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How’s Your Agni? by Ashok Jethanandani

Kejriwal—Neither Left Nor Right by Abhay Bhushan, Pran Kurup

When Men Hold Hands by Nabeel Chollampat

Celebrating 27 Years of Excellence

Running a Start-up Campaign in Silicon Valley november 2013 • vol. 27, no . 8 • www. indiacurrents.com

This Indian American contender pitches a forward-looking strategy as he vies to become your Congressman. by Jawahar “Joe” Samagond


Compromise: The Dirty Word in Marriage and Politics facebook.com/IndiaCurrents twitter.com/IndiaCurrents HEAD OFFICE 1885 Lundy Ave Ste 220, San Jose, CA 95131 Phone: (408) 324-0488 Fax: (408) 324-0477 Email: info@indiacurrents.com www.indiacurrents.com Publisher: Vandana Kumar publisher@indiacurrents.com (408) 324-0488 x225 Managing Director: Vijay Rajvaidya md@indiacurrents.com Editor: Jaya Padmanabhan editor@indiacurrents.com (408) 324-0488 x226 Events Editor: Mona Shah events@indiacurrents.com (408) 324-0488 x224 Advertising Manager: Derek Nunes ads@indiacurrents.com Northern California: (408) 324-0488 x 222 Southern California: (714) 523-8788 x 222 Marketing Associate: Raj Singh marketing@indiacurrents.com (408) 324-0488 x221

The truth about compromise is that it rarely works—in marriage or in politics. In my experience, a fair number of marital arguments reflect ABBA’s lyrics, “the winner takes it all, the loser standing small.” Compromise is only about ensuring that the winner is not the same each time. Psychologists have long urged compromise in a marriage. Yet compromise involves “giving in,” or conceding and building the walls of a social structure, like marriage, with compromising elements doesn’t signal a strong foundation for happiness. So also in politics. The recent stalemate in Congress was dissolved because of Obama’s lack of compromise. Indeed, if you examine compromise, its meaning is often manipulated to signify something abhorrent when used in phrases such as “compromised integrity” or “a compromising situation.” According to a poll by Global Strategy Group (GSG), 50% of all voters prefer politicians who refuse to compromise and 43% favor politicians who do. Jeff Pollock, head of GSG, explained the 7% gap: “… what should be concluded is that the word “compromise”—or “consensus”—amounts to capitulation in many peoples’ minds.” To many voters, the opposite of com-

promise represents, “standing on principle,” an ideal that signifies value-preservation and leadership as opposed to buckling under pressure. In October, in order to break the gridlock gripping the government, when Democrat Barbara Mikulski announced, “I am willing to negotiate. I am willing to compromise,” it seemed like she was being driven to a state of hopeless surrender. A place she’d rather not be. Compromise, most often, leaves the compromisers with a residual feeling of loss. In the politics of my own marriage, success at the cost of my husband’s loss is utterly dissatisfying. How is one to enjoy the fruits of negotiation, when you know that someone you care for has been short-changed? The reasons for the October government shutdown was indicative of how polarizing compromise is. The version of the Affordable Care Act being peddled at the moment is a derivative of compromise. Yet the Republicans want more. The effrontery of compromise is that it works only if the other person or party is compromising. There’s no middle-ground to compromise. Jaya Padmanabhan

Graphic Designer: Nghia Vuong WASHINGTON, D.C. BUREAU (Managed by IC New Ventures, LLC) 910 17th Street, NW, Ste# 215 Washington, D.C. 20006 Phone: (202) 709-7010 Fax: (240) 407-4470 Associate Publisher: Asif Ismail publisher-dc@indiacurrents.com (202) 709-7010 Editorial Assistant: Priya Potapragada events-dc@indiacurrents.com (202) 709-7010 Sales Associate: Sam Kumar Sales-dc@indiacurrents.com Cover Design: Nghia Vuong Cover photo credit: Ro Khanna Campaign INDIA CURRENTS® (ISSN 0896-095X) is published monthly (except Dec/Jan, which is a combined issue) for $19.95 per year by India Currents, 1885 Lundy Ave., Ste 220, San Jose, CA 95131. Periodicals postage paid at San Jose, CA, and at additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to INDIA CURRENTS, 1885 LUNDY AVE, STE. 220, SAN JOSE, CA 95131 Information provided is accurate as of the date of going to press; India Currents is not responsible for errors or omissions. Opinions expressed are those of individual authors. Advertising copy, logos, and artwork are the sole responsibility of individual advertisers, not of India Currents. Copyright © 2013 by India Currents All rights reserved.

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November 2013 | www.indiacurrents.com | 1


2 | INDIA CURRENTS | November 2013


INDIA CURRENTS november 2013 • vol 27 • no 8

PERSPECTIVES

Northern California Edition www.indiacurrents.com

1 | EDITORIAL Compromise: The Dirty Word in Marriage and Politics By Jaya Padmanabhan

Find us on

56 | RECIPES The Three Sisters—The Three Sisters’ Entree, Mole Poblano By Shanta Sacharoff

8 | A THOUSAND WORDS Approximating H-4 By Ragini Tharoor Srinivasan

28 | COMMENTARY Recalling Han Suyin By Tara Menon 30 | SCIENCE The Nature of Beauty and the Beauty of Nature By P. Mahadevan 34 | FICTION The Burning By Nikesh Murali 48 | YOUTH When Men Hold Hands By Nabeel Chollampat 70 | BOTTOMLINE Slip Into Something Comfortable By Lakshmi Palecanda 130 | ON INGLISH Auto! By Kalpana Mohan 144 | THE LAST WORD The Breaking Bad in All Of Us By Sarita Sarvate

38 | BOOKS A Review of The Billionaire’s Apprentice By Vidya Pradhan 44 | FINANCE The Lowdown on Interest Rates By Rahul Varshneya

6 | FORUM Is Obama to Blame for the Government Shutdown? By Rameysh Ramdas, Mani Subramani

10 | PERSPECTIVE From Here to Eternity and Back, Quickly By Ranjani Iyer Mohanty

LIFESTYLE

12 | Ro Khanna Running a start-up campaign, this former Obama Administration official competes for the 17th Congressional District seat. By Jawahar “Joe” Samagond

20 | Analysis Kejriwal: Neither Left Nor Right By Abhay Bhushan, Pran Kurup

52 | Travel East Coast Temple Trail By Meera Ramanathan

78 | Films A review of Boss and Diana By Aniruddh Chawda, Geetika Pathania Jain

68 | RELATIONSHIP DIVA Figuring Out the First Date By Jasbina Ahluwalia 76 | MUSIC Bollywood Music Countdown By Vidya Sridhar 102 | REFLECTIONS Our Recipes, Our Lives By Monica Bhide 110 | HEALTHY LIFE How’s Your Agni? By Ashok Jethanandani 125 | DEAR DOCTOR Trapped in the Safety Net By Alzak Amlani 137 | IN MEMORIAM Wearing His Crown Lightly By Sandip Roy

DEPARTMENTS 5 | Voices 57 | Popular Articles 32 | Ask a Lawyer 33 | Visa Dates 126 | Classifieds 139 | Viewfinder

WHAT’S CURRENT 88 | Cultural Calendar 104 | Spiritual Calendar November 2013 | www.indiacurrents.com | 3


4 | INDIA CURRENTS | November 2013


voices

Musings of a Dance Devotee

My name is Joanna de Souza, and I have been a disciple of Pandit Chitresh Das since 1978. Although now based back in my home country Canada, and teaching kathak on a full time basis here, I still really enjoy reading India Currents. My Guruji is an artist who has spent a lifetime developing his own art, selflessly training, educating, building awareness, and community and most importantly teaching artists their place in the ocean of art forms. In reading through the article by Sri V.P. Dhananjayan (Musings of a Maestro, India Currents, September 2013), I was quite surprised at it’s superficial nature and content. As a learned teacher who obviously spends regular time teaching in the United States, I wonder if he is aware of how South Asian artistry and teachings have influenced American culture? I disagree with idea of “naatya.” The rich heritage of India has given us numerous dance styles, all individual, and all unique, and they should be known by their individual names. If one is truly seeking to establish these forms in North America, the term “dance,” instead of “naatya” is much clearer, and more inclusive. As a non South Asian myself, I would never have responded to any tag line referring to the dance as naatya, simply because at that time I would have had no idea what it meant. What one gains through the study of these arts is enormous, and should not in any way be limited to a racial or cultural heritage. Certainly arangetrams have been part of the South Indian tradition for some time. The concept of them becoming social affairs is not specific to North America by any stretch. The same thing is happening in India as well. It is a sign of the times, of contemporary society, placing importance on exterior impressions. Rather than Dhananjayan-ji stating there has been a lack of education, perhaps as a bharatanatyam artist, he should look at the archaic formality of the arangetram itself. Maybe that needs to change. There have been many dedicated artists who have chosen to make North America their home. Ustad Ali Akbar Khan was responsible for so many students having access to incredible artists and teachers, through his school. My Guruji himself started the kathak dance department there in 1972. Those who teach with deep integrity of spirit and knowledge are “Gurus.” They embody the meaning

of the name. The title “Guru” can only be given, it is impossible for one to become a “self appointed Guru.” Similarly, it is ridiculous to appeal that the title be stricken from a great master teacher. It is tradition, it is contemporary, it is the future, and most of all it is truth. It has nothing to do with money, or paying for the opportunities, but about artistic practice, with payment being only through sweat, tears, blood and laughter. Thank you for your continued work with the magazine. Joanna de Souza, Canada

Re-writing History

Teed Rockwell does a great job of exposing the fear of the unknown “East” and the biased re-writing of its history by western cultures (Orientophobia, India Currents, October 2013). The mighty and sophisticated Persian empires that existed for over a thousand years, stretching from the borders of Greece to the borders of China, are forgotten in the West, in preference to ancient Greece and Rome. As Rockwell points out, the elegant looking Persians are wrongly portrayed as tribal savages in the Hollywood movie 300, probably helping the U.S. government justify its “regime change” plans for Iran. Western nations ignore the fact that the oldest known Declaration of Human Rights was inscribed on clay cylinders by the order of the Zarathushti (Zoroastrian) king, Cyrus the Great, who established the first Persian empire around 539 B.C., and who did not pillage, massacre, rape or focibly convert his conquered subjects, but instead, allowed them to freely practice their own religion and customs. The original Clay Cylinder of Cyrus is on a tour of the world on loan from the British Museum, and is currently on display at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles until December 2, 2013. In the same vein, we find the West ignorant of one of the oldest monotheistic religions founded by Prophet Zarathustra (known as Zoroaster by Greek philosophers who studied his teachings) of Iran, over 4,500 years ago, introducing original concepts of one supreme God, heaven and hell,

SPEAK YOUR MIND! Have a thought or opinion to share? Send us an original letter of up to 300 words, and include your name, address, and phone number. Letters are edited for clarity and brevity. Write India Currents Letters, 1885 Lundy Ave. Suite 220, San Jose 95131 or email letters@indiacurrents.com.

rational thinking, moral accountability of individuals, and resurrection at the end of time, some of which were later incorporated into Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Maneck Bhujwala, Huntington Beach, CA

Gratitude and Grievances

Have we lost our real “hunger” for Indian classical music? We love music, we “always like to attend concerts” but we are too busy plan ahead. How can people in Los Angeles have an all-day festival of music and manage to fill their auditorium, whereas patrons in the Bay Area don’t have the patience to sit and enjoy even a “mini” festival like the one Bay Area Performing Arts (BAPA) presented on Oct 13th at India Community Center? Despite advertising the event five months in advance, people waited till the very last minute to confirm. What is the matter with our Bay Area music lovers? Music seems to play second fiddle to ticket price (we attend only if it’s free) and proximity to home. The audience shows up to hear artists like the talented Mahesh Kale, who is popularizing classical music. But we also want to encourage some brilliant, not so well-known, musicians from India. We request music lovers to mark these events on their calendars and give the artists a chance. Prabha Gopal, Walnut Creek, CA

Liabilities of Language

It was interesting to read Kalpana Mohan’s article (Who Took the Tamarind Out?, India Currents, October 2013). From my early childhood, I have had plenty of exposure to ayurvedic remedies, especially the oils used as purgatives. My dad, with roots in Kerala, was a regular user of dhanvantharam kuzhambu (an oil variety). So once while serving lunch, my wife, who came from Delhi, announced that she would be serving kuzhambu, and she meant the Tamil word for sambar. My father who was used to a different form of kuzhambu was puzzled as to why this was being served for lunch! K.N. Ganesh, Fremont, CA

Changing Culture

Living in a community that holds many of the same values, I found the article by Viveka Kymal (A Yen for the Arts, India Currents, October 2013) really hit home and brought up several points I’d not considered. It was a fascinating introspection into the changing culture. Ess Kay, website

November 2013 | www.indiacurrents.com | 5


forum

Is Obama To Blame for the Government Shutdown?

O

Yes, Obama is culpable

No, Ted Cruz and his party are to blame

By Rameysh Ramdas

By Mani Subramani

T

ur nation’s capital just had a circus sideshow that the world watched with incredulity. The spectacle is now on a pause but this temporary reprieve could just be an intermission before the next act possibly plays out in January 2014. The direct cost of the shutdown is estimated to be several billion dollars but as Annie Lowrey and Michael Shear opined in an New York Times piece, “the affiliated damage—like the undermining of consumer and business confidence—will be far greater.” While it is popular in the media to blame Ted Cruz, Speaker Boehner and the Tea Party for the circus, I believe if we had a strong ringmaster as President, we could have prevented this manufactured crisis. As Michael D.Watkins and Max H.Bachman wrote in in The Harvard Business School, “Leaders cannot be blamed for lack of foresight in unpredictable crises especially if they have taken all possible steps to prevent it,” and added that “if a damaging event happens that was foreseeable and preventable, no excuses should be brooked. The leaders’ feet need to be held to the fire.” President Obama knew a year ahead of this looming crisis and did nothing to prvent it. An astute President would have worked with maniacal focus to cultivate relationships with key House and Senate leaders from both parties to build a coalition of support. Contrast this with the last shutdown in 1995 when then President Bill While President Obama Clinton tirelessly enrightfully drew the line gaged with Bob Dole and Newt Gingrich. Clinton on the repeal of Obam- embraced the goal of a budget but also acare, he has not laid balanced laid out a marker indicatout any roadmap for a ing that cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, Education and long term budget ... the Environment were off the table. Yes, the Government did shut down due to the intransigence of Gingrich, but the nation had a clear and cogent blue print from Clinton and rallied to his side forcing the GOP to back off and accept a long term budget deal that led to an economic boom with lowest unemployment levels and a budget surplus. While President Obama rightfully drew the line on the repeal of Obamacare, he has not laid out any roadmap for a long term budget that will also reduce the debt. In fact, the Simpson-Bowles plan could have been the starting point for wide ranging negotiations that this President should have led. It would have resulted in a long term budget and spending plan which would have not served to avert the current crisis and provided certainty for businesses to borrow, invest, hire and grow the economy. When the President abdicates leadership, clowns like Ted Cruz will rush in to fill the vacuum. It is time for our President to demonstrate leadership. While another shutdown may be good politics especially for the Democratic Party’s prospects in 2014, it will be disastrous for the nation if this President continues to play second fiddle. n

he economy was in a freefall losing more than 800,000 jobs a month when President Obama took office. The country badly needed a stimulus. Obama and the Democrats reached out to the Republicans, but in the end had to pass a stimulus bill with only Democrat votes, thanks to the Tea Party’s inflexibility. During the debt ceiling crisis of 2011, Obama and Boehner reached a grand bargain including significant entitlement reforms to create a more balanced budget. Once again, Boehner was undercut by Tea Party members and had to renege on his deal. Hence, the sequester was created and went into effect at the beginning of 2013. After such a disastrous record, it is absolutely ludicrous to expect President Obama to extend his hand to this horde yet again! While the 16 day shutdown resulted in 24 billion in lost revenue, thankfully this amount is a relatively small portion of a 16 trillion dollar economy. On the other hand, compromises from past crises have been far more costly. The American economy is still reeling from the effect of the crisis driven compromise: the sequester, which has shaved as much as a full percentage off the GDP and has increased unemployment by 1.4%. It seems that Ted Cruz and his party would like for the government to shutdown and the economy to crash, if it means that it could bring down Obama. Thank god It seems that Ted Cruz Obama held a hardline and let the Tea Party poliand his party would ticians be seen for who they really are and how like for the government little they care about the to shutdown and the American people’s real issues. economy to crash, if Elections have consequences. When Tea Party it means that it could voters turn up for elecbring down Obama. tions in their gerrymandered districts we get uncaring idealogues elected to office. It started with Joe the Plumber, followed by Bachman and Palin and now Cruz. Creation of the “Taxed Enough Already” (TEA) party is anathemic to rational thought and fact. The party was created at the same time that individual tax rates were among the lowest in half a century and the share of corporate taxes in the low single digits as a share of the overall taxes. The House has voted 41 times to defund the Affordable Care Act, knowing fully well that it would fail in the Senate, and even if it passed, it would be vetoed by the POTUS. This is the very definition of madness. This is a party united only by their hatred of Obama. Big money interests were able to put in place stooges like Cruz to hold the American government hostage for 16 days. But in the end they have been deemed to have failed in the opinion of the majority of Americans. Hope we have different results and better consequences in the next elections. n

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

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

6 | INDIA CURRENTS | November 2013


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a thousand words

Approximating H-4 By Ragini Tharoor Srinivasan

T

his fall, I packed up my books and belongings and moved across the country for someone else’s job. I arrived at the airport with a baby in tow; my husband was waiting to greet us with a freshly washed car and bachelor scruff. He took us “home” to the apartment he had begun to set up on his own. He knew the roads and routes already. “My campus is that way,” he said, like the husbandcharacter in a Jhumpa Lahiri story, the newly married immigrant with a freshly minted Ph.D., cheerily pointing out autumn ivy leaves to his India-sprung bride. Of course, I was no new bride, not fresh off the plane, and my husband no immigrant, but the scene we played out was striking in its approximation of the one Lahiri and others have described. I’d read enough immigrant narratives to know how harrowing, how enigmatic, how lonely, how thrilling, how confusing those first days can be—just take a look at the South Asian American Digital Archive’s “First Days Project”—but, as a second-generation Indian-American, I’d never before experienced “the shock of arrival” that novelists, poets, and academics describe as attending the journey of immigrants to this country. The plane lands; the landscape shifts; suddenly you are in some foreign place in which your only real tie is the institution or person you’ve come to join. I was born in the United States and thus, by accident of birth, have always had a (legal, material, psychic) right to be here. Moreover, my specific statuses as student and employee have always guaranteed my passage through libraries and university halls, my access to online archives and databases, and my right to relevant discounts and admissions. My identifying cards and email addresses have reflected my own professional and academic worth. I was born here. I work here. I belong here. Now, for the first time in my life, I am only where I am, at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, because my husband is a “member” (the Institute’s curious term for visiting fellows). My Institute ID says “family.” I have no particular affiliation to any school or organization here. I am still a doctoral candidate at Berkeley but now remotely so. I don’t know anyone at the Institute; I don’t even know how to get to the grocery store. Simply put, I am here because my husband is a member, and I am a member’s wife. In that, I have started feeling something like an imposter or an interloper, and I am newly sympathetic to the predicament of “dependents,” especially women on the H-4. An H-4 visa holder is the spouse or child of someone on a nonimmigrant worker’s visa, an H-1B, H-2A, H-2B, or H-3 visa. H-4s, in other words, are granted entry into the United States not because of their particular promise, but rather because of what their partners or parents have done, are doing, and will do while in residence here. Officially, the H-4 is a “dependent nonimmigrant.” She (in the Indian context, the stereotypical H-4 used to be the female spouse of an engineer on an H-1B) can come to the United States; she can live with her husband; she can breathe the air and drink the water. Importantly, however, the H-4 visa holder cannot legally work. In practice, this doesn’t mean that she does no work, but rather that the work she does is the unremunerated, domestic kind, since she can’t seek employment regardless of her own qualifications. Oh, but she can open a bank 8 | INDIA CURRENTS | November 2013

My struggle is to come to terms with being a woman who had a baby and followed her husband across the country for his job. On the face of it, the description is alien to me, and consequently alienating. account and obtain a driver’s license … all the better to drop those kids to school, I suppose, to pick up dry cleaning, and make a run to the Indian store. “Women who have children and follow their husbands rarely finish their Ph.D.s.” The (childless) professor who sourly offered this prediction strung the two parts of the sentence together with considered emphasis, as if having a child was one thing and following your husband another, but the combination a perfect storm, the natural guarantor of a terminated doctorate and academic dreams deferred. In the months leading up to my move across the country, I heard similar comments from friends and in-laws, aunties and uncles. How exactly, some asked, do you intend to finish your doctorate? I suppose you are giving it up. I suppose, one aunty mused, this is a good time to have had a child, since you aren’t really doing anything. I laughed off the detractors, unsurprised by the skepticism and determined to buckle down on research and writing as soon as baby and I got to the Institute. Now, having settled in, I’m happy to report that my work is ongoing, if slow. There is nothing like a baby to curb an appetite for indulgence, put an end to pointless internet surfing, and drive home the imperative of just plain getting things done. What has surprised me, however, is this nagging feeling of being out of place just because my placement here is contingent on someone else’s belonging. My struggle, it increasingly seems, is not really going to be finishing the Ph.D., but maintaining a robust sense of self. My struggle is to come to terms with being a woman who had a baby and followed her husband across the country for his job. On the face of it, the description is alien to me, and consequently alienating. But perhaps it need not be. Perhaps, the problem is not with being a wife and a mother, but with all the ways we professional, intellectual men and women have been conditioned to think about the statuses of spouses and parents and about the failures and concessions the decisions to marry and have children are supposed to represent. Perhaps my current struggle is just one of life’s blessings. For don’t we all have to reconcile why we are where we are with who we are? To figure out how we might consciously give form to the lives we have chosen? n Ragini Tharoor Srinivasan is a doctoral candidate in Rhetoric at UC Berkeley.


November 2013 | www.indiacurrents.com | 9


perspective

From Here to Eternity and Back, Quickly By Ranjani Iyer Mohanty

10 | INDIA CURRENTS | November 2013

view our return journey, the end of our holidays, and perhaps even our twilight years not as a headlong flight into doom, but as a gentle trip to reality. The strange thing is that, having sufficiently explained things to myself thusly and mollified myself to the fact that summer is ending, I suddenly proved that this extension of Murphy’s Law is not just perception; it’s reality. As one of my last pleasurable summer activities, I hired a bicycle for three hours and went for a ride. I began in the lovely little town of Niagara-on-theLake on the southern shores of Lake Ontario. I rode through the Commons, past Fort George, and down the Waterfront Trail along the Niagara River. On one side were charming old homes with large lawns stretched out in the long evening sun. On the other side were stunning views of the river and sail boats, broken only by trees. After an onward journey of one and a half hours, I decided to turn back. I reached my starting point in one hour. In spite of even stopping a couple of times to take photos. I know. Even Einstein would have been flummoxed. I now have new respect for this Murphy guy—this philosopher magician who can slow down time. I wonder if his IQ is higher than Einstein’s. But I won’t impose this new law on you. I’ll leave it to you to prove for yourself if your return journey is indeed shorter. The experiment works out well either way. If it’s merely your perception, the comforting corollary is that home is not as close as you think and you really have succeeded in escaping far away for your holidays. If it’s reality, then you have the option of coming home via a different route or a longer one. You can indeed be two travelers and this time, take the road not traveled. And that could make all the difference. n A Creative Commons Image

I

’ve often thought of it but this summer I finally formulated it into one of Murphy’s Laws: Traveling to your holiday destination always takes more time than coming back. It always seems to take so long to reach our vacation spot but our return journey seems to go by in a flash and before we know it, we’re back home. But why should this be so? In the luxury of our last lazy days of summer, let us ponder this life-changing question. I wonder if Einstein’s theory of relativity might provide some answers. When some layperson asked him to explain his theory in simple terms, Einstein supposedly said: “An hour spent with a pretty woman seems short. A minute with your hand on a hot stove seems long. That’s relativity.” But in our current investigation, it only seems to explain why our vacation weeks fly by so tantalizingly fast while our hours at the airport seem hellishly long. Perhaps the answer lies in more simple things. One may be that when we’re going on holidays, we’re often going to a strange place and the unknown is always further away, at least in our minds. Another may be that the route is new and requires more effort on our part to get there, making the way there seem longer. Our excitement and eagerness to arrive at our holiday destination can also make the time seem longer. It’s captured well by children’s often-asked question, “Are we there yet?” Whereas on the way back, they’re usually sleeping in the back seat of the car. Yet another reason is possibly the anticipation; both Carly Simon and Heinz Ketchup may have been on to something. All good things come to those who wait. We usually plan ahead and look forward to our holidays, and if we count those days and sometimes even months as part of our travel time to our holiday destination, it does indeed take much more time to reach there.

Maybe during the onward journey our minds, anticipating the holiday to come, are expansive and open to possibilities. During the return journey, our minds are falling back into line, busy with thoughts of tasks ahead and to-do lists. Or it may have to do with beginnings and endings in general. Time always seems to go slowly in the beginning. We wait in anticipation for nine long months even to be born. In our childhood, summer months drag by with so much time on our hands that we’re actually bored. Now that we’re much older though, summer and every other season seem to zip along. My mother marvels at how fast we’ve all grown up and how quickly the years and, indeed, life has gone by. While beginnings are slow and gentle, we seem to race to the finish and end with a bang. But Murphy’s Law is the perception of a pessimist. Its main tenant, “If something can go wrong, it will,” is followed by a string of other Eeyore-like pronouncements. We’ve also all heard the old idiom “All good things must come to an end”—no doubt first articulated by Murphy’s great-grandfather. Fortunately, perception lies in the eyes of the beholder. We have the option to anticipate our real, non-holiday life—if not with joy—then at least as a challenge and with a sense of purpose. Einstein also said “If you want to live a happy life, tie it to a goal, not to people or things.” This could lead us to

Ranjani Iyer Mohanty is an academic editor, ending her summer.


November 2013 | www.indiacurrents.com | 11


Ro Khanna: Running a Start-Up Campaign in Silicon Valley By Jawahar “Joe” Samagond

I heard Ro Khanna speak for the first time at a local gathering of Indian Americans a few months ago. He was preceded by a group of loquacious speakers, which caused me to zone out. When Khanna was invited to the stage, I was shaken out of my stupor because of his clear voice, crisp message and because he did not drone on. He was done in three minutes.

W

ell, this guy is different, I thought to myself. I experienced that again at a local meet and greet, where Khanna was a compelling messenger. Rohit “Ro” Khanna, 36, is an IndianAmerican lawyer from Fremont, Calif. He served as a deputy assistant secretary in the Commerce Department of the Obama administration and is a rising star in the Democratic Party. In April he announced his intention to run for Northern California’s District 17 House seat in 2014. He will challenge incumbent Mike Honda, 71, a JapaneseAmerican Democrat seeking an eighth term in Congress, whose views on politics and civil rights are shaped by his internment during World War II.

Phi Beta Kappa with a B.A. in Economics from the University of Chicago, and received a law degree from Yale University before heading west to work in Silicon Valley. Like many immigrant families, Khanna’s parents emigrated from India to seek opportunity and a better life for their children. Ro’s fa-

Early Years

Khanna grew up in Bucks County, Pa., the son of Indian immigrants, and graduated

12 | INDIA CURRENTS | November 2013

Ro Khanna campaigning

ther studied engineering at the University of Michigan; his mother was a substitute school teacher.

Entering Politics

His commitment to public service was inspired early on by his grandfather, who told him stories about participating in Gandhi’s independence movement in India and spending several years in jail for promoting human rights. Khanna’s view is that “Politics is a noble calling and allows one to think of issues larger than themselves.” He became involved in politics while attending the University of Chicago, where he worked on the


campaign of the then unknown candidate for state Senate named Barack Obama. In fact, Khanna was one of a few volunteers to walk precincts with Obama during that campaign. He went on to work on Obama’s presidential campaign. Dipping his own toes in politics in 2003, Khanna ran a protest campaign in California against a Democratic incumbent, the late Tom Lantos (12th Congressional District) who voted for George W. Bush’s decision to attack Iraq. Although he lost badly (74%-20%), he had taken a principled position standing up for his beliefs.

Ro Khanna’s Platform

Personally, Khanna is very articulate, intelligent, earnest and humble. He is clear about his message: • Drive innovation across technology and business • Enable 21st century education • Promote sensible pro-growth and pro-business policies • Take a global view to all problems because it will drive growth in America • Create good, high-paying jobs locally • Reinvigorate America’s manufacturing capacity Khanna admits to being surprised at the level of public cynicism about Congress. When walking door-to-door in Santa Clara, around the time of the partial Government shutdown in Washington, D.C. in October 2013, he faced scorn and disgust about politicians. He heard constituents expressing disappointment and “wanting to throw the lot in prison.” He wants to change that by solving actual problems faced by constituents. Khanna and opponent Honda have very similar positions on social issues such as support for abortion rights and same-sex marriage. Ro talks a lot about the growing divide between the “governing class” and the “middle class.” However, Khanna is not an old-style Democrat. He supports sensible corporate taxation that may allow repatriation of U.S. corporate funds parked overseas so that they can be invested in expanding payroll or in new equipment at home. He is also open to holding teachers in public schools to performance standards while ensuring high performers are rewarded. Given his education and work experience, it should come as no surprise to anyone that he has a great grasp of United States History and the Constitution. This is a passion he loves to share with young students. Cheryl Cook-Kallio, the vice-Mayor of Pleasanton, and a teacher at Irvington High School in Fremont, recalls visiting his office in DC with students from her AP U.S. history and

U.S. government classes. He would come in and talk to the students and was very generous with his time. According to Cook-Kallio, her students came to regard him as their friend and he stayed in touch with some of them and mentored them through college. Although Khanna has never held elected office, he has managed to sign up one of Obama’s top-three fundraisers, Steve Spinner, as his campaign chairman; Obama’s national field director, Jeremy Bird, as his chief strategist; Larry Grisolano, Obama’s ad-buying chief; and Mark Beatty, Obama’s deputy battleground states director.

