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The Delhi Lament by Dave Prager

The Price of Living Long by Lakshmi Mani

A Million Morsels of Love by Meera Agarwalla

Celebrating 27 Years of Excellence

dec ‘13 - jan ‘14 • vol. 27, no . 9 • www.

A look back at our most memorable conversations this year

My Recipe Book HEAD OFFICE 1885 Lundy Ave Ste 220, San Jose, CA 95131 Phone: (408) 324-0488 Fax: (408) 324-0477 Email: Publisher: Vandana Kumar (408) 324-0488 x225 Managing Director: Vijay Rajvaidya Editor: Jaya Padmanabhan (408) 324-0488 x226 Events Editor: Mona Shah (408) 324-0488 x224 Advertising Manager: Derek Nunes Northern California: (408) 324-0488 x 222 Southern California: (714) 523-8788 x 222 Marketing Associate: Raj Singh (408) 324-0488 x221

I have a recipe book like no other. It is a diary of memories. Written in long hand, it bears the distinctive scribbles of individuals who are not with me. Some have passed on and some live elsewhere. When I began my life as a bride, it was propped up on my counter, much like a kitchen deity. I opened it daily, often twice or three times a day and recalled the weaves of the nib as it scratched into the pages. I remember the hands that have written into it—the one with the scar on the wrist; the dainty many-bangled one; the gnarled nailbitten one. When it was determined that I was going to leave my home and my life in India to join my husband in the United States, my father bought a notebook at the local grocery outlet. It cost him next to nothing and became my most precious possession. During its evolution, my father recorded the treatment of vegetables, obsessed over measurements, argued about garnishings and observed the precise umlauts of cutting and dicing. The details were carefully crafted and a narrative derived. Visiting aunts, cousins and friends were persuaded to add their versions of curries and kuzhambus to the pages and my father painstakingly ledgered the names of the new recipes to the table of con-

tents, that he had thoughtfully left room for. Re-starting life afar from what was familiar, the recipe book became a bridge spanning the distance between longing hearts. Opening its pages made me feel, viscerally, the hope that had been invested into my happiness. You know that recipe book that our father gave you, my brother reminded me recently, it’s time for me to get my share of it. Long accustomed to fighting for my place and holding fast to what was mine, it seemed like an alien concept. After all the book had been written for me and had borne witness to the major events in my life, the ups of my marriage, my endeavors with computer science, the joyous birth of my twins, my re-generation as a writer and now a mother who was poised to bid good-bye to my daughters who, in less than a year, were to head out to college. It has supported me well. The recipes are cemented in my head, as are the memories. I have used the book to serve the people I love and now it’s time to broaden its reach. Brother, it comes to you with my affection. Make from it what I have.

Jaya Padmanabhan

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

Dec ‘13—Jan ‘14 | | 1

INDIA CURRENTS december 2013—jan 2014 • vol 27 • no. 9


Southern California Edition

1 | EDITORIAL My Recipe Book By Jaya Padmanabhan

Find us on

6 | FORUM Should India Be Spending Money on a Mission to Mars? By Rameysh Ramdas, Mani Subramani

14 | FEATURE The Price of Living Long By Lakshmi Mani 16 | DESI VOICES Thirteen Things I Wish I’d Heard When I Turned Thirteen By Rajdeep Paulus 28 | VIEWPOINT A Million Morsels of Love By Meera Agarwalla 38 | ON INGLISH Step Into Our Verandah By Kalpana Mohan 42 | LIVES The Stagnant Traveler By Benedito Ferrao 64 | THE LAST WORD Alice Munro’s Nobel—A Victory for Women By Sarita Sarvate

2 | INDIA CURRENTS | Dec ‘13—Jan ‘14

20 | BOOKS Gr8 Reads of 2013 By Jeanne Fredriksen A Review of Lowland By Rajesh C. Oza 23 | RELATIONSHIP DIVA Nothing in Common? By Jasbina Ahluwalia 30 | MUSIC 2013 Bollywood Music Countdown By Vidya Sridhar

7 | A THOUSAND WORDS Counter Valley Thinking By Ragini Tharoor Srinivasan 8 | BUSINESS A Code Name for Sexism and Racism By Vivek Wadhwa


10 | Total Recall A retrospective of our stories and sentiments; a pop quiz and celebrity tweets

18 | Analysis The Delhi Lament By Dave Prager

34 | Films Best Movies of 2013 By Aniruddh Chawda

50 | REFLECTIONS The Everyday Yogi By Cesar Flores 54 | HEALTHY LIFE Morning Routine By Ashok Jethanandani 56 | RECIPES Savor the Flavor By Shanta Sacharoff, Praba Iyer 63 | DEAR DOCTOR Connecting Creatively By Alzak Amlani

DEPARTMENTS 4 | Voices 5 | Popular Articles 26 | Ask a Lawyer 27 | Visa Dates

58 | Travel

61 | Classifieds 62 | Viewfinder

Spellbinding Silk Road


By Bob Rupani

44 | Cultural Calendar 52 | Spiritual Calendar

Dec ‘13—Jan ‘14 | | 3


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I don’t agree entirely with Jaya Padmanabhan in her November editorial (Compromise: The Dirty Word in Marriage and Politics, India Currents, November 2013). In my view, compromise is about getting along, knowing that neither side has the the right answer all the time. Compromise should not be looked upon as winning or losing an argument. It is just a tool to learn to get along with people with whom we disagree. When it comes to marriage, it depends on the maturity of the couples involved; mature couples understand that to “give in” is necessary at times in order to get along, since the two parties are coming from different backgrounds and/or cultures. When it comes to politics, I agree that the government shutdown and the subsequent resolution was not a case of compromise. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) was passed by the Congress in 2010, but the Republicans did not like it. So they tried to force changes by holding the Obama administration at ransom at the time that other matters were on the negotiation table, like tax reform and debt reduction. If the Republicans want to change the ACA, they should make sure to have a majority in both houses of Congress as well as a Republican President. Right now they don’t have such majorities and hence cannot change the ACA also known as Obamacare.


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It is good that India Currents is featuring diverse topics in the magazine. Coverage of renowned personalities, politicians and musicians are illuminating and bring to life many unknown aspects about the featured personages. Sandip Roy’s article on Manna Dey in the November issue of India Currents was very refreshing. (Wearing His Crown Lightly, India Currents, November 2013). During the late 50s I heard the song “Pyar Hua Ikraar Hua” playing on loudspeakers during religious festivals. The song remained in my memory over the years. It was a song by Manna Dey and Lata Mangeshkar from the movie Shree 420 played by the actors Rajkapor and Nargis. Manna Dey was a great singer and I will always remember his timeless melodies. K. N. Ganesh, Fremont, CA

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The Original Bose

The Nobel Prize in physics has been

4 | INDIA CURRENTS | Dec ‘13—Jan ‘14

awarded to Francois Englert of Belgium and Peter Higgs of Scotland for predicting the existence of a super-particle boson (1964) capable of acquiring mass when moving in a strong external field. These theorists did not have the chance to work with big computer banks in their research. Intense collaborative work by a large team of scientists has made it possible to validate this prediction and convincingly identify the product particle as the Higgs boson. The award to this team this year was anticipated well due to the media exposure of the massive effort and the suggested name. “God Particle” for the new strange particle due to its potential to perhaps, explain the origin of the universe. The winners, Englert and Higgs, are to be congratulated. The saga of the bosons is a tortured one. Satyendranath Bose (1894-1974), working at the University of Calcutta, developed a statistical model for sub-atomic particles in nature. The particles obeying this behavior were named “bosons” after the inventor. Bose predicted that such particles could be condensed under extremely low temperatures. Such deposits, if they occurred, were named Bose Condensates. His seminal paper on this subject was published in 1924. S.N. Bose was a super-capable scientist, an intuitive genius and one of the top brains of the world during the last century. It’s too bad his name was never considered for the Nobel award during his life time. P. Mahadevan, CA

A Powerful Recollection

Benedito Ferrao wrote a truly amazing piece about a wonderful human being (The Journey Home, India Currents, October 2013). Thank you for writing this Benedito and thank you India Currents for publishing. Sandhya Radhakrishnan, online This captivating piece captures Andy’s true essence and the extraordinary legacy he left behind. Bravo to Benedito for this remarkable story and gratitude to India Currents for printing it. Joanne R., online

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Should India Be Spending Money on a Mission to Mars?


No, India should be fiscally conservative

Yes, India should spend on space exploration

By Rameysh Ramdas

By Mani Subramani


ndia has launched a rocket in space on a mission to Mars, becoming only the 4th nation in the world to do so and the first in Asia to embark on this journey. Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) also boasts that this is a trailblazing “budget” rocket at a cost of only Rupees 450 Crores (75 million USD), a fraction of what NASA spends on a similar mission, achieved through “indigenization of the program which has helped keep costs low” according to an ISRO spokesman. Some expert commentators have speculated that this mission makes India a contender for the commercial global space market estimated at $300 Billion. While the Indian media and politicians have gushed at this achievement as a national pride, other saner voices have questioned if this massive expense and effort is misguided and necessary, given the gravity of other basic needs that are sorely lacking for much of its 1.2 Billion population. India apparently is not doing this with money to spare, according to a recent article by M.K.Venu in The Hindu; India has to pay back a short term debt of over $172 Billion by March 2014. According to the Global Hunger Index Report 2013, released just last October, India is at 63 in the index, hunger in India remains at “alarming levels,” just one of the three countries in that category outside of Africa, besides Haiti and Timor. By embarking on this The report also says that flight of fancy and fan- India continues to have the highest prevalence of tasy, India is squander- children under five who underweight, at more ing precious resources are than 40%. UNICEF esthat could be channeled timates that about 1.83 million children die in toward solving the na- India before their fifth birthday, most of them tion’s critical needs. due to preventable causes. A recent United Nations report said that more than two-thirds of India’s population has no access to toilets and that India had 60% of the global population lacking access to basic sanitation. The World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report for 2011-2012 ranked India 89th out of 142 countries for its infrastructure. It is estimated that there are over 300 million Indians with no access to electricity. Just as an individual has to prioritize needs and live within their means, a nation has to as well. By embarking on this flight of fancy and fantasy, India is squandering precious resources that could be channeled toward solving the nation’s critical needs. As social activist and former member of Sonia Gandhi’s National Advisory Council, Harsh Mander opined the Mars mission depicted a “remarkable indifference to the dignity of the poor.” Even the former ISRO Chairman Madhavan Nair has ridiculed the mission as “utter non-sense.” Instead of looking for life in Mars, India can use this money to better the lives on earth, within its own borders. Any amount of inflated national pride will never feed a hungry mouth, cure a sickness or educate a child. n

ust as families all over India invest in their future by spending significant portions of their resources on education, the government of India is justified in making significant investments in the technological future of India through the space program. It is indeed true that poverty and infrastructure are thorny issues in India. Even worse is the issue of corruption. Not allocating funds to the Mars program does not ensure that the funds will be allocated for other necessities. In fact citing these issues as a way for not pursuing prestigious programs like the Mars probe, is the lazy way out. It’s also the easy way out. Space exploration is hard and challenging work. For example the Mars probe will experience great differences in temperature that will drive fundamental innovations in material science technology and onboard power requirements will drive innovations in efficient solar panel technologies. The space program will challenge and inspire engineers, scientists and managers to develop skill sets and excel in them. Such excellence and world class performance is essential to sustaining the growth rates of the Indian economy. A growing economy in turn promotes additional spending on infra-structure and sanitation. A growing economy also increases the tax base which is essential for infra-structure spending. According to the Times of India there was The space program a 235% increase in education spending between will challenge and in1999 and 2009. This is more than the spending spire engineers, scienon any other essential tists and managers to items like food, shelter, etc. It is not a coincidence develop skill sets and that India’s economy has excel in them. been growing like gangbusters during the same time period. It is called thinking big and being visionary. This is not the time for government to engage in narrow minded thinking and cutting ambitious programs like Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM). Second guessing spending on space programs is nothing new. Politicians and interest groups have used empty phrases like “use the money here on earth” since the beginning of space programs starting with Apollo. Such criticisms are not leveled at military programs because, unlike space programs, military spending has winners and losers with clear consequences. Space programs on the other hand are non-aggressive and have consequences that are subtle but extremely beneficial. For example the Apollo space program provided a technology boost to many areas such as micro miniaturization of computers, heart monitors and mobile phones. CAT Scanners and MRI technology that are commonplace in hospitals around the world today came from space technology. So let’s broaden our minds, take pride, and encourage ambitious programs like MOMS. The world and India can always use more inspired scientists and engineers. n

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

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

6 | INDIA CURRENTS | Dec ‘13—Jan ‘14

a thousand words

Counter Valley Thinking By Ragini Tharoor Srinivasan


y now, you’ve heard of Balaji Srinivasan, the Stanford Ph.D. turned entrepreneur (aren’t they all?) who spoke at the “Startup School” this October. In his speech, Srinivasan (no relation) proposed that the United States has become the “Microsoft of nations” and that Silicon Valley technophiles should act like the Google founders in 1998. “There’s no way [Larry Page and Sergey Brin] could have reformed Microsoft,” he said, “so [they had to] start their own company; they had to exit.” Srinivasan couched what Anand Giridharadas termed his “secession call” in a political theory of “voice versus exit.” Voice, he said, represents reformist politics. People who use their voice write letters to the editor and cast votes. Exit, by contrast, means opting-out; it means canceling your newspaper subscription and emigrating from a country whose principles you reject. “Exit,” he said with disarming candor, “means giving people the tools to reduce the influence of bad policies over their lives without getting involved in politics. The tools to peacefully opt-out, as our ancestors did.” Exit, he claimed, actually strengthens voice. There’s a lot to be said about Srinivasan’s proposition that Silicon Valley zillionaires “start new countries.” For one thing, as the New York Times noted, this is not just his dream; tech doyens like Elon Musk are already planning to colonize Mars. But what matters is not just what Srinivasan said; it’s how he said it. His rhetorically savvy speech betrayed the insidious naïveté of its widely shared undergirding ideology, whether you call it libertarianism or techno-utopianism. Us vs. Them: In Srinivasan’s rendering, it’s the Silicon Valley versus everyone else, the Bay Area versus New York/Los Angeles/Boston/ Washington, D.C., and, though he didn’t deign to mention them, versus everyone in the red states. “They have aircraft carriers, we don't,” he said. “We don't actually want to fight them.” Having grown up in the Valley, I understand Srinivasan’s feeling of distance from the rest of the United States. On September 11, 2001, I went through the motions of shock and grief, documenting antiMuslim hate crimes for my school paper and reaching out to family in New York, but I felt oddly detached from the scenes of recovery unfolding back East. California was just so far away, I thought, and so different from everywhere else, that we might as well have been another country. Going to college in North Carolina changed my provincial perspective. There, I cultivated a more expansive understanding of “Americanness” itself, as a project inclusive of varied political attachments, cultural ideals, and historical investments. It is a project worthy of commitment, critique, and care. The New Founding Fathers: Make no mistake about it: the new world “outside the United States, run by technology” will be yet another patriarchy. Srinivasan’s narrative replaces Washington and Jefferson with the likes of Page and Brin, but we’re still in the realm of founding fathers. It is now well known that the technology industry is an all boys club. When Twitter announced it was going public, it had to admit that there were no women on its board. Until 2012, Facebook, too, had an all male board. The company Srinivasan founded, Counsyl, counts only one woman in its fourteen-person leadership team. Of course, board representation is not a perfect metric of gender

A world run by software may be sexier than a world run by bureaucrats, but it’s just a sexist horse of a different color. equality or opportunity, but it is one sign of the frat-boy culture of the tech-driven world. The tech world replicates, it does not repair, the sexism, ethnocentrism, and blind spots of the existent world, resulting in things like Wikipedia articles divided into the unequally valued categories of “American novelists” and “American women novelists.” When Srinivasan dreams of a “world run by software,” he forgets that software is not some autonomous being given down to us from on high. It is not an artificial intelligence free of human fallibility. It is man-made and ineluctably human, in both its potential and its problems. A world run by software may be sexier than a world run by bureaucrats, but it’s just a sexist horse of a different color. Ancestral Mythology: Srinivasan used the example of his father’s immigration to the United States in order to develop his theory of virtuous exit. Showing a photo of his father outside “a grass hut,” Srinivasan explained his emigration from India: “[My father] grew up on a dirt floor in India and left, because India was an economic basket case and there’s no way that he could have voted to change things in his lifetime.” Srinivasan proposed that we view America not as a land of immigrants, but rather as a land of emigrants who chose to leave their countries of origin. Now, his story goes, we should return to our emigrant-roots and opt-out of the United States. Srinivasan’s familial tale entirely obscured India’s colonial history and sustained post-colonial efforts to develop an independent nation that would be more than what he flippantly termed “an economic basket case.” He used the specter of poverty (a poverty shared by none of the Valley execs he addressed) as an imperative to pursue one’s fortunes elsewhere, disingenuously drawing an analogy between the context of the grass hut and that of America’s supposedly technophobic regulations and outdated infrastructure. The Indian example also gave lie to his argument that “exit amplifies voice.” Emigration out of India, also known as the brain drain, didn’t result in India’s eradication of poverty. It only reinforced the problems of a society in which upper-middle-class people don’t bother to vote because they can simply exit, if not retire into their own private Antilias. Nations, history has shown, need more people to opt-in, people like my uncle Shashi Tharoor, who left an illustrious diplomatic career to get into the political trenches of India’s Lok Sabha. It’s hard work that involves engaging people who don’t think the same way you do, who have different values, ideals, and dreams. And isn’t that what life’s about? Srinivasan’s software-run utopia needs to be countered by feminists, historians, and anyone committed to the project of building a better, shared world. n Ragini Tharoor Srinivasan is a doctoral candidate in Rhetoric at UC Berkeley. Dec ‘13—Jan ‘14 | | 7


A Code Name for Sexism and Racism Shining a light on Twitter’s Board By Vivek Wadhwa


n the surface, Silicon Valley looks like the perfect meritocracy. Half its startups are founded by immigrants. You see people from all over the world collaborating and competing. And race and religion are no barriers to success. But when you look closer, you begin to notice something strange: that, with a couple of notable exceptions, women are rarely found in the executive ranks of tech companies. The Valley’s echo chamber—what I call the “mafia”—is oblivious to criticism about this. It doesn’t seem to care about the imbalance. Note the Twitter IPO filing. It shows that all of its board members are male, as are all of its executives—other than one lawyer whom the company added a few weeks ago—and all of its investors. The company surely knew that this would draw attention, given the recent controversies in Silicon Valley about sexism and all of the media attention to Sheryl Sandberg’s book on women in tech, Lean In. Twitter execs either didn’t care enough to fix the imbalance; had criteria that could not possibly be met; or, they had reasonable criteria but didn’t cast a wide enough net that would capture non-traditional women or women in non-traditional roles who might be very valuable on their board. The New York Times quoted two anonymous sources as saying that Twitter CEO Dick Costolo had prioritized recruiting a woman to be on the board but had found it difficult. I don’t buy this. Twitter is as much a media and advertising company as it is a technology company. It may have been difficult for it to find women engineers or venture capitalists, because they are in short supply; but there are thousands of capable women in other industries. And then there are academics—such as University of California San Francisco Chancellor Sue DesmondHellmann, whom Facebook added to its board this year. I had said to The New York Times that the elite arrogance of the Silicon Valley ma-

8 | INDIA CURRENTS | Dec ‘13—Jan ‘14

fia (the Twitter mafia) is male chauvinistic thinking. I asked how they dare think they could get away with this. Twitter’s response shows the depth of the problem. Rather than responding to the issue that was raised, Costolo simply launched a personal attack on me. Here is what he wrote: @rich1 “Vivek Wadhwa is the Carrot Top of academic sources.” Yes, Costolo’s comments were inappropriate and he owes me a formal apology. But I don’t for a moment think that he is overtly sexist or that he deliberately discriminates. I think that he is reflecting a common behavior in Silicon Valley, where power brokers proudly tout their “pattern recognition” capabilities. They believe they know a successful entrepreneur, engineer, or business executive when they see one. Sadly, the pattern is always a Mark Zuckerberg, Marc Andreessen, Jeff Bezos—or themselves. Nerdy white males. To me, pattern recognition is a code name for sexism and racism. It must end. The sad reality is that Silicon Valley is a boys club that stacks the deck against women and certain minorities. This may have been okay when the tech industry was in its infancy and companies like Twitter didn’t get the national attention they do. But they can’t get away with this in this day and age. This exclusionary behavior is also harmful to companies and their shareholders. To start with, having women on boards produces better outcomes. Research by analyst firm Catalyst shows that companies with the highest proportions of women board directors outperform those with the lowest proportions by 53%. They have a 42% higher return on sales and 66% higher return on invested capital. When it comes to entrepreneurship, the advantages of diversity become even clearer. Firms founded by women are more capital efficient than those founded by men. Women-led high-tech startups have lower failure rates. Venture-backed companies run by a woman have annual revenues 12%

They believe they know a successful entrepreneur, engineer, or business executive when they see one. Sadly, the pattern is always a Mark Zuckerberg, Marc Andreessen, Jeff Bezos—or themselves. Nerdy white males. higher than those by men; and organizations that are the most inclusive of women in top management positions achieve a 35% higher return on equity and 34% higher total return to shareholders. The boys club won’t change easily. How can we level the playing field and encourage more women to enter the technology sector? These are questions journalism professor Farai Chideya (New York University) and I asked several hundred women to help answer, in order to create a book titled Innovating Women—which prescribes solutions. In a nutshell, women are turned off by the chauvinism and arrogance of the technology

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Happy New Year

Vivek Wadhwa is an entrepreneur turned academic. You can follow him on Twitter at @ vwadhwa and find his research at First published in The Wall Street Journal.


