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I am Gulliver, I am Sindbad

Nobel Trivia The Games We Played

Firecracker Patriotism

IndiaCurrents Celebrating 26 Years of Excellence Celebrating 26 Years of Excellence Celebrating 26 Years of 26 Years of Excellence Celebrating 25 Excellence

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By Reason of Insanity IC Celebrates 26 years

James Holmes’ smile defines his face. It is quiet and restrained. Not much is known about him. He was not on any social media site and was never seen with anyone else. We are told that he drank Mountain Dew, bought chips at the grocery store, and filled gas in his car. He seemed to be just an ordinary young man. On a summer night in the heartland town of Aurora in Colorado, at the midnight movie premiere of “The Dark Knight Rises” Holmes uncovered, for all the world to see, a malignant personality. With researched efficiency, Holmes re-created an alternate movie set and played the role of writer, actor, director and cameraman. He captured the imagery of his scripted scene through the (metaphorical) viewfinders on his assault rifles. A recent editorial in the San Jose Mercury News stated that “The alleged shooter, 24-yearold James Holmes, had to be suffering from some sort of mental illness to do what he did.” Is Holmes insane? One of the traditional determinations of insanity in criminal cases is not being able to distinguish between right and wrong and fantasy from reality. In Holmes’ case, his surrender to the police leads me to believe that he was aware he had done something “wrong,” and his murderous 1885 Lundy Ave, Suite 220, San Jose, CA 95131 Phone: (408) 324-0488 (714) 523-8788 Fax: (408) 324-0477 Email: Publisher & Editor: Vandana Kumar (408) 324-0488 x 225 Advertising Manager: Derek Nunes Northern California: (408) 324-0488 x 222 Southern California: (714) 523-8788 x 222 Marketing Associate: Raj Singh (408) 324-0488 x221 Graphic Designer: Nghia Vuong EDITORIAL BOARD Managing Editor: Jaya Padmanabhan (408) 324-0488 x 226 Events Editor: Mona Shah (408) 324-0488 x 224 COLUMNISTS Dear Doctor: Alzak Amlani Films: Aniruddh Chawda Forum: Rameysh Ramdas On Inglish: Kalpana Mohan The Last Word: Sarita Sarvate Zeitgeist: Ragini Tharoor Srinivasan Uncubed: Krishna Sadasivam


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INDIA CURRENTS® (ISSN 0896-095X) is published monthly (except Dec/Jan, which is a combined issue) for $19.95 per year by India Currents, 1885 Lundy Ave., Ste 220, San Jose, CA 95131. Periodicals postage paid at San Jose, CA, and at additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to INDIA CURRENTS, 1885 LUNDY AVE, STE. 220, SAN JOSE, CA 95131 Information provided is accurate as of the date of going to press; India Currents is not responsible for errors or omissions. Opinions expressed are those of individual authors. Advertising copy, logos, and artwork are the sole responsibility of individual advertisers, not of India Currents.

grandstanding at the movie theater was executed to dissolve the (our) demarcations between fantasy and reality. The American legal system defines and determines motives for crime and conviction and judge and jury are expected to consider these at sentencing. “The only real defense would be the insanity defense,” said the former federal prosecutor Rick Kornfeld in the New York Post. We may be force fitting the rubric of insanity on Holmes without compelling justification. In my opinion, insanity cannot excuse or defend a crime of this nature. It just helps us understand it. It helps us come to grips with the motivations behind a killing spree. It helps us put a humane spin on an inhumane act. It helps the victims’ families come to terms with an overwhelming loss. I don’t believe Holmes is insane, yet that seems to be the only way to explain why any young man would indulge in random and senseless mayhem. How can we reconcile his lack of humanity otherwise?

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BOOKS: Review of Beautiful Things and Small Acts of Amazing Courage By Girija Sankar and Tara Menon


MUSIC: An Odyssey into Jazz. By Lakshmi Mani

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Featuring ten ventures started by Gen Y entrepreneurs who embody innovation and leadership.

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Aniruddh Chawda, Madhumita Gupta

137 RECIPES From the Bihari Rasoi


EDITORIAL: By Reason of Insanity. By Jaya Padmanabhan




FORUM: Should California Go ahead with High Speed Rail? By Rameysh Ramdas and Mani Subramani

10 ZEITGEIST: Firecracker Patriotism By Ragini Tharoor Srinivasan 24

ELECTIONS 2012: Broccoli Wins. By Vidya Pradhan


DESI VOICES: Nobel Trivia By P. Mahadevan

By Anuradha Malhotra


TRAVEL: Sensory Overload in Madrid. By Kalpana Sunder


RELATIONSHIP DIVA: A Presumed Bias. By Jasbina Ahluwalia

30 YOUTH: An Unexpexcted Casting. By Shilpa Vendigandla


38 FICTION: Amma By Mohamed Refai Mohamed Irfan



HEALTHY LIFE: Of Seasons and Men. By Jojy Michael DEAR DOCTOR: Dealing with Differences. By Alzak Amlani

SCIENCE: The Polarity of White Matter By Leena Prasad

44 COMMENTARY: Oh Irrfan, How Could You Let Us Down So? By Sandip Roy 78 OPINION: My Virtual Encounters. By Geetika Pathania Jain 102 REFLECTIONS: Feng Shui Way of Life. By S. BS. Surendran

ON INGLISH My Summer Tango with the Mango By Kalpana Mohan

144 THE LAST WORD BY SARITA SARVATE: I am Gulliver, I am Sindbad.

DEPARTMENTS 32 Ask a Lawyer 33 Visa Dates 139 Uncubed

48 WHAT’S CURRENT 88 Cultural Calendar 103 Spiritual Calendar 126 Classifieds india currents • august 2012 • 3

4 • india currents • august 2012

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Awaiting Justice

Thank you for drawing attention to hate crimes and how they don’t get very far within the criminal justice system (India Currents, July 2012, Color of Justice). India Currents does a great job of reminding people to fight injustice and not be complacent. I am so thankful for what India Currents does for the community. Arun Paul, CA I was reading the cover article (India Currents, July 2012, Color of Justice) and it brought back bad memories of when I was assaulted on June 6, 2010. I was the victim of a hate crime incident. A Caucasian lady hailed racial slurs at me while I was walking on the street at a traffic signal. She called me Curry Whore, BinLaden, Buddha and asked me to return back to my country. I never got justice in the case. The case was never reported in the media. This incident has been very traumatic for my family and me. I would like to share my story in order to create awareness among the South Asian community. I am still awaiting justice. Name withheld upon request

An Old Association

I am very pleased to know that India Currents is celebrating 25 years of excellence. My hearty congratulations to your dedicated team of workers behind this unique magazine. I have been associated with this magazine and its founders, Arvind Kumar and Ashok Jethnandani. We had discussed the necessity for a community magazine in the early days and the importance of promoting Bhaarateeya Samskriti for the welfare of the Indian community. India Currents has contributed much to the development of our art culture and the performing arts institutions. The individuals who have supported the magazine with their periodical advertisements are pillars of our community. It is heartening to see that the India Currents team continue to publish with the same zeal and fervor with which it was started. 25 years of serving the needs of a discriminating community is a feather in your cap. Shortly after the launch of IC another trend setting movement was begun here in Yogaville, Virginia, at the Satchidananda Ashram: “Naatya Adhyayana Gurukulam summer camp.” It is one of its kind in this part of the globe. What we started as an experiment, has now completed 24 years. We will be stepping onto the threshold of our 25th year soon. 6 • india currents • august 2012

I can only say that we have also grown with the magazine. V.P. Dhananjayan, Virginia

A Memorable Music Residency

I just saw your beautiful magazine India Currents of July 2012 sent by a friend from the Bay Area. The magazine featured my interview. (India Currents, July 2012, Amjad Ali Khan Comes to Stanford) Thank you Teed Rockwell for an excellent writeup. I had a very memorable residency at Stanford University. Teed met me a few times while I was teaching there. I also had the honor of listening to his beautiful instrument the Touchstyle Veena. My wife Subhalakshmiji, Amaan Ali Khan and Ayaan Ali Khan join me in sending our love and best wishes for your beautiful magazine India Currents and all who work there. Amjad Ali Khan, India

Underlined Insights

Just a note to say how much I appreciate articles by Sarita Sarvate (The Last Word by Sarita Sarvate). Although I don’t always agree with her views, I find that her insights are piercing. There are two articles (In Transit, Bhagavad Gita to the Rescue) up on my fridge with underlining that I re-read and think about all the time. Amy de Lorimier, CA

Sarita Sarvate’s article on Paris (India Currents, July, 2012 A Letter From Paris) was excellent. I would like to congratulate her in French: Chere Madame Sarvate, J’ai lu votre article sur Paris. C’etait excellent. Je connais parfaitement les Francais et l’article m’a rappele toutes les attractions, les coutumes, les manieres des Parisiens. Mes salutations distinguees. (Your article has reminded me of all the attractions, the customs and ways of Parisians. My greetings.) Des Khurana, Anaheim, CA

The Long Hand of Letterwriting

I agree with the article (India Currents, July 2012, The Lost Art of Letter Writing). I still write long and loving thank you notes or notes to say I miss you. I’m grateful for friends who still enjoy writing and receiving! Jeanne E. Fredriksen, Illinois

The “First” Second Generation

I found this article (India Currents, June 2012, Raising An Indian American Teen) interesting. I did not find it interesting because I have a teenager (I have a preschooler), but because the story is one I have encountered before. The author missed an entire population of South Asians who were teenagers in America during the 1980s and 1990s. Yes this

has already happened once. Many of these former teenagers of Indian descent are now nearing middle age. These are people we see in the media, or people who work in our local hospitals and colleges and even in politics, leading change. In talking with many of these people, I believe we will find that they encountered many similar challenges in their own upbringings. I feel it is worth examining the “first” second generation, because you will find that the list of “issues” was practically the same as it is today, with the only major additional challenge being that of the incredible predominance of the Internet. It is inherent in relatively educated Indian circles to have certain expectations about success, education and social decorum. You can take an Indian parent out of India, but you can never completely eradicate the Indian in them, and thus, at least a little bit is going to be passed on, whether or not your child wants it. How one’s child manages his or her cultural background and values, and accepts his or her own identity with confidence is where the real challenge lies. Dyuti Sengupta, S.F. Bay Area

A Cautionary Note

Like everyone else, people mistake party food and snacks for regular meal options. Samosas and Chaat (India Currents, June 2012, A Recipe For Fixing Harmful South Asian Diets) are only for once in awhile. It is important to include dark greens, bright yellows and red vegetables and whole grains every day in your diet. Mary Lindemuth Arulanantham, Facebook

Diffusing Identity

Thanks for the editorial (India Currents, June 2012, Unchecked). Another thing to take note: A growing number of U.S. raised Indian Americans are now intermarrying with other ethnicities. It will be interesting to see how the Indian American identity is defined in the third generation especially amongst those kids with one Indian parent and one non Indian parent of another ethnicity. Leena, Online


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Should California Go Ahead with High-Speed Rail? Rameysh Ramdas

Mani Subramani

No, to California’s High Speed Rail

Yes, to California’s High Speed Rail

he California Legislature and Governor Jerry Brown have put us in the national headlines with the decision to move forward with high speed rail construction—“California’s Crazy Train” screamed the NY Post, “Financial Suicide” said The Week and Professor Rick Geddes of Cornell University stated it best in The New York Times—“The Right Idea in the Wrong Place”—I respectfully agree, with an addition—that it is “at the wrong time” too! Yes, we voters approved a bond measure for $9.95 billion in 2008 to fund high speed rail. The federal government as a part of the stimulus is offering $3.5 billion in addition. As even a second grader would attest, $ 9.95 billion + $3.5 billion do not add up to the estimated cost of $100 billion and therein lies the problem. We have a fiscal train wreck in California that we must address before we embark on flights of fantasy in high speed rail across the Central Valley. California’s budget woes are huge—the deficit has now ballooned to an estimated $16 billion with tax revenues plummeting by $3.5 billion in just the current year. Residents across the state are reeling from cuts to public services ranging from emergency services to education to health care with state employees taking pay cuts and suffering furloughs. Highways are in a dismal condition in many places with potholes galore. Cities across the state like Stockton, Mammoth Lakes and San Bernardino are seeking bankruptcy protection. We do not have funding to keep basic services like libraries and parks open. A stunning example of the Legislature’s misplaced priorities is the failure to expedite the repair of the levees in the Sacramento—San Joaquin river delta that provides water to more than 65% of our state’s residents. San Jose Mercury News calls the state of the levees “primitive” and State Senator Joe Simitian, (D-Palo Alto) is unsparing in his criticism claiming that it is “California’s Katrina waiting to happen” if they should collapse in an earthquake or a flood. In the midst of this unfortunate mess our elected officials are embarking on this risky misadventure of spending $100 billion dollars in building high speed rail with cost estimates that point to a whopping $50 million per mile. The California High Speed Rail Peer Review Group, a body headed by former Caltrans director Will Kempton and charged with advising the State Legislature on the rail project asked that the state withhold the bond money approved by the voters until the project has a financially viable model, and has also questioned the ridership projections and the assumptions of private investment. Just as it does not make sense for a person with kidney failure to be spending money on botox while neglecting dialysis or a homeowner to be spending on a solar panel while being delinquent on his mortgage or eradicating termites in his home, it simply does not make sense for California to embark on high speed rail at this time. Common sense demands that we stop this now before it becomes a sinkhole for our precious tax dollars. n

ver scores of trips to San Diego from San Jose I have developed a technique to conserve drive time. Leaving very late in the evening or early in the morning on weekends leads to the shortest time spent on the road. This takes about 6 ½ hours of driving. Any other time it could easily be 2-4 hours more. The high speed rail as planned would reduce travel time to less than 4 hours at any time of the day. The High Speed Rail project is estimated to save 146 million hours spent in gridlock annually. This project is a large, imaginative infrastructure project that is great for the environment, reducing carbon emissions by 3 million tons annually. This type of big thinking is exactly what we need—it will spur job growth and demand by moving our transportation infrastructure away from gasoline and closer to electricity, which is a more diverse energy source. As with any debate these days the negative side seems to be overrepresented. This is evident in the largest threat to implementation which is lawsuits by environmental agencies. This project is expected to save about two days worth of gasoline demand over a year which will positively affect U.S. trade balance and the environment. The first stage, currently approved will fund electrification of Caltrain and a 100 mile track in the Central Valley. This is estimated to create 100,000 construction jobs. Over time additional phases of the project will result in around a million jobs created over the 15 year course of the project. So why would environmentalists be against something that is great for the environment and creates jobs? Then there are the budgetary considerations. The first phase of the project was approved by voters in 2008. Since then the project cost has been significantly reduced from the 95 billion to about 65 billion. Some of the reductions are a result of sensible ideas like sharing and upgrading existing Caltrain train tracks. But, if ever there was a time to borrow money this is it with historic low interest rates. The Rail bonds were approved for the high speed rail project purpose and cannot be appropriated for other causes. And most of this funding is in populated areas resulting in an immediate benefit to commuters. Finally let’s look at the connectivity this project creates. It will link Bakersfield, Fresno, Merced and Modesto to LA and SF areas. These towns will become as close to Silicon Valley and LA as Pleasanton and Danville. As eloquently stated by the young voters of Merced, “Let’s not worry just about the bottomline and saddling the young with debt. We need to make sure there is topline growth and more importantly a topline and jobs for the next generation.” We all know what happened when a billion people around the world were virtually connected. Now let’s connect the 30 million in California for real and see what happens. n


We have a fiscal train wreck in California that we must address before we embark on flights of fantasy in high speed rail across the central valley.

Rameysh Ramdas, an SF Bay Area professional, writes as a hobby. 8 • india currents • august 2012


This project is expected to save about two days worth of gasoline demand over a year which will positively affect U.S trade balance and environment.

Mani Subramani works in the semi-conductor industry in Silicon Valley.

india currents • august 2012 • 9



Ragini Tharoor Srinivasan

Firecracker Patriotism


ndependence Day in Lincoln: After a dinner of Nebraska beef, served with grilled kale, patatas bravas, and mushrooms, soaked in red wine, we take our bowls of red-white-and-blue ice-cream (the cream vanilla, striped and starred with blueberries and cherry compote) out onto the porch and watch the fireworks. They might as well be legal here. The streets are already littered with the cans and ash of pre-dusk efforts, and neighbors are lined up in lawn chairs, watching street and sky like an Imax movie, beers in hand. Someone tells me that it’s thirty-five dollars a piece for those impressive displays of purple, green, and gold that rise and pop and disappear before we have time to fully register the impossibility of their beauty. It’s the surprise that keeps us watching. What next? When? How big? Every new constellation is a miracle. The ball of green and red that hangs in the sky like wire mesh; the umbrella of diamonds that forms in an instant. Thirty-five dollars sounds too low, and even then we watch thousands erupt in the sky. Rutherford B. Hayes, our host’s grand-dog, is growling at a mixed breed across the street. Every grand, dual-porch house on this tree-lined street in residential Lincoln is home to a Brittany Spaniel, a DalmationRidgeback, or a noble mongrel. In some houses there are cats, too, with designated square footage in the basement for kitty litter. Entire conversations start and stop on the subject of these non-humans: their bedtime routines, wet food/dry food preferences, the nicknames they respond to, or won’t. This July 4th, Ruthie the mutt is given extra treats after dinner. This, despite the fact that yesterday she took a piece out of the ear of a squat bulldog named Tank. But then, this is what dogs do. The main fireworks go on for half an hour at the nearby country club, and we watch them through the trees at the top of the street, missing only the ground show, and the music that accompanies each burst. We sit in the middle of the road, leaning against a center divider, and not a car passes. When one does, it is a U-haul, which we imagine is carrying more crackers. All around us, teenagers compete with the official display, setting off what start like rockets, and end like confetti in the sky. “Are you more impressed with the fireworks or our patriotism?” Vicky asks. She is half-joking. An academic in Lincoln (which is, after all, a university town), our hosts are part of the demographically small but politically significant population of liberals in the blood red American heartland. I smile in response, but ponder the question. Is this patriotism? Am I impressed? These fireworks are incredible but no match for the official display over the Eiffel Tower on Bastille Day, or the unofficial, dangerous play with fire in any number of Indian towns. Of course, it’s not about the fireworks—or, not only about them. Patriotism, or love of country, is one of the rhetorical sticks used to beat political candidates into the servile wearing of flag-pins and neighbors into the knee-jerk hanging of flags. It is the poisonous ideological alibi of Birthers and xenophobes. But it is also a powerful, motivating force of national kinship, a fount of community feeling, and a source of shared strength. What is patriotism? Do I feel it? In his canonical essay, “What is a nation?” (1882), the philosopher Ernest Renan argued that there is something about the nation that exceeds the bonds (and bounds) of race, language, religion, economic interests, military goals, and geography. What binds people to a nation are their substantive experiences of, relationships to, and aspirations for the past, present, and future. “The essence of a nation,” Renan wrote, “is that all individuals have many things in common, and also that they 10 • india currents • august 2012

Whether we left India and were reborn as American citizens, or were born U.S. nationals in a country still suspicious of non-white birth certificates, we must do the qualified work of forgetting, in order to remember and assert who we are, who we have been, and who we want to be. have forgotten many things.” The first part of Renan’s statement is easily understood: A nation’s people have suffered, enjoyed, and hoped together; these are the many things they have in common. They share a past, they share the desire to live together in the present, and they share the hope of perpetuating their heritage in the future. What is important is their collective will, not any preexisting ethnic, linguistic, or other ties. But what of the second half—that they (we) “have forgotten many things?” Numerous scholars have worked through the rich, theoretical provocation of Renan’s “forgetting.” On one level, it is precisely those other bonds (of race, language, religion, and so on) that Renan thought we needed to forget, in order to give ourselves over to the higher spiritual principle of the nation. On another level, what we have to forget is that we haven’t relinquished those bonds, that we are fundamentally, primordially particular and different, and yet nevertheless must work to fashion an inclusive collective future. Forget our differences, or defer them? Assert our differences, or mask them for the moment? The work of forgetting goes on everyday all over the world, in big and small ways. From the “forgetting” of slavery and segregation, to the “forgetting” of Partition, to the “forgetting” of a little Girl Scout who asked if I spoke English, we all do work on ourselves, our histories, and our memories in order to live where we are and live with ourselves, whoever we are. Whether we left India and were reborn as American citizens, or were born U.S. nationals in a country still suspicious of non-white birth certificates, we must do the qualified work of forgetting, in order to remember and assert who we are, who we have been, and who we want to be. In the heavy heat and humidity of a Nebraska summer night, I watched fireworks and ate ice-cream with descendants of Jamestown settlers, children of Holocaust survivors, born citizens, naturalized immigrants, and a puppy of uncertain origin. Everyone in our group was wearing shorts, everyone except for me, and I wrapped my cardigan around my waist as we waited for the grand finale. n Ragini Tharoor Srinivasan is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Rhetoric at the University of California, Berkeley.






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Framed for Success Ten Under Thirty By Arpit Mehta


ur list of ten ventures started by entrepreneurs under the age of thirty includes men, women, artists, technologists, analysts, fashionistas, entertainers and environmentalists. A never-say-die attitude threads them together. Their youth fuels their passion. They are unique innovators with original ideas. These young men and women, some just barely out of college, have been bitten by the startup bug. This article provides a glimpse into what drives South Asians to starting companies and why, despite long odds, relentless working hours, and dragged out incubation periods, they persist in walking that cobbled road to success.


t a time when youth employment is double that of all Americans, these intrepid South Asian entrepreneurs are taking risks and looking beyond the security of a steady job. They are making VC pitches, putting together Powerpoint presentations, 12 • india currents • august 2012

raising seed money and sacrificing bar time for boardroom time. They are not afraid of rejection, and are reinventing the coolness factor of “nerd.” From the popularity of yoga to the mainstream appreciation of Indian cuisine, and,

not to forget, the critically acclaimed and celebrated film, Slumdog Millionaire, Americans are starting to take notice of the growing presence of South Asians in the United States. The cultural implications of this can hardly be ignored. The previous connotations of being

an Indian in America included being either a computer software grunt, a 7-Eleven owner, or, occasionally, a doctor. Even outside the American stereotypes of Indians, it was hard to look around and see little more than jewelers, motel owners, and engineers. But that has been increasingly changing as young Indian Americans are breaking the mold to expand into other areas and industries. Technology is a sector that naturally draws South Asians, but entrepreneurship in the arts is fast gaining traction among this community. When asked as to what prompted them to take the risk and pursue their ventures, the resounding answer I received was that they were influenced by their families and family friends. According to Jesse Pujji of Ampush Media, “Just the fact that our parents left India and came here to start new lives is rather entrepreneurial. It has set a great precedent for us to follow.” “Use the Indian perspective that you’ve gleaned from your parents and families, by which I mean being entrepreneurial in whatever endeavor you pursue,” said Ik Jagait of Playground Pictures. “[Creative arts] is still a new field for Indian

Americans, and it is a little scary to explore that territory, but I would encourage you to invite your family and your community to be a part of the process. You’d be surprised as to how supportive they might be,” said Negin Singh of cARTel. There is definitely something remarkable about being inspired by our parents, but to have their support is quite a blessing. Anuj Verma of Thirst Labs gave some great insight on the matter: “Indian parents are encouraging their kids to pursue other ventures, an option they sometimes wish their parents had given them.” Everyone I have had the privilege of speaking with has reiterated the fact that their parents have been great supporters of their work, despite the stereotype of Indian parents expecting and supporting only a triad of engineers, doctors or lawyers. This has resulted in some amazing and groundbreaking ventures in all sorts of new fields, many of which have been led by Indian Americans under the age of thirty. Ten such ventures, covering a breadth of areas such as technology, entrepreneurship, media, and the arts are showcased here.

Ampush Media

Nick Shah and Jessie Pujji Founded by former investment bankers, Jesse Pujji, Nick Shah, and Chris Amos, Ampush Media was created with a simple goal in mind: to help advertisers find new customers online. With the growing trend of embedded online advertising on sites like Facebook, it became seemingly difficult for advertisers to count on conversions. This is where Jesse and Nick saw an opportunity. “Using our quantitative skill-set from investment banking, we were able to navigate through the clutter, and successfully provide the best results for our clients,” they said. Their proprietary analytics and automation tools help convert a click into a tangible action, whether that be a lead, a like, a sign-up or an install. By deploying advertising campaigns on Facebook Ads, Ampush Media helps large advertisers find new customers. Wanting to stay true to their vision, and to stay lean through the startup phase, they decided to stay away from initial fundraising. “American Express was our largest lender,” they joked. “I stayed with Jesse’s parents and enjoyed their home-cooked meals for a couple years. It was a bit of a challenge, coming off of a six-figured Wall Street salary,” said Nick. But they wouldn’t trade their experience. Within a few short years, they’ve been able to take their startup to an eight-figured company, and now employ forty people and boast a roster of over one hundred clients. But this is only the start for them, as they hope to reshape the online marketing industry by delivering the best solutions to their clients through technology, rigorous analytics, and a dedication to learning.

Back To The Roots Ventures

In a business ethics class their final semester at U.C. Berkeley, Nikhil Arora and Alejandro Velez were fascinated by an interesting prospect their professor mentioned: mushrooms grown from coffee grounds. Independently, they emailed their professor about it, and ended up getting connected through him. Taking ten paint buckets full of coffee grounds, they used their spring break to see if mushrooms would, in fact, grow out of them. They came back to a single bucket having produced anything, and immediately took it to a local gourmet eatery, Chéz Panisse. The chef gave them his nod of approval, and from there, with a $5,000 grant from the U.C. Berkeley Chancellor, they decided to pursue their venture as urban mushroom farmers.

Alejandro Velez, Nikhil Arora

Moving forward with the initial grant, Back to the Roots raised nearly $150,000 by winning business competitions, and saw their vision come to life. “We wanted to make food personal again,” reflected Arora. Taking what would have become urban waste, Back to the Roots Ventures creates self-contained home-grown kits for oyster mushrooms. It’s a great way for mushroom lovers to grow and enjoy gourmet mushrooms in an entirely self-sustaining way, returning the soil in the kit back to the ground after the mushrooms are harvested. “People don’t have to worry about having a green thumb, or a big back yard,” Arora added. Long term, they wish to expand this venture into other foods, and give people an opportunity to connect with their food again. “We draw our inspiration from Apple, which has taken technology from that geeky and nerdy field to a mainstream one, combining innovation with easeof-use. We hope to do the same with food,” said Arora.


Software engineer and entrepreneur, Poornima Vijayashanker started BizeeBee as a means to help membership-based small businesses to retain their customers. The endeavor came about when Vijayashanker found a lack of Poornima Vijayashanker software solutions in researching india currents • august 2012 • 13

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ways to help local yoga studios maintain their memberships. “Seeing the pains of running a small business and retaining members is what inspired me to launch BizeeBee,” she said. “My mom has been an accountant for a variety of small businesses for the past 25 years. She has taught me a lot about how small business owners think and adopt technology, and has even given me ideas and directions for market segments to look at for BizeeBee.” The result has been a well-thought-out solution that allows clients to set up an account, adding customers who can purchase and renew their memberships with relative ease. It records various data and creates reports that give insights into trends in attendance, instructor performance as well as revenue. It also tracks the memberships, and accordingly reminds customers to renew online, thereby taking the load off business owners on following up. Bootstrapping to get BizeeBee up and going, Vijayashanker did not go through any fundraising for the first year and a half, at which point she sought out support from angel investors. “The key to funding is being credible, something that can be shown by past success, building a prototype, getting traction, and establishing relationships with fellow entrepreneurs and investors,” she added. As for her long-term vision, she sees BizeeBee “becoming an easy-to-access resource for any small business owner, helping them start and grow their business.”

Borrow It Bindaas

Sisters Riddhi, Manshi, and Siddhi Khara grew up in a home full of women who appreciated Indian fashion and apparel. Being able to borrow from each other constantly, they were used to having an arsenal of clothes at their disposal, and this is what first inspired them to create an online portal for renting out Indian clothing and accessories. “We realized there was a market of people in the U.S. ready to try out traditional clothing for special occasions but who didn’t necessarily want to own such elaborate attire and spend a fortune doing so,” said Siddhi. After doing their market research and procuring their supply of clothing from India, the Khara sisters launched the website last year. Adopting a Netflix-like model, Borrow It Bindaas rents out sarees, salwars, peshwaris, and more, including some men’s items, for very affordable prices, giving customers an option to buy. They mail out the items along with a “‘Bindaas Kit,’ a complimentary supply of safety pins, bindis and a pamphlet with instructions on how to drape a saree,” as well as a prepaid shipping label for returns. With a vision to “become the ultimate haven and one-stop shop for affordable and trendy South Asian fashions,” Siddhi offers this advice for budding entrepreneurs: “Build your network and partner up with people whose skills complement yours. When starting a business, you won’t find yourself an expert in every aspect of it overnight, so it’s good to build a team of mentors through your own network. Whether it’s a friend who is in law school or even a past professor, you’d be surprised as to how many people are willing to help!”

Negin Singh


“Art is about pushing boundaries, and creating works that people haven’t seen before.” These are the words that Negin Singh first spoke to me, when talking about her unique and creative venture, Collaborative Arts LA, or cARTel. While still at U.C. Irvine, Singh wanted to air some of her frustrations with the artist community, and to get other artists involved in the process. Led by this desire, she formed cARTel to provide artists of different backgrounds a space to come together, to converse with each other, and feel the freedom to create and express themselves. It didn’t matter what the medium was, as long as people were coming in with the mindset to lose themselves from everything but the creative process. “You would have a film person come in, then an artist, then a musician, then a photographer. They would find themselves conversing, and out of that came a new and beautiful thing, a collaboration that none of them could have individually envisioned,” she said. cARTel started out with shows in public places–in parking lots, at the park, or at the beach–places that required no money to put on a show. The response they got was incredible, finding that they were selling out of tickets even at those venues. They have since been able to move to more professional locations, but they try to stick to their roots. “Every year, we do a ‘Living Room Tour,’ where we take a play that’s been written for us, and perform that in fourteen living rooms across the state.” Part of her vision for establishing cARTel was community involvement, and she has actively seen that through. Going door to door, she garnered support from local companies who were interested in the project. Initially providing non-fiscal support, they have now partnered with cARTel to help build what Singh started. In four years of being active, cARTel has built up quite a following, having recently been featured on the White House blog.