District 17—The Epitome of High Tech

CA District 17 sits at an interesting edge between the high tech industry and the government. On the one hand it is home to companies such as Facebook, Google, Yahoo, Intel and Apple. On the other hand, revelations about the government’s intrusion into individual private information have created outrage among its denizens. District 17 is also the largest district in the continental United States to have an Asian-American majority of almost 50% (Hawaii’s District 1 is ahead with 58% Asian-American majority). The district came into being as a result of an initiative passed during the 2010 election, when California’s system of nonpartisan citizen-driven redistricting created the 17th Congressional District from parts of neighboring ones.

The Money Race

Khanna’s campaign will not accept any PAC, lobbyist, or special interest money. Despite this, they are leading in the money race. Sound familiar? Ro has outraised Honda two quarters in a row. He’s raised $2.8 million total since entering the contest, according to his campaign The Honda campaign has been quick to point out that Khanna is burning up cash faster, as both campaigns netted the same gain of approximately $200K in this past quarter. But as of the end of the third quarter, Khanna had almost three times as much

Ro Khanna with his family

money in the bank as Honda. As David McCuan, Professor Dept. of Political Science, Sonoma State University, likes to say, “Money is a necessary though not sufficient condition to beat an incumbent.”

Chalking Up Support

Defeating Honda will not be easy. In March, Honda’s campaign released a poll showing him with a 52-point lead over Khanna, who drew a meager 5 percent support—vs. 57 percent for Honda with the Republican Evelyn Li pulling 13% and 23% undecided. A more recent poll, conducted early August of 806 likely voters in the district, found 49 percent support Honda, 15 percent support Khanna and 36 percent are now undecided. It shows that Khanna is gaining momentum, but more alarmingly for Honda, places him below the 50% mark, which must worry a seven-term incumbent. One voter I talked to, expressed his views in favor of Honda, which could be a prevailing attitude—“if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” In five months, Khanna has tripled his share of the vote. And he has yet to spend serious money on an opponent-defining ad campaign. Nothing illustrates the difference between the two candidates than the dueling list of top supporters both campaigns recently trumpeted. Khanna cites over 100 Silicon Valley innovators, entrepreneurs and tech leaders who have endorsed his campaign. He’s received donations from the likes of Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, and Marissa Mayer, Yahoo’s president and chief executive officer. A number of top givers to Khanna’s campaign in the September quarter were major donors to President Barack Obama, including Sandi Thompson, an attorney and wife of former Symantec CEO John Thompson; Andy Spahn, a movie

Quater ending June 2013

Quater ending September 2013

Money raised

Honda ($345K), Khanna ($1M)

Honda ($392K), Khanna ($509K)

Cash on hand, quater-end

Honda ($375K), Khanna ($1.7M)

Honda ($559K), Khanna ($1.9M)

Realtime Federal Campaign Finance: http://realtime.influenceexplorer.com/race/2014/H/CA/17/ November 2013 | www.indiacurrents.com | 13


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August 2013

March 2013

57 5

15

49

Honda Khanna

Poll: Support for District 17 candidates

Source: Lake Research Partners, Public Policy Polling studio lobbyist turned consultant; and Ellen Sussman, a journalist and activist from Houston. Other notable Bay Area donors to Khanna’s campaign in the third quarter included former Palm Inc. CEO Donna Dubinsky; eBay President and CEO John Donahoe; former San Francisco 49er Ronnie Lott; venture capitalist David Wagonfeld; Google senior vice presidents Vic Gundotra and Sundar Pichai; Zynga cofounder Mark Pincus and his wife, Alison, cofounder of the upscale Web marketplace One Kings Lane; and Hewlett-Packard senior vice president Tony Prophet. Honda does not have an equally powerful and deep celebrity list but he has the support of the Democratic Party establishment including President Barack Obama, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and CA senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer.

The Difference between Khanna and Honda

Looking past the glitz and title, the difference is obvious—it is the traditional steady politics vs. fast-moving and forward-looking next generation. Khanna’s candidacy also reflects a long-standing frustration among many young California politicians that have been waiting patiently for their turn. The induction of an independent redistricting committee and an open primary system in which the top two finishers in an open primary

advance to the runoff regardless of party affiliation, has pushed some senior members into retirement. A disciplined politico, Honda is wellliked and popular and has, for the most part, ignored Khanna and taken pains to address some of the opposing campaign claims by highlighting his focus and accomplishments in areas such as high tech, education, immigration, environment and energy. Khanna benefits from speaking the language of Silicon Valley and leveraging his strong resume. According to Kamil Hasan, General Partner, Granite Hill Capital Partners, and a long-time Democratic party activist, Khanna’s appeal lies in his dynamism, an ability to solve problems with new ideas, work across aisles, and bridge the businesslabor divide. A former supporter of Honda, Hasan switched his backing to Khanna because he believes it is time for new blood and new thinking. He thinks Khanna is running a new type of campaign that is more aligned with the needs of Silicon Valley and believes that Khanna will garner the votes of many Republicans in the general election. Rusty Rueff, Chairman of The GRAMMY Foundation and Coordinating National Co-Chair for Technology for Obama, takes a more philosophical view of Khanna’s appeal. He distils the importance of this congressional seat down to—policy, leadership and influence. He thinks we need leaders like Khanna who have a deep and nuanced understanding of a range of issues—technology, patent reform, immigration, manufacturing, globalization, the power of the internet, etc. He applies the litmus test by posing the same question he asks start up founders with ideas looking for funding— “What is the problem you are trying to solve?” He says, “This seat needs the right representation. We need someone who understands innovation. Khanna can sit with people in Congress, understand problems that need to be solved and bring people from this district to develop creative solutions to those problems” In fact, he thinks we need many more candidates like Khanna all over the country.

What Would a Khanna Win Mean for the Indian Diaspora?

Mike Honda

Indian Americans have excelled in a range of professional fields across the United States. After quietly building behindthe-scenes influence, they are entering public and political life in record numbers. Today, two are serving as state governors (Bobby Jindal (LA) and Nikki Haley (SC)) and dozens more are either holding or seeking seats in state legislatures. In 2012,

six Indian Americans ran for Congress. This race will be a test of the rising strength of the Indian American community, especially in tech-savvy Silicon Valley, where many Indians have done well as start up founders, technology advisors, VCs, and senior players in key companies. According to Khanna, “if I win this seat and become the voice of this district, it would be a recognition of the contributions of the Indian community in Silicon Valley. It is more a testament to the community than to me.” Not every Indian American supports Ro Khanna. Congressman Ami Bera, the only Indian American in Congress today has endorsed Mike Honda as have San Jose Council member Ash Kalra and Dublin City council member Abe Gupta. Jeevan Zutshi, founder of the Indo-American Community Federation is also a big fan of Mike Honda. He has fond memories of Honda speaking about the problems facing displaced Kashmiris at an international symposium in Fremont. “Silicon Valley interests are more than those of millionaires in high tech,” he remarks.

Labor—An Achilles Heel?

If you look at institutional and establishment labor support, you can see that it is a potential Achilles heel for Khanna. But not according to Sergio Santos, former President of UAW Local 2244 who was at New United Motor Manufacturing, Inc. (NUMMI) as it was being shut down. He recalls the tireless efforts of Khanna to save the plant and when that failed, his successful efforts to secure a $333,000 federal grant to create new manufacturing jobs in Fremont and around the district. Santos notes, “A bunch of politicians came out saying that they wanted to help, held press conferences, and did this or that. But all they really did was grandstand and try to get press for themselves. When the cameras were gone, so were our elected leaders. Ro was the only one left.” Santos, a former supporter of Honda, switched allegiances because he thinks “... the new district is not for Honda but ideal for Khanna.”

Can Khanna Win?

Khanna’s campaign is adopting many of the successful tactics from the Obama campaign, from social media to intimate meetand-greets. Starting from a strong foundation but low name recognition, their goal is to raise Khanna’s visibility. McCuan believes that 2014 may be another anti-incumbent year. And the recent examples of dysfunction in Congress (Govt. shut down and Debt limit drama) will only reinforce the public disgust with anyone in office. Honda, the incumbent could suffer and Khanna, the challenger may benefit because of that dynamic. On the other hand, Khanna is not as well known and will November 2013 | www.indiacurrents.com | 15


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two to three election cycles to enter Congress. They would run first and lose, but use that opportunity to gain name recognition, get to know the movers and shakers in their party and come back a second or third time, stronger than before, to finally win in the same race. Because of the factors listed above, Khanna can potentially accomplish all that in one cycle, spanning a few months. Talk about good timing!

An Exciting Race to the End

Ro Khanna with volunteers

need to expend more resources to raise name recognition. McCuan believes that Labor’s muscle can be a crucial difference in providing boots on the ground and manpower for phone banks. McCuan classifies Khanna as a “strategic challenger.” He has a good resume and has staked out a special place with his diverse exposure in Silicon Valley. His work at the law firm of Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, representing high technology companies in intellectual property cases also gives him unusual exposure to a list of powerful clients within the high tech community. As a visiting lecturer in the Department of Economics at Stanford University and an Adjunct Professor at Santa Clara Law School, his network has further expanded into new niches of academia and an intellectual group of well connected people in the Bay Area. If one steps back and considers his op-

tions, Khanna can pursue a two-pronged strategy to win: (i) Build off the foundation of his high tech network and add to it by peeling off enough elements of the traditional Democratic constituency. He does not have to beat Honda in the primary but be in the top two. (ii) Use the top two primary system to his advantage. Khanna and Honda are likely to be the top two vote getters who will advance to the general election because this seat is considered a safe Democratic one. Then Khanna gets to appeal to a broader pool of voters including NPPs (No Party Preference) and Republicans (who together constitute almost 50% of registered voters, Democrats are 44%), to move in for the kill. Winning this House seat seems within reach for Khanna. McCuan astutely observes that Khanna can do in one election cycle what it took candidates from a previous era

Ro Khanna is well positioned to run a strong campaign. He faces a formidable challenger who has strong name recognition and the benefits of incumbency. Indian Americans in the district need not pick Khanna simply because of his ethnicity. They should go out and vote for the candidate who they think is closely aligned with their values and can best meet the interests of their district. According to Tyler Law, Ro Khanna’s press secretary, in the 2010 primary elections, of the 23,000 registered Indian American voters only about 3,000 voted (approximately 13%). Voter turnout is important to effect any change. So mark your calendars for the primary elections on June 3, 2014 and general elections on Nov 4, 2014 and do cast your vote. When the networks and cable channels call the results in November 2014, you can bet that the CA District 17 race will be closely watched and hotly contested all the way to the end. n Jawahar “Joe” Samagond is a technology communications professional based in Northern California. Originally from Mumbai, India he has spent time on both coasts (Boston and San Francisco). He is an avid reader and serves on the Fremont Library Advisory Commission. He is interested in global politics, science, law and social trends. More about his thoughts at http:// joes9.wordpress.com.

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analysis

Neither Left Nor Right The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP): Ushering in a new India? By Abhay Bhushan and Pran Kurup

I

n 2011, there was the Arab Spring, followed by the Summer of India Against Corruption, and the Autumn of the Occupy Wall Street movement in the United States. People everywhere seemed to be yearning for democratic reforms, for economic and social equity, and for their voices to be heard. Some governments fell, others relented and made minor changes. In India, despite the mass protests, the reforms have been few and far between and corruption continues unabated. India’s two major political parties, the Congress and the Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) are embroiled in scams, while many regional party leaders are under investigation for disproportionate assets amassed while in power. Sadly, it appears that India’s political parties in power today routinely put up candidates with criminal backgrounds to contest elections, and lack intra-party democracy. Corruption has impacted everything from the falling value of the rupee, to price rise, to increasing unemployment, to lack of education for the poor, to investor confidence, among other key metrics. The poor, the dispossessed, the unequal and the discriminated are facing the brunt of miseries that can only be set right by good governance. As Indian Americans we understand India’s true potential at a very fundamental 20 | INDIA CURRENTS | November 2013

level, and it makes us sad to see India not living up to its full potential. We, in America, could benefit much more from business, education, investment, medical treatment and vacation opportunities available in India, provided these systemic problems with corruption are addressed. India’s 2012 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) published by Transparency International was ranked at 94, (Somalia ranked at 174 and Denmark at 1). The present system and the current crop of political parties do not appear to have the credibility or wherewithal to make India a humane, caring and developed nation. Simply changing players is not a solution; it is the rules of the game that need to be changed, the system needs to be reformed. Indian Americans routinely complain about corruption, power outages, water supply, poverty, pollution and infrastructure they encounter while visiting India. Getting these problems fixed clearly begins with changing the politics of India. Mr. Gurcharan Das, in his recent book India Grows at Night, says, “The DNA of the BJP is not secular. The DNA of the Congress is statist, populist and socialist. Neither has shown the commitment for institutional reform. The regional parties lack a national vision. The left parties do not believe in market-based outcomes. So although the last

thing India needs is a new party, it is unfortunately the only alternative for a young, aspiring secular India in the twenty-first century.” The India Against Corruption (IAC) activists tried their best to change the system from outside the political arena. Anna Hazare, who led the IAC movement, and Kiran Bedi prefer not to join party politics and to continue the struggle from outside. Arvind Kejriwal, and others who played a key role in IAC, felt that to be effective, they needed to be part of the political process and formed the Aam Aadmi (Common Man) party (AAP) in October 2012. The party is contesting the upcoming Delhi State Assembly elections in December 2013.

Hope and Promise

AAP’s four basic tenets are: participatory democracy and decentralized decisionmaking; drafting policies with the common man in mind; zero tolerance for corruption; and respect for the constitution, which is the frame of reference for justice, equity and diversity. To draw a comparison, the latest example of dysfunction in Washington was a case of a few law makers using the rules in Congress to bring the United States government to a virtual standstill. In India on the other hand, members of parliament have little or no say in the decision making process (more so after


November 2013 | www.indiacurrents.com | 21


the passage of the anti-defection law). All decisions are made by the party high command (the power center that controls each party) and elected representatives just rubber stamp the orders of those who control their party. AAP strongly believes that an effective Jan Lokpal (an independent ombudsman), having, both, the authority and the independence to investigate and prosecute, with a mandate for prompt resolution of the cases is a necessary first step to the decentralization of power. AAP advocates the use of modern technology to assure openness, accountability, and operational efficiencies. Right To Information law (RTI), use of e-governance, and open processes are the initial tools. In decentralization of power, checks and balances and accountability to public are to be realized through empowered local self-governance mechanisms. AAP does not represent an ideology, it is not a left or right classification, or a liberal or conservative dogma, but presents itself as a sensible approach.

Gaining Momentum?

AAP’s campaign seems to be inspired by the successful Obama campaign. AAP’s message is carried through active email, social media, and SMS campaigns. Thousands of party volunteers go door-to-door canvassing for the party while others participate in an active phone campaign. Unlike other political parties, AAP raises its money online from many donors (including Indian citizens abroad), and selects its candidates through an open and transparent process. Only six months ago, no one gave AAP much of a chance. Now Delhi’s political mood is swinging rapidly. Outlook reports that as many as 47 per cent of Delhi’s voters are willing to give AAP a chance to form the government, as against only 33 per cent for the BJP, and 27 per cent for the Congress. Just as encouraging are the results of a recent opinion poll with the sample size of around 22 | INDIA CURRENTS | November 2013

36,000 voters, completed in October, which projects that AAP is leading in 37 seats, giving them a clear majority of the 70 seats. Besides, since it is trailing by less than 5% in 12 additional seats, the AAP could win between 45 to 50 seats, with the wind of popularity in their sails. The media calls the Delhi election a three-way race between AAP, BJP and the Congress. In the New Yorker (Sept. 2, 2013), Samanth Subramanian writes, “The country’s two dominant parties, the Indian National Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party, are behemoths of power and money. Compared with them, Aam Aadmi is a featherweight, but it has in Kejriwal the most potent weapon of any fledgling party in recent memory. Whatever success the Party enjoys in the upcoming elections, it will have opened new avenues of participation for India’s small and struggling independent parties.” Delhi could just be the beginning of a political upheaval in the making. India’s political landscape is definitely changing, and AAP appears to be at the forefront of this change.

Challenges

One of AAP’s biggest challenges is name recognition. Parties such as the Congress and the BJP are ingrained in the minds of people unlike AAP which is a relative newbie. Likewise the AAP election symbol “broom” is not widely known like the “hand” of the Congress or the “Lotus” of the BJP. Other challenges are funding, media coverage and battling the politics of corruption and name calling. BJP calls AAP a B-team of Congress, while Congress calls AAP a B-team of BJP. There is also the alleged use of threats and intimidation against AAP and its supporters, as well as imprisonment of some volunteers. More recently, the powers in Delhi (Congress in Delhi State and BJP in Delhi Municipality) have asked the police to begin a crackdown on AAP, removing their posters, citing The Delhi Prevention of Defacement of Property Act, 2007, according to a Times of India report. The police even took down AAP posters from paid billboards, while leaving the opposition parties posters intact. While this may reduce AAP’s visibility, AAP is responding with stepped-up door-to-door campaigning to maintain its momentum. Manu Joseph (NY Times, June 5, 2013), writes, “What he [Kejriwal] truly requires to make an impact in the polls is hundreds of millions of rupees’ worth of free news media attention, which he has enjoyed over the past two years. But journalistic interest in him has declined. Also, according to Mr. Kejriwal, the editors and managers of several media organizations who had cheered him when he attacked the government were un-

WE WILL HEAR THE UNHEARD VOICE OF THIS AAM AADMI AND YOURS TOO.

comfortable with his revelations about corporations and businessmen, who are major advertisers.” In spite of these roadblocks, Arvind Kejriwal and the AAP volunteers carry on their campaign, not unlike the people who fought for India’s freedom. They endure arrests, beatings and make enormous personal sacrifices. Kejriwal is often asked that if elected, how would AAP fulfill its promise of a prosperous India that works for all Indians irrespective of caste, creed, or economic status. How would it implement its promises, change the system, find the funds, and overcome opposition? These are important questions, and Kejriwal’s answer is that people in India are yearning for better governance, which combined with removing corruption will free the funds for development and education. It is vital for India’s future that youth be educated and trained. The challenge for AAP and Kejriwal is to win a sizeable majority, so it can govern Delhi without compromising its principles. With the Lok Sabha election due in the middle of next year, a strong showing in the Delhi assembly elections can vault AAP to the national stage. On the other hand a poor showing in Delhi can dent the hopes and aspiration of many AAP supporters, like-minded parties, and young people across India. Will AAP rise to the challenge? Will it be able to make a difference? Will it usher a New India? Journalist Manu Joseph said in his New York Times article, “If virtue alone were to decide elections in India, the two major parties in Delhi, the governing Indian National Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party, would not stand a chance against Mr. Kejriwal” n


November 2013 | www.indiacurrents.com | 23


Arvind Kejriwal—The Man and His Message ter life and future.

A

rvind Kejriwal, a 1989 graduate of Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur joined the India Revenue Service in 1992. In February 2006, he resigned from his position of Joint Commissioner in the Income Tax Department to devote all his time to public service. Kejriwal won the Ramon Magsaysay Award in 2006 and donated his award money to found the Public Cause Research Foundation. In 2011, he launched a series of daring corruption exposés on the Who’s Who of India. In October 2012, Arvind and his associates launched the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) which is contesting its first elections on December 4, 2013 for the Delhi Assembly. Kejriwal hails from Hissar in Haryana, and lives in Ghaziabad with his wife, two children, and parents. We posed Arvind Kejriwal a set of questions that would be of interest to our Indian American readers. His answers are his message. What do you consider the three tenets of political success? AK: We are still new to politics. So it’s premature for me to talk about the tenets of political success. We started AAP to change the politics of India. We want to change political discourse in our country. Firstly, we want everyone to vote. Secondly, politics is not just about voting once every five years. People must participate in the governance process. Likewise for parties, its not just about winning elections. It’s about constructively contributing to transform the country and its politics so its citizens can have a bet24 | INDIA CURRENTS | November 2013

Describe your India in 2020? AK: An India with significantly reduced corruption, poverty and unemployment. Breaking the established practice of corruption that has been in place for decades is a very difficult task. However, it begins with honest parties and good governance, and with a mandate from the people, it can be achieved within the decade. What do you consider your biggest handicap? AK: Lack of name awareness. Not everyone knows about the Aam Aadmi Party or our symbol the “jhadu.” But we are doing all we can to build awareness through doorto-door campaigns, outreach through phone, sms, email, social media. What can you do that others have not? AK: We have an open and transparent candidate selection process. We don’t give tickets to people with criminal background. Our campaign is run purely by volunteers with money donated by people and every single donation is accounted for. We intend to make education and healthcare our priorities and improve these dramatically by curbing corruption. Not a single political party in the entire history of independent India has done any of the things I have just outlined. Do you think alliances will help you in your campaign and who would you team up with? AK: We have no plans for any alliances. People who vote for us are tired of all the existing political parties. So teaming up with corrupt parties is not something we would consider. Who is your favorite figure from American history? AK: I am not an expert on American history. I have admired Lincoln for his courage

in abolishing slavery, Roosevelt for bringing economic and social equity, and Reagan and Clinton for their communication skills while Obama’s campaigns are always a source of inspiration and ideas. What do you hope to achieve here in the U.S.? AK: Greater positive awareness about India. I wish to further the interaction and communication with the Indian diaspora, improve US-India relations and ensure that India is a preferred destination for United States businesses. We should put an end to the perception that India is a difficult place to do business. What is the first thing you will do if you won the election? AK: Implement Jan Lokpal. What is your strategy regarding identifying corrupt individuals? Is it effective? AK: Lokpal should act as a deterrent and help curtail corruption. We will need to fast track investigations so verdicts are arrived at in an acceptable time frame. I am confident it will be effective. Your detractors say that your single-minded focus on identifying corrupt big-wigs is a waste of energy, instead you should focus on putting in place better strategies for good governance. Any comments? AK: Good governance is essential for development and progress, and we are committed to good governance, transparency, accountability and reform. They all go hand in hand. The reality is that to achieve good governance, curtailing corruption is essential. n Abhay Bhushan is an IIT Kanpur and MIT graduate, Internet pioneer and author of FTP, entrepreneur, and environmental and community activist. He is former president of PanIIT, USA, IIT Kanpur Alumni Association, and Indians for Collective Action. Pran Kurup is an IIT Kharagpur graduate, Bay Area entrepreneur, and political commentator (Economic Times website: http://blogs.economictimes.indiatimes.com/outsideedge). He is the author of three technical books and founder and CEO of Vitalect, and former President of Silicon Valley Indian Professionals Association (SIPA).


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commentary

Recalling Han Suyin By Tara Menon

P

hysician and author most renowned for the Hollywood classic, Love is a Many-Splendored Thing, Han Suyin passed away a year ago at the grand old age of 96 and I mourn her, not just for herself, but because another link to my father has gone. Growing up, I didn’t know my parents were friends with Han Suyin since my father, a diplomat, had a large social circle everywhere we went—we moved to a new country every two to three years. I didn’t read her as a teenager; my preferred writers were Charlotte Bronte, Agatha Christie, Daphne du Maurier, and Pearl Buck. My two favorite books during adolescence were Jane Eyre and Rebecca. Our library possessed A Many-Splendored Thing, and I often picked it up, peeked into the pages, returned it to its place, and plucked another title off the bookshelf. In 1976 on our way to North Korea, where my father was posted, we stopped in Beijing for a few days. Bicycles and pictures of Mao were ubiquitous during that period. A huge picture of the Great Leader, as he was referred to, dominated a busy section of Beijing. I was struck by the general unhappiness of the Chinese people. Everyone wore drab uniforms and had sullen expressions. The sales clerks didn’t display any enthusiasm when we browsed in the stores. At that time I had no idea that the Cultural Revolution, which was just over, had caused the Chinese people great hardships. While we were eating breakfast in the hotel, I noticed a dark man seated with a woman staring at our family. He looked Indian, but I wasn’t sure. When I told my parents about him, they turned around to look at the man and remarked it was a small world. Clearly, they knew him and the woman with him. I wondered who they could be as my parents ushered my sister and me to their table. The woman was beguiling to my fifteen-year-old self. Was she Chinese or was she the product of an interracial marriage like some of my friends in the international school in Japan? When we returned to our table, my mother told my sister and me in Malayalam that the woman was a novelist called Han Suyin. The stranger who had studied us turned out to be her third husband, Vincent Ruthnaswamy, and was indeed Indian.

28 | INDIA CURRENTS | November 2013

My mother said they had met the couple at a party in Singapore (a place the writer frequently visited) before I was born. While Han Suyin and her husband ate breakfast, a few hotel guests approached her. She was at ease with her fame, giving autographs and chatting with her admirers. My mother explained that Han Suyin was the daughter of a European mother and a Chinese father. She recalled how chic the writer used to look when they socialized with her in Singapore. Han Suyin’s real name, I learned, was Elizabeth Comber. Born and brought up in China, she became a physician. Her novel, A Many-Splendored Thing, was inspired by her affair with a journalist in Hong Kong and it had been made into a movie, which my mother loved. Decades later, as a married woman in America, I would watch Love is A Many-Splendored Thing several times, riveted by the romance and Jennifer Jones’s glamorous clothes. (The movie won an Academy Award for its musical score and its costumes.) Back in our hotel room, my parents expressed their delight at encountering Han Suyin and her husband. It was clear they

held her in high regard, not just because she was a famous novelist, but because she was someone they genuinely liked. Before we left Beijing, my father got her autograph for my sister and me. It turned out to be his last non-material gift for us as he died a few months later, but at the time we had no inkling of the future that awaited us. I kept it with my burgeoning collection of autographs that included Indira Gandhi and the classical singer and Nightingale of India, M.S. Subbulakshmi. After my father’s sudden tragic death in India, I recollected the time we had visited a Chinese store and he’d asked me, repeatedly, what he could get me, but I had resisted the opportunity to acquire anything. In any case, if I had got the bead bracelets I had fingered, they would not have meant as much to me as the autograph. Now, sadly, three things are gone: my father, the autograph, and Han Suyin. Perhaps the autograph will emerge from its hiding place in my mother’s duplex one day. Unfortunately I don’t recall whether the author’s handwriting was legible or illegible, flowery or sprawled, small or big. Gone, too, undoubtedly, are certain memories about my father though I hold fast onto what remains. In my late twenties, I married and immigrated to America. Part of settling down in another country entailed building a new library. My brother-in-law generously gifted books by Indian writers that filled two bookshelves. At a library sale, I bought a copy of The Enchantress by Han Suyin. After two false starts, I shelved the novel, knowing I could return to it whenever I liked. Most of my collection shares the same fate. Books borrowed from the library clamor for my attention as they are not permanent guests. I spend much time devouring them in solitary moods that allow me to appreciate, among other writers, Chinese-American authors Maxine Hong Kingston, Amy Tan, Gish Jen, Lisa See, Ha Jin, and Yiyun Li. I read Jung Chang’s Wild Swans and discovered the truth about the Cultural Revolution, understanding, at long last, why the Chinese had been so unhappy when I had visited Beijing. According to Chang, Mao’s Red Guards had wreaked suffering wherever they had


gone, desecrating books and denouncing aristocrats, teachers, and landowners. City dwellers were forced to work in rural areas. Party leaders routinely abused power. A climate of fear existed because anyone could be falsely accused and publicly humiliated. What I recall most vividly after reading the memoir was Mao’s desire (during the years of the Great Leap Forward) to get rid of sparrows since they depleted the supply of grain. It lead to an absurd directive that children and adults had to bang pots and pans any time the birds rested until the winged creatures died from exhaustion. Mao succeeded in his mission, creating an environmental disaster that resulted in famine, since it turned out that the sparrows also ate the insects that fed on the crops. After the near extinction of the sparrows, the insects had a field day as they wreaked havoc on the crops. The obituaries of Han Suyin mention her defense of Mao and other Communist leaders and the fact that she called the Cultural Revolution a “creative historical undertaking.” However, she didn’t remain unchanged after the Tiananmen Square massacre. I believe writers have a duty to be truthful, but because I haven’t read Han Suyin’s biographies about Mao and Zhou Enlai, I don’t regard her as someone who glossed over history. For me, she is a romantic figure, a physician-turned author and, finally, a literary blast from my past. I called my mother, who lives in India, to tell her about the writer’s death, but she knew about it already. She reminisced about the time my father told Han Suyin my mother was expecting. It was at a party in Singapore. Han Suyin reacted by promptly kissing my mother’s cheek. “No wonder, you grew up to be a writer,” my mother told me over the phone. As the well-known aphorism goes, there is a time for everything. I have found it to be true of books, whether my reading is haphazard or planned. The best of books fail to entice me if the time is not right. Recently I felt compelled to pick up the The Enchantress, which occupies an easy-to-see space in my study. Within a few pages her clean prose and storytelling prowess made it clear that this was the kind of novel I would relish. I know I don’t want to rush the reading experience. In the days to come, I look forward to finding my favorite nook, book in hand, and engaging with Han Suyin. It may or may not be a memorable novel for me, but the magic of meeting her in Hong Kong will not diminish. n Tara Menon is a freelance writer based in Lexington, Massachusetts. Her fiction, poetry, and book reviews have been published in many magazines.

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science

The Nature of Beauty and the Beauty of Nature By P. Mahadevan

T

he title of this essay has been borrowed from Nobel Laureate C.V. Raman who summarized the results of his research on topics like the deep blue color of the oceans and sky, soap bubbles and their thin film colors, the structure of amorphous crystals like ice, etc. under this heading (early 1950s). I present here a few information nuggets and ponderings that fall under the purview of this title.