Merry Christmas

industry. There are many stories of women attending conferences and being groped or disparaged. They tell of venture capitalists who ask humiliating questions such as, “What does your husband think about your being an entrepreneur?” Women in business tell of being sidelined. Girls tell of being made fun of or discouraged from taking an interest in engineering and mathematics. Women highlight the common stereotypes such as in the film The Social Network in which men were writing code and many of the women were dancing around in their underwear. But women also said that they believe things are changing for the better. Although the number of women studying computer science has fallen, National Science Foundation data show that girls now match boys in mathematical achievement. In the United States, 140 women enroll in higher education for every 100 men who do. Women earn more than 50% of all bachelor’s and master’s degrees, and nearly 50% of all doctorates. Companies, such as Xerox, that make the effort to recruit women and create womenfriendly workplaces are seeing great benefit. Xerox has had two consecutive women CEOs—first Anne Mulcahy and now Ursula Burns. Its CFO is a woman, as are its controller, its chief marketing officer and its CTO. It also doesn’t have the problem that companies such as Twitter say that they do—that they can’t find women engineers and executives. As Xerox CTO, Sophie Vandebroek, (a co-author of Innovating Women) says: “Incollege hiring, which is most of our engineering hiring, well over 40% are women. Some years, it was even more than 50% ... As you know, in college about 25% [engineering and computer science majors], and in industry about 10–12% of engineers are women. So, if you can create a culture and environment where people can truly be themselves, they can not only bring their intellect to work, but also their passion and their heart to work. Number one they’ll be much more creative, they’ll be much more entrepreneurial. But you’ll also be able to attract people from all different colors, from different genders, different ages.” Maybe Twitter should add one of the great women at the helm of Xerox to its board? Vandebroek comes with my highest recommendation. n

*Discounted price per insertion based on advance purchase of three or more insertions. One time rate $50.

Call (714) 523-8788 Email: Dec ‘13—Jan ‘14 | | 9

Total Recall

A look back at some of our unforgettable conversations this year—voices that are forging the future in journalism. Enjoy readers’ responses to a pop quiz and celebrity observations for some LOL moments. “...Korobi looks so like her dead mother that the words die in Sarojini’s throat. Not her face or her fair skin—but that posture, that troublesome yearning toward the world, that radiant smile as she turns toward her grandmother.” Chitra Divakaruni, The Mystique of the Past, April 2013 “Some people find classical music downright annoying. A friend of mine during my college days used to get irritated every time I listened to an elaborate “todi alapanai.” It didn’t matter that it was played by a leading violinist; it apparently made his ears bleed!” Kanniks Kannikeswaran, Musical Tastes, April 2013

Our Words, Our Sentiments “It was in such information-de-saturated times that I landed in Dayton, on a balmy summer day.” Rajee Padmanabhan, The Power of My 929, July 2013 “Leaving aside the ludicrousness of why someone would be traipsing about on a brightly lit sunny day just after they had perpetrated a crime, I got straight to the point and said, ‘You stopped me because you made an assumption of my race.’ Inadvertently confirming my suspicion, the officer responded, “It doesn’t matter if you’re a black. All that matters is that you matched the description I have.” Benedito R. Ferrao, The Man Who Wouldn’t Be King, August 2013 Given that gift giving is a necessary evil, can we as a society, try to make it less evil? Sujatha Ramprasad, Greener Gifts Please, March 2013 10 | INDIA CURRENTS | Dec ‘13—Jan ‘14

“Yet, deep down somewhere, I envy those who can believe. I long for that childhood when I pined for idols; when prayers and rituals were symbols of belonging, of the whole being greater than the sum of the parts.” Sarita Sarvate, Of Gods and Faith, October 2013 “The problem with sauteing and dicing the husband is that at the end of all the grilling you must cross his path again and again—in the bedroom, the kitchen and the family room.” Kalpana Mohan, Offend Me and You’ll Be Chutney, May 2013 And what happens if you’re not a “survivor?” The implication is that if you die of cancer, you just didn’t try hard enough. You failed. So if you’re a “non-survivor,” are you a “failure?” Or are you just dead? Ranjani Iyer Mohanty, Heroes Among Us, September 2013

The life of a Princess just isn’t what it’s made out to be, [Diana] seems to imply. The Prince is off chasing after another skirt (the cad!), the meddling in-laws are restricting her visits with her sons, and the press is murderously nosy. Geetika Pathania Jain, The Princess and the Heart Surgeon, November 2013 At my school in Kolkata, far far away from the American civil rights movement and the red hills of Georgia, “I Have a Dream” was an elocution favorite. Tutored by Belgian priests, Bengali students from resolutely middle class families belted out their renditions of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous speech. Stripped of its historical context, delivered in the prone-to-breaking voices of teenagers, our tremulous interpretation of an African-American preacher’s cadence often landed somewhere in between Bollywood melodrama and soupedup folk theater. Sandip Roy, An American Export Mightier than McDonald’s, October, 2013 Before long, Epsi will have so much stuff she’ll require what Virginia Woolf once longed for—a room of her own— and despite our best academic efforts and socialist impulses, she’ll open her lips to pronounce that possessive “mine.” Ragini Tharoor Srinivasan, Epsilon’s Worldly Possessions, April 2013

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Tweet, Tweet Shahrukh Khan Having kids changes the meaning of makes the clouds readable, and the sky touchable and words I could never say, speakable.

Mindy Kaling Sometimes it seems like I’m yelling at someone but I’m really just yelling at the ether.

Tulsi Gabbard Marriage issue will divide communities as long as gov’t involved—gov’t shld remove itself, let ppl live their lives

Vinod Khosla

Kal Penn

Sonia Faleiro

A gate agent at Dulles Airport is repeatedly announcing the boarding of a flight to “PissBurg.”

Don’t listen to VCs, most don’t know s--t http://bit. ly/17RemH2

Go out to lunch or get back into bed and spoon sleeping dog?

Anupam Kher Playing an honest man on screen is as exhausting as being an honest person in real life.:)

Aasif Mandvi Watch me teach Anthony #Weiner what to do with a Mango Lassi. Tonight on @ TheDailyShow on @ComedyCentral

Chetan Bhagat Truly secular people never have to bring up the fact that they are secular.

May 2013

Most Read Articles

Perfectly Done Kalpana Mohan, September 2013 Naked Yogis and Toe Socks Mimm Patterson, February 2013 March Against Monsanto Chris Kanthan, May 2013

July 2013 May 2013 Graph Search: Tagore:100 Years after On a Quest Nobel Prize

Nov 2013 Ro Khanna

Most Popular IC Recipes Satsivi Berbere (Ethiopian Spice Mix) Ye Misir Wot (Spicy Ethiopian Lentils) Baghara Baingan Hyderabadi Biryani Green Gazpacho Cucumber Margarita


Fan Club Ro Khanna Thanks to @IndiaCurrents for this thoughtful piece about my candidacy for #CA17: http://www.indiacurrents. com/articles/2013/11/01/ro-khannarunning-start-campaign-silicon-valley …

July 2013

Cover Stories that Hit Home

Kareena Kapoor Being a bride is like a dream come true for every girl. It was like a fairytale for me. Everything felt magical.

Amitabh Bachchan ... embarrassing moment for celebrity: raising hand to acknowledge a wave from passer by, and discovering its not for you !!

June 2013

Chitra Divakaruni @IndiaCurrents Interesting essay on Tagore’s contemporary reputation. articles/2013/07/01/100-years-afternobel-prize …

Eloquently Said... Just as I began reading your July 2013 issue, I put on the kettle for “tea” like Sarita Sarvate (Tea, India Currents, July 2013), called out to my husband, “I’ll have three sugars with that, please” like Kalpana Mohan (I’ll Have Three Sugars With That, Please, India Currents, July 2013), then went into the den and managed to find a spot to sit on “the accursed couch” like Lakshmi Palecanda (The Accursed Couch, India Currents, July 2013) to read your always interesting magazine. Congratulations on starting up in Washington, D.C. A. Sharma, West Covina, CA

Dec ‘13—Jan ‘14 | | 11

Pop Quiz—Readers Respond Favorite Hindi Movie Dialog?

Favorite Comfort Food? Mom’s mirchi parantha and moong daal with tadka Monica Kumar Chutney with crispy dosa

Srinath Murthy

Self-made quinoa upma with spinach sambar, made with MTR sambar powder Vasudev Bhandarkar Rasam and roasted potato

Kalpana Mohan

Saag paneer with naan and some raita Mary Ann Donnegan Daal chawal

Ras Siddiqui

Utamamm dadh dhadhatt padham ... madhyam padham thuchuk thuchuk ... khanishtham thudthudiiy padham ... sursuria pran ghatkam. (A loud fart is respectable ... a medium fart is tolerable ... a slight fart is fearful ... a silent fart is unbearable)—3 Idiots Dhan Sak

Dazed and Confused

Robert iss harami ko liquid oxygen may daal do! Liquid issay jeenay nahi day gaa, oxygen issay marnay nahi day gaa!—Ajit Ramesh P.

Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham

Tum mujhse koi vada nahi kar rahi ho, aaj mai tumse ek vada karna chahta hoon— Guide Vijay R. Arre O Sambha, Kitne aadmi the—Sholay Ruchita Jadhav, Srinath Murthy

Real Housewives of Orange County Srinath Murthy Daytime drinks with friends

Raj Singh

Facebook stops between writing Kalpana Mohan Snacking before bed

Tushar Kumar

Conversation Starter?

Srinath Murthy

What are you working on?

Prakash Narayan

Aapko pahale bhi kaheen dekha hai ... Vijay R. A wicked smile

Vasudev Bhandarkar

Of course, the number one conversation starter: the sari. Kalpana Mohan 12 | INDIA CURRENTS | Dec ‘13—Jan ‘14

Return of the Jedi


Tushar Kumar

My dog

Ramesh P.

A book, a chapstick and a jacket Shalini Srivastava An attitude Deepa Mehra My Body

Ras Siddiqui

Ruchita Jadhav

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon Shalini Srivastava Amar Prem

Vasudev Bhandarkar

Kuch Kuch Hota Hai


Pen in my left pant pocket Akshat Raj

Dhan Sak

Akshat Raj

Picture Abhi Baki Hai Mere Dost Monica Kumar

Something You Cannot Leave Home Without?

Raj Singh

Pati, Patni Aur Woh

As Good As It Gets

My Name is Khan and I am not a terrorist—My Name is Khan Ras Siddiqui

Srinath Murthy

Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure

Suniye, main tumhare bacche ki ma banney wali hoon—Dhool ka Phool Vasudev Bhandarkar

My Kajal Stick Monica Kumar

What are you drinking?

A Movie Title that Describes Your Love Life?

Kalpana Mohan Prakash Narayan Indra Prasad

If You Met President Obama What is the First Thing You Would Say? You are doing a great job. Don’t let the idiots at Fox get you down. Srinath Murthy How do you manage four women at home? Ramesh P. Publish NSA phone tapes of John Boehner! Vijay R. I love it that you can make dal-roti. Can I try it some day? Vasudev Bhandarkar Listen, you have his phone number, I know, so can you arrange for a date with me and George Clooney? I can fly out to Lake Como. Kalpana Mohan What happened to the audacity of hope? Ras Siddiqui



First Prize: $300 • Second Prize: $200 • Third Prize: $100 • Two Honorable Mentions CONTEST GUIDELINES: 1. One submission per individual; $7 per submission. (Paid by check or paypal) 2. Submissions should consist of one short story or extract from a longer work up to 3,000 words in length. 3. Entries should be unpublished works and should not have won previous awards or contests. How To Pay:  A Paypal account is required for online payment. Log onto to submit payment.

 If you do not wish to pay by Paypal, you may send a personal check, cashier s check or money order. How To Submit:  In the Word file, include only the title and the story itself.  In the body of your e-mail, E-MAIL YOUR STORY as a Word File Attachment to:




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 Brief Biographical Statement: (Include publication or award history if applicable) I warrant that I am the sole author of, and have exclusive rights to the enclosed material. I hereby release full rights for the enclosed material or any segment or portion thereof to Katha and its sponsors, and authorize Katha to use my name and work in any publicity or promotions for Katha. I also understand that if my story is not shortlisted for publication by the Katha sponsors, the rights will revert back to me on March 30, 2014. —(your full name)

DEADLINE: MARCH 30, 2014 Submissions not following the guidelines will be automatically disqualified from the contest. Disqualified Entrants will not be notified.  Write this statement: Here is my submission for Katha: Desi Fiction Contest 2014.  Title of Story:  Word Count:  Name:  Address:  Email Address:  Payment Method: (Check or Paypal)  Payment Transaction ID: (Check Number and Date or Paypal transaction code)

A Kathak Mosaic

Shankara Dance Academy presentation at the Curtis Theatre, Brea California


By Nisha Manek

n often asked question in today's fast paced digital age is this: how do we raise creative responsible children? One answer is: surround children with beauty in all of its expressions. And that is what we witnessed at Curtis theatre in Brea on November 23rd. Young girls ranging in age from 6 years and up performed the ancient beautiful dance of Kathak. Kathak is a form of ballet with complex rhythmic form and portraying spiritual stories of Indian mythology. The young performers exhibited elegance, poise, and vitality. These traits are also the core of resilience and good health! As a doctor, I regularly recommend meditation, music and dance as a way to robust health. The performers of Shakara Dance academy are fortunate to have the best of hobbies that will serve them as preventive medicine now and in future. Fortunate too are the families who participated and came together in a show of what is possible in America, a celebration of ancient arts combined with modern jazz. Local talent on tabla or Indian drums, sitar, harmonium, and a dulcimer or santoor accompanied a truly stellar performance. The senior teacher, Abhay Shanker Mishra of London, England, is a celebrated teacher with a resume of worldwide accolades. Abhayji,

as he is known, explained the rhythms, the stories of Kathak artform and its spiritual backdrop, and it all came into an exquisite mosaic. Southern California residents are fortunate to have a dedicated teacher in Arti Manek. She is accepting new students.

Nisha Manek, MD, F.A.C.P., FRCP (UK).

Dec ‘13—Jan ‘14 | | 13


The Price of Living Long Confronted by the fearful prevalence of Alzheimer’s By Lakshmi Mani


s we celebrate more birthdays, and the number of people living to be ninety or even hundred is no longer uncommon, behind the celebration lurks the painful reminder that longevity comes at a price. The golden years may not be so golden when we realize that brain cells can deteriorate with advancing age and rob people of a good deal of their lives by wiping out much of the past, and disabling the capacity to function in the present or plan the future. The culprit behind this tragic deterioration is the Alzheimer’s Disease (AD). In her blog in the Times Union, Elizabeth Floyd calls AD “the long goodbye.” It is a form of dementia, resulting in loss of memory and cognitive functions, and in worsening conditions, behavioral changes and an inability to perform even simple daily tasks. The connection between neurological damage in the brain and clinical dementia was first presented by a German doctor named Alois Alzheimer at a medical conference in 1906. Hence the eponymous name of the disease.

