyond the community college programs? Mimic the success models from other parts of the world.

9) Integrity and Democracy: Kill the Super Delegates. The electorate

wants integrity and true democracy. Can the DNC once and for all kill the Super Delegates, and kill the primary caucuses? Can the DNC simplify the primary election that currently varies from state to state and prevents the majority from having their say?

10) Introspect on Working-Class Resentment of the Poor. That is not

classified as racism. The DNC needs to understand the context. Supporting dole outs are not helping the party in its positining.

In conclusion, “should’ve would’ve” are part of so many social media feeds, with everyone chiming in as they search for answers. We hear slogans like, “let us stay united,” “let us continue the revolution,” “let us change the electoral college,” “let

us blame the Bernie guys,” “let us blame the ones who stayed at home,”—the list is long. But, this is the moment for the Democratic party to introspect and learn from within. The media bemoaned that the the Republican party was in shambles before the elections, but, as it turns out it is the DNC that needs to resurrect. Was Trump’s win a fluke or a tactical shortcoming from the DNC—the attitudes and answers will decide whether this party gets re-built or whether it will remain decimated Indeed, George Santayana’s words cannot ring truer for the state of the DNC today—“Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”n Rishi Kumar is a Saratoga City Councilmember and an executive board member in his 2nd term with the California Democratic Party, who is passionate about political engagement, political empowerment and advancing ethical standards in the political system. You can reach Rishi via his website

Dec ’16-Jan ’17 | West Coast Edition | | 11

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The “Should” Issue

Books to read, Movies to watch and Thoughts to ponder By Shilpa Sachdev and Shruthi Rao


s it already that time of the year? The whirlwind that is 2016 has flown by so fast, thrusting us forward from one season to the next. We’ve witnessed several amazing events unfold, some of us embarked on new journeys, while others said bittersweet goodbyes to children going to college—all of this and more packed into one glorious year, which now culminates into some much-needed introspection. As we recover from an unprecedented election, this time of the year is as much for spending time with friends and family as it is for taking pause to reflect on the year gone by. While we look inward and take stock of our goals, accomplishments and regrets, we look to others for inspiration, to take cues from their lives. That is why we, at India Currents decided to bring to you stories from across the ever-upwardly-mobile Indian American community. We forayed into different arenas in search of accomplished professionals to get an insight into what motivates them, and what values guide them on their quest for greatness. What resulted is an eclectic group of highly driven individuals who shared their inspiring stories, giving us a telescopic view of what books, movies and uplifting words-to-live-by shaped them and determined the course of their journeys. Compiling this story was nothing short of a miracle for they show us that prominence isn’t just reserved for a fraction of the population; that even us, with our everyday and common mindset and skills, can inspire and lead if we’re so inclined. It’s been a privilege to interview and indulge in colorful conversations with these people and we hope you enjoy this piece just as much as we did putting it together.

Dr. Piya Sorcar, Health Entrepeneur and Edcuator

Dr. Piya Sorcar, Founder and CEO of TeachAIDS


ost of us look at the problems that the world is facing today, empathize with those affected, and move on with our lives. Others go ahead and take action. Piya Sorcar read reports that millions of dollars were being invested in HIV prevention efforts in India and yet, HIV rates were on the rise and basic knowledge levels among young people was low. As a student of education at Stanford, she was curious to see if she could do something about it. The result was TeachAIDS, which creates free, research-based, culturally-appropriate learning mate16 | INDIA CURRENTS | West Coast Edition | Dec ’16-Jan ’17

rials to address the challenges associated with health education. Today governments, NGOs and educational institutions in over 70 countries use this software, and it is funded by institutions like Yahoo!, UNICEF, Barclays Bank, Time Warner, Google, and national governments all over the world. Dr. Piya Sorcar holds a PhD in Learning Sciences and Technology Design from Stanford University, and teaches at Stanford’s Graduate School of Education and at the School of Medicine. In 2011, MIT Technology Review named her to its TR35 list of the top 35 innovators in the world under 35. In 2016, she became the youngest recipient of Stanford’s Alumni Excellence in Education Award. In an attempt to understand her motivations and draw inspiration from her, we asked Priya some questions. What is the biggest challenge that you have experienced in your work? All challenges serve as opportunities. The greater the challenge, the greater the opportunity. Ours was how to effectively teach about HIV education to a population where sex education had been banned in schools. What change would you like to see? I would like to see more concrete efforts, particularly from the United States, towards addressing global warming. What inspires you to keep going, everyday? Imagining the faces of the children we wish to serve. What book/s do you have on your nightstand right now? Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard by Dan Heath and Chip Heath, The Man Who Lied to His Laptop by Clifford Nass and Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty What things/tasks do you not like to do? Driving! I’m looking forward to self-driving cars. *****

Dinesh Sabu, Filmmaker

Dinesh Sabu, Independent Filmmaker


inesh Sabu is an independent documentary filmmaker who recently completed his directorial debut, a feature-length documentary titled Unbroken Glass. The film is Dinesh’s journey across the United States and India to piece together the story of his mother’s schizophrenia and eventual suicide. Dinesh learned vérité cinematography from legendary Kartemquin co-founder Gordon Quinn. His accomplishments include being a finalist for the prestigious Edes Prize for Emerging Artists in 2011,

and a fellowship from Firelight Media’s Documentary Lab in 2014. His story is filled with a yearning to tackle the problem of stigma within the Indian-American community about mental illness, a subject begging to be shared on a larger platform. Let’s dive in to better understand the man behind the camera lens. What’s the book on your nightstand? I’ve got two books—fiction and nonfiction. The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan and Speaking Truths with Film by Bill Nichols. Which book has had an impact on the way you approach life? We Wish to Inform You that Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families, an account of the Rwandan genocide in 1994, lyrically written by Philip Gourevitch, a writer for the New Yorker. When I read this several years ago, it really clarified the power of nonfiction storytelling. Gourevitch’s work was at once beautifully written, morally clear, and did not sacrifice nuance or complexity for the sake of storytelling. It still has an urgency about it today, a work that sets its readers on fire. After I read it, I realized my goal was to make a documentary that aspires to

Anuradha Nehru, Dancer


nuradha Nehru is a Kuchipudi dancer and founder-director of Kalanidhi Dance Company, a non-profit dedicated to Indian classical dance based in Washington D.C. She has been recognized by the Governor of Maryland for her service to the arts, and has been supported by the Maryland State Arts Council. Her lifelong commitment to this art form took a decisive turn 25 years ago, when her guru, Guru Vempati Chinnasatyam, drew her aside after a performance and told her to dedicate her life to dance. Overwhelmed by his endorsement, she spent the next six months at his dance academy at Chennai, India, and then came back to Maryland and founded Kalanidhi Dance. Kalanidhi Dance Company recently celebrated its 25th anniversary. Share a lifelong lesson you learnt from a mentor. There are no shortcuts in life. Hard work, sweat, and perseverance are the only ways to achieve your dreams. What’s the most challenging aspect about dancing and performing? To continuously find fresh ways to connect with the audience. Has there been any book/artistic work that has had an impact on the way you approach life? I have been deeply moved by a book I am currently reading,

achieve what Gourevitch did in this work. What book will you recommend to your 16 year old self? When I was 16, I was pretty cynical. I wish I had picked up a book like Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children. I think I would have appreciated the sci-fi elements of it, as well as the level of beauty and craftsmanship in the sentences. Which movie has had a lasting impression on you? Stevie by Steve James. It’s a documentary made by Kartemquin Films, where I made my current film. It’s a personal documentary where the filmmaker, Steve James, revisits the kid he used to be a “big brother” to in rural Illinois, the eponymous “Stevie.” At least a decade has passed and now an adult, Stevie has been failed by the foster care system time and time again. In the film, Stevie is accused of a heinous crime, and the filmmaker follows the repercussions unfold while trying to come to grips with this man who he cares for. Like Gourevitch’s work, it’s the kind of art I aspire to make. *****

Balasarasawati: Her Art and Life, which describes her deep passion and her unswerving commitment to staying true to her art form. What change would you like to see in the world around you? Definitely greater appreciation and better financial support for the performing arts, especially Indian classical dance! What’s your favorite quote/ Anuradha Nehru, Dancer motto? “Dance is the hidden language of the soul of the body.”— Martha Graham What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? Failure is not an option. Believe in yourself and commit yourself fully to what you do. *****

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Sujit Saraf, Playwright-Director, Naatak


ujit Saraf is a Bay Area novelist and playwright, having published four novels and a dozen plays, and directed many of those plays for Naatak, America’s biggest Indian theater company. His second novel, The Confession of Sultana Daku, is soon going to be a motion picture; and his latest book, Sujit Saraf, Playwright Harilal and Sons, a fictionalized account of his grandfather’s travels through India and Bangladesh, is slated to be published in December. Sujit strongly believes that it’s hard to reach that happy place of accomplishment in the very first attempt. His advice to folks just entering the world of theatre is that, “Your first 12 plays are crap,” so to keep at it, never give up, and to never lose perspective

along the way—a challenge he dodges everyday. What change would you like to see in the world around you? The death of social media. What song is running through your head right now? Yeh raatein, yeh mausam, yeh hasanaa hasaanaa, a lovely song by Pankaj Mallick. What’s your favorite quote/motto? “Vimrishyaitat asheshen yathecchasi tathaa kuru.” In the Gita, Krishna tells Arjun, “Having deliberated fully on this, do as you like.” Something about you that drives people crazy. I’m loud. Very loud. Best advice that you’ve ever received “When in doubt, shout!” But I believe the opposite: “When not in doubt, you are probably wrong.” What inspires you to keep going everyday? The world. As soon as I feel I have run dry, something happens and I feel I must interpret it, record it, express it. *****

Nandita Bakshi, President and CEO, Bank of the West


andita Bakshi arrived in America thirty years ago, armed with a Master of Arts in International Relations from Jadavpur University, and tons of ambition. She started her career as a branch employee, an experience that has allowed her to understand the role that branch employees play in the bank’s success. Over the years, true to her favorite quote by Winston Churchill, “The kite, after all, rises only against the wind,” she rose to hold leadership roles. Her advice on how to make professional choices that further one’s career are definitely words to live by. She refers to it as the Rule of the Thirds. “Always seek a position that is one third comfortable, one third a stretch and one third, pure, whiteknuckle terror,” she says.

What was your favorite subWhat values do you like to ject in high school? see in your workplace? My favorite subjects I encourage people were history and internato bring their authentic tional studies. I enjoyed selves to work. I’ve found learning about the past and that people appreciate the how that could influence rich diversity this brings the future global landscape. to a corporate culture. You shouldn’t have to be If you were marooned on an a certain type to advance. island, which book would you Don’t be afraid to take Nandita Bakshi, Banker-CEO rather have with you? thoughtful or measured A book of poetry by the poet laureate, risks. Every time I’ve taken on a new challenge I have grown personally and profes- Rabindranath Tagore. His work inspires me, specifically Gitanjali. sionally. What things do you not like to do? I like spending time in the field with team members and customers, so I don’t like it when I can’t. For me, it’s important to be close to the perspectives that our team members and customers share.

Priyanka Wali, Doctor and Comedian


riyanka Wali, a versatile stand-up comedian, was named by Refinery29 as “50 Female Stand-Up Comedians You Need To Know.” She performs at corporate gigs and comedy clubs nationally and internationally. She’s been featured in The Today Show, Uproxx, and Cosmopolitan. Priyanka, often called “Pri Pri” by her friends, truly believes laughter is the best medicine, but was a board-certified practicing physician in Internal Medicine in a previous avatar. Stand up comedy had always been Priyanka’s most 18 | INDIA CURRENTS | West Coast Edition | Dec ’16-Jan ’17

Priyanka Wali, Comedian

What inspires you to keep going, everyday? Our customers and our team members inspire me every day. I believe if you have the spirit to serve and focus on doing right by people—be they colleagues or customers—you can do no wrong.

morbid fear, something she decided to defeat one day during a “face your fears” kick! What also inspired her to take on the intimidating world of stand up comedy was a Russell Peters’s autobiography where he describes how he pursued comedy despite lack of support from his father, something she could easily relate to. While she draws material for her shows from the various books she reads and by asking a lot of questions, there are some words she tends to live by. One of them includes a quote from Midnight in Paris, “The artist’s job is not to succumb to despair but to find an antidote for the emptiness of existence.”

Which is the most successful gig that you’ve performed? And why? Success in comedy is subjective but the end goal is always to make people laugh. One of the most successful gigs for me personally was when an audience member came up to me and said “I am currently undergoing chemotherapy. Tonight’s show was so funny that I forgot I had cancer for a few hours.” Honestly, that kind of stuff is the reason I do comedy—to make people feel good on a truly personal level. What’s the book on your nightstand? Right now at this exact moment, it is Obesity: Evaluation and Treatment Essentials by Michael Steelman (it’s a real page turner!) What book will you recommend to your 16 year old self? How to Spot A Dangerous Man Before You Get Involved by M.A. Sandra L. Brown What’s the best advice that you’ve ever received? Take your insecurities and your weaknesses, everything that you dislike about yourself…and embrace it. What’s the most challenging aspect about being a standup comedian? Sometimes having to act funny on stage when you’re actually sad inside. Any parallels you’ve successfully drawn between medicine and comedy? Both are important and necessary in life. I mean—let’s get real. Laughter is definitely the best medicine, but taking antibiotics after your ex-boyfriend gave you chlamydia is important too. *****

Beena Ammanath, VP of Data and Analytics, GE


ward-winning technology innovator. Aviator. Foodie. Baseball fan. Voracious reader. Supporter of diversity in technology. Beena Ammanath’s enthusiasm for life enables her to wear all these hats and several others with panache. Beena is currently the VP of Data and Analytics at GE. She is on the board of directors for the non-profit organization, ChickTech ( She is the winner of the 2016 Women Super Achiever Award from World Women’s Leadership Congress for supporting diversity in technology. Beena seems to personify her motto “The only person I have to be better than is the person I was yesterday.” Her passion for life shines through in her responses. Has there been a defining point/incident in your life that brought you to this field? My parents wanted me to be a doctor I wanted to be a pilot or a photojournalist. But when I had to choose, I chose Computer Science because it was such a new field. I had always excelled at Math even without trying and the lure of learning something that not many were pursuing was too fascinating. What would you like to see changed in the world around you? I want every child to receive an education. When we do not provide an equal opportunity to half the children in the world, it means that the world is losing out on the brainpower of half the world that maybe would have found a cure or discovered the next amazing thing that