With quite an impressive resumé under his belt, Rahim Fazal used his previous entrepreneurial skills (having sold his first company for $1.5 million, while a senior in high school) as well as his M.B.A. from the Richard Ivey School of Business to launch Involver along with co-founder Noah Horton in 2007. In five years, it has grown to become the premier social marketing platform for over one million brands and agencies, of which Facebook, Best Buy, and Target are just a handful. Creating the world’s first Social Markup Language (SML), Involver created a tremendous platform for companies to develop and market custom applications on social sites like Facebook. When asked about his experience in the industry, and especially as an Indian American, Fazal responded that “the biggest thing an up-and-coming entrepreneur can take advantage of is the resourcefulness of the [Indian] community. I’ve found other South Asians always willing to pick up the phone or answer an email to help me out.” He also advised that “raising money always takes longer than you think. In the early stages, make sure you have at least a year’s worth of savings in the bank.” This, of course, comes from their experience in launching Involver, not having gone through their first round of fundindia currents • august 2012 • 15

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Rahim Fazal

raising until the fall of 2008. All-in-all, Involver raised nearly $11 million in three rounds of fundraising, and have more than lived up to expectations. In the long run, Fazal wishes to see Involver become the largest social media marketing platform.


Pooja Sankar was one of only three girls in her class at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT). Looking around, she saw that her male peers were able to collaborate with each other, and that benefit translated into better grades. She suffered from not being able to study with the boys. It was an obstacle she had to overcome. From this experience, she was moved to help women find themselves in traditionally male fields. “When I really started thinking about it, I understood that my experience as a woman from rural India made me particularly sensitive to a problem that’s faced by many to some degree or another,” said Sankar. With this in mind, she launched Piazza to be “the social learning platform for anyone on earth who wants to learn or teach.” Piazza works as an online studygroup, constituted of students, professors and instructors, as well as teachers assistants. It’s a convenient mode of learning and studying, no matter what the hour. Any student can ask a question, and whoever is online at the moment can answer them. The activity remains in the Pooja Sankar “class” for all to see. Some students are spending as many as four hours a night logged into Piazza. It is solving the very problem that Sankar encountered all those years ago at IIT. It is currently being used by students and faculty at many world-renowned institutions, including U.C. Berkeley, Stanford University, Georgia Tech., and more. When starting out, Piazza had a timetable for when and how they would raise money. With the help of their advisors, they were able to do so smoothly and efficiently. Sankar’s advice “for any first-time entrepreneur is to seek out mentors who have been through the process before. It can be a terribly scary process, and from the outside it can be very demoralizing to see all of these companies getting funded when your company isn’t.” The key to fundraising, according to Sankar is to ask a lot of questions and embrace humility through the process.

Palwinder, Ik Jagait

later, they run a growing company that provides an array of creative services including film, music composition, television commercials, photography, and graphic design. When asked about Indian Americans branching out into the arts, Jagait said, “more Indians are starting to realize that an opportunity in the arts is something they can pursue. They don’t have to fit the traditional mold anymore—they have more options.” This opinion, he explained, was formed by the support of his parents who encouraged him and his brother to pursue their creative expressionism from the very beginning. As for the long term vision of the company, he explained, “We started out making short films, and we find ourselves circling back to that. We often find ourselves saying that we would like to make a feature-length film some day.”

Thirst Labs

Anuj Verma started Thirst Labs along with co-founder Kunal Modi as a means to address an important issue: language processing in an age where one hundred and forty characters have become a popular mode of communication. “Most language processors, before we came along, were meant for long articles, like in the New York Times. But with restrictive status updates, it becomes harder to understand the context, and thus harder to pull out keywords associated with those updates,” Verma explained. To solve this issue, they started out with the most restrictive of social media, Twitter. Introducing their app of the same name, Thirst successfully navigates through the clutter of jumbles, misspellings, and more, in order to deliver content based on choice keywords. Utilizing the iPad interface, the app creates a rich experience for users to browse through tweets based on topics and relevance. When they graduated from U.C. Berkeley, where they first came up with the idea, Verma and Modi presented their prototype to angel investors and venture capitalists, who contributed the $950,000 that Thirst Labs raised in their first round. Using that funding, they were Anuj Verma, Kunal Modi

Playground Pictures (

Led by brothers Palvinder and Ik Jagait, Playground Pictures is a full-service media and entertainment company. Both brothers were naturally drawn towards the creative arts, and combining with their entrepreneurial drive, they decided to launch their company with just some basic equipment that would get the job done. “Technology has become so inexpensive that you can do without fundraising to get into a creative field like ours. It’s not like a decade ago when just twenty minutes of taping cost hundreds of dollars in film,” reflected Ik Jagait. Four years india currents • august 2012 • 17

able to develop their idea further, leading up to the release of the aforementioned iPad app. “It’s so easy to sketch out an idea today; it is a necessity when you’re presenting an idea to investors who may have been presented with a hundred other ideas that week. I don’t think we would have gotten our funding if we had shown up with a powerpoint presentation,” Verma reflected. He also expressed that the API’s that currently powers their app may eventually be licensed out so that others wanting to utilize a more flexible language processor might be able to do so.


Having gone through even a single move, one will agree that the procuring and discarding of cardboard boxes for the process is tedious and wasteful. It was this very experience that led Ash Sud to start his company of reusable moving boxes for rent. Having gotten the idea from an organic grocery’s delivery protocols, Sud found a great solution for the problem that plagues the nearly forty-five million Americans that move every year. “The old way of getting boxes was to go down to your local U-Haul or Home Depot, spend about $3 per cardboard box and $3 per roll of tape, somehow fit it all in your car, and then drag them into your new place. It was not an easy process by any means,” Sud reflected. It was about time someone came up with something better. ZippGo allows people to rent reusable plastic moving containers through their online portal, or by phone. Delivering it to the customer for a flat fee, the service allows them to keep the boxes for two weeks, with the option to hold them for an additional week at approximately a dollar a box. Each of the four options (ranging from one bedroom to four) comes with box labels and zip ties, and the options for two-bedrooms and up includes a dolly as well. At the end of the two weeks (or longer), ZippGo arranges for a pickup as well. “Our customers are our biggest marketing tool. Once they use ZippGo boxes for their move and realize how much easier it makes moving, they swear by our service,” said Sud. Currently offering service in the San Francisco Bay Area, ZippGo hopes to launch a Los Angeles location this summer, and plans expanding into major metropolitan areas such as New York, Chicago, Seattle, and Dallas in 2013.


hese are just some of the ventures being led by Indian Americans today. But there are so many others that are making great headway into non-traditional fields. PopVox, for example, co-founded by Rachna Choudhry, is “an advocacy platform that meshes legislative data with personal stories and public sentiment.” A venture in politics, PopVox is quickly and successfully accomplishing their vision of “putting a human face on complex policy issues.” Another success story is Tavant Technologies, led by CEO Sarvesh Mahesh. Providing innovative technology solutions throughout the United States, as well as internationally, they have received high marks from industry giants such as Electronic Arts, New York Times, and TiVo amongst others. Foursquare, co-founded by Naveen Selvadurai, is a social networking tool that allows users to check-in to various locations, and see who else is around them. Users unlock deals as they check-in, saving money at their favorite locations. Blissmo, founded by Sundeep Ahuja, is a service that curates and provides discounts on organic and eco-friendly products, with a goal to assist customers who wish to use products that are better for their bodies, their families, their communities, and the planet. Saavn, co-founded by Vin Bhat, Neal Shenoy, and Paramdeep Singh, is an app that provides Bollywood and Indian music streaming services on iOS devices. ReTargeter, founded by Arjun Arora, is an ad solution company that uses a simple code to display a company’s ads throughout the web experience of the audience that’s visited their website. These ventures and more are reshaping the areas they’re innovating in. In fact, the number of Indian American ventures being funded are also increasing. In February, it was reported that Indian startups raised over $103.25 million. There are several avenues of going about raising funds. Angel investors and venture capitalists are certainly the most obvious choice. For Indian Americans, TiE Angels are a great resource for fundraising. Applications can be submitted monthly, and selected companies can present to the entire group to get a chance at raising up to $500,000. Starting in July of 2010, they currently have a roster of about fourteen companies, and they’re adding more regularly. If fundraising is essential to your startup, that’s a great place to start. The recurring message from these young entrepreneurs was that money should not be a factor that stops you from pursuing your venture. “If you can, bootstrap as long as possible,” advised Jesse Pujji of Ampush Media. Ash Sud of ZippGo reflected those thoughts, adding “If your startup involves a lot of research and development before a product can be released and sold, venture funding may be your only route. However, if your startup can generate quick cash flow, bootstrapping is definitely a viable option.” People are impassioned by a strong vision, and that can be a far greater motivator to launching your venture than funding. “Artists sometimes think that they need to raise money to get their work into a big venue, but that isn’t a requirement to express yourself. Throw up a sheet at your local park, and invite friends and family to come check it out. Start there, making do with what you have,” encouraged Negin Singh of CarTel. Indian Americans are showing a lot of progress in fields like advertising, social media, creative services, the arts, politics, entertainment, and more. It’s an amazing time to be an Indian American, receiving the support of not just friends, but also family who want to see us succeed. To sum up the advice from all these entrepreneurs: follow your passion, stay true to your vision, and commit to seeing things through. Even though it’s easy to get caught up in all the little things, they tend to line up when you follow the guidelines above. n Arpit Mehta is a graphic designer and photographer based in California with an interest in politics and entrepreneurship. He hopes to be directly involved in the political system one day.

18 • india currents • august 2012

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elections 2012

Vidya Pradhan

Broccoli Wins

With a Supreme Court ruling in favor of the individual mandate, the United States joins the rest of the developed world in guaranteeing affordable medical access to its citizens.


n the night of Wednesday, June 27, 2012, the liberal blogosphere was holding its collective breath. The Supreme Court’s decision on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, known popularly and pejoratively as Obamacare, was due to be handed down, and most progressives hunkered down, bunkered in, and prepared for the worst. One blogger posted “I feel like a giant asteroid is going to hit our country tomorrow … it’s like a giant shadow of doom.” The occasion was so momentous that reporters, lawyers, and a horde of citizens, both for and against the law, camped in front of the highest court in the land waiting to hear the decision. When the news finally broke, several mainstream news organizations got it wrong in the rush to be the first to broadcast it. “Breaking News: The Individual Mandate Deemed Unconstitutional” was the chyron on CNN and FOX, and even the venerable NPR jumped the gun. But the individual mandate had squeaked through under Congress’ taxing authority, and when the complex decision finally trickled down, it was met with outrage and exultation in conservative and liberal quarters respectively. It was particularly galling for Republicans that the swing vote appeared to have been cast by Chief Justice Roberts, who joined the four liberal justices in keeping the law intact.


When Barack Hussein Obama was inaugurated in January 2009, the ambitious young president was already thinking of his legacy. While the House of Representatives was solidly Democratic, control over the Senate was tenuous, with a wafer-thin filibuster-proof majority comprising of several Democrats from the Southern states who tended to vote more like their Republican colleagues. After negotiating a stimulus package that then seemed absurdly large, he knew that political goodwill was available for only one big piece of legislation before the midterm elections of 2010. He chose universal healthcare, a hill previous Democrats had died on, including Hillary Clinton, whose abortive attempts at influencing the healthcare debate in the 1990s had nearly exhausted the political capi24 • india currents • august 2012

tal of President Clinton. One lesson the new president had learnt from the Clinton failure was the complete lack of political support for the creation of a “public option” among Republicans and conservative Democrats. The public option was a mechanism that would effectively create Medicare for all, using a central governmentrun agency that would compete with other health insurance providers. With what in hindsight seems like naiveté, and with a group of advisors from the Clinton era, the President crafted a plan that hewed closely to the market-driven proposals of the Republican Party from the 1990s, hoping it would get majority support in the Senate. But Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, who famously declared that “the single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president,” persuaded his faction to close ranks. Republicans developed amnesia about their previous statements of support for similar plans, and began a multi-million dollar campaign of misinformation.

The Individual Mandate

The individual mandate is a simple concept, though Chief Justice Roberts’ ruling has muddied the waters. In simple terms, the individual mandate levies a fee on individuals who choose not to buy into health insurance. The mandate is crucial to the profitability of insurance companies now compelled to provide coverage for pre-existing conditions without lifetime limits. In arguing the case, Solicitor General Donald Verrilli looked first to the Commerce Clause for support, saying that it was in Congress’ powers to regulate commercial transactions between states, and covered the scope of the mandate. In addition, he argued, imposing a penalty for non-compliance, which was the essence of the mandate, fell under Congress’ taxing authority. His arguments were met with derision by the conservative members of the court. “Can the federal government make you buy broccoli?” asked Justice Scalia, who disapproved of the expansion of government authority that the mandate would entail. However, Chief Justice Roberts ultimately

cast the swing vote for the mandate, accepting that the mandate indeed fell within the powers of Congress to levy taxes. Opponents of the law have leaped on this distinction, falsely but gleefully calling “Obamacare” the biggest tax increase in history. Despite the media-generated drama surrounding the ruling, most lay voters have focused on the gladiatorial aspect of the ruling, anointing winners and losers. The Pew Research Center reports that “just 55% of the public knows that the Supreme Court upheld most of the health care law’s provisions; 45% say either that the court rejected most provisions (15%) or do not know what the court did (30%).”

The Swing Vote

After the blistering cross-examination of Solicitor General Verrilli by the conservative justices of the Supreme Court in March 2012, the ACA was considered to be in considerable jeopardy. After the Citizens United decision opened the floodgates of corporate money into American politics, most court observers were gloomy about the partisan leanings of the court. But because the arguments made by the government were so legally sound, optimists hoped for a swing vote from Justice Kennedy who has, on rare occasions, sided with the four liberal justices. The swing vote, to everyone’s surprise, turned out to be from Chief Justice Roberts, who, it is widely believed, originally sided with the other conservative justices. Perhaps the dream of a legacy haunted him as much as it did the president, and he did not want to dismantle the most significant safety net enacted in generations. Perhaps it was the fear of the market-friendly ACA being replaced by a fully government run healthcare industry. Prescient observers have made these arguments and have now been vindicated.

The Legacy

Like other previous safety nets like Social Security and Medicare, the ACA appears likely to be welcomed by the voting public once all its features kick in and the benefits are personally felt by people. And like previous laws, its imperfections will likely be resolved by subsequent governments. President

Obama’s big gamble appears to have paid off, especially since his opponent in the upcoming elections is Mitt Romney, who as governor of Massachusetts, worked with congressional Democrats to craft an eerily similar plan, which has been tremendously successful in the intervening years. Thirty-three million Americans will join the rolls of the insured. The Congressional Budget Office scores the bill as a deficit-reducing instrument. Opponents continue to talk of repeal, but without a suitable policy to replace it, they may find little support from voters. The ACA was a “Big F***ing Deal” when it passed in March 2010, and the Supreme Court has affirmed that the BFD is as constitutional as it can get. Politically, the ACA may turn out to be a wash for President Obama in the 2012 elections. Democrats still grouse about the president’s lack of enthusiasm for the public option, after he had supported it as a candidate, but reluctantly concede that the law will improve the lives of millions of Americans. Republicans who live in the bubble of Fox News are and will be persuaded that the mandate is a tax and not a penalty. But history will record the ACA’s survival by a single vote in the Supreme Court as the first step in a great nation’s recognition that its wealth and prosperity behoove it to provide for its weakest, and on June 27, 2012, the United States emphatically joined the developed world in moving towards making basic health care available to all its citizens. While the government cannot mandate its citizens to eat broccoli, it can certainly make it easier for the average American to visit his/her primary care physician for regular checkups, and it may be the doctor giving that prescription instead! n To learn more about how the ACA impacts you, your family, or your business, check out Vidya Pradhan is a freelance writer who hosts the weekly radio show Parent Talk on KZDG 1550 AM. She also runs the community blog Water, No Ice and was the editor of India Currents from June 2009 to February 2012.

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desi voices

P. Mahadevan

Nobel Trivia A

lfred Nobel (1842—1919) was a Swedish chemist whose initial claim to fame was based on his invention of the explosives nitroglycerin and dynamite for use during wars. He amassed a large fortune and donated most of it to setting up the Nobel Foundation. The foundation was to reward outstanding work in physics, chemistry, medicine, literature and for work in furthering peace. The first award from the trust in 1901 was to the inventor of X rays (1895), William Roentgen of Germany in the field of physics. In 1903 the award went to Marie Curie for the discovery of radioactivity. This was controversial in France for two reasons: because she was a woman and she was an immigrant to France from Poland. Madame Curie was honored again in 1911 in the field of chemistry for the discovery of the elements Polonium and Radium. She was invited to England by the British Royal Society to give a lecture on her remarkable discovery. However, according to her biographer, Robert Reid, she was barred from addressing the audience on the basis that women were not allowed to speak to the society. The lecture was given instead by her husband, Pierre Curie, also a distinguished scientist. In 1913 the Nobel prize for literature was awarded to Rabindranath Tagore, for his seminal work, Gitanjali. The British press referred to Tagore as an “old Anglo-Indian hack and reactionary” while the Nobel citation itself read by the chair of the Nobel committee at the ceremony referred to Tagore as an Anglo-Indian poet. Remember, that was just a hundred years ago and the Anglo-Indian connotation, refers to children of mixed BritishIndian parentage. C.V. Raman was the first Indian scientist to be honored in 1930 for his research in physics. The prize was awarded for his scientific analysis of the scattering of light from matter accompanied by energy transfer to or from the incident radiation. The effect is now known as the Raman Effect. A Russian team working with Leonid Mandelstam also arrived at the same result. However, Raman had fully complied with the requirements of peer review and publication ahead of Mandelstam. The Russians were irked by this slight and refused to recognize the tern Raman Effect for decades to come. 28 • india currents • august 2012

Bosons Are Still Bosons

With the recent discovery of the Higgs Boson particle, the scientific community is agog with renewed interest in the mystery of mass. But it all started with Satyendra Nath Bose (1894-1974) who was born in Dhaka and worked at the Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science (IACS) in Calcutta. A brilliant theoretician, Bose developed a statistical model, from first principles, named Bose Statistics, for integer spin particles. These were named Bosons. Bose also predicted that at extremely low temperatures, bosons could be precipitated. These, in turn, were called Bose condensates. Bose sent his findings to Albert Einstein in Germany. Energized by Bose’s scientific analysis, Einstein published it in a German journal in 1924, and thus Bose’s discovery became known as Bose-Einstein statistics. In 2001, the team of Cornell, Ketterly and Wieman were awarded the Nobel prize in physics for validating Bose statistics and Bose condensates. The original predictor, S.N. Bose was quietly ignored. Stranger still is the story related by P.T. Narasimhan, a friend who attended a seminar on “Strange Particle Physics” at the University of Chicago and heard from a German professor that Bose’ (with an apostrophe) was a German physicist!

The Best Known Non-Nobelists

The Nobel committee does its work from nomination to selection and announcement in complete secrecy. Only once have they publicly expressed their regret at rejecting Mahatma Gandhi’s name five times in a row. In this particular case, we should ask ourselves the question: Who is honoring whom? Mahatmaji or the committee? The Indian writer of essays and short stories in English from India, R. K. Narayan was well liked for his simplistic writing style and down to earth characterization of his heroes. Among his short stories was Swamy and Friends. The eponymous Swamy was as much of a favorite character to Indian readers as Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn were to American enthusiasts. Indians and the media rated Narayan as a future Nobelist. In fact he was nominated for the Nobel Prize for literature twice. In 2001, the Wall Street Journal sent one of its editorial writers to interview the author. Narayan, then 93 and

in poor health, lived with his family who were protective of his privacy. However, Tunku Varadarajan, the editorial emissary, managed to procure an interview with the writer. It is alleged that the interview lasted no more than half an hour in the presence of one of the author’s family members. Varadarajan wrote a scathing report later, disdainfully dismissing Narayan’s writing as characterized by “spare prose, simple tales, unvarying vocabulary and no obvious philosophy.” Among the many letters of protest to this report was one from Neetha Raman from the Times of India, who wrote that R.K. Narayan was probably bordering on dementia caused by his age, and was hence physically “unable to ‘dazzle’ him with his speech and wit.” She concluded her letter quoting an epitaph which suggested that Narayan was denied the Nobel distinction because of “epidermal pigmentation.”

Chandra Says So!

Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, nicknamed Chandra at home and abroad, a nephew of the Nobelist C.V. Raman, was a brilliant mathematician known primarily for his work in astrophysics. During his early years, Chandra’s theoretical work was disputed by the renowned astrophysicist, Arthur Stanley Eddington, who dismissed Chandra’s notion that there is an upper limit to the mass of a white dwarf star, which is the last stage in its evolution. Eddington’s reputation and status dictated scientific opinon at the time, and it was a good twenty years later that Chandra’s theory finally gained acceptance. He was vindicated when he was honored as a Nobel Scientist in 1983. Chandra worked as a Professor at the University of Chicago at the Yerkes Observatory. One blustery winter night in Chicago, Chandra was advised by many to cancel his scheduled seminar class at the university because of inclement weather. Chandra refused and asserted that two of his students would be waiting for him, despite the climactic conditions. Indeed they were! T.D. Lee and C.N. Yang later received a Nobel prize jointly in 1957 for their research on particle properties. I have heard the theoretical chemist, Joseph Mayer at the University of California, San Diego several years ago, during a plenary lecture on a mathematical model for chemical transformations, assert the phrase “Chan-

dra says so” to validate his model. NASA, launched an X-ray observatory in orbit in 1999 and named it Chandra, in honor of the distinguished Chandrasekhar. I would be remiss in not mentioning three more Nobelists of Indian origin. They are Harbind Khorana for medicine, Amartya Sen for economics and V. Ramakrishnan for chemistry. Another famous Indian citizen who was honored with a Nobel Prize was Mother Teresa. Winners who were born in India but remained foreign citizens are Ronald Ross for medicine and Rudyard Kipling for literature.

The Saga of Peace

The peace prize was one of the original five mentioned in Alfred Nobel’s will. Over a hundred recipients have received the honor so far. The award is given from Norway instead of Sweden. For reasons unfathomable, the honorees in this category have been more harshly scrutinized by one group or another every time. Let me confine myself to the recent ones. In 2010, Liu Xiaobo, the Chinese recipient was not permitted to receive the prize by the Chinese government. Xiaobo is still in jail for activity against the government. The latter even set up a contrarian award “equal in value and prestige” to the Nobel prize. The Burmese pacifist, Aung San Suu Kyi received the Nobel Peace prize on June 16, 2012, 21 years after she was awarded the prize. For the better part of the last two decades she has been imprisoned. The recent developments in her country, Myanmar, with her release augur well for the future. In America, three famous recipients have been honored: Presidents Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama and Vice President Al Gore. All the Laureates belong to the same political party. The rhetoric from the media and public has been harsh, touting reasons such as extreme party loyalty, ideological intolerance and bigotry. Maybe any or all of these apply. In this era of quants, perhaps we should attempt to establish a quantifiable index, the “Global Bigotry Index” (GBI) to rank our vitriolic attacks quantitatively. An alternate approach could be to request the late night comedian, David Letterman, with his famous ten point scale to rank them for us. I have no special skills or training to fathom the unfathomable; the erratic and irrational behavior, individually and collectively by large segments of the population However, I have an intuitive feeling that the viral entity “The First Person Singular Monster,” I, is the culprit. n P. Mahadevan is a retired scientist with a Ph.D. in Atomic Physics from the University of London, England. His professional work includes basic and applied research and program management for the Dept. of Defense (India). He taught Physics at the Univ. of Kerala, at Thiruvananthapuram. He does very little now, very slowly.

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Shilpa Vendigandla

An Unexpected Casting


sually, I become extremely skeptical when Hollywood attempts to recreate memorable books. So when I heard that “The Great Gatsby,” a classic American novel written by F. Scott Fitzgerald, which emphasizes the materialistic society of the Roaring Twenties through Jay Gatsby’s tragic love story, was to hit the silver screen this coming Christmas, I made sure to watch the trailer as soon as it was released. Directed by Baz Luhrmann and starring Titanic’s Leonardo Di Caprio and Spiderman’s Tobey McGuire, the trailer proved to be no disappointment—in fact, I felt that Luhrmann properly captured the vivid symbolism that Fitzgerald uses throughout his entire novel. However, after watching the trailer, I was surprised, not because of the incredible scenery or the lavish essence of the film, but because it featured a face that many Indians are more than familiar with—Amitabh Bachchan. Bachchan is a well-respected Bollywood actor, so his debut into American films should really be no surprise. Yet, the idea of Bachchan acting as something other than Indian in a classic American movie was unexpected. Hollywood has generally cast Indians as Indians. Whether it was the Oscar winner Slumdog Millionaire or the hilarious TV show Outsourced (which was cancelled after one season because many critics claimed that it was offensive and racist), Indians have rarely ventured past the so-called Indian stereotype. Hackneyed names and cliched roles seem to be the norm in Hollywood. We all have encountered movies or television shows that overly dramatize Indian accents and exemplify persisting Indian stereotypes that are mildly negative or perceived as negative. “A lot of times American movies tend to depict Indians in corny roles and I do not think that is entirely apt,” says Nisha Ramesh. Ramesh, a soon-to-be high school senior, enjoys watching many Bollywood movies with her American friends. “I like to share these movies with my friends because they are absolutely hilarious and very dramatic.” Over time, there has been a move towards Hollywood’s understanding of the Indian culture. A few Indians are beginning to play roles

30 • india currents • august 2012

Amitabh Bachchan (left) with Tobey Maguire and Leonardo DiCaprio in Baz Luhrmann’s “The Great Gatsby”

that are more assimilated and sophisticated, but still retain the roots to their heritage. Recent examples are Dev Patel, in the movie The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel; Archie Panjabi as Kalinda Sharma in the television show The Good Wife; and Parminder Nagra who starred in the 2002 British comedy-drama Bend it Like Beckham and then as Dr. Neela Rasgotra in the American medical series ER and more recently in Alcatraz. Ben Kingsley, born to Indian parents, and described as an “Englishman” on Wikipedia is one actor of Indian origin who has played varied roles in Hollywood. People have all but forgotten that Kingsley is of Indian descent. Bachchan plays Meyer Wolfsheim, “a flamboyant and suave Jewish money lender” in the The Great Gatsby. This is a novelty because the Bollywood actor is solely and wholly Indian and is representative of the India we are familiar with. The question, however, is whether Bachchan is carving a pathway for other Indians to emulate? “Desi people are meant to star in Bollywood movies, not English movies,” says Sana Raza a rising senior at Los Altos High school. Raza watches many Bollywood movies in her free time. “Desi people should stick to playing desis because that is what they are known for. Being in an English movie just puts them in an awkward spot.” This really speaks to the assimilation

process for many of us desis growing up here in America—we are identified as Indians first and Americans second and we continue to perpetuate and follow Indian beliefs and ideals. Our culture, strong and fascinating, dominates our lifestyles. We have not surrendered our roots entirely. As a teenager born and raised in America, I know for a fact that it’s not possible to hide my heritage. Although, I attempted to forget it, I realized that it is a key element of my identity. At school, I’m Indian—often referred to as “curry” by my classmates, known for being able to read and write in my mother tongue, and profoundly influenced by my family’s values. Usually, storylines for movies reflect what our culture has come to represent. Our numbers indicate a growth not merely in bodies but also in our influence. In 2000, Indians were about 0.6 percent of the U.S. population (1.9 million people). When the same census was conducted in 2010, Indians were said to be almost 0.9 percent of the U.S. population (3.18 million people), a growth rate of 69.37 percent, considered one of the fastest growing ethnic groups in the United States. Throughout the decade, we’ve also seen an increase in awareness of the Indian-American culture. Here in the Bay Area, we are exposed to a profusion of Indian festivals, movies and restaurants.

Due to the popularity of Bollywood, some aspects began to seep into the Western world. In 2001, Baz Luhrmann was inspired to make the musical Moulin Rouge! which in turn sparked many other musical films such as Chicago and Mamma Mia!. Bollywood films and Indian culture directly influenced Danny Boyle to direct Slumdog Millionaire which sparked a deeper international interest in Indian films. Slumdog Millionaire went on to win eight Academy Awards in 2009, including for Best Director and Best Picture. “I love all the dancing and singing, elements that most American movies lack,” Cathy Liu says. Liu, a soon-to-be senior in high school, watches many Bollywood movies with her desi friends. “It’s sort of like a minimusical, and you get a taste of Indian culture. Also, I like how everything is more dramatized and more intense because it’s more entertaining. I mainly watch for entertainment purposes, but I get a sense of Indian culture and lifestyle along the way.” This attitude is also why we have not been able to break the mold of venturing past Bollywood inspired films and Indian characters in the west. Many of these films and characters tell the story of the adversities that IndianAmericans face as they try to melt into the “melting pot.” The molds seem to persist because individual actors and actresses cannot tear down the strength of their culture and the interest and fascination it provides to American society. “Even though in Bollywood movies, the characters seem really Western and are influenced by mainstream American culture,” Liu explains, “they still retain a their Indian heritage through food, music, and celebrations. Their culture kind of carries on with them wherever they are.” They seem to carry their culture with them, wherever they are. Maybe, the reason why it’s odd to see Bachchan acting as someone who isn’t Indian is because we are not ready to see ourselves as different from the established perceptions of ourselves. We haven’t fully embraced the idea of a completely assimilated Indian American. Bachchan’s new role symbolizes the transition that our community must face in order to adjust to the waves of a new definition. A definition that is closer to America and a little more removed from India. On the scale of completely American and completely Indian, we lie somewhere in the middle, something that Hollywood has struggled to capture. However, if, as they say, life imitates art, then we could be on our next assimilative stage, with the Myer Wolfsheim role setting the stage for a new dawn in casting calls. n

Shilpa Vendigandla is a senior at Los Altos High School and is interning at India Currents over summer, besides working on her high school journalism assignments. india currents • august 2012 • 31

I C ask a lawyer

David Fisher

Immigrant Investor Visa


I’ve heard about the EB-5 visa for Immigrant Investors. What is it and what are the challenges facing these visa holders? The EB-5 visa for Immigrant Investors is a United States visa created by the Immigration Act of 1990. This visa provides a method of obtaining a green card for foreign nationals who invest money in the United States. To obtain the visa, individuals must invest $1,000,000 (or at least $500,000 in a “Targeted Employment Area”—high unemployment or rural area), creating or preserving at least 10 jobs for U.S. workers excluding the investor and their immediate family. Investments can be made directly in a job-generating commercial enterprise or into a “Regional Center”—a 3rd party-managed investment vehicle (private or public), which assumes the responsibility of creating the requisite jobs. Regional Centers usually charge an administration fee for managing the investor’s investment. If the foreign national investor’s petition

32 • india currents • august 2012

is approved, the investor and their dependents will be granted conditional permanent residence valid for two years. Within the 90 day period before the conditional permanent residence expires, the investor must submit evidence documenting that the full required investment has been made and that 10 jobs have been maintained, or 10 jobs have been created or will be created within a reasonable time period. The dilemma for immigrant investors seeking entry into the United States via the EB-5 program has been two-fold: First, finding an adequate project that meets the required job-creation requirements, and second, being able to get a return on the invested dollars within the time frame specified. The due diligence required of this investment should be approached with professional assistance and proper guidance throughout the entire EB-5 process (approximately 3 to 5-years). Persons investing in an EB-5 project should establish a check list when considering any EB-5 project—as all such projects are not

equal. The most popular EB-5 investments are real estate related and usually securities based. It is therefore important to deal with properly licensed person whether the EB-5 project presentation is being delivered abroad, or here in the United States. There should be clarity on how the EB-5 funds are going to be used, safeguarded and eventually returned to the EB-5 investor. In short, the EB-5 investor should be at a 100% comfort level with the investment, the project must meet certain investment requirements, and the investor’s immigration concerns must be part of the strategy. It is therefore very important that the investor deal with an immigration lawyer who understands the EB-5 process and will be able to work as a contributing team member. When done correctly, EB-5 is an excellent contribution to all involved. Truly a win-win situation. n David Fisher is the CEO and President of Contrarian EB-5 Advisors LLC.



visa dates

Important Note: U.S. travelers seeking visas to India will now need to obtain them through Travisa Outsourcing. Call (415) 644-0149 or visit for more information.

