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Desi Headliners

Top Ten Hindi Films of 2011

Favorite Books of 2011

IndiaCurrents Celebrating 25 Years of Excellence

WE WILL NO LONGER REMAIN SILENT dec.’11 - jan.’12 • vol. 25, no .9 •

2011 turned out to be the year of the people. Protesters from democracies and dictatorships alike took to the streets in a stinging criticism of a world order that concentrates wealth and power in the hands of a very few.

Girding For an Election Year If one phrase could be used to summarize 2011 for Americans, it would be “political gridlock.” Between the squeezing out of moderates in last year’s low-turnout midterms, and the approaching presidential elections of 2012, the appetite to govern through compromise has just about disappeared. While average Americans continue to suffer the effects of a terrible and lingering recession, our representatives cocoon themselves in the echo chamber in the nation’s capital, submitting their consciences and outsourcing their intelligence to Beltway operatives more interested in personal fame and fortune than in the well-being of their fellowmen. It is not surprising that the inchoate rage felt by those left behind in the pursuit of the American dream has manifested itself in protests around the country. If the protestors lack a coherent message, it is because the reversal of the death by a thousand cuts that the working class has been subjected to for decades is hard to encapsulate in a pithy slogan or an organized manifesto. For those of us suffering in private, the actions of the Occupy movement may seem confusing and pointless, even as their emotions and demands resonate with us. The issues of rising income inequality and loss of upward mobility are real enough; it is just that in a democracy there is no single entity to blame, no

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Contributors: Jasbina Ahluwalia, Khorshed Alam, Esha Chhabra, Priya Das, Shailaja Dixit, Ramki Durai, Jeanne E. Fredriksen, Geetika Pathania Jain, Madhumita Gupta, Shivam Khullar, Tara Menon, Rajesh C. Oza, Jaya Padmanabhan, Niraj Patel, Naresh Rajan, Shanta Sacharoff, Girija Sankar, Jyotsna Sreenivasan, Mani Subramani

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.

dictator to overthrow. If we were to be brutally honest, the victims of this decades-long assault on the have-nots need only look in the mirror to find the perpetrators. Whether it is by picking candidates through purity tests, or by choosing to stay home in protest rather than cast an imperfect vote, we have ceded control of the political process to corporate funding and ideological extremists. The New Year will usher in a deluge of political advertising, most of it ugly and untruthful. And there’s no doubt that it’s going to be a monumental challenge to sift through the barrage of election year (mis)information to arrive at suitable representatives who can reverse the political impasse. The guiding principle must be to look for candidates who have an interest in and a record of governance, not those who believe government is bad and dismantling it is the way to go. “Compromise” and “incremental change” must become acceptable words again, and politicians’ records of legislative action need to trump flowery promises for the future. Ultimately the onus of bringing about change rests on our ability to send a message in the way it matters most—though the ballot box. So let’s make a resolution to educate ourselves, get informed, and go forth and vote!

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Northern California Edition

PERSPECTIVES 1 EDITORIAL: Girding for an election year. By Vidya Pradhan

6 VOICES 7 FORUM: Is the Occupy Wall Street movement a worthy one? By Rameysh Ramdas and Mani Subramani



DESI VOICES: My bittersweet tricolor. By Shailaja Dixit


ZEITGEIST: Life with (seven) billion others. By Ragini Tharoor Srinivasan


ELECTION 2012: The masks we wear. By Rajesh C. Oza


TAX TALK: Year-end tax tips.By Khorshed Alam


NOT FOR PROFIT: Global Polio Initiative. By Esha Chhabra

102 REFLECTIONS: The three gunas. By Ramki Durai

Frustrated by growing inequality and unemployment, protestors in democracies and dictatorships alike took to the streets in 2011 By Jaya Padmanabhan

135 25th ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL: From East Indian to South Asian. By Sarita Sarvate.

144 THE LAST WORD BY SARITA SARVATE: Naipaul was right.

LIFESTYLE 58 RECIPES: Leafy greens for winter. By Shanta Sacharoff 66

Krishna Sadasivam takes a look at the desi headliners of the year

RELATIONSHIP DIVA: Matrimonial prospects for the thirty- something. By Jasbina Ahluwalia

112 THE HEALTHY LIFE: Why ghee gets a bad rap. By Niraj “Raj” Patel

121 DEAR DOCTOR: Not in the model minority. By Alzak Amlani


ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT Shivam Khullar tours the City of Lights



Uncubed Ask a Lawyer Visa Dates


BOOKS: Favorite books of the year. By India Currents reviewers.

40 FICTION: Perfect Sunday. Katha 2011 Finalist. By Jyotsna Sreenivasan


MUSIC: The veena as a jazz instrument. By Priya Das


FILMS: Top 10 films of 2011. Review of Rockstar. By Aniruddh Chawda and Madhumita Gupta

WHAT’S CURRENT 88 Cultural Calendar 103 Spiritual Calendar 126 Classifieds india currents • dec. ’11 – jan. ’12 • 3

4 • india currents • dec. ’11 – jan. ’12

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An Important Tradition

What a wonderful article by Anuradha Malhotra (The Power of Mantras, November 2011)! In ancient India, the energy of sound was highly researched. That is why our Vedic texts are full of shlokas and mantras that find wide applicability in many different situations. Not only is knowing the meaning of these mantras important, but also the method of their recitation is critical to generate the desired vibrations for maximum effect. The same goes for ragas in Indian classical music. Since mantras and shlokas get transferred through shruti, (that which is heard), it is commendable that parents take the time to sit with their children and practice this age-old tradition. Anu Niels Sharma, Berkeley, CA

What is Home?

It has become increasingly difficult to define home (Exiled at Home, October 2011). Is it the fragrances, color, family, or familiarity? Can we settle down anywhere in the globe and still call it home? Do water, electricity and a single family house define a home? When does the longing to return stop? Or do we just have to learn to live with it? Is it possible to be Indian in America? I don’t think so... At some point of time we just have choose and make our peace with our choice without finding the need to justify it. Meera Ramanathan, online

The Emotional Toll of Surrogacy

Being a physician I can very easily understand the medical/ clinical aspects of pregnancy and eventual delivery of the offspring. However, learning about the emotional and human experiences of surrogate pregnancy is somewhat unique to me, in addition to being good reading material (Our Meeting With the Surrogate, October 2011). Yamuna has an uncanny ability to let the readers read her mind through her writing. I would strongly recommend that people contemplating surrogate pregnancy read these articles first. Good luck and best of health to Yamuna and her family. Ram C, online

a culture for rewarding failure and action should be taken to not allow for high compensation after making a mess of things. However, I do think we need to keep capitalism alive— honest capitalism. I believe majority of the top 1% would have no problem in paying higher taxes—see the long list that went to Capitol Hill to say that. The Republicans, I believe, have got it all wrong. Moderate America is what we need! Varun Nanda, online

Elections 2012 Are you a South Asian involved in American politics? India Currents is planning a series of articles leading up to the Presidential elections in 2012. We are looking for varied viewpoints—from the grassroots organizer to the seasoned campaigner. To share your experiences and perspectives, get in touch with

6 • india currents • dec. ’11 – jan. ’12

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Most Popular Articles Online: 1) Vegan Kickstart India (November 2011)

Occupy Oakland

Anisha, thanks for showing tremendous courage while covering this incredible story (My Experience with Occupy Oakland, October 2011, Web Only). It is vital that people know exactly what transpired that night because when they hear Oakland they automatically assume that crowd would contributed to this brutal response by the police. I understand it is not their fault to jump into conclusion given Oakland’s crime rate and I hope your experience will help them have a better understanding. Thanks once again for voicing the truth. God bless and stay safe. Shobana Ramamurti, online

Finding the Happy Middle

This is a great article (A Ray of Hope, November 2011)! It amazes me how we, as a country, dig a hole and then sit in that hole and complain about the efforts of the people who are doing everything to pull us out! The Democrats have indeed accomplished a lot— be it addressing Osama Bin Laden, Libya, or healthcare reform. But more needs to be done. I also agree that we seem to have developed

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2) My Experience with Occupy Oakland (October 2011) Anisha Gupta 3) Northern California Cultural Events (November 2011) Nadia Maiwandi 4) Khan Academy(January 2011) Jaya Padmanabhan 5) Exiled at Home (October 2011) Sarita Sarvate 6) Telling Kathak Stories (November 2011) Priya Das 7) The Maternity Tourism Industry (November 2011) Priyanka Wolan 8) Kirtans East and West (November 2011) Teed Rockwell 9) Finding Freddie (November 2011) R. Benedito Ferrao 10) Let’s Occupy Wall Street (November 2011) Sarita Sarvate



Is The Occupy Wall Street Movement a Worthy One? Rameysh Ramdas

Mani Subramani

No, Occupy Wall Street is a profoundly un-American movement.

Yes, the increase in income inequality and the loss of upward mobility calls for such a response.

he enemy of my bank is my friend,” “Redistribute wealth,” “Tax the rich,” “Corporations are evil,” —these are the banners that scream across American cities with mobs occupying public areas, inconveniencing the public from getting to their jobs they still have, shutting down commerce at small businesses and major ports. While I sympathize with the “Occupy” movement and agree with their disappointment in the economy, the need for tighter financial regulation, and for major banks to do their share to help grow the economy, I cannot, in good conscience, agree with their notion that creating wealth should be condemned or that rewards must be equally distributed in society. Imagine the disdain your child would have if his hard-earned A grade has to be downgraded so as to be more equitable with poorer performers! Many nations, from the USSR to China, that tried such experiments in socialism and communism, failed and have since embraced free market capitalism to achieve economic progress. The United States has long remained the beacon of freedom for individual enterprise and upward mobility, the only nation on earth where you could land with a mere hundreds of dollars, as most of us Indian Americans did, and achieve the American dream by working hard and playing by the rules. Just with the power of ideas, determination, and hard work one can become an entrepreneur, whether it is by buying a motel to growing it into a chain, or starting a tech company in Silicon Valley garage and turning it into a Fortune 500 corporation. In his book How they Did It, Robert Jordan interviewed 45 founders and found that, in total, those interviewed created roughly $41 billion from scratch. That is possible only in America and that is a good thing for the 99% of us that this movement claims to represent. Let us take the tactics we saw in the Occupy movement in Oakland, a city that can least afford the dire economic impact of police overtime costs, loss of revenue for downtown businesses, vandalism of public and private property, and the associated cleanup costs. By shutting down the port for a day, tens of millions of dollars of exports were halted and 11,000 workers lost their wages. Many low paid workers in shut down restaurants and stores lost their wages—consequences the 99 % could least afford. The Occupy movement’s ire is misdirected and should instead be focused on the President and Congress to enact legislative solutions to ensure that we never ever face the risk of financial meltdown, while closing tax loopholes with an equitable tax regime. It is irresponsible and hypocritical for President Obama to stoke the flames of this movement for electoral gains while having $35K per plate fundraising with Wall Street executives. Punishing private enterprise and demonizing success is neither the answer nor the solution to our country’s economic ills.n

hat is the Occupy movement all about? As suggested by an informative piece in Mother Jones magazine, “It’s the inequality stupid!” Income inequality in the United States has grown steadily in the last few decades. Since 1979, the after-tax annual income share of the top 1% of households grew by a whopping 130%, while the bottom 80% lost their share of the income pie share by 10-30% during the same time. Free-marketers argue that the bottom 80% were just poor performers and brought their sorry economic state on themselves. Wrong! Productivity gains during the same period were a whopping 82%. The fact that we are talking about 80% of Americans should raise people’s hackles. It is this kind of persistent, chronic, and burgeoning inequality that is driving Occupy movement activists. The sobering economic reality is that the net worth of the households of people aged 30 and below is 47 times less than households of those 55 and over! Not only have the past decades been economically brutal to the most of the population, the future does not seem to hold much promise. It’s not surprising that the movement is largely led by our youth. Americans would gladly applaud success and wealth creation if corporations created jobs or if stock market gains tricked down. In 1914 Henry Ford doubled the wages of his workers so they could afford a good life and, most importantly, afford his cars! That was an unspoken social contract. No such contract exists today. Multinational corporations have figured out an easy way out to leverage productivity by firing an average of 2 million workers/year in the United States over the past decade. We should be thankful to the Occupy movement for finally bringing to the front and center these gargantuan inequities. Critics of this movement have been trying to build straw men out of communism, liberalism, and President Obama. By trying to connect the President to the movement they are hoping to redirect the public’s attention away from our systemic problems and towards the political cycle. Clearly the solution to this conundrum cannot not be found at the ballot box. In 2012 the voters will most likely have to choose between a completely bought-out Mitt Romney and a corporate-leaning incumbent. This malaise has occurred over decades through four presidents and 15 election cycles. Frustration with decades of inequality is now simmering in the form of the Occupy protests. It must be noted that, with the exception of Occupy Oakland, the protests have been largely peaceful. There is every indication that protestors are, by and large, cooperating with law enforcement. Indeed, police overreach has been the meme of the day. But neither police brutality not extreme tactics by a very small minority of protestors should distract us from the core message—that the American dream is no longer an option for most Americans, including immigrants, some of whom are returning to their homeland for better opportunities.n

Rameysh Ramdas, an SF Bay Area professional, writes as a hobby.

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


The Occupy movement’s ire should be focused on the President and Congress to enact legislative solutions.


Not only have the past decades been economically brutal, the future does not seem to hold much promise.

india currents • dec. ’11 – jan. ’12 • 7


desi voices

Shailaja Dixit

My Bittersweet Tricolor Getting my U.S. citizenship was a conflicted moment

8 • india currents • dec. ’11 – jan. ’12

Photo Credit: Prince Roy


eptember 7th 2011, Paramount Theater. 9:15AM. My husband and I sit quietly in the cool, dark auditorium. A woman brushes past us. Congratulations! she mouths. I give a wry smile and wave back weakly. A man come out onstage and takes his place behind the microphone. The ceremony begins. It’s time to get our American citizenship. My heart is sinking. I glance at my iPhone; a missed call from my mother. I hesitate to call her back. My family has a long and passionate love affair with India. My grandmother, aunts, grandfather all fought in the freedom struggle under Gandhi. Just a month ago my aunt appeared in the media, supporting Anna Hazaare, denouncing corruption, recalling her memories at the Gandhi Ashram. One uncle was the Foreign Secretary, another uncle served in the Air Force, my mother is a Commissioner in the Information Commission. To be Indian and serve India has been the constant chant in my ears growing up. And yet—here I am. At the Paramount Theatre, ready to be re-baptized. My head hangs lower. The presenter is now making light jokes, eliciting nervous giggles. He introduces another colleague, a lady from the electoral office. She informs us about the importance of voting. A few more pleasantries and then we are asked to stand up and sing the Star Spangled Banner. My eyes are welling up and my voice chokes. The hall is ringing with melody; but I am thinking Sujalaam Suphalaam Malayaja Sheetalam Shasya Shyaamala Maataram….Vande Maataram. I sink back into my chair. I cannot go through this. I feel claustrophobic. I suddenly, desperately, wish my children were there. I know it’s impossible— they’re in school—but, at their thought, my restlessness disappears. Instead a reel starts spinning. I think back to their birth—the nurses helping me lovingly; their schoolteachers helping them patiently. In my mind’s eye I see the parks we play in, the roads we travel on, the policeman who patrols our neighborhood at night, my colleagues back at the office waiting to hear from me, the restaurants we eat in, the roses in my backyard, my favorite

printed quilt on my Cal King bed—what has this new motherland not given me? For 13 years she has fed me, petted me, nurtured my dreams, my children and yet, today, I hanker after another mother I left behind. I think of Sri Krishna. Born of one mother, reared by another. True to both. Yet belonging to none. Known for himself, yet known as theirs too! So the question is, can we be like that? Can we belong to all and yet to none at all? Of course I can’t find an answer in the middle of Paramount Theatre, but I am much calmer. Now a lady is reading out an alphabetized list of countries and applicants from each country are standing up. I like that. I am yearning to hear India’s name, acknowledge one last time I am an Indian. India! I hear it at last and spring up. I think about the people who designed this ceremony—what an incredibly sensitive thing to do. I love standing up for India this one last time, as an Indian! The presenter beams down at us. She is acknowledging that each of us brings something special from our motherland. Yes! I nod emotionally. I see many people doing the same. But now, she continues, today we will all come together as one.

Is that the true meaning of being American, I wonder? Am I being re-born a global citizen? The oath dispels my illusions. We stand up to take the oath. This time my voice is steady. I pledge allegiance to America. I renounce my fidelity to any other sovereign nation. I promise to bear arms for America. It takes all my strength to say the words aloud, but I do it. I know some people fall silent or pacify themselves knowing they “don’t really mean it.” But I repeat each word clearly. There’s no waffling mid-stream. And so I have embarked on a new journey—from my Janmabhoomi to my Karmabhoomi. Many have crossed this chasm, so I want to believe it can be done. For now I am poised at the precipice. I am patiently weaving a new tri-colored net. Orange, green, white. Red, white, blue. White… the white is comforting… White… Peace to me. Peace to my motherlands. Peace to my bittersweet tri-colors...n Shailaja Dixit has a Masters in Mass Communication and currently lives in San Ramon, CA where she divides her time between writing, singing and home-making.


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Ragini Tharoor Srinivasan

Life with (Seven Billion) Others


Photo Credit: James Cridland

011 is ending, or over, depending on when you read these words. Already, the Wikipedia entry for the year is lengthy: from the Arab Spring to the capture of Osama bin Laden, from the earthquake and nuclear meltdown in Japan to the Sindh floods in Pakistan, from the wedding of Will and Kate to the death of Elizabeth Taylor. Indeed, we often remember a past year for those who passed with it: Steve Jobs, Shammi Kapoor, Sathya Sai Baba, Amy Winehouse, M.F. Hussain, Muammar Qaddafi. In decades to come, we will probably not recall that 2011 was the International Year of Forests and Chemistry. We will likely forget that India and Bangladesh ended a decades-long border dispute; like much else that happened in the past 12 months, this was a momentous event that will nevertheless be relegated to a footnote in history. For many of us, 2011 will be marked by the convergence of two “events,” both ongoing. In late October, the population surged past seven billion, with projections that we will reach nine billion by 2050. Meanwhile, the question of the “occupation” of our shared world fires the collective imagination. In 2008, Arjun Appadurai, one of the most distinguished Indianborn academics in the United States, currently professor of media, culture, and communication at NYU, posed a provocative rhetorical question at a conference in Lisbon: “Can there be life without the Other?” Three years later, Appadurai’s question seems more urgent than ever. Granted, “the Other” is a capital-O formulation that perhaps only appeals to academics. “The Other” sounds rather abstract, perhaps even a theoretical indulgence. But “otherness” and “the Other” are not simply problems for philosophy and anthropology. Otherness is also the prism through which politicians, policymakers, and pundits think about the terms on which we inhabit and regulate the world. Otherness is a question about the governance of diverse citizen-subjects and communities who live together under one law. Thinking about Others means thinking about international alliances, relations to different cultures and religions, and the difficult issues of social stratification and polarization. Since Oct. 31, which the United Nations declared “Seven Billion Day,” many have asked whether there can continue to be life with the Other—with seven billion others, to be exact. Appadurai’s question gives the issue of wildly increasing population a different force. Can

there be life without the Other? If we abdicate our responsibility to others, can we live? Can there be life for the one, without the other? Can there be life for the 1 percent, without the 99? Living with others, to invoke Rohinton Mistry’s devastating novelistic account of the Emergency in India, requires “a fine balance.” Other people present both our greatest occasions for happiness and fulfillment and the most significant threats to our security and peace. We love some, and we fear others. We protect some, and we forsake others. We recognize some, and we refuse to see others. Of course, there are risks in living among others, as is painfully evident in any consideration of our fraught human history of genocide, oppression, poverty, capitalist exploitation, and terror. In the war zone, in the sweatshop, and even in the brutality of the everyday lay-off, we subject each other to hell. We endanger one another. We build bombs. We profit from the misfortune of others. We waste what others need. In the United States, the categorization and management of resident and non-resident aliens, illegal immigrants, and so-called enemy combatants reveals not only our systemic xenophobia, but also the limits of our capacity to live with other human beings. And yet, if we are ever to be moved, loved, changed, transformed, and educated, it will be because of our openness to the other people with whom we share our lives in the world. At the risk of overstatement, we are each related in time and space to every one of the seven billion-plus people who now inhabit the earth. Yes, we are strangers in the eyes of others. We do not “know” all others; they will never “meet” us. It is nearly impossible to conceive of the material conditions of the day-to-day lives of the seven billion others out there. Still, we daily relate to the strangers in our lives. The American pragmatist John Dewey argued that before we can ever come together with others to form a public, we must perceive that our actions have consequences for these others. Every day, we have the opportunity to make ethical choices that implicate others: not littering the sidewalks or soiling public buses because of consideration for the right of others to shared space and infrastructure; responding with care to the plight of distant others suffering the ravages of war, famine, or natural disaster; not skimming off the top of the economy and the labor of others with parasitic “day trades” and other value depleting activities. The Occupy movements—which now far exceed the terms of the opposition to “Wall Street,” as well as the limitations of the singular form (the “movement” is clearly manifest in plural “movements”)— provide the occasion for us to think very seriously about the choices we make with respect to the existence of other people. This much we know: We have to live among others. Some of us have to live with more others than others—over one billion others in India, 300 million in the United States. What are the ethical demands of being one subject among one billion? What are the ethical demands of being one subject among seven billion? What are the ethical demands of being in the 1 percent? In the words of Immanuel Kant, “No one originally has any greater right than anyone else to occupy any particular portion of the earth.” There are seven billion occupiers now. Can we build lives for us all? Can there be life without the Other?n Ragini Tharoor Srinivasan is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Rhetoric at the University of California, Berkeley.

10 • india currents • dec. ’11 – jan. ’12






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The Year of the People


By Jaya Padmanabhan

n October 17, 2011, at a Palo Alto residence, a few executives, industrialists and entrepreneurs-turned-volunteers met with Prashanth Bhushan, the lawyer/activist member of Team Anna. Bhushan, a slight figure with an air of intensity, sat in the middle of the room and was quiet for the first half hour of the meeting. When he did speak, it was measured and to the point. It was established that Bhushan was in Palo Alto to gather support for the India Against Corruption (IAC) movement, which has received unprecedented support from the Indian media and janata alike. I was the only media member present at the session and was told not to quote “anybody on anything.” (And here I thought the India Against Corruption movement was a bare-all bar-none.) Bhushan’s agenda was to mobilize and appoint NRI Ambassadors to support processes in Delhi and, in the long term, to help combat the problem of corruption in India by transitioning from a “representative” to a “participatory” form of democracy. This meeting proved that IAC was keen on expanding its reach beyond India’s shores, capitalizing on the global feeling of dissatisfaction with status quo. 2011 was the year the common man decided he had had enough. From Aleppo to Yemen, from Delhi to San Francisco, demonstrations and protests showcased the might and spread of people power, a phenomenon worthy of sustained television coverage and superscripted newspaper headlines. Whether imperfect democracies or tyrannical dictatorships, the squeeze of a global recession was felt by the middle class and the poor throughout the world, and the added spectacle of the rich getting richer became too much to bear. So men and women all over the world arose, ready to risk their livelihoods and their lives in the belief that the combined voices of the many would penetrate the gated walls of those in power. india currents • dec. ’11 – jan. ’12 • 13

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The Arab Spring

The death of Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi is the latest fallout from the mass protests in the Middle East that began with, ironically, the death of a far more insignificant man, street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi, in Tunisia. Bouazizi set himself on fire after harassment by municipal officials, and his sacrifice led to revolutions that toppled three dictators in the region, and prompted populist measures in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia to forestall similar conflagrations. When the dust settled, Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya were taking the first painful steps towards the creation of governments that were for, of, and by the people. The term Arab Spring is a metaphorical comment on the events that played out in Tunisia, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Syria, Bahrain, Libya, Algeria, Yemen, Iran and others. The term is neither limited to events that occurred in the spring of 2011, nor to Arab states only. It refers to the rise of youthful energy for a cause; the burgeoning thrust and joist of a rebellion; a popular uprising and the hopeful domino effect of its impact; a wellspring of fury demanding a complete overhaul of authoritarian strongholds. The phrase “Arab Spring” was first used in 2005 referring to the beneficial effect of the Iraq war on U.S.-Middle East relations. It is tacitly named after the Prague Spring, the 1968 socialist-democratic reform movement in Czechoslovakia that muted some of the country’s hardcore communist rule for a short period of time. Beginning with the ouster of President Zine el Abidine Ben Ali of Tunisia, the Arab movement quickly gathered momentum in neighboring Egypt with Hosni Mubrak’s resignation. In Jordan, King Abdullah dismissed the government to appease the protesters, and in Iraq, President Nouri al-Maliki said he would not run for a third term... As I write this,

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Occupy Wall Street

power is still in the hands of tyrants in Syria, and Yemen and Saudi Arabia has managed to successfully quash the uprising with the help of neighboring Bahrain and in Libya, NATO had to intervene. The record of success for the Arab Spring is still being written, even though the social media driven protest movement has become its lasting legacy.

India Against Corruption

India’s Fasting Season

Democracies aren’t immune to unrest. Call it corporatocracy, elitism, or power-mongering, but democracies inevitably begin to resemble oligarchies with a defined class prerogative. Inspired by the people’s movements in the Middle East, crusaders in India decided to appeal to the constituents of a largely apathetic nation. Even in a country largely inured to political and bureaucratic corruption, the breaking point was reached with the exposure of two telecom scandals involving mega-sums (just the 2G Spectrum scandal is believed to have siphoned out 39 billion dollars). In the midst of the monsoon season in India, Anna Hazare rallied tens of thousands of middle class citizens to get off their angled sofas and present themselves for a civil discourse on corruption. Twitter feeds and status updates tested the capacities of Internet servers, and the Anna movement grew with each hash tag post. “These movements demonstrate the power of public opinion and the power of people in shaping laws and policies,” confirms local SF Bay Area activist, Unmesh Sheth, President of Indians for Collective Action (ICA). Hazare’s message found resonance with Indians around the world, many of whom surely left to pursue their dreams in countries where opportunities were not stifled, and political connections did not determine success or failure. Unlike the uprisings in the Middle East, in India the movement was given wing by the educated middle class, who were most aware of the laws subverted and citizens’ right to information. The impoverished and undernourished continued to grind away at their daily jobs with just a brief sideways glance at the television drama unfolding, complete with a hero clad in homespun cotton, a villainous government and an intrepid, iconic, ex-Indian Police Service officer, Kiran Bedi, as the unlikely heroine. Sheth agrees that it is the middle class in India who take to the streets protesting and demonstrating. “They are the proxy for the poor,” he claims. The aims of the movement, titled India

Against Corruption, do not necessarily find universal approbation. The biggest criticism against IAC has been that the poor are not part of the conversation. While the man on the street is heartily sick of corruption and ready for change, IAC has a limited and unusually clear manifesto. The Anna movement is not intended to overthrow India’s democratically elected leaders with a Gandhian alternative. Rather it is to strengthen an anti-corruption bill and include high ranking ministers and the judiciary in its purview. Asked about IAC’s limited focus ICA

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he engine of these demonstrations was powered by social media and energized by frustration. Armed with little more than sleeping bags and smart phones, men and women organized rallies, marches and sit-ins—statements of dissatisfaction. From Martyrs Square in Cairo and Tripoli to Central Park in New York, these congregations took to heart Gandhi’s powerful message of non-violence and trusted in the power of the collective to change the world.

Anna Hazare

volunteer, George Kohli disagrees, “I believe that this is just the beginning.” Bhushan emphasized that the Jan Lokpal bill was just a means to an end. The larger goal was to move from a system of “representational democracy, open to bribery, to a system where the people, the actual stakeholders, participate.”

Comparing IAC and the Arab Spring

In Wall Street Journal blogger Paul Verghese’s words: “Indians are not fighting to obtain basic democracy. They are fighting for better laws and stricter enforcement of current laws to make their democracy better, india currents • dec. ’11 – jan. ’12 • 15





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The revolution in Egypt

stronger and more effective. This is the biggest difference between the Arab spring and the Anna Hazare movement.” In India, the citizen’s right to protest government policies is a fundamental right as incorporated into the constitution and hence poses no real threat to the individual. Protests in India are not uncommon. It forms the very bulwark of India’s democratic structure and often creates more noise than benefit. In the Middle East, most of the countries that struggled to supplant their autocratic leaders through peaceful protests were subdued brutally and quickly. The events following Anna Hazare’s protest movement discounted any possible comparison between the Arab turmoil and the Indian struggle. Anna Hazare was a man armed with impressive fortitude and a stubborn insistence on the potential of his Jan Lokpal bill. He presented his bill to India’s leaders and was invited to form part of the Joint Drafting Committee to hash out differences in the government’s version of the same document, as it existed. Failing to arrive at a compromise, Anna Hazare, took to the streets and instrumented an “Indefinite Fast” (not to be confused with a fast unto death). With solid media support, he entered jail as a celebrity and dramatically refused to countenance his release when officially allowed to do so. This scenario could never have played out in Iran, Syria, or Libya where thousands of protesters were murdered, jailed, tortured or had to leave their countries for fear of reprisals. Corruption in India is deeply entrenched, a social evil that has become synonymous with Indian governance. For the Indian middle class, Anna Hazare’s movement represents the first step in the reformation process. Its success and its future shape is still anybody’s guess. Anna Hazare’s greatest critics insist that the watchdog organization that he is intent on creating could be difficult to monitor and could end up becoming part of the problem. Other detractors say that orchestrated comparisons between Anna Hazare and Gandhi are little more than political grandstanding. But credit needs to be given to the fact that Anna aims to incorporate the country’s frustration into the democratic process. Yes, he

does undermine the workings of the parliament and supersedes elected representatives, but he is backed by an inexorable wave of anti-corruption sentiment and a swell of popularity. Anna is now one of India’s own institutions, hallowed in government hallways as an apt representative of people power.

