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Mouse Pads and Shoe Leather

Kirtans East and West

Finding Freddie Mercury

IndiaCurrents Celebrating 25 Years of Excellence

november 2011 • vol. 25 , no .8 •

From Punjab Ka Beta to RA One, unmasking the caped and uncaped crusaders in Hindi films over the years

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I am not a fan of the Mac and I don’t own any IProducts, but there was a lump in my throat when I learnt of Steve Jobs’ passing. Perhaps it was the resonance with a friend’s battle with pancreatic cancer at the same time. More likely, it was the sense that the world had lost a visionary of the rarest kind. My introduction to the Apple phenomenon was fairly recent, when the products of the company stepped out of the realm of computer geekdom and became hipster accessories. The IPod, with its then-sci-fi design of a single wheel operation, was confusing to me, a Luddite brought up on the comforting tactile experience of a Walkman. But even as I struggled with the unfamiliar controls, I could see family and friends adapt and adopt with ease, as if this was what they had been waiting for, and they hadn’t even known it. Watching a popular YouTube video of a baby manipulate the functions of an IPad with ease, even a skeptic like me gets a sense of the synergy between the human brain and Apple’s revolutionary design sensibility. Jobs had his detractors, of course. Apart from those who were put off by Apple’s monopolistic attitude, its ripe-for-satire paranoia about intellectual property, and its lack of functionality and support for gaming enthusiasts, there are others who suggest that the true heroes of Apple’s meteoric rise are its un-

heralded inventors and designers, in particular Steve Wozniak, who designed the hardware and operating system for the Apple I computer, and Jony Ive, the British designer responsible for the iconic look of Apple’s products. But “Woz” may still have been working at a computer company, building better versions of existing technology, had Jobs not persuaded him to leave and develop his own computer. And Ive’s strategic position in Apple was a result of Jobs’ decision to make design the core element of the company’s strategy. That keen sense of the zeitgeist, and the conviction and confidence in ideas that were ahead of their time, were what made Jobs such a fascinating study for both sociologists and marketing gurus. A new biography promises intriguing details from Jobs’ unusual life, but no account can shatter the turtle-necked mystique of a man who demanded audiences with presidents, but went trick-or-treating in his neighborhood like any other dad, who once roamed India as a hippie but later went on to wage tense battles with corporate competitors. He believed he would die young, and therefore wanted to accomplish a lot quickly so he could “leave a mark on Silicon Valley history.” You did, Steve, you most certainly did. Vidya Pradhan


Contributors: Jasbina Ahluwalia, Khorshed Alam, Meenu Arora, Sanjoy Banerjee, Spandan Chakrabarti, R. Benedito Ferrao, Jeanne E. Fredriksen, Sheela Jaywant, Indu Liladhar Hathi, Praba Iyer, Anuradha Malhotra, Raj Oza, Nandini Pal, Vijay Rajvaidya, Teed Rockwell, Ras Siddiqui, Mani Subramani, Kalpana Sunder, Priyanka Wolan


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Northern California Edition

Ras Siddiqui pays tribute to ghazal maestro Jagjit Singh, who passed away last month


From Punjab Ka Beta to Ra. One, film enthusiast Aniruddh Chawda takes a look at Hindi film superheroes over the years

Kalpana Sunder appreciates the spirituality in the symmetry of the beautiful temples of Cambodia





1 EDITORIAL: Thinking different. By Vidya Pradhan

58 RECIPES: Remedies for holiday excesses. By Praba Iyer


104 RELATIONSHIP DIVA: Arranged marriages. By Jasbina Ahluwalia

6 FORUM: Should we care about the environment during a recession? Two opinions. By Rameysh Ramdas and Mani Subramani

112 THE HEALTHY LIFE: Tips on reducing kids’ TV and computer time. By Meenu Arora 121 DEAR DOCTOR: Parenting a teenager. By Alzak Amlani


ELECTIONS 2012: Mouse pads and shoe leather. By Spandan Chakrabari


PERSPECTIVE: A ray of hope. By Vijay Rajvaidya



ZEITGEIST: Ideas ’R Us. By Ragini Tharoor Srinivasan


25th ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL: Imperfect democracies. By Sanjoy Banerjee

34 FICTION: “Two Gurus” a Katha 2011 Honorable Mention winner. By Sheela Jaywant

102 REFLECTIONS: The power in mantras. By Anuradha Malhotra

136 DESI VOICES: Finding Freddie Mercury. By R. Benedito Ferrao

138 LEGAL: Maternity tourism. By Priyanka Wolan 144 THE LAST WORD: Let’s occupy Wall Street. By Sarita Sarvate


BOOKS: Reviews of V.S. Naipaul’s Collected Works and Masque of Africa and Someone Else’s Garden. By Raj Oza and Jeanne E. Fredriksen.


MUSIC: Kirtans East and West. By Teed Rockwell


Q&A: Interview with Bengali fimmaker Tony Chowdhury. By Nandini Pal

110 SPIRITUAL EXCERPT: The Sacred Jewels of Yoga. By Dave Deluca 140 UNCUBED: Comic strip. By Krishna Sadasivam



32 33 44

88 Cultural Calendar 103 Spiritual Calendar 124 Classifieds

Ask a Lawyer Visa Dates Tax Talk

india currents • november 2011 • 3



An Excellent Take on Adultery

I read Chetan’s excellent essay on adultery from a Hindu perspective with great interest. (Verdict Without a Trial, October 2011) As I was reading this essay what came to my mind was the similarity of the sharing of love between Krishna and his gopis and that of Jesus and Mary Magdalene in Christianity. No Christian will think of Jesus as an adulterer just as no Hindu will think of Lord Krishna as an adulterer or Radha as an adulteress! Unlike Radha, Mary Magdalene was supposed to have been an adulteress, according to narratives in the Gospels! But Jesus did not accuse her of this sin and call her a “sinner.” Instead He pointed the finger of sin at her accusers, who were ready to stone her. (This also correlates to the Bollywood movie Roti referenced by Chetan in his essay!) Mary became Jesus’ “Radha” when her life was spared. I strongly recommend the reading of Chetan’s essay by my Christian and Muslim friends. I challenge them to try the Hindu way when it comes to adultery and unfaithfulness! Spiritual unfaithfulness is a much worse sin. Swami Donald Rajendra Roy, Seaside, CA

Adultery More Common Than You Think

Kudos to Chetan for openly addressing a topic that is considered a stigma in the South Asian community (Verdict Without a Trial, October 2011). He handled it with such sensitivity. I know of U.S.-raised Indian American women (succesful professionals) who married for love and whose spouses still committed adultery. I see it happen everywhere. Anonymous, online

Let’s Talk Politics!

The editorial’s (The Price of Silence, October 2011) point is well taken. I, too, tend to be open and forthright about my politics. Nothing wrong in saying why you voted for someone or why you would have, and discuss policies openly, freely and passionately. How did the United States become so closed and uptight? Political detachment and dismissiveness have been growing for the last 30 years? Now it is nice to see people on the street openly displaying their political views, opinions and comments. Conservatives in the United States love to spend huge amounts of money to get into the corridors of power ... but they don’t want the opposition to vote, or for the people to have a strong government. People love to hate government in places that I travel but they never seem to say why, beyond what is repeated over

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and over again on FOX or CNN. As a Canadian noted to me in Toronto, “There are only three kind of American politics: I don’t know, I don’t care, and don’t take my gun away!” Funny, but sort of true! Dr. MS, online

us of that and inspired us to take to the streets ourselves. It is always the young who rise up ... with those of us older folks who were young once and remember lighting our own fire ... Jeanne Fredriksen, online

Calling Engaged Citizens

Aligarh Musim University is Open To All

There is another kind of American politics that has become a very vocal one, a jawclenching mentality that makes my eyes roll: “Get the government out of my affairs, but don’t touch my Social Security, Medicare, veterans benefits, FHA loan ... “ etc.

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

Just a small correction to this statement: “Besides being one of India’s foremost educational institutions for Muslims (the campus is now open to all religions), the end result of Sir Syed’s vision has been an educated alumni contributing to the world of science, engineering, medicine, and the arts (among others).” (AMU’s Sir Syed Day, October 2011) Surprise! The university has ALWAYS been open to all religions. The first graduate was a Hindu and so are the MAJORITY of students there in many professional courses, including many of my closest friends. G. Shah, online

Asha Bhosle is the Best!

One could go on and on about Asha Bhosle’s soulful singing. It is she who has made, is making, and will make songs greater. Priya Das has done a great job by capturing AB’s musical versatility. (Asha Bhosle Comes to the Bay, October 2011) Keep it Up! Savita Bhatt, online

Love the Column Generally, in the 1960s, we spoke openly of politics. In the 1970s, it continued, and then began to wane. In the 1980s, it waned even more as the “Me” generation emerged. In the 1990s, life was better all around, but it wasn’t to continue into the next decade. In the 2000s, there was a drastic 180 degree-turn in which a person was condemned unless you toed the reigning party’s line. In the 2010s, we now see a division that may not have been seen as clearly since the American War between the States, or the Uncivil War. It is our privilege and our right to support or to criticize the actions of any or all three branches of government, legislative, judicial and executive. After all, they are our employees, no matter who they are or what party they belong to. This doesn’t mean we have to argue; discussion that includes listening can build bridges. What we Americans had lost sight of is our right to speak our minds and protest the unjust. Perhaps the Arab Spring had reminded

I read Sarita Sarvate’s Last Word column every month with great interest. My inability to write with more expression about how much I admire her pieces had stopped me from commenting thus far. But I was quite moved by this month’s article (Exiled at Home, October 2011) to finally break the ice. Her write-ups are beautifully written, thought provoking, and convey the point very well. Bhavna Misra, via email


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

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Should We Care About The Enviroment During A Recession? Rameysh Ramdas

Mani Subramani

Protecting the environment cannot be at the cost of people’s livelihoods

Protecting the environment is an act of self-defense for the survival of our species

ith the exception of the fringe right, most of us will agree that we have an obligation to preserve earth’s resources for the benefit of the future generations. With the exception of the fringe left, most of us will agree that such environmental concerns cannot be tackled at the cost of our livelihoods, our ability to keep food prices affordable, or by the government wasting tax payer funds. The environment is best protected by individual behavioral and consumption choices starting with switching off the lights and the television when one leaves the room—a second nature to many of us who grew up in India! In the name of economic stimulus, the government decided to play favorites in the alternative energy industry and awarded Solyndra Inc. with a whopping $535 million. While governments at all levels should and must incentivize behavior and consumption choices that lead to a cleaner earth, the Solyndra fiasco is a classic example of overzealous and misguided government intervention in the private sector. According to the Washington Post, the $36.8 billion federal green loan program has created only 5 percent of the 65,000 promised jobs—with each job costing more than $5 million! Another egregious overreach is the ban on incandescent bulbs scheduled to go into effect Jan 1, 2014, a bill signed by George W. Bush into law. While reducing pollution is a laudable goal, a better way to achieve that will be through allowing consumer choice and providing tax incentives for both the manufacture and purchase of energy efficient compact florescent light (CFL) bulbs. CFL bulbs do present some risk of mercury contained in them with safe disposal concerns. Consumers should be allowed to best meet their lighting needs with a choice of a light bulb evaluating the costs they can afford and the risks that they can tolerate. In September 2010, the last GE incandescent bulb manufacturing plant in the United States closed in Virginia, resulting in the loss of hundreds of jobs. “Congress created dust bowl” screams signs all along the Interstate 5 corridor; the central valley is fertile ground for a variety of produce but much of the land is arid today thanks to a ruling that deemed the smelt fish to be endangered if water was released south from the Delta estuary. Yes, we must protect the environment but a supposedly 1.5 degree increase in global temperatures in 100 years does not license any government to rob us of our tax dollars or our livelihoods. Only a concerted global effort led by intelligent consumer choices and the private sector meeting that demand with tax incentives can achieve meaningful stewardship of the environment. Since 2007, China has had the highest CO2 emissions in the world, with India in the 3rd place—these countries must pay their fair share in the cleanup. n

he United States should aggressively support renewable energy through government assistance and mandates not just because it might help reverse climate change, or because peak oil production will be reached in 2015, or because of inherent safety and health concerns. Aggressive government intervention is needed for fundamental innovation to take place. For individuals to adopt energy efficient practices is a worthy objective. However, 84.9 percent of total energy consumed in the United States and 86.0 percent of energy consumed by American individuals and households results from fossil fuel combustion. Only a Manhattan Project-like directive to develop renewables and move away from foreign oil and coal can make a significant impact here. Depending on free market and private funding to enact major shifts in policy is not realistic as a) the absence of short term profit is a deterrent, and b) private sector is at its most risk-averse during these economic times. Detractors of renewable energy claim that renewables are viable only because of subsidies. In reality even mature sectors of energy are heavily subsidized. According to the Environmental Institute coal enjoys a $3billion/year subsidy with an additional $1.5 billion in healthcare spending on tackling black lung disease. So unless we strip ALL subsidies off all energy sources we cannot say it is a level playing field. We should also note that, with economies of scale slowly improving, the costs of renewables, especially solar, have been steadily declining. From my personal experience a well-sized photovoltaic array has 8-10% return on investment. And an energy efficient car like the Prius can reduce gasoline consumption by 30-50%. One favorite argument of naysayers is that we cannot compete with the highly subsidized solar industry in China. If we set renewable energy targets, price carbon consumption correctly, and provide the support for investment in the industry, it can be a great source of jobs. After all, we invented solar panel technology! As a last ditch effort, conservatives, whose campaigns are often bankrolled by oil and gas companies, point to the failed Department of Energy investment in Solyndra. Failure of such investments is normal before winning ideas emerge. Extremists in Congress have found time to open an investigation into this matter, conveniently forgetting that the loan guarantee process was started under the Bush administration, while they remain silent on Wall Street’s shenanigans. If there was political will for ending our costly wars and reducing our defense budget, we would have the funds to invest in industries which can have a longer lasting impact on our health as a country. While the politicking continues, do yourself a favor and consider investing in a solar energy system for your home or purchasing an energy efficient car. n


A 1.5 degree increase in global temperatures in 100 years does not license any government to rob us of our tax dollars.

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

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Aggressive government intervention through investment and mandates is needed for fundamental innovation.

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

india currents • november 2011 • 7



Vijay Rajvaidya

A Ray of Hope The Occupy Wall Street Movement has lifted the spirits of this disenchanted citizen


he conversation at a Diwali party in San Jose turned political. There were many, like me, who were frustrated specifically with President Obama, and with Democrats in general. It prompted a friend to send me a list of the President’s accomplishments the next day. I couldn’t be more surprised! It was a long list of significant achievements. Each item was meaningful to me: a quintessential middle-class Indian American. What surprised me more was that I wasn’t aware that so much had been achieved. I am a voracious reader of news and follower of important political and policy debates in the country. It seems to me that, in the din created by the Tea Partiers, I had gone temporarily deaf. Of course, it is also possible that my hearing was just fine but there was only noise coming out of the mainstream media. The man on the street may have been looking for alternatives to rightwing rhetoric, but I recall a debate on television where Democratic pundits were advising that creating a counter movement to Tea Party would only increase the shrillness of the debate. It is worthwhile to remember how Ronald Reagan often used to take his case to the people. His effective message was that the Democratic congress was not allowing him to do the right thing for the nation. He took his case to people even against the then-speaker of the house, the powerful and influential Tip O’Neil. One could argue that the media of Reagan’s time was different. It wasn’t the “24hour news-as-infotainment” assault that we are subjected to today. But a more pertinent comparison, in my opinion, would be with the media in Lyndon Johnson’s or Nixon’s times. The point is that Reagan faced similar media intensity and scrutiny as compared to his predecessors and managed it well. There is an even more relevant example of caustic opposition to administration, to a Democratic White House this time. President Clinton functioned under continuous bitter and personal opposition from Republicans. I cannot forget the vengeful attempts of Senator D’Amato, a New York Republican, to wrongfully attribute malfeasance in Whitewater dealings and the appointment of independent prosecutor Ken Starr to continually harass the First Family. The Republicans wasted tax payers’ money, nay my money, to pursue their vendetta. Despite the harrassment, President Clinton never appeared helpless. He talked to the people vigorously and 8 • india currents • november 2011

effectively and won the second term hands down. The Republican congress during the Clinton administration convinced me to switch from being an independent voter to a Democrat. Their current pandering to Tea Party lunacy has only vindicated my decision. However, my recent disenchatment has been caused by the Democrats in office, not the Republicans. Looking at the efforts of this administration, I think the Democrats failed miserably in two ways—by not projecting their achievements and by not taking adequate action against the excesses of Wall Street. They have failed in sending the message that we, the people of the United States, do not want our government becoming a hostage of corporations. It offends me to watch people like Senator Ron Paul and Congressman Eric Cantor badger moderate Republicans as well as the administration to benefit one percent of Americans at the cost of rest of us. Moderate Republicans with sterling careers have had to bow down to the extremist wing of their own party, while Democratic leaders remain silent and largely invisible. I can’t recall a single campaign by my own congresswoman from the SF Bay Area or the two senators of California to stop the prevailing political extortion going on in the country. Democrats, who were largely compliant with the previous administration’s decision to go to war, at the cost of trillions of dollars and thousands of lost lives, and who approved budget-busting tax cuts and war appropriations, seem to have developed a “conscience” after the election of one of their own to the Presidency. Despite the very deep and very real hole the American economy is in, conservative members of the President’s own party are parroting the Republican mantra of tax cuts for the wealthy and emphasis on deficit reduction and austerity instead of investments in jobs for the suffering majority. There are many adjectives to describe this behavior if you are reluctant to use invectives. But I digress. Today I feel that American democracy has broken down and I don’t have any real choice. I am not going to vote Republican—that is a surefire route to become a victim of Tea Party jihad. Nor can I hope of achieving any change by voting for my local Democrats. It comes as a great relief to me that there are some among us who haven’t lost the will

to fight back. My salute to the “700 of Brooklyn Bridge” who got arrested for stepping down from the walkway while attempting to Occupy Wall Street! Most of the initial coverage in the New York Times, supposedly a bastion of “liberal media,” described how police trapped them. The Grey Lady spent hardly any ink describing the cause and the motivations of the thousands of people who have been camped out there for days. Even today, the focus of coverage is on the clashes between protesters and the police rather than the motivations of the disenfranchised and their demands. In an echo of Gandhi’s message of nonviolent non-cooperation, this group of individuals has decided to fight back by peaceful means. And now the message and the movement has spread to hundreds of cities across the nation, including San Jose, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. I hope that this is a sign that Americans are finally ready to come out of their homes to demand an end to this looting by the elites of this country. And perhaps it will motivate my representatives in Congress to take a stand—for the people or against them. Check out for yourself how many executives of failed corporations were rewarded with golden severance packages. Is this how America became the world leader? By rewarding failure? I doubt it. The Occupy Wall Street movement is a ray of hope. To my fellow citizens in New York: Don’t forget the “300 at Thermopylae!” History is built by the mortar of the impossible. Bravo!n Vijay Rajvaidya is an entrepreneur and a political activist.

india currents • november 2011 • 9



Ragini Tharoor Srinivasan

Ideas ’R Us

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to represent India, what to discuss, who to interview, and where to go. The blog would be yet another participant in the production of the complex morass of representations with which readers of India Currents are already familiar. The India to be inked would not necessarily be geographically determined; it would not be restricted to the bounds of the historically determined nation-state. It would be the India of Ela Bhatt and Indra Nooyi, of Anand Mahindra and Anna Hazare. It would be the India that Minal Hajratwala’s family left, and the India that called Anand Giridharadas. It would be the India of Bangladeshi refugees, and the India of vada pav sandwiches on a Williamsburg waterfront. Are these the same Indias? To which do our hearts supposedly belong? The Times blog is just one of many projects involved in the construction of a motley 21st-century India, but as a high-profile entrant into the world of representations, it begs scrutiny. Deliberately or not, the blog demands that we think seriously about the relationships between the sari with a phone-pocket, impoverished weavers in Varanasi, and designer Naeem Khan’s New York City shows. What do these stories say to each other? And what does it mean to collect them together under the heading of “India Ink”? The three stories were featured on the blog in its early weeks, and one (guess which?) was revealingly sub-titled “The Other India.” I’ve been following this particular segment on the blog with some indignation. Another “Other India” post in mid-October shared harrowing stories and statistics of missing, kidnapped, and exploited children in the metropolitan area of Delhi. Why is this the “other” India? Other to what? The “obvious” answer is that anything that’s not “India Shining” is the “Other India.” But if I’ve learned anything as a student of Rhetoric and a writer for an Indian diasporic magazine, it’s that we can’t be satisfied with what seems like common sense. In the history of representations of India, from colonial-era Orientalist imaginings to early 20th-century anti-colonial nationalisms to diasporic nostalgia, there have been many other “Other” Indias: India the colony, India the nation-state, India the patriarch, India the motherland, India the orphan, India the object of desire, India the laborer, India the capitalist, India the flavor of the month, India the past, India the future, India the nightmare, India the dream. India the Desi Land. India Currents readers know that the U.S.-based diasporic community has moved far beyond what used to be a celebratory response to any mainstream media mention of India and Indians. Now is the time for more critical readings of representations of India, anywhere and everywhere they surface, out of the mouths of Jindals and Friedmans, on film screens and blog pages. We just can’t take any idea of India for granted. The ideas are us. n Photo Credit: Muthal Avarai


arder than studying is being the object of study. I remember when Shalini Shankar, an anthropologist at Northwestern, published Desi Land: Teen Culture, Class, and Success in Silicon Valley in 2009. India Currents published a generous review, but I was frankly skeptical about the book. I’ll refrain from an academic critique here, though certainly my ambivalence was related to Shankar’s deployment of particular theoretical frames. But my skeptical reading was also undoubtedly linked to my having been (not so long ago) a desi teen in the Silicon Valley, fabricating my own narrative of culture, class, and success. Was she talking about…me? Although Shankar took pains to distinguish her elaboration of desi teen life from clichés like that of the ABCD, arguing for a nuanced understanding of hybrid consciousness, I read with dismay the resulting account: “Desi teens create styles that defy simple classification…To differentiate what is fashionable from what is not, Desi teens use the terms ‘tight’ and ‘FOBby,’ derived from ‘fresh off the boat,’ respectively.” “Desi teens create styles...” “Desi teens use terms...” The propositions were not only reductive, but static; they left little room for the Desi teen who didn’t “create” or “use” the terms in question in the manner described. What made my skin crawl was also, of course, one of the enabling conditions of the anthropological project. Shankar had to constitute a recognizable collective (“Desi teens”) in order to write about them. The individual high school students she interviewed and with whom she “kicked it” (her phrase) were just that: individuals. But their languages, desires, habits, and ways of being were taken to be revelatory of the ideas and practices of a group. This is an age-old academic problem—some might even say a complication of inductive reasoning. How do we move from the particular to the general, from the instance to the rule? We all make observations about ourselves and others. Every day, as inhabitants of the world, we construct our theories of it. But it isn’t until we encounter a theory of our particular worldly condition that we begin to see (and feel) how fraught the practice of making meaning really is. In my own ambivalent reading, I understood the impossibility of the task of adequately representing Desi Land. Nevertheless, books like Shankar’s, in concert with more colloquial representations, inform our experiences of the world. The question, then, is not how anything or anyone can be captured in theory, but rather how differing and even incompatible ideas of things—of us—give shape to our lives in practice. As always of late, India is in the news, making news, being news. In September, the New York Times debuted “India Ink,” the newspaper-ofrecord’s first country-specific blog, saying, “India Ink will provide…onthe-ground coverage of the world’s biggest democracy—and of a people who know that no matter how far they roam, their hearts will always be Indian.” With this schmaltzy introduction, the bloggers revealed that they would cover not just India, but NRIs, not only the nation, but its diasporas, and not simply Indians, but Indophiles. This, too, I want to suggest is a theory: a theory of India, with an attendant theory of how

Ragini Tharoor Srinivasan is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Rhetoric at the University of California, Berkeley.






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The Making of a Hindi Film SUPERHERO By Aniruddh Chawda

In broadest movie lore, a “superhero” is generally accepted as a character with some common traits: • Extraordinary powers or skills • An unambiguous, simple and strong moral code, which include willingness to risk personal safety • A secret identity that allows a sense of “normalcy” to daily life and also protects the superhero’s friends and family


n the major cinemas of the world, the superhero myth has, not unexpectedly, evolved to incorporate local or regional ethics or dictates. Hollywood movies transplant the American creed of championing an underdog and a triumph of anything that stands for democracy. French films veer into a more evolved, post-modern spin on individual liberties often celebrated through human emancipation from economic, social, or even sexual conventions. Hong King cinema, meanwhile, reflects a disenchantment with authoritarianism, and showcases heroes who stand in for a powerless communal spirit that strikes back by employing cunning skills (often based on martial arts) to overcome villains who invariably represent shades of bourgeois hegemony. To put the Hindi film superhero in perspective, it helps to sketch out a brief historiography of the Indian subcontinent. With a 5,000 year-strong Hindu socio-religious experience that never had a formal “founding,” India developed a highly vibrant and complex religious dogma that established Hindu belief as a core social contract and yet no organized rituals to carry out that belief. The end result was common knowledge; but getting there was somewhat murky. Theoretically, at least, there are as many different ways of “practicing” Hinduism as there are Hindus! The evolution of Indian mass entertainment in general, and Hindi-language cinema based in Mumbai in particular, can be summed up by a tradition of mirroring core Hindu beliefs manifested in myriad ways. Hindi cinema has its own peculiar persona that adheres to the broader sub-continental mass experience. Therefore, some core convictions can be postulated that are most frequently represented in Hindi films. These are: • Reincarnation is par for the course. It can be a cosmic pathway for attaining an alternate identity, sense of self, or supreme liberation. • In the Hindu pantheon, inanimate objects can, and often do, harbor divine energy. • Characters that coalesce the anthropomorphic and the divine are very common. It is not just cool, but a frequent plot device to have animals take on anthropomorphic or divine characteristics. • Women, who can often be powerless in the real world, can channel the divine female energy to break social convention and triumph over evil. india currents • november 2011 • 13


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In the Beginning: Demi-gods, God-men and Smoke Screens

Starting at the beginning of the 20th century, when the nascent Hindi film business first struggled to get on its feet under a colonial yoke, and approximately up until WWII and India’s independence, the most common vein in Hindi movies was the theme of Hindu mythology. Fantastic tales of myths, fables, legends, and living histories were borrowed from any of the Vedas, the Mahabharata or the Ramayana and were produced by the oxcart loads. D. G. “Dadasaheb” Phalke is widely credited as having founded Indian cinema. Phalke’s opus Raja Harishchandra (1913) was the first feature-length Indian movie that, incidentally, resonates with superhero glory even today. Even though Phalke failed to break the first taboo of Indian films—the social observance that women could not appear onscreen—Phalke’s all-male cast reenacted a popular Mahabharata legend of King Harishchandra’s interplay with the immortals. While teaching archery to his son, the king strays into the dominion of the immortals and is therefore banished. During his banishment, the gods send down three fiery sirens—celestial beauties—to tempt the king into giving up his mortal domain. Unfazed, the king takes on the challenge, wages war, and is just about to lose an epic battle when a deus ex machina—a celestial vehicle literally carrying the gods—descends from the heavens to explain that the entire staging was to test the king’s resolve. Mercifully, the divines restore favor for mankind and peace returns to the cosmos. As movies evolved, so did filmmaking techniques. A finer tuning for how to deliver power to a mortal character—effectively making them super-powered—and the gadgetry required for special effects seen onscreen became a cottage industry of sorts. Prominent in this field was Gujarat-born Babubhai Mistri, who became the F/X guru for his times. Mistri’s work is evident in Vijay Bhatt’s mythmaking adventure Khwab Ki Duniya (1937) which turned on Mistri’s handiwork in a scene where a character become invisible right in front of the camera, making it a sci-fi entry that even modern filmmakers and audiences would admire. Mistri later started making his own movies, featuring his own trademark special effects. One of Mistri’s better known works was Sampoorna Ramayan (1961), with B-film star Mahipal as Lord Rama. Mistri’s M.O. was the shape-shifting, transitional scene where, for example, the demon Raavan would transform himself into a wise forestdwelling sage. A puff of smoke in mid-frame and, viola, the hated villain became a wandering mendicant. This tactic was also widely employed to create the onscreen magic of transforming flora into fauna and vice versa. In Hindu lore, an especially derided figure

is that of Surpanakha (“sharp-nailed one” in Sanskrit), the villainess many credit with having ignited the cosmos-shaking battle between good and evil in the epic Ramayana. One of the most striking special-effects scenes from that era, also from Mistri’s Sampoorna Ramayan, featured Surpankha, lovestricken and grotesquely ugly, silently stalking Lord Rama as he forages in the forest. This chilling scene brilliantly foreshadowed a similar chase sequence in Vikram Bhatt’s 2011 3-D horror entry Haunted. Mistri’s biggest hit was the sensational Parasmani (1963) with the role of Paras played by Mistri’s favorite lead Mahipal. The super-powered Paras must retrieve the fabulous Parasmani diamond from the clutches of the powerful witch queen of the underworld. As a telling sign of special effects to come, Paras’s tasks included dueling with his father on what appears as a cross between a lowtech spaceship and a magical flying carpet. Later there was Vijay Sharma’s Jai Santoshi Maa (1975). What started as a classic Bmovie became a cult and box-office mega hit. A faithful devotee of the goddess Santoshi (Anita Guha), a minor immortal in the Hindu pantheon, unwittingly incurs the wrath of the consorts to Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, who in turn make the devotee suffer tribulations to prove her devotion. A highly agitated Santoshi takes to shaking up the pantheon to finally make the Supreme Beings acquiesce— effectively proving that a lesser divinity could intervene on behalf of a mortal to alter fate. Jai Santoshi Maa also showed that the divine class was not impervious to having cat-fights!