The Orchid Moth

Charles Darwin, the evolution theorist and author of the Origin of Species observed during his travels a variety of orchids on the island of Madagascar in which the bloom is at the end of a long stalk and the nectar is way down the stalk tube. Darwin wrote in long hand in his journal (1862) that it is very likely that the orchid moth with a long feeding tube exists which could deftly access the nectar and in the process help pollinate the plant. Darwin conjectured that the plant and the moth are co-evolved species. The moth was identified only about a decade ago by a team of National Geographic researchers using infrared photography. The proboscis is normally wound into a tight watch spring configuration and stretches out fully into the stalk. The proboscis is later withdrawn, wound back into shape and the process is repeated near the next bloom. When stretched out, the proboscis appears to be several inches long. If a few of these plants are carefully and in an ecologically safe manner transplanted elsewhere, it is not unreasonable to expect that the moth will appear at the new location, even if the site is a continent away.

The Herd Instinct

A few years ago, I went on a trip to sub-Saharan Africa, along with some other Indian Americans from Southern California to observe, at close quarters, the splendor of the wild animal kingdom. A park ranger in Botswana told us how the rangers had found several carcasses of young hippos mysteriously killed in the park, but not by poachers. The killers were identified to be the young male members of the elephant herd called “young turks” by the rangers. They chose to be bullies of the playing field. This herd, surprisingly, had lost its male leader to poachers prior to these incidents. An intuitive solu-

30 | INDIA CURRENTS | November 2013

tion was arrived at to alleviate the problem. The rangers knew of the ongoing fight for herd leadership between two or three male tuskers in another herd in the grasslands. One of the contestants was tranquilized and brought over to take over the leadership for the orphaned herd. The rangers claimed that the expected transition miracle happened. The “young turks” accepted the authority of the giant tusker as the leader and discipline was restored quickly, thus saving other young hippos.

The Largesse of Mother Earth

Those among us who have been renters or owners of property for rent would have read through the fine print of a legal document called the “Renters’ Agreement.” Typically, the onus on the applicant includes first and last month’s rent, security and cleaning deposits, no pets or additions to the number in the family, sub-letting and no violations of home owners’ association rules. Mother Earth, who could be characterized as the owner of our habitat, instead, is very generous. She offers us our habitat rent free, free utilities including air, water and the ultimate source of energy, the Sun, no restrictions on the size of your family, a renewable supply of seafood abundantly found in the large oceans and the lakes, an ecologically balanced support system. The human habitat is a tiny part of the Universe. The rest of the vastness of space is most likely uninhabitable. We all have to share the lebensraum.

Radiating Energy

In extensive stretches of the Kerala coast, parts of Australia and Brazil, monazite is found in abundance. Monazite is a radioactive multi-element mineral. The radio activity level is low enough for plants and animal systems to survive harmlessly. In other words, there is no evidence of increased cancers or health problems arising from high natural levels of radiation. According to Eric J. Hall, Professor of Radiology, Columbia University, “Life on earth has developed with an ever present background of radiation. It is not something new, invented by the wit of man: radiation has always been there.” Nature has provided a safe radiation belt at or near the earth’s surface for all life forms. Sunshine is the most familiar forms of radiation. It is

relevant to point out that in the Gayathri Mantra, considered the bedrock of all sacred prayers in Hindu religious philosophy, dating back to the era of the Rig Veda, the phrase: “Tat Savithur Varanyam,” (that Sun, the most desirable of all support systems) reminds us to be always thankful for the universal energy source.

Food For Thought

Our entire habitat is made up of the abundantly available elements in the Mendeleev Periodic Table, 118 are identified so far. Molecules are the basic building blocks of matter. The primordial bond that supports life is not between male and female or mother and child but the chemical bond between molecules. If two Oxygen atoms do not bond to form an Oxygen molecule, living systems will be unable to breathe. We have a Carbon based life support system on earth. (Science fiction writers have speculated on the “what if ” scenario if another element, Si, was chosen instead of Carbon.) Many examples are available to illustrate how Mother Nature controls the delicate balance of the eco-systems to maintain life support. But it appears convincingly true that we humans are failing to do our part to protect our only habitat. We have been able to use hydrocarbon, fossil fuels like coal, oil and natural gas abundantly. Research and analysis, beyond any doubt, point to the need for climate control measures to reverse the damage from green gas emissions and consequent irreversible rise in global temperature. The Beauty of Nature lies in the fact that the Universe has meticulously interwoven the basic sub-systems, (the Pancha Bhootas: earth, air, water, fire and space) in perfect unison to provide us all a precious habitat. The nature of beauty is that we, the humans, alone are privileged to observe, listen, work with and explore the intricacies of this entity and enjoy the miracle. n P. Mahadevan is a retired scientist with a Ph.D. in Atomic Physics from the University of London, England. His professional work includes basic and applied research and program management for the Dept. of Defense (India). He taught Physics at the Univ. of Kerala, at Thiruvananthapuram. He does very little now, very slowly.


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ask a lawyer

Divorce and Immigration By Indu Liladhar Hathi

Scam Alert:

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he U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has issued a warning advising of a telephone scam targeting USCIS customers. Scammers are using new technology referred to as “Caller ID spoofing” to display a false phone number in the recipient’s caller ID information. The scammer pretends to be a USCIS official and requests personal information (such as Social Security number, passport number, or A-number) and then claims that there are problems with the recipient’s immigration records. The caller then asks for payment to correct these records. The USCIS has urged the public that if they receive a call like that, they should immediately hang up. The USCIS wants the public to be assured that it never requests any form of payment or personal information over telephone. Those who may have been victimized by this scam or similar scams should consider reporting such activity to

32 | INDIA CURRENTS | November 2013

the appropriate local, state, or federal law enforcement agency.

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I was married to a U.S. citizen and was granted conditional permanent residence based on my marriage. My husband and I are now divorced. My conditional green card will expire in six months. How can I apply to remove the conditions on my own?

A

In order to ensure that marriages are entered into in good faith, there is a two year limit placed on green cards when it is issued to spouses in marriages that were less than two years old. In your case, you can apply for a waiver to have the conditions removed from your green card. You will request the waiver on the basis that your marriage was entered into in good faith, but the marriage fell apart and you have a final divorce judgment. The burden of proof is high and you will need to provide evidence regarding the bona fide of your marriage.

Q

I am on an H-4 visa. I am currently separated from my husband and our divorce will be finalized soon. I am interested in going to school in the United States. What are my options?

A

Your H-4 status is dependent on the relation of marriage to your husband. If you are interested in going to school, you should apply for a change of status from H-4 to F-1, the non-immigrant student visa that allows foreigners to pursue education in the United States, before your divorce is finalized. Alternatively, you can also apply for any other non-immigrant status, depending on your circumstances. Once the divorce is final, you are no longer qualified as dependant, and therefore will not qualify for the H-4 status. n Immigration and business attorney Indu Liladhar-Hathi has an office in San Jose.(408) 453-5335.


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November 2013

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fiction

The Burning Katha 2013 • Honorable Mention

34 | INDIA CURRENTS | November 2013

By Nikesh Murali

A Creative Commons Image

H

enry Elliott thought he saw the Devil, when he woke up in his hot tent and looked out into the desert. A tall, black-robed figure with glowing red eyes, stood in the distance, amidst the trees that were twisted by the heat into forms that could only have beeen birthed in hell itself. His head felt like the infernal pits of the netherworld. He took a big mouthful of water from his canteen and let some of it spill over his chin, his neck and his chest. He rubbed his eyes and looked again and the demon was nowhere to be seen. But he could hear his machinations out in the camp, a sea of white and blue tents in the heart of the dark continent, where he had come seeking the truth in his faith that he had lost so long ago. He firmly massaged his forehead with the tips of his fingers. The pounding veins in his head got louder. The nurse he had worked with since his arrival suddenly popped in and asked, “Morning Henry, I am headed for A1, you joining me? We could get some chow on the way.” “Thanks Jonathan, you go. I will be there soon after my prayers.” “We will surely need all those prayers, I tell ya. The rebels blew up the main bridge to Erungwa, and we are short on supplies.” “There will be a way.” “I hope so.” He had one more reason to pray for. But first he wanted to seek favors for the little boy he had helped nurse back to consciousness. Mboki, had skin as dark as the night and curly hair. The boy called him “God” when he came to and then asked him if he was his father, in a frail tone. When the nurse communicated to Henry what the child had spoken, he held the tiny hand and said, “We are all instruments of the Lord here and we will look after you.” The little boy hummed a song his dead mother had taught him and wouldn’t let Henry go till he promised to check on him in the morning. He took another sip from his canteen, knelt on the ground and prayed. The nightmares were relentless. His father wouldn’t let him sleep. Every time he managed to shut out the screams of the refugees, he would see his Pa, the pastor of Queenswood, with the double barreled

gun in his hand. The man who invaded his dreams with grunts and mumblings and the occasional curse, “God, that fucking cunt.” Henry prayed for the souls that tormented him from the past and the ones that he served in the present. “A reprieve, my Lord,” he said,” I know I have sinned and betrayed your trust and that of my parish. Forgive me for what I have done. Forgive me so that I may serve your will.” One of the assistants at the camp had challenged his prayers for a dead woman yesterday. “What use is committing this body to God when he is the one who made her shit blood in the first place?” Years ago, Henry would have offered some theological perspective, but he felt like a fraud these days, a cold slab of ice devoid of the divine. He continued praying in his tent for he had to, not because he expected the Lord to guide his hand today. He wanted to gather the strength to steel himself against another day in the camp. When he finished, he stepped out into the hot sun wearing a hat, a blue striped shirt and khaki pants. He wanted to check on Mboki before he ate. He greeted the tired and weary faces of the volunteers that crossed his path and smiled at the emaciated souls that stared at him blankly from their tents. The smell of medicine and human excrement permeated the air. Flies enveloped a donkey loaded with white sheets. The animal looked like it was covered in warts that moved and rippled. The pastor had no doubt it was a message. “They lay eggs you know,” a voice said to him.

He closed his eyes and imagined the flies prying open the eyelids of the creature, to blind it with their mandibles and filthy appendages. When he opened his eyes, the donkey was still standing there like the very representative of hope itself in this wretched place. It brayed and shivered and flapped its ears and swung its tail and most of the flies flew away, only to return with furious love. He was watched closely by men and women reduced to skeletal forms dressed in oversized robes and gowns, some holding near dead babies with half open eyes that drew deep breaths to expand their shrunken bellies, some sat in the shade chewing on their clothes to ward off the hunger. There simply wasn’t enough food and medicine for everyone and the steady stream of refugees fleeing the conflict in the south, did not help their cause. Yesterday, the U.N. guards stopped further arrivals from entering the camp. So they parked their rickety trucks, their doorless cars and wheezing donkeys, under the leafless trees and waited, refusing to believe or understand that they couldn’t be accommodated. After a few hours, some of the men tried to hijack a truck carrying milk and bread. The driver of the truck was stabbed with a small sharp weapon fashioned from a goat’s horn, before the guards could silence their conscience and fire at the frenzied attackers. A man in a white tunic approached Henry and spoke in his tribe’s tongue and Henry couldn’t figure out if it was a blessing or a curse, not that it really mattered. Henry gently touched the man’s arm and in response, a tear escaped his left eye before traveling down his dry dark skin, ending up in the corner of his grey mouth. The man stumbled away like a zombie. When the Pastor entered Section A1, Sister Augustine blessed him and told him how the miraculous love of God had brought them an angel. She guided him in the direction of a newborn wrapped in a blanket, like the Lord himself, several centuries ago. He was fast asleep and his little eyelids broke Henry’s heart. “He is wonderful, isn’t he?” Henry wiped his tears and nodded, “A blessing indeed Sister.” The mother lay exhausted next to the


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baby, covered in a saffron sheet awaiting death. God’s grace was only enough for her to survive the labor. Although her body was broken her face seemed serene, as if the reason for her existence and suffering was justified. He coveted the peaceful sleep of the child and the surrender of the mother. Both gifts denied to him. The Lord did not forget his sins and that of his father’s. He sighed in resignation, but that precious part of his heart that held onto hope told him that his journey had only begun, that he must have patience. Sister Augustine was the reason why Henry was here. He had met her on several occasions in Sydney, at revival camps where she would make fiery speeches and show slideshows of her work in Africa. A year ago she had convinced him that he might find atonement for his sins and an understanding of his path at one of her camps. She had paid for his tickets and he had arrived from rural Queensland, unprepared for this the “battlefield of Lord and Satan” as the Sister claimed. “To save a soul here is to deliver it to the grace of God,” she decreed on his arrival. Henry looked around for Mboki, but couldn’t find him. He was certain that the child had beed there last night. “What are you standing around for? Make yourself useful child, I will see you later at the prayer hall” “I am looking for the little boy Mboki.” Sister Augustine considered the information for a second and said, “He was taken to the Red tent.” Henry exited the A1 section and headed in the direction of the Red tent which was the intensive care unit at the camp When he entered the tent, the doctors and nurses, tired and worn out from stitching and cutting and cleaning and soul searching, milled around him without making eye contact. He walked past rows of beds, some shared by more than one patient, looking for the boy. There was a huge pool of blood accumulated in one area and he heard a doctor shout in frustration for someone to clean up the mess, then the man realized that people were not alert to anything but the task at hand and he stormed to the storage area presumably to get a mop and bucket. Henry finally spotted the little one closer to one of the exits. There were tubes running from his mouth and his tummy had swollen to the size of a football and his nappy was a soaked in blood. He gently patted his head and gave him a kiss. He went in search of a doctor and found one smoking, just outside the entrance. The German doctor extinguished his cigarette when Henry gave him the bed 36 | INDIA CURRENTS | November 2013

number and described the child. “Ya, I know the one.” The doctor continued to squash the butt under his foot. He noticed the Bible in Henry’s hand “He is bad, the child. Developed some internal bleeding overnight. Might not make it.” Henry grabbed the doctor’s hand, “Do you think there is hope for him?” “I don’t know, you are the one with the prayer book.” The pastor let go of the doctor’s arm and clutched the Bible closer to his chest. “I have been noticing something Father,” the doctor said pointing to a flock of carrion birds in the distance. “They have been moving closer everyday, just a little bit, step by step. And I look at those cold black eyes and I think, they know, we won’t be able to save most of the people here.” Henry watched the birds half spreading their wings and preening as they watched the camp. “They know, don’t they, what you have done, what I have done, what all the sick and dying have done. And look at them, just sitting there waiting, to judge us all,” the doctor said with a grin. He shook his head and walked into the tent, amused by his observation. Henry stood there watching the birds for some more time till his eyes started to hurt in the glare of the afternoon sun. He walked into the tent and approached Mboki’s bed. The little boy lay like a bloody angel of love that the Lord had given up on. The child shivered suddenly and shook his head several times before settling down again. Henry placed the book at the foot of the bed. He stood in silent contemplation for a moment. Suddenly something whispered cold and burning words into his ears. He shuddered, took a deep breath and wrapped his hands around the boy’s neck, “Mercy.” Someone screamed nearby and he snapped out of the trance. A woman was wailing and banging a plate on one of the steel beds where her child lay in a pool of vomit, thrashing violently. A doctor and nurse came running to the bed. Henry pressed a hand to his chest and coughed and felt his throat go dry, and he couldn’t breathe for a while thinking about what he had just attempted. He knelt and prayed for the little boy, for all the little children who lay dying and his own soul and the God who wasn’t here to tend to his flock. Outside, the birds moved closer in anticipation. n

Nikesh Murali’s work—comics, poems and short stories—has appeared in more than 80 publications worldwide. His poems have been translated into Spanish, Italian, Portuguese and French. He won the DWL Short Story Prize in 2012, Honorable Mention for the Katha Short Story contest in 2012 and The Commonwealth Short Story Prize for the Asian region in 2011. His poetry was nominated for the Pushcart Prize in 2007. He has a Masters in Journalism from Griffith University and was awarded the Griffith University Award for Academic Excellence in 2005. He is working towards his Doctorate in Creative Writing. The judges were Tania James and Amit Majmudar. Judges’ Comments: “We liked how this story represented a break from the others regardingsetting, theme, and subject matter. With its chilling imagery, “The Burning” lingered in the mind long after reading. Tania James is the author of a novel, Atlas of Unknowns. Her most recent book is Aerogrammes and Other Stories, which was named a Best Book of the Year by The San Francisco Chronicle, Kirkus Reviews, and Library Journal, as well as a New York Times Editor’s Choice. Amit Majmudar is a novelist, poet, and diagnostic nuclear radiologist and was a Katha Short Story contest winner himself for two years in a row. His first novel, Partitions, and two poetry collections were published to wide acclaim. His most recent novel is The Abundance. Visit www.amitmajmudar.

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books

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n page 364 of The Billionaire’s Apprentice, almost at the end of the book, Aman Kumar asks his father Anil, “Why?” Why, with everything he had going for him, did he have to resort to selling corporate secrets? The question permeates Anita Raghavan’s book about the Galleon hedge fund scandal and the fall from grace of one of the most beloved luminaries of the Indian American community in the United States, ex-McKinsey Managing Director Rajat Gupta. It is a question that has been asked ever since by a shocked community that has prided itself on achievement, assimilation, and its model minority status. The Billionaire’s Apprentice—The Rise of the Indian-American Elite and the Fall of the Galleon Hedge Fund is a tour de force by award-winning financial journalist Anita Raghavan about the insider trading scandal that brought down some of the most influential figures in the South Asian diaspora. The book has a fly-on-the-wall quality about it, a testament to the two years of shoe-leather reporting done by Raghavan, who even took the trouble of looking at security footage of the court where the trials were held to get a sense of what the defendants were wearing. Anil Kumar, of course, was a senior partner and director at management consultancy McKinsey & Company, and according to Wikipedia, the “government’s first cooperator and most important witness” in the securities fraud trials against Gupta and Raj Rajaratnam, the billionaire founder of the Galleon Group family of hedge funds. Kumar’s capitulation to regulators provided them with much of the evidence they needed to make the charges of insider trading stick against these two powerful and influential Wall Street figures. Despite the significance of his actions, it is not his story that Raghavan focuses on, but that of Gupta, a man once universally respected for his principles and his philanthropy. Like the painstaking work of the SEC regulators building their insider trading case, Raghavan meticulously lays out the events

38 | INDIA CURRENTS | November 2013

leading to Gupta’s arrest, beginning with the story of his father Ashwini, who played a small yet significant role in the Indian freedom movement. She leads us through Rajat Gupta’s insecure childhood, filled with poverty and principles, and his steady, merit-driven rise through the ranks of McKinsey to the ultimate post of Managing Director. In parallel, we see two other narratives— the unchecked growth of the Galleon Fund and the rise to prominence of its founder Rajaratnam, and the work of Indian American Sanjay Wadhwa, an employee of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), in bringing the insider trading ring to justice. I ask Raghavan why she chose to make Rajat Gupta the protagonist of a book about the rise (and fall) of the Indian American elite. “Any of us could be Rajat Gupta,” she says. “When you have remarkable human beings who suddenly abandon the principles on which they achieve their success, it makes for a compelling read.” Raj Rajaratnam who by all accounts was a colorful character, gets less attention because, as Raghavan puts it, “I think it is quite boring to write about a self-described rogue who indulges in roguish behavior... Raj was what you would expect him to be. There was no complexity.” She adds, “The fascinating thing about Rajaratnam is that he would normally not have been an appealing playmate to a person like Anil Kumar and Rajat Gupta, who really prided themselves on their intellect, yet he ended up being their closest confidant.” So what was the allure of a man like Rajaratnam to the capable and successful Gupta that led him to break the law? In the book, author Vijay Prashad posits “…if a person goes through life believing struggle is irrelevant, you don’t have to work for anything, why not take more than you are offered?” His explanation for the ethical ambivalence of the generation that arrived in the United States from India is that the lack of struggle on their part caused them to be morally weak. I propose to Raghavan that it may have been the culture of corruption in their home country that made it easier for Gupta and Kumar to be complicit with Rajaratnam.

She agrees but adds, “The irony is that Rajat portrayed himself as an assimilated American. He would sometimes come to meetings wearing an American flag. But towards the end of his career he was doing business the way it is done back home. And yet, men like Rajat left India and moved to America because it offered a more straightforward experience for those wanting to do well.” Raghavan’s father, who immigrated to the United States in the 1950s, did not wish to return to India because career advancement would have meant scratching someone’s back, some patronage. It is obvious that Gupta’s fall affects Raghavan at an almost personal level. “How could a man like Rajat espouse American values and then decry them?” Gupta’s descent into Rajaratnam’s world is particularly galling to her given his father’s high-principled contributions to the Indian freedom movement. “Rajat debased his father’s legacy. It felt very personal to me. He may not have come from wealth but he came from a family that valued non-material things. You can understand the kid who came from a poor background getting into something like this, but Rajat should never have ended up where he did.” Raghavan has another interesting insight into Gupta’s aberrant behavior. She notes that his life was exemplary till he arrived in New York. “I remember walking down Broadway singing under my breath, ‘if I can make it here, I can make it anywhere,’” she remembers with a laugh, and suggests that the shock of moving to New York may have left Gupta vulnerable to the lure of the


November 2013 | www.indiacurrents.com | 39


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mega wealth of Wall Street. “When Rajat Rajat Gupta started at McKinsey, it was the management consultants who were being paid the most. Fast forward a couple of decades and it’s the partners at Goldman Sachs who are earning outrageous amounts.” When money becomes a proxy for power, and 100 million dollars is only enough to get your foot in the door to the top echelons of influence, Gupta’s fall becomes easier to understand. An anecdote dug up by Raghavan gives some credence to this theory. “Rajat’s calendar would note every single time he flew first class or on a private jet.” But if one were to indict the culture of greed on Wall Street for Gupta’s transformation from principled visionary to tawdry is currently free on appeal, has always maininformation trader, it must be noted that there have been many titans of high finance tained his innocence, and the book faithfully who have managed to exploit the loopholes reports on the circumstantial evidence that in the law but stay short of breaking it. “Ex- led to his downfall. “Insider trading cases actly!” says Raghavan. “I’ve heard the same are often built on circumstantial evidence” indictment of Wall Street from other South says Raghavan, who has been castigated by Asians, but the charges of fraud against Rajat some South Asians for her reporting of the are in the order of traffic violations. I suspect case, “and in Rajat’s case the evidence is really that sophisticated players like Lloyd Blankfein compelling.” The book has received mixed reviews in (CEO and Chairman of Goldman Sachs) the Indian American community. At a talk don’t engage in traffic violations.” Despite Raghavan’s conviction about to the Asian Society in New York, listeners Gupta’s guilt and her disapproval of his ac- angrily chastised her for presenting a flawed tions, The Billionaire’s Apprentice maintains snapshot of the diaspora, citing Gupta’s prea remarkably even-handed tone. Gupta, who sumed innocence and the many contributions

Indian Americans have made to the United States. “I have also presented the incredible effort put in by other Indian Americans like Wadhwa and Preet Bharara (U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York),” Raghavan defends her work. At her talk at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco, however, many of the Indian Americans in the audience nodded along with her revelations. “They were appalled by [Gupta and Rajaratnam]. Their actions had sullied the dreams of these immigrants.” The Billionaire’s Apprentice is a fascinating read, albeit one with a plethora of characters that can make the book challenging for readers unfamiliar with the case. “I had to stay true to the story,” says Raghavan, who pared nearly a 100 pages from the now-500 page tome. But the book rewards the patient reader with an unprecedented insider’s look at the big South Asian players on Wall Street. Readers concerned about having to wade through the intricacies of high finance will be reassured to find it a thrilling page-turner and, ultimately, a deeply human story of triumph, greed, and tragedy. n Vidya Pradhan is a freelance writer who hosts the weekly radio show Safari Kids Quiz Show on KZDG 1550 AM. She also runs the community blog Water, No Ice and was the editor of India Currents from June 2009 to February 2012.

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finance

The Lowdown on Interest Rates By Rahul Varshneya

N

ot a day goes by that there isn’t speculation in the financial newspapers about how the interest rate is going to evolve over the next few months and years. Most people don’t realize how important interest rates are to the economy —so much so that there is an entire federal government institution, the Federal Reserve (the Fed), dedicated to managing inflation, growth and the general health of the economy. At the head of this institution, is the Fed chief—Benjamin Bernanke, who is constantly sought by the President and Congress on these important economic and fiscal matters. One of the Fed’s goals is to manage interest rates, which are adjusted on a quarterly basis and impact many different parts of our lives from mortgage financing and investment strategy to private business spending. Bernanke has said that he expects to keep interest rates at near zero levels for the time being. The consensus among experts is that it will remain at the current 0.25% till at least mid to late 2015. Bernanke himself has expressed that “The Fed will keep the federal funds rate near zero until the unemployment rate falls below 6.5 percent.” The federal funds rate is the rate charged when banks borrow from other banks and the reference rate used when speaking on all other loans and borrowing activity.

Impact on Homeowners

What does this mean for homeowners with mortgages or those looking to buy homes? Our current interest rate environment makes it a buyer’s market. At the height of the market in October 2007, right before the financial crisis hit, the 30-year fixed mortgage rate was 6.38%. The 30-year fixed rate in January 2013 was 3.41% leading to many homeowners pursuing refinancing. Those who are unsure about the time to refinance should know that as the economy improves the rates will increase, and as such the benefits of refinancing will decrease. In September, the rates jumped when many believed the fed would start tapering their bond purchasing program, granted it didn’t happen, the rates reflect that it will happen sooner rather than later. 44 | INDIA CURRENTS | November 2013

Impact on Stock and Bond Markets

Let us examine how interest rates affect the stock and bond markets where a majority of Americans invest their savings. 2013 has been a great year to be investing in stocks. Market participants have seen a year to date appreciation of 14.83%. Traditional investment portfolios tend to invest the majority of their assets in equity and fixed income, leaving a small portion in other asset classes—cash, real estate, hedge funds, commodities etc. Whereas the equity portion of investors’ portfolios have done well, the fixed income has been lagging due to the low yields. Investment managers and wealth management professionals have had to deviate from their traditional weightings to take advantage of the equity performance as well as pursue non-traditional fixed income strategies such as riskier high yield bonds. The future is a matter of concern as well—for two reasons. First, the stock market cannot continue such a stellar performance forever, so we might experience a bit of a pullback in equities. Second, while the stock market may have gotten ahead of itself, other economic indicators such as new jobs (an average of 195,000 per month) and existing home sales have shown a sluggish U.S. economic recovery. If investors believe that the economy will do better, they expect Ben Bernanke to raise interest rates which will adversely affect the fixed income portions of investment portfolios because of the inherent inverse relationship of bond values and interest rates. For this reason, the fed has been open with its monetary policy—to allow investment professionals to adjust their portfolios accordingly. This situation affects everyone not just Wall Street. Although investors not already in bonds will welcome the higher yields from increased interest rates, those with bond exposures will have to reduce it or hedge it with derivatives.

Impact on Businesses

This low interest rate environment also affects businesses, large and small. The main

reason for this specific monetary policy was to spur business investment which would lead to economic growth. The thought process was that with lower rates, business expenditures would be lower. This interest rate environment works differently for different sized companies. Since large corporations have a reasonable balance sheet, banks are open to advancing them money even though the returns are not great but they are positive and secure. As a result, big companies are able to make investments at a much lower cost. Their effect on the economy however is small as they are producing an ever smaller number of jobs in the economy. On the flip side, small companies are creating the majority of new jobs but because they haven’t performed well recently, banks are reluctant to lending them money because the interest received is low, and small businesses run the risk of defaulting. This doesn’t appeal to the increasingly risk-averse banks of today. Instead of the increase in business investment the Fed had hoped would happen, banks have learnt their lesson from giving out loans to unqualified recipients and instead are holding onto it to increase their stability by keeping extra reserves. The post financial crisis environment is an interesting one. In the past, whether it was in 1993 or 2001, whenever we came out of a financial down cycle our economy would demonstrate strength by growing at above average growth rates. This is the first time that our economy has not demonstrated sustained recovery, instead growing at 1.52%, prompting an unorthodox monetary policy from the Federal Reserve. Interest rates are not a purely theoretical concept—it has far reach effects in many areas of our lives. Understanding it will allow one to benefit from the current environment and its impending increase in the coming years. n

Rahul Varshneya graduated from the Leavey School of Business at Santa Clara University with a degree in finance and is working in the technology industry as a financial analyst. He is currently enrolled in the chartered financial analyst (CFA) program.