Support in United States

On October 20, I received an email update from Sheth on the U.S. NRI IAC roadmap meeting of October 17. “Most people who met on Monday displayed tremendous energy and commitment to support IAC movement. I firmly believe that NRIs can make tremendous impact with this coordinated effort,” going on to add, “this coalition is about including everyone united to support goals established in this meeting.” Those present at the meeting nominated Unmesh Sheth and Prakash Aggarwal as the Ambassadors. Kalyan Raman and Mohan Uttarwar, with mentoring from Raj Mashruwala, were nominated to undertake the support of the referendum on the Lok Pal and the Foundation for Democratic Reforms in India(FDRI) was appointed as the channeling organization. The Jan Lokpal bill, framed by members of the IAC movement, is likely to be taken up in the December/January session of parliament. One member of the Palo Alto assemblage asked the critical question, “Is there any apprehension that the government may not be sincere?” The answer was quick and blunt, “We are working on that assumption.” Other organizations that have shown support for the IAC include NRI Indians against Corruption ( Indians for Collective Action (ICA), Lok Satta, SEVA, and Foundation for Democratic Reforms in India (FDRI). Sheth points out that “the underlying roots of each organization is pretty much the same. We want to give the marginalized poor a voice,” adding, “IAC is the real thing.” When questioning a handful of Indians on the street about the IAC and or Occupy Wall Street movements, the majority answered that they support both movements, though I did encounter some fringe responses: “I don’t like protests. Just a waste of time,” and “Protesting on Zuccotti Park is OK, but in Times Square—interfering with tourists and all?”

Wisconsin and Occupy Wall Street

The phrase “Arab Spring” is now part of every vernacular. In the words of Thorbjoern Jagland, the Chairman of the Nobel Peace Prize Committee, “We have included the Arab Spring in this prize, but we have put it in a particular context, namely, if one fails to include the women in the revolution and the new democracies, there will be no democracy.” This year the Peace Prize was awarded to Tawakel Karman, a Yemeni human rights activist and founder of the group, Women Journalists Without Chains along with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and peace activist Leymah Gbowee from Liberia. Let’s create the Facebook page: Anna Hazare for the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize. It’s about time!

at the state courts and state legislature, the protests lost momentum by end of May. At the height of its energy, the Wisconsin protests drew close to 100,000 people and by June 16, that number had dwindled to about 1,000. However, energy from the movement was channeled into a recall process for several Republican Senators in Wisconsin (Walker is immune from the recall process till 2012) with limited success. As of now, a petition drive is on to collect enough signatures for the recall of the Governor. In contrast, the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) did not have a flashpoint that arose of any particular policy disagreement. It began very quietly and organically with a group


In early February 2011, thousands of state workers filled the square around the Wisconsin Capitol, yelling, “This will not stand.” They had taken umbrage at Republican Governor Scott Walker’s controversial measure that would strip the state’s public employee unions of their bargaining rights and impose greater salary pay cuts to pay for budget shortfalls. The tenacity of the protesters drew instant comparisons to the Arab Spring. But after a series of setbacks india currents • dec. ’11 – jan. ’12 • 17

another volunteer says, “We are against greed. I need to be able to convince my kids that they’ll have a future to look forward to.” But both Storms and Wong cannot give an answer as to what the solution should be. They both believe that protesting is the solution, because the “government cannot solve the problem.” Occupy San Jose It is not entirely true that the only comparison that can be drawn of disenfranchised youth camping in front between the Arab Spring and Occupy Wall of the Grecian colonnades and glass-fronted Street is that both involve “frustrated youth skyscrapers of Wall Street. Numbering in the loosely organized using social media.” Yes, hundreds to begin with, these young people the bloggers and social media updaters in represented a generation whose future appears the United States aren’t at risk of being to be in jeopardy in an age of economic uncermowed down by brutal despots. But brutaltainty and income inequality. ity does not necessarily validate the process Despite ostensibly sharing the disaffectof people’s involvement. The goal of most edness of another movement that created a protests is ultimately the same— to ignite fair amount of noise in 2010, the Tea Party, opinion and force participation in a national OWS was largely ignored by the media in the process. beginning. Media personalities quick to broadIn America, the last time anything like cast the Tea Party’s message of dissatisfacthis occurred was in December 1964 when tion with government carefully refrained from 25,000 people marched in protest against comment, with even the home town paper, the Vietnam War and the size of the protest the New York Times, not caring to provide any was the largest that America had ever seen. coverage. Fox News dismissed the protesters It led to Lyndon Johnson’s refusal to run for as “dirty smelly hippies.” Even National Public a second term. Radio (NPR) only started covering the event a Globally, the movement has spread week after the first protest. through social media updates and websites. But the movement not only persisted, it On October 15, 2011, a manifesto was pubgrew in strength, as its demands for justice against Wall Street excesses and focus on jobs and education found a chord with other young people around the country. And smart social media use, in an eerie parallel to their brothers and sisters in the Middle East, provided the impetus for growth and allowed non-participants to support the movement with money and pizzas. Today OWS seems to be a movement that is gaining a foothold across America, one city at a time, and across the globe, one country at a time From New York, Boston, Chicago, and Philadelphia to Seattle, Los Angeles, and San Jose, public squares have filled up with iPhone wielding reformists. OWS protests range from disapproval of corporate greed, disproportional economic distinctions, foreclosed homes, to demands for debt relief, infrastructure investment, campaign finance reform and lower college costs, and even to complaints about security at airports and hormone injected produce. Critics decry the movement as not having a clear objective, but the real point is the presentation of a mass outcry. Travis Storms, a student at Santa Clara University was camped out in front of the San Jose City Hall, as part of the Occupy San Jose movement. “I’m here because my mom is on disability. Her pay has been cut and the government refuses to help.” Christy Wong, 18 • india currents • dec. ’11 – jan. ’12

lished called United for #GlobalDemocracy. The document did not hesitate to link the movement to the Arab Spring. “Inspired by our sisters and brothers in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria, Bahrain, New York, Palestine-Israel, Spain and Greece, we too call for a regime change: a global regime change. In the words of Vandana Shiva, the Indian activist, today we demand replacing the G8 with the whole of humanity—the G7,000,000,000.”

What Next?

The Arab Spring, the India Against Corruption and the Occupy Wall Street movements are historical game changers. They stem from political and social dissonance and yet are peaceful attempts to effect change. All three have resulted in reevaluations of governmental process. Whether these global movements will be successful in their objectives remains to be seen. But their lasting legacy will be the message that meaningful progress and social justice can only happen when the citizens of a country do not abdicate their responsibilities to their representatives, and that the disenfranchised and the weak can be a powerful force if they act collectively. The revolutions of 2011 are warning shots to repressive regimes the world over and a rallying cry for social equity, much like previous revolutions, except the pitchforks have been replaced by smartphones, and the manifestos are released 140 characters at a time. n With inputs from Vidya Pradhan. Jaya Padmanabhan is a prize-winning fiction writer.

The Role of Social Media

There is a new player in politics and that is social media. Despite filters, blocks and shutdowns of popular websites, social media has emerged as a reckonable participant. The inventions of the late Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg have become indispensable currents of discourse be it social, political or intellectual. Critics have typically decried Facebook and Twitter as platforms of vanity and selfobsession. However, as the Arab Spring has proven, when harnessed, these social media sites can be used as a rallying center, a community hub that is good for a great deal more than organizing like fests. Wael Ghonim, a Google employee, landed on the Time 100, a list of 100 most influential people in 2011, for sparking pro-democracy demonstrations in Egypt with his Facebook status updates and protest events. His We Are All Khaled Saeed Facebook page (named for an Egyptian man tortured and killed in Alexandria) had 400,000 members before Tahrir Square got flooded with protesters. Since then every push for democracy has featured social media, be it blog sites, Facebook, Twitter or online conversation boards. On August 15, India’s Independence Day, Anna Hazare and his cause had about 500,000 mentions in status updates, and Twitter messages. A couple of days later that number catapulted to 9 million, supporting the viral spread of his popularity and cementing Anna’s status as India’s cause célèbre. A recent New York Times report stated that about 200 Facebook pages and Twitter accounts have been created in just a few weeks seeking volunteers to spearhead the Occupy Wall Street protests in different cities. Over 900 protest events have been set up on There are 10,000 to 15,000 posts an hour on Twitter on average about Occupy Wall Street, with most people downloading and sharing links from news sites, Tumblr, YouTube, and Trendsmap. Smart devices that act as megaphones to protesters’ thoughts and activities have become partners of the protest movement.

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india currents • dec. ’11 – jan. ’12 • 23


election 2012

Rajesh C. Oza

The Masks We Wear Consensual contact, racial profiling, and political (in)correctness


day before Halloween, 2008, a few of my Palo Alto neighbors went to City Hall for a discussion about the robberies that had disturbed our residential equanimity. With the community demanding action, the Police Chief responded with tough-talk: “I have told my staff that I want you, when you’re out on the street, and you see African-Americans who, somehow, and these are vague descriptions, we don’t have real finite descriptions, I want you to go and have consensual contacts initially, to see who these people are.” No sign of weakness from the rambling Chief. The spree of robberies would end, and our happy population could return to shopping sprees. “Consensual contacts” would save the day. Less then a week before Barack Obama would be elected President (and Commander in Chief) of the United States, Palo Alto’s Chief of Police was suggesting that being stopped and questioned by her officers was consensual. Her carelessly honest comment drew me away from the middle-aged, feelgood excitement of the political campaign that I was involved in, and took me back nearly 30 years to Northwestern University, in Evanston, IL, a long, bumpy elevated train ride from Chicago’s Grant Park, where President-elect Obama would celebrate what many believed to be a history-changing victory of hope over hubris. Raj Oza, some 30 years after his student days

24 • india currents • dec. ’11 – jan. ’12


t was 1980, and I was a senior in college. To honor a friend who had died in a hitand-run accident, I had made a pledge to not shave throughout my final undergraduate year. My heavy, dark, and unruly facial hair became a second pair of eyes, allowing me to see, and be seen, in different ways. Walking to and from classes on the campus stretch of Sheridan Road, I kept my head down, lost in grief. Gradually, I began to make eye contact. In the fall, some of the white kids and all of the Indians nodded a neighborly hello. Except for slightly different shades of skin color, we shared much: hairstyle, walking style, the sidewalk, and perhaps aspirations beyond college. As the school year progressed, the snow piles grew deep and dirty, and my beard grew thick and curly. After Winter Break, the bitter cold off of Lake Michigan insisted on a knit cap to cover my head. Between the cap and the beard, my eyes continued to make contact with fellow pedestrians. The black students, who had ignored me in the fall (and whose ignorance I had reciprocated), began nodding hello with a quick, upward jerk of the chin. Like a choral group that falls silent when a separate part comes to life, the whites and the Indians no longer saw me; they looked right past me, keeping their chins tucked into their chests. Away from Sheridan Road, people tried to sell me dope and occasionally young toughs told me to go back to the Ayatollah. I lacked the patience to explain that as a Hindu Brahmin born in India, drugs and Iran were as foreign to me as death was to a college kid. But my high-caste birth and my upperclass education didn’t protect me from consensual contact with the Chicago Police Department. As the child of frugal immigrants who worked day jobs and night jobs, I lived in a pre-gentrified part of Chicago and commuted to the university in Evanston. One cold night, walking home with a paper sack of groceries, I heard a car pull up alongside me; a young voice barked, “Hey, Boy!” Having grown up in Chicago, I knew that there was still a sizeable population which hurled that insult at black men, young and old. Although I wasn’t indifferent to the shame of being diminished, I could not imagine being addressed as a “boy.” I was deaf to the phrase. As the automobile stopped, I recognized it as a patrol car; the officer, who was perhaps

a year or two older than me, demanded, “Where’s the purse?” Puzzled, I mumbled, “Huh?” The cop glared at me and jumped out of his car. “Don’t ‘huh’ me, Boy. I said, where’s the purse!” I inferred that he was following up on a call about a robbery and had mistaken me for an “African-American perp:” brown face, black eyes, kinky beard. For a moment I thought I would clarify the mistake and be on my way. Instead, with an earnest voice that could be mistaken for that of a professor from the Northern suburbs, I said, “Excuse me, officer. What purse are you talking about?” Now it was his turn to be puzzled. “Oh. Just some confusion. Do you live around here?” “You pulled me over because you thought I was black, didn’t you.” “What? Why don’t you show me an ID.” I thought about the Illinois driver’s license in my wallet but decided to reverse the power play: I displayed my Northwestern student card. In a moment of respect for the Ivory Tower and its privileged denizens, the police officer said, “Oh, got it. So, what are you doing here?” Puffed with a false sense of importance, I called the cop out as a racist. “You probably do this all the time, don’t you? Picking up black kids for being black.” Power politics took one more ride on the teeter-tottering sidewalk. “Look, if you don’t want to come to the station, I suggest you go back to your fancy university.” I had had enough consensual contact for a lifetime and headed home, not knowing that someday I would move to touchy-feely Palo Alto.


hile safely ensconced in our candywrapped community, we Palo Altans welcome consensual contact. The weekend before Halloween 2008, hundreds came to the plaza outside of City Hall and to offices across the Silicon Valley to make “Obama for America” calls to strangers in battleground states. One of my roles in the campaign was to open new phone banking sites. A few weeks before the election, we opened an office in East Palo Alto (or EPA for short), a largely black and Hispanic community that is geo-

graphically across Highway 101 from Palo Alto, but socially, economically, and psychologically 101 years away. Before an IKEA and Home Depot were built in East Palo Alto, we Palo Altans didn’t drive to EPA; we drove through it.

East Palo Alto is a largely black and Hispanic community that is geographically across Highway 101 from Palo Alto, but socially, economically, and psychologically 101 years away. At numerous Camp Obamas at which I was asked to lead newly recruited campaign workers, we had standing-room-only attendance. Those camps truly felt like a “rainbow nation” of old, young, and middle-aged, of male, female, and transgender, of poor, rich, and middle-class, of management, union, and entrepreneurial, of citizen, immigrant, and undocumented, of religious, agnostic, and atheistic, and, of course, of black, white, and shades-of-brown. Indeed, we even had Democrats, Independents, and “Disgusted-with-W” Republicans. As such, I imagined that with all the enthusiasm that Senator Obama had generated, I would have little trouble encouraging volunteers to come to our new office in East Palo Alto. As it turned out, people keen on staking their claim on presidential history were willing to sit outside our Palo Alto office in the rain and cold rather than drive a few minutes to our dry, warm, and empty office across the highway. My lesson learned from the campaign of 2008: unlike our then Police Chief who commanded her officers to make contact with African-Americans, most Palo Altans were uneasy about going to EPA and interacting with our eschewed eastern neighbors somewhere over the highway, somewhere over the rainbow. Of course, as America’s election for President proceeds in 2012, if our esteemed Eastern neighbors from across the country make their way from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, DC to Palo Alto, CA, we’ll be more than happy to welcome Barack and Michelle to our leafy neighborhoods. We’ll give them a big hug and happily snap iconic photos of them kissing our babies. I suppose one can’t be too careful about consensual contact. n Rajesh C. Oza, an Organization Alignment Consultant, reviews books for India Currents and writes the “Satyalogue” column for Khabar. india currents • dec. ’11 – jan. ’12 • 25

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india currents • dec. ’11 – jan. ’12 • 31

I C ask a lawyer

Naresh Rajan

The Mechanics of Prosecution Q A

Help! I've been wrongfully arrested. Can I get my case dismissed?

From time to time I talk to defendants in criminal cases who are adamant that their cases must be dismissed. They, typically, have no clue how the system works and why outright dismissal is a pipe dream. A brief overview of the mechanics of a prosecution might be illuminating. First, the police investigate an incident and write a report. They then send this report to the district attorney’s (DA) office recommending that the DA file charges. The report is often written in a way to make the arrestee look guilty. Police are often very honest and good reporters, but sometimes they omit key facts or put a bit of spin on the situation. The DA’s office decides whether or not to file charges. They have sole discretion over whether and what charges to file and their decisions critically affect the outcome of a case. At the time they decide to file charges, especially in misdemeanors, all they are look-

32 • india currents • dec. ’11 – jan. ’12

ing at is the accused person’s criminal history and a police report. The report may be well investigated and written in a balanced and fair manner. Or, it could be that the officer has decided that the accused must be lying or guilty and therefore, the report is written with a slant to make the defendant look bad. Filing cases is often a hurried and haphazard affair. The district attorneys who decide whether or not to initiate a prosecution typically do not get any input from the accused’s side before making the decision. Since cases must be filed in a timely manner, (within two days of an incident when the accused is in custody, for example) there is pressure to move quickly. Second, district attorneys tend to believe that everything that they read in a police report is absolute truth. In my experience, they are less concerned about the veracity of the prosecution's witnesses, but tend to disbelieve anything coming from an accused’s mouth. It is an uphill task to convince them otherwise. Finally, there is the distinct possibility

that the case does have merit and that the person arrested did in fact break the law. The vast majority of cases end with a defendant entering a guilty or no contest plea to some charge. In my personal experience, over 95 percent of cases end with pleas. With those kinds of numbers, district attorneys can safely believe that the police report accurately recorded the event. The thing to remember is that there is very little oversight to the exercise of discretion by a district attorney’s office. The district attorney is an elected official, but there is very little that people can do to influence his or her policies until the next election. If you still think your case should be dismissed, the best thing to do is to get an attorney to take a look at the case, conduct an independent investigation, and approach the district attorney informally or take it up in the court with formal proceedings. n Naresh Rajan is an attorney in San Mateo County. Email



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.

December 2011


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 December 2011. 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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Preference Dates for India 1st 2A 2B 3rd 4th

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Note: For December, 2A numbers subject to per-country limit are available to applicants with priority dates beginning February 8, 2009, and earlier than March 22, 2009.

EMPLOYMENT-BASED VISA DATES Preference Dates for India 1st Current 2nd March 15, 2008 3rd August 1, 2002 Other June 22, 2002 Workers 4th Current Certain Current Religious Workers 5th Current Targeted Current 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:


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These Are A Few of My Favorite Books


hile Indian writers did not win any coveted literary awards in 2011, several award-winning and best-selling authors did come out with new books, such as Aravind Adiga’s Last Man in Tower and Chetan Bhagat’s Revolution 2020. What is remarkable, though, is the many works that referenced either the Indian or the Indian American experience, highlighting the emergence of India as an important player in the global literary landscape. American writer Jonathan Franzen, best known for his 2001 epic The Corrections, introduced Lalitha, an Indian American character in his 2011 work, Freedom. Another award-winning American author, Ann Patchett, decided to make the central character of her most recent novel, State of Wonder, an Indian American doctor. For desis and those intrigued by desi culture, 2011 has been a deliciously gourmand experience. So how does a bibliophile pick from the many offerings of this productive year? India Currents’ intrepid book reviewers are here to help! Here they each pick their favorite book. Whether literary or plain entertaining, each book struck a chord with our reviewers, and we hope these little samplings will encourage you to dive into the marvelously diverse world of desi literature. Happy reading!

What Price Genius?

SERIOUS MEN by Manu Joseph. W. W. Norton & Company: New York. Paperback. 310 pages. $14.95. Looking for something thoughtful and funny for your reading pleasure? I prescribe Manu Joseph’s Serious Men. This novel by “India’s most stylish writer” is both a laugh-out-loud and an I-know-something-you-don’t tale. The seriousness with which the novel’s characters take their lives and petty personal crusades is what ultimately makes this novel so comical. Serious Men is peopled with scientists whose heads are in the clouds more literally than figuratively, but the principal character is a revenge-hungry Dalit who stands up to his superiors at an agency where space is contemplated like babies contemplating their new-found belly buttons. Boldly pitting the Dalit assistant against the entire Brahmin scientific community results in a well-rounded satire on Indian social conventions, and how both ends of the collective spectrum pull and tug at each other. Tackling the caste-class-religion issues of the day in a novel that pokes fun, examines, and questions them all is serious stuff and seriously funny. Serious Men points out that it is our ability to think, plot, connive, plan, demand, coerce, blackmail, and have epiphanies that make humans so tolerably absurd and absurdly tolerable. Joseph proves that it is only in this world that there can be debates over the speed and velocity at which news travels in the same environment where people argue whether a once-Hindunow-Buddhist is a good Christian. Seriously. —Jeanne E. Fredriksen

A Treat for Lovers of Historical Fiction TIGER HILLS by Sarita Mandanna. Grand Central Publishing. Paperback. 468 pages. $24.99. An undercurrent of melancholy threads through this superbly written tale. Tragedy is never very far, and when it strikes, poignant, heart-rending sadness spreads like a slow pain. Pick up this book only if you are prepared for the intensity of doomed love that is too painful, of feelings that are too tender, of hurt that is too deep. This lyrical, historical romance is set in the hills of Coorg in the age of Empire. The heroic Kambeymada Machaiah, the strong-willed Devi, and the sensitive Devanna represent the archetypal tragic love triangle. Deeply touching and achingly well written, this book will take you back to every doomed romance, every lost love, every aching loss in your life. The writing of the tiger-killer’s hunt scene is poetic, as is the depiction of his heroism on the barren mountains of Afghanistan. Subaltern viewpoints are refreshingly represented—that Europeans never washed their bottoms, for instance is an inversion of scorn that provides a new perspective of the relationship between rulers and subjects. Rich historical detail, the period atmosphere of the British Raj, and Mandanna’s breathtakingly beautiful writing make this a memorable read. —Geetika Pathania Jain

34 • india currents • dec. ’11 – jan. ’12


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A Scholarly Approach THE HINDUS, AN ALTERNATIVE HISTORY by Wendy Doniger, Penguin USA. Paperback. 770 pages. $25. The Hindus, An Alternative History is the latest offering from Wendy Doniger, a world-renowned Sanskritist. As the title suggests, the book is but one interpretation of the evolution of Hindu thought. This is an interpretation that seeks to read between the lines of ancient Hindu texts and tease out the voice of the subaltern. With the texts as a foundation, Doniger interprets recurring themes including the symbolism of animals such as the horse and the dog (representing power and impurity, respectively), the notion of ahimsa, the voice of women, and lower castes. Doniger’s thorough scholarship is evidenced throughout, whether in the systematic treatment of the history of the subcontinent or in the sheer depth of the comparative analysis, from the Upanishads to the Vedas to the seemingly arcane Periya Puranas. The Hindus, much like more recent and popular nonfictional works about 21st century India, also touches upon the idea of multiplicity and diversity. How else can one explain opposing concepts such as extreme asceticism, renunciation, and monism in the Upanishads on the one hand and opulence and the Kama Sutra on the other. The Hindus is no light summer-time beach read. At 770 pages it demands serious reading. But the crisp language, tongue-in-cheek witticisms, and an engaging writing style compensate for the length and, at times, heavy prose. A must-read for any student of Indian philosophy and thought. —Girija Sankar

A Rain Forest Mystery STATE OF WONDER by Ann Patchett. Harper Perennial. Paperback. 368 pages. $15.99. Ann Patchett’s State of Wonder is a literary mystery that will take you deep into the heart of the Amazon, where her Indian American protagonist Marina Singh goes to find out how her colleague, Anders, died and to track down a man named Swenson, the only person who knows what happened. At the core of the plot is an Amazon tribe where the women conceive well past their child-bearing years. A shroud of mystery envelops the whereabouts of Dr. Swenson, who has been charged by the company to research the tribe’s unusual fertility, and whose only communication over two years has been the aerogramme bearing the news of Anders’ death. Along with tracking down Swenson, Marina also has to deal with personal issues surfacing from the past that led her to give up a career in medicine. Patchett’s descriptions of the flora and fauna of the Amazon and tribal culture are stunning and make for an tense, atmospheric reading experience. “A ululation of voices exploded the night, the ringing sound of countless tongues hitting the roofs of countless mouths. It filled the entire jungle and poured up the river in a wave.” The end of the novel is wonderfully unpredictable. —Tara Menon

Still Crazy After All These Years STEVE JOBS by Walter Isaacson. Simon and Schuster. Hardcover. 627 pages. $35. 1968. A 13-year-old boldly asks HP co-founder Bill Hewlett for spare parts, receives the parts, and in the bargain gets an internship for the summer. Crazy. 1972. The bold kid enrolls in a college, only to drop out after a semester. Sitting in on courses he cares about, he learns that hard-earned and deeply felt knowledge lasts a lifetime. Crazy. 1974. Now 19, he leaves his job as a technician at a video game company to find a guru in India. Never finds the guru, but as the hippies used to say, he “finds himself.” Crazy. 1976-2011. The teenager grows up, starts a Silicon Valley company with a buddy, leads its mercurial growth, and is ousted by the clown he brought in as CEO. Only 30, his entrepreneurial spirit burns bright. He invests his money, his passion, his life into two new ventures. One is a financial failure, the other a success. Both become the basis for a phenomenal return to the company he founded. Crazy. Beyond fleshing out this bare-bones biography, Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs reminds readers of Apple’s commercial mantra: “The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.” And while it might be a bit crazy to include a bio of a Syrian American tech entrepreneur in India Currents, please consider the following on “experiential wisdom” from Steve Jobs: “The people in the Indian countryside don’t use their intellect like we do, they use their intuition instead…. Coming back after seven months in Indian villages, I saw the craziness of the Western world as well as its capacity for rational thought.” —Rajesh C. Oza 36 • india currents • dec. ’11 – jan. ’12




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More Fodder For the Bibliophile

Here are a few other books that might be of interest to the diaspora CAMUS DOES A DOUBLE TAKE by M.R. Pamidi, K.B. Anand, Meera Pamidi. Kindle e-book. $9.99. Is the United States going to concede and play second fiddle to China? Will this superpower imitate ancient Rome and other empires and face an irreversible decline? The authors beg to disagree and believe while America will certainly have short-term hiccups, in the long run the United States will return to its heydays. The book is a refreshing take on mainstream U.S. politics, economy, and entrepreneurship in the age of social networking. TEN AVATARS by Shahana Dattagupta. Flying Chickadee. 150 pages. $12.99 Ten avatars of women are explored through the telling of little incidents and big turning points in the lives of 10 female protagonists: a little child amidst parental dissonance, a girl at puberty becoming vulnerable to predators, a cynical teenager struggling with her national identity, a young graduate student returning to travel in her native land, and others. This collection of stories weaves together intimate cross-cultural experiences, with variegated vignettes unique to the Indian American expatriate experience in contemporary times, yet reveals the universal essence of being female. LOVE IN A HEADSCARF by Shelina Zahra Janmohamed. Beacon Press. Paperback. 272 pages. $15. In this memoir, Janmohamed, one of Britain’s leading female Muslim writers, takes readers on her journey to find “the one.” Navigating through the always complicated world of dating, Janmohamed’s search to find true love takes her from social mixers at her North London mosque to speed-dating sessions in the city and even to snow-capped Mount Kilimanjaro. PERFECTLY UNTRADITIONAL by Sweta Srivastava Vikram. Niyogi Books. Hardcover. 222 pages. New York City-based writer, Shaili Kapoor, is shocked to find out about her mother’s untimely death in India. By the time she reaches India for the last rites, she discovers a deep secret about the mother she worshipped and the father she grew up to loathe. Perfectly Untraditional unravels unconventional and untold tales of families, friendships, love, loyalty, relationships, and tradition. FROM SLAVE TO UNTOUCHABLE by Paul Kalra. Antenna Publishing. Paperback. 302 pages. $23.95. Class-system scholar Paul Kalra challenges the assumption that the Civil War was fought to end black slavery. He asserts that civil war could have been avoided had early Americans adopted the Catholic 38 • india currents • dec. ’11 – jan. ’12

slave code, which recognized slaves’ humanity. He traces slavery in the United States to the Protestant slave code, which created distinct classes of slaveholders and non-slaveholders, and denied black slaves citizenship. Kalra weaves an impressive array of perspectives into his well-crafted story, and concludes by demonstrating that the legacy of the slaveholders’ self-serving Constitution persists today, rendering blacks in America an essentially “untouchable” class. FOR SEVEN LIFETIMES by Vatsala and Ehud Sperling. Inner Tradtitions. Kindle ebook. $9.99. For Seven Lifetimes chronicles the yearlong written courtship of a cross-cultural couple as they share their beliefs on sexuality, gender roles, careers, parenthood, and religion, and reveals the secret of a fulfilling relationship based on shared values and spiritual growth. TO A MOUNTAIN IN TIBET by Colin Thubron. Harper Collins. Paperback. 240 pages. $24.99. This is the account of a journey to the holiest mountain on earth, the solitary peak of Kailas in Tibet, sacred to one-fifth of humankind. To both Buddhists and Hindus it is the mystic heart of the world and an ancient site of pilgrimage. It has never been climbed. Even today, under Chinese domination, the people of many religions circle the mountain in devotion to different gods. Colin Thubron reached it by foot along the Karnali River, the highest source of the Ganges. His journey is an entry into the culture of today’s Tibet, and a pilgrimage in the wake his mother’s death and the loss of his family. QUARANTINE: STORIES by Rahul Mehta. Harper Perennial. Paperback. 224 pages. $14.99 With incisive, cunning prose, Rahul Mehta sets off into uncharted literary territory. The characters in Quarantine, openly gay Indian American men, struggle to maintain relationships with their families and cultural traditions. Estranged from their cultural in-group and still set apart from larger society, the young men in these lyrical, provocative, emotionally wrenching stories find themselves quarantined.