August 2012


his column carries priority 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 August 2012. 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. “Unavailable” means no numbers are available.


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EMPLOYMENT-BASED VISA DATES Preference Dates for India 1st Current 2nd Unavailable 3rd October 01, 2002 Other October 01, 2002 Workers 4th Current Certain Current Religious Workers 5th Current Targeted Employment Areas The Department of State has a recorded message with visa availability information at (202)663-1541, which is updated in the middle of each month. Source: http://www.


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The Promise of Happiness Girija Sankar

BEAUTIFUL THING: Into the Secret World of Bombay’s Dance Bars. By Sonia Faleiro. 240 pages. Black Cat, (US edition) 2012, $15.00.


n the non-fiction Beautiful Thing, Sonia Faleiro offers up a rare and fascinating account of Bombay’s dance bars through a raw, honest and, at times, heart wrenching story of Leela, the protagonist who is a bar dancer. Faleiro follows the life of Leela and a cast of characters from Leela’s family, her dancer friends, lovers, clients, dalals (pimps), and hijras (eunuchs). The author, a journalist, spent five years researching the murky world of dance bars. In Bombay’s dance bars young females dance to the latest Bollywood item numbers, offer drinks and one-night-stands to men from all walks of life: the underworld don, the hit man, the poor college student out to charm his first love and the middle aged potbellied salaried husband out for a night away from wife, home, and creditors. Bar dancers like Leela often come from small town India, searching for a way out of poverty, abuse or just a sheer need for survival. Some are taken in by brothel madams who, Faleiro recounts, often scope out bus stands and train stations for seemingly hapless girls from far away villages. Some of these women, often illiterate, find themselves working in dance bars if they are lucky or ending up in brothels. This tale unfolds with Leela fleeing her tiny home town at the tender age of 13 to escape sexual abuse from her father’s cop buddies. Her mother, a mute spectator to her father’s shenanigans, also suffers violent abuse. But Leela, displaying remarkable maturity at her young age realizes that her fate would be no better than her mother’s were she to stay in the village. So she flees. After working at a brothel for a few months, Leela finds herself at a dance bar. Not conventionally beautiful, Leela manages to catch the eye of Shetty, the bar owner, and begins a relationship with him. Faleiro takes pains to explain that while dance bars do not explicity promote prostitution or sex work, dancers often end up finding steady “clients” among the men who frequent the bars. But Leela claims to have never done this galat kaam (sex work), when in fact she often has. In the murky hierarchy of the sex industry, the street walkers or the floating sex workers occupy the lowest rung, followed by brothel workers, followed by call girls—wom34 • india currents • august 2012

en who claim to be college graduates from respectable families. Bar dancers are at the highest echelon in this hierarchy, and as Leela states “When some people saw Leela, they saw a dhandhewali, working girl. But when she saw herself-in the mirror that hung behind her bedroom door ... she saw a bar dancer.” Faleiro describes the silent bars, where men order not just a drink but also the female waiter who brings it to them. To Leela, who claims never to have participated in galat kaam, the silent bar workers are as low in the pecking order as the street walkers. But, bar dancers do not have to sell sex. That they do so is purely incidental. The prose is free-flowing and often poetic. Faleiro hooks the reader in early on when she writes, “When they took her virginity from her, cursing that she’d knotted the drawstring of her salwar like it was a sack of atta she was saving for winter, all she saw were the peepal trees of the [police] station compound. Their leaves were crowded together ... to gossip and wonder at her shame.” When we get to know Leela she is at the pinnacle of her career—clients showering her with gifts, her pockets literally overrun with cash (she even stashes some inside shoes) and a steady partner. But then things begin to unravel. Dance bars in Bombay are coming under increasing scrutiny and the state begins shutting them down. Shetty, her partner moves on. Leela, like the many hundreds of women who have been suddenly left without a job, tries out other things before she and her friend find a benefactor from Dubai who promises luxuries, wealth and much happiness if the women would dance at Dubai’s night clubs. Faleiro never hears from Leela again. What will happen to her we wonder. Will she make it big and return home with gold, wealth and much happiness or will she become yet another statistic? For all the beautiful prose, one minor flaw in the author’s style is the excessive dependence on local accents and argot. Too many Kustomers, dirty-dirty and onomatopoeic references appear jarring to readers unfamiliar with the sub-continental English and Hindi. Faleiro, whose first book was a novel titled The Girl (2006), has received much accolade for what critics have hailed as amongst the

... the silent bar workers are as low in the pecking order as the street walkers. But, bar dancers do not have to sell sex. That they do so is purely incidental. best non-fiction writing to come out of India in recent years. Beautiful Thing is as much a story about Bombay as it is about Leela and as such merits being ranked amongst the best in contemporary literary journalism from India. n Girija Sankar lives in Atlanta and works in international development. Her writings can be found in a variety of online and print publications.


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SMALL ACTS OF AMAZING COURAGE by Gloria Whelan, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers 2011, Hardcover 224 pages, $13.98.


loria Whelan is the author of numerous award-winning children’s books, including several historical fictional novels set in different countries, even in places she hasn’t been to. Her latest work, Small Acts of Amazing Courage, is a historical novel for young adults, set in India and England in 1919, four years before Whelan was born. She has used India as a backdrop for her writing before in Homeless Bird, winner of the National Book Award, a novel that tells the shocking story of a widowed girl abandoned in Benares by her in-laws. Small Acts of Amazing Courage, like Homeless Bird, is rich in cultural details and evocative of setting, but whereas the latter has an Indian heroine, the heroine in the former is a fifteen-year-old English girl who was born and brought up in colonial India. Whelan’s strength as a storyteller leaves an indelible impression in both books. In Small Acts of Amazing Courage, the charming voice of Rosalind, the protagonist, lures the reader across time and place to a southeastern Indian town shortly after World War I. Her father is a Major in the British Indian Army who returns from having led a battalion of Gurkha Rifles. Rosalind’s family lives a privileged colonial life in a huge house, waited on by servants. Rosalind, true to many coming-of-age heroines, has a kind and courageous heart, and a rebellious streak. Rosalind often follows her conscience in the most unconventional manner. In fact, personality and plot are entwined in the story, which is really about her surmounting society’s rigid rules and authoritative familial figures to do what she thinks is correct. Right at the outset we learn Rosalind is different. She wears her hair in an unacceptable fashion, “My hair grows and grows like leaves on a rain tree. I won’t tie it back neatly or wear a band. Worst of all, I go outside in the Indian sun without an Indian hat,” she says. She goes to the bazaar against her parents’ wishes, eats forbidden foods and mingles with servants. Her best friend, Isha, is the daughter of her ayah who is already married and lives with her mother-in-law. Rosalind’s father gets the idea of straightening his daughter out by sending her to England for her schooling, despite her mother’s objections. It was the norm for English children in India to be sent to England for their education. We get a good picture of early twenti-

eth century colonial life in India. Rosalind’s family, as was the practice with the English, mingled with their own kind in their clubs. “There were always complicated preparations for these occasions. Even in the hot days of an Indian summer Mother had me put on long silk stockings, a garter belt, and a slip that clung to my body like a leech. The collar of my dress chafed my neck, and by the time I had dressed I was damp with perspiration. For once Mother seemed not to mind the heat, and in her flowered voile dress and her hat that bloomed a silk rose, she looked like a bouquet.” Whelan deftly shows the different attitudes prevalent among the English through her characters. Rosalind’s father, an authoritative and stern figure, regards the English culture as superior. Mrs. Blodget, the girl’s chaperone, champions Indian civilization and says that India had great cities when the British wore animal skins. Whelan weaves Mahatma Gandhi, Sarojini Naidu and the Indian National Congress into the story, enlightening readers about the independence movement. Rosalind angers her father by listening to Gandhi’s speech and though she explains that Gandhi is against violence her father still abhors him. It is the final straw for the Major and he arranges for Mrs. Blodget to take her to England, where she is to live with her two maternal aunts. The two aunts’ differing personalities add much to the interest of Rosalind’s narrative. “Aunt Louise nearly suffocated me with her warm embrace. Aunt Ethyl was cautious in her handling of me, so that her greeting was more avoidance than welcome.” Small Acts of Amazing Courage also has a bit of romance, one of the hallmarks of a coming-of-age young adult novel. Whelan keeps the love interest innocent. There is also something contemporary about the protagonist’s alluring voice though it stays true to her era. Occasionally, the heroine’s daring acts seem far-fetched, and the plot, comprising a string of incidents, fails to elevate the book to its full potential. Still, the novel inspires kindness and bravery in the face of obstacles and reminds the reader that these values don’t just transform individuals, they make the world a better place. Whelan pays India a tribute in her last sentence when she writes about the warm spirit of the country. n Tara Menon is a freelance writer based in Lexington, Massachusetts. Her fiction, poetry, and book reviews have been published in many magazines.


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Email: india currents • august 2012 • 37




MOHAMED REFAI MOHAMED IRFAN Katha 2012 Second Place Winner



blinked. It was dark and wet. I blinked again. I was lying upside down and couldn’t make out anything in the dark. I stretched my legs but stopped short. Something was right in front of me. I felt safe though. A sweet voice was floating in the air. I went back to sleep softly. I blinked. It was bright, very bright. The light stung my eyes. It was warm too. The air was dry and free. The wetness around me was drying up. Long pale faces were looking upon me. They seemed happy. Their eyes were shining. I was scared though. I cried and kicked, shouting in fear. And then I saw this face. A face I knew I would never forget. She reached for me and held me soft and safe. All my fear lapsed and I went back to sleep holding her little finger. I blinked. She was now looking over me, beaming. I saw her lips move

Katha 2011 Results ard $300): FIRST PLACE (cash aw UNDHWALA, JAL Y LA MA by Sky Lucky lif. San Francisco, Ca sh award $200): SECOND PLACE (ca REFAI D ME HA Amma by MO N, FA IR D ME HA MO Chennai, India award $100): THIRD PLACE (cash LIGA, BA DA IN VR For Sale by ia Ind d, aba Hyder ION: HONORABLE MENT by NIKESH Commonwealth Games stralia MURALI, Canberra, Au ION: HONORABLE MENT DU EN RN PU by gar The Beg kpore, India CHATTERJEE, Barrac

38 • india currents • august 2012

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trying to tell me something. I reached my hand out for it and moved my lips too. She cried in surprise. Strong glee shone through her eyes. I spoke again. She kissed all over my face with slow soft wet kisses. That was one joyous face. I blinked. It was an early morning. Sun rays carried sweet sparrow talk to my room. I got down from bed. I could smell the aroma of freshly baked vanilla cakes. It was my third birthday. I ran to the kitchen and saw her singing in a sweet tone. I wrapped my arms around her soft pudgy legs. I inhaled a whiff of innocent cherry blossom. She ruffled my hair and gave me a shiny wrapped present. I smiled back at her. I loved that face. I blinked. It was scary. I was surrounded by many new faces. A knot was growing in my stomach. Her face was sunken and had moist eyes. She stood far and was moving farther. She waved watching me go. Her face was confused. I couldn’t tell if she was happy or sad. I was upset and did not want to let her go. I kept waving at her as the school van turned at a corner and sped off. I blinked. The full moon was shining bright. I was amazed at how that face could reflect so much shine back. That shy looking mole on her upper lip was shining bright too. I put my arms around her waist and inhaled a load of cherry blossom. Dozing off to her sweet melodious lullaby, I wondered if the moon felt jealous about me. I blinked. I was jealous. My hands were itching and my legs shaking. I saw a tiny little marvel, lying so close to her. It was a baby boy. Her face was happy and filled with joy. Looking at that tiny sprat, I wanted to push him away badly and lie next to her instead, but I knew I couldn’t. I turned around and

stomped off. I blinked. I was extremely happy. Not for the fact that I topped a state level quiz competition but that she had her arms around me and hugged tight. I felt so warm and cozy. I could smell her cherry blossom fragrance all around me. I softly push her away and run towards my other classmates to boast off. I saw that face beaming. I blinked. My heart was racing. She hadn’t slept the previous night. I kept refreshing the web page while she made me milk, praying simultaneously. I silently drank my milk and in anxiety waited for the results to turn up. Her face was the most intense ever. I blinked. She was standing across the rails. She had the same look the time when I first left her for school. Yet, her face seemed to be more mature and controlled. My mind was too full to reciprocate. I was finally through to my dream college. New people and new environment waited for me on the other end. My heart reached for her, but I asked it to stay still. I can never forget that longing happy face. I blinked. She looked at us and was shocked. A dry lump was stuck in my throat. I felt torn. I can never forget that longing for replaced love. The other love of my life stood next to me, waiting for me to say something. I looked at that face, the one I had known so well, so long that my mind knew every single curve, mole and strand of hair, and I looked at the other face soft, loving and new, infusing me with a cocktail of emotions every time I adorned her. I had to decide between them. I blinked. I knew she was upset. I knew she was trying so hard to keep it down. Life is always unfair. I simply let go of it and tried to lived the moment. Though the thought of

her face unhinged me, it was my wedding day. I blinked. She wasn’t responding. I kept shaking her and crying out her name. My mom had fainted at home. The doctor said she had had her first heart attack. I was crushed. She was in a lot of pain yet lay quiet in an isolated bed in the ICU. The bed was surrounded by strange equipments buzzing and beeping. My head started spinning. I made a quick thousand promises to God in return for her recovery. I blinked in happiness. A little tear flew out of my eye. The love of my life was sleeping in a plain full length gown. Mom was holding my daughter wrapped in a fresh cotton cloth. I could finally see a smile on her face. I missed that face for a long time. I held her hand and pressed it softly naming my kid after her. I blinked. She looked peaceful and complete. I tasted salt from the tears that rolled off from my eyes. My wife leaned over me, squeezing my arm. I murmured “ma!” softly, hoping she would hear and react. She had left us peacefully, never bothering to disturb us like we did to her all the time. That face, that stunning round spectacle, I will never lose its memory. I blinked. She had come back in my dream. She had held me and was singing a soft lullaby. I then fall down a deep dark hole reaching out for her. I woke up sweating like every other night. I blinked. The phone rang. I reached for it and realized it was the middle of the night. My son in law was on the other end. He told me I had become a grandfather. A little boy had been born. I asked for my daughter. I had named her after my mother. She reminded me of her. We spoke only a little though. She kept touch via Skype. International calls from Germany were too costly. I sometimes missed my mom. I wished I could dream of her again. I blinked. I saw my face covered with bright white stubble in the mirror. It took me 15 minutes to rise from bed every day. My trousers and skin both hung loose and were baggy. The pillow next to mine was unused for a long time, yet its memory hung around. She was a wife, a mother. I too had a mother. It was a long time back. She smelled sweet and was too. I sometimes miss her. I think she had a mole or two above her lips somewhere. n Judges' comments: Chitra Divakaruni: “This story has unusual style, good plot movement and very moving details.” Bharti Kirchner: “Unique way to tell a story; emotions well expressed; prose clear and lyrical.” Mohamed Irfan is an ardent reader, writer and a fan of criticism who believes that emotions play a vital role in keeping a man alive. Otherwise, he is just like any other teenager, pursuing his final year Bachelor of Engineering in Biomedical Engineering. His hobbies other than books are food-making and eating.


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email: india currents • august 2012 • 39



Leena Prasad

The Polarity of White Matter

Bipolar Disorder explained within the flow of the lives of fictional characters and real people


anjay has disappeared suddenly and his wife Gita is feeling anxious. He has sent an email to say that he is okay and will call her soon. She has not seen him for almost twenty hours. She calls up Sanjay’s sister Sonia to try to understand what is going on with him. Gita and Sonia are in the kitchen in Sonia’s apartment. It is early evening and an occasional bird chirp punctures the quiet of the kitchen. Gita is sitting on a chair with her feet up on the chair, knees bent, and her face buried in her knees. Sonia is measuring sugar and flour and it looks like she’s planning to bake something. Sonia: He is much better than he used to be. They are both quiet for a while. Gita wonders if he is still in the city? Where could he have gone? He didn’t even tell his sister! She needs to better understand his manic depression. It’s the only way she can calm her mind. Gita: I want a scientific explanation. I need to know the mechanics. Sonia: There’s a lot of evidence that bipolar disorder is genetic. Gita: What do you mean bipolar? I thought he is manic-depressive! Sonia: It’s the same thing. Gita: Well, you don’t have it and neither does anyone in your family. How did he get it? Sonia: As far as I know nobody in our family has it. But, it’s not the kind of thing that Indian families advertise you know. There is a mix of dough in a bowl in front of Sonia. She adds chocolate chips to it. Gita: (frowns) Maybe it has to do with living in America. Sonia: Hmmm … United States has the highest percentage of bipolar disorders and India has the lowest. Gita: So, it does have something to do with the environment? Sonia: I don’t think so. I think Americans are willing to acknowledge that they have it and Indians are unwilling to acknowledge they do. So, it’s difficult to know its genetic predisposition in India. It’s possible that there are environment components also but knowledge about this disorder is still limited. Gita: Where in the brain is it located? Sonia: Well, I have read that some people with bipolar disorder have smaller white matter. Gita: What? I’ve heard of grey matter but what’s white matter? Sonia wipes her hands and goes out into the living room. She comes back with a 12 inch high model of a brain. She lifts up the top part, apparently attached with a hinge and extending from just above the eye to the back of the head. She points to some squiggly grey stuff. Sonia: See the squiggly grey stuff and see how it’s surrounding some white stuff? Gita: Is the smaller white matter the only issue? Sonia: Well, it’s a pretty big issue, so to speak. Gita laughs. Then she starts to cry. She wipes off her tears with a napkin from the table. Gita: Damn, I’m acting bipolar now. Sonia: It’s not that simple. Well, I mean it is a little like that but 40 • india currents • august 2012

someone with BD goes through extreme phases that can last for many days. Gita: Yeah, I know. So, what does it mean to have smaller white matter and how can that be cured with medication? Sonia uses two large spoons to scoop out the dough and to make little cookie circles with the dough on a cookie sheet. Sonia: The white matter manages communication within the brain. I don’t know exactly how it is related to BD and I don’t think there is a cure. But some cases of the disorder can be “managed.” Gita: With drugs? How much can be managed? (pause) Sanjay still hasn’t called! Gita pulls out her cell phone and looks at it. Sonia cleans her hands and goes out to grab her cell phone and views the incoming calls list


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I think Americans are willing to acknowledge that they have it (bipolar disorder) and Indians are unwilling to acknowledge they do. So, it’s difficult to know its genetic predisposition in India. also. Gita: Can we look for him somewhere? Sonia: He has disappeared before. It’s not possible to find him but he’ll show up within a few days. He will be alright. He just needs time alone. Gita: (sighs) I feel helpless. Sonia: I know. It’s hard. But you really just have to wait. Gita: Ok. Tell me how the medicine helps the white matter? Sonia: I don’t know exactly. But Sanjay takes lithium and other medications and he’s usually alright. Sonia adds some of the leftover cookie dough to the white matter in the brain. Gita touches the dough on the brain sculpture. Gita: So, it’s fixable. Sonia: Lithium works for some people and doesn’t for others. Neurobiologists don’t understand the exact neuropathy of bipolar disorder yet. Gita: But the lithium works for Sanjay? Sonia: Yes, yes, it does. They stare at the brain sculpture. Sonia opens the oven and puts the cookies on a plate. Sonia: He loves these. They always seem to calm him. Gita: Let’s hope he is thinking of us and will call soon.

about the disorder itself and about the trigger mechanisms. Family and friends will need to commit to being understanding and patient and learn to communicate better. In our story, it appears that Sonia has put a lot of work into learning about the disorder and has a good sense of her brother’s behavioral patterns.

The South Asian Context

The cultural context of a person with BD makes a significant role in the quality of his/her life. The independent film “Hiding Divya”, written and directed by Rehana Mirza and starring Madhur Jaffrey, Pooja Kumar and Deep Katdare helps de-stigmatize BD, increases awareness and attempts to educate the community. The story illustrates the constant erratic nature of the disease and the South Asian prevailing attitudes towards individuals who suffer from BD. “We realized there was an immediate need to tell this story,” explains Mirza. There is a plethora of data available on the internet about bipolar disorder. It is important to pay more attention to peer reviewed scientific journals as they contain more accurate information. There are also personal notes by South Asians who feel ostracized by their community and are looking for support groups. Symptoms for bipolar disorder may appear during the adolescent years or during the early adulthood years but sometimes show up later. For example, the newscaster Jane Pauley noted symptoms after the age of 50. There’s speculation that Vincent Van Gogh and Ernest Hemingway might have had this disorder. Actors Catherine Zeta-Jones and Jean Claude Van Dam are other examples of successful people who have this disorder. Although bipolar disorder can create an extra set of challenges in a person’s life, it is possible to lead a healthy and happy life by taking advantage of the drug and lifestyle choices that can be made to maintain a healthy balance of brain activities. n Leena is a software analyst/programmer during they day and a writer, artist, iOS developer at night. She lives in San Francisco and her writing portfolio can be be seen at

A Chronic Condition

The volume of white matter in the brain, as referenced by Sonia in this fictional dialogue, is just one of the issues that can cause bipolar disorder (BD). A study conducted on identical and fraternal twins found that the thickness of other parts of the brain is also a factor. The results of this research, published in the Archives of General Psychiatry, establish a strong likelihood that this is a congenital disorder. The severity levels of bipolar disorder vary from person to person. In worst case scenarios, people with this disorder try to commit suicide. Given that Sonia is not panicking over Sanjay’s disappearance, it’s likely that her brother’s is a milder case and that she is familiar with the risks involved and therefore does not panic. A study in the Archives of General Psychiatry notes that 20-25% of people with BD attempt suicide. Most cases of BD can be managed with medication but currently there is no permanent cure. Similar to many chronic diseases, treatment is long-term, i.e., most likely to last throughout the person’s life.

Under the Influence of Drugs

As in the case of Sanjay, lithium is one of the common drugs used to manage BD but other similar drugs might also be used. In addition, a cocktail of mood-stabilizers are prescribed because people with bipolar-disorder often exhibit other personality disorders. In addition to drugs, many lifestyle factors are helpful. For example, a strong support system of family and friends is significant for the well-being of a person with BD. A support group of other people with the disorder can be valuable in not only finding kindred souls but also in learning how to cope with the disorder. Maintaining healthy eating, sleeping, and exercise habits are especially important for a person with this disorder as they are more vulnerable than others to stress. It can be challenging for family members to live with and support a person suffering from BD. They should learn as much as possible

42 • india currents • august 2012

Helpful Resources: • Prevalence and Correlates of Bipolar Spectrum Disorder in the World Mental Health Survey Initiative, Archives of General Psychiatry, March 2011 • Overlapping and Segregating Structural Brain Abnormalities in Twins With Schizophrenia or Bipolar Disorder, Archives of General Psychiatry, April 2012 • Counselors Helping South Asians/ Indians: resources/articles • Helping a Loved One with Bipolar Disorder,, • Hiding Divya, written and directed by Rehana Mirza, produced by Rohi Mirza Pandya bpnews/archive/001866.html.

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he measuring tapes are out and the verdict is in. Irrfan Khan in The Amazing Spiderman is clocking in at a few minutes shorter than Anil Kapoor in Mission Impossible— Ghost Protocol. The twitterati have not been kind. “Just what exactly was Irrfan Khan doing in Spiderman? Propagating the stereotype that Indians will only get fringe two bit roles? Really now,” huffed Jitesh Pillai, editor of Filmfare. “Loved Irrfan Khan’s role as Anil Kapoor in Spiderman,” snorted Tanmay Bhatt. Amogh Ranadive was even snottier. “Just saw The Amazing Spiderman. Irrfan Khan plays the guy selling Vodafone SIM cards.” For the record, Irrfan is not just a two-bit baddie. His Dr Ranjit Ratha is actually the baddie’s boss at his fancy bio-genetic corporation. That’s probably a step up the corporate ladder from the last desi gig in Spiderman— Aasif Mandvi’s pizza shop boss in Spiderman 2 where he got to fire Peter Parker for not making the 29-minute pizza guarantee. Unfortunately for Irrfan Khan, despite his tailored suits and polished shoes, no one pays attention to Ratha anymore once the giant lizard hits the screen. There’s just no competition. In fact, the movie seems to forget about poor Irrfan completely. Anil Kapoor’s Brij Nath got some kind of denouement, even if it was undignified, stranded, high and dry, on his own bed. Amrish Puri’s Mola Ram in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom had to scoop out human hearts with his bare hands but he at least came to a satisfyingly gory bloodcurdling end. Ratha just disappears on the bridge, literally a dangling loose end. The reactions to Anil Kapoor and Irrfan Khan’s big Hollywood adventures have been about the same. Yawn. Eye roll. Mogambo khush nahin hua. But there is one crucial difference between the two. Kapoor went to town talking up his star turn, blathering on about his director’s special cut of 20 minutes of unseen (read rejected) footage. Sanjay Kapoor jumped to his brother’s defence once the film actually came out. “Only Indians are bothered about the length of a role instead of its impact,” complained Sanjay Kapoor. Irrfan, to his credit, didn’t pretend his role was something it clearly was not. “ I don’t have a lengthy role in the film,” he said. “I did it because it was an experience for me. In Hollywood, they call it as a pivotal role because it moves the story in some way, but I don’t think it’s a very big role. For me, my presence 44 • india currents • august 2012

is enough and I enjoyed it.” Even as we pretend we don’t care about what the West thinks about us, we do. We care about making it in those 100 best movies ever lists from Time magazine. We are vicious about Aishwarya’s weight gain because she’s somehow letting all of us down at Cannes. Irrfan might do Spiderman for the “experience” or the “big bucks” but we still see him as some kind of Indian ambassador to Hollywood. When he’s left hanging, there’s a billion of us hanging out there with him going “Hey! You can’t just leave us like this. We want some respect, dammit. Don’t you know who we are? We are a BRIC country.” We still crave that validation even when we claim we have outgrown the need for it. Bollywood has for so long been the clown prince of world cinema—big, colorful and cheesy. We just ache for our stars to be taken seriously. We want to see our reflections in Hollywood’s golden eye. So it IS a big deal that a superstar like Amitabh Bachchan gets his fifteen seconds of fame in Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby even if Bachchan downplays it. “By the time you look down on your popcorn to pick another morsel, I’d be gone from the film,” Big B told his followers. And he’s already bracing for the hate mail. “Before you all start punching me for my minuscule participation in the film, may I just say that it was more out of a friendly gesture, than a desire towards furthering my career.” Although Irrfan might not have talked up his Spiderman role, the media has done it for him. They’ve cajoled statements out of direc-

tor Marc Webb that helped build up the Irrfan buzz. “I have been an enormous fan of Irrfan for a very long time,” Webb said. “I first saw him in The Namesake, The Warrior, and in (the) TV series In Treatment. For Dr. Ratha, I needed someone who projected sophistication, had lot of strength, and a very commanding presence, and Irrfan fit that bill.” All of this helps the rest of us preen and bask in Irrfan’s reflected glory. It allows the media to go to town with “Irrfan has a very commanding presence” and “Hollywood’s favorite Indian” headlines. We just lap it up when Webb tells the media “I practically invented the role so I could have him on board … I am so inspired by his craft, work ethic and wonderful humanity.” After all that heady gush, reality strikes when it’s showtime. And it’s bitter indeed. We thought we’d get to see Dr. Ranjit Ratha, the sinister villain, he of “commanding presence” and “lot of strength.” Rumor has it he will be back, bigger and badder in the sequel, but for now he just remains dangling, more participle than sinister villain. But don’t blame Irrfan for letting us down. He’s just playing his part, bit part that it might be. The fault, dear Reader, is not in our stars, but in ourselves. n Sandip Roy is the Culture Editor for Firstpost. com. He is on leave as editor with New America Media and host of its radio show New America Media Now, on KALW 91.7 FM. This article was first published in First Post.