Monkey Business: The Tailed Ones Rule The vastness of the Hindu experience in India also more readily accepts the anthropomorphic transfer of special powers to mem-

bers of the kingdom animalia. In this context, animals acquire human characteristics—and, depending on who is holding their figurative and literal reins, can be powerful agents for both good and bad. In mythological genre, this power extended to the hansa (swan-like mythical bird), used in Eugenio De Luguoro’s Nala Damayanti (1920), and naga (cobra) in Phalke’s Shri Krishna Janmaa (1917), Kaliya Mardan (1919)and the Sridevi vehicle Nagina (1986), while the simhan (lion) motif was used both by the great Homi Master in his masterpiece Lanka Ni Ladi (1925) with the depiction of a lioness feeding milk to the story’s wounded shepherd-hero, and R. S. Choudhary’s Piya Pyare (1934) where a cheetah steals away an infant to a brighter future. The horse has also been a faithful standby for many masked avengers down the years. Indian cinema’s most famous stunt actressheroine “Fearless” Nadia (born Mary Evans, in Australia) had the ever-present equine Punjab Ka Beta (son of Punjab) as her lighting-speed mount. Punjab Ka Beta was cunning and could “communicate” with head gestures and body language, and was even reliable for nudging Nadia into decision-making within a narrow, astute span of reason. In Wadia Movietone’s Hurricane Hansa (1937), for example, the horse gently pushes La Hansa’s would be paramour (Master Mohammed) into the pond where Hansa is bathing. For Mehbood Khan’s exciting action flick Deccan Queen (1936), while lead Aruna Devi dons the masked-avenger tights to restore her family’s honor, it is her love interest, played by Suresh, who is shackled to train tracks by villains as a speeding locomotive hurls towards him. Suresh is saved in a cinch by his faithful horse that uses his teeth to rescue his master from certain doom. The horse-companion theme continues to modern times which even Bachchan falling back on horse sidekicks in both Mard (1985) india currents • november 2011 • 15

and Toofan (1987). There were others. Nanabhai Bhatt (father of Mahesh Bhatt) was a famed B-movie filmmaker who often partnered with F/X master Babubhai Mistri. Their special-effects heavy Sinbad the Sailor (1952) featured a show-stopping scene involving two invisible men in a sword duel seen only through the movement of the swords. In Bhatt’s Police Detective (1960), Pedro the chimpanzee, clad in a tuxedo, was a valuable sidekick in aiding lead cop Sudesh Kumar in solving a murder. Friendly canines have also been used repeatedly as a substitute for singular acts of bravery that transcend their master’s onscreen personality. Ramanand Sagar’s Zindagi (1964) had Rajendra Kumar’s obedient German shepherd rescuing Vyjantimala after an earthquake. In the drawn out romance between Salman Khan and Madhuri Dixit in Rajshri’s Hum Aapke Hain Koun (1994), a furry, pintsized pooch stood in for Cupid, ferrying messages between the love-lorn. Perhaps the two most popular animal tracks in Hindi cinema are those derived from variations of a theme proto-rooted in the garuda (eagle-like vehicle of Vishnu) and vanar (monkey), personified by Lord Rama’s foremost disciple Hanuman, the brave monkeyking. While garuda was seldom depicted as being grounded, the vanars were not beyond getting help in flying, effectively preceding the Winged Monkeys from The Wizard of Oz by about a couple of thousand years. In the ancient texts, a garuda in flight was massive enough to block out the sun. In contemporary lore, an eagle or a hawk most often substitute for the winged compatriot to a key character. Both Pran in Manmohan Desai’s Dharam Veer (1977) and Bachchan in the joint IndianRussian entry Ajooba (1991) utilized a trained hawk as their trusted sidekick. On the other hand, the vanar-monkey theme can be entirely summed up by the Hanuman character’s presence in the mythological genre. In Ramanand Sagar’s 1990’s mega-hit TV serial Ramayana, Dara Singh, by far the biggest B-movie stunt actor of Indian cinema, again reenacted the Hanuman character, the same role Singh took on in Veer Bajrang (1966) and Bajrang Bali (1976). The Hanuman character’s super-human strength and obeisance to Lord Rama are fantastically put on display in Mistri’s Sampoorna Ramayana. A jaw-dropping moment—a favorite of every child that has ever heard the Ramayana narrative—is when Hanuman single-handedly lifts up an intact Mount Dronagiri and flies the entire mountain that bears the herbs that will aid an ailing Lakshmana, Lord Rama’s brother. When Hanuman’s faith is put to test, the monkeyfaced patron of exclusively-male musclebuilding cults both ancient and modern, in a gasp-inducing scene, willingly splits open 16 • india currents • november 2011

The term “Super Hero” is a protected trademark jointly owned by DC Comics and Marvel, Inc, while the word “superhero” is not. Therefore, while spoken lingo treats these entities interchangeably, legally the former crusades from behind a pricier Spandex costume. his own chest to reveal a miniature image of Lord Rama resting there. Surely no other superhero can outdo that!

Girl Power: The Ladies Step Up

Even though women were not allowed to appear onscreen in the earliest Indian movies, as this social curtain began to be lifted, some of the strongest female characters in any genre anywhere took to the screen almost as if in vengeance. As the talkies arrived in the 1930s, the novelty took the sub-continent by storm. The most popular names, each a superstar in their own right, were Durga Khote, Devika Rani, and the popular sisters Zubeida and Sultana. On the superheroine battle-front, meanwhile, exciting films were being made. When male characters played superheroes, British-controlled censors often took exceptions, especially when male “Indian” characters reacted to aggressive social or jingoistic oppression in thinly veiled commentary against the British Raj. Female leads doing the same dare-devilry that male character were frowned upon were, interestingly enough, slightly more acceptable to the censors. This strange form of “freedom” for female expressions of onscreen aggression played a huge role in emancipating the heroines for our story. The biggest stand-in for a superheroine from that era was the aforementioned “Fearless” Nadia. Her big screen persona was a magical combination of exotic beauty (given her Western looks) and daring-dos. Nadia personified a sublimated sexuality imbedded in the gori (white) “Fearless” Nadia

“English mem” mentality which played into the “foreign” (hence unattainable) beauty myth. Nadia became an instant box office star and, in era preceding Playboy, a pinup hottie. Not surprisingly, Nadia’s largest fan base was made of male audiences in rural areas! Nadia’s escapades were chronicled in an unusually prolific career spanning four decades beginning 1933. Partnering with filmmaker Homi Wadia, who Nadia went on to marry, Nadia’s big-screen adventurous served a fitting backdrop to an era leading up to and even after Independence. With entries such as Hunterwali (1933), Miss Frontier Mail (1936), Punjab Mail (1939) and Himmatwali (1949), Nadia solidified a whip-carrying, horse-mounted avenger who delivered rescue from a variety of oppressions. Making a social stand in Hurricane Hansa (1938), an orphaned Hansa is initially known as “Harijan Hansa,” relegating her to being socially ostracized until she grows up to take her vengeance and becomes known as “Hurricane Hansa.” Over the years, other leading names have also followed into Nadia’s footsteps. Nadira turned superheroine in Madame Zorro (1962). Not to be outdone by Sridevi taking on super

heroine status in Harmesh Malhotra’s Nagina (and its sequel Nigahein), Dimple Kapadia took on the baddies in Avtar Bhogal’s Zakhmi Aurat (1988) and the Ramsay Brothers’ Mera Shikar (1988). No one else, however, has been able knockout “Fearless” Nadia from her perch.

Mask? Check. Cape? Check. Payday? Double-check.

Superheroes of the male variety over the ages have spun off their own trademarks of chivalry, grace (and sometimes disgrace) under pressure and every imaginable outfit. In the age of a long-gone studio system where the biggest starts threw their lots behind lucrative exclusive gigs with a major studio, the biggest name to cash in on the genre—and by far the biggest stunt superstar in Hindi and Marathi films—was the dashing Master Vithal. Starting out with a bit role as a dancehall girl in Baburao Painter’s Kalyan Khajina (1924) back when onscreen girls had to be, er, boys, Master Vithal went on to follow the Douglas Fairbanks swashbuckling mold and then eventually capitalized on his own delivery of a masked daredevil champion of the oppressed. Over a 50-year career, Master Vithal’s most prominent roles captured a quintessential, fully fleshed out superhero in every sense of the term. In Sharda’s Suvarna Kamal (1926), Master Vithal offered himself as a masked adventurer on a magical quest for a

Aniruddh’s Top 5 Hindi Superhero Flicks 1) Deccan Queen (1937): Mehboob (Mother India) Khan’s hit stunt entry featured a princess/superheroine who takes on a secret identity to vanquish her kingdom’s power usurper. Her vehicle of choice: a faithful horse. 2) Mr. X in Bombay (1964): Surprisingly well-made sci-fi entry with a disappearing hero and a first-rate Laxmikant-Pyarelal songfest. 3) Koi Mil Gaya (2003): A coming of age of the disabled youth who turns the tables by transforming himself with the help from a cuddly extraterrestrial. 4) Mr. India (1987): An erotically charged Sridevi dance (“Kaate Nahi Kat Te”) in a show of longing for an invisible hero and Amrish Puri’s Mogambo, the most memorable villain of the 1980s. Who can ask for more? 5) Parasmani (1963): A swashbucking B-movie that hit the box office in an F/X extravaganza with a chart-bursting Laxmikant-Pyarelal score.

golden lotus that would be used to neutralize the wrath of the angry goddess Mahakali. The special effects—considered spectacular at the time—featured the superhero battling 100feet tall, realistic-looking genies that, understandably, were not ready to relinquish their treasure. After Master Vithal, there was Dara Singh, Master Vithal’s B-film counterpart. With an incredible array of cheaply churned stunt entries (Tarzan Come to Delhi, Tarzan & King Kong, King of Carnival), Singh’s playbook was nothing short of prolific. In Babubhai Mistri’s King Kong (1962), his best known role, Singh played a mysterious strongmen discovered in a forest. The muscleman must battle the local king, who, unbeknownst to the youth, is really his father. The arrival of television to rural India in the 1960s and 70s, in a proliferation that transformed the subcontinent’s entertainment, led to an openness—and even a slight Westernization—observed in the myths and cultural spaces that the superhero milieu was allowed to explore. Better special effects were also being experimented with. There was Shantilal Soni’s Mr. X in Bombay (1964), one of the best known Hindi sci-fi entries—thanks mostly to Kishore Kumar rendering an especially creepy invisible dude stalking Kum Kum while crooning the classic number “Mere Mehboob Qayamat Hogi.” In the 1980s, with the first true relaxing of trade barriers brought about by Rajiv Gandhi, there was wholesale import of international influences that mixed with local flavor for some memorable superheroes. Bachchan’s masked-

avenger turns in Tinnu Anand’s Shahenshah (1988) and Ketan Desi’s Toofan (1989) finally raised the superhero to the megastar perch. Shekhar Kapoor’s Mr. India (1987) unleashed the invisible-hero motif to a box office sensation and even Dharmendra got into a maskedavenger alter-ego in T. Rama Rao’s Khatron Ke Khiladi (1988). In an unusually transparent homage to a Hollywood icon, B. Gupta’s Superman (1987) offered Puneet Issar in the lead. Sent into intergalactic exile by his wellmeaning father (Dharmendra) from their home planet and adopted by a benevolent farmer (Ashok Kumar), the hero-child grows up to take a newspaper reporter job while secretly battling the dreaded would-be usurper (Shakti Kapoor). Over the last decade, the biggest superhero entries have been Hrithik Roshan, acquiring superpowers in Rakesh Roshan’s Koi Mil Gaya (2003) and Krrish (2006), and Shankar’s Robot (2010) with Rajnikant and Aishwarya Rai. All these entries were huge box office hits, proving that the superhero genre, an Indianized amalgamation of values, beliefs and dogmas unique to the subcontinent, are both alive and can thrive without ever endangering the breakneck pace of modernity India as a country is otherwise chasing. This then brings us to Anubhav Sinha’s Diwali 2011 release Ra. One, starring Shahrukh Khan. Yes, Ra. One features the biggest Hindi-language superhero entry to date. Yes, it also has the biggest marketing tie in and the—relatively new for India—merchandizing tie-ins that include everything from caps to notepad PCs with the film’s logo. Yes, Ra. One, the title, is a play on Lord Rama’s ancient nemesis, the dastardly arch-demon Raavan from the Ramayana. Held up against the mirror of the millennia, however, and barring a special effect or two, surely Ra. One can not truly offer anything that unique under the sun. And yet, we’ll all likely go see it! n Globe trekker, aesthete, photographer, ski bum, film buff, and commentator Aniruddh Chawda writes from Milwaukee. india currents • november 2011 • 17

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elections 2012

Spandan Chakrabarti

Mouse Pads and Shoe Leather The digital revolution in politics


n 2008, Barack Obama raised $750 million, half a billion of it online for his campaign for president. More importantly, President Obama built an army of 4 million donors in 2008 (3 million online), and twice that many volunteers. Make no mistake: what changed the nature of presidential politics in 2008 was not the Internet; it was people. But the Internet was and remains an invaluable tool in civic and political action as much as in commerce. It was this groundbreaking Internet campaign that raised up that army of small donors, that engaged 8 million campaign volunteers, aided an incredibly effective ground campaign to get people out to vote (including through Facebook and text messages) and gave ordinary Americans an avenue to storm the White House. I got my introduction to what the Internet can do to politics about four years before President Obama’s campaign. Back in 200304, former Vermont Governor Howard Dean’s campaign was a pioneer in the use of the Internet to raise money and recruit volunteers. The first national campaign to have an effective blog, Dean signed up 600,000 people online (then unheard of), yours truly among them. We called it a campaign of mouse pads and shoe leathers. Right after that campaign ended, I remained involved in the political process, but I also needed a way to put my thoughts down on the digital paper. So I started using Google’s Blogger as a platform, and would write down my thoughts when I felt warranted. But my writing passions really ignited in late 2009 in the midst of the health care reform debate —an issue I had long been passionate about. As an ardent supporter of health care reform, Spandan Chakrabarti

22 • india currents • november 2011

seeing too much misinformation about the reform proposal coming from both the Right and the Left, I founded (TPV), a pragmatic progressive site with a focus towards how public policies affect ordinary people, rather than how a given bill satisfies a given list of ideological checkmarks. Fortunately for me, people across the country who were looking for facts and a focus on people in public policy appreciated my writing, and started spreading the word. Some by email, some by social networks, and some by purely word of mouth. Today, The People’s View is a site with multiple authors, a bustling community of participants and a pretty good following for an effort that is purely a labor of love. People don’t read us because we break news. We don’t. People read us because we help them make sense of the news on a few select topics.


ere it not for the Internet, I doubt anyone would get a chance to notice what I—and now we— at ThePeoplesView. net were doing. The Internet gave me a tool not just to express myself but to have that work noticed. Not simply to present my thoughts but to learn from other sharply intelligent people who came to participate on TPV. This is the true beauty of the Internet in civic and political life (and in other aspects of life, too). It gives you the opportunity to express yourself, inform yourself, learn, teach, and do something. If you think you are too busy to wade through the details of a proposed law, chances are that others have already done the research for you. All you need to do is find a site with well researched information and read it. If you think your one vote is not enough to make a difference, you can take 10 of your friends on Facebook to the polls with you. Come on, you know you spend all that time on Facebook anyway. If you think there is an issue in your community (geographic, ethnic, or otherwise) that needs more attention than it is getting, and that you have something of substance to offer, you can easily start your own blog and educate and communicate with others. You can use the Internet to contact your local newspaper, your member of Congress, and even the President of the United States. The Internet will not change the world for you. But you can use it to affect the change that you think is needed.

I believe that the potential of the Internet as a tool to transform civic engagement is not at a peak but rather at a mere beginning. As I write this article, the California state legislature is tackling a bill to implement a fully secure online voter registration process. The White House recently launched a new online project to let citizens create our own petitions and gain support for it. You can now watch live political events on YouTube, and ask questions to the President (or to Republican presidential candidates in their debates) via Facebook and Twitter. At the core of any effective democracy is an informed and active citizenry, and apathy is its worst enemy. The government you elect (or choose to let others elect by not exercising your democratic rights) decides what kind of road you drive on, what kind of schools your children go to, what protections you enjoy as a consumer, patient and citizen, and what kind of future we will all live in. Politics is too important to be left up to the politicians.


y many measures, the Indian American community is better situated than many to take advantage of the digital age to affect positive change in our civic lives. This is a community flush with technology professionals who are not only in a position to use technology proficiently in all parts of their lives but in a position to improve the ease of use and access for others to existing technologies. In addition, as technology brings the developed world closer and closer to the emerging economies, Indian Americans are well positioned not just to take advantage of the expanding marketplace of goods and services but the revolutionizing marketplace of ideas in an interconnected globe. We are not strangers to democracy or to activism, and the Internet has taken away all the excuses for apathy. It’s time to use the resources at your fingertips to get engaged in the civil life and shake off that apathy that keeps us from it.n Spandan Chakrabarti, a resident of Silicon Valley, is the Founder and Editor of The People’s View (, a site devoted to examining issues from a liberal perspective on factual bases where he blogs under the pseudonym “Deaniac83.” His passions include health care policy, economic policy and LGBT civil rights. In his day job, Spandan is a Fund Development professional for a nonprofit health education and services organization.


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I C relationship diva

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municated openly and assessed whether you each are on the same page with respect to what is sought in a life partnership? What are the reasons your parents think the guy is “perfect?” What are the reasons you see no romantic potential with this guy? Since your parents seem to be taking an active role in your search, any potential disconnects on this end present enriching opportunities for: (1) deeper mutual understanding; (2) potentially learning from your parents' valuable experiences and insights (encouraging you to be open to the possibility that there may be things you may not foresee as relevant now— given your more limited experience in certain respects—which may be relevant down the road as you establish a life with your partner); (3) as well as enhanced prospects of your collective search efforts. Third, have you met the guy in person, and if so, how many times? I believe that meeting in person more than once allows one to gauge potential without risking letting the potential awkwardness and nervousness

oftentimes accompanying a first meeting to prematurely end things. While asking yourself these questions may take a good deal of effort and time, can you think of any decision of greater impact on life-long well-being than that of who you choose to spend the rest of your life with? And that leaves me with my last point: At the end of the day, in my opinion, you ultimately have the privilege and responsibility for the choice you make. Selecting the right spouse can be one of life’s greatest challenges, as well as one of life’s greatest rewards. Best wishes!n Jasbina is the founder and president of Intersections Match, the only personalized matchmaking and dating coaching firm serving singles of South Asian descent in the United States. She is also the host of Intersections Talk Radio, a monthly lifestyle show featuring conversations with published authors/experts on relationships, health and wellness.

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25 years Imperfect Democracies Comparing the trajectories taken by India and the United States since 1999

By Sanjoy Banerjee


began writing my column for India Currents at the time of the Kargil crisis of 1999. America, India, and their partnership have undergone profound changes since then. America and India have each enjoyed some important national successes and some grand failures. In partnership, the two countries have also scored some major successes and failures. America was in a position of overwhelming supremacy in 1999 and it would be have extraordinarily difficult to build an even more commanding position afterwards. The American information technology and financial booms were at their pinnacle. American military power was globally dominant, multidimensional, and cleverly applied. American television and cinema reigned supreme worldwide. In 1999 Russia was recovering from its second postSoviet economic crisis and had only begun to embrace Putin’s stronger leadership. China’s economy had grown to the point where it was highly dependent on the United States but not large enough to challenge U.S. leadership. The European Union in that year launched its new common currency, the Euro, in a spirit of confidence but remained loyal to America as leader of the Western world. India was not then in a position to raise or lower American power. All this left America in a position of unchallenged dominion, but made it much easier for secondary powers to emerge. A more reasonable measure of American success would be to examine how Sanjoy Banerjee

well it has held on to its lead despite the great advantages that rising secondary powers enjoy.

America’s Successes

In the current atmosphere of pessimism about America, it is easy to lose sight of what America has accomplished since 1999. America has supplied the world with money in that period. The dollar endures as a global institution, still embraced by all. This is a more remarkable and globally useful accomplishment than it may first appear. The American dollar has made the unprecedented rates of growth of the world economy in this period possible. The dollar has served as the primary international basis of contracts and storehouse of value only because all and sundry, from the Chinese government to Indian software companies to drug smugglers, have had faith in the dollar and in America. There was no other single currency available to which so many would have been willing to entrust their wealth and their contracts. Without a single globally accepted currency, the volume of world trade and thus the global economic growth and poverty decline that we have seen since 1999 would have been much less. The dollar allowed the developing countries to develop. It afforded Americans, even the lower middle class, the luxury of maintaining their living standards without developing new talents. It would have been better if Americans had raised their educational levels to the top of the world scale, as they had done for nearly two centuries, but it would have been worse for all if American educational stagnation had been fully translated into economic stagnation a decade ago. In East and Southeast Asia, American influence was on the decline until very recently. In the last few years, however, China has moved into a phase of arrogance toward its neighbors, making outlandish claims in the South China Sea that would leave Vietnam and the Philippines with only narrow strips of accessible waters. While China’s formal claims go back to the 1930s, their vigorous assertion against the claims of Southeast Asian countries over the same waters is very new. America’s continuing military strength has enabled Southeast Asian countries to stand up to China’s belligerence. For China, this arrogance is unnecessary for its continued economic rise, but may serve the political needs of factions in the Communist Party. America’s measured role has been stabilizing for this vast region. In the struggle with al-Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban, America has so far prevented a second major attack on its home soil and a Taliban recapture of Afghanistan. The United States has kept Pakistani backing for the Taliban within certain limits. America has also begun to build a larger Afghan army that may in a few years be big enough to obstruct Taliban attacks from Pakistan.

America’s Failures

The attack on Iraq was America’s greatest moral and political failure. The United States did ultimately defeat al-Qaeda there and the current Iraqi political system is fairly democratic, but the human cost to the Iraqi people was massive. No comprehensive honest count of the dead is currently available, but the most social-scientifically credible surveys suggest the true death toll is in the hundreds of thousands. In the view of most democrats throughout the world the

30 • india currents • november 2011

United States did not have the right to impose such costs on Iraqis. Those Muslims who do not count themselves among democrats are even less sympathetic. The occupation of Iraq diverted the United States from establishing a stronger Afghan state that could resist Pakistani and Taliban depredations on its own. America borrowed heavily even as it prospered through 2007, so when the financial crash came in 2008, it had to either build up a huge and dangerous debt or accept an immediate depression. These irrational policies flowed from dysfunctional domestic politics. Americans continued with racial bloc voting. The majority of whites have voted Republican ever since the Democrats passed civil rights legislation in the 1960s. Democratic President Lyndon Johnson thought this would go on for about twenty years when he put through the historic civil rights laws, but the white backlash is now in its fifth decade. The election of Barack Obama in 2008 heralded the possibility of a new politics or racial reconciliation, but white reaction set in swiftly. In the 2010 elections to the House of Representatives, a record 61% of whites voted Republican, even as many of them blamed the Republicans for the economic crisis. White Republicans do not espouse racist ideas. Many have accused them of harboring secret or coded racist beliefs, but this feat would be very difficult among such a large number of people. Nonetheless white Republicans, particularly Tea Party supporters, have very different anxieties from nearly all African Americans and the great majority of Hispanics. This is yielding a destructively divided political order. Since the Nixon era most white Americans have supported politicians whose legislations have led to the steady rise of income inequality in America. Minorities have lost out, but crucially, so have most pro-Republican whites. The American poor and lower middle class do live better than the Third World poor, but their struggle to maintain their living standards is becoming ever harder, despite earning in a globally privileged currency. This politics has also led to a four-decade decline in public education. That bodes ill for America’s recovery.

India’s Successes

India’s greatest success since 1999 has been the acceleration of its economic growth. The tax collecting structure has improved with direct taxes—on corporate profits and on personal incomes—matching revenues from the indirect customs and factory excise taxes. Surprisingly, faster growth has been achieved with minimal reforms. Politically tough decisions have been assiduously avoided by all the governments since then. And yet, growth accelerated. Indeed, in the last three years the wages of agricultural laborers, the poorest people in India, have risen faster than those of software engineers. The last year and a half

has seen the fastest growth of merchandise exports (not software and other services) in Indian history. The level of violence in Kashmir has declined sharply since 1999. India put up enough resistance that the Pakistan Army had to build up its jihadis. That tactic eventually backfired, with some jihadis turning on the Pakistan Army. At that point, the generals had to back off in Kashmir. The Kashmir issue has lost the central position that it once held in Pakistani diplomacy. The West has promoted the concept of Kashmir as a disputed territory on and off since 1947, but now sees the consequences of doing so; it is clear that jihadi organizations in Pakistan, like Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, which slaughters Shia Muslims every few weeks, would have been continuing their work in any part of Kashmir India might have given away to Pakistan. Indeed, the spectacle of Pakistan’s ties with terrorism has had a salutary effect on Kashmiri Muslims with separatist sentiments.

India’s Failures

India’s greatest failure has been that its economy did not grow faster. Indian Prime Ministers articulated with great clarity the reforms that were needed for faster economic growth, but they never implemented them. Both Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh dithered in the face of modest opposition. Both failed to make it easier for factory managers to fire workers, though both publicly recognized that this would make managers less reluctant to hire workers in the first place. If Vajpayee has taken advantage of his popularity, after the Kargil success in 1999, to make it easier for factories to dismiss workers, as he had promised to do, factories would have hired more workers, averting the jobless growth that Vajpayee actually delivered. Eventually, factory employment picked up, but the delay was crucial. It is often said that China can make the changes it needs because it is authoritarian and India cannot because it is democratic. This is an overstatement. India failed to implement the second generation of reforms because voters repeatedly elected leaders who, contrary to their public promises, sacrificed the mass of the voters’ interests to appease very small but well organized minorities, particularly tax cheats and trade unions. This is possible but not inevitable in a democracy.

India and the United States

The partnership between India and America has made some major gains. Economically, software exports from India to the United States are going strong. While the United States is suffering from high unemployment overall, the few software engineers American universities have graduated remain well-employed. American corporations purchasing Indian software are using it to raise their productivity and global competitiveness. The nuclear deal reflects American recognition that India

is a rising power and that India’s rise can benefit America. In Afghanistan, cooperation between India and America has been halting due to American deference to Pakistani demands, but with Pakistan unwilling and, indeed, unable to reduce its assistance to various terrorists, strategic cooperation between the United States and India in Afghanistan is rising. The new India-Afghan strategic cooperation reflects that. The most important U.S. action in Afghanistan has been to increase the size of the Afghan army to over 170,000 from around half that three years ago. The Afghan army needs to double again in the next three years. It will be difficult for America alone to train that many Afghan soldiers, and India can play a useful role. By 2014, the Afghan army will be big enough to saturate the border areas with Pakistan so American soldiers can return home. While a great deal of convergence between America and India has taken place, significant differences of perspective remain. America believes itself to have a legitimate tutelary role in the world, which India largely denies. The two countries understand the world-historical period of Western ascendancy quite differently, and thus have different views on what is just and inevitable in the future. But still such visions are not permanent, and changing circumstances will force adjustments, even painful ones. India and America have followed very different historical trajectories, and envision futures that converge only modestly. This does not mean that future circumstances will permit them to proceed that way. In writing for India Currents over this period, I have often been seized by the fervent wish that my readers not remember what I wrote earlier! Things, sometimes, have not gone the way I predicted. I have tried to apply by factual and theoretical knowledge to my column, and yet errors are common. I wish to offer an elaborate excuse. There are three major causes of error in the application of social sciences. The first, of course, is the limited intelligence of the social scientist. The second is bias and wishful thinking by the social scientist. The third is the low predictability of the objects being studied. Natural scientists have, for example, obtained data on a tiny portion of the carbon atoms in existence. Yet they have great confidence that the rest work the same way. Medical science is similar. Social science does not have this luxury. The object of study is not merely complicated, but becomes more complicated over time. Knowledge of the past, howsoever thorough, is inadequate to predict the social future. In my case, no doubt the first two causes weigh heavily, but I plead with my readers for understanding that the third cause is also present. n Sanjoy Banerjee teaches International Relations at San Francisco State University.

india currents • november 2011 • 31

I C ask a lawyer

Indu Liladhar Hathi

The Investor’s Visa


nder the American Immigration Act of 1990, Congress enacted the EB-5 (investor) visa. This highly underutilized category has posed to be a useful way for certain individuals to immigrate to the United States and obtain a green card. The intent of the program is to encourage the flow of foreign capital into the U.S. economy and to create jobs for U.S. workers. 10,000 visas in the EB-5 category are available each year, with 3,000 reserved for investors who want to participate in an EB-5 pilot program designed for target employment areas or “TEAs” (a rural area or an area experiencing unemployment of at least 150 percent of the national average rate). Recently, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has initiated a campaign to spur interest in the program and generate job growth in the country. Highlights of the program include: the foreign investor must have $1 million in the US business and it must create at least 10 full-time jobs for U.S. workers. Alternatively, for those individuals who prefer to take a more passive approach, foreign investors can

32 • india currents • november 2011

contribute $500,000 into a Regional Center situated in a TEA. About 90 percent of the money is funneled through private companies, known as regional centers, which match overseas investors with businesses in need of capital. These companies are authorized to participate in the program by legislation that expires every few years. Under the Regional Center program, the immigrant investor enterprise itself does not need to employ 10 U.S. workers, it only requires that 10 or more jobs are created indirectly as a result of the investment. There is no wait period to obtain the green card. The EB-5 program provides a conditional green card to the applicant and his/ her family immediately upon approval by the USCIS. The investor can arrive in the United States knowing that he and his family have permanent resident status and can apply for U.S. citizenship after 5 years. The EB-5 regulations require the investor to prove the invested capital was “obtained through lawful means.” The regulations requires proof of foreign business registration records; tax returns filed within 5 years; evi-

dence identifying any other source of capital, such as proceeds from the sale of real estate, inheritance, etc. This in itself is a challenge for many Indian nationals. It can be especially difficult in countries where no tax returns are required to be filed or where full disclosure of revenues and profits on tax returns is the exception rather than the rule. Where tax returns are not required to be filed, this should be documented. Where tax returns are required to be filed but the individual’s tax returns show very little income, the documentation of the source of funds should provide overwhelming evidence to counter the negative implication that comes from a review of the tax returns. Given the current state of the economy, this may prove to be a win-win situation not only for the United States, but also for the investor. For individuals with investment capital, the EB-5 visa provides a quick pathway for a green card. n Immigration and business attorney Indu Liladhar-Hathi has an office in San Jose. (408) 453-5335.



visa dates

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

November 2011


his column carries priority dates and other transitional information as taken from the U.S. State Depart­ment’s Visa Bulletin. The information below is from the Visa Bulletin for November 2011. In the tables below, the listing of a date for any class indicates that the class is oversubscribed. “Current” means that numbers are available for all qualified applicants. “Unavailable” means no numbers are available.