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youth

When Men Hold Hands An awkward brush with culture By Nabeel Chollampat

I

was in sixth grade, summer vacation, and we were driving along a dirt road off some major city in Kerala. The white ambassador soldiered on through the pothole-infested road, as the ten of us cramped inside bounced up and down every five seconds. My mother said something to us in English, but instead of answering whatever question she had just asked, I started thinking about how odd it was to hear her speak in English. In India, she rarely spoke anything but Malayalam, and I found her Indian accent a little strange, when for years it had been nothing but commonplace at home. It was then that I proceeded to venture off even farther on the Indian accent train of thought and eventually asked my cousins, “What would happen if a white person grew up in India? Would they have an Indian accent?” They laughed, and so did I, because, honestly, that’s hilarious and my first idea for a primetime sitcom should I ever write one (for the record, the lead role would be played by the always reliable Val Kilmer). But ever since then, I started thinking more about the idea of culture and the environment in which one grows up. I’ve since watched my mother and father more closely, compared them to my sister and me, and I’ve noticed just how different we truly are. Many people attribute the rift between their parents and themselves to the generational divide, which is certainly evident in our family. (My mother and I have gotten into countless heated arguments about changing her profile picture on Facebook.) Yet there are numerous differences I can spot between us, subtle ones that I can see are direct products of our two vastly different upbringings. It was the summer between seventh and eighth grade, and my dad was particularly excited for that year’s India visit: his college’s 25-year reunion. Unfortunately, we all had to accompany him; needless to say, the rest of us weren’t too excited to sit around in a hotel while the only time my dad stopped laughing with someone was when he was introducing us to someone else for a few seconds. I was with my sister at the buffet on the first night when we saw our father recognize someone new. They smiled, laughed and hugged, quickly beginning the script of 48 | INDIA CURRENTS | November 2013

But, I looked around and saw that a lot of other men were holding each other’s hands as they talked ... I didn’t understand at all; two men holding hands for that long would raise too many eyebrows to count back home. the standard college reunion meet-and-greet. But it took a while for the two to let go of each other’s hands. My first thought was, “What the hell is that?” My sister and I exchanged looks that said as much, and she added, a little loudly, “That’s just gross.” We watched for another minute or so before they let go, and the absurd situation was over. But I looked around and saw that a lot of other men were holding each other’s hands as they talked to friends they hadn’t seen in 25 years. I didn’t understand at all; two men holding hands for that long would raise too many eyebrows to count back home. It was one of the most awkward encounters my sister and I have ever witnessed, but that was it: it was only weird to us. My mother quickly explained to us that in Kerala, at least, that kind of closeness was accepted, and not seen as a sign of something more.

Cultural Cues

Summers in Palo Alto are definitely hot; we still enjoy amazing weather, but our vacations from school can still reach a level higher than “toasty.” And when my sister was in middle school, her friends used to visit our house in the summer far more often, and I’d always see them for a minute or two before they stole the TV. I still had enough time to notice, however, that while they all wore shorts, my sister still wore jeans and a t-shirt. Over time, I would overhear shouting matches between my sister and my mother about her wearing shorts and my

mom responding with a resounding “No!” each time. The issue began to take more shape as I noticed that my sister packed jeans for every trip to India, yet by the end of the summer they were no more worn than the three rain jackets I always thought I’d need. Eventually, I learned that my grandmother will never let her out in India in jeans because, as my mother told me once, “it’s just not the way.” To my sister, our mother was being ridiculous by not letting her wear more comfortable clothing in the summer, but to my mom, she was being generous, by her own standards. As I’ve grown up, I’ve witnessed more of these awkward brushes between Indian culture and American culture. My parents are oblivious to some American social cues that, to me, are blatantly obvious, and I’m confused much of the time in Kerala when they know to act a certain way that I don’t immediately. To that end, we’re in the same boat, my parents and I. The culture shock that accompanies my initial days of every summer trip to India must feel awfully familiar to my parents, and by realizing and accepting this, I can sympathize. To be sure, my parents have become more experienced as they’ve lived in the United States longer, and I become more practiced with each visit to India. Yet there will always be a divide between the two environments, and I’ve started to see that everyone needs to simply recognize this. When I was young, I had hoped for my parents to eventually assimilate. Now I see how naïve I was, and I even regret my wishful thinking. I’ve come to love my parents’ stubbornness to sacrifice their culture for my pride. The clashing ideals within our house have often provided me with indispensable experience and advice, not to mention a constant source of cross-cultural humor. My mom laughed at the prospect of a Caucasian in India. She answered, “He or she would learn the language, the culture, and everything else about India. Just like we did here. It’s not as weird as you think.” n Nabeel Chollampat is a senior at Gunn High School and writes for the school newspaper, The Oracle.


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travel

East Coast Temple Trail By Meera Ramanathan

“N

o, not Las Vegas again! I’m not letting my family gamble, it’s a sin!” declared my mother. The family was gathered around the dining table awaiting the first snow and pondering options for a trip. The chill had set in. The cold breeze caused shivers as the summer warmth had evaporated. So the question lingered, where do we go in this weather? Long trips were arduous and unpredictable. Flying was plagued with delays, yet none of us wanted to stay cooped East Coast Temple Trail up in the house. We were all game to brave the cold and the road. But where do we go? the human body where the soul Museums do not entice my husband resides in peace with the body. and skiing does not excite me. My parents The central sanctum (tower) do not mind the snow as long as they view where the main god/goddess it from the confines of warm fires and hot resides is compared to the head, chocolates. It had to be indoors yet had to the mahamandapam(courtyard) satisfy the entire family. As we racked our to the body and the brains for new venues, my father came up rajagopuram(entrance) to the with an intriguing proposal. Why not exfeet. plore the temples that dot the East Coast? In Ashland, this rajagoMost of them border big cities like New puram is a sight to behold. York, Boston and Washington, so it would Mahamandapam Dwajasthambam Rajagopuram Carved intricately and embelmeet all our limitations. The temple hours Sanctum lished with impressive figuwere accommodating, sure, but what sealed rines, it took nearly two years to complete. the deal was the food. As my husband reA. Ashtalakshmi Temple On Kumbhabhishekam day, when the temple cited the dishes: puliyodharai (tamarind rice), The Ashtalakshmi temple in Ashland, powers are synergized, the priest rode to pongal (rice and lentils), ladoos (dessert) and Mass. is of special significance to us. My the top of the tower to pour the holy water. bholis (dessert), all our heads nodded apmother is an ardent devotee of Goddess MaThe temple acquires a festive spirit during provingly. This was going to be a different halakshmi and on every trip to the United the Navaratri season. It is a pivotal place for experience. Worship laced with wanderlust, States she carries a brand new Kanjeevaram fostering Indian culture and heritage in the devotion blending with discovery, heritage silk sari to donate to the temple. Although New England area. Cultural activities such mingled with a holiday. And that was how she has presented several saris till date, my as classical music and dance concerts and diswe set off on the temple trail from Massachumother never once got to see her favorite courses have further transformed the temple setts to Maryland. deity wear it. So when we visited the Ashtainto the focal point of the Hindu community. lakshmi temple, there was a special As we waited for the divine sight of abhishekam being performed and Goddess Lakshmi, we were enthralled by the temple authorities were more the magnificence of the temple. The screen than willing to deck the Goddess withdrew and Goddess Ashtalakshmi beLakshmi with the sari we had with stowed her gaze on us in all her grandeur. It us. This was a pleasant surprise was mesmerizing and humbling. The temple and sent my mother into a spiral of also offered prasadam (food). As we set off joy. We joined the Tulsi Ramayana to explore the city of Boston and Harvard rendition and awaited the silk-sari University afterward, the bejeweled image of clad goddess’ darshan. the Devi stayed in our sights. Like most temples in South India that are known for their architectural splendor, this temple strucB. The Sathyanarayana Temple ture is also steeped in traditional elThe Sathyanarayana Temple in Middleements. Vedas and Upanishads refer town, Conn. sports a deserted look on weekto a temple not just as a prayer hall days. As we entered the temple, the divine or a place of congregation but as Ashtalakshmi temple in Ashland, Mass. smell of incense and camphor greeted us.

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Sri Ranganathar Temple in Pomona, N.Y.

We offered the customary greeting to Lord Ganesha seated in the entrance and moved ahead. In the center was Lord Venkateshwara with his consorts Sridevi and Bhoodevi on either side. The temple also has the idols of Krishna and Radha, Ram Parivar, Sathyanarayana, Shiva, Durga, Aiyappan and Lord Muruga. The Lord Sathyanarayana is the benevolent form of Lord Vishnu and, true to his essence, the temple comforts our mind and slackens our pace. There is no cafeteria but Udipi restaurant is a stone’s throw away. Hartford is the nearest city and if you are planning a trip in summer, Mystic Country (New London county) is a great place to soak in the sun by the sea shore.

C. Sri Ranganathar Temple

The drive to Sri Ranganathar temple in Pomona, New York was extremely picturesque. Since it is nestled in the Bear Mountain state park, the breeze was filled with the scents of pine cones and fresh snow. The temple is one of the selected few that houses Sri Ranganayaki and Sri Ranganatha in North America. The prana pratishtha of the Utsava Vigrahas were performed in the holy shrine of Srirangam and were air lifted to New York. The temple also follows the Yatha Sakthi philosophy where no fees or tickets are collected for the archanas, abhishekams, Satyanarayana poojas or the mouth water-

The Sathyanarayana temple, Middletown, Conn. 54 | INDIA CURRENTS | November 2013

Hallway to deity in Maha Vallabha Temple, N.Y.

ing prasadams. We visited the temple on a full moon day so there were many folks who had gathered to perform the Satyanarayana pooja. The authorities handled the overflowing crowd deftly and never once uttered the word “Jaragandi” (move faster). We worshipped Ranganatha Swamy to our heart’s content and gobbled up the pongal lusting for more.

D. Maha Vallabha Ganapthi Temple

If you are on the East Coast, you cannot miss the Maha Vallabha Ganapthi temple in Flushing, NY. Fondly referred to as “Flushing Pillayar” by our family, the temple celebrated its Kumbhabhishekam recently. It is holds pride of place as the first Hindu Temple in North America and has its own choir. The impressive archway is sculpted with various forms (Siddhi, Buddhi, Riddhi and Lakshmi Ganapati) of Lord Vinayaka. Inside the temple, Lord Ganesha is seated in the center and we go around him to soak in the beauty of the environs. The aesthetic ambience coupled with the divine presence of various gods misted our eyes. It seemed to us that if God wanted to make his presence felt it would be here. The temple has vigrahas of various deities including Gayathri, Agasthiyar and Lopamudra, Sri Ramanujar and Bhairavar. There was one deity Lord

Chakratalwar, where Sri Sudarshana and Yoga Narasimha are fused together. My mother narrated the story behind the image. Sri Sudarshana represents the cosmic mind and Vishnu’s infinite power to create and destroy the universe. He has sixteen arms holding different weapons. Narasimha is the 4th incarnation of Sri Vishnu. This form of half lion and half human was to rescue his child devotee Sri Prahlada from the hands of his demonic father Hiranya Kasipu. Since both illustrate powerful forces conjoined with the noble grace of the Lord, they are fused to be worshipped together. The food was delicious and satiated both the serious south Indian palate and anybody looking to indulge in the delicacies of India. This temple is strategically situated close to Manhattan, Long Island and New Jersey.

E. The Bridgewater Perumal Temple

The Bridgewater Perumal in New Jersey dominates the view and is a treat to the eyes. From the dwajasthambham(flag staff) to the rajagopuram, the temple is built following the Chola style architecture. The Utsava murthis are made up of Panchalokas (five metals) and the moola murthis are fused permanently in granite. Each god is guarded by his vehicle of choice—Murugan Sannidhi has the peacock; Pillayar (Ganapati) has the

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Meera Ramanathan is a columnist focusing on her dual passions—food and travel. A voracious reader, she also writes about immigration melodramas, cinema and parenting woes. She tweets at @meeraramanathan and blogs at Lost in Thought.(http://dreamzwild.wordpress.com)

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It is to be stated here that I share a special affinity for Lord Subramanya. Not only is he our family deity but it was to this God I prayed fervently when I was an expectant mother. Since this temple is in close proximity to Washington, D.C., we also visited the presidential monuments and Smithsonian museums. But none of them filled our senses quite like how Lord Karthikeya did. This is one of the few temples dedicated to Lord Muruga in North America and is also affiliated to the world renowned Pazhani temple in India. It was during the abhishekam of Lord Muruga that our ears tuned to the wonderful recitation of “Sri Skanda Guru Kavacham,” which extols the divinity of love. It is through love that we can conquer our fears and destroy our arrogance. Love is God and God is love. Holding this as the mantra we made our way home. “Travel is more than seeing the sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living,” says Miriam Berd. Temples and worship; religion and god; divinity and devotion are deeply satisflying. As we started off, I had my doubts as to whether this trip would be deemed different enough to entice us. We were neither spiritual nor fanatically religious, so were temples the right choice? But as we headed home, all these doubts were laid to rest. Travel need not be fixated on tourist spots or holiday jaunts. Instead if we expand our vistas, we will be rewarded with an experience that lingers forever. n

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recipes

The Three Sisters By Shanta Nimbark Sacharoff

W

hen November arrives diabetes. Lately some health-advowe start thinking about cates have urged a return to ancestral the Thanksgiving holiplant-based diet to combat these illday, a celebration of food-sharing nesses. with family and friends, and giving I have always liked the name thanks to mother nature for an of the entrée that I present below, abundance of healthy food. In the “Three Sisters,” because in my family, United States, this harvest festival is we three girls were inseparable. We said to have originated when early supported each other like the corn, European immigrants shared food beans and squash in Native Ameriwith Native Americans. can folktales. In addition to being Before the arrival of Europeans, grown interdependently, corn, beans Native Americans consumed foods and squash complement each other Three sisters (including the author in the middle) teaming up to that grew locally. They had accumunutritionally. Corn provides complex prepare a dinner party lated knowledge of edible botanicals carbohydrates, beans contribute high and their preparation, and most levels of complementary protein to the the ground moist. This inter-growing techtribes lived on wild-harvested vegetables, corn, and squash offers generous amounts of nique is one of the finest gifts that Native berries, nuts and fungi, only occasionally vitamin A and potassium. Americans gave to the world. adding small amounts of meat when it was Initially I was intimidated by the prosIt is ironic that Native American Indians available. Groups living in coastal areas or on pect of cooking winter squash as they are have been associated with images of hunters the prairies added fish and game, but by and large and hard to cut open, but when I and killers, when their diets were predomilarge vegetables were the mainstay of the learned that it was easy to bake them, and nantly plant-based. In fact nearly half of all Native American diet. that baking makes the squash taste sweet as plants grown in the world today were first Native Americans understood the comthe baking process releases the sugars, I becultivated by Native Americans. Historic plex interrelationship between the earth, gan to experiment. Now I cook these beautiaccounts show that Native Americans tradiplant foods, and the climate, and their farmful autumn vegetables frequently. tionally hunted only when necessary, and did ing methods reflected this. For example, Below are two recipes with a Native not hunt to sell or trade until encouraged to they planted and harvested three major vegAmerican theme that use local and seasonal so do by the incoming Europeans. etables, corn, squash and beans, also known ingredients, and a touch of spice. Happy After the arrival of the Europeans, Naas the “three sisters,” with an ecology of land Thanksgiving!! Happy Cooking!! n tive American life changed drastically, and and water in mind. Corn stalks supported many were forced to adopt new diets and the beans as they climbed, beans offered Shanta Nimbark Sacharoff, author of Flavors of foreign values. Over the years, these changes shade and gave nitrogen to the soil, and India: Vegetarian Indian Cuisine, lives in San contributed to a severe deterioration of their squash leaves inhibited weeds and kept Francisco, where she is manager and co-owner of health, with a high incidence of obesity and Other Avenues, a health-food store.

The “Three Sisters” Entrée

Illustration: Serena Sacharoff

T

here are many ways to cook the “three sisters” together. Some possibilities are to puree the cooked squash with corn to make a creamy soup with dots of cooked beans; to layer cooked squash and beans, top them with corn polenta, and bake them together as a casserole; or to halve and stuff the squash and bake as described below. Ingredients: 1 each small butternut, kabocha and 56 | INDIA CURRENTS | November 2013

acorn squash (or any combination of 2-3 hard-shelled squashes) 3 tbsp olive oil ½ cup chopped onion 12 to 15 thin strips of red or green bell pepper 1½ cups frozen and thawed or freshly scraped corn kernels 1½ cups freshly cooked or canned kidney beans or pinto beans 1 tsp minced fresh oregano 1 tbsp chopped cilantro Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste Optional: ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese or vegan option for topping

Directions Using a sharp knife cut each squash in half lengthwise. Remove the fibers and seeds and rinse the squash. Arrange the squash halves in a vegetable steamer with the open sides down. If necessary, cook them in batches so as not to crowd them. Steam the squash for about 20 minutes or until most of the inner meat is cooked but the shells are still intact. Some squashes will take longer to cook than others, so check each of them often after the first 15 minutes so they are not overdone. Cool the cooked squash for ½ hour. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a frying pan, heat 2 tablespoons of oil and sauté the onion for several minutes until


limp. Add the pepper strips and stir fry for a few minutes more. Add the corn and beans, and stir fry for five minutes more. Transfer the cooked vegetables to a mixing bowl and set them aside. Next, using a spoon and a paring knife, scoop the squash meat from the rind, being careful not to break the shells. Cut or mash the squash meat into small pieces and add it to the bowl of stir-fried vegetables. Add the oregano, cilantro, salt and pepper. Mix well. Rub the remaining oil on the insides of the squash shells, and on the outer surfaces. Stuff the shells with the vegetable mixture and arrange the “bowls” in two shallow casseroles or on cookie sheets that are lined with a small amount of water. Bake 30 minutes or longer, until the squash smells fragrant and turns golden brown on the edges. Top each with the optional cheese or vegan topping. Serve with your favorite hot sauce, or the mole sauce described below.

Mole Poblano

The word “mole” means “concoction” in the Aztec language, and reflects its origin with Native Meso-Americans, before it was popularized in Mexican cuisine. Most likely the original sauce was made with chilies alone and later was embellished with other ingredients. The dried chilies that give this mole its distinctive earthy flavor are known by various names in different locations. This can make it confusing to select chilies for mole, but you can safely use many types of dry chilies, as long as at least some of them are dark and thick such as Mulato, Ancho or Pasilla (also known as Negro) chilies. Ingredients: 3 to 4 dried Guajillo chiles 3 to 4 dried Mulato or Ancho chiles 3 tbsps olive oil ¼ cup each sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds (shelled and raw) and almonds (whole and raw) 1 medium onion, diced small 2 to 3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped ¼ cup chopped fresh or canned tomatoes or tomato sauce 1 tortilla cut into small pieces 3 ounces (1 disc) Mexican chocolate (sold in Hispanic markets in rounds), cut into chunks 5 to 6 cups very hot water Salt and pepper to taste Directions Wearing disposable gloves, break open each chili and remove the stem, ribs and seeds. Heat a tablespoon of oil in a heavy skillet and pan-roast the chilies. Cook only a few chilies at a time, pressing them with a spatula and turn-

ing them with tongs to be sure they roast evenly. Do not burn them. The chilies are done when their skins start to blister. Place the roasted chilies in a bowl, add two cups of hot water, cover, and set aside. Clean and dry the skillet before toasting the seeds and the nuts. Heat the skillet and toast the sesame seeds for only a few minutes. As soon as they start to turn color and smell fragrant, transfer to a platter. Next, toast the pumpkin seeds in the same hot skillet. They will swell and start popping in two minutes. Add them to the platter with the sesame seeds. Toast the almonds last. They will take a little longer, but as soon as dark spots begin to form, transfer them to the platter. Next, using an electric spice grinder, a clean coffee mill, or a blender, grind the seeds and nuts, in small batches to create a ground meal. Set aside. Heat the rest of the oil in the skillet and cook the onions for a few minutes until translucent. Add the garlic and stir fry for a minute. Add the tomatoes and salt and stir fry for a few more minutes. Add the tortilla pieces, and cook the mixture for an additional two minutes. Then transfer the contents of the skillet to the jar of a blender. Add two cups of hot water and blend until smooth. Transfer this mixture into a saucepan and place over very low heat and cook uncovered for 15 minutes, stirring frequently, while working on the next step. Place the soaked chilies and their water into the jar of the blender. Blend at a medium speed for 5 minutes. Add a cup of warm water and puree at high speed for 5 minutes. Turn off the blender but keep the lid on for 10 minutes to let the mixture settle. Next, put the chilies into a strainer with large holes. Press the chilies with the back of a spoon to dislodge any fibers and seeds. Add the resulting strained chili liquid to the mixture in the saucepan and discard what is left in the strainer. Add the chocolate chunks to the hot mixture and stir until they melt and dissolve. Then, add the meal of nuts and seeds to the pot. Mix the mixture well so it’s evenly blended. Break up any lumps. Add a cup of water and simmer over low heat for 30 minutes, stirring frequently so the mixture doesn’t stick to the pot. Remove from heat, and allow the Mole to sit at room temperature for an hour. Then, blend again at high speed for 5 minutes until the mixture is thoroughly smooth. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Serve the Mole with Three Sisters’ entrée above, or as a sauce for rice and beans or tamales. Leftover Mole can be refrigerated for a week, or transferred to small containers and frozen for a few months.n

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relationship diva

Figuring Out the First Date By Jasbina Ahluwalia

Q

There’s so much competition out there. Is there anything a guy can do to increase his chances of success on a first date?

A

First impressions mean everything. Nowhere is this more true than in the dating world. A good first date opens the door for building a rewarding romantic relationship. A bad first date, on the other hand, can extinguish hopes for a second date. Men can enhance their chances for making a first date memorable through choosing the right activity. First dates can be a little awkward. Each person is guarded and trying to not screw it up. Choosing the right activity breaks the ice and allows a couple to enjoy their evening together. Good first date activities share common characteristics. They feel fun, creative and safe. These activities should make it easier for you and your date to communicate. They should also reduce nervous first-date jitters. Making your chosen activity feel fun is the most important rule of a first date. Do

not be afraid to inject some personality into the evening. Nothing drives a woman away from a man faster than feeling bored while spending time with him. Going to dinner and a movie is a traditional first-date staple. Is it really your best choice for a first-date activity? There are better options. You can’t talk much during a movie. Find creative ways to interact with each other. Some ideas for interaction can include: • Playing games at a local park. • Attending a sporting event. • Attending a local festival with live music and authentic cuisine. • Taking a short hike or nature walk.

his presence. First dates can easily breed nervousness. You like one another enough to spend an evening together, but you don’t really know each other yet. It can be a little awkward figuring out how you should get to know one another. Choosing a fun first-date activity can eliminate the nervous and awkward feelings in those situations. It lets you feel more comfortable being yourself. It also allows your date’s true personality to emerge. You can discern your compatibility together easier and see what you have in common. Your chances for building a meaningful relationship are enhanced by how you approach your first date. n

Doing these types of activities can help stimulate authentic conversation. You can get to know each other better in a setting where interaction does not feel forced. This will help you feel less nervous. The best news for any man is when a woman feels relaxed and comfortable in

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. Jasbina@intersectionsmatch.com.

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bottom line

Slip Into Something Comfortable The nightie revolution Lakshmi Palecanda

I

n the 80s, a revolution swept through Southern India. It turned the life of women completely around, and changed the landscape everywhere. No, it was not the inflow of labor-saving devices in the kitchen, and no, it was not the availability of packaged spices, ready-mix powders or pickles. It was not even the advent of “gold-covering” jewelry. It was the launch of the one-piece nightgown or the nightie. At the time, I was entering my teens, and heartily sick of wearing full-length skirts (lehengas) and blouses. Since I am the youngest of a very large extended family, most of the aforementioned clothes were hand-medowns from every female in the family. The material was Bombay Dyeing, where they made cloth that felt like canvas tent material, and never wore out, ever. If I didn’t grow out of them, I could never get rid of them. Luckily, I did grow taller than most females in the family, and I had to shop for clothes. I bought a couple of nighties or nightgowns, and was hooked. Forced to wear half-saris and then full-saris, nighties were a joy to slip into. They were quite inexpensive and came in a variety of colors, materials and styles, so they were perfect. I wore them from dawn to dusk and beyond, luxuriating in the freedom that the loose fit gave me. It became a uniform for me. However, as years went by and I left South India, I began to hear comments on how a nightgown should be a gown for the night and not the day. Soon after, I stopped wearing nighties all day long, and used them only at night. Moreover, I became somewhat of a purist, who could be made uncomfortable by the sight of nighties being flaunted in the daytime. And when I say nightie, I don’t mean a duster or a housecoat which can be worn during the day. Neither do I mean a seductive gown that is sleeveless or short or of silky material. It is the traditional nightwear, the floor-length loose-fitting, flowing cotton gown. At the same time as I became particular about my nightwear staying nightware, I moved back to South India … and was blown away by the “Nightie Culture” prevalent here. A lot of women wear nighties pretty much all the time. Oh, you don’t see nighties on main thoroughfares, but they are 70 | INDIA CURRENTS | November 2013

a common sight in residential areas. Housewives wear them. Housemaids and women who are engaged in manual labor love them. Where there is a tradition of giving saris to maids for festivals, they sometimes ask for a “nice” nightie instead. It is not just the lower economic strata that loves wearing nighties all day long. The middle-class absolutely adore it. I once saw a woman freshly bathed, with well-brushed and braided hair with strands of jasmine in it, taking her child to school on her scooter wearing a nightie. A banker friend regularly complains that some customers came to the bank to transact business in their nighties. Some mothers attend Parent-Teacher meetings in nighties. Some do their shopping in them and some go to temples and others visit their doctors in them. Then there’s the accessorizing. In order for these gowns to look “more decent,” some women wear towels around their shoulders. The more sophisticated wear dupattas, and on cold days, shawls. Some wear their husbands’ shirts over their nighties. More trendy women wear jackets over them. But the strangest thing I ever saw was a nightie worn over a salwar—the woman could have just put on a kameez, even a mismatching one, and got away with it. But maybe she didn’t want to “get away” with anything. One day, while ruminating about this, I had a brain wave. (I am prone to these attacks. At such times, my doctor looks worried and recommends total bed-rest, lest I end up injuring man and beast.) Why not accept the nightie as the national costume of India? Women everywhere would rejoice— just one article of clothing to wear and wash every day, instead of two, three and even four sometimes. And don’t even get me started on the comfort level. Wearing saris, especially starched cotton saris, or even salwar-kameezes, in hot weather can be a killer. So why not go the Nightie way? Nighties could be designed to befit every occasion. There could be those exclusively for daywear—the Day-ties—in bright colors and patterns. Eveningwear and partywear nighties could be called the Par-ties, and come with tasteful high-end accessories such as evening bags and purses, costume jewelry, stoles and scarves, even sexy shoes

and pumps. Sober work-clothes for women could be launched under the label Execu-ties. They would come with matching lap-top cases, large tote bags and lunch boxes. Teachers could wear Teach-ties to school, and doctors Doc-ties, complete with a white coat and stethoscope. Students could look smart and orderly in Uniformi-ties. Hate having to wear a messy silk sari to a wedding? No problem! Just slip on your Marri-ties, nighties made of Kanjeevaram, Benaras, Art, Pure, Tassar, Garwal or printed silk material, and embellished with Swarowski crystals or Baroque beads. Are you cold? Wear a Hot-tie, a padded and insulated nighty. For sports, get into the Sport-tie, which is made of spandex or lycra and has a divided skirt. Religious events will have you stepping out in Ri-ties, available in religionappropriate colors, with pockets for religious books, beads, and prasad. By now, I can actually feel the jealousy of men who feel lost in the positive orgy of women’s comfort clothing. But not to worry, we can also launch Man-ties—for the man who likes comfort on his own terms. It would have plaids, stripes and masculine patterns while executive clothing would be made of superior blends of materials with full sleeves for very formal and half-sleeves for semi-formal occasions, accessorized with everything a man of the finest taste needs. Levi-ties would be fun wear, being made of the best denim. Cargo-ties would be stylish wear for the slick dudes, with many pockets and accessories. Casual wear would be Casual-ties, and traditional wear would of course be vesh-ties or dho-ties. Mark my words, folks! This revolution is coming. And when it does, it will sweep every other kind of fashion right off the shelves, with repercussions heard around the world. Imagine, actors and actresses walking up the red carpet at the Oscars, dressed in their best Par-ties! I sure hope to be around when the day does arrive. Then will I get some commission from the fashion industry for my ideas, I wonder? n Lakshmi Palecanda moved from Montana to Mysore and is still adjusting. She can be reached at Lakshmi.palecanda@gmail.com


Vrindavan Indian Dance Academy (Director: Dr. Bindu Shankar)

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74 | INDIA CURRENTS | November 2013


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Bollywood Music Countdown By Vidya Sridhar

T 5

his month’s top five IC melodies span the gamut from lilting tunes to party beats. From some of the recent Bol-

Nagada Sang Dhol

Movie: Ram-Leela Singers: Shreya Ghoshal, Osman Mir Music: Sanjay Leela Bhansali Lyricists: Siddharth-Garima This song is very reminiscent of Aishwarya in Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam. This is the latest Sanjay Leela Bhansali offering and is the perfect song for this festival season. n

2

lywood releases, these smooth vocals are definitely worth downloading and playing on your personal devices. n

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Tu Mere Agal Bagal

Movie: Phata Poster Nikla Hero Singer: Mika Singh Music: Pritam Lyricist: Irshad Kamil Upbeat song, with a very eighties retro sense to it, besides being very catchy. This song has the feel of a Goan carnival song. Don’t miss the barking dog in the background. Mika Singh is awesome. n

Vidya Sridhar works at NASA and is a mom of two elementary school children. She lives and breathes all things filmi.

3

Party All Night

Movie: Boss Singers: Yo Yo Honey Singh Music: Yo Yo Honey Singh Lyricist: Sahil Kaushal A fantastic dance number that will have you jamming. Honey Singh delivers again after Chennai Express. He does have a way with Punjabi Jat-rapping. n

Lungi Dance

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Gulabi

Movie: Chennai Express Singers: Yo Yo Honey Singh Music: Yo Yo Honey Singh Lyricist: Yo Yo Honey Singh I love the beat of this song and the motive, which is paying respect to the man whose grandeur and style has smitten all and sundry. Beyond language variations— the soul of the song salutes Rajnikanth. The lyrics are quite clever, if stereotypical, but one of those songs that you can’t get out of your head. n 76 | INDIA CURRENTS | November 2013

Movie: Shuddh Desi Romance Singers: Jigar Saraiya, Priya Panchal Music: Sachin-Jigar Lyricist: Jaideep Sahni The duo of Sachin and Jigar have struck gold with this song. It’s a beautiful, lilting melody and those who haven’t seen the video based in the pink city of Jaipur are due for a visual treat as well. n


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films

Blood Supply By Aniruddh Chawda

BOSS. Director: Anthony D’Souza. Players: Akshay Kumar, Mithun Chakraborty, Shiv Pandit, Ronit Roy, Aditi Rao Hydari, Denny Denzongpa, Johnny Lever. Music: Meet Bros Anjjan. Hindi with English sub-titles. Theatrical release (Viacom 18).