Touched by Alzheimer’s

When I met one of my friends here in Schenectady after a long time at a social function, I noticed a significant absence. Her husband, a prominent cardiologist, and a pillar of the Indian society, a sort of Renaissance man whose hospitality I had enjoyed often whenever I visited Schenectady, was not with her. I remembered attending many birthday parties and wedding anniversary celebrations hosted by this couple just a few years back. Answering the puzzled look on my face, my friend said with sadness: “Fifty plus years of our life together have been wiped out completely. He does not remember me or his children.” He lives now in a facility for AD, away from his loved ones, since he needs professional care. Love is not enough. Another friend who regularly sat with me at meal times at Ingersoll Place, an Assisted Living facility in Niskayuna, New York, where I have been living for the past 18 months, has now gone to the Memory Room, a space allotted for residents with memory problems, and separate from where 14 | INDIA CURRENTS | Dec ‘13—Jan ‘14

Once, a vibrant person, who sat at my table along with her husband, today she is forgetful, and cannot perform even simple daily tasks like bathing and dressing herself. She seems to go in and out of her present life and cannot connect with her past. regular residents live. There are 11 residents that currently live in the Memory Room. Roughly half of them have dementia, and the other half AD. Once a vibrant person, who sat at my table along with her husband, today she is forgetful, and cannot perform even simple daily tasks like bathing and dressing herself. She seems to go in and out of her present life and cannot connect with her past. While medicine has wrought miracles in curing diseases that seemed incurable in the past, and prolonged our lives, the price that some of us pay for longevity is loss of memory and weakening of motor and cognitive functions that can result in AD. The essence of a person is taken away with this disease. Their life experiences, which make up their personhood, vanish through the decline of brain functioning, and who they were remains only in memory for those who love them, like photographs in sepia. The best that can be done for Alzheimer’s patients when they are unable to carry out daily tasks like bathing, dressing, and walking which ends up in frequent falls, is to have one on one caregivers. When Alzheimer’s patients show behavioral changes like agitation, hallucinations, paranoid distrust, depression and wandering, it becomes necessary to have structured living areas where psycho-social services can be provided. Over 8 million people have AD, and it is expected that by 2050, there will be a million new cases every year. AD strikes about ten

percent of people in the United States aged 65 and up. Fifty percent of people over 85 and up have this old-age scourge. Healthcare costs for dementia and AD in 2010 were over $172 billion dollars, three times higher than money spent for the healthcare of other seniors over 65. Businesses lose over 58 billion dollars a year because some of their employees are caregivers to loved ones with dementia/AD and need time off. Why do these dreadful diseases happen? The word “dementia” literally means “the loss of the ability to think.” Scientists have made significant progress in understanding the possible causes of Alzheimer’s but have found no cure. The brain is a complex structure which has over a hundred billion nerve cells or neurons. Connecting these neurons and helping them communicate with each other are synapses that send out electrical and chemical signals to the body for motor as well as cognitive activities. In its pathological state, the brain is hindered from carrying out its important function of sending out these signals because of the formation of plaques and the tangles of the neurons. A protein called “beta amyloid” causes the buildup of plaques in the spaces between the neurons. The plaques prevent communication between the neurons. The protein “tau,” which normally promotes communication in the brain cells, breaks them up into tangles in its pathological state, and blocks effective communication between the brain cells. This brain disorder causes Alzheimer’s. The causes of AD can be genetic as well as non-genetic. Some non-genetic factors include head injuries in childhood, lower levels of formal education, and lower socioeconomic status. Though not proven conclusively, environment and childhood experiences can be a risk factor in getting this mind-robbing disease.

The South Asian Diet

1n 2006, a study titled, “Curry Consumption and Cognitive Function in the Elderly” conducted by Ng TP, Chiam PC, Lee T, Chua HC, Lim L, Kua EH indicated that those “who occasionally ate curry (less than once a month) and often (more than once a

month) performed better on a standard test (MMSE) of cognitive function than those who ate curry never or rarely.” Shrikant Mishra and Palanivelu published a paper in the Annals of Indian Academy of Neurology on the effect of curcumin (turmeric) on Alzheimer’s disease. The paper stated that there is a lower incidence and prevalence of AD in India. “The prevalence of AD among adults aged 70-79 years in India is 4.4 times less than that of adults aged 70-79 years in the United States.” Turmeric, an essential ingredient of the Indian diet and used in curry powder, is proven to have anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that can improve cognitive functions in patients with AD. The beneficial effects of turmeric is attributed to the fact that elderly villagers in India have one of the lowerst incidences of AD.

Symptoms of AD

• Memory loss that may be so severe as to disrupt daily life. While one may occasionally forget things as one grows older but remember them later, it is a different matter when one forgets important dates, events, recently learned information, or asks the same questions over and over, and needs memory aids like electronic devices or relying on family members for memory lapses. • Difficulty in following through a plan of work and completing it. • Concentration becomes a problem. So does remembering familiar roads or the rules of a game. • Understanding anything that is not happening immediately. Alzheimer’s patients may forget where they are or how they got there. • Difficulty reading, judging distance, distinguishing color and contrast, whichcould impair driving ability. • Trouble with language. They may struggle with the choice of the right words. • A tendency to hide things and being unable to retrace their steps to find them. AD patients mistrust people and often accuse them of stealing. • Alzheimer’s causes changes in judgment or decision making. • People with AD tend to withdraw from social activities, hobbies, work projects or sports. In short, anything involving working with other people. • Having mood swings that lead to confusion, anxiety, distrust, and depression.


lthough drugs approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration can minimize the effects of AD, there is as yet no permanent cure for a disease that ironically deprives us of spending our well-earned last years with full control of our cognitive

faculties. However, there is still a glimmer of hope that a cure can be found in the foreseeable future since significant research is being conducted at places like the Rockefeller University and the Fisher Center in New York. At Ingersoll Place, some AD residents are encouraged to listen to music or play the piano and some engage in memory exercises like trivia games to enhance the cognitive memory links. Patients are mainstreamed into activities like social hours, chair exercises, and religious services like communions. There are some cases where both spouses live under the same roof, the “normal” person in the Assisted Living area and the Alzheimer’s person in the Memory Room. The “normal” spouse often takes the spouse who has mental problems for outings, or both spouses attend social activities together. All this gives the Alzheimer’s person a chance to interact with others although they still have memory deficit. I would like to share the experience of a family at Ingersoll who shall remain anonymous and the Alzheimer’s patient referred to as X. It is an example of what a family experiences when a loved one has AD. When the family noticed that X had some severe memory problems and behavioral changes, they had her evaluated by their family doctor as well as by Dr. Zimmerman, an expert on Alzheimer’s at the Albany Medical Center. Dr. Zimmerman noticed her gait as well as other behavioral changes and found that she had AD and needed special care. X is now a resident at the Ingersoll Memory Room where specialized caregivers look after her daily needs like toileting, proper meals, and accompanying her to the General Activities Room where she participates in chair exercise and social events. X seems quite happy and even feels safe in the Memory Room as she has become accustomed to the new reality of life in the Ingersoll Memory Room. It is not an easy task for either the victims of brain disorder or their caregivers to cope with their situation day in and day out. Support systems may help somewhat. We can only hope, in these days of cutbacks in healthcare, that more funds will be allocated for continued research on AD, a scourge that robs our seniors of their most precious faculty. The greying of America should not be treated with cold indifference. n Lakshmi Mani taught at the Rochester Institute of Technology for 20 years. She writes on American and Indian-American literature, and is a National Endowment for the Humanities fellow. Many thanks to Dawn Brasch, Michelle Wyman, Nikki Dale, and Maria Anthony for helping me with valuable research material.

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desi voice

Thirteen Things I Wish I’d Heard When I Turned 13 By Rajdeep Paulus


did not want to give my soon to be teenage daughter a list of advice, because I do that normally—daily, sometimes twice a day, often times more. Instead, I thought to myself, what do I wish someone had said to me back in the day when I was turning this corner from tween to teen? Here’s what I came up with. Starting this conversation can be a challenge, but it’s probably the most important first step.

A Creative Commons Image

1. You will like boys. A lot. And that’s perfectly normal. 2. You will get zits. Don’t pick them. They will only look worse. A little dab of toothpaste at night will help. 3. You will most likely get cramps or headaches and your back may hurt once a month. You’ll have to keep going as if nothing’s going on. But you can always tell your mom; and get a few extra snuggles that day. 4. You will love your siblings one day and plot to murder them in their sleep the next. Some day that same sibling might become your best friend. So don’t kill them. 5. You might have a crush on a teacher. Especially the one who tells you you’re the most amazing student ever and looks like a Hollywood Hottie. Crushes are normal. Don’t let him distract you from the goal. You still need to aim for straight As.

don’t feel so pretty—your eyes, your smile, your skin color, and even your hair that doesn’t want to sit right in that one spot. Because what makes you beautiful is the wonder inside you. Stay wonder-full! 9. Your body will change. Slowly at times, then all of a sudden. There will be days you’ll want to hide, and days you will want the world to feel your presence. This is perfectly normal. Your body is precious—a miracle, every single cell. Talk to me when you’re not sure how to handle all the conflicting emotions. We can go shopping, or out for ice cream, or get into our warm fuzzies and talk.

6. Don’t freak out when you don’t get all As. You are not your report card. Just do your best. The grades are merely icing.

10. Your lips are perfect—made for talking, singing, and kissing. Contrary to popular belief, a kiss is not just a kiss. Save your first kiss, because once it’s gone, you can never get it back. It’s okay to say no, if someone asks for it. You are in charge of your lips. They’re yours after all.

7. Your days will be similar to the weather. You will have good days and bad. Days when you feel as happy as sunshine. Other mornings when the storms in your heart keep you from wanting to get up. This is partially due to hormones, and also just a part of growing up. Know that you can laugh with your mother and cry in her arms. I’ll give you space. But when you’re ready, come out and talk to me. I’m waiting for you.

11. You will hear about sex. A lot. At lunch in the cafeteria, on-line and all over social media. You will be curious. You’ll have questions. The sources might even have some truth to them. But not everything you hear is true. And for all the hype, there’s so much more to it then what Hollywood makes it out to be. You can talk to me. I promise not to judge you, freak out, or tell you I have all the answers. Because I don’t.

8. You are beautiful. Even on days you

12. You’ll imitate others as you try to find

16 | INDIA CURRENTS | Dec ‘13—Jan ‘14

your own style. That’s okay. Just don’t get so caught up in mirroring someone or something you like that you don’t give yourself a chance to discover yourself. Ask yourself questions. What makes you feel comfortable with yourself? What do you believe? What is important to you? What message do you want to share with the world through your life and the way you live it? 13. You will change your mind, about what you want to be when you grow up; what you’ll wear in the morning; who your best friend is; and lots more. Change is normal, good, healthy. Just remember the truths that never change. Mom and Dad love you. God loves you, and we’re not giving up on you, ever. And you? What do you wish someone had told you along the way? At thirteen? Sixteen? Twenty-one? Yesterday? n Rajdeep Paulus, author of Swimming Through Clouds, is mom to four princesses, wife of Sunshine, a coffee addict and a Chicago Bulls’ fan. As of June 2013, she wears her bright orange Tough Mudder headband around the house, just for fun. She earned it, after all. For more on Rajdeep and her Masala-marinated madness, stop by For a Free downloadable, Best of Indie Authors Sampler, pop over to to check out a nice chunk of Swimming Through Clouds and four other Young Adult books of 2013.

Dec ‘13—Jan ‘14 | | 17


The Delhi Lament

An ex-expat looks for ways to capture the flavors of the Delhi he left behind By Dave Prager

18 | INDIA CURRENTS | Dec ‘13—Jan ‘14

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spotted the Indians entering Denver’s Botanic Gardens about fifty feet ahead of us. It was their clothes that got me excited: both ladies wore saris. I nudged Jenny with excitement. She sighed. “Dave, this is getting creepy.” Creepy? Since when is it creepy to follow strange Indians around a park hoping to catch their eyes, start a conversation, win their trust, become friends, exchange numbers, and accept an invitation to dinner—all because I want to eat homemade Indian food again? I mean, doesn’t every American who once lived in Delhi do that? The year-and-a-half my wife Jenny and I lived in Delhi’s Hauz Khas Market neighborhood changed me forever. Not just because of the career boost from my promotion to the Gurgaon office. And not just because the book I wrote about Delhi is spinning through book shops even as this essay goes to print. No, it’s mostly because now that I’m no longer in Delhi, my stomach forces my brain to view every Indian I see as a potential conduit to the food I miss so much. I’m not trying to be creepy. I just miss the food. Before we moved to Delhi, I had no appreciation for the dynamics of the cuisine. I was perfectly content with the cheapest Indian buffet serving the stalest garlic naan and the driest tandoori chicken. In those innocent times, every dish on every menu sounded equally exotic and exciting; I’d order whatever I didn’t recognize and, with full ignorance as to both the quality and the composition of what I was eating, enjoy every bite of it. But in the years since we’ve left Delhi, not a single Indian restaurant has achieved even the standards of my office canteen’s watery dal. I’ve yet to taste a paneer as milky and smooth as that from Saket Select Citywalk Mall food court. And even Singapore’s top-

rated Indian restaurants were just a distant echo of what was, to me, the gold standard of Indian food: the meals our maid Ganga would cook for us three times a week. (Wikipedia tells us that Annupurna is the Hindu goddess of food; experience tells us that Ganga is her earthly manifestation.) We’ve tried the trendiest Indian restaurant on Denver’s South Pearl Street, the Singapore branch of Saravana Bhavan, and a dhaba in the back of a suburban Indian grocery in Aurora, Colorado. I’ve departed them all with my belly full but my heart empty. I’ve even purchased the same MDH spice boxes using which Ganga used to cook her heavenly meals for us, faithfully following the recipes printed on the back and failing each time to come anywhere close. Which is why I stare so hungrily at every Indian that I see. We’re in a restaurant in Estes Park, Colorado, a mountain town near one of America’s most spectacular national parks. A bagel is in my hands but my tongue is tasting creamy

dal makhani, because all I can focus on are the unmistakable accents emanating from the couple at the table next to us. They’re discussing hiking routes and camping spots; I’m hearing menu plans and cooking instructions. “Where are you from?” I ask, leaning towards their table, hoping the answer is “Nizamuddin East” so that our conversation could flow easily to kebab stands and butter chicken. The man looks up. “Seattle,” he tells me, curtly. He turns back to his map. I return to my bagel. Now it just tastes like a bagel. After leaving Delhi, Jenny and I spent a year in Singapore and then returned to the States to start a family. Success: our baby daughter Georgiana is sweet, adorable, and the perfect tool to aid my quest to ingratiate myself to Indians. She first played her part at the San Francisco airport. Approaching the gate for our flight back to Denver, I spotted an Indian

bhindi masala. They can tease baingan bharta out of the most stoic eggplant. Their kitchens are their link to Delhi, and we former residents—or, at least, this former resident—want in. So far, though, I’ve had no luck. At the San Francisco airport, for instance, our connection to that Indian couple was severed when boarding began for the Denver flight: only we stood up. Our new friends were waiting for a flight to Arizona, which meant that no dinner party was imminent. Nor could I make any headway at that restaurant in Estes Park, where I looked up from my bagel with one last desperate attempt: “No, where are you originally from? India? Because we spent eighteen months living there!” To which the woman smiled gently and said, with finality, “Your daughter is beautiful.” Her tone left no further room for discussion. Nor could I make it work at the Denver Botanic Gardens, where I’d spotted that Indian foursome entering ahead of us. Our meandering paths had crossed theirs a half-dozen times, despite Jenny’s best efforts to steer us away from them. Finally, near the Lilac Garden, I spotted my opening: the patriarch of the family was posing his wife, daughter, and son-in-law for a photo. I quickly offered to snap the four of them together. He declined. In accented English. To which I replied in my own terrible Hindi, “Aap guessa hai!?” The four of them looked at me. “Hindi bollna?” I asked. “Are you speaking Hindi?” the father finally asked me. “Yes!” I beamed. “We lived in Delhi for a year-and-a-half.” “Oh. We don’t speak much Hindi.” They turned back to their photo. I turned back to my wife. And that night for dinner, I sautéed some onions and tomatoes, emptied a can of chick peas into the pan, and dumped in a few tablespoons of MDH channa masala mix. It was not like Ganga’s at all. n A Creative Commons Image

couple and their infant son. Bells clanged in my head: she was wearing a salwar. Which meant she was born and bred outside the United States. I innocuously steered George’s stroller toward them. Jenny rolled her eyes and walked off to get coffee. I sat a few seats down from them, removed George from her stroller, and engaged in a deliberately-conspicuous bout of tongue-waggling and noise-making. Sure enough, George’s irresistible smile drew their eyes; and that was the opening I needed. “How old is your son?” I asked. I didn’t actually care how old he was; I just wanted to confirm their accents. And as they proudly boasted that Nikhil or Naveen or something was a year or eighteen months or seven or whatever, all that my brain registered were pronunciations that implied a childhood immersed in sambar. With chicken biryani clouding my thoughts and phantom thalis teasing my nostrils, I exclaimed (loudly, to mask my stomach’s rumbling): “Oh! You’re from India! We lived there for eighteen months!” And from there, the conversation progressed just as I’d hoped. They were from Chennai, but they knew Delhi, and together we grew pleasantly melancholy reminiscing about places and tastes that were, for both of us, equally dear and equally far. By the time Jenny joined us with her coffee, we were chatting about old days like old friends, contrasting our transitions to each other’s cultures, recalling the restaurants we missed the most, and jointly lamenting the fact that nobody knows how to cook an uttapam west of Chowpatti Beach. My nostalgia for Delhi generally fixates on food, but it can go deeper. At three o’clock on a workday, for instance, I’ll look blearily up from my computer and fantasize about the chaiwallah outside my Gurgaon office, just seven thousand miles to my left. Had it been three o’clock in that office, Dipankar and Murali and I would have paid him a visit and enjoyed his five-rupee respite from our responsibilities. (Although this moment of freedom, too, leads my mind back to food. Because here in America, as I stand by the coffee maker, the nearest snack is at a convenience store a mile away. How can my country be considered a world leader when we’re so lacking in sidewalk samosa vendors?) At these times, when I’m missing the camaraderie as much as the cuisine, I turn to the Internet. I vicariously join my Delhi

friends as they motorcycle to Leh or eat parathas in Old Delhi. I toast the country on Republic Day. I cheer cricket players on a first-name basis. And I join them in experiencing the changing capital city—like when my former coworker Nobin switched from the office cab to the Delhi Metro for his commute to Gurgaon. From his seat, he tweeted praise at the shining municipal infrastructure that warmed me in my chair half a world away. I’ve even grown nostalgic for Delhi’s traffic, of all things. Imagine getting misty-eyed for MG Road! But it’s happened: though there was nothing in Delhi I hated more than my commute to Gurgaon, the traffic in Denver is, in a way, worse. Because when I descend the on-ramp into four orderly lanes of vehicles in which nobody honks, nobody jostles for advantage, and nobody takes to the shoulders to jump the queue, I realize that Delhi’s traffic, for all its misery, also contained a kind of freedom: the skill of the driver could alter the course of the jam. A good driver could seize ephemeral opportunities revealed by shifting vehicles to shave seconds off the commute, or to cross the Ring Road before the light turned red. But Denver’s traffic is egalitarian in its oppression. Once you’re on the highway, you’re committed to the collective fate. Delhi’s traffic allows for individual heroics; Denver’s traffic is entirely communal. But I live in America now. I accept it: derivative restaurants, watery tea, nonnegotiable traffic, and streets that are empty of samosas. Which is why I can’t imagine that I’m the only American creeping around Indians to spark culinary connections. Because those of us who left our stomachs in Safdarjung know that expat Indians must be coping with the same emptiness—except that expat Indians possess the wisdom to transform frozen okra and boxed spices into a glorious

Reprinted with permission from The Book Review Literary Trust, New Delhi. Dave Prager is the author of Delirious Delhi: Inside India’s Incredible Capital, just published by Arcade Publishing. You can read an excerpt at Dave now lives in the Bay Area and is on a quest for the best rajma masala. You can tell him where to find it at Dec ‘13—Jan ‘14 | | 19


Gr8 Reads of 2013 By Jeanne Fredriksen


elf-help. Truth and consequences. Thrills. Family saga. Humor. Knowledge and power. History. Inspiration. What more could a bibliophile ask for? 2013 was a haphazard year for South Asian-centric books. That in itself was unusual since previous years had seen an appreciable growth in such offerings. Nevertheless, some extraordinary books made the India Currents Gr8 Reads of 2013 list. Some were published with great fanfare; others entered the market atop the authors’ impressive bodies of work; and a heart-stopping debut left readers breathless. If you haven’t read these remarkable books yet, what are you waiting for? HOW TO GET FILTHY RICH IN RISING ASIA by Mohsin Hamid. Published by The Penguin Group, Riverhead Books. March 5, 2013. $26.95. 240 pages. (Available: HC, PB, D, AB)

How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia is a cleverly-crafted tale told in the style of a “self-help” book in the second person. “You” travel from a dusty village to a bustling city with an unnamed narrator as “you” climb from abject poverty to corporate success using his step-by-step method. That method raises soul-searching questions including that of our own destinies. Compelling, witty, and reflective of contemporary life in a changing society, HtGFRiRA lingers long after the last page.