Verma LAW FIRM Arjun Verma, Attorney at Law (408) 436-1010

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EMPLOYMENT-BASED VISA DATES Preference Dates for India

The Department of State has a recorded message with visa availability information at (202) 663-1541, which is updated in the middle of each month. Source:


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Two Gurus A

mbadass takes one paw and paints the toe-nails blood-red with a cheap nailpolish. It’s the same color as the paan juice that bubbles out of his lips. The stray bitch sits on her haunches, offering her other paw when he’s done with the first. He drapes a shimmering, nylon scarf around her torso, holds it in place with several safety-pins, and puts a couple of brightly-colored hair-bands at regular intervals on her tail. The animal knows she’ll get something to eat after this ordeal. Passers-by stand and watch, click pictures on their mobile phones. Ambadass brings her a full mug of tea and two pieces of bread or a packet of biscuits when there’s a lull in activity on the platform, when he sits down with his own tiffin. “Today’s going to be busy,” he says to his companion, Mahakaal. “There’s a group of twenty scientists coming in from Mumbai, four businessmen from the U.A.E, a couple from Israel, a journalist from England. I hope you’ve informed the Guest House.” Mahakaal nods. He’s sitting on the other

ults Kat ha 2011 Res

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34 • india currents • november 2011

side of the dog, squeezing the pus from a pimple on his cheek. As representatives of New Foods Limited (NFL), the duo gets respect from railway staff, casual workers, stall-owners and even the beggars on the station. Here, in Tunkapur, only those who work for the Government or NFL don’t starve. Indeed, whole families depend on them for livelihoods. Thirty years ago, only slow trains stopped here. As Bapurao Shah’s baby, NFL, grew and Bapurao turned from a cigarette-stall blackmarketer to a bright-white safari-suited, goldbuttoned, Mercedes-owning industrialist, this dusty village became a bold dot on schoolmaps. From growing genetically-engineered, quick-ripening, not-easily-perishable tomatoes to exporting dehydrated onion and garlic powders, from the latest cooling technology and transportation methods to experiments in finance and systems, “it is the largest manufacturer and exporter of banana powder not only in India, but in the world,” locals proudly tell visitors and relatives. “Every time someone in the world drinks a banana milkshake or banana flavored dessert, he’s adding to the coffers of Bapurao Shah.” And Bapurao, shrewd as ever at 70 years, depends on and has direct communication with those on the ground, away from offices … he can’t do without the likes of Ambadass. “Ambya.” It’s Bapurao’s number on the cellphone. “There’s a Shri Kabra coming, ok? Srimatiji also. Extra care.” “Sir, will be taken care of,” Ambadass barks into the cellphone, then wipes his spittle off it and goes back to grooming the dog. “Who? Who’s coming?” Mahakaal’s irritatingly curious. “Must be some manager, director, something. So many have come, gone.” A family dragging luggage notices Ambadass: two adults and two children dip their heads respectfully, muttering “RamRam” in greeting.


mbadass and Mahakaal are the role models of the district. Mothers include their names in nursery rhymes. Fathers wish their sons would follow their footsteps. Getting a job at NFL is a dream. Getting to be as powerful at these two… surpasses local ambition. They acknowledge the greeting, stretch out in

Sheela Jaywant Katha 2011 Honorable mention


unison, making a long-drawn sighing sounds of part relief, part boredom. “VIP coming?” Mahakaal asks. Ambadass is annoyed by his eagerness. “Stop getting excited. Not now. Mr Kabra’s coming by the evening train.” “Again?” “Will have to do something about this Kaa-abraa,” retorts Ambadass, hate obvious in the way he drawls the name. “Why-why-why?” “Mahakaal, you are childish. Speak like a man. Speak slowly. Deliberately like Amitabh, not breathless like Shahrukh. Learn from Bapurao. Slowly, softly between us. When we have to get work out of any bastard, then abuse. Use full volume. You must learn, learn.” “This Kabra,” Mahakaal asks after a moment. “You don’t like him, I think.” “He asks too many questions.” “Questions?” “Mahakaal, shut up. I’ll do the talking. Don’t interrupt.” The bitch yelps, startled. Both men whack her together. She runs away, tail between her legs, then returns to creep underneath the bench on which they are sitting. “Remember those two English saabs? One died, fell out of the train. The other made a police complaint. Two years ago, was it?” “Yayayaya,” Mahakaal recalls the incident clearly. They were the second lot to get into “trouble” with Ambadass. They had been brought in as directors, had they own cars with drivers who weren’t local, who had wanted to check accounts. Accounts, hisaab, if you please. They hadn’t a clue how much money was needed for bribing these railway fellows for getting out of quota, out of turn tickets, reservations for guests. Ambadass took pride in the fact that not once had a guest been turned back for lack of seat or berth. Could he have done that if he had kept account? It was but natural that he did the job for a fee. Bapurao didn’t mind it, so who were these fellows to ask? They had said Ambadass lived beyond his means, that he owned a house with four rooms. Poor man who asked questions fell out of a train soon after it left Tunkapur. He had to travel by train because that day his car didn’t work. The mechanic said it would take five days to get a spare part. The mechanic cost


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ahakaal’s world lies between Bhusawal and Tunkapur, a distance of less than eighty kilometers. The television on the platform, his eavesdropping on the conversation of the guests that he escorts to and from NFL, and his exposure to world-class NFL processes have ignited his latent intelligence. He has been schooled in the wild ways of the coolies and cleaners of the station. His bed is amidst the cartons flung atop the same teastall that he sits near during the day. His job is with Ambadass but he has wormed his way into Bapurao’s presence many a time. Ambadass takes pride in his protégée. “My buddhoo,” he boasts, “is getting smart, dekho. Now, he has a phone of his own.”

36 • india currents • november 2011

Photo credit: Meg and Rahul

Ambadass five hundred. He’d helped him the first time, too, a man who spoke little, someone Ambadass cultivated, and the “fertilizer” was a bottle and a bai occasionally. “Maybe,” interrupted Mahakaal, “Bapurao doesn’t want to check himself, maybe he wants these people to do it for him.” Ambadass sits in brooding, ominous silence. “Check what?” Mahakaal continues: “Hisaab. Accounts.” Ambadass’ confident tone returns: “No. Bapurao will not change. He will not ask us. He wants that before he dies NFL should make some rules, have people who will sign, like in the government. So that his sons will do things without being told what to do. But he won’t do it. He will then not be in control. He has the power because he has access to us. Not the other way around. We tell him what’s happening in the factory. We tell him whom to trust. We tell him how many trucks came, how much maal was loaded, don’t we? Why does he need managers, directors, when he has us? Kabirdas’ couplet says, a sword can’t do the work of a needle. Jahaan kaam avey sui vahan kaa karey talwar.” Mahakaal stares at him. “Where do you learn these things?” “You’re an idiot. Get out, see what’s happening at the tea-stall.” Loiterers at corner tea-shops look at Mahakaal with respect: “You both here today? Some VIP coming?” “Can’t tell you.” “Politician? From Delhi? Mumbai?” “I said can’t tell you.” “But we’ll tell you something. Sachinrao Himmat from Zilla Subedpur is starting a company. The government is favoring it. Bapurao wants to stop him. You know Patil? He’s desperate to get into the CM’s chair. Bapurao has promised him a chair in the Assembly. It’s the old story of ‘you feed my buffalo, I’ll milk your cow’.” Mahakaal doesn’t tell Ambadass any of this. He decides to directly tell Bapurao himself. He has to, wants to make his voice heard.

In NFL, with a certain kind of employee, the turnover is high. Those who won’t toe the line go. Bapurao works from the guts, with guts. Professionalism as taught by MBA schools has no place here. Sweetness and diplomacy works. And ruthlessness when needed. When a job has to be done, the means don’t matter. NFL doesn’t depend on outsiders, it makes its own laws. Bapurao’s advisors are childhood chums, brothers-inlaw, people he’s known from the past, like Nana Deshmukh, who used to transport, without taking money, Bapurao’s goods when the company was a fledgling. The credit, with interest, is still being paid in hospitality, 40 years down the line. NFL raised Tunkapur out of starvation. A grateful district has heaped honors and awards upon Bapurao. (Statues of him have been kept in readiness. The day he dies every colony will install one.) Bapurao utters guttural sounds that only his inner circle seems to decipher. Ambadass and Mahakaal can. Many are the instantaneous, instinctive decisions, mumbled in passing, executed by the duo. Like the bottle-cap factory, erected on a whim: it was a disaster, but from it arose the packaging plant, India’s best. Every advisor had said it wasn’t a feasible project. As always, Bapurao proved them wrong.


abra arrives by the North India Mail. He’s taken the flight from Chennai to Nashik and then the train to Tunkapur. Someone had met him at Nashik station, handed over home-cooked, packed food for the journey, water, soft-drinks of his choice, wet-wipes, liquid soap, in a hamper; and unobtrusively taken it away when he’d finished with it. Kabra knew he was being watched. On arrival at Tunkapur, he looks around.

“No one else is here, sir, only me,” says Ambadass, doing a namaste. “I’ve got the car, made the arrangements.” Kabra asks him a few days later: “What exactly do you do?” “Customer service,” is Ambadass’ prompt reply. “Are you an officer? Supervisor?” “No designation.” Kabra can’t get much information out of him. “You have Bapurao’s number on your phone?” “Yes.” Mahakaal, however, tells Kabra their salaries, the advantages of their job, the perk: Bapurao’s full faith, full affection. They sit at a separate baithak privately with Bapurao; all commands, from the tiniest tasks to the most improbable ones, are carried out. No questions asked, no answers sought. When Bapurao goes abroad, he gets gifts for them: umbrellas with torches attached, fluorescent socks, non-skid mats, battery-operated screwdrivers. Objects of envy. The value doesn’t matter. Exclusivity does. “Kabra will destroy us,” Ambadass mutters to Mahakaal. “I sense something. He has to go. If something happens to Bapurao, he will throw us out.” “No one stays long.” “This one is a lambay race ka ghoda. He’s staying. A bungalow in the factory, day-boarding for the children, a car with a driver, petrol allowance. He’s come to settle, for sure. He doesn’t like us.” Mahakaal hangs around Kabra. “Any work for me?” he asks him regularly. He makes sure the petrol bills are inflated, the children are given goodies that NFL pays for, the wife’s shopping is done even before she seeks the






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india currents • november 2011 • 37

items, verbally whips the servants… If Kabra’s going to be the new Sa’ab, Mahakaal figures he, Mahakaal, must be the new Ambadass. Back at the railway-platform the following week Ambadass says, “I can’t put a finger to it. There’s an air of unpleasantness. Kabra… what to make of him?” Mahakaal is silent. “We are like parivar, Mahakaal. Bapurao’s daughters-in-law are our bhabhis. Kabra… he’s an intruder. One week since he’s been here….I haven’t received a single call from Bapurao. Have you?” Mahakaal clears his throat, waves his hand before his chest to indicate: “No.” “He’s actually checking who’s coming in, which car has done how many kilometers, who owns the tempo that carries the regular maal from the market to the central kitchen… he’s got the numbers. Worse, he’s telling me what to do. He. I take orders from only Bapurao. Hm…Bapurao hasn’t called.” Mahakaal is silent. The NFL empire runs by word of mouth; Mahakaal has whispered in Kabra’s ears: “We get news even from the marketing offices in Mumbai. Boys who live on the station, outside the station, we employ them by the day, the hour. They’re cheap. A vada pao is enough payment. They’re illiterate but dependable; they do odd jobs, listen, quote numbers, names.” One sleepy summer afternoon, when no train was expected, Ambadass roars at Mahakaal: “I wasn’t called for breakfast last Sunday.” Breakfast “meetings” at Bapurao’s house are sullen affairs, punctuated by the drone of a remark or two, opportunities for personal exchanges. Politics is discussed, tea is slurped; money is discussed, snacks munched. Manipulation planned, colorful pills are swallowed. Smiles are reserved, given in small, occasional, measured quantities, doses to boost the spirits, like when the grandchildren are around. No one can say “no” to anything they ask for. Discipline is restricted to touching the toes of elders, saying prayers, and eating vegetarian food. When they are of age, a school will be established for them; they will be the class monitors, prefects. They will win prizes, be groomed to be obeyed, to bend rules, twist the government’s arm. Like their fathers, they will be dependent on NFL until the end of their lives, watched over by the likes of Ambadass.


nd Mahakaal. Kabra finds that fascinating. He keeps Bapurao busy, Ambadass at bay, and Mahakaal in his clutches. Mahakaal continues to tell Kabra more khabar: “When Bapurao’s wife died, his sons and their families felt more relief than grief; she had been bedridden for many years. Bapurao is afraid that might happen to him. He keeps us happy because we will look after him, if they don’t.” “Kabra-sir,” Mahakaal advises. “Don’t 38 • india currents • november 2011

wear a watch. Come in at 7 a.m., and stay on till Bapurao calls it a day. Clocks are not allowed in the office. Holidays? There are none. Weddings, births, deaths, NFL pays for them.” And then: “No coffee or tea in the office. Only milk from the company’s own gao-shala. No liquor, no soft-drinks. Women workers wear salwar-kameez. No pants.” Mahakaal loves excitement: he gets withdrawal symptoms if he doesn’t run against time, break rules…. Cheating on Ambadass gives him a thrill. Ambadass interrupts Mahakaal’s thoughts abruptly: “I will handle this Kabra.” The next day, some computers give trouble. The systems’ chap stands by helplessly as a pandit does a pooja. Prayers are compulsory before it is restarted. Ambadass nudges Mahakaal: “Kabra is making an ishaara, a sign to that systems chap. I’m reporting him to Bapurao.” Mahakaal has learnt from Kabra to “Document everything. You can write. Note down, events, incidents, accidents, accounts. Word of mouth, honor, that’s important. But memory can change. People change.” Mahakaal has written, hidden proof of Ambadass’ doings: pilfering diesel, getting cuts from vendors to have their cheques cleared, getting reimbursement of unused tickets. Ambadass scoffs at Kabra, standing there: “These management-types, if they knew so much about business, they would have built an empire like this. They do the ghulami. Bapurao, a simple village man, eats simple food, lives in the same place he was born in, hasn’t been to a fancy college. He’s like us, basically smart. These computers, can they do our job?” Thinks Mahakaal: “the men behind the computers… they can.” But he keeps quiet. On Independence Day, at the earlymorning flag-hoisting ceremony in the grounds opposite the main factory, the staff comes to collect their gifts: shiny steel madein-China flasks. The duo is absent, Kabra notices, but no one asks about them. Their relationship, like the blastula stage of an embryo, is convoluted, contorted, entwined, yet orderly and defined. This foetus, though, won’t mature into a baby, but remain in a state of perpetual pregnancy, with the accompanying dis-ease, dis-comfort. Bapurao claims loudly, proudly, in his speech: “No one has ever been thrown out of NFL, though many deserve to be.” No mention is made of the secretary who had hanged herself. She had entered whilst he was eating and “ruined his appetite.” He had screamed at the peon to throw away his meal. She fell out of favor, took the easy way out. There are others like her, suffering in a rancid atmosphere, Mahakaal tells Kabra. That afternoon, Mahakaal gets bold, asks Kabra about the telephone bill that Ambadass has received. “Yes,” says Kabra, “he will have to pay.”

Ambadass is livid. “I will make the bastard pay for the office space that he’s occupying, the chair and table… and this bill, Mahakaal, till then, you pay, ok?” “Why me?” “Pay, yaar, you’ll get it back. I’ll give you next month.” Mahakaal doesn’t believe him, doesn’t want to pay. He uses a tactic that works everywhere, every time: Flattery. “Ambadass, this Kabra fellow doesn’t know what he up against. He has to go. We’ll think it over. You’re stressed, Bhai. Tell you what, let’s go for a ride on the 9:20 Fast. It will cool us. And then I’ll treat you to omelette-pao.” No one knows what happened; Ambadass is not seen again. As always, Mahakaal is quiet. Days later, he sits in Ambadass’ place, next to the dog, painting her nails red with the bottle that is now less than half full. She doesn’t give him a paw as easily and whines intermittently. He strokes her. “Where’s Ambadass?” Bapurao himself asks Mahakaal. “Don’t know. Haven’t seen him.” “You don’t know where he’s gone?” “No.” Then offers: “He isn’t answering his phone.” Ambadass’ body is found near Bhusawal. “Sad,” some say. “Unfortunate. He must have bent out to get the breeze on his face.” They sit next to Mahakaal, offering him comfort. He gently places the dog on his lap, continuing to groom her like Ambadass did. She has stopped pining for Ambadass. She turns up her liquid eyes and glistening nose, then licks him affectionately. Mahakaal’s inherited Ambadass’ mantle: he knows just what to do. The telephone bill that Kabra was forcing him to pay, he will tell everyone, is what drove Ambadass to his death. Kabra must go, will go. Mahakaal will report to Bapurao. Mahakaal takes a deep breath and draws the dog closer. n Judges’ comments: Shilpa Agarwal: The writer of this story created a gritty, dog-eat-dog world, depicting the ugly collision of traditional and modern ways of doing business in a small railway town. It was a compelling study of class issues, power struggles, and the darker side of human nature. Ronica Dhar: I loved this story for the impeccable job it does with setting; the writer has not only fully imagined a particular time and place (and confluence of characters) but also executed that vision very well. Indeed, the themes here are so various and rich, I’d love to see this story as a novel! Sheela Jaywant is a columnist for Gomantak Times, a Goan newspaper. She is a published and award winning author.

india currents • november 2011 • 39



Rajesh C. Oza

Tender Horror THE MASQUE OF AFRICA: GLIMPSES OF AFRICAN BELIEF. By V. S. Naipaul. Knopf. 256 pages. 2010. $26.95 COLLECTED SHORT FICTION. By V. S. Naipaul. Everyman’s Library. 409 pages. 2011. $25.


owards the end of V. S. Naipaul’s The Masque of Africa, the author hears an echo from his earlier travel through the continent: “Here when an old person dies we say a library has burnt down.” Much time has passed since the middle-aged Naipaul first heard this sentiment in 1983; over a quarter of a century later, the calmer and more balanced senior citizen hopefully suggests that, “the words had clearly passed into folk memory.” I first read Naipaul in the late 1970s. Through the years, many of his words have passed into my own literary memory. After gulping down A House for Mr. Biswas in one sleepless go on bus and train rides through Chicago, I hungrily plowed through the other early comic works: Miguel Street, The Mystic Masseur, and The Suffrage of Elvira. Of these, Miguel Street, and other short story collections have been published in the Everyman’s Library edition titled Collected Short Fiction. When Naipaul received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2001, I recalled that he had once said about his books, “They will not survive me.” Now it appears that when the irascible old man of letters passes from the scene, his library will not have burned down. And this is how I received The Masque of Africa; I was grateful that the writer had one more book in him. By the end of the book, I was well aware that while the powers of observation have been undiminished, the ability to synthesize and compress into a simple and sometimes biting elegance has suffered. One can empathetically suggest that writing is hard work, but this is Naipaul, and thus expectations are high; points are not given for effort taken on the arduous road. But something must be said for, and about, an octogenarian who takes the many bends in the African river. Naipaul’s search for the enduring beliefs that inform African life take him to Uganda, Nigeria, Ghana, the Ivory Coast, and to South Africa. Though magical realism has never been Naipaul’s style, a magic that is real to Africans pervades this matter-offact book. The Masque of Africa attempts something grand, something along the lines of Naipaul’s previous travel books (An Area of Darkness, India: A Wounded Civilization, and Among 40 • india currents • november 2011

the Believers). It looks to explore the contest for the African spirit, but like Naipaul’s travelogue about the American south (A Turn in the South) it falls short. It asks big questions: “Why had the foreign revealed religions wrought such havoc with African belief?” And then it responds unevenly in its early pages: “Both Christianity and Islam would have been attractive to Africans for a simple reason. They both offered an afterlife; gave people a vision of themselves living on after death. African religion, on the other hand, was more airy, offering only the world of spirits, and the ancestors.” Before proceeding to write about human and animal sacrifice (royals being burned alive; kitties being drowned), the author states simply, “So the magic survived.” There is a theme of magic’s horror recurring throughout the book. Naipaul may have been looking for an animism that was lyrical and hopeful, but with a few exceptions, he found mostly cruelty in the so-called dark continent. Condescendingly, he writes, “Left to themselves, [Africans] would easily eat their way through the continent’s wildlife.” He continues, “The land is full of cruelty, which is hard for the visitor to bear…. Long-horned cattle are sent for slaughter … to the extensive abattoir area near the docks. And there in trampled and vile black earth these noble creatures, still with dignity, await their destiny in the smell of death.” And by repeatedly displaying a surprising tenderness for kittens (“dainty little creature”), he sets up the reader for revulsion: “Cats were eaten; they were part of the bounty of nature, and they could be reared to be killed…. I found out what was the best way in the Ivory Coast of killing a cat or kitten. You put them in a sack of some sort, and then you dropped the sack in a pot of boiling water. The thought of this everyday kitchen cruelty made everything else in the Ivory Coast seem unimportant.” Naipaul reveals his sympathies in this last sentence. While he observes much that is truly magical in the Ivory Coast and neighboring countries, it is the awfulness of Africa that remains on the surface. The “masque” in the book’s title appears to have come from a mysterious Nigerian figure of masquerade, which informs the author’s précis on a misogynistic phenomenon called “Mumbo Jumbo” (given Naipaul’s recent outbursts about women writers not being his equal, a wag

might say that this is the “kettle calling the pot black”). Naipaul’s sympathies lie not with the men, women, or children of the continent, but rather with the vulnerable kitties purring their way into his heart, the wild horses whose heads are on display like witchdoctors’ trophies, and the heads of deer, “split down the middle with a single blow from a sharp knife or axe, the way in a cocoa estate, at harvest time, a cocoa pod, held in the left hand, might be split by a machete held in the right.” All of this the traveler saw across the length of Africa, but the most damning prose is reserved for South Africa. In a strange mishmash of a final chapter (Mohandas Gandhi mixed with Zulu kings; Winnie Mandela conflated with Joseph Conrad), Naipaul attempts too much and does a different kind of balancing act; precariously walking the tightrope between the beautiful and the beastly, he finds expectations falling and recoils from the Conradian horror: “I thought it all awful, a great disappointment. The people of South Africa had had a big struggle. I expected that a big struggle would have created bigger people, people whose magical practices might point



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the way ahead to something profounder…. There was nothing here of the beauty I had found in Nigeria among the Yoruba people, with their cult, as it seemed to me, of the natural world; nothing here like the Gabonese idea of energy which was linked to the idea and wonder of the mighty forests. Here was only the simplest kind of magic which ended with itself, and from which nothing could grow.” I, too, believe in magic—the magic of words. Naipaul’s early words moved me, shaped me, stayed with me. To compile them into one neat package in the Collected Short Fiction is a gift of sorts from the publisher, with the author’s introduction providing a thoughtful and distanced objectivity about his own youthful writing: “The reader of this book can follow this process of learning and discovery in the stories of the Miguel Street sequence. He may think I claim too much for the stories, but I am speaking here of something very personal, something that tipped me over from despair into beginning to be a writer.” Perhaps one snippet from Miguel Street can entice a new generation of readers to sample the short, easily digestible fiction, much of it based on the author’s childhood in Trinidad: “What happening there, Hat?” The dialogue is a joy. The dialect takes one to an island that is not quite paradise. Colonialism has ended or is on its last legs, but, of course, the imperialist impulse lives on and informs much of Naipaul’s evolving legacy: “Its theme is of

Jeanne E. Fredriksen

Ground Cover SOMEONE ELSE’S GARDEN by Dipika Rai. Harper Perennial: New York. 2011. $13.99. 400 pages. Trade Paperback Original.


ow and then, along comes a novel that I truly want to enjoy. The cover is intriguing. The synopsis draws me in. But for any number of reasons, it disappoints. Dipika Rai’s debut novel, Someone Else’s Garden, is one such book. Mamta, the oldest of seven in a family rural turn-of-this-century India, is despised and ignored by her father because of her gender. Barely fed, overworked, and not yet married at twenty, she is considered by her father to be “someone else’s garden” that he needn’t care for. Forced into a last-ditch marriage opportunity, Mamta is sent to live with an abusive husband that her father never bothered to assess. After enduring all manner of abuse, she gathers her few belongings and most of her courage and slips away from his grasp. Alone in the city, it is up to Mamta to find her place, secure a job, and make a life according to her own abilities. Garden is a tale of many things, but most importantly, it is a story of the power of belief 42 • india currents • november 2011

displacement in the modern world, an idea that would have been beyond the imagining of the people of Miguel Street.” While this is not the time or place to do full justice to the comic genius of the early Naipaul, suffice it to say that reading only the late Naipaul is akin to knowing your grandfather as only a bent-over old man, too quick with the stick on lesser intellects, but curiously gentle with lower beings. It is much better to dig into the sepia-toned photographs and hear stories from your Dadaji’s youth: to listen to the humor, the hunger, the hubris; to engage in the adventure, the anxiety, the aspiration. In the end, how wonderful it is to see the whole fabric of a man, to engage in the fullness of a life, and in the process find one’s own voice and way. So it is that a writer, like his works, has a narrative. Naipaul has come through a bit battered by his misogyny, his misunderstood worldview, and his misplaced wicked humor. But he has come through; he has had an indelible impact on his readers; and he has made a way in the world.n For future generations of readers who may disconnect from social media and take heed of Harvard educator Howard Gardner’s imploration to enjoy “long summer days or solitary train rides when we first discovered an author who spoke directly to us.”

in oneself. It is also a story of pain, hardship, abuse, disrespect, and cruelty toward women. There is so much pain, sorrow, and hate in this book that it spares no class, setting, or character. The novel addresses women’s rights, social traditions, and the failings of the rural caste system. Certainly, it is an earnest attempt to show that after centuries of mistreatment, women in these circumstances find it difficult to even hope to change accepted norms. The foundation of the novel is indeed powerful: a woman deciding to buck an accepted oppressive system to make a life of her own. Issues raised in the novel are potent, heart-breaking, and worthy of our scrutiny, but that’s where the praise ends.

The problem lies with the execution of the story. While Mamta’s success is astonishing, the torrent of suffering she endures page after page weighs down the story for too long. Garden should have been as compelling a book as are the issues it attepts to highlight, but it is filled with author intrusions and an overload of rambling imagery. As with theatre and cinema, fiction requires the reader to suspend their disbelief. When Rai imposes her own thoughts and questions, she forces the reader to step out of the narrative. Rai also has a tendency to state and restate the obvious, making it seem as if the author is either unsure of her writing or just writing down to the reader. There was much in the effort of this novel that needed to be weeded out and cultivated. Rather than allowing the story to blossom and grow under the watchful eye of the gardener, it was planted without the care it deserved, which is disappointing. n A portion of the author’s royalties are donated to Pratham, the largest NGO in India working to provide quality education to underprivileged children. Jeanne E. Fredriksen reads and writes from the Raleigh-Durham area, where as a recent transplant she is exploring the many hidden treasures of her new state.



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IndiaCurrents Happy


tax talk Khorshed Alam

Parents, Children, and Taxes B

eing a parent brings tremendous rewards, but also the challenge and responsibility of supporting and educating your child. Fortunately, the tax code has many ways to help ease a parent’s financial burden. Here is an overview of the many ways that taxes can affect your decisions as a parent.