D

irector D’Souza’s last entry Blue (2009), also featuring Akshay Kumar, quietly sank in shark-infested box-office waters and Akshay Kumar received only a lukewarm response to his last movie Once Upon A Time in Mumbai Dobaara! Rolling against odds, Kumar agreed on D’Souza handling the reins once again in Boss. Returning to Kumar’s familiar action-adventure hounds, Boss is a roughhousing, loud framework, outlining a surprisingly coy family drama. The settling dust reveals that D’Souza and Kumar have pulled just the right puppeteer tricks to land their Boss just out of the reach of indecency and into the grasp of respectability. Set in Delhi, the aging gang leader Big Boss (Denzongpa) takes under his wings an angry youth he rescues from the streets. The youth grows up to be, simply, Boss (Kumar), a modern Robin Hood who inevitably lands in the crosshairs of Inspector Ayushmann (Ronit Roy), a tyrant cop who has transformed the police corps into his personal fiefdom. Unbeknownst to either Boss or Ayushmann, Boss’s long lost younger brother Shiv (Shiv Pandit) falls for Ayushmann’s sister Ankita (Aditi Rao Hydari), setting in motion a deadly blood feud between the two families. To his credit, Kumar can pull off mouthing the stupidest, most absurd Hindi-English amalgamated script lines as if it’s nobody’s business. Not having a female lead cast opposite him, Kumar gets free range of both action and comedy in the hands of FarhadSajid’s script based on Pokkiri Raja, Mammootty’s 2010 Malayalam hit. The noble scoundrel butting head with a rotten-to-thecore official is rich thematic fodder that keeps on giving. Taking on a personality of its own, the most outrageous artifact in Boss is Akshay Kumar having a ginormous bad hair movie. Kumar’s unevenly slicked-and-pulled back 78 | INDIA CURRENTS | November 2013

tight coif had to be a newbie stylist’s only chop job before they not-so-stylishly got booted off the set. Kumar’s hair statement here is hands down the worst haircut on a male lead in a Hindi movie since Salman Khan opted for the reinforced middle parting for a highly unflattering I-walked-awayfrom-the-stylist-before-they-were-done look in Tere Naam (2003). Don’t be surprised if your cat runs away from home as soon as it sees Kumar’s hairdo here—it’s that scary! Fortunately, Boss gets a boost from a terrific supporting cast. Chakraborty, who never got full credit for emoting on camera because of his legacy as primarily an action star, is on the mark as Boss’s estranged father. Denzongpa as the criminal kingpin with a soft center and Lever as a buffoon lower tier copper are cast appropriately. In the romantic leads, Pandit and Hydari are also appealing. As the bad guy, Roy’s Ayushmann is a superbad bundle of anger. Buffed, and lost to a dark one-man reality of his own making, Ayushmann embodies the strong-arming beat cop that is often looked upon with suspicion in many Indian cities. Planting incriminating evidence against suspects who fall out of favor, destroying evidence that would incriminate himself and, worse, killing off suspects in custody, Roy’s Ayushmann is the most well-defined villain since Sunjay Dutt in Agneepath (2012).

Musically, newcomers Meet Bros Anjjan’s composition, mostly electro scores, and “Har Kisiko Nahi Milta,” a melody, almost note for note, from Kalyanji-Anandji’s track by the same name from Feroz Khan’s hit Jaanbaaz (1985). The standout number is Sonu Nigam and Anjan Ankit’s “Pita Se Hai Naam Tera,” a neo-qawalli that strikes a melancholy ode to a father-son rift. By bringing together a veteran cast, tossing Bachchan’s story narration and borrowing music from the 1980s, director D’Souza taps into a nostalgic vein. Pacing the comedy at the same hypersonic speed as script and continuously drumming up the animosity between Boss and Ayushmann for an eventual winner takes all bare knuckle brawl, it’s best to suspend reality for 2 hours and just go along for the ride. Opening on 3,000 screens worldwide, including 100 in the United States and a special screening in Pakistan, D’Souza and Kumar’s Boss makes the rules. n EQ: C+ Globe trekker, aesthete, photographer, ski bum, film buff, and commentator, Aniruddh Chawda writes from Milwaukee.


The Princess and the Heart Surgeon Geetika Pathania Jain Photo Credit: 2013 Entertainment One Films US

DIANA. Director: Oliver Hirschbiegel. Players: Naomi Watts, Naveen Andrews, Douglas Hodge, Geraldine James. Writers: Stephen Jeffrey (screenplay), Kate Snell (book). Theatrical release: Entertainment One.

T

he public obsession with “the most famous woman of the world,” the photogenic and glamorous Princess Diana Spencer was never more obvious than at her funeral in 1997. Eulogies and condolences poured in. The gates of Buckingham palace became a sea of flowers as tribute to her memory. One such tribute was by heart surgeon Hasnat Khan, with whom Diana had become romantically attached. A detailed depiction of this affair in the closing chapter in the life of the troubled Diana is the subject of this film by Oliver Hirschbiegel, the talented director of Downfall (yes, that is the one for which Hitler’s rage animated endless YouTube parodies) The life of a Princess just isn’t what it’s made out to be, Hirschbiegel’s film seems to imply. The Prince is off chasing after another skirt (the cad!), the meddling in-laws are restricting her visits with her sons, and the press is murderously nosy. Yes, there are perks. “I’m a princess. I always get my way,” Diana, played by Naomi Watts, intones playfully to her lover, Hasnat Khan (Naveen Andrews). On their first date, she reminds Khan, who prefers a Burger King meal over that made by her: “This is a palace. We never run out of wine.” Such are the trappings of privilege, yet despite a private acupuncturist, plentiful domestic help, and trips on the Concord, Diana seems to chafe in her proverbial gilded cage. The cinematography of this film frequently contrasts the different worlds of the patrician and the plebian, the muted lighting and elegant luxury of the palace contrasting with the harsh lights of the fast food restaurants and operating table that are the surgeon’s haunts. Diana is shown wielding her power and her connections with dexterity. There is even a tantalizing suggestion that she might have been more friendly with reporters than we have been led to believe. So much of Princess Diana’s life has already become public memory, and the film struggles with showing another side to her much photographed life. The romance is tepid, (possibly in deference to the Royal family?) and both in filmic terms as well as historical fact, it doesn’t work. In the early clandestine dates, a nervous and skittish Di-

Naomi Watts stars as Diana, Princess of Wales

ana and the dazzled heart surgeon exchange superficial lines that would be more appropriate to a teenage romance story. The scenes of their blossoming love seem to struggle with lack of chemistry. There seems a notable absence of tension or suspense as they continue to meet, no slow simmer where she grapples with her feelings. There is a matterof-factness in Watts’s acting that makes it difficult to identify with Diana’s character. Diana is simultaneously challenging the twin monolithic institutions of monarchy and of marriage, but she does so with a dreary lack of spunk. If Stephen Frear’s film The Queen showed Helen Mirren as the dutiful and stolid monarch, Diana could have done so much more to animate the impetuousness and rebelliousness of the “Princess of Hearts.” The camera follows the Princess around in her somewhat claustrophobic world. Her humanitarian efforts, especially for minefield victims are highlighted. We also see un-royal behavior, as Diana stalks a miffed Hasnat and hollers up at his window. Watching this human, vulnerable side to her is strangely unsettling. Perhaps we have higher standards for royalty, even though the British royal family hardly inspires faith in the institution of monarchy. As public opinion polls show a reduced appetite for state support for the British royal family, denouncing the royals has frequently become a press-led bloodsport and cottage industry. In decades past, a more deferential press would have thought it unseemly to report on the private excesses of the aristocracy. Attitudes have changed. The Queen declared 1992 “anno horribilis,” a reference to the much publicized trials and

tribulations caused by misbehaving Royals, and accounts of their avidly followed marital troubles and infidelities. Perhaps my ambivalence to this film was borne by the circumstance of Diana’s death, punctuated by maudlin curiosity and a jostling for a spectator seat to the drama of her life. It can be argued that the Diana we think we know was a creation of the media, which was responsible both for her outsized celebrity as well as her premature demise. In the film, invasive bounty hunters working for sensationalist tabloid newspapers are everywhere. The worst of the encounters with the press leave her curled in a fetal position, her eyes unseeing. Perhaps our discomfort, even sixteen years after Diana’s death, is with the act of spectatorship itself. Perhaps it is fitting for us to lower our voyeuristic eyes, and finally give this troubled woman the dignity that she was not afforded during the life that was lived, always, always under the glare of the camera and its intrusive gaze. n EQ: BGeetika Pathania Jain lives in the bay area. In 1997, she was looking for coverage of Mother Teresa’s death, but Princess Di eclipsed all other news.

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Pundit Habib Khan music school offers Hindustani vocal classes at KalaAwishkar dance school! For details contact Smt. Shraddha Joglekar. November 2013 | www.indiacurrents.com | 81


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B B B B B B B B B B B B B B B B B B B B B B B B B B B B B B B B B B B B B B B B B B B B B B B B B

SHIVA MURUGAN TEMPLE P U J A S

&

F E S T I V A L S

w w w. s h i v a m u r u g a n t e m p l e . o r g Happy Deepavali! PUJAS & FESTIVALS

BENEFIT PROGRAMS

Sun. Nov. 3 - Deepavali Celebration Bharathanatyam Indumathy Ganesh & Students

PHOTO: VIGGY MOKKARALA

Sat. Nov. 9 - Mahaskandasashti Celebration Thriupuhal Songs Latha Sriram Suns. Nov. 17 & 24 - Karthigai Deepam Celebration Bharathanatyam Vishal Ramani & Students

Sunday, November 10, 2013 LIGHT MUSIC Chabot College, Hayward

Tue. Dec. 31 - Hanuman Jeyanthi

B B B B B B B B B B B B B B B B B B B B B B B B B B B B B B B B B B B B B B B B B B B B B B B B B

SHIVA MURUGAN TEMPLE /SAIVA SIDDHANTA ASHRAM 1803 Second Street, Concord, CA 94519 • Weekdays: 10am - Noon & 6pm - 9pm • Weekends: 10am - 9pm Voice Mail (925) 827-0127 • • Fax (925) 827-0209 • www.temple.org

Shruti Sridhar performs a

Bharatanatyam Classical Dance Recital

The Dance Divine - My Soulful Journey A Shri Krupa Dance Company Production A Fundraiser for Home of Hope, Inc.

Sunday, November 10th, 2013 • 3:30 PM McAfee Performing Arts Center

Saratoga High School, 20300 Herriman Avenue, Saratoga, CA 95070

Tickets:

$50 (Preferred Seating); $25 (General Seating) $15 (Shri Krupa Students) Checks payable to: Home of Hope

www.hohinc.org Home of Hope, Inc. (HOH) is a US-based non-profit global organization (Tax ID# 94-3342348). HOH mission is to provide opportunities which empower disadvantaged and underprivileged youth to become self-sustaining adults of tomorrow. HOH programs and projects nurture and educate children and young adults who are deaf, blind, abandoned, orphaned, physically or mentally-challenged, or otherwise disadvantaged. Home of Hope began in 1999 when Dr. Nilima Sabharwal, inspired by the work of the enterprising women volunteers of Children's Home of Hope in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, began to volunteer her time and effort to fundraiser for this project and the many others that followed. Soon, she was joined by many who believed in this shared passion and commitment. Contact: shrutisridhardance@gmail.com |

(408) 569-4650 • (408) 569-4648

Shruti Sridhar is a Post-Arangetram disciple of Guru Smt. Vishal Ramani, Founder & Artistic Director of Shri Krupa Dance Company 84 | INDIA CURRENTS | November 2013


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events NOVEMBER 2013

California’s Best Guide to Indian Events Edited by: Mona Shah List your event for FREE! DEC./JAN. issue deadline: Wednesday, November 20 To list your event in the Calendar, go to www.indiacurrents.com and fill out the Web form

Check us out on

special dates Dhan Teras

November 1

Diwali

November 3

Govardhana Puja

November 4

Bhai Duj

Novermber 5

Guru Nanak’s B’day

November 17

Guru Teg Bahadur Day

November 24

Thanksgiving Day

November 28

CULTURAL CALENDER

November

1 Friday

God of Carnage—A Comedy of Manners, Without the Manners. A

playground altercation between elevenyear-old boys brings together two sets of Bay Area parents for a meeting to resolve the matter. At first, diplomatic niceties are observed, but as the meeting progresses and the rum flows, tensions emerge and the gloves come off, leaving the couples with more than just their liberal principles in tatters. Organized by Naatak. 8 p.m. Cubberley 88 | INDIA CURRENTS | November 2013

Benefit concert presented by Jayashree Varadarajan for Nandalala Mission, November 23

Theater, 4000 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto. General $20, VIP $30. www.naatak.org.

Epilogue—An Art Exhibit. Jitish Kallat, a Mumbai-based artist honors his late father through a deeply personal installation. “Epilogue” (2010–11) comprises 753 photographs that depict progressively eaten roti, the round, traditional South Asian flatbread. Each roti represents one of the 22,500 moons that were in the sky during Kallat’s father’s 62-year lifespan. Ends April 20. 11 a.m.-5 p.m. San Jose Museum of Art, 110 South Market St., San Jose. $8 adults, $5 seniors, students, and youth 7-18, free for members. (408) 271-6840. info@sjmusart. org. www.sjmusart.org/around-table-stage-onejitish-kallat-epilogue. Images from Ladakh. Artist Tony

Sehgal took the photographs during a to Ladakh. Ends Nov. 15. Phantom Art Gallery, 457 East Calaveras Blvd., Milpitas. Free. (408) 586-3210.

Inspiration India Dance Series. Designed to encourage students to blend the rich ancient dance cultures with modern day contemporary dance. DanceVersity will be merging the styles of kathak, with the popular American dance style lyrical. Both styles embody the art of story-telling and a fullbody expression of the music. Instructors are Zakir Hussain, and mother/daughter duo Antonia Minnecola (kathak) and Isabella Qureshi (lyrical). Ends Dec. 9. Organized by DanceVersity World Dance for Youth. 4-7 p.m. Ashkenaz Dance and Music Center, 1317 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley. 12-week session: $225. (415) 300-6911. isabella@danceversity. com, info@danceversity.com. danceversity.com.

November

2 Saturday

God of Carnage—A Comedy of Manners, Without the Manners. A

playground altercation between eleven-yearold boys brings together two sets of


recommends

Around the Table Art, Food and Culture

“I

t’s a quiet place to ease into the exhibit, a chance to think about food and how we see sustenance: as home, as comfort, as fuel, as sharing, as community. What does food say about us?” reflects Susan Leask, Senior Curator at the San Jose Museum of Art. The San Jose Museum of Art’s new exhibit “Around the Table” includes over thirty artists, eighteen of whom have been commissioned to create new art for this show. Jitish Kallat’s “Epilogue” introduces the exhibit. “His work grounds you in your childhood and your place of origin,” says Leask. “Around the Table” is a multidisciplinary exhibition that unfolds in three stages, like three different courses of a meal. The first stage is entitled “Jitish Kallat: Epilogue” and is open until April 20, 2014. Kallat, from Mumbai, draws inspiration from the city around him through painting, sculpture, and video. In “Epilogue,” Kallat searched for a way to honor his father while memorializing the 62 years of his life. Kallat settled on a sequence of photographs of 22,000 roti, each roti representing a day. The images of roti wax and wane according to the cycles of the moon in the sky during his father’s life. “It’s a metaphor for nourishment and a meditation on time. Kallat places the scale of one human life within the cosmos,” explains Leask. Kallat is an internationally recognized artist whose work has been shown in the National Gallery of Modern Art in New Delhi, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles. “Epilogue” is a deeply personal commemoration that explores the role of food in culture and family. “It’s deceptively simple, a really beautiful chance to reflect on your own transient existence. Seeing this memorial made me feel so close to his father, and allowed me to think about my own father,” says Leask. The second phase of the exhibit opens on November 9, examining the importance of food in California with the exhibition of 29 additional artists. “The agricultural bounty of this region has brought waves of immigration and shaped a rich history of cultural diversity, which we share in part through food… food is charged with meaning for everyone,” explains Susan Krane, Executive

By Michelle Baird

Sita Kuratomi Bhaumik: To Curry Favor, 2011. Curry Powder from Oasis Food Market, Oakland, and adhesive on wall.

Director of the San Jose Museum of Art. One of the pieces highlighted in the second phase of the exhibition will be Sita Kuratomi Bhaumik’s “Dear Indian Grocery Store Under the Freeway.” “Seeing this work is an incredible experience, it’s gorgeous. Sita is also very aware of culture and how people see curry,” says Leask. An installation artist who has worked with curry for five years, Bhaumik’s childhood cuisine was informed by her Indian and Japanese heritage. Her artistic process, though, was sparked by reading an internet exchange. “Question: Help, my neighbor’s house smells like curry. What should I do? Answer: Call the INS.” Reading this exchange caused Bhaumik to consider that one could be “racist with their nose or their taste buds, as opposed to just their eyes.” Working with a box of curry powder, Bhaumik uses stamped designs to rub curry into a wall, creating the patterns of her work. The color, form, and smell of her art allows Bhaumik to challenge viewers’ ideas of race, culture, and acceptance. Rory Padeken and Kat Kohn, working with Leask, have also brought in Sam Van Aken to create “Tree of 40 Fruits,” an actual tree with grafts from 40 different types of stone fruits to celebrate San Jose’s agricultural past. The final stage of the exhibition

opens December 19, offering a chance for visitors to interact with artists directly. On the other side of curry divide, Mario Ybarra Jr.’s performance piece “Curry Corndog” will challenge ideas of street food while feeding visitors. Robert Karimi’s performance piece “Kitchen Revolutionaria” will educate ethnic communities at risk for Type 2 diabetes through cooking, humor, storytelling, and activism. Outside the museum, the San Jose Museum of Art has partnered with 33 arts organizations to support the exhibit. Robin Treen has helped bring the Center for Asian American Media, the City of San Jose, the Palo Alto Art Center, the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art, the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles, and the India Community Center into the mix. “I was so impressed with the Center and what they’re doing there,” says Leask of the ICC’s work in Milpitas. Watching the entire city of San Jose come together is an excellent reason to visit this exhibit, and “there are all sorts of things here that no one has ever seen before,” concludes Leask.n Until April 20, 2014. 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, closed Mondays. San Jose Museum of Art, 110 S. Market Street, San Jose. $8, children under 6 free. http://www.sjmusart.org. November 2013 | www.indiacurrents.com | 89


events

California’s Best Guide to Indian Events A solo concert with Bhattacharya on slide guitar, with selections from Madeira, his new album of traditional ragas. Organized by Basant Bahar. 5:30 p.m. Jain Temple, 722 S. Main St., Milpitas . $25. (510) 870-2244. mark@worldisc.net. www.basantbahar.org.

Diwali Celebrations. Live Entertainment, talk and candle lighting ceremony. Organized by Brahma Kumaris Silicon Valley. 6-9 p.m. Jain Temple, 722 S. Main St., Milpitas . Free. (408) 935-8740. contact@ bksiliconvalley.org. www.bksiliconvalley.org, www.bkmilpitas.org/eventofmonth.htm. Dastangoi—the Art of Storytelling in Urdu. A workshop for aspiring Dastangos.

Organized by Center for South Asia Studies. 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Stephens Hall, 10 (CSAS Conf. Room), University of California, Berkeley . Registration required. (510) 642-3608. http:// bit.ly/17OAwqN

Kali Puja. Puja, dinner and program by Rajdeep Chatterjee and Jonita Gandhi. Organized by Bay Area Prabasi. 6 p.m. Logan High School, 1800 H St., Union City. www. prabasi.org/events/kali-puja-2013. Deva Nruthya—The Celestial Art of the Ancient. Bharatanatyam exponent

Debashish Bhattacharya in concert, November 2

Bay Area parents for a meeting to resolve the matter. At first, diplomatic niceties are observed, but as the meeting progresses and the rum flows, tensions emerge and the gloves come off, leaving the couples with more than just their liberal principles in tatters. Organized by Naatak. 6 p.m. Cubberley Theater, 4000 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto. General $20, VIP $30. www.naatak.org.

Cooking Class—Indian Inspired Tapas featuring an Olive Oil andBalsamic Vinegar Tasting. The session will

begin with an education about olive oils and balsamic vinegars, including the health benefits of these products. This will be followed by a blind tasting of some select flavored varietals, utilizing the senses of smell and taste to guess the different flavors. Organized by Om Oliva. 1-3 p.m. MakeShift Society, 235 Gough St., San Francisco. $50. info@omoliva. 90 | INDIA CURRENTS | November 2013

com. www.omoliva.com, makeshiftsociety.com/ event/intro-to-chaat-cuisine-with-omolivia-112-100-300/.

Diwali Concert—Triple Header.

2-3:330 p.m.-Vocal Concert with Kushal Tirumala, Priyanka Lakshmi, Chary (veena), Vignesh Venkataraman (mridangam). 4-6 p.m. Vocal Concert with Arjun Subramanian, Keerthi Sundaramurthy (violin), Akshay Venkatesan (mridangam). 6:30 p.m.-Vocal Concert with H.V.Srivatsan, Ajay Narasimha (violin), Ravindra Bharathy Sridharan (mridangam). Organized by Sri Ranga Ramanuja Maha Desikan Fine Arts (SR Fine Arts/SRFA). 2-10 p.m. Community of Infinite Spirit (Divine Science), 1540 Hick’s Av., San Jose. Free. (408) 569-0860. srfinearts2012@ gmail.com. www.srfinearts.info.

Debashish Bhattacharya in Concert.

Lavanya Ananth presents a compilation of her original choreographic works featuring a variety of poetry and technique in different Indian languages. This repertoire conjures up images of the various Indian divinities and their celestial union through the language of dance. Organized by Noopur, Spicmacay Stanford, and Sangam Arts Foundation. 7:30-9:30 p.m. Cemex Auditorium, 641 Knight Way, Stanford . $20, free for Stanford affiliates. noopurstanford@gmail.com. devanruthya2013.eventbrite.com, studentlife42210. orgsync.com/org/noopur/DevaNruthya2013.

November

3 Sunday

“Our Name is Rebel”: Images of Berkeley’s Radical South Asian Legacy. Artists Nisha Sembi and Amman

Desai bring the 100-year history of Bay Area Desi organizing to life in a new art show. Sembi and Desai will be exhibiting new fine art pieces that include paintings, linocuts, prints, and an indoor mural installation. Their subjects cover a century of Bay Area Desi movements for justice, but with a special focus on the Ghadar Party, which


events

California’s Best Guide to Indian Events

celebrated its 100-year anniversary in 2013. Ends Nov. 30. Organized by Berkeley South Asian Radical History Walking Tour. 6-8 p.m. Guerilla Cafe, 1620 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley. Free. contact@berkeleysouthasian.org. www. berkeleysouthasian.org/art-show.html.

Morning Ragas by Pushkar Lele. A tribute to Kumar Gandharva, accompanied by Sanjay Deshpande (tabla) and Vyasmurti Katti (harmonium). Organized by Swar Sudha. 9:30 a.m.-1 p.m. Bhalerao Residence, 21690 Rainbow Court, Cupertino. $30. (408) 461-8390, (408) 398-8160. swarsudha@ swarsudha.org. www.swarsudha.org. Adventures of Amir Hamza and Partition Tales. A Dastangoi (Art of

storytelling in Urdu) performance by Mahmood Farooqui. Organized by Center for South Asia Studies. 3-5 p.m. 125 Morrison Hall, University of California, Berkeley. Registration required. (510) 642-3608. events.berkeley.edu/index.php/calendar/sn/ csas.html?event_ID=68180&date=201311-03&filter=Target/Open%20To%20 Audiences&filtersel=.

November

5 Tuesday

Peepli Live—A Screening with Director Anusha Rizvi. Peepli Live is a 2010 Indian comic satire movie that explores the topic of “farmer suicides” and the subsequent media and political response. Organized by Center for South Asia Studies. 4:30-7 p.m. Stephens Hall, 10 (CSAS Conference Room), University of California, Berkeley. Registration required. (510) 6423608. events.berkeley.edu/index.php/calendar/ sn/csas.html?event_ID=68381&date=201311-05&filter=Target/Open%20To%20 Audiences&filtersel=.

November

6 Wednesday

My Story—Inspiring Journey of an Entrepreneur. Featuring Sarvajna Dwive-

di, Co-Founder and Chief Scientific Officer at Pearl Therapeutics, Inc. 6-9 p.m. TiE Conference Center, 2903 Bunker Hill Lane Suite 150, Santa Clara. Online, Members, free; Non Members $20. At the door, Members $20, Non Members $30. sv.tie.org/event/my-story%E2%80%93-inspiring-journey-entrepreneurfeaturing-sarvajna-dwivedi.

The Dance Divine, a bharatanatyam recital by Shruti Sridhar, November 10

November

7 Thursday

Estate Planning Seminar. Includes

dinner. Organized by Mahesh Bajoria. 6-8 p.m. 3878 Walnut Ave., Fremont. Free. (510) 791-9911. mahesh@bajorialaw.com.

A Guftugu with Mahmood Farooqui. Dastangoi is the once thriving art of Urdu storytelling in North India which came to an abrupt end with the death of the last great practitioner in 1928. Mahmood Farooqui’s performance of this lost art will be based on the pioneering work S. R. Faruqi, this great Urdu scholar and practitioner of this art. Organized by Center for South Asia Studies. 5-7 p.m. Stephens Hall, 10 (CSAS Conf. Room), University of California, Berkeley. Registration required. (510) 6423608. events.berkeley.edu/index.php/calendar/ sn/csas.html?event_ID=68385&date=201311-07&filter=Target/Open%20To%20

Audiences&filtersel=.

November

8 Friday

Adventures of Amir Hamza and Partition Tales. A Dastangoi perfor-

mance by Mahmood Farooqui. Organized by Center for South Asia Studies. 5:307:30 p.m. India Community Center, 525 Los Coches St., Milpitas. $30 general, $10 student with ID, $50 VIP. (510) 642-3608. events.berkeley.edu/index.php/calendar/sn/ csas.html?event_ID=68181&date=201311-08&filter=Target/Open%20To%20 Audiences&filtersel=.

November

8 Friday

How’s Your Agni? Presented by Ashok Jethanandani, this workshop is part of a se

November 2013 | www.indiacurrents.com | 91


South Asian Film Festival By Mimm Patterson

S

eventeen years after the French brothers Louis and Auguste Lumiere showed six short films at Mumbai’s Watson’s Hotel (Esplanade Mansion) in 1898, and twelve years before Eisenstein’s masterpiece Battleship Potemkin, there was Dadasaheb Phalke’s Raja Harishchandra, a silent film featuring an all-male cast that premiered at the Coronation Cinema in Mumbai on April 21st 1913. Historians credit the film for heralding the start of India’s film industry. One hundred years later and Bay Area film buffs will have a chance to view Raja Harishchandra at 3rd i Film’s 11th San Francisco International South Asian Film Festival running from November 7 through 10 at the New People and Castro Theatres in San Francisco and on November 16 at the Aquarius Theatre in Palo Alto. This year’s theme celebrates one hundred years of Indian cinema from across the silver-screened spectrum with classics, documentaries, experimental film and cutting-edge Bollywood. In addition to Raja Harishchandra, the history of cinema in India will be honored with Celluloid Man, the award winning portrait of the founder of India’s National Film Archive, P.K. Nair. The Revolutionary Optimist, one of several fascinating documentaries being screened, has a Bay Area connection. Film makers Maren Grainger-Monsen and Ni-

92 | INDIA CURRENTS | November 2013

cole Newnham are professors at Stanford University. Grainger-Monsen is a physician and director of the Program in Bioethics in Film at the Stanford Center for Biomedical Ethics. Nicole Newnham, her co-director, is a documentary film maker, writer and filmmaker-in-residence at the Stanford Center for biomedical Ethics Program in Bioethics and Film. Their documentary tells the story of teacher Amlan Ganguly as he empowers children in his charge to save lives in the slums of Kolkata. Ganguly is a former lawyer who left is career with the hope that he might make meaningful change in the world.Amlan Ganguly doesn’t rescue slum children. He empowers them to become agents of change. Filmed over three years we follow Ganguly and three of his young charges as they battle poverty and transform their neighborhoods. Films with a focus on Pakistan include These Birds Walk. This Sundance Film has been compared to The 400 Blows, Truffaut’s story of a 12-year-old runaway named Antoine. Shot in observational cinema verite style Omar Mullick and Bassam Tariq’s film captures life in Karachi through the eyes of an ambulance driver and a runaway boy. Struggling to move beyond her humble origins, the protagonist in Sabiha Sumar’s film, Good Morning Karachi, pushes back at tradition. Determined to succeed as a fashion model in the city, we watch as a young girl balances the demands of family with aspiring dreams. A highlight of the festival’s focus on gender is certain to be From Mohammad to Maya. Jeff Roy’s film documents the story of Mohammad, a 42-year-old Tamil, Muslim man and his journey to Singapore for sexual reassignment surgery and ultimate transformation to Maya. In the film Roy explores the concepts of letting go in order to begin again and the rites of passage endured as we transform. Mohammed to Maya won the Special Jury Award at the 2012 Mumbai International Queer Film Festival. It also won the Audience Choice Award at the 2011 Los Angeles Transgender Film Festival. Both Maya and Jeff Roy will be

Celluloid Man

appearing at this year’s festival. With doctorates in natural medicine and homeopathy, Maya is currently based in Los Angeles. Jeff Roy, ethnomusicologist and violinist divides his time between Los Angeles and Mumbai. Nishtha Jain will also appear at the festival. Her film, Gulabi Gang, received the Best Documentary Award at the Dubai Film Festival in 2012. The Gulabi Gang is a women’s movement founded by Sampat Pal Devi not quite a decade ago in the Banda District of Uttar Pradesh. Known for their bright pink saris and bamboo sticks, these women fight against gender violence, female illiteracy, caste oppression and corruption. Beyond All Boundaries is Sushrut Jain’s documentary about India’s campaign to win the 2011 World Cup. The movie draws in three distinct arcs to tell the stories of the exuberant fan Sudhir Gautam, a 12-year-old batting prodigy named Prithvi Shaw and Akshaya Surve, an 18-year-old girl trying out


California’s Best Guide to Indian Events ries on preventive health from an ayurvedic perspective. Understand the concept of agni in ayurveda, and the importance of keeping it in balance for proper digestion. 6-7 p.m. India Community Center, 525 Los Coches St., Milipitas. Free. (408) 934-1130. www.indiacc. org/ayurveda.