Beena Ammanath, Technology Leader

the world needs. What values do you like to see in your workplace? Innovation and curiosity combined with honesty and transparency leads to great teams doing great work together. Did you have a mentor? If yes, who, and how have they influenced you? I have several mentors. I refer to them as my board of directors. These are a group of people, who have inspired me with their expertise, are my role models and to whom I turn to whenever I am in a personal or professional dilemma. What things do you not like to do? I don’t like to be idle. I have way too much energy and way too many great ideas to try out. What is the biggest challenge that you have faced in your workplace? Driving cultural change to accept new technologies is one of the biggest challenges that I have seen. What was your favorite subject in high school? History. In general, I am a people person—I like meeting people and getting to know their story, their aspirations and dreams. History gave me insight into so

many people’s lives to see how their actions have shaped our lives today. Is there anything about you that drives people around you crazy? My enthusiasm, my continuous drive to try out new experiences, new places, new food, and meet new people. My family, friends and team members are always wondering what I will make them try next. This world is amazing in so many dimensions that it’s up to us to experience all that it has to offer. And then enrich it for the generations after us. If you were marooned on an island, which book would you rather have with you? “How to survive and escape from a marooned island?” On a serious note, I am a voracious reader—on any given day, I am in the middle of reading four books. If I had to choose, it would be The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch. His book is a powerful reminder on how to live a happy, full life no matter what life throws at you. What inspires you to keep going, everyday? My sons. They are amazing smart energetic upbeat little human beings who love me, admire me and are counting on me. No matter what happens, it is my responsibility to leave this world a better place for them. They are my inspiration, my motivation and my sunshine, who make me be the best I can be. What, according to you, is the greatest technical innovation ever? Artificial Intelligence is going to change our world in a way that we cannot even imagine today. I think we are just beginning to see some of its impact but it is just the tip of the iceberg. *****

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Ramya Harishankar, Dancer


Sima Patel, Hotelier

Sima Patel, Hotelier


ima Patel arrived in the United States as a newly-married 17-year-old who barely spoke English, and the very next day, she started working at the front desk of a small inn owned by her husband. She had no background in hospitality, but her husband taught her. In a textbook example of the American dream, Sima Patel rose to become the CEO of Ridgemont Hospitality, and recently became the first industry-elected Chair of the Board of Directors of Visit California. She founded SAAHELI, a global online community for South Asian women, as part of her advocacy efforts towards the Indian-American community. When asked what change she wants to see in the world, she says that she would like to see more encouragement for women to take on leadership roles. True to her favorite quote by Mahatma Gandhi, “Be the change you want to see in this world,” Bay Area based Sima has led by example by challenging stereotypes all along. What is the biggest challenge that you have experienced in your workplace? Maintaining a work-life balance. What things/tasks do you not like to do? Terminating or disciplining employees. What was your favourite subject in high school? Geography; explains my love for travel! Is there anything about you that drives people around you crazy? I am a high-energy person who is always multi-tasking and I expect the same from my team. My expectation for them to keep up with me drives them crazy. What inspires you to keep going, everyday? Working in an industry that creates millions of jobs and generates billions in revenue for the state’s economy, and being able to contribute to those results even in a small part is very fulfilling! *****

amya Harishankar is a Bharatanatyam dancer and Artistic Director of Arpana dance company. Southern California based Arpana Dance Company (ADC) is set to celebrate 35 years in existence early next year under her direction. The company has traveled to India, Europe, Japan, and to many cities in the United States. The company has won grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, Fund for Folk Culture, LA County Department of Cultural Affairs and many other arts agencies. The company has presented over 15 full length productions, many raising funds for charities world wide. Ramya believes that she has been changed through constant interactions with academics, gurus and others passionate about dance. These meaningful interactions have helped crystallize and redefine her connection to her art from the time she was a little girl.

Ramya Harishankar, Dancer

What drew you to dancing? Though I started dance lessons when I was six, learning abhinaya from Guru Kalanidhi Narayanan was the catalyst. What inspires you to keep going everyday? Knowing that what I do makes a difference in someone’s life and hopefully this instills in them a love for dance/art/life. What is the most challenging aspect about dancing and performing? As a US-based dancer and teacher, the challenge is to balance the ‘traditional” and the “contemporary” and I am always aspiring to keep my art relevant. Has there been any book/performance/artistic work which has had an impact on the way you approach life? Good Earth by Eckhart Tolle What do you believe in when it comes to keeping classical dance alive?

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My guru Swamimalai Rajarathnam had a way of creating moving pictures in choreography which has stayed with me. Dance has to be precise, but, it should also have grace and elegance. I hold on to my roots and expand on that base. Living away from India, mythological stories tend to be culturally specific and can be enjoyed only by those who are familiar with those themes. But, apart from that, there are so many songs like padhams for instance, which stand for a woman’s freedom to express her myriad emotions. These are truly universal themes —anyone can appreciate and enjoy them. I perform pieces expressing a whole continuum of thought. As you look at the upcoming 35th anniversary of Arpana, what are your thoughts? There has been tremendous growth in the company. It is very heartening to see a handful of my students dedicate themselves to classical dance full-time. I am definitely more at peace with what I am doing. What book or experience will you recommend to your 16 year old self? Live the life you love! How would your best friend/sibling describe you? Passionate, talented, focused and task oriented. What song is running through your head right now? Anything from the Beatles to a Kshetrayya padham. What’s your favorite quote/motto? “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”—Reinhold Niebuhr. What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? The above quote. n ***** Writer. Activist. Music enthusiast. Shilpa Sachdev knew she would be a writer the day she was grabbed out of the womb. However, other career paths had her wandering, until recently. Rain or shine, you’re sure to find her plugged in, constantly bobbing her head to tunes by Johnny Cash, Pink Floyd and more. Shruthi Rao loves books, desserts, trees, and long walks. She enjoys stories in all forms, especially if they contain insights into what motivates fellow humans.



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Now and Then

A Fake White World Before Donald Trump there was James D. Phelan


By Jaya Padmanabhan

n November 9th, I was overwhelmed with despair, and I know I was not alone. Social media reflected the weight of our collective grief with bitter, gloomy, and disbelieving updates. Opinion editorials were thick-throated with humiliation. The idea that Donald Trump, a man with few morals, little integrity, and a frightening propensity for hate speech now has the potential to decide the fate of my community, my neighborhood, my city, my state, my country, and my world is nothing short of terrifying. But I must accept forthwith that this is what our democracy has yielded. What I told my beautiful, “brown” twenty-year-old twins after the elections was to be vigilant, be aware, and be engaged. For now, more than ever, our country needs people like us, women of color, who are not afraid to speak up and speak out. This is not the first time, and nor will it be the last, that the American populace has voted in a heedlessly racist man to power. For before Donald J. Trump there was James D. Phelan. America carries the scars of previously ill-thought elections and this will be just one more to add to our injuries. Late September 2016, I watched an experimental short film, Far East of Eden, presented by two artists Bruce Yonemoto and Karen Finley at the Montalvo Arts Center in Saratoga, California. The film was performance theater. It anatomized and drew parallels between the anti-immigrant speeches of President-elect Donald Trump and Senator James Duval Phelan—a democrat and three-time mayor of San Francisco who also served in the United States Senate from 1915 to 1921. Phelan is the man who built Villa Montalvo, a historic arts center in the Bay Area, which he bequeathed, after his death in 1930, to be used for the development of art, literature, music, and architecture. Montalvo Arts commissioned Yonemoto and Finley’s startling film, Far East of Eden, as part of its Artists’ Residency program, which brought to light the darker shades within the moral imagination of two men. Like Donald Trump, Phelan commanded an uncomfortable appeal despite, and because of, the numerous slap-downs of people of other races and colors. He was the first to be popularly elected to the Senate from California. Phelan wrote an essay in 1901 describing the Chinese as “patronizing neither school, library, church nor theatre; lawbreakers, addicted to vicious habits; indifferent to sanitary regulations and breeding disease; taking no holidays, respecting no traditional anniversaries, but laboring incessantly, and subsisting on practically nothing for food and clothes.” Fast forward 115 years later as Trump asserts that “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, 22 | INDIA CURRENTS | West Coast Edition | Dec ’16-Jan ’17

and they’re bringing those problems with them. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.” As infantile as Trump sounds, the intent of what he says, and what Phelan once said, are disconcertingly similar. The existential threat that they felt and feel is palpable. Both Phelan and Trump are provocateurs who couched their racism in terms of economic currency. They explain away the rabidity of racism with the idea of self-preservation. In an essay titled “The Japanese Evil in California,” Phelan extended his anti-immigrant stance to the Japanese railing against their presence in California, calling them “a masterful people, of great industry and ingenuity. They have no disposition in California to work for wages, but seek control of the soil by purchase, leasehold or a share of the crops, and, under these circumstances, become impossible competitors.” For these reasons he called for “Congress to pass an exclusion law at once.” Phelan’s words ring remarkably similar to Trump’s call to exclude Muslims. Trump called for the litmus test of religion to be the basis for exclusion. In a speech in Phoenix he claimed that Mexicans are “taking away our jobs” and “killing us.” His choice of words instantly criminalized a community while agitating public opinion to exclude and deny a race. Trump now, and Phelan then, give the impression that one race has a bigger stake in our economy than others. They believe that whites have more of a moral right to opportunity. Trump has had no qualms in dismissing diversity and advancing numerous fringe ideas about minorities. Trump wants America to look and sound like him. And, appallingly, too many have bought his line of logic. The New Yorker describes this as the “Resentment of the ‘browning of America’ in the era of the first African American President.” Early in Yonemoto and Finley’s movie, a group of white men and women put on Asian masks and costumes and slither silently at a party while a young non-white boy cuts through the party guests with a bemused look on his face. The scene is a metaphor for a fake white world. Phelan launched a Senate re-election campaign in 1920 with the slogan “Keep California White”—a blatantly corrosive sentiment. But the people of California finally realized the illusory benefits of bigotry and bias and he was voted out of office. Let’s hope that day comes soon for our white man elected to the top. n Jaya Padmanabhan was the editor of India Currents from 2012-16. She is the author of the collection of short stories, Transactions of Belonging.

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Amrita Pritam: She Writes on The Grooves of My Soul By Monita Soni

Because a drop of your love had blended in I drank the entire bitterness of life.—Translation


f late, I have physically embraced the cloak of solitude. Reprimanded often as a dreamer in kindergarten by teachers, now having escaped their vigil I have resigned to my perilous hobby of contemplation. As a doctor, during the day, the drama of disease directs me but in the evenings I am abducted by the poems of Amrita Pritam, Mary Oliver, Robert Bly, Naomi Shihab and Faiz. I sit still in my home frontier, my easy leg crossed over my other ankle. I tune into their voices. They speak to me intimately as though they have waited for me forever. I am perhaps as enthralled as the spring leaf on the old poplar that thrills in a mysterious shawl of bird song. My identity is revealed, shaped, molded and deepened by my intention to observe and experience my scattered self in their verse. As I read I, once again, frolic through long summer afternoons free from adult censure. In the body of the poems the memory of my mother’s face emerges. I feel the bright light on my father’s forehead and admire his beautiful strong, artistic hands. His laughter echoes as it tumbles back across time at my first haircut or a stolen cookie and his knotted brow is real too when he looks at my math grades. He smiles his approval at the gold medal I won for an essay about the leprosy home. My mother’s nimble fingers complete the shadow work on my white organdy table cloth from fifth grade. Jumping off rickshaws, scraped knees, a rising cake in a round oven, my first crush, peeling off soaking wet garments, broken spectacles, running out of paper in final exams, frog leg experiments, spinach gulped down with water. Everything is a beautiful song that weaves in and out of my memory becoming my poem. It is the miracle of remembering and experiencing everything all over again— just right, just as it was meant to be—the

nurturing in our Zen-like childhoods. This is comforting as I give myself to the compassion of being solitary. The sound of dad’s voice reading poetry late into the night, books piled beside his pillow meet the same turf on my bed. Writing becomes a sacred deed and carrying their emblem poems in the deep pockets of my soul my creed. This evening and essay is devoted to Amrita Pritam’s poetry.


mrita Pritam (1919-2005), was a notable 20th century Indian poet, novelist, feminist and a proud daughter of Punjab, (now in Pakistan). She was the winner of the Sahitya Academy Award in 1956 for Sunehedey (messages) a lifetime achievement award given to the “Immortals in Literature” the Padma Shri and the Padma Vibhushan. A prominent voice in Punjabi literature, her work has been widely translated into Hindi, English, Urdu, French, Japanese and Italian. Through her writing, she has become the friend and confidante of so many women across the continents. Amrita’s magic permeates the soft and deep hues of dreams, infatuation and longing. She blithely walks into the recesses of my heart blowing away reticent cobwebs with her easy rustic Punjabi dialect. She lets me dwell on my own heartbreak and listens long like a childhood friend. Then she talks to me in an intimate tone but when I open my eyes her words don’t

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leave. They remain accessible and timeless for me. How did she become so insightful? Perhaps she internalized her grief when her mother died at the tender age of eleven and in the depth of her poetry of commonplace things a penetrating sagacity emerges. Amrita’s verse has the redemptive grace of the Holy Ganga as she flows ebulliently through my mind-locks and washes away scars of distress. This first prominent female poet of the twentieth century who lived in Lahore,(the city of gardens and free thought, birthplace of my father, Swadesh Kumar Kapur) is my kindred spirit. When I am with her, I inhale the fragrance of my fertile motherland of flowing five waters. Amrita helps my mother dress me in my bridal red and reminds the elders that they are not warning me of inherent untold suffering that comes with leaving the parental home. In her poignant poem “Peed kudi di chholi pao” she implies that the bride is unaware of the pain she will receive along with all the blessings and sweets in her lap. But after the rude shattering of her naïve dreams, she wraps the weary soul of many young girls in the shimmering moonlit embroidery of her prayers in her poem “Channan di phulkari topa kaun pphare.” (Who can put a stitch in my scarf embroidered by moonlight?) In this poem, she compares the essence of pure love to a luminous embroidered moonlight which is so sheer that only a seer can embellish it. Amrita was a born romantic; she used to compose romantic couplets in her pre-teens and tear them up fearing that her father would read them. She married young, but did not find her Ranjha (soul mate from the epic Heer Ranjha) in marriage. After separating from her husband, she fell in love with the romantic poetry of a contemporary of hers—Sahir Ludhianvi. This poignant relationship emerged in their verses but they did not unite in real

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life. The story of not meeting her poetic soulmate is recounted in her autobiography Rasidi Ticket (Revenue Stamp). She did not abandon the idea of romance, for in her golden years she lived with artist and illustrator Imroz. Her poem beautifully expresses this love for her partner of 40 years. Many beautiful poems were written in those years. ***** Rall gai si es vich ik boond tere ishq di Esse layi main zindagi di saari kudattan pee layi Translation: Because a drop of your love had blended in I drank the entire bitterness of life. When she was breathing her last she composed this piece, “Mein tenu pher milangi.” I will meet you yet again
 How and where? I know not.
 Perhaps I will become a
figment of your imagination
and maybe, spreading myself
in a mysterious line
on your canvas,
 I will keep gazing at you. Perhaps I will become a ray
of sunshine, to be
embraced by your colors.
 I will paint myself on your canvas
 I know not how and where—but I will meet you for sure. I know nothing else
but that this life
will walk along with me. When the body perishes,
all perishes;
 but the threads of memory
are woven with enduring specks.
 I will pick these particles,
 weave the threads,
 and I will meet you yet again. ***** Freedom of thought defined the writings of one born in a remote village of Punjab. Aaj Maine Aapne Ghar Ka Number Mitaya Hai Aur Gali Ke Mathe Pe Laga Gali Ka Naam Hataya Hai Aur Har Sadak Ki Disha Ka Naam Paunch Diya Hai Par Agar Aapko Mujhe Jaroor Pane Hai To Har Desh Ka, Har Shahar Ki Har Gali Ka Dwar Khatkhatao Yeh Ek Shap Hai, Ek Var Hai Aur Jahan Bhi Azad Ruh Ki Jhalak Parhe Samajhna Vah Mera Ghar Hai