Exemptions and Credits

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Being a parent usually cuts your tax bill in at least two ways. You can generally claim a dependency exemption for each child under age 19, or under age 24 for full-time students. You can also claim a child tax credit for each child under age 17. This is a direct credit against taxes you owe, and it can be partially refundable. Other credits include the adoption credit to offset expenses of adoption and the child care credit. This credit allows you to offset some of the costs of paying for child care so that both spouses can work or attend school full-time. Many of these tax breaks phase out for those at higher income levels.

Education Expenses

One of the biggest challenges for a parent is funding a child’s college education. A variety of tax breaks can help with this major expense, including savings plans, tax credits, and tax deductions. These measures all have different rules and eligibility requirements. There are two main types of savings plans for education expenses: Coverdell education savings accounts and Section 529 plans. Coverdell accounts work rather like an IRA. Contributions grow tax-free, and withdrawals are free of tax if used for qualified education expenses. Coverdell accounts can also be used to pay for K-12 expenses as well as college costs. Section 529 plans provide tax-free earnings and distributions for higher education expenses, and they generally have fewer restrictions than Coverdell accounts. The Hope credit (renamed the American Opportunity credit) and the lifetime learning credit are two tax credits available for education expenses. Each has its own rules and income limits, and you cannot use both credits for the same child in the same year. A limited tax deduction is available for student loan interest expense. In addition, interest on U.S. savings bonds can be tax-free if the bonds are used for education expenses.

Child Tax Issues

The “kiddie tax” is a rule that affects the investment income of children. A child’s

unearned income above a threshold amount will be taxed at the parent’s highest rate until the child reaches a certain age. The intent is to stop a high-income parent from shifting large amounts of earnings to a child in a lower tax bracket. A strategy of “income shifting” can make sense for a family once the child is old enough to escape the kiddie tax. Parents can gift income-earning assets to older children (subject to the annual and lifetime gift limits), and the children will pay tax on the income earned at their own (presumably lower) rates. Another tax-cutting strategy is to employ your child in the family business. The business can take a deduction for wages paid, while the child often pays little or no taxes on his or her earnings. It must be a real job, though, and the wages must be reasonable for the work. If your children have earnings from summer or after-school jobs, encourage them to open IRA accounts. The additional years of tax-free compounding can produce huge additional savings by the time your children reach retirement age. Don’t overlook the role of grandparents. They can help pay college expenses, for example, either by contributing to education savings plans or by paying tuition bills directly. Also, by giving appreciated stock to their grandchildren, they may be able to boost the children’s savings while reducing overall taxes for the family unit.

Estate Planning

For a parent, estate planning is especially important. The first priority is to make sure your children are protected in the event that something happens to you. Your estate plan should appoint guardians for your minor children, as well as provide for their financial well-being. Early estate planning can also help to ensure that your assets pass to your children as you consider prudent. A variety of planning techniques can allow you to transfer assets to your children over the years, often while still leaving you with some control over the assets.n The tax information contained in this article is of a general nature. Please consult your tax attorney for details. Khorshed Alam is a practicing CPA and Business Valuation Analyst. Check out or call (408) 445-1120.

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Kalpana Sunder

Spirituality Meets Symmetry The ancient temples of Cambodia

The classic view of Angkor Wat


or five hundred years till 1600 A.D., the Khmer was one of the greatest kingdoms of the world, and then the jungle took over. In 1863, explorer Henri Mouhot battled leopards and leeches to reach these magnificent ruins overgrown by tropical jungle. Researchers followed pioneers to the lost world of Angkor, which was the centre of the Khmer kingdom, and unearthed a bewildering maze of temples, religious monuments, and palaces built out of sandstone, bricks, and laterite, bearing testimony to the architectural prowess of master builders. Jayavarman VII, one of the kings of the Khmers, is said to have built the temple Ta Prohm “full of deep sympathy for the good of the world, so as to bestow on men the ambrosia of remedies to win them immortality....By virtue of these good works would that I might rescue all those who are struggling in the ocean of existence.” The Khmer Rouge and civil war slowed down restoration efforts and it was only from the 1990s that true restoration has succeeded. Land mines have been cleared, forests cut, and the collapsed structures painstakingly restored. Even today, Japanese, Indian, and German teams operating under a UNESCO committee are at work restoring the temples. Each one has their own methods: some believe in non intervention, some, like the Japanese, have

used new sandstone to bolster the old structur es.


chre villas, wide boulevards, tuk tuks with smog-belching motorcycles attached—Siem Reap, Cambodia, the gateway to Angkor Wat, is today a maze of resorts and hotels catering to the battery of tourists. This great tourist onslaught has its downsides, though for a country as poor as this, tourist dollars are important. The hospitality industry is draining the underground reservoirs, there is a lot of damage to the ancient buildings, and illegal logging wreaks environmental damage. This country has battled political violence, crimes against humanity, and genocide. Today it battles poverty and corruption. Our guide, Vin, was a victim of the Khmer Rouge atrocities himself. He lost his father, a military officer, as a child and spent many years in an orphanage when his mother lost all their property. Eventually he studied to be a teacher, and today he makes an excellent guide. What amazes me is the absence of rancour. He has just one dream: his children must experience the world in a better way, go abroad, and make new lives for themselves.


t’s a rainy day which gives us respite from the dreaded Cambodian sun. The 400 sq.

kilometers (155 sq. miles) Angkor Park is actually a series of different capital cities of the Khmer empire between the 9th and the 15th centuries. The temples are not the only attraction here: there is also nature at its best, birds, monkeys, and snakes.


ngkor Wat, the most sublime of all the Khmer temples with its silvery moat filled with lilies, is a three tiered pyramid topped with pineapple shaped towers—a shrine to Vishnu by Suryavarman II, which was both the capital and the state temple. It is the most famous shrine here and even branded on the national flag. It is, today, the largest religious structure in the world, spread over 22 acres. We look like ants with umbrellas as we walk along the long walkways with banisters carved with naga serpents, some of them broken. Angkor Wat combines two features of Khmer temples—a pyramid, and cascading galleries. Near the gopura (pyramid) is a tower with a gargantuan statue of Vishnu, which has been restored many times. Among the many bas relief carvings on the outer walls, there is a unique apsara or celestial maiden rwith an unusually toothy smile—she is one among 2,000 or more apsaras at Angkor Wat! Over in the southern gallery, are graphic images of the hells and heavens of Hindu my india currents • november 2011 • 51

thology, drawn from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. One of the most fascinating panels is the “churning of the sea of milk”— when gods and asuras churned the cosmic seas to produce the elixir of immortality. Asuras, nagas, apsaras, a variety of marine life both real and mythical—this is a picture that we can gaze at for hours! Then there is the hall of a thousand Buddhas which had many statues destroyed by the Khmer Rouge during their Reign of Terror. The cascading towers represent Mount Meru, the mythical symbol of the centre of the universe in Hinduism. Perfect symmetry, the motifs, and the amazing architecture has us awestruck. We are even more amazed when we contemplate: how did the people drag these gargantuan blocks up to form the cascading tiers of this temple?

Apsaras are a common motif in the Angor Wat complex


Bayon with its surrealistic mass of faces


rom Angkor Wat, we drive to the gates of Angkor Thom, or great city, which was roughly four times the size of Angkor Wat and had over a million people in those days. We enter the walled city through the Victory gate. We walk along the Elephant terrace—the heart of Angkor Thom where royal receptions used to be held and the King could view his returning army, as well as watch elephant fights. Elephants with lotuses in their trunks, snake railings, and garudas (eagles) carved into the sandstone—this is a majestic place. Close by is the Leper King Terrace which owes its name to a statue of Yama, the God of Death which had patches of lichen on it when it was found. It was given the name because of an old folk legend that one of the kings of Angkor was a leper. Today there is a copy of the original statue here; what is really the centerpiece are the hidden reliefs of the nagas and deities of the underworld which were found during excavations. 52 • india currents • november 2011

izarre Bayon is the central temple of Angkor Thom and a photographer’s dream. At first glance it looks like random masonry, but closer observation reveals a surreal mass of sphinx-like stone faces with downcast lids with serene visages and enigmatic smiles. The face s are thought to be either of the King Jayavarman VII or Lokeswara, the compassionate Buddha. The temple is extremely complex in terms of its structure and meaning, having passed through different religious phases. Our guide explains how when there was a change of king and religious beliefs, the statues were often defaced or converted. Because the city of Angkor Thom was so well fortified, later kings found it easier to remodel the Bayon, rather than rebuild their own new temple! We see evidence of this in many places. Gargantuan Hindu gods made into Buddhas, Buddha statues converted to Hindu gods! One of the special pleasures of the Bayon is to ramble through its maze-like structure. Narrow chambers, corridors and stairways, give us surprising glimpses of the enigmatic faces. The bas reliefs on the outer and inner walls of the Bayon have a wealth of images. Our guide points out a few to us: The Khmer battling their enemies the Chams(now the Vietnamese) on land and on water, corpses in the battle being thrown to the crocodiles, cock fighting, jugglers and wrestlers, a woman blow-

ing a cooking fire—all a fascinating glimpse into life eons ago. As we climb the maze of faces, we are startled to see a real-life Apsara with her troupe posing with tourists—for a fee, of course!


ast of Angkor Thom is Ta Prohm, the most romantic temple that I have seen. Gigantic strangler fig and silk cotton trees threaten to engulf the temples in their viper-

The jungle has the temples in its viper-like grip.


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Yama, the figure of Airavata, Indra’s mount on the entrance gate to Angkor Thom, dancing apsaras (creatures of Hindu mythology), the friezes of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata on the walls of Angkor Wat.


here are also reminders of Cambodia’s more recent past everywhere—an orchestra outside one of the temples is composed of land mine victims playing enthralling music. Many of the older residents have stories of hardship etched on their faces. But, almost everywhere, we are followed by perky, bedraggled kids with bright eyes in a refrain of “One dollah.” They vend postcards, T shirts, trinkets, and soft drinks. I don’t think they go to school or have enough food to eat. But in their eyes I see a wish for a better future, a future that they and their country richly deserve. n

The “one dollah” kid

spirits, is not to be. Today Ta Prohm is a touristy melee. Many Japanese tourists pose near the Tomb Raider temple—where Angelina Jolie battled the baddies as kick-ass archeologist Lara Croft. More than the grandeur of the temple the movie connection seems to appeal to them!


he Indian connection is the leitmotif that entrances us: it was trade with India that gave the Khmers the influences of Hinduism and art and architecture. We see this everywhere—the Leper Terrace with a figure of

Kalpana Sunder is a Japanese language specialist and travel writer based in Chennai. How to get there: The two international airports in Cambodia are in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. (Siem Reap is closer to Angkor Wat.) Tour operators and travel specialists abound, but it is also possible to take a rental car to the complex. The best time to visit Angkor is during the cool dry season from December to March. This is when the weather conditions are at their very best. November may be a touch rainy but cheaper.



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like grip. Gangly, sinewy roots are entwined with ancient sandstone blocks, sculptures, and pillars. Walls have been split and statues have been crushed by the gnarled branches. Restorers have intentionally left it that way, so that people can imagine how it would have looked to the first explorer arriving many years ago… an eerie picture of a lost civilization. Amidst the sound of cicadas and bird calls, I find myself ruminating over the futility of human ambitions—what we build, the jungle can devour… My dreams of communing with ancient

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Nandini Pal

Lights, Sound, Roll, Action! A conversation with award-winning Bengali film director Aniruddha (Tony) Roy Chowdhury


niruddha (Tony) Roy Chowdhury won the Emerging Film-Maker Award at the Santa Cruz Film Festival in 2008 for first film Anuranan (2006). Dealing with the relationships of two married couples, it was the first Bengali film to be shot entirely in London and was screened at the 2007 Cannes International Film Festival. Chowdhury started his career as an ad filmmaker and television serial producer and currently produces the popular serial Megher Palok. His second film, Antaheen (2009), a story about love, waiting, and loneliness, went on to win four National Film Awards including one for Best Film. Chowdhury was in the Bay Area recently shooting for his third film Aparajita Tumi. The film stars Prosenjit Chatterjee, Indraneil Sengupta, Padmapriya, Kamalinee, Chandan Roy Sanyal, Kalyan Ray and Tanusree Shankar. Aparajita Tumi is the first Bengali film to be shot entirely in the United States and is expected to have a simultaneous worldwide premiere here. The film deals with the mindsets and lifestyles of Bengalis in the United States. Tony, welcome to California. This is your third film as a director after Anuranan and Antaheen. Both your films have received excellent critical reviews as well as success at the box office. Please tell us a little bit about them. Where and how have you found your inspirations for your films? With my films, what I do is tell a story without worrying if it will work. For example, a lot of people said to me that Anuranan had a very thin story line, and some even said to me that Antaheen had no story line! But I believed in the scripts. Anyway half the time, our lives do not have any story, just incidents and moments. And the films worked, even though we never consciously designed them to work. My films arise from my thoughts and my experiences. They are very honest films. The stories for Anuranan and Antaheen were both original and mine and I co-scripted them. I had the story of Anuranan for a long time but I could not find anyone to produce it. One day my wife Indrani, Jeet, another friend who backed out later, and I decided to produce it. We just started with our own money. When the story of Aparajita Tumi, “Dui 56 • india currents • november 2011

Aniruddha (Tony) Chowdhury taking a break from shooting

Naar, Haate Torobari” by Sunil Gangopadhyay came out in Saradiya Ananda Bazar, I read it and liked it. I went to Sunilda and said I wanted to make it and he agreed. I had been to England and America multiple times and with globalization most of the human experiences are very similar the world over. If there is sunyata (emptiness), then the emptiness is the same everywhere. People grieve in the same way everywhere; they rejoice in the same way, their ways of seeking are the same too. I found a very strong parallel with incidents in my life, so I felt compelled to tell the story. Again, I don’t know if it will succeed in the box office or audiences will like Aparajita Tumi. With each of my films I have tried to change the grammar of the telling. The more you grow, the more you know, you become more adventurous, and the more you try to experiment with your life. With Aparajita Tumi, my experimentation with the filmmaking has been one of discovery. We allowed our reactions and those of the actors to shape what was happening next. A lot of the final outcome is how the mood, the space, and the actors brought about the moment. My cinematographer Ranjan Palit

is a documentary film cinematographer and has done Vishal Bharadwaj’s 7 Khoon Maaf. He was like an actor relating to the scene. He became part of the character. Traditionally, directors design every shot. But here we did not want to do that for this film. We wanted to just extend what was seen through the camera. I am not a very “design” person or articulate person. I like to just “let it happen.” I take inspiration from moments; I live on moments. I look at cinema as a visual medium not a literary medium. I tell my story visually. Can you relate any special incidents from the making of these films? Well, a lot of interesting things happened. We were shooting a sunrise shot in Sikkim for Anuranan at the 200-year-old palace grounds at Rabdentse. It was a chilly winter October night. The actors and production crew had to walk almost 25 minutes to reach the edge of a mountain for the shot. It was pitch dark. We switched on our cell phone screens and trekked slowly up. Sunrise was at 4:45 am and we were there at 3:00 in the morning. That’s when we realized that our production crew had forgotten the torches and the lanterns. I didn’t know how to take the shot.

Kalyan Ray and Padmapriya in a scene from Aparajita Tumi



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dles too. We had planned to shoot near Lake Tahoe in a snowbound cabin. When we finally were able to start shooting, we discovered that all the snow had melted and we could not get the ambience we needed to create an intense, romantic moment. We started searching for other venues and saw some really wonderful ones, but nothing seemed to work out. Then we went to Carmel to visit a beachfront house recommended by a friend. As we walked in to house, I saw that there were statues of Buddha everywhere and I was just enveloped in a sense of perfect synchronicity: as if this was where we were supposed to be all along. Your films are portrayed in reviews as being extremely sensitive. Does this come from your own personality? I recall what Marlon Brandon said once in an interview with Truman Capote: “Sensitive people are so vulnerable; the more sensitive you are, the more certain you are to be brutalised, develop scabs.” Oh I don’t mind being brutalized over my sensitivity. In fact, I love to suffer. If you are sensitive, you will suffer. Suffering helps. Often people tell me that I can be insensitive to others too. I lose my rationality. But these qualities help me make my films.n

Happy Thanksgiving

I resigned myself that we could get the light after, but not at, sunrise; Rahul Bose [who played the lead] and the child actor from the movie sat down and waited. It was past 4:45 am. Then it was like a miracle from God; the lights arrived, followed by the camera. Amazingly, the sun slowly began to rise like it had waited for us! Sunil Patel, our cameraman, took a gorgeous shot. During Antaheen, we were shooting on the 14th floor of a building. The clouds had deepened and I could see the rain coming. It was a stunning visual. We were high up with a panoramic city view, lightning streaking across the sky, the rain just rolling towards the city. I told my cameraman Abhik Mukhopadhyay to roll the camera; we just had to capture this moment. But as luck would have it, the camera just locked! Once a camera locks, it takes at least half an hour to remove the magazine and get it working again. I was deeply disappointed. Later, we were shooting 35 stories high in South City with our protagonist Radhika Apte and now, twice as high up, we saw the same stunning visual of the rain coming in to the city! I felt as if someone was sending us this as a gift, saying, “Go on, play!” When we were shooting for Aparajita Tumi, we faced a lot of delays. Our visas were refused at first, and we faced other hur-



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Praba Iyer

Remedies for Holiday Excess


all is here and, with it, a slew of festivities for the social desi. Navaratri shundals, Halloween candies, Diwali sweets, Thanksgiving pie and Christmas cake are waiting to tax the digestive system. My young teenager can digest a nail but, at my age, with a metabolism the pace of a cargo train, I need all the help I can get. The mercurial California weather is also likely to play havoc with immune systems unaccustomed to the dramatic variations in temperature, resulting in predictable seasonal sniffles. Can we do something to better look after ourselves and our kids? You bet. All we have to do is look inside our pantries. We all know about the spices used in Indian food that help with cleansing. But did you know that other cuisines have a host of spices that are just as effective? Here are some spices used in Italian, Mexican, Middle Eastern, and Asian cooking with proven benefits, and lots of potential in cleansing and helping boost our metabolism and body immunity during this festive season.

Got Thyme?

Thymol is the active ingredient in thyme, which gives it a strong flavor similar to ajwain (carom). That is why both these spices are used to eliminate stomach discomforts and flatulence. Thyme also eliminates excess mucus and is therefore good for patients with asthma, respiratory illness, and bronchitis. Thyme tea is excellent for hangovers as it reduces headaches, fevers and helps to rejuvenate the liver. Use about 1 teaspoon of dried thyme to 1 tablespoon of fresh. Thyme should be added early in the cooking process as it releases its flavor very slowly.

½ cup carrots, julienned and halved ¼ cup dried cranberries 2 teaspoon nigella seeds ½ teaspoon lime juice salt and pepper to taste 1 tablespoon cilantro, chopped Mix all ingredients except nigella in a bowl. Heat a small pan and add nigella seed and toast. Add this to the salad and mix.

Golden Spice the immune system by fighting viral, bacterial, and fungal infections. Do you suffer from acne, eczema, psoriasis, skin infections? Oregano is your go-to spice. The Greeks called this the “joy of the mountains” and Hippocrates is said to have used it as an antiseptic. Use a few leaves of fresh oregano in your marinara sauce. Make sure the herb you use is the wild variety that belongs to the vulgare family since stores often carry blended varietals.

Go Tea:

For menstrual pain, bloating, cold and fever, I make this tea with ginger and oregano. 1 teaspoon wild oregano 1 inch fresh ginger root, crushed 2 cups cold water. Heat water with oregano and ginger and let it seep in. Strain and drink.


I drink warm water infused with ajwain, thyme and nigella seeds every morning in an empty stomach. This helps to cleanse the system and helps aid in digestion.

Also known as kalonji, these seeds have their origin is Egypt. Kalonji is also widely used Northern India. Often mistaken as onion seeds or black cumin, nigella sativa has an agent called thymoquinone which blocks pancreatic cancer cell growth. Extensive research and patenting is being done with this anti-carcinogenic spice. It has also been used since ancient times to energize the body and increase immunity.

Thyme Tea

Two in One Salad

Morning Cleanse:

Add a tablespoon of thyme to 2 cups of cold water and boil over a stove. Let the thyme seep into the water. Add honey for sweetness.

The Wild O

Oregano is an anti-cancer spice. As it eliminates free radicals that cause cancer in the body, oregano also helps in boosting

58 • india currents • november 2011

Did you know that daikon is a healing vegetable in Japan? It is an anti-carcinogen that cleanses your blood. I use daikon as a decongestant to fight off cold and coughs. 2 cups daikon, peeled and sliced into thin circles and quartered. 1 cup English cucumber, sliced into thin circles and quartered

Turmeric is one of the oldest spices known to mankind, dating back to 5,000 years. We use this spice pretty much in every Indian dish. Erode, a Southern Indian city is the largest producer and exporter of this spice in the world. This spice is well known for its ability to slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. The pigment in turmeric, called curcumin, has been shown to destroy cancerous melanoma cells by fighting the free radicals. It has also shown to prevent metastasis: the spreading of cancer from one part of the body to another. Research has shown that childhood leukemia is much lower in the Asian population than in Western countries. The possibility that this may be due to dietary reasons, particularly the use of turmeric, has been investigated in a series of studies spanning 20 years. The anti-inflammatory properties of turmeric have helped in the cure of rheumatoid arthritis. Scientists continue to discover beneficial properties of this wonder spice.

Cough cure

This is a common cough treatment from India that works in a few minutes. Try it as a substitute to commercial cough syrups. 1 cup fat free milk 2 teaspoons turmeric powder 1 teaspoon black pepper Honey to taste Add turmeric and black pepper to the cold milk and heat it on low flame. Keep mixing until the turmeric is blended and cooked. Remove, add honey, mix and have it before bedtime. n Praba Iyer teaches custom cooking classes around the SF Bay Area. She also blogs about cooking at

india currents • november 2011 • 59

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music Wish You All The Best for a bountiful THANKSGIVING

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E-mail: india currents • november 2011 • 75



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Kirtans East and West

Chanting the names of God in India and America


n yoga centers all over America, people gather with a few instruments, usually harmonium, guitar, and/or tablas, and sing kirtan: Musical chanting of the Hindu names of God. Once these places taught only the physical postures of hatha yoga, now they are expanding to teach Americans the sacred chanting of bhakti yoga. These same people will also go to medium-sized concert halls by the hundreds (or even thousands) to hear (and sing with) the big names of kirtan—Jai Uttal, Deva Premal, Krishna Das, David Stringer, Suzanne Sterling. Jai Uttal has even made an introductory album for young people called Kirtan Kids, which features his six-year-old son Ezra and a chorus of children. The annual Bhakti Fest in Joshua Tree, CA, in September, attracts ten of thousands for four continuous days of kirtan and hatha yoga. For the people who sing kirtan, it is often one of the most important events in their lives. What motivates these people to have so much commitment to travel for miles to sing simple tunes in a dead foreign language with friends and strangers? Why is this any more compelling to these people than Campfire songs, or the old “Sing Along with Mitch” television show. I actually don’t have to ask “these people,” because I’m one of them. I find this rather surprising. When I was a bar musician, one of my first stirrings of artistic conscience was when I turned down a gig because the owner wanted me to lead sing-alongs. But there is something that happens when you chant these mantras that I, at least, can’t get anywhere else. When I saw the Robert Duvall movie The Apostle, or went to my brother’s church during his brief fling as a “Jesus Freak,” I couldn’t help wishing that there was some way I could experience this religious intensity without voting Republican and opposing gay marriage. Kirtan is basically gospel music for Hindus, and enables those of us who have left the Abrahamic tradition to use ecstatic singing as a way of achieving contact with what I would call the transcendental essence. That doesn’t mean that my relationship with kirtan is completely paradox-free. Because my own kirtan band is starting to get gigs and record demos, I’m now having to deal with the ambiguous distinction between kirtan audience and kirtan performers. As an audience member, I sing my heart out, and don’t worry about the fact that I’m not primarily a singer. But as a performer, I 76 • india currents • november 2011

can’t stop worrying about technique, even though I know that technique is definitely not what this music is all about. Does that mean that I should stop worrying about tempo and tuning? Kirtankar Karnamrita Dasi tells this story: A great Indian singer told the doorman at a Krishna temple to stop singing kirtan, because he was wounding the raga and singing out of tune. The next day the eyes of the Krishna statue had turned red because he couldn’t sleep without hearing the doorman’s clumsy but heartfelt singing. Nevertheless, Dasi has a beautiful voice, and her kirtan albums are skillfully produced. Kirtan Nation, the Sounds True compilation CD, reveals that the best kirtan musicians are both accomplished and creative. Musicians naturally want their music to sound good, and to take their music in new directions. But how far can you travel in new directions before you’ve lost your way? When is kirtan no longer “kirtan?” Deva Premal is perhaps the most popular kirtan artist, but she often sounds to me like smooth jazz with Sanskrit lyrics. Kirtan usually makes some sort of musical nod to its Indian roots. Harmonium and/or tabla is used in almost all live concerts, and guest solos by Nepalese bansuri player Manose are very popular on recordings. But is this enough to make sure that kirtan remains a manifestation of bhakti yoga, and not just a recent trend in Lite Rock music? Kirtan takes many forms in India. The Sikhs have their own unique form of kirtan based on verses from their sacred text, the Sri Guru Granth Sahib. Each verse is associated with a specific Hindustani raga, and Sikh services traditionally include chanting those texts in those ragas accompanied by tablas and harmonium. This tradition has emerged in American popular kirtan through the mother and daughter duo of Snatam and Prabhu Nam Kaur. The primary source for Hindu kirtan, however, is Vrindaban, which tradition names as the place where Vishnu took his earthly form of Krishna. “Vrindaban is a regular kirtan fac-

tory” says tabla player Gangadhar Gerhard, who traveled to India with Jai Uttal in pursuit of bhakti yoga. “Walking through the streets in the evening, the sound of kirtan spilled out from homes on every block. I was struck how this was not about music. There was always some out-of-tune old man croaking at the top of his lungs. It was all about devotion, expressing what’s in your heart, not about making beautiful sounds. It opened my ears and my heart in a way Western music had never done.” Many other Americans came to Vrindaban to study Bhakti Yoga with Neeb Karori Baba, including Richard Alpert (AKA Ram Dass), Jai Uttal, Krishna Das, and Bhagavan Das. It was also where A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada studied and wrote before founding the International Society of Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), popularly known as “the Hare Krishnas.” For many Americans, the Hare Krishnas are an annoyance or a joke. Hearing kirtan while trying to recover lost luggage at an airport is not likely to be a profound experience. This shows the wisdom behind the Transcendental Meditation strategy of keeping each personal mantra secret, and chanting it only during meditation. Nevertheless, ISKCON has produced a community of devotees with a flourishing second generation. Karnamrita Dasi was the second child born into the American ISCKON community, and today she not only sings kirtan beautifully, but also eloquently explains the principles of bhakti

Mayapuri Kirtan

Karnamrita Dasi

yoga to her audiences. The Mayapuris are a group of charming young people who grew up singing kirtan together in an ISKCON community in Florida, and today perform and teach all over the world. Unlike most contemporary kirtan groups, they rely primarily on traditional instruments, including the barrel-shaped mridangam that most Westerners associate with “the Hare Krishnas.” The Mayapuris told me, however, that they only play in airports if their flight to a workshop or concert has been delayed. I have no doubt that their youthful enthusiasm actually man-

ages to convey the spirit of kirtan even under those conditions. The Americans who studied in Vrindaban with Neeb Karori Baba are among the most prominent western teachers of bhakti yoga and performers of kirtan. The one who still remains in Vrindaban today is Shyam Das. “Shyam Das chants and studies for hours in a hut with cow dung walls on a mountain” says Karnamrita Dasi “Every evening at sunset, he walks around this mountain in the sandy soil with no shoes, through peacocks, monkeys, and sadhus who live permanently outside. Everybody walks by and says only “Radhe Radhe.” No other conversation occurs, because everyone knows that this walk is a spiritual pilgrimage.” When Shyam Das performs, he makes no concessions to Western audiences. Most Western kirtan performers sing each melodic phrase twice, and have back up singers to accompany the audience, so that everyone has a chance to learn the Sanskrit. Like most Indian kirtankars, Shyam Das simply sings the melody while accompanying himself on harmonium, and lets the audience join in whenever they can. He has written numerous books on the history and philosophy of bhakti yoga, which he sees as a unique spiritual path. “Unlike Buddhism, bhakti yoga does not combat detachment, but rather cultivates a lover-like attachment to a personal god. And unlike Christian prayer, bhakti yoga does not involve making requests

from God. Bhakti yogis simply praise God and ask nothing in return but the right to love him.” Does his scholarship and love of tradition make Shyam Das critical of the new developments in American kirtan? Quite the contrary. Shyam Das is revered as a teacher by Western kirtan artists, and performs with them in his traditional style on the same stage at the annual Bhakti Fest. “Kirtan is always changing. It changed when it traveled from Uttar Pradesh to Bengal, and now New York kirtan is different from Los Angeles kirtan. Deva Premal is a close friend and frequently studies with me in Vrindavan. I tell her and all my western students that changes in style don’t jeopardize kirtan, only changes of heart. The only thing that’s wrong is when someone sings without an understanding of what kirtan is supposed to do for you. Kirtan cultivates a longing for the Supreme, and if the singer sings while feeling that longing, it is authentic kirtan. Once at the Bhakti Fest, I even sang the old MoTown song ‘I’m working my way back to you’ because that expresses perfectly the essential message of bhakti yoga: the longing to return to the essential essence from which we came.”n Teed Rockwell has studied Indian classical music with Ali Akbar Khan and other great Indian musicians. He is the first person to play Hindustani music on the Touchstyle Fretboard.