November

9 Saturday

35th Annual Celebration of Craftswomen. Over 190 craftswomen display

From Mohammad to Maya

for the Mumbai under-19 team. Filmmaker Sushrut Jain, like the directors of The Revolutionary Optimist, has a Stanford connection. After receiving her PhD in Economics, Jain opted out of the corporate life to attend film school at the University of Southern California. 3rd i Films promotes diverse images of South Asians through independent film. They showcase innovative and experimental work from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan, Afghanistan and the global South Asian Diaspora.n November 6-10, San Francisco, November 16, Palo Alto. www.thirdi.org. Single tickets for films $12. Passes $34-$125.

and sell unique hand-made crafts and contemporary art. This year, Roopa Batni Mulchandani will be presenting her Om Oliva’s gourmet line of infused olive oils, aged balsamic vinegars, and sauces/condiments. Ends Nov. 11. Organized by Celebration of Craftswomen. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Festival Pavilion at the Fort Mason Center, Marina Blvd., San Francisco. General $9, students/seniors $7. (415) 802-5699. Craftswomen@gmail.com. www.celebrationofcraftswomen.com,, www. omoliva.com.

Masala Community Forums. Presenta-

tions by Alka Kanaya on “The Masala Study Findings,” and Ashwini Wagle on “Diabetes Meal Planning and Healthy Eating in South Asians.” Organized by Masala and UCSF. 11 a.m.-1 p.m. San Jose King Library, 2nd floor large conference room, 150 E. San Fernando St., San Jose. www.masalastudy.org.

Upanyasam In Tamizh—Multiple Facets Of Periazhwar. With Ambuja-

valli Desikachari. Organized by Sri Ranga Ramanuja Maha Desikan Fine Arts (SR Fine Arts/SRFA). 4-6 p.m. Rancho Rinconada Parks and Recreation, 18000 Chelmsford Drive., Cupertino. Free. (408) 569-0860. srfinearts2012@gmail.com. www.srfinearts. info.

Diwali Dhamaal With Prachi Desai Live. With casino tables, a designer fashion show, live performances and dancing. Organized by Janta Connection. 5 p.m. Santa Clara County Fairgrounds, 344 Tully Road, San Jose. $15. (408) 603-4406. www. bayareadiwaliparty.com.

November

10 Sunday

The Dance Divine—My Soulful Journey, a Bharatanatyam Dance Recital by Shruti Sridhar. Student of Vishal

Ramani, Founder and Artistic Director of

Shri Krupa Dance Company. This recital is a fundraiser for Home of Hope, Inc. Organized by Home of Hope and Shri Krupa Dance Company. 3:30 p.m. McAfee Performing Arts Center, 20300 Herriman Ave., Saratoga. General $25, Shri Krupa students $15, VIP $50. (408) 569-4648, (408) 569-4650. shrutisridhardance@gmail.com.

Yakshagana—Kamsa Janana. Visiting

artists from Karnataka perform Yakshagana, Kamsa Janana. An artistic performance, blending songs, dance and dialogues to narrate a story. In Kannada with English subtitles. Organized by Silicon Sage and Siddhivinayaka Cultural Center. 4-7 p.m. Spangenberg Theatre, Gunn High School, 780 Arastradero Road, Palo Alto. $15, $20, $25, $100 (family). (510) 475-7242, (510) 402 4301. krishnaupadhya@yahoo.com, gajanan_ xyz@yahoo.com, hegades@yahoo.com.

November

15 Friday

A Healthy Morning Regimen. Presented by Ashok Jethanandani, this workshop is part of a series on preventive health from an ayurvedic perspective. From waking up in the morning to personal hygiene to breakfast, a regular morning regimen can give you a fresh start for the day. 6 p.m. India Community Center, 525 Los Coches St., Milpitas. Free. (408) 934-1130. www.indiacc. org/ayurveda.

November

16 Saturday

Cooking Class—Indian Inspired Tapas featuring an Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar Tasting. The session will begin with an education about olive oils and balsamic vinegars, including the health benefits of these products. This will be followed by a blind tasting of some select flavored varietals, utilizing the senses of smell and taste to guess the different flavors. Organized by Om Oliva. 2-4 p.m. Shared, 739 Bryant St., San Francisco. $75. info@omoliva.com. www. omoliva.com, omoliva.eventbrite.com.

November

16 Saturday

Berkeley South Asian Radical History Walking Tour. Discover over 100

years of Desi-American history on the streets of Berkeley. You’ll visit original sites associated with the Indian freedom move November 2013 | www.indiacurrents.com | 93


events

California’s Best Guide to Indian Events years of Desi-American history on the streets of Berkeley. You’ll visit original sites associated with the Indian freedom movement, women’s organizing, and more, told through stories and street theater. The group walks two miles in a leisurely 3 hours, and the path is stroller and wheelchair-friendly. 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Downtown Berkeley (start location will be emailed to ticket buyers). $15 general, $7.50 students/seniors. contact@berkeleysouthasian. org. www.berkeleysouthasian.org.

November

19 Tuesday

A Festival of Contemporary Indian Dance Theater with Kalpana Raghuraman. Organized by Center

for South Asia Studies. 9-11 a.m. 2401 Bancroft, at Bancroft Studio, University of California, Berkeley. Free. (510) 642-3608. events.berkeley.edu/index.php/calendar/sn/ csas.html?event_ID=71483&date=201311-19&filter=Target/Open%20To%20 Audiences&filtersel=.

November

Vocal concert by Aditya Joshi, November 16

ment, women’s organizing, and more, told through stories and street theater. The group walks two miles in a leisurely 3 hours, and the path is stroller and wheelchairfriendly. 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Downtown Berkeley (start location will be emailed to ticket buyers). $15 general, $7.50 students/seniors. contact@ berkeleysouthasian.org. www.berkeleysouthasian. org.

Hindustani Classical and Semi Classical Vocal Music Concert by Aditya Joshi. Student of Manoj and Archana Tamhankar. Accompanied by Manoj Tamhankar (harmonium) and Shripad Torvi (tabla). 4-6 p.m. Community of Infinite Spirit’s Divine Center, 1540 Hicks Ave., San Jose. (510) 5573217.

Garba and Dandiya Night. Music by Hema and Ashit Desai, accompanied by Dimple Patel and group. Organized by California Cricket Association. 8 p.m. Sunnyvale Hindu Temple, 450 Persian Drive., Sunnyvale. 94 | INDIA CURRENTS | November 2013

$20. (408) 910-2511. smitha_mp@hotmail. com, jayshree_jain@hotmail.com. www. calcricket.org.

November

17 Sunday

Naveenata. Explorations within the bounds of tradition. Featuring guest artist Dominique Delorme and Rasika Kumar performing solo bharatanatyam dances. Live musical accompaniment by Malavika Kumar (nattuvangam), Asha Ramesh (vocal), Shanthi Narayan (violin) and N. Narayan (mridangam and kanjira). Organized by Abhinaya Dance Company. 4-6 p.m. School of Arts & Culture at Mexican Heritage Plaza, 1700 Alum Rock Ave., San Jose . Free for Friends of Abhinaya, $30 Donor, $20 General, $15 student/senior. (408) 871-5959. abdanceco@gmail.com. abhinaya.org. Berkeley South Asian Radical History Walking Tour. Discover over 100

23 Saturday

Masala Community Forums. Presentations by Alka Kanaya on “The Masala Study Findings,” and Ashwini Wagle on “Diabetes Meal Planning and Healthy Eating in South Asians.” Organized by Masala and UCSF. 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Walnut Creek Public Library, Oak View Room, 1644 N. Broadway, Walnut Creek. www.masalastudy.org. Gajanana. Asha Ramesh and Ragamalika School in concert. This is a fundraiser for Sanatan Dharma Kendra. Hemmige V Srivatsan (violin), Vignesh Venkatraman (mridangam) and Vikas Yendluri (tabla). Organized by Sanatan Dharma Kendra. 4 p.m. Oshman Family Jewish Community Center, 3921 Fabian Way, Palo Alto. General $20 Donor $50. (408) 569-4990, (408) 712-2584, (408) 531-8311. santa_dasu@yahoo.com. www.sanatandharmakendra.org. Parama Prema—A Celebration of Divine Love. With the blessings of Pujyasree

Mathioli Saraswathy, Founder, Nandalala Mission, a benefit concert presented by Jayashree Varadarajan and Sri Rama Lalitha Kala Mandir School of Fine Arts. Proceeds from the concert will go towards community outreach programs of Nandalala Mission: Back to School Drive - providing backpacks


November 2013 | www.indiacurrents.com | 95


96 | INDIA CURRENTS | November 2013


events

California’s Best Guide to Indian Events

Global India Exhibit highlights Jewish, South Asian cultures

A

new exhibition at the University of California, Berkeley’s Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life will put on public display for the first time items that tell the story of the ancient Jewish community in Kerala—one of the oldest in the world—before its residents relocated to Israel in the 1950s. “Global India: Kerala, Israel, Berkeley” is a dazzling array of documents, jewelry, photos, and even a 16 mm black-and-white documentary film in which the late UC Berkeley anthropologist David Mandelbaum silently tells a tale of 1937 Kerala. There also is a 12-shell, 19th-century board game called Aasha, wedding garments, songs and poems, and a parchment amulet “for the protection of pregnant women against infertility and miscarriage and for the protection of newborn children.” Highlighting the exhibition’s many artifacts is the elaborate, wooden Torah Ark, saved from the Tekkeumbhagam Synagogue, the only one of eight Kerala synagogues demolished after congregants moved to Israel. The Torah Ark from the 17th or 18th century stands 13 feet high by 8 feet wide and is inscribed with elaborate Hebrew lettering and gold leaf. Thanks to a collecting campaign initiated in 1967 by the late Seymour Fromer, the Magnes has become one of the world’s

most extensive collections about the Jews of Southern India. The complete Kerala collection serves as an important source of information on the Kerala Jewish community, Indian society and cultures, and the Jewish diaspora across India, the Middle East, and Europe, as well as Israel. According to historical accounts, the settlement of Kerala, located on India’s fertile Malabar Coast, was encouraged by the predominantly Hindu rulers of Malabar around the year 1,000 CE. At the time, the rulers were interested in promoting their kingdoms’ economies to traders around the globe. Kerala ultimately became a rich, multi-cultural community known for political and religious freedom and tolerance. Exhibition curator Francesco Spagnolo said he is intrigued by the deep connections between the Jewish settlement in Kerala that ultimately moved to Israel, and to the UC Berkeley campus. In addition to Mandelbaum’s scholarly work, Spagnolo noted that the late Walter Fischel, a professor of Semitic languages and literature at UC Berkeley and an authority on the history and culture of the Jewish communities in India, was the only North American scholar invited by the State of Kerala to the celebrations of the 400th anniversary of the region’s Paradesi synagogue in 1968. Today, the synagogue is a popular

with school supplies in Bay Area, Southern California and New Jersey. Youth Concerts - providing a nonjudgmental public forum for youngsters to showcase their musical talent in Bay Area, Southern California, New Jersey and Florida. Matruseva - showering Mother’s affection with community meal service by serving healthy food for under privileged in Bay Area, Southern California and New Jersey. Project Balakrishna - providing milk to the under privileged in the Bay Area Health Care Initiatives in US and India. Organized by Nandalala Mission. 4-7 p.m. Spangenberg Auditorium, 780 Arastradero Road, Palo Alto. $20, $30, $100. (408) 498-1604. nandalalamission@gmail.

com. www.Nandalala.com.

Solo Vocal Performance. Aarthi Muthukumar and Sumathy Narayan, accompanied by Aditya Satyadeep (violin), Akshay Venkatesan (mridamgam). 5-6:30 p.m. Shruthi Swara Laya, 3273 Seldon Court, Fremont. (510) 552-5824. ggavimal@sbcglobal.net. www.shrutiswaralaya.com. Benefit Program for Shiva Murugan Temple. Bharatanatyam performance by Radica Giri, Artistic Director of Anjali Dance School, and her students. Cubberley Theater, 4000 Middlefield Road., Palo Alto. www.temple.org.

Memorial Lamp (Parur, Kerala, India, 1670, MagnesMuseum.

destination for cultural tourism.n Through December 13. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. UC Berkeley’s Bancroft Library, 101 Sproul Hall, Berkeley. (510) 642-6000. fspagnolo@library. berkeley.edu.

November

24 Sunday

Bharatanatyam Recital. By Gauri Patil, Shruthi Aravindan and Vivek Ramanan. Organized by Yuva Bharati. 4 p.m. Cubberley Theater, 4000 Middlefield Road., Palo Alto . Free. (650) 565-8859. yuva_bharati@yahoo. com. www.yuvabharati.org/home/index.php.

November

28 Thursday

Thanksgiving Dinner and Music. An-

nual vegetarian dinner followed by

November 2013 | www.indiacurrents.com | 97


events

California’s Best Guide to Indian Events

a Hinduatani music concert by vocalist Shubhangi Sakalkhar, accompanied by Sripad Torve (tabla) and Vivek Datar (harmonium). 3 p.m. Badarikashrama, 15602 Maubert Ave., San Leandro. Free. (510) 278-2444. badarik@ pacbell.net. www.badarikashrama.org.

November

29 Friday

Water—The Best Drink. Presented by

Ashok Jethanandani, this workshop is part of a series on preventive health from an ayurvedic perspective. How much water should you drink in a day? 6 p.m. India Community Center (ICC), 525 Los Coches St., Milpitas. Free. (408) 934-1130. www.indiacc.org/ayurveda.

November

30 Saturday

Sabha Gurjari. Gujarati music and litera-

ture presented by local performers. Organized by Tahuko Foundation. 1-4:30 p.m. Milpitas Library Main Hall, 160 N. Main St., Milpitas. Free. (650) 353-1159. mandmmheta@gmail.com.

December

1 Sunday

Children’s Day. UN declared Universal

Children’s Day celebrated with children’s activities, drawing contest, song and dance performances, fancy dress, displays, public speaking and more. Organized by Indian American Organization. 1-3 p.m. Milpitas Public Library, 160 N. Main St., Milpitas. Free. (510) 789 6182. www.indian-american.org.

December

6 Friday

Diet—A Balance of Six Tastes. Presented by Ashok Jethanandani, the workshop is part of a series on preventive health from an ayurvedic perspective. Understand the concept of a balanced diet in ayurveda. 6 p.m. India Community Center (ICC), 525 Los Coches St., Milpitas. Free. (408) 934-1130. www. indiacc.org/ayurveda.

December

7 Saturday

Bringing Bharath to the Bay. Indian cultural program, with skits, kid’s musical and food. Organized by Pastor Samuel. 4 98 | INDIA CURRENTS | November 2013

Bharatanatyam recital by (l to r): Shruthi Aravindan, Gauri Patil and Vivek Ramanan, November 24

p.m. Christ Church of India, 20801 San Ramon valley Blvd., San Ramon. www.CCISanramon.org.

Audition Call for Professional Actors/Dancers. ROARRR, a Bollywood

musical audition seeks 40 talented actors and dancers to join their company. Organized by Solskrit. 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Susan Dance Studio, 2146 Ringwood Ave, San Jose. talent@solskrit. com. bit.ly/17sEYz8

December

14 Saturday

Bringing Bharath to the Bay. Indian cultural program, with skits, kid’s musical and food. Organized by Pastor Samuel. 4 p.m. Christ Church of India, 460 S. Cypress Ave., San Jose. (408) 247-5673. www.Christindia.org.

© Copyright 2013 India Currents. All rights reserved. Reproduction for commercial use strictly prohibited. 

Share your health stories with India Currents readers! 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 Mona Shah at events@indiacurrents.com.


Parama Prema (A Celebration of Divine Love) A Benefit Concert for Nandalala Mission with the Blessings of

Pujyasree Mathioli Saraswathy

Founder, Nandalala Mission & Nandalala Seva Samithi Trust

Presented by

Sangeetha Vidushi Smt. Jayashree Varadarajan &

Sri Rama Lalitha Kala Mandir School of Fine Arts

November 23, 2013 4:00 pm – 7:00 pm

Spangenberg Auditorium

780 Arastradero Rd, Palo Alto, CA 94306

INDIA CURRENTS GRAPHIC (408) 324-0488

Tickets: $100, $30, $20 www.nandalala.com

408-498-1604

nandalalamission@gmail.com Proceeds will be directed towards Educational, Nutritional, Health, Cultural initiatives of Nandalala Mission in US and around the world.

ADVERTISE in the complete Indian American magazine

INDIA CURRENTS Celebrating 27 Years of Excellence

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SAMBODH SOCIETY www.sambodh.com

Swami Bodhananda Saraswati is highly respected in India and America as an accomplished teacher of Vedanta and Meditation. Swamiji has been characterized as a 'cutting edge' Swami, deeply imbued with the perennial philosophy of Vedanta and a living expression of its ideals. Come, experience his Vedic Wisdom!

Meditation I

Dates: Nov 5 - Nov 8, 2013, Tue-Fri Nov 11 - Nov 15, 2013, Mon-Fri Time: 7.00am -8.15am Venue: Sunnyvale Temple 450 Persian Dr., Sunnyvale, CA Donation: $150

(Discount if you sign up for both meditation sessions)

Brahma Sutras

Meditation II

Dates:Nov 18-22, 2013, Mon-Fri Nov 25-29, 2013, Mon-Fri Time:7.00am -8.15am Venue:Sri Maha Kaleshwar Mandir 2344-A Santa Clara Commerce Park Santa Clara, CA Donation: $150

(Discount if you sign up for both meditation sessions)

Bhashya of Sankaracharya Dates: Nov. 9, 2013, Sat Nov. 10, 2013, Sun Time: 9.00am -4pm Venue: TBD Donation: $100 for 2 days ($65 for one day)

Parenting & Children Behavior Vedantic Way Dates: Nov 23, 2013, Sat Time: 9:00 am - 4:00 pm Venue: TBD Donation: $50

About Swamiji:

Vedanta & Yoga Retreat

Dates: Nov 17, 2013, Sat Time: 9:00 am - 4:00 pm Venue: TBD Donation: $65

Bhagavad Gita

Dates: Nov 24, 2013 Sun, Nov 30, 2013 Sat, Dec 1, 2013, Sun Time: 9:00 am - 4:00 pm Venue: TBD Donation: $150 for 3 days ($65 for one day)

Free Satsang on all nights on Mundakopanishad Dates: Nov 4 - Dec 2, 2013 Time: 7:15 - 8:30 pm Venue: South bay and East bay Donation: FREE

Presently, Swami Bodhananda is the Spiritual Founder and Director of 11 organizations and ashrams under the umbrella of the Sambodh Foundation, New Delhi, India; the Bodhananda Research Foundation for Management and Leadership Studies, Trivandrum, Kerala, India; and The Sambodh Society, Inc., his American organization. Details at www.sambodh.com.

Four Meditations:

Basic: These meditations will cover body, mind, spirit and practices for their integration and realization of enlightenment. The meditations will help the practitioner to attain total health, peace of mind, better social skills and creative fulfillment.

and concentration or for those who completed Basic course above, this advanced session will focus on various levels of samadhi leading to nirbija and sahaja samadhis. Brahma Sutras: Introduction to Bhashya: The Brahma Sutras explain the philosophy and spirituality of Vedanta, the science of God and Unity of Existence. It is this introduction known as Adhyasa Bhasya that we will explore in these lectures. A rare opportunity for students of Advaita Vedanta. Satsang Series on Mundakopanishad (Free) (Conducted at various people's houses in the evenings) Description: By understanding the meaning of renunciation one comes to enjoy the experience of Self in the phenomenal world. In studying this Upanishad, under the guidance of Swami Bodhananda, find the meaning of renunciation and the essence of joy.

For Details Contact:

Geetha Swamy (650) 704-1720 • gswamy@gmail.com 100 | INDIA CURRENTS | November 2013

INDIA CURRENTS GRAPHICS (408) 324-0488

Advanced: For those who have been attending meditation sessions and have attained certain level of progress in posture, breathing


APPEAL TO THE DEVOTEES SRI LAKSHMI GANAPATHI TEMPLE (VVGC) 11355 MONTEREY HWY., SAN MARTIN, CA 95046

NEW SITE PROJECT (12.7 ACRES OF LAND)

OUR APPEAL TO THE BAY AREA COMMUNITY • PLEASE SUPPORT Dear Devotees, VVGC sincerely appreciates the continued support over the years. It has not only outgrown its capacity to accommodate the increasing number of devotees from many faiths, but has also been facing challenges such as inadequate parking. VVGC is in the process of acquiring a much larger plot of land, about 12.7 acres, at 11355 Monterey Road in San Martin, CA (About

18 miles from the present location). We are currently working with Santa Clara County to obtain the necessary permits, and will start offering regular services at the new site as soon as we get the use permit. We hope to move to the new location gradually within the next 9 months. The estimated cost of the land is about $1.5 million. VVGC has embarked on an ambitious fund raising campaign for the first

Please make the check payable to VVGC with a memo at the bottom to read "San Martin Site” Mail to: VVGC, 32 Rancho Drive, San Jose, CA 95111

YOUR CAN DONATE ONLINE FROM THE WWW.VVGC.ORG WEBSITE BY USING CREDIT/DEBIT CARD OR PAYPAL ACCOUNT BY CLICKING ON THE PAYPAL DONATE BUTTON

Your support is absolutely essential for this ambitious plan.

time, and requests the devotees to come forward to either make a donation, for which a receipt will be mailed OR make a pledge (loan) payable to VVGC. We will mail you the promissory note. All donations are tax deductible, to the extent allowed under the Law.

VVGC is committed to provide the excellent traditional services that the Hindu community in the Bay Area has enjoyed over the past few years. In addition we plan to conduct Yoga, Meditation, Music and Language classes as well as facilities such as an Auditorium and a Library. — Thanks, VVGC Please feel free to contact any of the volunteers listed below.

Subramaniam Y. Dixit (408) 628-9166 • RamKumar (503) 997-5368 Sarangapani (408) 332-9894 • Sriram (650) 438-5477 FOR FURTHER INFORMATION PLEASE VISIT WWW.VVGC.ORG

November 2013 | www.indiacurrents.com | 101


reflections

Our Recipes, Our Lives By Monica Bhide

T

his morning I was making a lentil soup for my family, almost exactly the way my grandmother, in India, taught me decades ago. Or so I first thought. Her recipe used six tablespoons of butter, onions, garlic, red lentils, about eight different spices, loads of cilantro and a touch of salt. I recall my mom making this, but with much less butter, baby peas for us kids and no salt as Dad was watching his sodium. As I smelled the aroma of garlic from the soup that I was stirring, it occurred to me that my soup today was in truth a reflection of my life here in the United States, far away from India: butternut squash, chicken stock instead of water and no cilantro as my hubby thinks it tastes soapy. The changes to the recipe had occurred so slowly, so gradually, that I never really noticed that I had changed it. It made me think about all the recipes I made and how, in fact, I had begun to change them to reflect our way of living. At first I have to admit I felt guilty, almost as if changing the recipe meant I was changing the memory of a childhood taste. Familiar childhood tastes give us a place to belong: they bear witness to our lives. Changing them seemed sacrilegious. When I told my mother this, she reminded me that she in fact cooked the same way. In fact, I remember, over thirty years ago, my mother had sat down and jotted some of her favorite recipes in a note book that I took with me to college. What l loved in it most was not the recipes but her notes along the margins: Reduce the chili. Add extra sugar for Monica. Reduce butter because the taste is too greasy. This could easily qualify as our family cookbook because in addition to recipes, it holds our memories. My mother lives oceans away but her cookbook is my constant companion in the kitchen providing warmth, support and comfort. In the margins now are my own notes of what my family likes. But it is not just recipes that get passed down and changed. Even the way

102 | INDIA CURRENTS | November 2013

food is cooked depends on so many cultural traditions, and can change as we grow. As each successive generation learns what and how to cook, they often just accept that what they’ve learned go hand in hand. But then, without even realizing, they do something different. It’s funny how culture shows up where you least expect it. I remember learning to cook without tasting my food. You see when I learned to cook from my grandmother, she taught me never to taste the food during cooking. Why? Because in our household, the first serving of food was always intended for the Divine. To taste the food when you cooked it would make it impure. So I learned how to cook by watching the potatoes brown until just tender in heated oil, singing a song, just long enough, to perfectly boil eggs, listening to the spices sizzle in hot oil and to the herbs impart their aroma in dishes when added at just the right time. And now I teach my son to cook the same way—I am always making him smell, touch, listen to food to learn how to cook it perfectly. But he breaks with “my” tradition: he does love to taste! When I was growing up, one of my best comfort foods was watching my father prepare his pièce de résistance—his Indian-style scrambled eggs. He would simmer some oil, throw in onions, tomatoes, green chilies and cilantro. Chat with me until the tomatoes softened, then add the eggs and scramble them. The final addition would be turmeric and cayenne. The sweet smell of the onions, the lemony scent of cilantro, I associate them all with my father’s love. Not only did I love the recipe, I loved breaking the eggs for him, feeling all grown up when he would let me pluck fresh cilantro from the herb pots, and chatting with him as he cooked. I introduced this dish to my husband and then to my sons.

Monica cooking with her son

On a recent visit to India, it warmed my heart to have to wait in line for my father’s scrambled eggs behind my boys. As I waited patiently, I heard my husband explain to my dad how much he loved the dish. And then he went onto explain our family rendition of the scrambled eggs—using Indian cheese instead of eggs, mint instead of cilantro and jalapeno instead of green chilies. Changing a recipe, it turns out, doesn’t make it less of an heirloom—in fact, it only makes it more our own.n Monica Bhide is a food writer and cookbook author. Her work has appeared in Food and Wine, Bon Appetit, Eating Well, The Washington Post, and many other national and international publications. You can find her at: www.monicabhide.com.


November 2013 | www.indiacurrents.com | 103


SPIRITUALITY & HEALTH

November

1 Friday

Naraka Chaturdasi. Organized by Na-

rayanananda Puri Swamiji. 6:30 p.m. Balaji Temple, 5004 N. First St., San Jose. (408) 2031036, (408) 956-9050. balajitemple1@gmail. com, info@balajitemple.net. www.balajitemple. net, www.balajimatha.org.

November

2 Saturday

Naraga Chathurdasi Snanam (Ganga Snanam) Deepawali Festival. Sri Sri

Venkateswara Suprabhatam continued with Sri Nava Graha Homa. Sri Maha Laxmi aarti and Sri jai Jagadhesha hare aarti for Balaji Ekantha Seva. 7 a.m. Sri Lakshmi Ganapathi Temple, 32B Rancho Drive, San Jose. (408) 226-3600. www.vvgc.org., www.siliconvalleyhindutemple.com.

Sri Sunderakhanda Ramayana of Gowswami Tulsidas. Group singing

of Sunderakhanda Ramayana, followed by aarati and mahaprasad. 2:30-5:30 p.m. Badarikashrama, 15602 Maubert Ave., San Leandro. Free. (510) 278-2444. badarik@pacbell.net. www.badarikashrama.org.

Diwali Kubera and Mahalakshmi Abhishekam. Organized by Narayanananda

Puri Swamiji. 6 p.m. Balaji Temple, 5004 N. First St., San Jose. (408) 203-1036, (408) 956-9050. balajitemple1@gmail.com, info@ balajitemple.net. www.balajitemple.net, www. balajimatha.org.

November

3 Sunday

The Art of Balanced Living. Sunday

Service. Organized by Self-Realization Fellowship. 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. www. yogananda-srf.org. Contact temples for times.

Kedara Gowri Vratha Sri Lashmi Gubera Pooja. Sri Venkateswara Suprab-

hatam continued with Sri Lashmi Ganapathi Abisheka. Followed by aarti and Sri jai jagadhes aarti for Balaji Ekantha Seva. 6 a.m. Sri Lakshmi Ganapathi Temple, 32B Rancho Drive, San Jose. (408) 226-3600. www.vvgc.org, www.siliconvalleyhindutemple.

104 | INDIA CURRENTS | November 2013

Discourses on Dakshinamurti Stotram, December 4-13

com.

“The Heart and Soul of Integral Yoga” a lecture by Brant Cortright.

11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Cultural Integration Fellowship, 2650 Fulton St., (at 3rd Ave.) San Francisco. (415) 668-1559. culturalfellowship@sbcglobal.net. www.https://culturalintegrationfellowship.org.

Diwali Celebrations and Chopda Poojan (Lakshmi Poojan). Organized

by Bay Area Youth Vaishnav Parivar. 11:30 a.m. Shreemaya Krishnadham, 25 Corning Ave., Milpitas. Free. (408) 536-0006. bayvpfrontdesk@gmail.com. www.bayvp.org.