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on Inglish

Kalpana Mohan

My Summer Tango with the Mango mango (mæengaeu)— n, pl -goes, -gos 1. a tropical Asian anacardiaceous evergreen tree, Mangifera indica, cultivated in the tropics for its fruit 2. the ovoid edible fruit of this tree, having a smooth rind and sweet juicy orange-yellow flesh [C16: via Portuguese from Malay manga, from Tamil mankay mango tree + kay fruit]


t my inlaws’ home in Vellore, no summer georgettes. They embellish Kashmiri shawls, The Alphonso Mango meal, morning or night, may end withsculptures, friezes and furnishings. out biting into the cheek of a Neelam The Hindu religion also abounds with mango. If my mother-in-law forgets to serve it, references to the mango. The perfect, ripe my father-in-laws hovers over the dining area— mango is often held by the elephant-headed even when he’s not seated at the table like a Ganesha as a symbol of achievement and nawab—just to remind her that she must not wisdom. Mango blossoms are also used in forget to bring out the juicy mangoes cold from the worship of the goddess Saraswati. In the fridge, cut them and serve them to him, the Tamil homes mango leaves decorate archrest of the family and the guests. ways and doors during weddings and festiMy father-in-law is brooding over ripe manvals as a sign of peace and prosperity. Across goes this summer for other reasons. He would South India, a New Year feast may not haplike to serve whole mangoes for his 80th birthpen without that one delicacy, the mango day celebration here in South India. Right pachadi, a puree made by boiling mangoes now, he’s losing oodles of juice worrying about and seasoning the amber-yellow consommé whether he should serve several hundred mangoes for the feast. The logistics with green chillies, mustard, curry leaves and a pinch of jaggery. of arranging for those juicy Kala Pahad mangoes to be freshly bought at the According to Hindu mythology, Lord Shiva wanted to test market on the morning of his birthday, storing them in a cool bin somewhere, Parvati’s sincerity in performing prayer by setting fire to the washing and serving them along with the many delicacies on the banana leaf mango tree under which she was seated. Parvati prayed to her is burrowing into his brain, like a worm blazing a maze inside an Alphonso brother, Lord Vishnu, who caused waves of nectar to cool down mango. the scorching rays. The 3000-year-old mango tree under which My father-in-law governs over his big and small possessions as a king she is supposed to have performed her penance still stands inside might guard his throne and his coffers. He lives in the constant fear that the Ekambaranathar temple in Kanchipuram, some twenty miles someone will walk away with his things. And so, for his upcoming birthday from where my father-in-law’s home is located in Vellore. This bash, he frets that the cooks and other help and, quite possibly, other hangers tree is believed to bear four kinds of fruit, each one signifying on, will swipe these mangoes before any remain for serving to guests. Funny one of the four Vedas. as it sounds, my father-in-law’s anxieties are not unfounded. In India, about 1,500 varieties of mango are grown, including Petty crime is a constant worry for most natives and tourists in India. a thousand commercial varieties. The most sought after fruit, the A few years ago, my husband lost his new Florsheims the morning after he sweet, juicy alphonso, is mainly grown in Ratnagiri in Maharasharrived in Chennai. The black leather slip-on shoes probably fetched a neat tra, Bulsar in Gujarat and also in Karnataka. The state of Uttar sum at a local used goods market. On yet another trip, I lost my brand new Pradesh is known for four other varieties: Dashehari, Langra, lacy Vanity bra that I had hung out to dry on a laundry line full of clothes in Bombay Green and Chausa. The Himsagar mango is cultivated the backyard of our bungalow. Unfortunately, a strapping young woman was in West Bengal. elastic enough to haul herself over the wall to filch the undergarment flapI believe—and I’m sure I’ll hear a hundred yays and nays with ping in our yard. And, in any case, who can blame that bra thief for loving respect to this one—that no mango will ever match up to the one the fit? Good taste must be admired. And so, like my gourmand father-inthat I grew up with: the Banganapalli. Those golden nuggets of law who can polish off a plate of well-puffed pooris at any hour of the day, sun and sweet hung in clumps from the tree in our backyard and I too will rant about this real problem of mango burglars. Like him, I too warmed in a huge basket filled with hay inside the store room believe that these golden Indian mangoes are worth much more than their of our kitchen for days before they could be eaten. They were, weight in gold. Like him, I too will choose to run after a truck bursting with unfortunately, the apple of every urchin’s eye when I was growing Banganapalli mangoes in season than chase an armored vehicle loaded with up in Chennai. gold biscuits. Any number of young men vaulted into our yard in the heat The golden mango is iconic of India and the word mango has deep roots of the noonday sun to steal these fleshy drops of gold. They catain this ancient country. The name originated from the Tamil word mangai pulted stones at them for then, as well as now, there never has or mankay or Malay mangga (via Portuguese). The skin of the mango and been anything more enticing than a mango in season. n its juice evokes the heat of the tropics. Its form is redolent of erotic Indian Kalpana Mohan writes from Saratoga (this one's from Chennai). sculptures. Its scent has aroused a primal, sensual response in the devourer To read more about her, go to and http:// since legendary times. India and Indians are obsessed with this fruit: mango motifs and paisleys are one of the most popular designs in silks, cottons and 48 • india currents • august 2012

india currents • august 2012 • 49


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Anuradha Malhotra

From the Bihari Rasoi


o you know what litti is?” asked a friend from Bihar. When I expressed ignorance, he went on to explain the preparation, flavors and aroma of this signature dish from Bihar. That day quite a few other words got added to my food vocabulary—ghugni, dhuska, kofta, pittha, and of course, litti. Positioned square in the notheast, Bihari cuisine is influenced by both the north and eastern states of India. One of the specialties of Bihari cuisine is the use of panch phoran, a combination of five ingredients, namely, mangraeel (nigella), saunf (fennel), methi (fenugreek), sarso (mustard), and ajwain (carom). Panch phoran is used as a seasoning and readily available in grocery stores. Even if you are not from Bihar, you may have heard of sattu? Sattu is usually made

with roasted gram flour. I make it with barley seeds that are soaked in water, dried, roasted and then pulverized. In summer people mix sattu with water, sugar, and lemon to form an invigorating drink. I’ve had it many times and, believe me, it enlivens from within. Ask any Bihari about litti and he will rave endlessly about it. The relation between litti and sattu ka paratha (recipe below) is that of kith and kin. The ingredients and method of preparation for both are almost the same. The difference is that Sattu ka paratha is pan-fried while litti gets baked in a pre-heated oven at 375° F to make it crispy and crunchy. Littis are usually eaten with baigan ka bhurta (also called chokha). Dhuska (do not lose sleep over the names of these dishes), is a fried dish of rice and Bengal gram. It is a piece de resistance from

Jharkhand, and requires just 25-30 minutes of cooking time. Now about Khaja, a dish that has traveled thousands of kilometres from the land of Bihar to other Indian states. It is a sugarcoated puffy dessert made with all purpose flour. Those who have wandered the streets of cities like Patna, Gaya, and Rajgir are acquainted with Khaja very well. Preparing these dishes at home is, in my opinion, quite simple, if not mere duck soup. I hope that you will also become an admirer of the cuisine from this state just as I became. n

Sattu ka Parathas

stretch the dough so that a becomes a circle with a diameter of 7-8 inches. Cook paratha on a hot tawa.

1 tsp sugar 1 tsp lemon juice 1 handful of cilantro 3-4 green chillies chopped 1 whole red chilli pods grated coconut 3 medium-sized tomatoes chopped 1 tsp panch phoran salt to taste vegetable oil

Ingredients (for stuffing) 1½ cups of sattu 3 small sized scallions finely chopped 3-4 green chillies finely chopped 4-5 cloves of garlic finely chopped 1 inch piece of ginger finely chopped ½ tbsp ajwain seeds 2 tbsp chopped coriander leaves 1 tsp red chilli powder ½ tsp mustard oil 1 tsp lemon juice Salt (to taste) (for Parathas) 2 cups wheat flour 2 tbsp cooking oil In a big bowl combine all the stuffing ingredients to it. Sprinkle a quarter cup of water to moisten the mixture. Blend thoroughly with a ladle. Add more water only if you need to keep the dough consistent. Keep the stuffing aside. Pour half a cup of water over the wheat flour in a large wide-mouthed container. Do it slowly and gradually. Knead with hands so that the flour is gathered and a loose mass is formed. Continue kneading until the dough becomes stretchable and smooth enough to be rolled out. Leave the dough aside for 1015 minutes and keep it covered with a moist cloth. Take a small chunk of the dough; make a small ball out of it and start rolling it with a rolling pin over a plain surface. Place the sattu stuffing in the middle of this circle; enfold it and close from top. Now roll down again; 54 • india currents • august 2012

Dhuska Ingredients 2 cups rice 1 cup of chana dal (Bengal gram) 1 tsp cumin seeds Salt to taste 5 tsp cooking oil 4-5 green chillies chopped 2 medium sized onions minced Keep both rice and chana dal soaked overnight. Soak them separately. Next day, grind them (separately) coarsely. Mix them and add some water to form a consistent pancake-like batter (free of lumps). Add salt, cumin seeds, chopped green chillies, and minced onions to the batter and blend well. Heat oil in a heavy-bottomed pan. With the help of a big spoon, pour some Dhuska batter into the heated oil. Fry until it becomes golden brown. Get a kick out of the dish!

Ghugni Ingredients 2 cups yellow peas 1 medium sized onion peeled and chopped 2 cloves garlic crushed or finely chopped 1 tsp grated or finely chopped ginger 1 tsp turmeric 2 potatoes ½ tsp coriander powder 2 tsp cumin seeds

Anuradha Malhotra is a freelancer who writes about her own culinary experiences; she has an avid interest in getting to know different cultures and writing about them.

Roast panch phoran and red chillies in a pan. Also add cumin seeds. Now powder these in a spice blender or with the help of a rolling pin. Heat some oil in the same pan and add chopped pieces of ginger and garlic. Sauté for a bit. Add minced green chillies, and chopped onions and tomatoes. Fry until the oil in the pan starts leaving the sides and a nice paste is formed. Follow this by adding salt, coriander powder, turmeric and sugar. Mix thoroughly. This is the time you add soaked peas and potato slices to the paste. Mix these with the fried spices. Add 2 cups of water and turn the the heat to high and bring the dish to a boil. Reduce the flame and cook. By this time, you are over with the main part. Add turmeric water and grated pieces of the coconut. Cook for another half an hour so that peas and potatoes become soft. As the gravy thickens, turn off the heat and add roasted mixture of panch phoran and cumin to it. Mix well. Transfer the contents to a bowl. Garnish with chopped coriander. Pour lemon juice over ghugni just before serving. Enjoy this lip-smacking dish with hot parathas or chapatis.



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Kalpana Sunder

Sensory Overload in Madrid

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adrid is all about zest, spirit, and sensory experience. From the warmth of its citizenry, to the “moveable feasts” of tapas (bite sized snacks) and incredible art displays, Madrid presents a sense of history and style. While the city does not boast of any one famous monument, like Paris’ Eiffel Tower, Madrid offers a heady cocktail of architectural styles with its plethora of eye-catching cathedrals, villas, palaces and museums. On entering the lobby of The Westin Palace Hotel, I look entranced at the Rotunda, the stained glass ceiling of the historic hotel that has hosted celebrities down the ages from the genius artist Salvador Dali to the mysterious spy Mata Hari. Aysha Maldonado, an employee of the hotel, tells me about how a room at the Westin was painted by the creative Dali and was washed by the maid the next day. If only she had known the worth of that sketch! Culinary tourism being part of the city’s charm, we stop at the famed restaurant, La Trucha, close to the Spanish theatre, where actors with their manuscripts used to be a common sight. Ceramic plates line the walls at the historic restaurant and huge pieces of jamon (cured ham) hang from the ceiling. The owner makes sure we are plied with platters of fried pimento chillies, deep fried pieces of eggplant, jamon, swordfish with vinegar 56 • india currents • august 2012

and garlic and the omnipresent tortillas with egg and potatoes. The popular drink among our band of journalists is the blood red Sangria named after the Spanish word for blood “sangre.” It’s a refreshing mix of red wine, some orange liqueur, slices of citrus, some brown sugar and a splash of soda. El Neru, recommended on Trip Advisor, is a grungy bar with discarded tissues and olive pits on the floor. This building used to be a printing press and today it is well known for its “filter coffee” style of pouring cider. We feast on blue cheese on toast and black sausage along with apple cider. Our sweet tooth leads us to the elegant wrought iron and wooden Mercado de San Miguel, an old covered market which was bought by private investors and converted into an Art Nouveau styled gourmet food market. With stalls selling a wide range of food and drinks from fried almonds and traditional sweets like rosquillas (doughnuts) and Bolitas de coco (a coconut confection) to platters of seafood and ham, this is a vibrant space that remains open till 2 a.m. on weekends. All over town I see branches of Museo Del Jamon—counters with ham dangling from the ceiling alongside stalls selling deep fried churros dipped in chocolate. We explore the historical center of the city—the Puerto de Sol, named after the symbol of the sun which used to decorate

the city wall in the 15th century. Today it’s surrounded by shops and buildings and is the preferred destination for protests and rallies. I drive along the Gran Via, one of Madrid’s most majestic roads, which was a controversial project in the 1920s as over 300 old buildings in the old quarter of the city had to be demolished. It was Madrid’s move to introduce “modern architecture” and build its first skyscrapers. Today this frenetic area is filled with historic art nouveau theatres and cinemas as well as cafes, taverns and shops. I see the winged goddess Victoria and bronze wreaths on top of the iconic Metropolis building. This building was designed by French architects, Jules and Raymond Février. Art follows architecture. I satisfy my inner muse at the Prado museum, one of the world’s top five museums, with its classics by artists like El Greco, Goya and Velasquez, the result of the relationship that Spanish kings had over the centuries with their court painters. With a $238-million extension by Spanish architect Rafael Moneo, it’s now got a new cafe and exhibition space. The deaf and disillusioned artist, Goya painted murals on the walls of his home with nightmarish scenes, never meant to be seen by others. These “black paintings” as they are called are filled with demonic images including one of the God Saturn feasting on his son. I gaze at the sheer eroticism of the “naked



Mayor Mercado de San M Maja” who reclines provocatively in nude splendor. Those days painting a nude was a great risk and the crafty Goya concealed his deed by painting a “clothed Maja” which was hung in front of the nude and controlled by a mechanical device! Eventually, these paintings led to his being accused of obscenity during the Spanish Inquisition, and he lost his job as the royal painter. Our guide tells us that he probably used several models, one for the body and another for the face and therefore has almost no neck. Some even say that wall—Hollywood this was Goya’s ideal woman and he had no rhythmic movements celebrities, polimodel at all. and the emotion and ticians and even The 300 acre Retiro Park, situated behind energy of the moment. a Hemingway the Prado museum, one of the widely visited Flamenco, which has its corner. Legends parks in Madrid is a great spot to rest our roots in the gypsy culabound about eyes and minds. This marvellous green space ture of Andalucía, is supthe restaurant. is filled with joggers, skateboarders, people posed to have Indian and The most popwalking their dogs and even puppet shows. North African influences ular one being This was once the domain of royalty till good as well. The best for the that the artist king Charles III decided to allow commoners. last: I chance upon someGoya worked Madrid is “Hemingway city,” so we folthing very unusual as I take Plaza Santa An a at night as a dishwashlow the author’s trail from the Cerveceria a hop-on hop-off tour—an er here and that Hemingway tried to Alemana, a 1904 beer hall to the La Venenauthentic Egyptian temple learn how to make paella in this kitchen! “We cia, a bar where he would come to get news dedicated to the goddess Isis, dating back lunched upstairs at Botin’s. Indeed, it is one from Republican soldiers during the civil war to 200 BC which was gifted by the Egyptian of the best restaurants in the world. We had and which became fodder for his novel “For government when the temples were at risk roast young suckling pig and drank rioja alta. Whom the Bell Tolls.” We have lunch at Botof flooding due to the construction of the Brett did not eat much. She never ate much. in, the oldest working restaurant in the world, Aswan dam. Laid out in a plaza with surI ate a very big meal and drank three bottles famed for its suckling pig dishes cooked in a rounding gardens, the golden glow of the of rioja alta,” says an excerpt from the iconic 18th century tile oven (baby pigs that drink temple against the red dusk skyline of the city Hemingway book “The Sun Also Rises.” mother’s milk for 21 days and then end up beis incredibly magical. n Our cultural high is at La Carboneras, a ing roasted in special ovens). The restaurant Kalpana Sunder is a Japanese language specialtablao or flamenco bar decorated in a modern has a cellar in rough stone predating the buildist and travel writer based in Chennai. black and red theme, with an intimate feel. ing, colorful tiles and signatures of the famous We are mesmerised by the hand clapping, the guests who have visited the restaurant on the

A typical Tapas bar

El Neru, a tapas bar famous for it’s cider.

The Rotunda at The Westin

Plaza Santa Ana—the literary quarter

Plaza de la Sol

Restaurant Botin india currents • august 2012 • 57

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I C relationship diva

Jasbina Ahluwalia

A Presumed Bias


My boyfriend’s a great guy, and we get along well—apart from his problem with my not telling my parents about him since he’s not Indian. How can I deal with this situation?


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the reason(s) behind your parents’ disapproval may bring up potential issues you and/or your boyfriend may not have thought about which may prompt well-serving discussions between the two of you. The success of your relationship with your partner will likely depend to a large degree on your mutual willingness to listen to each other’s viewpoints even when different, as well as to honor each other’s relationship needs. Not only will addressing this issue with your parents gift your parents with the opportunity to be heard, but it will demonstrate to your boyfriend that you are able to honor his need to not remain a secret from your parents. n Jasbina is the founder and president of Intersections Match, the only personalized matchmaking and dating coaching firm serving singles of South Asian descent in the United States. She is also the host of Intersections Talk Radio, a monthly lifestyle show.

Happy INDIAN independence day

Great question, as you are not alone. I’m sure there are other readers who are themselves, or know of others, also grappling with similar situations. Since our matchmaking and dating coaching services focuses on South Asians, at times people are surprised to learn that we do have clients who have dated in the past, and/or are open to being matched, with non-South Asians. As such, your situation is one I am familiar with. Given the limited space, I am not able to explore in any depth the possibility that your resistance to telling your parents about your boyfriend may potentially reflect at least some degree of mixed feelings on your part with respect to your boyfriend and/or relationship. I will address your question with the underlying

premise that your assumption of your parents’ disapproval is the reason you have not told them about your boyfriend. In my opinion, one of the greatest detractors from intimate relationships (between any two people, be they partners, or parent/adult child), consists of one or both persons unexpressed expectation(s) and/or assumption(s). Rather than continuing to act on the assumption that your parents will disapprove of your boyfriend not being Indian, why not openly and respectfully discuss the (potential) issue with your parents directly? A few possible outcomes of such a dialogue come to mind. You may be pleasantly surprised to learn that your surmise of your parents’ disapproval (or the extent of their disapproval) is unfounded. I have come across people who are surprised to learn, in some cases years after they first presumed parental disapproval, that their parents were actually accepting of their relationship with a non-Indian. Even if your assumption of your parents’ disapproval bears out, being open to learning

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Sunday, September 9, 2012 - DOUBLE HEADER CONCERT

Venue: Center for Performing Arts, Menlo-Atherton High School 555 Midlefield Rd., Atherton, CA 94027

Time: 5:00 pm

Time: 2:00 pm CONCERT TBD

Smt. Mala Ramadorai - Vocal Sri. Abhay Prabhakar Datar - Tabla Sri. Anant Shrikrishna Joshi - Harmonium

(Check website for updates)

Friday, September 21, 2012 - 7:30 pm Sri. Sanjay Subrahmanyan - Vocal Sri. S. Varadarajan - Violin Sri. Neyveli B. Venkatesh - Mridangam

Venue: Gunn High School 780 Arastradero Road, Palo Alto, CA 95035

Sunday, October 7, 2012 - 3:30 pm

Sammilan - Folk Fusion Concert Sri. Sashank Subramanyam & Party Sri. Shashank Subramanyam - Flute/Vocals Sri. Anwar Khan Manganiar - Vocal Sri. Feroz Khan Manganiar - Dholak Sri. Ravindra Chary - Sitar Sri. Sai Giridhar - Mridangam, Khanjira & Konnakol Venue: ICC (India Community Center) 525 Los Coches St., Milpitas, CA 95035

Sunday, October 14, 2012 - 3:30 pm Mysore Manjunath & Dr. Mysore Nagaraj - Violin Duet Sri. Srimushanam Rajarao - Mridangam

Venue: ICC (India Community Center) 525 Los Coches St., Milpitas, CA 95035

Sunday, October 28, 2012 - 3:30 pm Celebrating 100 Years of Madura Mani Iyer Sri. T.V. Sankaranarayan - Vocal Violin: Vittal Ramamurthy Mridangam: Thiruvarur Bhaktavatsalam Venue: Mexican Heritage Plaza 1700 Alum Rock Ave., San Jose, CA 95116

Friday, November 9, 2012 - 8:00 pm

Kum. Alarmel Valli - Bharathanatyam with Live Orchestra Venue: Mexican Heritage Plaza 1700 Alum Rock Ave., San Jose, CA 95116

For all concert timings and venue please visit

For details & updated information please log on to

74 • india currents • august 2012


Vocal Music Classes


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E-mail: india currents • august 2012 • 75



Lakshmi Mani

An Odyssey into Jazz


ndian Americans are scaling new heights in the performing arts; participating and interpreting mainstream music in distinctive ways. Vijay Iyer is one such artist—an acclaimed jazz pianist, composer, producer, and writer. Jazz combines the best of African, South Asian, and native African-American music strains, creating a kind of “jazz unconscious,” a scrapbook of interludes that make up a composite symphonic melody. This hybrid version of improvisational music has become very much a part of American music. In my opinion, jazz is the most authentic American music there is. Drawing upon this rich heritage, Iyer has won accolades as a world class jazz musician who is making history in changing “the scope, ambition and language of jazz piano forever” (Jazzwise). Iyer is an outstanding example of the Indian-American contribution to this vibrant tradition. Vijay Iyer is one of those musicians who defies stereotyping. In one of his program notes, written in January 2005, he sums up what his music is about: “With Mutations, and with all of my music, I am interested in probing this loose constellation of concepts: change, stasis, repetition, attraction, repulsion, composition, improvisation, noise, technology, race, ethnicity, hybridity.” Like all artists, Iyer proves that only in art can one reconcile opposites and contradictions.

An Improvised Heritage

Iyer was born in Albany, New York, in 1971 and grew up in Rochester, New York. His parents were immigrants from Tamil Nadu, India, both with advanced degrees in Pharmaceuticals and Business Administration. They did not try to “shelter” their children, a daughter and son, from the nonIndian culture. Vijay received some formal training in Western classical music in the violin from a very young age but it was the piano that attracted him and he was largely self-taught. He auditioned for the Rochester Philharmonic Youth Orchestra and played classical violin for fifteen years. In the meantime, he was also attracted to the improvisational aspect of jazz which gave him freedom to experiment. An exposure to classical Karnatik music and religious music was inevitable, growing up in a South Indian

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Music in Alberta, Canada for 2013. Iyer performs all over the U.S. and the world. His albums include duo, trio, quartet, and quintet collaborations. “I have a new large-scale project with poet Mike Ladd, called “Holding it Down” and it’s about the dreams of young American veterans of color from the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It will premiere in September at Harlem Stage in New York City,” Iyer responded when asked about his current projects. “I’m also working on a project called “Radhe Radhe” with filmmaker Prashant Bhargava (best known for his recent film Patang).” Iyer was asked to create music to honor the 100th anniversary of Igor Stravinsky’s famous work “Rite of Spring.” Iyer themed his composition on the spring festival Holi and the collaborative project is due to premiere on Holi in 2013, at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.

A Recognized Talent

family. This mix of early influences provided him with both rigor and flexibility in his music composition. Iyer pursued mathematics and physics during his undergraduate studies at Yale. He entered graduate school “with the intent of becoming a physicist, but music finally won.” It was during his Ph.D. program at the University of California, Berkeley, that he decided to further his academic interests in music with an interdisciplinary program in Technology and the Arts. “I left physics in 1994, and then found a way to study the science of music instead, ” explained Iyer. He served as the house pianist at the Bird Kage, a famous club in North Oakland, where he encountered some of the best minds in jazz music like Ed Kelly and Smiley Winters. Later, Iyer moved to New York where he now lives with his wife Christina Leslie, a math Ph.D., and his seven-year-old daughter Jayanti, who already wields the bow like a pro. Iyer is currently a faculty member at the Manhattan School of Music. He recently accepted the position of director of the Banff International Workshop in Jazz and Creative

Iyer has been the recipient of many awards in recognition of his talent. Most recently he was named Pianist of the Year by the Jazz Journalists Association and received the Doris Duke Artists Award. GQ India named him one of the “fifty most influential global Indians” in 2010. From coast to coast, Iyer has been widely acclaimed as an outstanding figure in jazz music. In 2010, his trio album Historicity was voted the Jazz Album of the Year, and it won a Grammy nomination for 2011. His album Solo contains original compositions as well as classic tunes by Duke Ellington and Michael Jackson, with Iyer’s signature interpretation of these classics. The Boston Globe called this album Iyer’s “grand statement,” and declared that with it Iyer “has fulfilled his promise.” “I’m always trying to further refine and develop my piano playing,” Iyer explained self-deprecatingly about his achievements.

A Body-Based View of Music

What is so special about Iyer’s jazz style? It goes back to his “body-based view of music,” the central thesis he advances in his Ph.D. dissertation, entitled “Microstructures of Feel, Macrostructures of Sound: Embodied Cognition in West African, and AfricanAmerican Musics” (1998). He applies his exploration of “embodied cognition” to his

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musical composition. The mind is not an abstract construct but is physical, grounded in bodily processes which are rhythmic. Thus, “breathing is connected to musical phrase; the heartbeat and walking are connected to pulse; speech is connected to ornament and melodic detail.” He wrote in an essay in The Guardian in 2009, “the rhythms of music are not so different from the inherent time-scales of human bodies.” When he heard Thelonious Monk, Iyer found validation for his “bodybased view” of music. It is this view of music that is pervasive in his latest album Accelerando (2012). Nate Chinen, in his review of Accelerando writes that this album is about “human movement, especially dance: a more graspable premise, and one that finds endless traction in the music” (NY Times, March 14, 2012). Chinen calls this album an example of Iyer’s “escalating insurgency.” I listened to this album to experience it for myself. It is indeed revolutionary. It uses rhythm in ways that reminds me of some of the Indian percussion instruments like the tabla and the mridangam. This album is yet another example of Iyer’s bold experimentation with rhythm and melody. The number “Lude” is a playful intersection of rhythm and melody. Sometimes it sounds like water cascading in a display of sound in its manifold variations. “The Village of the Virgins” is pure rhythm, ably illustrated by Michael Gilmore on the drum. “Accelerando,” the number that provides the title of the album, is a riot of rhythmic sounds. Iyer’s compositional imagination seems to have no bounds. As Chinen puts it, it is “an album driven by the visceral, universal, intoxicating experience of rhythm.” Chinen thinks that Iyer’s Accelerando is “an early front-runner” for jazz album of the year. Iyer acknowledges the Indian influence as pervading his work. With his penchant for math, it is small wonder that Iyer should be attracted to the Karnatik music system, especially the rhythmic aspects. When I asked him whether the Kathapayadi Samkhya System, a mathematical system on which the 72 Karnatik Music Melakarta Raga scheme is structured, had influenced him, he confirmed it. Both math and jazz, and everything in between, seem to have been in Iyer’s DNA, and factored into the making of his music. Nate Chinen points out in Jazz Times that Iyer “technically remains an Indian-American musician with experimental tastes, academic credentials and a finger on the pulse of postmodern culture. In the end, he is probably best understood as an animation of his own principle: a human body taking action.” This musical phenomenon has much more in store for us. n

Geeta & Sanjiv Munshi Arts Academy “Bringing you Music & Dance for 25 successful years!”


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D 18 S (4 F



Geetika Pathania Jain

My Virtual Encounters


decade ago, when cell phones began appearing in streets and cafes, I witnessed the change from the balloons of inner thought to the blurbs of the spoken word. This was a bit scary because it became incontestable how shallow we truly are— “then she said, then he said, like, y’know.” And these conversations were walking around, down the grocery aisles, out the checkout counter, into the sun-shine. In a way, they were like the see-through plastic handbags that were a must-have for fashionistas a few years ago. The see-through handbags were not a personal favorite. No, I said. Maybe I don’t want everyone to see what’s in my handbag— a tangled mess of vanity and confusion. I feel similarly reluctant to give up to public scrutiny the cluttered insides of my head. And then the Internet took us by storm, and life became a giant goldfish bowl, where jealously guarded information was made breezily transparent. “It turns out inconvenience was a really important part of our lives, and we didn’t realize it,” says Siva Vaidyanathan, author of The Googlization of Everything. “While most of your embarrassing baggage was already available to the public, it was effectively off-limits to everyone but the professionally intrepid or supremely nosy. Now, in states where court records have gone online, and thanks to the one-click ease of Google, you can read all the sordid details of your neighbor’s divorce with no more effort than it takes to check your e-mail.” Websites such as Zillow allowed us to see a dollar value to any house. Whether this was crass or not was not the point. The point was that it could be done. Facebook has exaggerated this fear about the invasion of privacy. I worried about identity theft, and I worried about what my professional colleagues would think about my Farmville accomplishments. The heavy Facebook reader, researchers have found, tends to score higher on measures of narcissism. Would people think I was narcissistic if I posted too much? Aloof if I posted too little? As unwashed dishes and ungraded student papers began to pile up, I worried about all that time I spent on Facebook. And then, quite unexpectedly, when I was convinced that there was no way I could sustain my fascination with the web, I found Amitabh Bachchan’s blog on Facebook. The Bollywood of my childhood had cast a larger-than-life shadow on my psyche. And Amitabh Bachchan was surely a towering presence. Amitabh Bachchan, who plays an 78 • india currents • august 2012

angry young man in Deewar, in Sholay, in Muqaddar ka Sikandar, and a sensitive poet in Kabhie Kabhie. Amitabh Bachchan, who has lived much of his adult life in front of the adulating gaze of the camera, and whose substantial celebrity can be directly attributable to his telegenic bravado. Amitabh Bachchan, who has had his share of business setbacks, and whose company ABCL suffered financial setbacks in the 1990s.

In the information age, he has a blog. I began to follow his blog with starry-eyed devotion.

Big B’s Adda

The website, before it migrated to Facebook, is called Big B’s adda, the Hindi slang for lair or, with less sinister overtones, hangout. The “Big B” for Bachchan is a selfconscious acknowledgement of Bachchan’s giant presence on Indian silver screens for over three decades. Big B is a global forum, reflecting not only Indians who live in India, but those representing the Indian diaspora from the United States and the U.K. and other parts of the world. The home page of the blog has the image of Bachchan wearing spectacles of the thick-framed variety. The look is a weighty and intellectual one, not the aging playboy persona he has adopted in several recent films, such as Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna where he plays a boozing womanizer, or Cheeni Kum, where he is paired with a much younger Tabu and is literally old enough to be her father. The verses of Bachchan’s father, Harivansh Rai Bachchan occupy pride of place on the website, lending gravitas and artistic respectability to the Bachchan brand that is now in its third generation, and has recently “acquired,” through the Rai-Bachchan merger, the Aishwariya Rai brand power. A small startup, little Aaradhya Bachchan has been successfully launched. The weblog, or blog can be an outpouring

of one’s innermost thoughts, and for a fan, it is a particularly intense form of interaction with a revered personality. I make the assumption here that Amitabh Bachchan has in fact written the blog, or at least closely collaborated with the ghost writer so that the opinions do, in fact, reflect Big B’s worldview. At any rate, I couldn’t get enough of the stuff. Henry Jenkins, author of Fans, Bloggers, and Gamers: Exploring Participatory Culture, has focused on the participatory nature of virtual fandom, and the homage to a celebrity’s website can enhance the sense of a shared space. No more writing lovelorn letters to celebrities and never hearing back. This was two-way communication at its most participatory best. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one besotted. Fan Ashwini fawned: “Can’t stop looking at your photo with that cutest smile, sho shweet… mwah! Love you heaps, Amitji” (Ashwini, Jan 14.) Then, apparently unable to stay away, fan Ashwini returned for some more outpouring of admiration: “Mwah! Thanks for your photo with that sweet smile. Love you sweetness. Shoo cute and shoo shweet. Mwah again. So adorable. Mwah again and again.” (Ashwini, Jan 14) Forgive me if I thought such gushing was just too fatuous. Though I did like the idea of referring to Amitabh Bachchan as Amitji. Admitedly, I had been a bit star-struck in my younger years, but now, I argued strenuously to myself, I was far more interested in Amitji’s opinion, both of world affairs and of other cultural work. I recalled that there had been some controversy where Amitabh Bachchan, sorry, Amitji had criticized the film Slumdog Millionaire some years ago. It did not take much time to find the relevant entry. “If SM [Slumdog Millionaire] projects India as [a] third-world, dirty, underbelly developing nation and causes pain and disgust among nationalists and patriots, let it be known that a murky underbelly exists and thrives even in the most developed nations.” He adds that an Indian director might not have achieved such global acclaim. “It’s just that the Slumdog Millionaire idea, authored by an Indian and conceived and cinematically put together by a westerner, gets creative globe recognition. The other would perhaps not.”