india currents • november 2011 • 77

All classes in Jain Bhawan

722 S Main, Milpitas Teacher: Sri Vijay Kapoor (Senior disciple of Swami Dayananda Saraswati)

Sri Rudram: Chanting with svaras and meaning Daily chanting of Sri Rudram, with correct svaras (Vedic intonations), is recommended for all committed students of Vedanta. Considered an excellent Vedic prayer to Isvara, it is so important that it appears in all the 4 Vedas. Regular chanting ensures tranquility and wisdom. Weekly classes will be for 1 hour 30 minutes. The first 30 minutes will be for learning and practicing accurate recitation, the last hour in explaining the meaning of verses, based on a text by Pujya Swami Dyanandaji. Students that already know the chanting will gain from learning the meaning. Tuesdays, from 7:30 pm to 9:00 pm - Starts Nov 15*

New course on Sanskrit for Learning Vedanta The course will aim for a working knowledge of Sanskrit, meaning less emphasis on scholarship and spoken fluency, and more on the ability to pronounce and understand popular scriptural texts such as the Bhagavad Gita, principal Upanisads and commentaries by Adi Sankara. It will consist of several segments, starting with introduction to Devanagari alphabet, then to breaking sandhi, learning verbal roots, recognizing how nouns are formed, then to compounds and so on. Beginning students can join immediately, others as the course progresses. Saturdays, from 10:45 am to 12 noon - Starts Nov 19*

Topics in Vedanta This new class will emphasize specific topics of shorter duration. Examples are the meaning of Gayatri Mantra, chapter 15 from the Bhagavad Gita, introduction and practice of meditation, explanation of important basic Vedantic concepts and terminology, etc. Saturdays, from 9:30 am to 10:45 am - . Starts Nov 19*

There is no charge for the classes. Please visit for more details. Write to Sri Vijay Kapoor at to pre-register, or just come to the first class. All are welcome. 78 • india currents • november 2011


* Please come to a common session at Jain Bhawan on Saturday, November 12 from 9:00 am to 10:30 am where all courses will be discussed, questions answered and registration taken.

india currents • november 2011 • 79

In Memoriam

JAGJIT SINGH 8 February 1941 - 10 October 2011 T

he passing of maestro Jagjit Singh brought back, to me, memories of his early appearances with his wife Chitra Singh. He was later to become one of the giants of ghazal singing in the Indian subcontinent and was often referred to as its greatest living practitioner. After Mehdi Hassan retired, Jagjit sahib, along with Ghulam Ali, carried on the tradition (sometimes together) of singing some of the finest Urdu-Hindi-Punjabi ghazals and geets for South Asians and their diaspora worldwide. Even during times of tensions between India and Pakistan, one could still find connoisseurs of the ghazal gathering, here in America, at events where geographic, religious, and ethnic boundaries became meaningless, especially when Jagjit Singh was singing. It felt as though his mellifluous voice could enhance and promote harmony amongst his listeners. Singh’s simple upbringing, his early struggles to break into the music industry are well known. The art of ghazal singing was then dominated by classicists like Noor Jehan, Malika Pukhraj, Begum Akhtar, Talat Mahmood, and Mehdi Hassan. When Singh’s album The Unforgettables was released in 1976, purists scorned it, but Singh’s emphasis on melody immediately found success among listeners. Nevertheless, you had to be as good as Pakistan’s Mehdi Hassan to get recognized as a master in India, and as good as Jagjit Singh to get the same level of appreciation in Pakistan. And backgrounds did not matter, as one Ganganagar, Rajasthan-born Sikh, Jagjit Singh not only succeeded in creating a name for himself in the craft of ghazal singing, that had been dominated by Pakistanis for many years, but in the process ended up with a huge and very dedicated following in that country too. The romance of “Kal Chaudhvin Ki Raat Thi” ruled the streets of India and Pakistan for months. His songs like “Tum Ko Dekha To Yeh Khayal Aaya” and hits like “Tum Itna Jo Muskura

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Rahe Ho” during the early 1980s were heard quite often from international students’ dorm rooms and apartments here in America. From the former ghazal the lines “Tum Chale Jao Ge To Sochenge, Hum Ne Kya Khoya Hum Ne Kya Paya” did come to mind upon hearing about Jagjit Sahib’s death. And what can one say “Wok Kagaz Ki Kashti’s” entreaty to take his wealth away and give him back his childhood paper sailboat and rainwater to float it in? Only the movie Citizen Kane’s “Rosebud” comes close. On a more personal note this scribe owes a great deal to Jagjit Singh for enriching my life in a way that is difficult for me to admit. Where my childhood teachers of Urdu in

East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) gave up, Jagjit Singh succeeded. He re-introduced me and many others of what is affectionately known as the “Burger Generation” or “Gulabi Urdu” speakers and readers to the poetic genius of Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib. The Indian television play Mirza Ghalib of the late 1980s was an eye opener for many overseas Pakistanis and Indians. Ghalib, considered by many to be the greatest Urdu poet ever, was rediscovered through the soulful voice of Jagjit Singh in that superb series. Gulzar’s direction and Naseeruddin Shah’s acting were the icing on the cake. After all these years my DVD of Mirza Ghalib occasionally comes out for viewing when the kids are not home. What some of us have lost from our culture or tehzeeb, perhaps due to laziness or difficulty in understanding an “ancient” Urdu poet, can be found in it. Even to my ears attuned to heavy metal and rock, Jagjit Singh’s superb voice overcame barriers to incite curiosity, passion, and an interest in the genius of Ghalib’s poetry. Better late than never to rediscover a part of my cultural soul which happens to be tied to the Urdu language, and for that, ironically, I have Jagjit Singh, a Rajasthani-Punjabi to thank! Comparisons between Jagjit Singh and Mehdi Hassan are inevitable. For the purpose of this article we will not succumb to this temptation because it is just not warranted. For the record I remain a big fan of both and feel both are deserving of equal respect. What I can write at this time is that both countries are in mourning at the passing away of Jagjit Singh, one of the finest ghazal singers of our generation. I would recommend readers to listen to Josh Malihabadi's “Kisko Aati Hai Masihaee Kise Awaz Doon?” in Jagjit Sahib’s beautiful voice on YouTube. Loosely translated it means “Who still knows how to be a Messiah, whom should I call?” The fans of Jagjit Singh certainly feel his great loss today.n Ras Siddiqui is a South Asian writer and journalist based in Sacramento.



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Friday, November 11, 2011 thru Sunday November 13, 2011 Lecture Demonstration Series by Sri. T.M. Krishna SIFA in collaboration with Pallavita will be presenting Vidwan TM Krishna's Lecture Demonstration series being organized as part of Pallavita's VivRti-2011 Fall Festival Ticket: Discounted price for SIFA sponsors - $10 per TMK event, $15 for Day Pass

Lec-dem Topics: Friday 6:30 pm: Topic: History and Evolution of Melakartas Saturday 5:30 pm: Topic: Compositional Forms and Patantharam

Sunday, Nov. 6, 2011 - 3:30 p.m.

Venue: Smith Center, Ohlone College 43600 Mission Blvd., Fremont, CA 94539 Sunday 4:00 pm: Topic: Ragam Tanam Pallavi: In honor of Sri Chengelpet Ranganathan

Sunday, Nov. 20, 2011 - 3:30 p.m.

Smt. Sangeetha Sivakumar - Vocal Smt. Gayathri Venkataraghavan - Vocal Kum. Akkarai. S. Subhalakshmi - Violin Sri. Mysore Srikanth - Violin Sri. Neyveli Skanda Subramanian - Mridangam Sri. Melakkaveri K. Balaji - Mridangam Venue: India Community Center 525 Los Coches St., Milpitas, CA 95035

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

For updated information please log on to india currents • november 2011 • 85

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(Above) “Chand Bibi of Bijapur Shooting with Her Ladies.” Circa 1750; watercolor and gold on paper. (Right) Necklace; Cartier Paris, special order, 1928. Reconstructed with some substitute stones in 2002. Platinum, diamonds, yellow zirconia, white zirconias, topazes, synthetic rubies, smoky quartz, citrine. Created for Sir Bhupindra Singh, Maharaja of Patiala. Both pieces are part of the “Maharja: The Splendor of India’s Royal Courts” collection showing at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco until April 8, 2012.

I C cultural calendar November

2 Wednesday

Anicca: River of Time. Through movement, live music, theater, and stunning paper sculpture, this multidisciplinary project is a meditation on the fragility of life; exploring different aspects of impermanence from a Buddhist perspective. Deeply influenced by several traditional Asian forms of dance, music, and martial arts, experimental contemporary dance group Carmen Carnes Dance Ensemble (CCDE) collaborates with esteemed kathak dancer/choreographer Anotonia Minnecola, tabla player Dana Pandey, and multi-instrumentalist Aaharon Wheels Bolsta. Enjoy an evening of gorgeously detailed and dynamic movement accompanied by a unique score. With a surprising and fresh approach, the dancers co-create the score by vocalizing while moving, performing body music, and reciting rhythmic composi88 • india currents • november 2011

tions drawn from North Indian music and dance traditions. Also featured are the rare and controversial “hang” drum, and other instruments. Ends Nov. 3. Organized by Carmen Carnes Dance Ensemble (CCDE). 8 p.m. The Garage, 975 Howard St., San Francisco . $15. Tickets: event/201085. (415) 518-1517, (415) 7470664., upstartpr@,


4 Friday

Samasource’s Third Annual Give Work Gala. A black-tie evening coupled with a

headliner performance top the event, plus a live auction focused on “Work for Women.” Emcee Baratunde Thurston, The Onion’s director of digital and the author of “How to be Black,” will provide entertainment. Sheryl

WuDunn, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist serves as the honorary chair for this year’s event that hosts some of Silicon Valley’s top entrepreneurs and investors. Celebrate Samasource’s successful efforts to combat poverty for millions of women and youth in the developing world by offering dignified microwork to women such as Mamta Devi. Devi, a 27-year-old woman with a basic education, was one of the first workers to join Samasource’s center in rural Jharkhand, in the northern part of India. In under a year,



Shyamal Randeria-Leonard

Odissi’s Day of the Dead B

hakti Bliss Adventures presents its fourth annual production, “Samba Sada Shiva: Evoking Transformation.” The celebratory evening commemorates loved ones who have passed and interlaces Brazilian samba and Orixa dances into the context of classical Indian odissi dance to celebrate the present and the oneness of humanity. The evening will conclude with kirtan. A Mexican-style Day of the Dead altar is the “focal point for our prayers and intentions” to celebrate death as a transition to another life, says Bhakti Bliss founder and dancer Nubia Teixeira. An altar will be fashioned with traditional sugar skulls, seasonal décor, and Shiva symbolism. The audience is encouraged to bring and place mementos of loved ones who have passed, Teixeira says. Celtic and Latino traditions mark November as an important time in which “the veil between the living world and the spirit world is the thinnest allowing for a deeper communication—this underlying theme is shared by many cultures,” says event organizer and dancer Barbara Framm. For Framm, the infusion and invocation of Shiva in the ceremony is important as “he is the lord of death, dance, healing, dreams, and ghosts and spirits. Shiva is the exhale that brings up transformation.” The program will open with a traditional odissi dance by Vishnu Tattva Das called “pitru shradya,” inspired by Vedic verses honoring ancestors. Das has been performing and teaching for over 15 years in the Bay Area, and is the director and founder of the dance company Odissi Vilas: Sacred Dance of India. He has performed, toured, and collaborated with eminent artists from around the world. Framm and Teixeira will follow Das’ piece with a joint odissi performance called “battu.” Framm has taught Indian classical dance and yoga for over 35 years, and has an M.A. in women’s spirituality from the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology in Palo Alto, a program that focused on women’s rituals throughout the world. The Day of the Dead commemoration is a collaborative effort with Teixeira. Framm adds that “in the U.S. our relationship to death has been hidden from daily life. This is so different from

The bridge between Indian and Brazilian dance styles will be created as samba dancer Tika Morgan performs sacred and celebratory dances of Brazil with a dedication to AfroBrazilian Yoruban goddess Oya and performs Samba later in the program. Framm and Teixeira will join Morgan with their collaborative and artistic presentation on the Yoruban goddess Oshum. The evening will close with Moksha celebrating release and liberation and kirtan, or devotional chanting, with live music by Jai Uttal and friends and Brazilian drums and percussion. Uttal is a singer, musician, an international recording artist, and a widely acclaimed “kirtan-wala” leads kirtan sessions around the world. He is also married to Teixeira. Teixeira also cites the many commonalities between Afro-Brazilian and Hindu deities such as the Indian river goddesses Ganga and Yoruban river goddess Oshum who are tied to the warlike Indian gods Shiva and Yoruban god Shango. Teixeira says, “It felt the same to dance to Oshum and to Ganga; the mudras are similar as are the oceanic symbols between Yemanja and Lakshmi. Shango and Shiva have shared fire elements and both Brahma and Oxala are associated with creation.” U.S. born Tika Morgan moved to India at 7 with her parents and lived in an ashram while devoting life to Indian spirituality. The community she lived in exposed her to folk dances Barbara Framm and Nubia Teixeira from Africa, Europe, and the Latino diasporas. She says, “Death in India India and other parts of the world, where one is celebrated with music and dance and the is constantly aware of death as a natural part use of rhythm. My first exposure to samba of life.” was in a death celebration in India through Teixeira is an exponent of odissi dance the Brazilian community in the ashram. and a well-known yoga teacher in the Bay “The word samba means to pray. The Area. She began her studies of odissi dance highly celebrated samba practiced in Bahia in 1997, studying in India for six months. It Brazil still retains it sacred aspect. My work was through the philosophies of yoga at the is about bringing the essence of these dancage 16 that “I encountered my soul’s path as es forward.” The Yoruban goddess Oya that I learned to chant and dance to the Hindu Morgan will invoke directly corresponds with deities,” she says. “In an Orixa dance class, samba.n four years later, I finally connected the dots. The feeling in my body the presence of these Sunday, Nov. 6, 5:30-8 p.m. Point Reyes archetype deities of the African Yoruba tradi- Dance Palace, 503 B St., Point Reyes Station. tion, their symbols and their energies were $25 advance; $30 at door. (415) 456-2799. the same as the energies I experienced from deities of the Hindu pantheon.” india currents • november 2011 • 89



3rd i Spies a Film Festival T

he ninth annual San Francisco International South Asian Film Festival by 3rd i will present 16 programs featuring films from India, Pakistan, Nepal, South Africa, Tibet, the U.S., and a special focus on Sri Lanka with filmmaker Asoka Handagama in attendance. Documentaries and indie-narratives will take center-stage and the festival’s “Saturday Night at the Castro” with Delhi Belly will take Bollywood in an unexpected direction. South Asian Americans will shine at this year’s festival with a number of films by desi American filmmakers: NY-based Prashant Bhargava’s Patang (The Kite), which won raves from Roger Ebert and was a fest-favorite at Berlin, Tribeca, and Chicago, is about a family dueling and ultimately coming together during the spectacular kite festival in Ahmedabad. The personal and political meet in Midwest-based Semshook, Siddharta Anand Kumar’s stunning debut feature that tells the story of Tenzin, a Tibetan artist born and raised in India, and his attempt to return to Tibet on a motorcycle. Indie-favorite and L.A.-based Ajay Naidu makes his directorial debut Ashes, a soulful film about two brothers trying to hold on to each other through mental illness and hardcore crime. Both Bhargava and Naidu will be attending the festival. This year’s event will showcase four documentaries by Bay Area filmmakers, all of whom will be in attendance. Bill Bowles and Kevin Meehan’s fascinating Big in Bollywod charts the instant stardom that Hollywood actor Omi Vaidya achieved through his role in the Bollywood blockbuster 3 Idiots. Marin County filmmaker Dave Driver’s meditative documentary, Way of Life, follows the story of Michael Daube, a young man of modest means from small town America who finds a valuable piece of art in the garbage, sells it at auction, and builds a hospital in one of the most remote areas of India and Nepal. Joshua Dylan Mellars’ celebratory documentary on sarod maestro Ali Akbar Khan, Play Like a Lion, is a moving illustration of Khan’s description of music as “food for the soul,” seen through the eyes of his U.S.-born son, Alam Khan. Director Joshua Dylan Mellars, Alam Khan, and producer Mojib Aimaq will attend the screening. Shireen Pasha’s What is Time? was shot in the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami in Sri Lanka and examines the concept of 90 • india currents • november 2011

Movie stills from Patang (The Kite), top, and Play Like a Lion.

time through conversations with survivors, relief-workers, and bystanders. The film shows with Kirthi Nath’s mindful short, Metta (Loving Kindness). As always, 3rd i’s signature local shorts program, “The Family Circus,” showcases the best desi shorts by Bay Area filmmakers, with the artists in attendance. This year’s program will feature a live neo-benshi performance by local writer/performer, and 3rd i’s own, Anuj Vaidya. This program will be followed by a party celebrating the festival filmmakers at Bollyhood Cafe (re-

cently merged with Little Baobab) in the Mission district. Another San Francisco-based filmmaker, Neelu Bhuman will present her short, Family in Frame, as part of a program on gender/sexuality in frame. The program also features shorts from India, Pakistan and South Africa.n Nov. 9-13. Roxie Theater, 3117 16th St., San Francisco, and Castro Theatre, 429 Castro St., San Francisco. For complete festival guide and dates and times, go to

india currents • november 2011 • 91

is now the primary breadwinner in her family and works on various data entry projects for customers including LinkedIn. Samasource hopes to raise $400,000 at this gala for marginalized women and youth in South Asia, East Africa, and Latin America. Ends Nov. 5. Organized by Samasource. 6:30 p.m. The Mezzanine, 444 Jessie St., San Francisco, 94103. $125. (800) 521-6716., php?eid=126489304117836.


4 Friday

Singing for Greener Tomorrow. A platform to generate awareness about the environment, using music as a vehicle to bring communities together. Featuring world music band with Ben Kunin (sarod), Anoop Bhattacharya (tabla), Sanjib Saha (guitar), Bob Olson (saxophone), Cajon: Mark Koperweis (cajon), Kerry Kriger (flute), Malini Banerjee (vocal), and Manidipa Bhattacharya (vocal), plus several other musical acts. 7:30-11:30 p.m. Santa Clara Convention Center, 5001 Great America Parkway, Santa Clara, 95054. $10. Tickets: events.html?task=view_event&event_id=1., pages/Singing-Record/133617860049121.



America’s Got Bollywood. Lights! Music! Action! The Mona Khan Company has an impressive repertoire, which includes performances with Bollywood’s biggest star, Shah Rukh Khan; an NBA half-time show;

“Anicca: River of Time,” a Carmen Carnes Dance Ensemble production, will show on Nov. 2 in San Francisco.

a finale act performance at the prestigious 32nd Annual San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival, and more. The company made it to the Top 48 on America’s Got Talent last year and were chosen out of 70,000 contestants across the nation. Join for their fall showcase, “America’s Got Bollywood.” Organized by Mona Khan Company. 11 a.m. Chabot College Performing Arts Center, 25555 Hesperian Blvd., Hayward, 94545. $20, $25, $30, $35. (408) 826-8247. tickets@monakhancompany. com.

A Journalist’s Journey: From Fremont to Foreign Correspondent.

The Mond Khan Company will take the stage on Saturday, Nov. 5 in Hayward. 92 • india currents • november 2011

Award-winning Afghan American journalist Fariba Nawa discusses her journey from James Logan High School to foreign correspondent in Iraq and Afghanistan after 9/11. Learn how she came to research and write her new book, Opium Nation: Child Brides, Drug Lords and One Woman’s Journey through Afghanistan, after working in Afghanistan from 2002 to 2007. Nawa has also reported from Iraq, Pakistan, Iran, Egypt, and Germany. She has a master’s degree in Middle Eastern studies and journalism and has participated in talks at the World Affairs Council, major

universities, and has been interviewed by TV and radio networks. Copies of her book will be available for purchase. The event includes a display of photographs by Naeem Azizian. Organized by Alameda County Library. 1-2 p.m. Newark Library, 6300 Civic Terrace Ave., Newark, 94560. Free. Registration is required: (510) 795-2627, Ext. 20; (510) 795-2527. btelford-ishida@

Garba. Come and dance to live music by Sharvari Dixit and party. Organized by Hindu Community and Cultural Center. 2-5 p.m. Temple Assembly Hall, 1232 Arrowhead Ave., Livermore 94551. Free. (925) 449-6255. Goverdan Puja and Garba. Organized by Livermore Shiva Vishnu Temple. 2 p.m. Assembly Hall, 1232 Arrowhead Ave., Livermore, 94551. Free. (925) 371-5640, (925) 449-6255. Hindustani Classical and Devotionals.

Madhuvanti Bhide, a Bay Area vocalist, will be accompanied by Surdarshan Siddhaye (tabla) and Amol Chiplunkar (harmonium). Organized by Sangeet Dhwani, in association with Shirdi Sai Parivar. 3-4 p.m. Shirdi Sai Mandir, 1221 California Circle (DixonLanding) Milpitas, 95035. Free. (408) 733-7442, (408) 394-0554. www.,

Bharatanatyam Arangetram of Sravani Mylavarapu. Student of Indumathy



Karnatik Music Festival E

ncouraged by the success of VivRti-2010, a two-day festival that was held April 2010, Pallavita will present VivRti-2011. Last year, Pallavita, a Bay Area nonprofit organization, along with Latha Sriram, Pallavita’s CEO, launched this unique platform: For the first time in North America, a Karnatik festival’s focus was on children and youth performers. Senior Karnatik musicians were present during the festival, but their participation was to educate and providing depth of understanding of Karnatik music. The only performances were by children and youngsters from North America. The 2010 festival was built around lecture-demonstration series by T.M. Krishna, a highly regarded musicologist, and a popular musician especially among youth. Festival-goers were amazed with the concept, and there was an overwhelming demand for another festival. Like last year’s festival, this presentation has been organized around events by T.M. Krishna, and the focus will be on the education of and performance by youth and children. Senior Indian musicians will be focusing on educating and taking the audience on a journey of Karnatik music. The scope in VivRti-2011 is being expanded to include bharatanatyam performances, and a workshop series on Karnatik music took place in October. The festival will also include more Karnatik musicians from India, and Pallavita is tapping knowledgeable senior musicians of the Bay Area to conduct lecture-demonstrations. VivRti-2011 will be held over several days to include the workshop series and the festival, which will feature lecture-demonstrations by Krishna on all three days of the festival. Sangeetha Sivakumar will be co-presenting the Saturday evening lecture-demo with Krishna, and mridangam maestros Patri Satish Kumar and Melakaveri Balaji will provide accompaniment. Senior North American students of Kumari Kanyakumari and Guruvayur Dorai will be presenting violin and mridangam ensembles as inaugural events on Saturday and Sunday mornings, respectively. This series is co-hosted by South India Fine Arts (SIFA). Also featured will be lecture-demonstration by prominent Bay Area couple Subhapriya Srivatsan and Shri Srivatsan, Sanskrit scholar Rajalakshmi Srinivasan, and prominent Upanyasam exponent Pat Krishnan who will present on the confluence of music and spirituality. Student ensembles from the Karnatik music schools of Latha Sriram, Asha Ramesh, Anu Suresh, and Susheelq Narasim-

(Clockwise, from top left) T.M. Krishna, Guruvayar Dorai, and Latha Sriram.

han will showcase the talented young vocalists and violinists of the Bay Area. Presenting solo bharatanatyam performances will be Pallavi Sriram, student of Chitra Visweswaran; Rasika Kumar, student of Mythili Kumar; Vidya Sundaram, student of Katherine Kunhiraman; and Vinidhra Mani, student of Vidhya Subramanian. Providing accompaniment for the bharatanatyam recitals will be Sidharth Sriram (vocal), Aniruddhan Vasudevan from India (nattuvangam), Ravindrabharathy Sridharan (mridangam), and Nishant Chandran (violin). Accompaniment for various musical performances and lecture-demos will be Susheela Narasimhan, Shuba Narasimhan, and Ajay Narasimha (violin); Vignesh Venkataraman (mridangam), and Guhan Venkataraman (veena).

Pallavita is felicitating Guruvayur Dora. The felicitation speeches will be given by Narayanan Natarajan, a mridangist and accomplished musician from the Bay Area, and Arun Iyer, a former president of SIFA. Vikrum Iyer, who grew up in the Bay Area and is currently a speech writer for the Obama administration will be the keynote speaker. Vasanthi Venkataraman, SIFA president, Praveena Varadharajan, former SIFA president, and Vidhya Subramanian, an internationally acclaimed bharatanatyam dancer, will be the emcees for the festival. n Nov. 11-13. Ohlone College, 43600 Mission Blvd., Fremont. Tickets: india currents • november 2011 • 93

Ganesh, artistic director of Nrithyollasa Dance Academy. Accompanied by Indumathy Ganesh (nattuvangam), Asha Ramesh (vocal), N. Narayan (mridangam), and Shanthi Narayan (violin). Organized by Nrithyollasa Dance Academy. 4-7 p.m. Jackson Theater, Ohlone College, 43600 Mission Blvd., Fremont. Free. (408) 517-0433, (510) 623-8230. info@

Garden of Verses: Images of Compassion Contemporary Arabic Calligraphy.

Paintings by Berkeley-based artist Salma Arastu. Arastu has created this new series of paintings, which combine lyrical human universality and Arabic calligraphy, in an effort to convey messages of celebration of diversity, unity, love, and compassion from the Quran to the people of the world. Ghazala Anwar, professor of Islamic Studies at Starr King School for the Ministry, Berkeley, describes her work: “Whereas in classical calligraphy the letters and the text have a strong and distinctive form and emphasize the distance between the majesty of the message and the one to whom it is addressed, Salma Arastu’s nontraditional calligraphy erases this distance between the word and the receiver and affects their union. She uses the same stroke of the brush for Arabic letters as she does for suggesting human forms. Both are fluid as if temporary expressions of the eternal universal vibration and energy.” Seven paintings are based on the student’s personal interpretation from Anwar’s class, “Approaches to the

Study of the Quran,” offered at Starr King School for the Ministry, Graduate Theological Union. Ends Jan. 13. 4-8 p.m. Shambala Street Space Gallery, 2177 Bancroft Ave., Berkeley. Free. (510) 597-0470, (510) 8684398. berkeley.

Ecstasy. An evening of Indian-jazz fusion

music with Habib Khan (sitar), Matthew Montfort (guitar), Mohammad Nejad (flute), Peter Block (saxaphone), Ravi Gutala (tabla), and John Waller (drums). Organized by Asha for Education. 6 p.m. Spangenberg Theatre, 780 Arastradero Road, Palo Alto, 94306. $25 general; $15 children under 10. (650) 861-2122. mchawla.tacord@ events/ecstasy/.

21st Annual Images of India Cultural Showcase. The 21st annual Images of

India, an evening of music and dance showcasing the richness, depth, and diversity of Indian culture. Images of India has become a legacy and is well-known in the Bay Area for Indian ethnic and folk music and classical dance forms presented by some of the finest talent in this region. Images of India is Asha Berkeley’s biggest fund raising event and typically raises over $5,000, which is used entirely to support education of poor children in India. Asha-Berkeley is currently supporting seven projects in India and disburses more than $30,000 each year. The diverse projects supported by Asha Berkeley are situated in the most neglected parts of India. The impact made by Asha Berkeley is evident from the success of projects such as Sahyog, which is located in slums of Mumbai. Since its inception, Sahyog has expanded into three core programs: Sahyog School Without Walls is aimed at providing education for out of school adolescent girls, Sahyog Sangarsh is community based rehabilitation and training program, and Sahyog Ekta aims at providing basic health in the community. Organized by Asha for Education, Berkeley. 7-9 p.m. UC Berkeley International House, 2299 Piedmont Ave., Berkeley. $20 general; $10 student. www. IOI/2011/.


6 Sunday

Compassionate Chefs Cafe Event. Celebrated Indian chef

Afghan American journalist Fariba Nawa will give a talk about her personal journey and her new book on Saturday, Nov. 5 in Newark. 94 • india currents • november 2011

Sanjeev Kapoor joins chef/owner Ranjan Dey at his landmark Indian restaurant for a collabora-

tive culinary event. Highlighting the partnership between two talented Indian chefs, the event will benefit Compassionate Chefs Cafe, a San Francisco-based nonprofit founded by Dey. Sunday’s two-part series introduces guests to an innovative ode to the vibrant cuisine of India as interpreted by Kapoor and Dey. Kapoor will be merging his modern take on Indian cuisine with Dey’s traditional fare influenced by the American palette. Both chefs are looking to highlight the modern direction that Indian cuisine is headed by inviting guests to experience one of the following exclusive culinary events: Champagne brunch reception with an intimate meet and greet with Kapoor, 12-2 p.m.; ten-course, family-style wine dinner, 6-9 p.m. The dinner will showcase the Indian dining experience at its best, alongside a Q&A session with Kapoor regarding his influence on Indian cuisine. 12-9 p.m. New Delhi Restaurant, 160 Ellis St. San Francisco, CA 94102. Champagne brunch, $50; wine dinner, $150. (415) 397-8470.