OLEANDER GIRL by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni. Published by Free Press, a division of Simon & Schuster. March 19, 2013. $17.75. 304 pages. (Available: HC, PB, D, A) 20 | INDIA CURRENTS | Dec ‘13—Jan ‘14

Korobi, raised by her grandparents and named after the deadly oleander flower, seeks answers about her heritage and the parents she never knew. Her quest compels her to postpone her wedding and takes her to America, where she learns the unimaginable and is faced with difficult decisions. Through Divakaruni’s signature beautifully-crafted prose, Oleander Girl portrays a young woman and her family at the crossroads of change. THE CARETAKER: A RANJIT SINGH NOVEL by A.X. Ahmad. Published by St. Martin’s Publishing Group, Minotaur Books. May 21, 2013. $24.99. 301 pages. (Available: HC, PB, D, AB, A) After being disgraced, Captain Ranjit Singh of the Indian Army finds himself in America, embroiled in a string of situations that would break a brave man’s spirit. Singh, now part of a community of illegal aliens trying to keep their heads above water while staying below the radar, plays a deadly catand-mouse game with a politician and those who want what they believe Singh possesses. The Caretaker is a dazzling debut and thriller of the first degree. AND THE MOUNTAINS ECHOED by Khaled Hosseini. Published by The Penguin Group, Riverhead Books. May 21, 2013. $28.95. 416 pages. (Available: HC, PB, D, AB, A)

Khaled Hosseini is a master storyteller, one who reaches deep into the souls of his characters and his readers. His most complex novel yet travels between Afghanistan and France to the United States over seven decades. And the Mountains Echoed tells the tale of a family fractured by sacrifice and how

each member of each generation survived poverty, war, displacement, and self-discovery. This is, arguably, Hosseini’s best to date. OPEN MIC: RIFFS ON LIFE BETWEEN CULTURES IN TEN VOICES Various Authors, Edited by Mitali Perkins. September 10, 2013. Published by Candlewick Press. $15.99. 144 pages. (Available: HC, D, MP3, A) Ages 12-Up Award-winning author Mitali Bose Perkins contributes to and edits this lively collection of short fiction and non-fiction pieces that puts a humorous spin on an otherwise serious subject. Drawing on their own experiences, ten Young Adult (YA) authors tell stories that break down cultural and racial barriers. In the introduction, Perkins states, “Once you’ve shared a laugh with someone, it’s almost impossible to see them as ‘other’.”

THE LOWLAND: A NOVEL by Jhumpa Lahiri. September 24, 2013. Published by Alfred A. Knopf, a Division of Random House. $27.95. 352 pages. (Available: HC, PB, D, AB, A) A tale of two brothers, as different as night and day, is the foundation of Lahiri’s absorbing new novel. It is the late 1960s, a time of political upheaval in Calcutta. One brother soars with his continuing studies in America while the other descends into the Naxilite underground. Complex and penetrating, The Lowland dissects the moral issues that come with headstrong conviction, violent revolution, inexorable grief, the unbreakable bonds of family, and yes, love. Lahiri’s precise and inspired prose grabs the reader’s attention.

MOUNTAIN OF LIGHT by Indu Sundaresan. Published by Washington Square Press, a Division of Simon & Shuster. October 8, 2013. $16.00. 352 pages. (Available: PB, D, AB, A) The Kohinoor, once a stunning 186-carat diamond and still impressive at a truncated 105 carats, is an object over which empires, countries, and people fought, shed blood, and died. The novel begins in 1817, when Afghanistan’s deposed Shah Shuja Durrani is duped by Maharajah Ranjit Singh and loses the diamond to him. From that point on, Sundaresan provides a thought-provoking hopscotch history of the diamond’s travels through a turbulent time of change and subterfuge. This must-read is a gem in Sundaresan’s bibliography. I AM MALALA: THE GIRL WHO STOOD UP FOR EDUCATION AND WAS SHOT BY THE TALIBAN by Malala Yousafzai with Christina Lamb. Published by Little, Brown and Company. October 8, 2013. $26.00. 352 pages. (Available: HC, PB, D, AB, A) Fifteen-year-old Malala Yousafzai rejected the notion that females are meant to remain in the home and illiterate. Reared in a rural Pakistani family that encouraged her dreams as if she were a son, she fought for the right to an education. The Taliban, enraged by her conviction and hoping to make their point, shot her in the head at close range. The result? This young girl has become a worldwide symbol of fearless strength and peaceful protest. Her autobiography is a remarkable story of inspiration and empowerment. n Availability key: HC=hardcover | PB=paperback | D=digital | AB=Audiobook CD | A=Audible download | MP3 = MP3 CD Jeanne E. Fredriksen reads and writes from Wake Forest, North Carolina, where she is happily at work on her young adult novel.

Brothers Beyond Boundaries By Rajesh C. Oza THE LOWLAND: A NOVEL by Jhumpa Lahiri. September 24, 2013. Published by Alfred A. Knopf, a Division of Random House. $27.95. 352 pages. (Available in Hardcover)


reader is blessed when finding a writer who speaks to him or her. Growing up in the 1970s and 1980s, this reader was quatro-blessed with four fabulous authors: Saul Bellow, R. K. Narayan, V. S. Naipaul, and Salman Rushdie. And in this century, with Jhumpa Lahiri, my literary “Fab Four” has evolved into my “Fav Five.” Without exception, I will read most anything that these favored writers publish. As is common within epistolary families or between friends who stay in touch by email, the relationship between a reader and his cherished writer is remarkable in its ability to pick up a conversation after a long gap; this is a connection that neither distance nor death (of the writer) can fracture. Bellow was my first literary love. Not only did he write knowingly about the great Midwestern city in which we both grew up, but he also graduated from the same university I went to, and his fourth wife was my Calculus professor. Perhaps what clinched the affection was a simple passage in Herzog, one of Bellow’s finest novels: “Recently I saw Pather Panchali. I assume you know it, since the subject is rural India. Two things affected me greatly—the old crone scooping the mush with her fingers and later going into the weeds to die; and the death of the young girl in the rains.” It is altogether possible that I married my Calcuttan wife of nearly three decades because I had seen Pather Panchali; so it is not surprising that Bellow has a special place in my heart. My fondness for Narayan, Naipaul and Rushdie has been well-chronicled in these pages, so I won’t go on and on like a schoolboy with a crush on his English, Anthropology, and History teachers. These literary brothers—Bellow, Narayan, Naipaul, and Rushdie—have informed my worldview in an avuncular way. Through the years, they allowed me to sit at their feet and listen to their stories about Chicago, Malgudi, Trinidad, Bombay, and beyond; without judgment, they enabled me to make my own way in the world. And just as I was easing into middle-

age, content that I was fully formed with my hard-earned knowledge of the ways of the world, along came a gift from the centenarian mother of my friend, Steve. Without expectations, I read Jhumpa Lahiri’s Interpreter of Maladies, amused and bemused that a 100-year-old Californian would be gifting me a 32-year-old Indian American woman’s short stories. Suddenly, I had a “kid sister,” but would she have anything to say to me? Long before the Pulitzer committee awarded Lahiri’s debut work with America’s most prestigious literary prize, my answer was a resounding, “Yes!” And my response to Lahiri’s latest novel, The Lowland, is “Yes. And how!” Like Bellow’s Herzog, The Lowland also has a reference to Satyajit Ray’s masterpiece film, Pather Panchali, suggesting a concern with family, change, and death. Both novels masterfully explore the belief in enduring family life while acknowledging that part of growing up is finding one’s own way. Writing metaphorically about her fraternal protagonists, Subhash and Udayan, Lahiri, in the first page of her novel, foreshadows both plot and character development: “Certain creatures laid eggs that were able to endure the dry season. Others survived by burying themselves in mud, simulating death, waiting for the return of rain.” It is not long before we know which of the brothers will endure the dry season and which will bury himself in mud. In her introduction to Narayan’s Malgudi Days collection of short stories, Lahiri, comparing Narayan and Maupassant, may just as well have been writing about herself and Narayan: “Both explore the frustrations of the middle class, the precariousness of fate, the inevitable longings that so often lead to ruin. Both create portraits of everyday life, and share a vision that is unyielding and unpitying.” As Narayan did with the townsfolk confronting change in Malgudi, Lahiri explores the evolving lives of people in a middle-class Calcutta neighborhood, an evolution that spans the birth of modern India (and births of the two brothers after World War II) to a 21st-century avatar of an India replete with “high-rise apartment buildings, glass-fronted offices.” In the middle of these decades, the novel’s critical inflection point is the death of Dec ‘13—Jan ‘14 | | 21

the younger brother, Udayan, who becomes involved in the late 1960s Naxalite movement—a doomed, Mao-inspired revolution promoting redistribution of land to the tiller. The “lowland” of the book’s title is an expanse of land in the brothers’ neighborhood that, at the beginning of the novel, dips a few feet into the ground, just low enough to serve as a pond “thick with water hyacinth,” just high enough to serve as a shortcut for Subhash and Udayan to the “outskirts of the neighborhood.” By the first third of the novel, the lowland serves as both a hiding NOW A VAIL AB LE ON AMAZO KINDLE N.COM EDITIO N

place for Udayan as he seeks to avoid capture by the police, as well as a muddy resting place for a stone marker commemorating his shortened life: “Here where the water came and went, where it collected and vanished, was where [Subhash’s] brother’s party comrades had chosen to put” the memorial tablet. By the end of the novel, Calcutta is reborn as Kolkata, and the lowland has disappeared, filled in to house the next generation, with all its dreams and despair, change and continuity. Like Naipaul’s A House for Mr Biswas, The Lowland conflates familial and political conflict. Lahiri’s Subhash is, and is not, Naipaul’s Mr Biswas: both are displaced men, at once removed from the larger patterns of their worlds and at the same time implicated by them. Mr Biswas is the product of an indentured diaspora; while his distant ancestors were from India, the history of his immediate family—parents and grandparents—is obliterated, impermanent like their mud and grass huts in the Trinidad countryside. While Subhash’s departure from India is voluntary—he joins a doctoral program in Rhode Island—it, too, yields an outsider’s sense of otherness: “He knew he had to be careful. He knew he could get arrested in America for denouncing the government ... He was here courtesy of a student visa ... He’d been invited to America

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as Nixon’s guest.” Over time, Subhash settles into his American life, but like Mr Biswas’ neurotic isolation in Trinidad, Subhash’s life is an ongoing struggle to find home and self. What mattered to him and his family back home was largely irrelevant in the United States. Outside of India, the violent Naxalite uprising was buried in the Cold War preoccupation with the Vietnam War. In the midst of all the chaos of the outer world, Subhash seeks stability, order, and an identity that marks his individuality alongside, and apart from, his brother. It would seem that Rushdie’s showy magical realism and Lahiri’s quiet unadorned prose would have little to do with each other. And stylistically this would be true. But like Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children, The Lowland signals the end of homogeneity, celebrating what Rushdie has called “mongrelization” and Lahiri sensibly leaves unlabeled. Where Rushdie shocks the reader with his reference to “bastard” children, Lahiri startles the reader with “fatherless” children for whom Subhash accepts paternal responsibility: “The coincidence coursed through him, numbing, bewildering. A pregnant woman, a fatherless child. Arriving in Rhode Island, needing him. It was a reenactment of Bela’s origins. A version of what had brought Gauri to him, years ago.” Without invoking a spoiler alert, it is perhaps helpful to obliquely convey that this mother/daughter pair forever links Subhash to Udayan, with Gauri being a wife of sorts to both, and Bela a daughter to one, but only in name. Perhaps this is how Lahiri speaks most eloquently to this reader. Serving as a kind of bridge between generations, she straddles both tradition and modernity. While honoring the world Subhash and Udayan come from—a world that their parents imagined would continue to exist with arranged marriages and a home complete with well-educated sons, respectful daughters-in-law, and happy grandchildren —Lahiri unsentimentally gives way to an altogether different future: “The house stood practically empty. A mockery of the future they’d assumed would unfold.” But a future does unfold—a brave new world “containing more information than anyone has need for.” And yet, “in a world of diminishing mystery, the unknown persists.” I certainly look forward to my next “bibliochat” with Jhumpa Lahiri and each of the brilliant characters that she mysteriously brings alive, helping me know them, her, and myself a bit more completely. n Over five decades, RCO and his brothers— Nirmal and Kamlesh—have shared the boundary of family with their sister, Savita, while finding their own way in the larger world.

relationship diva

Nothing in Common? By Jasbina Ahluwalia


After 29 years of marriage, my husband just told me that he wants to separate, because he no longer thinks we have anything in common. I’m not sure what to do. How do I deal with the idea that we have nothing in common? We’ve shared so much together over the years. We married in our early twenties, unlike people today, and it’s hard for me to come to grips with what I’m hearing.


When your husband claims you have nothing in common, even though you have a long shared history, it’s possible he is making an excuse to distance himself from you. Maybe his feelings aren’t clear even to himself. It is possible your husband may feel that he is trapped in a marriage/ relationship that he began when he was very young and that he never had an opportunity to explore his own independence. When he says that you have nothing in common, it almost sounds like he is trying to separate himself from you and to prove how different he is from you.

If you wish to continue investing in the relationship with the hopes of potential reconciliation, try these remedial measures: • Instead of trying to convince your husband of all the things you have in common, let him know you appreciate how much he has grown and changed over the years. • Show an interest in learning more about any of his hobbies, work or sports activities which genuinely appeal to you on some level. • Ask if he will attend marriage counseling with you. It’s possible he will be more receptive to a third party’s perspective At the same time, do not lose sight of your own needs. Continue to invest in your own interests and circle of friends. i) Join a group that enjoys the same activities as you, like a book club or a movie night club. ii) Volunteer for a local charity or political organization. iii) Think about exploring a new interest. No one wants to give up on a marriage

after having made a lifetime commitment to another person. Divorce can be very hard and take a very real emotional and financial toll, no matter who initiates it. If your husband decides not to come back to you after your separation, remember that he is an independent person and his decision may have less to do with you than with his own issues. In such a case, ask yourself if you want to be in a marriage where you are the only person working on staying together. You deserve to be appreciated and valued for who you are, as well as in a relationship where both people are mutually invested. 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.



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2014 Employment Law Changes By Madan Ahluwalia


What minimum wage rate changes are to become effective in 2014?


The minimum wages in California will increase to $9 per hour on July 1, 2014. The minimum wage rate changes in other states, effective January 1, 2014, include: • Arizona to $7.90 per hour • Connecticut to $8.70 per hour • Florida to $7.93 per hour • Missouri: $7.50 per hour • Montana: $7.90 per hour • New Jersey: $8.25 per hour • Ohio: $7.95 per hour for businesses with annual gross income above $292,000 per year, • Oregon: $9.10 per hour • Rhode Island: $8.00 per hour • Vermont: $8.73 per hour. The current federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. This federal minimum wage, however, does not supersede state set mini-




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mum wages. Employers are required to pay the higher rates if a state’s minimum rates are higher than the federal rates. Some cities have already raised the minimum wage that employees in the city receive. For example, last January the city of San Francisco raised the minimum wage to $10.55 per hour making it the highest minimum wage in the country!


What changes will be made to the California Labor Code in 2014?

As of January 1, 2014, employees will receive additional protection against discrimination or termination if they are victims of certain crimes or need to take time off from work in order to attend court appearances related to these matters. The protection is also being expanded to include those individuals with military or veteran status. With the current California law that is already in place, employers are not allowed

to discriminate against or terminate an employee that requests time off from work due to being a victim of sexual assault or domestic violence. In 2014, this protection will now include victims of the following crimes: • vehicular manslaughter while under the influence; • felony child abuse; • assault that resulted in the demise of a child less than eight years old; • felony physical abuse of an elderly per son or dependent adult; • felony stalking; • solicitation for murder; • felony DUI resulting in injury; • hit-and-run resulting in injury or death; • other serious felonies n

Madan Ahluwalia is a California attorney who practices law in Santa Clara, CA. His website is He can be reached at (408) 416-3149

legal visa dates Important Note: U.S. travelers seeking visas to India will now need to obtain them through BLS International Services. Call (415) 609-4965 or visit for more information.

December 2013


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A Million Morsels of Love The romance of Karva Chauth By Meera Agarwalla


’m not one for rituals. Growing up, my family was far from religious. When other families took extensive vacations to India touring endless temples and doing darshan, my brother and I took full advantage of the fact that my mother’s social obligations in India outweighed her pious ones. We were more than thrilled to bask in our airconditioned Indian apartment, playing Nintendo, watching American television and awaiting hot pizza delivery from the newly established Dominos.

Religious Indifference?

Don’t get me wrong—it wasn’t that we were Richard Dawkins-ites (well not yet, anyway) flouting our religious indifference and heathenish attitudes. Instead, we actually took on a more “spiritual” approach. The term “religion” has come to embody dogma, rituals and an association with organized religiosity. “Spirituality” on the other hand, is advertised as a more inclusive concept where morals are permitted to be subjectively interpreted and ancient text or philosophy contains an intellectual component. My brother and I were raised on the latter; we were guided to question everything that we know, not to follow or believe anything blindly and to simply “be good and do good.” Regardless of my mother’s aversion to organized religion, in our early childhood days, we did partake in a few religious rituals. We recited the aarti every night before bedtime, we knew core slokas and the meanings behind them, and spent every Sunday afternoon learning about Indian history, religion and culture. However, a full blown devotion to religion and its rituals never emerged.

My Mother’s Disbelief

I never saw my mother perform pooja. She never visited the temple and with her

28 | INDIA CURRENTS | Dec ‘13—Jan ‘14

The author with her husband

quick metabolic affinities, she would never even entertain the idea of fasting. Fasting inevitably involves some self-discipline, devotion, or a belief in good health, but my mother always maintained her disinterest towards the notion whenever she was pelted with questions and stares of disbelief for abstaining from fasting. It would naturally follow that I never participated in the like either. One year, I got caught up in the hype of wanting to fast so that I would “get a good husband” (as common myths foretold) but after a few hours without a cheeseburger, that plan quickly dissipated into thin air.