Translation: Today I have wiped out my street address If you want to find me Knock on every door, of every street Where you find a glimpse of a free spirit That’s where you will find me. ***** As I read her poems aloud, my voice mingles with my father’s voice reading poetry late into the night. His gusty voice urges me to keep marching despite the overwhelming grief of bereavement. Two years back, for Diwali, my dad wanted to give me a parting gift. I could not receive this final gift from his hands but I found palliative solace for my insurmountable grief in the audio CD Amrita Pritam: Recited by Gulzar, 2007. I played this repeatedly as I went through my days aimlessly. After my father’s demise, her words became my anchor. The ambrosia that personifies Amrita’s name became my salvation. Mere thande kkhut de mitra, Keh de jo kuj kehna Mein ik tidke kkade da paani Kal tak nahin rehna… Translation: Oh my friend who shared my cool drink of water in good times, Please tell me what’s in your heart My life is trickling out like a stream of water from a Cracked pot I will not be here long. ***** I am certain that these handful of poems that I keep tied in my heart are indeed the mysterious gift from my dad. Yes Amrita, my friend: “Mein tenu pher milangi.” I will meet you again and perhaps we will together wake up Waris Shah from his grave and implore him to rewrite the devastating narrative that marred our birthplace in 1947 during the Partition. These immortal lines are from Amrita’s transformative signature piece: Ajj Aakhan Waris Shah nu: Here she implores the 17th century Punjabi poet Waris Shah of Heer Ranjha fame to rise from his grave. Ajj Aakhan Waris Shah Nuu, Ki tu Qabraan Wichon Bol, Tey Ajj Kitaab-e-Ishq Daa, Koi Agla Warka Phol Ikk Royi Sii Dhi Punjab Di,

26 | INDIA CURRENTS | West Coast Edition | Dec ’16-Jan ’17

Tu Likh Likh Maarey Wain, Ajj Lakhaan Dhiyan Rondiyan, Tenu Waris Shah Nuu Kain Uthh Dard-Mandaan Diya Dardiya, Utth Tak Apna Punjab Ajj Bailey Lashaan Bichiyaan Tey Lahoo Di Bhari Chenab Kisey Ne Panjaan Paaniyan Wich Diti Zahar Rala, Tey Unhan Paniyaan Dharat Nuu Dita Paani Laa

Oh Waris Shah, you wrote volumes on the pain of one Heer. Speak out from your grave Today, a million daughters cry out to you, Waris Shah, Rise O’ narrator of the grieving! Look at your Punjab, the fields are lined with corpses, And blood fills the Chenab.” The effects of this fracture of Partition are still reverberating in the mountains of Kashmir. Today we can surmount our challenges if we tune in to the timeless classic poetry of Amrita Pritam. Her bold, revolutionary deeply romantic and spiritual poems have a universal appeal that echoes through several genres. Let us invite her clear voice into the sacred space of our solitude. n Visit for a podcast of Monita reading Amrita Pritam’s poetry. Monita recommends reading Selected Poems of Amrita Pritam by Pritish Nandy. Monita Soni is a pathologist and diagnoses cancer. Her writing style weaves eastern and western cultures. You can hear her commentaries on WLRH-Sundial Writers corner and on “All Things Considered.”

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ask a lawyer

Take Control Of Divorce with 4 Easy Steps By Madan Ahluwalia


ivorce is costly—it drains people emotionally, financially and can affect relationships in different ways. In this article, I would like to focus on how you can avoid financial drain on your resources. I know my clients love me, with the exception of the end of the month when they have to pay my bill. So, here are a few tips that can help individuals who like to save money maintain their sanity through a difficult time. 1) Work with a Therapist. You can work with an individual therapist, child therapist or marriage counselor to deal with your own fears and anxieties. You can work with a therapist to identify what is in the best interest of the child and to develop co-parenting skills, visitation schedules and other tedious details that come with a divorce. 2) Work with an Accountant. Most marriages fail because of financial issues.

In most cases, it’s because one spouse controls the money and the other spouse takes care of the household. At the time of divorce, the spouse dealing with financials is usually blamed for mishandling the money, to put it mildly. I suggest that you take 2-5 years worth of tax returns, hire an accountant, spend approximately $3,000 and buy some peace of mind—it will be worth it. If doubts led you to divorce, then don’t let that continue to dictate the rest of your life. Fighting in court will be more costly. 3) Work with a Mediator. In a divorce case, four egos are involved and clash all the time: two parties and two attorneys. To diffuse such a clash, work with a mediator who has only one objective, which is to help all parties find common ground. Agreements can be reached on small issues like who keeps the car and they can help you develop a case management plan (like

28 | INDIA CURRENTS | West Coast Edition | Dec ’16-Jan ’17

what happens next and when). A mediator is a powerful resource. Use it. 4) Work with an Attorney who is effective based on your personality, your goals and the other party’s traits. Interview a few attorneys, and only then hire the one that suits your personality. It is important that you don’t rush into hiring the first attorney you meet. As you can see, in a divorce case, if you follow practical advice and make the process less personal and more business-like, you can have quicker results and save lot of grief and money. Good luck. n Madan Ahluwalia is Managing Attorney for Ahluwalia Law PC. In practice since 1995, Madan is notorious for his direct no-nonsense, no-sugar-coated advice. He can be reached at 408-416-3149. His website is

Legal visa dates Important Note: U.S. travelers seeking visas to India will now need to obtain them through Cox & Kings Global Services Pvt. Ltd. Call 1-866-978-0055, email or visit for more information.

December 2016


his column carries final action dates and other transitional information as taken from the U.S. State Depart­ment’s Visa Bulletin. The information below is from the Visa Bulletin for December 2016.

In the tables below, the listing of a date for any class indicates that the class is oversubscribed. “Current” means that numbers are available for all qualified applicants.

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Email: Dec ’16-Jan ’17 | West Coast Edition | | 29

tax talk

Protecting Privacy As You Do Holiday Shopping By Khorshed Alam


ake these simple steps to protect your privacy. Do you use a smart phone, tablet, or desktop computer to connect with friends, make purchases, or share health concerns with your doctor? If so, your privacy may be at risk. Companies called “data brokers” routinely compile information about your habits and preferences, including your favorite brands, recreational pursuits, and credit habits. Data brokers use this information to create profiles and scoring models, which are then sold to retailers, advertisers, and other organizations. Although much of this activity is legitimate and may even help you snag a good deal, being careful when sharing personal information is always prudent. It is good to go through a checklist before the busy holiday shopping season. Here are some suggestions.

1) Post with care on social media.

At best, data-mining companies may scour your profile to create a file that’s sold to marketers. At worst, fraudsters may use your posts to steal your identity or break into your house when you’re on vacation. 2) Beware of free Wi-Fi. Some retailers use cell phone networks to keep track of the aisles you visit in their stores. Your local coffee shop might have a free—but unsecured—network. By logging on, you may unwittingly provide access to private information on your laptop or phone. 3) Delete cookies. Small text files called “cookies” can be created and stored on your computer when you visit websites. Although cookies usually cannot be used to reveal personally identifying information, in some cases marketing firms may use the data to create a profile of your surfing habits. Clear your browsing history and delete cookies on a regular basis.

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Use your browser’s “privacy” settings to make this task happen automatically.

4) Lock down and protect your devices. You wouldn’t leave town with

your doors unlocked. Don’t make the same mistake with your mobile devices and computers. Establish a boot and/or reactivation password on each device. Use a cable lock when leaving your laptop in public places. Install anti-virus software on all mobile devices. 5) Pay with cash. If you don’t want strangers to learn your purchasing habits, go “old school” by using currency. Sometimes that’s the best way to keep private information to yourself. n Khorshed Alam is a practicing CPA and business valuation analyst. He is the President and CEO of Alam Accountancy Corporation. Check out or call (408) 445-1120.

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32 | INDIA CURRENTS | West Coast Edition | Dec ’16-Jan ’17


Flying Kicks, Three-Point Landings and Stolen Kisses: 2016 On The Silver Screen By Aniruddh Chawda


lying kicks, three point landings and stolen kisses. As both budgets and box offices for Hindi movies reach new heights, two trends become strikingly obvious. First, movies that would play well to international audiences are more often than not getting green-lighted. Streamlined scripts and farflung geographic settings, supported by India’s expanding international trade ties, are helping to expand the market for Hindi movies to the farthest corners of the globe. The other trend is the fondness for story lines taken from real life events—indeed, six of the ten films on this short list are based on real life stories. The convergence of real life and reel life and other movie highlights in a year of Hindi movies.

1) Neerja

A real life planned hijacking from the 1980s retold three decades later in Ram Madhvani’s taut thriller was the apex Hindi movie event for 2016. An otherwise on-time PanAm Boeing 747 flight from Bombay to New York via Karachi is stormed on the runway in Karachi and immediately ignites jittery and far-reach-

A still from Neerja

ing pre-9/11 geo-political shockwaves. The pilots escape and the almost 400 passengers are at the mercy of armed Palestinian terrorists. Everything appears lost—save for the actions of one very brave Indian flight attendant. Sonam Kapoor’s coming of age in the title role Neerja was both convincing and moving. Supported by Shabana Azmi (as Neerja’s mother), Yogendra Tikku (as the father) and Jim Sharbh (as an especially creepy, crazed gun-wielding on-board antagonist-in-chief), the gripping entertainer also tapped into anxieties related to modern travel and the existential fear of death at a moment’s notice.

2) Aligarh

The rights of the LGBT community in India perfectly correlate to the rising and ebbing fortunes of Indian Constitution’s so-called Section 377, an archaic writ carried over from the British Raj. Hansal Mehta’s ground-breaking Aligarh, based on a true story, unfolds as a 64-year old linguistics professor is entrapped in a consensual sexual tryst with a rickshaw puller. Manoj Bajpayee in the lead superbly channels the professional and personal toll taken on a learned, tortured and ostracized man piecing together shards of an

explosively shattered life. Supported by Rajkumar Rao as a rookie reporter struggling to land on his two feet, Aligarh in on par with Brokeback Mountain in chronicling situational alienation faced by older, detached gay men up against a deluge of official and social scorn.

3) Pink

This fictitious urban crime and court procedural having no big names other than Amitabh Bachchan in a supporting role, emerged as the unlikeliest of box office hits of the year. Made on a modest budget, the plight of three carefree young women leading a city-life of budding careers and clubbing runs into a wall. The women (well played by Taapsee Pannu, Kirti Kulhari and Andrea Tariang) being accused of attacking their would-be dates on a weekend after-hours outing becomes a legal quagmire worth pausing for. As their well-connected accusers—all young men from moneyed families—make getting a fair trial all but impossible, a retired lawyer (Bachchan, stoically playing a cynic of the legal system) steps in to accept the case. Director Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury’s captivating court-room drama was enhanced by social commentary on just

Dec ’16-Jan ’17 | West Coast Edition | | 33

what makes a “victim,” making Pink a lesser vehicle with places to go.

4) Raman Raghav 2.0

Anurag Kashyap, who appeared all but lost after dropping Bombay Velvet in 2014, regained solid footing with this minimalist and yet highly stylish fictionalized psycho story based on the real life serial killer Raman Raghav who terrorized Bombay in the 1960s. In true guerilla-filmmaking credentials, Kashyap’s framework employed actual Mumbai tenements, back streets and deserted alleys—often without permission. In the title role, Nawazuddin Siddique’s turned in a brilliant performance as the babbling, sexually confused, night prowler who may or may not have carried out a series of brutal slayings, including those of some of his relatives. Even the publicity poster was creepy. Thanks to Kashyap and Siddique, yes, that involuntary shiver up the spine was very real.

5) Rustom

A decorated navy officer and husband returning home, a lonely wife he returns home to and the dashingly handsome family friend who turns up dead formed a captivating and dramatic triangle inspired by a true Bombay murder mystery from 1959. Akshay Kumar, the reigning box office champion this year, in smart navy dress whites cuts a fetching murder-suspect. As his suffering wife, Ileana D’Cruz is remarkably retrained while Arjan Bajwa’s upper crust family friend, who ends up dead, personifies a seedy philanderer. Staged against the backdrop of high seas intrigue and the race for India to get her first aircraft carrier, filmmaker Tinu Desai’s period piece brought it all together very nicely.

6) Happy Bhaag Jayegi

A runaway bride can end up in the next village, one city over or even the next state. But a runaway bride ending up in Pakistan? Oh, no, she didn’t! Mudassar Aziz’s delightful comedy Happy Bhaag Jayegi attempts reigning in an unhappy brideto-be, ironically named Happy (Diana Penty)—running away from her big fat Delhi wedding only to end up in Pakistan. The laughs come at the expense of the clash of cultures—and not from any political thumb-nosing. Newcomer Penty gets

commendable support from Abhay Deol as the Lahore princeling whose household party Happy crashes. Piyush Mishra— who turned all serious as the bald-headed prosecuting attorney opposing Bachchan in Pink—does scene-stealing numbers here as the Indophobe two-bit Lahore beat-cop forced to travel to India against his wishes.

7) Airlift

Saddam Hussein’s ill-fated takeover of Kuwait in 1990 caught the planet by surprise. Trapped in the nightmare of fast moving events on the ground, the fate of some 170,000 Indian migrant workers having to confront possible violence in the hands of advancing Iraqi troops already resorting to rape and pillage over anyone that got in their way became a logistical nightmare of its own. In Raja Krishna Menon’s smartly staged mass escape story, another fine example of a Hindi film based on real life events, the initial response from the Indian government is indifference. It is up to Akshay Kumar’s Kuwait City businessman Ranjit Katyal to enter the frantic foray, albeit reluctantly, to organize a gigantic multi-pronged, multi-national rescue. The rescue itself is a sharp, even at times hair raising, example of large canvass, onscreen synergy that actually works.

8) Sultan

Salman Khan movies of late have him portraying characters that demonstrate— —heaven forbid—humility. Think of the devout simpleton in Bajrangi Bhaijaan who vowed to deliver a lost little girl back to her family in Pakistan. Think of the mixed martial arts champ in Sultan whose protagonist’s inflated ego leads to a career crash and then who must fight to regain his lost mojo. The character moderation, incidentally, has made these two entries the biggest box office hits of Khan’s career. With Ali Abbas Zafar at the helm, Sultan, the biggest box office hit of 2016, balanced the right amount of family time (with Anushka Sharma playing Khan’s onscreen wife) and adrenaline-rush mixed martial arts jousts that are both wellchoreographed and entertaining.