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





Temple Benefit Programs 2012 Feb. 12 - Bharathanatyam Meenakshi & Students

Sun., Nov. 13 - Murugan Puja Devotional songs Rama Thyagarajan & students

Feb. 25 - Bharathanatyam Varunika Raja Vishal Ramani's student


Sat., Nov. 12 - Murugan Puja Bharthanatyam Vishal Ramani's students.

Sat., Nov. 19 Bharathanatyam Kalpana & Students.

May 2012 - Bharathanatyam Vishal Ramani & students MacAfee theatre. All at 4pm at Cubberley May program only 4pm at MacAfee

Sun., Nov. 27 - Murugan Puja Bharathanatyam Vishal Ramani & students.



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96 • india currents • november 2011



Shyamal Randeria-Leonard

Piloting Choreography S

an Francisco-based Oberlin Dance Collective (ODC) School and ODC Theater will present the 59th pilot program to introduce emerging dance choreography work, “Hello, My Name Is…” The title captures the essence of the program in which artists venture beyond casual introductions and penetrate deeper into dynamic and synergistic connections. Six new works are broken down in 10-minute compositions performed by artists from around the world who have been mentored for 11 weeks by experienced professionals. Each artist will present original dance pieces exploring the concepts of encounters and relationships. Jaysi Chander, an Indian American multidisciplinary artist will present an excerpt from her new work “Avara, La Vagabonda,” which fuses Western contemporary dance elements and the Indian art of storytelling: kathak dance. For Chander, the kathak style has much room for improvisation and she utilizes this freedom to craft a “new vocabulary” of art while retaining its inherent rhythmic rules. “I am classically trained in kathak and bharatnatyam and yet I have been innovating within the tradition of kathak by incorporating contemporary content, narratives, poetry, music, and songs from outside of the classical context,” she says. Chander’s performance portrays the life of Rani, an Indian courtesan residing in Pondicherry, a French colony in India in the early 20th century. Rani’s struggle for love and freedom are intertwined with the writings from La Vagabonda by Colette the French novelist and also forms the “core of this lyrical performance enlivened by a talented musical ensemble,” according to Chander. Chander will be accompanied by Leslie Schneider on vocals, Ben Kunin on sarod, Rik Ganju on piano, and Tim Witter on tabla. Chander, a self-described “doctor by profession, a dreamer, dancer, and drummer by obsession,” is the founder of JypsyJays Productions and has created and performed locally and internationally. A graduate from the University of Wisconsin-Madison Medical School, she is also a practicing physician serving part-time at Tom Waddell Clinic for the Homeless. Chander earned a master’s in public health focusing on environmental health sciences from UC Berkeley, and recently finished a fellowship in occupational and environmental medicine at University of Califor-

Jaysi Chander

nia San Francisco. In the world of the arts, Chander trained at the Chhandam School of Kathak with Chitresh Das for 10 years and continues to study tabla with Swapan Chaudhuri. Her training extends to singing, poetry and the meditative and yogic arts for inner discipline. Chander is also trained in ballet, jazz, tap, and contemporary dance. This diverse background filled with prolific accomplishments somehow amalgamates and resonates into true and comprehensive artistry. With precise depth, she attributes the absorption of each new learning to an “inspiration which comes from within as music leads to dance which in turn paves the path to yoga, yoga leads to meditation, meditation transcends to a love of service and thus each discipline augments the other.” As of recent, Chander has been extending her dance techniques at ODC by studying contemporary release technique comprised of down flowing body movements and contact improvisation, a spontaneous and relational form of dance involving other performers. Additional artists who will be showcasing their work are Hentyle Yapp, a Ph.D. student in performance studies from UC Berkeley with works in contemporary choreography in Taipei and New York. Yapp will present work involving contemporary re-

lease technique. Yapp’s piece “focuses on the different dimensions of fear that construct our lives. Fear ranges from the micro such as personal anxiety and hate crimes to the macro such as political situations or red to yellow security levels.” Seattle native Bianca Cabrera will present a seven-person ensemble to examine stories and fairy tales while Yayoi Kambara of Japan explores truth and lies between people through a series of duets. International dance artist Charles Slender will explore a fresh mode of work through pure movement. Each artist was chosen through a competitive process and is trained to work in choreography, self- production, marketing, public relations and technical production in a group setting. For over 30 years, ODC, a contemporary arts institution is known not only for its entrenched footing in San Francisco neighborhoods through activities of community development but also features a fully integrated dance center in the West Coast with performance venues and dance training programs. n Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 19-20, 8 p.m. ODC Dance Commons, Studio B, 351 Shotwell St., San Francisco. $12. Tickets: www. www. india currents • november 2011 • 97

Karnatik Music Concert. With Gayathri

Venkataraghavan (vocal), Mysore Srikanth (violin), and Neyveli Skanda Subramanian (mridangam). Organized by South India Fine Arts. 3:30 p.m. India Community Center (ICC), 525, Los Coches St., Milpitas, 95035.

Divali Bash: Kishore Kumar Special.

Performers: Dhananjay Kulkarni, Anuja Surlaker, Sachin Srivastava, Ashwini Guruprasad, Sudhir Arvindan, Manohar Bijor, and Ranna Patel; accompanied by Nagaraj Varadharajan, Rajkumar Venkat, Rakesh Vallishayee, Venky Subramaniam, Arshad Syed, Shekhar Kale,

Neil Kulkarni. Emcees: Rajib Bhattacharya and Sujata Mudumba. Email to take part. Karaoke 5-7 p.m., main show with live orchestra 7 p.m., dinner 8 p.m. 5 p.m. Athidhi Indian Cuisine, 727 South Wolfe Road, Sunnyvale, 94086. $27; children 5-12 $13.50; children under 5 free. (408) 242-7278, (408) 735-9025. com/site/melodystardhananjay/kishore_kumar_special_diwali_show.

Samba Sada Shiva: Evoking Transformation. An evening of Indian and Brazilian

dance performance followed by chanting and kirtan. Bringing samba and orixa dance from Brazil into the context of the classical Indian dance of odissi, audience members will experience the link between these two different cultures. Vishnu Tattwa Das will hold the tradition of ancient India’s odissi; dancers Barbara Framm and Nubia Teixeira will create a bridge between India and Brazil; samba dancer Tika Morgan will offering celebrations of both the sacred and the celebratory dances of Brazil. The evening will close with kirtan, joining together to sing with Jai Uttal and friends, chanting and dancing into the evening. A traditional Day of the Dead altar will grace to performance space. Audience members are invited to bring offerings for the altar. 5:30-8 p.m. Point Reyes Dance Palace, 503 B St., Point Reyes Station, 94956. $25 advance, $30 at door. (415) 456-2799. (See story.)

Aathvaa Sarg (The Eighth Canto). A

play by Surendra Verma, in Hindi with English supertitles. Directed by Manish Sabu, and produced by Pradeep Gupta. Mahakavi (poet laureate) Kalidas has just finished writing the eighth “sarg” (chapter, or canto) of his epic poem “Kumarsambhav.” A firestorm of controversy ensues and puts Kalidas on a collision course with the self-appointed protectors of faith. Are they entitled to make decisions of propriety for the rest of society? Set in the Gupta Empire, “Aathvaa Sarg” is a story of artistic freedom versus censorship. The debate is remarkably similar to contemporary controversies sparked by cartoons, paintings, or “satanic” verses. Come and witness an epic conflict between the virtuous silent majority and the self-righteous vocal minority. Ends Nov. 12. Organized by Naatak. Cubberley Theatre, Palo Alto, 4000 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto, 94303. $20. (408) 9056831.

November Joyita Ghose will show her colorful silk fabrics at the 33rd annual Celebration of Craftswomen fair on Nov. 11-13 in San Francisco. 98 • india currents • november 2011

9 Wednesday

3rd i’s Ninth Annual SF International South Asian Film Festival. SFISAFF

2011 will present 16 programs featuring films from India, Pakistan, Nepal, South Africa, Sri

Lanka,Tibet, and the U.S. Highlights include: a special focus on Sri Lanka with filmmaker Asoka Handagama in attendance; eight films by U.S. filmmakers (four of which showcase Bay Area talent); documentaries and independent narratives; and “Saturday Night at the Castro” will take Bollywood in a new direction. Ends Nov. 13. Organized by 3rd i Films. 7-10:30 p.m. Roxie and Castro theaters, San Francisco. $10 online; $12 door. (415) 835-4783, (312) 593-0092., (See story.)


11 Friday

33rd Annual Celebration of Craftswomen. South Asian artist Joyita Ghose will again

sell her silk fabrics at the “Celebration of Craftswomen,” San Francisco’s biggest holiday fine crafts retail fair and the largest event exclusively celebrating the craft of women in America. Creating positive social impact, the Celebration of Craftswomen benefits the programs of The Women’s Building, a community center serving women and girls in San Francisco. It is a unique opportunity to find gorgeous, one-of-a-kind holiday gifts, fine crafts, and contemporary art. There will be live musical entertainment and offerings of delicious food and drink. Shoppers looking for unique substitutes to mass-produced goods will be delighted with the original handmade offerings. For 33 years, the fair has been part of the sociopolitical movement -- led by female artists -- that offers environmentally conscious and economically sustainable choices to mainstream consumption. Featuring imaginative and innovative work by some of the country’s best female artisans and fine artists, quality has always been a hallmark of this highly anticipated annual holiday show. Ends Nov. 13. Organized by The Women’s Building. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Festival Pavilion, Fort Mason Center, Fort Mason Center (Buchanan St. and Marina Blvd.), San Francisco. $9 general, $7 senior/student/disabled,

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

children 12 and under free. (650) 615-6838.

Utsav: Karaoke for a Cause. Celebrate this festival season with the karaoke event for the whole family, “Sing for Art,” a great way to relax after work on Friday, hang out with friends, make new friends, and enjoy great dinner while supporting a good cause. Featuring DJ, dancing, children’s art, activity area, and more. If you are interested in singing, email Organized by Induz. 7:30-11:30 p.m. Swagat Indian Cuisine, 4918 Paseo Padre Parkway, Fremont, 94555. $10 general, $6 children 5-9, children under 5 free. Cash only. (510) 875-5006. VivRti 2011: Fall Festival. Featuring

lecture-demonstration series by T.M. Krishna, co-hosted by South India Fine Arts; artists Sangeetha Sivakumar, Patri Satish Kumar, Melakaveri Balaji, Akkarai Subhalakshmi; Bay Area school ensembles; bharatnatyam dance; percussion ensemble; violin ensemble; and more. Ends Nov. 13. Smith Center, Ohlone College, Fremont. $10-$20. (See story.)


12 Saturday

The Spotlight. Fifth annual Bollywood musical, featuring gSquad professional dancers and gDance students. Organized by Gurus of Dance. First show 1:30-4 p.m.; second show 6-8:30 p.m. McAfee Performing Arts Center, 20300 Herriman Ave., Saratoga, 95070. www.


13 Sunday

Hindustani Classical and Devotionals: Zankar, Raag Malika. Sangeet Dhwani

holds its 82nd Hindustani classical music concert with Raag Malika, i.e., lyrics with more than one raga. Several vocalists and musicians will perform. Organized by Sangeet Dhwani. 2-5:30 p.m. Milpitas Library Auditorium, 160 N. Main St., Milpitas, 95035. Free. RSVP: (408) 733-7442, (408) 394-0554. www.


15 Tuesday

Kiran Ahluwalia in Concert. Expressing her muse through ghazals and Punjabi folk

Induz will hold “Ustav: Karaoke for a Cause” on Friday, Nov. 11 in Fremont.

songs, award-winning Indian singer Kiran Ahluwalia explores the language of the heart with beautiful artistry and smoldering intensity. Her enchanting and seductive music has garnered glowing praise from critics around the world: “Hers is a voice destined to enchant more than one generation” (fROOTS). But most of all, Ahluwalia is a unique and inspiring performer and composer, whose legion of fans continues to grow with every captivating performance. Organized by Zook Beat. 7:30-9:30 p.m. Don Quixote’s, 6275 Highway 9, Felton. $16 advance; $20 at door. (831) 603-2294. www.


18 Friday

laya Mandal Examinations. November music examinations will be conducted for vocal, dance (kathak and bharatnatyam, tabla, and other instruments. Ends Nov. 20. Organized by Akhil Bharatiya Gandharva Mahavidyalaya Mandal India. 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Akhil Bharatiya Gandharva Mahavidyalaya Mandal’s USA Center, 7844 Mcclellan Road, Cupertino, 95014. (408) 792-7014. satish_ Bharatanatyam Workshop. After a suc-

cessful workshop in September, Smaran Performing Arts is organizing its second workshop by renowned guru and performer Sanjay Shantaram from India. Ends Nov. 20. Organized by Smaran Performing Arts. 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Sri Sathyanarayan Temple, Milipitas,

Psychuck Performs with San Francisco Symphony Orchestra. Psychuck, a double

Guinness Records holder for fastest piano player, will attempt another world record live with Guinness officials present. Also featuring Bollywood dancers, fashion show, statewide singers. Organized by Psymphony. San Jose Center for Performing Arts, San Jose. $15, $20, $30. (408) 203-8905, (714) 3178614, (510) 754-4028.


19 Saturday

Akhil Bharatiya Gandharva Mahavidya-

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Share your stories on health 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 Nadia Maiwandi at india currents • november 2011 • 99

473-479 Los Coches St., Milpitas, 95035. $150. Registration required. (408) 507-0892, (831) 524-4210, (408) 931-2452. smarangroup@,, www.

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

Tamil Light Music Show. To

support 2020 eye surgeries at the Sankara Eye Hospital, Coimbatore. Organized by Sankara Eye Foundation (SEF). 5 p.m. Chabot College Performing Arts Center, 25200 Carlos Bee Blvd., Hayward, 94542. $10, $15, $20, $25. (408) 712-4734, (408) 2063113, (925) 202-1176.

Jwala: The Immortal Flame.

The concert will celebrate the role of fire in Hindu mythology, where it is viewed as a purifier and means to salvation, as well as the consequences of the human desire to control and manipulate fire. Appropriate lyrics will be selected, or new ones created with the help of Bay Area scholars. The concept and choreography will be developed by artistic director Mythili Kumar, along with principal dancer and choreographer Rasika Kumar and assisted by Malavika Kumar. With the help of award-winning composer Asha Ramesh, the music will be developed for this theme. Organized by Abhinaya Dance Company. 6 p.m. McAfee Theater, 20300 Herriman Ave, Saratoga, 95070. $10-$25. www.

Pilot Program 59: Hello, My Name Is... Dance theater perfor-

Karnatik Music Concert. With

Sangeetha Sivakumar (vocal), Akkarai S. Subhalakshmi (violin), and Melakkaveri Balaji (mridangam). Organized by South India Fine Arts. Center for Performing Arts, MenloAtherton High School, 555 Middlefield Road, Atherton, 94027. www.

November Abhinaya Dance Company will perform “Jwala: The Immortal Flame” on Saturday, Nov. 19 in Saratoga.

mances. Through an intimate 11week session, artists are mentored in choreography and aspects of self-production. “Hello, My Name Is…” both introduces these artists to the community and explores the concepts of encounters, meetings, and relationships. Jaysi Chander is part of the group and will be presenting an intercultural kathak dance theater piece that promises to engage audiences. Oberlin Dance Collective (ODC) Theater and School follows its rich tradition since 1990 of presenting new and innovative

choreography by emerging choreographers. Ends Nov. 20. Organized by Oberlin Dance Collective (ODC) Theater and School. 8 p.m. ODC Dance Commons, 351 Shotwell St, San Francisco, 94110. $12. Tickets: http://, (See story.)

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


20 Sunday

Karnatik Vocal Concert. By Pingali Surya

Prabhakararao on tour from India. An accomplished artist on All India Radio, he is proficient in Lalita Sangeetam and music composition. Holding a degree in Sangeetha Siromani, and is the author of many articles. Influenced by Padmabhushan Balamuralikrishna, Prabhakararao is endowed with a rich,melodious voice, and stresses bhava and clear evocation of mood bringing the listener on a journey of contemplation, devotion, and rapture. He will be joined by his daughter, Sirisha Pingali, an approved artist in All India Radio. Concert followed by aarati and mahaprasad (lunch). Organized

26 Saturday

Aladdin: A Musical Dance Ballet. By Sanjay Shantraram,

Bangalore and Supriya Desai, with musical fusion by Bay Area artist Habib Khan, accompanied by Satish Tare, Ramesh Srinivasan, Matthew Monfrot, and George Brooks. A fundraiser for the Children’s Hospital and Research Center, Oakland. Organized by KKNC. 5-9:30 p.m. Chabot College Performing Arts Center, 25555 Hesperian Blvd., Hayward, 94545. $20, $30, $50, $100.


3 Saturday

Free Health Fair. Medical advice on inter-

nal medicine, cardiology, women’s health, nutrition, and diet, chiropractic, physical therapy. Also free blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol evaluations. Organized by HCCC/Livermore Shiva Vishnu Temple. 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Assembly Hall, 1223 Arrowhead Ave., Livermore, 94550. Free. (925) 449-6255.

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

P l a c e y o u r e v e n t f o r f r e e : w w w. i n d i a c u r r e n t s . c o m / s u b m i t - e v e n t 100 • india currents • november 2011

God's Unfailing Love…… Do you have the real Joy, Peace and happiness in your life? Have you ever asked this question What is the purpose of my

existence in this world? What is a person profited, if he/she shall gain the whole world, and lose his/her own soul? (Or) What shall a person give in exchange for his/her own soul? Is there anyone in this world who can truly love me? Many times we are lost and finally end up asking these questions. There is no one in this world, who can truly love us, except God. Initially, God created human kind (both man and woman) in HIS own image. The purpose of creating mankind was to be with God. But human kind sinned against God and lost the greatest gift of being with HIM. God is Holy. A person with sin cannot dwell or exist with God. Also with sin, human kind earned curses from God. The result of sin was death & curses.

What is sin?

Anything we do that separates us from God’s presence is called SIN. We cannot hide anything from God. God knows our troubles, problems & everything. What the World can offer to us is the Lust of flesh, the Lust of eyes & the Pride of life. Anyone who takes what the World offers ends up committing sin against God.

What is the result of committing sin?

when HE died for us. By giving HIS every drop of blood, we are saved and free from the penalty of sin & death. Jesus died for our sins and on the third day, HE rose again from death and became victorious over death, hell and sins. Jesus is a living God. HE is the same yesterday, today & forever. In the Name of Jesus there is Victory, Deliverance from sins & curses and there is Healing from sickness & Miracles in our life.

The result of committing sin is a broken heart & soul, having guilt which makes us weak before God, with sadness, no peace, sickness, curses and separation from God. The Bible says, when we were born, we were born with sin because our parents brought us into this world with a sinful nature. For all have sinned, and come short of the Glory of God. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. The wages of sin is death.

Our family or friends, our caste or creed, our education or position, our money or riches or status, or by doing charity or by doing yoga or by doing fasting will not take us to God or to Heaven. When we accept & ask Jesus Christ to come into our heart & cleanse our sins with HIS precious blood, Jesus comes into our heart and makes us a new creature, by giving us HIS Love, Joy, HIS Peace, Hope & eternal Life with HIM. This is the TRUTH and the truth shall set you free.

No one in this world including our parents or spouse or kids or friends or relatives can love us more than God. The Bible says, God is Love and HE manifested HIS love by sending God's only Holy SON Jesus Christ into this world to save us from all our sins and redeem us from this sinful world. For God so loved the world, that HE gave HIS only begotten Son Jesus Christ, that whosoever believeth in Jesus should not perish, but have everlasting life, the life after death with God in Heaven.

Now how can I redeem HIS gift of Salvation in my life?

Jesus came to this earth only to die for us and shed HIS blood so that we can be saved by HIS grace and then receive HIS gift of Salvation. Without HIS shedding of blood there is no redemption from sins. So God sent Jesus Christ to this world to die for you and me. The blood of Jesus Christ cleans us from all sins. If we confess our sins to Jesus, HE is faithful and just to forgive us from our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Jesus said "Come unto ME, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” For every sin we commit, we need to pay the penalty individually. However, Jesus took all our sins upon himself,

All we have to do is to believe Jesus, accept HIM into our heart & ask him to cleanse our sins by HIS blood by repeating this simple prayer. (Prayer means talking to God in your heart)

Lord Jesus, Thank you for coming into this world for me and my sins. I truly accept you just as I am. Come into my heart; cleanse me and my sins with your precious Blood. Be in my heart forever and help me to live and lead a Holy life like you. I also invite YOU & Your Holy Spirit to come into my heart and give me the Joy, Peace, Happiness, Deliverance from sins, bondages and sickness forever. Thank you for giving me the assurance of being with me forever. In Jesus name I pray Amen. If you have truly meant this prayer, then you have accepted Jesus into your heart. HE will be with you forever. HE will not leave you nor forsake you. If you need prayers or would like to know more about Jesus, then you can visit nearby Churches or email us at

india currents • november 2011 • 101



Anuradha Malhotra

The Power of the Mantras I

n my childhood days, my father used to make me sit with him every evening and recite mantras. He would open a small book and chant mantras aloud. I, along with my mother and sisters, would sit in a circle, with eyes closed and hands resting in my lap. Being younger, I would peek now and then as I had no idea of what was going on. The mantras were in Sanskrit and the Hindi translations were too difficult for me to understand at that time. My mind was no less whimsical; it would focus on every other thing that was unconnected to the chanting ceremony. In fact, I used to wait for my father to reach the last page of the book, knowing that soon after that my mother would serve dinner. As I grew up, I starting concentrating more; the tendency to open my eyes in between soon disappeared and my mind stopped vacillating so much. By the time I was 14 or 15, I knew that I was undergoing some transformation, a soulful one. Now every time I focused on what I was chanting, there would be something pronounced, something larger than life ready to overwhelm me. The chanting started by the recital of Gayatri Mantra, a revered Vedic hymn that praises the Almighty and requests him to embrace us with his divinity. This was followed by other mantras most of which talked about the relation between immortals and transcendental power. But my mind was still playing its strange games. Now and then, it would meddle with my contemplation. And soon, I would find myself fighting with mundane thoughts: What would happen if I reached school late the next day, or what if my best friend stops talking to me, or—more comical—what if a cockroach comes from nowhere and scares me to death! At times, I would make an excuse to myself to skip mantras altogether. By the time I completed the hymns, I did not feel anything that could be called otherworldly. But the fact was that the seed had already been sown inside my heart and it had to grow to a full-fledged tree one day. As time elapsed and I became an adult, my thought process became more clarified; I would sit back for hours and try to understand what relation existed between the omnipotent and the rest of the universe. Not that I had 102 • india currents • november 2011

become some yogi, but had started conceiving human existence as a humble part of the cosmos. Yes, it was quite difficult to accept the facts; it was melancholic at times and fearful, too. But intriguing enough to explore more. The mantras that I had been reciting since childhood had, unknowingly, induced an awakening in me. They, in fact, helped me realize that the power above, no matter how unsurpassable it is or how impossible to catch sight of, can be comprehended. It is discernable and we can always get vibes from it. The time of ifs, ands, or buts had gone. Now every time I uttered those Sanskrit words, the meanings of which were now clear to me, I felt coupled with the all-powerful. The mantras talked about the five elements and other metaphysical aspects, and their relation to the Almighty. They elicited the metamorphosis of the soul from one form to the other, thanked the supreme power for bestowing life upon us, and urged it to direct our lives on path of righteousness. As a mountaineer who is rendered speechless after scaling the towering Himalayan peaks, I felt dumbfounded at humankind’s subordinate existence every time I completed the hymns.

I’m not sure exactly how to describe it but, over the years, the mantras have helped me reconcile the fact that life is ephemeral and lacks permanence. A few months back I got to know about a mantra published in a newspaper. It said that only nonliving things change forms and those that are living remain constant. A human or an animal would continue to remain so until he or she dies. After death the body starts transforming to ashes, and under the influence of five elements, what was once the body starts acquiring different forms. What a great thought it was! It was at that time when I was trying to cope with my mother’s untimely death. The mantra had a therapeutic effect on my mind. It helped me heal and soothed my soul: No matter in what form or energy, she is still in this universe. I have moved on since then. I’ve learned simply reciting mantras is not enough: You need to ponder what is being said and, in the very first place, you must know the meaning of what you are uttering.n Anuradha Malhotra is a freelance writer who has an M.A. in English literature. She enjoys writing about her personal experiences and interests in various cultures.


spirituality and health


4 Friday

Sri Guru Vandana. Organized by Balaji Temple. 6-8:30 p.m. Balaji Temple Sunnyvale, 678 Cypress Ave., Sunnyvale, 94085. (408) 203-1036, (408) 733-9266. balajitemple1@ Home Satsang, Discourses on ABCs of Vedanta. Organized by Chinmaya Mission

San Jose. 8-9 p.m. Ruparel Residence, 20668 Seaton Ave., Saratoga, 95070. Free. (408) 9982793. www.

Ribhu Gita. Readings, with commentary

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


5 Saturday

Sri Balaji Suprabatham and 108 Kalasa Abhishekam. Organized by Balaji Temple. 10 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Balaji Temple Sunnyvale, 678 Cypress Ave., Sunnyvale, 94085. (408) 203-1036, (408) 733-9266. balajitemple1@

Sri Guru Vandana. Organized by Balaji

Temple. 10 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Balaji Temple Sunnyvale, 678 Cypress Ave., Sunnyvale, 94085. (408) 203-1036, (408) 733-9266.

Goverdan Puja and Garba. Organized by

Livermore Shiva Vishnu Temple. 2 p.m. Assembly Hall, 1232 Arrowhead Ave., Livermore, 94551. Free. (925) 371-5640, (925) 449-6255.

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

Sundarkhanda, followed by aarati & mahaprasad (dinner). Books available with text. Organized by Badarikashrama. 2:30-5:30 p.m. Badarikashrama, 15602 Maubert Ave., San Leandro, 94578. Free. (510) 278-2444. www.badarikashrama. org.


6 Sunday

The Man Who Sent the Magi. Lecture by Doug Krotz. “The Man Who Sent the

Magi” refers to the ancient Persian prophet Zoroaster, whose prophesies were responsible

for the journey of the Magi, the three high priests who journeyed over 1,000 miles to worship and honor the birth of infant Jesus. There is little popular knowledge about this marvelous person or the religion he founded, and almost nothing about the interconnections and interactions of his religion and those of Judaism and Christianity. Doug will share his extensive research on the person known as Zoroaster (or Zarathustra), and have available his recently published book of the same title. Organized by Cultural Integration Fellowship. 11 a.m.-12:15 p.m. Cultural Integration Fellowship, 2650 Fulton St., San Francisco, 94118. (415) 668-1559.

Sri Guru Vandana Shanti Patha Puja.

Organized by Balaji Temple. Balaji Temple Sunnyvale, 678 Cypress Ave., Sunnyvale, 94085. (408) 203-1036, (408) 733-9266.

The Universal Appeal of Yoga as a Spiritual Science. SRF Center Sacramento, 4513 North Ave., Sacramento. (916) 483-9644. SRF Center Los Gatos, 303 E. Main St., Los Gatos. (408) 252-5299. Richmond Temple, 6401 Bernhard Ave., Richmond. (510) 232-6652. Contact temples for times. Organized by Self-Realization Fellowship.


8 Tuesday

Shiva Puja. Lord Shiva Abhishekam; chanting of Rudram/Chamakam. Organized by Chinmaya Mission San Jose. 7:30-9:30 p.m. Sandeepany San Jose, 1050 Park Ave., San Jose, CA 95126. Free. (408) 998-2793.

tyanarayana Puja. Organized by New Balaji Temple. 6-8:30 p.m. 5010 N. First St. San Jose, 95002. (408) 203-1036, (408) 733-9266.


10 Thursday

ART Excell Course, for children 8-13 years old. Develop leadership skills which enable youth to become positive role models for their peers; increase mental clarity, focus and concentration; release negative emotional and behavioral patterns; retain emotional balance in frustrating situations. Course will cover stretching, yoga; specific breathing exercises, relaxation techniques, meditation; problem solving skills, development of social skills, leadership training, games, group dynamics, creative projects and service projects. Ends Nov. 13. Organized by Art of Living Foundation. 6-3 p.m. Sobroto conference center, 600 Valley Way, Milpitas, 95035 . (408) 623-2139. secure.artofliving. org/course_details.aspx?course_id=10818.