REMEMBER SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE? A little bit about Slumdog Millionaire.

india currents • august 2012 • 79

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At its heart, Slumdog Millionaire was a love story, but it was also a Cinderella story, and provided a vignette into living amidst the most wretched conditions in the world. The love story was set in the backdrop of a rapidly changing India, whose glittering entry into global consumer capitalism was in evidence as skyscrapers pushed their way up in Indian skies, the labor for this phenomenon provided by slumdwellers like Jamal Malik, whose childhood in Dharavi, the world’s largest slum, was captured in this film with a sensibility that is uniquely Danny Boyle. There is an ironic reference to the Bachchan celebrity, which serves to underline the sharp inequality between the superstar and the slumdog. The Indian media system adapted Who Wants to be a Millionaire? (WWTBAM) into its own version: Kaun Banega Crorepati. For the film, Anil Kapoor played the role of game host Amitabh Bachchan, while Dev Patel is contestant Jamal Malik, one correct answer away from the 20 million rupees prize that would get him out of the slums. If we agree that both global media entertainment as well as the immense slums of third world capitals coexist uneasily, but equally, as products of globalization, in the film, we witness a product of the slums, Jamal, seeking a permanent “escape” by a product of global media entertainment, the game show. The slums are emblematic of several decades of failed socialist policies to reverse colonial exploitation and eradicate poverty (“Garibi Hatao” was the slogan of the Congress party of the Gandhis and Nehrus, which came into power when erstwhile British colonial powers were ousted.) The game show, a format that has been commoditized and successfully exported to other parts of the global media system, is an example of the ceaseless impulse of TV screens over the world to look depressingly similar. Was Slumdog Millionaire an example of “poverty porn” or “slum voyeurism” as some have alleged? While watching the film, I was reminded of other depictions of slumdwellers, such as Mira Nair’s Salaam Bombay! in 1988 or City of God, a 2002 film set in Brazil’s favelas. Born into Brothels, a 2004 film about the children of prostitutes of Calcutta’s Red Light district also came to mind. Allegations of slum voyeurism were flying fast and furious, then too. The criticism of Slumdog Millionaire as somehow exploitative of the urban squalor that it depicts has resonance. Cross-cultural communications is never easy, but cultural values are genuinely at odds here, unable to transcend political chasms. Bachchan wishes to spare “nationalists” the pain of the intrusive camera reaching beyond the “privacy please” sign. The determination of Westerners to focus on the shameful, the wretchedness and the squalor of slum existence is likely to exacerbate the wounds of injured pride.

One of Hindi poet Munshi PremChand’s famous work is called “Taat ka Parda” (jute curtain). The story is of the deteriorating economic condition of a family that has come to rely on a disintegrating jute cloth to conceal this reality. There is not even enough money for the women of the family to wear anything but rags. When the symbolic jute curtain is stripped away, the last remnant of self-pride disintegrates for this family, and there is nothing left to cover the shame of the half-clad women who shrink from the intrusive gaze of the onlooker. Joshua Meyrowitz, author of the book No Sense of Place: The Impact of Electronic Media on Social Behavior has written about the cruel capability of the cameras to bring to the “frontstage” sights that are meant to be hidden away backstage—away from the public eye. Had Slumdog Millionaire crossed the line? I decided that it was time to discuss this matter with Shanti (not her real name), a film-maker friend from Mumbai, to get her perspective.


Me: @Shanti: Hmm... those who use the expression “poverty porn” appear to be chastising filmmakers (such as Danny Boyle of Slumdog Millionaire) who are “titillating” audiences by gritty filmic representations of poverty, thereby exploiting that poverty. But isn’t an imperative of art to jolt, shock and possibly bring change? Shanti: @Geetika :… I don’t think poverty porn is used to allude to ALL films located in poor contexts. Just to those which use the extreme conditions of poverty to talk about that poverty, and create images which present the poor in terms of that degradation, as porn depicts not sex, but often a degraded version of sex that condenses all that might be exploitative without including that which might be liberated, mutually pleasurable etc. These are complicated categories of course, and like the line between porn and erotica, the line between poverty porn and humanistic depictions of poverty may possibly be a hard one to define without a lot of substantiation. And with that, I had to be content. Thank you, Shanti! I felt closer to Amitji than I could believe possible, and I had found answers to so many vexing questions on the Internet. In the film The Social Network, Sean Parker, one of the co-founders of Facebook, made a remark to the effect that after Facebook, all of us would live our lives online. That day has come, Amitji. n Geetika Pathania Jain lives in the Bay Area. Like her, you can read Amitji’s blog on http:// and

dance & music

KALANJALI Dances of India

Jayendra Kalakendra Suganda Sreenath

• Fremont • Santa Clara

New classes are forming at all locations For details contact Suganda Iyer


(408) 270-9295


India's most ancient classical dance Following traditional Kalakshetra syllabus - all levels

Bharatanatyam classes (Kalakshetra style, incl. Extensive Theory)

• San Jose

Establshed in 1975

Registration and Information:



Artistic Director:


BharathaKala Kutiram Artistic Director:

Jayanthi Sridharan offers Bharathanatyam Classes in North San Jose

Call: (408) 251-3438

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Bharatanatyam Dance Classes

offered by Danseuse

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Contact: *Discounted price per insertion based on Client: advance purchase of three or more insertions. One time rate $90. Fax:

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needed on this proof, and fax it back to us. Email: India Currents Fax: (408) 324-0477

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408-246-3005 408-838-3079 Classes offered in a combination of Indian Dance Styles including Folk, Semi-Classical and Fusion at various locations in Cupertino, West San Jose and Evergreen

DEREK NUNES 1885 Lundy Ave., Suite 220 San Jose, CA 95131 Classes are (408) 324-0488 / (714) 523-8788 conducted FAX: (408) 324-0477 in West San Jose & Cupertino

New Se ss beginn ion August ing 2012

For details contact

(510) 316-5122

india currents • august 2012 • 81

82 • india currents • august 2012





NEW SHIVA MURUGAN TEMPLE Wed., August 1 Avani Avittam Puja Sun., Aug. 12 Shri Jeyanthi Celebration Devotional Songs Anu Suresh & Students Wed., Aug 29 - Onam Evening Puja Sun., Sep. 2 Mahasankatachaturthi Bharathanatyam Meena Logan & Studetns


Sept. 8 - Manasa, Vignesh & Friends Oct. 21 - Rohan & Friends Nov. 24 Suganda Srinath Dec. 1 - Meena Logan Dec. 15 - Preetha Shesadri

2013 Jan. 26 - Guru Vishal Ramani & Students Feb. 9 - Nirupama Vaidyanathan Mar. 16 - Latha Sriram May 1st week - Guru Vishal Ramani & Students Indumathi Ganesh, Jeyanthi Sridharan, Anu Suresh, Harini Krishna, Shreelata Suresh, Hema Sista, Srikanth Chari, Aruna Krishna

Other Artists have also accepted to do a program for the New temple.


1803 Second Street, Concord, CA 94519 • Weekdays: 10am - Noon & 6pm - 9pm • Weekends: 10am - 9pm Voice Mail (925) 827-0127 • Fax (925) 827-0209 •

Let us all join together and build a new Shiva Murugan Temple, the dream of all of us. Many of the Bay Artists are generously accepting to do Benefit programs for this auspicious effort.



india currents • august 2012 • 83

Jayendra Kalakendra Presents

A Bharatanatyam Fundraiser Peformance by

Anirudh Bommireddy Disciple of Smt. Suganda Sreenath

Saturday, September 1, 2012 - 5:30 pm Cubberley Theater 4000 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto, CA 94303 Tickets: $15 (At the Door: $20) All proceeds will be donated to SEWA International Please make checks payable to SEWA International All donations are 100% Tax Deductible Contact:

(408) 270-9295 • (510) 825-8810 •

“The more we come out and do good to others, the more our hearts will be purified, and God will be in them.” - Swami Vivekananda


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84 • india currents • august 2012

DEREK NUNES 1885 Lundy Ave., Suite 220 San Jose, CA 95131 (408) 324-0488 / (714) 523-8788 FAX: (408) 324-0477

india currents • august 2012 • 85

KALALAYA* An Institution of Fine Arts



Mega Live Tamil Light Music Program by

Padma Bhushan Dr. S.P. Balasubrahmanyam & Padmashree ‘Chinnakuyil’ K.S. Chitra Along with

SP Sailaja & SPB Charan

… With Orchestra from India …

Kannada: Friday, September 14, 2012 • 7:30 pm Telugu: Saturday, September 15, 2012 • 5:30 pm Tamil: Sunday, September 16, 2012 - 4:00 pm

Venue: Chabot College Peforming Arts Center 25555 Hesperian Blvd., Hayward, CA Tickets: $20 (Balcony), $25, $35, $50, $100, VIP & VVIP

With Compliments

86 • india currents • august 2012

* National Promoter - Kalalaya


For Tickets / Info. Contact: Kannada: Kala Iyer (510) 305-9285 Ragha (732) 766-8470 Arvind (408) 368-8279 Telugu: Ramesh Konda (510) 565-2495 Vijaya Aasuri (510) 421-3535 Kala Iyer (510) 305-9285 Veeru Uppala (510) 418-4292 Tamil: Komala Vilas (408) 733-7400 Ananda Bhavan (408) 735-1111 Kala Iyer (510) 305-9285

india currents • august 2012 • 87

Edited by: Mona


List your event for FREE!

SEPT. issue deadline: Monday, August 20 To list your event in the Calendar, go to and fill out the Web form

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special dates Raksha Bandhan

August 2


August 2

Krishna Janamashtami

August 10

Indian Independence Day

August 15

Idu’l Fitr

August 19

Labor Day

Sept. 3

IC August

cultural calendar

1 Wednesday

Health Advisory Clinic. Free medical

consultation from various specialty doctors. Ends Dec. 29. Organized by HCCC. 1-3 p.m. Livermore Shiva Vishnu Temple Health Clinic, 1223 Arrowhead Ave Livermore CA 94550. Free. (925) 449-6255, (925) 371-5640.


3 Friday

The Quest Unsaid: An Evening of Abhinaya. Bragha Bessell, visiting master 88 • india currents • august 2012

Bhajan Concert by vocalist Kalapini Komkal, daughter of Kumar Gandharva, September 8

bharatanatyam exponent, along with Navia Natarajan, Jyotsna Vaidee, and Alyssa Nickel presents an evening of abhinaya and spoken word poetry, exploring the hidden aspects in human relationships and emotions. Lyrics from Indian poetry are juxtaposed along with

English spoken word poetry written specially for the presentation. Ends Aug. 4. Organized by Counterpulse. 8 p.m. Counterpulse, 1310 Mission St. @ 9th, San Francisco. $20. (800) 350-8850.



Emma G. Blanco

Celebrating Indian Pride


n the Bay Area, for the past 20 years, India’s Independence Day is celebrated at the annual Festival of India. This year, the Federation of Indian Associations of Northern California (FIA) celebrates a milestone and is especially proud and thrilled to be presenting the 20th Annual Festival of India. “The festival and parade has become the pride of the entire Indian community,” says Vijaya Aasuri. “I am looking forward to meeting the visionaries who have made this festival possible over the years and sharing the history of the past 20 years. The festival has become an integral part of our summer activities. [It] is our way of passing on the torch of our pride in our traditions to the future generations of American Indian youth.” The three-day event kicks off with a flag-hoisting ceremony on Thursday, August 16th (6:30 p.m.) at San Jose’s City Hall. Presiding over the event will be San Jose Council Member, Ash Kalra. The festivities will subsequently continue through the weekend of August 18 and August 19 in Fremont with a fair, dance competitions, cultural programs, Bollywood musical extravaganzas, a comprehensive Health Fair, and a parade. Aasuri is the festival’s Cultural Chair for Participation in Singing/Dance Competition. She is “looking forward to the performances of various groups who will be exhibiting their creativeness on stage and the grand parade which brings our culture front and center in the main streets of America.” She adds, “The dance competi-

tion has been a main part of the festival for the past 20 years. In addition to the classical, folk, and Bollywood dances, there is

a special focus on patriotic dances. [Also], we are placing extra efforts in getting the youth involved in the organization of the festival to help develop leadership among our kids.” Just as enthusiastic about the significance of celebrating the Festival’s 20th year is Parade-Chair, Deepak Chhabra. What began as a local event grew to become a national one; attracting participants from far places such as New York and Chicago, as well as across Canadian border. Chhabra says, “It was the thought of a patriotic few Indians who think alike, that made the humble beginning of this Festival in 1992. Undoubtedly, it was the persistent and painstaking efforts of those patriotic few— the unsung heroes that played the crucial role of a catalyst and nurtured it to become a movement.” Chhabra states that the Festival will “showcase Indian culture and heritage not only to the Indo-American community, but also to the global Northern California community.” The mela (fair) will feature over 120 booths exhibiting arts and crafts, literature, clothing and jewelry, ethnic food, and businesses. At the Health Fair, there will be over 100 physicians and other professionals providing free check-ups, testing and advice on a variety of health-related issues. The parade will feature over 50 floats representing different states of India and Indian American community businesses. Something new this year is the addition of kids’ rides and other fun activities; events that will not go unnoticed by many of the families who will be in attendance, including the family of Abha Kothari of Fremont. When asked what India’s Independence Day means to her, Kothari answered, “Freedom from oppression! [It is] an opportunity to celebrate our beautiful culture and be thankful to the network of freedom fighters that made it possible.” She and her husband are excited to attend the festival with their young children and plans on “Showing our [kids] the dances, crafts, and cuisine! They are [going to] have fun in the ‘Indian’ sun.” As host of the festival for the past two decades, the FIA is “a strong and effective voice for Americans of Indian origin in the cultural, social, political, academic and economic fields,” explains Chhabra. The Fremont-based non-profit group works fervently on various community-based initiatives and fosters its members to engage

in every aspect of the community. It is an umbrella organization of over 50 Bay Area organizations representing over 100,000 Indians in America. “Dr. Romesh Japra (Convener/Chairman) and a dedicated team of volunteers have been working for the past several months in planning and execution of the festival and parade; [both of which celebrate and display] our history, our culture and our traditions,” Aasuri shares. “This festival is a reminder to our American Indian youth of our heritage and our roots. We are proud that the festival has been a platform for many a youth to experience this special feeling of being an American Indian, celebrate our diversities.” Everyone is invited to come and be part of this great milestone in the history of Bay Area Indian community and to celebrate the Independence of India. Chhabra sums it up best; “The Festival seeks to promote unity in diversity, democracy and to build bridges between the various global communities. We hope you can help us in achieving this goal through your participation.”n Thursday, August 16, Kick-Off Event at San Jose City Hall, 6:30 p.m. Saturday, August 18 and Sunday, August 19, Fair and Parade. 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. 39439 Paseo Padre Parkway (corner of Paseo Padre and Walnut Ave), Fremont. india currents • august 2012 • 89

Bharatanatyam Arangetrams

From left to right: Vibha Raju, August 26, Shruti Sridhar, August 19, Kaniyaa Francis, September 1, Apoorva Paranthaman, September 2, Akshata Chonnad, August 25, Sarayu Pai, September 15, Usha Srinivasan and Urmila Vudali, September 22.




Music Examination. The examination are held twice a year in the hopes of keeping Indian music traditions alive in the Bay Area. Applications are now being taken for the NovDec 2012 examinations , held in November. Completed applications must be submitted on or before August 5. 8 a.m.-7 p.m. Akhil Bharatiya Gandharva Mahavidyalaya Mandal California Center, 7844 McClellan Road, Cupertino. (408) 792-7014. satish_tare@yahoo. com. Ramadhan Dinner. An iftar dinner for the community to have a discussion about the significance of the holy month of Ramadhan. Organized by Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. 7-9 p.m. Baitul Baseer Mosque, 926 Evans Rd., Milpitas. Twelfth Convention of World Hindi Foundation. Haysa Kavi Sammelan followed

by Haysa cultural program. Classical dances, music and a Hindi play will be presented. Performances by poets Abhinav Shukla and Anoop Bhargava. Organized by Bay Area Chapter of World Hindi Foundation (WHF). 10 a.m.-9 90 • india currents • august 2012

p.m. Southside Senior Center, 5585 Cottle Road, San Jose. $40 (includes lunch, dinner, and snacks). (408) 356-1625, (510) 770-1218, (408) 629-2682.,, rsingh631@yahoo. com.

Yatrika Ajaya, and Lakshmi Venkatesan will each present one piece. Organized by Abhinaya Dance Company. 4 p.m. Historic Hoover Theater, 1635 Park Ave., San Jose. Free for Friends of Abhinaya. Donor $25, general $15, student/senior, $10. (408) 871-

Auditions for Merchant of Venice by Shishir Kurup. Receive an audition ap-

pointment, prepare a 3-minute monologue. Bring 8-16 lines of Shakespearean verse to be read aloud. Show times are Oct. 19-21. Ends Aug. 5. Organized by EnActe Arts. 1:30 p.m. 12101 Dawn Lane, Los Altos hills. (408) 3062251.

Bharatanatyam Arangetram of Priyanka Krishnamurthi. Student of Suganda Sreen-

ath, Artistic Director, Jayendra Kalakendra. Organized by Jayendra Kalakendra. 4 p.m. Cubberley Community Center, 4000 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto. Free. (408) 270-9295.

Expositions of Abhinaya. Bharatanatyam featuring solo portrayals by company dancers of abhinaya-the art of expression. In this performance, dancers Rasika Kumar, Malavika Kumar, Anjana Dasu, Sindhu Natarajan,

Screening of Shree 420 at Pacific Film Archive, August 4

C Congratulations


India Currents

For taking home three prizes at the 2011/2012 Northern and Central California Ethnic Media Awards hosted by New America Media. An impressive 112 award entries were received and the entries came from a wide array of ethnic and youth media outlets in the region.

New America Media is the country's first and largest national collaboration and advocate of 2000 ethnic news organizations. Over 57 million ethnic adults connect to each other, to home countries and to America through 3000+ ethnic media, the fastest growing sector of American journalism. “We are extremely honored to have received outstanding journalism work comprising more than a hundred individual entries from the increasingly vibrant and diverse range of ethnic and youth media in Northern California and the Central Valley,” said NAM Awards Chair for California Odette Keeley.

Jaya Padmanabhan won the first place New America Media Award for Outstanding Hyperlocal Report/Feature for her article on the foreclosure crisis “The American Dream?” (September 2011)

Ragini Tharoor Srinivasan won the runnerup New America Media Award for Outstanding Commentary/Editorial Essay for her article “Writing Ethnic in America.” (October 2011)

Raywat Deonandan won the runner-up New America Media Award for Outstanding International Reporting for his cover story “The Ethics of Surrogacy.” (February 2012)


1885 Lundy Ave, Ste 220, San Jose, CA 95151 Phone: (408) 324-0488 Email:

Quality Journalism for 26 Years

india currents • august 2012 • 91

Michelle Baird

Bhangra, Bliss, and the Beat “B hangra is about sharing Punjabi culture. It has the joy and beauty of folk music, but it’s not inaccessible like classical dance. Bhangra connects people,” explains Vicki Virk, Co-Founder and Dholrhythms Creative Director. “Non Stop Bhangra is a cultural experience as well as a night-life experience… it’s for the young and the young at heart” comments Suman Raj, Co-Founder and Dholrhythms Business Director. “The beat at the base of bhangra is undeniable and something that ignites the dance floor the second the music starts” adds Jimmy Little, also known as DJ Jimmy Love, Co-Founder and Producer. Non Stop Bhangra (NSB) is a contagiously uplifting, ridiculously exuberant opportunity to experience the joy that is bhangra. Rooted in Virk’s Punjabi heritage, the event reflects San Francisco’s diverse music scene and draws hundreds from across the Bay Area each month. Founded in 2004 in San Francisco when Virk and Raj, the founders of Dholrhythms Dance Company, joined forces with Love. The result is an experience regularly voted as one of the “best dance parties” by a variety of sources including the New York Times and the San Francisco Guardian. On the second Saturday of every month Public Works transforms into a kaleidoscope of wildly different people all moving to the beat of the dhol. The event is “accessible to

NonStop Crowd. (Photo Credit: Odell Hussey)

92 • india currents • august 2012

Dholrhythms. ((Photo Credit: Ram Srinivisan)

a wide range of audiences, ages, and ethnicities. Even the most dedicated wallflowers get out on the dance floor,” says Virk. The opening of the event is welcoming, with a bhangra lesson and performance before the night gets going. “NSB has a lot to offer in just a few hours. A dance lesson which incorporates a history of the music and dance form, a chance to see choreographed performances… and the ability to get your dance on and still be home by midnight. If you’re

a night owl, you can dance your feet off until three in the morning,” explains Raj. “NSB has a cult following. It’s a chance for our diverse monthly collective to come together and celebrate the music and spirit of bhangra,” says Virk. Each month NSB features a different theme, blending bhangra with reggae, Bollywood, Latin, hip hop, or world music. August’s theme is “Crash an Indian Wedding.” No ceremonies are involved, just the joyful experience of a wedding reception. “Indian receptions are full of energy, great music and lots of dancing. You can get dressed up, bring friends, family, or strangers… enjoy some eats, music and dancing without the long boring speeches” says Raj. “We are working on everything from henna to photo booths, Indian food and sweets from New Delhi Restaurant, as well as San Francisco’s first baraat mob along the streets of the Mission to the doors of the club” shares Love. “We’re going to decorate so it looks like a wedding, we expect everyone to dress up in vibrant colors, and the DJs will be spinning Hindi, Punjabi, and American wedding songs all night with a live dhol” adds Virk. Dholrhythms, which performs every NSB, brings traditional bhangra and giddha to the stage while featuring Virk’s distinctive crossover choreography. Known in the Bay Area as a vibrant group of “bhangra-istas,” Dholrhythms has performed at events including TEDxSF, the Stern Grove Festival, and the


Lasya Vimshati, a Dance Performance.

Dholrhythms Dancers. (Photo Credit: Odell Hussey)

Goldman Environmental Award Ceremony as well as dancing at shows across the western United States and Canada. Dholrhythms brings the color to the stage, and DJ Jimmy Love brings the beat that makes NSB. Described as “pretty desi for a white guy,” Love is the magic managing the decks. Along with dholi and DJ Ravi Sandhu, Love keeps the dance floor moving. “We have always tried to share our love of Punjabi culture with a wider audience while holding true to an authentic bhangra sound. Over the past ten years there’s been a growing desire to find out more about the music [bhangra]… we strive to build local artists up by turning them onto the music” says Love. The result is a distinctive experience that entices everyone. “We bring in Indian DJs and they tend to go sideways, they start experimenting with hip hop and house. Our non-Indian DJs are really creative. They play what feels good, and end up surprising the desis on the dance floor when suddenly they pull out an old song people haven’t heard in years,” comments Virk. “NSB is not just a niche thing. It’s reflective of San Francisco,” notes Virk. This translates into a dance floor that features Punjabis steeped in bhangra next to total newbies. “When you get a group of desi guys dancing on the floor, it’s uplifting. It’s contagious. They start teaching other folks. They see their culture being shared with non-Indian folks… the more Indian folks can embrace this and come out the more this can grow in a positive direction,” says Virk. NSB is unique in that it draws, and harmonizes, traditional Punjabis with a crowd from across South Asia and the United States. “The purpose is to make people happy. When we come together we can forget our differences and remind ourselves of the goodness and sweetness in life,” shares Virk. Each person leaves NSB a little sweeter, a little sweatier, and certainly a lot happier. Apparently her philosophy is working.n

Lasya Dance Company (Artistic Director, Vidhya Subramanian) celebrates its 20th anniversary with a performance including alumni and and all currents students. This will be a dance through memory lane with memorable excerpts that were audience favorites, from past productions presented over the last decade and more. Music by Asha Ramesh, Shanti Narayanan, Narayan Natarajan and Lasya disciples. Organized by Lasya Dance Company. 4-7 p.m. McAfee Center, Saratoga High School, 20300 Herriman Ave., Saratoga. $15. (408) 257-7300. vidhya.,

Summer Bash. Fulfilled celebration with games, food and color. Organized by Janyaa. 4-8 p.m. Ponderosa Park, 811 Henderson Ave., Sunnyvale. $10. Silicon Valley’s Got Talent. A monthly

talent show on the first Saturday of each month. Features a variety of live musical performances, stand-up comedy, karaoke, poetry, and blog reading. Organized by Silicon Valley’s Got Talent. 7-11 p.m. Blue Rock Shoot, 14523 Big Basin Way, Saratoga . Free. (408) 429-9222., www.facebook. com/ValleyTalent, ValeyTalent/.

The Eternal Poet: Raj Kapoor and the Golden Age of Indian Cinema. Shree

420 will be screened. 8 p.m. Pacific Film Archive, 2575 Bancroft Way, Berkeley. $9, general.


5 Sunday

Akhil Bharatiya Gandharva Mahavidyalaya Mandal Examinations. The music examination are held by annually in the hopes of keeping Indian music traditions alive in the Bay Area. Organized by Akhik Bharatiya Gandharva Mahavidyalaya Mandal India. 9 a.m.-7 p.m. Akhil Bharatiya Gandharva Mahavidyalaya Mandal, 7844 McClellan Road, Cupertino. (408) 792-7014. affiliations.php.

Documentary Screening on Pakistani HIndu Refugees. Systematic violence,

rampant discrimination, and widespread restrictions on religious freedom have led thousands of Pakistani Hindus to seek refuge in India in recent years. The Indian government, however, has failed to recognized the majority of them as refugees or grant them asylum. The screening of “Human Boundaries” will be followed by a moderated discussion and Q&A session with the director of the film, Rahul Riji Nair. Organized by Hindu American Foundation. 2-4 p.m. Fremont Hindu Temple, 3676 Delaware Drive, Fremont.

Saturday, August 11. 9 p.m. to 3 a.m. Public Works, 161 Erie Street, San Francisco. Tickets: $10 advance, $15 door. Bharatanatyam Arangetram, Usha Raman, August 11

india currents • august 2012 • 93

Lasya Dance Company (Artistic Director, Vidhya Subramanian) celebrates its 20th anniversary with a performance including alumni and and all currents students, August 4.

Ras H. Siddiqui

Fashion, Eid and Junoon’s Salman Ahmad

Samina and Salman Ahmad


unoon is now almost an American band but one with roots in South Asia. It has transformed over the 20 years of its existence with founder Salman Ahmad and his wife Samina slowly becoming New Yorkers. Brian O’Connell the original American member has also returned home, leaving only the mercurial vocalist Ali Azmat in pakistan and going solo. One can remember a time when this trio took all of India and Pakistan by storm with their mega hit “Sayonee” during the

94 • india currents • august 2012

1990s. They ruled the Desi rock scene for over a decade and performed in the bay area on a number of occasions, including more than one memorable performance at San Jose State University. Junoon then and its remnant now have always been somewhat different. Sufi-Rock originated through them as Salman Ahmad succeeded in melding the late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s Qawwali success with his own version of heavy metal rock music while adding some Punjabi folk music along the way. The success of Junoon was sealed but Salman never stopped with music alone. Today, Salman Ahmad is an author, movie-maker, music teacher and philanthropist, who with his wife Samina is leading an effort to help the poor. Known as the Salman and Samina Global Wellness Initiative, it has been raising both awareness and funds for victims of floods and earthquakes and for people displaced by war. It should come as no surprise because Junoon’s music has always had a dose of social consciousness about it especially with lyrics promoting peace and love. Salman is possibly the only performer originally from Pakistan who has performed in Srinagar in the backdrop of Dal Lake. Deepak Chopra considers him a friend and the two have even co-authored articles promoting harmony in the media. Salman has also been a United Nations Goodwill Ambassador and has played his music for various international dignitaries. Keeping this background in mind an event where Junoon meets Desithrill (billed as Desihangama 2012 Fashion Show and Eid Celebration,) is presented, to have plenty of fun, see an exciting fashion show and to raise some funds for the SSGWI organization. Junoon’s music is also going to be a major factor in this celebration, one in which people of all nationalities, religions and without borders are invited to attend. Desihangama 2012 is going to have to meet high expectations. This scribe for one would like to see a catwalk to Junoon’s mystical Ghoom number. Right out of the realm of the whirling dervish with Desithrill models leading the way, it should be quite a challenge to execute and an experience to witness.n Saturday, August 25, 7 p.m. Chandni Restaurant, 5748 Mowry School Road, Newark. Tickets :$50, VVIP $100. (510) 825-0898.

Habib Khan Saraswati Temple & Gurukul Presents

a Gandabandhan Concert Classical Solo Sitar Recital By

Rishi Dasgupta Accompanied by Satish Tare on the Tabla Venue: Cubberley Theater, 4000 Middlefield Rd., Palo Alto, CA 94303

Guru: Pandit Habib Khan

Saturday September 15, 2012, 6:00 PM Sharp

Shishya: Rishi Dasgupta

All Are Cordially Invited

Vocal, Sitar & Tabla lessons offered by Habib Khan For information call (408) 528-0786 or (650) 255-9752

india currents • august 2012 • 95

96 • india currents • august 2012

Bharatanatyam Arangetram of Sreya Guha. Student of Artistic Director Vishal

Mona Shah

Get Your Turban Groove On

Ramani, Shri Krupa Dance Company. Organized by Shri Krupa Dance Company. 4 p.m. McAfee Theater, 20300 Herriman Ave., Saratoga. Free.