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Perfect Sunday


t the end of the day yesterday, as we were eating dinner at the only open restaurant in Elk River (an old logging town turned hunter’s vacation paradise), my seven-year-old son, Ranjan, said, “This was the best Sunday I’ve ever had in my entire life.” We had decided on a whim to go see Elk Creek Falls. I came home around noon from taking the kids to Sunday school. Ranjan attended Jewish Sunday school, and I took the three-year-old, Samir, to a little Hindu “baby chanting” class while we waited for Ranjan to be done. Who would have thought we’d find both a Jewish community and a Hindu community here in this little college town in northern Idaho? I tried not to think about the fact that we might soon have to move away. I’d brought home Ranjan’s Sunday-school friend, Elliot, for the afternoon. My husband, David, was sweeping out the garage, so we left the car in the driveway and got out. It was a sunny, breezy day, and the yard was dappled with yellow aspen leaves. With the yellow leaves still on the trees, it looked like the whole

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40 • india currents • dec. ’11 – jan. ’12

place was suffused with sun. I remembered this from last year, soon after we’d moved into this house—the beautiful aspen leaves in the yard, making fall so golden. The air was fresh, too. The field-burning, which made everything smell hot and smoky, must be finished. “I think we’re going to be OK,” David said. He’d spent the morning paying bills. We were on the edge with our finances because David’s job had been downgraded to part-time, although he still spent all day at the office, trying to wrestle things into shape. Since then I had been looking for work but had yet to land a job. “I know things will be turning around with me really soon,” he said, dragging the recycling boxes away from the wall and sweeping behind them. He shoved the boxes back and moved on to sweep between the kids’ wheeled toys. I stood in the driveway. I was reluctant to leave the sunshine to step into the dark garage. I hated being up in the air like this, not knowing what was going to happen with our finances or our lives. My dad always said, “These Americans love to take risks.” I resented his stereotype. Dad acted as though he’d just come over from India recently, as though he hadn’t been living in Ohio for almost 40 years, as though he didn’t finally become an American citizen himself ten years ago. Still, Dad was right in the sense that David took a big risk in leaving his tenure-track job in D.C. to take the helm of a new regional economic development organization out here. I had been nervous about David’s decision. I was more like my dad in the sense of being risk-averse. But I’d also wanted to get out of D.C. Unfortunately, shortly after we’d arrived the economy tanked, much of the funding for the organization dried up, and if David couldn’t raise more money he’d be out of a job entirely within months. “Let’s rake leaves!” Ranjan shouted. He and Elliot ran for the rake, which was leaning against one wall of the garage. “Me too!” Samir yelled. I had to separate the three of them and get them to agree to take turns. I gave Samir and Elliot brooms to use in the meantime. They all ran out on the lawn and began pushing leaves around. “At least we’re here for the time being,” I said. We’d worked so hard to leave DC, to sell our overpriced little house and leave behind terrorism threats, crime, air pollution, bad schools, and awful traffic. We’d made it. We

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had bought our house, our wonderful spacious house with three bedrooms and two and a half bathrooms and actual closets! “Maybe we’ll get lucky and we won’t have to move again.” “We’re already lucky,” he said. “Don’t worry so much. Let’s go somewhere today and enjoy this beautiful weather.” We decided on Elk Creek Falls. I went inside to call Elliot’s mother to tell her of our plans, and to pack some lunch and snacks. David got the kids buckled in and took his place behind the wheel. The drive was beautiful, the black road unwinding like a ribbon between the yellow fields and hills. I breathed and tried to will myself to be calm. We’ll be OK, we’ll be OK. As we drove, the dark pine-covered hills in the distance stayed still, never seeming to come closer to us. “We’d have to drive for hours from D.C. to get to anyplace like this,” David said. The kids were quiet in the back, listening to Raffi on the CD player singing about six little ducks that he once knew. There were almost no other cars on the road. At one point, a light yellow field rose up against the sky and that was all there was out that side of the window: the luminous field on the hill against the pale blue sky. I almost pointed it out to everyone. But I didn’t. Let people enjoy it on their own, I thought, without my exhortations to look and to appreciate. “I’ve got a new idea for fundraising,” David said. “With the foundations drying up like this, we’ve gotta get creative.” I didn’t really want to think about David’s work. It was too depressing. But I said, to be supportive, “That’s great.” David launched into his idea, which involved some sort of new internet tool. I passed back sandwich quarters as the kids requested them. “Do you want peanut butter and jelly, or cheese and mustard?” I called. The pine trees were black and green around us. We drove through little towns that hardly made a mark on the landscape, a few low houses and long metal buildings and then the town was gone. I was still amazed at the fact that we were in Idaho, of all places! Just before we reached the town of Elk River, we saw a sign for Elk Creek Falls and turned down a gravel road into the Clearwater National Forest. “We’ll have to wash the car



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india currents • dec. ’11 – jan. ’12 • 41

again,” David said. There were so many gravel roads in Idaho. You went on an afternoon trip and came back with your car caked in dust. “I want to help!” Samir shouted. “Will you hold the hose for me?” David asked. “Yes. I’m a big boy!” We parked and got everyone out of the car. I carried the bag with water and snacks. Ranjan and Elliot raced each other to the toilets, where they took turns in the men’s shack. Samir hopped around clutching his crotch. “Don’t you want to use the potty?” I coaxed. “Don’t have to,” he said. “Sure you do. Come on. I’ll help you.” “No.” He ducked out of my grasp. “He can go in the woods,” David said. Samir pulled down the front of his pants, held his penis out, thrust forward his pelvis, and whizzed expertly onto the plants outside the toilet buildings. Then the three boys trotted down the path through the trees. David took the bag of snacks from me and grasped my hand. “How are things going with you?” he asked. “We hardly get a chance to talk.” “I’ve been sending out applications.” I kicked at a stone as we walked. I didn’t want to tell him that I’d been applying for work all over the country. He was still determined to stay here. “Any news about that marketing job at the university?” “If I’d had any good news, I would have told you about it already.” David was silent. I didn’t mean to snap at him. I had pinned a lot of hopes on that marketing job, which would pay enough, with David’s part-time income, to keep us here. I had trouble being optimistic about my future, the way he usually was with his future. “I’m just afraid,” I said. “Afraid of what?” Now David sounded exasperated. “You know. About our finances.” “Things are going to be fine. I’ve got that big grant coming in soon. We can hold out until then.” “That grant isn’t big enough for you to get paid for full-time work. And what happens when that runs out?” “You worry too much,” David said. He tried to put an arm around my waist, but I veered out of his grasp. “You don’t worry enough,” I retorted. “Worrying isn’t going to help. The universe will take care of us.” “God helps those who help themselves.” “It’s a beautiful day,” David said. “We’re in the woods. The kids are happy. We all have enough to eat. We have a roof over our heads.” I sighed. We’d had this same conversation so many times, with no resolution. He was right that worrying wouldn’t help, but his cheerfulness bugged me. How could he be so happy when it was his fault we were in this mess? He’d 42 • india currents • dec. ’11 – jan. ’12

wanted this job, even though he knew it was risky. Yet I couldn’t have the satisfaction of pinning all the blame on him. I had to admit that I’d wanted to leave, too. I’d imagined that our new life would be a kind of paradise. How had paradise turned into just the usual stress and anxiety? “Isn’t there some god you can pray to?” he asked. “Who’s that Hindu god who gets rid of obstacles?” “Ganesha,” I said. “Why don’t you say a prayer to Ganesha.” We had just learned a prayer to Ganesha during Samir’s Sunday school.“Shri Vakratunda, Mahakaaya,” I began. Samir looked around at the familiar words and tune. I didn’t want to continue. I didn’t get the sense that Ganesha cared whether or not I had obstacles in my path. “Sing it, Mommy,” Samir urged. “Shri Vakratunda, Mahakaaya,” I started again. “Koti Surya, Samaprabha.” I didn’t feel like going on. The song stuck in my throat. “Sing it!” Samir shouted. “Not now,” I said. “You sing it, if you want to.” David stopped, let go of my hand, and took the camera out of his jacket pocket.

Immediately all three children were flailing themselves at him. “Me! I want to take a picture!” “My turn! Give it to me!” David held the camera above his head. “The batteries are almost out,” he said. “Daddy will take the picture. Go stand over by that big fallen tree.” The kids clambered up on the log and David held the camera out, centering the kids in the frame. The camera whirred. “Let me see! Let me see!” They were flailing themselves at him again. David squatted down, the camera in his palms, and they all hunched over it. I looked over David’s shoulder too. Cute—the three of them, with their jackets in primary colors, against the brown and green of the woods. “I want to take a picture!” Samir wailed. “The batteries will run out,” I reminded him. Whenever we let Samir have the camera, he ran around with it like a maniac, shooting his feet, the sky, the table legs. David slipped the camera back in his pocket. Samir glared at us for a moment, then grasped my hand and continued walking. The older boys were ahead. Ranjan shouted, “Cadabra!” Elliot began making shooting noises



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Email: india currents • dec. ’11 – jan. ’12 • 43

with his mouth. They were apparently playing an imaginary Pokemon game, without the cards. “I can take a picture with my wiener,” Samir said. He put one hand down his pants and pulled up the organ in question. “Put your wiener back in your pants,” I said. I had no idea why he was so fascinated by his penis. He attributed all sorts of sentient characteristics to it. I didn’t recall Ranjan ever doing that. “My wiener has an eye,” he informed me, still grasping it. “Yes,” I said. “Put it back. It’s not polite to take your wiener out in public.” He wiggled it up and down. David started laughing, and I gave him the evil eye. “Time to say bye-bye.” I helped Samir tuck his tiny penis back into his underwear. He trotted away to join the older boys. David caught my eye and grinned. I smiled back and rolled my eyes. David grasped my hand and swung it as we walked along. Up ahead, all three boys were squatting down and looking at something on the ground. “Look! A monster worm!” Elliot shouted. When we reached the boys, they were observing the progress of a woolly-bear caterpillar across the forest path. “That’s a woolly-bear,” I said. “See how it has a red band across the middle?” “A what? A wildebeast?” Elliot asked. “Haven’t you ever seen a woolly-bear? Are they not so common anymore?” I straightened up to look at David. He shrugged. “I think they’re more common back east. It’ll turn into an Isabella Tiger moth.” “Like Isabella in my class?” Ranjan asked. He and Elliot both started giggling. As we walked down through the trees, we began hearing the falls crashing in the distance, very faint at first. The kids ran ahead, stopping to listen, looking around corners to find it. At the lookout we saw white water falling into a black onyx pool at the bottom, all set among the yellow grass, dark pine trees and black basalt rock. The kids climbed on the railings, and I held Samir’s arm as he tried to imitate the older boys. “Be careful,” I shouted above the din of the waterfall. “Don’t fall down the ravine.” “If he fell, he’d go rolling and bumping all the way down,” Ranjan observed. 44 • india currents • dec. ’11 – jan. ’12

I imagined what it would have been like to have come across this waterfall without the benefit of trails or railings. Had Lewis and Clark seen this? Just a waterfall suddenly in the wilderness. We had our snack there, sitting on a leaning bench: apple slices, crackers, and cookies. “I brought honey.” I unzipped a plastic bag, within which was a plastic container of honey. “Really?” David asked. “Why?” “Rosh Hashanah is coming up.” I always kept better track of Jewish holidays than David did. “We had apples and honey at Sunday school,” Ranjan said. He dragged a piece of apple through the honey in the bowl and lifted it, dripping, into his mouth. A string of honey fell onto his jacket. He wiped it with a finger and licked his finger. David selected an apple slice, dabbed it in the honey, and offered it to me. “We’ll have a sweet year,” he said. “And then I’ll get to say, ‘I told you so.’” “Be my guest.” I leaned over and took a bite of the apple David held. The honey was sweet and smooth on my tongue. We walked back up. David fed the kids bits of cookies every so often to keep them going. David thought this was very funny, that the kids could be persuaded to walk—even run—up the hill a certain distance for another crumb of cookie. There were no whole cookies left at that point. We went to the Elk River Café for dinner, where we were the only customers. The café was in a little shack, with old saws decorating the walls. One of the saws was painted with an animal scene. All three kids ordered chicken strips. Ranjan asked the server what shape of French fries would be served. “I like the straight kind,” he said. “With no skin.” “I’ll make sure to straighten ’em out for ya,” she said, and winked at us. After putting in our order, she brought out paper cups full of crayons. Samir scribbled industriously on his paper placemat, Ranjan drew a giant woollybear caterpillar, and Elliot worked on a portrait of his mother, with black hair, round circles of pink on her cheeks, and her lips puckered, ready to give him a kiss. When the food arrived, Elliot made a concoction out of ketchup, barbecue sauce, and ranch dressing. A white-haired man in a stained apron came out to visit with us. “Everything OK, folks?” “Try my sauce,” Elliot said. The cook stepped agreeably to Elliot’s side, picked up a French fry, dipped, bit, and looked thoughtfully up at the ceiling. “Terrific!” he proclaimed. Elliot beamed. It was just after the cook ambled back into the kitchen that Ranjan declared the day to be the best Sunday he’d ever had. David agreed. At first I was somewhat astonished by Ranjan’s words. How could this day be so wonderful

when we had such a big problem looming over our heads? Then, looking at my son’s clear face, filled with calm certainty, I realized that we’d done a good job of shielding our kids from our troubles. Ranjan had no doubt that a day in the woods with a friend was about as good as it got. On the drive home the sun was setting and since we were driving west we had a long sunset. The sky was blue above us, turning to glowing yellow ahead as the road met the horizon. As we drove, the black pine trees rose past us like black lace against the fading blue sky. Raffi sang about snow falling on Douglas mountain. It had been a wonderful day, as Ranjan had said, and I thought, what if we died now, like in that movie, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, where they crashed their car after having a perfect evening dancing? But we didn’t die. We got back to town, dropped Elliot off, apologized to his parents for bringing him home so late (7:45, as opposed to 7:00, which we’d promised). Then we went home and got ready for bed. By 9:30 of the next morning, I was back at my desk scouring the employment sites of universities, organizations—anyone who might need marketing help. Ranjan was at school, Samir was at his morning preschool, David was at his office. I got an e-mail from a place in Arkansas, asking to set up a phone interview, and I did an exhaustive Google search of the town before replying with convenient times. Then, just after I’d hit the send button, I received an e-mail from the marketing department of the University of Idaho, telling me that while my credentials were impressive, they had chosen another candidate. I deleted the e-mail reflexively, then undeleted it. I wondered whether to forward this to David. I decided to let him work in peace. I closed my eyes. Ganesha, please help. I don’t know what to do. I felt like a bit of a fool, praying only when things got difficult. Would Ganesha hold that against me? I opened my eyes and looked out the window. It glowed with bright leaves. I stepped to the windowsill and looked down, and saw that our back lawn, and everyone else’s backyard as far as I could see, was covered in gold.n Judges’ comments: “Perfect Sunday” was one of the stories that we picked for Honorable Mention then replaced with “Two Gurus” in the end. We both felt that “Perfect Sunday” showed a lot of promise. Jyotsna Sreenivasan’s first published story appeared in India Currents in 1992. Since then her stories have been published in numerous literary magazines and anthologies. Her novel, And Laughter Fell From the Sky, will be out in 2012 from HarperCollins. She is also the author of novels for children, and nonfiction reference books. She lives in northern Idaho.

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tax talk Khorshed Alam

14 Year-End Tax Tips


arlier is better when it comes to adopting a strategy to reduce your taxes. But even if time gets away from you, there are some year-end actions you can take to cut your taxes. Here are some last-minute tax strategies to consider:

Review Income and Deductions

It’s all in the timing. The most fundamental year-end tax move is to adjust the timing of income and deductions. If your income is high, deferring receipt of more income at the end of the year can save taxes. If you're close to the line on itemizing deductions, accelerating payment of deductible expenses might save taxes. The first step in timing is to know where you stand now. Then try to forecast where you'll be next year at this time. If you think your next year's tax rates will be higher than the current year’s, you might save money by switching tactics and accelerating income.

early, make an extra mortgage payment (the interest portion is deductible), pay your tax preparer for your year-end planning meetings, or opt to have dental work or elective surgery before the end of the year. Keep in mind that the IRS doesn’t allow a deduction for payments made before the services are performed.

If necessary, adjust your income tax withholding before year-end to avoid underpayment penalties. Withheld taxes are considered paid in equal amounts during the year regardless of when the tax is withheld. Therefore, a year-end adjustment to your withholding could help you avoid a penalty.

Be Charitable

If planning a wedding or divorce, be aware that your marital status as of Dec. 31 determines your tax status for the whole year. Changing the dates of a year-end event may save taxes.

You can make cash contributions or charge them on your credit card and take a current deduction. If you give appreciated property to charity, you’ll get to deduct the full market value. You may need an appraisal to determine the value of some property.

Bunch Your Payments

Some taxpayers find they have almost enough deductions to exceed the standard deduction. If this is your situation, try bunching payments into one year to take advantage of itemizing. The next year use the standard deduction, and then bunch your payments again the following year. This way you’ll itemize every other year. Other limits to watch are the medical expense limit and the miscellaneous itemized deduction limit. By bunching payments into one year or changing the timing of certain services, you may be able to get a deduction.

Pay Deductible Expenses Before Dec. 31

Paying your state income tax estimate before December 31 accelerates your federal deduction. You can also pay property taxes

46 • india currents • dec. ’11 – jan. ’12

Offset Capital Gains

Review your investment portfolio to determine whether you should sell some losers before year-end in order to offset capital gains you've already realized. Capital losses are first netted with capital gains and then are deductible against ordinary income (limited to $3,000 a year).

Check Exposure to the AMT

Postpone Income

If you’re due a bonus, see if your employer will hold off writing the check until January. If you own a cash-basis business, you can time receipt of income by waiting until close to the end of the year to send your December billings. You can’t defer taxes by simply not putting a check in the bank. If you have an unrestricted right to the money, it’s income in the year it's available—whether or not you choose to receive the funds.

Consider Your Marital Status

If you have tax preference items, do an alternative minimum tax (AMT) computation when you do your regular tax estimate. If the AMT will apply to you, you may still be able to shift income or deductions to avoid or reduce the tax.

Plan for Losses

Contribute to a Deductible IRA if You Qualify

You have until the April tax filing deadline to open an IRA and make a deductible contribution for the prior year.

Contribute to Your Company's 401(k)

If you have a 401(k) plan at work, make as large a contribution as you're allowed to make.

Set Up a Keogh Plan Before Dec. 31

If you’re self-employed and you want to make a contribution to a Keogh plan, the plan must be adopted before year-end, even though you have until the April tax filing deadline (or later if you get a filing extension) to make a deductible contribution for the previous year.

Avoid Underpayment Penalties.

Check your basis in any S corporation in which you are a shareholder and where you expect a loss this year. Be sure you have sufficient basis to enable you to take the loss on your tax return.

Look Before You Leap

A word of caution about year-end tax-cutting maneuvers: Don’t rush into transactions which you hope will reduce your tax bill. You might find out you’ve created other problems. Do not enter into transactions solely for the tax benefits. All investments should be economically sound. There are those who will sell you so-called “tax” solutions. Analyze such options carefully.n The information contained in this article is of a general nature. Please consult your tax attorney or finance professional for details. Khorshed Alam is a practicing CPA and business valuation analyst. Check out or call (408) 445-1120.

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Tour De Paris I

New York—Cartier, Louis Vuitton, Swarovski, Gucci, and Chanel, all lined up in a row. The only difference is that this historic street is capped at one end by the Arc de Triomphe and at the other by the Place de la Concorde—which leads on into the Jardin des Tuileries and then goes further on to the Louvre. The view from the center of the street is grand (beware of the traffic though!). Unlike New York, Paris is not at all intimidating. After exploring the Arc de Triomphe from every possible angle, we wandered along one of the streets around the Arc called Avenue de Victor Hugo, a y husband and I visited charming street with a fine canStreets of Paris Paris in June last sumopy of trees, fancy cars, mer. Summers in France are mostly sunny designer and pleasant, with occasional rain. Carry a boutiques, waterproof jacket no matter when you are and upgoing to Paris. Although we did not do a lot scale dinof planning in advance for this trip, the Froming opmer’s Guide to Paris was quite helpful. We tions. Far exhausted the list of the top attractions in the away from guidebook during our visit, yet there was still the crowds a lot to be discovered and experienced. of Champs We stayed at the Marriott in Champs Elysees, we Elysees simply because that was one of the were now hotels I could book using reward points. The among the experience was similar to that of the Marriott Arc de Triomphe locals. Pangs at Times Square in New York—always crowdof hunger made us retrace our steps ed and buzzing with energy. Even at 2 a.m. and we started our hunt for food. We walked you can hear live bands playing on the streets, by a couple of restaurants, trying to look for young Parisians partying in the open, and ressomething light on the stomach and the pocktaurants packed with tourists. If I hadn’t had et and finally came across a little café that the reward points, had just what we were looking for—French though, I’d rather onion soup and light sandwich on a baguette. stay somewhere in Napoleon’s tomb Service is poor in Paris. So be prepared for the Latin Quarters extended dinners and rude waiters. or Montmartre to It was time to wrap up our first day in the get a better sense and merge into the sea city of lights. Paris had already impressed me of real French culof tourists. We were surwith its energy. ture. prised to find out that in the summers the sun he next morning we decided to walk to erhaps it is sets at 11 p.m. in Paris. the Louvre. On the way, we admired the the child in series of historical monuments—the Grand me that is never he first evening in and Petit Palais (grand and small palaces), jet lagged when I Paris was spent walkThe Louvre pyramid at night Place de la Concorde, and the beautiful Jardin am vacationing. ing up and down one of des Tuileries (Tuileries Garden). This is one of We checked in the most famous street Paris’ most visited gardens thanks to its cenat the hotel and relaxed for a in the world—the Avenue tral location between the Louvre and Place de couple of hours, but the energy on the street des Champs-Élysées. To be honest, it was no la Concorde. There are several ice cream was too tempting and we decided to step out different than walking down Fifth Avenue in

fell in love with Paris at first sight. While walking on the cobbled streets of Paris, I came across high end fashion stores, quaint old bookshops, charming cathedrals, architectural splendors, lush green gardens, cafes full of patrons, and brasseries oozing with class and style. The French spend their weekends lounging in the gardens by the fountains, or partying in the open on the quays of the Seine. The Parisian free spirit is something to envy.





india currents • dec. ’11 – jan. ’12 • 51

parlors and cafés on the way to keep you entertained. Paris also has a well-connected metro system. The Louvre has been around since the 12th century and has served as a residence for François I and, later, the magnificent palace of the Sun King, Louis XIV. It was transformed into a museum in 1793. Today, the Louvre houses one of the greatest art collections ever. Some of its notable attractions are, of course, the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo. There is a wall right outside the hall that houses the Mona Lisa which carries all of Leonardo Da Vinci’s oeuvre in a row. It was tough to move away. We spent over six hours at the Louvre and felt that was not enough. There were certain sections that we simply scanned because there was too much to see and too little time. If you are an artist or a connoisseur of art, make sure you keep a day aside just for the Louvre. As we came out of the Louvre, we were now walking alongside the Seine. The quays of the Seine are like the ghats of the Ganges. You can see a lot of Paris by simply walking along the river. Our next destination was a bridge that has captured the interest of photographers through the ages—Pont Neuf. From the bridge, the view down the river is perhaps the most memorable in Paris. The bridge looked even better at night, when its detailed architecture was illuminated. Paris is divided into two by the river Seine. Perhaps the difference is more subtle now but, once, it must have been easy to distinguish between the Paris of

the rich and the Paris of the common people. We crossed the bridge and started walking toward our next destination—the Cathédrale de Notre-Dame. The intricate sculptures on the doors of Notre Dame are splendid. I stood at the door of the church where Napoleon was crowned king and looked at the stories depicted in the carvings. Notre Dame is a masterpiece of Gothic architecture. Right across the river from the Notre Dame is a small bookshop, “Shakespeare and Company,” that featured in the movie Before Sunset. It is a quaint store with a collection of books from around the world that attracts tourists and locals alike. As I walked outside the shop, the night slowly unfolded, and Notre Dame appeared even more appealing under the full moon. Before we called it a night, we decided to go back and capture the glass pyramid of the Louvre. It was a wise call. The palace that attracts millions of visitors during the day stood there alone and quiet. There were other amateur photographers like us, who were busy adjusting their lenses and camera settings to capture the reflections of the pyramid in the pool that surrounds it.


he next day we decided to head to Versailles for a day trip to explore the famous Palace of Versailles. Although the palace was quite magnificent, I was left unimpressed by the experience. It might be because it was a rainy day and the lines for tickets were four hours long.

Jardin De Tuileries


City of lights 52 • india currents • dec. ’11 – jan. ’12

fter returning to Paris we visited the Musée MarmottanMonet and enjoyed the relaxed surroundings of a private residential museum. The next morning was reserved for exploring the Montmartre district. Frommers has a very nice walking tour for this neighborhood that I highly recommend. The tour captures the Basilique du Sacré-Coeur, Moulin Rouge, and the cemeteries of Montmartre where Ogden Nash

Notre Dame at night

and many other eminent figures are buried. The 180 euro ticket to the Moulin Rouge seemed a bit extravagant, so we decided to explore the neighborhood and enjoy some fish and chips and chilled beer as we inhaled the culture and spirit of the area. The second half of the day we spent at the Eiffel Tower. As clichéd as it sounds, it was an amazing experience. The best part of our evening was the wait for the flashing lights to turn on. Every night, 20,000 flash bulbs give the tower a jewel-like appearance. Left on our list of “must visit” museums was the Musée d’Orsay. This museum is much smaller than the Louvre, but it is packed with art. Do take out time for a cup of coffee at the Café D’Orsay and take in the splendor of this old railway station, now made into a world class museum. We also visited Napoleon’s Tomb at the Hôtel des Invalides. The grandeur and ornate art work here is marvelous. There was a food cart right outside the Tomb on our way to the metro station. The vendor spoke fluent Hindi and was a fan of Raj Kapoor! Some of the other lesser known attractions we covered were Saint-Sulpice, the second largest church in Paris (featured in the movie Da Vinci Code), Le Pure Café (also from the movie Before Sunset), Jardin du Luxembourg—a beautiful park near the Sorbonne University, La Défense—the new and modern side of Paris, the Pantheon, Pont Alexandre III—a beautiful ornate bridge that


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connects the left bank and the right bank, and Saint-Germain-des-Prés—a church that dates back to the 6th century. On our final day in Paris, I opted for a massage while my husband visited the catacombs, an underground ossuary that is believed to hold the remains of 6 million people. We shopped in the evening and packed our bags for another vacation—we were off to India next. Delhi did a fair enough job. But the heart still yearns for Paris. n Shivam Khullar is a management consultant who frequently writes about the world around her. She is passionate about travel, photography, and cooking.

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A Rare Success Story The Global Polio Eradication Initiative has made giant strides in its mission


p a windy, steep set of steps, I went; a UNICEF worker behind me and a polio coordinator ahead. I could hear the cry of children growing louder as we got closer. And then I saw her, the resistant parent, holding her child closely, hiding behind a wall and a herd of children, ranging from four to ten years of age—all clamoring for attention. The UNICEF workers politely introduced me to her. They’d already been here, at least three times before. She was what we referred to as a case of resistance, a parent who was unwilling to let us immunize her child. She worried that he already had polio; one of his legs was a bit limp already, she told us. World Health Organization (WHO) workers had already visited as well to collect a stool sample to see if in fact it was polio. This time she refused to budge. This round we wouldn’t get to immunize the child. As the UNICEF workers pulled out diagrams in Urdu, picture-based stories in Hindi, and illustrated how polio worked, why it was so important for them to vaccinate, why the leg didn’t appear limp, why it couldn’t be confirmed that he had polio, why they were the “good” guys not “bad” for doing these vaccinations, I quietly slipped away. The small apartment sat on the third story, sectioned off into cramped rooms that were divided between two families and their countless children. It had a bathroom that was on its balcony, one that connected with the sewage below, an open sewer. The waste gathered at the base. Nearby children played, tossing an old soccer ball around and hopping in and out of chalk boxes in a game of hopscotch. The polio coordinator stepped aside as well, joining me on the balcony. And he told me that during Ramadan and other religious holidays, blood pours from these sewers when animals are butchered. He was Muslim himself and well-acquainted with the neighborhood. He’d been doing this work for nearly a decade in this small city in Uttar Pradesh. 56 • india currents • dec. ’11 – jan. ’12

He’d guided me in and out of its streets, exposing the challenges that he faced daily. Both of us, though, were well aware of them, almost immune to them. “Chale? Aaj kuch nahi hoga yaha.” (Let’s go. Nothing is going to happen today.) One of the young UNICEF workers leaned into the

Worker vaccinating child

balcony and gently nudged us towards the set of steep steps. As I came out, I looked up. I could see the bottom of that balcony and something dripped downward, slowly, making its away along the side of the building before it coalesced at the bottom. A few school boys collected around me, asking me to join them in their games. And I did.