Keeping Karva Chauth

Imagine then, the disconnect of me looking forward to the Indian tradition of Karva Chauth where wives are supposed to fast for their husbands to preserve the husband’s health, wealth and happiness. The holiday falls in October or November, four (chauth) days after the new moon. The wives are to fast from sunrise until the first sighting of the moon, after which it is permissible to eat. Of course, much like many Hindu auspicious occasions, the idea behind Karva Chauth stems from many different legends

and tales. One says that a beautiful queen was duped by her brothers to break her fast, and that her husband suffered lifelong physical impairment as a result and was only cured once his wife committed to fasting throughout Karva Chauth. Another story claims that a woman, who was devoted to her husband, threatened to curse the god of death when he was about to take her husband. Because the god of death was convinced that the woman’s devotion was so powerful and that her curse might come true, he set her husband free. Folklore such as these can be relevant in that they teach a moral or a specific value; however, parables that are designed to dispense infinite wisdom are not always applicable in modern day nor do the original intentions reflect those sincere beliefs. Additionally, declining an invitation to lunch with your coworkers on Karva Chauth naturally provokes questions about fasting, which when iterated out loud sounds completely archaic. Moreover, if your husband isn’t observing the fast as well, he will undoubtedly (and perhaps inadvertently) become a bull’s eye target for the masochist remarks incredulous feminists are eager to launch. In an age of prolific social networking, where one’s personal information is blasted for your closest 1,000 friends to see and stalk, nothing remains private. Facebook statuses, blog posts and Instagram pictures reflect those of your friends who celebrate Karva Chauth, those who scoff at it and those who have no idea what it is.

Legends and Stories

For me, my appreciation of Karva Chauth peaked when I was looking up the origins of the holiday. Much like the rationale-defying traditions in Hindu religion that I usually sidestep, I expected this one to be no differ-


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An Indian Valentine’s Day

Meera Agarwalla lives in San Francisco, where she is currently working for a legal recruiting firm and volunteers as a pro bono attorney for gender based and political asylum claims. She loves traveling, reading, writing, and feeding her husband.

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Though pop culture now deems this celebration a modern day “Valentine’s Day” where husbands eagerly await the first moon sighting with their wife, Karva Chauth is just another reason to celebrate the commitment to sacrifice and the extent one will go for their spouse. While I logically know it’s not necessary for me to starve myself to prove I love my husband, it’s the symbolism and emotional power behind the story that propels my desire to fast. I was inexplicably blessed to marry the man of my dreams, who not only treats me like a queen every day of my waking and sleeping life, but showers me with an undeserving amount of love and affection, sacrifices his desires in place of mine, and takes care of me in the way every father dreams of for his daughter. Whether he condones the fast or whether he doesn’t observe it with me is completely irrelevant. Because the way he will lovingly feed me a bite of my cheeseburger from In N Out when we first see the moon makes that moment worth a million morsels. n

in the Southern California edition of India Currents for




Happy New Year

ent. Most of the legends and stories I looked up described the tradition and the frills that go along with it; however, it had me questioning the actual purpose of the fast. I then came across another article that described Karva Chauth as seasonally occurring at a time when men were usually off to war for undesignated periods of time. Their wives would fast as a prayer for the husbands’ health and safe return. For some reason, this anecdote struck a chord. I imagined myself in a remote village, stripped of modern day conveniences with my husband gone for months at a time not knowing whether he was dead or alive. Considering I go into hyper-paranoia if I don’t get an “I’m fine” text from him during partying hours, I can’t even fathom being away from him for such a long time, let alone not knowing whether he was ok. Perhaps it’s naïve and hackneyed to assume that wives were so desperate for their husband’s safe return that they contrived a plea exchange to ensure their husband’s safety. For me, it represents a defining act of love. An act to demonstrate the sliver of hope, faith or belief that one’s devotion and sacrifice could be enough to bring back a loved one home safe and sound.

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Dec ‘13—Jan ‘14 | | 29

India Current


2013 Bollywood Music Countdown


usic directors these days are pushing the boundaries of vocal phenomenon with timbre, pitch, frequency, volume, bass, voice and


Phata Poster Nikhla Hero

By Vidya Sridhar rhythm, among others. My yardstick for the 2013 top ten albums is simple: Does the music have emotional appeal? Does it make me want to hit the repeat button? What



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


Ram Leela

Music: Amit Trivedi

Music: Pritam This is an all out fun album, which lives up to all its expectations. Almost all the songs are good. The “Agal Bagal” number is fun and so is “Hey Mr. DJ.” It helps that my youngsters adore it. The album balances out with Rahat’s “Mere Bina.” n


This album opens with “Sawaar Loon” and you fall in love with the Hindustani sounds. The songs aptly suit the historical aspect of the movie and are lovely, lilting numbers. Not for your dance enthusiast, though. The songs remind me of 1942—A Love Story. The music is memorable; the songs are delightful and totally original. n


Gori Tere Pyaar Mein

Music: Monty Sharma, Sanjay Leela Bhansali This audio is reminiscent of Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam and, like its predecessor, is a treat for all music lovers. Sanjay Leela Bhansali turns music composer and this album is a mix of folk and fusion songs. All ten songs are culturally nourishing, there is no room for remixes or pop flavor in this album, but all of the songs deserve to be heard and enjoyed. “Nagada Sang Dhol,” in particular, is my favorite both for the visual and cultural treat it provides. n



Once Upon a Time in Mumbai Dobaara

Music: Vishal Shekhar Music: Salim-Sulaiman, Indian Ocean, Meet Bros Anjjan, Aadesh Shrivastava The album kicks off with a contemporary version of “Raghupati Raghav Raja Ram.” The mood of rebellion is conveyed with the music, but made more memorable with Prasoon Joshi’s lyrics. The album has a classical base to it. “Aiyo Ji” and “Raske Bhare Tore Naina” are the most memorable tracks. n 30 | INDIA CURRENTS | Dec ‘13—Jan ‘14

This Karan Johar production will probably deliver if the music is anything to go by. (The movie hasn’t been released at the time of this writing.) A fun soundtrack with peppy dance numbers and slow romantic ones. The track features 9 songs and the ones that jump out almost literally are “Tooh” and “Chingam Chabake.” The lyrics are clever and amusing. “Naina” is the most beautiful song on the album. It’s lower on my list because it’s up and coming but definitely noteworthy. n

Music: Pritam This movie takes us on a journey through a bygone era and the soundtrack aptly has a retro feel to it. Pritam has paired traditional qawwali numbers with lovely Hindustani music and this sequel delivers. We even have an old favorite “Tayyab Ali” with a new flavor. n




Aashiqui 2

Music: A.R. Rahman A.R. Rahman delivers with Raanjhanaa. The album has multiple tracks that showcase a fusion of Hindustani classical music with western symphony. The title track “Raanjhanaa” carries all the essential Rahman elements, marks a significant beginning, and doesn’t disappoint throughout. Incredibly noteworthy are the tabla, flute and sitar interludes. This is definitely an album for the old school and takes you on a musical journey to Benares. n


Chennai Express

Music: Mithoon, Jeet Ganguly, Ankit Tiwari The sequel to one of the most popular musical albums ever is one of the best soundtracks of this year. This album is a musical treat especially in this age of fairly repetitive tracks. It has beautiful instrumental numbers, romantic ballads and mesmerizing music. Long after you stop dancing to this years dance numbers you will have these songs on your playlist. n


Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani

Music: Vishal Shekhar The music complements the flavor of the movie which is fast paced and full of masti. We start with “One, Two, Three, Four” and you have the marriage of North and South Indian dance music and lyrics, which continue all the way to the very end. The album is replete with heart pounding music and some moments of romance thrown in. Upbeat and catchy is how I would sum it up. The original album does not include “Lungi Dance,” which is featured during the credits and is performed by Honey Singh, but it is definitely worth an honorary mention. n

Music: Pritam The most popular album of the year with chart topping dance numbers and soul searching slow numbers has to be the Karan Johar’s blockbuster Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani. High on energy, it is a totally catchy and fun album, with its share of emotional songs. Both the movie and the album are a completely satisfying Bollywood package. Dharma Productions delivers again. n

Dec ‘13—Jan ‘14 | | 31

FROM LEFT TO RIGHT: NGHIA VUONG, PRIYA POTAPRAGADA, DEREK NUDES, JAYA PADMANABHAN VIJAY RAJVAIDYA, VANDANA KUMAR, RAJ SINGH, MONA SHAH, AND ASIF ISMAIL It has been a privilege to share 2013 with you, our community of readers. Every month we take pride in producing a magazing that circulates new ideas, raises critical questions, and shares diverse perspectives on our envolving diaspora. We are grateful for your contributions and support and welcome your continued feedback in the coming year. Enjoy this special combined issue of India Currents for December 2013 and January 2014. The next India Currents issue will come out on February 1, and the next deadline for placing event listings and advertisements is January 20.

32 | INDIA CURRENTS | Dec ‘13—Jan ‘14

Dec ‘13—Jan ‘14 | | 33


Shape-Shifters, Goons and Love Sublime Best Hindi Movies of 2013


his too had to happen. 2013 witnessed Hindi language releases that went on to become some of the biggest box office hits in India’s history. This not-so-subtle seismic shift in the power of box office validation created a near miraculous alignment of boffo box office big tent events that also received generally positive critical reception.

By Aniruddh Chawda In an ever more increasingly transparent and still-evolving world of how Hindi movie financing works, the newest box office reports carry far more credibility than in the days of yore when some of the biggest movies were financed by gray-market sources and when word of mouth had to be relied on by the bean counters. These are exciting times and here are 1. THE ATTACKS OF 26/11. The power of cinema to contemplate humankind’s inhumanity—warts and all—as it unrolls has seldom been so starkly captured in Hindi movies. Ramgopal Varma’s precise take on the final hours leading to the capture of Ajmal Kasab in the 2008 terrorist attacks on central Mumbai takes on breathtaking urgency from the get-go. Unflinching in its depiction of the horrors that a handful of cross-border killers carried out, Attacks goes as far as fingering complicity by Pakistan’s intelligence services. Taking on a near-documentary façade as the camera makes stops at each successive killing field, this is riveting stuff. Seen through the eyes of a high-ranking Mumbai cop (Nana Patekar) in charge of the initial response to the attacks, Varma filmed at some of the actual venues where the attacks took place (the city’s main train station and the posh café where some of the attacks were staged). We have met the enemy. He is most definitely not us. n

2. YEH JAWAANI HAI DEEWANI. By far the more impressive of Ranbir Kapoors’s two outings this year, (the other being Besharam) Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani (YJHD)solidified Kapoor’s box office creds in the topmost tier. Along with Deepika Padukone who has had an incredible string of six hits in a row (Desi Boyz, Cocktail, Race 2, Chennai Express, Yeh Jawaani Yeh Deewani and Ram Leela), YJHD celebrated all the fun reasons for going to movies—good story-telling (he is a detached TV journalist, she is a mousy med student), great setting (a feast of scenic backdrops from Paris to Kashmir), romance and comedy in the tradition of the grand romantic movies from the 1960s, the last time that romance was let loose with such carefree, musically charged reckoning. And a one, and a two: “Budtameez Dil, Budatameez Dil …” n 34 | INDIA CURRENTS | Dec ‘13—Jan ‘14

some of the reasons to be excited about catching Hindi movies. n Globe trekker, aesthete, photographer, ski bum, film buff, and commentator, Aniruddh Chawda writes from Milwaukee.

3. KAO PO CHE! Abhishek Kapoor’s would be small entry proved to be one of the most talked, best and successful movies of year. Based on yet another Chetan Bhagat best-seller (an earlier Bhagat book resulted in the megahit 3 Idiots), Kao Po Che! moreor-less sticks to Bhagat’s theme of using three bromancing young men. Directly or indirectly tapping on the biggest stories out of the Indian state of Gujarat—everything from the Bhuj earthquake to the rise of Narendra Modi—Kapoor’s movie follows three grown-up wannabe younger men who jointly open a sporting goods store. Kapoor effortlessly intertwines the larger news headlines into the lives of the three BFFs played by Raj Kumar Yadav, Amit Sadh and Sushant Sing Rajput, even though the acting kudos are hijacked single-handedly by Digvijay Deshmukh as a budding cricket protégé whose Muslim family is victimized by sectarian strife. The memorable finished product is a testament to smartly made smaller-budget movies in the tradition of Vicki Donor (2012). n

4. DAVID. Bijoy Nambiar’s highly evocative time-shifting entry disappeared without as much as a ripple. That is a shame. Navigating an unusual story of three central characters by the same titular name from three different time periods, Nambiar successfully juggles three timelines. The three David characters are played by Neil Nitin Mukesh (as a mafia enforcer in London circa 1975), Toronto-born newcomer Vinay Virmani as a Mumbai musician whose family gets caught up in religious bigotry in 1999 and south Indian actor Vikram as a contemporary beach-going Goan silently pining for the mute girlfriend (Isha Sharwani) of his best friend. Supported wonderfully by Tabu as a massage parlor madame and Rohini Hattangadi as a hate-mongering politician, Nambiar proved that the sum of the parts can add up to under-the-radar fireworks. n

5. SPECIAL 26. Setting aside the oddsounding title, Niraj Pandey’s bank-heist thriller transformed a recent headlining news story about a band of crafty robbers who posed as income tax collectors into a firstrate Robin Hood-esque story with thrills galore. Pitted against the hoodwinking robbers who are led by a shrewd mastermind played by Akshay Kumar, is an equally determined anti-corruption squad headed by a clever fiscal gumshoe played by Manoj Bajpayee (who is everywhere these days), Special 26 proved entertaining. The gang’s shenanigans, always threatened by implosion and pseudo-defections (which ones are real and which ones are staged?), take tongue-in-check jabs at India’s seemingly permanent regime of governmentby-red-tape. Even though Kumar’s character outwardly romances a comely neighbor (played by newcomer Kaajal Aggarwal), the real courtship is the battle of egos between

the criminal alpha-male and the determined cop as they attempt to outwit each other. As a perpetual testosterone booster, director Pandey uses brisk pacing and eye-catching camera work to elevate the duel to a grand territorial pissing contest. This is Akshay Kumar’s best movie ever. n

6. KRRISH 3. The convergence of super hero and science fiction themes is a relatively modern phenomenon in Hindi movies. As the third installment of Rakesh Roshan’s man-in-tights franchise after Koi Mil Gaya and Krrish, Krrish 3 proved a surprisingly well-made entry with great action choreography and special effects. Hrithik Roshan’s credible double role playing a scientist father and his city-slicker son Krishna who moonlights as the daredevil Krrish is countered nicely by Vivek Oberoi’s vampire-like Kaal,

the diabolical degenerate who stole scientific secrets from Krishna’s father to half-manufacture/half-recruit a breed of super-powered half-human baddies including Kangana Ranaut’s hard-to-dismiss shape-shifting vixen Kaya. Triangulated in the crosshairs of hyper-marketed pre-release buzz and generally favorable reviews, the Roshans stormed the box office. Within three weeks of a sensational Diwali weekend release, Krrish 3 beat out the previous record holder (and recent release) Chennai Express to nail the crown as India’s all-time box office champion. Let that sink in. Krrish 3. Biggest. Box Office Hit. In India’s history. n

7. LOOTERA. Rising from the cacophony of high-octane action features that ruled at the movies in the summer (Go Goa Gone, Zanjeer, Shootout at Wadala), Lootera was a breath of fresh air. Director Vikramaditya Motwane, who made a sensational debut with the phenom entry Udaan (2010) returned with Lootera, a love-sublime romantic thriller. Based on an O’Henry short story, Motwane seductively draws the viewer into a hook up between the nubile daughter (Sonakshi Sinha) of a feudal land baron and the rogue archeologist (Ranveer Singh) as they teeter-totter on the willthey-won’t-they odyssey from the outback of West Bengal to the snow-covered hills at Dalhousie. A heightened romantic pulse has so rarely been captured this beautifully. Close your eyes and imagine Sinha as a modern day mountain recluse Sharmila Tagore in Daag and Singh as a rugged, stacked, imposter Dev Anand in Hum Dono. n 8. SHUDDH DESI ROMANCE. The Yashraj label has had an impressive string of romantic comedies on their books (Hum Tum, Bunty Aur Babli, Ladies vs. Ricky Bahl and Mere Brother Ki Dulhan). Director Maneesh Sharma stages a loose love triangle involving a bossy lass (Parineeti Chopra), a runaway groom (Sushant Singh Rajput) and his jilted would-bebride (Vaani Kapoor). The gimmick here is the script’s pseudo-realistic sensibility—its 2013, so there might be premarital coupling, women who smoke and performance anxiety at all junctures. Skewing towards a hip urban demographic (something Yashraj does well, instantly forging a generational connection that worked well for them in selling Shahrukh Khan in the 1990s), the subtext is the fear of being single—none of the characters appear to want to be alone even as they clamor for solitude. A techie-created conundrum indeed! n Dec ‘13—Jan ‘14 | | 35

9. SATYAGRAHA. Prakash Jha never met a populist card that he wasn’t tempted to deal immediately. And Satyagraha, a modern day Gandhian hunge-strike and euphemistic salt-marches drama, was fundamentally no different. Hinged on a retired headmaster (forcefully played by Bachchan) emerging from a family tragedy to confront a municipal highway construction scandal, Satyagraha succeeded better at proving the same point that Jha’s earlier Aarakshan had to lift heavier weights for. Jha’s social commentary also benefited by keeping alive a discourse on two hot button socio-political Indian news stories with extraordinary shelf lives— Anna Hazare’s anti-graft hunger strike and the so-called 2G spectrum scandal spiraling outward from the under-selling of extremely lucrative telecom bandwidths to a handful of deepest-pocket buyers, a scandal that Time magazine named as the second greatest abuse of power in modern times, behind only Watergate. Witty, well-written and sentimental without being sappy, Satyagraha stood its ground. n


10. RAM-LEELA. Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s retro-feel modern day Romeo and Juliet set in the hinterlands of Gujarat was hands down the biggest explosion of color on the screen. Bhansali, who directed, co-produced and even leant a hand to the soundtrack, injected incessant sexual references and imagery that suggested sexual violence, especially against the women folk—a woman’s shawl violently pulled off and thrown into a lake and then riddled with bullet holes as a metaphor for rape and near unlimited jokes about guns as euphemistic cod pieces representing proven or unproven virility, to name but a few. Though the elaborate circus of a 500 year-old blood feud between two rural mafia clans pivots from a nearphantasmagoric spread of ethnic threads, make-up and jewelry, the bawdiness of the delivery has the unintended effect of having the leads Ram (a pumped up, scantily loinclothed Ranveer Singh) and Leela (a midriff baring Deepika Padukone) appear more in lust than in love—a distant whimper from what the bard intended. The most memorable acting was Supriya Pathak’s tyrannical matriarch and Leela’s control-freak mother

Fe s t i v a l

New Year’s Day

Jan. 1

Hanuman Jayanti

Guru Govind’s B'day

Jan. 7

Makara Sankranti

Jan. 14

Pongal M.L. King Jr. Day India’s Republic Day

Jan. 26

Saraswati Puja

Feb. 4

Vasanta Panchami

and also Richa Chadda and Barkha Bisht as two young widows victimized by clan warfare. n


inor rant: Because of tight deadlines, some year end 2013 releases could not be considered here, including Yashraj’s Aaamir Khan-Abhishek Bachchan headlining action adventure franchise install Dhoom 3 and Sanjay Tripathy’s middle-age comedy Club 60, featuring Farookh Shaikh and Sarika. EQ for Year 2013: B+ On to 2014. Happy movie going!