9) Udta Punjab

Abhishek Chaubey’s Udta Punjab was an effective, eye-popping, vulgar and dark odyssey into opiates abuse in contem-

34 | INDIA CURRENTS | West Coast Edition | Dec ’16-Jan ’17

porary India. Looking out from within the twisted, unholy South Asian nexus that connects political, law enforcement and pharmaceutical industry corruption on hand and human trafficking and modern slavery on the other hand, calling this a wake-up call would not be an overreach. A fine ensemble cast included Shahid Kapoor as a doped out, potty-mouthed concert rapper, Alia Bhatt as a trafficked migrant worker and Kareena Kapoor as a doctor specializing in substance abuse recovery who moonlights as a gumshoe by teaming up with a cop (Diljit Dosanjh) to unravel a white powder conspiracy.

10) Azhar

Tony D’Souza’s loose biopic of Indian cricket great Mohammad Azharuddin, Azhar for short, is set against a backdrop of match-fixing allegations that swept the world of cricket during the last decade. Compared to say, M.S. Dhoni: The Untold Story, the other cricket-connected biopic from this year which re-told a chapter by chapter tracing of its title character with the human aspect thrown in also, Azhar fixating more on the match fixing scandal and its effect on Azhar’s life really perked up the pace and energized the movie. Played by Emraan Hashmi with surprising acuity, Azhar depicts a flawed man more savvy with professional decisions on the pitch then off the pitch. With Nargis Fakhri, Prachi Desai and Lara Dutta in a terrific supporting cast, Azhar was the better cricket-related outing. Minor rant: Due to tight print deadlines, year end 2016 movies releases that look promising as possible highlights —Aamir Khan fronting director Nitesh Tiwari’s wrestling biopic Dangal, Gauri Shinde’s Dear Zindagi with Shahrukh Khan and Alia Bhatt, John AbrahamSonakshi Sinha in Abhinay Deo’s actionadventure Force 2, Vidya Balan in Sujoy Ghosh’s Kahaani 2 and Aditya Chopra’s highly anticipated re-entry into directing with Befikre, featuring Ranveer Singh and Vaani Kapoor. On to 2017. Happy movie going! n Globe trekker, aesthete, photographer, ski bum, film buff, and commentator, Aniruddh Chawda writes from Milwaukee.





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When Truth and Fiction Converge To Kill a Mockingbird and “Whitelash”? By Melanie P. Kumar


he adage goes that fact is stranger than fiction and this has come alive for me, following the results of the recent American elections. Was the catastrophe of 9/11 being followed by another on 11/9? Coincidentally, I was reading Harper Lee’s, To Kill a Mockingbird during election fever, and time and again, the similarity of Trump and his supporters mirroring the characters of the United States in the 1930s made me wonder about the convergence of truth and fiction. There are many instances of fiction throwing a light on reality. George Orwell was uncanny with his predictions in his allegorical novel 1984 where the State becomes the “Big Brother” that is watching. In their deep understanding of human nature and its foibles, writers appear like soothsayers. This election again made me ponder about whether we get the leader we deserve. After all the vitriol spilled by the President-elect, how could people have voted for him? CNN commentator Van Jones pronounced it a “Whitelash,” against the presence of a black President for eight years in the “White” House. For the first time in my life, I felt the compulsion to question the naming of the dwelling of the President of the United States of America. Harper Lee wrote her award-winning novel To Kill a Mockingbird through the questioning gaze of nine year-old Scott Finch whose father, an attorney, Atticus, is called upon by the State to defend an African American Tom Robinson accused of rape. Both Scott and her brother Jem first have to deal with the censure of their small town, Maycomb, whose residents seem to hold it against Atticus for taking on the case. After hearing his father’s defending arguments in court, Jem is certain that Tom will be acquitted but it turns out otherwise. After the verdict Atticus is not able to satisfactorily explain Tom’s indictment, because of his race, to his children. My thoughts went to these children in the novel when CNN commentator Van Jones spoke about how American parents would

On CNN, Van Jones pronounced it a “Whitelash,” against the presence of a black President for eight years in the “White” House. struggle to explain to their children about how a bully, a racist and a misogynist had just been elected to the Presidency. Last year when visiting New York, my hosts kept warning me about inadvertently naming races or saying anything that could offend anyone. I wonder now about how America, so politically correct in its speech, could be so incorrect in its choice of President. Could it really be that with race, nothing has changed from Harper Lee’s depiction of the America of the last century? Or perhaps, it is a lot worse. During Lee’s time of writing the novel, the prejudice was totally focused on divisions along racial lines. In today’s America, after hearing Trump’s railings against Hillary Clinton and his attitudes towards women, one can add sexism to the issue of race as a deciding factor in this election. It seems that it is easier for an African American man to make it to the White House than a woman. At school, Scott Finch hears her teacher Miss Gates critique Hitler for his ac-

38 | INDIA CURRENTS | West Coast Edition | Dec ’16-Jan ’17

tions against the Jews. When she asks why the government cannot stop him, she is told, “Hitler is the government!” Miss Gates then goes on to make the difference between Germany’s dictatorship and the American system of democracy: “Over here, we don’t believe in persecuting anybody. Persecution comes from people who are prejudiced!” When Scott returns home that evening, she asks for details on Hitler. Atticus calls him a “maniac,” but when the little girl asks if it is okay to hate him, her father’s firm reply is, “It’s not okay to hate anybody.” Puzzled, she now seeks out her brother Jem and tells him about how affected her teacher was about Hitler’s actions. “It’s not right to persecute anybody, is it… have mean thoughts about anybody even, is it?” At Jem’s querying, Scott adds that after Tom Robinson’s trial, she heard the same Miss Gates comment, “It’s time somebody taught ‘em a lesson, they were gettin’ way above themselves, an’ the next thing they can do is marry us.” Jem is

thrown by Scott’s next observation, “How can you hate Hitler so bad an’ then turn around and be ugly about folks right at home?” Atticus’s pleads with the jury thus, “I’m no idealist to believe in the integrity of our courts and the jury system—that is no ideal to me; it is a living, working reality. Gentlemen, a court is no better than each man of you, sitting before me on this jury. A court is only as sound as its jury, and a jury is only as sound as the men who make it up. I am confident that you gentlemen will review without passion the evidence you have heard, come to a decision, and restore this defendant to his family. In the name of God, do your duty.” The plea of liberals and idealists to the American people would echo the above sentiments with regard to the next election. A country is no better than each citizen and it is up to each one to vote honestly and without prejudice.n Melanie Kumar is a Bangalore-based writer and literary fiction reviewer who has been freelancing for more than 15 years now. She holds degrees in English and mass communications.

Scott Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird “How can you hate Hitler so bad an’ then turn around and be ugly about folks right at home?”

A still from the movie, To Kill a Mockingbird

Dec ’16-Jan ’17 | West Coast Edition | | 39


Holiday Cooking! By Malar Gandhi


ecember! The most magical time of the year! Regardless of how the weather is, December is still all about comfort food and fine desserts. Christmas is the time to go all out when it comes to the spread. Warm home cooked meals are the best part of the holiday season. Some of the best memories of perfect home cooked meals are often not all about the dish itself, but the sentiments associated with the meal and the company.

Whether it is about baking a three layer cake or about outdoor charcoal grilling, it’s more about laughing and sharing food with dear and near ones. Most often the foods that we grew up eating always taste better. It doesn’t matter whether those meals were lavish or simple. It’s the familiarity that makes it much more comforting. These are the comfort foods that we crave when festival mood strikes.

Christmas Fruit Cake Indian-Style

However, in today’s scenario, when we live in a health-conscious society, family recipes that have survived for generations are slowly being replaced with versions that are milder. I have to admit - though these holiday meals feature delicious dishes, many of the items are not necessarily the healthiest options. So, here I have created healthy versions of beloved holiday dishes. n

Vegan Buffalo Wings Ingredients: 1 bag button mushrooms ¼ cup all-purpose flour ¼ tsp paprika powder ¼ tsp cayenne powder salt to taste oil for deep frying ¼ cup Louisiana hot sauce

Ingredients: 1 teaspoon each chopped dates, prunes, cherries, apricots, golden raisins, dark raisins, craisins and tutti frutti 1 cup all-purpose flour 1 stick butter (unsalted, softened) 4 large eggs 3/4 cup brown sugar 4 teaspoons caramelized sugar zest of 1 large orange 150 ml fresh orange juice 150 ml gold rum 150 gms almonds, pecans and cashews, sliced and chopped 1 teaspoon each cinnamon powder, nutmeg powder, and allspice 1 teaspoon each baking powder and baking soda a pinch of salt 2 teaspoons vanilla extract 1 teaspoon black cumin 10 cloves butter for smearing or butter paper

1. Day 1—Soak all the nuts and dry fruits in rum for about 24 hours. 2. Day 2—prepare caramelized sugar. Take two teaspoons of sugar and add a tablespoon of water and when the mixture is saturated, add some lemon juice. Set this aside. 3. Bring softened butter and sugar together, and beat until it is smooth. Add eggs and whisk to peaks. Add caramelized sugar, flour and spice powders to it. Mix well. 4. Add the well-soaked nuts and fruits to it. Now, if you have any further liquid left in your bowl, please discard. 5. Smear butter in the cake pan and pour the batter in it. Bake for about 45 minutes over 350°F, preferably in the middle rack. Then, use a tiny toothpick to check if it is thoroughly done in the middle. 6. Give it some resting time (about five minutes) and serve.

40 | INDIA CURRENTS | West Coast Edition | Dec ’16-Jan ’17

Method: Mix flour, salt, paprika and cayenne pepper together. Place mushrooms in a wide nonporous dish and sprinkle this mixture over them until it’s uniformly covered. Cover the dish and refrigerate for about an hour. Heat up the griddle and add oil. Once the oil is smoky hot, fry these mushrooms till reddish brown. Remove from heat and set aside. Heat up a sauce pan, add hot sauce to it and toss the fried mushrooms in it. Let the sauce get well-coated to all the sides. Serve them in a serving bowl as an appetizer.

Vegan Fried Fish

Ingredients: 1 cup cow peas (thuvar lilva) salt to taste 1 inch ginger root 2 garlic cloves 3 dry red chilies few curry leaves 1 tsp fennel seeds oil for shallow frying salt to taste

Method: Soak the lentils for about two to three hours and wet grind the same. Blend fennel seeds, salt, dry red chilies, curry leaves, ginger and garlic together coarsely. Now, mix this to the wet-ground lentil’s paste. Divide them into equal parts and set aside. Now, clean the plantain leaf and place a skewer in the middle. Place one portion of the heavy lentil’s batter on the skewerplantain set up. Shape them up into a fish. Remove from the leaf and place them in steam cooker. Repeat the same for the remaining batter. Steam cook these fish shaped fritters for about 10-12 minutes. Bring this down to room temperature. Heat the griddle, and add oil. When the oil is smoky hot, fry these steamed fritters till golden to reddish brown. Serve as a side dish to go with Indian meals. n

Butter Biscuits Ingredients: 1 cup all-purpose flour 1 stick butter ¾ cup confectioner’s sugar pinch of salt Method: Mix salt, sugar and butter together. Add the flour to it and knead into smooth dough. Divide them into equal parts. Use a cookie cutter or shape them up like a disc. Then, make small holes with a fork. And, spread these cookies on a butter paper. Bake for about twenty minutes over 350 degrees. Store them in air tight jars and serve with evening tea or coffee. n

Malar Gandhi is a freelance writer who specializes in culinary anthropology and gourmet Indian cooking. She blogs at

Things needed: plantain leaves skewer sticks steam cooker

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Dec ’16-Jan ’17 | West Coast Edition | | 41


Pregnant Pause By Jeanne E. Fredriksen

A House for Happy Mothers By Amulya Malladi. Lake Union Publishing: Seattle. Available as paperback, e-book, and MP3 CD.


n the past decade, celebrities have embraced gestational surrogacy in increasing numbers. In India, for example, Shah Rukh and Gauri Khan as well as Aamir Khan and Kiran Rao have had children through surrogacy. In America, the host of The Tonight Show, Jimmy Fallon, and his wife Nancy have had two children through surrogacy, and Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban have had one. But what of the couples who aren’t celebrities and have no other option to have a family of their own? What are the social, emotional, and moral implications of the procedure? Amulya Malladi explores these questions in her sixth novel, A House for Happy Mothers. Priyasha, better known as Priya, lives a sunny Californian life—has a good job, is happily married, and has everything she ever wanted except a baby of her own. Attempts to start a family have been fraught with miscarriages, and Priya’s last hope is to consider gestational surrogacy not in America, but in India. Her husband Madhu goes along with the plan willingly, but he’s not a worry wart like Priya. Asha is as happily married as she assumes she is allowed to be and lives with her two children and husband in a small village in India. Her young son is gifted, and to make sure he receives the education he needs, she must become a surrogate mother. No problem though, because her sister-in-law did that, earned more money than she and her husband ever thought possible, and now lives with her family in a large and comfortable flat. The prospect of such money drives Asha’s husband Pratap to push her to lease out her womb because he wants what his brother has.

In chapters alternating between Priya and Asha, this character-driven, emotionbased novel runs the gamut from ecstasy to sorrow and from emptiness to fulfillment with a bit of manipulation thrown in. The underlying reasons for the two women to engage in surrogacy are both desperate and materialistic, each providing what they need and want but for vastly dissimilar reasons. Both parties know the outcome of the journey, but neither know what lies along the path. Over the course of the novel—her first after nearly a decade—Malladi covers all bases when it comes to reactions and opinions Priya and Madhu encounter about surrogacy. They interact with close friends, acquaintances, and relatives, all of whom have decidedly different ideas about surrogacy. Yet somehow, Malladi never pushes her characters to be overtly “preachy” when they so easily could be. I asked Malladi how she managed to keep the characters off the pulpit.