’d been traveling to India regularly to take part in national immunization rounds for the Global Polio Eradication Initiative. I’d seen these resistant households. I’d seen the mounds of garbage piled next to a butcher, the lady walking barefoot through stagnant water, the children entertaining themselves along these open sewers; I’d smelled the stench of a public maternal ward treating ill newborns. I’d visited the regions that even the locals avoided and many which they’d never heard of. In fact, many of us, traveling from California, ventured into these areas. I

did with more frequency and could engage with the locals because I spoke Hindi and understood Urdu. So, I knew their woes—no clean water, no clean toilet, no money for basic food, infested rations, and medical ailments. When I asked the local politicians about the poor water situation (which could have been a strong indicator for the severe cases of diarrhea and other abdominal diseases), he told me of all the wells that he’d installed, of the good quality water available in his city, of how he could do little about the stagnant water (that was just the lay of the land— shaped like a valley), and, so, little changed. In the face of all this adversity, how could one immunize every child and erase the footprint of polio in India? But that’s exactly what’s so inspiring about this story, what compels me to go back each year, to get even more deeply involved, to come back to the States and rally for this cause. These health workers have eliminated polio from many communities and this April when I returned I found that in the last ten months there had not been a single new case of polio in Uttar Pradesh. The state that had become the hotbed for the virus had not seen a single case leading up to the monsoon months. That was an astounding feat. That’s when I recall the incredible health workers who keep visiting those resistant homes, who stand at chaotic train stations and check for marked pinkies (an indication that they’ve been vaccinated), who travel to the fringes of the city, exploring areas that few others dare to visit, who create a roadmap for tackling the most challenging neighborhoods, and most of all, who do so year after year. When I ask them why they do it they speak so humbly of their work.


n April 2011, when I returned to India to take part in another immunization round, I focused my efforts on those who have already been afflicted by the disease. I know that the vaccinations will continue and I know that



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the health workers will continue to cover these densely populated areas. But what can we do for those who already have polio? Standing at a platform in Delhi, I noticed a man sitting in a corner, his legs missing. He held out his hand to everyone who passed by, hoping for a few coins. I couldn’t help but think of the polio victims. The most striking image is seeing them on all fours; with their legs gone limp, they walk on their hands, legs trailing behind. As someone who’s been deeply involved in this eradication effort, I couldn’t help but think that we must do something for these individuals as well; their prospect of a job or even education is limited. Many families see them as a burden. With these thoughts in mind, I found myself at St. Stephen’s Hospital in Delhi where I’d met an ambitious and empathetic doctor earlier, one who performed a little cost-shifting in order to provide free-of-cost surgery to polio patients. He’d also managed to set aside about eight beds and create a small polio ward at the hospital. And after doing this for 20 years, he’s eager to do more. He assured me that he could handle more patients. In the coming weeks and months I’ll be working on how we can use mobile phones to identify polio patients in the field and connect them to a doctor in Delhi where they can receive treatment. I’m constantly on the search for other creative ideas. It’s tough for me to imagine that I’d ever be doing such work. Four years ago, I had no knowledge that polio still existed. It was the Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship that introduced me to this effort that Rotary and the Gates Foundation and its many partners have been doing for twenty years now. For my generation, polio has been largely a forgotten story. But for many in the endemic countries (of Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, and Nigeria), it’s still a scare. That’s why I applaud the health workers who keep going back and the many Rotarians here in the United States who honor their work by going to the field, seeing it firsthand, and lending their support. I’m grateful that I got to get a glimpse of this massive effort as it enters its final stage. We may not be able to wipe out the other tangential problems—water, sanitation, diarrhea. But this is certainly a stepping stone. And if polio is eradicated, we’ll be able to tackle other diseases with this incredible infrastructure that’s now been tested and perfected over the last two decades. That’s a challenge I look forward to.n

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Esha Chhabra was the 2010 Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar to the London School of Economics where she received her Master’s in Global Politics and Global Civil Society. She’s been an active participant in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative and is interested in how mobile telephony can be used for public health. http:// india currents • dec. ’11 – jan. ’12 • 57


Illustration: Serena Sacharoff


Shanta Nimbark Sacharoff

Leafy Greens For Winter


inter months can be very chilly in the San Francisco Bay Area, despite the promise of balmy Californian weather. It’s time to prepare substantial meals that contain protein and complex carbohydrates to keep our bodies warm, and plenty of leafy greens to provide nutrition and prevent viral diseases. Dark leafy greens are among the most nutritionally concentrated plants; they are even more nutritious than so-called “mega vegetables” such as broccoli. Leafy greens are rich in protein, calcium, potassium, iron, and vitamins A, B, C and K that protect the body against disorders such as diabetes, vision impairment, calcium loss, and cardiovascular disease. Concentrated greens such as wheat grass juice and green algae can be added to our diet as supplements to defend the body against cell damage, and to reduce the risk of cancer. Indian restaurants in the United States usually serve only spinach and, occasionally, mustard greens. However, back home, many kinds

Quick and Easy Stir-Fried Leafy Greens (Makes 6 servings)

3 cups each collard greens, spinach leaves, and Swiss chard leaves (or a simi- lar combination) 2 to 3 tablespoons peanut, corn, or olive oil 4 to 6 cloves of garlic, minced ½ teaspoon cumin seeds Juice of 1 lemon or lime Salt and cayenne pepper to taste Remove all thick stems and any roots. Keeping the various kinds of greens separate, soak them separately in large bowls of water to remove dirt. Soaking before chopping allows the dirt to settle to the bottom of the bowl, and keeps the nutritional value intact. Drain the leaves thoroughly and, using a knife with a wide blade, chop them coarsely and set them aside. Heat oil in a frying pan over a moderate flame. Add garlic and cumin seeds. Saute for two minutes, then add the collard greens. Cover and cook for a few minutes until the greens begin to soften. Then add the spinach and chard together. Stir-fry the mixture for a few more minutes. When the greens are tender, add the lemon or lime juice, salt, and pepper. The whole process should take no more than 10 minutes. Leafy greens cook very fast, and over-cooking can reduce their flavor and nutritional value. Serve with rice or bread.

Muthia with Three Greens

(Makes 6 to 8 servings) Like falafel or meatballs, muthias can be made of a variety of ingredients, including leftover rice and/or vegetables. In fact, Gujaratis may have invented muthia to use up leftovers. The word “muthia” literally means 58 • india currents • dec. ’11 – jan. ’12

of leafy greens are found fresh daily in the markets and cooked the same day for maximum nutrition. In addition to green spinach one might easily find spinach with a purple tint (amaranth greens), spicy mooli (radish) greens, bitter methi (fenugreek) leaves, thick bhindi (okra) leaves and large patra (taro root) leaves, to list but a few. Many of these vegetables are not easy to find in California, but locally grown dark leafy greens such as kale, chard, mustard, collards, and watercress can easily replace them in familiar recipes. Leafy greens can be stir-fried, steamed, or incorporated into soups, breads, and fritters. All kinds of young greens can be consumed raw in salads or added to health-promoting smoothies. Here are two recipes using easy-to-find greens that will provide a nutritional boost for your family. n Shanta Nimbark Sacharoff, author of Flavors of India: Vegetarian Indian Cuisine, lives in San Francisco, where she is a manager and co-owner of Other Avenues, a health-food store.

“fistful;” they can be shaped into patties or logs before frying or steaming. In this recipe they are shaped into logs and fried until crispy golden. Fried muthias can be served as appetizers or cooked in a spicy tomato sauce for a colorful entrée. For Muthias: 1 cup garbanzo flour (besan) 1 teaspoon baking powder cup corn meal ½ teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon cumin seeds 1 teaspoon powdered coriander 1 jalapeno pepper, minced after removing seeds and core, or teaspoon cayenne pepper 3 to 4 cloves garlic, minced ¼ cup chopped cilantro Juice of 1 lime or lemon 1½ cups to 2 cups cooked brown or white rice (leftover brown rice works the best) 1 cup each washed, drained and finely chopped spinach, curly kale, and water- cress 1 cup or less safflower, peanut, or corn oil for deep frying For the sauce: 1 cup finely chopped onion 4 cups fresh or canned chopped tomatoes with juice 1 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon garam masala Cayenne pepper to taste If you do not have leftover rice, first make the rice. Be sure the cooked rice is completely cooled by spreading it in a thali or on a platter. Rinse and drain the greens thoroughly before chopping. Sift the garbanzo flour with the baking

soda into a mixing bowl. Add the cornmeal, salt and the spices and mix well. Mix in the cilantro and lemon juice. Then add the rice and the chopped greens using as much as needed to make a mixture that can easily be pressed into patties or logs using the palms of your hands. Sprinkle some garbanzo flour on the surface of a cutting board. Take a handful of the muthia mixture and roll it in the flour to form a log that is about 4” long and 1” in diameter. Finish making all the logs and set them aside. You will have about a dozen rolls. Heat a cup of oil in a sauce pan and fry the muthias three at a time, turning until they turn crisp and golden on all sides. Remove them with a slotted spoon and set them on paper towels. The fried muthias can be served hot with chutney as appetizers. Or turn them into a main dish with the tomato sauce as described below. Prepare the sauce as follows: Fry the onion in a saucepan until soft. Add the tomatoes, salt, and spices. Cook the sauce for 20 minutes, stirring to break up any lumps. Cut the muthias into halves to make two rolls out of each log. The muthias can then be cooked in the tomato sauce either on the stove top, or in an oven preheated at 350° F. To cook them on stove top, pour half the tomato sauce in a pot with a lid. Arrange the muthias in the pot and pour the rest of the sauce on top. Cook covered for about 15 minutes over a low to medium heat. Check to see that they do not stick to the bottom. To bake, pour half of the sauce in a casserole dish or a pan with a cover. Arrange the muthia pieces on top of the sauce in a single layer. Pour the other half of the sauce over them, cover the pan, and bake for 20 minutes. Serve the muthias hot with rice and/or flat bread.


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I C relationship diva

Jasbina Ahluwalia

Matrimonial Prospects for the Thirty-Something Q

I am a 37-year-old Indian woman who's still single (needless to say, my parents are not happy with this situation). I would very much like to find a partner. I'm wondering why it seems so incredibly hard to find someone these days. While many of my friends are now married, I do have several friends in the same boat. Any suggestions?


Let me reassure you—you and your unmarried friends are, most definitely, not the only ones finding yourselves in this situation. Unfortunately, there is, in fact, a disparity in the numbers of single men and women in your age group in the country at this time. According to the 2010 census, there are around 32 million single women in the United States who are 35 and over; whereas, there are only around 22 million single men in the same age category. This disparity in men’s favor is further compounded by the tendency of some men to prefer marrying younger women.

While this disparity is not within your control, it's empowering to realize that both your mindset and level of flexibility are. I'd like to share three common pitfalls, regarding mindset and flexibility, to avoid. Ask yourself: • Do you happen to have a mile-long checklist of expectations with respect to your prospective partner? • Do you have a tendency to rule guys out rather than in? • Are you beginning to believe that there are just no good men left? We experience life through our beliefs. What we believe affects what we experience. Our subconscious mind doesn’t like inconsistencies between our beliefs and our reality, so it will actively seek out confirmatory evidence to affirm the beliefs we hold. So, for example, if one of your beliefs is that there are just no good men left, your

subconscious will get to work finding flaws in the men you meet to prove you right. This belief then ends up limiting your chances of finding a good man. That is why it can be so incredibly empowering to get out of your own way. How? One of the best ways to do so is to invest concerted efforts into first identifying and then eliminating any limiting beliefs. Empowered women are attractive to men, regardless of age, and it's never too late to find love. Best wishes!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 featuring conversations with published authors/experts on relationships, health and wellness.

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ts from rangini Dancers present thei a p T r d e c n x E a it r 2011 Super H a Nag h d a r “Kathak through the Bollywood Lane” An u

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Date: Saturday, March 17, 2012 Time: 6 pm (sharp) Venue: Smithwick Theater Foothill Theater - 12345 El Monte Rd., Los Altos, CA 94022 Tickets: Tickets: $75 $75 (Donor), (Donor), $35, $35, $25, $25, $20 $20 ($2 ($2 Parking Parking Fees Fees -- Please Please bring bring exact exact change) change) Tickets Tickets can can be be purchased purchased through through or or call call 1-800-838-3006

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Contact Information Jaya Basu (408) 605-0495 Pompy Bhattacharjee (510) 468-7777 Preeti Chadha (408) 892-8782 india currents • dec. ’11 – jan. ’12 • 73

74 • india currents • dec. ’11 – jan. ’12

music Wish You All The Best for a Happy & Prosperous NEW YEAR

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E-mail: india currents • dec. ’11 – jan. ’12 • 75



Priya Das

The Wondrous Veena

The classical instrument is now finding a new home in jazz MYSTERIOUS DUALITY—JUST ME (EarthSync). Available at as mp3 album download for $3.56, single downloads for $0.89.


very instrument has a history in a particular genre and evokes an immediate association when you hear it. Thus you have the guitar that instantly conjures an image of rock music, the violin of concert halls, the drums of heavy metal. Jazz has always been associated with wind instruments such as the saxophone, more recently the piano too, but that may change—the Indian veena may emerge as an equal contender to a jazz association. In June 2011, Charanams, a New Yorkbased band, won the “Ultimate Battle of the Boroughs” contest organized by the radio station WNYC. About 100 contestants, representing bands, ensembles, instrumentalists, vocalists, DJs, and spoken word artists from the five New York City boroughs (Queens, Manhattan, Staten Island, Brooklyn, and The Bronx) participated in various rounds. Charanams comprises veena player Nivedita ShivRaj, among others. The band performs

76 • india currents • dec. ’11 – jan. ’12

original compositions of ShivRaj based on Indian ragas and traditional Karnatik compositions blended with jazz styles and contemporary rhythms. ShivRaj has worked on several cross-genre projects, and recorded with saxophonist Andrew Sterman of The Ocean Band. She has created music productions combining the Karnatik style with electro acoustic music, literally taking the veena to where it hasn’t been seen before. “Karnatic-jazz” is also the genre of music of Megha, a band whose members include Dr. Suma Sudhindra, a veena exponent based in Bangalore and guitar player Gerard Machado. In an online interview, Machado has opined, “The similarities between Karnatik [music] and jazz are remarkable. Both are systematic, and have a lot of scope for improvisation.” The two musicians have collaborated on two albums—Clean Licks and Touch Another Life. Sudhindra has also collaborated with the Dutch band Spinifex, in Spinifex Indian Spin earlier in 2011. With the proliferation of veena sounds in genres the world over, the instrument is poised to soon attain the same status as the much sought-after tabla in fusion music. Veena exponent Jayanthi Kumaresh’s album Mysterious Duality—Just Me is among the latest in the Karnatik-Jazz category. The album stays true to the classical rendition, at the same time welcomes non-Indian sensibilities to keep pace. The first track, “Mysterious Duality,” begins with the octave-tethering ascendingthree-two-descending-three notes. The repetition of these eight notes is refreshing; they provide continuity, while lending an interesting backdrop to the musical exploration. “Mysterious Duality” is over eight minutes long, and opens up the vista of the Karnatik improvisational technique. Kumaresh clearly thinks in a musical language, and one can almost visualize the riveting narrative. “Strings With No Ends”

has a quieter treatment, and feels introspective for the most part. In the last four minutes of the 12 minute track, Kumaresh makes up her mind and picks up the pace. Finally at peace, the last 2 minutes are joyful. “Wandering in Dimensions” lays out the boundaries of the musical map by hitting extreme notes straight away. The repetitive background pattern of notes resurfaces here, and the composition mirrors itself constantly, each note following the other in octave or sequence. Every once in a while, Kumaresh teases out the far-reaching sounds of the pattern to create vibrancy. “Waiting at Dusk” comes across as such—the routine rhythms of the day are laid out first, leading up to an expectancy, a quiet looking out for the next verse. Halfway through, the track changes tone, almost as if the person waiting is getting anxious, before again settling down to the old rhythms. It is a relief that each track is over eight minutes; one cannot really expect to unveil a mysterious duality in less. Kumaresh is clearly functioning in an instinctive communion with her instrument and her music. An online Flipswitch PR article captures a comment that further suggests a multi-genre future for the veena and Kumaresh, “Before this album, I would wonder when I played the bass strings in a particular way if I was sounding too much like an electric guitar. I always felt a bit shy. After making this album, though, I found it was very cool. Now I love it.” Very cognizant of placing Indian music on the world map, Kumaresh has founded the Indian National Orchestra. In her blog,, she writes, “there is no comprehensive team consisting of performing musicians in their prime, from both North and South India, who can jointly perform Indian music together and represent India in a national or international event. The music presented by INO will truly reflect India, as it is today—diverse in texture and variety, but united in spirit and purpose.” Its charter includes performances in all the major cities of India and abroad. More power to this initiative: Presenting the veena as part of a formal orchestra with a multi-genre setting will further expand the reach of this versatile instrument. n Priya Das is an avid follower of world music.

Sangeet Suromani Guru

Pandit Binay Pathak Sohini Sangeet Academy of Music

ANURADHA NAG Artistic Director

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india currents • dec. ’11 – jan. ’12 • 77

I C films

Runaway Brides, Sidestepped Reunions, and Doggy Tales The Top Ten Hindi Films of 2011 By Anirudhh Chawda In a year that saw Salman Khan rise to stratospheric heights with back-to-back box office blockbusters (Ready, Bodyguard) and become the premiere power player in Hindi filmdom, most of the action was in the lower echelons. Here is a roundup of the better-made Hindi movies of 2011. 1. Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara Zoya Akhtar’s picture-perfect postcard, with a snapshot of three weeks that three desi boys (Hrithik Roshan, Abhay Deol and Farhan Akhtar) spend in Spain, was a delightful, adventurous, and well-made journey of discovery and self-discovery. In an age when electronic gadgets increasingly intrude on even the most private places and spaces in everyday lives if they are allowed to, this cell-phone free vacation proved to be an all-around feel-good trip. Yes, Katrina Kaif, the highest paid Hindi female actor was in on the fun also. The most lasting impression, however, was one heck of a carpe diem Euro-zone trip.

2. That Girl in Yellow Boots

3. Haunted

As a thought-provoking chapter on how far Hindi films have evolved in story-telling and capturing just the right setting, this Anurag KashyapKalki Koechlin vehicle jumped leaps and bounds ahead of, not surprisingly, not only any Salman Khan or Shahrukh Khan (RA.One) megareleases, but also pretty much the rest of the pack. The story of a young British-Indian woman (Koechlin) who fronts at a seedy Mumbai massage parlor as she goes about searching for her lost father offered a superbly chronicled, complex sexand-drugs world replete with uneasy questions and even more disturbing answers.

In the grand scheme of things, Hindi horror entries always get a bum deal for being exploitative, cheaply made, and, well, plain silly. Vikram Bhatt’s scarefest Haunted proved that being exploitative (thanks to many a genre-standard title from over the years), cheaply made (a relatively small budget) and, at times, being just plain silly can add up to the best Hindi scary movie over the last several years. It is also heaps of fun. Released in both 2-D and headlinegrabbing 3-D versions, Haunted offered in-your-face scares. The most chilling goose bumps can indeed result from the remote houses for sale where things go bump in the night!

4. Dhobi Ghat Aamir Khan’s follow up to the sensational Peepli [Live] from 2010 was this satire of contemporary Mumbai, bringing together a handful of disparate characters whose bittersweet lives eventually, and sometimes horrifyingly, converge. Directed by Khan’s wife’s Kiran Rao in her filmmaking debut, Aamir Khan offered himself in a minor role and instead promoted Prateik Babbar as a laundry boy delivering more than clean saris to well-coifed Mumbai ladies. The plot also folds in a stifled housewife whose experiences emerge haltingly—and shockingly—from a series of home videos she left behind. Smart filmmaking techniques always win out!

78 • india currents • dec. ’11 – jan. ’12

5. Marathon Boy

8. Tanu Weds Manu

In India, a land of extremes in the patchwork of global human experiences—longest hair anyone? longest finger nails anyone?—the docu-drama Marathon Boy offers a most fascinating story of a seven-year-old boy from West Bengal who, at the astonishingly tender age of four, shows promise as a long-distance runner. Even though made by British filmmaker Gemma Atwal, and therefore technically not an “Indian” movie, Marathon Boy is everything Slumdog Millionaire could not be—a celebration of the Indian spirit without giving up the Indian soul. Bravo!

In a year that saw Kangana Ranaut scaling new highs (No Problem, Game, Ready) Tanu Weds Manu was her best outing. Kangana and Madhavan are members of opposing wedding parties in the same arranged marriage chess board. Ranaut’s Tanu, as a feisty, chain-smoking, decidedly non-virginal bride, is a groundbreaking new-age heroine that, for a change, is accepted matter-of-factly in the new India. The graph from Hum Aapke Hain Koun to Hum Tum to Mere Brother Ki Dulhan to Tanu Weds Manu has signaled a significant evolution of stronger bridal female characters allowed to demonstrate limited real-world sensibilities. Progress!

6. Dum Maaro Dum A well-made underworld caper is always a welcome entry. This reunion of Abhishek Bachchan with director Rohan Sippy continued the success they shared with Bluffmaster (2005). Set in Goa, with Bachchan playing a vice cop on the hot trail of a drug smuggling conspiracy—complete with inside informers and scantily-clad beach front pleasure seekers—Prateik Babbar again proved a scene-stealer as a U.S.-bound college student who gets snared in a criminal dragnet. Borrowing a title from the blockbuster R.D. Burman-Asha Bhosle song from 1971’s Hare Rama Hare Krishna, Sippy’s film also tossed up one of the best remakes of that iconic song.

7. Chillar Party Uber-producer Ronnie Screwvala’s small-budget (in comparison to Disney’s Zokkomon) offering was an entertainer aimed squarely at kids. Co-directors Vikas Bahl and Nitesh Tiwari’s comedy zoomed in on an upper-middle class Mumbai subdivision where the focus of attention is a stray dog and its owner—a poor street urchin—who unwittingly cross paths with a local politician who will go to great lengths to force them out from the housing colony. Instead of giving up, a group of shorts-wearing, pint-sized colony residents—who have christened their “gang” Chillar Party—take up the cause to keep the dog and dog keeper on the colony’s premises. Their tale imparts a valuable lesson in tolerance, confronting bullies, and being enterprising in overcoming powerful adversaries.

9. Mere Brother Ki Dulhan A year without at least one Yashraj romantic comedy is practically unheard of. Mere Brother ropes in Imran Khan who is accorded the laughs-heavy responsibility of finding a suitable bride for his brother (Pakistani singeractor Ali Zafar) and zeroes in on a former college pal (Katrina Kaif) with unresolved former BFF issues. Significantly boosted by Sohail Sen’s catchy musical score, light and playful, director Ali Abbas Zafar’s film got decent mileage from comically re-playing an old plotline one more time.

10. Singham The action-hero crown that Sunny Deol and Sanjay Dutt have relinquished has been inherited by Ajay Devgn very nicely, thank you. In this Hindi remake of his own Tamil language hit by the same name, director Rohan Shetty came up with the best action movie of the year. It was a worthy successor to the brawny cop dramas pioneered in the Bachchan mold and similar in feel to last year’s Once Upon A Time in Mumbai in its retro 1970s insignia. While Devgn nailed a ginormous box office with Golmaal 3, over the long run, Singham may serve as a better talent marker.

Minor rant: Because of tight print deadlines, some anticipated year

end noteworthy titles are not included for consideration in this 2011 roundup. They include Imtiaz Ali’s Rockstar, Puneet Issar’s post-9/11 drama I am Singh, Yashraj’s romantic comedy Ladies vs. Ricky Bahl and Vidya Balan channeling the 1980s siren Silk Smitha in the Milan Luthria biopic Dirty Picture. On to 2012. Happy Movie Going! n india currents • dec. ’11 – jan. ’12 • 79

Madhumita Gupta

A Rocking Time! ROCKSTAR. Director: Imitiaz Ali. Players: Ranbir Kapoor, Nargis Fakhri, Shammi Kapoor, Shernaaz Patel. Music: AR Rahman. Theatrical Release: Eros International.


rom the breezy Socha Na Tha (2005) to the from-the-heart Jab We Met (2007) to the upbeat Love Aaj Kal (2009), director Ali’s romantic vision has steadily evolved. The relationships he chooses to portray get increasingly complex and his latest creation, the angst-ridden Rockstar, is probably his most ambitious project to date. Here, Ali gives us a glimpse of what goes on beyond the footlights and fan-frenzy of the rock music world. The rags-to-riches plot is quite familiar to moviegoers, but what is less known is the personal price paid by the performer. A familiar trope in Hollywood biopics like Ray and Chaplin, the arc of a successful artist’s life is explored in this fictional

80 • india currents • dec. ’11 – jan. ’12

account of Janardhan Jakhar (JJ), who reinvents himself as the rock star Jordan. The journey from JJ to Jordan takes the viewer through the convoluted routes of love and loss. Jakhar (Ranbir), is a wannabe rockstar with a lot of talent but no direction or mentor except for the friendly collegecanteen owner, Khatana Uncle (a brilliant Kumud Mishra) who keeps on telling him what Keats discovered centuries ago—“our sweetest songs are with saddest thought fraught...” Khatana suggests to JJ that his songs don’t have depth as he has never experienced real pain. This sets off a fairly comical series of events as JJ tries to infuse his life with pain to give his songs meaning. In the process his talent gets discovered and the small town boy becomes a global success. The price he pays for that transformation is the heart of the movie and Ranbir is superb in a role most actors would die for. Convincing as the gauche college boy in coarse hand-knitted woolens, he is brilliant as the confused, notorious “Bad boy” of music, who gets the fame he dreamt of but realizes that the journey has made his life hollow. As his unattainable beloved, Fakhri looks ethereal and is fairly competent, though her inexperience shows in the intense scenes she shares with Ranbir. Shammi Kapoor’s final movie role (he plays a shehnai player who unerringly spots JJ’s talent) before his death this year, is one of the highlights of the movie. Ali’s deft touch with ensemble scenes allows the other seasoned actors room to shine. Ali is in complete control in the first half of the

film, establishing the characters and the story quickly. The comedy flows easily, as do the realistic dialogues. The camaraderie among college-mates is wonderfully natural. In the second half the movie becomes slow and choppy. There’s an overdose of montages and flashbacks which confuse viewers trying to follow the timeline. The chronicling of JJ’s struggle and his sudden rise to stardom feels rushed, and his solo status in an age of rock bands feels unconvincing. Other minor quibbles are JJ’s inexplicable anger at the media, and [Spoiler Alert!] his deportment for a small crime like trespassing. With a crisper script Rockstar might have become another Hindi film classic like Abhimaan. No review of Rockstar can be complete without the mention of the music. A. R. Rahman soars to new heights, whether it is in the chart-busting “Sada Haq,” the evocative Sufiistic “Faya Kun,” or the peppy “Ding Ling Ling.” Mohit Chauhan’s gorgeous voice does ample justice to the music; indeed, he takes it to new levels. Despite its flaws, Rockstar is an able effort and deserves at least one viewing for its entertainment values.n EQ: B Madhumita Gupta is a freelance writer and teacher.






S Shor in the City Fo rce  Mere Broth er Ki Dulh Cha an tur SIngh M ausam A arakshan B ol. That Gir l in Yellow  Boots Singham M ummy Pun jabi


KALANJALI Dances of India Establshed in 1975


Jayendra Kalakendra

India's most ancient classical dance

Following traditional Kalakshetra syllabus - all levels

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Email: Web:

• Fremont • Santa Clara

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

Registration and Information:


Suganda Sreenath

Bharatanatyam classes (Kalakshetra style, incl. Extensive Theory)


BharathaKala Kutiram Artistic Director:

Jayanthi Sridharan offers Bharathanatyam Classes in North San Jose

Call: (408) 251-3438 e-mail:

Jyoti Kala Mandir College of Indian Classical Arts ODISSI DANCE CLASSES NOW IN YOUR AREA!!! with

Guru Jyoti Rout

Give yourself and your children the privilege to grow with the discipline, devotion and confidence of learning the ancient temple dance

Saturdays ~ Newark

10 am - 11 am Kids 11 am - 12 noon Adults 12 noon - 1 pm Intermediate & Advanced

Sundays ~ San Jose


10 am - 11 am Kids Beginners 11 am - 12 noon Intermediate 12 noon - Advanced Contact:

Mindful Movement Collective 37478 Cedar Blvd., Suite B, Newark, CA

The Dance Affair Client: Fax: 850 N. Winchester Rd., San Jose, CA


PDF su

Please indicate any Jyoti Rout (510) 589-3989needed on this proo

JKM Office (510) 486-9851 • Keshini Desai (Newark) (510) 219-9634 • Nilanjana Roy (San Jose) (650) 520-7893

Nrityabhakti Dance Academy Offers, Bharatanatyam, Folk & Semi Classical Dance Classes in Milpitas, Santa Clara, Cupertino, Evergreen, San Jose & Sunnyvale Artistic Director

Supriya S Puranik

(408) 666 – 7422

India Currents F

Nrityaabhusha Ad is Correct Costume Rental

Colorful dance costumes Needs Changes available for Bhangra, Koli, Dandia, Rajasthani, Fusion,Kathak & Bharatanatyam dance Contact:

408-666-7422 AD PROOF Small Group of Classes & Individual Attention


Contact: SRIVIDYA EASHWAR Client: XPRESSIONS Company: PDFindia currents • dec. ’11 – jan. ’12 • 81 Please indicate any changes or corrections needed on this proof, and fax it back to us.