6 Monday

ICC Preschool. Focuses on project-based learning and peer interactions that are designed to teach empathy, problem solving and conflict resolution. Ends Aug. 31. Organized by India Community Center. 9 a.m.-3 p.m. ICC Playcare, 525 Los Coches St., Milpitas. $99 per week. (408) 934-1130. node/13676.


emember Jay Z and MC Punjabi’s “Beware of the Boys?” If that was the appetizer, then BlackMahal is the main dish. BlackMahal is a nine-piece band complete with drums, DJs, horns, and hiphop MCs. Their music takes audiences on a wild ride that gets people on their feet moving to the “turban groove,” created by funky rhythms on drums and turntables, punctuated by playful horns and Ustad Lal Singh Bhatti’s soulful bellows. On August 11, the band will make its first appearance in San Jose as part of the annual San Jose Jazz Fest.

Not really. We’ve played for all kinds of audiences from hipsters to hippies. Sometimes people of Indian descent stumble upon our music when we play a festival and then roll right up to the front of the stage. It’s like they can’t believe what’s happening on stage. First confusion, then excitement.

India Currents (IC): How would you describe your music? Black Mahal (BM): Lots of fun. Hip-Hop + Funk + Jazz with a little bit of Punjabi flavor.

Any new record releases? Where can we find your music? We only sell our EP CD at our live shows. You can pick it up there. It’s called Music + Love + Dancing.

How did the idea evolve to create fusion music? Why not stick to traditional dhol rhythms? We felt it was time to bring together all of the music we love in our life into a new sound, something that represents our generation. Describe your band line up? The band lineup consists of a nine piece crew of brilliant musicians. Ustad Lal Singh Bhatti is on lead vocals and dhol. Jon Cook on drums, Jason Lee on turntables, Satish Pillai on Keys, Tim Chang on bass, Pangfua Chang on vocals, Sandeep Bhatt on sax, Dave Wood on trumpet and Vijay Chattha on vocals/mc. What does the name of your band mean? After the Taj Mahal was built, Shah Jahan wanted to build an exactly symmetric version in all black marble for himself. He never was able to do it, so we’re picking up the slack. What are your musical influences? Everything from Gangstarr to Gurdas Mann. Do you play primarily for Indian audiences?

Are your compositions original? Who writes them? The majority of our songs are original. Different folks have written different parts of each song.

Is this your first time performing at the SJ jazz Fest? How does it feel? Yes! We are pumped. Lal Singh Bhatti has been a mainstay in the San Jose area so this will be a homecoming for him and a chance to treat San Jose to something new from a local icon.


11 Saturday

Bharatanatyam Arangetram of Usha Raman. Student of Mythili Kumar, Artistic Director of Abhinaya Dance Company. Organized by Abhinaya Dance Company. 5 p.m. DeAnza College Visual and Performing Arts Center, 21250 Stevens Creek Blvd., Cupertino. Free. (408) 871-5959. abdanceco@

Ali Akbar College of Music Summer Concert Series. Vocal performance by

Gaayatri Kaundinya and a sarode solo by Alam Khan. 7:30 p.m. Ali Akbar College of Music, 215 West End Ave., San Rafael. $20 general, $15 members/seniors/students. (415) 454-6372.

The Eternal Poet: Raj Kapoor and the Golden Age of Indian Cinema. Bobby

will be screened. 8 p.m. Pacific Film Archive, 2575 Bancroft Way, Berkeley. $9, general.

Are most of your performances live? Or do you prefer recordings? All performances are live and all recorded music is typically produced in the studio. It’s two different sounds so what you hear on the CD will be very different from what you hear at the festival.n Saturday, August 11. 8 p.m. on the Jazz Beyond Stage at the corner of Post and Market Streets in downtown San Jose. Tickets for a one-day general pass for Saturday are $20; tickets for the entire three-day event are $45. Screening of Bobby at Pacific Film Archive, August 11 india currents • august 2012 • 97


18 Saturday

MehfilLive’s First Annual Music Festival. Felicitation of Satish Gadagkar’s tabla

ensemble by students of Satish Tare. Sitar ensemble by students of Prasad Joglekar. Violin, clarinet, and keyboard ensemble by students of Satish Gadagkar.Vocal recital by students of Ashwini Khaparde. The second half of the program features a tabla solo by Satish Tare, Manoj Tamhankar (lehra). Vocal recital by Ashwini Khaparde, Satish Tare (tabla) and Vivek Datar (harmonium). Organized by MehfilLive Radio. 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Divine Science Community Center, 1540 Hicks Ave. San Jose. Free. (408) 792-7014.

Annual Senior Day. A day of full of activities, followed by lunch. Organized by Hindu Community and Cultural Center. 10:30 a.m.-1 p.m. Temple Assembly Hall - Shiva Vishnu Temple, 1232 Arrowhead Ave., LiverBharatanatyam Arangetram, Akshata Chonnad, August 25 more. Free. (925) 371-5640, (925) 784-1735., anand_gundu@, http//


12 Sunday

Independence Day Celebration. Patriotic

songs, talks on the history of India’s freedom struggle, dance features and poetry readings. Organized by Sangeet Dhwani. 1:30 p.m. Milpitas Library Auditorium, 160 North Main St., Milpitas. Free. www.

Bharatanatyam Arangetram of Janani Kumar. Student of Shreelata Suresh, Artistic Director of Vishwa Shanthi Dance Academy. 4 p.m. The Theater, The College of San Mateo,, 1700 W Hillsdale Blvd., San Mateo. Free.

Bharatanatyam Arangetram of Shefali Venkatramani. Student of Artistic Director

Vishal Ramani, Shri Krupa Dance Company. Organized by Shri Krupa Dance Company. 3:30 p.m. Cubberly Community Center. 4000 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto. Free.


13 Monday

Chhandam Children’s Summer Camp.

Students will be immersed in dance tecnique, storytelling and expression, Hindustani classical music, theory, etiquette, history and rhythmical math. Ends August 17. 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Organized by Chitresh Das Dance Company and Chhandam School of Kathak. -


16 Thursday

Desi Singles Party. Organized by Kamna’s Parties. 6:30-10 p.m. Arabian Nights, 2345 Mission St., San Francisco . $50, boys, $20, girls. (650) 515-9961. kamna@kamnasparties. com. 98 • india currents • august 2012

Padmavani and Jaikishore Mosalikanti perform, August 26

Tabla solo by Swapan Chaudhuri, August 25

Karnatik Vocal Concert by Rohith Jayaraman. A fundraiser for the Shiva Muru-

gan temple. Organized by Ragamalika School of Music. 6 p.m. Mexican Heritage Plaza, 1700 Alum Rock Ave., San Jose.

Bollywood by the Bay. Boogie to the beats of bhangra, re-mix and filmy tunes. Organized by Trikone and Bay Area Solidarity Summer. 10 p.m.-2 a.m. OMG, 43rd at 6th St., San francisco. $15, $10, students. www.

$18. (530) 265-2826, (916) 217-3259. ncscc@,,


26 Sunday

Bharatanatyam Arangetram of Vibha Raju. Student of Vishal Ramani, Artistic

Director of Shri Krupa Dance Company. Accompanied by Vishal Ramani (nattuvangam), Murali Parthasarathy (vocal), Vasudevan Kesavalu (nattuvangam), M. Dhanamjayan (mrudangam), N. Veeramani (violin). Organized by Shri Krupa Dance Company. 3:30 p.m. McAfee Performing Arts Center, Saratoga High School, 20300 Herriman Ave., Saratoga. Free. (408) 505-8395.

A Traditional Kuchipudi Repertoire, Nrityamaalika. Padmavani and Jaikishore

Mosalikanti perform. Organized by Yuva Bharati. 4-7 p.m. Mission Center for Performing Arts, 3250 Monroe St., Santa Clara. General, $10. Free for Yuva Bharati members. yuva_bharati@ php.

Concert of World Fusion Music. Musi-

Karnatik Vocal Arangetram, Megha Ranganathan, August 25


19 Sunday

Bharatanatyam Arangetram of Shruti Sridhar. Student of Artistic Director Vishal Ramani, Shri Krupa Dance Company. Organized by Shri Krupa Dance Company. 3:30 p.m. McAfee Performing Arts Center, Saratoga High School, 20300 Herriman Ave., Saratoga. Free.


25 Saturday

Bharatanatyam Arangetram of Akshata Chonnad. Student of Artistic Director

Vishal Ramani, Shri Krupa Dance Company. Organized by Shri Krupa Dance Company. 4 p.m. Cubberly Theater, 4000 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto. Free. (408) 4610607. www.

Karnatik Vocal Arangetram of Megha Ranganathan. Student of Jayashree

Varadarajan, Artistic Director of Sri Rama Lalitha Kala Mandir School of Fine Arts. Accompanied by Lakshmi Balasubramanya (violin), Ravindra Bharathy Sridharan (mridangam), and A. Mahadevan (morsing).

cians from around the globe create a rare combination of unique melodies in a World Music benefit concert dedicated to the memory of legendary Indian sitarist, Pt. Balram Pathak. Performances by Abbos Kosimov (Uzbekhi percussionist and Doyra master), Matthew Montfort (guitar innovator performing on scalloped fretboard

Organized by Sri Rama Lalitha Kala Mandir School of Fine Arts. 4 p.m. Campbell Heritage Theater, 1 West Campbell Ave., Campbell . Free. (408) 253-6245.

Sitar Recital by Anupama Bhagwat.

Accompanied by Abhiman (tabla). Organized by Basant Bahar. 5:30-9 p.m. Jain Temple Auditorium, 722 South Main St., Milpitas. Free for Basant Bahar members; $25 for non members. (408) 390-7094, (510) 870-2244.

Ali Akbar College of Music Summer Concert Series. Sitar solo by Peter

Van Gelder and a tabla solo by Swapan Chaudhuri. 7:30 p.m. Ali Akbar College of Music, 215 West End Ave., San Rafael. $20 general, $15 members/seniors/students. (415) 454-6372.

Hindustani Classical Concert. Binay

Pathak and Matthew Montfort perform a program of classical raga. 8 p.m. North Columbia Schoolhouse Cultural Center, 17894 Tyler Foote Road, Nevada City. Members $15, Non-Members $18, Tickets at the Door

Bharatanatyam Arangetram, Janani Kumar, August 18 india currents • august 2012 • 99

guitar), Binay Pathak (Pt. Balram’s son is recognized composer and harmonium soloist), Mariah Parker (plays Indo Latin Jazz and is a composer, pianist and santoor player), accompanied by Siar Haseq and Joe Fajen on tabla. Organized by Sohini Sangeet Academy. 3-5 p.m. 2791 24th St., Sacramento. General $10, senior, $7, students $5. (916) 217-3259.


1 Saturday

Bharatanatyam Arangetram of Kaniyaa Francis. Student of Artistic Director

Vishal Ramani, Shri Krupa Dance Company. Organized by Shri Krupa Dance Company. 4 p.m. McAfee Performing Arts Center, Saratoga High School, 20300 Herriman Ave., Saratoga. Free.

BhavaRang-Expressions of Bharathanatyam and Kathak. Bharathanatyam by

Nirmala Madhava , Artistic Director of Pampa Dance Academy. Kathak by Nirupama and Rajendra , Artistic Directors of Abhinava Dance Company. Organized by Pampa Dance Academy. 4 p.m. Sunnyvale Community Center Theater, 550 East Remington Drive, Sunnyvale. $20 general, $ 35 VIP. (408) 24-DANCE.


3 Monday

Bharatanatyam Arangetram of Tara Pichumani. Student of Radica Giri, Artistic

Director of Anjali Natya. Accompanied by Ashok Subramaniam (vocal), N.K. Kesavan (percussion), B. Muthukumar (flute). 4-7 p.m. McAfee Performing Arts Center, Saratoga High School, 20300 Herriman Ave., Saratoga. Free. (408) 252-1413.


2 Sunday

Bharatanatyam Arangetram of Apoorva Paranthaman. Student of Artistic Director

Vishal Ramani, Shri Krupa Dance Company. Organized by Shri Krupa Dance Company. 3:30 p.m. Cubberly Theater, 4000 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto. Free.


8 Saturday

Sitar solo by Peter van Gelder, August 25

Caregivers of Loved Ones With Serious Mental Illness. A series of 12

weekly classes structured to help caregivers understand and support loved ones. Ends November. Organized by National Alliance on Mental Illness. 9-11:30 a.m. Union City. Free. (510) 825-1564, (510) 334-7721. peggy.


14 Friday

ICC Preschool Annual Session. An

integrated learning style focusing on: Social and emotional development, Language and literacy English-language development, Mathematics, and Pride in our heritage. Indian traditions are reinforced through festival celebrations and activities including songs, arts and crafts, music, cooking and dramatic interpretation of Indian tales and mythology. Ends May 31. Organized by India Community Center. 9 a.m.-3 p.m. ICC Playcare, 525 Los Coches St., Milpitas. $99 per week. (408) 934-1130. indiaccevents@

Bhajan Concert by Vocalist Kalapini Komkal. Student and daughter of Kumar

Gandharva, Komkali presents the best of her father’s bhajans, inter-weaved with narration by host Sanjay Mathur. Organized by Swar Sudha. 5:30-8:30 p.m. Jain Temple Auditorium, 722 S. Main St., Milpitas . VIP $30, General $20, (early bird: 4 tickets for $70 till August 15th). (408) 243-9110, (408) 4618390., arvind_kan-

100 • india currents • august 2012

Concert of World Fusion Music, August 26


15 Saturday

Turning Rumi:Singing Verses of Love, Unity and Freedom. Artist Reception.

Ends Sep. 15. 2:30-4:30 p.m. Dominican University, 50 Acacia Ave., San Rafael. (415) 482-2453.

Bharatanatyam Arangetram of Sarayu Pai. Student of Artistic Director Vishal

Ramani, Shri Krupa Dance Company. Organized by Shri Krupa Dance Company. 4 p.m. McAfee Performing Arts Center, Saratoga High School, 20300 Herriman Ave., Saratoga. Free.

A Gandabandhan Concert. A classical solo sitar recital by Rishi Dasgupta, student of Pandit Habib Khan. Aaccompanied by Satish Tare (tabla). Organized by Habib Khan Saraswati Temple and Gurukul. 6 p.m. Cubberly Theater, 4000 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto. Free. (650) 255-9752. © Copyright 2012 India Currents. All rights reserved. Reproduction for commercial use strictly prohibited. 

india currents • august 2012 • 101



Jojy Michael

Of Seasons And Men “There is an appointed time for everything, and a time for every affair under the heavens. A time to give birth, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to uproot the plant.” —Ecclesiastes (The Preacher) 3:1-2


ear Cousin Appu,

I am glad you enjoyed the winter and spring pictures of the little banana tree in my backyard that recovered nicely from the ravages of last winter. You remarked that you witness similar transformations of life along the Dombivli railway tracks. Right now, you said, the summer heat has turned that strip into a dismal, dusty stretch of barrenness. I hope the dustiness and dryness don’t overwhelm those who happen upon it. I hear the monsoon is on its way; I hear it’s raining cats and dogs in Kerala right now. I can easily envision the steady beat of rain on the roof, the earthy aroma of newly soaked soil, wriggling earthworms, muddy streams suddenly overflowing their banks almost overnight. When it gets to Dombivli, the rains will do their magic on that narrow dry strip. Over here in Fremont, the change of seasons is just as crisp as the arrival of the monsoon in Dombivli. It is now summer, the season of long bright days and short pale nights. Farmers’ markets are full of the fruits and vegetables of summer— crimson cherries, succulent strawberries, juicy corn, tender greens, fleshy beats, pregnant beans and even drumsticks. Yes drumsticks! At the orchards in Brentwood and Watsonville, syrupy sweet smells flavor the hot dry air. Those places have usurped the moniker “Valley of Heart’s Delight” from Santa Clara Valley. Santa Clara is now more appropriately called the “Valley of Mind’s Triumph.” Silicon Valley too is appropriate for the Silicon wafers that capture the mind’s logic and also for all the sand that has gone into the concrete infra-structure. Do people respond to the rhythms of the seasons like plants and animals do? No doubt, over in the “Valley of Heart’s Delight,” the seasons still dictate the planting and harvesting cycles. But, do the seasonal moons that tell farmers the productive and barren phases of the earth also invigorate or subdue the knowledge 102 • india currents • august 2012

farms of Silicon Valley? Are our minds still rooted in the earth somehow, with tendrils waving in the wind, and thus affected by the changing seasons, or, are the seasons matter only to that which stays rooted at one place? Have human beings, with our mobile bodies and even more fleet footed minds, grown immune to the influence of the seasons? When the rains came last year, you wrote, the change was almost overnight. Yesterday’s dry dirt had magically turned into a riot of varicolored flowers and leafage. Butterflies My plant in January and May started playing merry-go-round about the much a season of harvest for Silicon Valley flowers and song birds were offering free since revenues are highest in the last quarter concerts. Even mice, snakes and mongooses of the year. Those who believe in the dictum appeared in quick succession, the latter chas“Sell in May and go away, but, remember to ing the former in a vivid illustration of a few buy back in September” are already scanning links in nature’s food chain. the ticker tape for stocks that will get them “The sun rises and the sun sets; then it a good mark up by next spring. Do the prodpress on to the place where it rises.”—Eccleucts conceived by human minds come to siastes 1:5 fruition later than the produce of the earth? Clearly, the day and night cycles influAt first glance, it would seem so. But the fact ence both body and mind. Dusk signals a is, the factories were producing at full steam time of rest. The mind grows increasingly in late summer to stock up inventories for lethargic with the darkening night and while the fall shopping season. asleep, the mind is not a consciously funcIf autumn is dusk, spring is dawn for the tioning entity anymore. So then, is it fair to year long day. Remnants of the winter cold, suppose that in winter, when the days are though fast receding, still hangs in the air. short and the nights more pronounced, the Deciduous trees are putting out new leaves mind is not as alert as it was in summer? It is and buds. For me, the sure sign of spring tempting to push the simile and declare that is ducklings swimming with mother ducks the mind is more lethargic in winter because at Lake Elizabeth. Spring also brings the it is the night of the year. Silicon Valley, just demands of the financial and school year like the rest of the country, slows down in endings to workers and students. The earth winter to take time to celebrate the holidays is at its bountiful best and so it seems also of the season. There is much eating, drinking are human beings. and mindless shopping but the knowledge “Human beings and beasts, both were farms lie fallow. It is perhaps no coincidence made from the dust, and to the dust they both that the cultural and religious routines of return.”—Ecclesiastes 3:20 winter cater more to the needs of the body However in the world of cyber space that than the mind. But I do wonder if these has overtaken our minds, people are apparworldwide holidays resonate just as well for ently only born but never die, the Book of the South Americans and Australians. After Faces hold images that don’t age with time, all, it is summer in the Southern Hemisphere and one can have farms without borders that during Christmas and New Year. are immune to the Sun, rain and the seasons. I believe autumn, the season that preBut we can’t eat the produce from the cyber cedes winter, is not a pronounced one in farms! Dombivli or in the southern regions of India. Yours sincerely, But in the Uunited Staes, the changing colors Jojy n of deciduous trees and the eventual baring of their limbs make it a very noticeable season. Jojy Michael works in the “Valley of Mind’s Fall is a season of transition from summer Triumph’” but tries to spend as much time as to winter just as dusk is the transition from possible in the “Valley of Heart’s Delight.” day into night. It is still a season of business His cousin K.M. Thomas (aka Appu) leads but there is already an anticipation of winter, a retired life in Dombivli, a small town near particularly when the Thanksgiving holidays Pun. Appu and Jojy use the cyber space a lot arrive. The harvest season is already over in to stay in touch. the “Valley of Heart’s Delight” but it is very

IC August

spirituality and health

1 Wednesday

Lecture Tour by Sanskrit Scholar, Gautam Patel. He will cover a wide range of subjects from Vedas and Upanishads to works of famous Sanskrit poets like Bhasa and Kalidasa. Ends Aug. 31. Organized by Hari Krishna Majmundar. Free. (650) 3252760, (650) 759-6393.

Yajur Upakarma Raksha Bandana Poornima. 9 a.m.-7 p.m. Balaji Temple,

5004 N, 1st St., San Jose. (408) 203-1036. www.balajitemple. net.

Purnima Sri Chakra Puja. 2-5 p.m. Sri Maha Kaleshwar Mandir, 2344 A. Walsh Ave., Santa Clara. Free. (408) 800-PUJA.


2 Thursday

Rig Upakarma. 9 a.m. Balaji Temple, 5004 N, 1st St., San Jose. (408) 203-1036.


3 Friday

Sri Raghavendra Swami Aradhana and Mahalakshmi Abhishekam. 6:30-8:15

p.m. Balaji Temple, 5004 N, 1st St., San Jose. (408) 203-1036.


4 Saturday

Sri Sundarakaanda Ramayana. Group singing of Sri Sundarakaanda Ramayana by Gowswami Tulsidas. 2:30-5:30 p.m. Badarikashrama, 15602 Maubert Ave., San Leandro . Free. (510) 278-2444.


5 Sunday

Sri Ramanama Sankirtana and Meditation. Group singing of Sri Ramanama

Sankirtana, the story of the Ramayana, followed by aarati and mahaprasad. 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Badarikashrama, 15602 Maubert Ave., San Leandro . Free. (510) 278-2444. www.badarikashrama.

Talk on “Strengthen the Divine Relationship of True Love Rakhi Ceremony - Tie a Sacred Thread of Love.” Organized by Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual Organization. 12:30-3:30 p.m. Milpitas

Janmashtmi Celebrations at various Bay Area temples Library Multi-Purpose Room, 160 N Main St. , Milpitas . Free. (408) 935-8740, (408) 9358740. www.bkmilpitas. org.

Sankasta Hara Chaturthi. 6:30-8:30 p.m.

Balaji Temple, 5004 N, 1st St., San Jose. (408) 203-1036, (408) 956-9050. balajitemple1@


7 Tuesday

Satsang with Swami Nityananda Dicourse. Explore his teachings through this

discourse, and experience chanting and meditation. Organized by Shanti Mandir. 6-8 p.m. Sri Maha Kaleshwar Mandir, 2344A Walsh Ave., Santa Clara. Free. (415) 287-0455.


8 Wednesday

Center. 7:30-9 p.m. A Center for Spirituality and Healing, 830 Bancroft Way, Berkeley. Free. (510) 486-8700.


9 Thursday

Sri Krishna Janmastami. Darshan with

midnight aarti. Evening programs with sankirtana, abhisheka, pravachan, jhulan seva, and pallaki seva. 7 p.m.-12 a.m. Sri Krishna Balarama Mandir, 1235 Reamwood Ave., Sunnyvale. (408) 657-8485. www.

Sri Krishna Janmashtami. Midnight bhajans, kirtan and pooja. 7 p.m.-1 a.m. Balaji Temple, 5004 N, 1st St., San Jose. (408) 2031036, (408) 956-9050. balajitemple1@gmail. com.


10 Friday

Sri Krishna Janmastami Celebration. Talk on the Worship of Lord Shiva and Worship of Lord Krishna with puja and the Divine Play of his Energies. Ends Aug. music. Concert by Anupama Chandratreya

8. 7 p.m. Sri Maha Kaleshwar Mandir, 2344 A. Walsh Ave., Santa Clara. (408) 800-PUJA.

Free Kripalu Yoga Introduction Course.

A practice that focuses on meditation on and off the mat. Organized by Rudramandir

followed by concert by Pandit Binay Pathak. Prasad served at 8 p.m. and puja to Lord Krishna will be performed at midnight. 6:30 p.m.-12:30 a.m. Badarikashrama, 15602 Maubert Ave., San Leandro. Free. (510) 278-2444.

india currents • august 2012 • 103



12 Sunday

Sri Aurobindo’s Birthday Celebration.

Robert McDermott, President Emeritus of the California Institute of Integral Studies and current Chairman of the Philosophy, Cosmology and Consciousness Program there, will deliver this annual lecture. 11 a.m.-12:15 p.m. Cultural Integration Fellowship, 2650 Fulton St. at 3rd Ave., San Francisco. Free. (415) 668-1559. culturalfellowship@

Sadasivanatha Palaniswami at book signing event, August 17.

Art of Living Course. The Sudarshan

Kriya, guided meditation and breathing techniques and guided interactive processes. Ends Aug. 13. Organized by Art of Living Foundation. 7-2:30 p.m. Crown Plaza Hotel, 32083 Alvarado Niles Road, Union City. (408) 702-0369, (510) 449-2866, (510) 449-2866. course_details.aspx?course_id=12735.

Ribhu Gita. Readings with commentary and dialogue by Nome. 8-9:30 p.m. Society

of Abidance in Truth (SAT), 1834 Ocean St., Santa Cruz. Free. (831) 425-7287.

Satsang with Swami Nityananda. Explore his teachings through this discourse, and experience chanting and meditation. Organized by Shanti Mandir. 7-9 p.m.The Hillside Club, 2286 Cedar St., Berkeley. Free. (415) 287-0455.


11 Saturday

Intensive Meditation with Swami Nityananda. Organized by Shanti Mandir. 9

a.m.-5 p.m. The Hillside Club, 2286 Cedar St., Berkeley. $100. (415) 287-0455. gopita@

Kirtan with Swami Nityananda. Kirtan

through a dancing saptah. Organized by Shanti Mandir. 6:30-8 p.m. The Hillside Club, 2286 Cedar St., Berkeley. Free. (415) 4550807. www.shantimandir.

104 • india currents • august 2012

Talk on Sri Krishnavatara. The life and teachings of Sri Krishna by Swami Omkaranandaji. Followed by aarati and mahaprasad. 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Badarikashrama, 15602 Maubert Ave., San Leandro . Free. (510) 2782444. badarikashrama. org. Ekadasi Sri Radha Krishna Abhishekam. 7 p.m. Balaji Temple, 5004 N, 1st St., San Jose. (408) 203-1036, (408) 956-9050.

Satsang with Swami Nityananda. Explore his teachings through this discourse, and experience chanting and meditation. Organized by Shanti Mandir. 9 a.m. -Noon. The Hillside Club, 2286 Cedar St., Berkeley. Free. (415) 287-0455.


14 Tuesday

Pradosha Shiva Puja. 6:30 p.m. Sri Maha

Kaleshwar Mandir, 2344 A. Walsh Ave., Santa Clara. Free. (408) 800-PUJA.

Pradosham Rudrabhishekam. Balaji Tem-

ple, 5004 N, 1st St., San Jose. (408) 203-1036, (408) 956-9050.


15 Wednesday

Discource on Vedanta Dindimah. The meanings of the tenets of Vendata explained by Swami Tattvavidananda Saraswati. Ends Aug. 21. Organized by Arsha Vidya Center. 7-8:15 a.m. Silicon Valley Innovation Center, 3200 Coronado Drive, Santa Clara. Free. www.arshavidyacenter. org. Morning Classes on Vedanta Dindimah. Explaining the Tenets of Vedanta.

Ends Aug. 22. Organized by Arsha Vidya Center. 7-8:15 a.m. Silicon Valley Innovation Center, 3200 Coronado Drive., Santa Clara. Free.

Discourse on Viveka Cudamani. The

meanings of the tenets of Vendata explained by Swami Tattvavidananda Saraswati. Ends Aug. 21. Organized by Arsha Vidya Center. 7-8:15 p.m. Silicon Valley Innovation Center, 3200 Coronado Drive, Santa Clara. Free. www.arshavidyacenter. org.


17 Friday

Book Signing with Swami from Kauai’s Hindu Monastery. Sadasivanatha

Palaniswami, the editor-in-chief of Hinduism Today and senior monk at Kauai’s Hindu Monastery will be at the event to sign books and answer questions. Organized by Himalayan Academy. 6:30-8 p.m. Barnes and Noble Stevens Creek, 3600 Stevens Creek, San Jose. Free. (925) 349-4658, (925) 7889896.


18 Saturday

Awakening and Experiencing Chakras and Kundalini. A two day workshop.

Ends Aug. 19. Organized by Satyam Yoga Center. 2:30-5:30 p.m. Unitarian Universalist Church, 505 East Charleston Road, Palo Alto. Early Bird (By August 8) both days: $90 ; After August 8: $110. Single Day: $60. (408) 744-2027. www.

Sri Hanumana Abhisheka. Chalisa and

pot-luck prasadam. 6 p.m. Balaji Temple, 5004 N, 1st St., San Jose. (408) 203-1036, (408) 956-9050.


19 Sunday

Kirtana Sabha. Kirtan groups and solo performers followed by aarati and mahaprasad. 10:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Badarikashrama, 15602 Maubert Ave., San Leandro. Free. (510) 2782444. Public Lecture: Surya Sadhana (Sun Salutation). Explore the personal, tradi-

tional and cultural traditions of hatha yoga in this lecture-demonstration. Mukt Mukt invites audience members to join him in performing the asanas involved in the Sun Salutation. Cultural Integration Fellowship, 2650 Fulton St. (at 3rd Ave.,) San Francisco. Free. (415) 668-1559. culturalfellowship@ www.culturalintegrationfellow

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21 Tuesday

Sri Krishna Janmashtmi Celebration. A full day of celebrations, begining at 4:30 a.m. with Mangala Aartik. Evening Program Sri Sri Radha Madan Mohan Temple. Aartik and kirtan. Lectures by H.G. Satyadev and H.G. Vaisesika. 6 p.m.-Midnight. ISKCON San Jose Temple, 951 S Bascom Ave, San Jose. (408) 293-4959.


24 Friday

Ramana Darshanam. Focused on the teachings of Ramana Maharshi. Passages are read aloud, and their meanings are explained in detail. 8-9:30 p.m. Society of Abidance in Truth (SAT), 1834 Ocean St., Santa Cruz. Free. (831) 425-7287. www.


25 Saturday

Sri Balaji Suprabatham and Abhishekam. 8:30 a.m. Balaji Temple, 5004 N, 1st St.,

San Jose. (408) 203-1036, (408) 956-9050. www.balajitemple. net.


26 Sunday

Public Lecture: Healing our Separation from God. By Murshid Wali Ali Meyer,

head of the Esoteric School of the Sufi Ruhaniat International. 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Cultural Integration Fellowship, 2650 Fulton St. (at 3rd Ave.,) San Francisco, 94118. Free. (415) 668-1559.

Sri Satyanarayana Swami Puja and Kirtan. Group worship of Lord Satyanarayana,

followed by aarati and mahaprasad. 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Badarikashrama, 15602 Maubert Ave., San Leandro. Free. (510) 278-2444. badarik@

Vasavi Abhisheka Pooja. Bhajans and

pot-luck prasadam. Balaji Temple, 5004 N, 1st St., San Jose. (408) 203-1036, (408) 9569050.


29 Wednesday

Chidambaram Nataraja Abhishekam.