11 Friday

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


13 Sunday

Chasing Agni: Sri Aurobindo’s Hymns to the Mystic Fire. Lecture. The ancient seer-

The Truth Revealed Retreat. This extensive retreat is focused on nondual self-knowledge as revealed by Sri Ramana Maharshi and consists of in-depth commentary, with dialogue, upon the teachings contained in Sri Ramana Maharshi’s Saddarshanam (i.e., Sat-Darshanam, Truth Revealed, Forty Verses on Reality). There is also much time for the participants to silently meditate upon this quintessential, profound knowledge during these five days of blissful wisdom and the revelation of the truth within you. Ends Nov. 13. Organized by Society of Abidance in Truth (SAT). 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Society of Abidance in Truth (SAT), 1834 Ocean St., Santa Cruz, 95060. Registration required. (831) 4257287. the_truth_revealed_retreat.htm.

poets of the Rig Veda spoke in symbol, image and mantric rhythm, of an ever-ascending and sacred world in which we live. In an early period of his yoga practice, Sri Aurobindo, himself a Cambridge-educated classicist and poet, translated from the Sanskrit every Vedic hymn to the god Agni. Agni is called among other names, the immortal in mortals, summoner of the gods, the bearer of our offerings, the destroyer of all evils, the truth, the messenger to the gods. By making the Rig Vedic chants accessible to the modern Englishspeaking society, Sri Aurobindo passed down key insights into the processes of transformation and renewal which can guide us to the rivers of light, joy, and harmony reminiscent of the Vedic sun world. Please join Vishnu as he elucidates the writings of Sri Aurobindo on Vedic writings about Agni. Organized by Cultural Integration Fellowship. 11 a.m.-12:15 p.m. Cultural Integration Fellowship, 2650 Fulton St., San Francisco, 94118. (415) 6681559. www.

Karthika Poornima 108 Kalasa Sri Sa-

Sri Ramanama Sankirtana & Medita-


9 Wednesday

india currents • november 2011 • 103

Srikanth Chary will give a veena concert during a Thanksgiving Day celebration on Nov. 24 in San Leandro.

tion. Group singing of the Ramayana in 108 verses. Organized by Badarikashrama. 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Badarikashrama, 15602 Maubert Ave., San Leandro, 94578. Free. (510) 2782444.

How to Dissolve the Causes of War.

SRF Center Sacramento, 4513 North Ave., Sacramento. (916) 483-9644. SRF Center Los Gatos, 303 E. Main St., Los Gatos. (408) 2525299. Richmond Temple, 6401 Bernhard Ave., Richmond. (510) 232-6652. Contact temples for times. Organized by Self-Realization Fellowship. yogananda-srf. org.

Sri Ramanama Sankeerthana. Organized by Balaji Temple. Balaji Temple

Sunnyvale, 678 Cypress Ave., Sunnyvale, 94085. (408) 203-1036, (408 733 9266.


14 Monday

Sri Sankashta Hara Chaturthi. Organized by Balaji Temple. 6-8:30 p.m. Balaji Temple Sunnyvale, 678 Cypress Ave., Sunnyvale, 94085. (408) 203-1036, (408) 733-9266. bala104 • india currents • november 2011


18 Friday

Chanting of Vishnu Sahasranaama and Bhagavad Gita. Organized by Chinmaya

Mission San Jose. 8-9 p.m. Rao Residence, 22314 Cupertino Road, Cupertino, 95014. Free. (408) 863-0595.

Home Satsang, Discourses on Aparokshanubhooti. Organized by Chinmaya

Mission San Jose. 8-9 p.m. Dash Residence, 6789 Glenview Drive, San Jose, CA 95120. Free. (408) 268-5056.


19 Saturday

Ayyappa Mandala Puja. Ayyappasamaaj

of San Francisco Bay Area will celebrate its annual Ayyappa Mandala, Irumudi Puja, and Makara Vilakkku Puja between Nov. 16 and Jan 15. Highlights: Nov. 16, 6 p.m., start of Mandalam season (to coincide with the Mandalam season start in Sabarimala); Nov. 19, 4:30 p.m. Sankalpam, Mala Dharana,

abhishekam, archana, and bhajans followed by dinner prasadam. Nov. 26, Dec. 3, 10, 5 p.m. weekly bhajan followed by aarti. Dec. 17, 4 p.m., Ayyappa Lakshaarchana and Sastha Preethi, Mala Dharana for kids followed by bhajans and aarathi. Dec. 25, 9 a.m., Mandalam ends with Irumudi puja, abhishekam, archana, and bhajans followed by lunch prasadam. Jan, 15, 4:30 p.m. Ayyappa Makara Vilakku puja with Sankalpam, abhishekam, archana, bhajans followed by prasadam. Organized by Hindu Community and Cultural Center. 4:30-8 p.m. Livermore Shiva Vishnu Temple, 1232 Arrowhead Ave., Livermore, 94551. Free. www.ayyappasamaaj. org/mandalam2011.htm, pramki.blogspot. com/2011/10/ayyappa-mandala-irumudi-pujaand-makara.html.

Sri Mata ki Chowki. Group singing of

bhajans to the Divine Mother all welcome. Aarati and prasad. Organized by Badarikashrama. 8-10:30 p.m. Badarikashrama, 15602 Maubert Ave., San Leandro, 94578. Free. (510) 278-2444. www.


20 Sunday

Visit with Amma. Public program, 10 a.m.

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and 7:30 p.m. Ends Nov. 22. 10 a.m. M.A. Center, 10200 Crow Canyon Road, Castro Valley, 94552. Free. (510) 537-9417. www.

Enlightenment Ain’t What It’s Cracked Up to Be. Lecture and book signing of his new book by the same title, by Robert Forman, professor of comparative religion. Forman explains the basic outline of Eastern religions’ concept of enlightenment and the process by which one can attain such a state. How does one live in the world while pursuing such a goal and how does one re-enter and participate in everyday life after such an experience? Organized by Cultural Integration Fellowship. 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Cultural Integration Fellowship, 2650 Fulton St., San Francisco, 94118. (415) 668-1559.

Sri Vishnu Sahasranama Strothram.

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

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SRF Center Sacramento, 4513 North Ave., Sacramento. (916) 483-9644. SRF Center Los Gatos, 303 E. Main St., Los Gatos. (408) 252-

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


21 Monday

Religion Beyond Boundaries presents: Intersections of Spirituality, Healing, and Medicine. Graduate student members of the American Academy of Religion will present their cutting-edge research during lectures designed to move the discussion of religion out of the traditional academic setting and into the community, on Nov. 19 and Nov. 21. Open discussion and a Q&A will follow each evening’s presentations. Nov. 19’s event will include the following presentations: “Redefining Religion through the Lens of Interfaith Marriage.” Christians and Jews, as well as Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists, are defying the boundaries prescribed by their families and religious traditions. They are not only intermarrying, but proactively redefining religion, spirituality, belief, practice, and community. Interviews with 43 individuals in interfaith marriages reveal that these nontraditional marriages are not simply forms of secularism or syncretism; they are much more complex. As these interfaith couples negotiate differences and build bridges

between their families and communities, broad-based change in America’s religious landscape is set in motion. Other lectures that night will be “I am a Mormon and I am a Scientologist” and “Circulating Religion, Owning Belief: Intellectual Property in the American Spiritual Marketplace.” Nov. 21’s topics include: “The Public Space of Spirituality: Emerging Health Care Models,” “Death and Pregnancy: Religion, Ritual and the Hospital,” and “Social Defeat and Korean Shamanism Connor Wood.” Organized by American Academy of Religion’s Graduate Student Committee. 6-8 p.m. California Institute of Integral Studies, 1453 Mission St., Rooms 307 (Nov. 19) and 207 (Nov. 21), San Francisco, 94103. Free. stevenba@gmail. com., www.aarweb. org.

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


22 Tuesday

Pradosham Rudraabhoshekam. Orga-

nized by Balaji Temple. 5:30 p.m. Balaji Temple Sunnyvale, 678 Cypress Ave., Sunnyvale, 94085. (408) 203-1036, (408) 733-9266.


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23 Wednesday

Retreat with Amma. Ends Nov. 25. M.A.

Center, 10200 Crow Canyon Road, Castro Valley, 94552. Pre-registration required. (510) 537-9417.


24 Thursday

Sargam Shah (tabla). Followed by aarati and mahaprasad (lunch). Organized by Badarikashrama. 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Badarikashrama, 15602 Maubert Ave., San Leandro, 94578. Free. (510) 278-2444.

Vasavi Mata Bhajans, Puja & Potluck Prasadam. Organized by Balaji Temple. 4

p.m. Balaji Temple Sunnyvale, 678 Cypress Ave., Sunnyvale, 94085. (408) 203-1036, (408) 733-9266. www.

Thanksgiving Dinner and Veena ConGiving Thanks for Life’s Blessings. cert. Spend Thanksgiving in a friendly warm SRF Center Sacramento, 4513 North Ave., atmosphere with wonderful music followed by a delicious vegetarian dinner. Srikanth Chary is an accomplished veena artist and founder of NadaNidhi Music School. Receiving advanced music training from Padmabhushan Lalgudi G. Jayaraman, Chary is one of the musical gems in the Bay Area. He will be joined by his daughter, Priyanka Chary, with Karthik Gopalrathnam (mridangam). Organized by Badarikashrama. 3 p.m. Badarikashrama, 15602 Maubert Ave., San Leandro, 94578. Free. Reservations recommended. (510) 278-2444.

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. Contact temples for times. Organized by Self-Realization Fellowship.


3 Sunday

Bringing Bharath to the Bay. An Indian cultural program of the season. Featuring songs, drama, puppet show, Indian classical dance, celebrations for Christmas, activiAmavasya Shiva Abhishekam. Organized ties, goody bags. Service in English by Pastor by Balaji Temple. 6 p.m. Balaji Temple Sunny- Ranjan Samuel. Organized by Christ Church vale, 678 Cypress Ave., Sunnyvale, 94085. of India. 10:30 a.m. India Community Center (408) 203-1036, (408) 733-9266. balajitem(ICC), 525 Los Coches St., Milpitas, 95035. Free. (408) 234-0911.


25 Friday

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

Sundarkhanda of the Ramayana. Books availDevi Bhava with Amma. 7 p.m. M.A. Cen- able with Sri Sundarkhanda text. Organized ter, 10200 Crow Canyon Road, Castro Valley, by Badarikashrama. 2:30-5:30 p.m. Badari94552. Free. (510) 537-9417. kashrama, 15602 Maubert Ave., San Leandro, 94578. Free. (510) 278-2444. badarik@pacRamana Darshanam. The Ramana shanam events are focused on the teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi, as contained in Sunday books published by Sri Ramanasramam. Pas- December sages are read aloud, and their meanings are Living Like Haridas Chaudhuri: Exexplained in detail so that seekers can fully practice the teachings and comprehend their periencing Integral Reality. Lecture by Anton Grosz, graduate of California Institute profound significance. Dialogues also occur in which aspirants raise questions from their of Integral Studies in San Francisco, a freeown practices and receive answers so to pro- standing graduate school founded by Haridas vide better absorption and a deeper, extensive Chaudhuri. Chaudhuri was a pioneer in understanding of the knowledge revealed by bringing Eastern, particularly East Indian, the Maharshi. Organized by Society of Abid- philosophy to the West, coming to San Francisco in 1951 at the recommendation of Sri ance in Truth (SAT). 8-9:30 p.m. Society of Aurobindo of Pondicherry. Anton Grosz outAbidance in Truth (SAT), 1834 Ocean St., lines the basic concepts of Chaudhuri’s inSanta Cruz, 95060. Free. (831) 425-7287. tegral philosophy and psychology and shares Chaudhuri’s perspective on how to live by such ideals in a practical way. Organized by November Sunday Cultural Integration Fellowship. 11 a.m.12:30 p.m. Cultural Integration Fellowship, Sri Lalitha Sahasranama. Group recitation 2650 Fulton St., San Francisco, 94118. (415) of Sri Lalitha Sahasranama, followed by san- 668-1559. toor recital by Suman Shah accompanied by



108 • india currents • november 2011

Anton Grosz will give a lecture about Haridas Chaudhuri (pictured above), founder of California Institute of Integral Studies, on Saturday, Dec. 4 in San Francisco.

Sri Gita Jayanti. Sunday Service focusing

on the Bhagavad Gita. Panel discussion on how the Bhagavad Gita has influenced people’s lives. Participation of children’s class, Balasamskara Kendra. Organized by Badarikashrama. 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Badarikashrama, 15602 Maubert Ave., San Leandro, 94578. Free. (510) 278-2444.

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


6 Tuesday

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


9 Friday

Poornima Sri Satyanarayana Puja and Sri Balaji Abhishekam. Organized by

Balaji Temple. 6-7:30 p.m. Balaji Temple Sunnyvale, 678 Cypress Ave., Sunnyvale, 94085. (408) 203-1036, (408) 733-9266. © Copyright 2011 India Currents. All rights reserved. Reproduction for commercial use strictly prohibited. 

Om Sri Mathre Namaha

Vaidica Vidhya Ganapathi Center

SRI LAKSHMI GANAPATHI TEMPLE 32B Rancho Drive, San Jose, CA 95111 (Capitol Expressway West and Montrey Road Junction, Opposite and 1 Block from Capitol Cal Train Station)

(408) 226-3600 or Sunday, November 6, 2011- Day Light Savings Time Ends participate with family Daily Ayyappa Nithya Pooja starts on 17th November, 2011 To Tuesday, November 8, 2011 January 15th, 2012. Ends with Makara Jyothi Pooja At 6.00 pm Pradosham Shiva Sri Rudra Abhisheka,aarati and Manthra Pushpa Friday, November 18, 2011 Kala Bhairava Ahstami, Maha Deva Ashtami Thursday, November 10, 2011 At 5.00 pm Shiva Abhisheka, Annaabhisheka for Shiva Aarati and Wednesday, November 23, 2011 - Pradosham Manthra Pushpa At 6.00 pm Shiva Sri Rudra Abhisheka Aarati and Manthra Pushpa At 6.00 pm Pournami Vratha/Pooja Sri Sathayanarayana Swamy Pooja/Vratha. All are welcome to participate with family Thursday, November 24, 2011 - Thanksgiving Day Week End Timings Monday, November 14, 2011 At 5.00 pm Sri Sankata Hara Chathurthi Ganapathi Homa, Sri Friday, November 25, 2011 - Day after Thanksgiving Day Lakshmi Ganapathi Abhisheka, Aarati and Manthra Pushpa Week End Timings Thursday, November 17, 2011 At 5.30 pm Temple Open Shiva Abhisheka Aarati and Manthra Pushpa Karthika Masa begins At 6.30 pm Ayyappa Mandala Pooja begins. All are welcome to

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011 - Sukla Sashti At 8.00 pm Sri Valli Deva Sena Sametha Sri Subramanya Sahasranama Archana

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


For Pujas & Rituals Contact: PANDIT GANESH SHASTHRY 245-5443 / Cell: (925) 209-7637 E-mail:

5639 Kimberly Street, San Jose, CA 95129 — Home: (408)


Sunday, November 20th, 2011 - 11 am

Carnatic Vocal Concert by Pingali Surya Prabhakararao. Prabhakararao, visiting from India, is an exceptional artist at All India Radio in Carnatic vocal, Lalita Sangeetam and Music Composition. A prolific and successful composer for the past 40 years his musical inspiration comes from Padmabhushan Dr. Balamuralikrishna. His stress on Bhava carries the listener on a journey of contemplation, devotion and rapture. He will be joined by his daughter, Sirisha Pingali. Mridangam and violin, tba. Concert followed by Aarati & Mahaprasad (lunch).

Thursday, November 24th, 2011 - 3 pm Thanksgiving Concert & Dinner Srikanth Chary - Veena Priyanka Chary - Veena Karthik Gopalrathnam - Mridangam.

Srikanth Chary,founder of NadaNidhi Music School, is a musical gem in the Bay Area. A profound performer,exceptional teacher, and composer, his advanced training comes from Padmabhusan Lalgudi G. Jayaraman. Hosted yearly, our Thanksgiving Dinner is a vegetarian repast of sumptuous delight with dishes from around the world. Spend the holiday in a friendly, warm atmosphere with wonderful music. Reservations recommended. • • Call: 510-278-2444 india currents • november 2011 • 109


spiritual excerpt

The Sacred Jewels of Yoga Excerpt from SACRED JEWELS OF YOGA: WISDOM FROM INDIA’S BELOVED SCRIPTURES, TEACHERS, MASTERS, AND MONKS by Dave DeLuca. New World Library. Paperback. 192 pages. $14.95


he word yoga comes from the root word yuj, meaning to “yoke” or “unite.” The earliest yoga teachings are found in the Upanishads, which are the final portions of the Vedas, India’s most ancient and venerated scriptures. The Upanishads contain the oldest extant teachings of the spiritual wisdom, ideals, and practices of yoga: the Oneness of existence, the divinity of each human soul, meditation, karma, rebirth, maya, spiritual psychology, Self-realization, and so on. The wisdom of the Upanishads is known as the Vedanta, meaning the culmination of the Vedas. The Upanishads are the ecstatic expressions of unknown sages who lived thousands of years ago regarding the nature of reality and our relationship to that reality, and they contain the first teachings of the various spiritual disciplines and practices that would come to define the four main mystical yoga pathways (bhakti, jnana, karma, raja) in

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future scriptures. There have been many subdefinitions of the word yoga in the thousands of years of its teachings and practice, with many modern Western definitions reducing its meaning to a series of physical postures, or asanas, but the oldest, truest, and highest meaning of yoga is the union of our spirit with the Infinite Spirit, and the many paths and practices that lead to that union. Swami Nikhilananda [ed: one of the foremost Vedanta teachers of the 20th century] put it beautifully: “The word ‘yoga’ denotes the union of individual soul with Universal Soul, and also the means to such union. Hence yoga is the goal of all religions and the basis of all religious practices.” The Upanishads contain the original seeds of all the yoga wisdom from which the vast library of yoga practices would subsequently be fashioned and perfected by countless generations of anonymous spiritual masters devoted to these incredible wisdom pathways. The first of the great Upanishadic revelations is that the true nature of reality is Oneness. The Upanishads call the Eternal Oneness Brahman, the “great breath” or “expanse.” Everything in the universe is a tempo-

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rary expression of the One: everything comes from the One, has its being in the One, and returns to the One. There is nothing in the universe that is not a manifestation of Brahman. According to the Taittiriya Upanishad, He who has no form assumed many forms; He who is infinite appeared finite; He who is everywhere assumed a place; He who is all wisdom caused ignorance; He who is real caused unreality. It is He who has become everything. It is He who gives reality to all. Before the universe was created, Brahman existed as unmanifest. This is not mere pantheism, which equates God with nature. According to the Upanishadic seers, even the vast, unimaginable expanse of the known physical universe is absolutely insignificant in scope when compared to the totality of Existence that is Brahman. n

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the healthy life

Children and Screen Time Meenu Arora


n today’s high tech and busy world, it’s a challenge to limit children’s total media time. There is constant exposure to TV, computers, and video games. It was a challenge to get my 7-year-old away from the screen without him beginning to hate me. I encouraged more interactive activities such as creative play, reading together, athletics, and various hobbies. We shouldn’t forget, though, that TV and computers in moderation can be a good thing, not only for entertainment, but media can also be used as an excellent educator. Preschoolers can learn alphabets and grade-schoolers can be exposed to science and nature shows. The danger is too much media exposure and the wrong usage, which discourages other, more active pursuits. Problems range from lower grades in school, developing violent and aggressive behavior, and becoming overweight. Also, media exposes children to all kinds of advertisements—it was surprising one evening when my 7-year-old said, “Mama, I want to open a Facebook account.” Excuse me! Even I don’t have time for one, and at age 7, where does this come from? That said, let’s start with some guidelines to limit media exposure: s The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that “kids under 2 years old not watch any TV, and that those older than 2 watch no more than 1 to 2 hours a day of quality programming.” Most programs should be informational, educational, and nonviolent, and the programs should be monitored. s AAP also recommends keeping “TV sets, VCRs, video games, and computers out of children’s bedrooms.” This might help control the dramatically rising rates of media usage by children and teens. s A study by the Center for Vision Research at the University of Sydney, Australia, found that “6-year-olds who spent the most time watching television, using a computer or playing video games had narrower arteries in the back of their eyes—a marker of future cardiovascular risk.” Over a year ago, results of a comprehensive poll by Kaiser Family Foundation showed that parental involvement could improve how media affects kids’ lives. We should have discussions with our kids so that we reach agreement on the matter in advance. The value of honoring the family is very strongly ingrained in South Asian children. We are teaching our kids based on cultural practices. Sitting down

112 • india currents • november 2011

with the child and discussing the specific details about this matter makes it easier for the child to understand. As parents, we still expect to preserve family values in a media-driven society. Some parents seem to be under the impression that children can cope with the same things as adults, but the answer is that they can’t. I would like to share what is beginning to work for my son and me. Set time limits on media usage. A new study has found that children whose parents set consistent rules about TV use were less likely to exceed recommended time limits. For us, TV/computer stay off during school days. Earning media time. On weekends and holidays, there is a set media time limit and he may earn more media time by good behavior and chores. Provide alternatives to media. Weekday activities include karate, swimming, and guitar lessons. Weekend activities include ice skating, baseball, and skateboarding. Make use of family time. It is always suggested that parents participate in various activities with their children, which will help the children to cultivate their interests. At home, my son is teaching me guitar and board games such as chess and Operation. Weekend family game nights are great fun.

I am also trying to get him involved in planning and preparing meals. Gardening with dad has proved to be a successful effort. Be a good role model. Role modeling is often the most effective parenting tool, as children regularly take on the habits of their parents. In our house, TV/computer are off for until my son is asleep—and if I’m still awake! My favorite of all these is giving my child a multitude of alternative activities that will play an important role in helping him develop a healthy body and mind, including cognitive skills, social skills, and problem-solving skills. A healthy routine is an active one, and it gives me a good feeling to know that if I am able to replace one hour a day of screen time with physical activity, it will reduce the negative effects that come with a sedentary lifestyle. I’m a firm believer that we must interrupt our children’s regularly scheduled programming to give them a healthier start on life.n Meenu Arora has over 10 years of experience teaching and working with kids. She writes on topics on kids and health. She is a physician of homeopathy and currently works in a quality management position.


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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) 490-1260. Vishnusahasranama. Daily, 12 p.m. Balaji Temple, 678 Cypress Ave., Suunyvale. (408) 203-1036. Aarti. Daily, 8:30 p.m. Balaji Temple, 678 Cypress Ave., Suunyvale. (408) 203-1036. Patanjali Yoga Sutras: Satsang. Paramahamsa Nithyananda says, “Don’t add movements to your life, add life to your movements.” That is yoga. Patanjali is a great sage and inner world scientist from ancient India. He was the first person to systematize the oral yogic tradition and encode it in a concise form called Yoga Sutras, roughly over 2,000 years ago. Through these talks, he enables the flowering of yoga in you, so you can see a visible change in your very postures, ethical discipline and sensory perceptions. Program broadcast live from India, conducted by Paramahamsa Nithyananda. Organized by Life Bliss Foundation. Daily, 8-9:30 p.m. Nithyananda Vedic Temple, 513 Los Coches St., Milpitas. Free. (408) 263-6375.

Sunday Simplified Kundalini Yoga (SKY), plus physical exercises. We guide and initiate SKY meditation. We also provide Kayakalpam and Introspection courses. Sundays, 8-10 a.m. Sunnyvale-Sanadan Dharma Kendra,897 Kifer Road, Suite #1, Sunnyvale. Free. (510) 456-8953. Guru Gita Chant Siddha Yoga Meditation 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.

Discourses on Bhagavad Gita, Ch. 12 by

Acharya Prabodh Chaitanya. Organized by Chinmaya Mission San Jose. Sundays, 9-10 a.m. Linclon High School, 555 Dana Ave., San Jose. (408) 998-2793.

114 • india currents • november 2011

Meditation and chanting. Yogalayam, 1717 Alcatraz Ave., Berkeley. Sundays, 9-10: 30 a.m. (510) 655-3664. Sunday Worship Services. Seekers from all faith backgrounds are welcome. The service offers a nonsectarian message of hope, faith, and the essential harmony of the world’s religions, emphasising on self-realization, awakening to the inherent goodness of our spiritual nature and living in harmony with divine will. An inspirational message, silent meditation, sacred music and scripture from many traditions help us to remember what is true—life is good. Center for Spiritual Enlightenment, 1146 University Ave., San Jose. Sundays, 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. (408) 283-0221, x30. Lecture on different religious traditions. The meditation hall is also open for those who wish to deepen their meditation practice. Organized by Cultural Integration Fellowship. 2650 Fulton St. San Francisco. Sundays, 9-11 a.m. (415) 626-2442. Yoga and Meditation. Sundays, 9:

30-11 a.m. Premarpan Yoga and Wellness Center, Los Gatos. Free. (408) 406-8197.

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

Sunday Service Sikh Temple, 2301 Evergreen

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

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

Nome on self-dnowledge and self-inquiry, recitation and readings from the Upanishads, recitation of Tamil Ribhu Gita. Organized by Society of Abidance in Truth. First and fourth Sundays of the momth, 10-11:30 a.m. 1834

Ocean St., Santa Cruz. Free. (831) 425-7287.

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

Discourses on Gitas from Tulsi Ramayana by Acharya Prabodh Chaitanya. Organized by Chinmaya Mission San Jose. Sundays, 10: 30-11:30 a.m. Linclon High School, 555 Dana Ave., San Jose. (408) 998-2793.

Sunday Services Self Realization Fellowship, Sacramento Center, 4513 North Ave, Sacramento. Sundays, 11 a.m. (916) 483-9614.

Community Gatherings include a short

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

Ramanama meditation and kirtan. Orga-

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

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

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

Zoroastrian Temple Arbab Zoroastrian Temple, 10468 Crothers Rd, San Jose. First Sundays, 12 p.m. (408) 365-0119. Nithya Dhyaan Meditation Satsang, a powerful meditation technique to achieve physical and mental well-being. Organized by Life Bliss Foundation. Sundays, 3:30 p.m. 451 (Kung-Fu School), Los Coches St., Milpitas. Sunday Festival, an evening of bhajans,


Sunday Festival, an evening of bhajans,

arati, discourses and Krishna prasadam. Organized by ISKCON. ISKCON, 951 S. Bascom Ave., San Jose. Sundays, 4:30-6 p.m. Free. (408) 559-3197.

Traditional Vedanta and meditation classes. Presented by Swami Dayananda’s Arsha Vidya Center. Jain Bhavan, 722 S. Main, Milpitas. Sundays, 5-6:30 p.m. for beginning students; 8-9:30 a.m. for intermediate students. (650) 208-9565. Festival and Feast an evening of bhajans,

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

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

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

Satsang. Prayer, chanting meditation, lecture

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

Let us brighten your smile

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) 8495309.

• • • • •

Devotional Meetings Programs including prayer, chanting meditations, video discourse (Bhagvad Gita series), arti and homage. J.K.P. Sunnyvale Center, 955 Ponderosa Avenue #27, Sunyvale. Sundays, 7:30-8:45 p.m. (408) 7381201. Sri Ram Amrith Vani and bhajans. Sundays, 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. followed by Preeti Bhoj. Sunnyvale Hindu temple, 420-450 Persian Dr., Sunnyvale. (408) 734-4554, (408) 734-0775.

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

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

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

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

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

Rudrabhi Sheka. Mondays, 7-8:30 p.m. Balaji Temple, 678 Cypress Ave., Suunyvale. (408) 203-1036. Discourses on Sri Ramacharitmanas (Tulsi Ramayana) by Acharya Prabodh

by Acharya Prabodh Chaitanya. Organized by Chinmaya Mission San Jose. Tuesdays, 6: 30-7:30 a.m. Sandeepany San Jose, 1050 Park Ave., San Jose. (408) 998-2793.

Shri Appaji Meditation. Participate in

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

Jain Spiritual Lectures on topics such

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

Chaitanya. Organized by Chinmaya Mission San Jose. Mondays, 10-11 a.m. Sandeepany San Jose, 1050 Park Ave., San Jose. (408) 9982793.

Gakara Ganapathy Sahasranama Hindu Community & Cultural Ctr, 1232 Arrowhead Ave, Livermore. Tuesdays. (925) 449-6255.


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

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

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

Hanuman Chalisa and Durga Pooja and Subramanya Strotam. Tuesdays, 7-8:30 p.m. Balaji Temple, 678 Cypress Ave., Suunyvale. (408) 203-1036.

Discourses on Brhad-Aranyaka Upanishad by Acharya Prabodh Chaitanya.

Organized by Chinmaya Mission San Jose. Tuesdays, 7:30-8:30 p.m. Sandeepany San Jose, 1050 Park Ave., San Jose. (408) 998-2793.

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 Ha-

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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. Discourses on Kena Upanishad by

Acharya Prabodh Chaitanya. Organized by Chinmaya Mission San Jose. 10-11 a.m. Sandeepany San Jose, 1050 Park Ave., San Jose. (408) 998-2793.

Worship Services include a burning bowl

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

Bhagavad Gita Class An in-depth 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, com-

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

Bhagavath Seva - Voluntary Service to

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

Ramayana Katha Aranya Kand with pravachan by Shastriji. Vedic Dharma Samaj, Fremont Hindu Temple, 3676 Delaware Dr., Fremont. Wednesdays, 7:30 p.m. (510) 6590655. Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, a discourse by Swami Prapannananda. Vedanta Society of Sacramento, 1337 Mission Ave., Carmichael. Wednesdays, 7:30 p.m. (916) 489-5137. india currents • november 2011 • 117




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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.

Sri Aurobindo Meditation and Study Group. Wednesdays, 7:30-8:30 p.m. 2134 Carmenere St., Danville. Free. Open to all. (650) 218-4223.