DER 1885 San (408 FAX

Christmas Retreat

With Brahmachari Prabodh Chaitanya Resident Acharya Chinmaya Mission, San Jose

Discourses on Taittirya Upanisad, Bhrigu Valli December 25 - 30, 2011 • 10 am to 12 pm

Venue: CMSJ Facility, 10160 Clayton Road, San Jose, CA 95127 10:00 am to 10:30 am - Taittirya Upanisad Chanting 10:30 am - 12:00 noon - Discourse

One in Eleven, Breathless Aphorisms on Love Divine

A scintillating music and dance presentation through an ethnic collaboration of the classical and folk dance forms of India (Bharatanatyam, Kathak, Kuchipudi, Mohiniattam, Odissi and Raas Garba) by professional artists from the Bay Area, CA. In the august presence of His Holiness Swami Tejomayananda, Head of Chinmaya Mission, Worldwide

Date: Sunday, June 10, 2012 • Time: 3.15 PM – 7.00 PM Venue: The Flint Center for the Performing Arts, DeAnza College. For sponsorship, tickets or details on how you can help and participate in the event, please contact: Sanjay Bombwal at 408-656-1950 or email S. Sundaresh at 408-806-8571 or email at 82 • india currents • dec. ’11 – jan. ’12

india currents • dec. ’11 – jan. ’12 • 83

Nrityabhakti Dance Academy cordially invites you to attend


A collection of Tanjavur style Bharatnatyam compositions in Marathi based on Carnatic and Hindusthani music

Presented by

Suvarna Sathe Disciple of

Guru SupriyaPuranik

Sunday December 4, 2011 at 5.30pm Hoover Historic Theater 1635 Park Avenue San Jose, CA 95126

(408) 666-7422

The event is FREE however the seating is limited and offered on a first come first serve basis. So Please arrive 15 min ahead of time.

Jayendra Kalakendra

Celebrates its 20th Year in the Bay Area and presents


Kalinga Nartanam

Date: Saturday, January 7, 2012 Time: 4:00 pm (Seating at 3:45 pm) Venue: Cubberley Theater

84 • india currents • dec. ’11 – jan. ’12

4000 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto, CA Tickets: Call (408) 270-9295 or (510) 252-1254

india currents • dec. ’11 – jan. ’12 • 85




(408) 984-6601

(Here we only serve Ice Creams, Kulfi, Faloodas, (408) 732-3350 Ice Cream Cakes & More)



(Long Awaited Ice Cream Finally Here)

(408) 732-3350

Serving Ice Creams, Kulfi, Falooda Bombay Style Chat South Indian Food (Bangalore Style) and much more...


GET ONE SCOOP Enjoy Sitaphal Ice Cream (ICE CREAMS ONLY) (Valid Only At The New Location) (From 15th Dec. To 31st Dec., 2011)






VISIT US FOR BOMBAY STYLE CHAAT & SOUTH INDIAN FOOD STORE HOURS: Tue thru Fri: 12 noon - 2:30pm & 5pm - 9:30pm

Sat: 12 noon - 9:30 pm • Sun: 12 noon - 9:00pm • Monday: Closed


Our Ice Creams are available at Indian Grocery Stores


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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You must sign and date this form in order to receive Your free subscription. 86 • india currents • dec. ’11 – jan. ’12

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Join us on Facebook and Twitter Please allow 4-6 weeks for the first issue to arrive. Back issue $3 each, if available

india currents • dec. ’11 – jan. ’12 • 87

I C cultural calendar

A Year in Pictures

Northern California boasted a healthy dose of South Asian events in 2010. Among the many hundreds of events featured in the IC calendar pages were (clockwise at top left): Nrityagram Dance Ensemble’s production of “Syriah” at the Palace of Fine Arts (March issue), cricketer Muttiah Muralitharan’s fundraiser for Sri Lanka (August issue), Mount Madonna’s 33rd production of Ramayana,The San Jose Museum of Art’s “Roots in the Air, Branches Below: Modern and Contempoary Art” exhibit featuring Indian artists (February issue), pop sensation Shaan in concert (July issue). 88 • india currents • dec. ’11 – jan. ’12

Also featured in IC were (clockwise, top left): the legendary Asha Bhosle in concert as part of the San Francisco Jazz Festival (September issue), Aga Khan’s Youth in Action program, which held its Partnership Walk (October issue), a tribute to the late Ali Akbar by the Ali Akbar College of Music (April issue), the two-day Tagore festival in Pleasanton (June issue), the ODC School’s 59th pilot choreography program featuring Jaysi Chander (November issue), and the play Siddhartha, The Bright Path set in present day (Dec. ‘10-Jan. ‘11 issue). india currents • dec. ’11 – jan. ’12 • 89

Edited by: Nadia


List your event for FREE!

february issue deadline: Friday, Jan. 20 To list your event in the Calendar, go to and fill out Web form

Check us out on Facebook and Twitter!

special dates Christmas

Dec. 26

New Year’s Day

Jan. 1

Makara Sankranti

Jan. 14


Jan. 14

M.L.K Day

Jan. 16

India’s Republic Day

Jan. 26

Sarasvati Puja

Jan. 28

Vasanta Panchami

Jan. 28

I C cultural calendar December

2 Friday

The Season of Giving. Fourteenth annual gala fundraiser by Home of Hope Inc. Organized by Home of Hope Inc. 6:30 p.m. India Community Center (ICC), 525 Los Coches St., Milpitas, 95035. $100 minimum donation. (650) 520-3204.


3 Saturday

Free Health Fair. Medical advice on inter-

nal medicine, cardiology, women’s health, nutrition, and diet, chiropractic, physical therapy. Also free blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol evaluations. Organized by 90 • india currents • dec. ’11 – jan. ’12

A tribute to Jagit Singh will be held on Sunday, Dec. 4 in Saratoga.

HCCC/Livermore Shiva Vishnu Temple. 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Assembly Hall, 1223 Arrowhead Ave., Livermore, 94550. Free. (925) 449-6255.

Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi Solo Recitals. With Kasi Ayosla, Arun Mathai,

and Akhila Takkallapalli. Organized by Yuva Bharati. 4-6:30 p.m. Cubberley Theater, 4000 Middlfield Road, Palo Alto CA. Free. (650) 565-8859. www.

Jhalak Dreams. The fifth anniversary cel-

ebration of Indian-Fusion Dance Academy (IFDA), featuring Bollywood, folk, and classical dances. Organized by IFDA. 5:30-9 p.m. 1750 S. White Road, San Jose, 95127. Tickets: (408) 238-4034.


4 Sunday

Karnatik Music Concert. The Sri Lalitha



Jayendra Kalakendra’s 20th year

Dance company to perform “Kalinga Nartanam”


he celebrated artist, Suganda Sreenath, is synonymous with bharatanatyam in the Bay Area. Sreenath started learning natya under her guru and older sister Ananda Shankar Jayant and then from Shantha and V.P. Dhananjayan. Today, Sreenath is a renowned artist who has combined the knowledge she received from her gurus to imprint bharatanatyam with her personal vision. She has given numerous dance demonstrations in India and the United States at various educational institutions, with the aim of popularizing this ancient art. Sreenath has choreographed several classical dance ballets including “Dasavataram,” “Ezhum Malare Ezhil Malare,” “Dances of India,” “Bharatanatyam Then and Now,” “Four Seasons,” “Guru Vandana,” “Prakriti,” and various other classical, folk, and semiclassical pieces. Driven by her passion for this art and her enthusiasm for imparting her knowledge in children, she has completed 28

years of teaching and continues to train under Katherine and Kunhiraman of Kalanjali Dances of India. In addition, she studies the various aspects of natya choreography with the Dhananjayans. Sreenath’s dance school, Jayendra Kalakendra, is committed to preserving and promoting the rich cultural heritage of India, by nurturing young talent. The school was founded in Secunderbad, India, in 1989 and continued in the United States when Sreenath moved to the Bay Area. Jayendra Kalekendra provides intensive training in both the theoretical and practical aspects of natya, as Sreenath encourages her senior students to choreograph their own dances. Jayendra Kalakendra students have performed extensively at various Bay Area programs and in original natya productions, generating thousands of dollars for various local charities. The school holds weekly classes in San Jose, Santa Clara, and Fremont. Jayendra Kalakendra has completed its

20th year in the Bay Area, and to commemorate this occasion 40 students will be performing in “Kalinga Nartanam,” a thematic performance on Lord Krishna. Students and company artists will be showcasing items choreographed by the Dhananjayans and Anita Shanmuganathan, senior student of the Dhananjayans. Every year a few students are selected to learn under the Dhananjayans and senior choreographer of Bharata Kalanjali. Sreenath says, “Most established bharatanatyam institutions give opportunities only to their senior dancers to work with great artists like the Dhananjayans and choreographer Dr. Anita Shanmuganathan, but we at Jayendra Kalakendra encourage students of all levels to work with these eminent dancers.”n Saturday, Jan. 7, 4 p.m. Cubberly Theater, Palo Alto. Tickets: (408) 270-9295, (510) 252-1254.

india currents • dec. ’11 – jan. ’12 • 91



India Without, Matter Within Michelle Baird


n initial glance around the new contemporary art exhibit at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (YBCA) in San Francisco yields a gigantic pink dinosaur, staggeringly large photographs covering multiple walls, candle messages slowly melting away, tuckedaway alcoves screening films, and some curious sculpture that’s not easily decipherable. Standing in the middle of one of the galleries, I feel slightly disconnected while examining art that at first glance looks like it could exist in any standard, contemporary art exhibit. But I know this exhibit, “The Matter Within: New Contemporary Art of India,” features Indian artists working with a variety of mediums throughout the diaspora, so I take a closer look. In our multicultural, increasingly interconnected world, is “Indian” still a useful category—especially when we’re looking at contemporary art? Does birth or ancestry tied to an area between a Himalayan mountain range, an Arabian Sea, and a Bay of Bengal, and deserts to the northwest and hills to the northeast still typify something useful? And if contemporary art can be Indian, is that the most obvious way it should be identified? Betti-Sue Hertz, director of visual arts at the YBCA, believes the distinction is still valid. “Their role as cultural truth-seekers is especially apt at a moment when India is emerging as a more central player on the world stage,” she says. The contemporary art scene in India has been picking up steam relatively recently, in comparison to the West. The artists in the exhibit are exploring private spheres, easily recognized public spaces, and carefully exposing how these private and public spaces are mediated by social conditions in India. Although it’s named “New Contemporary Art of India,” India is not what this exhibit is after. Working with bits of the past and pieces of popular culture, these artists are magnifying small corners of India. YBCA has brought together a scattered collection of artists from India and the diaspora who are making art out of slivers of an idea of what India might be. One of the featured artists, Rina Banerjee, says that she and her colleagues are interested in the process of transformation. They take what they’ve been given, what they see, what they think and feel, and transform it into a new and more personal reality. It is more accurate to identify their art as personal explorations in an Indian context.

92 • india currents • dec. ’11 – jan. ’12

Sudarshan Shetty’s sculpture hangs over the YBCA main lobby at the exhibit’s opening.

There is plenty of social and sexual commentary in the exhibit, some of it bordering on the political. Sunil Gupta’s photographs subvert a ’60s French film into an exploration of homosexual love between an Indian immigrant and his French partner. Tejal Shah’s pictures examine the sometimes gritty underside of transgender and transsexual life in India. Ayisha Abraham’s video explores colonialism and contemporary India through both communal and personal stories. Pushpamala N. explores the idea of identity, female and male, in India. And Gauri Gill’s blackand-white images of Rajasthan, an exploration of a family and a village, are some of the

most beautiful pictures in the exhibit. But it is Dhruv Malhotra’s photographs that haunt me. Taken at night in Indian cities, Malhotra captures people sleeping in public landscapes. Sides of roads, abandoned wedding banquet chairs, and rickshaw stands are the setting for his pictures. He explains his process: “It becomes a very interesting dichotomy and interesting play between public and private space and where the intersection of both is.” “There are little capsules of privacy. Once you’re asleep, it all becomes your personal space anyway,” he says. Each of Malhotra’s subjects, in the private and some-

The exhibit on Indian contemporary art explores the matter within, as each of the artists from the subcontinent and the diaspora examine and reinterpret their personal place and historical legacy. what vulnerable act of sleeping, has staked out his or her own space in the midst of very public yet deserted places. Sudarshan Shetty’s sculpture, presides over the main lobby. His large golden man in a business suit hovers off-kilter above the visitors below. I first spied the sculpture during the exhibit’s opening, a rather rollicking party with Jimmy Love as DJ and Dholrhythms as entertainment. I watched as a sea of hipsters danced bhangra beneath Shetty’s man in a golden business suit—the entire scene was fittingly off-kilter. That night I also checked out a large horse and rider looming over the rest of the exhibition by Siddhartha Kararwal. On first inspection, it appears to be made of paper mache, but the maharaja of Baroda (Sayajirao Gaekwad III) sculpture is created out of T-shirts donated to India by an American charity, and bought by the artist on the open market. Rina Banerjee’s sculptures, particularly her sculpture of Durga, are my favorites. She describes her representation of Durga, a mannequin’s body laid out on a base of amber bottles and encapsulated by large black ribs: “Of the deities that are in the whole realm of Hindusm, (they) are rarely resting. A lot of the more violent, courageous, warlike figures that you see in Hinduism are women. So my Durga is not fighting, she’s finally resting.” Banerjee’s resting Durga is a mythical reimagination of a Hindu goddess, supported literally by colonial themes, surrounded by sand, and finally in repose. The YBCA summary of the exhibition states that “stillness is barely restrained as it strives to erupt into the chaos of lives thrown together.” But it is the chaos of those lives that is reinterpreted and transformed by these artists. The exhibit does not define “new contemporary art of India,” or even give a particularly coherent sense of what contemporary Indian art might be. It does, however, explore “the matter within,” as each of the artists from India and the diaspora examine and reinterpret their personal place and historical legacy.n Now through Jan. 29. Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 701 Mission St., San Francisco,. $7 general, $5 senior/student/teacher. (415) 978-2787. www.

Gana Vidyalaya School’s youth musicians present two concerts of Karnatik music. Sing along with the students—great for families with children ages 3-10. Organized by Asian Art Museum. 11 a.m. Asian Art Museum, 200 Larkin St., San Francisco. Free. (415) 581-3500.

Concert in Tribute to the Late Jagjit Singh. A special fundraising event for the

Saratoga Senior Citizen Center. Organized by Surtaal and Sangeetdhwani. 4-7 p.m. Joan Pisani Community Center, Auditorium, 19655 Allendale Ave., Saratoga, 95070. $15. Tickets: (408) 733-7442, (408) 394-0554, (408) 803-1879., gchinmulgund@

Arangetram of Suvarna Sathe. A student of Supriya Puranik. A collection of Tanjavur-style bharatnatyam compositions in Marathi based on Karnatik and Hindusthani music. Organized by Nrityabhakti Dance Academy. 5:30 p.m. Historic Hoover Theater, 1635 Park Ave., San Jose, 95126 . Free. (408) 666-7422. nrityabhakti@yahoo. com. Bharatnatyam Arangetram of Suvana Sathe. Student of Supriya Puranik, artistic

director of Nrityabhakti Dance Academy. A collection of Tanjavur-style bharatnatyam compositions in Marathi, based on Karnatik and Hindustani music. Organized by Nrityabhakti Dance Academy. 5:30 p.m. Hoover Theater, 1635 Park Ave., San Jose, 95126. Free.


9 Friday

Diamond Jewelry Exhibition. Among

the largest Indian diamond shows in the U.S. Ends Dec. 11. Organized by Chennai Diamonds U.S. 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Fremont Marriott, 46100 Landing Parkway, Fremont, 94538. (415) 424-8137.


10 Saturday

Baat Cheet: A Feast of Talks About Indian Culture. Ten Bay Area tastemak-

ers give five-minute presentations about the impact of Indian culture and art on their creative work. From Bollywood to yoga, street food to poetry and art, South Asia has inspired creativity across the world. Speakers include: Pixar animator Sanjay Patel, poet and psychiatrist Ravi Chandra, artist Sita Kuratomi Bhaumik, LACMA curator Julie Romain, artist Ranu Mukherjee, musician Cory Combs, India West editor Lisa Tsering, contemporary art collector

Dipti Mathur, yoga instructor Monica Desai Henderson, and music and dance professor Nalini Ghuma. Followed by networking over chai and sweets. Organized by Asian Art Museum. 2 p.m. Asian Art Museum, 200 Larkin St., San Francisco. Free with museum admission. (415) 581-3500. www.asianart. org.


11 Sunday

Chandani: Daughter of the Elephant

Whisperer. Film, 2010, India, in Sinhala with English subtitles, 88 minutes. In this true-life story set in the Sri Lankan tropics, a girl dreams of following in the footsteps of her father and becoming the first female mahout—a guardian of wild elephants. Her father decides to give her a chance and everyone doubts her abilities. The ranger Mohammed becomes her only supporter and shows her the world of elephants in the jungle, where they save a baby elephant from death. But, when the elephant is taken away from her, her path changes again. Organized by Asian Art Museum. 1 p.m. Asian Art Museum, 200 Larkin St., San Francisco. Free with museum admission. (415) 5813500.


16 Friday

India Comes Alive with Music, Dance and Art. Teachers from the India Com-

munity Center introduce India’s cultural festivals, dance traditions, and art activities. Learn to dance bhangra like a Bollywood star, make a traditional drum, or create your own colorful floor art. Themes change monthly. This program is offered in partnership with the India Community Center. Ends Dec. 18. Organized by India Community Center/Asian Art Museum. 12-4 p.m. Asian Art Museum, 200 Larkin St., San Francisco. Free with museum admission. (415) 581-3500. htm.

Karaoke Holiday Special. “Santa Claus

is Coming To Town” event features karaoke singing, children’s talent show, music and dance performances, photo corner, children’s activity area (arts and crafts), and dinner. This is a highly popular monthly event focused on family and children. Relax with friends and family, and make some new friends, shake a leg, and enjoy a sumptuous dinner, all while contributing to a good cause. Proceeds from the event will benefit art and music programs for underprivileged children at low-income schools in Bay Area and at orphanages in India. Organized by Induz. 7:30 p.m. Swagat Indian Cuisine, 4918 Paseo Padre Parkway, Fremont, 94555. $12 dinner, $7 children 5-10, children under india currents • dec. ’11 – jan. ’12 • 93

A SUGGESTION: India Currents goes to press as much as six weeks in advance of some events listed in it. Even though organizers do their best to stick to the announced schedule, in rare cases events are rescheduled or cancelled. To avoid disappointment, we recommend that you always check the organizer’s website, and



5 free. RSVP Tickets : www., or at door. (510) 875-5006.


17 Saturday

Desi Singles Party. Featuring a delicious

Indian dinner, dancing to Bollywood music, and a number of party games. The evening will be fun and memorable with many opportunities to interaction with other people. And if, in the course of the evening, you happen to spot someone you would like to get to know further, the party organizers will be happy to make introductions. Organized by Let’s Party. 6-11 p.m. Turmeric Indian

Restaurant, 341 S. Murphy Ave., Sunnyvale, 94086. $50. Women $35 till Dec. 1. (650) 515-9961. www.


29 Thursday

Family Fun Activity: Dance. Hip hop,

funk, and reggae songs are the soundtracks for Bhangra. Learn to dance like a Bollywood star in this workshop for tweens. Suggested for families with children ages 11-15. Organized by Asian Art Museum. 1-3 p.m. Asian Art Museum, 200 Larkin St., San Francisco. Free with museum admission. (415) 581-3500. www.


Harmony with the Harmonium J

ayanti Sahasrabuddhe and organizer Raagmala, a Davis-based nonprofit Indian classical music group, present a lecturedemonstration on harmonium tuning by accomplished artist Vivek Datar, who will be accompanied by Professor V. Sundaresan on tabla. The evening will include an interview session led by emcee Milind Kulkarni, who will explore topics such as the mechanics behind Indian gandhar tuning versus Western tuning, and how a layperson can distinguish between music which is “in tune versus out of tune, and the various methods of tuning and retuning which can be applied to most musical instruments,” Datar says. Datar is also excited to perform with his self-designed harmonium during the demonstration and says that it is “a new type called ‘the changeable reed harmonium’ with adjustable reed sets. The instrument was engineered with the assistance of Hinge Musicals, a well-known harmonium-maker from India.” Datar champions the harmonium’s use and credits its beauty to its “simplicity”— “there is no need to retune the instrument every time you play as in the case of the violin or the sitar,” he says. “When you are out of tune, it is easy to hear the mistake when one misses a note by a small fraction. Unless your ears can recognize the difference, it is hard to correct this mistake.” Datar learned to play the harmonium from his late guru, Vinayakrao Kale, a Gwalior gharana vocalist in India. Datar continued harmonium accompaniment and solo performances in the United States and became interested in tuning theory and its application through the influence of vocalist,

94 • india currents • dec. ’11 – jan. ’12

Vivek Datar

Veena Sahasrabuddhe. Datar currently maintains an active teaching and performance schedule in the San Francisco Bay Area. This is his second lecture-demonstration. The harmonium is a visible instrument in light classical Indian music, some forms include ghazal, geet, film music, thumri, and kirtan. The early European harmonium was established in India as a favored instrument amongst classical musicians by the 19th century. The popularity was partly due to the structural conversion from a seated version to the hand pumped floor version that was more compatible with the common practice of Indian music playing while sitting on the

floor. Although the basic mechanism to produce a note has remained the same, the structure has improved through the years. Bellows and keys are easier to play and out of travel necessities the harmonium has became smaller; some models such as the A 22 Shruti can be carried as hand luggage, says Datar.n—Shyamal Randeria-Leonard Saturday, Jan. 21, 5-7 p.m. The International House of Davis 10 College Park, Davis. $7 general, $5 students. (925) 577-7281.

india currents • dec. ’11 – jan. ’12 • 95

96 • india currents • dec. ’11 – jan. ’12


31 Saturday

Zankaar One Raga: Bhairavi. Sangeet

Dhwani holds its 83rd concert, Zankaar, with theme “Raag Bhairavi.” Several vocalists and musicians who will perform Hindustani classical, devotional, and movie songs based on this theme raga. Organized by Sangeet Dhwani, an agency that promotes the musical heritage of India. 2:30-5:30 p.m. Milpitas Library Auditorium, 160 N. Main St., Milpitas, 95035. Free. (408) 733-7442, (408) 394-0554. www.

Unforgettable: A New Year’s Eve Celebration. As this year comes to an end,

how are you planning to welcome the new year 2012? How about gourmet food, sizzling drinks, spicy shows, and conversations in an exotic ambiance to the rhythm of music, dance and festivities? Childcare for children 2 to 12 years old. Organized by WomenNow TV. 7 p.m. San Jose Airport Garden Hotel, 1740 N. First St., San Jose, 95112. www.,

Aaja Nachle! 2012: New Year’s Eve Party. Organized by Keep It Desi. 8 p.m.-1

a.m. Sneha Banquet Hall, 1214 Apollo Way, Suite 404, Sunnyvale, 94085. www.keepitdesi. com.

ICC’s New Years Eve: A Starry Night.

Exclusive dance performances by Fire Pixi (fire dance and aerial acrobatics show) and fully stocked open bar with unlimited drinks. Dance the night away to the beats of DJ Shem and others playing Bollywood to Top 40! Indian dinner buffet by Amber India Party. Tiaras, party hats, and noisemakers for all. Organized by Indian Community Center. 8 p.m. Indian Community Center, 525 Los Coches St., Milpitas, 95035. $79 before Dec. 29; $89 after. $59 children 11-18. (408) 934-1130. info@

2012 New Year’s Eve Bash. Featuring live

band and DJ. Organized by Aarav Entertainment. Canyon View Dining Hall, 680 Bollinger Canyon Way, San Ramon, 94582. $40 advance; $50 door; $25 children under 10. (925) 2165540, (510) 314-4118.


7 Saturday

Kalinga Nartanam. Jayendra Kalakendra is celebrating its 20th year in the Bay Area with

a thematic performance on the Dark Lord. A few talented students from each level have been selected to showcase various items. Senior student of the Dhananjayans, Anita Shanmuganathan choreographed a few items that the students of Jayendra Kalakendra will be presenting as part of the Kalinga Nartanam production. Organized by Suganda Sreenath Iyer and Jayendra Kalakendra. 4-6 p.m. Cubberley Theater, 4000 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto, 94303. $10, $15. (408) 2709295, (510) 252-1254. sugandaiyer@comcast. net. (See story.)


8 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. In year 2011, more than 275 local students successfully competed. Applications are now being taken for the 2012 exams, which will be held in April-May. Categories: Indian classical vocal, Indian classical instruments (tabla, sitar, harmonium, violin), and dance (kathak, bharatnatyam, odissi). Exams will be conducted for prarambhik (first year), praveshika pratham

New Year’s Day Guru Govind’s B'day Makara Sankranti Pongal M.L. King Jr. Day India’s Republic Day Sarasvati Puja

Jan. 1 Jan. 5 Jan. 14 Jan. 14 Jan. 16 Jan. 26 Jan. 28

Good Friday Easter Tamil New Year Buddha Purnima Mother’s Day Memorial Day Father’s Day

April 6 April 8 April 13 May 5 May 13 May 28 June 17

Navaratri begins Dashahara Idu’l Zuha Navratri ends Sharad Purnima Maharishi Valmiki’s B'day Karva Chauth

Oct. 16 Oct. 24 Oct. 26 Oct. 28 Oct. 29 Oct. 29 Nov. 2

Vasanta Panchami Presidents Day Ash Wednesday Maha Shivaratri Holi Now Roz Gudi Padva Ugadi Ramanavami Baisakhi Mahavir Jayanti Hanuman Jayanti

Jan. 28 Feb. 20 Feb. 22 Feb. 28 March 9 March 20 March 23 April 1 April 1 April 1 April 5 April 6

Ratha Yatra Guru Purnima U.S. Independence Day Raksha Bandhan Ramazan Krishna Janamashtami Indian Independence Idu’l Fitr Labor Day Onam Ganesh Chaturthi Gandhi’s B’day

June 21 July 2 July 4 Aug. 2 Aug. 2 Aug. 10 Aug. 15 Aug. 19 Sept. 3 Sept. 16 Sept. 19 Oct. 2

Dhan Teras Divali Govardhana Puja Bhai Duj Muharram Thanksgiving Day Guru Teg Bahadur Day Guru Nanak’s B’day Christmas Day

Nov. 11 Nov. 13 Nov. 14 Nov. 15 Nov. 15 Nov. 22 Nov. 24 Nov. 28 Dec. 25

(408) 324-0488 l(714) 523-8788

india currents • dec. ’11 – jan. ’12 • 97

(second year), praveshika poorna (third year), and madhyama pratham (fourth year) Completed applications must be submitted on or before Jan. 8. Organized by Akhil Bharatiya Gandharva Mahavidyalaya Mandal India. 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Akhil Bharatiya Gandharva Mahavidyalaya Mandal’s USA Center, 7844 McClellan Road, Cupertino, 95014. (408) 792-7014. satish_tare@

The Greatest of the Mughals. Film, 1960,

India, in Urdu/Hindi with English subtitles, 191 minutes. This 1960 epic took nine years and $3 million to make, and it was the highest grossing Indian film ever produced. The story is loosely based on an episode in the life of the Mughal Prince Salim, who went on to become the Emperor Jahangir (r. 1608-1627). The film chronicles the drama of royal succession, forbidden love between the prince and a court dancer, the prince’s rebellion against his father, and dramatic death sentences. Organized by Asian Art Museum. 1 p.m. Asian Art Museum, 200 Larkin St., San Francisco. Free with museum admission. (415) 581-3500.

IC calendars are updated daily! Get the West Coast’s most complete list of South Asian events at


19 Thursday

Classical Indian Vocal Music and Dance. Visiting from India, classical

vocalist and music educator, Dhanashree Pandit-Rai and kathak dancer Keka Sinha present a talk and demonstration that unravels the poetic and expressive connections between thumri (a classical form of vocal music) and kathak. Organized by Asian Art Museum, co-sponsored with Society for Art and Cultural Heritage of India. 7 p.m. Asian Art Museum (Samsung Hall), 200 Larkin St., San Francisco. $5, plus museum admission. (415) 581-3500.


21 Saturday

Lecture demonstration on Harmonium Tuning by Vivek Datar. Datar is an accomplished harmonium player from the Bay Area. He will present an educational lecture-demonstration and will be interviewed by Milind Kulkarni. Similar to piano, the traditional method is to tune using generic tuning. It can also be tuned in what is known as Gandhar tuning. Datar will also play a solo on the harmonium accompanied by Sundaresan (tabla). Organized by Raagmala. 5-7 p.m. The International House of Davis, 10 College Park, Davis, 95616. $7 general, $5 students. (See story.)