Followed by bharatanatyam dance. 6:30 p.m. Sri Maha Kaleshwar Mandir, 2344 A. Walsh Ave., Santa Clara. (408) 800-PUJA. www. 106 • india currents • august 2012

Vishalakshi Rao

The Yogic Path to Personal Evolution W

hat makes us behave the way we do? What governs our actions, thoughts, reactions, personality type? Why are certain body parts more vulnerable to illnesses than the others? In addition to asana (postures), pranayama (breath related techniques) and meditation, yoga also offers valuable tools to balance our personality and we can gain access and understanding to some of these areas. Titled “Awakening and Experiencing chakras and Kundalini through Ancient Yogic Techniques,” this weekend workshop with Swami Satyadharma Saraswati explores Chakras and Kundalini. In Yogic physiology, chakras (literal meaning “wheel”) are powerful energy centers in the body, which represent the physical, vital, and psychic aspects of ourselves. There are seven major chakras and each of them have a different expression. Kundalini is the dormant spiritual energy that awakens in a human being when the chakras and energy channels are purified and aligned. When awakened, the ordinary mind and personality become limitless in what can be accomplished. On a physical level, the chakras coincide with the Endocrine glands. The health of the body and personality is dependent on the proper functioning of the endocrine system. For example, an over-secretion of a certain hormone makes us irritable, tense and overexcited, while an under-secretion results in a state of depression. To attain optimum health, the glands must work harmoniously and this can be influenced through the chakras. On a psychological level, some chakras deal with our basal qualities such as security, food, pleasure, etc.; some with ambition, power, energy; and some with love, commu-


30 Thursday

Poornima Satyanarayana Pooja. 6-8:30 p.m. Balaji Temple, 5004 N, 1st St., San Jose. (408) 203-1036, (408) 956-9050.


31 Friday

Sri Ramana Maharshi Self-Realization Retreat. The retreat focuses on the Ma-

harshi’s teachings contained within Atma Vidya, Ekatma Pancakam, and other short

nication, intuition, awareness. The balance and expression of the chakras differs from person to person. For example, the heart chakra can signify possessive love in one person, and, unconditional, expansive love in another. Some chakras may be more active, resulting in certain behavior patterns. On a more subtle level, vital energy enters the body via the chakras. When there is balance in the chakra system, the energy harnessed is coherent and synchronized. However, if the chakras are even slightly out of balance, this energy is dissipated rather than utilized fully, resulting in improper functioning of the body as a whole. Yoga offers ancient techniques through which the chakras can be explored and experienced. The practices are designed to purify, strengthen, align and balance the chakra system. Through these mechanisms, we can gain access and control of this subtle energy system existing within us. When we understand the attributes and qualities of the chakras, we are able to use the practices to move towards a state of perfect health and well-being. We not only gain insight into our behavior but can shape our personality into a more positive, harmonious one. We can harness the vital energies creatively and allow the latent potential in ourselves to truly blossom.n Saturday, August 18 and Sunday, August 19. 2.30 pm to 5.30 pm. Unitarian Universalist Church, 505 East Charleston Road, Palo Alto. Registration for both days: Early Bird (by August 8) $90. After August 8: $110. Single day: $60. Email: (408) 7442027.

texts, with spiritual instruction about these teachings, and much time for silent meditation. Ends Sep. 2. 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Society of Abidance in Truth (SAT), 1834 Ocean St., Santa Cruz. Registration Required. (831) 425-7287. html/sri_ramana_maharshi_self-reali.htm.


1 Saturday

Sri Sundarakananda Ramayana of Sri Tulasidas Gowswami. Group chanting followed by aarati and mahaprasad. 2:30-5:30 p.m. Badarikashrama, 15602 Maubert

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dents. Shiva Murugan Temple, 1803 Second St., Concord. (9250 827-0127.


yrs). (408) 681-YOGA.

116th Anniversary of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi’s Advent. Organized by

3 Monday

Arunachala Ashrama. 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Milpitas Jain Temple, 722 S. Main St., Milpitas . Free. (510) 656-2752. sunita_parasuraman@yahoo. com.

Sankata Hara Chaturthi. 6-8:30 p.m. Balaji Temple, 5004 N, 1st St., San Jose. (408) 203-1036, (408) 956-9050. balajitemple1@


7 Friday

Ribhu Gita. Readings with commentary

and dialogue, by Nome. 8-9:30 p.m. Society of Abidance in Truth (SAT), 1834 Ocean St., Santa Cruz. Free. (831) 425-7287.

Sri Mahalakshmi Abhishekam. 6:30-8:30

p.m. Balaji Temple, 5004 N, 1st St., San Jose. (408) 203-1036, (408) 956-9050.


Satsang with Swami Nityananda, August 11, 12

Ave., San Leandro . Free. (510) 278-2444. www.badarikashrama. org.


2 Sunday

Mahasankatachaturthi. Bharatanatyam

performance by Meena Logan and her stu-

14 Friday


8 Saturday

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International Yoga Conference. The con-

ference will present the latest developments in the field of yoga, its applications in health, and research in yoga therapy while maintaining the foundation of yoga philosophy. Ends Sep. 9. Organized by Yoga Bharati and SVYASA, Bengaluru. 6:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Oshman Family Jewish Community Center (JCC), 3921 Fabian Way, Palo Alto. Adults $149, youth $100 (6-12yrs) , children $50 (under 5


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Pandit Binay Pathak

Founder, Sohini Sangeet Academy Accompanied by: Surajit Singh Bawa - Tabla Special Guest Artist, AbbosKosimov on the dorya,Usbek frame drum

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Midnight Krishnajanmastami Puja conducted by Srimat Swami Omkaranandaji

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(Capitol Expressway Westa nd Montrey Road Junction, Opposite and 1 Block from Capitol Cal Train Station) or

At 5.00 pm Shiva Abhisheka Aarati and Manthra Pushpa At 5.30 pm Pournami Vratha/Pooja Raksham Bhandan, Sri Sathya Narayana Swamy Pooja/Vratha. All are welcome to participate with family. Thursday, August 2, 2012 Rig Upakarma (Rig Veda Avani Avittam) Only One Batch 6.00 am only At 8.00 am Gayathri Japam/Gayathri Homam. Please contact the temple for further details Friday, August 3, 2012 At 4.00 pm Sri Bhuwaneswari/Sri Lalitha Devi Abhisheka, Sri Raghavendra Swamy Aradhanae Shodasa Upachara Pooja continued with Sri Lalitha Sahasra Nama chanting Aarati and Manthra Pushpa Sunday, August 5, 2012 At 4.00 pm Sri Maha Sankata Hara Chathurthi Sri Lakshmi Ganapathi Homa/Sri Lakshmi Ganapathi Abhisheka, Sri Valli Deva Sena Sametha Sri

Subramanya Abhisheka, Sri Shiva Abhisheka Aarati and Manthra Pushpa Thursday, August 9, 2012 At 5.30 pm Gokulashtami Sri Krishna Janmashtami. Special Pooja Aarati and Manthra Pushpa Friday, August 10, 2012 At 4.00 pm Sri Bhuwaneswari/Sri Lalitha Devi Abhisheka continued with Sri Lalitha Sahasra Nama chanting At 5.00 pm Adi Kritikai Kavadi Festival Sunday, August 12, 2012 Sri Jayanthi Wednesday, August 15, 2012 At 5.00 pm Praodsham Shiva Sri Rudra Abhisheka Aarati and Manthra Pushpa Thursday, August 23, 2012 At 8.00 pm Sukla Sashti Vratham Sri Valli Deva Sena Sametha Sri Subramanya Sahasra Nama Archana Wednesday, August 29, 2012 Thiruvonam (Oonam ) Festival Pandigai At 6.00 pm Pradosham Shiva Sri Rudra Abhisheka Aarati and Manthra Pushpa Friday, August 31, 2012 At 4.00 pm Sri Bhuwaneswari/Sri Lalitha Devi Abhisheka continued with Sri Lalitha Sahasra Nama Chanting Aarati and Manthra Pushpa At 6.00 pm Pournami Vratha Sri Sathya Narayana Swamy Pooja/Vratha. All are welcome to participate with family. Monday, September 3, 2012 Labour Day - Week End Timings Evening at 5.00 pm Shiva Abhisheka Aarati and Manthra Pushpa. Tuesday, September 4, 2012 Sri Sankata Hara Chathurthi At 5.00 pm Sri Lakshmi Ganapathi Homa/Sri Lakshmi Ganapathi Abhisheka Aarati and Manthra Pushpa.


For Pujas & Rituals Contact: PANDIT Home:


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

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


Wednesday, August 1, 2012 Yajur Upakarma (Avani Avittam) For Brahmacharis Samitha Thanam, Kamokarishith Japam, Brhamayagnam, Maha Sankalapam, Yagnopa Veeda Dharnam,kandha Rishi Tharpanam, Vigneswara (Vishwaksena) Varuna Sahitha Sri Veda Vysa Pooja, Homam, Veda Arambham, Aasseer Vadham, and Theertha Prasada Viniyogam 1st Batch 6.00 am; 2nd Batch 8.00 am; 3rd Batch 10.00 am. For Avani Avittam (Upakarma) please bring the folowwing items: Pancha Patthira Uttharani, Plate (Thambalam) (Plates) Rice, Moong Dhall, Jaggerry, Black Seasame Seeds (Black Ellu) (Black Till) (Nalla Nuvulu) Fruits Flowers, Coconut, Beetel Leafs, Beetel Nuts, some prasadam for Naivedyam. For Thalai Avani Avittam Vadu's (1st Year Prathama Sravanam Vadu's) please bring Sundal, Appam, some prasadam for Naivedyam.

india currents • august 2012 • 109

110 • india currents • august 2012

india currents • august 2012 • 111


the healthy life

S.BS. Surendran

Feng Shui Way of Life

Trinity of Luck” and its India counterpart Vastu, make a formidable combination. A corollary to the Indian Vastu shastra, Feng Shui is its Chinese counterpart. In Feng Shui, there are three main categories which describe the type of ‘luck’ we experience in our lives. The first category is known as Tien Chai (Heaven Luck). It refers to the karma, health predispositions, astrological horoscope and family environment you were inherently born with and is determined by the cycles of time, change and polarity. The second category of luck is known as Ti Chai (Earth Luck). This type of luck is determined by our surroundings (ie home and landform) and the way in which we orientate ourselves in order to tap into the many positive or negative energy combinations within and around the earth. This type of luck can be altered when Feng Shui is correctly applied to your living and work environment. The final category of luck is known as Ren Chai (the Luck of Mankind). It refers to your personal attitude, education, managerial and financial ability, lifestyle, virtues, the choices that you make and your personal quest for knowledge. As an individual, you have full control over this type of luck, and when it is combined with Ti Chai (Earth Luck) through the correct application of Feng Shui, you increase the probability of experiencing greater harmony and contentment in key areas of your life. The layout of a home office or business location, color choices, furnishings, electromagnetic fields (EMF) awareness, use of plants, can all have a major impact on the success and prosperity of all. The science of Vastu or Feng Shui is a tool to positively transform your life and your premises to pulsate and vibrate with energy that ushers in happiness, success and sustained prosperity. Feng Shui also takes into account the creative aspects of poetry, music, painting, rhythm and geometry when designing a vibrant structure, be it a home or work place. Based on mathematical formulas and compass directions the science studies the influence of the flow of chi or energy through your building and other aspects of your environment. Your first impressions as you enter a home, work spaces and rooms are very important, what you feel in a place constitutes the quality of the energy existing

112 • india currents • august 2012

there. By crossing a threshold you enter a new environment or another world. To adapt Feng Shui corrections in a home or office, it primarily calls for understanding the orientations of the property, main door positions, layout, furniture and decor. For bedrooms it is the positioning of beds. The Feng Shui commanding position is the area furtherest from the door and diagonally from the door, but not in line with the door. In other words, you want to be able to see the door while in bed, but not be aligned with the door. For offices, the seating positions of key personnel, the reception desk and entry points are vital. For shared spaces or cubicles, if you have your back to the door, be sure to find a way to see the reflection of the office entrance, meaning to have a view of what is going on behind your back. You can do that with any strategically placed office related-object made from shiny metal. We mirror our environments and it is a known fact that like attracts like and vibrates in harmony. The mystical actually influences the practical hence adapting appropriate Feng Shui enhancers and cures in the specific sectors of a building can truly bring in abundance. Some of the general guidelines to tap into good vibes would be: •To enhance wealth luck focus on your southeast corner. The chi in this area is espe-

cially strong for building fortunes, Keep the sector clean and clutter free. •A bamboo plant near your front door will attract goodness within, part of that goodness being financial security. •Pyrite, the “sun mineral”, is also considered to attract the energy of wealth and abundance. Feng Shui-wise, it is especially good in the southeast. Golden Dragon turtle symbolizes a long and prosperous life. It is also said to attract prosperity into your business and improve relationships with those around you. Placing a golden dragon turtle in the southeast corner of an office or business facing toward the door is said to invite prosperity. Feng Shui recognizes that everything vibrates and focuses on encouraging harmony among the various vibrations by creating alignment. It is believed in Feng Shui that abundance has a particular vibration, a signature energy field, hence when our building resonates in harmony it leads to both more flow and more energy between occupants and their desires.n S.BS. Surendran an accredited Feng Shui Master is an Electrical Engineer. His specialty is Vaastu corrections through Feng Shui, Pyramid Science and Dowsing. http://www.


india currents • august 2012 • 113

ONGOING SPIRITUAL EVENTS Daily Laughter Yoga Club. Simple effective yo-

gic exercises with laughter therapy for perfect health and happiness and to reduce stress. Serra Park, Hollenbeck Roadd, Sunnyvale. Daily. 7 a.m.-8 a.m. Free. (408) 490-1260. mkm.

Vishnusahasranama. Daily, 12 p.m. Balaji Temple, 678 Cypress Ave., Suunyvale. (408) 203-1036. www. Aarti. Daily, 8:30 p.m. Balaji Temple, 678 Cy-

press Ave., Suunyvale. (408) 203-1036.

Patanjali Yoga Sutras: Satsang. Patanjali

is a great sage and inner world scientist from ancient India. He was the first person to systematize the oral yogic tradition and encode it in a concise form called Yoga Sutras, roughly over 2,000 years ago. Through these talks, he enables the flowering of yoga in you, so you can see a visible change in your very postures, ethical discipline and sensory perceptions. Program broadcast live from India, conducted by Paramahamsa Nithyananda. Organized by Life Bliss Foundation. Daily, 8-9:30 p.m. Nithyananda Vedic Temple, 513 Los Coches St., Milpitas. Free. (408) 2636375. www.

Sunday Simplified Kundalini Yoga (SKY), plus

physical exercises. We guide and initiate SKY meditation. We also provide Kayakalpam and Introspection courses. Sundays, 8-10 a.m. Sunnyvale-Sanadan Dharma Kendra,897 Kifer Road, Suite #1, Sunnyvale. Free. (510) 456-8953.

Guru Gita Chant Siddha Yoga Meditation Ctr, 4115 Jacksol Dr., San Jose. Sundays, 8 a.m. (408) 559-1716. Purification and Meditation Ananda

Sangha, 2171 El Camino Real, Palo Alto. Sundays, 9 a.m.-9:45 a.m. (650) 323-3363. www.

and the essential harmony of the world’s religions, emphasising on self-realization, awakening to the inherent goodness of our spiritual nature and living in harmony with divine will. An inspirational message, silent meditation, sacred music and scripture from many traditions help us to remember what is true—life is good. Center for Spiritual Enlightenment, 1146 University Ave., San Jose. Sundays, 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. (408) 283-0221, x30.

days, 10 a.m.-12 noon. (831) 425-7287. www.

Lecture on different religious traditions. The

Sunday Services Self Realization Fellowship,

meditation hall is also open for those who wish to deepen their meditation practice. Organized by Cultural Integration Fellowship. 2650 Fulton St. San Francisco. Sundays, 9-11 a.m. (415) 626-2442.

Yoga and Meditation. Sundays, 9:30-11

a.m. Premarpan Yoga and Wellness Center, Los Gatos. Free. (408) 406-8197. premarpan@

Abhishekam and Alankaram and Special Pujas to magnificent deities, accompanied by the divine and auspicious chants of Rudram and Chamakam we perform abhishekam (holy bath) to Lord Anandeshwara, Anandeshwari (Shiva and Parvathi), Shiva linga, Devi, Karthikeya and the Nava grahas using divine powder, sandalwood powder and turmeric. It is later followed by grand alankaram (dressing up) of the deities, naivedhyam, and Maha Aaarthi. 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Nithyananda Vedic Temple, 513 Los Coches St., Milpitas. Free. (408) 263-6375. info.vedictemple@gmail. com.

Sunday Service Sikh Temple, 2301 Evergreen Ave, West Sacramento. Sundays, 10 a.m. (916) 371-9787. Sri Akhand Path Sahib Sikh Temple, 1930 S Grant St, Stockton. Sundays, 10 a.m. (209) 946-9039. Jainism Classes for children 4 years and older. Organized by Jain Center of Northern Califorina. Jain Bhavan, 722 South Main St., Milpitas. First and third Sunday of every month. 10-11:30 a.m. $35 annually for members, $50 anually for non-members. (408) 5170975, (408) 262-6042. Satsang, silent meditation, discourse by

Meditation and chanting. Yogalayam, 1717 Alcatraz Ave., Berkeley. Sundays, 9-10:30 a.m. (510) 655-3664. info@

Nome on self-dnowledge and self-inquiry, recitation and readings from the Upanishads, recitation of Tamil Ribhu Gita. Organized by Society of Abidance in Truth. First and fourth Sundays of the momth, 10-11:30 a.m. 1834 Ocean St., Santa Cruz. Free. (831) 425-7287.

Sunday Worship Services. Seekers from all faith backgrounds are welcome. The service offers a nonsectarian message of hope, faith,

Advaita Vedanta and the teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi. Society of Abidance in Truth, 1834 Ocean Street, Santa Cruz. Sun-

114 • india currents • august 2012

Monthly Satsangs of Vaswani Mission of

Bay Area. Includes video discourse tapes of Dada Jashan, reading of the Noori Granth, Gita path, bhajans, and shloka recitation. Fremont Hindu Temple, 3676 Delaware Dr., Fremont. Third Sundays, 10:30–11:45 a.m. (510) 796-4472, (408) 218-6364. prmlani3@ Sacramento Center, 4513 North Ave, Sacramento. Sundays, 11 a.m. (916) 483-9614.

Community Gatherings include a short

talk with discussion, kirtan, puja, meditation, and treats. San Francisco Integral Yoga Institute, 770 Dolores St., San Francisco. Sundays, 11 a.m.-1 p.m. (415) 821-1117. www.

Ramanama meditation and kirtan. Orga-

nized by Badarikashrama. Badarikashrama, 15602 Maubert Ave, San Leandro. Sundays, 11 a.m. (510) 278-2444. www.badarikashrama. org.

Sunday Service Organized by Self Realization Fellowship. SRF, 303 E. Main St, Los Gatos. Sundays, 11 a.m. (408) 252-5299. Sunday School for children 6-14 years of

age to give them a general knowledge of the universal truths of Vedanta, to acquaint them with the basic teachings of the major living religions, and to inspire reverence for the great religious teachers of the world. Organized by Vedanta Society of Northern California. Vedanta Society of Northern California, Old Temple, 2963 Webster St., San Francisco. Sundays, 11 a.m.-Noon. (415) 9222323.

Zoroastrian Temple Arbab Zoroastrian Temple, 10468 Crothers Rd, San Jose. First Sundays, 12 p.m. (408) 365-0119. Nithya Dhyaan Meditation Satsang, a powerful meditation technique to achieve physical and mental well-being. Organized by Life Bliss Foundation. Sundays, 3:30 p.m. 451 (Kung-Fu School), Los Coches St., Milpitas. Sunday Festival, an evening of bhajans, arati, discourses and Krishna prasadam. Organized by ISKCON. ISKCON, 951 S. Bascom Ave., San Jose. Sundays, 4:30-6 p.m. Free. (408) 559-3197. Traditional Vedanta and meditation classes. Presented by Swami Dayananda’s Arsha Vidya Center. Jain Bhavan, 722 S. Main, Milpitas. Sundays, 5-6:30 p.m. for beginning students; 8-9:30 a.m. for intermediate students. (650) 208-9565.


Festival and Feast an evening of bhajans,

Bhagavad Gita classes, aarti, kirtan, and prasad. Radha Krishna Temple, 2990 Union Ave, San Jose. Sundays, 5:30 p.m. (408) 5593197.

Satsang. Kirtan, lecture, prasad distribution, and vegetarian feast. Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Ashram, 2900 N Rodeo Gulch Rd, Soquel. Sundays, 6 p.m. Free. (408) 462-4712.

Meditation with devotional chanting and talk on yoga philosophy. Sivananda Yoga Center, 1200 Arguello Blvd., San Francisco, Sundays, 6 p.m. (415) 681 2731.

Satsang. Prayer, chanting meditation, lecture

series on devotional topic (Geeta, Bhagwatam, Brahma Sutra, Upnishads etc.), followed by arti and prasad. Jagadguru Kripalu Parishat (JKP) Center-San Jose. Sundays, 6-7:15 p.m. 4940 Avenida de Carmen, Santa Clara. (408) 980-9953.

Women’s Sufi Gathering Discussion of Sufi principles, poetry, literature and meditation. Organized by International Association of Sufism. Berkeley venue to be announced. Sundays, 7 p.m. Free. (510) 849-5309. Devotional Meetings Programs including prayer, chanting meditations, video discourse (Bhagvad Gita series), arti and homage. J.K.P. Sunnyvale Center, 955 Ponderosa Avenue #27, Sunyvale. Sundays, 7:30-8:45 p.m. (408) 7381201. Sri Ram Amrith Vani and bhajans. Sundays, 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. followed by Preeti Bhoj. Sunnyvale Hindu temple, 420-450 Persian Dr., Sunnyvale. (408) 734-4554, (408) 734-0775.

Let us brighten your smile! • • • • •

Sri Aurobindo Meditation and Study Group. 7:30-8:30 p.m. Danville. Free. Open to all. (650) 218-4223.

days, Balaji Temple, 678 Cypress Ave., Suunyvale. (408) 203-1036. Balajitemple1@gmail. com.

Monday Bhagavad Gita—The Song of God with

Kamala Lee, teaching the scriptures of the Bhagavad Gita. Organized by Integral Yoga Institute. Integral Yoga Institute, 770 Dolores St, San Francisco. Mondays, 6 p.m.-7:30 p.m. $48. (415) 821-1117.

Sri Rudrabhishekam Mondays, 6:30-8 p.m.

Sunnyvale Hindu temple, 420-450 Persian Dr., Sunnyvale. (408) 734-4554, (408) 734-0775.

Shree Maa and Swami Satyananda Saraswati lead Sanskrit chanting, commen

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tary and discussion of scriptures including Lalitha Trishati, Bhagavad Gita, Sundarakand, Chandi Path. Devi Mandir, 6:30 p.m. Live web broadcasts at broadcasts (707) 966-2802.

Rudrabhi Sheka. Mondays, 7-8:30 p.m.

Balaji Temple, 678 Cypress Ave., Suunyvale. (408) 203-1036.

Tuesday Shri Appaji Meditation. Participate in

unique psychosomatic spiritual meditation techniques Shri Appaji has developed after years of in-depth analysis, research, and experiments. Group meditation, discourse sessions. Shri Appaji Meditation Center, Sunnyvale. Tuesdays, 9:30 a.m. (women only), 7:30 p.m. (men and women). $10/session, first Tuesday free. Registration required. (408) 7359025.

Jain Spiritual Lectures on topics such as

syadwad, anekantwad, nonviolence, forgiveness by samanijies from Jain Vishwa Bharati, Ladnun, Rajasthan. Jain Bhavan, 722 S. Main Street, Milpitas. Tuesdays, 8-9:30 p.m. Free. (408) 262-6242, (650) 207-8196. www.jcnc. org.

Ready for Extreme Makeover?

Sri Hanuman Puja. 6:30-8 p.m. Sunnyvale Hindu temple, 420-450 Persian Dr., Sunnyvale. (408) 734-4554, (408) 734-0775. www.

Osho Meditations. Tuesdays, 6:30 p.m. at

Amrithika, 248 Hamilton Ave., Palo Alto. Free. (650) 462-1980.

Wednesday Yoga for Wellness. This class will offer tools to help manage stress, enhance the immune system, promote healthy digestion and sleep, and optimize the body’s own healing mechanisms, by using movement, breath, meditation, and sound in a supportive group setting. Wednesdays, 9-10:15 a.m. Yoga Shala, 330 Melville Ave, Palo Alto. $15. (650) 8570226. Worship Services include a burning bowl

Hanuman Chalisa and Durga Pooja and Subramanya Strotam. Tuesdays,

7-8:30 p.m. Balaji Temple, 678 Cypress Ave., Suunyvale. (408) 203-1036. Balajitemple1@

Chanting Hanuman Chalisa. Chanting of the powerful Hanuman Chalisa in a group grants the devotee protection from all harm and blesses him/her with health, wealth and prosperity. It is followed by special aarthi to

ritual that supports each one in consciously letting go of that which no longer serves our highest good and inviting in that which does. Center for Spiritual Enlightenment, 1146 University Avenue, San Jose. Wednesdays, 12-1 p.m. (408) 283-0221, x30.

Bhagavad Gita Class An in-depth explora-

tion of the Bhagavad Gita, led by Vaisesika Dasa Adhikari. ISKCON, 951 S. Bascom Ave.,

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Ram parivar (Ram, Lakshman, Sita, and Hanuman). Transcripts of the Chalisa provided (in English, Hindi, and Tamil). Tuesdays, 8-9:30 p.m. Nithyananda Vedic Temple, 513 Los Coches St., Milpitas. Free. (408) 2636375. www.

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Shree Maa and Swami Satyananda Saraswati lead Sanskrit chanting, commen-

tary and discussion of scriptures including Lalitha Trishati, Bhagavad Gita, Sundarakand, Chandi Path. Devi Mandir, Wednesdays, 6:30 p.m. Live web broadcasts at www. (707) 966-2802.

Bhagavath Seva - Voluntary Service to God. Wednesdays, 6:30-8 p.m. Sunnyvale Hindu temple, 420-450 Persian Dr., Sunnyvale. (408) 734-4554, (408) 734-0775.

Ramayana Katha Aranya Kand with pravachan by Shastriji. Vedic Dharma Samaj, Fremont Hindu Temple, 3676 Delaware Dr., Fremont. Wednesdays, 7:30 p.m. (510) 6590655. Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, a discourse by Swami Prapannananda. Vedanta Society of Sacramento, 1337 Mission Ave., Carmichael. Wednesdays, 7:30 p.m. (916) 489-5137. www. Mandukya Upanishad is a class by Prapannananda on Vedanta scriptures. Vedanta Society of Sacramento, 1337 Mission Ave., Carmichael. Wednesdays, 7:30 p.m. (916) 4895137. Devotional Meetings including prayer, chanting meditations, video discourse (Bhagvad Gita series), arti and homage. J.K.P. Sunnyvale Center, 955 Ponderosa Avenue #27, Sunyvale. Wednesdays, 7:30-8:45 p.m. (408) 738-1201. Satsang. Prayer, chanting meditation, lec-

ture series on devotional topic (Geeta, Bhagwatam, Brahma Sutra, Upnishads etc.), followed by arti and prasad. Jagadguru Kripalu Parishat (JKP) Center-San Jose. Wednesdays 7:30-8:45 p.m. 4940 Avenida de Carmen, Santa Clara. (408) 980-9953.

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Atmotsava. Meditation, readings, devotional chanting and learning of kirtans. Organized by Society of Abidance in Truth. 7:30-9:30 p.m. 1834 Ocean St., Santa Cruz. Free. (831) 425-7287. Atmotsava (Ramana Nama San-kirta india currents • august 2012 • 117




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Thursday Yoga for Anxiety, an on-going, drop-in

yoga class for people with mild to moderate anxiety as well as for those seeking to reduce anxiety in their lives. Teachers use movement, breath, meditation, and sound in a supportive group atmosphere. Organized by Healing Yoga Foundation of San Francisco. Thursdays, 4-5:15 p.m. 3620 Buchanan St, San Francisco. Donations. (415) 931-9642. schedule.html.

The Secret of the Self, introduction to meditation and philosophy in the tradition of Kashmir Shaivism. Organized by Sri Sambha Sathashiva Vidya Peetham. Thursdays, 7-8:30 p.m. Nine Star University of Health Sciences, 441 DeGuigne Drive, Suite 201, Sunnyvale. www.vidyapeetham. org. Shri Shirdi Sai Baba haarathulu dhoop

aarti. Sri Lakshmi Ganapathi Temple, 32B Rancho Dr., San Jose. Thursdays, 7:30 p.m. (408) 226-3600.

Satsang Siddha Yoga Meditation Ctr, 4115 Jacksol Dr, San Jose. Thursdays, 7:30 p.m. (408) 559-1716.

Inspirational Service SRF, 303 E. Main St, Los Gatos. Thursdays, 7:30 p.m. (408) 2525299.

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Ancient Wisdom, Modern Mind, guided Kriya meditation led by Pratibha Gramann, longtime student of Sri Baba Hari Dass. Thursdays, 7-9 p.m. Shubhamayurveda Center, 3606 Thornton Ave., Fremont. rmg.pratibha@ Dada Bhagwan’s Satsang. Thursdays, 8-10 p.m. For location, call (408) 910-6052, (408) 578-5685. Jain Swadhyay with an illuminating study

of Jain scriptures Series continues on Samyag Tap, Samyag Gyan, Samyag Darshan and Samyag Charitra, with samanijies from Jain Vishwa Bharati, Ladnun, Rajasthan. Jain Bhawan, 722 S. Main Street, Milpitas. Thursdays, 8-9:30 p.m. Free. (408) 262-6242, (650) 207-



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Sri Sai baba Aarti and Bhajana. Thurs-

days, 7:30-8:30 p.m. Balaji Temple, 678 Cypress Ave., Suunyvale. (408) 203-1036.

We accept all PPO and Indemnity Plans

Friday Kirtan and chanting. Organized by Ananda Sangha. Ananda Sangha, 2171 El Camino (at College), Palo Alto. Fridays, 7:30-9:15 p.m. Free. Note: Only on the first Friday of the month, these sessions will be held at 240 Monroe Dr., Mountain View. (650) 323-3363. Shree Maa and Swami Satyananda Saraswati lead Sanskrit chanting, commen-

tary and discussion of scriptures including Lalitha Trishati, Bhagavad Gita, Sundarakand, Chandi Path. Devi Mandir, Fridays, 6:30 p.m. Live web broadcasts at (707) 966-2802.