42 | INDIA CURRENTS | West Coast Edition | Dec ’16-Jan ’17

“I write stories to answer questions,” Malladi said in an e-interview. “The question was—How do a biological mother and a surrogate mother feel? I wanted to understand them, not make any judgment. The lack of agenda probably helped.” Priya and Asha also run the gamut of emotions regarding the surrogacy. The myriad pros and cons that plague them could have degenerated into a didactic debate about this ethical and moral matter, but it doesn’t. Because of this, we are allowed to weigh the issue for ourselves. Some authors consciously write to make a point, express a specific idea, or for a particular audience, but according to Malladi, she doesn’t write for a reader. She writes to explore and make sense of the world for herself. “I write because I have a burning question I want answered, and the only way to have it answered is to live through it (which I can’t do for all the many questions I have) or write a book about it and see my characters live through it,” she explains. Malladi, who has written about unusual topics in her previous books, found the inspiration for this book while watching a BBC documentary about a woman using an Indian surrogate. She said the story started to evolve—the biological mother came first and then the surrogate mother—and then they told their own story. A mother of two young boys, Malladi conducted research for the book. Her research was guided by the questions she needed answered: Why do people choose surrogacy over adoption? How hard is it? How do the biological parents feel? “With fiction, it’s simpler I think,” she explained. “You do the research and you get some facts and opinions, but ultimately, your characters feel what they feel and the story evolves from there.” In contrast to Asha and Pratap, who

are a loving couple who have had their ups and downs but who respect each other. There’s no gushy sentimentality between them and because of that, they feel very real. “I’m often surprised by my characters,” Malladi said. “I just define the characters and then they have the lives they have. I liked Priya and Madhu’s marriage, but it could’ve gone either way.” The book is not just about surrogacy and money. It’s also about relationships, and there are many in the novel. The main relationship is between Priya and Asha. They are nothing alike and they change their views of the other, riding that rocking horse of emotions because the baby is Priya’s but Asha’s doing the work. Priya worries that something will go wrong, while Asha worries if Priya will be a good enough mother. The bottom line for both, however, is that this is business and reality hovers over both of them. “These women are in a business contract over a very human transaction—they both are unaware of how to feel about this,” Malladi said. When Malladi wrote

What are the social, emotional, and moral implications of surrrogacy? “These women are in a business contract over a very human transaction—they both are unaware of how to feel about this,” says Malladi of the two main characters in her novel. the book, surrogacy for foreigners was still legal in India. Since then, the Indian government passed a law prohibiting foreign nationals from contracting Indian women to act as surrogates. Apparently, however, that’s not the end of the legal story. Malladi said she recently met with a friend who is a well-known embryologist in India. “My friend said that India might ban paid surrogacy altogether,” Malladi disclosed. “They’re also changing laws with

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regards to how many eggs women can donate. According to the government, this is being done to prevent the exploitation of the women.” Which leads to the question of how Malladi feels about the law in place for women in India. “I am against paid surrogacy,” she said without hesitation. “But this could help families get out of poverty. Is it a fair exchange? Not at all. I wish we had a higher standard of living for all people so that paid surrogacy was not needed to help families rise from poverty.” Malladi had a large gap between her previous book, The Sound of Language, and this one. “It feels great to have published again. I feel like I got my life back,” Malladi said. “My next book, The Copenhagen Affair, which I joke is a dark comedy about depression, will be published in October 2017.” n Jeanne E. Fredriksen lives in North Carolina, where she is the managing editor of a monthly newspaper and is a Books for Youth reviewer for Booklist magazine, a publication of the American Library Association.


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To Those Who Feel Bad About The Trump Win By Sriram Dakshinamurthy


o those who feel bad about Trump winning, I have some thoughts to share. Several posts are blaming the left for getting Trump elected, or accusing the protesters for not being democratic. In my mind, the left can be blamed for one thing, which was—“playing by the rules.” They were beaten by someone who was not willing to play by the rules. He indulged in tactics including demonizing immigrants, threatening to incite violence against his opponent, and questioned the validity of the election itself. Now we live through a very uncertain period where each step has to be taken cautiously. Don’t pretend and think “Every thing will be alright, because the good will ultimately prevail.” 1. Do not underestimate your own abilities.

2. Follow through on your convictions. 3. You are the leader. Not the ones who chose to vote from the shadows. You don’t have to react to them. Just let them be. 4. Life is sometimes harder than it needs to be—so be it. 5. No one is perfect, neither are you. What if your choices were not right? Avoid feeling trapped in regrets (including choice of Hillary Clinton vs. Bernie Sanders.) 6. You have 50% of those that voted supporting your beliefs, but there are roughly the same number of people who disagree. What would you have done if it was 90% who agreed and only 10% who disagreed with you? Would you have attempted to steam roll over them because you won? 7. Winning often make things easier, but it can lead to complacency. Losing on the other hand brings you closer to your re-

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solve and pushes you to do better. 8. Yes, it is your right to protest in a nonviolent manner. If you can push things in the right direction, by all means protest. However the opportunity to take big steps should not be lost. 9. Develop the strength and courage to guide youngsters during this time. 10. If you are not convinced that the leader at the top will take the country in the right direction, then it is time to focus on developing local leaders in your own communities who believe in the values you cherish. They will matter more to you on your journey. Enjoy the journey!n Sriram Dakshinamurthy is an engineer by profession and lives with his family in San Jose.


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A bright, clear morning in Manali town

A cozy cottage at Span Resorts, Manali


hen I was seven, I lived in Manali for a year and a half. My favorite memories from that time are of seeing my first snowfall and getting our first dog. Apart from that, we had only experienced all the usual spots on a tourist’s checklist—the Hadimba temple, Manikaran hot springs and the Rohtang pass. When I got a chance to revisit this place from my childhood, after a gap of 23 years, I naturally jumped at the opportunity! Going back to this picturesque town was indeed a trip down memory lane. The Mall road in downtown Manali looked bustling as before, but still seemed small— just as I remembered it. I visited my old school—Day Star Academy. The school seemed much smaller than what I remembered (perhaps because I was a lot younger when I was a student there!). The most special trip down memory lane was reserved for a visit to Span Resorts. This was the hotel property situated on the rocky banks of the River Beas that my father had run earlier and this is where I had lived. But the property had expanded a lot since I last saw it—new deluxe rooms, a therapeutic spa, and now even boasted of a private helipad! I ran into old acquaintances at the hotel and at an idyllic family-run restaurant called Fat Plate. Using ingredients from their in-house garden, the restaurant was a real find for anyone longing for delectable homestyle food and this further added to the nostalgic appeal. In many ways, I found that despite the fact that two decades had gone by, Manali still managed to retain its untouched serenity—a rare quality not found in most north Indian hill stations. Certainly, there has been change, but it’s mostly positive. On this trip, I stayed at a newly opened personalized boutique hotel called Urvanshi’s Retreat, which I reached after crossing the Nehru-Kund bridge. Surrounded by towering snow-clad mountains, manicured lawns, and a meandering brook, its wood-paneled interiors have been furnished with solid Victorian furniture and Dec ’16-Jan ’17 | West Coast Edition | | 47

fine textiles. Shanag road in Bipasha valley, where it is located, didn’t exist in 1993 as far as I can remember—or maybe it was, then, a village full of orchards. Upper Manali, the place where it is located, is undoubtedly the quieter, more peaceful part of town—lined with quaint homestays, bohemian eateries and views. It was completely undiscovered terrain for me—and so I decided to do a short hike in the evening. I waded through miles of green orchards full of trees laden with big red apples along the banks of my old friend, the Beas river, which looked as pristine and beautiful as before. Magical meadows tucked away from civilization, and gushing streams greeted me along the way, and tiny waterfalls surprised me by springing out of nowhere. I finally reached a vista point ideal for clicking photographs called Bhima Patthar (a huge rock that is believed to have been lifted by Lord Bhima, according to Hindu mythology). The next day I walked and reached old Manali—another eclectic spot not to miss. Old Manali is filled with dhabas, indie and reggae cafes serving thukpa and trout fish, guesthouses advertising yoga, Tai chi, and reiki sessions, and souvenir shops selling everything from books to stoles. The restaurants sported offbeat names like World Peace, Lost Monk and Babushka, with some even displaying giant posters of Bob Marley. One of the cafes clearly catered to the international palate, serving breakfasts hailing from various countries—American, Spanish, Israeli, Korean and Canadian. I chanced upon an interesting German bakery, which stocked some delicious avocado juice, yak cheese sandwiches, chocolate brownies, apple pie and honey nut cake along with some other treats. The place reminded me a little of Goa, complete with its culture of hippies riding their motorcycles and the “living

like locals” attitude of the visitors who experimented with this lifestyle soaking in the pure, unadulterated lifestyle close to nature. Experiential travel was clearly the buzzword—with foreigners making Manali their home, perhaps to re-connect with themselves, learn a new hobby or skill, or give back to society. A lot of tourists also come from those backpacking every year in search of adventure sports such as zorbing, ziplining, parachuting and paragliding at Solang Valley. You can hire All Terrain Vehicles (ATVs) for snow-biking, or indulge in some skiing, snowboarding and heli-skiing in the picturesque valley. We decided to do another short hike from just above the Manali-Keylong road at the Vashisht hot springs—known for their sulphuric healing powers for skin and joint ailment upto the breathtaking Jogini Falls. Set against the backdrop of a cluster of small hills, the walk navigates craggy paths along lush greenery comprising majestic pine and deodar trees. The gentle trek had some of the most scenic landscapes I have seen, and it was a breezy half hour before we reached the base of the cascading waterfall. On reaching the base, we paid our visits at the Yogini Mata temple located here, and on the way back, we stopped for a refreshing cup of lemon tea sprinkled with some locally-made honey. On the way out, we sauntered around the nearby market offering a colorful collection of artistic handicrafts, Himachali rugs, Kinnauri shawls, Kullu caps, and Tibetan jewellery. Apple pickle, jams and kesar (Himalayan herb) are also available. I had never visited these places when I lived here as a child—I realized that even though Manali had evidently changed over the years, its innocent look and feel had not changed—it’s contours and sensibility were still familiar and perhaps, timeless. n

Unspoilt beauty of River Beas

How to Reach By air: The closest airport is at Bhuntar,

located about 50 kms away from Manali. By Train: Chandigarh is the closest station. From there, one can drive to Manali. By Bus: Manali is well-connected to Delhi and most tourist destinations (Shimla, Kullu, Dharamshala and Leh) by both state-run and private buses. By Road: Manali can be reached by car too. It is located about 533 kms from Delhi, 309 kms from Chandigarh and 249 kms from Shimla. Best Seasont to Visit: April to November

Where to Stay:

Urvashi’s Retreat: Span Resorts and Spa: John Banon’s Hotel: Neha Kirpal is a freelance writer based in Delhi. She is the author of Wanderlust for the Soul, an e-book collection of short stories based on travel in different parts of the world. You can read all her published work on www.

I waded through miles of green orchards full of trees laden with big red apples along the banks of my old friend, the Beas river, which looked as pristine and beautiful as before. Magical meadows tucked away from civilization, and gushing streams greeted me along the way, and tiny waterfalls surprised me by springing out of nowhere. Apple orchard in Upper Manali 48 | INDIA CURRENTS |West Coast Edition |Dec ’16-Jan ’17

Dec ’16-Jan ’17 | West Coast Edition | | 49

50 | INDIA CURRENTS |West Coast Edition |Dec ’16-Jan ’17

On Inglish

Langur Around the Bend By Kalpana Mohan

langur < Hindi langūr, perhaps related to Sanskrit lāngūla, which means tailed


He shook his head. “No way, that’s not the hen I consulted a dictionary on the cow’s doing,” he said. “Elephant dung is round,” Internet, I found out that the lanLangurs picnicked he said. “It’s like a mound.” A few minutes later, gur monkey lived on “grain, fruit, pods of leguminous trees and young buds and with party parapher- I saw that he was right, after all. Elephant dung did indeed have a form, like a clump of bread rolls leaves” available in the forest. Based on my observations, however, I held another theory nalia infesting the at Panera Bread. A cow, on the other hand, left despite what I read. In the forests of India’s roadsides. In the for- behind a disc-like dung. Vinayagam knew everything even when it all amounted to crap. Tamil Nadu, the langur monkey likely dined on A half-hour later, we saw evidence to prove burgers, bhelpuri and rice. Maybe it even drank ests of India’s Tamil water from plastic bottles piling up by hairpin Nadu, the langur that he was right. A family of elephants was dining on one side of the road just before we crossed bends near Ooty. While roaring up the narrow highway to- monkey likely dined the border into Karnataka. The name of the forwards that mountain resort last month, I saw on burgers, bhelpuri est had changed, too: Bandipur Tiger Reserve. A few miles in, the woodland thinned out and we a gaggle of tails skittering on a ledge. They and rice. passed through a gate and arrived at vast fields of belonged to prettier cousins of the langur. bitter gourd between acres of banana plantations. Those sand-colored rhesus monkeys, the ones In patches, sugar cane clambered up above ground without the mane, stood prancing about in the cool air, paper plates in hand. While the rhesus monkey’s natural and would be ready for harvest in January. Yellow-green beds of diet consisted of fruits, seeds, roots, herbs, and insects, in areas turmeric shoots colored the land all the way to the horizon where of human habitation these wild creatures tended to devour crops hills collided into the sky. Inching closer to Mysore, we saw carpets of green: rice, soothing to the eye, soul food for the stomach. and other junk. In time, we arrived at clusters of villages where people looked As we snaked up towards Ooty—my late father’s man Friday, Vinayagam and I—we noticed how monkeys played peekaboo in different. “These men from Karnataka,” Vinayagam said. “See the mist, right under signs that said “Clean Nilgiris, Green Nil- how they look rough and tough?” He used English words in Tamgiris.” Langurs picnicked with party paraphernalia infesting the il sentences with a fluidity that never failed to take me by surprise. He used the term “roughandtough” as if it were a noun in Tamil. roadsides. I noticed how the langur monkeys appeared yet again, the Towards evening we approached Mudumalai Forest Reserve and noticed the clean surrounds, the quiet and peace—a welcome minute we crossed into civilization. Litter cluttered the roadsides. change from the thoroughfare into Ooty where motorcyclists Karnataka had innumerable temples to the monkey god Hanuwere jostling with trucks, cars and tourist buses. We made for the man and in keeping with that, my reference manual, Hobsonneighboring state of Karnataka negotiating more hairpin bends. Jobson, noted that the langur was “the great white-bearded ape, Eucalyptus trees riddled the sky for miles. The weather became much patronized by Hindus, and identified with the monkey god warmer as we careened toward sea-level. Teak groves rose where Hanuman.” The monkey is an intelligent, lively animal, a survivor that is roads were being torn up for laying fiber optic cables. Now there were fewer billboards too and rarely, signposts warning passers-by docile when young. It could be bad-tempered as an adult proving, once again, that the human is not that variant from the monkey. to treat the animals kindly and to not feed them. The following morning, we drove out of a resort at Musina- The lines blurred on occasion. After driving through the ridges of gudi township inside the Mudumalai reserve. Cows grazed. The the Western Ghat mountain range and seeing the snarly, prehenresult of their breakfast showed up as dung on our path. Rhesus sile hands of tourism, it was not obvious anymore who the lesser being was: Man or monkey? n monkeys hung around trees by the resort’s cafeteria scouting for leftovers of their civilized counterparts. As we drove through forested road, spotted deer posed for us. The occasional peacock strutted on the grass. Vinayagam said that elephants had been out Kalpana Mohan writes from California’s Silicon in the night. Valley. To read more about her, go to http://kalpan“How do you know?” I asked. He pointed to the droppings on the side of the road. “Could be cows too,” I said. Dec ’16-Jan ’17 | West Coast Edition | | 51