Calendar April 15

Gandhi’s B’day

Good Friday

April 18

Navaratri ends

Oct. 3


April 20


Oct. 4

Jan. 15

Mother’s Day

May 11

Idu’l Zuha

Oct. 5

Jan. 20

Buddha Purnima

May 14

Sharad Purnima

Oct. 11

Memorial Day

May 26

Karva Chauth

Oct. 11

Father’s Day

June 15

Dhan Teras

Oct. 21

Feb. 4


June 28


Oct. 23

Presidents Day

Feb. 17

Ratha Yatra

June 29


Oct. 24

Maha Shivaratri

Feb. 28

U.S. Independence Day

July 4

Govardhana Puja

Oct. 24

Ash Wednesday

March 5

Guru Purnima

July 12

Bhai Duj

Oct. 25


March 17

Eid ul Fitr

July 28

Guru Nanak’s B’day

Nov. 6

Now Roz

March 22

Raksha Bandhan

Aug. 10

Guru Teg Bahadur Day

Nov. 24


March 31

Indian Independence

Aug. 15

Thanksgiving Day

Nov. 27

Gudi Padva

March 31

Krishna Janamashtami

Aug. 17

Christmas Day

Dec. 25


April 8

Ganesh Chaturthi

Aug. 29


April 13

Labor Day

Sept. 1

Mahavir Jayanti

April 13


Sept. 7

Tamil New Year

April 14

Navaratri begins

Sept. 25

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36 | INDIA CURRENTS | Dec ‘13—Jan ‘14

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Step Into Our Verandah By Kalpana Mohan

verandah—noun (vuh-ran-duh)—a large, open porch, usually roofed and partly enclosed, as by a railing, often extending across the front and sides of a house; gallery.


he year we moved into our current home was the most difficult year of our lives. We set up our home at a time of deep uncertainty. Two close family members were battling a terminal illness. Our happiness at finding a place that met most of our requirements was marred by the sadness of our imminent loss. Our children were unhappy at deserting the only home they had known since birth. The stone floor in the new home didn’t have the bounce or the warmth of the wood in the old home. My husband complained about the two-car garage because “it wasn’t bigger than a loin cloth.” He informed every first-time visitor about the absence of a walk-in closet in the master bedroom of a home that had cost him his lifetime savings. I whined about how we now needed a bouncer to open and shut our massive Sub-zero fridge. Furthermore, the living room in our new home was so tiny that on first sight it was not obvious what in the world it was. Was it an anteroom at the doctor’s office or the beauty salon? Was it a coat closet? Or a newspaper reading room? Or a waiting room at an Amtrak station? Still, everyone who trooped in said, at least out of politeness, that the living room was a cozy and happy place. A warm place it was. It still is. The day I drove up to see the house, it was early March. Our white cherry blossom splashed the sky. The house lay in the center of a wide front yard with a circular driveway. It seemed to speak to me. Its broad porch was, in truth, a little verandah on which we could place a love bench and another chair if we ever wanted to. It whispered to me about a sprawling verandah of another time that now lived on only in memory and in photographs. The word verandah originated in the Sanskrit word varanda that meant portico or colonnade. It seems to have existed, independently, however, in Portuguese and in Spanish (vara, in Spanish, means rod or rail). A third meaning, the literal meaning, is “coming forward” and it is attributed to the Persian “baramada.” A verandah is a roofed open gallery or portico attached to the exterior of a building. In the India of the sixties, every bungalow opened into a verandah with a bench; its most prominent cultural significance was in the way it connected the house to nature and its surroundings. In my parents’ bungalow, the verandah was a glorious, welcoming space. When my father led me to a planetarium years later, I was not impressed. It was never that much different from standing in the middle of our verandah at night, right after dinner, when all of us, my father, my mother, my grandparents, my sister and I relaxed with all the lights off inside the house. In the dark warm night, cooled by the zephyr from the Bay of Bengal, I would step down from the verandah onto the courtyard, hold out my arms and look up at the infinite awning. I would pirouette until the sky swam rapidly over my head and I fell down. The skies glittered and sparkled with possibility. In the dark, conversation seemed to assume color. Our verandah was privy to secrets, gossip and laughter. It played sentinel to the foolishness, the romance and the eternal hope of our immediate and extended families in a life defeated on and off by disappointment. Cousins, aunts and uncles crossed our verandah and entered our home for countless things: to secure a job, to find a mate, 38 | INDIA CURRENTS | Dec ‘13—Jan ‘14

A Creative Commons Image

Origin: 1705–15; < Hindi baranda, baramda < Persian bar amada coming out < Portuguese varanda, Spanish baranda railing, balustrade

to buy a trousseau, to get treatment for an ailment or, simply, to chill. Some, like my father’s mother, came there to die. On long summer days my favorite spot was our mosaic bench on the verandah—it was eight feet long, two feet wide and about four inches thick in pink with white spots. I sat on it, leaning my head against the massive concrete pillar painted in red oxide, the design of an engineer who lived on North Usman Road. In 2004, the white colonnade of the home I saw took me back to the red oxide pillar of my memory. In the second I saw the home from my car, I wished to buy it. I prayed that my husband too would buy into the idea of living in it. When we finally moved in I had almost given up hope; my husband would not compromise on his expectations for over five years. If he were to spend the money, curb appeal was important. He wanted a home that people could look at from the road and walk into just as easily. He wanted nothing up in the hills—not that we had the money to afford one in the hills—and would consider nothing that would be a trek for us or for our visitors. His long list of other specifications frustrated me. It made realtors sigh and sweat. The first realtor stopped calling us after a few outings. Another realtor took us on. When we purchased the property one year later, she said she counted my husband among her critical conquests. Even though Carol had been in business for decades he had been her toughest customer—“a demanding client and a real tightwad but lovable all the same,” she said with a tight hug after we closed the deal. Our bungalow here in California faces a southerly direction, just like the one of my memories. It was built in 1963, right about the time I began running up and down the verandah of our old bungalow built in 1961. In a town not lit by streetlights, the same skies shimmer over another verandah in another time and another space sending the same message our way: it takes love, warmth, laughter and hope, infinite amounts of it, to make a home. n Kalpana Mohan writes from Saratoga. To read more about her, go to and


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The Stagnant Traveler A reflection on the time and space between losses and gains By R. Benedito Ferrão


whole year would go by before I could visit her grave. It was my first trip back to Goa. Twenty years on, and it is still one of my two biggest regrets of moving to the United States: I could not be there for my grandmother in her final days. Now, two decades later, I have the opportunity to make up for the second misgiving. My parents named my sister after my grandmother Inacia. When my sibling had her daughter, she named her after Adeline, my brother-in-law’s grandmother. Inacia had passed away on my parents’ wedding anniversary and Adeline on my birthday. A metaphor for life, then, that jubilation is not without counterpart. Though those two matriarchs never met, they may as well have been kindred spirits for their fierce independence and straightforwardness, qualities I already see in my niece. Having not had the chance to grow up with my sister, on this the longest sojourn in my ancestral homeland, perhaps it is not too late to mitigate that shortcoming by being in the life of her daughter, the latest addition to our family. The trouble with being a transnational is not simply the impossibility of existing in multiple places at the same time, but coming to terms with knowing that life and death happen even when one is not “there,” wherever there might be. Yes, there was every joy to be had, this year, in watching my niece take her first steps, utter her first words and, finally, say my name. But on the other side of the planet, in my other life in America, Andy, a close friend, was to succumb to a hit-and-run accident. I had to mourn from afar, again. Only, this time, the geography was the other way around, and I wondered, again, if my presence might have changed something, anything. Around the same time, my godmother came to the end of her life. I was in Goa when she breathed her last, and I wondered —if I had the choice—if I would have chosen to be elsewhere. But how would that change the grief I felt? It was becoming only too clear, that while I had lost loved ones before, I was at that point in my life where the space between those losses might only get smaller. A neighbor, whose father had died not too long ago, asked about my mother who 42 | INDIA CURRENTS | Dec ‘13—Jan ‘14

It was becoming only too clear, that while I had lost loved ones before, I was at that point in my life where the space between those losses might only get smaller. was being treated for a recurrent illness. It was how I had found out that my godmother had taken a turn for the worse—both women had been referred to the same hospital. While my mother was being attended to by the doctor, I went up to see my godmother. She had been sedated, and the family kept vigil outside the intensive care unit. The priest had already administered extreme unction. I tried not to dwell on the future and what it might hold, nor did I want to think about how this scene may be one I might bear witness to again. Outside, the monsoons pelted rooftops and turned the streets the characteristic red of Goa’s laterite soil. I recalled how my godmother would come to see me at my grandmother’s house where my family used to stay during trips from Kuwait where my sister and I were born. The last email I wrote Andy was to tell him about my godmother and to share my niece’s latest exploits—he had gotten to meet her on what was his only trip to India earlier this year. It was only after that I realized he never got to read my message. I tried not to be angered by my neighbor’s question, which came from a place of concern and memories of the parent she had lost: “Your mother ... Are you looking after her well?” Instead, I recalled with shame what I had said to my uncle nearly twenty years before. It was right before I left for America. I could not have known that it would be the last time I would see my grandmother when I said to my father’s brother: “Take good care of her!” My uncle, a patient man, simply replied, “Do I not?” I could not return to Goa when my grandmother died. It had only been a few

months since I moved to America and did not have the means. I was saddened, too, to be absent at my niece’s birth. Instead, that November two years ago, I was doing battle with graduate school in London while desperately missing my family in Goa, as well as the relative warmth of the California autumn. I shared news of the newborn with my flatmate, a fellow student of Nigerian and Ghanaian origins. She promptly responded, “Another ogbanje!” Our friendship had been firmly cemented when at a conference to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the publication of Things Fall Apart, we both remarked upon the phenomenon of changelings in Chinua Achebe’s novel. The ogbanje of Yoruba and other Nigerian traditions are children destined to die and be reborn in the same family; often considered malevolent, we decided that Achebe had incorporated these babies that traverse spiritual and physical terrains as a postcolonial metaphor. Ogbanje might symbolize the past reincarnated, but also remade in the present—always evolving, but never certain. Achebe’s death this year reminded my friend and me of how we related his use of ogbanje to our own understanding of otherness in the lands we called home—of being transnationals. Ogbanje became our code word to refer to those we identified as having had similar trajectories to ours: fellow travelers trying to make a home in several places, but never really at home in any one place. That my friend should classify my niece as an ogbanje seemed apt, named as the little one is for her great-grandmother, born to my sister named for our grandmother. Those names that have traveled through generations allow nostalgia to live on, even as new memories are made and baby steps are taken. Despite the impossibility, I will always regret not being there for those moments in life—both of loss and gain—that happen elsewhere. But what will carry me is knowing that the stagnancy of memory is life’s deepest well, even when life happens in many places at the same time. n R. Benedito Ferrão writes from Goa. Find his blog at, or on Facebook at The Nightchild Nexus.

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Dec ‘13—Jan ‘14 | | 43

Posing with

To mark the season of festivities, we wanted to put a something fun and playful. So, we invited you, our readers Hope you enjoy this selection

Reader Shashi Murthy with President Bill Clinton

Advertiser Bomi Patel in his douglee and feta...seen here with HRH Prince Philip

Community activist Deepka Lalwani and Anima Desai with actress Shabana Azmi at a Indian Business & Professional Women event 44 | INDIA CURRENTS | Dec ‘13—Jan ‘14

Letter addressed to reader Indira Patel by Amitabh Bachchan

h Celebrities

different spin on what we could do for this year-end issue; and advertisers, to submit your pictures with celebrities. as much as we did.

Events Editor Mona Shah with tabla maestro Zakir Hussain and his wife Antonia Minnecola

Reporter Deepak Chitnis with actor Aamir Khan

Marketing Associate Raj Singh and his friend Gary Genest with former Warriors basketball player Baron Davis

Reader Atul Shah with singer Shaan

Reader Heena Mehta with founder and chairperson of the Dhirubhai Ambani International School Nita Dec ‘13—Jan ‘14 | Ambani | 45

Reader Suman Gill and her kids Annika and Ryan with singer Suzanne Vega

Cultural organizer Kala Iyer with singer Vijay Prakash

Reader Satish Kamath with the “googly” legend cricketer, B.S. Chandrashekhar

46 | INDIA CURRENTS | Dec ‘13—Jan ‘14

Reader Shruti Kamath with Kiran Bedi, India’s first and highest (woman) ranking officer in the IPS

Reader Shilpi Verma with Saswati Sen and kathak legend Pandit Birju Maharaj

Reader Roopa Mohan at a speech competion with Sunil Gavaskar

Dancer Vidhya Subramanian with former Indian Ambassador to the United States, Nirupama Rao

Reader Sunita Verma with singer Shreya Ghosal

Advertiser Yogi Ramesh with actor Adam Sandler

Reader Teena Arora with Food Network star Guy Fieri Dec ‘13—Jan ‘14 | | 47

48 | INDIA CURRENTS | Dec ‘13—Jan ‘14


California’s Best Guide to Indian Events Edited by: Mona Shah List your event for FREE! FEB. issue deadline: Monday, January 20 To list your event in the Calendar, go to and fill out the Web form

Check us out on

special dates Christmas Day

New Year’s Day Guru Govind’s B’day Makara Sankranti

Jan. 1 Jan. 7


Jan. 14 Jan. 15

M.L. King Jr. Day

Jan. 20

India’s Republic Day

Jan. 26

Sarasvati Puja Vasanta Panchami

Dec. 25

Feb. 4 Feb. 4


7 Saturday

Bollywood Nights—Candyland Theme Party. Sounds by DJ Nitro, DJ

Laxmi Shankar performs at a memorial concert, January 25

Foundation, LA Chapter. Ends De. 8. 7:30 a.m. Rancho Santa Susana Community Center and Park, 5005 E Los Angeles Ave, Simi Valley. 866-SANKARA. .


31 Tuesday

Desi Dhamaal 4—New Year 2014.

Sonny Mac and DJ Danda. Cotton candy, go-go dancers and roaming photographers. Organized by Radio Phive Events. 10 p.m. Ultrasuede Hollywood, 661 N Robertson Blvd, West Hollywood. $15.

Dinner and dance, with a live music and DJ fusion. Organized by Kaaravan. 6 p.m. Crowne Plaza, 12021 Harbor Blvd., Garden Grove. Regular $75, VIP $80. (951) 2173604.

Roshni Cricket 2013. Tennis ball cricket


tournament. Organized ny Sankara Eye


25 Saturday

Pushpanjali—A Memorial Concert.

Lakshmi Shankar comes out of retirement to sing in honor of The Music Circle founders. Aishu Venkataraman appears by special request. Anjani Ambegaokar and Amrapali Ambegaokar pay tribute to Ravi Shankar and Harihar Rao with a short invocation to Ganesh and reminiscences about the founders. Organized by The Music Circle. 6 p.m. Herrick Chapel, Occidental College, 1600 Campus Road., Los Angeles. Free, reservations required. (626) 449-6987. www.musiccircle. org.

© Copyright 2013 India Currents. All rights reserved. Reproduction for commercial use strictly prohibited.  Dec ‘13—Jan ‘14 | | 49


The Everyday Yogi One man’s journey to find himself through yoga By Cesar Flores


elevision was my first yoga instructor. I remember watching shows, and doing the same yoga practice for a year every night, thinking to myself, “I got a good downward facing dog now! my flexibility is great! I need a different video.” I thought that yoga was all about flexibility and strengthening of the body. All I knew was that I felt good and that the woman teaching the class through the video made me feel good for that precious half hour that I put into it. But then I saw myself wanting more—more videos, more classes and more instruction. Seeking a broader understanding of the practice, I started looking into local yoga studios. Not being the richest of people, I was forced to take advantage of promotional deals, which ranged from a free session to a whole week of practice before I had to pay. I couldn’t afford the 150 dollars a month for a membership. But I was dedicated. At first it was great, getting different techniques from all sorts of different teachers who told me how I should and should not move, what the correct posture was for a certain asana (move or pose.) But there are only so many yoga studios in the South Bay. I was forced to make a choice. Either start paying for a yoga class or purchase videos and do them at home. Either way I had to spend some money, money I didn’t have. Getting paid, to me, meant getting a step closer to pay off rent, transportation and food for the next two weeks. Paying such a high monthly fee for yoga was almost enough for me to quit the practice all together. Yoga felt like a luxury I couldn’t afford. My economic solution compelled me to start studying books on the art, reading as much as I could on the practice. I learned about the origination and its changes through time; whole dimensions and depths on yoga that I had not received from videos or classes. It’s a

50 | INDIA CURRENTS | Dec ‘13—Jan ‘14

beautiful practice, showing different ways to focus the breath so as to awaken energies within the body, and using movements to bring illumination to different parts of the body. I started seeing that yoga is an expression of the individual to wake up his or her inner self. Learning ways to dance and ride the wave of life instead of constantly fighting your way through. Yoga was not a stretch pose; it was a way of being one with the world. Looking at the origins of the word Yoga in religious texts, there were no actual moves written down for people to follow. It just started as the connection of the mind with the divine, eternity, god, the universe, or any other words to define a person’s particular inner self. These days, I often get family and friends asking me to run them through a yoga practice. I am ecstatic when they ask me because it gives me a chance to show what I have learned and am still learning everyday. I often tell them that yoga classes are not just a teacher student type of dynamic. It is more like a dance between two peers learning from

each other. They tell me their weaknesses, strengths, stresses and problems in life. I just cater to them, being a support system for their progression. And they also help me. There’s been many times that a student, due to inherited flexibility or strength does a lot better at a move that I taught than I could do myself. They illustrate techniques in a more understandable way. I feel that the real yoga is the time we spend together; it’s like going out and getting a cup of coffee or going to the beach with a friend. It’s a shared experience. I learn the body capabilities of the person, as they tell me how they move, and I give them my comparison. It’s a beautiful practice, a practice that I now take to the real world, doing yoga the exercise when I can, but having yoga within me at all times. When I think of someone doing a downward facing dog, doing all these elaborate tricks with their body, I see them as beautiful, but I don’t think they catch the essence of yoga any more than my quest for the answers of life through different means—taking a walk in the hills, or sitting still with

my breath. Taking one’s body through all of these loops, craving and wanting more “yoga,” I see it turning into a monster. I read people saying in magazines, “If I don’t do yoga at least three times a week, I don’t feel complete.” It’s funny to me because it makes the one thing that the practice was made for, to feel complete and at one, is the same thing that has you feeling incomplete when it not present. This may sound a bit silly, but when I think of yoga, I think of my dog, Chico. He watches me go to and from work, rushing, reading, watching tv, being sad, being happy, eating, being angry and all sorts of other activities I do in my quest for life, hardly taking time to sit down and enjoy the moment, or at least acknowledging that every moment counts. You hear so many stories of people looking back on their death beds telling their family and friends to enjoy every moment, because once that moment is gone, it leaves forever. The practice of yoga is the same way, we keep heading for that perfection, that perfect pose, that next practice, not seeing that the concentration, time, and love you put into the pose is what matters. Above all the gurus, ancient texts, philosophers, psychiatrists and practitioners that I have gone to or looked up for answers on yoga, I feel as if Chico is the sage in my life. It does not matter if he does not speak, just his look tells me all I need to know. That we do all these things, stress ourselves out, put ourself to balls, twist, run, jump, practice yoga, not knowing that there is no need to do any of this, that shavasana (final resting pose) is there from the beginning, all of the actions done to get you there are just to get you to see it. See that life just is, life is yoga.n

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Cesar Flores is a writer and videographer with Silicon Valley De-Bug. He is also a lead organizer with Albert Cobarrubias Justice Project.