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Sri Lalitha Sahasranama Parayanam and

Sri Maha Lakshmi Puja. Fridays, 6:30-8 p.m., Sunnyvale Hindu temple, 420-450 Persian Dr., Sunnyvale. (408) 734-4554, (408) 734-0775.

Sri Santhoshi Mata, Durga Devi Pooja and Lord Lakshmi Pooja. Fridays, 6:30-

8:30 p.m. Balaji Temple, 678 Cypress Ave., Suunyvale. (408) 203-1036. Balajitemple1@

200 Jose Figueres Ave., Ste 230, San Jose, CA 95116 1569 Lexann Ave., Ste 220, San Jose, CA 95121

Meditation, self-inquiry meditation in-

struction by Nome, silent meditation, and dialogues. Organized by Society of Abidance in Truth (SAT). Every first and third Friday of the month, 8 p.m. 1834 Ocean St., Santa Cruz. Free. (831) 425-7287. www.satramana. org.

Group Meditation with mantra chanting

and lecture with Swami Pranavananda, a se

(408) 929-6922


Most Health Insurance Plans Accepted including Medicare, HMO, PPO. Cash Paying Options Available • Immigration Physical Languages Spoken: Tamil & Hindi

Kirtan, an evening of chanting. Words pro-

vided. English as well as some Indian chants accompanied by harmonium and guitar. Every second and third Friday, 7:30 pm, Ananda, 2171 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, free (650) 323-3363, free


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nior meditation teacher. His kirtan and music is lively and his talks are practical. Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Center, 1200 Arguello Blvd, San Francisco. Fridays, 8 p.m. (415) 681 2731,

Bhajan Class for Children, ages 4-18. Fri-

days, 8-9:30 p.m. Nithyananda Vedic Temple, 513 Los Coches St., Milpitas. Free. (408) 2636375. www.

Saturday Srivenkateshwara Suprabhata and Vishnu Sahasranama Strotam. Saturdays, 8-9 a.m. Balaji Temple, 678 Cypress Ave., Suunyvale. (408) 203-1036. Balajitemple1@gmail. com.

Simplified Kundalini Yoga (SKY), plus

physical exercises. We guide and initiate SKY meditation. We also provide Kayakalpam and Introspection courses. Saturdays, 9 a.m. Fremont Temple. Free. (510) 456-8953.

Sri Venkateswara Suprabhata Seva and

Sri Vishnu Sahasranama Parayanam. Saturdays, 10-11:30 a.m. Sunnyvale Hindu temple, 420-450 Persian Dr., Sunnyvale. (408) 7344554, (408) 734-0775. www.sunnyvaletemple. org.

Video Satsang, bhajan, kirtan, Pranayam

(breathing technique), Mantra jaap and Dhyan program. Organized by Shri Yoga Vedanta Ashram. Saturdays, 11 a.m.-1 p.m. First and Third Saturdays, 2-5 p.m. Second Saturdays, Sunnyvale Hindu Temple, 420-450 Persian Dr. Sunnyvale. 11 a.m.-1 p.m. First and Third Saturdays, Fremont Hindu temple, 3676 Delaware Dr., Fremont. Free. (831) 2124680, (408) 667-8884.

based on Osho’s vision and techniques. Meditation class followed by vegetarian potluck dinner. Organized by Ritesh Arora (Amaresh). 989 Lakeshire Ct, San Jose. Saturdays, 7 p.m. (408) 294-6737, (650) 842-9140. www.,

Devotional Meetings Programs including

9oVideo Gita from Tulsi Ramayana, by

Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Literature, a discourse by Swami Prapannananda. Vedanta Society of Sacramento, 1337 Mission Ave., Carmichael. Saturdays, 7:30 p.m. (916) 4895137.

Acharya Prabodh Chaitanya. Organized by Chinmaya Mission San Jose. Saturdays, 4:306 p.m. Los Cerros Middle School, 968 Blemer Road, Danville. (408) 998-2793.

prayer, chanting meditations, video discourse (Bhagvad Gita series), arti and homage. J.K.P. Sunnyvale Center, 955 Ponderosa Avenue #27, Sunyvale. Saturdays, 7:30-8:45 p.m. (408) 738-1201.

Bala Vikas Classes Organized by San Jose

Sathya Sai Center Study Circle. Sri Lakshmi Ganapathi Temple, 32B Rancho Dr., San Jose. Saturdays, 6 p.m. (408) 226-3600. www.vvgv. org,

Eucharistic Celebration in Tamil. Or-

ganized by Bay Area Tamil Catholic Com-

Now you don't have to miss a single issue of our awardwinning Indian-American monthly magazine. In celebration of 25 years in business, subscriptions to India Currents within California are now available for FREE!

Yes, please start my FREE subscription to India Currents! NAME (PLEASE PRINT CLEARLY)

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Osho Evening Meditation Meeting

Balajyothi Classes The classes focus on slokas, bhajans, story telling and activities. HCCC Library and Learning Center, Livermore Temple, Livermore. Every 2nd and 4th Saturday, 1-2 p.m. ranganathanarchana@,



munity. Second Saturday of every month, 6:45 p.m. St. Joseph Parish Church, Mountain View.



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(Yoga Sangam: Philosophy, Health & Research) Yoga Bharati welcomes you to our first International Yoga conference to be held in the San Francisco Bay Area in collaboration with SVYASA, Bengaluru. This conference will present latest advances in yoga application for health and research in yoga therapy while maintaining the foundation of yoga philosophy.

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I C dear doctor

Alzak Amlani

Dealing with Differences


I have recently discovered that it’s really hard for me to be around conflict. I find myself avoiding disagreements, arguments and especially anger between people. I just can’t stand it and wish people would simply get along and be peaceful. However, in learning more about human relationships, I am realizing there is no way to just let go of issues and differences by simply ignoring them. In fact, things at my work place have gotten worse because our team isn’t dealing with issues. I need some support in dealing with this challenging task.


Most people don’t want conflict, some are skilled at working it through, some avoid it and some are drawn to it. Difference, disagreement, conflict and anger are ultimately unavoidable aspects of life. Most of us see things from our own point of view. This is based on our personality, upbringing, family values traditions, interests and conditioning. That’s a lot to sort through and have clarity about. You are recognizing that trying to “get along and be peaceful” without dealing with real

issues makes for more trouble in the long-run. People also don’t work as creatively when there is tension or unspoken hurt. It takes energy to hold onto things and not discuss them or resolve them. First look at what is scary for you when people disagree or when there is conflict. Why do relationships always have to be peaceful? Do you think such relationships are genuine or contrived? Are you afraid that if differences are brought to the surface there will be more distance and separation among people? Doing this self-reflection will help you focus on your own challenges with conflict. Some people have had very bad experiences when there were disagreements. This includes being insulted, called names, being shouted at and even physically hurt. Such experiences make us fear that future conflict will lead to such pain again and we run from any hint of this. When serious injury has happened from such interactions, I recommend professional help. Unfortunately, abused people can find themselves in repeated abusive situations and relationships. These complex dynamics need to be understood, worked with and healed. Over time and with good help this is possible.

If you’re attempting to discuss something complex with a range of opinions or facts that are difficult to prove it’s a good idea to do some homework beforehand. Get as much information as possible, so you’re not as confused and can reference some facts. When you have your own feelings, perceptions and experiences, name them as such. Here are a few examples of statements: “I have noticed that you made these three decisions without consulting the rest of us,” or “When you raise your voice or don't stop to listen to me, I feel dismissed, scared and unsafe around you. Then I want to simply avoid having a substantive conversation with you. I really need to be listened to when we talk.” Having a witness or mediator that you both trust and respect is often a really good idea. This person can help hold a safe space, make sure each person has time to speak and is heard, name issues and topics, ask questions and point out differences, similarities and the progress that is made. n Alzak Amlani, Ph.D. is a counseling psychologist in the Bay Area. (650)325-8393. Visit

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ANNOUNCEMENTS LEARN HINDI-URDU. Live in India with a family of native speakers. 10 Hours/week. Formal lessons by experienced professor. $600/ month total.

BEAUTY THREADING, FACIAL, HAIR, and full range of Shahnaz products. Khoobsurat Threading, 1014 E El Camino Real, Sunnyvale, CA 94087. Contact Shefali (408) 835-0097. KASHISH SALON - Threading, facial/waxing, Hair & Makeup, bridal and wedding studio. Two locations San Francisco (408) 219-0046, Santa Clara (408) 260-2676. FOR ALL BEAUTY NEEDS Shiva Beauty Salon in Fremont. Contact Kanak Patel (510) 440-8300. RITA’S BEAUTY SALON: 30 YEARS EXP. Eyebrow, Waxing, Color & Hi-lights, Permanent Hair Straightening and more. www. or contact us at (408) 732-3998. ARE YOU A BEAUTICIAN? Do you do threading, waxing, facials, perms, hair cutting and styling? Place your advertisement here in India Currents Classifieds and reach 32,000 readers. Call (408) 324-0488 and place your ad today!

CHILDCARE MOST TRUSTED INDIAN DAYCARE by lovable Marathi family in Cupertino. Contact (408) 792-7014 or visit

CLASSES: COMPUTERS SILICON VALLEY UNIVERSITY. Catering to Silicon Valley High-Tech Industry. (408) 435-8989 Email: 126 • india currents • august 2012

CHHANDAM SCHOOL OF KATHAK DANCE. Classes held in Berkeley, Mountain View, San Francisco, San Bruno, San Rafael, and Union City. Beginning classes available in all locations. Call (415) 759-8060 or visit BHARATANATYAM CLASSES in San Jose, Fremont and Santa Clara by Artistic Director Suganda Sreenath. Kalakshetra style including extensive theory. Call (408) 270-9295 or email ODISSI DANCE CLASSES with Guru Jyoti Rout. Jyoti Kala Mandir College of Indian Classical Arts.

CLASSES: MUSIC CLASSES OFFERED BY LAKSHMI C. SAXENA in San Jose. North Indian vocal music: classical, semi classical, light music like bhajans, geet, ghazals, film songs, instrumental music: harmonium, tabla. Also Hindi lessons. Available for performances. Call (408) 2683651 or email ALI AKBAR COLLEGE OF MUSIC offers study in North Indian classical music. Four 8-week sessions a year are taught by master musicians. Classes are offered in vocal, instrumental and tabla. All are welcome. For more information please call (415) 454-6264.

CLASSES AFTER-SCHOOL LEARNING CENTER. International Gurukul at Santa Clara. (408) 416-7568.

COUNSELING FREE PEER COUNSELING and support offered to South Asian women. Maitri has a live person handling phone calls 9am-1pm (Mon-Fri) and a voice message helpline at all other times. Are you having problems with your partner? Are you going through cultural adjustment problems? Call (408)436-8398. Our South Asian female volunteers speak many South Asian languages. Toll free hotline 1(888) 8-MAITRI or go to

IS A FAMILY MEMBER HURTING YOU? Contact Narika, a domestic violence hotline for South Asian women. Our services are free and strictly confidential. Call (800) 215-7308.

EDUCATION VEDIC MATH AFTERSCHOOL ENRICHMENT. Sharpen your mental math and problem solving skills. Calculate at lightning speed with amazing ease and accuracy. More information (408)931-1000, vedicmath@comcast. net.

ENTERTAINMENT TEED ROCKWELL PLAYS TOUCHSTYLE VEENA. Classical Ragas and inspired improvisations on A.R. Rahman melodies for weddings and parties. Original music videos at (510) 548-8779.

FABRICS KHOOBSURAT SAREE PALACE. Visit our showroom for a vast selection of ladies, gents, children clothes, shoes, accessories, jewelry etc. (408) 774-1284. BORROW IT BINDAAS a fabulous online boutique where you can borrow or buy beautiful sarees and accessories delivered straight to your doorstep.

FOR SALE: MUSIC INSTRUMENTS - Greatest selection of North Indian instrumetns in the U.S. Ali Akbar College store sells the finest quality sitars, sarods, tanpuras, harmoniums, tablas, flutes, etc. Complete repair service. We ship anywhere in the U.S. 1554 4th San Rafael, CA 94901. Call (415) 454-0581. www.aac. org/shop.

HELP WANTED WAITERS, CHEFS, KITCHEN HELP wanted for busy, upscale Indian restaurant expanding staff. Call Kumar at (650) 245-9575. FRIENDLY, RESPECTFUL, JUNIOR LEVEL female helper needed for couple. Bengali, Punjabi fluent. Dosa food knowledgable. Luxury home in San Francisco Area. Live in or out. $500-$1,000 monthly. Please call Mr. Sandhu (415) 462-1505.

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AMILA INSURANCE SERVICES - Looking for a better deal on Auto Insurance? Call (408) 723-2100.

OUTSTANDING FOOTHILL HOME on a quiet culdesac. Cozy wood starter fireplace in LV, tile/hardwood/carpening throughout, and spacious country kitchen. For your private tour call Rama realtor dre01023964. Realty World at (408) 921-1987.

SEETA BHANDARI - All Solutions Insurance Agency. More than a provider - a partner. (408) 225-4300. INSURANCE SPECIALIST Amar Sehgal. Most Competitive Rates and Friendly Services. (408) 298-2194.

LEGAL FREE LIVING TRUST SEMINARS. Presented by Attorney Robert P. Bergman. Learn about Living Trusts from an expert. Visit to register or call (408) 247-0444. DIVORCE ATTORNEY Madan Ahluwalia. Divorce, Alimony, Child Support, Child Custody, Property Division in Divorce. (888) 861-8436.

LOANS WELLS FARGO HOME MORTGAGE. Call today for complimentary consultation. Neil Sheth (510)818-9536 nsheth@wellsfargo. com.

MATRIMONIAL: FEMALE SEEKING A MATRIMONIAL alliance for your sister, daughter or a loved one? Place your ad here and reach 32,000 households. You may find the right person here in India Currents classifieds. To place your ad call (408) 324-0488.

MATRIMONIAL: MALE SEEKING A MATRIMONIAL alliance for your brother, son or a loved one? Place your ad here and reach 32,000 households. You may find the right person here in India Currents classifieds! To place your ad call (408) 324-0488 today!

REAL ESTATE TRI-LEVEL SHAPELL HOME. Open floow plan, hi-ceiling and well kept yard. Schools: Norwood Creek, Quimby Oaks, EVHS. Hurry, call Rama realtor dre01023954. Realty World 128 • india currents • august 2012

GORGEOUS HOME IN FREMONT. 4BR 2.5BA 2115 sft, cul-de-sac, walk to Mission Schools, shopping, close to BART, park, library, great location 949K. Call (408) 6606366. BRAND NEW FLAT AVAILABLE! 3BHK flat, 1935 sq. ft., newly constructed ready for possession at Rajarhat, Kolkata. Includes extra servant qtr. and one covered parking. Complex with gym, swimming pool, community hall, club, 24/7 security, water and electricity. Contact Tilak at (+91)9830035544 or FOR RENT: QUIET GATED PROPERTY. 24/7 security. On golf course. Birds singing. 2Bed/2Bath. Danville/San Ramon Border.SF Bay Area. Furnishing optional.$2,200/month. Call (510) 552-7744 or (925) 968-1773. BUYING OR SELLING PROPERTY? Call an expert with over 22 years of experience, Harshad Shah (408) 238-1200. FIRST TIME HOME BUYER’S SPECIALIST. Foreclosures/REOs. Call Sue Bose (408) 835-3330 or email

SERVICES NON STOP AIRPORT SHUTTLE to and from SJC, SFO, OAK. Speak to Tran for the best possible service with the most affordable rate. (408) 499-2000 or gas4992000@gmail. com. WITH OVER 10 YEARS of beauty experience, we bring our service to your doorstep. Every bride wants to look and feel beautiful and radiant on her wedding day. Call (408) 401-9821 to schedule your next event. THE ORIGINAL GEETANJALI BAND. Entertaining the Bay Area for over 30 years. Live “Bollywood” music, available for private and public events. Contact Rama Shukla at (408)921-7324 or (408)406-5525. SERVICES! SERVICES! HAVE A SPECIAL service to offer to India Currents readers? Do

AD OF THE MONTH TEED ROCKWELL PLAYS TOUCHSTYLE VEENA. Classical Ragas and inspired improvisations on A.R. Rahman melodies for weddings and parties. Original music videos at (510) 548-8779.

you do catering, tailoring, repairs or cleaning? Advertise here in India Currents Classifieds for $10 only. Call (408) 324-0488 today!

SPIRITUAL GROWTH EAST COAST SPIRITUAL GUIDANCE CENTER: All spiritual needs - books, learning help, practices, counseling. Contact: Ma Yoga Shakti International Yoga Center of New York (718) 641-0402.

TAX & ACCOUNTING KENT TAX & BUSINESS SERVICES. Income Tax Service, Bookkeeping, IRS Audit Representation. Call Chandrakant Chudgar (510) 744-0753. RAM ACCOUNTANCY SERVICES. CPA. We serve Individuals & Small and Medium Companies. (408) 866-5860. Email: info@

TUTORING PRIVATE TUTOR, children and adults, specializing in reading/writing/ELD, 25 years teaching experience, M.A. Columbia University. or contact Laura (408) 253-0509.

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136 • india currents • august 2012



Aniruddh Chawda

Cautionary Fairy Tales TRISHNA. Director: Michael Winterbottom. Players: Freida Pinto, Riz Ahmed, Kalki Koechlin, Anurag Kashyap, Roshan Sheth. Theatrical release: IFC Films. MPAA Rating: R (for sexual content and violence)


estern classics translated to an Indian setting have had remarkable success over the years. Most recently it was Vishal Bharadwaj who rode Othello to huge success with Omkara (2006). In a retelling of Thomas Hardy’s 1891 classic Tess of the d’Urbervilles, Winterbottom and company foray into India to give us Trishna. Sumptuous in it’s setting, transferring a tale that originally hinged on Victorian era mores falls short when it is juxtaposed on the fastforward trending of India in 2012. After a successful entry with Slumdog Millionaire, Pinto has not had any film released in India even as she has become something of a rage in Hollywood (Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Immortals, You will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger). As the titular Trishna, Pinto is thrust into a demanding role that has had a spotty record even in Hollywood. After meeting Jai, a rich British-Indian touring his family’s hotel properties in Rajasthan, Trishna accepts Jai’s offer to work for better pay at another one of the family’s hotels farther away. Moving away from her struggling family—her father makes a living driving an auto rickshaw—Trisha sets out on a fateful odyssey with Jai. And therein lays Trishna’s biggest limitation. The degree to which Trishna is coy and submissive is startling, if not downright annoying. She goes with the flow and makes many a life and life-style changing decisions without asking Jai any questions or with any hesitation. She is like a wind-up toy in the hands of the rich and powerful Jai. In the

modern context, of India perhaps—necessarily more so than in many other countries—Trishna comes across as an affront. In the Indian setting—and mind you, a very gorgeous Indian setting at that—more than one stereotype is reinforced. The exploitation of semi-educated, rural women lured away on the promise of jobs has been chewed through as a script previously. The fact that Jai is “Indian” in appearance and yet speaks only English drives home the rich, exotic “foreigner” on the prowl for unsuspecting and therefore “true” Indian boilerplate scenario. Pinto is challenged in this role. She plays the village belle, and even though her journey takes her far and away, she never comes out from under that shadow. Ahmed’s Jai is stoic. Because Jai hides behind the semi-anonymity offered by his fabulous wealth, he remains unknowable and one-dimensional, until it is too late. Kashyap and Koechlin, real-life spouses, play themselves in wonderful caricatures of the self-important actress-diva and her movershaker filmmaking husband. By far the most interesting character is Roshan Sheth in a too-short role as Jai’s blind, Anglophile and real-estate magnate father. Then there is Pinto's beauty, which is exploited thoroughly to become another player in the movie. Trishna is so beautiful that she stands out in the line-up of the hotel staff at Jai’s family property. It takes Jai’s blind

father to correctly sense that underneath the bleached-white hotel maid’s uniform there is a shy, scared young woman struggling to become an Individual—with an I. With a foreshadowing flippant comment made in passing, Sheth’s character also hints that Jai’s modus may not be quite the romantic, sacrificing playboy-with-a heart we are led to believe. Respected British filmmaker Winterbottom (Welcome to Sarajevo) is a huge aficionado of Thomas Hardy. After Jude and The Claim, Trishna is Winterbottom’s third adaptation of a Hardy classic. It is a shame that the carefully put together Trishna did not get set in India during the 1950s. Back then, this exact same set up could possibly have succeeded as a never-look-back cautionary tale against feudalism that India’s thenfledgling democracy was moving away from. In 2012, when India is moving on with strong woman-centered entries such as No One Killed Jessica, Trishna is visually striking and yet far removed from the ideal poster for the emerging new Indian woman. n EQ: C+ Globe trekker, aesthete, photographer, ski bum, film buff, and commentator, Aniruddh Chawda writes from Milwaukee. india currents • august 2012 • 137

Madhumita Gupta

A Ride to Remember FERRARI KI SAWARI Director: Rajesh Mapuskar Players: Sharman Joshi, Boman Irani, Ritwik Sahore, Seema Bhargava, Paresh Rawal. Music:Pritam. Theatrical release: Vinod Chopra Productions and Eros International


ajesh Mapuskar deserves a huge round of applause for finally taking Indian children’s films out of the mire of mediocrity and attempting something that isn’t an insult to an Indian kid’s intelligence. Till now children’s movies in India have got step-motherly treatment, barring a few like Vishal Bharadwaj’s Makdee and The Blue Umbrella. The less said about the rest, the better as most of them either talked down to children (and adults) or functioned on the belief that our children do not deserve a better deal. Even if one tries really hard, recollecting any good kid’s movie is not child’s play—they have been far and few between. The tragedy is that this is happening in the era of Harry Potter, Shrek and Madagascar! So, full marks to the team behind Ferrari Ki Sawari for having zoomed in where others feared to tread and that too with a good story and some noteworthy performances. The film is a tribute to all the little gulley-cricket kings of India who dream big—of becoming Sachin Tendulkar one day and maybe driving a Ferrari. Instead of the mother-son bonding theme, this one is about the ties between father and son that span three generations with cricket as the link and lynchpin. Thankfully the story stays on even keel throughout, without meandering into subplots or the maudlin travails of a single father. The movie is about an upright clerk working at a Regional Transport Office in India. 138 • india currents • august 2012

Rustam played by Joshi is a model son to a mean and cranky Debu (Irani) and father to a budding cricket—star Kayo (Sahore). Kayo is selected for special cricket coaching at Lord's, London. However, the hand-to-mouth dad, Rustam must arrange for a lakh and half as the fee for this opportunity. After running from pillar to post to get a loan and failing, an unique opportunity presents itself to Rustam. If he can arrange Sachin Tendulkar’s famed Ferrari to ferry a politician’s spoilt son to his wedding venue, he’d be presented with the required amount. Much hilarity and tension ensue as Rustam tries to get and return the dream-vehicle without the owner’s express permission. And during this process, new equations are created and old issues resolved as we follow the Ferrari. At a few places the pace does slacken a bit and we do hit some weepy speed breakers and the humor gets a bit trite but all in all, Ferrari Ki Sawari is the perfect way to wind up the summer vacations. Joshi and Irani, predictably deliver superb performances. Sharman, with his wide, everpresent smile, makes the almost-too-good-to be-true dad credible and makes you believe that people who actually go around hunting for a cop to pay their fine, do exist! And Irani, as the embittered old man who wakes up to his grandson’s extraordinary talent, lives the part of this unkempt Parsi meanie who thinks nothing of changing channels knowing fully well how much his grandchild loves watching cricket.

The surprise packet is, however, little Ritwick, who delivers a perfectly controlled and consistent performance and appears immensely comfortable in the presence of seasoned actors. Kids, even in the best of films in India tend to be either annoyingly cloying or maddeningly precocious. Ritwick steers clear of both these extremes and is a natural, both as the level-headed captain of his team and as the son who froths at the mouth when he hears his grandfather nag his father. A word of praise for the supporting cast— the pillars of this quaint film. As the boisterous, bossy Babboo didi, Seema Bhargava, in her manly outfits and mannerisms lights up the screen with her feisty interpretations. And the understatedly competent Satyadeep Misra and Paresh Rawal excel in their cameo roles. Vidya Balan presents herself in a guest appearance doing a robust Lavani number in the exact shade of red as the Ferrari! Pritam’s music, by itself is passable but seems redundant in the otherwise well-made movie. The strength of the film is its script and Hirani’s dialogues, both of which give the beautifully shot film, much heart. The director, Mapuskar, is in control of most of the film. The climax does get unnecessarily dramatic and contrived and the film could’ve been better without the dose of tears. The movie plot is also at times cliched—all scenes/situations end just the way you expect them too. But, some theatergoers take pleasure in that. This is a movie worth watching if you believe that good still exists and dreams do come true. A feel good movie, which feels good in parts! n EQ :A Madhumita Gupta is a freelance writer and teacher.

LATA’S S FLICK PICK Ishq Dangerous ent tm ar Dep i Ki Sawari ar rr Fe haqZaade  Is at 2 Jann ayi Ki Toh Lag G Life New York is London Par  Overtime Rathore Rowdy arigold Hotel est Exotic M The B haani Teri Meri Ka 



Krishna M. Sadasivam is the cartoonist behind UNcubed, a weekly online auto-bio comic, focusing on life as an Indian guy in the United States. When he’s not creating comics or working as a freelance illustrator, Krishna teaches full-time in the Media Arts and Animation department of the Art Institute of Tampa in Florida. See more of his work at

india currents • august 2012 • 139




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the last word

Sarita Sarvate

I am Gulliver, I am Sindbad


hen I was a little girl, I loved adventure stories. There was a Marathi magazine named Chandoba, which means "moon," and in this magazine, I discovered a faraway, magical world. The first time I read about Sindbad, I was mesmerized. The magazine had colorful illustrations and I remember one in which Sindbad had fallen into a well full of human bones. Later, I discovered Gulliver and the Lilliputians too. I was a dreamer and what I dreamt of was traveling to faraway places. Why is it that some children dream of leaving their homes, and others want to stay close to the hearth? My own children do not wish to go away. Perhaps because they went camping even before they were out of diapers; they traveled to Canada, India, and Mexico at young ages. Whatever the reason, I dreamt of leaving home. Later, as an adolescent, I read Somerset Maugham. I remember a novel in which a young man travels to Malaya, Zanzibar, and Singapore. I believe he comes to a sad end. In my mind’s eye, I see him standing on the deck of a ship, watching a tropical sunset. I wanted to be that young man. I wanted to get on a ship and travel across the seven seas. The trouble was, there were no stories of seafaring girls. Sindbad was a man; Gulliver was a man; Robinson Crusoe was a boy; Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn were boys too. So I wished I were a boy. I acted like a boy too. I paid no attention to my looks; I did not put on makeup or jewelry. My brain, my courage, and my competence were what I wanted the world to acknowledge. When I embarked on my solo travels across France recently, I felt confident, selfassured. When I searched for role models from literature, however, I could not come up with anything inspiring. I read Hemingway’s Movable Feast, a book about his life in Paris as a young writer, but we had little in common. Today, when people think of women traveling solo, they think of Eat, Pray, Love. Even though I haven’t read the book, judging by the author interviews I have heard on NPR, the message of the bestseller is quite clear, a woman adventuress cannot be complete without a man to round off the happy ending. That the journey could be an end in itself, that one might find, at the end of a voyage, not love for a man, but love for oneself, is not seen as an appealing idea. This is sad because the truth is, no man or woman can ultimately fulfill us; ultimately we have to find inner peace, inner love, inner happiness. For me the moment of such self-awakening came in St. Jean de Luz, a picturesque town in the Basque country of France. I had gotten used to the French routine of visiting the Boulangerie in the morning to buy a croissant and sometimes a Chocolatine, and then sitting at the café next door with my Kindle and my small Gateway computer. As I sat there one morning, watching the locals get a café before work, a strange sensation overcame me. It was happiness.

Why do people assume that being alone was less than desirable state? When in fact, in many cases, it is better to be alone than to be with the wrong person?

144 • india currents • august 2012

Not the kind of happiness I had experienced when, long ago, my husband had told me that he had fallen in love with me, or when I had gotten word that I had been admitted to grad school at U.C. Berkeley. Rather, it was a feeling of completeness. All throughout my three week travels, people had been watching me as I took my place at a single table at a bistro or a salon. Occasionally, I had felt a pang. Not because I was lonely, but because people thought that I must be lonely. At a restaurant near the Invalides in Paris, I was talking to a couple at the next table when I explained that I was visiting a friend of mine in Paris. The woman said, “Oh, good! I thought you were all alone!” I felt she had slapped me in the face. So much so that I did not tell her that, in fact, the next day, I was embarking on a solo journey across the country. Why do people assume that being alone is a less than desirable state? When in fact, in many cases, it is better to be alone than to be with the wrong person? Do people do so to justify their own marriage or partnership? I suppose I must have internalized the exchange with that insensitive woman, for, as I rode trains, walked into strange towns with my bag, or checked into a hotel, I imagined that people were wondering who I was and why I was by myself. It was in St. Jean de Luz that I finally lost that feeling. I just did not care what people thought. I realized that if they were looking at me at all, which probably they were not, they were simply trying to place my ethnicity. For throughout my travels, no one had identified me as Indian, assuming that I was Spanish or Italian or Iranian. More importantly, I simply did not care about people’s judgments. I felt contented, complete, blissful. For I could write. I could read. I could observe. I could pick up conversations with strangers. At the last moment, I could decide to travel to San Sebastian, Spain. I could stroll up the hill hugging the Bay of Biscay to watch the sunset and wait for the miracle of the Green Flash to occur. Back in my hotel room, I could write my blog. I could browse the web to decide my next destination, and, thanks to Google Translate, send messages to hotels for last minute reservations. Sometimes I did not even know where I was going to spend the next night or what train I was going to catch. That was the exciting part. My travels were a far cry from Overseas Adventure Travel, where everything is planned, where the adventure is only in the name. I fulfilled my desires spontaneously, without having to negotiate them with anyone. I was free. I was in a surrealistic dream. I was floating, unseen, unheard, alone. And because I was alone, the world was my oyster. And the world embraced me. In my freedom and solitude I was able to love the world in a way that I had never loved it before. And the world came to love me. Never once did I lose my temper or felt despair. For, at every turn, guardian angels showed up to assist me. Every time I needed help, someone came to my aid, whether it was just to talk to me or to show me the way into town. Why did this happen? Because I had sailed my ship alone across the seven seas. I had become Gulliver and Sindbad. I had fulfilled my childhood dream. The trouble with being Gulliver or Sindbad of course is that you feel compelled to set off again, no matter how perilous your last journey. n Sarita Sarvate writes commentaries for Pacific News Service and KQED. Visit

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