Diwali Celebration. Puja, satsang, mu-

sic, sweets, and lights. Organized by Swami Sitaramananda. 6 a.m. Sivananda Ashram Yoga Farm, 14651 Ballantree Lane, Grass Valley. $35 Full day (2 meals/2 classes). (530) 272-9322. yogafarm@sivananda.org. www. yogafarm.org, www.facebook.com/yogafarmcommunity.

Deepavali Celebration. Mahalakshmi

Homa followed by music by vocalist Anupama Chandratrey with Shripad Torve (tabla) and Anand Karve (harmonium). Followed by children’s program, meaning of Deepavali, and lighting of jotis for the altar. 2-7 p.m. Badarikashrama, 15602 Maubert Ave., San Leandro. Free. (510) 278-2444.

badarik@pacbell.net. www.badarikashrama.org.

Deepavali Celebration. Bharatanatyam

performance by Indumathy Ganesh and students. Shiva Murugan Temple, 1803 Second St., Concord. (925) 827-0127. www.temple.org.

November

4 Monday

Self Desire Course. With Guru Suder-

shan. Learn to control your anger, lethargy, improve learning skills and root out the cause of worry and stress. Ends Nov. 10. Organized by Sri Sri Gyan Vikas Kendra. 5-7 a.m. Mayuri Resturant, 2230 El Camino Real, Santa Clara. Free. (510) 940-3639, (510) 579-5863.

Diwali Celebration. Mangla aarti fol-

lowed by meet and greet. Organized by BAYVP. 7 a.m. Shreemaya Krishnadham, 25 Corning Ave., Milpitas. (408) 586-0006.

Nutan Varshabhinandan and Mangala Aarti. Begin your New Year with the blessings of Lord Shrinathji. Mangala aarti will be performed followed by a gathering to wish friends and family “Nutan Varshabhinandan.” Light snacks will be provided. Organized by Bay Area Youth Vaishnav Parivar. 7-9 a.m. Shreemaya Krishnadham, 25 Corning Ave., Milpitas. Free. (408) 586-0006. bayvp


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frontdesk@gmail.com. www.bayvp.org.

Chitragupta Pooja. Pundit Gajanana

Joshi will perform the Pooja. 6:30 p.m. Santan Dharma Kendra, 193 Commercial St., Sunnyvale. (510) 793-2801, (408) 410-8646.

November

6 Wednesday

Naga Chaturdhi. Organized by Naraya-

nananda Puri Swamiji. 7 p.m. Balaji Temple, 5004 N. First St., San Jose. (408) 203-1036, (408) 956-9050. balajitemple1@gmail.com, info@balajitemple.net. www.balajitemple.net, www.balajimatha.org.

November

8 Friday

Skanda Shashti Subramanya Pooja. 6 p.m. Balaji Temple, 5004 N. First St., San Jose. (408) 203-1036, (408) 956-9050. balajitemple1@gmail.com, info@balajitemple.net. www. balajitemple.net, www.balajimatha.org. Subramanya Abhishekam. Organized

by Narayanananda Puri Swamiji. 7 p.m. Balaji Temple, 5004 N. First St., San Jose. (408) 203-1036, (408) 956-9050. balajitemple1@ gmail.com, info@balajitemple.net. www.balajitemple.net, www.balajimatha.org.

November

9 Saturday

Mahaskandasashti Celebration. Thriupuhal songs by Latha Sriram. Shiva Murugan Temple, 1803 Second St., Concord. (925) 827-0127. www.temple.org.

November

10 Sunday

Gaining the Wealth of Inner Hapiness. Sunday Service. Organized by Self-

Realization Fellowship. 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. www.yogananda-srf.org. Contact temples for times.

Diwali Celebration and Lecture. “An Address for the Divine in the Indian Tradition” by Shyam Kotagal. Indian mystics, who were very often poets and accomplished musicians, situated their chosen deity in a geographical location even while recognizing the divine principle as ‘aprameya’ (one without limits / boundaries i.e. all pervading). Kotagal will present musical 106 | INDIA CURRENTS | November 2013

compositions from different parts of India exploring the significance of this dichotomy. 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Cultural Integration Fellowship, 2650 Fulton St., (at 3rd Ave.) San Francisco. (415) 668-1559. culturalfellowship@sbcglobal.net. www.https://culturalintegrationfellowship.org.

Sri Rama Nama Sankirtana. Organized by Narayanananda Puri Swamiji. 10 a.m. Balaji Temple, 5004 N. First St., San Jose. (408) 203-1036, (408) 956-9050. balajitemple1@gmail.com, info@balajitemple.net. www. balajitemple.net, www.balajimatha.org. Sri Ramanama Kirtan and Meditation. Group singing followed by article and mahaprasad. 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Badarikashrama, 15602 Maubert Ave., San Leandro . Free. (510) 278-2444. badarik@pacbell.net. www. badarikashrama.org.

Diwali Celebration with Goverdhan Pooja and Annakut. Offerings before

Lord Shrinathji during the Annakut celebrations with beautiful decorations and melodious kirtans. Govardhan pooja will be performed in the afternoon with aarti. Organized by Bay Area Youth Vaishnav Parivar. 1 p.m. Shreemaya Krishnadham, 25 Corning Ave., Milpitas. Free. (408) 586-0006. bayvpfrontdesk@gmail.com. www.bayvp.org.

November

11 Monday

Self Desire Course. With Guru Sudershan. Learn to control your anger, lethargy, improve learning skills and root out the cause of worry and stress. Ends Nov. 17. Organized by Sri Sri Gyan Vikas Kendra. 5-7 a.m. Chandni Resturant, Balentine Plaza, 5748 Mowry School Road., Newark. Free. (510) 940-3639, (510) 579-5863.

November

13 Wednesday

Ekadasi Vishnu Shasranama Stotram. Organized by Narayanananda Puri Swamiji. 7 p.m. Balaji Temple, 5004 N. First St., San Jose. (408) 203-1036, (408) 956-9050. balajitemple1@gmail.com, info@balajitemple.net. www.balajitemple.net, www.balajimatha.org.

November

14 Thursday

Annual Guru Vandana Kalasha and Mantra Pooja. Organized by Naraya-

nananda Puri Swamiji. 6 p.m. Balaji Temple, 5004 N. First St., San Jose. (408) 203-1036, (408) 956-9050. balajitemple1@gmail.com,

info@balajitemple.net. www.balajitemple.net, www.balajimatha.org.

November

15 Friday

Ramana Darshanam. Silent meditation, reading and commentary by Nome on passages from Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi. 8-9:30 p.m. Society of Abidance in Truth (SAT), 1834 Ocean St., Santa Cruz . Free. (831) 425-7287. sat@cruzio.com. www. satramana.org. Kalasha and Navagraha Pooja, Mahalakshmi Abhishekam. Organized by

Narayanananda Puri Swamiji. 6:30 p.m. Balaji Temple, 5004 N. First St., San Jose. (408) 203-1036, (408) 956-9050. balajitemple1@ gmail.com, info@balajitemple.net. www.balajitemple.net, www.balajimatha.org.

Ramana Darshanam. Silient meditation, reading and commentary by Nome on passages from Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi. 8-9:30 p.m. Society of Abidance in Truth (SAT), 1834 Ocean St., Santa Cruz . Free. (831) 425-7287. sat@cruzio.com. www. satramana.org.

November

16 Saturday

Karthika Poornima Sri Satyanarayana Pooja and Balaji Abhishekam.

Organized by Narayanananda Puri Swamiji. 10 a.m. Balaji Temple, 5004 N. First St., San Jose. (408) 203-1036, (408) 956-9050. balajitemple1@gmail.com, info@balajitemple.net. www.balajitemple.net, www.balajimatha.org.

Tulsi Vivah. With Pandits Pranesh Sharma, and Rishendra Sharma. Vegetarian dinner will be served. 6:30 p.m. Shree Ram Mandir, 3401 Claus Road., Modesto. Free. (209) 551-9820, (209) 380-2525, (209) 872-9760. mandir@modestotemple.org, girish116@yahoo.com. www.modestotemple.org.

November

17 Sunday

Lecture by Shunya Pratichi Mathur.

Entitled “Introduction to Ayurvedic Fundamentals.” 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Cultural Integration Fellowship, 2650 Fulton St., (at 3rd Ave.) San Francisco. (415) 668-1559. culturalfellowship@sbcglobal.net. www.culturalintegrationfellowship.org.

Sri Satyanarayana Swami Puja and Katha. Followed by aarati and mahap-

rasad. 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Badarikashrama, 15602 Maubert Ave., San Leandro. Free.


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(510) 278-2444. badarik@pacbell.net. www. badarikashrama.org.

Shanti, Kritika Subramanya Swami Abhishekam. Organized by Narayananan-

da Puri Swamiji. 6 p.m. Balaji Temple, 5004 N. First St., San Jose. (408) 203-1036, (408) 956-9050. balajitemple1@gmail.com, info@ balajitemple.net. www.balajitemple.net, www. balajimatha.org.

Karthigai Deepam Celebration.

Bharatanatyam performance by Vishal Ramani, Artistic Director of Shri Krupa Dance Company and students. Shiva Murugan Temple, 1803 Second St., Concord. (925) 8270127. www.temple.org.

November

18 Monday

Satsang with Mata Amritanandamayi. Morning and evening sessions.

Ends Nov. 20. 10 a.m. M.A. Center, 10200 Crow Canyon Road., Castro Valley. Free. (510) 537-9417. www.amma.org.

November

20 Wednesday

Truth Revealed Retreat. Focuses on self-knowledge taught by Sri Ramana Maharshi with commentary. Attendees participate in silent meditation. Ends Nov. 24. 9 a.m. Society of Abidance in Truth (SAT), 1834 Ocean St., Santa Cruz. Registration required. (831) 425-7287. sat@cruzio.com. www.satramana.org/html/the_truth_revealed_retreat. htm. Sankata Hara Chatruthi. Organized by Narayanananda Puri Swamiji. 7 p.m. Balaji Temple, 5004 N. First St., San Jose. (408) 2031036, (408) 956-9050. balajitemple1@gmail. com, info@balajitemple.net. www.balajitemple. net, www.balajimatha.org.

November

21 Thursday

Retreat with Mata Amritanandamayi. Ends Nov. 23. M.A. Center, 10200 Crow Canyon Road., Castro Valley. Pr-registration required. (510) 537-9417.

November

23 Saturday

Hanuman Abhishekam, Sundar Khanda and Sri Hanuman Chalisa.

With pot luck prasadam. 5:30 p.m. Balaji Temple, 5004 N. First St., San Jose. (408) 2031036, (408) 956-9050. balajitemple1@gmail. com, info@balajitemple.net. www.balajitemple. net, www.balajimatha.org.

108 | INDIA CURRENTS | November 2013

Devi Bhava with Mata Amritanandamayi. 7 p.m. M.A. Center, 10200 Crow

Canyon Road., Castro Valley. Free. (510) 5379417. www.amma.org.

November

24 Sunday

Lecture by Nushin Mavaddat. “Devotion and Service in a Secular Society—A Baha’i Perspective.” 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Cultural Integration Fellowship, 2650 Fulton St., (at 3rd Ave.) San Francisco. (415) 668-1559. culturalfellowship@sbcglobal.net. www.culturalintegrationfellowship.org. Sri Bhagavad Gita Discussion. Readings from the Sri Bhagavad Gita with commentary and group discussion followed by aarati and mahaprasad. 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Badarikashrama, 15602 Maubert Ave., San Leandro. Free. (510) 278-2444. badarik@pacbell.net. www.badarikashrama.org. Vasavi Devi Abhishekam, Pooja, Bhajans and Pot Luck Prasadam. Or-

ganized by Narayanananda Puri Swamiji. 4 p.m. Balaji Temple, 5004 N. First St., San Jose. (408) 203-1036, (408) 956-9050. balajitemple1@gmail.com, info@balajitemple.net. www. balajitemple.net, www.balajimatha.org.

Karthigai Deepam Celebration.

Bharatanatyam performance by Vishal Ramani, Artistic Director of Shri Krupa Dance Company and students. Shiva Murugan Temple, 1803 Second St., Concord. (925) 8270127. www.temple.org.

November

28 Thursday

Ekadasi Vishnu Nama Stotram and Sri Sai Baba Aarti. Organized by Naray-

anananda Puri Swamiji. 7 p.m. Balaji Temple, 5004 N. First St., San Jose. (408) 203-1036, (408) 956-9050. balajitemple1@gmail.com, info@balajitemple.net. www.balajitemple.net, www.balajimatha.org.

November

30 Saturday

Maha Pradosham Navagraha Abhishekam. Organized by Narayanananda

Puri Swamiji. 11 a.m. Balaji Temple, 5004 N. First St., San Jose. (408) 203-1036, (408) 956-9050. balajitemple1@gmail.com, info@ balajitemple.net. www.balajitemple.net, www. balajimatha.org.

December

1 Sunday

Sri Ramanama San Kirtana and Meditation. Group singing of verses de-

picting the story of the Sri Ramayana of Sri Gowswami Tulsidas. Followed by aarati and mahaprasad. 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Badarikashrama, 15602 Maubert Ave., San Leandro. Free. (510) 278-2444. badarik@pacbell.net. www. badarikashrama.org.

Sri Rama Nama Sankirtana. Organized by Narayanananda Puri Swamiji. 7 p.m. Balaji Temple, 5004 N. First St., San Jose. (408) 203-1036, (408) 956-9050. balajitemple1@gmail.com, info@balajitemple.net. www.balajitemple.net, www.balajimatha.org.

December

4 Wednesday

Discourses on Dakshinamurti Stotram by Swami Tattvavidananda.

Praise of Sri Daksinamürti who is Isvara in the form of a teacher. In 10 verses, this encomium holds the key to the mystery of the creation of Isvara. Ends Dec. 13. Organized by Arsha Vidya Center. 7-8:30 p.m. Jain Bhavan Auditorium, 722 South Main St., Milpitas. Free. vijaykapoor@gmail.com. www. arshavidyacenter.org.

December

7 Saturday

Shukla Shashti Subramanya Abhishekam. Organized by Narayanananda

Puri Swamiji. 3 p.m. Balaji Temple, 5004 N. First St., San Jose. (408) 203-1036, (408) 956-9050. balajitemple1@gmail.com, info@ balajitemple.net. www.balajitemple.net, www. balajimatha.org.

December

8 Sunday

Sri Samuhika, Sri Satyanarayana Swami Puja and Katha. Group par-

ticipation, sponsors receive kolasha and puja samagree and will sit for the worship. Begins with bhajans by Rita Sahai and students. 10:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Badarikashrama, 15602 Maubert Ave., San Leandro. Free. (510) 278-2444. badarik@pacbell.net. www. badarikashrama.org.

Ekadasi Vishnu Sahasranama Stotram. Organized by Narayanananda Puri

Swamiji. 7 p.m. Balaji Temple, 5004 N. First St., San Jose. (408) 203-1036, (408) 956-9050. balajitemple1@gmail.com, info@ balajitemple.net. www.balajitemple.net, www. balajimatha.org. © Copyright 2013 India Currents. All rights reserved. Reproduction for commercial use strictly prohibited. 


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)

www.vvgc.org or siliconvalleyhindutemple.com

Saturday, November 2, 2013 Narga Chathrudasi Snanam (Ganga Snanam) Deepawali Festival Temple opens at 7.00 am Sri Venkateswara Suprabhatam continued with Sri Nav Agraha Homa Sri Saneeswara Graha Homa continued with Sri Nava Graha Abhisheka Sri Saneeswara Graha Abhisheka Sri Venkateswara Abhisheka Sri Vishnu Sahasra Nama Chanting Aarati and Manthra Pushpa continuous Archan to Sri Bhuwaneswari At 10.00 pm Sri Maha Lakshmi Aarati and Sri Jai Jagadhesha Hare Aarati and for Balaji Ekantha Seva and the temple closes Sunday, November 3, 2013 Kedara Gowri Vratha Sri Lakshmi Gubera Pooja Temple opens 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 Sri Skandh Shasti Kavasam chanting continued with Sri Lakshmi Gubera Pooja Kedara Gowri Pooja Aarati and Manthra Pushpa continuous Archana, Gujarati New Year All Day Archan To Sri Bhuwaneswari At 9.30 pm Sri Maha Lashmi Aarati Andand Jai Jagadhesha Hare Aarati and Sukha Kartha Dukha Harta Aarati for Balaji Ekantha Seva and The Temple Closes Skandha Sashti Begins At 8.00 pm Sri Valli Deva Sena Sametha Sri Subramanya Sahasra Nama Archana starts from November 3, Sunday Night at 8.00 pm To 8.30 pm to Thursday, November 7, 8.00 pm to 8.30 pm Friday, November 8, 2013 At 4.00 pm Sri Bhuwaneswari/Sri Lalitha Devi Abhisheka continued with Sri Lalitha Sahasra Nama Chanting Aarati and Manthra Pushpa At 6.00 pm Skandha Sashti (Sri Soora Samharam) Kavadi Festival and Sri Valli Deva Sena Sametha Sri Subramanya Abhisheka Aarati and Manthra Pushpa. All are welcome to participate with family. Friday, November 15, 2013

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 Sunday, November 17, 2013 - Pournami Vratham At 2.00 pm Sri Sathya Narayana Swamy Pooja/Vratha. All are welcome to participate with family. At 4.00 pm Sri Lakshmi Ganapathi Abhisheka/Sri Shvia Abhisheka, Sri Valli Deva Sena Sametha Sri Subramanya Abhisheka Annamalai Deepam Karthikai Depam Bharani Deepam, Vaikanasa Pancharathra Deepam, Sarvalaya Deepam, continued with Sri Ayyappa Mandala Pooja begins starting date from Sunday, November 17, 2013 To Tuesday, January 2014. Makara Jyothi Pooja and Mandala Pooja ends (Daily Pooja will we done along with the Nithya Pooja) Thursday, November 21, 2013 - Sri Sankata Hara Chathurthi At 5.00 pm Sri Lakhsmi Ganapathi Homa/Sri Lakshmi Ganapathi Abhisheka Aarati and Manthra Pushpa Monday, November 25, 2013 - Sri Kala Bhairava Ashtami Sri Maha Deva Ashtami Thursday, November 28, 2013 - Thanks Giving Day Week End Timings Friday, November 29, 2013 - Day After Thanksgiving Day Week End Timings At 4.00 pm Sri Bhuwaneswari/Sri Lalihta Devi Abhisheka continued with Sri Lalitha Shasra Nama chanting Aarati and Manthra Pushpa Saturday, November 30, 2013 - Sani Pradosham At 4.00 pm Sri Venkateswara Abhisheka Pradosham Shiva Sri Rudra Abhisheka continued with Sri Vishnu Sahasra Nama Chanting Aarati And Manthra Pushpa For Akshrabhyasam please bring the following items Turmeric, Kum Kum, Beetel Leafs 4 Nos, Beetel Nuts 2 Nos, Sandal Powder, Agarbathi, Camphor, Coconut 1 No, Bananas 6 Nos, Varieities Of Fruits, Flowers, Rice 1 Pkt, Coins 15 Nos, Slate, Pencil, Writing Materials, New Vasthra (dress) for the baby. For Naivedya any wweet prasada of your choice)

Please Make A Note:: Temple Address:: 32 Rancho Drive, San Jose CA 95111 Temple Timings: Week Days Morning 10.00 Am To 12 Noon, Evening At 6.00 pm To 8.00 pm - Week Ends And Holidays 10.00 am To 8.00 pm FOR BHAJAN'S RELIGIOUS DISCOURSES, MUSIC AND DANCE PERFORMANCES, PRIVATE POOJAS PLEASE CONTACT TEMPLE FOR FURTHER DETAILS MANGALANI BHAVANTHU,SUBHAM BHUYATH,LOKA SAMASTHA SUKINO BHAVANTHU, LOVE ALL SERVE ALL LOVE IS ALL

For Pujas & Rituals Contact: PANDIT

880 East Fremont Ave #302, Cupertino Villas, Sunnyvale, CA 94087 — Home: (408)

GANESH SHASTHRY 245-5443 / Cell: (925) 209-7637 E-mail: srikalahatheeswara@yahoo.com November 2013 | www.indiacurrents.com | 109

INDIA CURRENTS GRAPHICS (408) 324-0488

Friday, November 1, 2013 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


healthy life

How’s Your Agni? Why and how to maintain a robust digestive ability By Ashok Jethanandani

T

he earliest preceptors of Ayurveda gave utmost importance to agni, the agent of all digestion and metabolism in the body. As long as agni is in balance one lives a long healthy life. Conversely, its disturbance results in disease. Finally, when agni is extinguished one dies. Thus, agni is the very basis of life, according to Charaka Samhita, an early text on Ayurveda. Clearly, any plan for preventive health must include ways to keep agni in balance. What is agni? Agni means fire, but in the body it is not a fire burning with a flame. Rather, agni represents all the physiological entities that cause digestion and metabolism, and produce heat. The venerable sage Punarvasu Atreya, whose teachings are documented in Charaka Samhita, calls agni the basis of life and consciousness. The main digestive agni stokes other dependent agnis, and collectively they are the agents of metabolism in the body. Nourishment of the body starts with the food we eat. But only when that food is properly digested can it help build bodily tissues, and therein lies the role of agni. A balanced agni properly digests ingested food, which is transformed serially into seven dhatus that replenish and grow the tissues of the body. This builds strength and fortitude. The essence of these seven dhatus is ojas, a refined product that boosts immunity. The biological transformations mediated by agni produce heat, which maintains the body temperature, and gives luster to the skin. Agni cannot be examined directly, but its status can be inferred from its ability to digest food. How does agni go out of balance? Improper eating habits can disturb agni. For example, fasting or overeating can upset digestion. Combining foods that are incompatible, irregularity of meals, eating before the previous meal is digested, or drinking too much water after a meal may also disturb the digestive 110 | INDIA CURRENTS | November 2013

a;y;uv;*[;;*e b;l' sv;;sqy;m;uts;;h;ep;c;y;;E p;>B;; = a;ej;st;ej;;eCgíy;/ p;>;[;;æ;e÷; deh;igíhet;uk:;/ == Charaka Samhita (Chikitsasthana, 15:3) Life, skin complexion, strength, health, fortitude, growth, luster, ojas, tejas, the secondary agnis, and prana are all said to be the result of dehagni, the primary agni.

process. Foods that are too heavy, too cold, or too dry are hard to digest. Spoiled food also upsets digestion. Habitual suppression of normal bodily urges like hunger, thirst, defecation, and urination can also disrupt agni. While recuperating from an illness one should be aware that our digestive ability may be impaired. Untimely seasonal varia-

tions can also impair agni. Inversion of sleeping habits (staying awake at night or taking daytime naps) upsets the normal rhythm of hunger. If we eat while we are overcome by emotions like fear, anger, jealousy, greed, or grief the food may not be properly digested. That’s a long list of causes, but don’t feel overwhelmed by it. With a little bit of aware-


ness and good habits you can keep your agni in good condition. Here are a couple of tips: •Avoid snacking for two hours before or after a meal. Don’t drink water or other liquids for one hour before or after a meal. •If you don’t feel hungry, skip a meal, or wait for your appetite to build before you eat.

•Feeling of lightness of body •Feeling energetic •Proper elimination of stool and urine •Return of hunger and thirst If you observe the opposite of these symptoms, your digestion may have become sluggish. Be vigilant and take corrective steps.

Ginger Remedies

Remedies for indigestion

The rhizome of the ginger plant (Zingiber officinale) has excellent appetizing and digestive properties. It has a pungent taste and heating effect on the body. The fresh rhizome or its dry powder are both used, and have somewhat different properties. Here are some remedies excerpted from Chakradatta and Bhavaprakasha in which ginger is used to stimulate agni. •Grate or slice a teaspoon of fresh ginger. Sprinkle a pinch of rock salt, and chew on it 15 minutes before a meal. This cleanses the tongue and throat and improves appetite. •Pour boiling water over a half teaspoon of dry ginger powder in a cup. Let it steep for 5 minutes. The powder will settle at the bottom. Drink this infusion first thing in the morning to stimulate appetite. •For indigestion take two cups of water in a pan and add two teaspoons each of coarse powders of dry ginger and coriander. Bring to a boil and then simmer uncovered for 20 minutes or till one-quarter of the water remains. Filter and drink this decoction. Soon you will feel the natural rhythm of agni returning.

Tune in to yourself

In the modern age we are often out of touch with ourselves. We get so preoccupied with work, family, entertainment, or the latest electronic gadgets that we don’t pause to observe what’s happening within. Am I feeling hungry? Do I feel satiated after a meal? Or drowsy? A couple of hours later, do I still feel a sense of heaviness? Are there any unusual burps? Hmm. Make a mental note of what you feel. You may have been unaware of occasional bouts of indigestion, or tend to ignore them. By shifting your awareness inward you will begin to observe clues of your digestive function. How do you know whether your previous meal is digested? Simple. Look for these symptoms of proper digestion excerpted here from the 16th-century handbook Bhavaprakasha: •Burps that have no taste or smell of undigested food

Here are some simple remedies: •If there is a feeling of heaviness, loss of appetite, or burps with a taste of previously eaten food, the best remedy is fasting. Skip a meal or wait until you feel hungry. Then partake of light meals until normal appetite is restored. •If you get sour burps a couple of hours after a meal, it indicates a type of indigestion caused by excessive pitta called vidagdhajirna. The best remedy then is to drink a glass of water. The water calms pitta and helps the food move down the digestive tract. •If you feel a burning sensation in your throat, chest, or abdomen after a meal, it may be relieved by licking a paste made by grinding five black raisins, one teaspoon of haritaki powder, and one teaspoon of raw cane sugar with one teaspoon of raw honey. Organic haritaki powder is available on Amazon. •If there is colic pain accompanied by sluggish elimination of feces, urine, and gas, it is due to obstruction of the normal downward movement of vata. This type of indigestion is called vishtabdhajirna. Here the best remedy is hot fomentation. You can do that by keeping a hot water bag on your abdomen. If indigestion becomes chronic, a vicious cycle develops wherein the impaired agni causes indigestion, then the partially digested food produces ama, a morbid substance that further depresses agni. Then these remedies may not suffice to break the vicious cycle. See your doctor for a treatment regimen. According to Ayurveda, most diseases are caused by a slowdown of agni’s function. Thus, by preserving the vitality of agni we can prevent most illnesses.n

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Ashok Jethanandani, B.A.M.S. and Silvia Müller, B.A.M.S. were classmates at the Gujarat Ayurved University, Jamnagar. Jethanandani now practices ayurveda in San Jose. The concepts presented here are based on the classical texts of ayurveda. Illustrations are original works by Silvia Müller. www.classical-ayurveda.com.

November 2013 | www.indiacurrents.com | 111


112 | INDIA CURRENTS | November 2013


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ONGOING SPIRITUAL EVENTS Daily Laughter Yoga Club. Simple effective

yogic 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) 4901260. mkm.blr@gmail.com.

Vishnusahasranama. Daily, 12 p.m. Balaji Temple, 678 Cypress Ave., Suunyvale. (408) 203-1036. Balajitemple1@gmail.com. www. balajitemple.net.

Aarti. Daily, 8:30 p.m. Balaji Temple, 678

Cypress Ave., Suunyvale. (408) 203-1036. Balajitemple1@gmail.com. www.balajitemple.net.

Patanjali Yoga Sutras: Satsang. Parama-

layam.org. info@yogalayam.org.

Sunday Worship Services. 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. Center for Spiritual Enlightenment, 1146 University Ave., San Jose. Sundays, 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. (408) 283-0221, x30. www.CSEcenter.org. 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@ gmail.com. www.premarpan.com.

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. Every Sunday, 10-11:30 a.m. 1834 Ocean St., Santa Cruz. Free. (831) 425-7287. www.satramana. org.

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. SATRamana.org. 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@ yahoo.co.in.

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. info.vedictemple@gmail.com. www.vedictemplebayarea.org.

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

Community Gatherings include a short

Sunday

Sunday Service Sikh Temple, 2301 Ever-

alization Fellowship. SRF, 303 E. Main St, Los Gatos. Sundays, 11 a.m. (408) 252-5299.

Simplified Kundalini Yoga (SKY),

Abhishekam and Alankaram and Special Pujas to magnificent deities, accom-

green Ave, West Sacramento. Sundays, 10 a.m. (916) 371-9787.

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. sky.bayarea@yahoo.com. www. skybayarea.org.

1930 S Grant St, Stockton. Sundays, 10 a.m. (209) 946-9039.

Guru Gita Chant Siddha Yoga Medita-

Free. Open to all. (650) 218-4223. braroo@ gmail.com.

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

Purification and Meditation Ananda Sangha, 2171 El Camino Real, Palo Alto. Sundays, 9 a.m.-9:45 a.m. (650) 323-3363. www.anandapaloalto.org.

Meditation and chanting. Yogalayam,

1717 Alcatraz Ave., Berkeley. Sundays, 9-10:30 a.m. (510) 655-3664. www.yoga114 | INDIA CURRENTS | November 2013

Sri Akhand Path Sahib Sikh Temple,

Sri Aurobindo Meditation and Study Group. Sundays, 11 a.m.-Noon. In Danville.

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) 517-0975, (408) 262-6042. www.jcnc. org. Satsang, silent meditation, discourse by

Sunday Services Self Realization Fellowship, Sacramento Center, 4513 North Ave, Sacramento. Sundays, 11 a.m. (916) 483-9614. talk with discussion, kirtan, puja, meditation, and treats. San Francisco Integral Yoga Institute, 770 Dolores St., San Francisco. Sundays, 11 a.m.-1 p.m. (415) 821-1117. www. integralyogasf.org.

Ramanama meditation and kirtan.

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

Sunday Service Organized by Self Re-

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. www.sfvedanta.org.

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.


health

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.