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Desi Children’s Bookstore A Mirror, Window, and Door By Anupama R. Oza, Mangla Oza, and Raj Oza


n the past: When my parents (and co-authors, Mangla and Rajesh) were young parents, they desperately looked for books about India and Indians for my brother (Siddhartha) and me to read. Not finding suitable titles, desperation resulted in their making up bedtime stories featuring two brown kids (Dhanu and Diddhu), relying on a handful of books published in the West with one of them being Marcia Brown’s Caldecottwinning Once a Mouse, and reading the ever-reliable Amar Chitra Katha comic Sadaf Siddique and Gauri Manglik, Co-Founders book series which featured a re-telling of safety, and thus entertain a life-long love Indian history and mythology.Since these of reading, of seeing herself in literature. oral and written stories were in Eng“Window books” engage the imaginalish, we were introduced to literary India tion about worlds outside a child’s direct through a language-altering lens. experience. Just think of all those children My parents constructed homemade transported to a particular platform at scrapbooks that introduced the DevanaKing’s Cross station in London (thank gari script, and Siddhartha and I gamely attended Chinmaya Bala Vihar Hindi language classes. Later, I continued my study Not finding suitable titles, of Hindi at the university level. But the desperation resulted in admirable bookshelves in our California homes, at our brick-and-mortar booktheir making up bedstores, and throughout our public librartime stories featuring two ies were sadly empty when it came to encouraging young children to learn and brown kids, relying on a love Hindi. handful of books published Fast-forward decades, and into the void arrives hope by way of KitaabWorld, in the West and reading an online bookstore, which has made its the ever-reliable Amar way into local libraries and into the hearts of young parents. As a teacher of nonficChitra Katha comic book tion studies, I also hope that it soon makes series. Since these oral its way into classrooms where educators can convey to their students that books are and written stories were indeed mirrors, windows, and doors. in English, we were intro“Mirror books” enable a reader to see herself in the text. Seeing this reflection ducted to literary India of herself, the young reader is likely to through a language-alterexperience what education professors Drs. Claude and Dorothy Steele call identity ing lens. 56 | INDIA CURRENTS |West Coast Edition |Dec ’16-Jan ’17

you, Harry Potter!) As a teacher, I’ve been delighted to see girls and boys of Pakistani and non-Pakistani descent relate to a Nobel Prize winning Pakistani girl (shukriya, Malala Yousafzai). “Door books” encourage one to action and interaction, to take a step out of one’s comfort zone and engage with something or someone new. In their book, Critical Multicultural Analysis of Children’s Literature: Mirrors, Windows, and Doors, Maria José Botelho and Masha Kabakow Rudman convey the power of these metaphors: “The mirror invites self-contemplation and affirmation of identity. The window permits a view of other people’s lives. The door invites interaction.” ***


Perhaps it was serendipity that we (Mangla and Rajesh) wandered through the door of this year’s Durga Puja in Newark and interacted directly with the many self-affirming books offered by Gauri Manglik and Sadaf Siddique of KitaabWorld bookstore. What a joy it was to see wooden blocks in Devanagari; we envisioned those being building blocks for the Sanskritic literacy of generations to come. What fun to see quality puzzles designed around Indian themes; we imagined hours spent with children gathered around a table, bringing order to the chaotic pieces of India. What sheer relief to see books of varying literary merit; we embraced the diversity of Caldecott-winners sitting side-by-side on bookshelves which include lesser fare. And then we realized that the generation of desi-millenials had indeed arrived on the California scene! To have arrived is to have access to places like which enable choice-making: to choose to remain In-

What a joy it was to see wooden blocks in Devanagari; what fun to see quality puzzles designed around Indian themes; What sheer relief to see books of varying literary merit. dian; to elect to become American; or to explore ancient and modern scripts to discover one’s own sense of wonder of what it means to be an Indian in America and an American in India. In their own words, Manglik and Siddique’s mission, vision, and business plan reflect the aforementioned door, window, and mirror metaphors: “In many languages, the word ‘Kitaab’ means book—our mission is to connect the world to South Asia one book at a time, and that’s why we chose the name ‘KitaabWorld: [a door]”. We have handpicked books, toys, and games from over eight South Asian countries to help children learn and experience the diverse elements of South Asian culture [a window]. KitaabWorld is a product of our passion and commitment to increasing the diversity and representation of South Asian children’s literature in American homes, schools, and libraries. Our aim is to have South Asi=an children feel represented in the stories and books around them [a mirror].” They went on to say, “Parents, librarians, and teachers can order books (as well as flashcards, puzzles, toys, and games) on our website. is easy to navigate—just add products into your cart, follow the steps to complete the process, and we’ll ship your order.” Upon returning from the Durga Puja we eagerly shared one of the books in KitaabWorld’s collection with our daughter Anu to give her a sense of this bookstore’s many offerings for Indian-American children, indeed for all children. ***


Aruna Hatti and Kalyani Ganapathy’s “A is for Anaar” is a fine first book for the Hindi learner. Cleverly written, colorfully illustrated, and compellingly published, this book would sit proudly on any bookshelf containing books that feel like substantial keepsakes from generation to generation. Hatti’s writing has a light touch, like the cadence of children’s poetry that has the reader singing. She uses a lay transliteration of Devanagari into English rather than the approach taken by scholars (example: “A is for Anaar” rather than “A is for Anãr”). While this strategy suffices to understand the correct pronunciation, young readers could become confused; someday a child might ask her mother, “Why isn’t your name ‘Anupamaa,’ and why isn’t Naniji ‘Manglaa’ and Nanaji “Raajesh?” Of course those same names would rarely,

if ever, be spelled out as such, and thus we’ll just have to wrestle with this crosscultural linguistic challenge. Hatti’s more substantial area for improvement might be in creating a storyline that connects all the vowels and consonants rather than a seemingly arbitrary collection of disconnected illustration captions; for example, “A” may be for “Anaar” and “AA” for “Aankhen,” but what do pomegranate (anaar) and eyes (aankhen) have to do with one another? Fortunately, Ganapathy’s illustrations save the day. Not only are her colors vivid, but she brings her characters alive. The little Indian girl on the Aankhen/Eyes page has sparkling Indian eyes, and her dainty hand reaches back across the spine of the book to the previous page to Anaar/ Pomegranate to pluck a seed from the juicy ruby-red fruit. It is quite appealing to imagine a Rajasthani desert-brown American child identifying herself with the bighearted brownness of this anaar-plucking girl with the plucky aankhen. Leaving aside the critiquing of this particular book, we must say that with KitaabWorld on the scene, all three of us look forward to the next generation of children saying, “A is for Anupama’s Arrival!” For a community to have truly arrived on foreign shores, it must write its own stories, and those narratives must be published. Ultimately, bookstores play a vital link in bringing our stories from authors, illustrators, and publishers to the reader’s mirror, window, and door. Progress has been made, but a wonderfully named website called argues that much still needs to be done: “In the year 2013, out of 3,200 children’s books published, there were only 93 about African American people. This led to a New York Times article that asked the question, “Where Are the People of Color in Children’s Books?” One hopeful response is, “Right here at!” For Rami Nair (Anupama’s professor of Hindi at Northwestern University) and for all the other teachers committed to keeping Indian languages and literature alive in America and beyond.

Dec ’16-Jan ’17 | West Coast Edition | | 57

58 | INDIA CURRENTS |West Coast Edition |Dec ’16-Jan ’17

Dec ’16-Jan ’17 | West Coast Edition | | 59


The Rasa of Belonging By Priya Das


few days ago, the editor got me thinking about the concept of Rasa. “Entertainment is a desired effect of performance arts but not the primary goal. The primary goal is to transport the individual in the audience into another parallel reality, full of wonder, where he experiences the essence of his own consciousness, and reflects on spiritual and moral questions.” Per Wikipedia, that is how Natya Shastra—the ancient Indian text, explains the concept of Rasa. 2016 has been an interesting year, from a rasa and rasika (appreciator of rasa) point of view. The Grammy awards, with which I begin my research into music columns for the year, are a recognition of musical creativity and artistry. However, I like to believe that the most popular award, Record and Producer of the Year is in recognition of the hold a specific record has on the masses, it’s ability to transport listeners. This year there was a desi connection to the Record and Producer of the Year, for Uptown Funk, the Bruno Mars song that everybody was tapping their feet to! It was so popular that my ten year old and his friends danced to it at their school’s talent show. It being this-kind-of-election year, I could not help give Jeff Bhasker, who did win the Grammys for both Record and Producer of the Year, more thought than perhaps I might have otherwise. He was born to an Indian-born father. Did he learn Indian music? Had his parents argued about which after-school classes he would go to when he was a boy? Did his ex-mayor father want him to be politically active? Does he now acknowledge that his son has more power over more people than his Mayoral office ever did? Growing up and now, did/ does Bhasker accept his Indianness as a “so-what” or did it bother him and people around him? The next month I discovered Ryan (aka Narayan) Sijan, who came from the outside to immerse in Indianness. “When I was in India I learned quite a few traditional songs from gypsies in Rajasthan,” Sijan recalls. “I spent two weeks with them at a festival in the Thar desert.

A few years later when I was in Turkey I heard someone singing a piece with almost the same melody, it had just been changed a little by the culture. That was a real inspiration to me, I realized how music can bridge time and distance.” Sijan had been wonder struck by the common weave in music around the world and created an album harnessing those sounds. May was even more impactful, the

story of a Pakistani group from Sachal Studios making music underground, in

the face of Taliban oppression. What gives these musicians the courage to do this? What is it in the human spirit that makes us communicate to and seek Oneness in the many worlds we inhabit? The Sachal Studios music had, in effect, elevated moral consciousness and eliminated boundaries. I interviewed Mahesh Vinayakram, a Carnatic trained artist touring currently with Cirque du Soleil; not just rendering his music, but also learning techniques such as “head voice” used mainly by Western vocalists. It struck me that artists in general, are never satisfied with the status quo, theirs is not the world that needs mere upkeep and maintenance, for they constantly break built-up associations and create afresh to seek a different kind of communion, appeal to a different audience each time. However, a thought-provoking perspective on Oneness was brought to light during my research on the column “When a Song Becomes an Anthem,” Nationbuilding. Music and musicians have been harnessed to elect Governments, rally support, or just keep the political machine going, true. But when and how is a Nation built, what keeps its people together? My research led me to conclude that

60 | INDIA CURRENTS | West Coast Edition | Dec ’16-Jan ’17

at various times, national symbols, candidates, and leaders become representative of a collective spirit; but that the “collective spirit” gets re-configured periodically. Oneness is mistakenly defined by skin color and/ or beliefs, but that these buckets appear necessary when incumbents feel an ethnic/ economic loss, new-comers or some communities don’t feel included: Nobody knows how to belong, because there is apparently no common weave that can hold the community fabric together. Serendipitously, I heard Bruce Springsteen interviewed on radio late one night. He said that while he was out one day during a politically/ economically uncertain time in our country, somebody while driving by, shouted out “We need you, Bruce!” As to why somebody called out to him, that’s not important. What is poignant is that somebody called out to Springsteen as a musician. This year of writing has driven home the fact to me that the only pursuit and profession whose established goal is to create Oneness, is the Arts. Music is a powerful tool not just to elevate the individual but also to raise collective consciousness all over the world. I am hoping to explore further and produce examples of how the Arts shape(d) a community’s consciousness through my 2017 columns. This much is a surety: The Arts imparts its creators with power, literally and by association. If more people appreciate your art, the more influential you are. The more your art is in tune with your audience, the more they feel they belong. The end of 2016 has brought us face to face with a rather grim reflection of our fractured nation. Today, I find myself believing—utterly—that artists are singularly equipped with the power to tear down negative associations and infuse their communities with the rasa of Belonging, one audience at a time. n Priya Das is an enthusiastic follower of world music, and avidly tracks inbtersecting points between folk, classical, jazz and other genres.

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relationship diva

Three Mistakes Men Make While Approaching Women By Jasbina Ahluwalia


f you’re a man who finds approaching women a challenge, you’re in good company. While sitting in a lounge or coffee shop, an attractive woman smiles. Although she seems friendly, you hesitate.. Your mind wanders playing out worst case scenarios of utter humiliation. In the meantime, the schmuck sitting two seats down suavely strikes up a conversation with her. The rest, as they say, is history. It’s important to recognize what mistakes you’re making and figure out how to rectify them. Here are three common errors men make when approaching women, and strategies on how to avoid them.

can be the spark she’s seeking. How? Convey it through your conversation and body language. Ask her open-ended questions, or say something completely unexpected. Shake off any sense of stress or boredom before approaching a woman. Keep your arms open as you speak; use hand gestures or movements; smile; make eye contact.

Kryptonite 2: Low Self-Esteem

If you don’t buy into your value, why should she? This isn’t to say that women want an egocentric jerk; instead, they want someone who is confident. Remember, you’re offering her a once-in a-lifetime opportunity to get to know you —make sure she knows you’re special.

Kryptonite 1: Boredom

Chances are, the women you’re meeting aren’t living the lives of superheroes. Rather, they are drudging through stressful jobs and longing for adventure. You

Kryptonite 3: Neediness


If you’re like most men, you want a little challenge. It wouldn’t be very sat-

62 | INDIA CURRENTS | West Coast Edition | Dec ’16-Jan ’17

isfying to have everything you wanted with a simple snap of your fingers. This sounds lovely on the surface, but doesn’t help in the long term. Here’s the trick: Imagine your interaction as an emotional bank account. Every time you tell a story, make a joke, share an intimacy, or make a statement, you are adding value to the interaction (making a deposit). Every time you try too hard to connect, you are taking away value (making a withdrawal). By keeping these pitfalls in mind, you’re more likely to succeed. n Jasbina Ahluwalia has pioneered an approach to matchmaking, which blends the best of the East and the West. She is the FounderPresident of Intersections Match by Jasbina, the only premier dating coaching firm for Indian singles in the US, Canada and the UK.

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Sang Le Dec ’16-Jan ’17 | West Coast Edition | | 63

events DECEMBER 2016-JANUARY 2017

California’s Best Guide to Indian Events Edited by: Mona Shah List your event for FREE! FEBRUARY issue deadline: Friday, January 20 To list your event in the Calendar, go to and click on List Your Event

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special dates Christmas Day

Dec. 25

New Year’s Day

Jan. 1

Guru Govind’s B’day

Jan. 5

Makara Sankranti Pongal

Jan. 14

Jan. 14



1 Thursday

Riches To Rags— The Story of 3 Techies Turned Comics. A standup

comedy show about life, love, marriage, kids, politics, immigration, cars, and gentrification. Featuring Richard Sarvate, Abhay Nadkarni and Samson Koletkar. Organized by Running Dreamz Productions. 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. 500 Castro Street, Mountain View. eventperformances.asp?evt=114.


3 Saturday

Marathi Movie—Family Katta. A

Riyaz workshop for Kathak dancers by Shambhavi Dandekar, December 15 and 16

heartwarming and eye-opening film starring Sai Tamhankar, Dilip Prabhavalkar and Vandana Gupte. Organized by Swar Sudha. 2 p.m. Serra Theatres, 200 Serra Way #37, Milpitas. $15, $10. http://www.