Share your health stories with India Currents readers! We are accepting original submissions that focus on health and wellness. Send your 600-800-word essay on disease prevention, exercise, ayurvedic cooking, or any other health-related topic to Mona Shah at

Dec ‘13—Jan ‘14 | | 51



1 Sunday

The True Nature of the Soul. Sunday

Service. Lake Shrine Temple and Retreat, 17190 Sunset Blvd., Pacific Palisades. (310) 454-4114. Hollywood Temple, 4860 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood. (323) 661-8006. Glendale Temple, 2146 East Chevy Chase Drive, Glendale. (818) 543-0800. Fullerton Temple, 142 East Chapman Ave., Fullerton. (714) 5251291. Encinitas Temple, 939 Second Street, Encinitas. (760) 436-7220. San Diego Temple, 3072 First Avenue, San Diego. (619) 2950170. Call temples for times. Organized by Self Realization Fellowship.


3 Tuesday

Yoga For Inner Fitness with Yogi Ramesh. Ends Dec. 23. Organized by Univer-

sal Yoga. Downey Senior Center, 7810 Quill Drive., Downey. (562) 904-7223. Http://


8 Sunday

Recieving God’s Answers to Your Prayers. Sunday Service. Lake Shrine

Temple and Retreat, 17190 Sunset Blvd., Pacific Palisades. (310) 454-4114. Hollywood Temple, 4860 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood. (323) 661-8006. Glendale Temple, 2146 East Chevy Chase Drive, Glendale. (818) 543-0800. Fullerton Temple, 142 East Chapman Ave., Fullerton. (714) 525-1291. Encinitas Temple, 939 Second Street, Encinitas. (760) 436-7220. San Diego Temple, 3072 First Avenue, San Diego. (619) 295-0170. Call temples for times. Organized by Self Realization Fellowship. www.


15 Sunday

Yoga: Personal Experience of God.

Sunday Service. Lake Shrine Temple and Retreat, 17190 Sunset Blvd., Pacific Palisades. (310) 454-4114. Hollywood Temple, 4860 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood. (323) 661-8006. Glendale Temple, 2146 East Chevy Chase Drive, Glendale. (818) 543-0800. Fullerton Temple, 142 East Chapman Ave., Fullerton. (714) 525-1291. Encinitas Temple, 939 Second Street, Encinitas. (760) 436-7220. San Diego Temple, 3072 First Avenue, San Diego. (619) 295-0170. Call temples for times. Organized by Self Realization Fellowship. 52 | INDIA CURRENTS | Dec ‘13—Jan ‘14


22 Sunday

Attunment with the Christ Consciousness. Sunday Service. Lake Shrine

Temple and Retreat, 17190 Sunset Blvd., Pacific Palisades. (310) 454-4114. Hollywood Temple, 4860 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood. (323) 661-8006. Glendale Temple, 2146 East Chevy Chase Drive, Glendale. (818) 543-0800. Fullerton Temple, 142 East Chapman Ave., Fullerton. (714) 525-1291. Encinitas Temple, 939 Second Street, Encinitas. (760) 436-7220. San Diego Temple, 3072 First Avenue, San Diego. (619) 295-0170. Call temples for times. Organized by Self Realization Fellowship. www.


29 Sunday

The Purpose of Life. Sunday Service. Lake Shrine Temple and Retreat, 17190 Sunset Blvd., Pacific Palisades. (310) 454-4114. Hollywood Temple, 4860 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood. (323) 661-8006. Glendale Temple, 2146 East Chevy Chase Drive, Glendale. (818) 543-0800. Fullerton Temple, 142 East Chapman Ave., Fullerton. (714) 525-1291. Encinitas Temple, 939 Second Street, Encinitas. (760) 436-7220. San Diego Temple, 3072 First Avenue, San Diego. (619) 295-0170. Call temples for times. Organized by Self Realization Fellowship. www.


4 Saturday

Laughter Therapy for Inner Fitness.

Every Saturday with Yogi Ramesh. Ends Jan. 25. Organized by Laughing Yogi Ramesh. 10-11 a.m. Cantera House, 501N Cantera Circle, Palm Springs. $10. (562) 716-9367.


5 Sunday

The Grace and Guidance of a true Guru. Sunday Service. Lake Shrine Temple

and Retreat, 17190 Sunset Blvd., Pacific Palisades. (310) 454-4114. Hollywood Temple, 4860 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood. (323) 6618006. Glendale Temple, 2146 East Chevy Chase Drive, Glendale. (818) 543-0800. Fullerton Temple, 142 East Chapman Ave., Fullerton. (714) 525-1291. Encinitas Temple, 939 Second Street, Encinitas. (760) 436-7220. San Diego Temple, 3072 First Avenue, San Diego. (619) 295-0170. Call temples for times. Organized by Self Realization Fellowship. www.yogananda-srf. org.


11 Saturday

Yoga Science Therapy for Disease Prevention. With Yogi Ramesh. Ends

Jan. 25. Organized by Universal Yoga/ Laughing Yoga. 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Cantera House, 501N Cantera Circle, Palm Springs. $100. (562) 716-9367. Http://


12 Sunday

Rediscovering Your Higher Self. Sunday Service. Lake Shrine Temple and Retreat, 17190 Sunset Blvd., Pacific Palisades. (310) 454-4114. Hollywood Temple, 4860 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood. (323) 661-8006. Glendale Temple, 2146 East Chevy Chase Drive, Glendale. (818) 543-0800. Fullerton Temple, 142 East Chapman Ave., Fullerton. (714) 5251291. Encinitas Temple, 939 Second Street, Encinitas. (760) 436-7220. San Diego Temple, 3072 First Avenue, San Diego. (619) 2950170. Call temples for times. Organized by Self Realization Fellowship.


15 Wednesday

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Senior Center, 7810 Quill Drive, Downey . Adults $55, seniors $45 (per month). (562) 716-9367. Http://www.


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Meditation: the Science of Contacting God. Sunday Service. Lake Shrine

Temple and Retreat, 17190 Sunset Blvd., Pacific Palisades. (310) 454-4114. Hollywood Temple, 4860 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood. (323) 661-8006. Glendale Temple, 2146 East Chevy Chase Drive, Glendale. (818) 543-0800. Fullerton Temple, 142 East Chapman Ave., Fullerton. (714) 525-1291. Encinitas Temple, 939 Second Street, Encinitas. (760) 436-7220. San Diego Temple, 3072 First Avenue, San Diego. (619) 295-0170. Call temples for times. Organized by Self Realization Fellowship. www.

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healthy life

Morning Routine How to take care of yourself every day By Ashok Jethanandani


ust as a city dweller looks after his city; just as a charioteer maintains his chariot; so too should a wise man be vigilant in the care of his own body. Thus, Guru Punarvasu Atreya sums up the importance of a healthy daily regimen in Charaka Samhita, a 3,000-year-old treatise on Ayurveda. Lifestyles have changed considerably in the last three millennia. So a daily regimen recommended in Ayurvedic literature may seem dated now. On the other hand, it may serve as a reminder of what we have lost over time and may want to reclaim to take better care of ourselves. With that in mind, an abridged version of the Ayurvedic morning regimen is presented below.

Waking Up

A healthy person should wake up at Brahma muhurta, or at the crack of dawn. At this early peaceful hour the body and mind are well rested and refreshed. Also, waking up early gives one time to perform the morning rituals and get ready for the day.

Self Checkup

Do a quick checkup of yourself. Examine your face in the mirror. Ask yourself, “Do I feel well rested?” If you have had adequate sleep you would have woken up spontaneously without an alarm feeling refreshed. “Was the last meal well digested?” If not, you need some more sleep.

Evacuating Waste Matter

Now sit at the toilet to pass urine, flatus, and feces. Timely evacuation of waste matter alleviates constipation, abdominal distension, and a feeling of heaviness; and ultimately increases longevity. But remember that each individual has a different constitution and different bowel action. So if the urge to evacuate is not there,

54 | INDIA CURRENTS | Dec ‘13—Jan ‘14

n;g;rI n;g;rsy;ev; rq;sy;ev; rq;I y;q;; = sv;x;rIrsy; m;eQ;;v;I k&:ty;e{v;v;iht;;e B;v;et;< == Charaka Samhita (Sutrasthana, 5:103) Just as a city dweller looks after his city; just as a charioteer maintains his chariot; so too should a wise man be vigilant in the care of his own body.

don’t sit at the toilet for too long, and don’t try to force it. A healthy and regular diet and lifestyle will help you achieve a regular bowel routine.

Brushing Teeth

Twigs of trees like neem, karanja, and khadira, which are bitter, pungent, and astringent in taste are recommended in ayurveda for brushing teeth. Not only do they cleanse the mouth, they also remove any bad taste or odor, and balance the doshas. In modern times soft toothbrushes are available which are convenient for brushing teeth and gently massaging the gums, so we have stopped using twigs. Use toothpaste or toothpowder made from bitter, pungent, or astringent plants for better oral hygiene.

Cleaning the Tongue

Using a metal tongue cleaner (made of silver, copper, or stainless steel, and without any sharp edge that may cut the tongue) scrape the top surface of the tongue clean. This removes any deposit on the tongue, improves oral hygiene, eliminates bad breath, enhances relish for food, and gives a sense of lightness of body.


Two types of gargling are described in ayurveda—gandusha and kavala. Gandusha is filling the mouth fully with a liquid and holding it. In kavala the mouth is filled only partially so that the liquid can be swished around. Do one of these gargles until the eyes start watering and the nose starts running. Phlegm or excess mucus may flow into the mouth. Then spit it out and take a fresh dose. Repeat a few times until the mouth feels light and clean. Gargling like this can be done with warm water daily.

Washing the Face

Splash cool water on your face. This prevents pitta disorders like nose bleeds, discoloration of skin, and boils, and improves vision. Or use lukewarm water to balance kapha and vata.

Drinking Water

Drinking water first thing in the morning has many benefits. It balances all the three doshas—vata, pitta, and kapha; and improves the digestive agni too. Warm water is particularly helpful for the throat, runny nose, cough, bodyache, and constipation; and for flushing the urinary tract.

Oil Massage

Next, apply warm oil on the skin and

massage gently along the direction of body hair. Massage the whole body, giving particular attention to the scalp, ears, and feet. This is called abhyanga. You may use sesame oil, or a medicated oil (mahanarayan taila, dhanvantara taila). Done regularly, abhyanga calms vata dosha, slows aging, and removes fatigue. It brings clarity of vision, good sleep and longevity. It nourishes the skin, makes it supple and reduces wrinkles. Abhyanga should not be done if there is indigestion, fever, increased kapha dosha or fat.


Those who have excess of kapha dosha or fat will benefit from a different body rub called udvartana. Take coarse dry powder of triphala, barley, or chickpea. Warm it to slightly more than body temperature. If your skin is dry, you may add some mustard oil or sesame oil. Now, rub the mixture on your skin on the arms, legs, and trunk against the direction of body hair for 15 minutes.


Regular exercise is most important to maintain good health. Follow a routine that you enjoy. Walking is one of the best exercises. Yoga asana and pranayama strengthen both body and mind and prepare one for spiritual pursuits. You may choose to play your favorite sport, or do weights, swimming, jogging, martial arts, tai chi, or dance. When you exercise, pay attention to yourself—feel the muscles working, the flexibility of joints, your breath going in and out, the body warming up, and beads of sweat forming on your forehead. You may observe a feeling of exhilaration due to a rush of endorphins as you exert yourself. Exercise has many benefits. It tones the muscles, builds strength, improves agni, reduces fat, gives a feeling of lightness of body, and enhances one’s ability to undertake difficult tasks. How much should you exercise? Up to half of your endurance, according to ayurveda. Who should not exercise? If you are suffering from a vata or pitta ailment, you should avoid exercise. Don’t exercise for a couple of hours after a meal or if you have indigestion. Children and the elderly should not do heavy exercise.


After exercising, wait to cool down before taking a shower with warm water. Then rub yourself dry with a towel. This removes dirt, sweat, itching, fatigue, thirst, and any burning sensation. After a shower the digestive agni becomes stronger. A shower also enhances libido, strength, and longevity.

Clothes, Perfume, Ornaments, Gems

Apply naturally fragrant body lotion, or fragrance-free products. Similarly, applying a natural perfume (sandalwood, henna, khas) dispels odors, and promotes self-confidence and libido. Ornaments of precious metals, particularly gold, are auspicious. They may be studded with gems selected to counter the ill effects of planets.

Personal Grooming

Keep your nails clipped, and facial and body hair trimmed. Now you are ready for your morning meal. Diet is another important topic that we will discuss in detail later.

Try it Yourself

The ayurvedic morning regimen detailed above probably includes practices that you perform already. Yet, some may be unfamiliar to you. Choose one new practice that intrigues you most and try it out. Do it daily for three weeks. If you feel any adverse effect, it may not be suitable for you, and you should stop. Observe any changes in how you feel physically, mentally, and emotionally. Some changes may be subtle, but you may be surprised by the sense of wellbeing they bring to your life. Make the timeless wisdom of ayurveda work for you.n Ashok Jethanandani, B.A.M.S., and Silvia Müller, B.A.M.S., were classmates at the Gujarat Ayurved University, Jamnagar. The concepts presented here are based on classical ayurveda texts. Illustrations are original works by Silvia Müller. Dr. Jethanandani practices ayurveda in San Jose, Calif.

Share your health stories with India Currents readers! We are accepting original submissions that focus on health and wellness. Send your 600-800-word essay on disease prevention, exercise, ayurvedic cooking, or any other health-related topic to Mona Shah at

Dec ‘13—Jan ‘14 | | 55


Savor the Flavor By Praba Iyer, Shanta Nimbark Sacharoff

Favorite holiday recipes—the warm taste of home and hearth

Samosa Pie with Goji Berry Chutney


e all know that deep fried foods are not healthy foods, and we all love samosas. I created this savory Samosa Pie as a healthy option to traditional fried samosas. Serve Samosa Pie as an entree for lunch or supper or as an appetizer after cutting into thin slices with your favorite chutney. Try my new invention: Goji Berry Chutney.

the flour and salt in a large bowl. Use a pastry cutter to cut the butter into the flour until the mixture has the consistency of corn meal. Add the water, a tablespoon at a time, mixing it in with a fork until the mixture begins to hold together. Gather the dough into a ball. Do not overwork the dough. Divide the dough into two balls, wrap Samosa Pie

Samosa Pie

Ingredients for the crust: 2½ cups unbleached white flour 8 tbsp (1 stick) butter, or vegan “buttery” alternative, chilled and cut into pea-size pieces ½ tsp salt 4 tbsp chilled water For the filling: 3 tbsp vegetable oil 3 tbsp finely chopped green or yellow onion 4 cups potatoes, peeled and cut into ½ inch cubes 1 cup grated carrots ¾ cup shelled peas, fresh or frozen and thawed ¼ teaspoon each cumin, turmeric, and coriander powders 1 tsp garam masala or a mixture of ¼ tsp each ground cinnamon, cloves, and cardamom 3 tbsp cilantro, freshly chopped ½ cup water juice of one lemon salt and cayenne powder to taste Method You can use your favorite pie crust recipe or follow one of the following two methods. i) Using a food processor, combine all the ingredients for the crust except for the water. Pulse for a few minutes until the butter is integrated into the flour. Add the water, a little at a time, just until the dough starts to form a solid mass. ii) To make the dough by hand, combine 56 | INDIA CURRENTS | Dec ‘13—Jan ‘14

them in a plastic or wax paper and refrigerate for 30 minutes while preparing the filling. To prepare the filling Heat the oil in a frying pan and sauté the onions until limp. Add the vegetables and spices. Sauté for several minutes. Add the water and lemon juice, cover, and cook until the potatoes are just soft. Do not overcook. If too much liquid remains, stir fry the mixture uncovered for a few minutes to dry it. Add salt and cayenne to taste. Set aside. When the dough has chilled, place one of the two pieces on a piece of waxed paper and flatten it a bit. Cover with another sheet of waxed paper and roll it out into a 10-inch circle. Repeat with the other piece. Place the crusts, waxed paper and all, into the freezer for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Remove the pie crusts from the freezer and let them thaw for a few minutes. Remove the waxed paper and spread one crust into an oiled pie plate. Prebake this crust for 15 minutes, until it starts to change color. Remove it from the oven and fill with the vegetable

mixture. If the mixture looks dry, sprinkle the surface with a few drops of water. Cover the filling with the second crust, pinching the edges to seal. Prick the top crust all over the surface with a fork, brush with oil, and bake for about an hour until the pie is golden brown. Serve with a chutney.

Goji Berry Chutney

Goji berries are native to China, where they are traditionally used as a tonic to reduce agerelated vision problems, inflammation, diabetes and high blood pressure. The nutritional profile of these berries is extremely impressive, with a good amount of antioxidants. Goji berries that have been dehydrated in the sun or at a very low temperature are often found in the “raw food” section of health food stores. Their mostly sour, slightly sweet flavor makes them a good ingredient for condiments. 1 cup dried goji berries ½ cup hot water 3 tbsp sweetener: honey, sugar, agave syrup or maple syrup l tbsp freshly grated ginger 1/8 tsp each ground cardamom, cinnamon, and cayenne Soak the berries in the hot water for 30 minutes. Place them with the water and the rest of the ingredients into the jar of a blender or food processor. Blend to a fine puree. Let the chutney sit, covered, for at least 15 minutes before opening. Transfer to a glass jar with a tight lid and chill before serving. This chutney will keep well in the refrigerator for at least a month. n Shanta Nimbark Sacharoff, author of Flavors of India: Vegetarian Indian Cuisine, lives in San Francisco, where she is manager and coowner of Other Avenues, a health-food store.