Festival and Feast an evening of bhajans, Bhagavad Gita classes, aarti, kirtan, and prasad. Radha Krishna Temple, 2990 Union Ave, San Jose. Sundays, 5:30 p.m. (408) 5593197. Satsang. Kirtan, lecture, prasad distribu-

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

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

Satsang. Prayer, chanting meditation, lec-

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

Women’s Sufi Gathering Discussion of Sufi principles, poetry, literature and meditation. Organized by International Association of Sufism. Berkeley venue to be announced. Sundays, 7 p.m. Free. (510) 849-5309.

Let us brighten your smile! • • • • •

Devotional Meetings Programs includ-

ing 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) 738-1201. dk.taylor@sbcglobal.net

Sri Ram Amrith Vani and bhajans. Sundays, 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. followed by Preeti Bhoj. Sunnyvale Hindu temple, 420-450 Persian Dr., Sunnyvale. (408) 734-4554, (408) 734-0775. www.sunnyvaletemple.org.

Bhajan, Kirtan, Sathsang or Puja.

Sundays, Balaji Temple, 678 Cypress Ave., Suunyvale. (408) 203-1036. Balajitemple1@ gmail.com. www.balajitemple.net.

Monday Bhagavad Gita—The Song of God

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

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gralyogasf.org.

Sri Rudrabhishekam Mondays, 6:30-8

p.m. Sunnyvale Hindu temple, 420-450 Persian Dr., Sunnyvale. (408) 734-4554, (408) 734-0775. www.sunnyvaletemple.org.

Shree Maa and Swami Satyananda Saraswati lead Sanskrit chanting, commentary and discussion of scriptures including Lalitha Trishati, Bhagavad Gita, Sundarakand, Chandi Path. Devi Mandir, 6:30 p.m. Live web broadcasts at www.shreemaa.org/ broadcasts (707) 966-2802.

Shiv Puja. 6 p.m. Bhajans with music, discourse, and arati. Vegetarian food served. Free. Shree Ram Mandir, 3401 Claus Rd., Modesto, CA 95355. mandir@modestotemple.org. (209) 551-9820. Rudrabhi Sheka. Mondays, 7-8:30 p.m. Balaji Temple, 678 Cypress Ave., Suunyvale. (408) 203-1036. Balajitemple1@gmail.com. www.balajitemple.net.

Tuesday Discourses on Sri Rudram. By Vijay

Kapoor. Half hour of chanting followed by explanation of meaning, based on books by

116 | INDIA CURRENTS | November 2013

Swami Dayananda Saraswati and Swami Maheshananda of Dakshinamoorti Math. 7:30- 9 p.m. Jain Bhawan, 722 S. Main Street Milpitas. Free. arshavidyacenter.org, vijaykapoor@gmail.com.

Shri Appaji Meditation. Participate in

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

Jain Spiritual Lectures on topics such

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

Gakara Ganapathy Sahasranama

Hindu Community & Cultural Ctr, 1232 Arrowhead Ave, Livermore. Tuesdays. (925) 4496255. www.livermoretemple.org.

Shree Maa and Swami Satyananda

Saraswati lead Sanskrit chanting, commentary and discussion of scriptures including Lalitha Trishati, Bhagavad Gita, Sundarakand, Chandi Path. Devi Mandir, 6:30 p.m. Live web broadcasts at www.shreemaa.org/ broadcasts. (707) 966-2802.

Sri Hanuman Puja. 6:30-8 p.m. Sunnyvale Hindu temple, 420-450 Persian Dr., Sunnyvale. (408) 734-4554, (408) 734-0775. www.sunnyvaletemple.org. Osho Meditations. Tuesdays, 6:30 p.m. at Amrithika, 248 Hamilton Ave., Palo Alto. Free. (650) 462-1980. www.amrithika.com. Hanuman Chalisa and Durga Pooja and Subramanya Strotam. Tuesdays,

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

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 Ve-


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

health

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) 857-0226. dhurgareddy.nd@gmail.com. www.dhurgareddy.com. 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. www.CSEcenter.org.

Bhagavad Gita Class An in-depth explo-

ration 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, commentary and discussion of scriptures including Lalitha Trishati, Bhagavad Gita, Sundarakand, Chandi Path. Devi Mandir, Wednesdays, 6:30 p.m. Live web broadcasts at www.shreemaa.org/broadcasts (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. www. sunnyvaletemple.org.

Ramayana Katha Aranya Kand with pravachan by Shastriji. Vedic Dharma Samaj, Fremont Hindu Temple, 3676 Delaware Dr., Fremont. Wednesdays, 7:30 p.m. (510) 6590655. Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, a discourse by Swami Prapannananda. Vedanta Society of Sacramento, 1337 Mission Ave., Carmichael. Wednesdays, 7:30 p.m. (916) 489-5137. www. vedantasacto.org. Mandukya Upanishad is a class by Pra-

pannananda on Vedanta scriptures. Vedanta Society of Sacramento, 1337 Mission Ave., Carmichael. Wednesdays, 7:30 p.m. (916) 4895137. www.vedantasacto.org. November 2013 | www.indiacurrents.com | 117


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. dk.taylor@sbcglobal.net. Satsang. Prayer, chanting meditation, lecture series on devotional topic (Geeta, Bhagwatam, Brahma Sutra, Upnishads etc.), followed by arti and prasad. Jagadguru Kripalu Parishat (JKP) Center-San Jose. Wednesdays 7:30-8:45 p.m. 4940 Avenida de Carmen, Santa Clara. (408) 980-9953. www. JKPSanJose.org. Sri Aurobindo Meditation and Study Group. Wednesdays, 7:30-8:30 p.m. In

Danville. Free. Open to all. (650) 218-4223. braroo@gmail.com.

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

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

Satsang Siddha Yoga Meditation Ctr, 4115 Jacksol Dr, San Jose. Thursdays, 7:30 p.m. (408) 559-1716. Inspirational Service SRF, 303 E. Main

St, Los Gatos. Thursdays, 7:30 p.m. (408) 2525299.

Zen Fitness Designed to reduce stress, pain, and weight. Thursdays, 10:15-11:15 a.m. Sunnyvale studio. Contact for location, (415) 203-9231, taoak@yahoo.com. Ancient Wisdom, Modern Mind,

Kirtan, an evening of chanting. Words

8-10 p.m. For location, call (408) 910-6052, (408) 578-5685.

Jain Swadhyay with an illuminating study

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

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. info@vidyapeetham.org. www. vidyapeetham.org.

Shri Shirdi Sai Baba haarathulu dhoop aarti. Sri Lakshmi Ganapathi Temple, 32B Rancho Dr., San Jose. Thursdays, 7:30 p.m. (408) 226-3600. www.vvgv.org. www.siliconvalleyhindutemple.com.

118 | INDIA CURRENTS | November 2013

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

Dada Bhagwan’s Satsang. Thursdays,

Thursday 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. admin@healingyoga.org. www.healingyoga.org/ schedule.html.

Sri Lalitha Sahasranama Parayanam

Sri Santhoshi Mata, Durga Devi Pooja and Lord Lakshmi Pooja.

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. www.satramana.org.

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

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

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@att.net.

of Jain scriptures Series continues on Samyag Tap, Samyag Gyan, Samyag Darshan and Samyag Charitra, with samanijies from Jain Vishwa Bharati, Ladnun, Rajasthan. Jain Bhawan, 722 S. Main Street, Milpitas. Thursdays, 8-9:30 p.m. Free. (408) 262-6242, (650) 207-8196. www.jcnc.org.

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

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

tary and discussion of scriptures including Lalitha Trishati, Bhagavad Gita, Sundarakand, Chandi Path. Devi Mandir, Thursdays, 6:30 p.m. Live web broadcasts at www.shreemaa.org/broadcasts (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. www.Shirdisaiparivaar.org.

Sri Sai baba Aarti and Bhajana.

Thursdays, 7:30-8:30 p.m. Balaji Temple, 678 Cypress Ave., Suunyvale. (408) 203-1036. Balajitemple1@gmail.com. www.balajitemple.net.

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. www. anandapaloalto.org.

Fridays, 6:30-8:30 p.m. Balaji Temple, 678 Cypress Ave., Suunyvale. (408) 203-1036. Balajitemple1@gmail.com. www.balajitemple.net.

provided. 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 www.anandapaloalto.org

Meditation, self-inquiry meditation instruction by Nome, silent meditation, and dialogues. Organized by Society of Abidance in Truth (SAT). Every first and third Friday of the month, 8 p.m. 1834 Ocean St., Santa Cruz. Free. (831) 425-7287. www. satramana.org. Group Meditation with mantra chanting and lecture with Swami Pranavananda, a 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, SanFrancisco@sivananda.org.

Bhajan Class for Children, ages 4-18.

Fridays, 8-9:30 p.m. Nithyananda Vedic Temple, 513 Los Coches St., Milpitas. Free. (408) 263-6375. info.vedictemple@gmail.com. www. vedictemplebayarea.org.

Saturday Srivenkateshwara Suprabhata and Vishnu Sahasranama Strotam. Satur-

days, 8-9 a.m. Balaji Temple, 678 Cypress Ave., Suunyvale. (408) 203-1036. Balajitemple1@ gmail.com. www.balajitemple.net.

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. sky.bayarea@yahoo.com. www.skybayarea.org.


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dear doctor

Trapped in the Safety Net By Alzak Amlani

Q

I have come to a stage in my life where I realize that one of the main reasons I have worked so hard is to be secure and safe. We are immigrants and my parents grew up poor and survival was utmost on their mind. Even when they arrived in the United States, they continued to work hard and earn more money than they needed, not trusting the vagaries of fate. I pursued an education and career that was most meaningful to me. Almost eighteen years into it, I find that my own attachment to security keeps me from taking enough time off, or expanding my specialties and more fully pursuing music, art, gardening, sports and travel. Anytime I want to devote extra time and money for these endeavors, I feel guilty that I am indulging and not working on developing my career and building greater financial stability. When my business slows down a bit, I start to fear that things will not be okay. Then I become more afraid of taking extra time off. As I get older, I feel the loss of not enjoying my interests. Yet, I feel trapped in my need to keep succeeding.

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This is not an uncommon dilemma at your age and with the background

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without creativity, fun and fulfillment is dry and ordinary and can make people feel depressed and bored. Life loses its juice and luster; it becomes a task instead of an adventure. For whatever reason you are in a fortunate and privileged position to have these choices. Be grateful. Start small by taking one music class at a time that doesn’t interfere much with work. See how that feels and expand from there. Slowly stretching yourself to stop obsessing about security and letting go into your dreams will change your life. Those people who live full lives, exploring new things and taking risks, find aging less empty and sorrowful. Approaching death does not bring up heavy regrets or lead to existential despair. Rather, they feel more satisfied in having lived a full life and are letting go with feelings of gratitude and ease. n

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On Inglish

Auto! By Kalpana Mohan

rickshaw—noun (rikshaw, rikshah) Origin: The word “rickshaw” originates from the Japanese word jinrikisha, which literally means “human-powered vehicle.” —a mode of human powered transport

A

t noon, if you want to hire an auto-rickshaw by my father’s apartment in T. Nagar in Chennai, India, you must gear up for a bit of a walk because all around our home, auto-rickshaws are lined up like languorous coaches in the railroad yard at Chennai’s Basin Bridge Junction. The drivers are asleep. Some sleep with the head falling out of the side of the rickshaw, their legs poking the roof. Some are snoring with head in, drool out, leg over the driver’s seat. Some have curled up in a ball with hands flailing out from their bodies. Some straddle and stretch, like Olympic gymnasts on a balance beam: head on passenger cushion, thighs over driver’s seat, feet on handlebar. Some are spread lengthwise on their seat, head hanging upside down, arms slack, dead to the world, like demon Hiranyakashipu on Lord Vishnu’s lap. Once in a while, one driver may stir at the slightest movement and offer to give you a ride. He’ll dust all evidence of sleep from the mangy passenger seat while you stand there doubting that his discolored towel will snuff out sweat droplets, drool molecules and flies from the black rexine cover. “Why do all of you sleep so much anyway?” I asked one auto-driver, Murthy, who ferried me to a building called “Chamiers” in R.A. Puram. “Our day is long. Some of us start at 6 a.m.,” he said. “Sometimes we end up working almost 16 hours.” He told me that some designated drivers carted a group of children to school and back; between school duties they worked for a few hours and snoozed after lunch. Vinayagam, my father’s chauffer who hates sharing the road with an auto-rickshaw, disapproves of my striking up a conversation with auto drivers. He informed me that contrary to what I believed, they were a loose lot who plowed their earnings into drink. “Madam, these guys are good-for-nothings who couldn’t find anything else to do and hence chose to drive an auto,” he warned. “Auto driving is the last resort of the hopeless.” He was not entirely wrong. Often, the decision to drive a rickshaw was driven by poverty. To the poor in developing nations, rickshaws promised immediate employment. Hand-pulled rickshaws became popular in Asian cities in the 19th century but they originated in Japan as a two or three-wheeled passenger cart, generally pulled by one man with one passenger. The word rickshaw—the term was first used in 1887 and is popular parlance in all Indian languages—originates from the Japanese word jinrikisha (jin means human, riki is force, sha means vehicle). The auto-rickshaw, a motorized version of the traditional pulled rickshaw, is ubiquitous in India as an alternative to a taxi because of its lower cost. Besides humans and luggage, autos carry roosters, pillows, catered food, snacks, sugarcane, coconuts, just about anything, really, that can be squeezed into a seat about four feet wide. Some autos sport pithy advice on life: “Us Two, Our Two;” “A Woman May Marry at 21;” “Risk leads to Misery, Safety leads to Happiness.” In the present day, an auto is despised for being an environmental hazard and for the erratic manner in which auto drivers often weave through traffic. Despite their recklessness, I discovered that Chennai’s auto-drivers were some of the smartest people in town. A handful of them were gifted orators. As we rode by hundreds of billboards on Mount Road on which the Chief Minister’s face was plastered, one auto driver passionately chastised “Amma” for her politics of convenience. On

130 | INDIA CURRENTS | November 2013

another ride, a driver theorized that Mrs. Indira Gandhi had plotted to kill her son Sanjay Gandhi when he became an inconvenience and an embarrassment to her. One driver asked me insightful questions about life in America. A wizened old driver, a self-styled historian, picked me up at Luz Church Road and gave me an earful about the history of the Anjaneya Temple at Luz and offered to wait for me in case I wanted to go in and pray. Another man worried about why the Madrasa on Vijayaragahava Road had such tall walls. He wondered what they were hiding inside. Yet another driver recalled having given me a ride home one evening from Amethyst Café. When I was skeptical, he told me exactly where my father’s home was located. I never could convince Vinayagam that most auto-drivers were decent, just as any of us. But he thawed a little the morning I told him about Kumar, the auto driver who had given me a ride home the evening before. As the owner of a college degree, Kumar had held a well-paid job at an IT firm when he decided to quit because his boss had begun making life very difficult for him. “I decided that I would never report to anyone ever again,” Kumar said. Unfortunately, a tragedy befell the family just as he was about to strike out on his own. At that point his savings ran out. Kumar began driving an auto-rickshaw to survive. “I believe strongly in the dignity of labor, madam,” Kumar said to me in perfect English. “I only wish members of our Brahmin community would realize that.” n Kalpana Mohan writes from Saratoga. To read more about her, go to http://kalpanamohan.org and http:// saritorial.com.


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Ad is Correct Needs Changes DEREK NUNES P.O. Box 21285 San Jose, CA 95151 (408) 324-0488 / (714) 523-8788 FAX: (408) 324-0477


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in memoriam

Wearing His Crown Lightly The world loses a legendary singer: Manna Dey By Sandip Roy

Zindagi kaisi hai paheli hai Kabhi toh hasaaye, kabhi to rulaye Kabhi dekho man mein hi jaage Peechhey peechhey sapnon ke bhaagey Ek din sapnon ka raahi Chala jaaye sapnon ke aagey kahan —Anand

T

he man who sang those lines is gone. And those of us left to write about Manna Dey struggle with clichés— “legendary,” “versatile,” “veteran,” “irreparable loss,” “shadow of grief descends on the music world.” I remember a more human Manna Dey— feisty, chatty, warm, one who wore his legend lightly but without false humility. Over a decade ago I had gone to interview him at his daughter’s home near San Francisco for India Currents (Walking Tall in a Field of Giants, Oct 1999). His wife Sulochana Dey made tea and he held forth, not like an old warhorse reliving the glory days endlessly but like a friend at an adda at the old coffee house. Manna Dey never intended to be a singer. In his autobiography Jibaner Jalshagharey he confessed “In my youth when I ran around creating mischief with my friends from Simlepara, boxing or wrestling in akharas—there was no desire in any corner of my mind to be a singer.” That combativeness of the young pugilist remained throughout his career. It had to. Now we salute him as the last of the legendary male voices of Indian films. But in his heyday Manna Dey had to fight for almost every song. “Mostly I was chosen to sing songs others didn’t sing,” Dey said candidly. “I think I was in a field of music where there were giants. Any song that came to me was of utmost importance to me. If I had sung that any other way I would be replaced by them. So naturally I had to give my best. Every song that I sang I never never relented anywhere.” Manna Dey had one thing going for him.

A Wikipedia Commons image

His uncle, the blind singer Krishna Chandra Dey (K.C. Dey) was already a legend, famous for a full-throated voice that shattered microphones. Manna Dey accompanied his uncle to Bombay. Filmmaker Vijay Bhatt wanted Dey senior to sing for the sage Valmiki in the film Ram Rajya. K.C. Dey however only sang in films when he played the part himself. He told Bhatt “Why don’t you use my nephew? He can sing in that style.” Bhatt was dubious but gave in. At the age of 22, Manna Dey sang for the sage Valmiki and was paid 150 rupees. But he was immediately typecast—as an old man. He remembered how happy he was to get a song in Bimal Roy’s Parineeta. “But when I saw the film, it was again an old man singing,” he rued. When Raj Kapoor chose him to sing for Boot Polish he was once again doing playback for an old man, David.

Yet as Manna Dey showed again and again he was just as happy to channel Chubby Checker and sing “Aao chalo twist karen” as he was to sing “Aao kahaan se ghanashyam.” But the industry kept trying to put him in a Manna Dey box—one he had to break again and again. When he sang “Ae mere pyaare watan” for Bimal Roy’s Kabuliwala, he remembered the sound recordist complained “O Manna, teri awaaz aaj yeh phoos hai—koi dam hi nahin hai, kya ho gaya (Oh, Manna, your voice is so down today, there’s no energy in it. What happened?)” By then everyone expected him to sing only in his uncle’s full-throated style. Bimal Roy had to explain that the kabuliwala shared a single room with perhaps a dozen other men. The song was not a gaana(song) as much as it was a gungunana (humming). Though Manna Dey’s voice became inextricably linked with Balraj Sahni’s Kabuliwala, many heroes were reluctant to work with him because they felt his voice only suited older character actors. “Heroes like Dilip Kumar would always want Talat Mehmood. Likewise Rajesh Khanna would always ask for Kishore. Others like Shammi Kapoor would ask for Rafi. When would my turn come?” he recalled. When HMV wanted to record Harivanshrai Bachchan’s “Madhushala” they had wanted Rafi. But Bachchan thought the Punjabi Rafi would not be able to pronounce all the words. Then they thought of Mukesh but the composer Jaidev was not keen. Ultimately Bachchan remembered that when he had first moved to Bombay and was living in a small rented house in Juhu his neighour was Manna Dey. Bachchan would always stop during his morning walk at his door and listen raptly to him doing riyaaz. “Mere kheyal se Manna Dey ko bula sakte hain (In my opinion you can call Manna Dey),” he told HMV. “All things came to me, but somewhat delayed,” Dey said with a shrug. “It was good in a way—I had to work for it.” Even in his native Kolkata, superstar Uttam Kumar’s voice was Hemanta Mukherjee. When the music director for the Uttam Ku November 2013 | www.indiacurrents.com | 137


mar starrer Shankhabela wanted to use Manna Dey, everyone was aghast. “It was a calamity,” Dey smiled. “The producer and distributor said, ‘Impossible. It has to be Hemanta.’” But the music director was adamant. The songs were huge hits. Later in the film Stree, Manna Dey sang for Uttam Kumar while Hemanta Mukherjee was the voice of his co-star Soumitra Chatterjee. Till the end of his career there were very few Hindi films where all the hero’s songs have been sung by Manna Dey. He got the reputation for singing old men’s songs, difficult songs, semi-classical songs. He bristled at those memories. “Every song is classical,” he said sharply and sang a line from his famous Bengali song “Aaami je jalshagharey” and quickly segued to “Kaise kaatey raat” tracing the notes—re ga ma pa dha ma. “People who have not learned what sa re ga ma pad dha ni sa is will not be able to sing this. Andaaz se kabtak gaatey rahogey (how long will you sing by guesswork?) To be a singer you have to do your homework first.” Now Manna Dey is part of the homework of aspiring singers all over India. His songs are a staple on singing contests. In his autobiography he recalled a music producer once came to him with a request to redo some of his old songs in new style. For example, he could sing “Chham chham

baaje payeliya” but with western beats and keyboards and drum set. The man even sang a couple of lines to demonstrate what he meant. “To tell the truth, imagining that horrific scene, I shut my eyes in fear,” wrote Dey. “I told the man with folded hands ‘Forgive me. But I cannot murder my beloved children like that.’” But when he heard DJ Sunny had remade his classic “Ei mere zohra jabeen” he shrugged and said “Let them earn their bread. At least he is making an effort. After all, to sing my songs he must be putting in his best.” In death Manna Dey will get many accolades. His obituaries carry the string of awards he won for that is how we measure great lives—Filmfare (though only one) Padma Shri, Dadasaheb Phalke. But when I asked him about the greatest gift music had given him, he didn’t hesitate. “My wife,” he said gently placing his hand on hers. “We met while singing.” Though she was from Kerala she had great love for Rabindrasangeet and he met her at a Rabindra Jayanti function. “He taught us Rabindrasangeet for that function,” laughed Sulochana Dey. “I was awed by how proficient he was. And when he sang that awe turned to worship.” Years later Manna Dey had to sing for the Malayalam film Chemmeen. The composer Salil Chow-

dhury taught him the song. “Salil was very bad in pronouncing every language except Bengali,” laughed Dey. “He taught it to me like a Bengali song.” After the rehearsal his daughter said “Daddy, you sang all rubbish. Whenever Mummy and we speak Malayalam we don’t speak it like that.” It was Sulochana who patiently corrected his pronunciation. That song “Manasa maine varu” became an enormous hit in Kerala. Sulochana Dey died last year. His friends say Manna Dey was heart-broken. Now he is gone as well. Music aficionados would like to think of a great reunion in the “field of giants” between Dey, Rafi, Mukesh, Kishore, Talat. I’d like to think that the Manna Dey is reunited with his Sulochana. At the time I met him, like an eager beaver journalist, I wanted to double check and triple check all my facts with him. What about that Padma Shri award—when was that, I asked him. “Who cares?” he smiled, still looking at Sulochana Dey. n Sandip Roy is the Culture Editor for Firstpost. com. He is on leave as editor with New America Media. His weekly dispatches from India can be heard on KALW.org. This article was first published on FirstPost.com.

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Bats Taken Unawares By Riyaz Macchiwalla

r winne

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n a family visit to Hyderabad, we visited the Golconda Fort. We engaged a guide who informed us that there are dungeons deep underground infested with bats. I persuaded the reluctant guide to lead me into the dungeon, leaving the squeamish women behind, and making sure the flash on my camera was on. The smell of the bats was overpowering. I took just this one picture with the flash and we were out of there. n

Riyaz Macchiwalla is a retired businessman, who used to work in the seafood industry in India. He now lives with his daughter and two wonderful grandsons in San Ramon, Calif. He loves photography, music, movies, reading, keeping fit, traveling, playing tennis and table tennis and most of all interacting with interesting people. He can be reached at riyaz_macchi@ yahoo.com.

India Currents invites readers to submit to this column. Send us a picture with caption and we’ll pick the best entry every month. There will be a cash prize awarded to the lucky entrant. Entries will be judged on the originality and creativity of the visual and the clarity and storytelling of the caption. So pick up that camera and click away. Send the picture as a jpeg image to editor@indiacurrents.com with Subject: A Picture That Tells a Story. Deadline for entries: 10th of every month. November 2013 | www.indiacurrents.com | 139


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the last word

The Breaking Bad in All of Us By Sarita Sarvate

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he best TV show ever—and I mean EVER—ended on September 29th. And now I am experiencing withdrawal symptoms. So much so that I have decided to watch Breaking Bad from beginning to end, all over again. The story of the brilliant chemistry teacher Walter White, who, after being diagnosed with cancer, decides to make meth and build a nest egg for his family, captured the imagination of America. If you think that the show glorified drugs or violence, you probably haven’t watched it. I have yet to encounter a person, however anti-drug or anti-violence, who, after watching the show, did not love it. Arriving in the wake of stellar TV programs like The Wire and The Sopranos, Breaking Bad finally broke the cinema barrier. What I mean is that people preferred to watch it over the best of movies. Because people realized that TV at its best has more to offer than cinema ever can. Television allows characters to grow and change. It permits stories to be told in depth and writing to flourish in a way that a movie, with its limitation of two or three hours, cannot. The joy of watching a good series is that it stays with us over weeks and months and years, becoming a part of our lives. And when that show is as suspenseful as Breaking Bad, it gives us the kind of thrill that only It Hitchcock movies can provide. WatchBreaking Bad was like watching a is not acci- ingHitchcock movie every week, only better. It was Hitchcock mixed in dental that shows with a touch of film noir. The with antiheros have evil web of blood and deceit that and his young protégé Jesse flourished in recent Walt Pinkman unwittingly wove was decades; after all, we frightening yet riveting. But the unlikely story could only see antiheroes not have come alive without artiscinematography, masterful acting, around us. andticdirecting par-excellence. Most of all, the amazing writing made what could have been a gory action thriller into an intriguing, heart-breaking family drama. Like all good art, Breaking Bad wove reality and imagination so seamlessly that we could not tell one from the other. Now that I am making documentary films myself, I have been watching Breaking Bad with a new, critical eye; evaluating camera angles, lighting, sets, outdoor shots, dialogue. What is mesmerizing is the effort at perfection, the attention to detail, the lack of any ennui or smugness even after hours and months and years of production. What distinguishes Breaking Bad from other shows is that over the course of 62 hours, not one minute sags, not one moment is wasted, not one scene is dull. But that is not the only reason why millions tuned in. The struggles of Walter White and Jesse Pinkman encapsulated the essence of our lives. The question of how to live nags at each one of us. Who among us has not faced the ethical dilemma of whom we should choose, whom we should give our loyalty to? Which one of us has not been guilty of making the wrong choice? Which one of us has not from time to time engaged in immoral or unethical acts and felt guilty afterwards? And there is a broader societal dimension to Breaking Bad. In an era when Bernie Madoff watches his son commit suicide, yet expresses no remorse or sadness, when members of the model minority, like Raj Rajaratnam and Rajat Gupta, are exposed as anything but model, 144 | INDIA CURRENTS | November 2013

ending up in prison for financial fraud and malfeasance, when businessmen like the Ambani and Reddy brothers exploit the land and the rights of India’s poor to rake in profits, yet feel righteous, the moral questions Breaking Bad raises are anything but academic. It is not accidental that shows with antiheros have flourished in recent decades; after all, we only see antiheroes around us. At every decision point, Breaking Bad illustrates the fork in the road, and makes the choice seem inevitable for the character and the viewer. Even though highly dramatized, the show ultimately boils down to the struggle between good and evil. Does the evil win? Or does the good conquer in the end? You will have to see and decide for yourself. But as each character struggles with his or her conscience, as each player evaluates his or her motives, as each person grasps at redemption, the viewer realizes that he or she is in the same boat. Ultimately, the show demonstrates the moral slippery slope down which many today slide, only to bring the rest of humanity down with them. The purpose of art is to suspend disbelief. Breaking Bad makes you not only suspend disbelief but actually love the flawed characters. The sleazy lawyer, Saul, who throws parting shots like, “Don’t drink and drive, but if you do, call me,” the security fixer Mike, who remains loyal to his crew and his family till the end, the DEA agent Hank, who is obsessed with catching Heisenberg, yet is constantly hampered by bureaucracy, are so believable, we expect to see them around the corner. From the very first episode, I personally was taken in by Jesse Pinkman, Walt’s ex-student. Exactly the same age as my sons, Jesse evoked something tender in me from the start. Walt, I lost sympathy for long ago; he was a grown man, an educated man; he should have known better. But Jesse was a victim of his circumstances. In the very first episode, he admits that he learned nothing from Walt’s chemistry class. He is the quintessential kid who, shunned by his strict parents and humiliated by his teachers, seeks love and friendship, but always finds it in the wrong places. Yet he manages to save something good and gentle at his core, loving his girlfriend’s son and trying to protect the people he cares for. Jesse to me symbolized so many youths in our country today, who, lost without education or prospects, are trying to make a living through the wrong means, because the right means are simply not available to them. The writing was what brought the show to life in the end. Breaking Bad showed us how important writing is, period. It proved that words can make any scenario convincing. Actors are the ones who are hailed as idols in Hollywood while writers are severely under-rated. People forget that without the fine writing, no actor could make a role seem real. Television writing, in particular, has been marginalized into a niche of its own, never entering the mainstream. Breaking Bad was the first show whose writers were even interviewed by Terry Gross on Fresh Air. I wait for the day when writers will have real credibility and recognition in the entertainment industry. I wonder if someday, someone will win the Nobel Prize for television writing. I can only hope. n Sarita Sarvate (www.saritasarvate.com) has published commentaries for New America Media, KQED FM, San Jose Mercury News, the Oakland Tribune, and many nationwide publications.


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