4 Sunday

Contemprary Indian Art Exhibi-

64 | INDIA CURRENTS | West Coast Edition | Dec ’16-Jan ’17

tion and Sale. This holiday season,

Laasya Art will host an exhibition and sale of select new works by leading Indian artists. Each week a new artist will be exhibited starting with Sujata Achrekar, and Ramesh Gorjala, followed by Umakant Tawde, Jagannath Paul, Om Swami and more. In addition, award winning artist Anuradha Thakur’s exhibition has been extended to December 31st, 2016. Her paintings are anchored in Indian

tribal rituals and traditions from many states. Palo Alto, venue to be annoucned. 11 a.m.-1 p.m. (415) 645-3089. sonia@

states. Palo Alto, venue to be annoucned. 2:30 p.m.-5 p.m. (415) 645-3089. sonia@

Film Screening: Celestial Dancers of Manipur. A unique and joyous form


of worship where the entire community comes together to express their devotion through dance. Meet film director Benoy K. Behl art historian filmmaker and photographer. The evening begins with meditation and ends with sharing a vegetarian soup together. 5 p.m. 1185 Vincente Street, San Francisco.


11 Sunday

Contemporary Indian Art Exhibition and Sale. This holiday season,

Laasya Art will host an exhibition and sale of select new works by leading Indian artists. Each week a new artist will be exhibited starting with Sujata Achrekar, and Ramesh Gorjala, followed by Umakant Tawde, Jagannath Paul, Om Swami and more. In addition, award winning artist Anuradha Thakur’s exhibition has been extended to December 31st, 2016. Her paintings are anchored in Indian tribal rituals and traditions from many states. Palo Alto, venue to be annoucned. 2:30 p.m.-5 p.m. (415) 645-3089. sonia@


18 Sunday

Hot Chocolate With Santa at ICC.

11 a.m.-1 p.m. $5. India Community Center, 525 Los Coches Street, Milpitas. http://

Contemporary Indian Art Exhibition and Sale. This holiday season,

Laasya Art will host an exhibition and sale of select new works by leading Indian artists. Each week a new artist will be exhibited starting with Sujata Achrekar, and Ramesh Gorjala, followed by Umakant Tawde, Jagannath Paul, Om Swami and more. In addition, award winning artist Anuradha Thakur’s exhibition has been extended to December 31st, 2016. Her paintings are anchored in Indian tribal rituals and traditions from many

15 Thursday

Royal Palace Banquet Hall, 6058 Stevenson Boulevard, Fremont. $96-500. https://www.

ICC New Year’s Eve Party. Buffet

Riyaz Workshop for Kathak Dancers. Shambhavi Dandekar will share

dinner, dance with DJ Shem. 7:30 p.m. $99. India Community Center, 525 Los Coches Street, Milpitas.

her riyaz secrets with young dancers and teachers in a four day workshop. Only for professional dancers-teachers and advance level students of Kathak dance. www. kathakshambhavi@ (650) 930-0328.

Desi New Year’s Eve Neon Party.


playing Bollywood, bhangra, top 40 with an open bar. Organized by BollywoodSF & DJPrecautionSF Events. 7 p.m. The Golden Peacock, 24989 Santa Clara St., Hayward. $70. paradise-ball-nye-party-2017-w-open-barall-night_event-in_hayward-ca_310505

17 Saturday

A Rare Evening of Dhrupad Music. Featuring Pandit Ritwik Sanyal (vocal). Accompanied by Phil Hollenbeck on Pakhawaj. Organized by Ali Akbar College of Music. 7:30 p.m. 215 West End Ave., San Rafael. $25, $20 members, senirors/students. (415) 454-6372.


23 Friday

Induz Holiday Party—Santa Claus is Coming to Town. B uffet dinner,

picture with Santa, gifts for kids from Santa, music and dance performances, DJ Dancing. 4 p.m. $25, kids $15. Roobaru Restaurant, 36665 Cedar Boulevard, Newark.


25 Sunday

Paradise Ball NYE Party 2017. Dj’s


by a concert by Subhangi Sakhalkar (vocal) with Vivek Datar (harmonium) and Nikhil Pandya (tabla). Organized by Badrikashrama. 7 p.m. 15602 Maubert Avenue, San Leandro. http://badarikashrama. org. (510) 278-2444.

31 Saturday

FOG New Year’s Eve 2017. Indian

buffet dinner, hosted bar, dance performances and live DJ. Organized by Festival of Globe (FOG) & FIA. 7:30 p.m.

1 Sunday

Jai Ho! Kick Off 2017 Bollywood Party. Celebrating our unity in diversity.

Light up the dance floor to transcend language, nationality, skin color and all other labels. Organized by DJ Prashant. 9 p.m. Slide SF, 430 Mason Street, San Francisco. $25.


Annual Vegetarian Christmas Dinner and Concert by Subhangi Sakhalkar. Christmas Dinner followed


Dancing, cocktail drinks, grand buffet in traditional Indian style, along with Live DJ. 7 p.m. $64. Ballroom at Oasis Palace, 35145 Newark Boulevard, Newark.

12 Thursday

A Talk on Ayurveda by Ashok Jethanandani. Have your blood glucose

levels been creeping up in your annual tests? Are your triglycerides elevated? Have you added inches around your waist? All of these may be clues to the same metabolic dysfunction that can be corrected by addressing the underlying causes. We will discuss dietary choices that can reverse the progression of diabetes and ayurvedic herbal medicines that help restore balance of health. 7 p.m. Cupertino Community Hall, 10350 Torre Ave., Cupertino. (408) 777-3120. © Copyright 2016 India Currents. All rights reserved. Reproduction for commercial use strictly prohibited. 

Dec ’16-Jan ’17 | West Coast Edition | | 65

!!! Aum Vasu Rudra Aadhithyaya Namaha !!!

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St. Jude Prayer Sister Theresa the little flower please pluck me a rose from the Heavenly garden and send it to me with a message of love. Tell God that I love Him each day more and more. . Our Father who art in Heaven hallowed be

Thy name. Thy Kingdom come. Thine will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. Amen.

Holy St. Jude, apostle and martyr, great in virtues, rich in miracles, near kinsman of Jesus Christ, faithful intercessor of all those who invoke your special patronage in times of need, to you I recourse from the depth of my heart. I humbly beg to whom God has given such great powers to come to my assistance in times of need. Please help me in my present urgent need. In return I promise to make your name known and cause you to be invoked, St. Jude, for me and all who invoke your aid. May the Sacred Heart of Jesus be loved, adored, cherished, and preserved throughout the world. Worker of miracles, pray for us St. Jude. Helper of the helpless, pray for us. Amen. (To be said 9 times).

66 | INDIA CURRENTS | West Coast Edition | Dec ’16-Jan ’17

ö XI m;;F;e n;m;/ All kinds of Hindu traditional Pujas and homas Ganapathi, Navagraha, Vasthu, Ayushya Homas, Marriages, Seemantham, Nama-karnam, Upanayanam, Sathyanarayana Puja, Lakshmi Puja, Durga Sapthasathi Yanthra Puja. Hiranya Sradha and last rites. American born children’s horoscopes.

Pt. Ganesh Shasthry 880 E. Fremont Ave., #302 Sunnyvale, CA 94087

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Dec ’16-Jan ’17 | West Coast Edition | | 67


esus Christ is coming back again to this world as "the King of Kings & the Lord of Lords" to judge Nations with HIS righteousness, to be with HIS people who have accepted Christ into their hearts & lived/living a life acceptable to Christ, having their names written in "the Book of Life" & to live with them forever. For the Lord Jesus Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we, who are alive and remain, shall all be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet, caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. No one knows the day & hour when Jesus Christ will come back, not even the angels of heaven, but only the Father God in heaven. The day of Christ coming also called as "the Day of the Lord" will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. Nevertheless we, according to HIS promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

Jesus Christ coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but MY words will by no means pass away”

What will happen to people who are left behind during Christ Second coming?

Who will not be with Christ forever?

For people whose names are written in "the Book of Life" it will be a glorious day & for others it will be a day of destruction. The Lord will consume with the breath of HIS mouth and destroy with the brightness of HIS coming.

What will be the signs before Second coming of Christ & of the end age?

After coming of Christ, Satan will be bound for 1000 years. Saints of God will rule with Christ during these 1000 years. There will be no death and everyone will live happy with joy & peace, since the Prince of Peace will rule them. After 1000 years of Christ reign, satan will be released to see the reign of Christ with righteousness. Satan will go around nations deceiving people one more time and gather few folks to fight against HIS saints. God will send fire and devour them. Satan will be sent to hell forever.

Flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God. Only people whose sins are cleansed by the Blood of Christ, lived/living righteous life before Christ & have their names written in "the Book of Life" will inherit the Kingdom of God or to be with HIM forever. The Bible says in 1Cor 6:9-10, Gal 5:19-21, Rom 1:29-32, Rev 21:8, Rev 14:9-11 that the unrighteous people will not inherit the Kingdom of God.

Many will be deceived during last days saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ therefore do not go after them. But when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be troubled; for such things must happen, but the end will not come immediately. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be great earthquakes in various places, and famines and pestilences; and there will be fearful sights and great signs from heaven. All these are the beginning of sorrows. Many will be persecuted, beaten, killed, offended, betrayed and hated for Christ sake even by parents, brothers, relatives, friends and children. But not a hair of your head shall be lost. By your patience possess your souls. Many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. But he who endures to the end shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the entire world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.

The Great Tribulation

1000 years of Christ reign

The Great White Throne Judgment

After casting Satan into the Lake of fire (hell), Christ will judge the dead & the Nations with HIS Righteousness. If anyone’s name is not found in “the Book of Life”, then they will be cast into the Lake of fire. Whomsoever name is found in “the Book of Life” will have eternal life with Christ in New Heaven, New Earth & New Jerusalem. There is no death, no sorrow, no crying & no pain.

Now how can I redeem this Gift of Salvation in my life, so I can be with Christ forever?

All we have to do is to believe Jesus, accept HIM into your heart, ask HIM to cleanse your sins by HIS precious blood & live a life acceptable to Christ every day from now on. (Repeat this simple prayer - Prayer means talking to God in your heart)

But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, and then know that its desolation is near. Therefore when you see the ‘abomination of desolation,’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place where it ought not, then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Jesus predicts the destruction of Temple of God to his disciples saying, “The days will come in which not one stone shall be left upon another that shall not be thrown down”. For in those days there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of creation of this world. And unless the Lord had shortened those days, no flesh would be saved.

Lord Jesus, Thank you for coming into this world for me and my sins. I truly accept you just as I am. Come into my heart; cleanse me and my sins with your precious Blood. Be in my heart forever and help me to live and lead a Holy life like you. I also invite YOU & Your Holy Spirit to come into my heart and give me the Joy, Peace, Happiness, Deliverance from sins, bondages and sickness forever. Thank you for giving me the assurance of being with me forever. In Jesus name I pray Amen.

Immediately after the tribulation of those days, there will be signs like the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see

If you have truly meant this prayer, then you have accepted Jesus Christ into your heart & your name will be written in “the Book of Life”. HE will be with you forever. HE will not leave you nor forsake you. If you need prayers or would like to know more about Jesus, then you can visit nearby Christian churches who believes in Trinity (The Father God, Lord Jesus Christ & The Holy Spirit) or email us at :

68 | INDIA CURRENTS | West Coast Edition | Dec ’16-Jan ’17

Dec ’16-Jan ’17 | West Coast Edition | | 69

Om Sri Mathre Namaha

Sunday December 25th: Merry happy christmas week end timings

(swarga vaasal heavens gate) pooja aarati and manthra pushpa kritika vratha evening at 4.00 PM sri lakshmi ganapathi abhisheka, sri valli deva sena Monday December 26th: Day after sametha sri subramanya abhisheka, sri christmas day week end timings soma pradosham evening at 4.00 PM shiva sri shiva abhisheka aarati and manthra Sunday December 11th: pushpa At 4.00 PM bharani deepam sri lakshmi rudra abhisheka aarati and manthra ganapathi abhisheka sri valli deva sena pushpa Tuesday January 10th: sametha sri subramanya abhisheka th At 6.00 PM pradosham shiv sri rudra Thursday December 29 : pradosham shiva sri rudra abhisheka At 6.00 PM shiva abhisheka aarati and abhisheka aarati and manthra pushpa aarati and manthra pushpa night at 8.30 PM sri nataraja abhisheka manthra pushpa evening at 6.30 PM souramana sri hanuman jayanthi special aarati and manthra pushpa Monday December 12th: pooja aarati and manthra pushpa At 6.30 PM kritika vratha sri valli deva Wednesday January 11th: Koodarai sena sametha sri subramanya st vellum seer govinda 27th day thiruppavai Saturday December 31 : abhisheka annamalai deepam At 11.30 PM sarva devata special pooja pasuram arudra darsanam evening archana night at 12.00 AM special aarati At 5.30 PM shiva abhisheka aarati and Tuesday December 13th: manthra pushpa special sri nataraja At 5.30 PM shiva abhisheka aarati and pooja and manthra pushpa. Very very pooja aarati and manthra pushpa happy new year 2017 manthra pushpa vaikanasa deepam Pournami vratha evening at 6.00 PM sri 1.00 AM temple closes srvalaya deepam pournami vratha sathya narayana swamy pooja/vratha evening at 6.00 PM sri sathya narayana st aarati and manthra pushpa swamy pooja/vratha all are welcome to Sunday January 1 : Happy new year 2017. Temple opens at 7.00 AM sri participate with family Thursday January 12th: Karavaigal pin venkateswara suprabhatam continued th with sri lakshmi ganapathi abhisheka, sri chendru thiruppavai 28th day pasuram Wednesday December 14 : shiva abhihskea , sri valli deva sena Pancharathra deepam sametha sri subramanya abhisheka Friday January 13th: Bhogi pandigai th aarati and manthra pushpa continued festival Friday December 16 : Dhanur masa pooja begins thiruppavai / thiruvembavai with sri skandha sashti kavasam chanting continuous archana night at Saturday January 14th: Uttaranaya th 10.00 PM sukh karta dukh hartha aarati punyakalam pongal festival temple Saturday December 17 : At 12.00 Noon sri nava graha homa/ sri and sri jai jagadeesha hare aarati balaji opens morning 10.00 AM sri venkateswara suprabhatam sri saneeswara graha homa continued with ekantha seva temple closes venkateswara abhisheka sri shiva sri nava graha abhisheka / sri nd abhisheka, sri surya narayana pooja saneeswara graha abhisheka aarati and Monday January 2 : Day after new continued with sri vishnu sahasra nama manthra pushpa afterenoon at 2.00 PM year weekend timings chanting aarati and manthra pushpa sri venkateswara abhisheka continued after noon at 2.00 PM sri navagraha with sri vishnu sahasra nama chanting Sunday January 8th: Sri vaikunda At 4.00 PM sri sankata hara chathurthi ekadasi temple opens morning 8.30 AM homa/sri saneeswara graha homa sri nava graha abhisheka/sri saneeswara evening at 4.00 PM sri lakshmi sri venkateswara suprabhatam graha abhisheka aarati and manthra ganapathi homa/ sri lakshmi ganapathi continued with sri vaikunda ekadasi pushpa abhisheka, aarati and manthra pushpa special dwara pooja Please Make A Note: Temple Address: 32 Rancho Drive, San Jose CA 95111 Temple Timings: Week Days Morning 10.00 Am To 12 Noon, Evening At 6.00 pm To 8.00 pm Week Ends And Holidays 10.00 am To 8.00 pm FOR BHAJAN'S RELIGIOUS DISCOURSES, MUSIC AND DANCE PERFORMANCES, PRIVATE POOJAS PLEASE CONTACT TEMPLE FOR FURTHER DETAILS MANGALANI BHAVANTHU,SUBHAM BHUYATH,LOKA SAMASTHA SUKINO BHAVANTHU, LOVE ALL SERVE ALL LOVE IS ALL For Pujas & Rituals Contact: PANDIT