Ribbon Pakoda

Ingredients 2 cups rice flour 1 cup chickpea flour ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper ¼ teaspoon asafoetida salt to taste 2 tablespoons butter ½ - ¾ cup water oil to fry a murukku/chakli press with a two slit plate* Method Place the rice flour on a sieve and sift it

into a microwaveable glass bowl and heat it in a microwave oven for two minutes. Remove and sift the chickpea flour into the same bowl. Add the cayenne pepper, asafoetida and salt. Grate the butter into the

Ribbon Pakoda Press


still remember the long strands of crispy delight that we would munch while watching cricket test matches on TV in Chennai. When my mom moved to California, she taught me her recipe, which is still the favorite in my home. It has been a nonstop crowd pleaser, from my son’s friends in the neighborhood, to our own friends every Diwali. A bowl filled with mom’s ribbon pakoda (or pokkodam as she would say) with a hot cup of ginger chai is my all time simple pleasure.

Ribbon Pakoda

Delightfully Crisp flour mixture and using your fingers mix it into the flour to make a crumbly texture. Slowly add water little by little to make a soft dough. Check seasoning. Heat oil in a wok to about 350 degrees or check by placing a wooden ladle in the center. If there are bubbles forming around the ladle the oil is hot and ready for frying. Keep a pan lined with paper napkins to drain the oil from the fried pokkodams. Make sure that the murukku press has a two-slit plate attached tightly. Place a lemon sized ball of dough into the the press. Lower the heat to medium and then press the dough into the oil in a circular pattern. Keep the heat on medium and fry the pokkodam by flipping it a couple of times till it is golden yellow in color. Remove and drain it on a the pan with paper napkins. Once it is cool to touch, taste to make sure it is crisp and has a little bite of the cayenne. Enjoy! n Praba Iyer teaches custom cooking classes around the SF Bay Area. She also blogs about cooking at

Dec ‘13—Jan ‘14 | | 57


Spellbinding Silk Road By Bob Rupani

From Astrakhan to Tashkent, traveling the historic trade route


ur world and way of life has been shaped by events, inventions, explorations and ancient trade routes like the historic Silk Road. I recently drove on this fabled journey with the Silk Road 2013 Expedition. This overland expedition was organized by Land Rover Experience Germany and included 11 very well prepared vehicles. I joined the expedition in Astrakhan Russia and drove till Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan, traversing through Kazakhstan.

The Silk Significance

The Minaret of Kalyan and the Mosque of Kalyan in Bukhara The Silk Road Trails

The double hump-backed camel 58 | INDIA CURRENTS | Dec ‘13—Jan ‘14

The Silk Road connected Hindustan (as India was known then), Tibet and China to places as far away as Rome and Greece. This route was traversed by traders, pilgrims, soldiers, nomads, etc. for a period of about 2,000 years. Though trade on this road is said to have begun in (202 BCE—220 CE), the name “The Great Silk Road” was only given in the 12th century CE by the German geographer and geologist Ferdinand Von Richthofen. Stretching some 6,213 miles, the Silk Road gets its name from the profitable trade in Chinese and Indian silk. Indian spices were in great demand at the time, but silk played the most important role in the development of this trade route. Once Alexander the Great came over the Khyber Pass, direct trade links were developed by merchants from Greece, Egypt and Rome with the princely kingdoms of Hindustan. The fine Indian silk reached China mainly through Tibet via what is now known as the “Hindustan-Tibet” road. The Indian silk and famous “gold zari’ work or embroidery became most popular with foreign aristrocrats. Here’s a fascinating bit of trivia: Indian silk was used as protection for warriors. It was worn under the armor, as it had the unique ability to help pull out arrowheads from a solder’s body. Along with silk many other goods were traded and various technologies, religions and philosophies, cultural practices, languages, recipes and cuisine also spread via the Silk Road. The Bactrian camel was the main pack animal for the caravans, because of its ability to withstand cold, drought, and high alti-

tudes. It carried loads of up to 550 pounds and traveled 31 miles a day! And thanks to the Silk Road, some Bactrian camels are still found in the Nubra Valley in Ladakh.

Over the Khyber Pass

A large portion of the Silk Road passed through Central Asia and many historians believe that the climate and geography of this region played a crucial part in the world’s history, especially that of India. The arid weather was not conducive to agriculture, and this resulted in a nomadic lifestyle for the people of the steppe regions. These nomads became very accomplished horseback riders and their way of life was well suited to warfare. They started moving out and conquering other territories, which made them even stronger. Babur, the founder of the Mughal Empire in India, also came from this region. He was born in 1483 in contemporary Uzbekistan. He was a direct descendant of Timur, through his father, and a descendant of Genghis Khan from his mother’s side. In 1504, he crossed the Hindu Kush Mountains and captured Kabul. He then went over the Khyber Pass and reached Hindustan. In February 1526, Babur’s 17-year-old son, Humayun (Father of Emperor Akbar), led the Timurid army into battle against Ibrahim Lodi, the Afghan who ruled the Delhi Sultanate then, and achieved a decisive victory. In the Battle of Panipat, fought in April 1526, Ibrahim Lodi was killed and his army defeated. Babur became ruler of both Delhi and Agra and thus began the Mughal Dynasty in India. The Silk Road eventually faded from prominence because Portuguese explorers like Vasco da Gama discovered the sea route to India and landed in Calicut (now Kozhikode) in 1498. In 1513, the first European trading ship reached the coasts of China, and this event marked the end of the historic Silk Road.

A local on horseback in Kazakhstan

The Road Less Traveled

Traversing through Kazakhstan, I was fascinated to see how sparsely populated the region is. It’s the ninth largest country in the world, but with just 17 million people, its population is only the 62nd largest. What’s even more significant is that its population density is less than 16 people per square mile! Compare this with India, which is the seventh-largest country and the second-most populous one with over 1.27 billion people (by a recent estimate). But more importantly, the population density is almost 1,100 people per square mile. (United States is 84 per square mile.) This means that when you travel across a country like Kazakhstan, you wonder where the people are. In between cities you have vast stretches of desert flatlands and steppe grasslands that are completely uninhabited. You can drive for 300 miles and not see even five people! In fact we saw more camels than people. Surprisingly, we did not see a single tree in Kazakhstan and no land being cultivated either. But we did see some horses and horsemen herding sheep. This desert land is barren and bare, but beautiful.

The Caravan Cities of Uzbekistan

After we crossed into Uzbekistan the “land of the Uzbeks” we began to see a few more people, but even here the population density is about 158 people per square mile. Along the way we came across many Bactrian double humped camels—heroes of the historic Silk Road.

Magak-i-Attari, Bukhara

While traveling along the Silk Road we visited the Aral Sea, which was once one of the four largest lakes in the world with an area of 26,254 sq miles. Since the 1960s, it’s been shrinking rapidly because the rivers that fed it were diverted by the Soviet government for irrigation projects. By 2007, the Aral Sea had become 10% of its original size. This is “one of the planet’s worst environmental disasters” that’s resulted in the creation of a desert on the former lake bed. Fishing boats now lie scattered on the dry land and it’s actually a very depressing sight. Fortunately, everything else we saw in Uzbekistan was beautiful. The historic cities of Khiva, Samarkand and Bukhara are simply spectacular. Along with Bukhara, Samarkand is one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world. Interestingly, Khiva and Samarkand are both on UNESCO’s World Heritage list, and Bukhara is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Fishing boats on the once thriving Aral Sea

Dec ‘13—Jan ‘14 | | 59

Made famous by Tamerlane, the TurkoMongol ruler, Samerkand contains the world’s greatest collection of Islamic architecture. The intricate tilework and soaring domes are visible everywhere and especially at Tamerlane’s resting place, the Gur Amir. The minarets, mosques, markets, mausoleums, madrassas, etc, all have a distinctive architectural style with decorations highlighted in shades of turquoise. Bukhara has the oldest surviving mosque in Central Asia—the Magak-i-Attari, dating back to the twelfth century. Built in 1807, the Char-Minar (as it is also known) or Four Minarets, (we have one in the Indian city of Hyderabad too), is a little building full of character. It consists of four turrets with small turquoise cupolas and a square domed house between them. Khiva used to be a slave trading hub and its walled boundaries suggest a once bustling well-protected marketplace. It’s a day trip to Khiva and its various buildings, mosques and minarets display the inticacies of majolica tiles, some engraved with proverbs by yesteryear philosphers.

A Food Mecca

This entire region is a tourist’s delight and we were greeted with warm smiles everywhere, but what was strange is that when asked where I was from; if I said India—it evoked hardly any response. But when I said Hindustan, there was instant recognition and I was often greeted with a namaste. In fact a local FM station in Uzbekistan also plays Hindi film songs on a show called “Namaste Hindustan.” Many words used in Uzbekistani are familiar, too. They call their sandy places or deserts, registan, exactly the word Indians use to refer to deserts. Shops are known as dukan, gardens as bagh, mother as maa, etc. Uzbek women too wear a dress known as salwar which is identical to the Indian salwar kameez. The food in Uzbekistan is fantastic and familiar. Kebabs, naan, pilaf (similiar to

pulao), and somsa (baked samosa). Yes, samosas are almost always baked in Central Asia and never fried. They are baked in round clay tandoors and sold on the streets as a hot snack. All the food is truly delectable and I particularly enjoyed the kebabs which are served with raw onions and a much thicker version of the naan, than what we eat in India. The naan in Uzbekistan is like thick pita bread and sold everywhere. It’s rarely eaten hot and interestingly, the naan bread is considered to be holy for the Uzbek people. According to their tradition, when someone leaves home he bites a small piece of obi-non (naan) and it is kept until the traveler comes back and eats the whole bread. The origin of kebabs is equally charming. Uzbeks say it was born out of shortage of cooking fuel and the dish was invented by medieval soldiers who used their swords to grill meat over open-field fires! One of the most popular sweets in Uzbekistan is halva. It’s delicious and considered a must at weddings. In fact during courtship, it’s customary for an Uzbek youth to bring halva for his fiancée. When a baby girl is born into an Uzbek family, she is also reffered to as “halva.” They also have many chai-khanas (tea-houses), where you are served a piala (cup) of chai (tea)! The Silk Road connected countries, cultures and people in a most unique manner and this made my overland journey thoroughly enjoyable and educative. n Bob Rupani is a pioneering Indian automobile journalist and author of books such as Driving Holidays in India and India’s 100 Best Destinations. His latest book More Driving Holidays in India released recently.

A woman selling Uzbek naan, which resembles pita bread 60 | INDIA CURRENTS | Dec ‘13—Jan ‘14

A palace in Samarkand

Three Uzbek women dressed in salwars

A kebab stall in Uzbekistan

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Generation Gap! By Murali Vasudevan

r winne


ollowing Mom in her foot steps is not easy, as little Amita found out the hard way! This picture was taken during a sun rise hike on the sand dunes at Death Valley National Park. n

Murali Vasudevan works at Southern California Gas Company. He

is an avid photographer and enjoys hiking any time of the day. He can be reached at To check out other entries and past winners go to

India Currents invites readers to submit to this column. Send us a picture with caption and we’ll pick the best entry every month. There will be a cash prize awarded to the lucky entrant. Entries will be judged on the originality and creativity of the visual and the clarity and storytelling of the caption. So pick up that camera and click away. Send the picture as a jpeg image to with Subject: A Picture That Tells a Story. Deadline for entries: 10th of every month. 62 | INDIA CURRENTS | Dec ‘13—Jan ‘14

dear doctor

Connecting Creatively By Alzak Amlani


I am part of a large extended family where some of us celebrate Christmas, others Diwali and others just want to go on vacation during the winter holidays. I enjoy all of it and tend to do different things at different times. The last couple of years I have been feeling lonely and not part of the festivities. I find the intense focus on celebration and shopping superficial. I would much rather have some quiet time together, doing things to help us get to know each other better. Yet, I don’t know how to introduce these ideas to my large family. Any suggestions?


You bring up a very meaningful concern and it sounds like your inner life wants space during this contemplative season. Even when we are with people we care about, if we are not connecting in a genuine or deeper way, we can feel lonely. Unfortunately, the holiday time has a lot of distractions to avoid the disconnection that families often feel or the conflicts that may be present underneath the surface. For some people even the intensity of feelings that arise during these times can be scary or

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overwhelming, so they avoid them by going to parties and giving gifts, without really connecting in a more satisfying way. Changing patterns in a large, extended family is not easy. There will be a variety of needs, interests and motivations, especially with large age brackets and people celebrating different traditions or none at all. Start by connecting individually or in a small group with family who you feel are most open to sharing more personally. Even the questions, “What do you most like about the holiday season?” “What is most challenging and what would you like to do differently this season?” can open up some candid dialog and feelings. Then share your own concerns and ideas, even if they are not well-formed. In this way you can begin to go beneath the customary layer of small talk, politics or just hanging around eating and drinking. Families that do projects together and talk about them have a way of sharing themselves creatively. For example, if you just have some simple instruments—drums, bells, and rattles—you can teach a melody or two and

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create songs together. This can be as simple as singing a couple of ragas together or a song that everyone knows. Have some paper and paint handy and ask people to draw their favorite winter scene. Then each person can go around and talk about what they painted. Haiku, the Japanese form of poetry is another quick, simple and meaningful way to express a theme and share it with others. This is not about performing or being the best. Rather these activities take people into a deeper space and build more intimacy without being too threatening. Be prepared for some family members to immediately reject any such ideas so they can watch TV, drink, or talk about politics. Best to let them be and enjoy yourself with those folks who want to try something different. n Alzak Amlani, Ph.D., is a counseling psychologist of Indian descent in the Bay Area. 650-325-8393. Visit www.

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Dec ‘13—Jan ‘14 | | 63

the last word

Alice Munro’s Nobel—A Victory for Women


By Sarita Sarvate

thought of you,” a friend called to say. “Oh yeah?” “When I heard the news about Alice Munro.” A strange stirring went across my body. It was not elation, but something deeper; a sense of being known. For, if you can summarize me in one sentence, it would be to say that I am a devotee of Alice Munro. Even though this devotion has been going on for thirty years, I have always thought of it as my little secret. For whenever I tell people that she is my favorite author, they always ask, “Who?” When I explain that she is a Canadian author of short stories about passionate, untraditional women, their faces go blanker, as if it could never be a worthy literary topic. Even after the announcement of this year’s Nobel Prize, I suspect most people do not know who Alice Munro is. Without the New Yorker magazine, I, too, would never have become aware of the existence of Alice Munro. The first story of hers that the magazine published was titled “Royal Beatings,” about a girl’s complicated relationship with her stepmother. The decision to publish was controversial because never before had a story about what we now call “child abuse” appeared in its pages. “Royal Beatings” and “The Albanian Virgin” just about cover the range of Munro’s Alice work. If I could ask one question of Alice Munro, it would be, “How Munro’s Nobel did you conceive the tale of the win is important Albanian Virgin?” “Inimitable” is an adjective because it has finally often used to describe writers. put the inner lives But it falls far short of Munro’s ability. Try as I may, I cannot of women explain the structure of her stories or why they work. They do not folcenter-stage. low the usual arc teachers are always proselytizing about; nor are her characters particularly sympathetic. She breaks all the rules and still comes away with such astonishing creations that whole lifetimes are condensed into one of her stories. If I close my eyes and think of Alice Munro, the one story that jumps into my mind is titled “The Jack Randa Hotel,” about a Canadian woman Gail whose lover leaves her to move to Australia with another woman. On a whim, Gail takes a plane Down Under, colors her hair, tracks her man to a street in Brisbane, and steals his mail. Posing as a distant relative, she begins to correspond with him. The reason I love the tale is because many women long to engage in adventures like this but never have the guts to do so. Or perhaps I like it because I did once follow my love Down Under. What is astonishing about Munro is not only her technique but also her idiosyncratic characters. They don’t wait for their men to show up; they literally follow them to the ends of the earth. Even though her heroines have artistic interests, their zest for love dominates everything. What is astonishing is that in a subtly feminist way her women do get what they want, and more. In a story titled “Simon’s Luck,” she describes a woman running away from the desperation of love. “She had driven all night until the sun came up behind her and she felt calm and clearheaded, as you do at such times. She went into the café and ordered coffee and fried eggs. She sat at the counter looking at the usual things there are behind café 64 | INDIA CURRENTS | Dec ‘13—Jan ‘14

counters—the coffeepots and the bright, probably stale, pieces of lemon and raspberry pie, the thick glass dishes they put ice cream or Jell-O in. It was those dishes that told her of her changed state. She could not have said she found them shapely, or eloquent, without mis-stating the case. All she could have said was that she saw them in a way that wouldn’t be possible to a person in any stage of love. She felt their solidity with a convalescent gratitude whose weight settled comfortably into her brains and feet. She realized then that she had come into this café without the least far-fetched idea of Simon, so it seemed the world had stopped being a stage where she might meet him, and gone back to being itself.” Never have I seen a woman’s inner landscape painted as beautifully as in this passage. The story has stayed with me, partly because we discover at the end that Simon did not leave the narrator, but failed to show up for their rendezvous because he was dead. Women all over the world should be shouting out Munro’s Nobel victory from the rooftops. Women writers are so underrated that it seems a miracle that an understated, un-hyped writer like Munro managed to win such a prestigious award. Her thumbnail sketches of complicated women often take my breath away. Take this passage from a story titled “Dulse.” “She had noticed something about herself on this trip to the Maritimes. It was that people were no longer interested in getting to know her. It wasn’t that she had created a stir before, but something had been there that she could rely on. She was forty-five and had been divorced for nine years. …... She hadn’t got fatter or thinner, her looks had not deteriorated in any alarming way, but nevertheless she had stopped being one sort of woman and had become another.” Alice Munro’s Nobel win is important because it has finally put the inner lives of women center-stage. The world has long last acknowledged that we do not have to read about women from muchhyped male authors like Jonathan Franzen and John Updike. That literature does not have to be about male wars and male deaths; it can and should be about what keeps women’s psyches alive. Over the decades, Munro’s stories have ventured from the familiar terrain of rural Ontario and its common people to riskier areas, like the portrayal of a young woman who witnesses the killing of her children at the hands of her controlling husband or the feminist tale of the nineteenth century Russian mathematician Sofia Kovalevskaya. Munro has honed her craft; and like aged wine, her portraits of women have matured. Shortly before the Nobel announcement, Munro announced her decision to stop writing and start living. I beg her to change her mind. I believe Munro owes us many more journeys into the inner continents of women like the French scientist Marie Curie, the Polish revolutionary Rosa Luxemburg, and the biophysicist Rosalind Franklin, whose discovery of the structure of the DNA was never credited in her lifetime. A win for Alice Munro is not just a win for Canadian literature, it is a victory for women, their lives, and the literature they are capable of producing. n Sarita Sarvate ( has published commentaries for New America Media, KQED FM, San Jose Mercury News, the Oakland Tribune, and many nationwide publications.


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December 2013 - January 2014 India Currents  

Southern California Edition

December 2013 - January 2014 India Currents  

Southern California Edition