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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.

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

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

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

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

Thursday Discourses on Kena Upanishad by Acha-

rya Prabodh Chaitanya. Organized by Chinmaya Mission San Jose. Thursdays, 6:30-7: 30 a.m. Sandeepany San Jose, 1050 Park Ave., San Jose. (408) 998-2793.

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

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

The Secret of the Self, introduction to meditation and philosophy in the tradi-

tion 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.

Shri Shirdi Sai Baba haarathulu dhoop

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Sri Sai baba Aarti and Bhajana.

days, 8-9:30 p.m. Nithyananda Vedic Temple, 513 Los Coches St., Milpitas. Free. (408) 263-6375.

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

Brhad-Aranyaka Upanishad by Acharya

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


Prabodh Chaitanya. Organized by Chinmaya Mission San Jose. Thursdays, 7:30-8:30 p.m. Sandeepany San Jose, 1050 Park Ave., San Jose. (408) 998-2793.

Guided Meditation, followed by discours-


Guided Meditation followed by video

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

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

Sri Lalitha Sahasranama Parayanam and Sri Maha Lakshmi Puja. Fridays, 6:30-8 p.m., Sunnyvale Hindu temple, 420-450 Persian Dr., Sunnyvale. (408) 734-4554, (408) 7340775. Sri Santhoshi Mata, Durga Devi Pooja and Lord Lakshmi Pooja.

Fridays, 6:30-8:30 p.m. Balaji Temple, 678 Cypress Ave., Suunyvale. (408) 203-1036.

Kirtan, an evening of chanting. Words pro-

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

Meditation, self-inquiry meditation in-

es on Taittiriya Upanishad. Sandeepany, 1050 Park Ave., San Jose. Saturdays, 6:30-8 a.m. (408) 998-2793.

discourses on Svetashvara Upanishad by H.H. Swami Tejomayanandaji. Organized by Chinmaya Mission San Jose. Saturdays, 6:308 a.m. Sandeepany San Jose, 1050 Park Ave., San Jose. (408) 998-2793.

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

Simplified Kundalini Yoga (SKY), plus

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

Sri Venkateswara Suprabhata Seva

and Sri Vishnu Sahasranama Parayanam. Saturdays, 10-11:30 a.m. Sunnyvale Hindu temple, 420-450 Persian Dr., Sunnyvale. (408) 734-4554, (408) 734-0775.

Video Satsang, bhajan, kirtan, Pranayam

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

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

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

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

Discourses on Acharya Prabodh Chaitanya, Ch. 4, by Acharya Prabodh Chaitanya.

120 • india currents • november 2011

Organized by Chinmaya Mission San Jose. Saturdays, 1:30-3 p.m. Washington High School, 38442 Fremont Blvd., Fremont. (408)


Video Gita from Tulsi Ramayana, by

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

Bala Vikas Classes Organized by San

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

Eucharistic Celebration in Tamil. Or-

ganized by Bay Area Tamil Catholic Community. Second Saturday of every month, 6: 45 p.m. St. Joseph Parish Church, Mountain View.

Osho Evening Meditation Meeting

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

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

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

kriya is a 42-minute process involving intense pranayama (breathing techniques), mudras (yogic hand gestures), asanas (yoga poses), and meditations. At the individual level, one experiences: physical health and healing, emotional well-being, spiritual ripening through kundalini awakening, Levitation and high state of awareness. En-kriya doesn’t contain any religious rituals or beliefs and it doesn’t matter who you follow. It just deals with breath. Every human being whether one believes in god or not is eligible to practice eN-kriya process. Organized by Life Bliss Foundation. Program broadcast live from India. Two-way live connection. Conducted by Paramahamsa Nithyananda. Saturdays, 810 p.m. Nithyananda Vedic Temple, 513 Los Coches St., Milpitas. Free. (408) 263-6375. www.vedictempl © Copyright 2011 India Currents. All rights reserved. Reproduction for commercial use strictly prohibited. 

I C dear doctor

Alzak Amlani

Parenting a Teenager Q

I am a father of a teenage son who used to be very involved in athletics and playing outside, chatting with friends, and enjoying himself. In the last year he has been spending a lot of time on the computer emailing friends and is also more involved with his school work. Some of the joy and liveliness that he has always had is going away. He seems less involved with people and family and more preoccupied. I am a little worried and don’t know quite how to talk to him about this change.How I can influence any positive change?


It’s good that you are observing these changes and asking about them. There are clear developmental milestones that happen through the teenage years for boys. Hormonal changes affect mood, social interests, body image, and can cause insecurity and even aggression. These are quite normal, especially in countries or families where separation and independence are stressed. The pressure of high school and college preparation and thinking about having a job or career can also force teenagers into a more focused, less

happy, and even stressed attitude. There are also social pressures of being in peer groups, dating, and going to parties where a lot of comparison between boys can occur. The sense of trust and innocence that all is well begins to change and worry or fear often enter into his mind. Sharing with him that you are noticing some of these changes and want to see what’s going on with him is a good start. If he doesn’t want to talk at all about his inner feelings and issues, then it imight be a cause for concern. Continue connecting with him and do your best to draw him out in a positive way. Invite him to an activity where you can both connect more deeply. You can also talk with others who know him well and see if they are noticing similar things and what their impressions are about it. The internet is a huge distraction and can also change people’s personalities to some degree. It’s a place where people can have pseudo relationships where they have many virtual friends but don't really know each other. Do you know who he is emailing and

what websites he is on? Have you had a conversation about what he is limited to doing on the internet? This doesn’t mean you’ll have full control, but you do have the right to ask and check whether he is watching porn or involved in other activities that are addictive, overly distracting, or influence him in ways or connect him to people you do not approve of. Physical activity and deeper human contact are very important at this stage of his life. He needs to get to know himself and expand beyond his world into other people’s experiences. These skills and taking in other people’s perspectives will help him mature and be realistic about his expectations of himself. Lastly, are there changes in family dynamics that he is affected by? What is his relationship to his other parent, brothers, sisters, or are there other challenges? Seeing the bigger picture will help you understand him more fully. n Alzak Amlani, Ph.D., is a counseling psychologist in the Bay Area. 650-325-8393. Visit www.

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

BEAUTY ARE YOU A BEAUTICIAN? Do you do threading, waxing, facials, perms, hair cutting and styling? Place your advertisement here in India Currents Classifieds and reach 32,000 readers. Call (408) 324-0488 and place your ad today! SEEMA BEAUTY SALON. Threading, waxing, facials, color, hair cut, henna, perms, Japanese style hair straightening, head massage, hair conditioning, manicure, pedicure and bridal makeup. Located in Sunnyvale. Call (408) 244-6009. NAZ THREADING SALON, Sunnyvale. Facial: gold, pearl or diamond $40 with veg peel; waxing: full leg $29, full arms $18; manicure and pedicure $25; men’s haircut $12. Valid on Tuesdays from 9am-1pm. Call (408) 4000629. THREADING, FACIAL, HAIR, and full range of Shahnaz products. Khoobsurat Threading, 1014 E El Camino Real, Sunnyvale, CA 94087. Contact Shefali (408) 835-0097 KASHISH SALON - Threading, facial/waxing, Hair & Makeup, bridal and wedding studio. Two locations San Francisco (408) 219-0046, Santa Clara (408) 260-2676. 124 • india currents • november 2011

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

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

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


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india currents • november 2011 • 135


desi voices

R. Benedito Ferrao

Finding Freddie

Flamboyant singer Freddie Mercury died 20 years ago this month


he halls of St. Peter’s School are lined with frames that hold photographed highlights from each school year—athletic competitions, scenes from plays, and the like. Of these, the ones from the late 1950s have pictures missing, notably those of a flamboyant musician and a star “All Rounder” at sports and studies. All that remain are captions that say “Farrokh Bulsara.” In time, even that name will go missing. Freddie, Bulsara’s nickname, eclipsed his original moniker, and the last name he adopted reflected his temperamental character. Three decades after Mercury attended St. Peter’s, I wandered down its hallways as an eight-yearold who had started at the boarding school at about the same age as the rock star. Like Farrokh, I too had been “sent back to India” from the diaspora. I often stared up at the frames, wondering who the boy in the missing pictures had been. The Bulsaras, Parsis from Gujarat, worked in Zanzibar, East Africa, where Farrokh was born on September 5, 1946. Already from an Indian minority culture, the colonial AsianAfrican displacement further isolated the Bulsaras. In sending their son to school in India, even if it was a British institution, Farrokh’s parents might have been attempting to retain their roots and acculturate their offspring. The school in India reflected the Bulsaras’ own displaced multiculturality. St. Peter’s attracted students from all over India and the diaspora, making for a culturally, but not necessarily economically, varied student body. The postcolonial diversity departed from the intent of the school’s original purpose: it had once been named The European Boys’ School. The name change notwithstanding, the student body continued to be exclusively male. Memories of Freddie lived on long past his tenure at St. Peter’s, his eccentricities so at odds with the ostensibly staid school, one that still held on to its British colonial era character. It was here that Freddie Mercury learned to become British even before his family immigrated to England in the 1960s. Institutions such as St. Peter’s, which in 2004 celebrated its centenary, arguably followed Lord Macaulay’s famous 1835 call for education that would create “a class of persons, Indian in blood and colour, but English in taste, in opinions, in morals, and in intellect.” This attempted hybridity reveals a 136 • india currents • november 2011

class-based strain of Indianness, but also the manufacturing of British identities on other shores. Mercury’s transnationalism blurred these lines. One wonders if the spandex-clad, and sexually provocative musician was the prime subject Macaulay had in mind when he wrote his Minute on Indian Education. Mercury’s vanished Indianness as he rose to fame in England has been the subject of much speculation. On the one hand, it is undeniable that his Persian-Parsi background, manifested in the fair colour of his skin, likely

allowed the entertainer to pass for being Anglo. There was also the name change: “Farrokh Bulsara, Rock Star” was presumably not going to cut it in popular mainstream culture during the heightened racial climate of 1970s Britain. Those were the formative years of Queen, the band that Mercury came to front. Concurrently, the political tide was turning. The Iron Lady, Conservative Prime Minister Thatcher, ascended to office at the end of the decade. But on the other hand there are the vague but still cognisable cultural self-references. There are Mercury’s orientalised lyrics with Islamic allusions in the songs “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “Mustapha.” These fuzzily signal a Persian-South Asianness, where Koranic and Middle Eastern themes hint at a historically multicultural Indian subcontinent. The lyrics draw a connection between the many Persian influences on Indic culture, though the references are not specifically Parsi. Stylistically, the baroque flourishes of Queen’s repertoire in such songs as “Bohemian Rhapsody” are akin to the Arabesque excesses of Mughal-era art and architecture. Even in his choice of

name, the performer stuck with Freddie, the nickname acquired at his Indian school and which had emerged from “Farrokh.” The inventive “Mercury” suggests the mythical and questions the assumption that some names are more authentically Indian than others. This can hardly be the case in a subcontinent that has served as a major confluence for people of so many cultures and religious faiths. Yet, what is inescapable is that he felt his name needed changing. Despite his light complexion, Mercury’s dark and dense moustache, familiar to us simply as “The Indian Moustache” for its ubiquitousness, also intimates other possibilities. It is probable that Freddie had discovered his sexuality much before arriving England, perchance at an all-boys school in India. Mercury’s moustache, figuratively and subversively, represented an affectation of masculinity, evidenced in such Western gay visual and popular cultures as Tom of Finland illustrations and the music of The Village People. The singer’s follicular trademark could be read as both homosexual and desi. Finally, there’s the band’s name: Queen. It juxtaposes the image of England’s leader alongside queer parlance for flamboyancy. Mercury’s position as a postcolonial queer immigrant, born and schooled in the colonies, and then culturally ruling the British airwaves, challenged the old guard as represented by Her Majesty. To borrow the title of the controversial song by Mercury’s contemporaries, the Sex Pistols, “God Save the Queen...” This year Mercury would have been 65. November 24, 2011 will mark the 20th anniversary of his passing from the AIDS virus in the 30th anniversary year of the disease’s advent. Mercury did not reveal that he had the disease until the day before he died. It was suppressed from public knowledge like so much else in his life. What remains is the ambivalence that surrounded Freddie’s identity. Perhaps it was by design, or maybe it was an ongoing, self-reflective negotiation—the kind seen in the opening words of Hanif Kureishi’s The Buddha of Suburbia: “... I am an Englishmen born and bred, almost.” Freddie’s identity is like the missing pictures at St. Peter’s School—memories framed by everything else around them. I once animatedly remarked to an elderly Goan woman in England, upon finding out that she had lived in Zanzibar: “Freddie Mercury was born there!” I then apologized for the oblique reference, thinking she might be unaware of who he was. Instead, she replied, “Yes, I used to see little Farrokh running outside my house.” The complete picture may be missing, but Freddie’s identity continues to unsettle easy assumption. Long live Queen.n R. Benedito Ferrao was born in Kuwait, has family roots in East Africa, and now lives in England. Unlike Mercury, the only singing he does is in the shower.


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Megha (650) 861-2122 • Sanjana (650) 255-9752 • Venki (408) 373-0868 india currents • november 2011 • 137


Mohammad Nejad

Matthew Montfort



Priyanka Wolan

Labor Pains: The Maternity Tourism Industry


hen Mita Kripalani (name changed), from Mumbai, India, gave birth to her daughter Asha in 1999 in Edison, New Jersey, she and her husband believed that by virtue of being parents of a U.S. citizen, they too would be granted citizenship immediately. “We thought that we could just stay on in the U.S. since Asha is a citizen. We were very surprised to find out that this is not true.” Maternity tourism, while arguably unethical, is not illegal. It refers to the practice of pregnant foreign nationals entering the United States on a tourist visa with the intention of giving birth on American soil, so that they children will automatically be granted U.S. citizenship. Currently, U.S. immigration policy permits pregnant women to travel to the U.S. Thus, while maternity tourism generates much controversy, it is within the bounds of U.S. law. Birthright citizenship was established under the Fourteenth Amendment of the U. S. constitution to reverse the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1857 Dred Scott decision which held that even those who were born in the U.S. as “freedmen” were not automatically American citizens. Maternity tourism is a booming business predominantly in Korea, China, and (recently) India. Frequently, pregnant women who travel from these countries to the United States to give birth are not only relatively wealthy, but are also here legally on tourist visas. Earlier this year, the New York Times reported that authorities shut down a makeshift maternity clinic in Southern California, the hub of birthing tourism. The clinic was “crammed” with ten newborns and their mothers who paid as much as $35,000 each to travel to California from China to give birth. However, the reason the clinic was shut down was because it was illegally constructed and operating as a business in a residential area and not because of its participation in the birthing tourism industry. According to the maternity clinic officials, most of the mothers return to their countries with their American babies soon after delivery. If they do not intend on living in the United States, the real question then becomes, what benefits are these mothers seeking by birthing their children here? While they all may be seeking better opportunities for their American-born children, the specifics of each mother’s situation varies. For 138 • india currents • november 2011

example, a recent surge in Indian and Pakistani women giving birth in the United States has been mostly attributed to a desire to provide their child with better educational opportunities. Many of these families believe that a U.S. citizen has a better chance than a foreign applicant to being admitted into an elite American university. This may in fact be evidenced by the small percentage of international students in many undergraduate and graduate programs. Additionally, financial aid also plays a role in their equation, since it is true that while U.S. citizens are able to obtain government and private educational loans relatively easily, whereas foreign students are often required to have a U.S. cosigner in order to obtain such loans. For Koreans, maternity tourism has another justification: Koreans who are born in the United States and are therefore U.S. citizens, are not required to serve in the South Korean army. Thus, many Korean parents place a high premium on giving birth in the United States. Meanwhile, many Chinese parents are vying to have a second baby born in the United States in an effort to sidestep the one-child policy in China. Some foreign nationals, like Kripalani, give birth in the United States. under the mistaken belief that their citizen-child will then help their parents and other family members establish residency and/or citizenship immediately, thereby bypassing the long wait times associated with the normal channels of immigration. However, under U.S. immigration law, minors are not permitted to sponsor a parent or relative until the minor reaches 21 years of age. Other parents mistakenly believe that having a child in the United States would enable them to receive public assistance, even after they move back to their home countries. Manish Shah (name changed), from Walnut, California, took his friend, whose wife had just given birth in the United States while on a tourist visa, to the Social Security Office in order to find out what benefits their American child would be entitled to. “I was shocked when they told us that my friend’s family would not get any benefits, not even money for food or milk, when they go back to India.

Some parents mistakenly believe that having a child in the United States would enable them to receive public assistance, even after they move back to their home countries. I thought as a citizen, their daughter would get all the benefits.” While it is true that the children may instantly qualify for welfare and other state and local benefit programs, the parent must first apply for it, provide proof of financial need, and meet a full range of federal and state requirements. Additionally, each state has its own residency requirements. For example, to be eligible in Pennsylvania, an individual must be living within the state and have the intention of remaining there, thereby decreasing the potential for abuse. Being a U.S. citizen comes with many advantages, namely the stability and security afforded by the country’s rule of law. However, prospective maternity tourists should make an informed decision before blindly embarking on a costly path with unrealistic objectives, which may never be realized.n Priyanka Wolan is an immigration attorney with Wolan Law. She can be reached at (323) 825-1653 or Her website is

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

140 • india currents • november 2011

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india currents • november 2011 • 141

AD INDEX  APPLIANCES 111 D.S. Neil Enterprises ASTROLOGY 105 Donna Adams 110 Just Feng Shui & Vastu 105 Pandit Anil Sharma BEAUTY 25 Apsara Aesthetic Medicine 28 Facial Town 27 Image Beauty Salon 26 Kashish Threading 27 Khoobsurat Threading 29 Naz 2 Beauty Salon 29 Prince’s Barber Shop 26 Rita’s Beauty Salon 29 Robert Lowen, M.D. 26 Shiva Beauty Salon, Inc. BOOKS 105 Church of Scientology CLASSES LANGUAGE 91 US Hindi Association CLASSES: COMPUTERS 19 Amfasoft Corporation 14 Canvas Infotech 19 Strategism CLASSES: DANCE 81 Bharathakala Kutiram 81 Jayendra Kalakendra 81 Jyoti Kala Mandir 81 Kalanjali Dances of India 81 Nrityabhakti Dance School 81 Preetha Sheshadri 81 Savitri Hari 81 Xpressions CLASSES: MUSIC 75 Dev Feldman 75 Habib Khan 75 Jeff Whittier 75 Madhuwanti Mirashi 75 Peter Block 75 Polonsky Piano School 75 Sangeet Dvaar 75 Suranjali School of Music CONSTRUCTION 128 MCC General Construction EDUCATION 72 Insight Education 20 International Gurukul 20 Kumon - N Cal 14 Lekha Publishers 18 MathEdge 19 Sequoia Enrichment Center 18 Silicon Valley University 74 University of San Francisco ENTERTAINMENT 59 Gilroy Gardens 5 Most Unique EVENTS 96 Abhinaya - Jwala 84 Asian Art Museum 84 Kannada Koota 79 Pallavita 87 Sankara Eye Foundation 85 South India Fine Arts 142 • india currents • november 2011

FABRICS 27 Borrow It Bindaas 29 Elegant Drapery Concepts 28 Fusion India 29 Kamakshi Kreations 27 Khoobsurat Sarees 81 Nrityaabhusha 61 Pia Ka Ghar 24 Preet Fabrics FINANCIAL 41 Tushar Kumar GIFTS 110 Pooja International Gifts GROCERY 39 India Cash & Carry 55 Madras Groceries 62 New India Bazar HEALTH 115 Alpha Dental Care 119 Anagha Joshi, DDS 118 Anjali Tate, MD 118 Aparna Nayudu, DDS 113 Archana Gulati, DDS 121 Bill Gray, M.D. 118 Geetha Narayanan 111 Gursharan Shergill 113 Homeopathic Healing Center 117 Jyoti Sahdev 115 Mamta Desai, DDS 119 Manjari Aravamuthan 117 Meenakshi Bhargava PhD 111 Mount Madonna Institute 118 Pacific Homeopathy 71 PAMF / Find A Doctor 123 Palo Alto Medical Foundation 122 Physicians Medical Group 119 Prakash Advani, DDS 113 Ranjini Venkatanathan 123 Shital Shah, DDS 116 Sikka Dental Corporation 116 Smilesavers Dental 116 Sujatha Rajagopalan, MD 123 Summit Estate INSURANCE 43 Amar Sehgal 43 Amila Insurance Services 43 Avninder Singh 43 Bindu Bhandari 41 Gill Financial & Insurance 43 Global Health Ins Center Inc 43 Manjit Singh 43 Mann Insurance Services 41 Rachel Payne 43 Seeta Bhandari 41 Visitors Coverage 41 Visitors Medical Insurance JEWELRY 29 Kanaka Kreations LEGAL 37 Alia Khan 35 Allan Samson 33 Arjun Verma 32 Aruna Venkidu Law Office 37 Bhatia & Co 35 Hemant Habbu 49 IBS Worldwide 33 Indu Liladhar-Hathi

35 Khorshed Alam 37 Madan Ahluwalia 50 Mahesh Bajoria 37 Mercy Sequeira 35 Naresh Rajan 35 Raji Rajan 35 Rattan Dhaliwal 35 Robert Bergman 35 Uma Subramanian LOANS 141 Access Mortgage Inc. 133 Lakshmi Sathyanarayana Ins Back Cover Nirmalya Modak 133 Pacific Valley Financial Back Cover Ramesh Bhambhra 5 Srinadh Kareti 85 State Bank of India Fremont 139 Subhash Patadia 25 Surtaj Chhatry 130 Wells Fargo Home Mortgage NURSERY 139 Four Winds Citrus Growers PSYCHIC 106 Helen Psychic 105 John Psychic 106 Yana Spiritual Healer RADIO/TV 73 Gravity Media 86 JadooTV, Inc. REAL ESTATE 5 Domicilio 9 India Property Show 102 Kim Properties 95 L. Jethani / Connie Cheung 141 L. Jethani / Connie Cheung 132 Mandip Singh 130 Meera Gupta 40 Meritage Homes 134 Mita Kapadia 130 Multi-Financial Services 139 Nila Patel 132 Pria Kashyap 132 Prime Deve. in Mumbai 1 Raju Kosuru 130 Sue Bose 134 Valya Ragu RESTAURANTS 61 Ananda Bhavan 60 Chaat Bhavan 60 Chaat House 54 Gujarati Thali 15 Kabab Korner 54 Kids Castle 57 Krishna Restaurant ,53 Sneha Inc. 54 Suraj Indian Cuisine SERVICES 2 Best Tile 11 Deco Cabinet & Stone 113 Maitri 121 Narika 125 Pee Wee’s Carpet Cleaning

9 Summit Marble & Cabinet SPIRITUAL GROWTH 78 Arsha Vidya Center 109 Badarikashrama 107 Balu Shastri 143 Christ Church of India 107 Ganesh Sasthry (Pandit) 101 God’s Unfailing Love 109 Lakshmi Ganapathi Temple 7 Mata Amritanandamayi 105 Pandit Krishna Kumar 107 Ravichandran Iyer 107 Self-Realization Fellowship 95 Shiva Murugan Temple 105 Swamiji Si Selvam Siddhar SPORTS 77 Mt. Rose Ski Tahoe TAX & ACCOUNTING 47 Bains Accountancy 48 Bhatia & Co. 48 Divyang Shah, CPA 47 Jessie Tax Services 47 Kent Tax & Business 45 Khorshed Alam, CPA 47 Multi-Financial 47 Parveen Maheshwari, CPA 48 Ram Accountancy Services 48 Sanjiv Gupta, CPA 47 Sugu Aria, CPA TRAVEL 65 3S International Travel 66 A World Travel, Inc. 67 Amber Travel 70 Amglo Travels 68 Deepak Travels 65 Expressway Travel 68 HiTech Travel & Tours 68 Infinity Travel 67 Nagina Travel 69 Narmadha Travels 67 Plaza Travel Line 70 Punjab Travel 68 R.K. Travels 68 Roy Travels 70 Santa Clara Travels 69 Span Travels & Tours Inc. 64 Sunnyvale Travel 65 Travel Design 63 Travel Merchants 64 Trips & Travel 65 Universal Travel VIDEO 127 Bakas Photography 127 Video & Photography WEDDINGS 127 Creations By Sam 131 Linx Dating 134 Palmdale Estates 127 Prime Party Rentals


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india currents • november 2011 • 143


the last word

Sarita Sarvate

Let’s Occupy Wall Street W

hile pundits are busy commenting on the aberrant, marginalized, hippie-like occupiers of Wall Street, I wonder what took so long? Why did it not happen earlier? And why is it that, even now, many middle class people have not joined the movement? Obama acknowledged the legitimate grievances behind the protests, but the media is still characterizing the campaign as the fringe, just as it once labeled Vietnam War protesters as the counter culture. Fortunately, the movement is spreading, to London, Hong Kong, and beyond. It is the voice of a generation, robbed of all opportunity because a few in the elite class gambled its future away in return for obscene salaries and bonuses. I see parallels in the hunger strikes of Anna Hazare and the international protests against greedy financiers. It was only a month ago that in these very pages I decried corruption at the highest levels of American industry, commerce, and politics and wondered why Americans were not holding hunger strikes against large-scale corruption in their own land, perpetrated by Wall Street and Washington. Now, suddenly, almost as if the protesters read my column and went to work, a movement has emerged, one that I hope will bear a lasting influence on our planet. Anna Hazare has hit a nerve in the world’s collective psyche. He has made international headlines because the time has come to wrest power away from a select few and grant it to the many. Some people have chosen to interpret Hazare’s campaign as being only against small time crooks in the government but I think his hunger strikes constitute a call for participatory democracies all over the world. While the planet literally burns because of climate change, and millions lose their retirements and jobs, financiers and CEOs shamelessly continue to plunder our futures to sustain their lavish lifestyles, without an iota of conscience or morality. No wonder then that there is a synchronicity between the two campaigns. As Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks, asserted, it all started with the Arab Spring. It was not in America, the alleged forbearer of democracy, that the populace rose against exploitation, but in Egypt and Syria. Almost simultaneously, Hazare started his hunger strikes to make government more accountable. Then protesters took to Wall Street. As if people all over the world wanted a say in the machinations of the military industrial governmental complex. I suspect Indians might be on both sides of this moral divide. Even as Indians at home hail Hazare as their hero and march against their government, they

I suspect Indians might be on both sides of this moral divide. We appreciate our new-found wealth and worship the industries that have given it to us.

144 • india currents • november 2011

do not march against Dalal Street. Or Wall Street. After all, who do you think invented the elaborate credit default swaps and hedging strategies? Who is good enough at math to be able to devise complex trading instruments? There surely are more than a few Indian MBAs out of Harvard and Wharton who, blinded by the elegance of the computer simulation models they built, who unwittingly pushed the world economy to the brink of collapse. Indian youth, I suspect, have a complicated relationship with financiers and corporate types. Thanks to India’s educational factories producing degrees and diplomas, highly skilled workers are churned out year after year to feed the global market in high tech jobs. Indians are no longer looking from the outside in, but rather occupying the CEO’s chair or the banker’s office. Many Indians, therefore, find no sympathy for protesters on Wall Street. With our history of caste and class schisms, Indians are particularly susceptible to the lure of money and status. Many of us appreciate our new-found wealth and worship the high tech industries that have given it to us. Bill Gates has probably been installed in the pantheon of Indian gods and is being offered flowers and incense every morning! And if Hazare had started campaigning against corrupt bankers or industrialists, I suspect he may not have mustered any support at home. But we should care, because there still exists a huge underclass, both in India and the United States. Because peasants in India are being driven out of their tribal lands or their hutments to make way for industries and industrialists. Because the poor in the United States are crammed into superdomes and ignored in the event of natural disasters. We should care because we want to live in an egalitarian society, not one in which kings eat off silver gravy trains while peons wave fans. I hope that the occupiers of Wall Street are not dismissed as riff raff and sent home. I hope the movement gathers momentum, grows, and spreads across America, just as Vietnam protests did 50 years ago, until politicians could no longer ignore public opinion. I hope that the protesters can spell out a real political agenda with real demands. I hope that politicians in the Democratic Party can put their support behind the campaign. After all, it is the only antidote to the Tea Party movement we have got. And unlike the Tea Party, which was surreptitiously funded by the billionaire Koch brothers, Occupy Wall Street is a truly grass roots movement, born outside of the Beltway. Imagine what would have happened if people had occupied Wall Street during the financial meltdown of 2008! Perhaps the bailouts that the banks received would have been made contingent upon reducing CEO compensation packages. Perhaps financial institutions would have been nationalized. Perhaps Obama would not have appointed Tim Geithner, and Ben Bernanke to his economic team. Among the demands the movement must make is a call for truly universal health care. Or, at least, a demand to preserve Obamacare, whose provisions do not start taking effect until 2014. The second should be a plan to pare down nauseatingly large CEO compensation packages. A third should be a demand to create some sort of a Marshall Plan to trigger economic activity. I wish I could organize a women’s protest on Wall Street. I wish I could lend my voice to the movement. Perhaps I will. n Sarita Sarvate writes commentaries for Pacific News Service and KQED. Visit


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November 2011 - Northern California Edition  
November 2011 - Northern California Edition  

India Currents - November 2011 - Northern California Edition