880 East Fremont Ave #302, Cupertino Villas, Sunnyvale, CA 94087

(408) 245-5443 / Cell: (925) 209-7637 E-mail:


70 | INDIA CURRENTS | West Coast Edition | Dec â&#x20AC;&#x2122;16-Jan â&#x20AC;&#x2122;17


Monday December 5 th: Sukla Sashti At 8.30 PM sri valli deva sena sametha sri subramanya sahasra nama archana


Fe s t i v a l


New Year’s Day

Jan. 1


April 16


Sept. 21-29

Guru Govind’s B'day

Jan. 5

Tamil New Year

April 14


Makara Sankranti

Jan. 14

Hanuman Jayanti

April 11

Mahatma Gandhi’s B’day Oct. 2


Jan. 14

Buddha Purnima

May 10

Sharad Purnima

Oct. 5

M.L. King Jr. Day

Jan. 16

Mother’s Day

May 14

Karva Chauth

Oct. 8

India’s Republic Day

Jan. 26

Ramadan Begins

May 26

Dhan Teras

Oct. 17

Vasant Panchami

Feb. 1

Memorial Day

May 29


Oct. 19

Saraswati Puja

Feb. 1

Father’s Day

June 18

Govardhana Puja

Oct. 20

Presidents Day

Feb. 20

Eid ul Fitr

June 24

Bhai Duj

Oct. 21

Maha Shivaratri

Feb. 25

Ratha Yatra

June 25

Guru Nanak’s B’day

Nov. 4

Ash Wednesday

March 1

U.S. Independence Day

July 4

Guru Teg Bahadur Day

Nov. 24


March 13

Guru Purnima

July 9

Thanksgiving Day

Nov. 23


March 20

Raksha Bandhan

Aug. 7

Christmas Day

Dec. 25


March 27

Krishna Janmashtami

Aug. 14

Gudi Padva

March 28

India Independence Day Aug. 15


April 5

Ganesh Chaturthi

Aug. 25

Mahavir Jayanti

April 9

Bakri Id

Sept. 2

Good Friday

April 14


Sept. 3


April 14

Labor Day

Sept. 4


(408) 324-0488 (714) 523-8788 •(202) 709-7010

Dec ’16-Jan ’17 | West Coast Edition | | 71

healthy life

Stressfree Living Through Yoga How I walked on a path beyond the asanas By Geetika Pathania Jain


he characterization of stress as a “silent killer,” and of yoga as an antidote to stress rests on solid scientific research. And just as prolonged stress can literally shorten one’s life, yoga as an antidote to stress can be seen as enhancing wellness. One of the earliest definitions of yoga refers to the power of yoga to soothe mental agitation. In Patanjali’s Yogasutra, we find a definition of yoga as “the suppression of the modifications of mind.” (Yogah chitta vritti nirodha.) In his book, Light on Yoga, B.K.S. Iyengar believes that the modifications of the mind disturb peace. “As a breeze ruffles the surface of a lake and distorts the images reflected therein, so also the chitta vrtti disturb the peace of the mind. When the mind is still, the beauty of the self is seen reflected in it.” In 1957 Basu Kumar Bagchi from the University of Michigan conducted research for the first time that showed that yoga brings about “deep relaxation of the autonomic nervous system.” Advanced yogis can control both sympathetic as well as parasympathetic systems. The sympathetic nervous system exhibits the “flight or fight” response. The adrenal glands produce adrenalin, which inhibits digestion and makes blood available to the muscles for quick action. The parasympathetic system serves to calm the nerves, promotes the absorption of food, and curbs the flow of adrenaline. The sympathetic system thus serves as an accelerator, and the parasympathetic system as a brake. Prolonged exposure to stress can have deleterious health ramifications on the nervous system. Harvard physician, Herbert Benson, who examined the effects of yoga and meditiaton wrote a 1975 book The Relaxation Response, which became a modern classic on undoing stress.’ Benson and his colleagues studied the

phenomenon they referred to as hypometabolism—a “wakeful cousin of sleep that exhibits low energy expenditures.” He called the relaxation response “an inducible physiologic state of quietude” that healed and revitalized. While the ancient yoga sutras of Patanjali outline the meditative traditions of yoga emphasizing concentration, contemplation and self-realization, a more modern version has become popular under the umbrella of “mindfulness.” Kabat-Zinn, a professor of the University of Massachusetts Medical School, has popularized the notion of mindfulness that he learned from Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh. “Mindfulness means paying attention, in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally, ” he says in a video on Youtube. My own experience has borne out much of these research findings. Though I had practiced yoga as a child, I felt what has been referred to as the “mind-body connection,” only as an adult practicing in America. Yoga became a peaceful oasis in the middle of a stressful week. Whereas aerobics classes left me energized, the sense of quietude that followed a yoga ses-

72 | INDIA CURRENTS | West Coast Edition | Dec ’16-Jan ’17

sion was as if I was flooded with wellbeing and bliss. As class sizes grew, the YMCA in the Dallas suburbs where I lived offered one, and eventually, three yoga classes. When I moved to California, I eagerly sought out the yoga offerings at the local YMCA. A “traditional” yoga class that I signed up for was different than what I had encountered. Rather than focusing on energetic asanas, it proceeded at a meditative and slow pace. My younger self found this a bit irritating, as I mentally tapped my foot restlessly, waiting for the action to happen. Focused as I was on burning calories and weight reduction, I avoided this slow pace for several years, focusing instead on the more energetic asana-based yoga styles. Eventually, I began to appreciate the restorative yoga classes more. By this time, I had mastered the warrior poses as well as the sun salutations, but the crow pose still presented a challenge for me. Only recently have I begun to feel comfortable in these poses—crow, tripod headstand, and wheel, which prove that I am still making progress along this path. The adage that we learn something new everyday has been an accurate portrayal of my yoga experience. Without fail,

though, the shavasana at the end of the class has quite consistently been the most rewarding part of the class for me. While discussion of one’s meditation “phenomenon” is discouraged among yoga practitioners, I was quite drawn to the descriptions of other meditators, who discussed colors and lights and sounds during meditations. In my own meditation experiences, there are some distinct experiences that I can recall. One such meditation experience was when our family was faced with a very stressful decision of whether to move our family away from California. My daughter, who was then in high school, was reacting very negatively to this possibility. During one of my meditation sessions, I focused on a wish to free my daughter of her pain. During my meditation, I had a sensation of energy streaming through my body. A few weeks later, we made a decision not to move from California. The sheer intensity of my meditative experience has made this an unforgettable memory. Another intense meditation I experienced was during a visit to the Tibetan monastery in Dharamsala. I was in a room with a large statue of the avalokiteswara, and began to meditate. Again, I felt a very strong cathartic emotion, as if the pain that I had been experiencing was being dissolved and tears began to flow from my eyes. This is the closest first hand experience I had to the melting of toxic emotions in a meditative state. More recently, I have found that at the end of a yoga class, during the shavasana, I might experience meditative bliss. Waves of pure joy seem to course through my closed eyes and I am filled with ananda (joy). It is a disappointment when the shavasana comes to an end. This inner sanctuary of peace can become a refuge during life’s ups and downs. It is a sanctuary to which one returns time and again. Though alcohol and drugs can induce a state of artificial happiness for a little while, ancient yogis had discovered a natural mood and creativity enhancer in meditation and it is no wonder that today many more are literally paying attention.n

Geetika Pathania Jain is a yoga practitioner. She has been teaching hatha yoga in the Bay Area for several years.

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dear doctor

Without Children, Searching for Meaningful Connections By Alzak Amlani


For the last 20 years or so I have been very focused on my business. I am doing quite well now and am slowly feeling confident about my skills. My wife and I have been together almost 17 years and given some medical complications, we cannot have kids. She has a chronic illness and therefore we have decided not to adopt either. I spend a lot of time working and my focus in life seems to be my business. My sister and father have suggested I “get a life.” I hear what they mean, but honestly, I don’t know how to do that. I feel awkward being in my forties and not having any kids. Most of my friends are parents and absorbed in their immediate families. I don’t know how to find a place in life with my circumstances.


For some people, not being able to have children is indeed a significant loss. You want to take time to acknowledge how life is different for you

in knowing you can’t have children. It will indeed evoke a range of feelings—for example sadness, shame, anger, loss and emptiness. These are to be expected and part of the process of moving towards acceptance, trust and creative solutions. For many couples adopting children has worked out quite well. It is complex, but, it can be extremely rewarding. Talking to a few parents who have adopted children is a good way to get a realistic picture of their experience. Other people without children also become god-parents to their nieces, nephews or friends’ children. This is a fun way to participate in a child’s life, especially today, as parents are often so busy with careers that children welcome more adult engagement in their lives. Have you considered something like this? Our work lives, no matter how successful can only give us a certain amount of fulfillment, value and joy. Being with

74 | INDIA CURRENTS | West Coast Edition | Dec ’16-Jan ’17

people for social connection, sharing activities and getting support is invaluable. Humans have always lived in communities and participated in large family gathering and community rituals to belong and enjoy contact. Living in private dwellings and having independent lives gives us a lot of choice, however, without balancing that with community experiences feels empty and lonely for a lot of people. Taking classes, joining an organization that you care about, doing civic projects and the like are modern ways of being in community. Taking a risk and venturing out to explore these possibilities is a step worth taking.n Alzak Amlani, Ph.D., is a counseling psychologist of Indian descent in the Bay Area. 650-325-8393. Visit

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the last word

Democrats, Thanks For the Apocalypse


By Sarita Sarvate

wo years ago, when the prospect of another election son’s health insurance? Will we face reduced social security and loomed, I hoped that Hillary Clinton wouldn’t run. I Medicare benefits? Will Congress control women’s wombs? Will thought she had no chance of winning. The Republicans my work on reducing California’s greenhouse gases by procuring hated her. Even Democrats disliked her. Many women could not fifty percent of electricity from renewables regress? relate to her. She had too much baggage. So it is time to rise up in revolution. It Many of my feminist friends felt the is time to resist the oppression. It is time At a time when so much to document every law and code Trump same way. The stakes were too high; they did not want a female candidate at the risk ugliness has crept into our transgresses, every right the Republicans of losing the election. Others thought of take away, every assault on civil society Hillary as entitled, even driven by blind am- lives, I am devoting myself that the Congress makes. It is time to bition. There were those, on the other hand, to beauty. But, we cannot sue, to march, to protest, to document, to who had drunk the Clinton Kool-Aid, who to take the fight to the International pursue beauty instead of speak, worshipped Hillary almost as much as the Court. It is time to boycott, particularly Donald’s followers deified him. revolution. We need the CBS, whose Les Moonves boasted that During the campaign, many observed might be bad for the country but beauty to replenish us as Trump that Hillary’s ambitions did not align with he was good for the network. Also we her talents. She did not put forth any new need to move away from CNN, where we fight. ideas or bright visions. Her message was Anderson Cooper fawned over Trump. that people should vote for her because It is time to shed fear and stand against Donald Trump was so much worse. And because she had experi- greed, fascism, and tyranny. ence. These are slogans on which you cannot win an election. In It is time to dismantle the Democratic Party and reconstruct if the end, many millennials just did not turn out to vote. from scratch. It is time to throw out the old bosses. It is time to The media, particularly CNN, skewed the election. The FBI do some serious soul-searching so that in two years, the Demosabotaged the Democrats. The Supreme Court aided Trump by crats can get back the Congress and the Senate. striking down parts of the Voting Rights Act. Sexism played a It can happen. But, it can happen only if we the people put part. pressure on the party machine to change. We liberals can no lonCould another candidate without the “enthusiasm gap” have ger allow the talking heads to dominate our intellectual space. It won? Perhaps. The election, after all, was close. is time to act. But the very prospect we feared is now upon us. Paul Ryan and In the wake of the election, Garrison Keillor advised spending his gang are busy writing legislation to privatize Social Security four years raising heirloom tomatoes, meditating, reading Jane and Medicare, build toll highways with corporate funds, dismantle Austen, traveling around the country, and tasting artisan beers. the Federal Reserve, roll back the Paris Climate Agreement, repeal We need to do these things just to maintain our sanity. I, for Obamacare, abolish the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), one, am immersed in my writing and painting. I am studying and appoint Supreme Court judges that regress the country to the literature, planting my garden, decorating my home, luxuriating era of the founding fathers. The Republicans control the Presi- in nature, and loving my family. At a time when so much ugliness dency, the Senate, the Congress, thirty-three Governorships, and has crept into our lives, I am devoting myself to beauty. a majority of State Houses. Democrats have been eradicated from But we cannot pursue beauty instead of revolution. We need the political map even as they find solace in the fact that Hillary the beauty to replenish us as we fight. won the popular vote. Yesterday, I chanced upon a rendition of Woody Guthrie’s And I am mad. Mad at the Clintons but much more so at the “This land is your land.” Tears began to stream down my cheeks. Democrats. They caved under the Clinton machine. They did not To those of us who abandoned our homes in search of the freenurture young blood or fresh talent. They did not sense the tem- dom of America, our sense of loss in the wake of this election is perature of the electorate, particularly in the rural depressed areas, ever more poignant. which used to be their stronghold. They squandered the millions But as I listened to Guthrie, I knew that the healing had bewe gave to Clinton on TV ads, not on getting out the vote. gun. And I was ready for battle. n To add insult to injury, the day after the election, Obama and Sarita Sarvate ( has pubClinton urged us to give Trump a chance. I am appalled but not lished commentaries for New America Media, surprised. They will return to their private lives of delivering KQED FM, San Jose Mercury News, the Oakland highly paid speeches, acquiring million-dollar book contracts, and Tribune, and many nationwide publications. playing golf. But what of us? Will Trump take away my younger 78 | INDIA CURRENTS | West Coast Edition | Dec ’16-Jan ’17

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