22 Sunday

Natya Yoga: the Yoga of Bharatanatyam. Lecture-demonstration for Natya-

rangam given by Aparna Ramaswamy for natya yoga: the pra-yoga (ritual application) of bharathanatyam. Bharathanatyam is an interpretive story telling dance from

southern India. When practiced as natya yoga, bharathanatyam embodies ashta anga principles of yoga, as described in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. Ashtanga, or eight-limbed yoga, aims at self-realization by means of an eightfold process involving practices of ethical conduct, self-purification, yoga postures, breath control, sense control, concentration, meditation, and Samadhi. As a dancer and psychotherapist, Ramaswamy’s objective is to revision bharathanatyam as natya yoga and reclaim its healing experience. She has over 35 years of dance training and in the words of her gurus, the Dhananjayans, Ramaswamy is “dancer, teacher and communicator par excellence.” Ramaswamy is completing her Ph.D. at California Institute of Integral Studies on natya yoga. Organized by Cultural Integration Fellowship. 11 a.m.12:30 p.m. Cultural Integration Fellowship, 2650 Fulton St., San Francisco, 94118. (415) 668-1559.


28 Saturday

Hindustani Classical Concert: Coming Together. Binay Pathak sings the music

of his centuries-old classical gharana, transporting listeners into the sublime realm of sound and emotional color in each raga. Pathak performs in concerts worldwide, is an award-winning music director in Indian film and TV, artist with All India Radio and has been awarded Surmani. Pathak will be accompanied by Matthew Montfort (scalloped fretboard guitar) and Joe Fajen (tabla). Montfort has been performing on scalloped fretboard guitar since 1978. He studied intensively with veena master K.S. Subramanian to fully apply gamaka techniques to the guitar. Influenced by Hindustani, Celtic, and Spanish music, Montfort performs worldwide and leads world music group Ancient Future. Fajen, a well-known Northern

Binay Pathak (center) will perform with Matthew Montfort (left) and Joe Fajen (right) on Jan. 28 in Nevada City. and with Fajen on Saturday, Feb. 11 in Carmichael.

98 • india currents • dec. ’11 – jan. ’12

California tabla artist, has studied with Zakir Hussain, Swapan Chaudhuri, Arshad Syed, Ty Burhoe, and Binay Pathak. Organized by North Columbia Schoolhouse Cultural Center. 8 p.m. North Columbia Schoolhouse Cultural Center, 17894 Tyler Foote Road, Nevada City, 95959 . $20. (916) 216-3259. www.sohinisangeet. org,


29 Sunday

Haridasara Celebration. Teachers and

students of Karnatik music schools in the Bay Area join to sing the compositions of the saints, poets, and composers of the Haridasa Movement in Karnataka going from the 12th century to the 16th century. Organized by Badarikashrama. 10:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Badarikashrama, 15602 Maubert Ave., San Leandro, 94578. Free. (510) 278-2444. badarik@


4 Saturday

Teacher Workshop: New Year Celebrations. Deepen your students’ understanding

of Asian arts and cultures through the lens of New Year celebrations. Learn the significance of the art, stories, and traditions of Now Ruz, Tet, the Chinese Lunar New Year, and more. Participants receive lesson plans, images, and

storytelling videos for use in the classroom. Organized by Asian Art Museum. 9:30 a.m.12:30 p.m. Asian Art Museum, 200 Larkin St., San Francisco, 94102. $20. Preregistration required. (415) 581-3500.


11 Saturday

Hindustani Classical Vocal Concert.

Timeless Hindustani ragas are vibrantly alive in concert with Binay Pathak, son of legendary Indian sitarist Balram Pathak, as he sings the music of his centuries-old classical lineage, transporting his audience into the sublime realm of sound and emotional color in each raga. Pathak performs in concerts worldwide, is an award-winning music director in Indian film and TV, artist with All India Radio and has been awarded Surmani. He will be accompanied by Joe Fajen, wellknown Northern California tabla artist has studied with Zakir Hussain, Swapan Chaudhuri, Arshad Syed, and Ty Burhoe. Organized by Sohini Sangeet Academy, Sacramento. 7:15 p.m. Vedanta Society of Sacramento, 1337 Mission Ave., Carmichael, 95608. (916) 217-3259., maya@, © Copyright 2011 India Currents. All rights reserved. Reproduction for commercial use strictly prohibited. 

Have you had an inspirational experience? Share it with the readers of India Currents! India Currents runs monthly spiritual essays written by members of the community. We accept spiritual or religious-themed essays from any religion, denomination, or lack thereof. India Currents looks for pieces that are written from a personal standpoint, rather than academic. If interested, please send your 600-800-word submissions to Nadia Maiwandi at We accept submissions year-round.

india currents • dec. ’11 – jan. ’12 • 99



Michelle Baird

Rama, Ravana, and Sanjay Patel S

anjay Patel just opened his exhibition at the Asian Art Museum; DreamWorks has optioned his book, Ramayana: Divine Loophole; and he has another wildly successful book under his belt, The Little Book of Hindu Deities. For a 37-year-old supervising animator and storyboard artist at Pixar, Patel is doing pretty well. But his perspective is a little different. “My work is in no way museum worthy or museum quality—it’s not!” he says. Walking into Sanjay Patel’s exhibit at the Asian Art Museum, “Deities, Demons, and Dudes with ‘Staches,” is like entering a visual explosion. Color is everywhere in wallto-wall, ceiling-to-floor excitement. It’s the visual cacophony of India neatly rendered by an American artist. I watched a group of gay men pose for pictures in front of a gigantic Vishnu. Opposite is Patel’s favorite wall in the exhibit, covered with sketches. “I never intended the sketches to be this giant,” says Patel. But Qamar Adamjee, associate curator of South Asian Art at the museum, stresses that the “sketches reveal Patel’s process, showing us something we don’t get to see in a finished project.” Adamjee originally tapped Patel to “activate” the current exhibit at the museum, “Maharaja: The Splendor of India’s Royal Courts,” that runs through April 8 (Pate’s exhibit is through April 22). Patel’s iconic image of a maharaja in profile graces the banners on the front of the museum. Broad-shouldered, bejeweled, and majestically grasping a sword in his right hand with a falcon clasping his left gloved hand, Patel’s maharaja is the epitome of rule in India. He wears a beautifully plumed turban and sports a luxurious moustache. Patel explains, “Moustaches are one of the iconic things about the maharajas. Moustaches also speak to my ‘lowbrowness.’” “Lowbrowness” is one of the most attractive features of Patel’s art. “One of my pet peeves is that there’s so much art in a museum—then you go to a BART station and there’s nothing. This stuff is pedestrian (in India). It’s on matchboxes and taxi cabs.” Patel first went to India after his first book was published. “That was a life-changing experience. Being in America I never feel American, being brown and named Sanjay. But in India, I only felt American.” He fell in love with the caves at Ajanta and Ellora, developed a special fondness for village life in Kutch, and started putting his 100 • india currents • dec. ’11 – jan. ’12


parents’ life in context. “Being in India explained things that I grew up with and never understood.” Later, Patel fusses over my buying him a latte at the cafe Boot and Shoe Service in Oakland, and launches into the interview— with questions for me: “Are you an extrovert or an introvert? Why do writers write about other people and not themselves?” We Myers-Briggs me, looking up my four letters on his iPhone and talking through the pros and cons of my personality, only then able to talk about what makes Patel tick. He says considers himself an illustrator, not an artist, and that it took a long time and many influences to develop his style. He looked at Picasso’s shifting style and Matisse “painting with scissors,” and added years of playing with white-out pens at Pixar, “the only thing resembling paint at the office,” before ever

starting to sketch Hindu deities. Mallika Prakash, an artist based in San Francisco, commented on Patel’s work. “When I saw Sanjay Patel’s Hindu Deities in a bookstore in New Delhi, I knew right away that I had to buy it. I often flip through his book when I need to break down a complex shape and keep only what’s essential to it.” Everyone I’ve talked with about Patel’s first book loves it. His response? “Oh, that was just a marketing ploy. I took a year off, didn’t let myself do any art, and just read business books. I read Rich Dad Poor Dad cover to cover, and it changed my life.” Hindu Deities was the result of his year-long business experiment. Patel grew up outside of Los Angeles; his parents were hotel owners off Route 66. Every morning, he was sent out to gather marigold petals from the flowers around the hotel parking lot, then would accompany his father in puja. “Before anyone had tea, he attended to the deities,” Patel says. Patel showed pictures of his father’s altar, the image of the Indian saint his mother feeds regularly, and a picture of Jesus Christ on the wall of their hotel with a tilak. The deities and saints were clearly a major focus of Patel’s visual environment while growing up. But when asked about his father and his devotion, Patel says, “he’s more interested in lighting candles… he doesn’t talk about these things.” When I ask about his family and their reaction to his art, Patel says, “My mother is mostly concerned about the children that I don’t yet have, and my father, well, he’s not a reader.” But they’ve seen his art, seen his books? “I’ve tried to show it to them, but they’re not really into it. My dad doesn’t do books.” And your brother? Sanjay brightens a bit. “He’s pretty good—he’ll check up on me, ask me about what I’m doing. He’s seen my stuff.” I ask about Ramayana: Divine Loophole. In length, style, depth of subject matter, and emotional range, it’s an entirely different work than Hindu Deities. I ask if Patel “grew up” between the two books. “Naw, I just knew how to use Adobe Illustrator better. That’s the only difference.” Ramayana took Patel over a year to prepare for. The demons are graphically evil, with radioactively glowing eyes. His heroes are tortured by karmic twists and illusions.

The stand-off between Rama and Ravana is epic. As Rama heroically eviscerates Ravana with a blinding arrow, “The universe was silenced as evil was brought to an end for an age.” A docent trainee at the museum, Meena Vashee, gave her comments on Sanjay’s Ramayana. “He makes use of cutting-edge, 21st century artistic techniques to illustrate an ancient Hindu epic. The illustrations, superbly done, help transport the reader 2,500 years back in time to a distant land.” The grim determination of Rama and the intoxicating portrayals of Ravana speak to Patel as both an artist and a person. He vacillates between amazing accomplishments and the demons in the edges of his thoughts, making light of his work and process. Patel and I stop in Walden Pond Bookstore, next to Boot and Shoe Service, to locate a copy of his Ramayana. It’s been taken off the front display, but an employee helps us locate it on a table of “epic works.” He invites her to see his exhibit, stressing its smallness and the kindness of the museum in hosting it. Really? This from an artist deep in discussion with DreamWorks about the development of the book he’s downplaying? Regardless, Patel’s busy. He’s proposing ideas to Pixar for a short film while finishing a children’s book, Ganesha’s Sweet Tooth,

with his girlfriend Emily Haynes. He pulls up images from the book’s inside cover flap he was working on the day before. “Look, here’s Emily, working on her computer. Look at her kick-ass boots! I’m pretty pleased with those.” I admire the kick-ass boots, then examine Patel drawn in his alcove in their apartment, working away on his Mac. “I love these little details. I totally geek out on this stuff,” he says. “Geeking out” about cover flaps is one very small part of Patel’s work. Adamjee explains, “He’s doing what artists have been doing for thousands of years before him. He looks at art and figures out how to reinterpret it for the present day.” Patel responds, “Part of the job is to truly honor what’s come before you, (because) we’re all standing on each other’s shoulders. This stuff doesn’t come out of thin air.” No, Patel’s work doesn’t come out of thin air. But his are the next set of shoulders future artists will be standing on.n Now through April 22. Tateuchi Thematic Gallery, second floor, Asian Art Museum, 200 Larkin St., San Francisco, 94102. $17 general; $13 seniors; $12 students; $7 children 13-17; members and SFUSD students free. Closed Mondays. (415) 581-3500.

Maharaja with Falcon

I C short-term ongoing events Health Advisory Clinic. Free medical consultation from various specialty doctors. Organized by HCCC. Ends Dec. 29. 1-3 p.m. Livermore Shiva Vishnu Temple Health Clinic, 1223 Arrowhead Ave Livermore CA 94550. Free. (925) 449-6255, (925) 371-5640. suman1218@yahoo. com. Garden of Verses: Images of Compassion Contemporary Arabic Calligraphy. Paintings by Berkeley-based artist Salma Arastu.

Arastu has created this new series of paintings, which combine lyrical human universality and Arabic calligraphy, in an effort to convey messages of celebration of diversity, unity, love, and compassion from the Quran to the people of the world. Ghazala Anwar, professor of Islamic Studies at Starr King School for the Ministry, Berkeley, describes her work: “Whereas in classical calligraphy the letters and the text have a strong and distinctive form and emphasize the distance between the majesty of the message and the one to whom it is addressed, Salma Arastu’s nontraditional calligraphy erases this distance between the word and the receiver and affects their union. She uses the same stroke of the brush for Arabic letters as she does for suggesting human forms. Ends Jan. 13. 4-8 p.m. Shambala Street Space Gallery, 2177 Bancroft Ave., Berkeley. Free. (510) 597-0470, (510) 868-4398.

The Matter Within: New Contemporary Art of India. As contemporary art becomes more widely recognized within India, there has

also been a growing awareness of its international development and impact. “The Matter Within” is an exhibition of sculpture, photography, and video by artists of India living inside the country as well as in the diaspora. Inspired by material culture, literature, spirituality, and social and political aspects of the history of the South Asian region, the exhibition is organized around three thematic threads that resonate from contemporary India—embodiment, the politics of communicative bodies, and the imaginary. Of particular interest are the artistic practices that either incorporate these concepts or operate within a gap between these existing thematic categories. Organized by Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. Ends Jan. 29. Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 701 Mission St., San Francisco, 94103. $7 general; $5 Senior/student/teacher; YBCA members free. (415) 978-2700, (415) 978-2787. (See story.)

Maharaja: The Splendor of India’s Royal Courts. Art exhibit, featuring paintings, photography, rich textiles, opulent jewelry, and beautiful furniture, which trace the change in the institution of Indian kingship from the collapse of the Moghul Empire in the early 18th century through the end of British rule in 1947. The exhibit also features the work of author and artist Sanjay Patel, whose work will be shown on the third floor of the museum, where he is carefully connecting his modern-day interpretations of Hinduism with pieces from the museum’s permanent collection. Organized by Asian Art Museum. Ends April 8. Asian Art Museum, 200 Larkin St., San Francisco. $17 general; $13 seniors; $12 college students; $7 children 13-17; children under 13 free. (415) 581-3500. (See story on Sanjay Patel.) india currents • dec. ’11 – jan. ’12 • 101



Ramki Durai

Three Gunas I

t is obvious that during the course of our daily life we swing into various moods in response to stimuli from sense objects. We also react to people, places, and situations resulting in a constant change in our behavior pattern. Hindu scriptures attribute these changes to inborn qualities called gunas, which are classified as satva (purity), rajas (passion), and tamas (dullness). Bhagavad Gita and Bhagavatham enlighten us on these gunas. Our various activities always exhibit these gunas that constantly overlap forcing us to swing into various moods and behavior. When we pray, meditate, or listen to music we are satvik (pure). When we attend to our household or office work, we are rajasik (active). When we are lazy and lie down quietly we are tamasik (dull). Bhagavad Gita explains: “Satva prevails overlapping rajas and tamas; rajas prevails overlapping satva and tamas; tamas manifests itself overlapping satva and rajas.” In the Bhagavatam, Krishna tells his friend Uddhava: “There is predominance of one or the other gunas in things, objects and persons. Our deeds and thoughts always express one guna or the other. Indeed, every object in this manifold universe and even celestial beings are influenced by these gunas.” Bhagavad Gita: Mokshe Sanyasa Yoga confirms this: “There is no being, animate or inanimate, on earth or in the middle region or even among gods and devas or anywhere else, which is free from these three gunas born of nature.” Gunas influence everything in creation. Let us see a few examples: Sky: Puffy clouds are satvik; thunder and lightning are rajasik; and a clear sky is tamasik. Wind: A mild breeze is satvik, a cyclone is rajasik, and still weather is tamasik. Water: A fountain in the park is satvik; waterfall is rajasik; and a lake is tamasik. Fire: Candlelight is satvik; a raging fire is rajasik, and smouldering fire is tamasik. Animal: A lion playing with cubs is satvik; chasing its prey is rajasik; and resting under the shade is tamasik. Bird: A nesting bird is satvik; flying around to pick worms is rajasik; and resting on a branch is tamasik. Insect: A busy caterpillar is rajasik; the cocoon is tamasik; and the butterfly is satvik. The BhagavadGita explains how these 102 • india currents • dec. ’11 – jan. ’12

gunas manifest in us: Satva: Being immaculate is illuminating and flawless and leads to joy and wisdom. Rajas: Passion results in longing and attachment, motivating the individual to action and to face the consequences. Tamas: Ignorance deludes through negligence, inactivity, laziness, and sleep. In the Bhagavatam, Krishna tells Uddhava, “When satva, which is pure and tranquil and has the power to illumine overcomes rajas and tamas the person is endowed with happiness, virtue and knowledge. “When rajas, which leads the person to action and results in attachment ensuing the vision of multiplicity, overcomes satva and tamas, the person is active, finds wealth, fame, and suffers misery. “When tamas, which is characterized by inertia and casts a veil of ignorance on one’s mind and makes the person lose the power of discrimination, overcomes satva and rajas the person is stricken with grief and delusion. He lives in a dream of hope and, to fulfill the same, he even becomes cruel. Laziness and inertia sets in.” The Bhagavad Gita confirms this: “Those who are settled in satva go upward, rajasiks dwell in the middle, and tamasiks remaining under the influence of the lowest qualities go downward.” Krishna tells Uddhava: “These three gunas belong to the mind and not to yourself. Rise above the gunas and realize the self.

First overcome rajas and tamas by developing satva and then rise above satva by satva itself.” Become a satvik to realize you are the higher self caged in the lower self comprising of the body-mind-intellect complex. To be a satvik you need not be docile, obedient, lose interest in life or give up your choice food, recreation, and hobbies and sit in meditation for long hours! What you have to do is to spend some time every day in solitude, silence and contemplation. The best time to do this is just before retiring at night. Sit in contemplation for 15 minutes identifying yourself one with your ishta deivam (favorite god) ever present in your heart. As these gunas constantly overlap your daily life, get into a satvik mood as often as possible. The mind manifests these gunas based on the stimuli received from sense objects, situations and circumstances. Be a satvik by controlling your mind and relinquish all actions to your lower self. Look within yourself to be a satvik and you will radiate peace, tranquility, joy and happiness for ever. n

Ramki Durai has pursued Vedanta topics since 2001 and shares his knowledge through talks he gives at Sunnyvale Hindu Temple and also at Sri Lakshmi Ganapathy Temple in San Jose.


spirituality and health


3 Sunday

Bringing Bharath to the Bay. An Indian

cultural program of the season. Featuring songs, drama, puppet show, Indian classical dance, celebrations for Christmas, activities, goody bags. Service in English by Pastor Ranjan Samuel. Organized by Christ Church of India. 10:30 a.m. India Community Center (ICC), 525 Los Coches St., Milpitas, 95035. Free. (408) 234-0911.

Sri Sundarakhanda Ramayana of Sri Tulsidas Goswami. Group singing of the

Sundarkhanda of the Ramayana. Books available with Sri Sundarkhanda text. Organized by Badarikashrama. 2:30-5:30 p.m. Badarikashrama, 15602 Maubert Ave., San Leandro, 94578. Free. (510) 278-2444.

Discourses on Sad Dharshanam. Organized by Chinmaya Mission San Jose. 8-9 p.m. Ruparel Residence, 20668 Seaton Ave., Saratoga, CA 95070. Free. (408) 867-9550.


4 Sunday

Living Like Haridas Chaudhuri: Experiencing Integral Reality. Lecture by

Anton Grosz, graduate of California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco, a freestanding graduate school founded by Haridas Chaudhuri. Chaudhuri was a pioneer in bringing Eastern, particularly East Indian, philosophy to the West, coming to San Francisco in 1951 at the recommendation of Sri Aurobindo of Pondicherry. Anton Grosz outlines the basic concepts of Chaudhuri’s integral philosophy and psychology and shares Chaudhuri’s perspective on how to live by such ideals in a practical way. Organized by Cultural Integration Fellowship. 11 a.m.-

A SUGGESTION: India Currents goes to press as much as six weeks in advance of some events listed in it. Even though organizers do their best to stick to the announced schedule, in rare cases events are rescheduled or cancelled. To avoid disappointment, we recommend that you always check the organizer’s website, and


Celebrations to honor the life of Sarada Devi will be held on Sunday, Dec. 18 in San Leandro.

12:30 p.m. Cultural Integration Fellowship, 2650 Fulton St., San Francisco, 94118. (415) 668-1559.

Sri Bhagavad Gita Jayanti. Focus on the

Srimad Bhagavad Gita with participation of Balasamskara Kendra (children’s school), and others influenced by the Bhagavad Gita in their lives. Followed by aarati and mahaprasad. Organized by Badarikashrama. 11 a.m.1 p.m. Badarikashrama, 15602 Maubert Ave., San Leandro, 94578. Free. (510) 278-2444. www.badarikashrama. orgs.

Ramanama Sankeerthana. Organized by Balaji Temple. 7 p.m. Balaji Temple Sunnyvale, 678 Cypress Ave., Sunnyvale, 94085. (408) 203-1036, (408) 733-9266.

Happy Healthy Family Workshop: Un-

leashing Joy, Love, and Success. A yoga,

games, and breathing workshop for the whole family. Highlights include techniques to: calm the mind and energize the body, improve family communication and unity, reduce stress, learn the art of healthy emotions. Kids session includes: games, yoga, essential skills for school and life, focus meditation. Parents session includes: light yoga, breathing techniques to release stress, experience of inner peace and learn about the tendencies of the mind. Everyone will get the experience of how to meditate effortlessly. Organized by The Art of Living Foundation. 4-6 p.m. Sobrato Foundation Center, 600 Valley Way, Building 5, Milpitas, 95035. Free. (510) 573-4333. gungun. event_details.aspx?event_id=101841.

How to Create Dynamic Will Power.

SRF Center Sacramento, 4513 North Ave., Sacramento. (916) 483-9644. SRF Center Los Gatos, 303 E. Main St., Los Gatos. (408) 252india currents • dec. ’11 – jan. ’12 • 103

5299. Richmond Temple, 6401 Bernhard Ave., Richmond. (510) 232-6652. Contact temples for times. Organized by Self-Realization Fellowship.


6 Tuesday

Gita Jayanti/Tapovan Jayanti. Chanting

of entire Srimad Bhagavad Gita. Organized by Chinmaya Mission San Jose. 4-8 p.m. Sandeepany San Jose, 1050 Park Ave., San Jose, 95126. Free. (408) 998-2793. sanjose@ www.chinmaya-sanjose. org.


8 Thursday

Karthigai Deepam. Meditation, readings,

and puja to Siva and Sri Ramana Maharshi with devotional chanting of bhajans. Organized by Society of Abidance in Truth (SAT). 7:30-10 p.m. Society of Abidance in Truth (SAT), 1834 Ocean St., Santa Cruz, 95060. Free. (831) 425-7287.,

Thirukarthaigal Deepam. Devotional music with Shri Natarajan and family. Organized by Shiva Murugan Temple. 1803 Second St., Concord, 94519. (925) 827-0127. www.temple. org.


9 Friday

Poornima Sri Satyanarayana Puja and Sri Balaji Abhishekam. Organized by

Balaji Temple. 6-7:30 p.m. Balaji Temple Sunnyvale, 678 Cypress Ave., Sunnyvale, 94085. (408) 203-1036, (408) 733-9266.

Rita Sahai will give a vocal ooncert during a Christmas celebration on Sunday, Dec. 25 in San Leandro.

Ribhu Gita. Readings, with commentary

and dialogue, by Nome from the book, Ribhu Gita. Organized by Society of Abidance in Truth (SAT). 8-9:30 p.m. Society of Abidance in Truth (SAT), 1834 Ocean St., Santa Cruz, 95060. Free. (831) 425-7287.


10 Saturday

Discourses on Dakshinamoorty Strotram. Organized by Chinmaya Mission San Jose. 8-9 p.m. Rao Residence, 22314 Cupertino Road, Cupertino, CA 95014. Free. (408) 863-0595.


11 Sunday

108 Samuhika Sri Satyanarayana Swami 104 • india currents • dec. ’11 – jan. ’12

Puja & Katha. Led by Swami Omkaranandaji Maharaj. Bhajans by Rita Sahai and students. Followed by aarati and mahaprasad (lunch). A highly devotional and spiritual experience for all in attendance. Organized by Badarikashrama. 10:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Badarikashrama, 15602 Maubert Ave., San Leandro, 94578. Free. (510) 278-2444. Awakening from the Dream of Human Limitations. SRF Center Sacramento, 4513

North Ave., Sacramento. (916) 483-9644. SRF Center Los Gatos, 303 E. Main St., Los Gatos. (408) 252-5299. Richmond Temple, 6401 Bernhard Ave., Richmond. (510) 232-6652. Contact temples for times. Organized by SelfRealization Fellowship.


17 Saturday

Sri Mata ki Chowki. Group bhajans to the Divine Mother, followed by aarati and mahaprasad. Organized by Badarikashrama. 8-10 p.m. Badarikashrama, 15602 Maubert Ave., San Leandro, 94578. Free. (510) 2782444.


18 Sunday

Sri Sharada Devi Jayanti. Celebration honoring the life and teachings of the Bengali saint and wife of Sri Ramakrishna. Music by Deepali Ghate Deglurkar, harmonium, and tabla. Talk by Pravarjika Anantaprana, Vedanta Society, S.F., “Meditation on Sri Sharada Devi.” Followed by aarati and mahaprasad. Organized by Badarikashrama. 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Badarikashrama, 15602 Maubert

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india currents • dec. ’11 – jan. ’12 • 105

Ave., San Leandro, 94578. Free. (510) 2782444.

Attunement with the Christ Consciousness. SRF Center Sacramento, 4513 North Ave., Sacramento. (916) 483-9644. SRF Center Los Gatos, 303 E. Main St., Los Gatos. (408) 252-5299. Richmond Temple, 6401 Bernhard Ave., Richmond. (510) 232-6652. Contact temples for times. Organized by SelfRealization Fellowship.


20 Tuesday

Discourses on Upadesha Saara. Bhagavan

Ramana Maharshi captures the essence of the Vedantic teachings in merely 30 verses in Upadesha Saara. This text covers the paths of action, devotion, yoga and knowledge, ultimately leading to self-knowledge. Discourses given by Prabodh Chaitanya, resident acharya of Chinmaya Mission San Jose. Ends Dec. 23. Organized by Chinmaya Mission San Jose. 6:30-8:30 p.m. California High School Auditorium, 9870 Broadmoor Drive, San Ramon, 94583. Free. (408) 396-1544. sanjose@ www.chinmaya-sanjose. org.


23 Friday

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Ramana Darshanam. Focused on the teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi, as contained in books published by Sri Ramanasramam. Passages are read aloud, and their meanings are explained in detail so that seekers can fully practice the teachings and comprehend their profound significance. Dialogues also occur in which aspirants raise questions from their own practices and receive answers so to provide better absorption and a deeper, extensive understanding of the knowledge revealed by the Maharshi. Organized by Society of Abidance in Truth (SAT). 8-9:30 p.m. Society of Abidance in Truth (SAT), 1834 Ocean St., Santa Cruz, 95060. Free. (831) 425-7287. www.


25 Sunday

Discourses on Taittriya Upanishad, Third Chapter. Discourses on the third

chapter of Taittriya Upanishad titled Bhrighu Valli. Discourses given by Prabodh Chaitanya, resident acharya of Chinmaya Mission, San Jose. Ends Dec. 30. Organized by Chinmaya Mission San Jose. 10 a.m.-12 p.m. CMSJ Facility, 10160 Clayton Road, San Jose, 95127. Free. (408) 998-2793.

Christmas Concert and Dinner. Hindu-

stani vocal concert by Rita Sahai followed by vegetarian dinner. Sahai is a well-known singer, composer, and performer in the Bay Area. A beautiful way to spend Christmas in the serene, warm, family friendly, atmosphere of the ashrama. Organized by Badarikashrama. 3 p.m. Badarikashrama, 15602 Maubert Ave., San Leandro, 94578. Free. Reservations recommended. (510) 278-2444. www.badarikashrama. org.

The Divine Nature of Christ. SRF Cen-

ter Sacramento, 4513 North Ave., Sacramento. (916) 483-9644. SRF Center Los Gatos, 303 E. Main St., Los Gatos. (408) 252-5299. Richmond Temple, 6401 Bernhard Ave., Richmond. (510) 232-6652. Contact temples for times. Organized by Self-Realization Fellowship.


30 Friday

Sri Ramana’s Jayanti 2011. Devotion,

puja, kirtan, and recitation followed by prasad. Organized by Society of Abidance in Truth (SAT). 7:30-10 p.m. Society of Abidance in Truth (SAT), 1834 Ocean St., Santa Cruz, 95060. Free. (831) 425-7287., www.satramana.


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Swami Vivekananda Jayanti Celebration. Event focusing on the life and teach-



31 Saturday

Sri Akanda Ramayana by Tulasidas Gowswami. Group chanting of the entire

Sri Akanda Ramayana. Books with text available; the Ramayana takes approximately 26 hours to chant. Those wishing to remain through the night will have accomodation. Prasad will be provided throughout the event. Ends with aarati and mahaprasad. Ends Jan. 1. Organized by Badarikashrama. 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Badarikashrama, 15602 Maubert Ave., San Leandro, 94578. Free. (510) 278-2444.

New Year’s Puja: Samashti Vishnu Sahasranaama Puja. Organized by Chinmaya

Mission San Jose. 5:30-9 p.m. CMSJ Facility, 10160 Clayton Road, San Jose, CA 95127. Free. (408) 998-2793.


8 Sunday

Sri Satyanarayana Swami Puja and Kirtan. Followed by aarati and mahaprasad.

Organized by Badarikashrama. 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Badarikashrama, 15602 Maubert Ave., San Leandro, 94578. Free. (510) 278-2444. www.badarikashrama. org.


14 Saturday

Makara Sankranti, Sri Rudrabhisheka.

Celebration of Makara Sankranti with Sri Rudrabhisheka (worship of Shiva linga). Group participation, followed by aarati and mahaprasad. Organized by Badarikashrama. 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Badarikashrama, 15602 Maubert Ave., San Leandro, 94578. Free. (510) 278-2444.


15 Sunday

ings of the great Bengali saint, the renowned Swami Vivekananda. Talks, music, skit by Balasamskara Kendra, and essay contest for children. Organized by Badarikashrama. 10:30 a.m.-1 p.m. Badarikashrama, 15602 Maubert Ave., San Leandro, 94578. Free. To enter contest, contact ashrama staff. (510) 278-2444. www.badarikashrama. org.


21 Saturday

132nd Jayanthi of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi. Lunch will be served at 1 p.m. 11

a.m.-2 p.m. Jain Temple, Milpitas, 722 S. Main St., Milpitas, 95035 . Free. (510) 656-2752.

Sri Mata ki Chowki. Group singing of

bhajans to the Divine Mother, followed by aarati and mahaprasad. Organized by Badarikashrama. 8-10 p.m. Badarikashrama, 15602 Maubert Ave., San Leandro, 94578. Free. (510) 278-2444.


22 Sunday

Sri Ramanama Sankirtana and Meditation. Singing of 108 stanzas summarizing the

story of the Ramayana. Organized by Badarikashrama. 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Badarikashrama, 15602 Maubert Ave., San Leandro, 94578. free. (510) 278-2444. www.


29 Sunday

Divine Inspiration Contest for Kids. A national-level competition, the aim of the contest is to inspire the younger generation with divine values of Sanatan Dharma and Vedic sanskars. The top three contestants will recieve an Apple iPad. All participants will receive certificate and memento. Organized by Shri Yoga Vedanta Ashram. 9 a.m. Chinmaya Mission Temple, 10160 Clayton

Road, San Jose, 95127. Free. Registration required: aspx. Study kit: $5 (can be ordered during the online or in-person registration). (408) 4599042. us.ashram. org/dpp2012.


4 Saturday

Sri Sundarkhanda Ramayana of Tulasidas Gowswami. Group singing of the Sri Sundarkhanda Ramayana. Books with text available, followed by aarati and mahaprasad. Organized by Badarikashrama. 2:305:30 p.m. Badarikashrama, 15602 Maubert Ave., San Leandro, 94578. Free. (510) 2782444.


12 Sunday

Vedanta: The Prism to See Yourself to See the World Better. Talk by Prasad

Vepa. This talk will draw from ancient texts like the Upanishads and teachings of masters such as Shankara, Ramana Maharshi, Sri Aurobindo, and Swami Chinmayananda to distill the central concepts of Vedanta, the essence of Hindu philosophy, and apply it as we strive to lead aware, purposeful and fulfilling lives. Prasad Vepa, a retired corporate executive in the Silicon Valley, is a longtime student of Vedanta. He has been on the board of trustees of the California Institute of Integral Studies, San Francisco, presently serving as its chair. Organized by Cultural Integration Fellowship. 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Cultural Integration Fellowship, 2650 Fulton St., San Francisco, 94118. (415) 668-1559.

© Copyright 2011 India Currents. All rights reserved. Reproduction for commercial use strictly prohibited. 

Have you had an inspirational experience? Share it with the readers of India Currents! India Currents runs monthly spiritual essays written by members of the community. We accept spiritual or religious-themed essays from any religion or denomination, or lack thereof. IC looks for pieces that are written from a personal standpoint, rather than academic. Send your 600-800-word submissions to Nadia Maiwandi at 108 • india currents • dec. ’11 – jan. ’12

Om Sri Mathre Namaha Vaidica Vidhya Ganapathi Center SRI LAKSHMI GANAPATHI TEMPLE

(408) 226-3600

32B Rancho Drive, San Jose, CA 95111

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

Thursday, December 8, 2011 Bharani Deepam, Annamalai Deepam Friday, December 9, 2011 - Kritika Vratha, Karthika Deepam At 5.00 pm Sri Bhuwaneswari/Sri Lalitha Devi Abhisheka, Sri Valli Deva Sena Sametha Sri Subramanya Abhisheka continued with Sri Lalitha Sahasranama Chanting Aarati and Manthra Pushpa Saturday, December 10, 2011 Lunar Eclipse Morning 6.06 to 6.57 am Visible In USA Mrugaseersha, Arudra, Rohini Chrithra and Dhanishta Nakshatra should do special Japam 10.00 am Temple Will Be Opened 12 Noon Navagraha Homa, Saneeswara Graha Homa, and Navagraha Abhisheka, And Saneeswara Graha Abhisheka At 2.00 pm Pournami Vratha/Pooja Sri Sathayanarayana Swamy Pooja/Vratha all are welcome to participate with family At 4.00 pm - Pancharathra Deepm Vaikanasa Deepam, Sarvalaya Deepam, Sri Venkateswara Abhisheka continued with Sri Vishnu Sahasranama Chanting Aarati and Manthra Pushpa Wednesday, December 14, 2011 At 5.00 pm Sri Sankata Hara Chathurthi Ganapathi Homa, Sri Lakshmi Ganapathi Abhisheka, Aarati and Manthra Pushpa Saturday, Decemsber 17, 2011 Dhanur Masa Pooja begins Thiruppavai and Tiruvembavai Wednesday, December 21, 2011 At 6.00 pm Thirunallaru Sanipeyarchi Homa Sani transition according to solar calendar. Special Homa and Archana Thursday, Dec. 22, 2011 - Pradosham At 6.00 pm Shiva Sri Rudra Abhisheka

Aarati and Manthra Pushpa Sat., Dec. 24, 2011 - Sarva Amavasya At At 4.00 pm Moola Nakshatra Sri Hanuman Jayanthi Special Pooja, Sri Venkateswara Abhisheka, Continued with Sri Vishnu Sahasranama Chanting Aarati and Manthra Pushpa Sunday, December 25, 2011 Merry Happy Christmas Friday, Dec. 30, 2011 - Sukla Sashti At 8.00 pm Sri Valli Deva Sena Sametha Sri Subramanya Sahasranama Archana Saturday, December 31, 2011 At 11.30 pm Shiva Abhisheka and Special Archana to all the deities, (Sarva Devatha) Special Aarathi at 12.00 am Welcoming The New Year 2012 With You All Very Very Happy New Year 2012. Theertha Prasada Viniyoga Temple Closes 1.00 am Sunday, January 1, 2012 Temple Opens Morning 6.00 am with Sri Venkateswara Suprabhatam continued with Sri Lakshmi Ganapathi Abhisheka, Sri Shiva Abhisheka, Sri Valli Deva Sena Sametha Sri Subramanya Abhisheka Aarati and Manthra Pushpa. Continuous Archana to Sri Lakshmi Ganapathi. At 10.00 pm Special Jai Jagadesha Hare Aarati and Sri Balaji Ekantha Seva and Temple Closes. Thursday, January 5, 2012 Sri Beeshma Ekadasi, Kritika Vratha At 5.00 pm Sri Valli Deva Sena Sametha Sri Subramanya Abhisheka Aarati and Manthra Pushpa. At 6.00 pm Sri Vaikunda Ekadasi Special Pooja At Paramapada Vaasal, Swarga Vaasal (Heavens Gate) and enter with Perumal Special Pooja Aarati and Manthra Pushpa. Friday, January 6, 2012 At 4.00 pm Sri Bhuwaneswari/Sri Lalitha Devi Abhisheka continued with Sri

Lalitha Sahasra Nama Chanting At 5.00 pm Pradosham Shiva Sri Rudra Abhisheka Aarati and Manthra Pushpa. Saturday, January 7, 2012 At 9.00 pm Sri Nataraja Abhishekam Sunday, January 8, 2012 At 2.00 pm Pournami Vratha/Pooja Sri Sathyanarayana Swamy Pooja/Vratha. At 4.00 pm Arudra Dharsanam Special Pooja, Sri Lakshmi Ganapathi Abhisheka, Sri Shiva Abhisheka, Sri Valli Deva Sena Sametha Sri Subramanya Abhisheka Aarati and Manthra Pushpa. Thursday, January12, 2012 At 5.00 pm Sri Sankata Hara Chathurthi Sri Lakshmi Ganapathi Homa, Sri Lakshmi Ganapathi Abhisheka, Thiruppavai 27th day Pasuram Koodarai Vellum Seer Govinda Pasuram. Friday, January 13, 2012 At 5.00 pm Thiruppavai 28th Day Pasuram Karavaigal Pin Chendru, Sri Thiagaraja Aradhana, Special Pooja, Sri Bhuwaneswari/Sri Lalitha Devi Abhisheka, continued with Sri Lalitha Sahasra Nama Chanting Aarati and Manthra Pushpa. Saturday, Jan. 14, 2012 - Bhogi Festival Sunday, January 15, 2012 Uttarayana Punyakala Pongal Festival Makara Sankarathi Festival temple opens morning at 6.00 am with Sri Venkateswara Suprabhatam continued with Sri Lakshmi Ganapathi Abhisheka, Sri Shiva Abhisheka, Sri Valli Deva Sena Sametha Sri Subramanya Abhisheka Aarati and Manthra Pushpa Continuous Archana At 4.00 pm Makara Sankaranthi Makara Jyothi special Ayyappa Mandal Pooja ends. Monday, January 16, 2012 Special Cow (Go Puja)

Please Make A Note:: Temple Address:: 32 Rancho Drive, San Jose CA 95111 Temple Timings: Week Days Morning 10.00 Am To 12 Noon, Evening At 6.00 pm To 8.00 pm - Week Ends And Holidays 10.00 am To 8.00 pm


For Pujas & Rituals Contact: PANDIT

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Wednesday, December 7, 2011 At 6.00 pm Pradosham Shiva Sri Rudra Abhisheka Aarati and Manthra Pushpa


Sunday,Dec. 11th, 2011 10:30 am

Samuhika 108 Sri Satyanarayana Swami Puja & Katha Conducted by Srimat Swami Omkaranandaji Maharaj (to sponsor puja contact ashrama staff)

Sunday, Dec. 25th, 2011, 3:00 pm

Sunday, Dec. 18th. 2011, 11:00 am

Christmas Concert and Dinner

Sri Sharada Devi Jayanti

Music by Deepali Ghate Deglurkar Talk by Pravarjika Anantaprana, Vedanta Society, S.F. "Meditation on Sri Sharada Devi

Concert by Rita Sahai followed by vegetarian dinner

All events are free and open to all.

Sat., Dec. 31st, 10:00 am to Sun. Jan. 1st, 2012 Sri Akanda Ramayana by Tulasidas Gowswami Group chanting of the entire Ramayana • • Call: 510-278-2444

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First Prize: $300 • Second Prize: $200 • Third Prize: $100 • Two Honorable Mentions


1. One submission per individual. 2. Submissions should consist of one short story or extract from a longer work up to 3,000 words in length. 3. Entries should be unpublished works and should not have won previous awards or contests.

E-MAIL YOUR STORY as a Word File Attachment to: with Subject: KATHA

In the Word file, include only the title and the story itself. In the body of your e-mail, write this statement: Here is my submission for Katha: Desi Fiction Contest 2012. Title of Story: Word Count: Name: Address: Email Address: Brief Biographical Statement: (Include publication or award history if applicable) I warrant that I am the sole author of, and have exclusive rights to the enclosed material. I hereby release full rights for the enclosed material or any segment or portion thereof to the Katha sponsors, and authorize the Katha sponsors to use my name and work in any publicity or promotions for Katha. I also understand that if my story is not shortlisted for publication by the Katha sponsors, the rights will revert back to me on March 30, 2013. —(your full name) Submissions not following these guidelines will be automatically disqualified from the contest. Disqualified entrants will not be notified.


All entrants will be notified of the results by e-mail by June 30, 2012. Winning entries will be considered for publication in upcoming issues of India Currents and Khabar.


India Currents is a leading Indian-American monthly with features, reviews, opinion, analysis, and a detailed calendar of Indian events. For more information: (408) 324-0488

Khabar is the largest community magazine in the Southeast. For more information: (770) 451-7666 india currents • dec. ’11 – jan. ’12 • 111


the healthy life

Why Ghee Gets a Bad Rap Niraj “Raj” Patel


rowing up, I thought ghee was dangerous. Aunties would say, “We don’t use ghee anymore, it’s bad for you.” Soon I learned doctors had been urging everybody to drop ghee because something in it, called saturated fats, was causing heart attacks. And desis were vulnerable to heart attacks. It seemed somebody in our community had a heart attack every month. So knowing what caused the heart attacks was a big deal, and all fingers were pointing at ghee. But what if this is wrong? What if ghee doesn’t cause heart attacks, but is actually a good food? Research this past decade suggests we were wrong to think badly of ghee. And we weren’t alone. While we were abandoning ghee, Americans were skipping butter, a natural food product, and eating margarine, which was processed from butter but with added oils. This switch from a traditional source of fat to an artificial one was part of a bigger trend: the widespread adoption of a “low-fat diet.” Blame the “lipid hypothesis.” Starting in the 1950s, experts began to believe diets high in fats (cholesterol and saturated fats) caused coronary heart disease. The research wasn’t entirely convincing, but this idea—that fats cause heart attacks—became accepted as fact. By the 1970s, the U.S. government, the American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society and others, hoping to slow the rise in chronic diseases, began a massive campaign to convince the public to stop eating fatty foods. This is why doctors told us to stop eating ghee. And we listened to them. Americans at large were dropping high-fat foods and buying anything that had a “low fat” label. According to the U.S.D.A., the average American now eats less dietary fat than he did in 1965. During the same period, the average American ate more refined grains, a source of easily digestible carbs (“bad” carbs). Guess what also went up during that time? The percentage of Americans (including Indian Americans) with obesity and diabetes. Also, the percentage of people with coronary disease and heart attacks stayed the same, even though experts predicted they would fall as people were eating more low-fat foods. The experts were wrong. But it wasn’t until the early 2000s that they began to change their tune. Prominent researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health wrote in a widely read 2001 review published in the Journal of

112 • india currents • dec. ’11 – jan. ’12

the American College of Nutrition: “It is now increasingly recognized that the low-fat campaign has been based on little scientific evidence and may have caused unintended health consequences.” And in 2010, researchers from Boston and Oakland concluded that “there is no significant evidence for concluding that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of (coronary heart disease or cardiovascular disease like strokes).” In other words, the previous experts were wrong to say low-fat foods were better for our hearts, and saying so may have caused more harm than good. Newer evidence shows that eating bad carbs (which is what people did as they began eating low-fat foods) have been behind the increasing numbers of people with obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. A 2008 New England Journal of Medicine study showed people on low-carb diets (which have the most fat, including saturated fat) actually had the best blood cholesterol levels. In contrast, people with the worst blood cholesterol levels were those on a low-fat (and high, bad carb) diet. This is the opposite of what earlier experts would have predicted. Yet, despite the new evidence linking bad carbs (not fats) to bad health, scientists at food companies continue to take out dietary fats and add processed carbs such as high

fructose corn syrup and plain white sugar. The companies then slap the label “low fat” on and sell them in droves. Companies catering to Indian Americans are doing the same, using oils that are sometimes harmful, namely hydrogenated vegetable oils that contain trans fats (which are banned in New York and San Francisco because studies show they promotes heart disease), instead of ghee or butter. It is important that the South Asian community understands how the things we eat influence our health because those of us in the West have among the highest rates of heart disease and diabetes.n Patel’s second part to this article, which will run in the February issue, will discuss ghee’s potential benefits when we eat it in moderation. Niraj “Raj” Patel, M.D. is the author of The Healthy Indian Diet, which explains why modern diets are bad, and how traditional Indian diets are good. It contains recipes by Anuja Balasubramanian and Hetal Jannu of The book is available on Amazon in paperback and all major e-readers including the Apple iPad. Read Patel’s blog:


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Ctr, 4115 Jacksol Dr., San Jose. Sundays, 8 a.m. (408) 559-1716.

Purification and Meditation Ananda

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 Cypress Ave., Suunyvale. (408) 203-1036. Patanjali Yoga Sutras: Satsang. Parama-

hamsa Nithyananda says, “Don’t add movements to your life, add life to your movements.” That is yoga. 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) 263-6375.

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

Vedic Temple, 513 Los Coches St., Milpitas. Free. (408) 263-6375. info.vedictemple@gmail. com.

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

Sunday Service Sikh Temple, 2301 Evergreen Ave, West Sacramento. Sundays, 10 a.m. (916) 371-9787.

Meditation and chanting. Yogalayam, 1717

Sri Akhand Path Sahib Sikh Temple, 1930 S Grant St, Stockton. Sundays, 10 a.m. (209) 946-9039.

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

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

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

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.

Advaita Vedanta and the teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi. Society of Abidance in Truth, 1834 Ocean Street, Santa Cruz. Sundays, 10 a.m.-12 noon. (831) 425-7287. www. 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@

Sunday Services Self Realization Fellowship, 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.

Have you had an inspirational experience? Share it with the readers of India Currents! India Currents runs monthly spiritual essays written by members of the community. We accept spiritual or religious-themed essays from any religion or denomination, or lack thereof. IC looks for pieces that are written from a personal standpoint, rather than academic. Send your 600-800-word submissions to Nadia Maiwandi at 114 • india currents • dec. ’11 – jan. ’12


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.

Let us brighten your smile

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.

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and vegetarian feast. Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Ashram, 2900 N Rodeo Gulch Rd, Soquel. Sundays, 6 p.m. Free. (408) 462-4712. talk on yoga philosophy. Sivananda Yoga Center, 1200 Arguello Blvd., San Francisco, Sundays, 6 p.m. (415) 681 2731.


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Women’s Sufi Gathering Discussion of

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

Devotional Meetings Programs including

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

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

Sri Ram Amrith Vani and bhajans. Sun-

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

days, 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.

Bhajan, Kirtan, Sathsanga or Puja. Sun-

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

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

Tuesday Shri Appaji Meditation. Participate in

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.

Sri Hanuman Puja. 6:30-8 p.m. Sunnyvale

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) 735-

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.

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Jain Spiritual Lectures on topics such as

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(510) 713-7DDS (7337)

3906 Decoto Road, Fremont, CA 94555

(Next to Walgreens on Decoto & Fremont Blvd.)

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 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.

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

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., San Jose. Wednesdays, 6 p.m. Free. (408) 5593197.

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.

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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.

Sri Aurobindo Meditation and Study Group. Wednesdays, 7:30-8:30 p.m. 2134

(Adjacent to Good Samaritan Hospital)

Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, a discourse by Swami Prapannananda. Vedanta Society of Sacramento, 1337 Mission Ave., Carmichael. Wednesdays, 7:30 p.m. (916) 489-5137. www.

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Carmenere St., Danville. Free. Open to all. (650) 218-4223.

Meditation. Wednesdays, 7:30-8:30 p.m.

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

Atmotsava (Ramana Nama San-kirtanam), 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-kirtanam), meditation, readings, devotional

chanting and learning of kirtans. Organized by Society of Abidance in Truth (SAT). First, third, and fourth Wednesdays of the month, 7:30-9:30 p.m. 1834 Ocean St., Santa Cruz. Free. (831) 425-7287.

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.


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Inspirational Service SRF, 303 E. Main St, Los Gatos. Thursdays, 7:30 p.m. (408) 2525299. Zen Fitness Designed to reduce stress,

pain, and weight. Thursdays, 10:15-11:15 a.m. Sunnyvale studio. Contact for location, (415) 203-9231,

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@

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We are accepting original submissions that focus on health and wellness. Send your 600-800-word essay on disease prevention, exercise, ayurvedic cooking, or any other health-related topic to Nadia Maiwandi at india currents • dec. ’11 – jan. ’12 • 119

wan, 722 S. Main Street, Milpitas. Thursdays, 8-9:30 p.m. Free. (408) 262-6242, (650) 2078196.

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, Thursdays, 6:30 p.m. Live web broadcasts at (707) 966-2802.

Shirdi Sai Bhajans. Shirdi Sai Center,

897-B, E. Kifer Rd., Sunnyvale. Thursdays, 7:30-8:30 p.m. (408) 705-7904.

Sri Sai baba Aarti and Bhajana. Thurs-

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

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.

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) 7340775. 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@

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 chant-

ing and lecture with Swami Pranavananda, a senior 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. Fridays, 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.

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

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@,

Meditation, self-inquiry meditation in-

9oVideo Gita from Tulsi Ramayana, by

struction by Nome, silent meditation, and dialogues. Organized by Society of Abidance




120 • india currents • dec. ’11 – jan. ’12

Acharya Prabodh Chaitanya. Organized by Chinmaya Mission San Jose. Saturdays, 4:30-




6 p.m. Los Cerros Middle School, 968 Blemer Road, Danville. (408) 998-2793.

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

Osho Evening Meditation Meeting

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 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.

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

kriya is a 42-minute process involving intense pranayama (breathing techniques), mudras (yogic hand gestures), asanas (yoga poses), and meditations. At the individual level, one experiences: physical health and healing, emotional well-being, spiritual ripening through kundalini awakening, Levitation and high state of awareness. En-kriya doesn’t contain any religious rituals or beliefs and it doesn’t matter who you follow. It just deals with breath. Every human being whether one believes in god or not is eligible to practice eN-kriya process. Organized by Life Bliss Foundation. Program broadcast live from India. Two-way live connection. Conducted by Paramahamsa Nithyananda. Saturdays, 8-10 p.m. Nithyananda Vedic Temple, 513 Los Coches St., Milpitas. Free. (408) 263-6375. info. © Copyright 2011 India Currents. All rights reserved. Reproduction for commercial use strictly prohibited.

I C dear doctor

Alzak Amlani

Not in the Model Minority Q

I am a low-income, working-class Indian now living in California. I do not fit the model-minority picture of the upwardly mobile, educated, or business-savvy South Asian immigrant. Unfortunately, I have discovered that Indians can be pretty class-oriented and quick to categorize and judge based on income and education. In fact, their lifestyle starts looking quite shallow and materialistic. I find it hard to be a part of the community with these attitudes and values.


In the last few years I have received a few emails from the South Asian community sharing similar perceptions and viewpoints. It’s important for those who don’t fit the stereotype to speak up, although, when you are not part of the dominant group with some of the privileges of higher education and income, it is harder to voice your opinion. You simply don’t feel as entitled and can be more afraid of ridicule and being discounted. I am sure this makes you angry. Caste and class have been a part of most cultures for centu-

ries and do not dissolve from our psyches and societies so quickly. They have only recently been challenged as we try to move into more egalitarian values and social structures. I wonder if the immigrants who come to the United States to seek more opportunity have a particular drive for material success. Is this narrow group of Indian Americans defined by these values that keep them comparing and judging by the standards of outer success? I find that those who have been materially successful are finding their lives devoid of deep meaning, and find little time to enjoy things. The shell of outer success doesn’t satisfy deeper needs and fulfillment. More families are recognizing this, often through painful ways. Some Indians who have lived in the States for many years are returning to India because they want to be close to family, their traditions, and have their children learn about their heritage by living in it more fully. The good news is that the younger generation of Indian Americans, particularly if

they have been here awhile, or were born in the States, are more oriented toward deeper values and interests. They are seeking a connection to their roots and are looking at what is it to be an Indian in the West. Obviously there is no one definition; however, the fact that this question is being consciously asked, in and of itself reveals an interest in claiming their Indian heritage while being American. Look for that connection in Indian philosophy, arts, and music, that carry much richness. There are venues in the SF Bay Area that are often affordable and quite accessible. Americans are also sponsoring events and speakers who represent the more authentic and deeper aspects of the Indian culture and are speaking about the social challenges present. Seek out those who share your cultural leanings, regardless of where they are from.n Alzak Amlani, Ph.D., is a counseling psychologist in the Bay Area. 650-325-8393. Visit www.

Is a family member or loved one hurting you?

A domestic violence helpline for South Asian women Our services are free and strictly confidential Call us for information and support from someone who understands your culture.

We speak

Bangla •Farsi •Gujarati • Hindi • Kannada • Malayalam •Marathi • Nepali • Punjabi • Sinhala • Tamil • Telugu •Urdu india currents • dec. ’11 – jan. ’12 • 121

Your Favorite Doctor’s Favorite Group Your favorite doctor may already be part of Physicians Medical Group of San Jose. And we want to become your favorite medical group as well. Physicians Medical Group of San Jose with more than 400 physicians is dedicated to serving the medical needs of the diverse Bay Area population. Our physicians specialize in promoting wellness, treating illness and disease with expertise and cultural sensitivity. Physicians Medical Group of San Jose appreciates its members' unique cultural views regarding medicine and patient care. Our physicians and staff speak several languages, including Hindi, Spanish, Vietnamese, Cantonese, Mandarin and Tagalog.

1565 Mabury Road, Suite D | San Jose, CA 95133 | (408) 937-3600 122 • india currents • dec. ’11 – jan. ’12


Visit our website at for our complete list of physicians. If you don't already have a primary care physician or specialist, we can help find one to fit your needs. Our Physicians accepts HMO, PPO, and Medi-Cal HMOs.

Starting at $2,550* *LIMITED TIME OFFER. May end without notice. Restrictions apply. Not valid with any other offer.


Special Offers

Set in the private and gorgeous Los Gatos Hills, Summit Estate Offers: • individualized, structured addiction treatment • 24 hour medical supervision • Rapid Detox services available • vegetarian meals upon request • strong family involvement

(408) 353-6300

• State of the Art * Dental X-Rays, Dental Technology $ Examination, • Most Dental PPO Plans Accepted Consultation and Cleaning (*Cash patients) • Interest Free Payment Plans * Conditions Apply Available % OFF Up to • Emergency Patients *Cash Patients Welcome Senior & Student • Evenings/Saturday Appointments Discounts



* Tooth Colored Fillings * Gum Treatment * Teeth Whitening * Crowns & Bridges * Full & Partial Dentures

* Porcelain Veneers * Extraction * Root Canals * Night Guards * Dentistry for Children

(510) 493-2130 34603 Alvarado Niles Rd., Union City, CA

(At Alvarado Niles & Decoto Rd., Behind Taco Bell)

india currents • dec. ’11 – jan. ’12 • 123

124 • india currents • dec. ’11 – jan. ’12

health services


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• Basic furniture moved • Basic Spot Removal • Most Carpets* * Except Berber & Natural Fiber



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This Christmas rejuvenate your beauty at a fraction of a cost in India through Treatments

Dental: Smile Designing, Implants, Teeth Whitening etc Eyes: Lasik, Cataract etc Skin: Botox, Filler, Thermage etc Weight Loss: Bodyter, Tummy Tuck, I-lipo etc Spas and Ayurveda Please visit our website: Telephone: +91-9810825252 Email:

Converts Your Toilet Into a Seitz Bath/Bidet

• Ideal for personal hygiene for the whole family • Convenient for elderly, handicapped • Eliminates harsh irritation from everyday toilet paper use • Ideal for people who have had hemorrhoids, fistulas and fissures, both before and after surgery • Fits most standard house commodes

Rugged brass construction with beautiful chrome finish. Imitation plastic parts grow algae inside, and are unhygienic. For more information call:


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ACCOUNTS RECEIVABLE/ PAYROLL/BOOKKEEPER No Experience Necessary Salary Commensurate, and takes little of your time. Requirements: Should be computer literate, must be efficient and dedicated. Please send resume to: india currents • dec. ’11 – jan. ’12 • 125




For all beauty needs Shiva Beauty Salon in Fremont. Contact Kanak Patel (510) 4408300.



$10 for 25 words or less, 30¢ per additional word. Phone numbers and P.O. Boxes count as one word. Don’t want to use your own address? We’ll assign you a FORWARD NUMBER and forward all your mail for $5 per ad.

PLACE YOUR AD ONLINE: To place a classified ad online, go to http://

ANNOUNCEMENTS THEINDIANLIST.COM is designed to help you pick the best of Indian restaurants, realtors, groceries, shopping, services, and events where you are. Find us on Facebook and Twitter as well.

BEAUTY 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! SEEMA BEAUTY SALON. Threading, waxing, facials, color, hair cut, henna, perms, Japanese style hair straightening, head massage, hair conditioning, manicure, pedicure and bridal makeup. Located in Sunnyvale. Call (408) 244-6009. NAZ THREADING SALON, Sunnyvale. Facial: gold, pearl or diamond $40 with veg peel; waxing: full leg $29, full arms $18; manicure and pedicure $25; men’s haircut $12. Valid on Tuesdays from 9am-1pm. Call (408) 4000629. 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. 126 • india currents • dec. ’11 – jan. ’12

DO YOU HAVE A BUSINESS FOR SALE? List your grocery store, video store, restaurant, liquor store or gas station for sale right here in India Currents classifieds. Call (408) 3240488 to place your ad.

musicians. Classes are offered in vocal, instrumental and tabla. All are welcome. For more information please call (415) 454-6264.

CLASSES GAURANG MEHTA CHESS CLASSES in Sunnyvale. Former coach of Indian Chess Team, batches staring soon. Email: for details or call (510) 996-3204.


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

SILICON VALLEY UNIVERSITY. Catering to Silicon Valley High-Tech Industry. (408) 435-8989 Email:


IT Placement & Training. Canvas InfoTech Inc. Contact Godhuli Chatterjee (510) 3425663 Ext. 108

CLASSES: DANCE 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 BHARATHANATYAM CLASSES in San Jose, Fremont and Santa Clara by Artistic Director Suganda Sreenath. Kalakshetra style including extensive theory. Call (408) 270-9295 or email JAYENDRA KALAKENDRA. Bharatanatyam classes (Kalakshetra style). New classes forming in San Jose, Fremont & Santa Clara. (408) 270-9295. ODISSI DANCE CLASSES with Guru Jyoti Rout. Jyoti Kala Mandir College of Indian Classical Arts. CLASSES OFFERED IN a combination of styles including Folk, Semi-Classical, and Fusion at various locations in Cupertino and San Jose. Contact Xpressions (408) 246-3005 or (408) 838-3079

CLASSES: MUSIC ALI AKBAR COLLEGE OF MUSIC offers study in North Indian classical music. Four 8-week sessions a year are taught by master

FREE PEER COUNSELING and support offered to S. Asian women. Maitri has a live person handling phone calls 9am-1pm (MonFri) and a voice message helpline at all other times. Are you having problems with you partner? Are you going through cultural adjustment problems? Call (408) 436-8398. Our S. 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.

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 instruments in the U.S. Ali Akbar College store sells the finest quality sitars, sarodes, tanpuras, harmoniums, tablas, flutes, etc. Complete repair service. We ship anywhere in USA. 1554 4th San Rafael, CA 94901. Call (415) 454-0581.


weddings . photos

Creations By Sam Photography, Videography & DVD Productions

FOR ALL OCCASIONS We use high quality HD Cameras to produce:

Blue-Ray Disc & High Definition DVD

Sameer Yagnik

(408) 605-1817 (408) 972-2056


Your Ad Here in the Northern California edition of India Currents for

28 63



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Unique and Colorful Madhubani-inspired holiday gifts! Delightful Cotton Bags, Ornaments, Tea Mugs, Coasters and more! Check out our online store:

28971 Hopkins St., Unit 2 Hayward, CA 94545

Ph: (510) 785-4555 india currents • dec. ’11 – jan. ’12 • 127



IMMEDIATE OPENINGS AT JESSIE TAX SERVICES, Sunnyvale. Tax Preparer: Ideal candidate will be EA/CPA/CTEC with experience in preparing individual tax returns. Experience in Proseries, Excel a plus. Administrative Assistant: Candidate should have intermediate computer skills, well spoken and able to do multi-tasking. Flexible to work evenings and weekends. Apply today, send resume to Phone 408-736-2451, Fax 408-736-8626.

INSURANCE AMILA INSURANCE SERVICES - Looking for a better deal on Auto Insurance? Call (408) 723-2100. 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 www. to register or call (408) 247-0444. ATTORNEY-AT-LAW UMA SUBRAMANIAN. (925) 935-1976. DIVORCE ATTORNEY Madan Ahluwalia. Divorce, Alimony, Child Support, Child Custody, Property Division in Divorce. (888) 8618436.

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

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. PUNJABI KHATRI PARENTS seek suitable match for their daughter, 33/5’1’’, US citi128 • india currents • dec. ’11 – jan. ’12

zen, M.Sc in Medicine, working as a Physician’s Assistant (PA-C) in California. Email , phone: (909) 599-4550.

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!

AD OF THE MONTH PUNJABI KHATRI PARENTS seek suitable match for their daughter, 33/5’1’’, US citizen, MSc in Medicine, working as a Physician’s Assistant (PA-C) in California. Email, phone: (909) 599-4550.

REAL ESTATE EXTREMELY AFFORDABLE family home just for you in a fabulous neighborhood, huge yard. One bedroom and one full bath downstairs. Hurry! Call Rama agt DRE#01023954, Realty World, at (408) 921-1987. RENTING?? WHY? Time to invest in real estate is now! Great home prices and lower interest rates. Become a home owner. Call Rama Agent, DRE#01023954, Realty World (408) 921-1987. RAMA, Agent DRE#01023954, Realty World wishes you and yours a very Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year BEST RATES, BEST SERVICE! Purchase or Refinance!! Zero Closing Costs. Discounted Wholesale Rates, Wells, Citi, etc. Close fast. (408) 247-3031 - Jacob MaxReal, DRE 01790347, NMLS 327086. 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) 8353330 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 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.

SPIRITUAL GROWTH NIMATULLAHI SUFI - The Master of the Nimatullahi Sufi Order will be in the Bay Area during the last two weeks in December. Those who are interested in the Sufi Path may call (831) 425-8454. 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. Cal 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.

Check out our Classifieds online at Our ads are also seen by the readers of our digital issue:

Pia Ka Ghar wishes you “Happy Holidays & A Unforgettable New Year”

india currents • dec. ’11 – jan. ’12 • 129

real estate . loans

Making Dreams Come True, One Home at a Time©. “Happy New Year” FIRST TIME HOME BUYER’S SPECIALIST FORECLOSURES / REOs

• Buy a home & Get tax deduction by end of year • For updated listings, go to

Sue Bose

MULTI-FINANCIAL SERVICES Buying or Selling Property?

Call an expert with over 22 years of experience in real estate, book-keeping, and income tax before making this vital decision.


Buyers - Save $5,000 to $25,000

Languages spoken: English, Hindi, Marathi, Gujarati & Bengali

MBA, CRS, GRI, Realtor

(408) 238-1200

408-835-3330 • (510) 779-2673 • 1-877-RE-GURU-4U


District Council Member, Sunnyvale/Cupertino District, Silicon Valley Association of Realtors (SILVAR)

Agent, Referral Realty Lic #01379753 • 1601 S. De Anza Blvd., #150, Cupertino, CA 95014

“Buying or Selling a home should be a rewarding experience for you.”


4755 Woodduck Common, Fremont, CA 94555 3 Bedrooms, 2.5 Baths, High ceilings, Newer carpet, New roof, Updated Kitchen & Bathrooms. 2 Cars Garage, Forest Park Elementary school. Easy access to 880/84/BART. Lowest listing Price in Ardenwood area $538,500. Please call Meera for private showing. Home Open on weekends 1 to 4 PM.

Please call Meera for more information

Res (510) 226-0136 • Cell (510) 459-8523 e-mail: Bank Owned & Foreclosure Specialist 130 • india currents • dec. ’11 – jan. ’12

Fax (408) 238-1276

2690 S. White Road, Suite 245, San Jose, CA 95148

Your Ad Here in the Northern California edition of India Currents for

28 63



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

(408) 523-8788 324-0488 Call (714)



Season’s Greetings AND



Recipient of



Top Agent


Toll Free 1-800-916-1422 Ext. 226 • Work (408) 997-9999 Home (408) 268-7985 • e-mail: Affiliated with Ventura Barnett Properties


india currents • dec. ’11 – jan. ’12 • 131


MANDIP S. AHLUWALIA Broker-Realtor/Owner

CERTIFIED: REO SPECIALIST (Bank Owned Properties) SFR (Short Sale and Foreclosure Resource) CDPE (Certified Distressed Property Expert) BPO-R (Broker Price Opinion-Resource) DRE#: 01303110 “REFERENCES AVAILABLE ON REQUEST”

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408-206-1064 Kim Properties


Your Ad Here in the Northern California edition of India Currents for

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Email: 132 • india currents • dec. ’11 – jan. ’12

1% BACK SELLER TO S OR (Certain BUYERS Restrict

ions Ap


Expert Negotiator!

It is your home. Let me modify that loan and help you keep this home.

25 years experienced mortgage underwriter will work with your lender and make this happen!



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1288 Kifer Road, Suite 208, Sunnyvale, CA 94086 408-212-8847 Direct:

Cellular: 408-839-4219 E-mail: My website: Company website:

india currents • dec. ’11 – jan. ’12 • 133

Specializing in Alameda and Santa Clara Counties


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Wishing All Of You Happy Holidays & A Wonderful New Year!

Many Foreclosed/Bank Owned Homes Listed Way Below Market Price. CALL FOR DETAILS. Take Expert knowledge of great school areas like Cupertino, Saratoga, Sunnyvale, Los Altos, Mt.View, Palo Alto, Pleasanton, Danville, San Ramon, Fremont.

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You can own your real estate, Lease it or Lease to own it. The properties are located near to 680 & 880 Junction, at the intersection of Warm Springs Blvd and Corporate Way. The location provides convenient access to the entire east bay area and Silicon Valley. Ideal for R&D, REAL ESTATE, INSURANCE, LEGAL, ENGINEERING and many more...



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High Image Condominium Complex. Located in excellent prime location in South Fremont near 680 & 880. Light & bright 6 yrs young w/6 individual offices, one conference room and one storage room, two restrooms...

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Broker/Owner DRE LIC# 01266436

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DRE 01897669

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889 Corporate Way • Fremont, CA 94539 • 510-979-1000

134 • india currents • dec. ’11 – jan. ’12

New Century Executive Inc. Lic # 01769407

All information deemed reliable but not guaranteed.

25 years From East Indian to South Asian A journey of identity

By Sarita Sarvate


y first day in the United States was so bright, I thought I had flown around the world and returned to India again. I was wearing a blue and white nylon sari, my hair was done in a braid hanging down to my knees, and a wedding necklace of black beads rested against my chest. The host mother handed me a quarter, and said, “College Avenue bus goes to college,” but I ambled down the road, keeping Campanile Tower in view. Men in long hair and torn jeans just walked past oblivious to me, as if a woman in a sari was the most natural thing in the world. For the first time in my life I was anonymous, free, and utterly alone. I loved the sensation. In that moment I fell in love with Berkeley. The year was 1976. A few days later, kicking my suitcase—its handle having broken in transit—down the dark corridors of International House, or IHouse as it has always been known, who did I see but an Indian woman in a kurta! That neighbor notwithstanding, Indians, particularly Indian women, were a strange sight on campus then. So much so that desi men in I-House had apparently scoured the directory of incoming students, searching for prospective brides. I must have been a disappointment, for I was already married, although I had arrived in Berkeley sans husband. The group of Indians in the dorm was small enough then to be able to squeeze into a Toyota Celica a Sikh student owned. We would ride thus, first to Fenton’s Creamery on Piedmont Avenue, where we would devour huge banana splits before closing time at midnight, and later, drive madly up winding streets to the Rose Garden, where we would stumble on dark terraces, picking flowers. Sarita in Hawaii

Only Indians could undertake such sacrilege, I would muse, as if making up for the poverty, heat, and dust of their native land. I remember the same Sikh student driving us to Hill Top Mall for shopping. I recall dining at the Lion of India on Telegraph Avenue on Sundays because the cafeteria was closed. I can even remember cooking vats of food for an Indian girl’s engagement party and wondering if I had come all the way to America only to learn how to make ras malai.


hat I cannot recall is the exact moment when I decided to break away from the pack. Perhaps it was the day I joined a group of South Indians at dinnertime, and a handsome man abruptly inquired where I was from, and upon discovering that I was from Maharashtra, quite rudely asked why the Shiv Sena was attacking South Indians in Mumbai. As if I were responsible for the actions of every person in Maharashtra. Perhaps it was the day I went to the Sikh student’s house and listened to his family ridiculing his American girl friend in Hindi. Perhaps it was the day I went to a party in South Bay and watched all the desis and their mail order brides vying for status. Perhaps it was the day I realized that going camping and hiking with my white classmates was more appealing than eating Indian food and watching Indian movies on Saturdays. Perhaps it was the day I realized that being a married woman alone in Berkeley was hard enough; being an unhappy victim of an arranged marriage, impossible. I had come to Berkeley at my husband’s insistence; he had made me a stepping stone to his material advancement. But I could not find the words to explain my plight to my fellow Indians. Perhaps I simply knew from that first day in Berkeley that I would have to obtain a green card on my own. I would have to assimilate. I would have to blend in. I would have to become white. It sounds blasphemous now, but back then, that was the name of the game. There were hardly any Indian women professionals. Or women professionals, period. Particularly in the field of energy. There were no role models. I was shaping and reshaping my identity as I went along. So I decided to break away from the pack. Only later would I realize how monumental that decision would prove to be; how isolating and heart-breaking, in the long run. And how ironic too, considering that in India, I had always belonged to vernacular schools. My family was far from westernized. I did not even know the music of the Beatles until John Lennon died. I did not wear stretch pants. I did not smoke. I did not possess a collection of Enid Blyton novels. I did not speak with a convent school accent, but in a hodgepodge drawl that always made Americans confuse my “t”s with my “d”s until I learned to say “T as in Tom.” I also learned to say, “I am East-Indian,” to distinguish myself from Native Americans. How then did a girl like me become more American than Americans? It was for me a matter of survival. In my quarter century on this planet, I had already faced the india currents • dec. ’11 – jan. ’12 • 135

136 • india currents • dec. ’11 – jan. ’12

kind of hardship most people do not undergo in a lifetime. I had grown up with a mentally ill mother. I had undergone a disastrous arranged marriage. By the time I arrived on these shores, I knew that life was not cushy. And still, I had the desire for something better. I suppose in that sense, mine was a quintessential immigrant story.


fter graduation, I moved to Sacramento, a white, middleclass bedroom community where people chatted about engines of pickup trucks and ate at restaurants specializing in spareribs. I did not have a choice. No one but the California Energy Commission, a governmental agency, would offer me a job. There I sat day and night, facing green monitors as I simulated residential building energy demand on mainframe computers. I was so lonely that on weekends, I would drive to Davis and walk around campus like a zombie, longing for the slightest human contact. Other weekends, I would drive all the way to Berkeley just to see the bright lights of I-House. On one such outing, I came across that same Indian woman I had accosted in the corridor on my first day and told her I was thinking of divorcing my husband. Her reaction was horror, disgust, and repudiation. So I fled, and never saw the Indian crowd again. Already, I was the “other,” a married Indian woman living alone in America; divorce would make me a pariah. Once or twice I would try to tell odd Indian women about my plight, but the questions they would ask would always be the same, “Does he beat you?” And when I said no, the query always would be, “Then what is the problem?” If that were the standard, I would muse, then most marriages were happy. So I shut up, telling no one about the inside story of my marriage. I felt ashamed, guilty. I was convinced that somehow I was responsible. Yet, I could not continue in the relationship. It was only very recently, when women in my writing group read drafts of my memoir and commented on the strange and psychologically debilitating ways in which my husband had exploited me, that I realized it was not my fault. But back in the 1980s, no one in the Indian community got divorced, in India or here. Upon hearing the news, my younger brother felt sorry, not for me, but for my husband. Perhaps he thought I had marred the family name. Perhaps he feared that his own marriage would be hard to arrange because of the blot I had brought upon our reputation. So he began to shun me. Looking back, I don’t know why I did not tell anyone about what my husband had done to me. All I can say is that the things he had done were so perverse and damaging that I did not possess the language to tell my parents about them. Perhaps I was afraid of traumatizing them even further. Perhaps I did not tell them because they never asked. No one asked. Even Indians here chose to judge me rather than support me.

My life cleaved away even further away from the community. I was marginalized, invisible, a fallen woman. I internalized the feeling. I rejected Indian values, Indian culture, Indian community. I was not in an area and a profession where I came across many Indians anyway.


nly years later would I realize that there were others like me, living on the fringes, unaccepted, alienated, alone. And yet, a part of me longed to connect to my homeland and my people. So I began to take Kathak lessons from the famous dancer Chitresh Das. The classiReceiving the PNS award from Belva Davis cal rhythms reminded me of my childhood. I became passionate about cooking Indian food. I decided to change the world. I went to work for the East West Center (EWC) in Hawaii on energy and rural development. I traveled to India and Thailand doing research on biogas and biomass energy systems. The report I wrote all those years ago surfaced recently on Google. I was amazed by its clarity; its voice full of love for my land. At IIT Delhi, where I attended a conference, I met a South Indian young man I could have easily fallen in love with. And he with me too. My divorce was not yet final but there was nothing to prevent me from getting involved with someone else. But something stopped me. Perhaps I possessed an awareness now that I had not had, when, nearly a decade before, at another IIT campus, I had fallen in love with another man. I was all too knowing now of the up the ridges of Oahu. I went dancing to the constraints Indian men put upon themselves music of Abba with a younger Indian student, when it came to affairs of the heart, parents’ wondering if our futures were destined to be consent being foremost among them. After all, linked. in a country whose mythology idolized King I was in that fragile psychological state Rama, who had sent his pregnant wife into when I met an extraordinary British man, exile because his citizens had suspected her worldly, experienced, charming, witty. We of being unchaste, what could I expect from a spent every moment together until he left Hindu man? So, on my last night in Mumbai, four days later for New Zealand, where he I told the young man about my marriage. lived. Instantly I knew that he was the one. Perhaps it was a mistake to do so. But I could Only years later would I realize that if the not betray him. Perhaps deep down I wanted dice would have rolled differently, I would to make sure that this time, when I fell in love, never have experienced the isolated life of an it would be reciprocated to the fullest extent. exile. But I was young then; belonging to the He would call me months later, having arIndian community and being able to go to Inrived on the East Coast, but by then, I would dia every year were not high priorities for me. have already chosen someone else. After many trips back and forth across the Other men, American and Indian, fell Pacific, I went to live in New Zealand for four in love with me during that trip as well, but years. I knew no Indians there. I was alone in nothing really felt right. a white culture, thousands of miles away from my home land. I would walk along Auckland’s hen I returned to Hawaii, I got a waterfront at lunchtime, gazing at the ocean culture shock for the first time in my and wondering when I would see black people life. I inhabited the schizophrenic persona again. The diversity, the chaos, the vastness, that many immigrants acquire. Isolated from the cacophony, endemic to both India and family, I suppressed memories and longings America, were totally absent Down Under. for my culture. Instead, I began to explore When I returned to California in the late new identities. I learned to dance the hula. I eighties, I found a place transformed. The began jogging around Diamond Head. I hiked

When I returned to California in the late eighties, I found a place transformed. The ethnic era had arrived. Women were forming alliances. Indian writers were getting published. Indian music was becoming chic. Assimilation was out; identity politics was in.


india currents • dec. ’11 – jan. ’12 • 137

ethnic era had arrived. Women had formed al liances. Indian writers were getting published. Indian music was becoming chic. Assimilation was out; identity politics was in. I had missed the boat. I felt alienated, belonging neither to the Indian community which I had shunned for its materialism, nor to my white American classmates whose lives had suddenly transformed once they had kids. My hippie, liberal, progressive classmates had overnight turned into over-protective, overachieving parents of perfect children. Again, my children, my British husband and I, did not belong. So I found a voice. In my writing. On a lark, I sent an op-ed piece to the Daily Review, which was then a part of the Alameda group of newspapers, including the Oakland Tribune, the Valley Times, and other publications. I began to get letters and voicemails from Indians saying how thrilled they were to see an Indian presence in American newspapers. I began to air commentaries on KQED radio. I had found a perfect window of time, those fifteen minutes when a first generation Indian with some talent and some pizzazz could find fame. Soon, the kids would overtake us, but back then, there were no Indian journalists in America. Yet the media longed for immigrant voices, particularly immigrant women’s voices. I had no formal journalistic background but I had the nerve to think I had something important to say. And the audience, Indians and Americans alike, agreed.


n a lark I sent a short story to India Currents. Arvind Kumar, the editor then, hand-wrote me a note saying, “Sarita, you have wonderful talent.” He recommended me for the first ever anthology of fiction and poetry by South Asians, titled Living in America. I had never heard of South Asia but apparently now I belonged to it. The anthology included Chitra Divakaruni, Minal Hajratwala, and others. At a gathering in celebration of our book, I finally ran into Arvind Kumar. “So you are Sarita,” he exclaimed. He urged me to send him the columns I was writing for the Tribune. I obliged, but not enthusiastically. My sights were set higher then; I wanted to write for NPR, for Salon, for the New York Times. Little did I realize that my articles would find me a way into the community I had long lost. Unbeknownst to me, I had nurtured a secret fan base. Housewives, divorcees, young women, began to write me their life stories. Their letters were full of adoration, love, and solidarity. “We admire your courage to confront the thorny issues in our culture,” they wrote. Even as I received hate mail from some Indian men who felt threatened by my critique of our society, the women urged me to soldier on, for their sakes. They could not voice their angst, but I could.

138 • india currents • dec. ’11 – jan. ’12


ineteen ninety-eight was a seminal year. I gave readings from the anthology around the Bay Area. I appeared at the Asian Art Museum’s fiftieth anniversary exhibit and celebration in honor of India’s Independence. I received an award from the Pacific News Service (PNS) for the best commentary in ethnic media. I did not even know I was in the running. At the gala, I received my award from Belva Davis. In my speech, when I confessed to having been labeled a phatkal (a derogatory term in Marathi meaning an outspoken woman) since childhood, a female local TV anchor who shared the stage with me said, “Don’t stop speaking your mind.” Sandy Close invited me to write columns for PNS. Was I really a columnist? I wondered. I had only taken one class in nonfiction, in Auckland New Zealand, and that too on magazine writing. So when, on the morning after India’s nuclear test, Sandy called me to ask me for an op-ed piece, I was stunned. Could I really deliver? Was I a real journalist? I wrote the essay from the perspective of a physicist and recipient of an Indian Atomic Energy Commission fellowship, a fact Sandy did not even know about, in two hours. The column made into innumerable mainstream publications, including Salon. I aired an audio version of the piece on NPR’s All Things Considered. I had become a real writer. What was ironic was that in a way, it had all been possible because of the very Indian community that I had felt so marginalized by. It occurred to me then that there were two Indian communities. One was frozen in time, preserving India of its memory even as the real India moved on, ever resilient, diverse, and welcoming of change. The other was made of people who wanted to change the caste, gender, and economic hierarchies of our culture and society. I had found a nerve in the latter. I was essential to this other India. I could not abandon what I had started. So I kept writing. I felt an obligation to a people, a community, a movement. I saw myself mirrored in this new community. As I changed, the community changed too.


alf way through the new decade of the new millennium, another big transformation took place. The second generation usurped us. Suddenly, we had Indian American journalists on the News Hour and on CNN. We had an Indian Pulitzer Prize winner. The kids had broken out of their parents’ mold of showing off video cameras and Ivy League educations to volunteering in South America and joining social reform movements of their native country they scarcely knew. Would it have happened without people like me, who paved the way? Perhaps not. Even as I wistfully hand the baton to the

It occurred to me then that there were two Indian communities. One was frozen in time, preserving India of its memory even as the real India moved on. The other was made of people who wanted to change the caste, gender, and economic hierarchies of our culture and society. younger generation, I feel both vindicated and envious. Vindicated because many of my attitudes and opinions have been adopted by the children of my friends. Envious because I have become the old guard. If the Indian-American community today is more egalitarian and socially enlightened and less materialistic, it is due in no small measure to people like me who set the stage. Twenty, thirty years from now, as another generation takes the helm, we will look back and reminisce about that golden era when Americans first stopped asking us about sacred cows, snake charmers, and untouchables, and began to ask us our opinions about American society, culture, and politics. And I will feel vindicated and proud that I witnessed the hour when, in the words of Nehru, “A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance.” But at this solemn moment, when Indians at home and abroad are doing so very well, we must not forget that, as Nehru said, “our work has just begun. The achievement we celebrate today is but a step, an opening of opportunity… Are we brave enough… ….accept the challenge of the future? Freedom and power bring responsibility… The service of India means, the service of the millions who suffer. It means the ending of poverty and ignorance and disease and inequality of opportunity. The ambition of the greatest man of our generation has been to wipe every tear from every eye … as long as there are tears and suffering … our work will not be over.” I, for one, no longer worry about who welcomes me in their homes, but who will join me in speaking up against the evils that still persist in our society. n Sarita Sarvate writes commentaries for Pacific News Service and KQED. Visit

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It has been a privilege to share 2011 with you, our community of readers. Every month, we take pride in producing a magazing that circulates new ideas, raises critical questions, and shares diverse perspectives on our envolving diaspora. We are grateful for your contributions and support, and welcome your continued feedback in the coming year. Enjoy this special combined issue of India Currents for December 2011 and January 2012. The next India Currents issue will come out on February 1, and the next deadline for placing event listings and advertisements is January 20.


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india currents • dec. ’11 – jan. ’12 • 143


the last word

Sarita Sarvate

Naipaul Was Right E very time I come to India, I cannot help but think of V.S. Naipaul. Particularly when I tour the country, as I am doing now. I am always prepared for the traffic, the noise, the pollution, and the airborne viruses in my native country. I can even tolerate the mosquitoes, the hard beds, the lack of privacy, and the religious fanaticism. But I am never ready for the filthy toilets. I cannot fathom why one of the most fundamental human needs is so very difficult to fulfill in India. Why a country that is obsessed with food cannot deal with its end products. Mahatma Gandhi observed that Indians thought it was unclean to clean. I think that was an understatement. Gandhi made a point of cleaning his own toilet but few Indians do that. In fact, Indians abhor going to the toilet. Therefore, they pay no attention to where they go or how they go. If, when desperate, they are forced to approach the facilities, they get into a trance that enables them not to notice the piles of human excrement in the stalls, or the lack of water or soap or cleanliness. They never see the rivers of urine flowing around them. Women draped in expensive saris and laden with kilos of gold screw up their faces, put their chiffons or silks to their noses, and after floating over urine and feces like swans floating on the surface of a pond, emerge out of the facilities smelling like roses. How do they do it? I, on the other hand, begin to fear that I have returned to my childhood. I am stuck in a nightmare in which I am running down a cobblestone alley covered in raw sewage, my sandaled toes barely missing the excrement, my feet crawling through the sludge. As a child, I saw this daily. Even as a youngster of 5 or 6, I was conscious of the deprived lives of the children around me. Walking down the street, I used to see toddlers defecating by the roadside as they squabbled, and giggled, and threw rocks at one another, and I used to wonder, how did they do it? I, for one, could not. I was hoping that things had changed. That now that India was such an economic powerhouse, it had figured out the most basic process of getting rid of human waste. I was wrong. Delhi was admittedly an improvement but, once I arrived in Pune, the situation seemed to deteriorate rapidly. Watching a play in the famous Balgandharva Ranga Mandir, it turned out, was hazardous to my health, for while the production was exquisite, the auditorium was barely inhabitable, and the bathrooms were designed to be used as a set for narak, the Hindu hell. Alas, during a three-hour production, it was impossible to survive without using the ladies’ bathroom. One stall had piles of excrement, I discovered, another was flooded with urine and human waste. Of the other two barely usable stalls, one was a Western-style commode without a seat, the other was Indian style. Since Indian toilets NEVER have any toilet paper, and because it is impossible to use toilet paper with Indian toilets in any case—because of their inability to flush it—one had to

I am prepared for the traffic, the noise, the pollution, and the airborne viruses in my native country. But I am never ready for the filthy toilets.

144 • india currents • dec. ’11 – jan. ’12

wash oneself with one’s hand—only if the water was running of course. The problem was that the sinks outside were piled with God only knew what. And needless to say, there was no water in the taps or soap by the sink. Not even a bottle of hand sanitizer was available. If this was the situation in a location that is supposedly the pinnacle of Pune’s intellectual snobbery, you can just envision the conditions in its bus depot or its railway station. I had the misfortune of witnessing them 25 years ago while traveling with my British husband. Nothing has changed in the intervening quarter century, I am told. If this is the situation in one of India’s high-tech, educational and cultural centers, what are other towns and cities like, I wonder. To say that I am disgusted with Indians’ disregard for hygiene would be an understatement. I am outraged. I am hysterical with disbelief. I am appalled. I want to puke. I want to go to the mayor of Pune and tell him that he should be fired. When I complained to my friend about the conditions at the theater, she informed me that it is run by the Pune Corporation and therefore impossible to change. Being an activist, she has already tried. She has given interviews to newspapers. She is a BJP official, and she has talked to politicians. But the country’s apathy is so monumental, it is impossible to effect change. So once again, I am left musing, why is it that even countries such as Guatemala, Bolivia, Thailand, and Indonesia have spotless toilets? Why is it that as a society, they can work together, but we cannot? Why is it that they can organize things but we prefer to live in chaos? While traveling to Ajanta and Ellora, my cousin mentioned that many Hindus prefer not to visit a temple after going to the toilet. Indian toilets are so pathetic, I wanted to respond, that after visiting them, one is unable to contemplate a temple, or a meal, or, for that matter, life itself. No wonder diseases such as amoebic dysentery and hepatitis are so common in India. V.S. Naipaul was right when he labeled India an area of darkness. And the situation is only getting worse. Of course Indians find easy excuses for their filth. Population is a popular culprit these days. Corruption is another excuse. Lack of money is also given as a reason. But the real causes of India’s filth are much more endemic to its religion and culture. Brahmins traditionally used bhangis—the untouchable toilet cleaners—to do their dirty work. They never once touched a toilet themselves. And they still don’t. Predictably, the people who traditionally performed such manual tasks felt so resentful that they purposefully left the waste behind. They still do. Can you blame them? How can we change things? Perhaps by starting a movement called “Let’s Hug the Toilets,” or something along those lines? A movement in which every day, battalions of citizens approach public toilets and perform seva, or service, until they are so clean, you can eat out of them. Only then can India be called a civilized society. Or even a civilization. Until then India is a desert filled with human waste, a land of cancer, a blight on the human race. n Sarita Sarvate writes commentaries for Pacific News Service and KQED. Visit


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India Currents December 2011 Northern California Edition  

India Currents December 2011 Northern California Edition

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